Paperback: October 15, 2014
Kenssie just wants her fellow demons to respect her. A little hero worship now and then wouldn't go amiss either. But as the lowly thrall of Rak, an embarrassment demon, she'll take whatever crumbs she's offered.
When the demon council turns against her master, Rak and Kenssie are forced to relocate to the countryside. It seems Rak has been holding out against his thrall and keeping a secret that will shake her trust in him forever.
When someone from Rak's past returns to claim him, Kenssie has to fight for much more than his attention. The lives of innocents and not-so-innocents are on the line. How much of herself is she willing to sacrifice for someone else's happiness?
Kenssie shuffled her feet and smiled hopefully. “Can I see it?”
“No,” Rak said.
“But I really believe we share a special connection.”
Rak looked down at her through narrowed eyes. The afternoon sunlight glinted off the tips of his horns and she shivered.
“Grimbo isn’t for the likes of you.”
Kenssie wrinkled her brow. “Grimbo? You named the book Grimbo?”
“For the time being,” Rak said.
It really wasn’t that weird. The grimoire was alive, after all. The last time she had touched it, the tome had sent a jolt of energy through her, like a spark of psychic recognition. It had been soft to the touch, like skin. Now she came to think on it, Grimbo may have felt warm as well. He was a thrall like her, but he was also a book, and she wanted to know how that had come about. She needed to know.
She bit her bottom lip and gave Rak her most big-eyed, pleading look. Her master laughed.
“I’m not sure that ham would even work on humans. I swear, if your acting were any worse you could open a butcher’s.”
Her face dropped. “I can’t believe you won’t let me see him. He must be lonely.”
Rak shook his head. “For all you know he feeds on pity, and that’s what he wants you to think.”
He paced up and down the short length of his London office. The room was clinical and shiny, and it scarcely seemed large enough to contain the big red demon. Rak’s broad chest burst out of an open-fronted biker jacket and low-cut muscle vest which left his midriff bare. His lower half was encased in tight leather jeans that sculpted the contours of his butt and seemed to draw the eye to the tortoise shell posing pouch at the front, which was not just tortoiseshell in colour but also an actual tortoise shell. Indeed, his clothes didn’t seem capable of containing him any more than the room did.
His wings were folded tightly, protruding from slits cut out of the back of his jacket. The black tips bunched together. Kenssie knew he needed to feed. It was too much to hope that he would do it alone, and give her a chance to search for the book.
“A new company has set up five doors down,” Rak said. “Find out if they’re ripe for picking, and do your thing.”
“You want me to do that hoax we practiced last week?”
“Maybe. It depends whether they’re nourishing in the short term. And after that you can go clubbing tonight.”
“The party never stops,” Kenssie said. Clubbing was less an invitation to leisure, and more of a work assignment.
“Not if you want to eat. Now get out there and harvest me some mortal blushes.”
Jenny, the witch on the desk in the corridor, looked up as the door swung closed. Jenny wasn’t blind, but as a low-level witch she shouldn’t have been able to see Kenssie. Kenssie felt uncomfortably exposed, until she realised the witch was only reacting to the moving door.
“Is he sending you on another errand?” Jenny asked. “He’s working you hard.”
“That’s no concern of yours.”
Jenny was wearing a long dress that screamed Halloween costume, and her long, dark hair glossed in wavy tresses to her hips. The scent of patchouli and jasmine candles wafted from the desk.
“I’m just showing some sympathy. We’re all thralls together here.”
“Part of one big, hippy family,” Kenssie muttered.
“What was that?”
“Just because we share a master doesn’t mean we share anything else. You’re mostly human. I’m a demon. There’s a hierarchy at work here, and you shouldn’t forget your place in it. In case you need it spelling out, that’s somewhere beneath my foot.”
Jenny stared blankly in Kenssie’s vague direction for an uncomfortable moment. Then she pushed her chair back, and Kenssie’s heart leapt as she anticipated a slapping. But instead Jenny bowed several times from the waist, her hands raised.
“I bow before your greatness, inhuman one! I am not worthy to polish your horns or breathe the same air.”
Jenny kept bowing. “I am ever so humble. Forgive the ignorance of a mere witch.”
If Kenssie could have coloured, she would have. Really, she didn’t know what had come over her. She did look down on Jenny, but she hadn’t meant to be so downright catty about it.
“All right,” Kenssie said. “I’m sorry.”
Jenny looked up and quirked an eyebrow. “Sorry you were rude to me, or sorry we share a master?”
“Sorry I was rude,” Kenssie said, although she meant both.
Jenny smiled and made an open gesture. “Apology accepted. I’m sure Rak wouldn’t want us to fall out.”
Kenssie’s lips tightened. The witch had used the familiar, short form of his name.
“I’ve got to get on, I can’t stay and chat.”
She hurried into the lift. Already her limbs felt heavier and her stomach tightened with hunger. She avoided giving Jenny eye contact as she left, although she was sure the witch couldn’t see her face anyway.
Outside, the sun beat down on this corner of London. Everything was always moving, a steady flow of traffic and people at all hours. She had to be on her guard because people could just walk into her, but it was a vigilance she was used to. Most witches saw her as a faint outline, or not at all if they were as weak as Jenny, but humans could be a hazard. She ducked and twisted around the press of bodies until she came to the fifth building down.
The place looked like it had been constructed in the sixties, but inside everything had been gutted and renovated for this latest opening. “Licious”, declared the sign in gold lettering on black. Inside, the seats looked uncomfortable and modern. Napkins were folded in origami whorls, and square plates and condiment shakers adorned tables. On the walls, the faces of skinny supermodels and movie stars looked down haughtily, daring diners to order anything other than salad and spring water. The restaurant was empty, but that was because it wasn’t open yet.
A pencil-thin woman clacked up to the door in impractical heels. She looked anxiously at the lack of crowd outside, sighed, turned the “Closed” sign around, and opened the door. She had the kind of severe face and shadowed eyes that spoke of late nights worrying whether anyone would find the bodies.
Kenssie slipped in and sat on a side table, just sufficiently out of the way that she could observe the woman bustling up and down. She tried to focus her powers, but it was awkward with the restaurant owner constantly on the move. She felt it then, a loose thread of guilt that she’d be able to latch on to. It was the tiniest sliver of a thing; the woman was either a saint or a psychopath, to have so little hidden remorse.