Posted on July 2, 2009 by Flames
FlamesRising.com is proud to offer you a chapter preview for the book Demon Mistress by New York Times bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn. When we asked Yasmine about this new book in her Otherworld series, she mentioned that:
When I was writing Demon Mistress, it quickly became apparent that my tag line for it was going to be both awesome and bizarre. I told my editor that it was going to be, “Revenge of the Nerds meets Hell Boy, meets Lovecraft.” There wasn’t much she could say to that until it arrived on her desk and she read it. Then, she understood, and she loved it. I had a lot of fun with this book, and so far reviews are backing up my feeling that my readers will also love it, too. — Yasmine Galenorn
We hope you enjoy this preview of Demon Mistress, the sixth book in the Otherworld Series.
Chapter 1 of Demon Mistress
Written by Yasmine Galenorn
“Could you at least wait until I open the window to shake that thing?” Iris shot me a nasty look as I yanked the braided rug off the floor and started beating it against the wall. “I can barely breathe, there’s so much dust.”
Chagrined, I dropped the rug to the floor and gave her a sheepish look. Dust didn’t bother me, and sometimes I forgot other people had to breathe. “Sorry,” I said. “Open the window and I’ll shake it outside.”
Rolling her eyes, she lifted the sash and pushed it up as far as she could. I took over, finishing the job. A wash of warm summer air filtered through the open window along with the sounds of horns honking, blaring music, and laughter from a gang of street kids who were smoking weed in the back alley behind the Wayfarer. The air had a happy-go-lucky feel to it, a stir of excitement, like a street party about to spontaneously erupt.
I leaned over the sill, waving to one of the boys who was staring up at me. His name was Chester, but he went by Chit, and he and his buddies had become a fixture around the bar over the past few months. Too young to come in, they hung around out back, and every now and then I’d make sure they got a good meal from the grill. They were good kids—a little at loose ends, but they never caused much trouble and they weren’t gangbangers or druggies. In fact, they kept some of the less desirable elements away from hanging out in the alleys.
Chit waved back. “Yo, Menolly! What’s shakin’, babe?”
I grinned. I was far, far older than he, although I didn’t look it. But like a number of the younger FBH men I’d met, he flirted with every woman who looked under forty, especially if they were Fae. And though I was only half-Fae, and a vampire to boot, he treated me like I was just another one of the locals.
“Just getting around to some long-overdue cleaning,” I called down to him, waving again before I turned back to Iris, who was poking around an old-world trunk that had been hiding in a corner of the room.
Since I now owned the entire building the Wayfarer Bar and Grill resided in, I decided it was time to clear out some of the rooms over the bar and turn them into a paying resource. My sisters and I could furnish them, rent them out to Otherworld visitors, and make a nice chunk of change.
Even though we were back on the Court and Crown’s payroll, money was still going out faster than it was coming in. Especially since we were paying Tim Winthrop for his computer work he was doing for the Supe Community.
The Wayfarer’s second story held ten rooms, two of them bathrooms. And it looked like all of them had remained untouched for years. Piles of junk and thick layers of dust permeated the entire story. Iris and I’d finished one room, but it had taken us two nights to sort through the boxes filled with newspaper and old clothes.
I stretched, arching my back, and shook my head. “What a mess.”
The room had obviously been turned into a storage room, probably by Jocko, who wasn’t the cleanest bartender the Wayfarer had ever seen. Unfortunately the diminutive giant had met an untimely end at the hand of Bad Ass Luke, a demon from the Subterranean Realms.
Jocko had lived in one of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency’s designated apartments in the city and I was pretty sure he’d never slept at the bar. We hadn’t found any giant-sized clothes hanging around. At least not yet. But it was obvious that someone from Otherworld had stayed here at one time, because she’d left a bunch of her things here. I recognized the weave on a couple of tunics. They certainly hadn’t been made over here Earthside.
Iris snorted. “Mess is certainly the word, isn’t it? Now, if you’ll get your albino butt over here, I could use some help moving this trunk.” Hands on her hips, she nodded to the wooden chest she’d uncovered from beneath a pile of newspapers.
Shaken out of my reverie, I lifted the trunk with one hand and effortlessly carried it to the center of the room. Being a vampire had its perks and extraordinary strength was one of them. I wasn’t all that much taller than Iris—skimming five-one, I towered over her by a mere thirteen inches, but I could have easily lifted a creature five times her weight.
“Where on earth are your sisters? I thought they were going to help.”
The Talon-haltija—Finnish house sprite—brushed a stray cobweb off her forehead, leaving a smudge mark from the grime that had embedded itself on her hands. Her ankle length golden hair had been pulled into a long ponytail and she’d carefully woven it into a thick chignon to get it out of the way. Iris was wearing a pair of denim shorts and a red and white gingham sleeveless blouse, with the ends tied together under her breasts. A pair of blue Keds completed her country-maid ensemble.
I grinned. “They are helping, in their own special ways. Camille’s at the store buying more cleaning supplies and dinner. Delilah’s out scrounging up a pickup so we can haul away some of this junk.” I’d left running the bar to Chrysandra for the evening. She knew where I was, and she was my best waitress. Luke was bartending and he’d take care of any jerks that stumbled in. Tavah, as usual, was guarding the portal in the basement.
“Special my foot,” Iris mumbled, but she flashed me a brilliantly white smile. She had good teeth, that was for sure. “Let’s see what this old chest holds. Probably dead mice, with our luck.”
“If it does, don’t tell Delilah. She’d want to play with them.” I knelt beside her, examining the lock. “Looks like we need a skeleton key if you don’t want me to bust it open.”
“Forget about keys,” Iris said. She leaned over and deftly inserted a bobby pin into the oversized hole, then whispered a soft chant. Within seconds, the latch clicked. I gave her a long look and she shrugged.
“What? Simple locks I can pop. Deadbolts, not so much. Life is easier when you don’t have to worry about locks and bars.”
“I would have to agree,” I said, opening the lid. As it softly creaked, the faint odor of cedar rose to fill the air. Even though I didn’t need to breathe, that didn’t mean I couldn’t smell—at least when I chose to—and I allowed the aroma to filter through my senses. Mingled with the fragrance of tobacco and frankincense, the scent was dusty, like an old library thick with leather and heavy oak furniture. It reminded me of our parlor, back home in Otherworld.
Iris peeked over the edge. “Pay dirt!”
I glanced into the trunk’s belly. No dead mice. No gems or jewels, either, but there were clothes and several books, and what looked like a music box. I slowly lifted the box out of the soft cushion of dresses in which it had been nestled. The wood was definitely harvested from Otherworld.
“Arnikcah,” I said, peering closely at it. “This comes from OW.”
“I figured as much,” Iris said, leaning over to examine the box.
Wood from an Arnikcah tree was hard, dark, and rich, with a natural luster that shimmered when polished. Easy to spot by its rich burgundy tones, the color rested somewhere between mahogany and cherry.
The box was fastened by a silver hinge, and I flipped it open, gently raising the lid. A small peridot cabochon, inset on the underside of the lid, flashed as the sound of tinkling notes fluttered out. Not pan-pipes, but a silver flute, sounding the song of woodland birds at the close of sunset.
Iris closed her eyes, listening to the melody. After a moment, it stopped and she bit her lip. “That’s beautiful.”
“Yes, it is.” I examined the contents of the music box. “My mother had a box similar to this one. Father gave it to her. I don’t know what happened to it, though. Camille would know if anybody does. The tune’s a common one, used to lull children to sleep.”
The inside of the music box had been lined with a rich, velvety brocade. I’d seen it used in the skirts of women who belonged to the Court and Crown. A deep plum, the cloth had absorbed the scent of the Arnikcah wood.
I shuddered, finding myself unaccountably sad as I touched the glowing gem fastened to the underside of the lid. Once more, the melody began to play, lightly trilling through the dusty room. I closed my eyes, transported back to the long summer nights of my youth when I would dance in meadow as Camille sang her spells to the moon, and Delilah chased fireflies in her kitten form. We’d come a long ways from those days.
Iris peered into the box. “There’s a locket inside.”
I gently set the box onto the floor and picked up the heart-shaped locket. Silver, embossed with a scrollwork of roses and vines, the heart sprang open as I touched the hinge, revealing a picture and a lock of hair. The photo was definitely Earthside in nature, and was of an elf. A man. The lock of hair was so pale it was platinum. No dye had ever touched these tresses. I held it out to Iris.
She closed her fist around the hair and squinted. “Elf, by the feel. What a pretty pendent. I wonder who it belongs to?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” I said. “What else is in the trunk?”
Iris lifted out the books and the pile of clothes. The books were obviously written Earthside—The Idiot’s Guide To Living Earthside, and American English For Elves.
The clothing had belonged to a woman. A tunic, several pair of leggings, a belt and jacket, a brassiere. I held up the undergarment. Whoever owned this had small breasts. The cloth was elf-weave, that much I recognized.
Beneath the clothes, in the bottom of the trunk, we found a journal. I opened it to the first page. The inscription read “Sabele,” written in a scrolling hand. The name was in English, but the rest of the journal was in Melosealfôr, a rare and beautiful Crypto language from Otherworld. I could recognize it, but not read it. But Camille could.
“This looks like a diary,” Iris said, flipping through it. “I wonder…” She stood up and poked around the room, rooting under the towering piles of debris. “Hey! There’s a bed here, and a dresser in the corner. Want to make a bet this was a bedroom; perhaps for whoever owned this locket and diary?”
I stared at the piles of old magazines, newspapers, and faded liquor boxes. “Let’s clear away all this trash. Just haul it into the next room for now. We’ll see what we find beneath it.” As I replaced the music box and clothes within the trunk, laughter echoed down the hall from the stairs and within seconds, my sister Camille stood at the door, two of her men in tow.
“Pizza!” Camille entered the room, gingerly stepping over a rolled up rug. As usual, she was dressed to impress, in a black velvet skirt, a plum bustier, and stilettos. Morio was right behind her, carrying five pizza boxes, and behind him—Smoky towered over everybody, looking bemused but not entirely thrilled to be tagging along.
Iris jumped up and wiped her hands on her shorts. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
“Hush or Smoky might oblige,” Camille said, wrinkling her nose as she gave the dragon a playful look.
He might look like six-foot-four feet of manflesh with silver hair down to his ankles, but when he transformed, he was all dragon under that snow-white veneer. He ate horses, cows, and the occasional goat. On the hoof. He joked about eating humans, too, but none of us took him seriously, although I suspected there might be the occasional missing person we might attribute to him. Whatever the case, Smoky wasn’t just a dragon who could take human form. He was also my sister’s husband. One of her husbands.
Morio, a Japanese youkai-kitsune—fox demon, loosely translated—was her other husband. He wasn’t nearly as tall as Smoky, but he was good looking in a sleek, lithe way, with a pony tail that hung to his shoulders and the faintest hint of a goatee and thin moustache.
Camille had a third lover. Trillian, a Svartan, had been missing too long for comfort and I knew she was worried about him.
“You just hush about my eating habits, woman,” Smoky said, gently patting her shoulder. He indulged behaviors in her that would earn most people a one-way ticket to crispy critter land. Love was supposed to be blind, but I had the feeling in Smoky’s case, he’d come to accept that he’d better develop patience with my sister, or end up miserable.
I frowned at the pizzas. I’d give a lot to be able to eat pizza. Or anything, actually. My ever present diet of blood kept me going, but I wasn’t particularly thrilled with it. All salt, no sweets.
Morio’s eyes gleamed as he pulled out a thermos and handed it to me.
“I’m not thirsty,” I said. Bottled blood wasn’t exactly a taste-treat. Kind of like generic beer. It did the trick but in no way or form could you call it haute cuisine. When I wasn’t hungry, I left it alone.
“Just drink,” he said.
I cocked my head. “What are you up to?” But when I opened the thermos, the blood didn’t smell like blood. Instead it smelled like…pineapple? I hesitantly took a sip. If I ingested anything but blood I’d get horrible cramps.
But to my shock and delight, though it was blood that flowed down my throat, all I could taste were coconut milk and pineapple juice. I stared at the thermos, then at him. “By the gods, you did it!”
“Yes, I did,” he said, a victorious grin spreading across his face. “I finally figured out the spell. I thought piña colada might be a nice change for a first try.”
Morio had been working on a spell for some time which would allow me to taste foods I’d left behind when I died.
“Well, it worked!” I laughed and perched on the open window sill, one knee pulled up to my chest as I leaned back against the frame. As I drank, my taste buds doing a Snoopy dance, it occurred to me that this was the first time in over twelve years that I’d tasted something other than blood.
“I could kiss you for this.”
“Go ahead,” Camille said with a wink. “He’s good.”
Snorting, I set down the thermos and wiped my mouth carefully. More often than not, I ended up with a few spatters around my lips and I preferred not to look like some blood-crazed monster.
“With all due respect to your darling husband, I think I’ll leave his kisses for you. Not really my type,” I said, winking at Morio. “No offense intended.”
“None taken,” he said, grinning. “Next time we’ll try for some sort of soup flavor. What’s your poison?”
“Hmm…beef vegetable would hit the spot.”
Happier than I’d been in awhile, I glanced around the room. “While you guys eat your pizza, I’ll start clearing some of this junk out of here. Iris and I found something curious. Don’t trash anything that looks like it might have belonged in a bedroom or to an elf.”
I piled a stack of magazines in a box and carried them out, dumping them into the room across the hall. Smoky ignored the pizza and pitched in, helping me, as did Morio. Iris and Camille perched on a bench, digging into the Hawaiian style pie.
As we worked, Camille alternated between eating and filling me in on what I’d missed during the day. With the summer solstice so close, the time in which I could be awake and active had been severely curtailed. I was down to around eight hours per night between sunrise and sunset. I’d sure be happy to see autumn and winter again. It sucked having to be in bed by five-thirty in the morning.
“We finally got the wedding invitation from Jason and Tim. They’re holding it during the night just so you and Erin can make it.” She picked up another slice and held it overhead, letting the strings of mozzarella trail into her mouth.
“I’m glad they’re finally getting hitched. They make a good couple.”
Tim had won my respect a hundred times over when I’d had to turn his best friend, Erin. I’d sworn never to sire another vampire, but Erin would have died otherwise, and she made the choice. That’s how I ended up with a middle-aged human vampire daughter. Tim was her best friend. He’d come through when Erin and I’d needed him most, and my respect for him had soared.
“By the way,” I said, “Erin’s selling the Scarlet Harlot to Tim. She can’t work there during the day, so he’s taking over. He’ll open a computer consulting business on the side, now that he’s graduated from college.”
“I know. He told me,” Camille said. “I’ll be sad to see Cleo Blanco fade away, but then again, I never did think he made a very convincing woman. He’s much better looking as a man. Although, he did a good job lip synching to Marilyn Monroe’s songs.”
She licked her fingers and then added, “Oh, yeah, Wade called shortly before we left home. He said he has something he needs to talk to you about. I told him to drop by the bar, so he’ll be over in a bit.”
Shit. I didn’t want to talk to Wade. We’d been arguing a lot lately and distance definitely helped the heart grow fonder in this case. Whether it was the summer heat, or the overdose of sleep, I didn’t know, but we’d been getting on each other’s nerves and the problem wasn’t showing any signs of easing up.
“Great,” I mumbled. “Smoky, can you help me carry this rug? I can lift it, but it’s so long it’s unwieldy for one person.”
Smoky obligingly propped one end of the rolled up Persian rug on his shoulder and I did likewise to the other. We carted it across the hall and tossed it onto the ever-growing pile of debris.
“Where’s Delilah? We need to get some of this crap out of here before we end up with a fire. One stray spark and this place would go up like a match.” I kicked at the rug and it shifted.
“Patience, patience,” Smoky said. “Let me cast a frost spell in here. I can saturate everything with a layer of moisture and make it harder to burn.”
I groaned. “And turn it into a breeding ground for mold. Oh, go ahead. At least I won’t worry so much about fire then.”
An hour later, we’d cleared the bedroom of everything that didn’t seem to belong there. We’d uncovered a bed, dresser, trunk, writing desk, bookshelf, and rocking chair. Everything pointed to the original occupant as being a female elf.
“Who lived here?” Camille asked, picking over the remains of the second pizza. Smoky and Morio had settled into eating, and I could see that the other three pies were about to become history.
I shrugged. “I haven’t the faintest idea. Nobody at the OIA filled me in on whoever held the job before Jocko.”
Iris sat in the rocking chair, rubbing her hand over one of the polished arms. “Would the OIA have that information if you asked them?”
Camille shook her head. “Chances are, even though the organization’s back up and running, the files were most likely lost during the civil war.”
I had to agree with her. “Yeah. Most of the personnel have either been fired or arrested, depending on their loyalty to Lethesanar. Except, interestingly enough, the director of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Father told us he was a double agent, but I didn’t know whether or not to believe it. Damned if the information wasn’t correct, though.”
“Jocko’s dead. He can’t very well help us,” Camille said. “Any of your waitresses might know?”
“Doubtful, but that gives me an idea.” I jumped up and headed for the door. “I’ll be right back. Meanwhile, you guys search the room and see what’s in the closets and in that desk. Look for whatever you can find. Check under the mattress, too.”
I hurried down the stairs. While Chrysandra and Luke had come to work for me after Jocko’s death, there was still one person who remembered the gentle giant. Peder, the daytime bouncer, had been around during Jocko’s time. I flipped through the address book that we kept behind the counter and then picked up the phone, punching in his number.
Like Jocko, Peder was a giant. But where Jocko had been the runt of his family, Peder was smack in the middle of being height-weight proportionate for his race. After three rings, he picked up.
“Yef?” His English was still limited and his accent was atrocious, but I knew Calouk, the common dialect used throughout the more uncouth members of Otherworld, and I switched to it immediately.
“Peder, this is Menolly,” I said, my lips tripping over the rough words as I translated my thoughts into Calouk. “I know you worked for Jocko, but do you by any chance remember who was the bartender before him? Did an elfin woman run the bar? Her name would have been—”
“Sabele,” he said. “Yeah, Sabele was the bartender before Jocko. She went home to OW, though. She vanished one day. Never said nuthin’.”
Vanished? That seemed odd, considering the locket and diary left behind. “What do you mean, vanished?”
“She quit. That’s what Jocko told me when he came here.”
That didn’t ring true. I was fairly certain Peder wouldn’t lie to me, but that didn’t mean that what he said was accurate. Giants weren’t the brightest bulbs in the socket and Peder wasn’t the on the gifted end of the spectrum.
“Are you certain? I found a few of her personal things upstairs while cleaning out one of the rooms. Items I doubt she would have left behind.”
“That’s what Jocko told me. He said…he said the OIA told him that Sabele deserted her post. She was really nice, though. I liked her. She never made fun of me.”
His tone told me that—like Jocko—Peder was sensitive to ridicule. Giants were surprisingly emotional, not like trolls or ogres. Oh sure, they were oafs, but they could be caring oafs.
“Do you know if she had any friends around here? A boyfriend, maybe? Or a brother?” The image of the male elf’s face from the picture in the locket drifted to mind.
“Boyfriend? Yeah, she had a boyfriend. He used to come into the bar a lot. I thought they went back to OW together and got married. Lemme think…” After a moment, Peder sighed. “All I can remember is that his first name was Harish. And her family name was Olahava. That help you any?”
“Yeah,” I said, jotting down the two names. “More than you know. Thanks, Peder. And by the way, you’re doing a good job. I appreciate it.” Everybody needed strokes sometimes. Even giants.
“Thanks, boss,” he said. I could hear the glee in his voice.
As I replaced the receiver, the door opened and I looked up as Wade wandered into the room. His shocking bleached-blonde hair was even whiter thanks to a dose of peroxide, and he’d given up the glasses he used to hide behind. He was wearing a pair of PVC jeans—gods know where he got hold of those—and a white T-shirt. A thick shiny black patent leather belt studded with metal grommets rode low on his hips. I blinked. When had he gone punk?
A psychiatrist until he’d been bitten and turned, Wade Stevens was the leader of Vampires Anonymous, a support group for the newly undead. He’d become my first vampire-friend when my sister Camille insisted I join the group.
Lately though, he’d been on edge and snippy and I had no intention of wasting the energy to find out why. I had enough problems to deal with, without adding a moody vampire to the list. Anyway, I wasn’t the coddling-type. His mother did enough of that. In fact, his mother was one of the primary reasons I’d stopped dating him. A vampire herself, she was the perfect antidote to any attraction I’d felt for Wade.
He leaned across the bar. “We need to talk.”
“I’m busy,” I muttered. Avoidance wasn’t my usual M.O. but I had no intention of ruining my mood. “Can we do this later?”
“No. We need to talk now,” he said, his eyes shifting toward red.
Whoa. Touchy, touchy.
“Fine. In the back, where the customers won’t overhear us.” I led him into the office and closed the door behind us. “All right, what’s so damned important that it can’t wait for a few hours? Or days?”
I waited, but he remained silent. Irritated, I started to push past him, intending on returning to the bar but he stopped me, barring my way with his arm.
“Fine. I’ll just tell you straight out, because I don’t know how else to do this. I’ve thought this over and over for the past few weeks, but there’s no way to get around it. I have to put some distance between us or you’re going to ruin any chance I have of becoming regent of the Northwest Vampire Dominion.”
I stared at him, unable to believe what I was hearing. “You’ve got to be joking.”
“No.” He waved me silent. “I’m asking you to quietly withdraw from Vampires Anonymous. Don’t show up at the meetings. And don’t contact me in public…keep all of our communications in private. You’ve become a liability to me, Menolly. And to the group.”
Posted with permission from Yasmine Galenorn & Berkley Books.
Copyright 2009, Yasmine Galenorn. No reposting or copying.