Oaths of Blood

An Urban Fantasy Mystery

Book Cover: Oaths of Blood
Editions:Kindle - First Edition: $ 4.99 USD
ISBN: B00F0SXP6S
Pages: 340
Paperback - First Edition: $ 13.99 USD
ISBN: 1492356522
Size: 8.00 x 5.00 in
Pages: 338
Audiobook - First Edition: $ 24.95 USD
ISBN: B00OVCJMX4

Werewolves are immune to every illness and can heal any wound. It should be impossible for one to become possessed by a demon. But that’s exactly what Seth Wilder is facing: a werewolf gone insane from possession. He has no choice but to deliver her to the only exorcist in America, Elise Kavanagh, who also happens to be a powerful demon known as the Godslayer.

Elise is in hiding when Seth and Rylie Gresham, Alpha werewolf, arrive seeking her help. She agrees, but everything has its price. What they learn about the possessed werewolf changes everything — Hell and Earth, the pack, and the future of the entire world…

Excerpt:

December 2012

It was dark on Capitol Hill that night—much too dark. There were streetlights to burn away the night, but by the time Senator Peterson reached them, they would snuff out like candles. The fountains that should have been illuminated were dark. The streets, normally bright with traffic, were devoid of life.

Dawn, and its accompanying safety, was hours away.

Until then, the senator was alone with the night.

“Light,” he gasped, pulling at the neck of his jacket. The fog of his evaporating breath billowed around his face. “I need light.” His words fell flat on the air, as if he were speaking into an invisible wall.

Harsh winter air burned at his lungs as he raced for the next street lamp. The pool of light on the sidewalk looked like the sweet promise of safety.

It blinked out the moment his foot touched it.

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Senator Peterson gave a ragged sob, no longer worried about people seeing him melt down in public. In fact, he would have been grateful for a swarm of reporters to take photos of his tear-streaked face, especially if they brought flash bulbs. Anything for a witness. Anything for light.

But there was nobody to see him there. All of the normal joggers, lawyers, security guards, and Union officials had somehow vanished.

He was alone. So very alone.

The senator ran up the stairs to his office, slipping on the half-melted snow as he attempted to pull the Bluetooth earpiece from his pocket. His hands scrabbled at the iron railing. When he caught himself, he nearly wrenched his shoulder out of its socket.

The earpiece slipped from his fingers and landed in a puddle.

“No, oh no…”

The lights in the building across the street turned off all at once, as though a power outage had hit the block. But there was no wind, no downed power line, no electrical problems.

Misty fingers of fog slid along the street, devouring everything on the ice-slicked road he had left behind.

Senator Peterson didn’t bother trying to retrieve the earpiece from the puddle.

He badged into his office building and slammed the door behind him, chest heaving. The lights were still on there. His entire body flooded with a relief so powerful that he almost fell over.

He allowed himself a pause, leaning against a wall to catch his breath and treasuring the glow of light on his skin.

“Thank the Lord,” he said.

Maybe he was safe. Maybe it wouldn’t follow him here.

He pushed the curtains aside to look through. Clouds hung in the sky overhead, heavy and violet with the promise of snow yet to come. He couldn’t see the building on the other side of the street anymore, nor could he see the sidewalk and lawn leading up to his offices. Even the stairs were being taken by that mist.

There was a figure moving in the fog.

Heart hammering, he let the curtains fall shut.

The senator turned on every light switch he passed, burning the shadows out of the corners of the hallway, behind the receptionist’s desk, in the elevators.

Senator Peterson reached his offices on the third floor to find that everyone had gone home already. His staff had been working long hours on the preternatural regulations bill, and there should have been at least an unpaid intern or two suffering at her workstation. Yet every desk was empty. The computers were powered off. He had never seen the building so empty.

He grabbed the phone off of an intern’s desk and punched in a phone number. It rang once before someone answered. “Hello?”

“Gary?” asked the senator.

“Yes, sir.”

Lucky again. First lights, now he had reached Gary Zettel. Maybe Senator Peterson wasn’t about to die after all.

“I need you to come to my office right now,” the senator said, approaching the windows that should have overlooked the courtyard. He could see nothing beyond the glass but the reflection of a pale, terrified old man with tufts of white hair and a suit too baggy for his frail form. “As quickly as possible. It’s an emergency.”

“Sir, with all due respect, we have a week to work on this bill. I have other commitments that need—”

“This isn’t about the damn bill! Someone is chasing me!”

Zettel’s voice sharpened. “What?”

How could he explain that the night was chasing him without sounding insane? No—there was no time for that. “Send a team right away. I’ll explain when you get here.”

Senator Peterson dropped the phone.

The fluorescent lights flickered.

He jumped, staring at the ceiling. The lights stopped flickering immediately, but it was enough to flood his system with fear again.

There was an antique blunderbuss over the desk in his personal office. He didn’t think it had been fired since his grandfather passed away, but he suddenly wanted to hold it in his hands very desperately.

The lights continued flickering as he staggered through the rows of desks toward his door, dripping snowmelt on the carpet. He shed his loose jacket, removed his tie. It wasn’t easier to breathe with less clothing. He still felt like he was smothering. Like the fog had taken up permanent residence in his lungs.

He jumped into his office in time for all of the lights to die.

Senator Peterson slammed the door and pressed his back to it. It was pitch black inside his office, but it wasn’t the tangible darkness that had been chasing him outside. That was on the other side of the door. Moonlight streamed through the window in silvery rays of hope.

His hand fumbled for the light switch.

The ceiling lights didn’t come on, but his desk lamp did. It illuminated the blunderbuss on his wall, the mess of paperwork on his desk, and the leather executive chair facing his window.

Senator Peterson took two steps toward his desk before the chair spun around.

A woman sat at Senator Peterson’s desk, and she had brought the night with her. Her hair seemed to melt into the black void of her leather jacket, isolating the white circle of her face, the spheres of her breasts lifted by an overbust corset. She was unaffected by the bite of winter. She was the bite of winter.

“Oh God,” he said.

The woman’s expression was almost pitying, but her blood-red lips curved into a frown.

Did she fear religious relics? Could his cross protect him? He fumbled to extract the rosary from underneath his shirt. “Begone!” he cried, shaking the crucifix at her.

She lifted an eyebrow. A bone-white finger drummed on his desk impatiently.

“Really?”

The rosary slipped from his trembling fingers. It bounced under his desk where he couldn’t see it. The woman didn’t even flinch. She stood smoothly, getting between Senator Peterson and his blunderbuss.

“I just—you didn’t—can’t we talk about this?” he asked, ashamed at how quickly his tone became whining.

“The time for talking has passed, Senator,” she said.

He screamed. She shattered into shadow.

COLLAPSE

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Dire Blood

Elise Kavanagh died while killing the mother of all demons, and her fight should be over. But nothing is ever that easy where the Godslayer is concerned. Elise has been resurrected–and she came back as a demon.

Now the most powerful witch in the world, James Faulkner, has been dragged to Hell and accused of violating an ancient treaty. The punishment is eternity in Hellfire. Elise is the only one who can save him. But it means following him into Hell to face inhuman urges, the secrets in her past, and the horror in her future.

The Godslayer’s fight isn’t over yet. It’s only just beginning…

Excerpt:

It was almost midnight on a cold, snowy evening, and Gary Zettel was patrolling the Union warehouse’s perimeter. Leather gloves and a black scarf protected him from the chilly wind, and his gun, vest, and slacks blended in with the darkness of the night. Only the white, six-inch letters stamped on his chest in reflective tape caught any light.

He shifted his grip on the gun to keep his fingers limber as he headed down the south side of the fence. The dirt had been packed down and laced with pressure-sensitive wire that could pinpoint the position of an intruding mouse, but beyond the barbed wire was nothing but wild, unguarded desert. Sagebrush and sparse trees made formless shadows that Zettel could imagine as a hundred hostile beings—a mob of angry human survivors, possessed demons, or some other foe they had yet to face.

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But the night was quiet. An icy breeze whispered through the sagebrush. His footsteps crunched on the dirt, and his leather gloves creaked as he checked his gun’s safety yet again.

Zettel reached the corner of the fence, swiveled, and headed in the other direction.

His aspis, Allyson Whatley, hurried out of the building. She was bundled in a heavy jacket zipped to her chin. He felt her approach an instant before he saw her; he always knew where she was, even when they were in different states.

Her square face was triumphant. “I did it.” She faced the cold desert as she spoke, and she barely moved her lips. “I finally did it.”

Zettel turned off his earpiece. “Let me see.”

She removed a scrap of cloth from her pocket. A complex symbol was embroidered in the center of the white linen square and stained by a bloody thumbprint. From her other pocket, she took out a folded piece of paper on which she had drawn the same symbol.

“Watch,” she said, and she flicked the paper in the air.

It burst into flame and turned to ash in her hand. The paper was gone so quickly that Zettel almost didn’t believe that he had seen it.

Allyson had finally replicated written magic.

“Does this mean you can make the wedge?” he asked, pulse speeding.

“I’ve already started.”

Zettel struggled to suppress his excitement, but the implications of this were dizzying. He punched his fist in the air. “Yes,” he hissed. It was the only moment of celebration he would allow himself.

“I’m going to finish it,” she said. “You can contact HQ when you’re ready. But…quietly.”

He nodded. Yes, quietly. Nobody could know what they had found. Not yet. And especially not his commander.

“I have two hours left on my shift,” he said. “Do you think you’ll be done by then?” She hesitated, and then nodded. “Good. Great. I’ll see you in two hours.”

“We’re so close,” Allyson whispered.

He nodded stiffly as she stuffed the cloth back into her jacket again. It took all of his strength not to follow her as she spun on her heel and returned to the building. Instead, he stared at the flakes of ash settling on the tightly packed earth and felt his stomach flip-flop. Not with nerves—Zettel didn’t get nervous—but with anticipation.

So close.

But not for a few more hours.

He flicked his earpiece back on. Composed his features. Resumed walking the perimeter of the fence.

Zettel was so distracted by the heady, dizzying sense of impending victory that he didn’t feel the tingle at the back of his neck until it was almost too late.

A pale flash caught the corner of his eye—too far to the south to be a guard at the nearest watchtower.

He froze, watching for another hint of motion.

The night was still.

Scanning the compound’s exterior, he took inventory of everything that was meant to be there: spotlights focused on the outside of the warehouse, a man patrolling the opposite fence in the same black uniform he wore, the waiting SUV that had been left with the driver’s side door open.

All quiet. Unremarkable.

Unease crawled over him. Zettel wasn’t skittish, and he didn’t imagine things. Especially not people that weren’t there.

He picked up his pace and headed toward the SUV, putting two fingers to the bluetooth headset in his ear. His excitement was suppressed by a rising sensation of something gone awry. “Mack? Anything registering on the pressure sensors?”

A buzz, and then, “Just you and Mason.

There were shadows on the ground on the other side of the SUV—two dark shapes that looked like feet.

“What’s Mason’s position?” he asked, lowering his voice to a whisper.

Another buzz. “Northeast corner.

Nowhere near the SUV.

Zettel lifted his gun. “Suspected intruder by the garage. I’m going to engage. Verify reinforcements.”

Negative, Gary. There’s nothing with you.

Then who was standing on the other side of the SUV?

He stood by the hood for a moment, taking measured breaths and preparing to engage. His pulse thudded in his throat and temples.

Zettel leapt around the vehicle and brought his weapon to bear.

Nobody was there.

The ground was empty, and the door stood open. There was no sign of what had caused the shadows. The earpiece was buzzing again, and he put his fingers to it to hear the transmission. “I repeat, Gary: do not engage. There’s nothing there.”

He pushed the talk button. “Roger.”

Zettel scanned the door into the garage, the open land, the total absence of unusual shadows. He wasn’t the kind of person who imagined things, but maybe the stress of surviving the apocalypse was starting to get to him. Just a little bit.

Lowering his sidearm, he put a hand on the SUV’s driver’s side door to shut it.

A blinking blue light caught his eye. Whoever had driven the vehicle last had removed their earpiece and forgotten it in the cup holder. That was the kind of laziness that their new commander, Malcolm, was letting the unit get away with. When Zettel had been in charge of the unit, he would have brought swift, harsh retribution upon whoever was stupid enough to lose their equipment.

But Zettel wasn’t in charge anymore—for the time being.

Muttering a few choice swear words, he leaned in to grab the earpiece.

Black eyes stared at him from the backseat.

Adrenaline rushed through him, slowing time to a crawl and making his vision sharpen. Zettel took a step back. Reached for his gun.

He couldn’t move fast enough.

A white flash rushed through the air and connected with his chest. They both hit the ground. His head bounced, blurring his vision and making his ears ring.

The sensitive wiring in the ground should have registered someone sitting on top of him and made his earpiece blow up with chatter. He could see her—pale face, black eyes, black hair, lips peeled back in a grimace. He could certainly feel her, with her hands digging into his vest and knees pressing against his gut.

But there were no alarms. His earpiece remained silent.

She ripped the gun from his hands and flung it across the ground. And then she vanished into midair, scattering into shadow like a flock of ravens.

A buzz. “We’re registering unusual activity in your sector. Did you fall over?” The tiny voice had a hint of laughter to it. The dick in the control booth was laughing at him. Nobody fucking laughed at him when he had been commander. When the Union put him in charge again, Mack was going to be the first on latrine duty.

He tried to punch the button his earpiece and missed. He hit it on the second try.

“I just got attacked,” Zettel said, scrambling to his feet and grabbing his gun. “There is an intruder, and it’s not registering on the sensors.”

Negative, Gary—”

But control was cut off by jangling alarms. They shattered the air, echoed over the plains, and made his eardrums vibrate. The spotlights on the building turned red and began to flash.

A dozen voices began speaking in his earpiece simultaneously.

Something just entered the garage level—”

“—registering a bogey, moving fast—”

What did you see? What is it?

Zettel felt a surge of satisfaction that was almost as strong as his confusion. He pressed the talk button as he ran toward the door, but he didn’t know what to tell them he had seen. The pale skin, dark hair, and how it had vanished into the shadows—those things always meant a demon of some flavor, like a nightmare or a succubus.

But what he had seen couldn’t have been a demon. It couldn’t.

Mason rushed to meet him at the side door, which stood ajar. The lights inside were on alarm, too, and black shapes rushed through the halls as sleeping kopides began to awake and mobilize.

“Jesus, what was it?” Mason asked.

I think it was a ghost.

That would have sounded insane, so all Zettel said was, “I’m going after the bogey. Drag Malcolm’s drunken ass out of bed and have him find me.”

And then he slammed through the door and entered total chaos.

The screeching alarms were worse inside the warehouse. They rattled and bounced off of the walls, and the pitch made his eardrums tremble. The alarm lights were red, so it took no time for his eyes to adjust after the darkness outside.

He was surrounded by shipping trucks and the crates they had been carrying, each turned to black cubes by the strobes.

Nobody was working in the garage that late at night. The only active personnel should have been patrolling, just like Zettel had been outside. But as far as he could see, the room was empty.

Footsteps banged on the metal walkway above. He whirled to follow the sound, raising his gun.

The runner vanished before he could target.

Swearing under his breath, he launched himself up the ladder and onto the walkway. The shadow had already reappeared on the opposite catwalk, shoved open the swinging doors into the hallway, and passed through.

Ragged breaths tore through his throat as he chased the disappearing and reappearing shadow. The chatter on his earpiece fuzzed in and out of static.

The shadow swept through the halls ahead of him, darkening a few feet at a time, like a black hand was moving over the lights one by one. Doors slammed around him, opening and closing of their own volition.

Occasionally, he saw a flash of a hand, a slender throat, a face glancing over a shoulder—like he was chasing a beautiful ghost through a forest of fluttering darkness.

He was never going to catch up.

“Issue a quarantine protocol on my level!” he shouted into the earpiece.

Mack moved fast. The fire shields began to slide over the hallway doors.

Zettel slid under the nearest one just in time to see the shadow pass around the next corner, near the armory. He could cut it off if he reached the next level first.

He leaped up the stairs, taking them two at a time. His shoulder bumped into a kopis as he passed his quarters. He recognized the cry of protest, even under the blaring alarms—Malcolm.

Then the shadow swept over them.

For an instant, it was utterly black. Something cold washed down Zettel’s spine. The back of his neck itched and crawled.

It was gone an instant later.

“The hell?” Malcolm asked. He slept naked, like he was still a bachelor at university, but he had his clothes bundled under one arm and a gun in the other hand. What a goddamn pig.

Zettel hit the button on his earpiece. “This level also needs to be closed, control. I think the bogey must be going for artifact storage.”

The commander tried to follow him down the hall, bouncing on one leg to pull on his pants. “Oi! Gary! What bogey?”

Between control’s shouts on the earpiece and the blasting alarms, the rest of the units in the warehouse were mobilizing, but it was too late. Men stepped into the hall seconds after Malcolm had already run past them, and the shadow was already long gone.

That meant that the lift would be too slow, too. Zettel launched himself up the stairwell, Malcolm just a few steps behind with his trousers around his knees.

He got out on the fourth floor. Went two halls down.

There was nobody in sight, and the door into artifact storage was still closed. Totally silent. No shadows, no ghosts, no intruders.

Uttering a silent thanks, Zettel punched his access code into the panel to check the logs. Text scrolled past on the screen, but he wasn’t sure what he expected to find. If the door was locked, then even a shadowy bogey wasn’t going to be able to break through three inches of heavy steel without leaving some traces.

No attempts at opening the door showed on the log for six hours. He had beaten the bogey there.

He squinted through the reinforced glass. There were no alarm lights inside the secure storage room, so he could barely make out the shelves of crates and containers inside as the strobes behind him flashed.

A strobe momentarily illuminated the aisle between the shelves. A woman stood at the end, wearing the shadows like armor.

Cold shock washed over him. For a moment, all he could do was stand with his mouth agape, face pressed to the glass. The intruder glanced up at him as she pulled a box off of the shelves. It was the size of a suitcase, and marked with the Union insignia.

How had she gotten inside?

Zettel inputted his access code, but it took a few seconds for the whirring locks to disengage. He slammed his fist into the door, as if that could make it go faster.

“You bitch!” he yelled, spit flecking on the door.

The woman saluted him with two fingers to her temple.

Click. The locks released. Zettel flung the door open.

Everything went black.

The heavy hand of darkness pressed against his mouth and nose, squeezing into his throat, down his chest, and gripping his lungs. The rattle of alarms filled his skull. An impact rocked through his spine.

And then the darkness was gone—and so was the bogey, the box, and any sign of her shadow.

Zettel had somehow ended up sprawled out on his back, and he wasn’t sure how or when it had happened. Maybe that had been the pain he’d felt. The bitch must have pushed him.

Before he could get up, Malcolm ran out of the stairwell, one hand hanging onto the pants around his thighs and the other holding a 9mm. He jerked his trousers over his hips and belted them. He was still shirtless and barefoot. He must have abandoned the rest of his clothing somewhere in the stairwell.

“Did you see her?” Zettel asked, scrambling onto his hands and knees.

“Her who?” Malcolm grimaced and pressed a hand to his temple. “God, that shrieking—someone turn that shit off. Hear me?” When the alarms continued, he put a hand to his earpiece. “Come on, you bastards, turn off the bells!”

Silence flooded the hall. Control was still chattering away, the useless fucks. Zettel turned the volume down on his earpiece.

“We’ve got a problem, sir,” he said, getting to his feet.

“We’d better have a problem, if people are waking me at midnight when I was having a good dream. What in the seven burning hells is going on, Gary?” His Irish accent was even harder to understand when he had been woken up from a drunken stupor.

“Intruder. Thief. We’re under attack.”

“What?” He blinked stupidly as the red spotlights cut out and turned white again. “What kind of intruder? Nightmare? Succubus?” He gave a low chuckle. “A succubus would definitely explain the dream.”

Zettel took a deep breath. Let it out. “She was on me for a second. I only saw a glimpse, but I think I recognized her. And considering what she took…”

“Hang on. Back up a few steps. Who is ‘she?’”

He braced himself for the ridiculous, impossible truth.

“It was Elise Kavanagh.”

Malcolm only stared at him, as if waiting for the punch line to a joke. It never came. “Elise Kavanagh’s body is in cold storage,” the commander said.

“I know.”

“She’s been dead for weeks. You were there when we picked up her body.”

Zettel nodded. “I know.” That day was permanently emblazoned on his memory—the first sunrise that touched Reno after days of darkness, the swirling snow and ash, the decimated buildings. Elise had gone down after killing Yatai, the mother of all demons.

She had already been cold by the time they’d found her. And what sweet satisfaction that had been. It was Elise’s fault that Zettel had been demoted.

He had watched the video of the autopsy with great pleasure. Had seen the mortician weighing her organs. Had read the report on her unusually low body fat and blood volume, her missing reproductive organs, her severed arm.

Elise was definitely dead. But she was also, almost as certainly, the thing that had attacked him.

Malcolm strode for the stairs and hit the button on his earpiece. “Control, I need you to get in touch with Union HQ and have someone check the refrigerators. See if there are any missing bodies.”

A buzz, and the response piped over Zettel’s earpiece, as well. “Roger that.” They jogged down the stairs to the garage, and it didn’t take long for control to respond—nobody ever slept at Union HQ. “Everything is intact, sir.

“Shit,” Malcolm said. He jumped in the first SUV they came across and waved to Zettel. “You’re coming with me, Gary. Let’s get the bitch that stole Elise’s face.”

COLLAPSE