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A Taste of The Company of Shadows

Edits are going well for The Company of Shadows, and I hope to have it ready for publication in the next week or so. Here’s a little excerpt between Cady, her neighbor (whose name she doesn’t know yet, but she thinks is a cop) and a seductive demon (currently inhabiting the body of a gallery owner named Claudio), who has just forced her into a darkened parking lot.

It was exactly what they warned you about. You leave a club alone or with a good looking guy and they find your body raped and mutilated in a dumpster the next morning. Wide eyed, she whimpered as he dragged her away, her feet flailing, unable to gain any purchase on the ground until he pressed her against the side of a car in a cramped parking lot. Cady squinched her eyes shut, concentrating on evening out her breathing to stop the burning in her lungs from lack of air.

“Shhh, it doesn’t have to be this way,” he crooned at her ear. “Open your eyes and look at me.” That only doubled her resolve to keep her eyes tightly shut. Somehow she knew it would be worse if she gave him that satisfaction. “You’re being childish.” Claudio lost some of his amusement, frustration creeping in.

Tough titty, her mind screamed at him with juvenile glee as she dug her fingernails into the side of his wrist as hard as she could.

“You will obey me!” Something sharp jabbed her in the stomach and her eyes popped open of their own volition. Instantly his face swam before her, blocking out all else. “There now, relax. I don’t want to hurt you.”

The tension drained away, even as a secret corner of her mind wailed in protest, preferring to hold onto the terror to this easy capitulation. “You don’t?” she breathed as his hand let up on her mouth.

“No.” His fingers stroked the side of her cheek tenderly. “I only want to know you.”

That didn’t sound so bad. It actually sounded pretty good, and Cady’s head dipped in a slow nod. Something nagged at her sub-conscious though. “Why?”

“Why?” he repeated, his head tilting to one side.

“Yes, why do you want to know me?”

A low chuckle rumbled through him and she felt it everywhere his body pressed against hers. “Can’t you guess?” His fingers brushed down the side of her neck, tracing the line of her collar bone and continued down over the swell of her breast.

Naked desire shot through her like a bolt of electricity, but Cady fought it, clinging to the mistrust of her response. “I don’t want to.”

“Your body tells another story. Listen closely…” His hand snaked around her waist to catch hold of her hair, tugging gently, effectively tipping her head back. Before she could protest, his lips covered hers, taking and giving in the same breath. And then she didn’t want to protest anymore. She didn’t want anything but to give him everything he sought and more.

His fingers probed under her top, splaying over bare skin and Cady arched under his touch, no longer caring where they were. The tug on her hair grew sharper and she moaned against his mouth, pleasure mingling with pain until she realized he’d stopped. Stopped kissing, stopped touching, stopped everything. She opened her eyes, only to see him frozen in a rictus of pain. The handle of a dagger protruded from his back, low, near the kidneys. Cady stared at it stupidly, not understanding where it had materialized from.

Claudio made no move to pull it out, he made no moves at all, scarcely breathing. “Help… me…” escaped from his lips, mutated by lack of movement. Without pause, she grabbed hold of the hilt, surprised at how easily it slid from his flesh.

“No, don’t!”

Head snapping up, she caught sight of her neighbor, approaching at a dead run. She stared at him in shock, not comprehending why he could have possibly thrown a dagger at another man. And then it hit her like a cold slap in the face as Claudio’s influence slid away and her free will returned. In that same instant, he spun her around, using her as a human shield, one hand fisted tightly in her hair and the other at her throat. The cop slowed, approaching warily.

“Let her go,” he demanded, hands coming up slowly.

“I could end her now. That would be more blood on your hands.”

“My hands are clean, yours are the ones stained with souls,” her neighbor scowled, and Cady licked her lips, finding her voice.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Shh,” Claudio purred in her ear. “It will be over soon.”

But Cady found no comfort in his words, the spell broken. She gripped the dagger loosely, her hand slippery with his blood. Should she do something? Did the guy have another weapon? Why didn’t the cop draw his gun?

“Don’t take another step,” Claudio growled. “I would hate to mark this tender flesh.” Cady felt a sting at her neck as his middle finger scraped across her collarbone, drawing blood despite his words.

Heedless of the warning, the cop continued his advance, producing another blade. “I’ll go through her if that’s what it takes to stop you. You know I will.”

“How prettily he defends you,” Claudio chuckled. “You may kill this body, but you can’t stop me. Haven’t you learned that by now?”

“This is crazy…” The world began to spin and Cady sucked in a greedy breath, realizing she’d been frozen in place with fear for far too long. It started to look like she was dead no matter what happened, whatever feud between the men too all encompassing to care about a little thing such as her safety. All at once she remembered she had the knife in her hand, and Cady plunged it into Claudio’s thigh. At the same instant she let all of her weight crumple to the floor, as if her legs wouldn’t hold her any longer, and slid from his grasp. Expecting pursuit, she was stunned to find him completely frozen again.

Not so was her neighbor, who closed the distance faster than she thought possible. Cady expected him to kneel at her side to see if she was okay, or to call for back up or even handcuff Claudio. He did none of those things. The black blade of his second dagger flashed once and Cady watched in horror as he impaled Claudio’s hand through his own. The blade pinned them both to the car, palms pressed together, their blood mingling to run down the hood.

“Oh my God…” Her lips moved, but no sound came out as she stared at them in a shocked stupor.

The blonde grunted against the pain, but kept them steadfastly pinned together as he began to chant. “Immundus spiritus, audite et scire timor.”

“What are you doing?” Cady’s scalp ached from the pulls to her hair, and the scratch on her collarbone oozed blood, but other than that she’d manage to escape relatively unscathed.

He ignored her, continuing to chant. “Hostis humani generis, vitae raptor, tu malorum radix vitiorum seductor hominum…”

Whatever he was doing, Cady saw real terror in Claudio’s eyes. They beckoned to her and she quickly looked away, not wanting to get caught up in his spell again. A flash of movement caught her eye as she trained her gaze down; Claudio’s fingers scrabbled at the hilt of the dagger buried in his thigh. “His other hand is still free,” she called out in warning, but her neighbor gave no sign that he even heard her, continuing to speak in the strange language that reminded her of being in church. “The knife,” she managed to squeak only seconds before Claudio pulled it free with a lurch, immediately plunging it into the cop’s unprotected side.

He sank to his knees with a groan of pain, the black dagger still trapping both their hands against the car. No longer frozen, Claudio tried to free his own hand, but the cop somehow found the strength to fight him. Their hands worked free of the car, still pinned together, and the blonde man’s lips moved, resuming his chanting.

With a cry of anguish, Claudio reversed his struggle, clasping the other man’s hand and pulling instead of pushing. It sent the tip of the dagger against his own unprotected neck. The blade cut through sinew and tendon, and the dark man didn’t stop until it sliced through the thick artery at his own throat.

Cady watched in horror as Claudio’s blood spurted in a great arc, landing at her feet by his own design. “I didn’t choose this,” he rasped, his voice thick and burbly as he settled his shadowy gaze upon her. “Remember that.”

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