The Second Coming: Chapter Eight

Danäe and Daniel, as they were known in this life, had been married with a small courthouse ceremony. He had worn a white button-down over gray slacks and brown shoes, every inch the teacher’s assistant even though he’d left the position earlier that year. She had worn a black sundress slashed with red and ankle-high Doc Martens. The bored, exhausted judge hadn’t looked twice at the strange couple. She’d barely lifted her eyes from the paperwork.

“Do you, Danäe McCollum, swear to love, honor, and cherish Daniel Hawker for as long as you both shall live?”

“Sure,” she’d said. “And then some, even when he’s a jackass.”

That had gotten a flicker of interest from the judge. Her faint smile spoke of nostalgic appreciation as she scanned the woman’s shoes, her dress, her messy hair. The judge had once been a wild girl who loved wildly too, and she was filled with new energy for the wedding ceremony. “Do you, Daniel Hawker, swear to love, honor, and cherish Danäe McCollum for as long as you both shall live?”

“I already have,” he said, “and I always will.”

The judge finished the ceremony by saying that they were bound to each other, but they didn’t need to hear that part.

The man called Daniel had gripped the woman called Danäe by her narrow waist, clutching her to his chest while she tangled her fingers in his hair, and they’d kissed. Eternities opened between their lips: the swirling of stars and roaring of waterfalls and the beating of two human hearts in synchronicity, making legal the agreement that they’d lived with since their first mortal lives.

She had first seen him in his element, surrounded by skyclad witches dancing widdershins around a bonfire in the wilderness. He hadn’t been with the coven, but above them, and apart from them, radiating with the magic that he was famous for inventing. She had been a small child on the brink of death. If not for his aunt, she’d have died that night. Instead, she’d glimpsed him through the trees, all long legs and angry eyes and white button-down shirt, and she’d tasted destiny.

He’d first seen her as a teenager unconscious in the forest, surrounded by dead angels who’d helped her escape God. She’d almost been dead then too.

Grim days.

For once a noteworthy moment in their life didn’t involve someone dying.

As they kissed, she promised herself that they would have more moments like this: two people doing exactly what normal people did, spending forty dollars on the marriage license and twenty on a pair of cheap rubber rings that wouldn’t interfere with manual labor, married in the clothes they’d been wearing the day before.

The trappings were insignificant. What mattered were the promises.

Elise Kavanagh had promised to love, honor, and cherish James Faulkner for as long as they both lived…even when James was a jackass.

Even if James had gotten into trouble again.

Even if he was trading infernal artifacts in Reno.

Even if he sought dark powers while Elise was breastfeeding their stupid baby around the clock.

“You know,” the judge had said afterward, “saying the vows is easy. They’re not just words, though. For better or for worse only sounds nice. It’s hard stretched out across a lifetime of fuck-ups.”

“We know,” Daniel Hawker had said, taking the wedding license from the judge and kissing his new bride again.

A lifetime of fuck-ups.

It was time for Elise to test the strength of those vows.

During Genesis, Elise had been given an eternity collapsed into a heartbeat to remake the entire universe in whatever form suited her tastes. She’d made so many choices in that instant that she couldn’t have remembered them even if she wasn’t a foggy-brained avatar hauling a newborn around the country with her.

She did remember deciding that Reno, Nevada deserved to be restored to its previous gritty glory.

When she stepped out of the sanctuary’s private jet into the blasting heat of Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s tarmac, she was satisfied to see that everything was much the way she remembered it.

There were some changes to the skyline. The last hundred years had been busy with construction, developing a downtown filled with tired casinos into something more similar to San Francisco, or Portland. Lots of high rise condominium towers, a few quirky tourist towers.

The view of the Sierra Nevadas, jagged blue shapes tipped with white on the horizon, was the same as it had always been. The air still tasted of blooming sagebrush.

Elise was home.

A sanctuary employee waited for her with a sleek luxury sedan. He was a tall, attractive man with black eyes, a pointed chin, and the kind of cheekbones most people paid money to attain. It was strange to see someone with leading man good looks standing like a patient chauffeur.

“How much does she weigh?” he asked Elise.

It took her a moment to realize he was referring to the infant nestled against her heart. “I don’t know. Eight pounds.”

“Perfect.” He circled the sedan and returned with a car seat, which he installed swiftly while Elise watched in confusion. He took great care to ensure it was tight enough in the back seat that it couldn’t wiggle. “I can buckle her in if you want.”

“No.” Elise waited for him to step aside and then poured her baby’s jelly body into the car seat.

Jelly immediately turned into thrashing fury. Victoria didn’t seem to appreciate her first introduction to a car seat. Trying to thread her limbs through the straps was like trying to capture an octopus hopped up on meth. Her face soon grew purple with screaming.

“I can buckle her in,” said the waiting chauffeur again.


Elise stepped back.

It took him barely a moment to get the baby to hold still in her seat. He adjusted the five-point harness and clipped it into place.

“Does it hurt her?” Elise asked uneasily. Victoria was screaming so much she’d turned purple.

“She’s fine,” he said. “The ride’s fortunately short.”

Elise got into the front seat with the driver so that she wouldn’t have to see the baby’s sweaty, wrinkled face.

“I’m Henry Lee,” he said, starting the car and pulling away from the airport.

“Elise Kavanagh,” she said. The fastest way to get James’s attention would be to spread her real name far and wide. If he was around, he wouldn’t be able to resist tracking her down.

It did mean she’d have to deal with assassins too.

Luckily she’d taken quite a few weapons from the sanctuary.

“Are you a friend of the Alpha’s?” Henry asked.

He hadn’t been debriefed on who Elise was. “Who are you?”

“I’m the sanctuary’s northern Nevada municipal liaison.”

“A shifter.”

“Mountain lion,” he said. “You’ll never see me shift. I’m more useful as a human.”

As if she cared. “It’d be hard to operate a car seat with paws.” Speaking of which, Victoria was still shrieking. “Thanks for the help.”

“It’s my job. I’ve been asked to help you with anything you want while staying in Reno. Anything at all.”

The help from a cougar shifter who didn’t like shifting wouldn’t be very helpful. At least he was there to drive Elise and Victoria to their destination…wherever that was.

The city blocks outside the airport had been leveled and rebuilt in the last century. No more was the region populated by scattered, half-empty strip malls; it was now a coordinated neighborhood lined with climate-friendly pine trees and towers with apartments on top and fashionable restaurants on the bottom.

It was a shock to see Reno looking so new. Elise had hoped to revitalize it, but she hadn’t done that much.

This was the work of the citizenry.

Henry Lee noticed her staring. “Is this your first visit to Reno?”

“Sure,” she said. It might as well have been. “Tell me about the area.”

“We’ve essentially been a suburb of the Bay Area ever since they built the monorail. If you know Sacramento and San Francisco, you know Reno.”

That answer was adequate for Elise. She took it to mean that everything was gentrified and occupied by yuppies who thought that living adjacent to former meth dens was fashionable.

“I was to be given an apartment,” Elise said.

“That’s where we’re heading. Dat So La Lee Condominiums. They renovated it two years ago, so it’s not like it used to be,” Henry added hastily, as if worried she’d have heard a bad reputation about it. “You’re on the top floor. Easy zeppelin access.”

“I have a zeppelin?”

“The sanctuary has a few,” Henry said.

Good gods, the world had gone steampunk. That was surely James’s fault. He’d always been charmed by needless retrofuturistic flourishes. Elise wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he’d molded the universe to favor ballet as America’s national sport too.

They passed a new bridge that arched over the Truckee River, which flowed stronger than Elise had ever seen it, to the point where it had no visible banks. The bridge was sleek glass glistening with magic on the edges.

“Reno’s become popular among technowitches,” Henry said. “Between the lithium factory and the arsenic mining, it’s a one stop shop for those covens. Whenever a new coven incorporates here, they’re required to commit a project to the community, so we get lots of…that.” He took a hand off the wheel to wave at the magicked bridge.

Victoria was still shrieking so loudly that Elise could barely hear Henry speak.

He pulled into an underground parking garage. Elise barely waited for him to stop before getting out to retrieve Victoria.

The baby showed no signs of stopping—until Elise removed her, at which point the baby collapsed against her chest, making pathetic quivering sounds.

Henry unhooked the car seat from its base. “Can I carry anything of yours?”

“No,” Elise said.

She held Victoria in her arms all the way up the elevator.

The sanctuary had splurged on renting a condo with windows all the way around the edges, giving her a perfect view of the overflowing Truckee, the snowy mountains, and the sprawling magical urban landscape.

“It’s a pentagram,” she said, surprised. Everything from West 2nd all the way out to Sparks was laid out in large triangle patterns, which, when put together, formed a five-pointed star. The University of Nevada’s old brick buildings took up half the northern slope of the star. Dat So La Lee Condominium Tower was on the easternmost side.

The only roads Elise could see formed the lines between neighborhoods. Everywhere else, asphalt had been torn out and replaced with pine trees.

“It’s the result of a sustainability cooperative between Bay Area developers and the covens,” Henry said. “All the rooftop parks are licensed spaces for spellwork.”

“Where’s all the old stuff? The casinos, the pawn shops…?”

The shifter set Victoria’s car seat by the front door. He pushed a button to open the remaining curtains, allowing daylight to pour over the apartment’s marble features. “Most of them are still around, even if you can’t see them between all the trees. Historical preservation. There was this big uproar from local triadists when Reno started getting reshaped—they were upset that the gods’ design wasn’t being respected.”

Elise gave Henry a blank look. “Triadists?”

“The only triadist church I know of is up near Incline. Big population here,” Henry said. He’d misunderstood her question.

“What are triadists?”

“Oh.” He swept the sides of his jacket aside so to plant his hands on his hips. “Well…you know, the triadists. Those people who think that there are three gods—hence ‘triad’—and that the gods are still around, and involved, and canonize every statement the Voice of God gives. The triadists around here aren’t radicals. We’ve got a close eye on radicalization because of that church, but it’s safe.”

The corners of Elise’s mouth lifted in what might have been a smile. She didn’t exactly feel amused. “Why would they think the gods care about what’s happening on Earth?”

“They’ve been like that since the Balefire Wars.” Henry rubbed a hand over his jaw, surveying Elise in confusion. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Clearly she was missing some important elements of history that were considered common knowledge in America.

“I’ve been busy,” she said, patting Victoria’s back. The infant had fallen asleep before the elevator had hit the top floor. Even though her eyes were closed, she was squirming, lifting her knees to her chest, and grunting.

“You from LCI?”

Elise could safely say, “No.” She didn’t even know what that was.

Henry looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but didn’t dare. Elise was there by order of the Alpha, this Deirdre Tombs, a girl-child who wielded enough power to get Elise a condo nearest a helicopter pad in Reno, Nevada just because Nash said she needed it. Henry Lee was smart enough to have been given stewardship of a region as important Reno, and he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut when it mattered.

“I’m at your service for as long as you stay here,” Henry said. For the first time, he seemed more confused, and his politely suave demeanor was slipping. “Here’s your phone. My number is first in the contacts list.”

Their fingers brushed when Elise took it. Henry flooded her senses: the coarseness of his knuckles, the smell of his hair gel, the chemicals used to dry-clean his suit.

He also smelled bitter, like wolfsbane.

Elise flipped the phone open with her thumb. Text slid over the glass screen, detailing the weather, the time, the local news. She tapped the map icon.

“What are you looking for?” Henry asked.

“Historical buildings. I want to know what’s still downtown that was there in 2012 too.”

“I know the area as good as any app. I can help you.”

“All right.” She flipped the phone shut again. “Craven’s. Eloquent Blood.”

He looked puzzled. “The demon club?”

“It’s there?”

“It’s wreckage,” Henry said. “There’s a hole in the ground—that’s Eloquent Blood. It’s condemned. Craven’s is a few crumbling walls with a placard. It couldn’t be torn down because its historical status was established by triadists but there’s nobody there.”


An unpleasantly sour aroma rose from Victoria. Elise gave her a short sniff.

Unlike Henry, Victoria did not smell like wolfsbane and manly haircare products, but like runny yellow feces peppered with mustard seed-like clumps of spoiled milk.

“What interests you about Craven’s?” Henry asked. “Can I help you?”

“Sure. Where are the weapons?” There had to be weapons.

“Second bedroom.”

He opened the door for her. Elise stepped inside to find an array of guns, swords, and knives mounted on the wall, lit by floodlights such as those that might be at an art gallery. The glistening steel was much more appealing to her.

No more rusty demon blades and gas station pocket knives.

A yellow sticky note had been affixed below a short sword with a single curved blade.

“Hope this helps. -AW”

Those initials meant Abel Wilder, the former Alpha’s mate. He was so thoughtful. He knew just what a woman wanted.

Elise hefted the sword. It had excellent balance.

“What are you doing?” Henry asked.

“Whatever I want, and you’re helping me do it.” She slid Victoria into his arms. “That thing needs a diaper change.”

His eyes went wide. Elise was assured to see that he cradled the baby as naturally as he’d installed the car seat, and he was as unlikely to drop her as he was likely to know how to change a diaper. “I’m a decorated veteran ranked highly at the sanctuary with highly technical martial skills and you want me to…babysit?”

Victoria realized she was no longer on her mother’s chest and started crying.

“I’ll be back in a few hours,” Elise said.

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The Second Coming: Chapter Seven

Memories cascaded within Elise as she stood over the sanctuary.

Rylie was good.

That statement hadn’t been enough.

As Alpha, Rylie Gresham had been a mess of contrasts: a knobby-kneed, innocent-looking blond girl with a shy smile who bit her bottom lip and stared at her feet a lot; a sleek golden werewolf as deadly as a flaming sword who had attacked Aquiel, a demon the size of a mountain, without even a moment’s hesitation.

She had been at Elise’s side when shit had hit the fan with James. They had faced the end of the world together.

Good was far from adequate.

Rylie had been fucking great.

She’d have been proud to see how big the sanctuary had grown in the decades after her death. Hell, Elise was proud of her.


Elise hadn’t dreamed she’d show up at the sanctuary to find Rylie dead.

Now Elise stood side-by-side with Nashriel Adamson, waiting to feel the stir of familiarity within her. She’d carried the soul of his mother, Eve, for many years. Their encounters had always been tainted by her presence.

He was staring at her as though waiting for it to arise again.

“She’s gone,” Elise said. “There’s nothing here but me.”

“And barely that,” Nash said, as though it were an insult. She’d have expected that to be a good thing. From what little she remembered of their history, flitting over the surface of her mind, there had been considerable conflict.

A squeak drew Elise’s gaze to her feet.

Something scraggly and skeletal was rubbing between her ankles.

A cat?

It turned its face up to her, revealing a skull with empty eye sockets and sharp teeth uncovered by lips or whiskers.

A zombie cat.

“The fuck?” Elise asked.

The feline should have been dead. She could count its ribs and the number of joints in its tail. Yet its spine arched as it stroked along her thighs, and the wisps of dusty fur on its flank were layered over chunks of tough, dry fat, like beef jerky.

“Sir Lumpy.” Nash stooped and picked the cat up. It sank its claws into his sleeve to climb onto his shoulders, coiling around his neck. Sir Lumpy was wearing a collar with a tiny skull dangling from it, like a bell. “He’ll outlive us all.”

Elise never would have called the hideously flat-faced skeleton alive, even if it did look content nuzzling Nash’s jaw with its exposed cheekbones.

“Waste of magic,” Elise said.

Hatred flitted through Nash’s eyes. “You’ve been busy. Let me see it.” He extended his hands toward Elise.

Elise didn’t want to surrender the baby to him. It seemed that something hormonal was teaming up with her natural hatred of angels, turning the muscles in her arms to iron.

Nash continued to hold his hands out. He waited.

Elise shoved aside the natural instincts that rode her like a parasite and delivered Victoria to him. It was awkward trying to pass an infant between people, even when one of them was a skilled demon hunter and the other was an angel with preternatural grace.

Warmth smoldered within Nash’s eyes as he surveyed the baby, lifting her with long fingers curved around her soft skull and underneath her padded butt. Sir Lumpy leaned forward to sniff Victoria’s head. The cat didn’t seem to approve. He leaped off of Nash’s shoulders and vanished into the bush’s again.

“Humans and angels can breed,” Nash said. “The resulting creatures are called mages.”

Elise folded her arms. She knew that.

“Theoretically, werewolves and angels would be able to breed as well. Werewolves who had the curse bestowed upon them by a bite are still human—possessed by the spirit of the wolf, rather than a different species. The children of werewolves are not possessed. Shapeshifters are a completely different species.”

She understood now where Nash was going with this line of thought.

Summer Gresham was a shapeshifter born of two Alpha werewolves: a woman as much wolf as she was human, not possessed, but a true preternatural.

Nashriel was an ancient angel, older than time, once a loyal soldier of Adam.

They were not close enough genetically to reproduce.

“We’ve been married for a hundred years,” Nashriel said, “and I have never gotten the opportunity to hold a child who looks as much like myself and Summer as this child looks like you and James Faulkner.” Now his fingers were not so gentle on the back of Victoria’s skull. His knuckles tensed. “And you said that preserving my wife’s beloved pet is a waste of magic.”

“I’ll skin your wife and crush her beloved pet if you hurt my offspring.” Elise was surprised by how strongly she meant that.

“You are guilty of a thousand-thousand evils, yet you get to experience this bliss,” Nashriel said. “I’ve suffered for eons, and what do I get? I watch my wife die of age, as beautiful as the day we met, yet too frail for her heart to beat of its own volition.” His eyes fell shut as his nose dropped to Victoria’s soft hair. He inhaled. “Your daughter is beautiful, Elise, and one day, you too will watch her die.”

“I’m mortal,” Elise said.

“In this form. You’ll live on. She won’t.”

“Give her back.”

Nash did, much to Elise’s overwhelming relief. The baby slept through it all. No survival instincts at this age. “I’ve heard rumors of an angel who has seized Reno, Nevada, and is operating a crime ring out of its casinos. If you want to find James Faulkner, you should begin there.”

Worms writhed unpleasantly within Elise’s gut. “Are you certain of that information?”

“I’ve heard of no sightings of James there, but angels are few, even in these days, and none are in the Western Americas.”

Elise stared at the wrinkled face resting on her chest, which so closely resembled James’s.

In their new life as Danäe and Daniel, there had been minimal conflict between the two of them—only as much conflict as naturally occurred between, say, an overheated pregnant woman and the husband she considered responsible for fixing their air conditioning.

It hadn’t always been that way.

The warm memories of a great Alpha who had passed on came with other familiar feelings, which were far less pleasant.

This idea that James could be in the world, hiding somewhere, running a crime ring…

Not only did it stir disgusting emotions, it sounded revoltingly plausible.

“Give me crime details,” Elise said.

“I haven’t had time to investigate deeply. I’ve been distracted with caretaking duties in years of late.” Nash cast his pale gaze upon the earthen mound. “What I know is this: there is black market trade in pre-Genesis artifacts. Rumor has it that some retain old power, such that hasn’t been seen since the Treaty of Dis.”

“I don’t understand the implications.”

“You brought back the possibility of mages and warlocks when you entered the Origin in 2015. You didn’t restore the knowledge. Mages have made significant progress rediscovering what they can do—infernal warlocks have not. There aren’t warlocks left to communicate. Think of what they could learn from the original warlocks predating the Treaty by studying those artifacts.”

It didn’t make sense. James wouldn’t benefit directly from demon magic. In his avatar form, he was a man; in his god form, he was an angel. Warlock magic was another thing entirely.

But Elise had changed a lot of rules during Genesis.

It was like a light flickering to life in the fiber of her being.

Hadn’t magic begun to mix together during the Breaking? Infernal, ethereal, gaean. She’d wielded power in its many forms. So had James.

What would James want to do with all that?

Assuming it was even him.

“I’ll need money,” Elise said. “Weapons. Transportation.”

Nash’s eyes narrowed. “Why should I help you, when you’ve done so little for me?”

“Rylie would want you to.”

“What will you do if you find James up to his old tricks in Reno?”

Elise wasn’t sure. Kill him, maybe. It would be the fastest way to terminate his avatar and send him back to eternity as a god.

She’d have to raise Victoria alone.

“I’ll figure it out,” Elise said.

Hatred flashed through Nash’s eyes again. “You’ll have all the support you need, Godslayer.”

Her shoulders tightened at the sound of the old name. She managed to say, “Thank you,” but didn’t manage to make it sound authentic.

Nash returned to the earthen mound.

Before the door shut, she saw Nash lowering to his knees beside Abel and the woman in bed. He gazed at her with intensity that Elise recognized, since it was the same way that James looked at Elise, sometimes.

That was Summer Gresham, the woman that Nash had loved for years, now on the brink of death. He looked at her as though she were still the vibrant young thing that he’d sacrificed everything to be with.

The door closed, and Elise was alone with Victoria.

Elise spent the night in the sanctuary, her wounds knitting.

The guest cottage she was given had changed little since the Breaking. The furniture had been updated, but was clearly meant to harken back to the styles that the werewolf pack had used in the early twenty-first century. The furniture looked inexpensive, but it was sturdy underneath Elise when she laid down with Victoria—stuff that was meant to last in the generations to come, now that the sanctuary had enough money to afford finer materials.

She’d been given a crib for Victoria, and Elise looked forward to sleeping on her own without the baby on her chest. But the baby screeched when set down. Elise wanted sleep more than she wanted space.

Victoria settled when Elise curled around her.

Elise couldn’t.

Part of the problem was that the zombie cat had followed her into the cottage. For reasons Elise couldn’t understand, Sir Lumpy seemed equally attracted to and repulsed by the presence of a baby. As soon as Elise put Victoria on the twin bed, the cat leaped onto the headboard to affix its eyeless gaze upon the newborn. Elise flicked her fingers at it to encourage it to go away. Her fingernails connected with Sir Lumpy’s breastbone, and he didn’t move.

So there was a dead cat staring at them.

That wasn’t restful.

Even if Sir Lumpy hadn’t been glaring his fury at them, Elise doubted she’d have been able to sleep. The room was chilly. The sounds of life and movement outside of her cottage made her feel paranoid, even though it was still quieter than the OPA shelter where she’d stayed with Hailey.

For hours, she remained lying on her side, gazing out the parted curtains through the window at the shape of dark mountains against the sky, and her mind raced.

It was James’s fault that Elise was there. He had wanted to have a baby. Elise had only agreed to carry it for him.

In retrospect, she should have made him substantiate as a female avatar and carry his own damn fetus.

That hadn’t occurred to her in the expanse of eternity, and it wouldn’t have seemed as important at the time anyway, since Elise had expected to be able to offload the baby on him once born.

She’d been so certain that James would have only missed the birth if he’d been abducted.

Now she felt certain of nothing.

One of the sanctuary’s leaders had informed Elise of what would happen the next morning. She would be given access to a bank account and supplied an income—how much had yet to be determined. The sanctuary’s private jet would take her to Reno and provide her with a car, which would have a variety of helpful weapons in the trunk.

What happened after that was up to Elise.

No certainties in life.

Victoria began whimpering in her sleep, which quickly escalated to whining, and then crying. Sir Lumpy finally jumped down and vanished underneath the bed. The exposed bones of his paws clicked against the floor.

“Well, that’s one certainty,” Elise muttered. A baby at rest will only stay at rest until her mother tries to get some sleep.

The Second Coming: Chapter Six

Once the adrenaline wore off, it came to Elise’s attention that her femur had a hairline fracture. The pain nearly made her collapse immediately after meeting Deirdre Tombs. She was informed of the pain’s origin by a healer in a cottage at the bottom of the hill, who made a lot of aghast noises as he looked over Elise’s body.

“No prenatal care?” he asked. “No postpartum care? And what about seeing a pediatrician?”

“The newborn didn’t get hit with a shifter’s hammer,” Elise said.

The healer set spells to work fixing before looking over Victoria. He said that the baby’s hip joints were good. He felt no issues when palpating Victoria’s abdomen, though Victoria didn’t appreciate the cold fingers on her naked belly and yelled about it quite a bit. He traced his fingers over the soft spots on her skull and announced those were fine, too.

“Does the baby seem to be reacting to sight and sound normally, as far as you can tell?” he asked.

“As normal as a fucking potato that feeds on bodily fluids,” Elise muttered.

“She’ll need to be scanned,” he said, shining a light into Victoria’s eyes.

Elise had been instructed not to get off the table while the spell was repairing her thigh—and the healing wound where the placenta used to be attached to her uterus, which was, the healer scornfully informed her, the reason she was gushing blood every time she moved too much. Having a healer poking her crying baby and announce something was wrong made her want to stand very badly.

“Give her to me,” Elise said.

Something in her tone was very convincing. He spilled the baby into her arms. Victoria stopped crying once held by Elise.

“Her eyes look a little strange,” he said.

“Strange how?” They were that flat gray color that Marion’s had been when she’d been a baby. Elise thought all babies were supposed to look like that.

“They’re not reacting to stimulus properly,” he said. “So we’ll need to run tests.”

“Is she human?” Elise asked.

The healer looked startled. “Are you?”

That was a good question. Elise wasn’t sure if she and James had decided to bestow any powers on her in this life, and she hadn’t thought to experiment.

The door opened, preventing her from having to come up with a satisfactory answer. Deirdre Tombs reentered, flanked by more armed guards than were meant to fit into the little medical cottage.

“Out,” she snapped.

The healer scurried for the door. “Your femur needs five more minutes before it can handle weight!” he called before leaving.

Deirdre glared at Elise.

Elise glared back.

“You do look kinda like the Godslayer,” Deirdre finally said grudgingly.

“I don’t know you,” Elise said.

“Looks don’t mean a lot.” Deirdre shrugged it off, as if deciding it didn’t matter who Elise was. “You killed a lot of people. Bad people, though. So I’ll let that slide. I’ve been working my way through so-called ‘Alphas’ like Corina for months, and you just knocked one off of my list for me. I owe you thanks for that.”

“Where’s Rylie Gresham?”

“Get in the wheelchair,” Deirdre said. One of her guards brought it to the side of the table.

There was no way Elise was going to get in that.

She moved to stand from the table.

“If you don’t want to have O’Shea in here working on you again, you’ll get in the fucking chair,” Deirdre said.

Elise limped for the door.

The magic hurt significantly, but she’d been through worse.

Deirdre didn’t bother arguing with Elise once she got out of the cottage. Rock and hard place had met and decided they didn’t give any fucks about one another’s attitudes.

Elise was shamefully slow following Deirdre down the road, though.

They didn’t have far to go.

“Rylie Gresham,” Deirdre said, jerking her thumb.

There was a statue at the crossroads. It depicted a woman in her fifties, perhaps her sixties, with long straight hair and a serene expression. There was a wolf coiled around her body that was three or four times larger than her. Elise remembered the sleek, almost feline wolf that Rylie had been capable of shapeshifting into. The statue was meant to represent Rylie in both of her forms.

“She’s been dead for twenty years,” Deirdre said. “And you look like you’re not much older than that. So we’ve got three options as I see it: you’re delirious, you’re telling the truth about who you are, or you were besties with Rylie when you were a toddler and she was old as fuck. Which is possible. That’s something Rylie would have done. She did have eight children, after all.”

Rylie Gresham was dead.

The woman that Elise had been hoping to pass Victoria off to…gone.

The years stamped on the placard at Rylie’s stone feet were significantly higher than Elise expected, too.

When Elise shut her eyes and focused hard, she remembered a few dates from her previous life. She knew that she’d settled in Reno, Nevada with James the first time in…what had that been, 2009? And the world had undergone the Breaking—a terrible time when Hell had leaked onto Earth—in something like 2014.

This said that Rylie Gresham had died in the year 2062.

“What year is it now?” Elise asked.

Deirdre gave her a strange look and said, “It’s 2125.”

Time was such a strange thing as a god.

Elise could have sworn that she and James had returned to Earth, substantiating into avatar forms, at a time shortly following their previous lives. She’d intended to see what had become of the world they had made. They should have appeared no later than 2016, maybe 2017.

Instead, they were seeing a world that had lived a century with minimal interference from them.

How was it that she’d lived something like twenty-five years in this body without realizing she’d lost a hundred years?

Everything felt so foggy.

Time marched on for the pack, though.

“The Elder Wolf will see you now,” Deirdre said, stopping in front of a pile of dirt at the top of the waterfall. They’d gotten back to walking once Elise’s femur had finished healing, which she’d allowed to happen while sitting at the stone feet of Rylie Gresham’s statue. Elise was much faster now that her legs were working.

“Elder Wolf?” Elise asked. “The hell is an Elder Wolf?” There had been no such thing in her day and age, and the thought merely crossing her mind made her feel like an ancient curmudgeon.

“Just get in there. He’s expecting you.” Deirdre folded her arms, stood aside, and waited.

Elise shifted her grip on Victoria and ducked into the dirt mound.

She’d expected to find something magical inside. Witches could cast glamours that cloaked the most extraordinary things in ordinary exteriors, and anywhere a supposed Elder Wolf lived must have been pretty extraordinary.

Nope. Pile of dirt on the outside, pile of dirt on the inside.

It had been smoothed out by lots of people walking around it. There were two mattresses piled with comfortable pillows against opposite walls. There was a stone slab in the middle. And a fire pit in front of that.

The Elder Wolf was sitting in front of the fire pit.

Elise laughed when she recognized him.

“Fuck,” she said. “You’re old.”

“You’re not,” said Abel Wilder.

The man was truly ancient, and he was sitting on a tree stump turned stool more like a frog than a wolf. There was strength in his muscles and smoothness in the way he stood, but he was diminished with age, at least an inch shorter from spine compression without the biceps and shoulders that had once made him intimidating.

He was dark-skinned and heavily scarred on one side of his body. What hair remained was white. His gold eyes remained sharp as ever as he studied Elise, though.

“Shit,” he grunted. “I didn’t believe them. Shouldn’t have put anything past you, but there you go. Get older and stupider every day.” His gaze dropped to the squirming bundle in Elise’s arms, and he laughed. “Ha! You made a baby.”

“You made eight, apparently,” Elise said.

“And twenty-four grandbabies, and sixteen great-grandbabies, and a few great-greats that I’ve lost count of. Whole baseball teams worth of them. Babies are great. Love the little shitheads. Rylie would have been so fucking happy.”

Elise’s jaw clenched. “What happened?”

“A fight,” Abel said. “She sacrificed herself to stop enemies who would have killed the whole pack, grandbabies included. What else would you expect from her? She was too young.”

Dying in one’s late seventies didn’t seem “too young” to Elise, but then, she wasn’t a werewolf man who clearly had reached infirmity of age in his hundred thirties or forties, wherever he was.

He’d lived a long time without his mate.

“Is Deirdre one of those offspring of yours?” Elise asked. “She doesn’t look anything like either of you.”

“She’s not ours. She’s a phoenix. Keeps on coming back at random ages and times whenever she dies—little bit like you, I guess, without the god parts. She’ll get to be Alpha a long time. As far as I know, she’ll get to be Alpha forever unless someone figures out how to scrub her off the planet. She’s welcome to do it. I’m too old to worry about this crap.”

“I didn’t know werewolves could live this long,” Elise admitted.

“Neither did we. Surprise, surprise. Did you do it to us?”

That was another painful confession she had to make. “I don’t know.”

“Fucking avatars,” Abel muttered.

“You have experience with us? Have you seen James around?”

He eyed her suspiciously. “I’m surprised you don’t already know how I’ve run across avatars before. But, I mean, you always come back all scrambled up in the brains like this. Gods aren’t supposed to go mortal.” He added that part very pointedly, with no attempt to hide his judgment.

“I had plans,” Elise said. “James and I had plans, together.” Their main plan was starting to whine in the exact shrill pitch that made Elise want to drop the baby on the floor and walk out of the dirt mound. “Someone’s taken him. I have to find him. If you’ve seen him, now’s the time to mention it.”

“Naw, I haven’t,” Abel said. “I wouldn’t hide that from you. Got no interest in keeping people from their mates.”

Standing up seemed to be too exhausting for him suddenly. He sank onto the tree stump again, back leaning against the stone slab.

It was a sarcophagus, Elise realized.

The statue was the public memorial for Rylie Gresham, but Abel was living in a dirt mound with her body.


But understandable.

“I’d hoped to die of a broken hip or some shit right after Rylie, but instead I’ve had to watch generations carry on without her. Lots of mornings without her. Lots of nights without too. Lots of years,” Abel said. “Fucked up stuff. That’s life, though. Mortal life.”

Elise would never have to deal with mornings, nights, or years without James—once she found him again.

She had an eternity to be with the man she’d chosen. Who destiny had chosen for her.

Motion from one of the beds against the wall startled Elise. She hadn’t realized there was a body among all those pillows. Her senses truly were dulled. It was hard to hear, see, and feel anything except Victoria as she worked up a fuss. She couldn’t have been hungry again. She was just crying to cry.

Elise swung the baby in her arms as she walked over to the mattress.

The woman in bed was a woman with hair and skin similar to Abel’s. Elise hadn’t spent enough time with the pack to recognize who it was, especially with so many years wrinkling her face, etching canyons into features that surely had been beautiful in youth, and making her limbs weak and shriveled.

She was asleep, curled into the fetal position. Probably older than Abel. Probably weaker.

The woman practically reeked of death.

“Who’s this?” Elise asked.

“Like you care,” Abel said.

An angel glided into the room, escorted by Deirdre Tombs. All the age that had twisted Abel’s once-strong body didn’t touch Nashriel Adamson. He was as strong as he had always been, with the lofty height of the entire ethereal breed, the effortless grace, and the flawless skin. Eternally ageless. Perhaps forty-five at the oldest, twenty-five at the youngest. Impossible to tell.

In reality, Nash was thousands of years old.

Millions by some calculations.

He looked unsurprised to see Elise—unsurprised and unhappy.

“Elise,” he said.

“Nash,” she replied.

“You mean this really is her?” Deirdre asked. “Oh shit.” The Alpha kid looked angry all of a sudden, overwhelmed by anger, and her body seethed with flame. Literal flame—it leaped down her arms, ruffled her spongy curls, and turned golden eyes crimson.

“Walk it off,” Nash suggested.

“Don’t talk to me,” she said.

But she did leave.

Nash stared at Elise hard, as though waiting for something to happen. When they glared at one another in total silence for several minutes, he finally said, “I think we need to talk.”

“Be my guest,” Abel said. “I’ve said all I’ve got.” He shuffled over to the mattress with the woman and sat beside her. There was something possessive about his hand on her shoulder.

That possessiveness reminded Elise of the way she squeezed Victoria to her chest, even when she wanted the baby to go away.

Elise followed Nash to the door, but didn’t go outside. She caught herself staring at the stone sarcophagus.

Now that she was in the presence of Rylie’s remains, Elise felt some kind of old consciousness flickering within the shadowy fog of her mind. She remembered sitting beside Rylie in a shower as the girl tried to wash blood off of her body. She remembered exchanging kind words in Rylie’s home. She remembered riding a motorcycle through the forest while Rylie raced alongside her in the form of a wolf, free and wind-whipped and graceful.

They had been friends once.

She needed to say something, but she didn’t know what.

“Rylie was good,” Elise said. It wasn’t enough, but it was the most genuine thing she could pull out of those memories.

Abel looked a thousand years old all of a sudden. “I know,” he said. “I know.”

Available now: Cast in Hellfire

Hey guys! I’m thrilled to announce that my new book is out. Cast in Hellfire was a blast to write, so I hope you guys have as much fun reading it 🙂

Links are below, scroll down! \/\/\/\/\/

As a more general update: I’ve got a finished (HUGE) outline for Cast in Faefire and I’ve started writing it. The outline itself is a whopping 10,000 words, and the book will probably end up about 80,000 words, so it actually shouldn’t take too long to write now that I know everything that happens in the story. It’ll be out in early July at the latest.

Happy reading!

book2Marion Garin is the teenage daughter of Metaraon, the former Voice of God. Now she’s also the steward of the Winter Court, which has been in anarchy since a revolution five years earlier.

Problem: Marion still doesn’t remember anything that happened before two weeks ago.

Seth Wilder has a lead on her memories. Whoever stole them and sold Marion’s essence to a demon lord in Sheol. Marion wants to help steal them back, even though that means abandoning the Winter Court to war. And Seth can’t seem to tell Marion no…

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The Second Coming: Chapter Five

In fact, it turned out that Elise couldn’t get silver knives in Yesler Terrace.

She couldn’t get silver anything in Yesler Terrace.

“Illegal?” Elise echoed dully. “Since when?”

“Since Genesis,” said Hailey. She was obviously struggling to be patient with Elise, as though it could possibly be more difficult to put up with her roommate than with her hideous litter of children.


“Are you just repeating everything I say now?” asked Hailey.

“Tell me what Genesis is,” Elise said.

Hailey stared.

“You know,” she said slowly, “when everyone in the entire world fucking died? Because of the gods?”

Elise stared back.

I killed everyone?

She must have had good reason for it.

Maybe it was James’s fault. It seemed like the kind of asshole move James would have pulled.

Hard to imagine Elise wouldn’t have considered killing everyone in the “entire world” (according to Hailey) important enough to remember once she substantiated into an avatar, even though she did remember what it felt like to kiss James when he hadn’t shaved in a week.

“Genesis got rid of silver?” Elise said.

“The laws after Genesis did,” Hailey said.

That was incredibly inconvenient.

If silver was unavailable, Elise would have to inflict a wound that a shifter simply could not heal.

Elise jerked a knife from the block on the counter. It was cheap but sturdy, with a full tang; it would require only a little sharpening and a smidge of patience to become deadly. “Shifters can’t regrow heads, can they?”

“Oh my gods,” Hailey said. “I’m going to call the cops.”

“Yeah, do that,” Elise said, swiping the knife repeatedly over the sharpening stone from the drawer. “Give me an hour and then call. Tell them I’ve murdered a thug screwing with one of Seattle’s neighborhood, along with many of her friends.”

“An hour? Why should I give you an hour?”

“Because if I get arrested before Corina dies, she will come for your children.”

Hailey hesitated. Two of her wild little kittens were growling from the next room while decapitating Barbies.

“I’ll watch Victoria for you,” she said softly.

That wouldn’t be necessary. It would be easier, of course, to murder without the burden of a useless seven pound weight hanging from her body, but that would require trusting someone—anyone—to watch her daughter. And Elise felt strangely panicky about the idea. Much more panicky than she felt about the idea of slaughtering shifters.

Victoria was presently lying on a blanket on the floor and staring at nothing in particular.

“Laptop,” Elise said.

Hailey pointed.

The panther stood by while Elise ran a quick internet search. She gave a tiny gasp when Elise used the knife to cut a cotton bed sheet into a long strip, but she did help Elise situate the shrieking Victoria on her back while she strapped her into position. The instructions on the internet were helpful. Superior to getting help from an old woman in an RV.

Once Victoria was strapped down, resting high enough on Elise’s back that the baby’s ruddy cheek was pressed on mom’s shoulder blade, Elise jammed the knife into her belt.

“So you aren’t going to kill Corina?” Hailey asked.

“One hour,” Elise said. “Then call the cops. Tell them Elise Kavanagh is going to kill a lot of people.”

She was halfway to the door before Hailey remembered how to speak.

“But the baby!”

Elise slammed out of the apartment.

Victoria slept.

The last night that Elise and James had spent together had been north of Reno, Nevada.

They’d bought a house there after concluding their archaeological dig. Danäe McCollum and Daniel Hawker (a very uninspired choice of pseudonymous surname on his part) had purchased a tract of land in Palomino Valley containing a well with water rights, a stables, and a house from the 1960’s stranded among the endless planes of sagebrush. They had taken care to get a mortgage, and planned to spend the next thirty mortal years paying off that mortgage, allowing cash to trickle into their accounts in order to cover it.

The amounts of money concerned were so small that they’d believed they should go unnoticed. Perhaps they’d gotten a bit neglectful about it—after all, they’d navigated Marut University and the early years of their careers without being caught.

At that point, it almost felt like nobody was looking for them.

Elise had been sitting on the porch on that hot summer night hating her life. Her belly had been irrationally large. There had been inadequate breeze to cool her, and James had been trying to fix the air conditioning unit, and the fact that he hadn’t done that yet had definitely been his fault.

“Where the fuck is my cold air?” she’d shouted at him.

He’d called back cheerfully from the other side of the house, “Think I might have figured it out this time!”

His response had been punctuated by something very heavy falling. Judging by the sound, it had broken.

James was very bad at using his hands to accomplish things rather than magic. They’d been avoiding anything resembling preternatural powers while on Earth, though. It was a challenge that James had risen to meet with enthusiasm.

Elise’s enthusiasm had vanished around the same time as her ability to shave her vulva around the giant-ass basketball of her stomach.

She’d pushed herself off of the bench on their stoop, waddled down the stairs, and glared at James.

The fact that he’d been pleasingly sweaty while working shirtless on their air conditioning unit hadn’t done a thing for Elise’s mood. The last trimester of pregnancy had sucked away her sex drive along with her sense of humor—or so Elise had been convinced at that particular instant. When she didn’t want sex, she was convinced she had never wanted it before, never in her life, and especially not with that James asshole who had inseminated her. When she did want sex…well, James hadn’t needed a cast on his ankle for very long.

“Fix the fucking air conditioner,” Elise had ordered, biting out each word. “Fix it right this fucking second or I will fucking murder you.”

“You look radiant,” he’d said.

She loathed James. “Fix it. Whatever it takes, fix it.” She glowered at him with all the impassioned might of a woman wronged. “I mean it. Whatever it takes.”

And Elise had waddled back inside to abuse the punching bag.

She’d maintained her workout routine throughout pregnancy. That had included jogging up until that week, when jogging had begun to make her ankles balloon to elephant-like proportions, and lifting heavy weights until the horrified obstetrician at St. Mary’s Hospital had begged her to stop.

Nobody could take punching from her, though.


Elise had been obsessed with knocking the stuffing out of the punching bag on that particular night, heat or not. She’d shortly been drenched in sweat, heart pounding, and fists aching.

Why did her fists ache? She’d punched thousands of demons hard enough to break their stupid ugly faces in, resulting in fists tough as steel. But now she was pregnant, and everything hurt, all of the goddamn time.

Eight months down. One more to go.

It wasn’t a comforting thought.

“James!” she’d shouted through the cracked window. “I need cold air!”

At that point, the air conditioning unit had finally clicked on.

He came inside to stand below the vent. Or at least, he’d tried to stand below the vent, but Elise had elbowed him away because she wasn’t sharing.

“Took you long enough,” she’d muttered. Belatedly, she added, “Thanks.”

“I resorted to magic,” James had said.

Elise should have taken that as a bad sign—a huge red flag warning her that it would be their last night together on Earth for quite some time.

It was probably the magic that had led their enemies to them.

Later, she preferred to think that it had been the mortgage. The weird cashflow out of nowhere.

Not the holy, blessed magic that had given an eight months pregnant demon hunter air conditioning on a ninety degree desert evening.

Elise had tipped her face back, eyes closed, to bask in the coolness. She fanned the neck of her shirt and sighed.

A hand had rubbed the small of her back.

“I meant it when I said you look radiant,” James had murmured into her ear. He’d swept her hair over her right shoulder to expose her sweaty neck to the air conditioning.

“I meant it when I said I’d murder you,” Elise had replied.

He’d kissed her shoulder. “I love you.”

“Whatever.” But she’d tilted her face toward his and kissed him back. “I love you, too.” Those were words that neither of them had quite grown tired of saying or hearing. After all they’d suffered to reach that point, it had become holy ritual to verbalize that which shouldn’t have needed to be spoken—a reminder that it was all worth it.

Once his hands had rested on her hips, Elise had suddenly remembered that she did, in fact, still have a sex drive. And she’d been able to think of nothing except yanking James’s belt off and shoving him to the floor next to the stuffing that she had knocked out of the punching bag.

“Gentle,” he’d admonished, catching her on the way down.

“I’m not glass.” She’d ripped his jeans open.

“But this…” James had curved his hands over her belly.

The fetus within had kicked his palms. Delight had spread over his face.

Elise would have been lying if she’d said she wasn’t at least amused, if not exactly delighted as he was.

The baby kicked him again.

“Sweet little love,” James had said. “Darling Mercutio.”

She’d reared back, resting her full weight on his hips. “Mercutio? No. No fucking way.”

“Rosalind if it’s a girl,” he’d said, like that was supposed to make her feel better.

“Cut the Shakespeare bullshit, Daniel. You’re not calling our baby anything that stupid.”

James pulled her down to kiss her. “I like it when you call this thing ‘our’ baby.”

The baby’d kicked again, even harder. It seemed to approve of the conversation.

“Quiet, you,” Elise had ordered the baby. “You’re a mood killer.” Her tone was fractionally softer than it had been when addressing James. Only fractionally.

It had turned out the baby wasn’t really a mood killer. Nothing was a mood killer once Elise had made up her mind.

They’d made love that night under the blissful chill of the vent. The curtains had been open to let them see the glassy evening sky, the wild horses roaming the hillside, the streaks of falling stars vanishing on the horizon.

James hadn’t held Elise like she was glass. He knew her better than that.

And then…

Well. That had been the last of the idyllic moments.

Elise wasn’t sure if she’d forgotten the moment James was abducted or if she’d deliberately purged it from memory. She wasn’t aching to recall it, that was for certain. She wished that she could remember who had come into their house—their home, goddammit—so that she could more easily find her enemy and kill the shit out of them, but Elise didn’t need those particular details.

She was going to find James. He was going to have that baby he’d so desperately wanted.

They would have vengeance.

In her younger days—before the world had ended, before Elise had borne a uterus,  before she’d needed to shave her vulva because androgen insensitivity meant no pubic hair—she had been a traveling fighter, roaming the world to hunt demons. She’d lived out of a backpack.

Her belongings had been few, so what she considered worthy of carrying had been valuable. Oftentimes her backpack had held priceless artifacts. Other times it had held delicate spellwork that her husband had created—though that had been before they were married, of course.

Fighting with a baby on her back would not be all that different, she decided.

Elise had little trouble finding Corina. That mindless minion, Bruce, hadn’t gotten far; he’d joined with another minion to whine about how much he hurt on the street outside the shelter. Elise tracked their rust-pocked van through the streets of Seattle.

Corina worked out of a print shop four blocks away. It was on the street level underneath ten floors of condemned condominiums. Bruce circled the building twice before taking the van into a below-ground parking garage, likely thinking that it would be clever and somehow prevent him from being tailed.

Victoria drooled on Elise’s back as she climbed a fire escape to the roof.

Elise crouched behind a greenhouse, peering around the corner to examine Corina’s guards. The stairs into the condo were protected by a lone, bored-looking shifter who didn’t even have a gun. Corina most likely believed the gold eyes would be deterrent enough. And against average humans, it would have been.

She eased the knife out of her belt.

The shifter wouldn’t even see her coming.

That was the plan, at least.

Victoria chose that moment to squirm, produce a very wet fart, and then begin to wail.

So maybe fighting with a baby on her back wasn’t quite the same as with a backpack.

The shifter guard, to his credit, was on top of Elise within moments; incompetent as he may have been, he was nevertheless a shifter, with all of the preternatural speed that implied.

Elise had the presence of mind to twist herself so that he struck her left side, most distant from the baby, and allowed the momentum of the impact to carry her several yards. It put necessary space between herself and her assailant.

She didn’t plan to let him get that close again.

“Who are you?” he snarled. He wavered when his only response was Victoria’s screaming. Confusion flashed over his golden eyes.

Elise hurled the knife at him.

Even sharpened enough to penetrate bone, it was not silver. He didn’t die on impact. He was properly startled to find a knife jutting from his breastbone, though, and he fell to the rooftop.

Shock held him still enough for Elise to jump on his stomach. She wrenched the knife free. The blood that gushed forth pulsed in time with his heart.

Elise tested her theory that a decapitated shifter wouldn’t regenerate.

Her theory proved good.

A few violent minutes later she stood, panting and blood-soaked, and kicked the shifter’s head across the rooftop to ensure it wouldn’t heal. The eyes blinked at her for another minute. At least he couldn’t keep screaming like that.

Victoria took care of the crying on his behalf, though.

“Fuck me,” Elise muttered.

She wiped most of the blood off of her hands.

She carefully removed Victoria from the sling.

Then she sat against the corner of the roof to nurse that damn baby.


Murdering thugs had been so much faster before motherhood.

Sirens began wailing ten minutes later. Hailey hadn’t waited the full hour to call the police. She must have been worried on Victoria’s behalf.

“I don’t know why,” Elise said to the pug-like squished face of her offspring, who had fallen asleep immediately after one letdown of milk and seemed happy to suckle for the rest of eternity. “You’re obviously just fucking fine.”

The sirens grew closer.

Again, Elise said, “Fuck me.”

Time to kill Corina.

It was much more difficult to get Victoria on her back a second time. The newborn didn’t appreciate having the nipple removed from her mouth and immediately flung herself into a back-arched, red-faced, hysterical fit. And Elise didn’t have Hailey’s assistance in mounting her where she belonged at the apex of the spine. The howling sirens motivated Elise adequately. She got Victoria both secure and bounced to silence before the first of the cops rounded the corner.

Elise kicked open the door to the stairwell and leaped onto the top level of the condominiums.

The penthouse suite, if it could be called such a thing, was empty of furniture, though the pile of blankets on the floor held enough spoons and empty OJ bottles to indicate a dozen heroin users had lived there for months. The mushroom-edged water stains and shattered drywall suggested nobody reputable had lived there since Genesis. Corina did little to care for her territory.

Elise paused to glance through the window. Cop cars were forming a crescent near the entrance to the print shop. There was at least one black SUV among them, suggesting that Hailey had tipped off the Office of Preternatural Affairs as well.

Perfect. The more attention Elise got at this point, the better.

It would have been better in another twenty minutes.

But still.

The condominium’s hallways were equally wrecked but unoccupied. Elise found no signs of life until she reached the rooms directly above the print shop. Then she heard voices emanating from beyond the door labeled “2B.”

“Fuck,” said a woman. “What the fuck are those assholes doing, fucking around in my shit?”

“Did you pay your tithes?” asked a man, whose voice was muffled even though Elise pressed her ear to 2B’s door.

“Of course I fucking paid the fucking tithes!” That was shrieked by the same woman who had spoken first.

The whole building shook. Someone had knocked in the door downstairs.

“What the fuck?”

From behind, Corina didn’t look like much. She was short and wiry. Her hair was like yellow grass.

But she was surrounded by a lot of very big, adoring shifters who were wearing intake bracelets—the favored way of taking lethe, a powerful drug—and she was clearly the one who’d been administering the product. She had the drugs, the money, the power.

Victoria had the sense to be silent up until the moment that Elise came up behind one of Corina’s guards and slit his throat.

He cried, the baby cried, blood splashed on the ground.

Elise’s muscles flexed as she severed his head. She did it faster the second time. She was almost as strong as she used to be again.

“Catch,” she said, kicking him to the ground.

She lobbed the guard’s head at Corina when the shifter turned.

“Who the fuck are you?” Corina asked.

“I’m friends with Hailey,” Elise said, which was not strictly true, but it had the desired impact.

Which was to say, none at all.

Corina just looked confused. She didn’t know who Hailey was. Corina was happy to take money from the local preternaturals, but she hadn’t a clue who any of them were.

She’d earned this death.

Boots pounded through the print shop downstairs.

Elise swung into motion.

Four surviving shifters guarding Corina, and Corina herself. By the time she’d plunged the knife into the next man, Elise had already decided how each of them was going to die.

It helped that Corina was carrying a silver hammer on her belt.

That would make things much easier.

Elise skewered a third guard, and he fell atop the second. Both of them shook with the healing fever. Shifters should have been able to recover from a non-silver wound near instantaneously, but the lethe had weakened them; the seizures indicated that it would be quite some time before they got up again.

She was moving toward the fourth when her hip crumpled.

Corina had swung the hammer. Smashed it into Elise’s thigh. There was enough force that it felt like her pelvis might have broken.

Her pelvis still wasn’t in great shape from giving birth. It hurt a lot.

“You crazy bitch,” Corina spit.

She swung again.

Elise caught the shifter’s wrist, redirecting it so that the hammer smashed a hole into the floor instead of her baby’s head.

Corina had aimed for the baby.

The woman had tried to kill Victoria.

Elise jerked the hammer out of her hand, and she swung it with less force than Corina had. She didn’t have shifter muscles, after all.

But she had enough anger to make up for it.

She swung and she kept swinging through the warm white buzz of rage.

Elise was splattered. Things cracked. Bodies thudded.

And when the Office of Preternatural Affairs finally kicked down the door of Corina’s condominium, they found Elise standing among a collection of bodies that looked like they’d been through a meat tenderizer, while she herself was drenched in blood. A lot of flashlights shined on her, blinding Elise.

She dropped the hammer and lifted her hands.

“Take me to the Alpha,” Elise said. “Tell her that Elise Kavanagh wants to see her.”

There were rumblings about taking the baby away from Elise after she was arrested. Nobody seemed that serious about the threat, because nobody attempted it.

However, they did zip tie her hands together. And there were a lot of guns aimed at her as she was escorted onto a helicopter.

Elise remained standing in the chopper as it cut through the rainy clouds. From above, Yesler Terrace looked as much a shithole as it had on the ground level, but it was a shithole sans one douchebag shifter who had been bullying the likes of Hailey, so it was better than when she’d come in.

She’d forgotten how good it felt to fix things. To be a hero.

Elise licked her lips. There was blood on them. Even though she wasn’t a demon anymore, she still sort of enjoyed the taste. It tasted like victory.

She’d forgotten that too.

Victoria seemed to enjoy the sound of the helicopter’s engine and the gentle swaying motion. She only woke up when Elise was transferred to a private jet at an airstrip—still continually surrounded by terrified looking OPA agents, who must have been warned who Elise Kavanagh was, or at least how much damage she could do—but Elise quickly put the baby back to sleep with the help of a brave female agent who removed Victoria from the sling and placed her in Elise’s arms so that they could breastfeed.

It was becoming natural to nurse the baby every time she made a noise, even if the act remained unpleasant. Elise did, however, enjoy the way that the agents stared at her as she performed that biological maternal act, as though they were equal parts disgusted and confused by the blood-drenched monster with a whelp nestled against her chest.

Elise stared back at them. She kept staring as the jet cut through the night.

They landed at a shapeshifter sanctuary after many hours.

Even in the night, Elise recognized the location from her last lifetime. Not the giant wolves who encircled the jet—she’d never gotten good at identifying werewolves in their animal forms—but the waterfall, the steep valley, the trees.

Elise had very violent memories of the shapeshifter sanctuary outside of Northgate, and that was as close to fond memories as she could come.

She was starting to get excited when the agents escorted her off of the plane. It wasn’t necessarily that she was excited to see Rylie Gresham, the werewolf Alpha, for social reasons—Rylie was a nice kid, but that was about it.

No, Elise was excited because Rylie had at least three children already, and she’d know what to do with Victoria.

Elise would be able to ditch the newborn with someone trustworthy—someone who could eat any and all attackers—and go about the business of finding who had kidnapped James.

But when she set foot on the airstrip, it was not Rylie Gresham who emerged from the mass of furred wolf bodies.

Rylie was a petite blond woman with knobby knees.

This was a cute, scrawny black girl with kinky hair and well-fitted leather trousers. She must have been about twelve years old. She wore spiked boots with silver buckles and so much attitude that the air shivered around her.

“Where is the Alpha?” Elise asked. “I’m supposed to see the Alpha.”

The black girl said, “My name is Deirdre Tombs. I am the Alpha. The question is, who are you, and why are you claiming to be god?”

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Available Now: Cast in Angelfire

Cast in Angelfire is available now!

Cast in Angelfire 4bNineteen-year-old Marion can’t remember anything before waking up at Mercy Hospital. All she knows that a lot of people want to kill her. And her would-be assassins are not human…

Faeries are real. So are vampires and angels.

They all want Marion dead.

Surrounded by enemies, Marion turns to Lucas Flynn: a mysterious doctor as good with a gun as he is with a scalpel. He fights like a demon but claims that he’s human. And he’s hellbent on protecting Marion.

Lucas claims that Marion is a half-witch, half-angel mage with terrifying powers that could crack the world. But Marion can’t remember how to cast magic any more than she can remember where she comes from.

Marion must find her identity and her power…before the forgotten sins of her past catch up with her.

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Available Now: Schatten Des Alpha

The German language edition of Beta, titled Schatten Des Alpha, is available now!Schatten-des-Alpha-Kindle

This is the third book that translator Benjamin Schmitt and I have collaborated on so far, and it’s a really good one! 😉

Schatten Des Alpha is currently available exclusively on Amazon. Whip out your Kindle Unlimited membership and enjoy!

Happy reading!

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