Releases: March 15, 2015
“Son of a demon!” This crap required a supernatural curse. I had fallen ass first into what looked like a mad scientist’s room—if that mad scientist happened to also be a practitioner of magic.
Beakers connected to elaborate glass tubes bubbled, as did a cauldron that hovered over an open flame.
I rolled off the open tomes and glass jars I’d fallen on only to topple off a table and onto the ground. As I did so, several vials tumbled with me—clinking against the floor.
“And I’d always assumed sirens were graceful.”
I moaned and rubbed my backside. “Some warning would’ve been nice,” I managed.
“You’re lucky I don’t kill you on the spot. I could use some siren blood and a favor from the devil.”
That jolted me to attention. I was on my feet in an instant, my hand hovering near one of my knives, ready to square off with the sorceress.
But as my eyes roved over the vats with their plumes of colored smoke, I saw no one.
“Halt your hand. I will not tolerate drawn weapons in my house.”
“Then show yourself,” I called, straightening and lifting my hands to indicate that I was unarmed.
“You show yourself.”
I scrunched up my face. Huh?
“Siren, show yourself!”
Her words seemed to wrap themselves around my siren and drag her to the surface. My back arched as light flared along my skin, bright and immediate.
“Vampire, show yourself!”
I’d barely caught my breath when my gums receded and my fangs unsheathed themselves.
“Soulmate, consort, show yourself!”
My heart seemed to burn at the command. When the pain became nearly unbearable, the woman grunted her approval.
“Enough,” she said.
As quickly as it came, the pain abated, the siren fled, and my fangs receded. I fell to my knees when I was released and coughed. “Ow.”
“You may step forward.”
Oh yeah, because I was so eager now. I rose to my feet, but I still saw nothing other than plumes of tinted smoke.
My feet jerked forward, through the smoke, until I caught sight of a woman reclining on an ornate couch. A very, very stoned woman.
The sorceress was high as a kite and intimidating as hell.
She sat up, her long white hair shifting about her. She had a third eye tattooed on her forehead, and I had the strangest impression that the thing could actually see me.
“Stop,” she commanded.
My legs halted as the magic in her voice receded, and I glowered at her. “Bossy much?”
Her eyes widened at my words, and she tilted her head. “Got a little fire to that tongue, do you now?” Her eyes narrowed as they passed me over. Then her features relaxed. “It’s good thing I can appreciate a hot temper,” she said, sucking in a lungful of the pink smoke that billowed around us. “Shame the devil has enough fire as it is.” She cackled at that. As she did so, blue smoke curled out from her nose and lips.
I studied it, fascinated.
“Are you planning on gawking at me like the village idiot all evening?”
My lips, which had parted, now snapped shut.
“Much better,” she said. “Now come.” She patted the couch next to her.
I practically dove to the couch to avoid her compelling magic. Which earned me another chuckle. “Maybe you’re not the village idiot after all—jury’s still out on that one, though.”
I kept my smartass mouth shut. The thing had gotten me into trouble before, and I could already tell I’d blow it with this broad if I opened it now.
The sorceress inhaled deeply again. “I am Hestia, Mistress of Potions, Sorceress of Upper Europe.”
In the expectant silence that followed, I cleared my throat. “I am—”
“I know who you are.” She eyed me up and down. “Consorte del diavolo. What I want to know is why you think I should help you.”
Well that shut me up. … For about five seconds. “Because I don’t want to die and marry the devil.”
She leaned back into her seat and appraised me. “Why not?”
Was this a trick question? “Because he’s evil and I don’t love him?”
“Bah!” She waved her arms. “I don’t see what the problem is. You stink of evil.”
My fangs dropped down at the comment. “I do not.” Even as I objected to her words, I covertly sniffed myself. Instead of inhaling my scent, I breathed in a lungful of pink smoke.
I coughed and waved my hand through the air, little puffs of blue smoke trickling out of my mouth. “What is this?”
“Santus fumus—holy smoke. Feel honored to breath in the hallowed air of my foremothers, the great oracles of Delphi.”
She wasn’t done. “Some of the world’s greatest prophecies were borne in this smoke.” She leaned forward. “Even yours.” I swear that third eye of hers was squinting at me.
I cocked my head, trying not to wince at the boneless feel of my neck. The smoke was already taking effect. “You’re telling me my fate was prophesized by some women who spent their days hanging out and getting high?”
Hestia’s eyes twinkled as she settled back into her seat. “I think I like you,” she declared. “You’re not so dumb after all.” A moue of disappointment pinched her lips. “It’s too bad you’re marked for death. You’ve got verve.”
I only barely stopped myself from snorting. This lady was gone.
“And despite your stink, you are strangely pure of heart.” She folded her hands and peered over at me. “Tell me, have you even bedded the vampire yet?”
I sucked in a surprised breath and choked on the pink smoke again. I pounded my chest and coughed, plumes of blue smoke leaving my mouth.
“Well, that’s a no,” she said for me. “Shame. Had life given me that man, I would’ve ruined him for all others.” She blew out a puff of smoke, her eyes growing distant. “Absolutely ruined him,” she muttered to herself.
Batty old woman.