Wraith and Ruin: Chapter Three

Happy Friday, lovelies! I hope you enjoy this week’s installment of Wraith and Ruin!

If you missed the previous chapters, you can find them here:

Chapter Three

Jack

She didn’t accept phone calls. When I called the number Jay Donnelly had given me, it was to hear a recording of a waspish voice tell me to fucking email like a normal person. That was followed by an email address, and the message had come to an abrupt stop. It was like being hung up on. By voicemail. Which was really a whole new level of shade and I was starting to get why he’d called her a hardass.

So I’d emailed. Told her I had a client who needed to get out of her deal.

Waited a day and didn’t get a response.

Emailed again.

And then she’d emailed me back.

Unless you have $100,000 for me to even look at your case, and another $400,000 if I get her off, you’re wasting your time. And from what I’ve seen about you, you don’t have that kind of cash, hunter.

And that felt like being hung up on too, and I wondered how the hell she managed that with email. 

The days were slipping by, each one bringing us closer to the end of Marissa Laurence’s time on Earth, the end of her time free from the clutches of a particularly nasty-ass demon who was going to make her his personal pet.

And the lawyer, Serena Hawkins… she was right. I didn’t have that kind of cash. Marissa’s friends didn’t either, even if I did feel okay telling them that demons are real and the reason their friend had been numbing herself with drugs and alcohol for the past few years was that one owned her soul, and her time was almost up. How do you tell people something like that? I mean, if they’re calling me, they at least are open to the idea that bad shit exists, beyond the realms of possibility. But being open to that and hearing that one of your friends are in danger from it… no. They thought Marissa had been freaked out by the hauntings at the market and had taken off because of that. For the time being, I was fine letting them think that.

I sat on my bed in my crappy little hotel room in Detroit. I’d emailed Serena again, with no response. So I sent another one an hour ago, and as cleaned my guns, I heard my email alert ping. I set the gun down on the nightstand and picked up my laptop. 

Message from Serena. I took a deep breath and opened it.

Are you stupid or just masochistic? You can’t pay. We both know it. Stop wasting my time.

I chuckled and emailed back.

Stupid, no. Masochistic, sometimes. Depends on the girl, though.

Anyway. Look. I know I don’t have the money. I won’t even lie and try to tell you I can get it. I can’t. And I know you don’t give a rat’s ass about helping. But I think we can form a beneficial partnership. You know what I do for a living. I come across all sorts of weird shit. Know a few demons personally, and there are lots of people out there who don’t know about you, wouldn’t know to look for you. You have a very niche practice. I can steer business your way. Hell, I can even help researching your cases if you want me to. Plus I’m a damn delight to work with. Ask anyone.

A few minutes later, my email pinged again.

I don’t need your help.

I rolled my eyes and started typing.

You know, we could at least text like people from this century if we’re gonna do this. Who the hell emails anymore? I know you don’t need my help. But you’re a businesswoman, and a smart one from what I hear. We both have the kind of jobs no one else understands. I’m just saying. Could benefit both of us.

Seconds later, another ping.

Nice try, trying to weasel my personal number out of me. Email is just fine. 

Meet me at Jumbo’s in the Corridor. We’ll talk. One hour.

I nodded, grinning as I typed my response.

I’ll be there.

I got up, took a quick shower, and threw on a clean pair of jeans and a black t-shirt, my black Carhartt jacket over it. When I got into my truck, I let the Detroit classic rock station blare, cranked the windows down so I could feel the cool fall air as I drove through the city.

She’d done her research, I thought. She knew exactly who I was, what I did. Which wasn’t hard to find, but she’d done some digging. Enough to know that I wasn’t rolling in the dough. Enough to not even question why I was trying to save someone I didn’t even know. I guess it was to be expected. From the research I’d done on her, she was meticulous, cool, calculating, and confident. She wasn’t going into this, even a discussion with me, unless she was pretty sure she had a possibility of getting the better end of our deal.

She could have it. I didn’t give a shit. Helping her meant I’d be helping others, so I was fine with it. And in the end, the joke was on her because I didn’t have much time left anyway. But she didn’t need to know that. No one’s business but my own.

I pulled into the parking lot of the old dive bar and parked, then blew out a breath.

“You know what to do, Carl,” I told my truck ghost.

“Anytime, man,” the ghost replied in his slow Mississippi drawl. He was my truck’s former owner. Loved the sturdy black 87 Silverado more than he’d loved anything else in life. When I’d bought it, I’d ended up with a haunted truck, and I had no problem with that. I mean. I could have banished him. But Carl is pretty chill and he’s the best damn truck theft deterrent in the world. I can park anywhere and no one messes with my shit. He’s pretty quiet, content to just be in the truck and ride along with me. It works.

I got out and walked toward the entrance, pulling the steel door open and immediately was enveloped by the darkness, the scent of stale beer and whiskey. Ray Charles was playing on the jukebox, and the sound of people playing pool and chatting, laughing surrounded me. I looked around, my eyes immediately drawn to a redhead at the bar. Her long hair was a mass of wild curls down her back, reaching nearly to her shapely ass as she sat on the bar stool. She wore jeans that clung to every curve and a gray v-neck top that somehow managed to cover everything while also revealing a whole hell of a lot.

She turned and looked me over, her eyes narrowing. I kept walking, sliding into the barstool next to hers.

“Whatever’s on tap, thanks,” I said to the bartender, looking back at the redhead as she studied me. “Serena. Nice to meet you.”

She just kept looking at me, hazel eyes narrowing more.

“What?” The bartender set my beer down and I handed him some bills. He walked away after checking to see if Serena needed anything. She waved him off and he left.

“Why are you worrying about some random woman’s soul when your own is equally claimed?” she asked. I was just raising my beer glass to my lips and froze, just for a second. I gave a small shake of my head and then took a gulp of beer.

“We’re not here to talk about me.”

She rested her elbows on the bar and kept studying me. “But we are. This changes things.”

“Yeah and you weren’t supposed to know that. So how did you know?” My words came out shorter than I intended, but it wasn’t something anyone else knew about, other than Namaloth and me. And I liked it that way.

“I can see it,” she said, still studying me. “There’s a sense of emptiness about you, one that every one of my clients has. I understand now that it means someone has claimed your soul… it isn’t really yours anymore.”

“Not something you’d know much about, huh?”

She raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Nope. Lucky me.”

I nodded. I could feel it from her too, even if Donnelly hadn’t told me. Supernatural beings have an aura. All of them. And I can see them. An ordinary woman shouldn’t have had one, but she did. And it was gray and bleak, like staring into nothing. Just like the other Wraith I’d known once.

“Look. Like I said, this isn’t about me. I made a deal, and I knew better than anyone what kind of shit I was getting into. I’m fine with it.”

“Are you?” she asked in a low smooth voice, watching me. It was like being watched by a tigress who was waiting to pounce.

I blew out a breath. “Doesn’t matter,” I said, as close as I could get to admitting that I definitely wasn’t fine with it. “We’re not talking about me.”

She stirred her drink. Rum and coke, it looked like. The ice clinked against the sides of her glass as she lazily swirled it with the thin straw. “The only reason I’m here is because you claim you can be of help to me. I’m starting to doubt that.”

I took a long swallow of my beer and watched her. She didn’t look away, and I knew I’d lose any foothold I’d gained with her if I looked away now. “You do your research. I know you checked me out. Which was why you decided this might be worth your time. Cut the shit, lady. My personal shit hasn’t impacted any of my work, and it won’t now.”

Serena

Ooh. A strong one.

I was woman enough to admit it: at least part of why I’d agreed to meet with him was because I was intrigued by the hunter. And from the few pics I’ve seen, mostly on his Facebook page, he was worth a closer look.

And oh, he was.

Broad shoulders. Dark stubble. Short, dark hair, and deep brown eyes. He had the kind of confident swagger that only a man who has faced the most dangerous creatures in existence, and won, could ever achieve.

And he didn’t give an inch. Not in emails, not when I stared him down. I was good at making men cower. Not this one. I had no intention of working with him. His proposal was a joke and one born of desperation, from a man who wasn’t used to losing. I could appreciate that even if I thought it was ridiculous.

“You really believe that,” I said, my lips curving a little in amusement. “You’ve tried to make a ridiculous, nonsensical deal with me to save a woman you don’t even know from a fate you share. And you don’t think your ‘personal shit’ has any hold on what you’re doing?”

“Does yours impact what you do?” he shot back.

“Of course. I know I’m in no danger when I do what I do. I summon them, hold them captive until the deal is done. The only time I’m in danger is if I happen to visit Hell.”

He watched me closely. “Which you never do… right?”

“On occasion,” I said with a shrug. His gaze sharpened a bit as he looked at me, then he gave a small shake of his head.

“Do you have a death wish?” he asked.

I smiled. “I’m young, hot, and rich as sin. I’m fine sticking around for a while.”

“If you say so,” he said in response, taking another gulp of his beer. “You know there’s nothing to keep them from killing you when you enter their domain.”

My mind flashed back to the other night. I’d gone farther, given myself over to their dominance more than I ever have before, and it was so unlike me. And I was pushing it more and more lately, preferring the thrill of fear to the boredom and nothingness that filled most of my emotional life. 

“Not your concern,” I said, keeping my eyes on his.

“Fine.”

I wanted him. I’d have to be both blind and dead not to. I smiled. “I’d like to alter our deal a little.”

He shrugged. “Since we haven’t made a deal yet, let’s hear what you’ve got.”

“One night in my bed. Plus the other stuff you offered.”

He’d been raising his glass to his lips and paused.

And then the bastard laughed.

“Something’s funny?” I asked, hearing the iciness in my own voice. Which only made him laugh harder, then he gulped down the rest of his beer and signaled the bartender for another.

“Hilarious.”

“I—“

“I’m a half-million dollar screw. I’m so putting that on my resume,” he said.

“It’s not— I…” I spluttered, and he chuckled more. “It’s the other things you offered too. I admit that you have contacts I don’t,” I said smoothly, knowing it was a lie. I didn’t give a shit about his contacts.  “And while I’m not really looking for more clients it wouldn’t be a bad thing to hear when something interesting comes up.” I sipped my drink. “That just sweetens the deal.”

He sighed, giving the bartender a few more bills when he brought his beer. 

“You know you want to,” I said, regaining some of my composure.

“Crazily enough, not every man you meet is going to want to sleep with you,” he said, meeting my gaze before taking another gulp of beer.

“That’s a lie. The straight ones always want me. And you do too,” I said.

He set his glass down and looked me dead in the eyes. “Do I? Do I really? Look real close, Serena.”

And I did. He was calm. Cool. Not even a little bit flustered or unsure around me. No sign that he was trying not to stare. He hadn’t even tried to touch me.

What the fuck.

I looked at him in stony silence, and he kept his eyes on mine, taking another drink of his beer. 

“So?” he asked.

I didn’t answer. 

“So it’s clear: I don’t want you. I tend to like my women to have a soul. I want to get this woman out of her deal so she can have her life back. In return, I’ll steer good clients your way and help you research their cases whenever you ask. I know you only want the ones who can pay. Those types never hire me, because they think I’m a joke. But I hear things. And I’m good at my job.”

“So I have heard,” I finally said, knocking back the rest of my drink. The truth was, I didn’t give a fuck about his client or his supposed help in any future jobs I took.

I just knew that he made me feel something. Irritation, mostly. Curiosity. I knew I was grasping at straws, desperate for something new in my life.

“Fine. Bring her to my office on Monday,” I said, giving him another look. I took one of my cards out of my purse and wrote my personal number on the back, the one no one other than my mother and a couple of my cousins had. I tossed the card in front of him and slipped off the barstool, then walked out of the bar.

The bastard didn’t even watch me go. I got a little giddy at how irritated I felt knowing that. For now, it was enough. It was something in the vast nothingness, and that was more than I’d had an hour ago.

Copyright Colleen Vanderlinden. All rights reserved.

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Wraith and Ruin: Chapter Two

It’s time for another chapter of Wraith and Ruin! Thanks for your patience — last week was bananas. I’ll have another chapter for you on Friday. Enjoy! (If you missed the first chapter, you can read it here.)

Chapter Two

Serena

It’s hard to describe Hell to someone who’s never been here. Most people should be grateful for that, really, that they will never have any idea what it’s like.

The mast majority of Hell is dominated by what’s commonly referred to as “The Pits.” It’s the endless, gray, filthy area beneath Hell proper, which sits on a rise above it. It’s not the fiery place it’s usually depicted as. The doomed souls in the Pits live a cold, gray, eternity each trapped in a hell of their own making. They stand, motionless in the pits, while their minds torment them forever.

I have never been so glad to not have a soul as I am when I see those lifeless fuckers.

But Hell proper… well, that’s something entirely different. Set above the filth and chilliness, it’s like a vast futuristic city, divided into seven districts, each representing one of the 7 deadly sins.

Greed is full of sprawling mansions, gold-plated everything, glass and steel high-rises filled with demons who can just never seem to get enough of whatever it is they desire. Greed is notoriously suspicious of outsiders, each resident demon jealously guarding its hoard against anyone who might be eyeing it. And every single one of its neighbors is, of course, because: greed.

Pride is full of self-important asshole demons, all telling anyone who will listen, willingly or not, about how fucking amazing they are. The demons there love showing off their shit, which makes them very different from the ones in Greed. Lots of statues and monuments in Pride. Usually erected by individual demons to celebrate him or herself.

Envy is a lot like Greed, except that the residents just seethe over what everyone else has, thinking their own individual belongings are shit. It’s a fucked up place. Of course, it’s not just material belongings. Lots of stalkers and shit in Envy.

Sloth is a fucking mess. Trash is piled in the streets around houses that reek of who knows what. The demons who live there can often be found sprawling wherever they happen to be when they don’t feel like moving anymore. Nobody goes to sloth, except the assholes from Greed who sometimes decide to steal shit from the residents of Sloth just because they can.

Gluttony is full of all you can eat restaurants, all you can drink bars, and every type of junk food or drink vendor you can imagine. The assholes in Greed usually make a killing setting up businesses in Gluttony and getting even richer. The demons there, to be honest, aren’t too bad. They’re actually kind of fun and I’ve hung out there a time or two.

Anger. Anger is a war zone. Constant fights, everything from fist fights to duels with fucking pistols, to outright war complete with machine guns and tanks. There’s always the sound of demons shouting at the top of their lungs, and everyone who passes you on the street glares at you like they want to kill you. In that way, it’s like some of the big cities I’ve visited, I guess.

And then there’s Lust.

Lust is like Vegas on steroids. Neon and flashing lights everywhere, every type of club and brothel, offering whatever you can possibly imagine. And that was where I found myself, dressed in a little black dress and the sexiest pair of heels I owned. I stepped into my favorite club and was immediately encompassed by the crowd, beautiful demons all dancing, gripping each other, grinding and kissing and sometimes outright fucking right there on the dance floor in time to the nearly deafening thump of the music. Pink neon and strobe lights illuminated the crowd, and the center of the club was taken up by a huge stage where exotic dancers of all shapes, sizes, and genders danced to the whistles and shouts of the crowd gathered around the stage.

A beautiful waitress handed me a pink drink with a juicy cherry stuck into it, and I grinned and sipped it as I started moving along with the crowd, alternately drinking and raising my arms in the air, letting the music and the feel of the beautiful demons around me take me over, all of us one throbbing, bouncing mass of lust. More than a few demons touched me, knowing me, knowing that I welcomed it, and their touch had me feeling even hotter and more ready than I had when I’d arrived. I shook my head as a few invited me to the various booths and rooms around the club and kept dancing, loving the sinuous feel of my body as I moved along to the music. I finished one drink and another one was immediately placed in my hands.

I fucking loved it in Lust.

“Wraith,” a smooth voice said in my ear, and I opened my eyes to see Namaloth. He started to dance behind me, moving with me, his hands on my hips, his mouth near my ear. “I’ve been hoping you’d stop by.”

“I told you I would,” I said with a smirk.

“That was days ago,” he said, kissing my neck. “Cruel, making a demon wait so long.”

I laughed and kept dancing, Namaloth dancing behind me, caressing my body, pressing against me. When his hands reached for the straps of my dress and pushed them down, exposing my chest, I didn’t protest. I’d made my intentions to him clear, and demons… they did as they wanted. Hell isn’t a nice place, and things like consent and respect… they have no place here. The second I’d indicated an interest, I’d given him all the permission he needed to do as he wanted. I was nothing in Hell. A human who, by some accident of magic, was able to be here among them. I had none of the demons’ power and they could do anything they wanted. This one had enough empathy to wait for the bare minimum of assent on my part, but that was all I could expect.

It sounds like a fucking nightmare, doesn’t it? Not having control, knowing you’re nothing. And how sick is it that I craved this, that I visited Lust a few times a year for exactly that reason?

“Keep dancing,” he said in my ear, and I did, aware of the other demons looking at me, at the spectacle Namaloth had made of me. Part of me knew I should hate this, should rail against it. But for the most part, I just didn’t give a shit. I felt something, which was more than I could usually say. I was afraid, and turned on, and it was the closest I came to feeling much of anything at all.

Namaloth continued having his fun, teasing me, taking his time knowing he was the one in control now. Demons are like cats in that way. Some of them enjoy toying with their prey. Most of them do, really.

“Fuck,” he snarled, and I glanced over my shoulder at him. “Some dickhead is summoning me. Do you want to stay and let them have you?” he asked, nodding toward the hungry looking demons around us.

I shook my head.

“Go. Now.”

I nodded, and focused, seamlessly shifting between dimensions, reappearing in my bedroom, my dress still shoved down. I took a deep breath and pulled it back up again, looking in the mirror.

He’d saved me by asking. If he’d left me there, like that, they would have killed me with their attentions. Literally. And I’d known that going in, just as I had every other time I’d visited Lust and come out alive.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

Jack

The summoning wasn’t hard. I’d created the circle, spoken the words, and now had one pissed-off looking demon standing in front of me.

“Namaloth!” I said in greeting. He glared at me more, snarling, his eyes flashing red. “Long time no summon.”

“Not long enough,” he snarled.

I smiled and crossed my arms over my chest. We were in the market I’d come to Detroit to investigate. It was just after midnight, and the place had an almost unreal silence around it. It was hard to believe this was in a big city. Some of it was the emptiness of the neighborhood around it, but most of it was because of the entities that had taken over the market. They made the whole thing feel like death.

“How are things in Hell?” I asked genially. They hate it when I’m chipper.

“Fuck you.”

“I don’t swing that way, but thanks for the offer.”

“I wasn’t—“

“Tell me about your arrangement with Marissa Laurence.”

Namaloth clamped his mouth shut. if looks could kill… well if looks could kill I would have been dead a long time ago. I waited, leaning back against the support pillar behind me, arms still crossed over my chest. “I have all night,” I told him. “Took a nap earlier and everything. Thermos of coffee, plenty of snacks.”

He continued to glare at me, and I noticed his leather pants and skin-tight shirt.

“Out clubbing, were we? Were you having fun?”

“Was about to,” he growled.

I grinned and poured myself a cup of coffee, then took a sip, sighing in contentment, which I knew only pissed him off more. “Damn, that’s good.”

He continued glaring at me, and I had my coffee and one of the brownies from my dwindling stash.

“You eat like a pig,” Namaloth said.

I chewed louder in response, then slurped my coffee.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he snarled.

“Simple question, and then you can go,” I said, eating more.

We sat there for a couple more hours, him glaring silently at me while I ate and drank and played around on my phone.

It was the singing that finally did it. I turned on Spotify and started singing along with the Dixie Chicks, and he looked at me in utter horror.

“The fuck?” he asked. I pointed at him and kept singing.

“Come on. You know the words. I can tell you’re a big country music fan.”

His jaw dropped open. “You are a nut job.”

I kept singing, pacing back and forth. Worked my way through “Wide Open Spaces,” “Not Ready to Make Nice,” and “Goodbye Earl.”

“Cowboy Take Me Away” was clearly too much for him.

“Stop. Just… just fucking stop,” he said, holding his hands up.

“Marissa Laurence?” I said, then picked up singing again.

“She wanted artistic talent,” he said quickly, and I stopped singing, hitting pause on Spotify. “Thirteen years ago she summoned me, made a deal that if I gave her artistic talent, I could have her soul in thirteen years. My own personal pet. And she’s cute as hell, so I did it.”

“Yeah. ‘Cept she hasn’t been able to paint in years because she’s been so terrified of her term being up.” Marissa was the artist who had gone in with three of her friends to buy and re-open the market. And she’d been missing for months now. Likely trying to hide from the demon who held her contract, which was pointless. When Namaloth came for her, he’d be able to find her anywhere.

“Not my problem. She made the deal. She wanted it, and I gave her talent. What she does with that talent isn’t my problem.”

“Hm. And the spirits infesting this place? I know you called them.”

He smiled. “A reminder that her payment is almost due.”

“Except that she’s not here, so that’s bullshit. Why are they here, Namaloth?”

He went back to glaring at me, so I went back to singing. After a while, I reached in my bag and got out the shaker of holy water.

“I’ve been nice up until this point, only because we have history, you and me,” I said, unscrewing the cap.

“You haven’t been nice, you miserable rat.”

I grinned and brandished the flask, and he hissed as I came close to splashing him. “Oh, I love this one!” I said, singing along as the Dixie Chicks and Beyonce started on “Daddy Lessons.”

“I fucking hate you.”

I brandished the bottle again, singing along, bobbing my head, getting a little closer to splashing him every time, watching him inch away from the droplets of holy water as I kept humming and singing and pacing around his circle.

“A favor for another demon,” he finally blurted. “Okay, you little fucker? Someone higher up on the ladder than I am. He has an interest in this area. This whole neighborhood… he’s had it out for this place for centuries. I don’t know why,” he said, glaring at me, anticipating my next question. “I just know he didn’t like what they were doing here. He wanted a few wrenches thrown into the works. So, poltergeists.”

I nodded. “All right. So I can assume he’ll keep calling in favors for anyone who tries to revitalize this area?”

“Yes,” he hissed.

“If not you then someone else, I guess?”

He nodded, eyes glowing deep red as he glared at me. I didn’t know why demons have a rep for being pretty. There was nothing pretty about the malevolence they all wore like a crown. Though maybe it was safe to say that I knew them better than most.
“Marissa?”

“She made a deal. You know how that works, right, boy?”

I kept my expression placid.

“She has a month left. I hope she’s enjoying it,” he said, and he almost sounded sincere. “Because I know I’ll enjoy the time after.”

I rolled my eyes. “Come on, man. We go way back. Do a brother a solid.”

“Fuck yourself.”

I smiled. “If only I could.” I spread my arms out, displaying the clearly magnificent specimen of maleness I am.

“You are ridiculous.”

“So I’ve been told,” I said.

“She has one month. She made the deal. That’s it,” he said, his voice hard as his eyes glowed a deeper, bloodier red.

“Understood. You’ll understand if I banish your playthings, right?”

“I’ll just summon more. Or someone else will.”

“And I’ll banish them, too,” I said with a grin.

There was no missing the malevolence in his eyes when he glared at me. When I’d said that Namaloth and I have a history, I wasn’t kidding. And it wasn’t all Dixie Chick and my sweet dance moves, either.

“I will be glad when your time is up. You’re down to a matter of months now. And then,” he said, a cold, cruel grin spreading across his lips. “Then, you will know pain. And fear. You will pay for every single moment of shit you’ve given me.”

“Looking at your face every day will be torture,” I said, determined not to show fear in front of him. I’d deal with that later. Much later.

“Release me,” he hissed. “Or little Marissa will pay a little extra because you pissed me off.”

I met his gaze, slowly and deliberately chanted the words to release him back to his own dimension. Only after he was gone did I take a deep, shaky breath.

I shook my head. Couldn’t deal with that now, so there wasn’t any point in getting all shaky about it. I started packing up my stuff.

Okay. So Namaloth was a dead end. I’d figured, but it never hurt to try, and at least now I knew more about the poltergeists infesting this place.

I hit a number in my contacts. “Tell me about this lawyer of yours,” I said, and then listened as one of my old contacts babbled on about some hotshot lawyer who’d gotten him out of his deal with the devil.

“She’s a real hardass,” he said, after telling me how this lawyer got him off.

“Hardasses, I can deal with,” I said, getting in my truck and starting it up.

“There’s something else, Jack.”

“Yeah? What is it?” I asked, turning onto the street.

“She’s a Wraith.”

I blinked. “I didn’t know there were any of those left.”

“Yeah, well. She’s the real thing.”

“Send me her contact info.”

“Will do, man.”

“And don’t make any more deals with the devil. Why didn’t you tell me you did that?”

“Would you have been able to do anything? Could you for that woman you tried to get off tonight?” he answered.

Fine. Fair enough. But now I had the means to maybe get her clear of her deal. “Just send the info. Be safe,” I said before I hung up. I rolled my shoulders as I drove back to my motel.

A Wraith. It had been a long, long time since I’d had any dealings with one of them. They were rare. The ones that did exist, for whatever reason, didn’t tend to live long. Trying to fill that emptiness deep inside them usually led to them doing stupid shit. Shit that usually led to them ending up dead. I knew that all too well. I’d stood by helpless and watched it happen once before.

I shook my head. One thing at a time. For the moment, all I knew was that to save Marissa Laurence, I needed to get myself a lawyer.

 

Copyright Colleen Vanderlinden 2018. All rights reserved.

New, super-motivational desktop wallpaper!

I’m trying to get back into the habit of taking at least a couple walks during the day. I spend way too much time sitting, and it shows and even more, I hate the sluggish, lethargic feeling that’s suffused my recent days… weeks… okay, months.

To make myself walk, I’m pairing walking with podcast time. (I’ve also been reading Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before,” which is all about habit building and dealing with your shitty habits. She talks about this idea of pairing, to make less-exciting or pleasant tasks more enjoyable by pairing them with something you like. I love podcasts, but I’m behind on many of my favorites because writing and listening to people talk just don’t work together for me. So: I’m pairing the two.)

ANYWAY. I listened to an old podcast of Tim Ferriss’s, where he interviewed Cheryl Strayed. And their conversation reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about writing. Anyone who knows me at all will immediately understand why I love it so much:

Perfect. And very, very me. And I have no design skills whatsoever, so I popped over to Canva to use one of their templates to make this perfect little desktop wallpaper, and now it graces my work computer. (As opposed to my other computer, which is for scrolling Twitter and playing Warcraft. I can’t have those distractions available to me when I’m supposed to be working.)

I love it. And it makes me happy. If you want it, you can either save, then right-click the image above, or I made the file public on Canva (to download, click “use as a template” and then click “download” at the top of the screen) so you can download it and use it on your computer and be motivated, too. 🙂

Enjoy!

New Serial Fiction! Introducing “Wraith and Ruin”

Hello, lovelies! I’m baaaack!

via GIPHY

And even better, I have ALL NEW stuff for you. Urban fantasy. Serial fiction. Going back to my roots and DAMN it feels good. We’ll have a new installment of this every Friday, with bonus installments if I find myself really going on this. This has been a blast already, and I love writing serial fiction so much. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am! So without further ado…

Chapter One

Serena

Some people think it’s only the truly desperate who sell their souls to a demon. Sometimes, that’s true. The life of a loved one hangs in the balance, and they’d give anything, including their own life, to save them.

Most of them though? They’re just greedy shits with delusions of grandeur.

And when time comes to pay the piper, surprise surprise, those same greedy shits have a hard time letting go of the charmed life they have thanks to their deal with a devil.

That’s where I come in.

“In fact, you promised Mr. Donnelly fortune and women galore, did you not?” I asked the demon I had trapped in my circle. He was beautiful. They all are. He paced back and forth, shaking his head in disbelief. “It’s a very simple question.”

“I did but—“

“No. No buts. You know how this works just as well as I do, Namaloth. Demons can’t lie. Now we both know it wasn’t an intentional lie, that you made your deal with Mr. Donnelly in good faith. No one denies that.” My voice was soft, sincere. Demons love flattery. I crossed my arms over the front of my red blazer, ached for this to be over so I could go home and kick off the stilettos. “But the fact is that while he may very well be rich as sin, the man isn’t exactly turning the women away, is he?”

“Have you seen the fucker? Even I can’t make that happen!” He clamped his mouth shut, and I hid a smile.

Gotcha. It had been seventeen hours. We’d gone through a whole day and most of a night before I’d finally worn him down enough.

“So you admit that he has not, in fact, received what was promised to him through your deal?”

Namaloth’s head fell forward in defeat. He muttered something.

“What was that?” I tilted my head, lifting a hand to my ear.

“I release Mr. Donnelly from his oath,” he said clearly, red goat-like eyes glowing in irritation for a moment. Then he laughed. “I’d heard about you. Swore I’d be ready if you ever came for me. I can’t even tell how you did that.”

I shrugged and smiled at him. “Good at my job. You have your thing, I have mine.”

“Apparently so,” he said, giving me a small bow, his dark hair falling over one eye. “I hear you like to spend some time in Hell every now and again. Is that true, Wraith?”

“When the mood strikes.”

His eyes traveled my body. My fluffy size 18 body, packed into a corset that made my tits look miraculous. Not for the demons, but for me. Makes me feel good. Blood red suit custom-tailored for my body, matching stilettos on my feet. 

“Well. If the mood strikes anytime soon, I spend a lot of time in Lust,” he said, his deep voice taking on a tone mostly meant for bedrooms. “I hear you spend some time there too.”

I smiled. “True enough. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

“Damn, I hope so.”

I chuckled, then winked at him. “Soon.” Then I said the words that would release him from the circle, and he gave me another small bow before disapparating. 

Which left me… here. At a crossroads in the middle of fucking nowhere just before dawn. I walked to the side of the road where my little black sexy-as-sin Porche Turbo was parked, pulling my phone out of my bag as I slid into the plush leather driver’s seat.

“I felt it. Something snapped!” the voice on the other end of the line said, words seeming to tumble out of his mouth.

“Yeah. Congratulations, Mr. Donnelly. I’ve won you a long life. Make sure to send my bonus today.” I started the car and started driving along the dirt road, glad it was nearing dawn. These roads were a bitch to navigate in the pitch black of night.

“Yes Wraith— I mean, Ms. Kazinski.” The near fear in his voice when he caught himself made me smile. 

“Looking forward to it. Pleasure doing business with you. I’ll look for my money in the next few hours.” I hung up, pulled onto the highway, and floored it, navigating the rural Michigan highways smoothly. I could do this shit in my sleep at this point if I wanted to.

An hour and a half later, just as the sun was edging over the horizon, I was on the elevator to my penthouse in downtown Detroit. 

Getting people out of their deals with the devil pays fucking fantastic, if I do say so myself. And if they can’t pay, well… they made the deal. Not my problem. All those years of law school, plus my unnatural affliction, had both ended up working in my favor.

I got them off on technicalities. Found the smallest chip in the normally-binding deals they’d made, and exploited it for all it was worth. In the case of the very lucky (and wealthy, which was why he’d been able to hire me) Mr. Donnelly, that technicality had been all the women he wanted. 

Thing was, a couple years after he made that deal, Mr. Donnelly had finally felt comfortable admitting to himself, and to others,  that he swung both ways, with a preference for men. So… yeah. He wasn’t spending any nights alone, but it wasn’t with women, at least not in the last few years.

And demons, no matter what else they can and can’t do, can’t lie. It’s a weakness I’m more than happy to exploit whenever the need hits. And it hits about four times a year, on average. Keeps me living a millionaire lifestyle. I take the cases I know i can win, from clients who can pay an obscene amount. 

Soulless bitch. I know what people think of me, those who know what I can do. Who know that I turn away most people who ask for help. As if calling me what is only the truth can possibly hurt me. I am a bitch. And I am completely soulless.

We can thank my mother for that. And I do mean thank. I wouldn’t have this life if I had a soul to worry about. My mother, a bitch in her own right, used the soul of her newborn daughter in a spell that would give her everlasting beauty. The spell was supposed to end me completely ( a daughter she never wanted) and give her what she actually did want, but my mother fucked up the casting somehow and, though she got what she wanted, I was left alive. Alive, but, as several practitioners and a few demons told her, and then me, utterly soulless.

Which is why there’s no danger to me in working with demons, in risking pissing them off. Which is why I’m not worried about my soul ending up in Hell. Once I’m gone, I’m gone. 

It’s also why I can spend time in Hell when I so choose. And I wouldn’t want to go there as a soul, but the demons? Those bastards live it up. I mean, I guess that if I can go to Hell, I can go to the other place too, but anyone who knows me knows that’s no place for me and I have no interest anyway. I mean, what the fuck do they do there? Sit around playing euchre and watching Leave It To Beaver reruns?

I strolled into my apartment. “Dim lights,” I murmured, and the lights lowered to a serene, sultry level. “Fireplace,” I added, and the gas fireplace kicked on. I shed my stilettos, suit, corset, bra, and panties as I strolled through the penthouse, pouring myself a glass of Dom before heading back into the living room and curling up on my plush black velvet sofa.

“Another job well done,” I said, raising my champagne flute to myself. I grinned and drank it, reveling in the crisp, perfect flavor of the champagne, letting images of tonight’s demon linger in my mind. I smiled and finished the champagne, setting the glass down, then lying back on the sofa, my hands squeezing my breasts, then caressing down my body, my fingers finding the silky wetness between my thighs. I bit my lip and moaned, my fingers working as I thought of the fun Namaloth had promised.

Yeah. Definitely time to spend some time in Lust. 

***

Jack

I tossed the 22 back into the beaten up duffel bag in the bed of my truck, zipping it up and then closing the truck box, locking it tight. I held a hand to my shoulder, then jumped off the bed and dug my first aid kit from under the front seat.

God damned vampires. This one had taken a chunk out of me before I’d finally gotten her. When I’d first started this, crap like this had kept me awake for days, hell even weeks on end. Now…well now I’d tape myself up and find the first cheap motel to pass out in. And then it would be back on the road for me. 

The good thing is, vampires are rare. The even better news is, most of those that are still alive just want to be left the hell alone to live in peace. They take themselves out to rural areas, the woods, or the desert, and live off of animal blood and live otherwise normal lives. But every once in a while, you get one who’s read a little too much Anne Rice and goes full Lestat, and they have to be put down. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s another vampire who calls it in to me.

I mean. I’m not hard to find. “Jack Wayburn, Monster Hunter.” I’m listed everywhere, even have a Facebook business page. Most of the crap I get is a joke, and it’s easy to tell when someone thinks I’m a joke too. But I get my share of serious calls, and I go where the job takes me.  It’s the only thing I’m good at, and I’m needed, so it’s enough. Most of the time, anyway.

“Thank you again… I wish there was something more we could give you.” The elderly woman and her husband, and her daughter, who’d been held captive by this particular vamp, all stood next to my truck watching me.

I shook my head. “Just doing my job. I’m glad you’re okay,” I said to the daughter. Claire. A medical assistant in a nearby women’s clinic. Claire nodded, still shaking. She’d be having nightmares for a while. Maybe forever.

“Can I help take care of that?” Claire asked, gesturing to my shoulder. I waved it off, fear slithering through me at even the thought of someone touching me. 

“I can handle it. Thanks though,” I said, taping a gauze pad over the bite. At least contain the bleeding till I got to the motel and could do more. 

They looked at each other, then the mother held out a Tupperware container. “Will you at least take these? I was baking up a storm while you were out looking for her, not knowing what else to do with myself.”

I smiled and took the container, bowing my head to her. “That, I can do. And thank you.”

They smiled at me and I set the container on my passenger seat and climbed in. “Take care.” I pulled my truck off the side of the road and onto the highway, leaving them watching me, becoming specks in my rearview before I took the curve leading to the interstate.

Muffins, cookies. The people who called for help often didn’t have much more to give than that, or a night on their sofa, or a hot dinner. Sometimes I asked for a shower. It was enough. Every once in a while I got someone who could pay actual money, and those jobs kept me in gas money and ammo. It’s not the type of business you do to get rich. At least, not for me. And the few who do seem to make money doing this don’t seem to last long. It’s easy for the shit we hunt to trap them. Promise a big pay day, lure the hunter, end the danger. We’ll just say, there’s not a lot of competition for jobs. There are more than I can handle, but I do what I can.

It’s not enough. I know that.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into a motel just off the interstate, paid for a room, and grabbed both my duffel bags and the container of baked goods out of my truck. I got in my room and turned on all the lights, then quickly sprinkled black salt across the doorway, the windows, and taped some over any vents. 

I know. I know. I’m paranoid. It’s why I’m still alive. 

Once everything was as secure as i could make it, I went to the bathroom to properly care for my wound. I pulled off my shirt and removed the bandage, grimacing as the gauze stuck to the wound. 

Yeah, it was a good one. I shook my head as I cleaned it. Not deep, but she’d taken a chunk out of me. I cleaned it, then smeared antibiotic ointment over it, then applied a fresh bandage. At least she’d bitten above the protective sigils on that arm. An inch lower and I’d have had to have my ink redone, and tattooist witches aren’t exactly cheap. At least, not the ones who know what they’re doing.

I washed up more, then went back to the main room and grabbed the Tupperware, plopping down on the bed. I opened it to find several types of cookies, some banana muffins, and brownies. I’d eat a few days off of this. I’d have a sugar high when I was done with it all, but it’d be worth it.

While I ate, i checked my voicemail as well as the messages to my email and to my Facebook page. Mostly bullshit, which I deleted. A few things that could be something. I got up, got some shitty coffee from the lobby, then came back and ate and drank it while I did some research on the few that didn’t look outright like crap. Poltergeist near Des Moines. I had a buddy out that way who could take it. I sent it to him. Weird goings on in southern Mississippi. Sounded like a brownie, but could be something else. 

This one in Detroit, though. There was this old abandoned market in what used to be a Polish neighborhood. Ran since the late 1800’s, closed down after a car plant effectively killed the neighborhood. Sat empty for almost thirty years. It had since been bought and the new owners were trying to get the market started up again, revitalize the area. Weird shit had been happening, including a few violent confrontations with something that couldn’t be seen. And one of the owners had just gone missing. Police weren’t being helpful, writing it off as a former addict going off on a bender, but the woman’s friends weren’t buying it. They sounded desperate.

I looked at my screen some more, at satellite and street-level images of the area in question. It looked depressing. Down-trodden. The area around the market was almost totally empty in Google street view, tall grass and trash piled around. Newer photos on the market’s fancy new social media showed that they’d painted and cleaned up the site, keeping most of the old details but making it look more welcoming than it probably had even back in the day, with large flower beds surrounding the market, areas set up with new picnic tables along two sides. 

I shook my head. Old sites like that, you have to be careful messing with. All kinds of shit could be tied to it.

Looked like I was heading to the Motor City.

 

Copyright Colleen Vanderlinden. All rights reserved.

Can’t wait to hear what you think of our new story! If you enjoyed this and want to support my work, you can buy me a Ko-Fi or support me on Patreon. Thank you!

June: New Month, New Goals

Hello, lovelies!

It’s cool and sunny here. My garden is just starting to take off and I’m loving seeing all of the flowers blooming. The huge lilac bushes here are in full bloom, and the irises and lupines are blooming as well, along with lily-of-the-valley and lots of wildflowers I cant identify yet in the meadow.

Last month’s release for Ace of Wands went even better than I hoped it would and I was so encouraged to hear that many of you love Moira as much as I do. There will definitely be more books out (the next one, Two of Swords, will be out in July!) and I have had a blast writing her.

I revealed the cover for my next Ella Linden Paradise Bay book over on FB today — Waiting Game will be out on June 20th! (Why yes I have been writing my little heart out. And it has been so much fun!)

As I said, the next Moira Chase book will be coming in mid-July or so, and then August is…

Godbreaker!

So I have a busy summer ahead of me, plus a few editing projects as well. So much fun! The first part of Hades’ story will be in Sunday’s newsletter, so if you’re interested in receiving a chapter each week of that, you can sign up here. Also, over on Patreon I’m finally getting back into the swing of things and the next Haunted (StrikeForce #5) chapter will be up on Friday.

So that’s what’s going on in my little world right now. I’ll be back later this week with a look at what I’ve been reading lately.

Thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

A Long Overdue Update!

I am a bad blogger.

But hopefully a good writer?

So maybe it balances out. Anyway, I figured it would be a good time to share what my plans are for the rest of 2018 in regard to ongoing series and the one new series I’m launching this year (this month, in fact!)

We’ll take it series-by-series and then I’ll wrap it all up at the end of this post. Buckle up. It’s going to be a busy year.

Current Ongoing Series

The Hidden Series

I published Faithless, which is a sidestory novel for the Hidden series and takes place during Godkiller, at the end of March. The rest of the Godkiller trilogy will be released this year.

  • Godbreaker: August 2018
  • Godborn: November 2018

StrikeForce

As you know if you’ve kept up with this series, the first major arc of Jolene’s story ended with Day’s End, and now we’re moving onto the Ghost arc. There will be two StrikeForce books out this year:

  • Haunted: July 2018
  • Untitled: October 2018

Paradise Bay (contemporary romance written as Ella Linden)

Books five and six will both be out by the end of the year, and I’m not sure whether that will be it for this series or if I’ll keep going. I have plans through book 6, but I could keep the series going if it’s something I feel like doing. I’ll see how I feel at the end of the year.

  • Waiting Game (Lauren and Jack’s book):  June 2018
  • Untitled (Holly and Scott’s book): November 2018

And Now, the NEW SERIES!

My new series, the Moira Chase Series, is about a kitchen witch (which is a witch whose magic is focused around food) who takes over the family bakery in a small town in northern Michigan. In addition to kitchen witchery, Moira can also sense spirits, and this leads to chaos in her life when she buys a haunted item at a local consignment shop.

So the kitchen witch turned bakery owner ends up finding herself also fulfilling the role of amateur sleuth, trying to solve the mystery that comes along with this ghost who now won’t leave her alone. Add in a bit of small-town quirkiness, a sexy and somewhat mysterious police chief, a lot of food, and a bakery haunted by generations of Moira’s foremothers (also witches) and you get the Moira Chase series!

I have already had so much fun working on this and I can’t wait for you guys to read it. I’ll have an excerpt of the first chapter up on the blog this weekend.

  • Ace of Wands: May 15, 2018
  • Two of Swords: July 2018
  • Untitled: October 2018

Whew. I’m tired just looking at that! But excited too. Last year was… blergh. I wrote and published some fun books in the first half of the year but that last half of the  year and early 2018 were rough. I feel like I’ve been back on my game the last couple of months and having so much fun writing again. I can’t wait to share all of these books with you!

What are you looking forward to most?

On Writing Godkiller (And what’s up next!)

Godkiller, the first book in the next story arc of the Hidden saga, is out TOMORROW! (eep!) This has been a weird year for me, publishing-wise. I’ve released lots of books this year, but only one as Colleen Vanderlinden (Light’s Shadow.) The rest were all released under my Ella Linden pen name.
I enjoy writing contemporary romance, and I can definitely see myself doing more of it as time goes on. I’m also planning to write more fantasy romance (and we’ll talk about that in a minute!) as well as finishing up this arc of the Hidden series over the next few months.
It was fun writing Godkiller, but I’ll also admit that I have no idea how writers who are 20-odd books into a series manage it. So much happened in the previous 11 books of the Hidden series and I’m grateful that one of my beta readers, Haleigh, has an eagle-eye for continuity issues. This is such a sprawling world with such a large cast, and it keeps growing with each book.
Maybe that’s why I have such a high death count? I’m trying to keep it all manageable.
The truth is, every death in my books is necessary for plot, or they wouldn’t be there. I have a humorous little competition with a fellow author about who will rack up the highest death count. To be honest: my money’s on Amy.

So, What’s Next?

Next, while I’ve been editing Godkiller and plotting the next Godkiller Saga book, I’m FINALLY writing a fantasy romance I’ve been planning for a couple of years now, called Faithless. When I was asking my beta reading team if they’d be up for reading it, this was how I described it:

“Fantasy romance. Rogue/smartass heroine. Virgin hero. Forbidden love. Angst and slow burn and hotness and fighting. Are you in?”

They were pretty excited about it, and I hope you’ll be, too. I’ll have a lot more about the book in the next few weeks.
I can’t wait for you guys to read Godkiller, and I hope you love it as much as I do. I went through some personal stuff during the revision phase of the book, and there are things that ended up in the final draft that were part of the process of going through that. One of the things I love about writing is that it allows me to process my own thoughts and feelings in a way that I might not be able to otherwise.
But, that’s a discussion for another day, probably. 🙂 Right now, I’m just excited about Godkiller!

Are you excited to be visiting the Hidden world again? Which character(s) are you most looking forward to reading again?

ONE MORE WEEK! (And a Godkiller teaser!)

We are one week away from the release of the next Hidden book, and I have been lax in my blogging here, so I haven’t shared much about it.

The book, Godkiller, is the first book in the Hidden: Godkiller Saga story arc. It follows the events of the Hidden: Soulhunter arc, and we’re back to focusing on seeing the story told from Molly’s POV. Godkiller takes place ten years after the end of the war against the Undead, which we saw in Soulhunter.

Ten years. And in that time, Molly has essentially re-shaped the world to be what she wants it to be. She’s created a utopia: a world free from war, hunger, illness. She’s put the best of herself into making the world as amazing as it can be for her people. Of course, she has detractors. The AntiTheists, especially, hate her and her immortal friends and everything they stand for. They see Molly as a dictator and tyrant. But, they’re a small fringe and in general, Molly’s life is peaceful. She judges the dead. She loves her mate, and she has watched her two kids grow — Hades II and Zoe are both teenagers now, and coming into powers of their own.

And then… something appears that should not be, and everything Molly has built in our world is threatened. Friendships and relationships are tested, and almost no one will come out of this story unscathed.

Without further ado, here’s a little teaser from the book. Enjoy!

***

Godkiller

Hidden: Godkiller Saga #1

Chapter One

My name is Molly Brooks.

I am the Goddess of Death. Daughter of a Fury and Hades, who died and passed his powers on to me, leaving me to become the Lady of the Nether in his place.

I am the savior of my city.

I am the one being on this planet no one wants to mess with.

This world… this beautiful, crazy, peaceful world I’ve created, is under my protection. I make the rules. I decide who gets to play the game.

And I decide, in the end, how each and every living being will spend eternity.

In all honesty… I guess it’s not too bad being me. I mean, it used to be bad, being me. I’ve thought I was insane. I’ve been lost, lonely, forgotten. I’ve been tortured and beheaded. Blown up. Drowned. Buried alive.

That really sucked. Not gonna lie.

But I’ve reached the point in my life where my enemies are long gone, dead at my hand or the hand of one of those I trust. I’m the bitch who rules the world.

It’s perfect. So why does my blood cry out for the insanity of battle, the sight of my enemies’ blood bathing my sword? How fucked up is it that I’ve created world peace, and I dream of war?

* * *

I sped through Detroit, my foot on the gas, the roar of the engine like music to my ears. Familiar landscapes blurred past my windows as I let the Barracuda  do exactly what she was meant to do: leave everything behind her in the dust. AC/DC blared on the stereo, and cool air kissed my skin through the open windows. The sky was pitch black, just like my car, just like the uniform I wore as a Fury and the goddess of death, just like the darkest parts of me, the parts that relish destruction and pain, that thrive on the fear of my enemies. The only time I felt more alive was when I was crushed beneath my mate’s enormous, muscled body.

I smiled and hit the gas a little harder. Speaking of which, Nain should be home by now.

I neared the Netherwoods, a place visible only to the immortals and a few select supernaturals, and then, only if they were explicitly invited and escorted by one of us. We spent as many nights as we could in our house, the house Nain had rebuilt for me on the site of my old place, which had been blown up by a former enemy. But tonight, we were stuck in the Netherwoods because my aunt and mother had earned a night away from the souls they guarded and punished, and they were excited to see some 1980s-themed concert.

I will never understand their taste in music.

So tonight, it was me and Nain. I knew our kids weren’t likely to be around. Hades, at thirteen, had a busier social life than I’d had in my entire life, and Zoe would likely be somewhere in the Netherwoods, but we would only see her if she wanted to be seen. Some days, she wanted to be around us more than others.

All I had ahead of me was a night, alone, with Nain. Of course, chances were about fifty-fifty that we’d start fighting about something, but even then, the chances of make-up sex afterward were a hundred percent. So really, I couldn’t lose.

I turned up the narrow road that led to the Netherwoods. I slowed as I approached, not wanting to hit an imp or something by mistake. I’d almost done that once and felt terrible about it for months afterward.

The street here was abandoned, with streetlights that worked, but only when we wanted them to. Tonight, they were out because we weren’t expecting any visitors, immortal or otherwise.

What a relief.

I followed the curve toward the gates that led into the Netherwoods themselves, and saw a flash of… something… out of the corner of my eye. I would have missed it completely if I hadn’t just been glancing that way.

A pale figure stood at the side of the road, dressed in gray, hands clasped demurely in front of her.

Her.

The second I realized who it was, I slammed the car into park and jumped out.

“What the ever-loving fuck are you doing here?” I snarled. “Where’s Nyx?”

“I don’t know what I’m doing here, and I don’t know where she is. I’m turning myself in because there is no way I should be allowed to roam free, considering.”

I studied the goddess before me, and it took nearly every bit of power I have not to kill her where she stood.

Persephone. My father’s former wife. After he’d died, she’d combined her hatred of me and her desperation to get him back by any means necessary, coming up with a plot that was so twisted, so evil, so completely fucking vile that she’d been banished from our realm, taken prisoner by my grandmother, our Creator goddess, Nyx. We were never supposed to see her again. Ever. This world had already suffered, billions of lives lost, because of Persephone’s insanity.

“What did you do to Nyx?” I asked, stepping toward her.

“I did not do anything to her, Mollis,” she said, meeting my eyes, then quickly looking away. “You’d know that if you’d actually use your powers instead of hiding behind those glasses,” she sighed.

Feeling the tiniest bit stupid, I pulled the glasses Hephaestus had made for me off of my face and looked at Persephone. Really Looked, the way only I can. The way only Hades could before me.

When I look at someone, I see everything. Their fears. Their loves. Their greatest sins and their best moments. Every secret they’ve ever kept, for better or worse. I know them all.

And I hate it. I don’t fucking want to know. I’ve seen some messed up shit thanks to this particular “gift” from my darling father. But even I have to admit that sometimes, it comes in handy.

Persephone’s sins washed over me. Lies she’d told her mother, her friends. Little things, and then, suddenly, horrid, sickening things. The kidnapping and repeated murder of my son chief among them. The deaths of nearly half of the world’s population. Deals made, all in a sick attempt to destroy me and bring Hades back to life.

She’d failed on both counts. But the world had been made to suffer just the same.

Most recently, I saw that she’d been held in a solitary state in Nyx’s getaway in the Old Nether, which was permanently cut off from our realm. I kinda broke that particular gateway. And it’s for the best, because the Old Nether is full of nightmares. And Nyx, who lives there and in the Aether when she decides to.

“What happened?” I asked, pulling a pair of thin metal bracers out of my pocket and clamping them onto her dainty wrists. They’d prevent her from rematerializing, slipping away. They’d also dampen her powers in general. Heph is a genius, I thought as I waited for her to answer.

“I was in my cell, as usual. I heard crashing sounds above, in Nyx’s living quarters. I heard her shouting, talking to someone. And I heard someone talking back. The next thing I knew, these… things burst into my cell as if the security door was nothing. They’d blasted it off of its hinges,” she added. “They dragged me upstairs and brought me to their leader, who was in the room with Nyx. He looked at me and told them to get rid of me. I assumed they were going to kill me, and one of them zapped me with what looked like a little silver button, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up here, outside the Netherwoods.”

I sensed for her as she spoke, sifted through her thoughts and memories. She was frightened, unsure. She wasn’t lying, but that didn’t mean I trusted her.

“These things that took you. What did they look like?”

“I am not sure. They were not very tall. About as tall as Eunomia, perhaps.”

“Do not even say her name,” I hissed, and she drew back as if I’d slapped her. E. My best friend, my right hand, had been killed fighting the war against the Undead. She’d come back as a soul, led an army of the dead, and destroyed the Undead hordes that had been swarming the realm. Nyx had decided, as a reward, that she deserved another chance at life and restored her to the realm of the living.

But still. E had been dead. We’d mourned her, fought for her. Cried for her. I still had nightmares about the moment she’d fallen. It had felt like losing part of myself.

“What else can you tell me?” I asked after she stayed silent while I got myself under control again.

“I did not get a good look at them. They were wearing some form of metallic armor that covered their bodies and faces completely. I am sorry.”

“Have you seen anything like them before?”

She shook her head.

“And the one you assume was their leader?”

She gave a little shudder. “Him, I saw.”

I waited, and she continued. “He looked human. Quite handsome, actually. Long, dark red hair, nice eyes. Well built. Larger in stature even than Hephaestus. But the sense of him…”

“What about it?”

She took a breath. “That is the thing, Mollis. I couldn’t feel him at all. He may as well have been a piece of furniture for all the sense of life I got from him. But he was very much there, and very much holding Nyx hostage at the time.”

I grabbed her arm and rematerialized into the dungeons below the palace where my office and our sometimes-home was located. The demon guards, along with the souls who helped keep the dead in line, stared at me in shock.

“My Lady?” one of the demons asked, recognizing Persephone. I felt his rage spike at the sight of her. I had the feeling there would be a lot of that as more beings realized she was here.

“Yeah, I know,” I said to him. “I’m going to put her in the Vault,” I said, indicating the cell we kept for high-powered or high-threat prisoners. I was the only one who could get in or out. “I have no fucking idea what’s going on, but I’m trying to find out.” He nodded, and I used the special key Heph had crafted for me, as well as a bit of my power, to unlock the dungeon cell door for Persephone, then I not-very-gently shoved her inside. The room was sparse, cold, and damp (because if there is one thing every being alive hates, it’s feeling damp, and I’m all about making my prisoners suffer if that is their fate). It was more than she deserved.

“If you had anything to do with this, I will make sure you suffer. I’m not Nyx,” I said. Before she could answer, I slammed the door shut and locked it again.

I sighed. And here I’d been so sure I’d be getting lucky tonight. Looks like the universe had other plans for me.

What else is new?

 

Chapter Two

After securing plenty of guards for Persephone, I debated who to break the news to first. Nain would want to kill her immediately. So would Hephaestus. So would E. And Brennan. Brennan and Nain probably wanted her dead the most.

And then there was my mother. Her relationship with Persephone had always been tense, full of secrets and resentment. There had been a certain closeness between them after my father’s death, when they were united in mourning the immortal they’d both loved. But the instant Persephone had even had the thought of touching one of my children she’d sealed her fate. The fact that she’d actually done it, actually kidnapped and then killed Hades not just once, but repeatedly, to harvest his heart for her insane “bring Hades back to life plan”… no amount of torture would be enough, as far as my mom was concerned.

But the dungeons were the domain of the Furies, and it was better she hear it from me than from someone else. Shit.

It wasn’t hard to find her. All I had to do was follow the screams. I suppose one would think it’s cruel, what the Furies do. What they do, what I do, is nothing short of repaying souls for every bit of pain they caused during their lives. In some cases, it requires hardly anything at all. Most of them, actually. Most people, when it comes down to it, don’t do that much harm. But some people… well. There’s a hell of a lot of pain they need to feel before they’re released to the great beyond, whatever that means for them. I have no idea. I suspect the afterlife is a very individual thing, based on how one lived their life.

It’s not like I’ll actually ever find out. Immortals don’t have souls. When we die, we’re gone.

Which was why it was utterly fucking insane for Persephone to try to bring my father back at all. There’s nothing there. Even if she somehow found a way to construct Hades’ body through some kind of Dr. Frankenstein bullshit, there would be nothing to fill it with. I guessed that was where my son’s heart had come in, both as a life-giving source and her hope that there would be something of my father in his grandson’s blood, something that would bring him back.

I shook my head as I reached the door to the dungeon my mom was working in. I nodded at the two demon guards and opened the door, stepping inside. My mother sat in a chair, looking perfectly at ease. She was painting her nails a metallic black color and humming some Cyndi Lauper song. Meanwhile, the soul she was punishing was on his knees, screaming in anguish and tearing at his hair.

I remembered this one. He was getting everything he’d had coming to him.

My mom glanced up and raised her eyebrow.

“You are angry and tense,” she said. Typical Fury. Like me, she never had to ask things like “how are you doing?” She could feel my emotions. There was no hiding it from her, and I reflected, yet again, how now I knew why my friends had always been so irritated that I could sense them. There was no such thing as privacy with an empath around. Not really. And I’m the biggest bullshitter I know, but emotions don’t lie.

“We have a situation,” I said, as I stepped further into the room and sat on the floor beside my mother’s chair.

“A situation that has you ready to rip someone’s spleen out,” she said, brushing paint on another nail. “What is it?”

I took a deep breath. “Persephone is here.”

I watched her. She slowly, methodically put the nail polish cap back on, screwing it on carefully. Then she turned to me. “Where?”

“Before you go stick sharp things under her fingernails or something, I want to run the story she told me past you. It’s… it’s weird.”

She gave a single nod, rage rolling off of her in waves. “Tell me.”

So I did. I told her about finding her at the side of the road, and the story she’d told about Nyx and the armored beings and the mysterious man who she could get no sense of. I told her that I’d seen everything, that she wasn’t lying. That she did not know what had become of Nyx.

When I’d finished, we sat in silence for a few moments as she thought it over. “Our first course of action should be trying to contact Nyx.”

(All rights reserved. Copyright Colleen Vanderlinden 2017.)

***

I’ll have more details later this week, and then I’ll be sure to announce it when the book is released. So… are you excited to have Molly back? 🙂

 

Sophie + Calder (Today is Light’s Shadow day!!)

It’s here. It’s really, finally here and I am so excited to share Light’s Shadow with you. All of the miscellaneous drafts, all of the chapters I wrote, thinking they’d make the book better, and then deleted upon edits, all of the trying to make sure I brought this multi-generational story to a satisfying end… it’s finished, and I am thrilled. (Even if, crazy as it seems, I already miss Sophie and Calder. I’ve spent the last year and a half-ish fighting them and their story, and now I’m sad to see it over. Writers are weird.)

When I started this series, I knew four things.

  1. I knew I wanted to write a witch story. Lots of magic.
  2. I knew I wanted to write a heroine very different from Molly. Maybe this was my way of trying to prove to myself that I could write something other than a brash badass.
  3. I wanted historical elements, and specifically to play a bit with Michigan history and folklore.
  4. I wanted to write my own little take on Beauty and the Beast.

I’ve gotten to do all of that in the quarter of a million words that comprise the Copper Falls series. I’ve gotten to revisit an idealized version of one of my favorite vacation spots from my childhood, delve into Native American culture and folklore, spend some time with Michigan history… and I was able to write two irresistible (to me, at least) characters having wild monkey sex on occasion. Not a bad way to spend a few years of creative energy. 🙂

So, it’s here, and I’m so excited. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who read, reviewed, and wrote to me about this series. To the young woman from Michigan who wrote to tell me that Sophie saved her life, to the many women who wrote saying they appreciated seeing an “atypical badass” heroine, and to my lovely readers who drool over Calder on FB and make up whole stories about Calder and the loofahs at Target (you know who you are…) this is for you. Thank you!

Light’s Shadow is available exclusively on Amazon (and in Kindle Unlimited.)

Light’s Shadow (Yes, it’s really happening!)

The number one question you guys ask me is: Is the third Copper Falls book coming soon?

And I said Yes through 2016. And I wasn’t lying. I was working on it.

One draft… nah, this doesn’t feel right.

Two drafts… ugh.

Three drafts… what the hell is this, even?

Four drafts… better, but nope.

And here we are. I am turning the book over to my amazing beta reading team this weekend, which means there is no going back now. I’m happy with the way Light’s Shadow finally came out. It took a lot longer than I expected it to. And there were times when I think I lost sight of what this story is really about. At its core, the Copper Falls trilogy is about love: Sophie and Calder’s love for one another, and also Migisi and Luc’s. So in finishing up the trilogy, I had to make sure not only that the main story of Sophie fixing the curse and finally freeing herself and her family from Marshall was satisfied in a way that was fulfilling and entertaining, but, even more importantly, I had to let Sophie and Calder’s relationship grow and evolve. They haven’t had an easy time of it. The only ones who have had it worse than Sophie and Calder are Luc and Migisi… and I had to give them an ending, too.

This is what happens when you start book one thinking “ooh! Intertwining storylines. This will be fun!”

 

The truth is, it was fun. It was a lot of work, and now I’m excited to finally share with you that Copper Falls #3, Light’s Shadow, will be out on Friday, April 21st.

Finally. 🙂

I’ll have a cover reveal for you next week, as well as a teaser here and there. I’m hoping this is decent forewarning for those of you who want to re-read Shadow Witch Rising and Shadow Sworn before Light’s Shadow is out — I know some of you do that (and I do as well!) so… there you have it!

After Light’s Shadow, I’m going to work on the next of my Paradise Bay contemporary romance novels while finalizing my plot and notes for my next big project, which is…

The Molly Brooks series.

More details on that over the next few weeks as well. It’s going to be wild. And I have missed my potty-mouthed goddess, so I’m looking forward to delving back into the Hidden world again.

Thank you for your patience regarding Copper Falls. Every time I felt like putting the series off or taking a break from fighting through book 3, the reminder that so many of you cared about Sophie and Calder kept me working. So thank you, and I hope (really, really, really hope….) that Light’s Shadow is worth the wait. I know I feel good about it. I hope you will, too.

Until next time!

XO,

Colleen