For those who need more Harper and Knox . . . there's Blaze!
Defeat the enemy. Win the boy. Live happily ever after.
But life "ever after" isn't as easy as it used to be. Harper's gone from being a member of a small demon lair to co-Prime of one of the most powerful lairs in the US with a mate who, though hot as hell, is just a mite overprotective - I mean, you get kidnapped by dark practitioners just once . . .
Then one of Knox's demons goes rogue, and in his madness decides Knox Thorne must die.
Harper's worried. Knox isn't - at least until he discovers his mate's willingness to get between him and danger. Now, Knox has a new priority: Keep Harper safe . . . no matter what it takes.
But Harper begins to suspect there's more danger than one rogue demon. It seems the combined strength of Harper and Knox has upset the balance of power in the demon world and there are those who are determined to right that wrong.
Because when you move up the food chain, sometimes the other predators just want to take a bigger bite.
Praise for Suzanne Wright:
"Unique, original and very entertaining." Ramblings from this Chick
"It's been two minutes since my last fix and I need Suzanne Wright to give me more" Edgy Reviews
Release date: September 1, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Print pages: 384
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Snapping her gaze from her cell phone to the pistol now aimed at her head, Harper Wallis froze. Well, shit. She couldn’t deny that she had some karma to burn off. She was no angel. Being a demon, she was quite the opposite, in fact. But having a gun pointed at her by a human with a shaky hand and dilated pupils that said he was drugged up to his eyeballs… well, it just felt like the universe was being a little unfair, that’s all.
“Put the phone on the ground!”
She so didn’t have time for this. She’d taken a quick break from work so she could head to the ATM —
“Put the phone on the ground!”
“Do I really have to?” The floor of the alley was covered in grime, cigarette butts, glass fragments, and dirty rain puddles. Then there were those dubious-looking stains…
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
With an inward sigh, Harper slowly did as he asked.
Note to self: Stop taking shortcuts through alleys. It wasn’t exactly a scenic route with the dumpsters, trash bags, moldy walls, and the scent of rotting food… although the graffiti was pretty cool. The artist definitely had potential.
“Hands up and keep them up!”
She raised her hands, all the while staring into blue eyes that flickered with nervousness. Sparky here wasn’t as confident as he was trying to appear. But he had every reason to feel at least a little confident. They were alone except for the rats, she was small where he was burly, and he had a weapon while she was unarmed – or, at least, that was what he thought. Not that the stiletto knife tucked into her boot was going to do her much good against a gun.
Really, she should know better. This area of North Las Vegas was high in crime… which, incidentally, was why her family fit right in. The Wallis demons were pretty notorious for doing exactly what all imps did: mostly lying, stealing, tricking, cheating, and, of course, breaking and entering. Although Harper was a sphinx like her mother, she’d been raised by her paternal family and was an imp by nature.
“Now throw me your purse!”
“You told me to keep my hands up,” she pointed out.
“Well, now I’m telling you to give me your damn purse.”
Okay, that was going to be a problem. It had been a gift, and she wasn’t going to hand it over to anyone.
How rude. Not that he was wrong. She was a bitch and she took pride in it. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
His brows drew together. “What?”
“See, someone very important to me bought me this. I tell him not to keep buying me shit, but he doesn’t listen. He likes to spoil me, even though it makes me uncomfortable —”
A burger wrapper crumpled under his foot as he took an aggressive step forward, lips flattening. “Throw. Me. The. Purse.”
Her inner demon snarled, eager for Harper to either slit his throat or do something equally entertaining. Like shifters, demons had a dualism to the soul. Shifters shared their soul with an animal. Demons, however, shared theirs with a dark entity – an entity that was without conscience, possessed a strong sense of entitlement, and lacked both empathy and the ability to emotionally connect. “Come on, give a girl a break.”
“Oh, I’ll give you something,” he said, a lewd gleam in his eyes.
Like hell he would. A dark yet protective power unfurled from within her and rushed to her fingertips, making them prickle. Her demon urged her to release it on the human, but there were other ways of dealing with him.
“You don’t want the purse,” she said in the compelling tone that all sphinxes were gifted with, enabling them to confuse people. Satisfied when his eyes glazed over, she continued. “You don’t want to hurt me. You want to drop the gun.” She wished she could compel him to never do it again or to confess his crimes to the police, but her compulsions wouldn’t hold that long.
A car honked in the distance, making him jump, and the glaze fell from his eyes. “Give me the purse!”
“This is getting tedious.” She flinched at a loud bang. Motherfucker. The human had shot at the ground in front of her feet. She wasn’t sure if he’d purposely missed; she had no interest in finding out. Before that shaky hand could shoot again, she acted. Faster than he could ever hope to be, she whipped out her knife, kicked the gun out of his hand, slammed him into the wall, and put her blade to his throat.
Breaths quick and shallow, he stared at her through wide eyes.
Well, he’d be a lot more scared if she’d granted her demon’s request and infused hellfire into the knife. It would be pretty funny to watch his face go slack, but that would expose herself as inhuman and… and was it just her or had the temperature dropped seriously quickly? It was also darkening fast. She looked up. A dark, heavy, ominous-looking cloud had formed.
Harper’s eyes snapped back to the human as a large, sweaty hand crushed her wrist and sharply yanked it, making her drop her blade.
His free hand wrapped tight around her throat as he spun them, slamming her into the wall. The breath whooshed out of her lungs. Fisting her hair, he rammed the back of her skull against the wall, and there was the sickening sound of bone hitting brick. Spots danced in front of her eyes and a ringing sound filled her ears.
“Bitch!” He bit down hard into her cheek as he roughly tore open her fly.
Motherfucking bastard. She slapped her palm to his forehead, and the power prickling her fingertips shoved its way inside him.
With an agonized sob, he dropped to his knees and slapped his hands against his head.
A little on the dizzy side, she rapidly blinked. The bite mark on her cheek was throbbing like a bitch. Watching him whimper pathetically at her feet, she gently probed the lump that was quickly forming on the back of her head. Fucking ouch.
Giving up any pretense of being human, Harper crouched in front of him. “Do you know why one simple hit to your body took you down? Because my touch can cause soul-deep pain. I can’t really empathize, because I’ve never felt it myself. I’m told that the pain burns each nerve ending, cuts through each organ, slices through each bone and then lances through the very soul, making it feel like it’s shattering. Does it?” She was genuinely curious.
Eying her with a newfound terror, he clumsily scrabbled away from her.
His gaze fell to the gun, but it was too far away and he was in too much pain to get up.
“You might as well lose the dream of shooting me,” she told him, grabbing her cell phone off the floor and tucking it into her purse. “Now, what should I do with you?”
A cold wind blew through the air, flapping her T-shirt and causing her loose hair to whip at her face. Looking up, she saw that the murky cloud was bigger and darker. The air felt… charged, somehow. Wary, she slowly stood upright.
Ping. Ping. Ping.
Something hard and sharp bounced off her hand onto the concrete. Wincing, she frowned down at the small white ball. Hail. “Well, shit.”
In a matter of moments, a torrent of icy pellets was raining down on them, stinging the skin of her face and hands. She shrugged off her jacket and held it over her head. But, like the rest of her clothes, the material couldn’t protect her from the hard sting of the hailstones.
The deluge was deafening. Each pellet pounded into the ground, hammered into the garbage cans, and splashed out of the rain puddles. The pellets weren’t big, but the force of them was bad. They were no doubt chipping windows and denting cars all around.
Seriously, where the fuck had this storm come from? One minute the weather was mild, the next there was a hailstorm and she was freezing. If it was anything like the other recent strange storms, it would end as abruptly as it had begun.
She could hear raised voices coming from the end of the alley; watched as people scrambled to escape the torrent. She would have followed their lead and run for shelter, but there was good ole Sparky to consider. She was going to have to do something with the little bastard, who was now crawling toward the gun, proving yet again that he was indeed a bastard.
She kicked it far out of his reach, and it slid into a slushy puddle.
With a groan of defeat, he rolled onto his side and curled up into a fetal position, shielding his face with his thick arms. Like her, he was wet and his teeth were chattering. Maybe she should have felt bad for him but, well, she just didn’t. He’d freaking attacked her.
A very familiar mind slid against hers. Harper, where are you?
Even telepathically, her mate’s voice was like an erotic stroke to her senses. Hell, everything about Knox Thorne stroked her senses. But seriously, his smoky, velvety rumble was pure liquid sin.
Caught in a hailstorm, she told him. He was no doubt warm and dry in a conference room somewhere in Chicago.
I know you’re stuck in the storm. I want to know where exactly you are.
She frowned, wondering how he could possibly know. Now that the deluge had abruptly begun to slow, she scooped up her blade with cold fingers and returned it to the sheath inside her boot.
Tell me where you are; I’ll come for you.
Hearing another groan, she looked down at Sparky. He was shivering even worse than before. And Harper… yeah, she still wasn’t feeling bad for him. It’s sweet that you’d offer to pyroport all the way from Chicago, but it’s not necessary. Right now, she wouldn’t mind having that ability herself – traveling by fire would at least warm her up.
I’m at your studio, I’ve been waiting for you.
Well, then it would seem that he’d cut his business trip short. But why? Uneasy, she asked, Is something wrong?
Harper, where are you?
She narrowed her eyes. You avoided my question.
You avoided mine.
Well, yeah. The storm is actually easing off. The rumble of pellets had slowed to light individual pings. You don’t have to come for me.
Harper, he growled.
Okay, but you have to promise not to lose your shit. But considering she had bite marks on her cheek, a goose-egg on her head, and the buttons of her fly had been ripped off, there was little chance of that. She wasn’t averse to seeing the sick-ass motherfucker on the ground die a painful death, but it was never a good thing for Knox Thorne to lose control.
Only a handful of people – including Harper – knew what breed of demon he was. Still, he was both feared and respected within the demon world since he was rumored to be the most powerful in existence; a demon that could call on the flames of hell. It was a rumor that very few knew to be true. And since nothing was impervious to the flames of hell, he could, literally, destroy the freaking world.
A vibe of anxiety touched her mind. Harper, where the fuck are you?
Sighing in resignation, she lowered her soaking wet jacket. The alley between the ATM and the deli. An alley that was now dotted with icy pellets. Well, at least it smelled better; ozone and water beat pigeon shit and grime any day of the week.
Fire roared to life a few feet away, causing Sparky to cry out in terror. The fire hissed and spat until the flames quickly calmed. And there was Knox. Piercing, deep-set ebony eyes locked on her, and the intense potency of his natural sex appeal swept over her, causing her body to hum. Well over six feet of danger, power, solid muscle, and a raw sexual magnetism, Knox Thorne was both a mouthwatering and intimidating sight.
As always, he looked like something out of GQ with his black tailored suit, sexily confident stance, and his short, dark stylishly cut hair. He exuded an aura of self-assurance that said he could handle any situation with total ease. At that moment, he was also radiating a fury that thickened the air. Crap.
“I’m fine,” she assured him.
“Nothing about this situation is fine,” said Knox, stalking toward her. He sounded completely calm. Composed. Casual. But she knew he was none of those things.
“What I mean is that I’m okay.” Albeit wet and cold.
“You’re soaked, shivering, and bleeding.” He lightly breezed his warm thumb over the skin beneath the throbbing marks on her cheek, and his fury became almost tangible. “The human’s mental shields are weak. I can see what he did to you, I can see what he planned.” Knox turned to the human, who was now shaking like a shitting dog. “You’ve mugged and raped many women, haven’t you? Young girls, too. You should have been put down long before now.”
Menace stamped into every line of Knox’s face, he grabbed the human by the throat and lifted him off the floor. The air chilled even further as his eyes bled to black— his inner demon was now in control. The entity had claimed her as its mate, though it didn’t “care” for her; it lacked the emotional capacity to do so. However, it had formed a very firm attachment to Harper. It was as possessive and protective as Knox. It viewed her as something it owned; something it had collected and intended to keep.
Glaring at the human through cold eyes, the demon spoke in a flat, disembodied voice that would give anyone the chills. “You hurt what belongs to me. No one does that and lives.”
Hellfire rushed from its hand to completely engulf the human’s body; it happened so fast that the guy didn’t have a chance to cry out. Fire crackled and popped as his skin blistered, melted, and peeled away. Her nose wrinkled at that the God-awful stench of burning flesh. The alley smelled bad once again.
As the body slumped in its grip, the demon dropped him and watched with clinical detachment while it vaporized right in front of them. Good ole hellfire sure was a bitch.
Obsidian eyes cut to Harper, still cold as ever. The demon prowled towards her, and she had to force herself not to tense. She knew that she wasn’t in danger, but the entity still unnerved the ever-loving shit out of her. It did a slow blink. “You should have called for me, little sphinx.”
That made her and her inner demon bristle. “I handled the situation.”
One brow slid up. “Pride can be a weakness.” The demon tapped her lip. “Take better care of what’s mine.” It then retreated, and Knox’s dark eyes once again held hers. And it was clear to see that he wasn’t happy. Evidently, he agreed with his demon.
She sighed. “I was dealing with the guy just fine on my own. If I’d thought I needed your help, I would have called for you.”
Knox slowly splayed his hand around her throat and circled her pulse with his thumb. “Really?” His tone called her a liar.
“Yes. I’m stubborn, not stupid.”
“Then you’ll have no problem making me a promise here and now.”
She didn’t like the sound of that. “Oh yeah?”
“Promise me that if you ever need my help, you’ll call for me.”
“I told you I will. I meant it.”
“Then this will be an easy promise for you to make.”
Damn, she’d walked right into that one. “Fine, I promise.”
“Good girl.” He kissed her, boldly licking into her mouth. The kiss was as aggressive as it was possessive; she could taste his anger, his concern, and his determination to keep her safe. He ended the kiss with a sharp, punishing bite to her lower lip. He wasn’t quite calm yet.
A car horn honked, and Knox said, “Time to go. We need to get you warm.” He guided her to the end of the alley where a sleek, top-of-the-line Bentley waited. Well, that was the kind of thing you could afford when you were a billionaire who owned a chain of hotels, casinos, restaurants, security firms, and bars.
Like all demons, Knox hid in plain sight, blending in easily with humans. Their kind often sought jobs that granted them power, control, challenges, and respect. Many were entrepreneurs, stock brokers, CEOs, politicians, bankers, surgeons, lawyers, police officers, and celebrities. Harper wasn’t so big on power, but she did enjoy the challenges of co-owning a tattoo studio.
Knox was as influential in the demon world as he was in the human world. He was a powerful Prime of a fairly large lair that spanned most of Nevada and a good portion of California. In addition, he owned a subterranean version of the Las Vegas strip known as the Underground. It was a busy place, given that demons were impulsive, forever restless, suffered from instant gratification issues, and had a bad habit of trying to deal with their oppressive boredom using cheap thrills.
Levi, one of Knox’s sentinels, opened the rear door of the Bentley for them. He didn’t look much happier with her than Knox did. “What the fuck happened to your face?” he growled, gun-metal gray eyes flaring with anger.
She gave the tall, powerfully built reaper a bright smile and slung her wet jacket at him. “Never say I don’t give you anything.” As she and Knox slid into the backseat, she turned to her mate and said, “You’re back early from your trip.”
His expression didn’t alter at all, but his hesitation to answer her spoke volumes.
“Something happened. What is it?”
He took her hand in his. “It’s Carla. She’s missing.”
Harper’s stomach rolled. Carla Hayden was a sphinx and a member of their lair. She was also Harper’s mother.
Using a bottle of drinking water to wet a handkerchief, Knox then dabbed the healing wound on her cheek; wiping away the excess blood. He’d bitten her. The bastard had bitten her. Pointed a gun at her head. Slammed her into a wall. Tried to r—
The Bentley rattled a little, and she gave him a sideways glance. Knox took a deep breath to cool his anger, reminding himself that she was there with him, alive and safe. But it wasn’t easy when his demon’s rage heated his blood and buzzed through his veins. They’d seen through the human’s memories exactly what he’d done to his mate.
Knox and his demon were doubly possessive and protective of Harper because in addition to being their mate she was their anchor. Demons came in pairs, but they didn’t have soul mates. They had predestined psi-mates who would anchor their demon, make them stronger, and give them the stability that stopped them from turning rogue.
When a demon fused their psyche with their anchor’s, it forged a binding link between them. The link wasn’t sexual or emotional; it was purely psychic. Still, anchors often become close friends since they found it mentally uncomfortable to be apart for long periods. They also instinctually protected and supported each other, and they were unswervingly loyal.
Being anchored didn’t stop the inner demon from occasionally surfacing – nothing could completely control it – but it did stop the entity from taking over. And if a demon lost its anchor and the link between them broke, the demon often broke right along with it.
As his anchor and his mate, Harper was indispensable to Knox in more ways than one. He needed her alive and safe. He didn’t need her being fucking shot at by a junkie. It didn’t surprise Knox that she hadn’t called out for help when the human attacked her. Harper was used to being alone and taking care of herself. He knew she was fully capable of doing so. He just didn’t want her to have to. Knox wanted to be for her what she’d never had – someone to rely on, someone to turn to, someone who would deal with her problems for her. He wanted to make up for the things she’d never had. He definitely didn’t want to find her injured and bleeding.
Knox very carefully slid his hand to the back of her head to check out the swelling. It wasn’t so bad, which meant she was healing fast. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t even seem aware that he was touching her.
He watched her closely, unsure what reaction his news would receive. He would wager that he knew Harper better than even she did, but he was never able to predict her responses. She was a guarded, complex, elusive creature who always managed to surprise him, which was an actual achievement considering he was someone who read people easily.
It was her ability to both surprise and intrigue him that had first drawn Knox to her. It made her different. Interesting. And that had intensified the raw need she sparked in him. Not even five and a half feet tall, she was small and feminine with delectably sinful curves and a mouth from every male’s fantasy. She also had a natural grace and moved with an innate sensuality that enraptured his demon.
What Knox liked most about his pretty, shiny little mate were her eyes. Not simply because they were unusually glassy and reflective in a catlike way, but because they routinely changed color. Right now, however, they were annoyingly covered with contact lenses to hide her unique eyes from humans. And they showed absolutely no emotion. Whatever she was feeling about the Carla situation, he wasn’t yet sure.
Mother and daughter had an extremely complicated… well, he wouldn’t call it a relationship. There wasn’t anything between them. When aborting Harper didn’t work, Carla had wanted an incantor – a demon that could use magick – to bottle Harper’s soul in order to punish her father, Lucian. That plan had also failed, at which point Harper’s grandmother had paid Carla to carry the baby to term. Carla had then left Harper with the imps and never once played a part in her life.
It wasn’t that Carla was evil. She’d just been too twisted up inside after Harper’s father, who was both Carla’s anchor and the demon she’d chosen for a mate, rejected her on both levels. A demon who lost its mate was both dangerous and unstable. Given that Knox would be just as hurt if he lost Harper, he could understand why Carla became so twisted. Nonetheless, he didn’t see it as an excuse for anything Carla had done.
Harper had grown up believing the woman hated her just as she hated Lucian, and she’d come to terms with that in her own way. Months ago, however, they had discovered that Carla had actually watched Harper from afar when his mate came to Vegas – she’d even gone to Harper’s graduation. Knox had sensed that a part of Carla wanted her only daughter in her life, but it simply wasn’t a big enough part of her to make any difference. Learning these things had thrown Harper off-balance and forced her to re-evaluate what she’d grown up believing.
He suspected that too much had really happened for the two females to ever have a relationship of any kind. He strongly doubted that Carla’s absence in her life bothered Harper that much, though. She wasn’t bitter about it, and she didn’t want anyone in her life who wouldn’t be a positive influence.
In her position, Knox would have felt neither here nor there about the disappearance of a mother who had been anything but a mother to him. He certainly wouldn’t feel sympathy for someone who had so drastically let him down. But unlike him, Harper had a huge soft spot. Beneath her hard exterior lay a marshmallow center that would no doubt feel bad for Carla.
“What do you mean by missing?” she finally asked.
Knox gently stroked her long sleek, dark hair that was tipped with gold – it was drying fast, since Levi had turned the heaters on full-blast. “Lawrence Crow, another demon from our lair who is also her neighbor, seems to have taken her.”
“Against her will?”
“Yes,” replied Knox. His demon wanted to nuzzle her. It had lost some of its anger now that she was safe, warm, and at its side.
Harper gave a soft shake of the head. “I don’t get it. Why would someone take Carla?”
“In Crow’s state of mind, it’s not easy to say.”
“He’s the demon you told me about who was bordering on rogue, isn’t he?”
“Yes.” And that was a reason to worry, since it would mean the male’s inner demon could soon have complete and utter control of him.
“Has he gone over the edge? Is he rogue now?”
“His partner, Delia, doesn’t think he is yet, but he’s close.” Again, Knox watched Harper carefully. Again, her expression didn’t change.
Harper exhaled heavily. “Then she’s in big fucking trouble.”
His mate was right. Sharing your soul with a dark, mostly psychopathic predator was no easy thing. It was a constant struggle to prevent the entity from taking over, and some didn’t have the mental strength to be dominant over their inner demon. Those people either went insane, committed suicide, or turned rogue.
One thing could save a demon from ever breaking that way – finding and bonding with their anchor. Sometimes having a mate could keep a demon relatively stable, but although Crow was in a relationship with Delia, they hadn’t claimed each other.
Seeing that Harper was pinching her lower lip, Knox tugged it free with his thumb and asked her, “What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know what to think.” On the one hand, Harper was angry that such a thing had happened to someone who, whether she liked it or not, was in fact her mother. But that made her feel almost hypocritical, given that Harper didn’t want her around. “I can’t pretend to care about her. I don’t. But I never wished her dead.” And if Carla was in the hands of a rogue, she could very well be exactly that.
“I know.” Knox slid his hand from her hair to her nape. “Not that anyone would blame you if you had.”
“When did this happen?”
“Four hours ago. That was why Tanner disappeared from outside your studio; he’s trying to track Crow.” Tanner was one of his sentinels who acted as Harper’s bodyguard. As a hellhound, he was a very good tracker. “You don’t have to come with me to see Delia. I can have Levi take you home so you can change out of those damp clothes.”
“No, I want to hear from Delia what happened.” She rubbed at her eyes, confused and off-balance. “I don’t know what to make of it all.”
“Look at me.” Knox waited until she did before he said, “I can’t promise you that Carla will get out of this situation unharmed, but I can promise you that I will find her and Crow.”
She squeezed his hand. “I know you will.”
That trust, that instant faith in him, made Knox swallow hard. He kissed her softly. Gently. He hadn’t thought he had gentleness in him until Harper came along. She’d walked into his office, all shiny and unique and stubborn, and she’d lit his life right up – brought out plenty of emotions he hadn’t thought himself capable of feeling.
But even feeling those emotions didn’t make him “good.” He’d never be that. There was a saying: “what’s born in hell should stay in hell.” Knox was an archdemon; a dark, cruel breed that was born of the flames of hell… meaning he didn’t just call on the flames, he was the flames. Harper knew he was part of the fabric of hell, but she accepted him anyway. Loved him, even. If that wasn’t a fucking miracle, he didn’t know what was.
Harper stood at Knox’s side in the center of the freakily tidy den, looking down at the woman who was huddled in an armchair and shaking with silent sobs. Delia kept her eyes on the floor, intimidated in the face of Knox’s anger. Harper couldn’t blame her. Oh, he didn’t look or sound angry. It was rare that he ever did. But right then, the emotion pulsed around them like a live thing. He had every right to be pissed. Delia had admitted to knowing that Crow was getting worse, yet she’d done nothing.
Knox wasn’t the only one radiating anger. Carla’s mate, Bray, and their two sons, Roan and Kellen, were there too. Although Harper had no relationship with Roan, who was in his twenties and quite the momma’s boy, she occasionally met with Kellen, which was something his parents and brother didn’t know.
Unlike Roan, Kellen wasn’t close to Carla. The teenager had remarked that she wasn’t normal and believed that she found her demon hard to control. He’d also commented that though she could be kind at times, the oddest things riled her. Roan had cryptically told him that Carla was “twisted up inside” and not to blame, whateve. . .
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