A Council full of Ethereal Elders wants me dead. Yep, it's a regular Tuesday.
When you kill a demon there are consequences.
Centuries-old witch, tattoo artist, half-demon... none of those titles are going to save me this time. The only way I'm going to get out of my death sentence is to take down the biggest, baddest demon there is... My father.
And I thought being burned at the stake was bad...
Release date: November 13, 2018
Publisher: Annie Anderson
Print pages: 248
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Daughter of Souls & Silence
There are some things I’d have hoped to never experience. Being eaten alive by carnivorous ants, missing a shoe sale, being forced to watch Gomer Pyle reruns—you know, the really evil stuff. There are other things I didn’t even think to put on the list. Being dragged by the arm by a bitchy angel into a room full of Ethereal elders probably should have been at the tippy-top. Had I known it was a thing, I probably would have written it down or something, but alas…
“You know, that ‘never harming the other side shit’ goes both ways, Ruby,” I warn my captor as she drags me through the hidden halls of a club the pair of us are very familiar with. Her definitely more than me.
One could say Aether was where everything started, and they’d be right, in a way. This underground witch club was my first real introduction to my kind in a very long time.
But they weren’t all my kind, now were they? Witch DNA only accounted for half my makeup. The other half was a bag of cats even I didn’t want to get in the middle of. And truth be told, if Ruby Sinclair wasn’t dragging me through the place, I probably wouldn’t even be allowed to grace these halls with my presence.
From what I’d gathered in the weeks following my parental reveal, demons weren’t welcome most places. In my case, being half-demon made it so I wasn’t welcome in my own family.
“Oh, please. It’s no worse than you throwing me across the room, Max, and you know it,” she snarls, which is a feat considering she’s about as menacing as a tabby cat. Blonde hair, big boobs, porcelain skin. I had a feeling she wasn’t just an angel. I also figured she was probably a bit more threatening to people who weren’t me.
But Ruby had a point. I did toss her across the room like a rag doll, and keeping the smile off my face as I recall the memory is harder than I thought it would be.
“Yes, but you landed in a very comfy chair with exactly zero bruises, and that stunt helped suss out a black-market dealing asshole. This right here”—I return while tugging my upper arm out of her grip—“is just you being a dick.”
More like it was her way to push the limit of the law as far as it would go. I couldn’t harm her without starting an all-out angel-demon Armageddon. But then again, she couldn’t harm me, either. I wonder how much leeway she could get, since she was essentially taking me to jail or to a judge, or whatever. All she’d said after she broke into my home was that she was taking me to the Council.
Not that I really knew what that meant.
“Fine.” Ruby turns down a hallway I’d yet to traverse. “Follow me and stay close. I don’t have time to hunt you down if you decide to rabbit on me. I have shit to do.”
What shit exactly she had to do, I had no idea. As far as I understood it, Ruby was Caim’s bodyguard, bounty hunter, lap dog, and all-around gofer.
Rather than roll my eyes, I follow her down a shadowy hallway away from the revelers and music—away from the safety a crowd of that size provides—and step closer and closer to a place I have no desire to be.
They say I broke the law by killing Micah, the incubus who branded me. Maybe I did, but deciding between killing a man, or becoming a slave to him for the rest of my long life, well… it was really no decision.
Too bad I didn’t read the fine print on the bone blade my mother gave me.
Ruby stops at a door that seems to have popped up out of nowhere. The wood is an ornately carved mahogany. In the dim, it takes me a minute to recognize the words etched into the frame. Numera omnes qui ingrediuntur ad iudicium.
Judgment comes to all who enter.
Well, that isn’t ominous or anything.
Ruby’s corn silk hair falls in a sheet down her back, highlighting when she fidgets, hesitating before opening the heavy door. Ruby doesn’t fidget, and she doesn’t hesitate. Not ever. Her pause causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up, and I don’t like it one bit.
She shoves it open, revealing a bright room, nearly blinding after immersing myself in the dark pockets of the nightclub. She steps aside, waiting for me to enter. Just like Caim’s magical portal of an office—which skeeves me the fuck out—this room seems to be here, and then again not here. We’ve all done it—made a temporary portal when we don’t want to bother with something so pedestrian as actual travel—but permanent portals like this one are on my long list of things that are probably not so good for the balance of magic.
I look back down the long hallway, catching glimpses here and there of club-goers living it up, and I wonder if I’ll ever be like them.
“Any day now,” Ruby gripes, and I have the distinct urge to put my fist in her face. I don’t, but I really want to.
I heave a longsuffering sigh and step into the room. The snick of the latch closing just behind me does absolutely nothing to help my rising trepidation at what is a huge, honking unknown. Immediately, I feel underdressed. The space is wall-to-wall marble, the bright white of it threaded through with waves of gray. To my right is a room that seems to go on forever, the shadowless whiteness reaching on and on in a vastness that my eyes just can’t seem to comprehend. To my left, is a raised dais with what seems to be a judge’s bench.
Only there isn’t just one judge.
There are eight seats, but only six are filled. Large expertly carved wooden thrones, each with a totem above the headrest. In the first seat is Caim, his blue eyes blazing as he grinds his teeth. He is a bit less poised than I’m used to, which doesn’t spell good things. The totem on his seat is a pair of spread wings.
Next to him is a tiny, fine-boned blonde. On the street, I wouldn’t put her past thirty. On this dais, with her eyes assessing me in the way that they are, I’d say she was ancient. Her rosy lips quirk into a half-smile that isn’t comforting at all. Her totem is a dragon, its mouth open in a snarl.
Beside her is a giant, thin in the extreme, his expressionless face seeming to see me and see through me all at the same time. His totem is an hourglass. Next to him is an open seat, the wood of the totem molded into the fluid form of a phoenix.
Down the line is a quite attractive but scowling man, his sable-brown hair brushed from his face in an artfully messy way that is made to look effortless, but in no way actually is. His totem is a pentagram. Next to him is my grandmother, Bernadette—or Lilith if we want to get technical. She’s wearing a white suit jacket with pearls. I can’t tell what is behind the bench, but I’d lay money on her being in a skirt. Her totem, frighteningly enough, is what appears to be a gargoyle’s head, its mouth open in a screaming hiss, fangs bared, tongue lolling. But Bernadette’s face is carefully blank.
Beside her is a gruff-looking man with silver eyes and weathered skin, dressed in flannel and looking like he’d rather be drinking a beer at a pub than be within a hundred miles of here. His hair is long and shaggy, falling into his eyes. The hair on his chin is three days past scruff and entering scraggy-beard territory. His totem is a wolf baying at some unseen moon.
Next to him is the other empty chair, the totem on it a haunting version of The Scream only with less abstractness and too much abject realism.
Angel, dragon, warlock, phoenix, witch, demon, shifter, wraith. The heads of all the Ethereal factions sitting in one place. Well, almost all of them. I knew the two that were missing personally, but my “in” with the leaders of the phoenix and wraith faction would probably do little to help me now.
Especially since the remaining six—well, except for my gramma—were all staring at me like I was a puppy who shit on an heirloom rug.
Fuck a duck, I am screwed.
They don’t start with pleasantries, no one introducing themselves to me or even attempting to be civil. The brown-haired witch snaps his fingers and a hard-backed wooden chair springs up out of nowhere. I assume he wants me to sit, but I ignore the chair out of spite and cross my arms, my bravado hopefully hiding that I feel mighty underdressed and at a loss. Had I known I was going to meet what was inherently Ethereal royalty, I would have at least done my hair.
As it stood, I was in black, skinny jeans with the cuffs rolled up, electric-blue Converse, and a hot-pink semi-see-through tank that said “Adios Bitchachoes” with a lacy black bra underneath and a messy bun on top of my head. Yep. I probably should have asked Ruby for a timeout so I could at least put on something presentable.
Why didn’t Bernadette tell me, warn me? Why didn’t Caim? Did I mean so little to the both of them that they wouldn’t give two shits about me sitting—well, standing—right where I am?
“Do you know why you’re here?” the blonde dragon asks. Her accent is thick, maybe Russian or Ukrainian perhaps.
“I have an idea,” I drawl, my left eyebrow hitching up without permission.
Oh, I have more than an idea. I know exactly why I’m here. It probably has something to do with the demon I killed.
“Good, then we’ll dispense with the pleasantries. Maxima Alcado, born Maxima Christina Arcadios, Rogue witch, denounced member of the former Arcadios Coven, shunned daughter of the demon Andras and Pacific Northwest Coven leader, Teresa Alcado, sole heir to the royal seat, you are hereby accused of murdering your Master, Micah Goode, with a forbidden instrument.”
A high-pitched buzzing takes over my hearing as a biting cold seems to seep into my limbs. I hate that name. Hate the way my body betrays me every single time I hear it. Both his name and the one I was given when I came into this world. Arcadios. I thought I’d buried that part of me just like my mother had. I guess not. And Micah’s. I hate the way just the specter of him makes it so I can’t go home, can’t even look at my house without my breath coming in these same short pants of an impending panic attack.
It isn’t fair. I didn’t ask to be branded. I didn’t ask to be born in the family I was. And that’s why Micah wanted me. Because of who my family is. Because of the blood running in my veins.
I guess the self-defense excuse was probably moot here.
I open my mouth to say just that when I hear my gramma’s voice in my head, her crisp English accent echoing through the edges of my brain.
Don’t say a word, Maxima dear. I’ll fix this. I swear to you. I’ll fix this.
I meet her warm brown eyes, knowing she means it, but also knowing that if it came to it, I might be beyond saving.
“Have you nothing to say?” The witch’s tone is snide as he sneers at me.
I shift my gaze from Bernadette to him, keeping my face impassive, looking him over. Yes, he’s attractive, but his sneer sours his looks. My assessment must unnerve him because he shifts in his seat.
Probably used to a bit more groveling, I bet.
“So be it.” He pauses—probably for effect—taking over the speaking for the dragon, a little upward crook of his mouth. “The sentence for your crimes is death. Do you have anything to say now?”
It turns out I didn’t.
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