My debut novel, Hearts of Darkness was inspired by a ghost tour of Seattle's Pike Place Market and Butterworth Mortuary. This historic landmark is supposed to be the most haunted spot in Washington State. Those ghost stories and the lawless, Wild West attitude of the Seattle Pioneers formed the backbone of the ghost-infested world that became the alternate Seattle of the Deadglass trilogy. This is the first scene I started writing when I sat down to sketch out the book, and it is still one of my favorites. In Hearts of Darkness, a human woman, Kayla Friday, travels to Seattle to identify her sister's body and finds herself in the middle of a bloody war between two ancient races of shape shifters. The Kivati--led by Corbette--seek to protect the Gate to the Land of the Dead, the Drekar to destroy it. The only man Kayla can trust is Hart, a blood sworn mercenary with his own agenda. In this scene Hart, a werewolf, meets with his boss, the Regent of the dragon-shifting Drekar. Hearts of Darkness debuts August 2012 from Kensington Zebra.
Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four
Butterworth and Son's Mortuary first opened in 1903 as a one-stop shop for the dead: morgue, funeral parlor, and crematorium. Before that, the land had been an Indian burial ground. The result was one seriously haunted chunk of earth. The number of dead passing through the Gate in this spot had forever warped the Aether, so that even humans could sense the otherworld. Various bars and restaurants had come and gone, quickly driven out of business by strange happenings and ghostly vandalism.
Butterworth's, as it was now called, was the longest-running business to occupy the building, thanks to the owner, Sven Norgard, who understood how to manage otherworldly inhabitants. No one, living or dead, crossed Norgard. He’d turned the place into an opium parlor and tea house. Those of Seattle's famous musicians who were unlucky enough to die in Norgard's debt performed nightly, putting a new twist on "live" music.
All were welcome, but for a price. Guns were checked at the door, no exorcisms allowed, yet the air reeked of violence. Shadows slithered in the flickering glow of the candelabras. Clouds of opium puffed from the deep, red velvet booths like sweetly scented, miniature volcanoes.
Hart pulled himself up to the massive mahogany bar that took up one wall. Hand-carved dragons decorated the imposing piece, a nod to the owner and his kin. Every muscle protested from Hart's earlier fight. He was getting too old for this crap. In the fifteen years he'd worked for Norgard he'd watched countless other men die. Two more jobs, he could do it. The Lady had never done him any favors, but maybe She'd take pity on him this once.
Doc, the bartender, saw him and ambled over. Charms tinkled from the man's portly belly, warding off spirits intent on breaking his bottles of alcohol.
"Happy Nisannu," Doc said in greeting. "May Tiamat aid you in the coming year."
Nisannu—the celebration of the Babylonian New Year—was in full swing. Norgard had gone all out with fountains of fermented honey wine and free chocolate. Red streamers hung from the ceiling and stalks of barley decorated the walls. Stone Babylonian gods, illuminated by red lanterns, leered over the dance floor.
"What'll it be?" Doc asked.
"The usual," Hart said. "Tell Norgard I'm here."
Doc nodded and poured him a cup of Darjeeling with a shot of gin. Hart gingerly raised the porcelain cup to his lips. The delicate handle felt ridiculous in his thick fingers. As he waited, he watched the grinding bodies on the dance floor, keeping his back to the bar and an eye on the door so no one could catch him off guard. The thick air, clogged with sweat and opium, threw off his nose. Without his sense of smell he felt blind and vulnerable. If it were up to the beast, he would avoid all crowds and closed spaces. Too bad he had no choice in the matter.
Like most Drekar and Kivati haunts, Butterworth's was wired for gas. Red plates of glass covered the chandelier and wall sconces. The bloody glow of the lights illuminated an empty chair on stage. In front of it sat an old-fashioned microphone flanked by two large amplifying horns that pumped out music from the ghostly entertainer. Hart dug out his Deadglass and raised it to his eye to see what the dancers, high on opium and alcohol, could see: a thin young man with stringy blond hair, torn jeans, and a flannel shirt sitting in the chair and strumming a beat-up guitar. He looked not much different from the way he had in life—same paper-pale skin, same hollow eyes. He played with a demonic flare that roused the crowd to a frenzy.
Hart pocketed the Deadglass and surveyed the room. Politicians made deals in the booths that lined the walls. Ishtar's Maidens, in lace garters and little else, slipped through the crowd selling their wares. He caught sight of Oscar's blond head at the back of the room and raised his teacup in a mock salute. His fellow operative saw him and touched his forehead in return. Norgard discouraged camaraderie. It was practical, given the short life expectancy of his blood slaves.
Speak of the devil. The tall blond Viking glided through the crowd toward him. His beautiful face made people trust him. In his left eye, he wore a Deadglass monocle. His right eye was clear blue, icy as his heart. Unless feeding, fighting, or fucking, the oval iris looked mostly human. Usually by the time anyone noticed its irregularity, it was much too late.
Norgard owned half the city and controlled most of the territory across the western United States. His business interests covered everything from technology and aeronautics to chocolate. All of his ventures flourished; Norgard had the Midas touch.
Behind Norgard stalked the head of his personal guard, Erik Thorsson. Civilization might have advanced, but Thorsson hadn't. He was a bloody, violent individual, better suited to pillaging by longboat than running a business. Norgard indulged him, especially if that violence was directed toward the Kivati.
Norgard slid gracefully onto a stool next to Hart, engulfing him in a wave of iron-scented air. The beast inside Hart strained forward at the sight of his alpha. Norgard had taken something natural and twisted it, leashing the beast. But Hart's mad totem couldn't be fooled for long; this alpha and makeshift pack were tainted. Once the blood debt was repaid, the beast would make its move. Hart found himself eyeing Norgard's throat, saliva pooling along his sharp canines. He wrenched his gaze away. Soon.
"What could be so important that it could not wait for later?" Norgard asked. A hint of Norse tinged his voice.
Hart waited for Norgard to order a drink—Glögg, aflame as usual—before telling him the job had changed. Norgard's nostrils flared, but Hart didn't give a damn. The Dreki had left out a dangerous amount of information.
"Losing your touch, mad dog?" Norgard smiled, showing a mouthful of sharp teeth. "What could be so difficult in robbing a silly chit?"
"Seems you're not the only one interested in this so-called sentimental trinket."
Norgard had the grace to look away. It was as much an admission of guilt as Hart was going to get. "Corbette. I had hoped he was unaware of its existence. What does he know?"
"The man is a stuffed shirt," Norgard said. "His reactionary tactics will never restore the glory of the Kivati. Their gilded age is over. He needs to accept that and move forward. Open up, rather than isolating his people like some damned Victorian commune. I will not let him interfere in my plans."
Hart took a sip of his tea and waited. It was a rant he'd heard before, and privately agreed with. Corbette thought a few generations of exacting protocol and rigid societal laws could keep his people from fading completely into the Shimmering Lands. But nothing could wash the taint from the blood. Nothing could restore the integrity of the cracked Gate. That didn't mean Hart agreed with all of Norgard's views. Humans wouldn't accept the supernatural races unless the hellfire of the apocalypse was raining down around their shoulders.
Norgard sighed heavily. "I suppose this means the original price will no longer suffice."
"You suppose right." Hart had never figured why a man so filthy rich could be such a penny pincher.
"Fine. So close to freedom," Norgard said. "What will you do, little Wolf, when you no longer bear the leash?"
Hart wanted to tell him to go to hell. He'd follow the packs north to Canada, last of the great wild spaces, and then he didn't know what he'd do. Anything. Everything. No one to answer to. Nothing to keep him here. He'd find somewhere he could run free.
"Can you taste it? The tang of blood coating your palate? Free to let its magic feed your own soul once again?" Norgard leaned in, a seductive purr in his voice. "Or is it fear that haunts you? Knowing that once the leash is gone, the madness will take you, faster and stronger than ever. What will stop it from destroying you? What will stop you from destroying everyone around you?"
Hart growled low. The beast waited beneath the surface, hungry and aching to be let free. His skin itched with the need to Change. His mouth watered. He wanted to rip the Dreki's throat between his teeth.
Norgard smiled and leaned back. "I rest my case."
You may read Chapter 1 of Hearts of Darkness at the Kensington Books website.
Hearts of DarknessDeadglass 1
Kensington Zebra, August 7, 2012
Mass Market Papberback and eBook, 352 pages
In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war—and an irresistible passion…
Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.
Hearts of FireDeadglass 0.5
Kensington Zebra, June 26, 2012
In the prequel to a stunning new paranormal series, one woman's desire for a forbidden man will spark a centuries-long supernatural conflict--and a love nothing can destroy.
She's the heiress to Seattle's most powerful shifter clan. Her destiny is as controlled and certain as moonrise. However, from the moment Alice Corbette encounters the man known as Brand, she will defy all constraint and break every rule to make this dragon-shifter hers. Brand is determined to repay the clan leader he owes his life to. But one taste of Alice's exquisite spirit will make him question his loyalty--and plunge them both into the middle of a ruthless power play. Their only chance at freedom is a gamble that could risk the future of humans and shifters alike. . .
Hearts of Shadow (Deadglass 2) will be published in May 2013 and Hearts of Chaos (Deadglass 3) will be published in February 2014.
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