Once a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate–just a writer with an excerpt you’d like to share. For more info on how to participate, head over to the Excerpt Monday site! or click on the banner above.
What if a modern woman suddenly learns she is heir to the throne of a magical realm hidden in our world and is the most powerful magical being on the planet? Growing up an orphan, Rachel always assumed she’d be going it alone, until the night before her twenty-fifth birthday when she was thrust into the realm of Eden’s Court.
Her new job description? Unite seven contentious magical races in order to prevent the destruction of earth. But learning to rule is easier than facing her attraction to Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon. Born of a forbidden love between mortal enemies, Gabriel is convinced he is a political liability to Rachel. Once Rachel stops denying their chemistry, she must convince him to pursue their love. Although Gabriel is willing to help her solve a murder, avert a war, and learn to use her overwhelming magic, accepting their destiny together is another matter.
And here’s my excerpt:
EXCERPT from RULING EDEN when Rachel, the heroine, visits Hell, otherwise known as L’Etrange, on a diplomatic mission along with her three guardsmen, including Gabriel her lover.
The portal dumped us in the middle of a playground: chipped paint on the metal struts of the swing set, a jungle gym missing several key monkey bars, and a dilapidated rusty slide ending in a mud puddle. We’d opted to head straight for L’Etrange after visiting Kemuel, but I wasn’t expecting this.
The gate to this outdated tot-lot from Hell swung back and forth in the desultory wind. The place was deserted. With early fall in the air, I shivered, wrapped my arms tightly around myself, and looked beyond the gate to empty streets of 1950’s middle-American suburbia. Cookie-cutter houses with colors such as overripe avocado, rust orange, and uninspired brown dotted the street. The homes featured exposed carports and aluminum siding. The fifties won my vote for most unattractive architecture. What were people thinking?
Gabriel, Tarn, and Sebastian examined the play area with confused faces, as if trying to place the use for this run down bunch of metal and plastic.
My eyes refocused on the rusting playground. “L’Etrange is nothing like I pictured it.”
Gabriel looked around the streets, appearing resigned. His sigh was unusually angst-filled. “Satan has redecorated. The last time I visited his taste ran to Bourbon Street in New Orleans during a perpetual Mardi Gras. But I was here a quarter-century ago.” He shrugged at the view. “I imagine the middle-class suburban theme struck him as humorous in some way. He claims he makes social commentary on Achra culture with his choices each time he rebuilds L’Etrange.”
Satan sounded twisted.
Before we came, Tarn had rubbed his hands together in anticipation of our visit, and informed me that few, if any, non-demons were welcomed in L’Etrange. Tarn had anticipated his glimpse of the place. He’d have to live with the disappointment. Frankly, I was too wound up to give my own disillusionment more than passing notice. Desperation to solve the murder plucked at my last nerve.
My fae guard grabbed at one of the swings hanging askew on its chains and pushed it into movement, gesturing out into the streets with his hand. “The crescendo,” he chastised Gabriel, “after such a build-up leaves much to be desired, my friend.”
Gabriel shrugged again, and headed for the gate out of the playground.
“So, if the layout’s new,” I trailed Gabriel, sounding snarky to my ears, “how do we find Satan?”
He walked toward the nearest house, examined the black cookie cutter mailbox sticking out of the sparse grass edging the street, and continued on to the next, calling over his shoulder, “Check the names on the mailboxes.”
I rolled my eyes, but I crossed the street to start inspecting the other houses. Tarn and Sebastian followed me, weapons drawn. They didn’t bother reading the names on the boxes, leaving the pleasure to me. The names, things like Rod Serling, Jack the Ripper, Marilyn Monroe, and, my all-time favorite, Senator Joseph McCarthy, lent a psychotic element to the already disturbing nature of the neighborhood. Finally, I hit pay dirt: a mailbox painted with a large scarlet S.
“Gabriel,” I yelled across the street. He jogged over to my find and examined the box. “What do you think?”
We walked up the concrete path to an uninspired split level with tan aluminum siding and teal green trim. The doorbell, also teal, was surrounded by a decorative metal plate backdrop of a dog with three heads. Cerberus. How original.
Gabriel hesitated and turned to me. During our past diplomatic visits, I’d taken the lead by this point. Now, I saw shades of struggle shadow his face. “Rachel, will you allow me to ring the bell? Satan, he is… moody, and I prefer to test the waters.”
The entire Kesayim leadership needed a prescription for Prozac. I wished I’d had time for a briefing on this place before we trucked it over here, but Gabriel rarely asked for much. I trusted his judgment. The trust began to feel familiar, crowding out years of suspicion and doubt. At least with Gabriel, Tarn and Sebastian. “Go ahead,” I replied with forced casualness.
He rang the bell and the tune to the Addam’s Family pealed out from behind the door. Several heartbeats later, the door opened and a stunning dark-haired woman with the requisite glowing red eyes answered. She was wearing a mint-green sweater set and a straight calf-length khaki skirt. A string of pearls, with earrings to match, set off the outfit. Very traditional, very modest.
She was the farthest thing from it.
She hadn’t opened her mouth at this point, yet her body reeked of fuck-me-now. I inhaled, shocked by my reaction to her pull. Tarn and Sebastian crowded me from behind, stepping closer to the woman, eyes glazed as if not quite in control of themselves. It took me a moment, but I finally got it. Succubus. Heterosexual as I was, even I could imagine happily following this woman to bed. And I was supposedly immune to her?
She smiled. I imagined cutting the threads of attraction between us and my magic obliged and shut me off from her allure. I reinforced my shields to further dim her glow, elbowing Tarn and Sebastian with both arms to break her spell and move back further from her. I willed my shields to extend to the two of them, a new trick but one that might come in handy.
“Gabriel, what a treat.” The woman’s voice reverberated pure candy, her attention all for Gabriel as she purred. She stepped out on spiky heels and leaned down to present her cheek for a kiss. “Give your Aunt Niiki a kiss hello and tell me what brings you here to visit after all this time.”
I scowled. Jealous, me?
Gabriel, looking like he faced a helping of castor oil, hesitated, gritted his teeth, and leaned in to kiss his “aunt.” She sighed after the contact. It was only the cheek for pity’s sake. Niiki was not gaining points with me.
She gave him a Shirley Temple frown, and waved a manicured finger at him. “I should be angry with you for avoiding us so long. Your Uncle Coale will never forgive me if I do not drag you back to our home.” Dramatically, she softened her features into an indulgent smile and gave a second sigh. “But you were always my favorite nephew. I cannot stay mad at you.”
Gabriel clenched his right fist at his side. “I am your only nephew, Niiki. And I am here to visit Satan. I will be unable to attend Coale. You may send him my regards.”
She chuckled and clucked her tongue. “So serious. Have you never learned to play?” She looked beyond him, a coy smile on her lips. “And me with a prior engagement, just when you brought home some little friends.” She returned her predatory gaze to Gabriel. “Do they play better than you, my dear? But no matter, it is daring to bring foreigners to L’Etrange. They will be entertaining, regardless. And finally bringing a female home to meet your family–”
Gabriel made a chopping motion with one hand, his voice raised. “Niiki, stop it! You well know this is our Mother Heir. Show respect.”
Niiki raised an eyebrow. “Our Mother Heir?” Mock surprise on her face, she looked directly at me. “Do you belong to us? How nice. Perhaps we can display you in the china cabinet next to the Wedgwood soup tureen.”
Gabriel scowled. How easily this woman knotted his spine. He hadn’t lost it like this visiting the angels’ realm. I stepped to Gabriel’s side and offered my hand to Niiki, keeping fangs in. “Niiki, how lovely to meet you.”
She glanced at my hand for a moment, looking repulsed, hesitated, but took it and gave a tepid shake. “Of course…my lady,” she replied, honey-voiced. “I am only too sorry I must run just as you arrive. But I am sure Satan will be thrilled to host you, ruler of Eden and all.”
She turned back to Gabriel, dismissing me. “You are in luck. Your Uncle Satan is cooking today, so he is in a good mood. Now, give your Aunt Niiki a kiss goodbye and promise to come back for another visit soon. I will make some excuse to Coale, but he will pout for weeks knowing he missed you.”
Somehow, I doubted that. Gabriel grudgingly gave her another peck on the cheek and she patted his head before swaying down the steps and sauntering out to the street. Tarn and Sebastian scrambled to get out of her way, although she attempted to rub her body against each of them as she passed.
What odd L’Etrange had politics made him agree to kiss this woman whom he so clearly despised? Twice.
Tarn’s whistle after she left was long and exaggerated.
I turned to Gabriel. “Your aunt?” Catty much, Rachel?
He answered, raising his eyebrows at my tone. “By marriage…to Coale.”
“Satan’s your Uncle?” Sebastian asked.
“No. Niiki is his sister. She likes to make trouble.”
I couldn’t help myself. “I noticed.”
Gabriel glared at me. I shrugged and turned toward the open front door. He grabbed my arm. “Be careful. Of all of the realms, only here am I frightened for you.” His grasp tightened around my arm as he spoke. “No matter how jaded, even Solinthe cares about the Kesayim compared to Satan. Demons care only for their piece of Lillith’s mandate, and even that they interpret to their taste.”
“I’ll be careful,” I reassured.
“No.” He jerked his head in disagreement. “More than careful. Satan has no allegiance to Eden’s Court or the Mother Heir. He sends an envoy to council because it amuses him.”
My laugh sounded hollow. “Well, no surprise there.”
“Satan is a Mortnoire demon,” Gabriel continued. “He incites the chaos of battle, blood and death and feeds off the energy.”
A swirling blackness invaded my guard’s eyes. He wanted me to feel his fear. But, I was tired of my own, and tried to push this newest warning to the side. Maybe a shortsighted attitude, but what did Gabriel want from me? I pulled hard enough for him to release my arm. Voice snarly, I tapped my right foot on the ground repetitively. “Do I go in or don’t I?”
His jumbled look of worry, caring, and anger sliced regret through my gut. I softened. “Look, demons are center stage of the mess back at Eden’s Court. If Satan’s left the sidelines to do more than cheer for the possibility of war, I need to know.” I reached my hand to touch his, a light caress lasting a breath.
His brow relaxed and he nodded, turning away from me, avoiding my eyes and hiding his own. “We go in.” He gestured Tarn and Sebastian to my side and stepped into the house.
If you’d like to read another excerpt from the story, please visit Crescent Moon Press or my website at: www.michellepicard.com. And, if you’ve liked what you’ve read, stop back at either place to buy a copy when it’s released shortly. This week if I’m lucky.