Red Lady, the second of my Arcane Court books, was published on October 27, 2014. Thank you to everyone for the wonderful response.
Here is an excerpt:
“Get up, you fucking, ugly ass excuse for a dragon! I leave you for a hundred years and you move into a mansion? You’ve gone soft, Cimmerian.”
My ex-fiancée in my bedroom—this was going to be a bad day. “Tanith, so nice to wake to your screeching. I’d forgotten what it felt like to hate my life from the instant I gained consciousness.”
The shift to dragon took me moments as I rolled out of bed to stand to my full 6’11 dragon height. As a human, I stood 6’ 6.
“Men and size. Did you get Wretch to spell you taller?”
She spoke with effort and, for the first time in years, I looked at the face of the only woman I’d ever considered marrying.
She stood with pride and elegance in every sinew, her normally translucent white skin marred with weeping wounds, her waist-length, natural red hair I loved matted to her head.
My shift back to human took place quickly as I ran to her side. “What happened?”
“Sex game gone crazy. You know how that is,” she said with effort. The lie didn’t make it to her eyes.
I’d play along. “You show up in my bedroom wounded from rough sex? Fucking demons again?”
“Yeah, they wanted to whip me until I couldn’t shift.” Her grip on the doorjamb loosened.
I put an arm around her. First time we’d touched since our wedding night a hundred years before. Then, she’d been astride me in bed, sweating profusely while ripping scales from my chest to get to my heart.
Her smell struck me as off. “You stink.”
“You still love me. If getting my ass beat was what it took, I could’ve paid for Wretch to do it decades ago.”
She sounded scared. I needed to know why. I’d missed her Scottish accent. Gathering her in my arms, I carried her to the bathroom.
“Uh, Boss?” George appeared in the doorway. He’d proved light on his feet for a lowland gorilla shifter. “Do we need Angie, or are you good?”
“You have quite the menagerie.” Her normal acrid tone had softened; probably by her wounds.
“Call Wretch. Tell him Tanith’s back, in bad shape, and to bring Angie.” I kicked open the bathroom door. “Make sure he shows up with clothes on.” He loved making her blush.
I had to admit she looked good with pink cheeks. Setting her down, I grabbed a washcloth.
“Who’s Angie?” Tanith held onto the counter while I turned on the water.
“Wretch’s human on and off girlfriend.” I began to remove her clothing.
Her back, covered with welts from a whip, looked swollen, oozing puss. The infected wounds prevented her from shifting. Our systems wouldn’t allow us to change shape with foreign objects or substances on our skin. The shift would distribute them to vital organs and our bloodstream—a knife may start out in your back and end up in your heart.
She laughed so hard she started to cough. “He has a human girlfriend?”
“Of course I do, you obnoxious bitch.” Wretch casually walked in, his long hair sticking up, sleep framing his hazel eyes. At least, he’d covered his naked human form with a robe, barely.
Angie—human, curvy, and pissed—pushed past him. “Shut up. We have an open relationship. He sleeps around, I sleep around, and we all get laid regularly.”
Her long brown hair smelled like shampoo, her ample figure dressed professionally, telling me she didn’t stay with Wretch last night. Angie worked as the Chief Coroner here in New Orleans. She had a secondary lab in the basement of this house for her demon DNA injection research. He’d brought her without the new werewolf assistant.
Her exclusivity with Wretch, after her ordeal escaping a deranged pediatrician, lasted twenty-four hours. George and I had placed bets on how long he could wait before he slept with someone else. I won. A millennium of being a demon slut wouldn’t disappear overnight, even if he did love the doctor.
He also did it to push her to safety. I stared at proof in front of me—knowing us came at a cost. Tanith winced. Angie examined her, shooing us out of the room.
“Let me guess. You flew to Vegas without telling me and picked her up at work?” Wretch moved to one of the couches in my huge room. He waved his hand, dressing himself in respectable clothing.
He stood six feet tall with dark blond hair to his shoulders and hazel eyes. His demon mother and dragon father would be proud; he could do demon magic with dragon strength and scales.
His family feared him. They should. It’s why they hunted us.
Hard for me to remember that as he sprawled on my couch dressed in what I called his demon dandy look—linen pants with a buttoned-down shirt, undone to mid-chest. He no longer wore the gold chains around his neck after a demon damn near yanked his head off with them, decapitation being the only way to kill demons, and Wretch.
“I woke up to her screeching. What the hell was she doing in Vegas and how did you know where she was?” Now I was pissed at him.
I spelled some clothes for myself. As a dragon that sucked down demon souls at the moment of their death, I had gained the ability to do spell work. Clothing proved my limit, thus far.
He looked sheepish.
That was new. “You checked up on my ex?”
He fiddled with his collar. “She tried to rip your heart out. I soiled a good shirt before I put you back together. It was in my best interest to know where she was at all times.”
“You bet.” He smiled at me and vanished.
“Ass.” The one ability I wanted to have and didn’t.
He’d told me he’d help me with it, but the fear of not reappearing or coming back without my favorite parts made me limit my travels to cars, legs, or wings.
Shouts erupted in the bathroom. Well, I now knew where he went.
“So, the two of you?” George came back clothed and washed up. His hair was black with some gray in it, cropped close to his head, his eyes dark brown, almost black. At a little over six feet tall and with a football linebacker build, he had enough body hair to be accurately categorized as furry.
I had to tell him the truth at some point. “We were going to be married. She left me at the altar. Something about the company I keep.”
A century later and the memories still tweaked my emotions. I left out the heart-ripping part. It hurt more. If he didn’t hear Wretch mention it, I wasn’t going to bring it up.
He smiled. “She’s back.”
“It’s because she’ll blame us for what happened.” Nothing new there.
“What’s the probability of that?”
“North of ninety-five percent.” More like ninety-nine percent.