- Dragon Wytch
- Night Huntress
- Demon Mistress
- Bone Magic
- Harvest Hunting
- Blood Wyne
- Courting Darkness
- Shaded Vision
- Shadow Rising
- Haunted Moon
- Autumn Whispers
- Crimson Veil
- Priestess Dreaming
- Panther Prowling
- Darkness Raging
- Never After
- Inked Anthology
- Etched in Silver
- Ice Shards
- The Shadow of Mist
Night Huntress by Yasmine Galenorn (book 5 of the New York Times Bestselling Otherworld Series)
Berkley (Mass Market); January 2009
We're the D'Artigo sisters: sexy, savvy operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae means our supernatural talents always go haywire at the wrong time. My sister Camille is a wicked good witch who attracts men like honey attracts flies. Menolly's a vampire who's still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I'm Delilah, a werecat who's been marked by the Autumn Lord as one of his Death Maidens. And wouldn't you know it, Karvanak--the demon general who stole the third Spirit Seal--is back. And this time, he's out for blood...
The Hags of Fate enjoy seeing me squirm. First, my boyfriend, Chase, mutters another woman's name in his sleep. Then I discover the Autumn Lord has a very special plan for me. But things go from bad to deadly when Karvanak--the Rāksasa--returns. In order to get his greedy hands on both the fourth Spirit Seal and his former associate, Vanzir, he kidnaps Chase. Now, we have to find a way to rescue the man I love without risking the safety of both Otherworld and Earth...
The late-April night was unseasonably warm, so I'd left the window open a couple inches. Just enough for a breath of fresh air to pass through. From the bed, I gazed up at the moon, which glittered a quarter-past full. A low bank of clouds-illuminated silhouettes against the sky-rolled through, streaking the moon with their long fingers of ink. I slid out from between the sheets and silently crossed to the window, padding softly over the braided rug that Iris had recently found in a little vintage store.READ MORE
Lifting the window just enough so I could lean my head out, I peered into the shadows of the backyard. My sister Camille was out for the night-she was staying with her husbands Morio and Smoky-a fox demon and a dragon, respectively-in the woods near Smoky's barrow. They were casting yet another spell to bring home of one of our own. Trillian, Camille's alpha lover, was still missing. We knew he was alive, but that's all we knew. He'd disappeared, and from all accounts, a goblin contingent nabbed him back in Otherworld, which spelled potential disaster...for both Trillian-and for us.
Menolly, my other sister, should be just getting home from work. She ran the Wayfarer Bar and Grill. The driveway wasn't visible from my window, so I couldn't see whether her Jag was parked there.
I turned back to the bed. Chase had decided to stay the night, and he was sprawled out across the mattress, sound asleep, cover thrown to the side. The man was hot blooded, which made him very amenable during the nights when I yanked all the blankets away and curled up in them, leaving him naked. Speaking of naked, I thought. Chase was obviously enjoying whatever dream he was having. Either that or he was dreaming he was a sundial. I licked my lips. Time to wake him up in a very special way. If I was careful...
I slowly climbed back on the bed and leaned down to cautiously trace my tongue along the length of his erection.
"Erika?" he muttered.
I frowned and paused, tongue still poised against his skin. Who the hell was Erika?
"Delilah, come quick!"
The door slammed open. I lurched, Chase jumped, and my fangs scratched an inch-long razor-thin gash, leaving a delicate red line as a few drops of blood oozed out.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Chase yelled, his voice unnaturally high as he scrambled away. The expression on his face was not the one I'd been going for, that was for sure.
"Chase! I'm sorry-"
"Oh, Christ!" His foot got caught in the quilt and he went tumbling over the side of the bed. He hit the floor with a thud, swearing a blue streak.
I rushed to his side as Menolly snorted from where she stood by the door, wreathed in light from the hallway. Blood burbled out of her nose and dripped down to her lips.
"Can you maybe remember to knock next time?" I stared at her, shaking my head. "I take it you just had dinner?"
She coughed and I caught the glint in her eye. It went against every instinct I had, but I managed to repress my own laughter. I felt bad for Chase-especially since I'd been the one to inflict pain on him-but I felt like Lucy Ricardo caught in the middle of one of her hair-brained schemes.
I didn't dare let him see me smile, though. My detective had been going through a rough spot the past few days and his sense of humor had taken a hike. His job-or rather, jobs-were driving him nuts.
Not to mention that Zachary Lyonnesse-a werepuma with whom I'd slept one time and who was constantly trying to woo me away-had been hanging around the house more. His visits had increased since he got wind that, for the past month or so, Chase had been too busy to drop over most nights. Zachary hadn't put any pressure one me, but I could sense the tension that still ran between us. We tried to pretend it wasn't there-or at least I did-but it was hard to ignore the chemistry, even though Chase was the one that held my heart.
Chase had been irritated, that much I knew, but he'd been smart enough to steer clear of pushing an ultimatum on me. And that was a good thing, because I genuinely liked Zach, and we had to work together as we formed the foundation for the growing Supe Community.
I reminded Chase time and again that I loved him and wouldn't stray without talking to him first. But the fact that we'd only managed to have sex four times in the past six weeks didn't help. We were both pent up, frustrated, and feeling out of synch.
Menolly delicately stepped over the pile of clothes that had grown in the middle of the room. I wasn't much on laundry baskets, even though Iris kept bitching to me. I know, I know, being a werecat, I should be fastidious and tidy, but it just wasn't going to happen. I always meant to do better, but the truth was that I was a slob and no matter how hard I tried, I'd always be one.
As she plucked a tissue from the box on my dresser and patted her nose, Menolly's gaze flickered back to us. Her pale blue eyes-almost gray really-grew luminous in the dim light as she stared unabashedly at Chase. The tip of her tongue reach out to trace her lips.
I was about to give her a good what-for when I realized it wasn't his nether regions she was focused on. Nope. She could smell his blood. Menolly was a vampire and while she did a good job of keeping herself in check, when she was startled that steel-clad grip of hers on her emotions could slip a little.
Chase noticed her intensified scrutiny at the same time I did. "Stop right where you are!" He hurried to pull the sheet over his groin. "If you think you're sticking your fangs in my...anywhere in me-you've got another think coming!"
She reined herself in. "Sorry, didn't mean to stare. Just..."
"Menolly...remember where you are," I said, standing slowly.
She glanced at me, then back at Chase, and shook her head. "Really, I didn't intend to be rude. You okay, Chase?" Without waiting for an answer, she whirled back to me and, a goofy grin spread across her face. "You need to come downstairs or you'll miss everything!"
"Miss what?" I scrambled for my sleep shirt and dragged it over my head. "What's going on? Do I need to get dressed? Are there demons in the yard? A goblin brigade marching through our kitchen? Another unicorn visit?" Knowing our luck, it could be multiple choice-take your pick, any and all. Or something worse.
"No, no brawls tonight." She clapped her hands. "I just got home. Iris is up. Maggie said her first words and she's awake and babbling up a storm. Most of it's nonsense still, but she really can say a few things! Iris is recording it on the camcorder. So hurry up and get your ass downstairs."
As she shut the door, Chase pushed himself to his feet. He fumbled for a moment, then sat on the edge of the bed, staring at his penis. The blood had stopped, but the thin red wheal left a reminder of where my left fang had lacerated him.
I winced as I rooted around in the pile of clothes, looking for my slippers. "That's gotta hurt."
Chase glared at me. "You think? Ever decide to warn a guy first? We already tried that maneuver before and I've got the scars to prove it, thank you very much." He sighed. "I'm okay with foregoing blow jobs, you know that. So Delilah, honey, what on earth gave you the idea to try it again?" He gingerly examined his wounded pride, shaking his head.
I let out a little growl. "You don't have to act so pissy. I wasn't planning on giving you a blow job. I was just teasing you awake so we could have a little late-night fun. Everything would have been okay if Menolly hadn't come in. Great gods, we've barely touched each other-" One look at his face and I stopped that train of thought. Best not to go there right now.
"I said I'm sorry. Let me get the antibiotic ointment." I stalked into my bathroom, which was right off the bedroom, and brought back a tube of unguent. He relented and let me slide a thin layer down his skin.
As I gazed into his eyes, he leaned forward and kissed me. Slow, deep, with tenderness. I was tempted to catch Maggie's first words on the morning re-run. Maybe we could get in some hot sex without hurting him any further. But then Chase abruptly pulled away.
"Come on, let's get dressed." He slid into a pair of burgundy boxer shorts and the velvet robe he kept in my room. "This is about the only good news we've had in awhile. We don't want to miss it."
As I found my slippers and slid them on, he headed out the door and I scurried to catch up. Chase adored Maggie, that I knew. But for him to forego sex for something like this...there had to be something going on. And whatever it was, he obviously wasn't letting me in on the secret.
Iris had the camcorder in hand, while Menolly knelt beside Maggie. Menolly had taken our baby calico gargoyle cub under her wing and played substitute Mama as much as possible. We all loved the little twerp, but a special bond had grown between the vampire and the gargoyle. Maybe because they were both out of their element-both adrift thanks to the demonic envoys that walked the world.
Maggie looked a lot like a cross between an imp and a large cat. Short, downy calico colored fur covered her body. She had pointed ears and whiskers, but her wings were still far too small to support her so she couldn't fly yet.
The baby 'goyle could barely walk, actually. She'd taken her first steps a few months before. Maggie had a long tail, with a devil's tip at the end, and it-too-was covered with fur. With Menolly's help, she'd gotten the hang of using her tail to balance herself. Now, she could stand for several minutes without leaning against the coffee table, and even walk a few steps, but after that things got shaky and her wings would flail, and she'd land on her butt. She never hurt herself when she fell, but her bewildered little moophs always managed to get her a treat of some roast beef or a little more of her cream drink.
Maggie gazed up at me with yellow topaz eyes as I knelt in front of her. Would she speak in English? The Fae dialect we often used among ourselves? Or something else, I wondered?
I glanced up at Iris. "Well?"
Iris, a Talon-haltija who lived with us, shook her head. "She's taking a break, I think. I swear, the moment she said one word, she opened up like the clouds and she's been babbling on ever since. I wasn't sure whether to disturb you, so waited till Menolly arrived home." She lifted the camera again and zoomed in on Maggie as I reached for her.
Maggie shook her head at me. "No!"
Surprised, I sat back, waiting.
"No sit. No sit. Deeyaya no sit on me."
I stifled a laugh. Maggie had already proved extremely sensitive to anything remotely decipherable as ridicule. "I think she's got that backwards but she's definitely talking. That's for sure."
Menolly sat on the edge of the coffee table. "Yeah, and she knows all our names. When I walked in, she called me Menny."
"Menny!" Maggie looked extremely proud of herself. "Menny, Deeyaya, Camey? Where Camey?" She glanced around, a confused look on her face.
"Camille will be back in awhile," Menolly said, slipping her hands under Maggie's arms as she lifted her onto her lap. "Who's that?" She pointed to Chase. Chase had spent a number of hours babysitting Maggie.
Maggie giggled and clapped. "He-man! He-man!"
I looked over at Chase. "What the...is she trying to say human?"
Chase blushed red, right to the tips of his ears. "I don't think so."
"Then why is...oh good gods, did you teach her that your name is He-Man?" I snorted as he rolled his eyes.
"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time." He appealed to Iris for help but she just pressed her lips together in a winsome grin. "I didn't think she'd remember it," he said. "Let alone repeat it."
Menolly arched an eyebrow. "We found out your secret, Johnson. You want to play superhero. At least we know she's developing along normal lines...I guess. The demons may have treated her like livestock, but she can grasp basic concepts-" She paused as a crash echoed from out back. Again, the echo of something breaking, closer to the house.
"Delilah, come with me. Chase, Iris-wait here." Without another word, Menolly handed Maggie to Iris and slipped out of the living room.
I followed her to the kitchen. She held her finger to her lips and eased the back door open. Silently, thanks to my cat-like nature, I tiptoed out behind her. We paused on the porch. There it was again-another thud and the sound of breaking tree limbs.
Tapping Menolly on the shoulder, I motioned for her to step back. As she did, I focused on my core, my center where all facets of my essence fused into one, then split apart again.
The world began to fold, the shadows deepened into grayscale as I spiraled into myself. Limbs and torso melding, blending, breaking apart to reform. The metamorphosis never hurt, though nobody believed me when I told them. At least, it didn't hurt as long as I shifted slowly and smoothly.
Hands and feet to paws, torso shrinking, spine lengthening, all was a whirl of change and transformation. I rolled my head back, luxuriating in the feel of the magic as the waves rolled through my body, claiming me into a different form.
A whiff of mist, the scent of bonfires in the distance, but now was not the time for Panther. The Autumn Lord, my master, was still and silent. No, now was the time for Tabby to emerge. As my golden fur quivered in the wind, I flicked my tail and blinked, then raced out through the cat door.
In cat form, I could go exploring without drawing too much attention to myself. Whoever was playing havoc in the woods that lay boundary to our land didn't need to know we were on to them, and chances are they wouldn't notice me in my cat form.
As I padded over the silent earth, the scent of late spring threatened to cloud my senses. It was hard to keep hold of my instincts when playing the tabby. Every flutterbug tempted me, every scent that might be dinner-or a toy-made me want to race off and explore. But I was on a mission I reminded myself, even as I spotted a daddy-longlegs and promptly smacked it with one paw. I sniffed it, then gobbled it up before racing over toward the noise.
In my half-Fae, half-human form, the sound had been loud enough to hear. Now it was almost deafening. I lowered myself into stalk mode and slinked forward, keeping to the shadows. I was downwind, so unless whatever it was had an extremely keen sense of smell, it might not notice me.
As I crawled through the grass, practically on my belly, I began to sense a presence nearby. One that I recognized. It was Misha, a mouse that I'd formed a semblance of friendship with. I still chased her, but it was all in fun and she said it kept her alert and alive. She'd saved my butt when my tail got stuck in a patch of cockleburs during the winter, and we'd managed to transcend our instincts and forge a weird but viable alliance.
Now she slipped out of her hole and came running over to me. "Delilah, there's something on the land that shouldn't be."
In my Were form, I could talk to animals, and understand them. Oh, it wasn't the same form of vocalization that I used as a woman, but there's a common speech recognized by most animals-a combination of body language and sounds.
I gave her a slight nod. "I know, but I'm not sure what. I haven't picked up a scent yet and I was just going to investigate."
She shuddered. "Nasty thing. Terribly nasty thing. Big and dark. It eats mice and rodents and other small creatures so you'd better be careful. Sticks them in its dark mouth and chews, chews, chews them up."
I paused. Maybe not such a good idea to head into this in cat form. "Have you ever seen anything like this before?"
Misha sniffed. "No, never. Terrible beast. It drools. Gray, it is, and looks like a broken two-legs. Not so tall and not so wide, but ugly and hair stringing down its back, and its belly fat and bloated. It has fur, it does, but not in the right places. Not Friend." Creatures, animals, and birds were divided into two distinct categories in Misha's world-Friend, and Not Friend.
She scurried back toward her hole, pausing for a moment to glance back at me. "Be careful. This creature, it could snap you like a twig." And then, she vanished into the earthen lair, back to her children.
I waited until she was safely underground then crept forward again, one paw-step at a time. If this thing was capable of catching and eating small animals, I had to be careful. I could be killed in cat form easier than when I was hanging out on two legs. As I neared a bend that would lead me into the wood, onto the trail toward Birchwater Pond, I paused, one foot in midair. The sound of bushes rustling and boughs breaking echoed from up ahead. Whatever it was, it was a lot closer than before.
As I neared the source of the noise, the wind shifted just enough to sweep an overwhelming odor my way-dung, cloying like sickly overripe fruit. And testosterone-thick and musky. Atop the fetid fragrance rode the scent of someone who delighted in administering pain. Animals can smell the intentions of beasts and humans, and I could sense this creature was cruel. He reveled in torment. Misha had been right. This was one vicious dude, whatever he was.
I brushed aside a stand of tall grass with my paw, silently peering between the blades. From where I crouched, I could see into a small clearing. Moonlight struck the ground, breaking through the wispy clouds, illuminating the dell enough for me to see the source of the disturbance.
A creature which stood about four feet tall was clawing at two prone tree trunks. One had fallen atop the other, probably during the last big windstorm. A whimper drifted out from between the downed trunks.
Wait a minute-I knew that sound! It was Speedo, the neighbor's basset hound. He occasionally escaped from his yard and wandered onto our land. As I tried to figure out where he was, I saw that he'd wedged himself into an opening between the fallen firs and couldn't get out. But his woodland cage was also his saving grace. The creature, whatever it was-and I suspected Demonkin-was having trouble. While he could reach his long, twisted hand into the opening, Speedo seemed to have enough room to back up, just out of reach.
It wouldn't be long before the demon figured out that if he moved the top log, he'd be able to access what lay below. And below was Speedo, obviously a Happy Meal just out of the demon's reach. The hoser wasn't too bright, but even the dumbest demon couldn't possibly be stupid enough to ignore the obvious, at least not for long. Poor old Speedo was a goner unless I did something.
I sized up my opponent. Going in as a cat would never work. He'd eat me in one gulp if he caught me. I could probably take him down by myself but I'd have to shift fast. While in mid-transition, I was helpless and if the demon noticed me then, it would be all over.
Silently backing away, I hid beneath one of the nearby fir trees in a bushy patch of maidenhair fern and huckleberry. The thorns on the huckleberry would hurt when I transformed, but I'd been through worse. Thank the gods we weren't under a full moon or I'd be trapped in cat-form until morning.
Sucking in a deep breath, I envisioned myself metamorphosing back into my two-legged body. Golden shag haircut, six-foot-one, athletic, a few scars here and there from all the fights we'd been in over the past few months, emerald eyes-just like my eyes when I was a cat...
As I clung to the image I began to shift and willed the transformation to come fast. For once, my body obeyed me. With a dizzying whoosh I hit the ground as my collar changed back into my clothes. It hurt a little-I had shifted too fast-but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. Sort of like being spanked all over with a rubber mallet. As soon as I was sure I'd fully transformed, I ripped out of the huckleberry bush and shook off the fern fronds entangling me.
"Get out of here, you ape!" I raced toward the demon at full tilt, ready to kick butt. The moment I'd made the full change my sense of dread and fear had shifted to I'm pissed off and you better make tracks!
The demon lurched around, staring up at me with a bewildered look on its face, but his puzzlement lasted just long enough for him to raise his ugly claws and slash at me. I dodged the attack. Barely. The ugly brute was a lot faster than he looked capable of. I'd almost been snagged.
"So you think you're going to rip my new jeans, do you?" I'd just bought three pair of the coolest indigo low-rise jeans from my favorite store the other day and I wasn't ready to punk them out yet. "Think again, Bubba!"
I pivoted on one foot, lashing out with the other to land a kick right in the middle of his grubby face.
"Crap!" My leg shuddered as it made contact. It felt like I'd just kicked a brick wall. Well, maybe not brick, but damned close. The demon might look like a little pissant but he was resilient. This was going to be more of a challenge than I'd first thought. Worried, I took aim again. Again, my foot bounced off him, this time with a kick to the stomach.
The unexpected shout startled me but being used to combat situations, I obeyed and dove into a somersault. Good thing, too, because the creature opened his mouth right as I ducked and let out a long belch of flame. I heard the crackle of dry tinder as I rolled to my feet and spun around.
A small patch of debris from a downed log was on fire. Next to it was standing a tall man with pale skin and dark hair, wearing a leather duster.
The demon seemed to think that facing two opponents wasn't such a hunky-dory idea and he turned tail and went crashing through the woods, away from the path. He had to be heading toward one of the boundary lines that divided our land from a protected wetlands area.
"Roz, be careful! He's hard to kill," I shouted as I gave chase.
"I know, you twit," Roz shouted back as he raced past me. Very few creatures were faster than my sisters and me, but Rozurial was one of them. He was an incubus, technically a minor demon, but he roamed in that nicely shadowed ethical region into which we'd all slipped. He was definitely on our side, but no mistake-he was an incubus to the core.
Since he was helping us against Shadow Wing, the demon lord bent on taking over both Earth and Otherworld, we conveniently overlooked his cavorting with-and seducing of-nubile young maidens. And nubile older women. And non-nubile women. Roz liked women of any type, age, shape, size, or color. His greatest delight was in seducing the ones who considered themselves in full control. He loved seeing strong women capitulate to his charms. Apparently, he was good at what he did, but I had no intentions of finding out for myself.
I dodged around a burnt out tree stump, hoping to hell the fire behind us wouldn't go anywhere except out, and then hurdled over a clump of three fallen trees. Roz took them without a single hesitation, his duster flying out behind him as he gracefully sailed over the moss-laden trunks.
After a moment, he stopped and stared into the undergrowth. "I can't smell him anymore. The scent of cedar's too thick."
I sniffed the air. Yep. Cedar, it was. Cedar and fir, and the moist scent of soil still slightly damp from the recent rain. Cocking my head, I tried to pick up any sound. My hearing was keen, like a cat's, though in my half-human, half Fae form, not quite so much. Small creatures were rustling through the tall grass. A jet soared overhead in the darkness, and somewhere in the distance, the faint sound of rippling waves from Birchwater Pond heralded an incoming breeze. But no sound of the demon.
"Damn it, we lost him." I looked around once more, trying to decide if it was worth giving chase. But chances were he was long gone. He might come back or maybe not, but there was no doubt in my mind he'd broken through Camille's wards. Unfortunately, she wasn't here to alert us. We had to do something about that. Create some sort of warning system so that if she was out, the rest of us would know they'd been breached.
I shook my head, disgusted. "Can't even kill a simple demon. I'm getting soft," I muttered.
Roz moved to put his arm around my shoulders but stopped when I shot him a warning look. He knew the rules-he was welcome in our home as long as he kept his mitts off Camille and me.
He'd put the skids on his pursuit of Camille after a run-in with Smoky. All it had taken was one misplaced hand on Camille's ass while the dragon was watching to squelch any more attempts. As a dragon, Smoky could crisp Roz with one belch, but even in his six-foot-four wantonly gorgeous human form, Smoky was stronger than the incubus. He'd grabbed the demon by the scruff of the neck and dragged him outside where he proceeded to beat the crap out of him. It took Roz two weeks and a lot of ice to heal up from Smoky's thrashing.
But Roz still flirted constantly with Menolly, and she flirted back. Kind of. He'd tried to get in my pants a few times until I threatened to give him a nasty bite where it counted most. Now, he left me alone except as a buddy.
"Don't chide yourself," he said. "That was a bloatworgle. You couldn't have killed him without help. They're lightning-fast even with their pot bellies and scrawny looking limbs." He motioned toward the trail. "Come on, let's go make sure the fire's out and then report what we found."
"A bloatworgle? Demonkin, I presume?"
Roz nodded. "Yes. Mainly grunts. They tend to congregate over here Earthside, a lot. I think several nests of them were hiding out when the portals were closed against the Subterranean Realms. They've kept the line going, it seems. But they're usually found in deep caverns and barren mountain passes, so I'm not sure what the hell this one's doing here."
What the hell was right. Great, just great. Yet another monster I'd never heard of, and the thing was still on the loose. What had it wanted?
Regardless of what Roz said, there was no doubt in my mind that the bloatworgle had been sent here. Either another Degath Squad of Hell Scouts had broken through, or the demon lord Shadow Wing had something else up his pointy little tail. Either way, it looked like we were headed right back down the rabbit hole.COLLAPSE
3 Doors Down: Kryptonite
Walk This Way
Al Stewart: Life in Dark Water
Alan Parsons Project
Damned if I Do
Children of the Moon
Can't Take it With You
Animals: House of the Rising Sun
Blind Melon: No Rain
Run Through the Jungle
I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Bad Moon Rising
Chad Kroeger/Josey Scott: Hero
Clapton: After Midnight
Cream: Sunshine of Your Love
Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Don Henley: Dirty Laundry
Hurdy Gurdy Man
Doobie Brothers: Black Water
Eagles: Life in the Fast Lane
Saturday Night's Alright
Fleetwood Mac: The Chain
White Lightning & Wine
March of Cambreadth
Bungle in the Jungle
Back to the Family
Part of the Machine
Neil Young: Cinnamon Girl
Ringo Starr: It Don't Come Easy
Simple Minds: Belfast Child
Zero Seven: In the Waiting Line