Daemons are a Girl’s Best Friends
To celebrate the release of Bound, the third book in the Soulseer Chronicles in the U.S. on 7th November and a special Kindle edition of all three books on the 7th December I thought maybe I should post a little something to give potential readers a few little tasters of what the first book Marked was about and remind those of you have already read the book about all the main characters.
Marked tells the story of Lucky de Salle a young woman who sees and communicates with the dead. Her gift, or some may say curse, has made her a loner and even her best friend Kayla is a ghost, or so Lucky thinks.
Lucky’s life has always been weird but things start to get still weirder when over the course of one day Lucky is threatened by a daemon assassin, approached by a smarmy businessman who professes to want her help and within hours of a distraught young man arriving on her doorstep she suddenly has a lodger and even she can’t understand how that happened.
Bewildered by how her life appears to be spiraling out of control Lucky is dumbfounded when Kayla drops the bombshell that she is a daemon and promptly disappears.
Apparently abandoned by her lifelong best friend Lucky is thoroughly miserable and although she now has Jamie as her new lodger she still feels alone – but not for long. Hearing a noise in her living room she thinks Kayla has returned; unfortunately she’s wrong. When she flings open the door she is confronted by two very strange and quite scary people sitting on her sofa.
Two men were perched on the edge of my couch, their hats resting on their knees gripped with both hands. Upon seeing me in the doorway they stood.
Of course, when I say ‘men’, what I mean is, they were male – that much was obvious – but while Henri le Dent looked every inch the English gentlemen – except for those vicious teeth, of course – these two were from a place far closer to Hell than I would ever want to be.
I would have turned to run but my legs had stopped working and I had to grab hold of the door frame to steady myself.
‘Mistress, we mean you no harm,’ the smaller of the two creatures said quickly.
He was only about four feet tall with a head as bald as a baby’s and at least two sizes too large for his body. His face was pink and plump and his cheeks and chin had a softness to them that made me think of marshmallows. Impossibly large dark blue eyes bordered with long black lashes filled his face, while his lips were tiny: a deep red cupid’s bow. His mid-tan knickerbockers – knickerbockers! – came straight out of a Victorian costume drama; he wore them with a tightly fitting short jacket, long brown socks and leather shoes.
If it had just been him standing there in my living room, hat in hand, I might have believed him as he wasn’t scary at all, just . . . well, odd. But his partner was another thing altogether. He was close to seven feet tall and had to stoop to stand in my low-ceilinged room. His skin was a luminous emerald colour, offset by the ivory tusks sprouting from the centre of his forehead and the top of his snout and the large ivory fangs protruding between thick rubber-band lips. Smoke puffed from cavernous flared nostrils. In fact, his eyes were the only things small in his face: they were mostly hidden within his wrinkled hide.
He too wore a Victorian suit, but his mighty frame strained against the material and the collar of his white shirt looked like it was choking him.
‘Truly, mistress, we mean you no harm,’ the short one repeated.
‘Who are you?’ I managed to ask.
The short one smiled and I had to stop myself from flinching; Henri le Dent wasn’t the only demon around here sporting a fine set of dentures.
‘I am Mr Kerfuffle,’ he said, with a courtly bow, ‘and this is Mr Shenanigans.’
The huge creature also gave a bow, which made his suit creak alarmingly.
Little does Lucky know it at the time but she has just met two of her daemon guard and despite being very strange looking and definitely daemons Shenanigans and Kerfuffle soon become two of Lucky’s most trusted confidents.
And this brings us to Jamie. We already know there’s something not quite right about him. From the word go Jamie lies to Lucky and manipulates her. He even mesmerises her to get his own way and this is the first clue that he isn’t the poor, bereaved veterinary student he makes himself out to be. Then after a confrontation with the now fully daemonic Kayla he reveals his real persona to Lucky, who can’t quite get her head around how he could possibly be a daemon when he looks so much like a fully paid up angel, with his snowy white wings, very blue eyes and golden blond curls. However this isn’t the only revelation – Jamie tells Lucky Kayla is her sister and daughter to Lord Baltheza making Lucky a daemon princess.
Lucky has a hard time believing any of this but allows Jamie to take her to the Underlands. For her own protection she needs bodyguards and with Jamie, Kerfuffle and Shenanigans she has three, but daemonic protocol says she needs five to befit her status. So the search is on and just when Lucky thinks things can’t get any stranger she’s introduced to her fourth guard.
Pyrites was, I suppose, a handsome dragon. His scales were a shimmering combination of reds, oranges and yellows, with the occasional fleck of gold. His eyes were an amazing emerald-amethyst-sapphire kaleidoscope glow, and that alone made it hard to imagine he could be dangerous.
Jamie led me closer. ‘Hold out your hand to him.’
I tentatively lifted my right hand towards his enormous snout.
‘I’d make it your left hand,’ Jamie added, ‘just in case.’
I snatched my hand back in alarm and the demons both sniggered.
‘Only joking,’ Jamie said.
‘Not funny,’ I said, but my three protectors obviously thought it was hilarious.
I ignored their laughter as best as I could and slowly held out my hand towards the creature. He raised his head from between his claws and stretched forward until his snout was just above me, then sniffed. With a tilt of the head that was almost dainty for a creature so huge, he shifted so his nose was just in front of my hand.
‘What do I do now?’ I whispered.
‘Pet him,’ Jamie replied. ‘Stroke his nose.’
I took a deep breath and then with my heart in mouth I ran my fingers across his snout. His head pushed up against my hand as if wanting more, so I traced my fingers across his scales again and a small puff of smoke erupted from his nose.
‘He likes you,’ Mr Shenanigans said.
‘He does? How can you tell?’
‘Oh yes,’ said the demon. ‘If he didn’t, it wouldn’t have been smoke.’
I laughed. ‘Yeah, right.’
‘Too right,’ Jamie said, and this time no one laughed. I swallowed hard. I was beginning to think if I survived forty-eight hours in this place I’d be lucky.
This leaves us with one more guard for us to meet, Lucky’s fifth and final guard and someone else who is to become very important to her in more ways than one – the Deathbringer Jinx.
‘Well, hello,’ a voice drawled from somewhere in the shadows, and I looked towards the sound, but could see only darkness. I glanced at Jamie, who was also searching for the owner of the voice.
‘It’s been a very long time, brother,’ the voice said, and a figure peeled away from the gloom.
‘Just as Jamie was everything you might imagine an angel to be, this demon was the epitome of the Devil. At first his skin looked coal-black, but as the light from the lamps caught him in their glow I could see his face and bare chest were actually a shining dark maroon.
Short, sharp horns protruded from either side of his brow, and hair a few shades darker than his skin was swept back against his head – it wasn’t until he turned slightly that I could see it was pulled into a tight braid that fell to just below his hips.
He was wearing black leather trousers tucked into black leather boots, and had a tail that was long and thin with an arrow-point at the end that curled around past his thigh and waved back and forth as though on a gentle breeze.
His smile was dazzlingly white and his eyes crinkled with suppressed humour, his gold and green pupils glowing brightly.
‘So,’ he said, looking straight at me, ‘you’re who all the fuss is about.’ Jamie moved, putting himself between me and the devil-demon . ‘Aren’t you going to introduce us, brother?’
He took a step closer, and Jamie raised a hand. ‘Stay where you are, Jinx. Until I know your intentions I’m treating you as an unfriendly influence.’
‘James, my boy, if I wanted your lady-friend dead, it would be so. But as it happens, I’m thinking she’s probably of far more interest to me alive.’ Then he turned to me and studied my face. ‘It’s lucky that you hold no resemblance to Baltheza. I think I’d have been tempted to put you out of your misery for that alone if you had.’ He chuckled.
For a demon who apparently brought death and destruction everywhere he went he was pretty jolly – but then, I thought, why wouldn’t he be? It wouldn’t be him doing the dying, after all.
So Lucky is now surrounded by daemons and it’s not long before she realises that she has more friends who care about her in the Underlands than she ever had in our world, but I think I’ll leave the last word to our heroine.
‘Welcome home,’ Jamie said, hugging me to him.
There was a shout somewhere in the distance and two dark shapes started hurtling through the night sky.
Jamie raised a hand in greeting as Bob pounded towards us, Jinx astride his back, while Pyrites darted ahead, a plume of fire preceding him.
‘See: you have been missed,’ Jamie said, releasing me and throwing his arm across my shoulders as we stood waiting for our friends to join us. ‘Have you missed us?’
I smiled up at him. I’d missed them more than he would ever know. Or maybe he did; after all, he appeared to know exactly what I was thinking most of the time. If he did know, he’d be happy. This world wasn’t my home yet, but I had a feeling it could be. The last time I had been in the Underlands I had spent most of the time yearning for the safety of my little cottage, and yet when I had returned to it, I’d found there was nothing for me there.
Perhaps there was here.
As Pyrites came into land, he shrank and scampered over to me to rub his snout against my knees, while Jinx leaped from his black steed and ran towards us with a huge smile and his arms flung wide. A feeling of contentment swept over me, along with a sense of belonging – and I realised that it was the first time in my life I had ever felt like this. So perhaps Jamie was right: maybe this was now my home.