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This Thursday's Taste will hopefully wet your pallets, My Lovelies; in response to the many comments and messages I've received, today I'm posting a sneak peak at
Satin and Steel:
The Books of Blood and Fire
“You will not find the demon hunting in plain sight down there on Broad Street, ma cherie.”
Rhiannon spun, hand on her katana. Leaning casually against the shadowed side of the chimney-stack, there stood a tall, wild-looking woman. She wore hunting leathers, like Rhiannon, and a flowing white pirate’s shirt. When the woman grinned, Rhiannon saw the fangs in her winning smile… though she needn’t have seen that to know what she was looking at.
“Oh, silly me,” the creature purred. “Perhaps it is you who are hunting Broad Street? Were you searching for a throat to feed on? I am quite sorry if I have interrupted…”
“Shadiil,” Rhiannon muttered, easing out of her defensive lunge. “Who invited you here?”
“Councilwoman Sable, but of course.”
The shadow-walker crossed through the darkness, appearing in the shadow of the chimney-stack. One of the unsettling birthrights of their ancient race: they passed through the space . It had allowed her to sneak up on Rhiannon unheard, and that set the vampire on edge. She turned away from the beast-demon for one last glance down at the street and then at the building across from them, wondering from what direction the creature had come.
“You are the infamous Rhiannon, yes?” the pretty demon asked. “Our War-mistress Jade told me you have been sent here by Councilwoman Donovan.”
“Yes,” Rhiannon bristled. “And of course I’m sure you know why.”
The shadiil woman waved a hand. “It is nothing we cannot handle, no?”
She brought her attention back to her visitor, giving the smug feline creature a skeptical glance. “I’m not sure what Councilwoman Sable thinks I am here to do, but it isn’t to tag along with her little errand-girl.”
The shadiil tilted her head playfully to the side. They were inexorably mischievous, children of the Third Race. Rhiannon threw one last glance at the street below, decided there was little chance of anything interesting happening without her notice, and shifted to face the other demon fully.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Vivienne,” the demon purred, extending one hand as though she expected Rhiannon to kiss it. “Enchenté.”
Rhiannon brushed it aside. “You’re one of Jade’s assassins, then?”
“Oui. My own pride is in Haiti, but I have been here in Europe for some years serving the Councilwoman and her sister. Jade had me in France until just a few days ago, when she asked me to come here and help the local prides with this… little problem.”
“France is not a great place to be from right now,” Rhiannon muttered. She looked up the slope of the roof, and quickly snuck to the top, looking over the other side towards High Street.
“Non,” Vivienne agreed. “And I am happy to have been reassigned. France and her intrepid little emperor are so exceedingly boring.”
“Boring?” Rhiannon mused. “Interesting choice of words.”
“You are very fidgety, ma cherie.”
She gave the creature a humorless glance, and crossed her arms over her chest.
“We were neither of us sent here to make small talk or exchange useless pleasantries,” she said. “So feel free to move along and go hunt some other corner of the city, kitty.”
Vivienne’s expression softened, becoming thoughtful and smug.
“Are you as bigoted as your arrogant beast of a mother, then, kin-born?”
“I already have enough hunting partners on my hands as it is and I have no interest in saddling myself with another,” Rhiannon replied. “Your race has little to do with it.”
“Little,” Vivienne purred. “But not nothing.”
Rhiannon kept her expression implacable, but she said nothing to the contrary.
After long moments, Vivienne looked away from her with a soft smile, idly strolling in an aimless pattern beneath the shadow of the chimney.
“It really is a shame you will not consent to hunt with me,” she murmured. “I am very keen to hear the stories of the low-born birth-slut who is slated to become the most powerful vampire of her race.”
Rhiannon snorted. “You’ve heard some pretty ridiculous rumors, beast-demon, or else you are taunting me. Either way I find it less than entertaining.”
Those green eyes, glowing with smoky, iridescent light, flashed coquettishly up at her.
“The shadiil nation is rooted in deep, powerful magic,” she purred. “Our prides have plumbed the depths of the primal spirit world, ma cherie, have run with the ghosts and phantoms, seen the things that exist only in the darkness and when no-one is looking.”
In a blink, the demon was gone, disappeared into the silhouette of the smoke-stack. Then, with slow coyness, Rhiannon felt the feline’s slender fingers brushing up against her shoulder, and she spun to find the woman lounging happily on her stomach atop another chimney, slipped there through the shadows without a sound.
“What we have heard about you,” she said, “is far from ridiculous rumor.”
Rhiannon jerked away from her.
“Don’t touch me, beast-demon.”
The corner of Vivienne’s smile twitched, for a moment becoming hard, an irritated scowl.
“Your race was only fourth in the Drogh Lord’s kingdom,” she hissed. “The werewolves and shadiil came long before vampires. We are older than even the oldest of your kind, gravespawn, something you and your mother would do well to keep in mind.”
“Older than bloodsuckers, but still the spawn of beasts,” Rhiannon spat. “And rife with a touch of madness because of it, I’d say.”
Vivienne was silent, looking Rhiannon over with carefully assessing eyes.
“They say you have been mad once,” she said quietly.
Rhiannon’s spine straightened a little; a wary prickle went through her shoulders and a low growl started deep in her throat.
“Drank the blood of another vampire, didn’t you?” the shadiil purred. “Drained a rival warrior to death, just like a rabid thrall demon does, and lost your pretty little mind.”
The growl turned into a snarl, and Rhiannon’s hand went once again to the hilt of her blade as she backed away.
“You haven’t exactly been the same since then, have you, Rhiannon Donovan?”
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