Breaking the Beast

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get some alone time to just read a book?

I’ve been too busy dealing with vampires, gods, and supernatural B.S. running amok on the Vegas Strip. But I’m no stranger to duty or kicking ass.

That’s the reason I’m the keeper of an ancient fae weapon known as the Blade of Bane.

I’ve been summoned by the god of the dead to wield it against the beast he keeps in his basement.

But nothing has prepared me for the danger I’m about to meet. While I’ve been in constant physical danger, I can’t remember the last time my heart was at risk.

Miranda and Xander’s story is coming 2023 in this action-packed, spicy, plot twisty trilogy.

Chapter One & Two

Chapter 1


I sank into the hot water, submerging myself in the froth of lavender-scented bubbles. A low, contented sigh slipped out of me. I welcomed the caress of the water around me. Embracing the pleasure of a near-scalding bath was almost painful after the intense week. I was literally trying to melt my worries away.

I’d been waiting for days to find the time to get in my porcelain sanctuary and melt my stress with scalding heat.

Spillover from the supernatural world had twisted my panties into such a tight bunch that I’d forgotten how to breathe properly for days. As if holding my breath would keep the bullshit at bay. There is that saying ‘don’t hold your breath’ for a reason.

I closed my eyes trying not to think about the idiot group of demigods who tried to break into the antechambers below to see Amit, the soul eating crocodile god. Then a half-crazed, scared vampire got loose in the hotel, biting one of my maids where there were a dozen witnesses who had to have their minds wiped. And then there was a clashing of personalities at the check-in desk where one employee ended up relentlessly quacking at the other. That’s right. Quacking.

Oddly enough there wasn’t a handbook on how to handle immortal chaos, or jackass employees who mock each other in inventively annoying ways.

And yet I am the one who has to lay down the discipline, attempt mediation, clean up the blood, and come down on the dumbass demigods bearing the only weapon that will give them pause.

Not bad for a human, but hell if I didn’t need two weeks’ vacation on a beach somewhere after all that.

My muscles still fought release, even in the luxurious heat. So, I laid my head back and let out a deep breath, talking to myself in a low voice.

“Nothing needs to be done right now, Miranda. Just relax.”

Again, a bigger part of me still wanted to fight it. Since Jamal left for summer camp a couple of days ago, my restlessness had flipped into overdrive.

But I made the serenity of my small bathroom irresistible with candles flickering all around the room. Lianne LaHavas crooned my favorite song, “Midnight,” from my phone that I set on the closed toilet lid.

At last, I was lulled into some semblance of peace and relaxation.

I used the towel to dry my hands before reaching for my romance book.

Except my hands reached for an empty spot.

“Dammit,” I cursed, rubbing my face. I had left my book and my glass of red wine in the kitchen.

Bubble baths were a self-care ritual I took incredibly seriously. It required all the right accessories from the choice of bath bomb, to the music, to the book.

And it wasn’t just any wine sitting in the kitchen; it was a 1992 bottle of Pinot Noir from Celestial Cellars. It had been gifted to me by an actual goddess of wine who appreciated my assistance in training her hotel staff after a series of security breaches. I had tasted it once at my best friend’s wedding, and it was the best thing to ever pass my lips.

Adjusting the cap holding up my braids, I sunk deeper into the water, trying to enjoy the bath anyway.

I don’t need everything to be perfect to relax.

Who cares if I don’t drink that ambrosia right now? I bet leaving it out will aerate it so it tastes even better!

But after I got out of the tub, the moment would be gone. The calm I felt in water didn’t typically extend beyond the tub.

I scowled. My fingers flexed and relaxed several times as restlessness coiled through my limbs.

No. I can do this. I can relax without needing things to be perfect.

I sunk a couple of inches deeper, submerging my chin in frothy bubbles, my hands resting on either side of the tub.

My fingers began to tap. Tap, tap, tap on the porcelain edges.

Irritation mounted inside me as I kept envisioning the lone wine glass and book.

Water sloshed violently as I stood up. Yanking my towel off the rack, I wrapped it around me.

I opened the bathroom door, and left the small steamy room into the bracing cold of the rest of the house. Water tracks followed me as I went to grab my targets. I’d deal with the mess later.

With my spoils in hand, I stomped back to the bathroom, but the cool air was already pulling me out of the moment I had created.

A loud, obnoxious electronic beep preceded the house plunging into darkness. Ugh. Another brownout. Thankfully, I had candles lit all over the place, so I didn’t lose total visibility, which meant I was less likely to trip and snap my neck.

With my son gone for the next couple of months, I wasn’t sure who’d find my naked ass sprawled on the ground. At least we didn’t have any cats to feast on the soft bits of my corpse.

Damn, that got way too dark too quick.

The house was way too quiet without Jamal brightening it up. Maybe I did need some kind of pet. A low-maintenance pet, like a guinea pig or a bird. Nah. My level is more like sea monkeys. Yes, that’s more like it! I’ll raise a hoard of sea monkeys in my kid’s absence. When he comes home, he’ll discover his mother had become a crazy sea monkey lady.

I tripped on the carpet, wine lurching dangerously to the rim of my glass.

I really needed to buy a generator. Maybe I should go get my laptop and –

I spoke out loud to myself, “Nope, you are not going to think about any of that. We are going to relax, goddammit.”

A second dip back into the tub was not as nice as the first. The reentry of my cold, wet body chilled the water several degrees. Irritation raked along my insides at the inconvenience. At least I had managed to fill the tub before the brownout.

My beats cut out as my phone rang, and Vivien’s face appeared. I scrambled to get up, clawing for my phone before settling back into the bath with a hard splash. Half the bubbles had disappeared from all my moving about. Just freaking great.

“Hey,” I said, a little breathless.

“Hiya,” Vivien said brightly. She was my best friend and also happened to be a vampire.

It took only that one word to let me know why she called.

“What do you need?” I sighed.

“My dearest, most awesome friend,” Vivien said, laying on the syrup in her tone. “What makes you think I need something? Can’t I just call to chat with you?”

Silence fell over the phone. I didn’t bother to fill it, instead I smoothed a thin layer of pearlescent bubbles over my smooth, brown legs and waited. Waxing my legs at home was a messy, pain in the ass chore, but I didn’t like shaving every day. I wondered if my vampire best friend had to shave anymore? Probably not, the lucky bitch.

“Okay, okay,” Vivien burst out.

I knew if I waited a scant two minutes, she would crack. I was fairly certain if Vivien tried to hold in a secret for too long, she would explode into a cloud of blood, glitter, and sugar. The things I knew about her sex life alone were as detailed as they were vivid. Not that I minded since her stories of banging her equally supernatural honey were the only sexual thrill I got these days.

“It’s not me actually,” she confessed. “Here—” she said to someone off before I heard a shuffle.

A male voice came on the line. “Miranda?”

I straightened in the tub so fast, bubbles and water sloshed over the side.

“Mr. Scarapelli.” Grim Scarapelli, aka Vivien’s husband, aka the Grim Reaper himself. Though his original origins are more ancient and Egyptian, he is the god of the dead, once known as Anubis.

He used to prowl about in a monstrous jackal form and judge souls in the pyramids, but he’d modernized to the times.

Grim now wore expensive suits and owned the most exclusive hotel in Vegas, Sinopolis, a massive pyramid made of dark glass and filled with decadent luxury. He also happened to be my boss.

“Miranda, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Grim?” His voice was smooth as dark chocolate, and though he was my best friend’s soul mate, I couldn’t deny my attraction to him. But I learned not to take his magnetic effect seriously; every person had a little bit of a death wish. It helped to know it was a supernatural thing, and that I wasn’t just a total scumbag.

“How can I help you?” I asked my boss.

There was a pause, and I imagined him pinching the bridge of his nose on the other end, a pose he fell back on when particularly pensive. While I waited for him to answer, I wondered why he didn’t call or text me from his phone. It wasn’t totally uncommon for him to contact me; I was head of security at his luxury hotel, Sinopolis, the most exclusive and upscale place to be on the Vegas Strip. Then I realized this wasn’t business as usual. Going through Vivien meant it was personal.

“I know it’s late, and I hate to impose, but there is something I would like to discuss with you.”

I was already up and out of the tub with a towel wrapped about my soaking body. “Is it serious?”

“It is of a serious nature, yes,” he said, hedging his words. “It’s best if we speak in person. Is there any chance you could come to the hotel? Is Jamal at home? I’d be happy to send Timothy over to watch him while we handle our matters.”

“I could watch him,” I heard Vivien suggest in the background.

“No,” Grim and I said in unison.

I wouldn’t even trust my best friend with my imaginary hoard of sea monkeys. She’d either get distracted and leave them to die, or get some strange idea stuck in her head like feeding them sugar packets would supersize them somehow.

Translate these propensities toward a child and Jamal would definitely end up worse for wear. Nope. It was best my kid and the woman-sized child stay buddies rather than give her an ounce of power or authority over my spawn.

Pulling my cap off, I ignored Vivien’s long whine that followed. A tumble of thin box braids fell down past my shoulder blades to my lower back. “That won’t be necessary, sir. Jamal left this morning for camp.”

My sweet, intelligent baby boy was eleven years old, and I missed him already.

“He’ll be away for some time then?” Grim asked, trying to keep things light.

“Nine weeks,” I answered as I finished snapping on my bra. He had been going since he was seven, and while I missed him terribly when he left, he loved the friends he made there. The camp was half focused on survival, and the other half was STEM education. My baby was a budding genius and got a special scholarship to this camp. Not that I was surprised. He got his wicked smarts from his mama. But his absence left me itching for a more exciting life. It sounded like Grim had something for me.

“So, you’ll come then?”

I could tell it pained Grim to ask it of me. My pants were already on, and I donned a forest green tank top. This didn’t seem to call for formal attire.

“Of course.”

“Good, good,” he muttered more to himself.

Before I hung up, he said, “And Miranda, bring the blade.”

My eyes tracked to my closet. I didn’t lower the phone even after the call ended. I kept the Blade of Bane stored in a sheath between my formal dresses and my sweatpants. An unpleasant churning started in my stomach. 

Whatever the god of the dead was about to ask me, I had a feeling I already wouldn’t like it.


Chapter 2


“Miranda, you understand duty,” Grim said, swirling a glass of brown liquor while avoiding meeting my gaze. We sat in his penthouse apartment atop the pyramid hotel, surrounded by upscale luxury.

My fingers grip the couch cushion beneath me. I feel like a kid who’s been called to the principal’s office even though my boss is in unusually informal shape.

Grim’s usual pristine black suit jacket was carelessly discarded on a nearby chair, and his shirt was only partially buttoned. As he spoke, his fingers tapped restlessly against his thigh. To my surprise, he was barefoot, his feet planted firmly in the plush white carpet. I couldn’t stop staring at them, which unsettled me.

“I suppose I do understand duty,” I replied slowly. Needing to do something with my hands, I reached over and straightened a pillow.

Grim and I might share a sense of duty, but I found myself thinking of the person who linked us–Vivien.

Vivien often boasted that I was a badass because I used to be in the Special Forces and because I’m a single mom. But the military was a lifetime ago and being a single parent had made me softer in some ways. Although I would never admit that to Vivien, With Jamal away at camp, I found myself floundering for direction and orders. I enjoyed being her scary, tough as nails friend. Though sitting across from her husband, the god of death, I began to think she had a type she aligned herself with.

“I take my duties seriously,” Grim said with a wry smile.

A deep line forms between my brows.

Grim was the god of the dead, and he was comparing our sense of duty.

How many feet of shit was I about to dive into?

I pushed back the cuticles on one hand. “I imagine sorting souls for the afterlife on a daily basis would require a certain level of commitment,” I said, my eyes dropping back down to his bare feet.

He nodded, expression absent as if his mind was elsewhere.

I wasn’t used to hanging out with my boss, and I didn’t know why I was there. I moved to pushing back the cuticles on my other hand.

“And when I’m unable to perform my duties, it can…well, it eats away at me. I don’t know if you can understand…” Grim said, sounding distracted.

“This isn’t a sex thing, is it?” I asked incredulously, unable to believe I even had to ask.

“What?” He straightened and blinked. “No.”

I sank back into the couch, relieved. “Oh good, because if the duties were in regard to my friend, I mean, she’s kind of your problem now.”

Grim seemed flustered. “No, there’s no problem. I mean I perform with her just fine. That isn’t what–”

I took the opportunity to reach for the glass of red wine waiting on the coffee table for me. It was divine, a testament to Grim’s godly taste and wealth. But it wasn’t a 1992 Celestial Cellers Pinot Noir, I thought glumly.

Grim rubbed his forehead and chuckled. “I feel I’m beginning to understand why you are so close with my sekhor.”

Sekhor was an ancient word for vampire. While Vivien was a bloodsucker, she only had fangs for Grim.

My brain bounced like a strung out, hyper child, waiting for him to tell me why I was here. Again, my eyes fell on his bare feet. So wrong.

I put the glass back down, realizing I’d drained half the glass in one go.

This time Grim caught me staring and looked up at me, as if he was trying to gauge my thoughts. I quickly averted my gaze to his face.

“Yeah, we vibe.” My knee began to bounce.

Why wasn’t he getting to the point?

Vivien was already a vampire when I met her, and I may have tried to kill her at one point. She suffered from amnesia, having no idea who’d bitten her or who she was. She may have forgotten her name, but no amount of amnesia could downplay her wild, antagonist, and playful personality. She’d been put through the wringer when it came to immortals’ business, and after a flood of humans were turned, she was the one dealing with the mess of newly minted bloodsuckers who didn’t understand what had happened to them or what it meant.

It was also part of the deal Vivien made with the god Osiris. While Grim took care of the souls of the dead, Vivien shepherded the new vamps as the master vampire. She could control their will and keep them from harming anyone and help them through their transition.

“Right,” Grim said, acknowledging mine and Vivien’s close tie while setting his drink down as well. “I’m being obtuse. This can all be quite quick and over with.” He stood abruptly. “You are the caretaker of the blade of bane. The only one who can wield it, correct?”

The sword lay on the couch next to me. My fingers rested on the hilt, as if needing to assure myself it was there. “Yes.”

A jolt of warmth shot through my fingers and up my arm. The sword was like a living thing, humming with a subtle power that fused with me. I caressed the sleek, gold-inlaid hilt reverently, feeling its weight and balance. It felt like an extension of me, like an extra arm at times, and I knew it was meant for me and me alone.

Though I didn’t really kill a god with it, so much as she threw herself on the sword’s edge, not wanting to live anymore. It didn’t feel right assisting her suicide like that. If I’d been faster or cleverer, I would have seen it coming and prevented the goddess Bast from ending her life.

Grim stopped in the middle of the room, hands folded behind his back. “I have a formal request of you as the blade’s keeper.”

“For cripes sake, would you spit it out already? I’m a big girl.”

My hand clapped over my mouth as soon as the words escaped me.

Grim’s golden brown eyes widened in surprise.

I couldn’t believe I just mouthed off to the Grim Reaper. Not that I thought he would kill me. Or maybe a small part of me was all too aware that was a possibility.

I covered my eyes for a moment. “I’m just saying, you don’t need to pussyfoot around me.”

Grim unsuccessfully tried to suppress an amused smile. “You’re right.” Then he turned serious again and finally came right out with it. “I need you to kill a god for me.”

Before I could even process that, he looked down at his feet before meeting my gaze with uncertainty. “And is there something wrong with my feet?”

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