You’ve all been asking for it for weeks, and now it’s time to sign up for the ARCs – both ebook and audio!
Want to join Holly’s ARCvengers team for Bitten by Death?
Fill out this form https://forms.gle/Gz5csR3YmSSEqq5P7
What’s an ARC?
ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy
In exchange for an advanced copy of the book, my advanced readers post an honest review on release day ~ May 20th.
Advanced copies go out next week!
*If you are already an ARCvenger, you DO NOT need to fill out the form.*
Bitten by Death is coming in audio May 20th and I’m over the moon about the narrators and their performance so far!
Meet Vivienne Ferrari (or she also narrates under the name Veronica Giguere) the voice of *my* Vivien – a vampire who woke up in a morgue with no memories and finds herself hunted by Death himself.
Honestly, the moment I heard her audition, I knew Vivienne *nailed* the delivery of my humor in this book which is legit laugh out loud funny. She also brings a vulnerability to the character who can be tough as nails but her armor definitely has some big chunks missing.
Vivienne Ferrari answered some of my most pressing questions, which include her thoughts about drinking out of the skulls of her enemies. (You’ll quickly see why she is as hilarious as my Vivien)
ME: If you could have superpowers, what would kind would you chose?
VF: Mimicry! Like, being able to listen to someone for five seconds, then do a dead-on impression of their accent and speech patterns.
ME: How would you describe your voice/narration style? (or how have others described it?)
VF: I’m a smart, snarky, and slightly seductive storyteller. I’ve had others describe it as coffee and chocolate, conversational with a touch of indulgence.
ME: Coffee or Tea?
VF: COFFEE. Although, I’ve got a fair amount of tea, too. But coffee = love.
ME: What’s been your favorite part about narrating Bitten by Death
VF: Vivien’s attitude! She’s so delightfully fun. I wound up reading bits aloud to my husband while I prepped the book (reading and making notes) and cackling wildly. The tension is *delicious.*
ME: Drinking from the skulls of your enemies – yea or nay?
VF: I dunno… I remember the whole “mad cow disease” scare… and most of my enemies don’t have sexy craniums. Probably a nay.
ME: While we are waiting for Bitten by Death to come out, what is another book you’ve narrated that readers can listen to right now?
VF: ECHO One: Tales from the Secret World Chronicle is a collection of short stories by Mercedes Lackey, Dennis K. Lee, Cody Martin… and me! The series began as a podcast and is how I started narrating audiobooks. I narrated this anthology that blends metahumans and magic, with stories set in WW2 and the present day. https://wordfirepress.com/books/echo-one-tales-from-the-secret-world-chronicles/
Bitten by Death is available for pre-order in ebook right now and will be available in Audio on May 20th, so you can enjoy the k i l l e r performance by Vivienne Ferrari!
Want to hear Vivienne Ferrari SLAY this vampire part? Enjoy this exclusive excerpt!
If you saw his face, you’d have a death wish too.
My life sucks. More accurately, I suck—blood. I woke up on a cold slab in a morgue, two weeks ago, with no memories, and a new drinking habit that seriously cramps my ability to make friends.
Now I’m hunting for answers in Sin City about my past and who I was, but someone else is hunting me.
When Death, himself, comes to collect me, I find myself facing the most magnificent, terrifying being imaginable. Who knew the grim reaper wore a tailored suit, and ran the most exclusive hotel on the Vegas strip?
He wants to hold me prisoner? Fine, I will rattle the cage and make his life a living hell until I get my freedom.
And I absolutely cannot, under any circumstances let him know he’s under my skin.
*Bitten by Death is book 1 of 3 in a slow burn, action-packed steamy romance featuring a cheeky, tough heroine and dark hero.
Pre-order now if you like irreverant, chain-yanking vampires, and a hot as hell version of Death.
Ebook now available for pre-order on Amazon!
Paperback and audio book will be also be available.
Add these hot paranormal romances to your TBR pile and enjoy a hoard of hot, dark, broody, powerful book boyfriends.
As a wolf shifter growing up in a strong pack, I should be living my best life. But after my father tried to kill our leader, I’m labelled an outcast, traitor, less than dirt.
When I can’t take pack life any longer, I run, but apparently they don’t like losing their punching bag. Torin, the leader’s son, drags me back before my first shift… a shift that will reveal my true mate. I never could have predicted who mine would be, but the moment my wolf looks upon him, I’m filled with hope for a brighter future.
Afterall, no one ever rejects their true mate, right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
When the wolves attack, my soul screams for vengeance, and somehow I touch the shadow world. Somehow I bring him to our lands.
The Shadow Beast. Our shifter god. The devil himself.
Turns out being rejected by my mate was only the beginning.
*If you like sexy, dark paranormal romances, with humor, steam, action, a tough heroine and an antihero, this is for you.
Some people are ordained for greatness…
Those people usually have a lot of drama in their life. Drama I happily do without. I live in a forgotten corner of nowhere for a reason: there is safety in anonymity. I have enough problems just trying to get by.
But when Kieran, a sinfully sexy demigod at the pinnacle of power, crashes into my life, suddenly my whole world is turned upside down.
He’s harboring a deadly secret, one that could destroy all he holds dear. He thinks I’m the key to his salvation, and he wants me to help him claim vengeance.
He also wants me with a passion that burns my body from the inside out.
To ignore him is impossible, but to give in to my desires, even for a night, would thrust me into danger I might not survive.
Can I resist the temptation?
I made a deal with the devil. Now he’s claimed me as his mate.
When my best friend goes missing in Las Vegas, there’s only one man I can turn to for help.
Lucas Ifer. Billionaire playboy. CEO of Abaddon Inc. King of Sin City. And…the devil himself?
Lucas—aka Lucifer—agrees to help me, but in exchange he wants one thing: me.
He’s dark, dangerous, and wickedly handsome. Oh, and evil incarnate. I should say no, but I can’t. I’m that desperate.
But when you make a deal with the devil, there’s no escaping it. Now he owns my body for seven nights of sin. Even worse, he owns my soul for all eternity.
I’m Persephone being claimed by Hades, and I have no choice but to enter his underworld and become his dark queen.
Is there any light left in that black heart? Or will his darkness consume me?
The angel of death wants me to be his wife.
Most days, I steal from ships to earn a living. Not glamorous, admittedly, but it’s honest work. Okay, fine. It isn’t honest either, but it means I get to eat.
Until one night, a sinfully sexy angel strides into my favorite dance hall and compels me to work for him. It isn’t just work, though. He wants me to be his wife in Castle Hades. Apparently, his prophetic dreams say I’ll help him become king.
Beautiful as he is, he’s also a lethal tyrant. And I could be in danger. Luckily, I know how to fight back, how to weaken an angel: I must seduce him.
Now, this is a battle, and he’s my beautiful enemy. We are fighting with weapons of desire, and we’re both at risk of losing ourselves in this war.
I’ve been kidnapped by Zeus. Plucked from the streets of Manhattan and frightened half to death by a freaking Olympian god.
And now I’m trapped in the Underworld, being forced to compete in a series of deadly trials for the position of Queen of the Underworld. Which would mean marrying Hades, the utterly terrifying Lord of the Dead. Who the hell wants a husband at all, let alone one made of smoke and riddled with death?
I have to get back home, to New York and my brother. But I can’t leave without completing the trials and they’ve been designed for a godly Queen, not Persephone – barista and botanical garden enthusiast.
I’m surrounded by lethal, all-powerful maniacs. Sexy-as-hell maniacs, sure, but as dangerous as they come. And I’m going to have to prove to all of them that there’s a goddess of hell inside me. It’s the only way I’ll survive the Hades Trials. But then what? And why, why, why am I so desperate to see under Hades smoky exterior and find out what he’s hiding from me?
If I win the trials, I have to marry the devil himself. But losing might mean losing my life.
For a decade, I’ve hated the supernaturals who owned my world.
I hunted them.
I killed them.
And now, in the most grand twist of fate—I am bonded to one of them.
Oh, the irony.
Being a supernatural bounty hunter isn’t exactly a popular job. But after the magic wars, there aren’t many things a human can do that will put food on the table.
Thankfully anything my right hook can’t handle, my guns can.
Or so I thought.
When a demon summoning runs awry, the being that comes into this world changes everything.
I’m not sure if he’s truly a demon or a god, but one thing I do know is that he’s after me. I’d like to see him try.
I’ve got a promise to fulfill, and I’m not backing down.
The only way out of this is his death or mine, and I’ll do anything to survive.
Even if that means making a deal with the devil.
Loving her is not only forbidden, it could bring about the end of the world.
I am not a man. I am a weapon that fights the forces of darkness with magic. The desire to make Emma mine goes against everything I’ve been trained to do. Yet she’s all I want.
When a demon from hell crashes into the liquor store where Emma works, we find ourselves caught in an ancient prophecy that has been set into motion, and it may bring about the end of the world.
Emma may appear to be a civilian who’s spent most of her life with her nose stuck in a book, but there is more to her than anyone knows. And I can’t stop Emma from turning my world inside out.
Dark secrets are spilling out, destroying everything I once believed, and bloodthirsty monsters are climbing out from every corner. They must kill the chosen one, and I will do everything to stop it.
But as the hell beasts begin to close in, I am left with one impossible choice.
Save the girl, or save the world.
Everything changes, when he’s forced to expose his secret.
Asher Morestead lives a double life protecting his secret. His life was lonely and uncomplicated until the scent of a beautiful brunette leaves him weak and dizzy. No one told this wolf his fated mate was out there.
Fate has chosen her, she just doesn’t know it yet.
Gwen Taylor enjoys working at Woods Bistro and forging her own path in life, veering away from her father’s. Her favourite part of the day is when the handsome veterinarian walks in, whose rough voice and deep eyes make her heart race and her body quake.
After being saved by a white wolf, Gwen can’t stop thinking about those familiar blue eyes.
Now seeing wolves is a normal occurrence, but Gwen’s being watched, and her growing attraction to Asher only serves to confuse her.
With his animal need for Gwen rising, and the number of wolves showing up, he may not be able to control himself. Asher needs to claim Gwen as his mate without running her off – or she might run straight into the hands of her stalker, or into dangerous paws.
Vampires aren’t real, right?
People say I’m a weirdo. Sure, my idea of a party is a mini box of wine and hanging out with a feral raccoon, but it works for me.
When I’m accused of murder, things get crazy. One, I learn that I have magic. Two, there’s a secret magical city hidden right in London itself. And three, my only hope is a vampire who’s sexy as sin and scary as the devil himself. He’s called the Devil of Darkvale, and he all but owns Guild City.
Some say I should just quit and turn myself in. Not a chance. I’m going to solve this murder myself, which means surviving in a new world of witch parties, magical guilds, and a vampire with a tortured past. The vampire and I are like colliding stars, and the heat is irresistible. I should avoid him, but if I want to save my own life, he’s my only hope.
Cold-blooded kidnappers. Long-lost magic. When things get serious, she goes full Sherlock.
Ashira Cohen takes pride in being the only female private investigator in Vancouver. With her skills, her missing persons case should be a piece of cake.
She wasn’t counting on getting bashed in the skull, revealing a hidden tattoo and supernatural powers she shouldn’t possess.
Or the bitter icing on top: a spree of abductions and terrifying ghostly creatures on a deadly bender.
And don’t even get her started on the golems.
Reluctantly partnered with her long-time nemesis Levi, the infuriating leader of the magic community, Ash resolves to keep her focus on the clue trail and off their sexual tension because WTF is up with that?
But with a mastermind organization pulling strings from the shadows and Levi’s arrogance driving her to pick out his body bag, can Ash rescue the captives and uncover the truth or will the next blood spilled be her own?
Bloody hell. How inconvenient.
Werewolf Byron Adwell prides himself on his hard-won self-control.
He’s hours away from beginning the most important job of his life. What seemed like a harmless drink with his new team suddenly feels like fate is meddling. His restraint is tested like never before the moment he spots her.
The gorgeous green-eyed, raven-haired witch has a magnetic energy that calls to him like a siren. She walked straight out of his dreams into the exclusive New Orleans club for paranormals.
What’s more, she makes him want to forget all his training, his plans, his duty.
This can’t be happening. Not here. Not now.
Not with the lives of the six resident Stigward Guardians in Byron’s hands. His time, focus and dedication must be on them, on his work.
He absolutely, positively does not have time for a mate.
It’s been seven years. Seven long years since that cold and cruel Vampire King, Lucius, broke her heart. Her naive little heart destroyed after one painful night she sneaked in to his Gothic nightclub, Transfusion. Seven years since he humiliated her, casting her aside and telling her just what he thought about her little obsession with him. Then he saves her life. Well, now he is back and this time he is out for blood, and all she can hope for is that it isn’t hers that’s on the menu. Because she is just your typical, ordinary, everyday girl who works and lives in London. Even if she is trying to make it on her own without the safety of her family. However, growing up knowing of the supernatural world and being human definitely has its draw backs. Especially when a certain Vampire King has her in mind for a date and his dominant and forceful ways are sending her re-ignited obsession with him into overdrive.But he does like her…doesn’t he?
Duncan Larsen has always had his eye on his brother’s human friend, Aurora, but there are lines that a brother should never cross.
But when Duncan repeatedly finds himself stuck in close quarters on the shifter “Love Boat” with her, he can’t deny the attraction between them. And his wolf can’t deny the urge to claim her.
Aurora made a pact with Duncan’s brother twenty years ago when they were little more than children. If he doesn’t find his one true mate by the age of thirty-two, she’ll accept his claim and help him lead the pack. Only she never knew she’d actually have to follow through with it.
Now she’s caught between duty and desire when her heart starts beating for the wrong werewolf brother.
And he’s torn between love and loyalty when all he wants is to steal his brother’s mate. Maybe on this cruise, fate will rearrange their course.
Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.
It went downhill the moment they asked for a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete jerks, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?
I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they … offered me the job?
It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.
So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.
A ruthless vampire king. An alluring crime family heiress. A dark desire that won’t be tamed…
Charlotte D’Amico never met a safe she couldn’t crack, a penthouse she couldn’t case, or a stuck-up rich guy she couldn’t deceive. So when the crime boss who runs her life orders her to spy on yet another reclusive billionaire, Charley’s not worried.
Smile pretty, keep the boss happy, keep her sister safe. That’s how it works.
But Dorian Redthorne is no ordinary mark.
He’s charming, funny, and sinfully hot, with a whiskey-smooth British accent that leaves her aching for more.
He’s also dark, dangerous, and definitely hiding secrets…
Secrets that might just get her killed.
Vampire king Dorian Redthorne has more responsibilities than he can count.
Keep New York’s supernaturals in line. Protect what’s left of his family. And above all, bury his dead father’s secrets… before their enemies discover the royal family’s greatest weakness.
Charlotte D’Amico is a complication he doesn’t need.
But the scent of her blood is intoxicating, her heartbeat a siren call he can’t resist.
One stolen kiss, and Dorian knows how this ends: He claims her, or he bleeds her dry.
Unfortunately, his pretty little con woman is as treacherous as his enemies.
The question is…
Which will destroy him first?
On one hand, when I’m blowing through these series I wonder, “Why the hell did I wait so long?” but on the other hand, thank the freakin’ lord these series had so many books in them by the time I got there. Because now I can binge to my hearts content. Some of these series are even completed!
Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews is my Queen! Or err since it’s a wife-husband writing duo, they are my leader. I started with their Hidden Legacy series (which is also 110% amazing) but after finishing those, I rounded back to their long running Kate Daniels series. And while I felt it was a bit slow to start and straight UF, I now consider Curran Lennart one of my ALL TIME favorite book boyfriends. His ferocious love for Kate is awe-inspiring. She is such a strong, independent character and how he works his way into her life and heart is one of the most romantic journeys I’ve ever had the privilege to read.
Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
No, but seriously. WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG??!?!?!?
I’d heard about this steampunk series for well over a decade, and I was intrigued but never committed to picking it up. Probably because I wasn’t aware of the strong romance line. To be fair, I’m still not a huge shifter fan, but broody, Scottish, wolf-pack alpha Lord Maccon definitely helped me “get it.” He and Alexia make for a fantastic pair I can’t get enough of. Between the razor-sharp witticisms, bad ass women, an irresistible romance, and the occasional cup of tea, you will also assuredly fall head over heels into this series.
Charlie Davidson Series by Darynda Jones
Charlotte “Charley” Davidson is my spirit animal. Between her coffee addiction, constant cheekiness, and the fact that she is the grim reaper, this fast became one of my fav series of all times. Add the UNHOLY HOTNESS that is Reyes Farrow, he breaks the thermometer until things boil over like lava.
When I grow up, I want to be Charley Davidson, which is perfect because this chick is *never* growing up.
Weird sidebar: I’m addicted to the chapter titles in this series.
FaeFever Series by Karen Marie Moning
Admittedly, this romance took me a minute to warm up to. Jerricho Barrens is a dark, tough, unforgiving character which left me thinking, who could possibly be attracted to this jerk? But then his motivations made more and more sense, his mystery wrapped around me like rope, tightening around me until I was desperate to know his secret. I hit up several friends who’d read the books, to ask, “WHAT THE HELL IS HE?” and each one of them kept their traps shut with knowing smile. They said they couldn’t possibly spoil the ending (traitorous bastards), but then I kept reading, and reading, until it got to the point where I was like there is absolutely no way the payout is going to be worth all this tension.
But then the big reveal finally came and holy buckets. The big reveal blew my freaking mind and I loved it when my brain melted out of my ears. TBH I only read through book 5 because the ending left me so damn satisfied, I couldn’t read another page further though I know there are several more books in the series.
The Five Orders Series by Holly Roberds
But maybe you’ve read all of these series and are all, “Duh, of course these are amazing, Holly! Where have you been?” Excellent question to which I have an even more excellent answer! I was writing my own action-packed, slow burn, steamy PNR romance series.
In the Five Orders series, Calan, is in essence, a ninja assassin who fights the forces of darkness and has been sequestered from the modern world, but when he has to protect Emma from a soul eater, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, they are embroiled prophecy that could unleash hell. This romance has some serious end of the world stakes, and Emma and Calan are determined to make their own damn fate. I guarantee this series is unlike any you’ve ever read, and believe me when I say you will NOT want to miss the epic ending…or the demon possessed parrot with a snack cake addiction.
Extra bonus? This series is COMPLETE as well as FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
KNOW OF ANY MUST-READ PNR SERIES I MISSED? DROP IT IN THE COMMENTS!
These novel-teas are the perfect book companion! Gifting a reader tea, hot chocolate, or coffee can contribute to those cozy reading vibes, but make sure you know their drink of choice!
2. Reader Wine Glass
This wine glass definitely makes me want to touch my shelf! A fun glass for wine or champagne is a great gift for the reader who imbibes. Cheers!
My FAV reading accessory is these fuzzy socks from Barnes and Noble. I’ve tried some other brands, but when Barnes and Noble roll these babies out for the holidays, my husband and I go rabid. They are crazy thick with maximum fluffiness. We wear these puppies into the ground.
For hauling even more books! You can check out your local bookstores, or get personalized ones off Etsy. My favorite says “I like big books and I cannot lie” but I’ve been lusting after this Kate Spade tote for a hot minute.
My ritual for reading includes having yummy smelling candles lit nearby for ambiance. For me, Yankee candles are tried and true but this Sexy Man candle would likely pair well with any romance book. Really drops the romance reader in for the full experience.
6. Book décor
Friends have picked up unique book-themed decor pieces as gifts for me in the past, and I absolutely love them!
7. Book Embosser
Getting book embossers or a special stamp can personalize a romance reader’s book collection. If anyone borrows their book, they’ll remember to return it to the lender with these labels.
Like a Netflix subscription, your reader will get access to thousands of great romance reads for a flat monthly fee. Kindle Unlimited has a particularly large swath of romance reads including all of my books in The Five Orders Series.
9. Audible membership
Audiobooks are amazing for the reader on the go. I love listening in the car, but even more so, listening to a book makes house chores fly by! When I had to move across the country, I packed and unpacked my entire life while listening to Karen Marie Moning’s Faefever series which made the difficult transition so much more pleasant.
10. Signed paperbacks
Know authors that your reader loves? Contact the author and ask to buy signed paperbacks, or for a signed nameplate that can be put inside the front cover.
11. Reader mugs
12. Big comfy sweater
13. MORE BOOKS!
Of course, this is the penultimate. Readers love books. Hoards of them! Romance readers are dragons and they devour them by the ton! Check Amazon for suggestions or Goodreads.com has some great reading lists compiled by readers that can help you find even more books that your reader would like!
I stared, incredulous. It wasn’t possible. Soul eaters couldn’t become solid, yet soon it had two legs and half a torso. Formed from mottled gray flesh, the limbs were abnormally long and stretched out. Tendons protruded out from its body in harsh contrast.
Emma cried out from behind me. “What is that?”
I didn’t have words as I watched it solidify up over two large arms then up over a head. The monster was now eight-feet tall. Where a face should have been, it was dark and fuzzy, like my eyes couldn’t focus. Putrid sulphur and heat pressed down on the store with unrelenting force. Chills wriggled down my spine like a waterfall of squirming maggots. Sweat poured down my face. I blinked. What I was witnessing was wholly impossible. To prove me wrong, the Soul Eater grabbed a rack of wine and hurled it at me.
I dove out of the way just in time, only to hear the rack of bottles smash and shatter against a display against the wall in a tremendous explosion of glass. Shards sliced the flesh across the top of my hands where they covered my head. Something bit deeply into my calf, just above my boot where my pant leg had ridden up, but I didn’t cry out. Lifting my head and turning slightly, I saw a jagged piece of curved glass four inches long sticking out of my leg. On my feet again, I reached down and yanked the piece out. Warm blood trickled down into my boot. Back to my feet, I searched for Emma.
“Emma?” So consumed with fear for her, I didn’t notice the soul eater upon me until the cold of its shadow fell over me. I whipped around, my head snapping back so I could look up into its hazy face. The dark sucking holes for eyes and a mouth appeared as it had when it was incorporeal.
“Chevalier,” the creature hissed through a mouth never used before.
“Soul eater,” I nodded back. I wanted it to believe I was still unafraid, but a soul eater becoming solid went against everything I’d ever been told. It had been a long time since fear had touched my heart.
Reaching into my heavy coat, I pulled out an opalescent moonstone the size of my palm and brandished it out toward the soul eater – the only useful tool I could smuggle through the metal detector. Most people knew it as a symbol of peace and harmony, but I knew it to be an amplifier to my power. I yelled out to the soul eater, “Hominay, regeta, questano.”
It threw back its massive head and let out a raspy chortle. Despite the light emanating from the moonstone reaching out toward the soul eater, the beast swept its massive arm, smacking me across the room, my body slammed into another rack of wine bottles. Bottles shattered under my weight. Corks popped with enthusiasm, followed by a hissing spray of liquid.
The breath had been knocked out of me, but my armor-lined clothing protected me from any broken glass. Wine dripped down the back of my head as I sat, gathering my wits.
From my new angle I could see Emma flattened against the floor behind a rack. Her eyes trained on me with a mixture of fear and wonder. Travis was crouched over her. He began to pull her up and toward the back exit, but they were too slow. The soul eater advanced on them. I tried to yell for them to look out, but the words came out as a wheeze after my hard impact. The soul eater hovered over them now. Travis’s body trembled, warring with its own fight or flight instinct. Glasses askew, Emma blinked up at the cloud as if she weren’t quite sure she could believe her eyes and was trying to wake herself up from a dream.
“Propheros,” the soul eater hissed at Travis. Holy gods of creation. The soul eater just named the Propheros, which could only mean one thing: the time of darkness was almost upon us.
There wasn’t time to try and fabricate a lie to get her to vacate the premises. Then I smelled it. Akin to rotten meat and bad eggs. A marker, telling me that evil was near.
The other customer pulled the collar of his t-shirt over his nose. “Gross, what is that smell?”
Emma covered her own nose. “Ugh, I don’t know but it can’t be good.” Then she noticed me searching the empty space above all the wine racks and asked, “What? Do you think the power is going to blow?” She looked around the store along with me.
“Yes,” I said, allowing her to come to her own conclusions again while trying to lead her away from the refrigerators. I couldn’t anticipate where it was going to attack from, so I kept Emma close to my side.
Emma broke from my grip and jogged to her register. “Let me grab my phone so I can call the fire department from outside.”
“No.” I cried out, but I was too late. She raced in the opposite direction of the front doors.
“Travis, you need to get out of here, too,” she yelled to the other customer, grabbing her phone from under the counter. All the refrigerators lining the walls screeched and howled like tortured animals.
Before Travis could get far, a scream wailed through the store, piercing through the racket of the refrigerators. The high pitch made the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stick up like needles. My skin broke out in a cold sweat. This wasn’t like the icy single-digit temperature outside, the cold blanketing the store now had an unnatural underlying heat to it that I’d become all too familiar with. While Emma and Travis threw their hands up to protect their ears, Emma’s phone clattered to the ground. I whirled around. The screech had come from the front doors.
A mass of energy materialized five feet above the ground. It resembled a dense gray fog, swirling and curling around itself until a shape like the top half of a skull emerged from its center. The eyes were two sucking holes of darkness. A dark mouth yawned out of the fog with another scream. The form swelled with what I could sense as anticipation and raw, desperate hunger.
A soul eater. It appeared between me and the way out. Soul eaters don’t appear in human form like benign ghosts. They are twisted and demonic—their only purpose, to consume and destroy souls.
A sharp gasp from Emma behind me told me she saw it just fine too. I prayed to the gods that she wouldn’t panic and do anything to hurt herself. Curses streamed out from Travis somewhere behind me.
This was what I’d been waiting for. Throwing back the hood of my jacket, I stepped up to face off with the soul eater. I’d prefer there were no witnesses, but there was no time to protect them from knowledge of the dark. It was more imperative I protect their souls. Squaring my hips, I pressed my fingers together to make a triangle for the Holy Trinity. Taking in a deep breath, I began to chant, “Luminatos treahgo eearhovotas.” It was in a tongue strange to Emma and Travis, no doubt. The language was as old as time itself. I poured every bit of belief I possessed into my words to banish the soul eater back to the Stygian, the dark world. It was by a powerful force of sheer will that would banish this spirit away.
The soul eater advanced though I knew it wasn’t coming for me. It wanted Emma. It coveted her soul. It would suck her up like sweet honey. Or that Travis guy, although I bet he wouldn’t be as delicious.
“Laseto, reinetic, ioenai.”
It let loose another high-pitched scream as light gathered between my hands with a comforting warmth. Fear for Emma made my throat squeeze tight. I refused to let anything happen to her, but gods I wished she had gotten out of here. I needed the whole of my focus on the soul eater.
The light from my hands spread, pure rays stretching toward the evil spirit. Sweat broke on my brow as I felt the pushback of its’ dark power. I was almost there; my power had almost reached its peak. It was like a wave cresting, preparing to break in a heady rush to extinguish the dark being.
Before my power could reach its zenith, the resistance of dark energy from the soul eater dissipated. I was awash in surprise, and my own unused forced back-splashed without a counterforce to focus it, in a sprinkle around me like sweet raindrops. It had never taken so little effort to banish a dark entity. Relaxing my hands and stance, I realized I hadn’t.
The dark incorporeal form was still present, but it was changing, undergoing some kind of metamorphoses. The swirling mist solidified and from it stepped out a very real, very solid foot.