Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Imperial Demons is in the wild!

Today's the day, folks! IMPERIAL DEMONS is unleashed! And I am SUPER EXCITED. I feel like DARK DAYS may as well have been released a lifetime ago, and I've been raring to get Lola and Tristesse's next adventure out in the world. And now, here we are!

There is nothing I don't love about this book. World-building Gehenna was so much fun. Writing a truly inhuman villain was a great challenge. Forcing Lola and Tristesse to grow in ways I absolutely hadn't planned way back in BLOOD WITCH was fantastic! I know I've said it before, but I never intended BLOOD WITCH to be anything more than a one-off novella. To now be at book four in the series, with books five, six, and maybe seven in the pipeline makes me incredibly proud and excited.

Parts of IMPERIAL DEMONS were wrenching to write, but I think I've given you an awesome story, and I have plenty of fun, madness, and magic coming up for Lola and Tris still. We just have to go through some hard times to get there...

Magic can make you mad. Love can make you dangerous.

Tristesse is gone, taken between worlds to be the bride of a sadistic demon prince. And Lola will do anything to get her back. Crossing into Gehenna is only the start. Hunted by monsters and accompanied by allies she can’t trust, Lola must endure the horrors of the demon world, and embrace the darkness of demon magic. If it doesn’t consume her, it might just save both her and Tristesse.

But in Gehenna nothing is guaranteed. Nothing except pain.

Pick up your copy (for a discount!) right now at Evernight. Or grab it from Amazon US, Amazon UK, and probably wherever else you get your ebooks!

And you can read on right now for a glimpse at the first chapter!


An eternity in torment.

That was what Tristesse experienced as the houn ds dragged her through the veil back to their master. Searing flames that fried and split her skin, boiled her brain, rendered her down to nothing but shards of bone. And then she would heal, her body stubbornly rebuilding itself from the ashes, a phoenix cursed to rise … and burn again, again, and again. The only refuge was madness, and she embraced it eagerly in the scant seconds of awareness she had. She plunged into insanity over and over, each fall shorter and shorter, and every time she resurrected herself, she had the clear and dreadful realization that eventually she’d stop falling at all. She’d be broken, permanently.

Of course, she didn’t have the sanity to care.

She didn't realize that it was over, not at first. The pain was so absolute she had no way to register anything else. She was only half-made when the hounds dragged her before the Fourth Prince of Gehenna, a skeleton lacking skin, a stringless puppet. Muscle was slowly knitting itself together over her ashy bones. Her heart didn't beat, it stuttered and shuddered, desperately pumping for blood that wasn't there yet. It was amazing, incomprehensible, how much pain one could feel when they lacked nerves. Her very bone marrow hurt. Awareness was a bitter gift. If she'd been capable of thought, she would have wished to be dead.

But she couldn't die. And so slowly her body remade itself once more, and slowly she realized she was no longer burning, no longer in the jaws of the hounds. She was still blind when they dropped her at their master's feet, but she had skin, raw and tender, and she could feel the blissfully cool marble she lay on. She stroked it, sending icy knives of pain through her reborn nerves. It was nothing compared to the agony of the journey through worlds. It was almost beautiful in comparison.
Tristesse laughed. Or tried to. A croaking caw was all she could manage, like a dying raven. She touched her head gingerly, found herself bald as a newborn, her skull dangerously fragile. The effort of raising her hand tore the newly-grown skin along her forearm and she let it drop with a sigh, feeling a hot gush of blood pour forth. She wanted to scream. But screams were still too much.

Her hearing returned. The hounds' hot, heavy breathing muffled almost everything, but she thought she heard soft footsteps as someone paced around her. Waiting for her to heal enough to start hurting her again.

There was a flash of dazzling stars in the darkness of her own head, and she knew her eyes had returned. She didn't dare open them. She knew what she'd see, and she had no desire to see him.

But Sonneillon would not be ignored. She heard the hounds move away, heard a silken whisper as he knelt before her. She felt his too-long fingers slip under her chin, his too-long nails grip her face. He pulled her to her knees.

"Welcome home, Duchess."

Tristesse opened her eyes with a gasp. For a second, the flood of light blinded her again, and she could only blink. Her eyes adjusted quickly, although it left her with a shrieking headache. Soon enough she was able to see him. It was enough to make her weep.

He was beautiful from a distance, with his luminous golden hair and liquid black eyes. A face that Medieval monks would have worshiped. But this close, Tristesse saw the subtle, unnerving signs of his inhumanity. Those fathomless eyes were pupiless and his skin was chitinous, with a dull shine that made her think of snake skin and molting insects. And the hands... His fingers were too long by far, capped by elegant, dangerous nails as hard as diamonds. They were cutting into her skin as he held her, a sensation she barely registered after the torture of the journey here.

He stared at her expectantly. His black eyes betrayed no emotion, but his pale lips were curved in a smile. She knew that smile well, because he always wore it. Whether he was bestowing favors on his favorites or disemboweling those who disappointed him, he kept that same sweet, bland smile.
In another time, on another day, she would have had a dainty, cutting reply for his greeting. But she was still wracked with the pains of constant death and rebirth, and her throat felt clogged with grease and smoke. She could only laugh again, bitter and harsh, and once she started, she couldn't stop.

He frowned, squeezing her jaw lightly. "Laughter? Do you think you're in a position to mock, Duchess?"

She spat at him, a great gob of black bile. As close as they were, it hit him straight in his perfect face, and he released her immediately, rising smoothly. She fell back to the floor, too weak to hold herself up.

Face contorted in disgust, he pulled a handkerchief from his voluminous robes and wiped away the bile. He dropped the ruined scrap of cloth and reached down to grab a handful of her newly-sprouted hair, jerking her roughly to her feet.

She screamed now, her entire body spasming with the motion, muscles contracting, heart in overdrive. He was far taller than her and he shook her like a ragdoll, until she tore free, leaving him with a few strands of crimson hair. She collapsed again, sobbing at his feet like a supplicant.

Sonneillon bent down to speak to her again. "I understand, Duchess. I do. You escaped so neatly. It must be frustrating to be thwarted and brought to heel so fast. But I had no choice but to bring you home. Politics. Appearances." He waved one hand dismissively, nails clacking. "I can't abide being made to look foolish."

Tristesse pressed her palms to the marble, staring at her pale hands and cracked nails. Against the blood-red and gold flooring, her hands looked artistic, in an obscene sort of way. She tested her strength and found she could push herself to her knees with some effort.

"I've done you the courtesy of giving you a private audience," Sonneillon continued, pacing around her. One of the hounds padded after him, trailing sparks of fire in its wake. "To allow you to explain yourself before you face your father and the court. I'm sure you can give me a satisfying story. You always did have a silver tongue."

She opened her mouth to answer and, to her horror, heard herself laughing again. Words swirled around her head, words of defiance and rage, but all that came out was sick, broken laughter. Her ribs ached with it, her throat burned with it, and she would have given anything to stop it, but it spilled from her in an endless, mad torrent.

And it infuriated Sonneillon. He kicked out, his pointed boot slamming straight into her jaw. She heard the crack before she felt the pain, and then she couldn't laugh because she was flat on her back with a broken jaw and all the air knocked from her.

He bent over her again, eyes narrowed to slits. "If you can't find a sensible use for your tongue, I question how much you need it." He grabbed her by the throat. Her mouth hung open, tongue lolling uselessly, and he snatched it with two pincer-like fingernails, piercing it with a swift jab.

Tristesse's vision blurred. She gagged and swiped at him, but there was no power in her limbs yet and she simply slapped at his heavy robes, doing nothing but irritating him further. He flung her away from him, sending her skidding down the hall. She left smears of blood and ash behind, and the hounds followed eagerly, lapping it up with fiery tongues.

"Very well," Sonneillon said lightly. "The journey was hard on you. Perhaps I'm expecting too much too soon." He turned in a flare of snow-white robes, snapping his fingers high above his head so the light glowed off his opal ring. "You need time to recover your senses. And then we can hear your story."

Tristesse felt a pulse of energy run through the huge, empty hall. She glanced at the gold and red walls, at the thick stone pillars soaring up to the vaulted ceiling, and watched shapes peel free of the stone.

Stunted, stumpy little things they were. Golems, barely as high as her waist but massively strong and mindlessly obedient. Four of them marched toward her, their ugly faces set with determination. Where they would take her, she could only guess, for Sonneillon's palace was vast, but most of his guests ended up in the dungeon, not the guest suite.

As the golems picked her up, one limb each, she found herself laughing again. It was hard, so hard, with a broken jaw and ruined tongue, but once again she couldn't stop it. She was choking on blood and vomit as the golems carried her from the hall, and still she couldn't stop. Delirious, ugly laughter that spiraled up, echoing around the hall and bouncing back at her until it seemed like the very room was laughing back at her.

Broken, she thought. She was broken. And Sonneillon would break her a thousand times more.

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