Why does it keep getting so complicated? (Journal Entry #71)

I really need to learn how to keep my doomsday thoughts in check. Those thoughts just seem to invite trouble.

At least for me.

I had no sooner laid down on the bed when someone was pounding on my door. Yelling.

I grabbed a quilt and wrapped it over my thin sleep vestis and hurried to the door. I was expecting Kellis. 

Or expecting that something had happened with Blaire. Or her sisters.

I wouldn’t let myself imagine something had happened to Ambrea or the rest of my own sisters.

When I peeked into the hall through the peephole, Aodhan and Cormac stared back at me. I opened the door, certain something had happened to someone that I cared about. My first thought was for Kellis—she was on duty late, after the demon stole that healer.

“What has happened?” 

“You tell us,” Cormac said. “You were the one getting chummy with the Lupoiux.”

“Ryrk bought me d-dinner.” 

“So we heard,” Aodhan said, pushing his way into my suite. 

I fought an angry response. I might be stuck here at the hotel because of demons wanting to kill me—or whoever else wanted the fifty thousand dollars—but while I am here, I deserve my space being respected. “Ever ask for an invitation, Equa Adrastos?”

“We don’t have time for that,” Cormac said, following his large friend. They dwarfed my little suite like the warriors they are. 

“Wh-what is going on?”

“Did the wolf tell you what he was planning?” Cormac demanded. 

“He is here to speak with Rand Taniss.” I backed up at the fury on his face. Cormac was one of the scariest males I have ever met.

“Sure, he is. And him abducting a young female from Cormac’s House this evening was mere coincidence,” Aodhan said, rifling through the notes on my small desk. I’d had Theo order me a cheap desk when I decided I was going to dig as deeply into demons as I possibly could. I fought fury at seeing it so violated now. “You doing research into the demon world now? Planning to become a Predatoi?” 

There are no female Predatoi; everyone knows that. He held up a book that listed every known demon battle with Dardaptoans to have ever occurred until its most recent publication a few years ago. 

“It is for my sister’s books. She pays me to be her publishing assistant now. I have to have a way to earn a living s-stuck here. I am not exactly wealthy, like some, you know.”

“What exactly did that bastard say to you this evening?” Aodhan asked, crossing his arms and looking down at me. He was the tallest male I have ever seen.

“We just talked. He told me of his family. Of his travels. He asked about me and why I am here, but I told him little of that. He…is not a bad male, just hurting.” The last escaped before I could stop it, but these males—they were very, very angry right now. 

“Odd that he was seen having a romantic dinner with you hours before he carried off my cousin,” Cormac said, stabbing hard at my head. “What do you know about that?”

I cried out, vaguely aware of Aodhan chastising the other male. 

The blow to my mind was so hard I almost fell to the floor. Only Aodhan’s hands stopped me from dropping to the floor at their feet. 

“Cormac! Enough! Good Goddess, look at her. She’s not strong enough for that!”

Aodhan lifted me and carried me to the small loveseat. When I could breathe again, Cormac sat on the coffee table in front of me, a mug of tea heavily laced with the cheap blood wine Kellis had left in my small minifridge two days ago in his hands. “I apologize, female.”

“Jume. My name is Jume, not female. I am Dardaptoan, too.” I looked up into his eyes. Only the worry in them had me softening toward him at all. “I have known you both for fifty years or more. Does that not count for something? The Lupoiux and I had dinner together, he walked me back here, kissed me, and then he was gone. That is all.”

“You had a very narrow escape then,” Aodhan said. 

“How so?”

“A young female from Cormac’s House was abducted tonight. By that Lupoiux. No one knows where he has taken her.”

“Unless you do?” Cormac asked softly. Sinisterly. “Jume?”

I really do not like him at all. I pity his poor female, being stuck with him.

I just shook my head. There was nothing else I could say.

I kissed a werewolf…and I liked it. (Journal Entry #70).

I called Alaun. She was the only one of us that would be up that late. There is no way that I am ever going to sleep now. 

I doubt any of us have ever started a conversation with the words I used tonight. 

“I kissed a werewolf. And I liked it.”

Alaun thought I was joking at first. Well, we all know that I wasn’t. 

Alaun was full of questions. Research questions starting out. How tall was he? What color were his eyes? Did he smell different than a Dardaptoan male? Those kinds of things. 

Then she got serious—and started asking how I thought about what had happened. And what was I doing close enough to a Lupoiux to be kissing him, anyway. 

She said she’d wanted me to get out and live a little, but she never would have expected this.

“He saw something about my future, and it terrified him,” I finally said, after we were winding down the conversation. “I don’t know what I think about that. He said…he said the worlds were going to change. And we would all just be along for the ride. I’m not certain what he meant.”

My sister asked if I wanted her to come stay with me for a few days. 

I considered it, but I didn’t want Alaun anywhere near this hotel and the demons that seem to be everywhere. 

Kellis, at least, can protect herself. Mostly. Alaun would be like a babe tossed into a ten-foot swimming pool. She’d try, but…

Alaun isn’t exactly the brave the demons type. She’ll write about them—but actually getting close to one, well, that is never going to happen…

Not that I am, either, for that matter.

I had finally ended the call with my sister around three a.m. and settled into my bed. I seriously doubted that I am going to sleep easy for a long, long while. 

What had Ryrk seen, and what had terrified him about me?

I’m not exactly the type of female that great destinies await. 

I know that deep in my very soul. I am a quiet female, content with my family, books, throwing pots, and planting a garden. 

That is really all I want from my life.

I want a quiet, restful life, with my sisters and hopefully the babes they will all one day have for me to spoil and love. 

Dear Goddess above, is that too much to ask?

Kisses and more…Questions. (Journal Entry #69)

I enjoyed dinner with Ryrk. He’s an ancient Lupoiux. An Alpha, with seventeen brothers and one sister. He is from a small village in eastern Europe and has been all over the world. He is an archiver—his task is to record every oral history of the Lupoiux people into written form.

Well, as he’d told it, not every pack was happy about that. He had the scars to prove it. He spoke of those scars as if they were battle badges. To a male warrior of any Kind, perhaps they are?

He is in Dardanos to hire some of Rand Taniss’s pack to serve as guards for him while he is in our country. 

And he wants to leave his sister with Rand Taniss, too, as he doesn’t trust many of the other packs that are around here. 

He is questioning leaving her at all after today’s attack. I don’t blame him. His sister is just twenty-six (same as my Julea), and he has never left her for more than a few days before. 

He needs a safe place for her, as their brothers are involved in something incredibly dangerous in the Ukraine right now, and his next project is expected to take weeks. He wouldn’t say much more about that. 

He did promise to bring his sister Solan to meet me tomorrow. 

And when he walked me back to the sixth-floor elevator—the guard wouldn’t let him get off on my floor—he leaned down and kissed me. 

Just swooped and did it. Right there in front of the guard! I rather think he may have been doing it to make that guard even more irritated than he already was.

Unlike Mak, who was far less aggressive about it, Ryrk just kissed me.

I didn’t know what to do, but I ended up with my arms around his waist and pressed right up against his hard, hot chest. 

I’m not sure if I kissed him back exactly, but… I enjoyed it. 

He pulled back and put one hand on my cheek. His thumb brushed my lips lightly. I just stared at him. What else could I do? 


“Shhh. If only…but we are not meant for one another, kitten. Though I would wish it so…”

I looked up, and into his brilliant blue eyes and knew. 

This male was a very powerful ancient—and whatever he had seen of the future had terrified him.

And it involved me. 

Questions, Questions, Questions (Journal Entry #68)

Well, my plans to eat alone and dare anyone to smirk at me and my cheap cotton vestis and pardus and serviceable cotton hasha in Woald yellow were completely derailed.

The instant I entered through the exclusive dining room doors, a lone diner stood. He was darkly clad and looking so dangerous I almost did a double-take. He would most certainly be a dark and mysterious hero in an Alaun Woald novel.

He just gave me the shivers when I looked at him. 

Ryrk came right to me. He held out his hand to me. As if I was the female he had been waiting for all the while. I have to say, he is an extremely attractive male. I felt my cheeks flame when I realized all eyes in the restaurant were on us.

I couldn’t help but wonder if all Lupoiux looked like male perfection? 

Maybe the reason I have no Rajni is that I am fated to be a Lupoiux mate? That…may not be so bad. 

If the wolf was just like Ryrk.

Even though I sensed he was very, very dangerous—I also sensed a similar kindness in him that I did in Tol—it was just buried in hurt in this male. That had me wondering about him, and about his story. And had me letting him lead me to his table. “Kitten, I am very pleased to see you this evening. I trust you fared well after the altercation?”

“The demons didn’t hurt me,” I said. “Not really.”

“I’m speaking of the healing chamber. And those…fools…who seem to think they have control over your life.”

“Well, they don’t. I am…demons are after me, and there is a bounty on my head.” I blurted it out, even though I had been cautioned to keep that secret to myself. “I am staying here where they can keep me safe.”

“They are failing at it, then.”

“I-I’ve rather noticed that for myself.” Somehow, I let him lead me to his table. 

The waitress hurried to take my drink order. Ryrk nodded at me, expectantly. I didn’t know what to say! I have never been in such a fancy place in my entire life. 

Maybe it had been foolish of me to consider coming here alone. 

“I hear the blood-red wine on the menu is supposed to be an…excellent vintage. You blood drinkers seem to prefer it. And from the price…”

“I should probably not eat here, then,” I said. “I just…wanted to celebrate the fact that I am still breathing. Coming here was an impulse.”

“My stay has been comped, kitten. By none other than the dhar of this place itself. Dinner…is on me.”

“Oh, but I…”

“Oh, but you will. As thanks for my saving your life. You will keep me from eating alone. None in this place dare to venture near the Lupoiux in their midst. They are frightened little rabbits, your people. Especially the females.” He smirked, but I saw it. There was a deep hurt and dissatisfaction in him. But no…malice.

At least not toward me. 

Now the Jareth guard that was now sitting at a table fifteen feet away from us—well, I sensed Ryrk wasn’t too keen on his presence. 

Well, neither was I.

“It is that the Lupoiux have been attacking our people for decades. When I was young, a pack came to our farm and tried to drag me and four of my sisters off. Fear is a powerful motivator. And now there are Lupoiux in our hotel, just weeks after Cormac Jareth—the male in green today—after his mate was viciously attacked by Redd Gothan Lupoiux in the public gardens. We’re a little on edge now.” And Ryrk was terrifying. Different from a Dardaptoan. He seemed far more dangerous, for one thing. 

And very, very mysterious.

“Wars will not be resolved in just days. It will take far longer than that for our people to not wish to kill each other. But not all of us Lupoiux are dangerous monsters. Dangerous beasts, perhaps. But not monsters. Tell me, kitten: What is it that demons want from you?”

Well, that was the question of the night, wasn’t it?

Vacation at Hotel Dread. (Journal Entry #67)

I had no choice. I ended up back in my suite. I took a long, hot shower—my room wasn’t glamorous enough to have a tub—and stayed there until the hot water heater was empty. 

Demons had nearly killed me. Again. 

Nowhere was actually safe. When am I going to finally realize that? 

The hotel certainly isn’t safe for me. 

I’m just warehoused here. Probably until the inevitable happens, and I end up on a demon’s piece of toast or something. 

Even with the heat of the shower, I still had to fight the chills. 

I’m going to die. And it’s going to be at a demon’s hands. 

I’m going to die after having barely lived.

Well, Jumena Kyrran Woald wasn’t going to go out that way. 

I dressed in the best vestis and pardus I have here at the Hotel of Dread. I fixed my hair in the most elegant style I could. 

I am going out. I am going to be with people, my people. Whether they are Woald or not. 

I may be destined to die, but I am going to enjoy every single minute I have until that happens.

There was no guard waiting at the end of the door now. Not until I stepped out of the elevators in the main lobby. There was a third guard. He introduced himself as Tol’s replacement.

I have to say that set me back a little. Tol had been replaced. The guard didn’t say it, but I just knew it was because Aodhan and Kierce and Cormac thought he had been derelict this afternoon.

Those…those assholes. 

To tell you the truth, I’m really starting to despise them. In so many ways. 

This guard wasn’t nearly as friendly or open as Tol. He just stood with his arms crossed over his Jareth-green vestis and watched me. “Should you be out here now, female?”

Female? Apparently with this guard I did not even warrant a name. “I am Jume. Please u-use my name and not f-female. Most of us think f-female is quite rude, you know.”

He just watched me, from dark-gold eyes. As if he was judging me—and finding me lacking. His vestis and pardus and hasha were of the finest silk. His watch cost probably more than my family’s entire food budget for a year. So why was this male warrior merely a guard to me?

I don’t know. But I don’t like him. At all.

I most certainly do not trust him. It’s just a feeling I’m getting at the moment.

“I am going to treat myself to dinner in the restaurant on the second floor.” Where only the wealthiest of Dardaptoans could afford to eat. Well, Alaun had paid me two days ago. She’d included a bonus—the same she would have with Landrey—once the most recent book hit its initial sales goals. 

I am going to celebrate tonight.

Celebrate that I am still alive, anyway.

I am not ready to be locked away in my cell for the night.

He just followed behind me, big and dark and hulking.

One good thing I can say about my enforced vacation at Hotel Dread: I am no longer intimidated by strong warriors watching my every move. I am almost starting to get used to it.

I am…Forgotten. (Journal Entry #66)

I left you hanging yesterday, and I’m sorry. There was a massive storm again, and it knocked out the hotel’s entire electrical system before I could finish the post. It took hours for it to come back online. 

I am 99 percent certain the storm was caused by what happened in the courtyard with those demons. Who knows? Maybe the statue sucked all the demon bodies back up again?

The healers in the Healers’ Hall were able to give Ryrk something restorative. He was back to full strength within a matter of moments. Marea, a young healer I have met once or twice, efficiently treated his wounds. She didn’t seem the least bit afraid of him. 

Even though he was a strong, very dangerous creature. 

Tol texted the head of security about the attack.

I found myself being interrogated by them again. Aodhan Adrastos, Kierce Adrastos, and Cormac Jareth. 

The three musketeers of intimidation. 

They asked so many questions and so rapidly that Ryrk stood from where the healer was examining him and crossed his massive arms and challenged the three male warriors right there in the small healing chamber. Demanding to know why they were harassing me, after I had been so viciously attacked! Asking if this is how all Dardaptoan females are treated.

Well, that just ended up as horribly as you can imagine. 

I ended up telling Cormac again that I knew nothing about what was happening in this place. And then, feeling more fire than I have in a long, long time, I demanded of Kierce to know what he was doing to find the ones threatening me in the first place. Or if he had bothered to do anything at all? 

I will admit, staying in the hotel these weeks, I am getting a bit more forward in my words than I have been before. 

Maybe a part of me has just…let my sisters do my speaking for me?

Not exactly something I am proud of.

I asked all three males the question that had been burning in my mind for weeks now: Have they just put me on the sixth floor and forgotten about me

None of the trio could give me a satisfactory answer. But at least, they know now that I am not going to just be pushed around any longer. 

I can’t. 

I won’t just stay up here forgotten forever. 

I can’t. I may not have a Rajni but I have a full life left to live. 

I can’t do that if I’m stuck in a two-room suite at the back of the sixth floor.

Statues and Demons? (Journal Entry #65)

I need to stop making assumptions. Ryrk is…a good hero, I think.

I know, the exact opposite of what I was saying in my last post. But without Ryrk, I’d probably be dead. Tol, too. 

I was in the courtyard—the private one, looking for an ancient statue of one of the ancestresses of the Woald. I hadn’t even known it existed, but I found mention of it in Alaun’s research, and I wanted photos of it—since my family is very unlikely to ever be given access to the private gardens at the hotel. 

An ancient Woald had had the statue commissioned more than five hundred years ago and brought to Colorado all the way from South America, back when Dhar Rydere led us north in the Dardanos Great Migration. 

My parents came north then. They were always filled with stories of the Woalds that came before. One day, now that I am getting more comfortable writing things out, I am going to write their stories down. For the Woalds that come after.

Maybe that will be my gift to the world. My contribution, so to speak. My name will go down in history, just like Alaun’s. Wonder what old prune-faced Maryin would think about that?

When they left the old tribe, the Woalds numbered three hundred and forty-two. My mother and father were not found by one another yet. They found each other in a moment of horrible danger for my mother—on the journey. 

I have always loved the story. I will tell it to you sometime. It is so beautiful. 

Every last Woald left the old tribe for the Dardanos Great Migration then. The former dhar was an Adrastos, and everyone said he was not well liked. Mother had said he was almost cruel—especially to those humbler tribes. Woalds have always epitomized humble in so many ways.

Definitely arrogant. 

That is a trait that most Adrastos share, as far as I can tell. 

I have met many Adrastos in my day, after all. 

I miss my parents tonight. It would have been their anniversary today. I will never stop grieving them. 

I have digressed, haven’t I? I should tell you about Ryrk. 

He is an arrogant wolf. Of that, I am one hundred percent certain. 

But without him, I would have been killed. 

Demons attacked in the private courtyard today. The instant I touched the statue of Aerim that I found in the middle of the courtyard. 

There was this horrible wailing sound—it almost sounded like a real beansidhe.  

The sky overhead clouded instantly. It went pitch-black. It was like something out of a Harlos Trianu novel!

(In case you’ve never read him, he’s that horror author who thinks his books are soooo much better than Alaun’s. He’s made all sorts of comments about romance that is extremely rude. He’s good—but Alaun is worlds better. I mean, the demons in his book eat Dardaptoans! Not exactly something I want to consider…especially today!)

Anyway, I screamed. A demon was right there in front of me, hideous and fanged. He had actual horns and wings! Then there were others. 

They seemed to be coming from the statue. From her heart.

I screamed and tried to run. 

Then my cousin Uruses was there. He and Tol battled back the six or seven demons. One was coming for me. 

I tried to pull myself to my feet. The demons weren’t super large. I managed, somehow. 

Tol shouted at me to run. To get inside and go straight to the main security office. 

I tried. I truly did. 

But they had him on the ground. Uruses hit them with a garden hoe, but it wasn’t enough. 

I couldn’t let them kill Tol. I couldn’t.

I had no real weapon, but there was a rake right there. 

I did what I could. 

Then…a dark wolf ran right by me. 

A Lupoiux. 

The battle was over within moments. Then the Lupoiux shifted—not even two yards from where I stood. Ryrk. It shouldn’t have surprised me that it was Ryrk, but it did.

He had blood streaming down his muscled chest. He staggered. 

I moved to him quickly, ignoring Uruses’s hiss to stay far from such an animal. 

It wasn’t an animal in front of me bleeding, but a living, breathing male who had risked his own safety to save me and Tol. And Uruses as well, for that matter—grumpy old goat that my cousin is. 

I didn’t listen to Ryrk’s protests that he could walk. I know Lupoiux heal exceptionally quickly, but… “L-let me help you to the healers. And…thank you. You and Tol saved my life.”

I looked at my guard. He was wounded, as well, but in far better shape than the wolf. He was brushing dirt off his Thurgis-olive pardus.  “Are you ok, Jume?”

“Bruises. Terrified. But I will be ok. It’s the Lu—Ryrk who is the most injured!”

Couldn’t they see that? Ryrk was leaning heavily on my shoulders, and he was a big-enough male that I was feeling it. But I tightened my arm around his waist. 

The Healers’ Hall was just off the justice hall. I knew the back way. “Hurry. W-we’ll get him to the healers.”

My hand landed on his strong chest. His heart beat against my palm. 


My eyes met his. “The healers here are the best.”

His hand tightened on my shoulder, and he pulled me closer. I’m not certain if it was because of weakness or because he was taking advantage of the opportunity.

To be honest, I think it was the latter. 

By the time we made it to the hall, he was walking more or less unassisted.

Uruses was trailing behind us, muttering about dirty dogs the entire time. I turned to him and told him to go away. That his prejudice wasn’t helping the situation at the moment, and it was inappropriate and rude. And painted him as completely bigoted and ignorant. 

I didn’t stutter even once. Uruses had made me so angry.

Ryrk had fought to protect me, the least Uruses could do was treat him with the respect he was owed. That all beings were owed, regardless of what Kind they were.

“My little defender,” Ryrk whispered near my ear. “Thank you, little kitten. You will not ever be forgotten.”

Tol walked with us to the Healers’ Hall, though his own wounds were negligible. I didn’t have to ask—he wasn’t about to leave me to my own devices. Not now.

I still haven’t processed what had happened. 

But…those demons had seemed to come straight from a statue. How could that have anything to do with me?

Life is nothing like fiction. (Journal Entry #64)

That werewolf is still here. I was carrying books back from the library, and Tol got caught up in a crowd behind me. I’m not even sure how the humans got to the floor with the private library. They shouldn’t have been in there at all. 

Kierce’s mind-clearers were probably busy for hours. 

Anyway, I had just rounded the corner that led into the main lobby, where I’d have to cross to get to the private family wings, when I once again came up right in front of that same werewolf. 

His hands went around my waist. Instantly—and without invitation. Unlike our Dardaptoan males, apparently, Lupoiux touched females freely. “Steady there, little kitten. The big bad wolf might be around somewhere, just waiting to gobble a golden Dardaptoan like you right up.”

“I…” I finally looked into his face. And stared. I couldn’t help it. He was beautiful. Strong and muscled, though not as tall as the average Dardaptoan warrior. 

And there was a look of real hunger in his blue eyes when he stared down at me. 

I shivered and stepped back. I didn’t want to be a snack for a werewolf, either. 

Since coming to stay at the hotel I have been exposed to Dardaptoan warriors, Druids (there are a few wandering around the place), and more demons than I care to remember. 

And Lupoiux. 

I am definitely earning my pay as Alaun’s researcher—her field researcher at that.

His hands were still on me. “I…I…excuse me.”

I tried to step around him. He wouldn’t let go of my arms, and I had the books in my hands. 

I was pretty well stuck. I tried not to be a real wimp. What could he really do to me right here? 

I mean, there were security guards and humans right there behind us. “P-please let me go.”

“Maybe I don’t want to. You intrigue me, little female. I think it is the curls. I have always loved curls on my females. And you…are the first I have seen with them here.”

He had an accent. Ancient European, I think. I’m not good at those kinds of things. “Wh-who are you?”

“I am Ryrk, alpha of the Misham Pack. I’m here to speak with Rand Taniss about…shared interests.” He finally let go of me, then deliberately stepped back as Tol got closer. Ryrk gave a mocking bow. “Lupoiux females of my area are very rarely blond. I am sorry if I frightened you.”

I just nodded like an idiot. 

I am not stupid. He was a very dangerous male—no matter what Kind he was. 

He didn’t care one bit that I was frightened of him. I rather think he liked the idea. 

No doubt, this werewolf has killed many of our Kind.

How do the dhar and his board of advisors honestly expect the rest of the tribe to forget that?

Tol was there, anger in his golden eyes. He put his big, strong body between me and the wolf. 

We both watched as that werewolf strolled away—almost as if he owned this place.

I just shivered.

Tol broke custom and put his hand on my back and pulled me closer. Much like Mak had done time and time again. “Are you ok, Jume?”

I just nodded. 

I’m beginning to think Alaun is insane. Demons and Lupoiux did not good romance novel heroes make!

The more I learn… (Journal Entry #63)

They caught the tapper! Well, Tol and another of the guards did. Tol had taken me to dinner in the midrange dining room, where some of the more well-to-do staff members and royal families liked to eat on occasion.

The dhar and dahn were in there. I watched them for a few moments. 

Just to see. She looked happy, thankfully. And very much like Blaire. 

Tol took me to dinner, and we were seated no more than fifteen feet from Maryin Sebastos. She just shot me the evilest of looks. 

Probably because I was there with a handsome warrior and she was just there with her parents and her younger sister. Again.

Maryin hasn’t found her Rajni yet. And her father has a reputation for being very, very controlling.

I hope she doesn’t find her male anytime soon; I wouldn’t wish Maryin on my worst enemy.

Well…maybe Olietus Black. 

They would deserve each other.

Anyway, there is a female staying in the room next to mine. She saw the tapper last night after I had gone to bed. Apparently, she has the ability to see incorporeal creatures.

She reported the tapper to security, and they set a trap for the creature. 

The tapper didn’t have a real form. That made it a bit difficult for security to trap, but they finally did.

It was a type of demon from a realm I have never heard the name of. Galbrohn, I think. I’m going to look up that place in the restricted portion of the library tomorrow.

If I can get in there without the clerk seeing. 

Riv works at the public library; she could probably find me some things. If I ask her to.

But to be honest—I don’t want my sisters to know just how deeply I’m researching demons right now.

They would just worry. Say I am inviting trouble. 

Especially now that I am in a hotel that seems to have a demon prince—usually a brother of the High Demon King, who is mated to Kindara—on every floor.

I swear, the more I learn, the less I know. About anything.

Sometimes, things just don’t feel normal. (Journal Entry #62)

The wolf was behind her, cloaked in the scent of the night surrounding them. Kuma kept running. If the Lupoiux caught her, she was as good as dead. She knew that. 

Everyone knew what Lupoiux werewolves did to Dardaptoans. Especially the females. They had been enemies for centuries. Millennia. The war between their Kinds wasn’t going to end in one night. 

If it ever ended at all. 

Kuma kept going, her chest burning as she dragged in what ragged breaths she could. The claw marks across her chest could prove fatal. 

Had she not been a healer, they probably already would have.

She’d end up as just another statistic—a dead Dardaptoan, victim of the Lupoiux.

That would destroy her family. Her mother and younger sisters, especially.

No. She wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She wasn’t.

Kuma pulled herself to her feet when she stumbled. 

She just had to make it to the highway. She could hear the traffic. She was close. 

She’d be safe there.


Aristolos Sechulus, high prince of the demon realm, heard a female’s cry from where he stalked through the Gaian woods outside the human city of Finley Creek, Texas. It was a good place to hunt. Especially for Incubi demons. 

He had spent most of the day following a family of redheaded human females around, just watching them. Getting accustomed to the ways of the Gaian world again. There had been one female who walked with the aid of a crutch who he had found particularly delectable. Only her mate and his bevvy of human guards had stopped Aris from getting better acquainted with the female.

It had been centuries since he had been forced to enter such an archaic place. It always took him time to assimilate. He returned to Gaia every two hundred years—to pay his mother’s final resting place his respect. 

She had been murdered and buried near the sea at the hands of Dardaptoan vampires more than three thousand years ago.

He had always despised the frightened little beasts. 

Had they not been so afraid of a Easchuan demon female, his mother would still most likely be living. Enjoying the grandspawn his siblings had created.

Aris listened.

There was that sound again. 

A female in distress.

He was part Incubi. He would never leave a female unprotected. 

With barely a thought, he flashed to the female’s side. 

When he was able to see again, he recoiled in horror. The female who had called for rescue wasn’t a mere human like he had expected.

It was a female Dardaptoan.

And she was almost dead at his feet.

Thunder shook the building, scaring me. I dropped Alaun’s latest printout and yelped. I thought it was the tapper back now.

I’m curled up in my bed, as a storm unlike any others rages around the hotel. It doesn’t feel normal. Far from it. Kellis was supposed to spend the night with me—she’s taken to staying at least two nights a week—but she had been called out to deal with a young half-Nellana/half-Dardaptoan healer who has been taken by a demon to another realm.

No one really knows what happened, other than that demon involved is yet another brother of the King. 

Kellis didn’t seem too concerned; she had met the brother and said he appeared to be honorable.

I’m still here, alone, shades pulled down—the strange tapping at my window and the voice of doom calling me have never stopped—trying to distract myself again.

I’m reading Alaun’s latest manuscript to see if the demon details line up with my research. 

So far I’ve found a few things—but I am not an expert on demons. 

Tol knows far more about them than I do. He is my favorite of the guards. Mostly because he is so kind. 

I’m going to ask Alaun if he can read it, too. I’m sure she’ll say yes. She is all about having her books be as accurate as possible after all.

Anyway, I’m going to crash. The tapping seems to finally have stopped for tonight. 

Kellis will be here tomorrow night. 

The tapping never happens when my sister is here.

I almost think the tapper is afraid of her.