Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. - William Shakespeare
Let's get started Unwrapping Paranormal Romance with what is associated the most with Halloween - WITCHES!
One of my favorite authors who writes riveting tales about a world where witches exist and are hunted by a Holy Order for their 'murderous deeds' whether guilty or not is Karina Cooper. She has written an exciting series called the Dark Mission. If you haven't tried them, please do, they are well- written, read like an adventure while even being a little rough around the edges taking you to a world where things aren't so soft and cozy as you'd like to believe. The series consists of novels and novellas but all worth reading not to mention the delicious covers.
So, for your Wacky Wednesday enjoyment, enjoy an excerpt from BLOOD OF THE WICKED by Karina Cooper: (I've done a version of censorship bleeping on some words ... this blog isn't quite R rated - LOL!)
Hadn’t she taught her baby brother the very same thing?
Which was why, she reflected grimly as she raised her collar against the rain, she knew better than to stay in one place for as long as she’d wallowed in the Perch. Stupid.
Jessie could have been the next notch on the Mission’s docket tonight. When the hunter had looked her in the eye, she’d have sworn she saw her own death there. It had been damned hard to play at calm, not to panic then and there, take off running right over the bar.
She took a deep breath, barely noticing the familiar stink of rotting garbage and the faint tang of the cold rain. So she couldn’t work at this particular club anymore. So what? She’d find another. These lower city levels were chock-full of dives like the Perch.
If Lydia Leigh had taught her children anything, it was how to rebuild.
She stepped off the broken stoop as lurid purple light flickered through the dismal drizzle. Each do-over just got harder and harder, but hell, she didn’t have much choice. Witch hunters killed witches.
Her boots splashed in stagnant puddles, stirred up loose grit and gravel. She barely noticed when a wide shadow detached itself from the mouth of the alley, then hesitated when it stepped into her path. She didn’t have time for this.
Pink neon outlined his heavy build, the blaring smear of tattoo ink and the light-catching saturation of beaten synth-leather spiked with metal. Big. Grabby, probably. He seemed the type.
She dealt with it before. A casual smile, a flirty wink, a breezy reminder of the bouncers right around the corner, and he’d be back inside eyeballing someone else.
“Nice.” The burly man spread his arms to block her way. “Way nice. Easiest score I ever made.”
Vapors washed over her; alcohol and the spicy afterburn of something less legal, even in the Perch.
Just her luck.
She shaped her mouth into a sassy smile and made damn sure it reached her eyes. “You’re in the wrong spot, honey. All the best girls are–“
“Right here,” he drawled, bending until he was all but nose to nose to her. The scent of sweat and beer wafted over her face in a nauseating combination.
She stepped backward before she could stop herself, giving ground she knew was going to cost her.
Never show weakness.
“I’m on a break,” she lied smoothly, praying he was to far gone to notice the heavy backpack slung over shoulders. “You want to see me dance, you’ll want to be inside in five minutes.”
“Maybe I’ll just see you wiggle right here.” He took another step forward. Jessie’s body tensed, mouth dry.
Shit. She didn’t have time for this. Any minute that hunter was going to come sniffing. The back of her neck itched with the certainty.
Neon popped overhead, highlighting the alley around them in vivid purple. It bled through his full brown beard, glittered off his array of facial piercings and toothy smile. It picked out a lot of sweaty, veined muscle.
And the leering jester inked into one thick arm.
I see death and a laughing joker.
Her heartbeat leaped into her throat. “F—,” she whispered, and jumped when he laughed.
“Not yet, baby,” he said, reaching for her. Her vision tunneled in on the biker’s stained, shit-eating smile, and without warning, Jessie’s patience guttered out.
She felt herself go. Almost like when she tapped into the power that simmered beneath her conscious mind, but this was sharper. Angrier. Focused.
He was every man who’d ever leered at her. Every man who’d ever groped her in the dark confines of every bar she’d worked at. The ones who’d laughed at her and her baby brother on these goddamned merciless streets.
Jessie’s body surged into motion before her brain made the call. She stepped into him, into the wild clasp of his arms, and pure satisfaction rippled through her as his smile cracked into surprise. Her fist collided with his smirk and sent him reeling.
His flat features contorted into shock. Rage. “Bitch!”
Adrenaline pushed her forward; she tried to dart past him, choked on her own collar as a meaty hand snagged the back of her jacket and hauled her back into the alley. Slammed her back against the broken, pitted brick, hard enough to force the air from her lungs. Jessie’s vision dimmed as she swung again, connected with something metal on his coat, and yelped as her arm went numb from fingers to elbow.
If the joker gets his hands on you, Jessie, that’s it. That’s the beginning of it all. Don’t stop for him.
Her brother’s voice, the memory of it, rang sharply in her head. Too damn late.
She tried to jerk away, cried out again as his tagged her mouth. Pain exploded inside her skull, lights flashing violet and pink and red as she dropped to her knees.
Blood pooled on her tongue, coppery and warm. Jessie choked on tears of pain, of humiliation and fury, even as she struggled to get off her hands and knees, and hit him again.
And again. And –
“What the f—,” she heard, and a riot of energy roiled around her. For a dazed moment it looked as though her attacker split into two, dancing awkwardly away from her like two halves of a broken mirage. One staggered upright, thick and meaty, the other long and lean as they wrenched apart. With a bellow, the biker swung at the second man who was nothing more than a trim, fast-moving shadow dancing just out of his reach.
Jessie shook her head hard, forced herself to her feet. She stumbled hastily for the alley mouth. Get out, run like hell. She couldn’t get caught up here, not as long as that hunter was – Oh, God.
Her knees buckled violently. She whirled to plaster her back against the wall, grabbed rough brick for support as she stared at the fighters. Him. Shocked, she jammed her fingers against her bleeding mouth.
Neon flickered, seared, and she saw tanned skin, black ink, and rough denim as the witch hunter blocked with his left forearm, snarled something, and curved out a wicked right hook.
His body moved like an oiled machine, brutally efficient as he followed up with two jabs to the drunk’s nose and an elbow that crunched loudly on impact.
Blood spurted, near black in the neon light.
“Run!” The witch hunter threw it over his shoulder, only to twist awkwardly when the biker stomped hard on his knee. Jessie saw his face go shock-white, heard his agonized grunt of pain.
Fury and fear forced her to move. She caught her backpack in one hand, swung it with all her might. The black canvas bag sailed through the violent neon air, graceful as a brick, and slammed into the side of the biker’s head with a dull crack.
He toppled, slowly.
Jessie stared in horror. He didn’t move. God. Had she killed him? She had enough problems without adding murder and cops to the list. She panted for breath, unable to suck in enough air to keep spots from mottling the corners of her vision. Was he dead? She didn’t know if a thirty-pound bag could kill someone of that size, and she desperately didn’t want to check.
Strong fingers curled over her upper arms. “Hey!”
She blinked. Stared into a face carved from something even more unyielding than the brick surrounding . “Can you walk?” he asked. Demanded.
Jessie’s brain flailed. “Is he–?”
“Try,” he ordered, and hauled her bodily out of the alley.
He was limping. It was the only rational thought she managed to form, and wordlessly she ducked under his arm and slipped it over her shoulders. He hesitated, resisting her, but she dug her fingers into his side and held on. She felt the flex and slide of hard muscle as she fisted her hand in his shirt.
As much as Jessie wanted to slip away from him, use his injury to put as much space between them as she could, she couldn’t just leave him there. He’d helped her. She had to help him.
And the truth was, she needed something to hang on to, just for a moment.
She followed his lead as he pointed to a rusty orange pickup truck. He wrenched open the door, half lifted, half shoved her inside the driver’s side, and pushed her farther over as he swung up painfully behind her. He wasted no words, and she had plenty of time to study the implacable set of his features as he gunned the engine and slammed in into drive.
Talk about a rock and a hard place.
A witch hunter. And a hero, at least for the five seconds it was taking her brain to process and reboot.
He’d saved her.
She’d saved him, too. She wondered if he’d have been so heroic if he knew who and what she was. She’d bet her tip money that he’d have left her there to die if he’d had any real clue she was a witch.
OOPS! Sorry, folks that's all for now ... if you want to find out what happens, you'll have to get your own copy of THE BLOOD OF THE WICKED by Karina Cooper.
Happy Reading Everyone!