Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Rane Sjodin’s Cimmerian, Grace, and Wretched Spawn from Red Lady.
The oldest living demon drug dealer is trying to take over Las Vegas. His newest creation, Red Lady, allows shifters to see demons as they materialize, which could tip the balance of species domination. Granted, in a direction I like, except, there’s a catch. The drug is so addictive shifters will do anything to feed their habit and distribution in energy drinks has human’s hooked. Including my ex-fiance’s boyfriend.
I have to go to Vegas and save him, among others. This is going to suck.
Make sure you stick around to the end and earn another entry into the Black Friday $50 Amazon giftcard giveaway.
I’m so happy to be here during this Black Friday event. My name is Rane Sjodin and I write dark urban fantasy. This story is new and combines the primary characters from Death Dealer and Red Lady with the mother and daughter from Puberty is a Demon, an upcoming novella.
“Cim, we have an emergency at the mall.” Grace took two steps at a time and was pacing in front of my desk before she finished speaking.
“The mall?” At six and half feet tall, I stood out in crowds. “I’d rather suck a demon tit.”
She scoffed. “Look, dragon. There is a frightened demon child there and we need to go get her.”
“Ooh, rescuing kids. When did we start that business?” Wretch, the only born demon dragon hybrid chimed in. His attire was what I called Demon Dandy. Dark blonde hair skimmed the collar of his buttoned down shirt, open to the waist, tucked into linen slacks. His hazel eyes twinkled. That was never a good sign.
“Since Angie asked me to keep an eye on her.” Grace played the card guaranteed to win the fight. She stood a foot shorter than I with long black hair and a dancers body.
“Tell us on the way.” I grabbed my car keys. I parked in the back of our club.
If Angie asked Grace to watch this girl, there was a good reason.
My best friend was on his phone before we hit the street. “Demon teen, talk.”
The shouting on the other end included a demand for Wretch to put his attitude up his ass with a thorny cactus.
“Have you ever helped a teen before?” Grace looked at me from the passenger seat as I drove.
“No.” Our business model was demon decapitation. We excelled at it. “Tell me about the girl.”
Grace turned toward the window, her hair hiding her face. “Angie worked with her mother at the hospital years ago. The woman is human and didn’t know her husband was a demon. Until her daughter tried to claw her way out during a graveyard shift.”
It explained how a human survived the birth. “Angie took pity on the woman?”
“They were friends before Angie met Uncle Fester,” she said gesturing to Wretch. “Neither of them knew their boyfriends weren’t human.”
Angie’s shotgun reaction to Wretch’s shift to demon during orgasm was legend in the local paranormal community.
“Who’s the mom?” Wretch stuck his head over the seat. “Is she hot?”
A demon’s demon. Complete with thousands of years of testosterone, built in.
“She’s hands-off, Wretch.” Grace pushed his face away.
I laughed. It was a good try, but if my best friend wanted to play, he would. There was a crowd gathered in the parking lot. I locked the car while Grace and Wretch began peeling layers of angry humans off. As we approached, I heard whimpering. Demons would devour their own kids for fun.
“Excuse me? Who the fuck are you and what are you doing? There are sales going on!” I hoped it would work.
The pile began to diminish until it exposed a scared demon teen, currently appearing as the girl from The Exorcist, being held down by a human woman. A smattering of demons stood by cars pretending not to watch. She was now on the local demon lords’ radar.
We needed to establish protection. “Wretch, clear the audience.”
He grinned as his shifted into a demon with horns, hooves, and random tufts of hair protruding from a slick pink hide.
“I can’t believe women sleep with you.” Grace stuck her finger in her mouth making gagging noises.
“By the dozens.” His attempt to strut away was hindered by his hooves.
The human woman looked relieved to see us. “If I had known they looked like that, I wouldn’t have married my husband.”
“You know us?” I raised an eyebrow at her lack of fear.
“Angie gave me pictures of you. Let me know to call for help if I needed it.” She pulled the girl to her feet and with a look made her shift back to human form. “I’m Raye, this is my daughter Makenna.”
“I’m Cimmerian, dragon shifter, also known as Death Dealer. This is Grace, a friend of Angie’s; she’s a jaguar shifter. The scary looking demon thing is Wretched Spawn. He’s half dragon, half demon.”
Grace shook hands with Raye. “And all slut.”
Raye laughed. Seems her husband had the same proclivities.
The child’s eyes were huge in her little head. “You’re all different? Like me?”
I nodded. Kids weren’t on my list of talents.
Grace stepped in. “Yes, we’re different. We need to get you out of here before the police show up.”
Sirens in the distance didn’t sound like they were headed our way. “I think we’re okay for now.”
“Can I please finish shopping?” The child looked distraught.
Dammit. “Are you okay?”
“My father said he’d show up for Christmas this year. I wanted to get him something he’d like.” She rocked back and forth on her lace up boots. They matched the lacing on her jeans. It was a good look for a demon child.
She looked me over. I had on jeans and a short sleeve black sweater. Grace told me it complimented my black hair and green eyes. As a dragon, my eyes were orange. They stood out in the middle of deep purple scales and black wings. “Do I pass?”
Her blush covered her face. “Sorry, I’ve never seen people like me.”
“We’re shifters. It’s okay. What are you getting your dad?” I heard Wretch threatening the gathered demons with pictures from his extensive surveillance network. It was good to have eyes everywhere.
The demon he talked to wasn’t impressed. I tried to focus on the girl so she wouldn’t turn around. I heard Wretch punch the demons head in.
Faintly, I heard Wretch. “Can you hear me now?”
I took a quick look to see the demons head crushed, his legs disappearing and reappearing as he attempted to heal. His head remained solid.
“I want two gifts, if he shows up, a great watch. If he stands me up again, a certificate for castration.” Her blue eyes lit up her small face.
“I like her.” Wretch shifted back to demon dandy as he rejoined us.
The audience vanished.
Her mother appreciated the new form. “I get Angie’s attraction.” She was short with brown hair, curvy hips, and gray eyes.
Demons liked their human women juicy. Clanking hipbones with skinny women turned them off, according to Wretch.
“Mom.” The girl put her hands on her hips. One flip of her head and the rope thick black braid swung behind her. She could take someone out with that.
“Ariel.” Wretch spat the word out.
The mother’s jaw dropped, her face blanched. “What did you say?”
He looked over them at me. “Take the girl inside, I’ve got this.”
Grace glanced back and forth until she decided to stay with the mother. Great, a teen and me go shopping in a mall. It couldn’t end well. There was only one store whose owner I knew. I hoped he would be there in person. He wouldn’t miss a chance to sell more merchandise. Demons would try to sell you crap while killing you.
The girl walked staring at her feet. “He knows my father.”
“It looks that way. How do you walk when you don’t look up?”
“I can tell when there’s something in front of me.”
“Demon power. You want to stand out or try to blend in?”
“I blend in at school.” She paused. “Normally. Today, everything went weird. I didn’t know I’d shifted until a woman freaked out.”
I felt her grab my hand. Trying to be comforting, I squeezed it. “Humans are afraid of us. Some of them can handle it, like your mom and Angie. Most though, would lose their shit if they found out.”
She laughed. “Thank you.”
“Being honest and not treating me like a kid.”
“You have to grow up quick. Just remember, you’ll be around to meet your classmates great grandchildren.”
She jerked to a stop. “Really?”
I couldn’t tell if she was scared or freaked out. “You okay with that?”
“Puberty, only one time?”
It was my turn to laugh. “Yeah, only once.”
“Good.” She shivered as I opened the door for her. “Let’s get his over with, I hate the mall.”
“I could clear the way.”
“Human or dragon?” Blue eyes begged me to shift.
I’d have to get her mother a copy of the Arcane Court laws “Human form. No shifting in front of humans.”
We headed for the jewelry store.
“Does my dad look like that other guy? With the horns and stuff?”
“I’m not sure what their natural look is. That form comes easier than all of the rest.” Wretch almost confirmed it once, almost.
“So, I’m that gross?”
I wanted to tread lightly. Grace told me once that teenage girls can go from nice to deadly in seconds. “No. You’re half human. That makes you different.”
Keith stood behind the counter in his empty store, the only one not teeming with people. He had a little place on Bourbon Street. He saw me coming, waving us through the magical barrier I felt as we entered. “Cim, can I get you another ring or necklace?”
“Not today. This is my friend, Makenna. She needs a watch worthy of her father.”
Keith eyed her carefully, inhaling deeply. “Demon?”
“She’s half human. Dad has horns.”
He leaned over the counter. “Do you like being part evil?”
“What did you call me?” Her hand shook in mine.
The shift began with her braid. It fell away in tatters as a scarred baldhead appeared. I recognized the character before the claws grew. Freddy Krueger. She was good.
“Nice job on the quick change. Care to change back so we can shop?”
Whatever reaction she expected, our non-response wasn’t it. Glancing around her, she looked through the open doors at the crowds gathered yards away. No one glanced at her. “What is happening?”
The shopkeeper shifted into a devilish form. “I’m a demon too, child. The place is protected by magic. Cim would not bring a young one to a human store.”
I felt the skin replace claws as her hand shifted to human,. She’d held onto me the entire time. “If you can’t control your shifts, you need to do business with other shifters and demons.”
Wide eyed with amazement, her response was a head nod.
Keith turned back into a dark haired human. “Now, what did you have in mind?”
Careful to keep me close, she let go and searched the store. “I want to buy him a watch. One that can survive when he shifts.”
“I like your taste,” Keith said. He put four options on the glass case. “All of these will survive whatever he gets into.”
I heard Wretch laugh before they entered. Raye and Grace on each arm.
“The stud still has it.” Keith teased.
“We aren’t for him.” Grace insisted pulling away.
Raye left him behind as well to check on her daughter. “What did you find?”
“A store with a demon in it.” The girl sounded more relaxed.
Her mother hugged her. “We’ll find all sorts of places with shifters. I think school is the only place you should be around humans.”
Makenna laughed. It was a beautiful sound.
They picked out a watch together and Keith waved the price. The walk back to the parking lot was quiet. No one spoke until we got to Raye’s car.
“Thank you for coming.” She held out her hand.
Shaking it, Wretch replied, “Any time you or Makenna needs us, you call the club and one of us will show up.”
The girl fidgeted with her braid. “What if it’s big trouble?”
She knew she was powerful. That was a good start.
I answered. “Then you’ll get me, Wretch here, and George. He’s really big and shifts into a gorilla. We can handle anything that shows up, okay?”
Her smile lit up her face. “Okay. I’ll be careful.”
My convertible purred as I started her up. I let down the top for the ride back to the club. Raye and Makenna needed to be added to our small list of family’s we watched.
“Anyone get her address?”
Wretch snorted. “And phone number and anything else you want.”
My list was small. “Those two on your surveillance list. That’s Ariel’s kid.”
Grace turned to the back seat. “Spill it, Wretch. Who’s Ariel?”
“One of the most dangerous demons around. No power base, no world conquering ambitions. Just a vicious streak that cut a swatch of blood through a few major cities in the past century.” His reputation made the Black Death look like the annual cold and flu season.
Her quick temper wasn’t due to hormones. It was genetics. “And she’s just like him.”
He sighed. “I noticed. Maybe her mother’s influence will calm down the sadistic streak.”
“Get eyes on them tonight.” I wasn’t taking a chance. If Ariel was going to be here for the holidays, we needed to watch.
Grace interrupted us. “Demons can have children with humans as long as the women are in hospitals for the birth.”
That truth would make its way through the demon community tonight. We’d have to watch for increases in rape reports. I rubbed my eyes.
I could see the hope on Wretch’s face. The thing demons had given up on, mentally stable kids. Well, stable compared to pure demon.
It would be a Merry fucking Christmas this year.
Meet Rane Sjodin!
Rane Sjodin writes the Arcane Court novels and novellas. They are based in New Orleans and revolve around a dragon shifter and his best friend, a demon-dragon hybrid. Along with other shifters, they police the French Quarter for the Arcane Court, the lawmakers for the paranormal community.
Rane began her publishing career in 1994 as a poet. In 2011, her first fiction work Coming Home, was released under Graylin Fox. She continues to write paranormal romance as Graylin Rane, lighter urban fantasy as Graylin Fox with all darker themed fiction and poetry written as Rane Sjodin. When not writing, Rane is a full time psychologist living in South Florida enjoying the sunshine and beaches.
Candy Man Delivery (writing as Graylin Fox)
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