I am excited to welcome author Deborah Blake, who is here to celebrate the release of her new novel, Veiled Menace, which releases next week.
A spellbinding new novel from the author of the Baba Yaga novels. Since Witches came out of the broom-closet in the early 21st century, they have worked alongside humans as police officers, healers, stock traders, and more. But they aren’t the only paranormal entities in our world…
Witch and police officer Donata Santori is no stranger to magical mayhem, but lately her life has been unexpectedly charmed. Her job as a Ghost Yanker now includes the occasional paranormal investigation, and she’s advancing her magical abilities with the help of an ancestor’s treasured spell book. And while both of her former love interests—reclusive half-Dragon art forger Peter Casaventi and disgraced Shapechanger Magnus Torvald—are nowhere to be found, she’s not averse to being wined and dined by wealthy businessman Anton Eastman.
But Eastman isn’t what he seems, and what he wants from Donata is far more than she’s willing to give. When a mysterious relic, the Pentacle Pentimento, resurfaces, along with Peter’s Dragon father and a shocking Santori family secret, Donata must fight to save herself, her friends, and just maybe the fate of the world from a magic as old as it is dangerous…
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a notebook, a cute stuffed dragon, a $10 Amazon gift card (so you can purchase the book, or anything else), a broom pen, postcards, a magnet, and chocolate!
Chapter One: Veiled Menace by Deborah Blake
There was a choking sound from behind her and the Chief said, “No kidding, Santori. A dead body is never a good sign.” He crossed his arms over his bulky chest and looked impatient and a little bit cranky. Pretty much like usual.
Crap—had she said that out loud? No wonder he only let her work outside the precinct once in a blue moon.
She gestured at the word carved clumsily into the corpse’s pale flesh. “No, sir. I meant that. Um, the name. Sir.” Surely he’d agree that it wasn’t a good sign to find a name written on a body; a famous name at that.
“That’s one of the reasons I called you in on this one,” her boss said. “The minute the press gets a hold of this, they’re going to be all over it like flies on fruit. I need to know that there’s nothing”—he glanced around to make sure no one could overhear— “nothing ‘weird’ about this mess.”
Donata winced. Even after six months of being the Chief’s go-to person for crimes he suspected of having paranormal involvement, she still had a hard time wrapping her brain around the shift in her circumstances. For years she’d been the Central Gates Precinct’s Witness Retrieval Specialist—more commonly referred to as a “Ghost Yanker” by her non-magical colleagues on the force. Being stuck in the basement talking to dead victims would depress the hell out of anyone, if they did it for long enough.
Then, six months ago, everything changed.
She shifted nervously, staring down at the bloodless body in the tub. Donata knew that the Chief was testing her; trying to decide if this new arrangement really worked. And she desperately needed it to; needed something that would give her job meaning again, and make her feel as though she was truly contributing to both communities—Human and Paranormal. She swallowed hard.
She still worked as a Witness Retrieval Specialist, but the Chief had moved her into an office upstairs and occasionally called her in on a crime when, as he put it, he smelled something peculiar. If she didn’t want to end up back in the basement, she couldn’t afford to screw this up.
“The family is insisting the victim wasn’t suicidal, didn’t have any reason to take her own life, and had barely met the person whose name she apparently carved into her own belly with a knife. Something just seemed off to me when I heard about it. What do you think? Could something have killed her for her blood and put her in the tub to throw us off?”
Donata forced herself to lean over closer to the corpse. She rarely encountered an actual dead body; usually she just called the spirit of the deceased using a case file, a picture, and her rituals. And frankly, she preferred it that way. Death viewed firsthand was just too messy.
But if the death had been directly caused by a Paranormal, there might be some clues on the body. Nothing as obvious as bite marks, probably; no matter what the Chief thought, there were no blood-draining creatures among the Paranormal world, and vampires were just a myth.
On the other hand . . .
“You said the family insisted she was acting perfectly normally?” she asked the Chief. “And she didn’t know this Jase at all? Wasn’t a big fan?” Jason Bowman was a huge star, adored by women all over the world. He went by the single name “Jase”—the word the woman at their feet had apparently etched into her own tender flesh moments before slitting her wrists.
The Chief flipped open a notebook and frowned at his own barely legible writing, finally giving in and perching a pair of wire-rimmed reading glasses on his sizable nose.
“According to her husband and her parents, she met Jason Bowman for the first time a week ago. She was a reporter at the Globe, and interviewed him about the movie he is filming here in town. She wasn’t particularly a fan before that, and her husband said . . . wait, I’ve got it here somewhere . . .” He flipped over the page and read off a quote. “Right. ‘Carly wasn’t all that impressed with him. She said he was a big star with an ego to match.’”
He looked at Donata. “It doesn’t sound like she liked him enough to carve his name into her stomach, that’s for sure.” Flipping another couple of pages, he reached the next section he wanted. “But a couple of days after the interview, she started behaving strangely. Didn’t want to talk to her husband or kids, vanished for hours at a time with no explanation. Started collecting articles and information about Jase.”
Donata got a sinking feeling in her stomach. One that had nothing to do with the corpse at her feet.
“Do we have a picture of Jase?” she asked. “Maybe something the victim had in her collection?”
The Chief gave her a hard look, obviously catching her use of the word victim.
“Yes,” he said. “Over by the dresser. The husband said he ripped the picture up twice, but every time he came home, she had a new one.”
Donata walked over to the large picture of the movie star and stood gazing at it for a few minutes. But really she was just stalling; she’d been sure as soon as she’d heard the story. The picture only confirmed it.
“Fae,” she said decisively.
“Who?” the Chief asked.
“Not who,” Donata corrected. “What. Fae. Ef, ay, ee. Like fairies, only not like the ones in the cute stories.”
Once the Chief told Donata he wanted her to work on cases he suspected of being out of the normal realm of things, she’d given him a basic run-down of the attributes of the five major Paranormal races: Witches, Ghouls, Ulfhednar, Dragon, and Fae. Of course, she’d left out a few things. Including her recent discovery of a supposed lost sixth race. It’s not like she knew who they were, anyway.
“Right,” the Chief nodded, walking back into the bathroom. “But I thought you said they were harmless. As I recall, you called them ‘The Beautiful People,’ and said they lived on the energy they got from being adored.” He glared down at the dead body in the tub. “That doesn’t look harmless to me, Santori.”
Donata shook her head. “Actually, sir, I believe I said ‘usually harmless.’ And they are. You’ve probably seen them hundreds of times on television, in movies, and in commercials. Most of the remaining Fae tend to find positions that keep them in the public eye, so people will be captivated by their beauty and charm. They absorb love and admiration the way you and I eat food.”
She pointed at the picture of Jase she’d picked up off the dresser; a posed shot that showed him surrounded by nubile young lovelies. “That’s pretty typical; even in a photo you’ll never find one alone. He was probably feeding from them during the shoot. It doesn’t do the fans any harm, in moderation.”
The Chief scowled, looking at the tub. “So how do you explain this, then?” He shifted his weighty glower to Donata and she winced.
“Look, most Fae don’t do anything more than absorb the willing adoration of those who are drawn to their fame and beauty. The rules of the Compact expressly forbid the Fae from forcing anyone to love them. But before the Inquisition, the Fae were known for kidnapping or enchanting Humans and keeping them bound to their captors.” She grimaced. There were plenty of aspects of the Paranormal world she wasn’t proud of. Plenty.
She looked down again and shook her head. “I haven’t heard of a Fae breaking that rule in years, at least not in any obvious way. But I’m guessing that poor Carly here was the victim of a thrall.”
“What’s a thrall?” the Chief asked. “Some kind of spell?” He crooked his thumb at two men as he walked her out of the room, indicating that they could remove the body.
“Not exactly,” Donata said. “Essentially it forces the victim to fall in love against his or her will. Best-case scenario is that the Human involved just seems unreasonably obsessed. Worst case, well . . .” She tilted her head in the direction of the small bathroom. “Worst case, the victim tries to rebel against the thrall and ends up going mad in their effort to escape.”
“So Carly killed herself because she really loved her husband and kids, and this Jase was trying to make her deny her true feelings and love him instead?”
“Something like that.” Donata sighed. “I don’t agree with everything in the Compact, but I have to admit, I’m all in favor of that particular rule. No one should ever be forced to love against their will.”
The Chief walked her out of the modest suburban house, past the few officers remaining at what would never be an official crime scene. He lowered his gravelly voice as they reached the front lawn, painfully aware of the clumps of gawking neighbors.
Donata took a deep breath of the clean air to clear the stink of death out of her nostrils, grateful to be outside even though the day held an unseasonable chill.
“So are you telling me there is nothing we can do?” he asked her, frustration etching the lines of his aging face deeper than usual. “The bastard just gets away with it? And the poor woman’s husband is left thinking she killed herself over some damn movie star?” His large rough hands clenched into fists at his sides.
Donata looked grim. “Goddess, no. I’ll contact the Alliance Council and they’ll deal with him, I promise you. They don’t want this kind of thing happening any more than you do. They live in fear of anything that might bring the Paranormal races to the attention of Humans.” She laughed, a little ironically. “When Witches came out of the broom closet twenty years ago, the Council nearly had a group coronary. It was only because most people accepted us fairly readily and most Witches were happy to keep the scope of their power hidden that we got away with it at all.”
“So what will this Council do to him?” the Chief asked. His expression indicated that he hoped the answer was something awful.
She shook her head. “You don’t want to know. Trust me.” She tilted her head up so her eyes were on a level with his; at five nine, she was only a few inches shorter then he was anyway. “But I’ll try and make sure that the incident is handled in a way that will give Carly’s family some closure. It’s the least we can do.”
The Chief scowled, bushy eyebrows forming a crooked line across his forehead. “You know, Santori, sometimes I think it was easier before I knew all this stuff.” He tucked his notebook into a pocket and walked back into the house without another word.
Donata sighed at his broad back. “Yeah, sometimes I think it was easier on me too.” Especially since she had the sinking feeling that there was more to this case than met the eye. She hadn’t been kidding when she said that Paranormals rarely committed this kind of offense. The fact that one had was a very bad sign. Of what, she wasn’t sure, but she knew it wasn’t going to be good.
Meet Deborah Blake!
Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga Series, the Broken Rider Series, and the Veiled Magic books from Berkley, and has published nine books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide as well as a tarot deck. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with various cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.
- Wickedly Magical
- Wickedly Dangerous
- Wickedly Wonderful
- Veiled Magic
- Wickedly Ever After
- Wickedly Powerful
- Wickedly Spirited (Sept 19, 2017)
Everyday Witch Tarot Cards
Everyday Witch Tarot
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The Goddess Is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch
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Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year
A to Z Spellbook: Wonderfully Witchy Blessings, Charms & Spells
Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft
Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget