Excerpt from SHATTERED CIRCLE:
Liyliy, a vampire-harpy, had tried to kill me a few hours
ago, and the struggle left me exhausted and sore. That was the reason I was
still abed at nearly two in the afternoon. When my satellite phone blared the
opening riffs of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon,” it startled me, instantly
reminding me about all the sore muscles I had.
Mid-reach, I stopped. That was Johnny’s ringtone.
He had tried to kill me, too.
My hand shook as my finger jabbed the Answer button.
“Red . . . I’m so sorry.” Johnny’s voice was barely
I sat up and deliberated whether to play deaf and repeat
my “hello” as if I hadn’t heard him. I considered being a jerk and hanging up.
I even contemplated ripping him a new one.
Instead, I remained silent.
Two days before, minutes after I’d performed the
forced-change spell on him and his loyal pack mates, Johnny had attacked me.
He’d always retained his manmind while transformed, but that last time he
didn’t—he’d been pure animal. The only reason I was still among the living was
because I’d pumped ley line energy into him like a human Taser.
He’d frightened me to my core. The unshakeable faith I’d
had in him had been shattered by an emotional earthquake. Damage was done. My
fear felt like betrayal.
But . . .
Could going through the
forced-change spell repeatedly have an undesired effect?
No. I was sure the whole terrible incident could be
pinned on the fact that my mother, Eris, had revoked the tattooed bindings
she’d placed upon Johnny eight years ago. He suddenly had access to all the
power and potential she’d locked away from him. That was surely a disorienting,
I’d helped him dig up the clues, helped him achieve that
goal. Hell, I’d even been a part of the reversal spell. So some responsibility
for the consequences was mine to bear.
He rarely used my full given name; he usually called me
Red, as in Little Red Riding Hood to his Big Bad Wolf. Or Seph like nearly
everyone else. I had to respond.
“Then say something.”
Pushing back the covers, I stood and began to pace. “I
don’t know what to say.”
He paused. “Can you forgive me?”
I wasn’t sure.
Part of me said I couldn’t allow his attack to be a
personal issue because of the fateful trio that Johnny, Menessos, and I forged
by binding ourselves magically. The other part argued that no matter the circumstances,
attempted murder was very damn personal.
It all happened because Johnny had surrendered to his
destiny. His unique ability to transform at will made him the Domn Lup—king of
the wærewolves. It was a position with power, prestige, and perks such as a
Maserati Quattroporte. Johnny knew his royal place was unavoidable, but he’d
fought it and hid from it a long time. He’d finally pushed forward because it
was beneficial to our triple union, but kinghood was costing him his dream of
being a rock star.
It had been my fear that he’d lose who he was in the
course of this alliance of ours. More than ever, it seemed this fear was being
On the other corner of our triangle was Menessos. He now
bore two witches marks—mine, of course. That made him my servant. When
Heldridge, his former right-hand man, learned of my authority over Menessos, he
tattled to the highest vampire authority, the Excelsior. To protect us against
the personal grudge of the truthseeing vampire-harpies sent by VEIN to make formal
inquiry, Menessos had allied himself at great personal expense with someone
dangerous—a “nameless” guy I had aptly dubbed Creepy.
The secrets he’d wanted to hide from VEIN—secrets even I
didn’t know—were apparently safe, but our little who-marked-whom secret was
out. Menessos lost his haven and his status as Northeastern Quarterlord. Johnny
had accepted great power and lost a lifelong dream. Menessos had lost great
power and accepted serious personal risk. It didn’t seem fair.
And what about me?
In the last several weeks I’d learned that I was the
longprophesied Lustrata, the Witches’ Messiah, She Who Walks Between Worlds,
She Who Will Bring Balance, blah blah blah. As this news spread throughout the
nonhuman communities, some scoffed and some believed. I was fine with the
scoffers; it was the believers who were dangerous. They wanted to know if I
truly possessed the power that accompanied those titles. Yeah, I was a magnet
for nasties who either a) wanted me dead to be sure I didn’t have that power, or
b) wanted to try to force me to wield power for their gain.
I guess I’d accepted the endless complications of my
status and was well on my way to losing all scraps of naïveté.
At that thought, I stopped pacing. As I stared into the
nothingness of a darkened corner, it felt like my innocence had slipped from my
grasp and I was watching it skitter across the floor, waiting for it to come to
a stop so I could reclaim it.
I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort to look for it. Or
perhaps it would be impossible to find if I made the effort. Maybe it had
rolled into some crack, never to be seen again.
I heard Johnny breathing through the phone.
It wasn’t Johnny who had rescued me last night.
When I defeated Liyliy, Menessos had been there to bring
me to the haven. Sure, Menessos had a hand in creating the monster she now was.
And it was he who had imprisoned her, creating her need for revenge. But it was
me and my marks upon him that had brought her to Cleveland. When she pursued me
from the haven—according to the Offerling I’d spoken to—Menessos had sent
everyone out to search for me.
Had Johnny even known I was
It was shitty of me to compare the two men in my life,
but I couldn’t help myself. Though Menessos had drunk my blood numerous times,
he hadn’t tried to kill me.
Yes he did! He nearly killed you
not long after you first met.
We were strangers then, I argued with myself. Now, we know each other well.
Better, perhaps, than you should. .
Defiantly, I ignored my conscience’s scolding. I will not regret what I did last
night. During the predawn
hours, reeling from my encounter, I’d kissed Menessos.
Fine, but clearly you were able to
That was true. Considering this, I felt hope. I sighed
heavily into the phone. My whispered answer was, “In time.”
“There’s so much I need to tell you.” Johnny’s voice was
raw, and the rev of an engine punctuated his words. I wondered where he was
going. And I wondered if I should tell him about kissing the vampire.
It hadn’t been a peck.
When our lips had touched, I felt the promise and power
of a more intimate union. He’d definitely felt it. It wasn’t only the power of
the marks between us that had been kindled.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Johnny said.
His voice drew me out from my memory of a passionate
moment with another man. Guilt swelled around my heart . . . but not remorse. What am I going to do?