Werewolves are immune to every illness and can heal any wound. It should be impossible for one to become possessed by a demon. But that’s exactly what Seth Wilder is facing: a werewolf gone insane from possession. He has no choice but to deliver her to the only exorcist in America, Elise Kavanagh, who also happens to be a powerful demon known as the Godslayer.
Elise is in hiding when Seth and Rylie Gresham, Alpha werewolf, arrive seeking her help. She agrees, but everything has its price. What they learn about the possessed werewolf changes everything — Hell and Earth, the pack, and the future of the entire world…
California — August 2013
People weren’t supposed to die in these kinds of neighborhoods.
Surrounded by fields in the foothills of wine country, the Golden Vines Villa was protected by towering walls as much as its distance from urban life. It was a safe zone for the self-important upper middle class—the kind of place where people might call the cops if they so much as glimpsed a Mexican sullying their streets with his presence, Anthony expected.
The veneer of safety was what had made the Bloomfields so vulnerable. They hadn’t been expecting attack, so they hadn’t been braced for it. They had been lazy. Made mistakes. Put themselves in danger.
The Bloomfields had left their back door unlocked during the party—mistake number one. They had given the gate code to Delightful Events, LLC so that they wouldn’t have to be present to admit people into the Villas—mistake number two. And, for the third and worst mistake of all, they hadn’t checked the profiles for the wait staff the company sent them, so the Bloomfields didn’t realize that their waiters had been replaced until it was too late.
Three major mistakes.
One pissed off private investigator.
“This is total crap,” Anthony Morales muttered, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He had driven for eight hours—eight goddamn hours—to get to the Villas from Las Vegas, only to be stopped with the rest of the cars at the gate. The police had attached a security detail to the entrance of the neighborhood. There was no way to avoid the uniformed men checking every goddamn car that asked for admittance to the Villas, even for people that lived there.
Normally, the ten minute-per-car security check to enter the neighborhood wouldn’t have been bad, but it was evening on a weekday; everyone was trying to get home from work. Anthony had been waiting for almost an hour and only seen four cars go through. There were six more to go before it was his turn.
Fuck this noise.
Anthony got out of his car and stretched. He wasn’t the only one. The other drivers were looking impatient, too. It had been sixteen hours since the murders were discovered. Sixteen hours of restricted access to the Villas. The inhabitants were getting irate.
He checked his watch. Six o’clock. The sun was behind the trees, though the sky was still enflamed with orange sunset. It might have been early enough.
Rounding the car, he rapped his knuckles on the trunk.
“Wake up,” Anthony said, popping the lock open.
The inside of the trunk was empty, aside from a woman’s outfit, a sword, and a pile of golden chains in the back corner.
Nope, still too early.
He slammed the trunk shut again, then sat on the bumper to wait.
A permed old woman in a Lexus pulled up behind him, shooting Anthony dirty looks from behind the wheel. Guess his beat up ‘93 Impala didn’t look like it belonged. Or maybe it was his brown skin and motor oil-stained boots. He smiled toothily at her, and the old woman looked away first.
As he waited, the sky started to lose color, fading from red to a pale orange. The lights along the road automatically illuminated.
Two more cars slid through the gates. Anthony was about to return to the driver’s seat when the trunk thumped under him.
“Finally,” he sighed, hopping off of the car again. Raising his voice, he said, “You done?”
A muffled voice responded from within the trunk. “Almost.” He waited. A moment later, the woman said, “Go ahead.”
He opened the trunk.
The clothes that had been laid out at the bottom of the trunk were now hurriedly being tugged around a woman’s body. She had already put on the slacks and shirt, and her black-nailed fingers flew over the buttons, covering her underwear.
“Nice drive?” Elise Kavanagh asked, holding out a hand. She always looked a little sleepy when arising for the night, and this was no exception. Her eyes were lidded, hair messy, clothes rumpled.
Anthony hauled her out of the trunk. “Eight hours. Shit traffic. And now this.”
When her bare feet hit the ground, she straightened her back, turning to look around at the setting. “This isn’t the Villas.”
“We’re outside. Cops still have the place locked down.”
“Even though they requested us?” Elise asked.
The old woman with the perm was gawking at them now. Apparently, she wasn’t used to women appearing in otherwise empty trunks.
Anthony gave her a friendly wave.
She laid on the horn.
“Everyone’s a critic,” he said, getting back into the driver’s seat. Elise grabbed the rest of her clothes and took the seat next to him.
She flipped down the mirror on the sun shade, leaning in close to check her eyebrow piercing. She twisted it through the hole and seemed satisfied at how easily it moved. “Did you talk to the cops at the gate yet?”
“Yeah. They told me to get back in line. Didn’t seem any point pushing it until you got here.” Anthony narrowed his eyes at her. “Sure took you long enough.”
“Sorry. I’ll make the Earth rotate away from the sun faster next time.”
Anthony rolled his eyes, but it wasn’t Elise’s fault that she couldn’t go out in daylight anymore. That was the fault of Yatam’s blood. The father of all demons had bestowed his mightiest powers to Elise, and taken away her ability to live normally in the process. Now, she spent her daylight hours incorporeal, or in another dimension; only her nights were shared with Anthony.
Even though she had probably just spent her day in the City of Dis—the deranged metropolitan center of Hell—she quickly organized herself to composure. Her sleek black hair lay neatly about her shoulders. She still had streaks of red hair chalk framing her face, which had been applied by Deborah McIntyre, the youngest daughter of the third private investigator in their group. Her makeup was as immaculate as always, which was because none of it was actually makeup. Her eyes really were that dark, her lips that red, her skin flawless.
Four years after the change, it still disgusted him to see her like that.
Elise flipped the mirror shut. She finished buttoning her shirt, then swiftly tied her hair into a messy knot.
“Got the files?” she asked.
Anthony tossed a folder of printouts to her. She hadn’t had enough time to read them before going to “sleep” that morning. He hadn’t had time to read them before leaving, either, but McIntyre had read everything for Anthony over speakerphone while he was on the road. He was, unfortunately, far too familiar with what Elise was reading.
The Bloomfields had been throwing a small cocktail party to celebrate the husband’s promotion. There had been four coworkers in attendance, one family member, and the Bloomfields’s two young children.
None of them had survived.
He inched the car closer to the gate as Elise read. He could tell when she got to the photographs of the bodies. Her breathing quickened. Anthony didn’t want to know if it was fear, excitement, or hunger that got her breathing like that.
“And the cops haven’t let you in yet,” she said, snapping the folder shut.
Elise flipped the lever underneath her chair, slid her seat back as far as it could go, and kicked her bare feet up onto the dashboard. “We can leave whenever you want,” she said, folding her arms behind her head. She held a cigarette captive between the first two fingers of her left hand without smoking. Anthony had left a whole carton in the trunk for her to find when she woke up, just to help smooth the transition back to Earth.
“Yeah?” Anthony asked. “Why? Don’t you want to know why they called us here?”
“I already know,” Elise said. “I don’t need to look at the scene to know there’s nothing we can do. If you want to leave, leave.”
He twisted his fists on the wheel until the leather groaned. It was a too-tempting offer. “They asked us to come here,” he muttered. “We said, oh no, we can’t, we’re in the middle of stuff. And they said, we’ll give you money. So we came. We didn’t have to come, but we came. And now I’ve been sitting here for over an hour.”
“Yep,” she said, searching her pockets. “Did you bring a lighter?”
Anthony opened the glovebox. He had two Bics, one red and one blue. She grabbed the red one.
“I think of everything,” he said, prompting her for thanks.
Elise made a noise of assent. That was about as good as it got.
The line of cars crept another ten feet forward.
Now that they were closer to the gate, Anthony could see that the police were crawling over the Bloomfield house. They had turned off their lights and parked alongside the house, trying to be as discreet as possible for the sake of the neighborhood, but it was impossible to hide an entire fleet of vehicles. The coroner, the photographer, two state troopers—they couldn’t have hidden that much staff under a circus tent.
A toddler rode past on a red bicycle with training wheels—on the other side of the entrance gate, opposite from Elise and Anthony—blissfully oblivious to the fact that her gated neighborhood was under occupation. She slowed to look at the cops before pedaling faster.
“For fuck’s sake,” Anthony said.
Elise stuck the cigarette in the corner of her mouth. “Like I said, we can leave.”
Anthony seemed tempted by the offer. He craned out his open window, twisting around so that he could look behind the car.
“We’re boxed in,” he groaned, flopping back against the chair.
“Hang on,” she said.
She kicked open the door and approached the gate on foot.