Introducing Free Read Weekends: Demon Seduction, Chapter 1November 20, 2008
Who doesn’t need a little extra reading material over the weekend? So starting today, and continue every Friday, Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance Blog will be posting a chapter from a paranormal story right here! First up is Demon Seduction by Pat White:
Ash Demon Marcus has been dispatched from the dark realms to find and seduce Elizabeth Burke. He is to learn what she knows about PCell, a top secret division of the British Secret Service intent upon eliminating creatures of the paranormal—and use that information to destroy PCell!
But Marcus has felt a connection to Elizabeth for a long time, ever since he rescued her from being ravaged by his cousin ten years ago! Can he go through with a plan that calls for him to do essentially the same thing—without falling in love with her?
Click the link to read Chapter One!
Demon Seduction by Pat White – Chapter One
The explosion slammed Marcus’s mortal body against the riverbank before he could fly to safety. His enemy was on the hunt, firing his blaster at random, hoping to make his para kill for the night. Instead, the PCell agent discharged his weapon into the ground, sending shockwaves across the English countryside.
Marcus could have been destroyed because he’d been distracted by a pretty face.
That pretty face.
Was his intense attraction to her a side effect of the conversion from his Ash Demon form to human flesh and bones? It had to be. It wasn’t like Elizabeth Burke was breathtakingly beautiful. He’d seen prettier.
“Are you off your trolley? You could have gotten yourself killed.”
The not-so-pretty Elizabeth, with her red-streaked hair damp from the rain, stood over him, pinning him with her golden eyes. “Come on, then. We’ve got to get you out of here. You walked into a bloody mess.”
In a helpful gesture, she grabbed his arm and Marcus fought back his resentment. He was Ash Demon, a race superior to mortals. He hadn’t been physically wounded and didn’t need assistance from this petite creature. Standing, he wavered, struggling to regain his strength. The conversion had weakened him more so than usual. Or had a salt bullet from the agent’s blaster actually grazed his skin?
Elizabeth led him away from the river that weaved through the lush, rolling countryside, away from certain annihilation if he’d been caught by a PCell assassin. Correction: not caught, executed. PCell’s sole purpose was to destroy paras of all kinds, without thought, without reason.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
She seemed awfully trusting, but then they’d met before, even if she didn’t consciously remember the encounter. They’d met, he’d defended her, and he’d held her in his mortal arms until she’d fallen soundly asleep. She’d been the only woman he’d held that way, and back then she was just a girl, terrified by Marcus’s demon cousin who’d wanted to slake his need with a human virgin.
“My name is Marcus.” Even his voice sounded weak.
“Easy then, Marcus. My auto is just beyond those trees. I’ll give you a lift out of here. I was finishing up when I heard the blast. What were you doing anyway? The enchanted forest is dangerous for people like us.”
People like us? The girl had no idea she was walking beside an Ash Demon, a creature from the dark realm sent to find her, seduce her, and use her knowledge to destroy PCell. A mission he did not relish, yet would fulfill in order to save his kind: paras of the dark realm.
She didn’t realize the danger of being in Marcus’s presence because Ash was the most highly evolved of the demon race. Having been created from human ash of the Great Fire of Rome, Ash could assume human form better than any other creature of the dark realm. But the mortal seed running through them also made Ash more susceptible to the horrific emotions of compassion and love, two vulnerabilities that could strip an Ash Demon of his identity if he succumbed to their charms.
“It’s lovely out this evening,” he said, his voice returning. “I decided to take a stroll and lost my way.”
“Ah,” she winked. “Must be having girl trouble.”
She had no idea. His mission was to fill her with his demon seed against her will, the very act he’d defended her from when she was but sixteen. No, he was nothing like his cousin. Marcus would make her want him, make her feel loved before he took her.
“Hold it!” a male voice ordered.
Elizabeth turned, but didn’t raise her hands. “Aw, Mickey, I should have guessed that was your blaster destroying my eardrums.”
Marcus turned and faced off with a PCell agent, blaster in hand. Agents were recruited by the British Security Service to destroy any and all paras, no questions asked. Marcus automatically raised his hands in surrender.
“Put your hands down, he’s not going to shoot you,” Elizabeth scoffed.
“Bloody hell, Lizzy.” The agent stormed up to the girl. “You’ve got to stay out of our business or you’re going to get yourself killed. Who’s your friend?”
The agent eyed Marcus, who struggled to look harmless and innocent. But then in Marcus’s present form the agent wouldn’t be able to identify his origin by sight.
“This is my friend, Marcus. Leave him alone,” the girl said. “What did you find tonight? Any good…” she paused, “leads?” Her eyes brightened.
Marcus sensed her enthusiasm about the paras of the enchanted forest.
“It’s top secret business,” Mickey said.
Marcus wondered why the bloke didn’t use the long-barreled clicking device to check the area for paras, or at least use it on Marcus. Did he believe the girl’s story that Marcus was her friend?
“So this is where you bring your dates then?” the agent said. “On your stalking expeditions?”
“I’m not stalking you.”
“What would you call it? I’ve got a job to do, Lizzy, a dangerous job and I don’t need daft little girls interfering.”
“I’m twenty-seven, you bloody twit.”
Marcus sensed her frustration. He’d sensed a lot about her since he’d been in her presence, including her inquisitive nature and gentleness of spirit. A shame he’d have to strip that gentleness in order to achieve his goal.
“I’m going to save your life one day, and you’re going to eat those words,” she said.
“Yeah, and how are you going to do that, by rescuing gents like him? No, I’m putting an end to this right now. Give me the backpack.”
“I will not.”
The agent reached out to grab her pack and Marcus stepped between them.
“You’d best be minding your own business, mate.” With a smile, he shoved the butt of his blaster into Marcus’s stomach.
The wind knocked from his body, Marcus fell to his knees.
“Mickey, you wanker, what’d you do that for?” Elizabeth kneeled beside Marcus and stroked his back. “Breathe, that’s it.”
Then she was jerked away as the agent ripped off her pack. Struggling to fill his lungs, Marcus couldn’t do much more than glare at the bastard.
“You’re done, Lizzy, hear me?” The agent threw the pack to the ground and pulled out a handgun. “I can’t be wasting good salt ammunition on this, now can I?”
He fired multiple shots into the bag. The girl shrieked and wrapped her arms around Marcus. He’d been here before, only he’d been the one with protective arms around her.
The shooting ceased. “All done,” the agent smirked. “Now stop trying to follow in your father’s footsteps. You’re not a part of this. Go find yourself a husband to take care of you.”
The agent marched off into the glen. Elizabeth sat back on bent knees and searched Marcus’s eyes. “You all right?”
She didn’t seem frightened, yet Marcus’ heart was pounding. Probably because he feared Mickey would discover his identity and blast him to pieces.
“My ears are ringing,” Marcus said.
“It’ll pass. Let’s get you home.”
“What about your backpack?”
She glanced at it and sighed. “Doesn’t look good, does it? Bastards, they’re afraid to let women join their group. Like we’ll contaminate it or something. I’ll go through what’s left of my equipment when I get home. Can you stand?” She helped him to his feet. “I suppose you’re wondering what this is all about?”
“I am a bit curious.”
She grabbed what was left of her backpack. “I can’t tell you specifics because it will put you in danger. Just know that there are other forces, dark forces out here that agents like Mickey protect us from. My advice to you is to forget this whole affair.”
“Sounds like you should as well,” he offered.
They approached a small beat up car. She tossed what was left of her pack into the trunk and unlocked his door. “I want to do my part in the fight against evil, but they all think I’m some kind of weakling who can’t take care of herself.”
He could see why they’d think that. He’d thought that very thing ten years ago when he’d held her in his arms.
“You don’t think I can either, do you?” She was staring at him.
“Hey, I saved your arse tonight, that’s got to count for something.”
“And I appreciate it, tremendously. I’m a bit addled is all. This is a lot of excitement for me.”
“Right, sorry. You don’t need to be dragged into my melodrama. Let’s get you home.”
They settled in the car and she drove off, down the dirt road that led to his remote cottage fifty miles southwest of London. “Down about two kilometers and turn by the broken oak tree,” he directed.
“Must have been serious girl trouble for you to wander so far,” she offered.
“No, no girl trouble.” Not yet anyway.
She chatted away, talking about the countryside, the mechanical issues with her car, even about the unseasonably warm weather. She seemed so bloody trusting and fearless.
“What did that bloke mean, about your father?” Marcus asked.
“Oh, that was just a below the belt.”
She gripped the steering wheel tighter. “I’m trying to make father proud is all.”
Proud? No, there was something more behind her words.
“What’s he about, your father?” Marcus pushed. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“He’s a brilliant man, a consultant who developed specialized weaponry for…” she paused as if catching herself, “for the military. I’ve invented a device that’s even better at tracking the enemy, yet the service ignores me. I’m a big joke.”
“I can hardly believe that.”
She smiled. “Thanks. Nothing like compliments from a stranger.” She hesitated. “But then you have to say nice things because I saved your life. A good thing I was out tonight.”
Yes, a very good thing. And an even better thing that he knew exactly where to find her. Elizabeth Burke had remained on Marcus’s radar since their first encounter more than ten years ago. He kept this fact a secret so it wouldn’t be misinterpreted by Grigori, the rulers of the dark realm. He didn’t want them thinking he’d grown fond of her or had assigned himself her personal protector. Staying apprised of her activities was simply a way to keep track of her father’s work against paras.
They turned down the dirt drive and headed for the cottage, invisible in its present state. He’d have to release the spell to make the structure visible, lure her inside and finish his mission. A part of him wished they were meeting for a different reason.
Remember your goal: seduce her and learn what she knows about PCell so you can destroy them.
“Let me off here,” he directed. “I’d like to walk the rest of the way.”
“You sure you’re up to it?”
“Quite.” He had to get far enough ahead to cast a visibility spell without her witnessing it.
He opened his door, a plan forming in his mind. “Thanks again. Good night,” he said. He started up the path and staggered, putting on a good show.
“You all right?” she called from the car.
He waved her off and stepped behind the weeping willow. He cast the spell to bring the cottage back into view.
“Bloody hell!” he called out. He went to the cottage and leaned against the front door.
“What? What is it?” She raced up to him and placed a comforting hand against his back.
Odd how every time she touched him a sharp pain lanced through his chest. Must be the physical connection to a mortal.
“A bit woozy,” he muttered. “I’m fine.”
“You are not fine, and it’s my fault. Mickey socked you too hard because you were defending me. Come on, let’s get you settled.”
He handed her the key and she opened the door. Perfect. She’d be drawn to his vulnerability, not sensing the threat of seduction. He knew once he got her inside, she’d be defenseless against his charms.
With any luck he could finish his assignment in one night, one very full night of seduction, passion and mating.
© 2007 Harlequin Books S.A.
Come back next week for Chapter Two! And don’t forget that new free online reads are always available at eHarlequin.com! This month, we have a brand-new story from Jeri Smith-Ready called “Storm Reaper”, which is linked to her acclaimed Aspect of Crow miniseries from Luna Books.
And for more Ash Demon heroes, check out Pat White’s Nocturne book Saving Destiny, always available in eBook format.
Thanks for reading!