Authors: Pippa DaCosta
ne For Sorrow
The Veil Series, #5.5
Fantasy & Science Fiction Author
Copyright © 2015 Pippa DaCosta
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictions and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Version 1. Sept 2015
ne For Sorrow
started life as a Halloween short story. It was going to be a quick stand-alone short, in no way connected to the Veil series. But, clearly, Muse wasn’t having any of that. As soon as I sat down to write it, she was there, demanding page-time. She made this story her own. I really had no choice in the matter.
in this collection a few other little story-gems for you to enjoy. Some were previously published on my website, or as bonus material in the novels. Perhaps the most notable in this collection is the interview with Akil. If nothing else, it will show you how a character can hold their writer to ransom. Make of that what you will.
ans are always asking
me what’s next and will there be any more stories in the Veil series. My answer is ‘No, but...’ Muse’s story has been told. However, I never say never. One For Sorrow is a prime example of a story striking out of the blue. Who knows what will happen in a few months/years time? (Valenti may have known, but we all know what happened to him).
n 2016 work
begins on a new spin-off series, likely to be titled The Chaos Series. So while we may have seen the last of Muse for a while, there’s more to be told from her world. It’s not over. For another handful of characters, the chaos has just begun.
you enjoy One For Sorrow as much as I enjoyed writing it. And who knows what 2016 will bring?
his book includes
a collection of bonus scenes from the Veil Series, and the all-new short story, One For Sorrow)
This title should be read after Ties That Bind #5 The Veil Series to avoid major series spoilers.
One For Sorrow
In conversation with Akil
ne For Sorrow
‘Routine call,’ Ryder had said. But when Muse arrives at the abandoned house, there’s nothing routine about the demon waiting inside. His trap is set, and he knows the Mother of Destruction has one weakness:
Muse discovers that she doesn’t have to be alone during the holidays, with explosive consequences.
(Takes place between Beyond The Veil and Devil May Care)
Take a peek inside Stefan’s head during the lake house kitchen scene from Darkest Before Dawn.
Tempers fray and the temperature rises as Pippa DaCosta meets with the infamous Prince of Greed.
(Originally written sometime between Beyond The Veil and Devil May Care)
, Ryder.” I hung up on Ryder’s message service for the third time, tucked the cell into my back pocket, and peered through iron gates at the brownstone house. Weeds encroached on the driveway and sprouted through cracked asphalt. Faded graffiti scarred the boarded first floor windows. Clearly, nobody was home and hadn’t been for a long time.
The cool Boston night air hummed with sounds of distant traffic, but inside those gates, all was still. “
Demon. Class C. Reckon it’ll be simple enough. Last one on scene buys the beers,”
Ryder’s message had said
He was probably caught in downtown rush hour traffic. At least he’d be buying the next round.
I checked my Beretta Pico sidearm then tugged on the gate, rattling the length of rusty chain, and opened it just enough for me to squeeze inside. Flakes of rust came away in my hand and rained over my boots. I brushed my hands together, freeing them of dirt, and started toward the house.
be simple, but the demons left on this side of the veil when it had sealed for good didn’t know about my rep as the Mother of Destruction. Otherwise, I could probably have marched right on in, distracted them with a few insults, and been sweeping up their ashes in five minutes. Unfortunately, updating them on the fact I was demon death on legs didn’t help either. They inevitably called me a liar, and considering my so-called limitless power had been clipped when the veil sealed, they were factually correct. I
been a demon badass. I
once stood beside the Princes of Hell and rained fire from the skies. But today? Not so much. These days, I was just demon—and human. It’s complicated.
Grit crunched under my boots as I approached the abandoned building. By the time I’d reached the crumbling steps, the swirling mist had turned to rain and plastered my hair to my face. I brushed a creeping drip of rainwater off my cheek and blinked at the remarkably pristine door. 1930s art deco designs wove up its ornate frame. Akil had made his presence known in Boston sometime in the 1930s. I crushed that thought before it could take root and tried the doorknob. It turned with barely a squeak. The door swung open an inch, and a sigh of dust-speckled air escaped.
“Well, this isn’t creepy at all.” All it needed now was a clap of thunder and a few streaks of lightning, and I’d be starring in my own bad horror movie.
“Come out, come out, demon class C. This is not how I prefer to spend my Friday nights.” This was a lie, confirmed by a very demon
sounding in my head,
reminding me that hunting demons was exactly how I preferred to spend my evenings, days, and weekends. What could be better than some wanton destruction in the name of protecting Boston from stray demons?
I expected the door to creak and groan and was a little disappointed when it swung open, whisper-quiet on its hinges. The entrance hallway that yawned in front of me echoed the art deco door. In its prime, the hall would have glistened with black and white mosaic floor tiles. Now, debris from a half-collapsed ceiling covered much of the floor. Dust and desiccated trash collected in corners and on the stairs. I pried my cellphone free and turned on the flashlight. Shadows sprang up and danced across the torn patterned wallpaper and up an elaborate staircase.
“Yeah, so not creepy.” My breath misted in the frigid air. I rolled my shoulders. “It’s just an empty house. I’ve faced psychotic Princes of Hell. This is nothing.” My voice drifted down the hall until the dark snatched it away.
“Listen up, demon,” I called before the quiet could worm its way beneath my bravado. “You should know I’ve put down a few of you.” A gross understatement. “There might not be any Institute to police you, but Boston is protected.” I cleared my throat and added, “By me.” I’d meant for that to come out with more gravitas. I couldn’t blame the demons for underestimating me. I’d never really looked particularly threatening. Akil had once told me that some of the most dangerous things came in small packages. He would know. He’d known all about me—what I was, what I would become.
Why was I thinking about him? I hadn’t thought of him in weeks. I’d made sure of it by keeping myself busy chasing down rogue demons like this one.
“C’mon… I’ll find you. This can only end one way.”
I stepped forward, reaching for the bannister. The hallway tilted sideways, and the floor seemed to wrench itself out from beneath me. I stumbled, heart leaping, and made a grab for the post. I’d have poured demon into my veins if a quaint tinkling music hadn’t pulled me around. Somehow, in that one sweeping movement, between one heartbeat and the next, the hallway changed from suffocating darkness to blazing light with people—people everywhere.
Light, noise, and the smell of cigarette smoke and rose-scented perfume washed over me. A woman to my right laughed, bright and breezy, at something her companion said. She wore her hair pinned into neat, tight curls. Her sleeveless dress spilled from her shoulders and fell straight and angular in the thirties fashion. The men wore tailcoats—tuxedos with silk lapels. They chatted. Teeth flashed in bright smiles. And somewhere in the house, a live band played lighthearted jazz.
How is this possible?
I clung to the bannister as though it were a life raft, afraid to let go of what I knew to be real, and backed a few steps up the stairs. I knew this couldn’t be real. I
I was in an abandoned house, but knowing it did nothing to stop the illusion. I saw it, felt it, smelled it. Surely that made it real too?
“My apologies, ma’am.” Two men jostled down the stairs behind me and carried on their way, talking about the rise in unemployment. Their unusually chipper American accents rang sharp in my ears.
“This is insane,” I muttered, groping at my back pocket for my cell. I had to call Ryder and say…something. Anything.
A warm hand clasped mine. Instinct had me about to yank my arm away, when an all too familiar scent of cinnamon and cloves warmed me through. The evocative smell—and its meaning—rooted me to the bottom step. The music changed to an upbeat, fun little tune, and a woman’s voice rose up—
“…Let a lady confess I wanna be bad…”
“…Then the answer is yes, I wanna be bad… This thing of being a good little goody is all very well, what can you do if you’re loaded with plenty of hell—th…”
No. It couldn’t be.
He moved around me with my hand in his and stepped down a single step to the hallway floor. I saw the chest of the double-breasted tuxedo first and fixed my eyes on his silk lapels. If I looked up and saw his face, saw him. I wasn’t sure what that meant—or what I wanted it to mean. What if it was him? What if it wasn’t? My heart thumped over the joyous music, and around me, the party sounds swirled.
It’s not real. None of this is real. It’s demon. It has to be. A demon is screwing with my head. Call it out. Do it now, before…
He settled his warm fingertips under my chin and tilted my head up.
My heart stuttered. The sounds of the party fell away. I looked into his amber-fringed eyes and felt tears pool in my own. “Akil?”
I opened my mouth to ask how—why—but he placed a finger on my lips, tightened his grip on my hand, and led me alongside him, through the partygoers, down the hall, and into an enormous ballroom.
People greeted him, bid him good evening, smiled as he approached. Men offered to shake his hand, but he didn’t let me go, just smiled and moved on. I let him lead me—drifting through the dream—because that’s what this had to be. A dream.
“Dance with me.” Not a request. I flinched, remembering how he’d asked me to dance before, a lifetime ago, when we were both so very different.
The music had changed again, although I didn’t remember when—slower this time. He curled an arm around my waist and gripped my hand out to the side, the way I’d seen people slow dance on TV.
I should stop him. Should stop this fantasy.
We moved, stepping slowly, bodies so close but not touching. We didn’t need to touch. His warmth curled around me, embracing and evocative. I closed my eyes, just for a few moments. It felt like coming home to an open fire on a winter’s day, a comforting sense of familiarity and security. And I’d missed it, missed the feel of him, as if half of me had been hollowed out. I’d missed that completeness so much I’d gladly lose myself to the seduction. I settled my hand on his shoulder, hiding how much my fingers trembled. A few moments—just a few moments. I deserved that much, didn’t I?
“You gave me hope,” he said.
I tightened my grip. “Don’t.”
“I believed I would never see you again.”
I gritted my teeth. It wasn’t real. Was it? His arm tightened, drawing me in closer. Before I could stop myself, I’d laid my head against his shoulder. The feel of him, the rhythm of his body against mine, the warm, spicy taste of him on my lips—it all hurt, hurt inside the emptiness his leaving had left me with. I’d dealt with it. Moved on. A day at a time. A week. A month. But this stolen moment tore all those defenses down until I stood raw and broken in his arms.
Reason told me this was dangerous. I didn’t listen. Didn’t care. Why couldn’t I dream just a few minutes more?
“How are you here?” I asked. “The veil is closed.”
“Does it matter? If we study the why, the moment may be lost.”
“I hate you, you know.”
His deep chuckle and the way it rippled through him had me biting my lip.
“Some desires must be sacrificed.”
This is wrong.
We danced. The feel of him led me somewhere safe, somewhere the pain of loss couldn’t reach me. Twice, I’d lost him. The first time, grief had almost swallowed me whole. The second time, knowing him—the real him—in those last moments before the veil closed for good, was worse. To have the truth of him right in front of me, only for him to snatch it away again was unspeakably cruel. He could have let me live the lie. I had hated him. I still did. Hated. Loved. Muddled and twisted. But I understood why he’d had to end it there. He did it for me, for my freedom.
“What does freedom truly taste like?” he asked, rousing me from my stupor.
“Relief. Like summer rain.”
“Was it worth it?” His chin brushed my forehead.
The deaths. The war. Boston torn asunder. A love divided by two worlds.
“Yes.” I believed it. I had to. Too much had been sacrificed. There was no use in mourning what had been lost. The future was where I was headed now. A cool slither of resolute determination stirred my dreamy state, mixing in a taste of reality. “Boston will come back stronger, and so will those who’ve lost so much.”
“Are you stronger?”
“Yet you are half the thing you once were.”
I stopped swaying and leaned back to look him in the eyes, eyes so dark, so captivating. Lifting a hand, I touched my fingertips to his cheek, tracing the familiar shape of his face. The last time I’d seen him, he’d told me he was sorry, and in that moment, my heart had broken. My fingers grazed a dash of stubble and then over the softness of his lips.
It would be easy to believe.
He caught my hand and stilled its roaming. His eyes narrowed, just slightly, and his lips tightened. “Stay. I can make this moment last forever.”
A smile twitched across my lips. Of course this couldn’t last. And really, did I want it to? I pulled my hand free of his. “You see, that’s where demons always slip up. You don’t believe I see through you.” I loosened my hold on his shoulder, opening up a space between us, and looked into his amber eyes. “You’re good. Very good. But you can’t wrap your demon thoughts around the fact he—Akil, the Prince of Greed, a First—could love me, a half-blood nothing. You never will. Akil grew beyond being
. Who knows, maybe he was always like that. You’ll never understand him. No demon ever will. You don’t have it in you.”
We stared at one another. He broke eye contact and looked down to straighten his cuffs. The crowd shifted and swayed around us, and the music still played, but the brightness of it all began to fray at the edges. He—this imposter—could so easily be Akil. I could let myself believe it, but that wasn’t where, or who, I wanted to be. Not anymore. I was free, free to live how I wanted, to love who I wanted. A part of me would never stop loving Akil, and this bastard knew it.
I stepped back and lifted my hands with a flourish. “You can drop the theatrics.” People turned to stare. “Yeah, party’s over.” The band came to an out-of-tune halt while the guests skipped their worried glances between Akil and me. “Oh, don’t look so shocked. None of you are real.” Somebody gasped, and a low murmur rippled over the room. I strode to the nearest woman and plucked the champagne flute from her hand. She made a startled little squeak. I saluted her and tasted the wine. Sweet and smooth, it tasted real enough. He was good at this, I’d give the demon that much credit. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. You’re as sexy as hell.” I had the crowd’s attention now and walked along the line of onlookers. Suitably aghast, they watched me like they might a crazy woman crashing their party. “You have his swagger, his—” I waved a hand.
Je ne sais quoi
?” Not-Akil supplied.
I clicked my fingers. “Exactly.” The people looked real, they felt real, and the wine tasted real, which meant Not-Akil was inside my head. Demon Class C, he was not. Class B, for sure. If I was really unlucky, a Class A. I needed to find out what class I was dealing with before I made my move, or Ryder would likely arrive to find me brain-dead on the floor. He’d be pissed at me if I died here, after everything we’d been through.
“You have his arguable charm down to an art.” I took another sip from my glass as my tour of the crowd brought me around to face him. “You knew Akil.”
Not-Akil’s lips did a curious little tick of a smile, the first un-Akil reaction I’d seen from him. “From afar. He once lived here.” The accent twisted and warped from 1930’s American to something sharper, tinnier—French, possibly, but curiously smooth.
So the house had once been Akil’s. I made a show of appraising the ballroom with a tongue-click and went over the pep talk again. I’d moved on. New person. New future. The past was behind me.
was behind me. And this imposter was just another demon screwing with my head.