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Authors: Patti O'Shea

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Through a Crimson Veil

BOOK: Through a Crimson Veil
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Through a Crimson Veil
Patti O’Shea

LOVE SPELL   
   NEW YORK CITY

A Crimson Passion

Pleasure rocketed through Mika. But instead of giving her more, McCabe jerked away. He shook his head as if coming out of a daze, and released his hold. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” He trailed off and started to roll to the side.

Mika stopped him. She raised her knees, cradling him between her legs, and brought her hands up to hold his shoulders. “Don’t apologize—I loved it. I’m only sorry you stopped.” Then it occurred to her what was going on. Damn, she should have realized at once. “I’m just the same as you. I can take you just as you want—hard and fast. Just like who you are. You don’t have to hold back. You don’t have to be careful like you have been. You can’t scare me, and you won’t hurt me. Give us what we both want.”

For Mom and Dad.
Thank you for everything you’ve done.
I love you.

Prologue

Allison Walters lightly touched the comm device at her waist as she turned down the hall. Being included in this after-hours experiment was an honor she deserved. Of all the trainees,
she
was the best and brightest. Everyone knew that. Or they soon would—and that included her father. She’d make certain of that. Once she climbed high enough, he’d have no choice except to acknowledge her achievements.

With a determined nod, she walked through the double doors of the Los Angeles Department of Paranormal Research & Development and paused. The area seemed strangely deserted considering how important she’d been told this experiment was. Hesitating, she tucked her short, dark hair behind her ears. Maybe this was a joke: Her fellow trainees were envious of her brilliance, and she wouldn’t put it past them to pull something. Allison knew they called her an arrogant bitch behind her back, and embarrassing her would be good for a laugh.

Firming her jaw, she strode purposefully down the hall. If this was some prank, she’d make them pay. She was so intent on her plans for retribution that a banging noise to
her left made her jump. Allison stopped and eyed the door warily. The research subjects were housed in that wing, and one of them could have gotten loose. It had happened before.

“Grab the dog!” The muffled voice held urgency, adrenaline.

Dog. It was a werewolf then.

She heard a growl and involuntarily stepped back before catching herself. A body hit the door, the thud hard enough to make her wince, and then men were yelling. It was impossible to distinguish words, not with so many voices shouting at once, but Allison relaxed. The guards outnumbered the research subjects at least six to one here; they’d have the werewolf back in its pen shortly. As dangerous as this situation was, it was worse when one of the vampires escaped. They were creepy and their physical abilities were—

An expletive came through the metal door, then, “Tranq him! C’mon!”

The sounds of scuffling ended abruptly and Allison knew someone had knocked out the escapee. It grew quiet, but she didn’t move. Without weapons, humans were no match for dogs or vamps. Did she want to work with these creatures? Put herself in jeopardy if something went wrong?

She tensed at the sound of footsteps, but it was Jeff Riker who came around the hallway corner. Although he was one of the younger members of the development team, he was slated to be part of the test tonight.

“There you are,” he said brusquely. “They sent me to look for you. Come on, then. We don’t have all night.”

He headed back the way he’d come, expecting her to follow. Allison did, but only because he worked with Doctor Stowe, the head of tonight’s team. She didn’t like Riker, and the feeling was mutual. He was jealous of her like the others, since he knew his label of up-and-coming young genius was soon to be eclipsed—by her. Asshole, she thought with a smirk.

They reached a black door marked Cleaning Supplies. Allison stopped as Riker opened it and strode inside. This was a gag; it had to be.

“Come on,” he ordered.

“If you think I’m walking in there with you, Riker, you can think again.”

He snorted. “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not sexy enough to overcome your attitude problem.”

Allison puffed up. “You’re envious because I landed the
top
researcher position, because I’m—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Riker interrupted. “I’ve heard it before. Everyone in the department has. You’re brilliant, you soar above the mediocrity of us poor, average human beings. But obviously you’re not brilliant enough to discern why no one likes you.”

She stiffened. “The inadequate always project their deficiencies on others.”

Riker shook his head. “Keep telling yourself that while you eat lunch alone. Now, follow me or I’ll leave you behind.”

Allison scowled. Riker ignored her until reluctantly she walked into the closet. As soon as the door closed, he did something that created an exit in the back wall, and Allison found herself standing in a small lab—one she’d never known to exist. Curious, she looked around. There was a library filled with books—some lying open—but she couldn’t see the titles.

The equipment present was impressive. There were monitors, digital equipment, a row of Bunsen burners and tools she couldn’t identify. Walking deeper inside, she continued examining the room. There were desks as well as high-countered lab stations, and she couldn’t help but wonder who worked here.

And what they did.

Doctor Stowe caught sight of her then. “Walters,” he said when he reached her, “welcome to the Demon Research Group. You’ve displayed an interest in demonology,
and we’d like you to see what we do.” He smiled. “We’ll be starting in a moment.”

“Doctor, what’s happening tonight?” she asked.

Stowe’s angular face sobered as he measured her. “We’re calling through demons, of course. Only a few,” he assured her quickly. “We’ve located a new summoning ritual.”

Allison was never speechless, but she didn’t find her voice until after the doctor rejoined his colleagues. She was the only woman present, the only trainee. Not that the lab was filled with people. There was Doctor Stowe, Riker and two other men—that was it. She straightened, pulling her shoulders back. She was the best
and
brightest. They were grooming her for great things, asking her to pick their group for assignment when her training finished. Too bad this was a secret and she wouldn’t be able to inform the others of her latest distinction.

Riker returned. “Doctor Stowe asked me to fill you in,” he said. He sounded about as thrilled as a man headed to the dentist. “The summoning ritual they’ll be trying tonight is open-ended. That means the demons—if this works—will remain in our world until we choose to send them back.”

“I know the definition of open-ended,” Allison informed him, lifting her chin. “A closed summoning means the demon is only allowed to remain until he completes the task he’s been called for. But I thought there were no openended rites.”

She shouldn’t have said that. “Guess you don’t know everything after all,” Riker replied smugly.

“I understand more than you believe. For instance, the term ‘demon’ is used to refer to creatures native to Orcus and has no relationship to any theology. They appear humanoid, but have powers greater than vampires or werewolves.” Unobtrusively, Allison took a deep breath and tried to recall specific abilities. She wouldn’t permit this
jackass to outshine her. “They can shapeshift, and control the elements—”


Some
can shapeshift,” Riker corrected in a tone that put her back up. “Not all demons have the same talents.”

“Of course not. I was speaking generally,” she lied easily, then quickly moved on to another aspect. “Demons have incredible strength and stamina, and if injured, their wounds heal at an astonishing rate.” Allison smirked at her adversary. “Should I continue educating you?”

Riker’s face went red. “Right,” he drawled sarcastically, “you’re teaching me. Why don’t you explain the hierarchy of Orcus, beginning with how they govern themselves? Include a breakdown of the different branches, their standing within that society, and the powers generally associated with each breed.”

Curling her hands into fists, Allison struggled to hide her temper. She couldn’t display weakness or it would be used against her. “Didn’t Doctor Stowe request that you fill me in?” she asked with mock sweetness. “
I
haven’t been part of the Demon Research Group for two years. That’s how long it’s been since you finished training, correct?”

“Fine,” the boy genius snapped. “They govern themselves via a council believed to be comprised of four members. Pinning down how many types of demons there are is more difficult, but there are a lot of them. Those with weaker magic are viewed with scorn by the more powerful. The stronger of the branches such as Grolird, Setonian, Kiverian and such have the ability to use fire as a weapon. We’ve seen them shoot balls of flame as well as streaks of it. Most have some telekinetic capability, but again, the degree differs from demon to demon.”

Despite herself, Allison was interested, and she worked hard to keep her voice nonchalant as she asked, “What about the talents of one of the weaker breeds? What can they do?”

Riker studied her, then shrugged. “Some of the lesser
branches also have control of the elements, although not to the same degree. There’s one kind”—his eyes became slightly less remote as he became involved in the subject—“that manipulates air and wind. We’re not sure what they’re called since we’ve heard three different names, but they are definitely viewed as inferior by those of greater power.”

“Demons.” Allison shook her head. “As if vampires and werewolves in this city weren’t enough.”

Riker gave her a mild look, then went on. “What’s particularly interesting, is how the weaker demons compensate for their shortcomings. They might lack punch in their magic, but they make up for it in other ways—like cleverness. Those perceived as strong in Orcus rarely are anywhere near as crafty.”

Allison nodded. It made sense. The weak had to compensate in some manner. Hadn’t her father tried to do the same with his sarcasm and derision? He’d been jealous of her intelligence from the time she was a child. “The myths I’ve heard—”

“I’m getting there,” Riker said, sounding impatient. “As I was saying, all these types of demon are different. The ones that use air and wind? They’re playful. Like Loki from Norse mythology—”

“Or Coyote from Navajo stories,” she interrupted, refusing to let him lecture her as if she were a high school student.

“Exactly!” The boy wonder actually sounded pleased by her interjection. “What if those two really did exist? After all, these demons weren’t always imprisoned in Orcus.”

“The veil,” Allison murmured. Her confusion over Riker’s response had her asking him a question instead of researching it herself later. “How were the demons trapped?”

He shook his head. “If you’re asking what the veil is and how it confines them, we have no conclusive answer. The
stories we’ve found, though, seem to suggest that the barrier was created when a particular group of demons did some especially horrible deeds.”

“And we’re calling them forward?” Allison wasn’t sure that sounded too bright.

“Most aren’t too bad, and demons are stronger than either fangs or dogs. That’s what the DRG’s purpose is: to learn about the inhabitants of Orcus in the hope we’ll be able to use them.”

For a moment, Allison was disconcerted by the implications, but she pushed them aside. “If their abilities are beyond those of the vamps and dogs already here, that means they’ll be very dangerous to us. We’re already at a disadvantage.”

“True, and we’ve thought of that.” Riker gestured toward a table near the older men; it held nothing except an oversized pistol. “That weapon is still experimental, but it’s killed every demon we’ve tested it on. Besides we humans can control them. Once they’ve given their word, they’re bound to it. If they break a spoken promise, they lose their powers forever, and in their world, to be without magic is the same as being a serf.”

The idea of commanding demons, creatures more powerful than anything in Crimson City, enticed Allison. Once she ruled them…“How do you get them to agree—”

“Quiet,” Stowe called. “We’re about to begin.”

The team except for Riker chanted in a language Allison couldn’t identify. The three men must have spent hours memorizing the words, since there were no papers or books in their hands. Allison tucked her fingers in the pockets of her trousers and watched in fascination.

As the final word faded, there was a strange wavering to the air in front of the doctors. Allison closed her eyes to clear her vision, and when she opened them again, two tall new masculine figures stood in the room. One had dark hair and the other was blond. Both wore it down to their
waists and had thin braids at either temple used to pull their long tresses back into ponytails. Neither wore a shirt, but with their impressive chests, why would they want to?

Doctor Stowe approached the—demons? He spoke to them quietly enough that Allison couldn’t hear the words. She pulled her hands free and smiled. Another honor for her:
She
was meeting the first demons allowed into Crimson City in years, would be part of the group directing their actions. Truly she did—how had Riker put it?—soar above the mediocrity of other humans.

One day she’d be in charge of the entire Department of Paranormal Research & Development; it was simply a matter of time. Why shouldn’t she command demons now? The figure with dark hair turned his head and looked directly at her. His strange, light-colored eyes were unreadable, but there was a cruelty to his lips that sent a shiver down her spine. Allison shook it off. He hadn’t acknowledged Riker or anyone else in the room—only her.

The air shimmered again and a third demon appeared. Allison stared at him. He was different than the first two. This one had shoulder-length, light brown hair, and while as muscular as the others, he wore a shirt.

Riker approached the newcomer. The demon ignored him, and Allison smirked. Even the creatures of Orcus saw how special she was, understood that she was the one they should obey.

A shout jerked her attention back to the first two demons. The dark-haired one had lifted Doctor Stowe off the floor by his throat. There was more yelling, and Riker rushed over. Lights popped, dimming the room. Involuntarily, Allison backed up a step.

The demon threw Stowe to the ground. He was dead, his neck at an odd angle. Two of the three remaining members of the team drew syringes and headed for his killer. Riker went for the weapon he’d pointed out to her, but it suddenly sailed across the room as if thrown.

The last demon to arrive began walking toward the door.

“You are not going to assist us?” the golden-haired demon asked. Despite the fact that the first two demons were focused on the third, Allison saw the research team was unable to close the distance and sedate them.

“I’m a healer,” said the third demon.

“You will wait for us outside the chamber,” the darkhaired one ordered, and the healer nodded.

BOOK: Through a Crimson Veil
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