Welcome to the spotlight for Ash Krafton's Demimonde Series!
Demimonde, Book One
Genre: urban fantasy
Publisher: Ash Krafton
Date of Publication: October 13, 2016
Number of pages: 380
Word Count: 94k
Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction
Sophie Galen is an advice columnist whose work leaves her neck-deep in other people's problems. Thanks to her compassion, her gut instinct, and her magnetic charm, Sophie really knows how to attract little black clouds.
Marek Thurzo is no little black cloud; he's a maelstrom. Marek is Demivampire, a race with the potential to evolve into vampire. A warrior who's taken his share of spiritual damage, he hovers dangerously close to destruction.
He seeks salvation. She's driven to save him. But what if he can't be saved?
Sympathy for his plight becomes true empathy as Sophie's hidden nature is revealed. Marek suspects she may be one of the Sophia, oracle and redemption of the damned Demivampire. She alone can turn back the evolutionary clock.
All she needs is the courage to face her fears. Can she save him from Falling?
My Review Can Be Found on Goodreads:
Demimonde, Book Two
Genre: urban fantasy
Publisher: Ash Krafton
Date of Publication: October 13, 2016
Number of pages: 376
Word Count: 94k
Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction
Sophie doesn't believe in happily ever after. These days, she'd settle for alive after sunrise.
Advice columnist and newly-appointed oracle to the demivampire, Sophie Galen has more issues than a Cosmo collection: a new mentor with a mean streak, a werewolf stalker she can't shake, and a relationship with her ex's family that redefines the term complicated. And then there's her ex himself, who is more interested in playing leader of the vampire pack than in his own salvation.
Becoming a better oracle is tough enough, but when Sophie encounters a deadly enemy - one she never dreamed of facing - it will take everything she's ever learned in order to survive.
My Review Can Be Found on Goodreads:
Demimonde, Book Three
Genre: urban fantasy
Publisher: Ash Krafton
Date of Publication: October 13, 2016
Number of pages: 388
Word Count: 104k
Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction
Since becoming oracle to the demivampire two years ago, advice columnist Sophie has battled werewolves and survived a vampire attack (or two). However, not only was she powerless to save her lover Marek when he slipped to the brink of evolution, she also witnessed his transformation into a falcon, the symbol of Horus United.
Sophie’s quest to save Marek is further complicated when rock star Dierk Adeluf – who also happens to be the king of the Werekind – invites her backstage after a concert. Just when it seems she will find respite from heartache, Sophie is bitten by a werewolf and Dierk decides she is destined to be his queen.
Sophie is caught between the demivamps she loves and the Were who commands her to love him. Throw in his jealous wanna-be girlfriend—a true bitch if ever there was one—and an ambush by witches, and there you have the big mess that Sophie calls her life. And, hello? Her soul mate is still a bird.
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Read Excerpts from All Three Books:
Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde
"Well, Sophie, you've been busy." My editor placed the typed sheets on her desk and pushed her reading glasses to the top of her head, smiling in a way that suggested she wasn't simply commenting on my productivity.
Barbara Evans was definitely fiftyish but her exact age remained a secret closely guarded by her mother and the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. No gray, no dye. No kidding. The wrinkles around her eyes were laugh lines; gravity had yet to wage war on the softer parts of her body.
I made a noncommittal noise as I fooled around at the coffee station in her office at The Mag. I swore I kept this job just so I could drink her coffee. An invitation to Barbara's office for coffee was like receiving royal honors.
"Unfortunately, I felt really inspired this week." I took a shallow sip of the coffee so I didn't scald my tongue. Carrying the mug over to her desk, I flopped into the big red leather chair across from her.
"I'll say. These letters make, what..." She shuffled through the perpetual piles on her desk until she found what she wanted. Barbara was old school, preferring paper to electronic files. "Seven. You made the regular issue as well as the summer bonus. I'm impressed."
Nodding, I reached for my cup. The summer bonus was a pain, if anyone asked me. However, I got paid to do it. Money was nice, so I kept my opinion to myself. I had yet to master a passable poker face and Barbara was a champion player.
"But you don't look like someone who's free and clear until next issue," she said. "You look more like you expect someone to jump out at you."
"I just... eh, it's nothing." I tried to downplay it but her assessment was dead-on, hopefully no pun intended. Her slight frown insisted she wanted a better answer and I grimaced, knowing she wouldn't like the answer. "I've been thinking about Patrick."
"Him again?" She clucked her tongue and walked around the desk. Perching on the edge, she softened her firm tone with a sympathetic look. "He needed professional help and you told him so. You did what you could."
"I don't feel like I did."
"Enough. You're not a psychiatrist. Let it go."
Barbara was right. I was an advice columnist. People sought me out because they wanted my help. Didn't help matters that, before joining The Mag, I'd spent more than a decade in nursing. I was driven to help, to care, to make things all better.
Didn't I have an obligation to help them? "But—"
"But nothing," she said. "I know you like to dwell. At least dwell on something cheerful. Think about those you help."
I scowled into my cup. She was right—I did get too hung up on people and their problems. It was just the way I was wired.
"What brought him up, anyway?"
"I got a letter from him yesterday," I said.
She gave me a careful look as if she were determining whether or not our friendship would survive a phone call to Crisis Intervention. "You mean from someone who sounds like him."
"No, him. His handwriting, his signature."
"I thought you said—"
"I did." I scooted on the slippery cushion so I could look up at her. "You saw the obituary."
"Dead is dead, Sophie." Barbara flipped through the stack in her inbox before selecting several pages from the middle. She tugged a paperclip free and dropped it into a tray as she reclaimed her seat. "They don't come back. Maybe he sent it before he—you know."
I cradled the cup, feeling the sting of heat through the ceramic. The warmth failed to travel past my palms and I tucked my arms to my chest. "It was postmarked this week."
"Do you want the column mail screened?"
"Wouldn't help. It was mailed to my apartment."
Now I had her attention.
She sat back in her chair, papers forgotten. "How could anyone have gotten your home address?"
"Beats me. The column mail comes here and I use a post office box for freelance subs."
"Anything else? Phone calls? Hang ups?"
"No. Just the letter." After a brief deliberation, I added more. Might as well spill all the beans and not just the ones she'd believe. "And the feeling someone's... waiting for me."
Barbara's expression said Okay, I think you finally cracked but her mouth issued more diplomatic words. "Seriously? Maybe you're being stalked."
"No, I don't think so. Just a vague feeling, like someone's waiting for me to... I don't know, open my eyes. See them." I didn't ask if she ever had that feeling. Most people didn't get impressions the way I did. I'd stopped asking that question a long time ago.
However, this was the first time a simple impression worried me. It was a solid, hovering kind of expectancy that killed my concentration and made me look over my shoulder wherever I went.
"That's probably because the letter came to your apartment." The phone rang and Barbara poked the voice mail button. "You feel vulnerable. Keep your eyes open and try to ignore it."
I half-agreed with her, raising the cup and hiding my mouth behind it. I couldn't shake the distinct feeling something awful loomed. The sense of foreboding was like wearing a turtleneck—a constant, constricting pressure. "Maybe I'll take self-defense classes."
"Never a bad idea for a woman living alone in the city. Then again, you might not need them. Your witticisms are sharp enough to draw blood."
I grinned. "Eh, it's a defense mechanism I developed from working with Donna. I used to be such a nice person."
"Speaking of her, she's looking for you."
I slid down in my chair so my head wasn't visible from the door. "Maybe I'll just stay in here while I finish my coffee. Wouldn't do to be caught out in the open."
Barbara removed her glasses and tossed them onto her desk. "What did you do now?"
"Nothing," I protested. "Just--that Expo thing. She's in charge."
She pressed her lips into a stern line. "Haven't you signed up yet?"
"Heck, no. I have stuff to do. Me stuff."
"Your job is me stuff."
"Easy for you to say. You're salaried. Saturday is my day off."
"Well, I won't blow your cover." She glanced over my head toward the door before she waved her pen warningly. "But she'll get her claws into you. One way or another."
I scowled and took a double mouthful of coffee so I wouldn't have to respond. Claws, Expo, anything Donna—they all topped the list of Things I Wanted Least.
I stayed long enough to complete my hedonistic coffee experience before slinking back to my desk. This was work, after all; I wouldn't remain a staff writer if I didn't act like one.
I lived in Balaton, a harbor-dependent city halfway between Philadelphia and Wilmington. Halfway was an apt description in more ways than one. Big enough for a downtown but lacking the sprawl of a mega-city. Too small for a subway but wide enough for several bus routes. Taxes weren't as high as Philly but we didn't get a free ride on sales tax like glorious Delaware, either.
We weren't a major tourist destination, just another city people passed through on the way to somewhere else. I guessed that was why I never left. Balaton was midway between point A and point B—just like me.
This job was the closest fit I'd felt in a long time, even if the inseam wasn't quite right. I had a leg up in the game, at least. My inner voice. My gut instinct. My compassion.
The job was easy. All I had to do was tell people what they probably already knew. Nine times out of ten it was what they wanted to hear anyway, but they didn't trust themselves enough to follow their own advice. If people were brave enough to listen to the spark of wisdom that lived in each of us, I'd be out of a job.
Thank God for that one out of ten who actually needed my advice; they went a long way to validate me. Only problem was, they were the ones who kept me awake at night.
I sighed and plucked my mail from the basket hanging outside my cubicle before dropping into my chair. My position at The Mag was a haven for me. At least, it had been until Patrick's needy letters arrived. Damn those depressed men who get attached to the first sympathetic person they encounter. Damn the way they kill themselves and leave the rest of us to feel like it was our failure, not theirs.
Damn them for coming back.
I knew it couldn't be him. I knew dead was dead. Plenty of dead had happened around me in the past and never once had it been undone. Patrick could be no exception.
Question was: Who? Who now? Who was going to yank my heartstrings, get me completely tied up in their emotional plight, and bail on me at the end? Who would be the death of me?
I didn't want to find out.
Blood Rush: Book Two of the Demimonde
I don't believe in happily ever after. These days, I'd settle for alive until sunrise.
I never thought I'd become a nine-to-fiver. Certainly never thought I'd be too preoccupied to make fun of myself for being one. Sometimes the irony was too great to appreciate.
While I waited for the elevator to arrive at The Mag's foyer, I smoothed my scarf along the back of my neck and hefted my tote bag a little higher on my shoulder. Every chime increased my trepidation, tightening the fist of anxiety in my chest and the sensation of bees swarming in the top of my stomach. I hated quitting time.
More underappreciated irony. Why not?
People chatted around me but I fidgeted with my zipper, keeping my gaze lowered and my mouth closed. Leaving at five in the afternoon meant more than crammed elevators and crowded buses; it meant the light would fade soon and with it my peace of mind. The autumn wasn't a happy golden foliage time of year for me anymore.
Although it was only early October, already the longer nights and shorter days made me feel nervous and brittle. Bad enough I didn't have a sweetheart to share the long nights but even worse now that I knew what came out when the sun went down. Although I hadn't had any problems with vampires over the last year, the threat never left my mind.
Vampires were out there. It was just a matter of time until I had to deal with them again.
Halfway during our descent, I felt a vibe. It was a mild one but, over the past year, my empathy had become sensitive to the point of being squirrelly. The thin thread of power wound its way around each of the passengers as the Demivampire who owned it checked out who else was in the car. When it reached me, it felt like a poke on the arm. I glanced over my shoulder, catching the eyes of an older dark-eyed woman near the back. She sent a tiny pulse of apology-laden power and lowered her eyes.
I smiled politely and concentrated on tugging my scarf loose. The DV didn't approach me in public where any old human could see. We kept our dealings distant and private. That was the way I preferred.
The door opened and I flowed out with the crowd, sunglasses on and scarf over my hair. I hoped everyone would more or less continue on together today so I could hide in the crowd a bit longer.
Without turning my head, I saw a rail-thin guy, his scruffy head and jeans out of place amongst the exiting office employees. He leaned against the wall, scanning the people emerging from the other elevators. Seemed to have missed me—good. Taking shelter behind a taller woman and her chatty companion, I hustled out the front doors.
Outside, my luck ran out. My camouflaging crowd of co-workers suddenly scattered like roaches when the kitchen light is turned on. I hesitated, taking too long to pick a direction.
It was all he needed to spot me. I looked back through the glass into the foyer of The Mag's building. He was on the move, eyes locked onto me.
Startled faces blurred past as I hurried through the five o'clock exodus, bumping into one man, dodging another, and rounding the corner at a speed unfitting for heeled pumps. Steve Madden would be horrified if he knew what I did in his shoes.
Well, Steve could kill me later. Right now, I was facing a much more immediate threat.
At the corner, a bus was loading and at this point I didn't care if it was mine or not. An elderly lady with a big shopping bag struggled on the steps and I danced behind her like a first grader with a full bladder. Once she cleared the last step I leapt up, slamming my token into the fare box.
The door closed behind me just as my pursuer caught up. For once I was glad for the driver's rude efficiency. The bus leveled and lurched forward. I grabbed the bar, almost swinging into the laps of the front seat passengers. As we pulled away from the curb, I met the man's stare through the grimy glass of the door.
Rusted-orange eyes with wide pupils.
I sank onto an empty seat, heart thumping, gradually slowing. Glancing up at the sign over the driver's seat, I realized I'd ended up on the round-about route. Close enough for me. I tugged my necklace out of my shirt and kissed the pendant, my good luck charm, and offered a silent thankful thought to whatever divine powers had saved my behind, yet again.
Reaching into my bag, I pulled out a book of poetry and readied for a long ride home. Ironically, when I'd flipped to a random page, I opened to one of Dylan Thomas's poems.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I had no energy left for rage. All I could muster was a thankful thought because at least today's escape had gone better than most.
A beast of a different sort met me at the door once I got home, but I was prepared for this one. Since moving to my current apartment, Euphrates had become a one-hundred-percent-indoors cat and poor kitty was not coping well.
I squeezed through the narrowly-opened door and blocked his escape with my tote bag. He'd made it out into the hall twice since moving here, which could have caused major fallout. The other apartment on this floor was occupied by a No Pets Allowed vigilante who seemed intent on catching me with the furry goods. Mrs. Petterson already suspected Euphrates wasn't a television and frequently warned me something dire would happen should I dare bring in a dog.
As if. I definitely didn't swing that way.
Luckily, Euphrates wasn't up to any cat acrobatics so my bag was enough to contain him. He accused me with a heavy-lidded glare and a toothy wail that made me pity his near-solitary confinement.
Scooping him up, I dropped my bag on the couch and glanced around with dismay. Stacks of cardboard boxes exaggerated the tight fit of the room. I'd begun to unpack when I moved in three months ago but quickly grew disheartened by the lack of space. If I'd had time when I was planning the move, I could have picked an apartment that was at least big enough to fit the couch. Instead, it sat at a strange angle across one corner of the room. Either that or block the doorway.
I would have gotten a place that allowed pets, too, but I just didn't have the luxury of time to browse through rental listings. Once that Were had discovered my last apartment, I was out of there in four days flat.
What was the point of unpacking when it didn't feel like home?
Life hadn't been exactly all new-pumps-and-Oreos since my soul mate Marek and I split more than a year ago. Well, more precisely, he split. Demivamps pushed to the brink of evolution tended to do that, since their own society generally wants nothing more to do with them. Evolution is a one-way street, more or less. Nothing can bring a brinking DV back from that terrible edge.
Nothing, except maybe for me. Still, it didn't make me immune to being dumped. Marek had made it crystal clear he didn't want to see me anymore when I tracked him down after the Crap That Almost Killed Me. I was an old fashioned girl, you know? If a guy made love to you one night then tore out your throat and exsanguinated you the next, he should at least call you in the morning.
I sighed and pulled out a stack of mail I'd brought home from the office. Before meeting Marek and the rest of the DV, writing my column was barely enough to justify my gainful employment at The Mag; I usually contributed to other features in order to claim a regular paycheck and benefits. (It shames me to admit the lengths to which I'd go for health insurance.)
Unfortunately, being Sophia for the American Demi-vampire also made writing my advice column a full-time job, since the DV decided it was the perfect way to petition me. Every once in a while, a letter would contain an emotional signature so strong it evoked the Sophia. I couldn't risk having my eyes change color in front of the mail clerk again.
It was almost like face-on petitioning, really. I could simply sort the petitions from the human letters and get on a roll. Once the Sophia responded, the answers flowed smoothly. First drafts were last drafts and, when I included select petitions for print in the column, they were the ones that impressed my editor most. I would then mail the remaining responses off to their respective petitioners.
Sometimes the petition was doubled with a pushy compulsion, a "read mine first" or some other obnoxious request. That sort of thing really bunched up my boy shorts. Of course, I couldn't complain about it at work because no one knew about the Demivampire, much less that I was their spiritual guardian. Hence, all the off-the-clock work.
Give Until It Hurts Sophie, that's me.
Flipping through the mail, I breathed a tiny sigh of relief. None of the envelopes triggered a compulsion so I figured there was probably nothing I couldn't handle today.
I sliced open the envelopes and began to sort the letters into piles.
Column, column, petition.
The petitions were easy to spot even to someone who couldn't sense DV power; each was addressed Dear Sophia and signed with a real name, not a witty pseudonym. I had a growing number of regulars who made me think I ought to start charging them.
Column, petition, column, Rodrian.
I blinked, trying to focus my eyes and dispel my surprise, recognizing the handwriting on the envelope at once. Rodrian Thurzo preferred writing to typing and he had a real thing for fountain pens.
Yep, that Rodrian. Marek's brother.
When I pulled out the letter, the power signature tripped a switch in my brain, triggering my Sophia. My eyes changed so fast I swore I could feel them flow from brown to oracular blue. I had to sit down before I fell over and felt behind me for an afghan to wrap around my shoulders. The chills were so intense I thought my teeth would chatter.
Damn that Rodrian.
Once my Sophia settled, I unfolded the letter and read it. The letter contained a brief request to meet him at his Tenth Street office. Some sort of business proposition. I couldn't imagine what business he could possibly have with me.
I especially couldn't imagine what was so important that he'd send enough power to turn my intestines into balloon animals. I came this close to throwing up on Fraidy. I'm sure the cat would have loved that.
So. Business with Rodrian. Now the question remained: would I go?
Wolf's Bane: Book Three of the Demimonde
The man sitting across from me absolutely hated himself.
I didn't need to unzip my barriers to make that assessment. The way his shoulders crept up his neck, the curve of his back that left his face parallel to his thighs, the way he avoided looking at me or anyone else—body language said it all. And when he did finally raise his too-heavy head to look at me, his eyes were stony and hollow, too dead to even care what anyone saw in them.
He wore his self-loathing the way I wished I wore Jimmy Choos—right out there for the whole world to see. Difference was, he didn't care who looked.
I glanced at the Demivamp who hovered behind him like a first-year teacher. She toyed with the end of her braid and looked ready to throw herself onto him if need be. Maybe he was a flight risk. Maybe he was a danger to himself.
Maybe he was a danger to me. In that case, the other DV wasn't necessary. I didn't worry so much about myself anymore. I'd learned a thing or two about staying alive.
Not to mention, I had an entire courtroom full of DV that perched on the semi-circles of benches, elbow to elbow, each waiting their turn with the Sophia. I knew full well every single one of them would fling themselves between me and whatever peril might arise here.
I was well-guarded. Perks of being a national treasure.
I flicked my gaze up to the DV who stood behind my client, dismissing her. Once she took her place in the audience, I sank into my Sophia sight. Finding my center, I called up my barriers, peeling away the outermost layer and expanding it until it encompassed us both in an invisible but completely soundproof bubble.
A nifty little trick I'd learned since Dorcas removed the last remaining obstacles between me and my power. She hadn't been much of a dresser and had a weird thing for vampires, not to mention acting like the scariest damned thing I'd ever seen, but I had to hand it to her. She'd done me a solid.
When the barrier went up around us, there was a little ear-pop of sensation. He seemed to notice me then. His eyes took up a pale light, gleaming like the teeth he hid behind the disdainful curl of his lips. His power seethed out like the odor of a hot dumpster—the feel of it decayed and ugly and absolutely desperate.
I smiled, grim and hard. This guy might be the farthest gone DV I'd ever meet. He was going to be a challenge.
I decided to start the same way I always did, knowing this one might not end the same way. "What's your name?"
He stared me down for several moments. "You want my current name or the one that's waiting for me?"
Obviously, he was referring to the name change that happened when a DV Fell. Vampires never kept their DV names. All part of the whole born-again (dead-again?) persona of a newly-minted vamp.
"You have one name," I said, my voice like tungsten. "And you're going to keep it."
"Like you can stop me."
I smiled again, glad I had chosen to wear lip gloss because my mouth was so dry, my lips would have split without it. "I can. And I will."
"Look, lady." He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The pale light in his dark eyes looked like an early hard frost on a green lawn. Untimely end of a sweet season. "I know who you are, and I know what you do. Sometimes, you just gotta let nature take its course."
"This isn't nature. This is self-punishment."
He smiled, open-mouthed to show all his teeth. Sharp, elongated, a mouth full of knives. A vamp's mouth. "And I earned every single minute of it."
Okay. Tough guy. Proud of the shitty things he's done. That was part of the thrill of being so close to Falling. Kind of like passing over the event horizon into a black hole, when one part of you accelerates faster than the rest. His soul was a ragged plastic bag caught on a tree branch, waiting for the last big wind to come along.
His heart had already flown loose. In his heart, he was a vampire.
Well, his body was still here, and his soul was still here, and I was still here. He was in for a surprise.
I surveyed his power, using Sophia-sight to visualize it. It was dark, like cooling lava, black and cracked and sullen red showing through the seams. The black crust was his resignation. He'd stopped fighting. But maybe he just needed the right sparring partner.
How did you get rid of hard, black cooling lava? Why, you heat it up, of course. Nothing got a man hotter than his temper.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. There were other things, but that wasn't my brand of therapy.
I pushed through his brittle ugly shell into the lava beneath, then through the lava to his inner core. It was tiny, but it was cool, and green, and still had the essence of who he used to be. His feelings were still packed away inside and I latched onto it, expanded it, examined it. Family. He had kids. A job. He'd been a lawyer, and a good one. He was proud of what he'd done—in the beginning.
Ah. That's where it started to turn. I sifted along the line of those memories and found the point when he started fighting for the bad guys.
"A dirty lawyer?" I snorted and rolled my eyes. "There's a shock. Your parents must be so proud."
He growled and dug his fingers into his thighs. "Shut up."
"No wonder you turned into this." I waved my fingers at him as if I were calling out a Coach bag knock-off at a street vendor. "I thought you were going to say you ate babies or something but a corrupt lawyer? That's sick."
Rage filled him like a burning warehouse, the fury consuming his power. If it weren't for my personal shields, I'd have been incinerated. The fire of his anger melted the hard shell of his former apathy and he became a miniature sun of murderous intent.
He wanted to end me, wanted nothing more than to get his hands on me.
I beat him to it.
With the flick of a mental finger, I opened the door in my mind where all the bad stuff went. It was like a vacuum in there and once it was open, it just sucked at his power, the ugly, the hate, and the agony he'd surrounded himself with. I pulled.
It hurt. It hurt me, it was like sandpaper on the eyes and it hurt him. He howled as I ripped away all the fury of his self-loathing and hate.
Normally, I did this in steps, gently, kind of a leeching away. Not this guy. I had to over-power him because at this stage, he could just grow it all back. Vampires were infinite wells of hate and evil and this guy was so damned close.
His howl became a roar and he made a lunge for me. I slid a ramrod of my shields at him and held him at a mental arm's length. He struggled to reach me, his clawed hands inches from my eyes and if he got to me, if he reached me, he'd tear my throat out.
No, he wouldn't. I was stronger than that. I bit down on my lips and tasted the tang of blood and continued to strip his agony away.
This little man wasn't big enough to break me. I continued to pull away the damage of his soul, and sent a simultaneous stream of the Sophia into him, a cool mist against the acrid hate. His soul had been dried and withered and it soaked up the Sophia's healing rain, swelling and anchoring itself once more.
The fight was going out of him. He dropped his hands, fighting to breathe. Part of my brain screamed to stop, this was too much, too fast. But a part of my heart was intent on pushing the limits, almost wishing to break because maybe then—just maybe—I'd break past whatever unknown obstacle had been holding me back. Desperation drove me just as surely as it had driven him.
So I was relentless. I continued the pull and the push and I found myself standing over his slumped body. He'd slid down in his chair, head dropped against the back of the cushion, his eyes darkening into a deep green, like spring grass. And I didn't stop.
I didn't stop until he'd fallen to his knees before me, forehead pressed to my feet, crying and repeating words I couldn't hear because the Sophia was too much in control. My ears didn't work right when she was filling my head. I kind of got used to it.
When it was all gone, all the damage and the negativity and the self-hate, the Sophia pulled itself back, sealing the drain. Sound returned, and I could hear his labored breathing, his murmured chanting. My insides still felt raw. That would take a day or two to settle down.
I was aware the outer barrier was still up and I dispelled it. Another ear-pop and we were both submerged in a cacophony of applause and happy shouting. Several people rushed forward to embrace him, hugs for him, awkward hugs for me. I backed away from the jostling and let his family and friends bear him back to the seats. He beamed at me, incredulous joy and gratitude on his face.
And it didn't touch me at all.
I only had two thoughts. The first was: I had just gotten inside him, battled his demons, saved his soul, but I never learned his name. Maybe it was better that way. There were so many DV. I couldn't remember all their names and keep my sanity.
The second was: it hadn't been enough. He was, by far, the worst I'd encountered and it still wasn't enough. There had been no revelation, clue, no hint how to fix the one problem I needed to fix.
I'd come no closer to solving Marek's problem.
A terrible panic tried to grip me but I squashed it down. I swallowed hard and pinched myself and turned to the crowd. The entire group fell silent, hanging on my words.
"Another," I called. "Please. I need another."
And I continued to heal, and I continued to need, and I continued to fight the growing fear that in the end, I might save a million DV and still stand to lose the one I truly loved.
Another stepped forward, and after him another, and it was pushing dawn before I realized none of it had given me what I needed to save Marek.
I stared bleakly at the sea of hopeful faces. So many saves, so many solutions, all of it dwarfed in the shadow of my heart's crushing failure. All my exhaustion, all my despair, all of the raw edges inside me, seething with the scalds of so much negative energy, and all I could think was that I had to do this all again for the next envoy in three days' time.
Einstein's Definition of Insanity Sophie, that's me.
Meet the Author:
Ash Krafton writes because if she doesn't, her kids will…and NOBODY wants that. A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she's not writing, she's practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.
Most recently, she's re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps. Find out more when you visit www.ashkrafton.com
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