The smart, sassy, single, and "highly original" (#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs) Zoë Martinique is back- and she's seeking clues on the other side...
Zoë Martinique's life hasn't been ordinary for quite awhile. First she developed the ability to travel outside her body at will-where she encountered some seriously weird things. Things that left her with powers that she didn't really want or need. Still, a person can get used to almost anything- even being a Wraith. Though more often than not, it plays serious havoc with her love life.
But for once, Zoë is glad of her abilities. Bodies are showing up all over Atlanta, drained of blood. They're beings from another astral plane, called Revenants-and they're being stalked by her old enemy, the Phantasm. The Revenants are hardly the nicest of creatures-but to preserve the cosmic balance, Zoë will need to put everything on the line to save them...
1Superman makes this shit look easy.
Flying, I mean. Just points his beefy hand out with a mighty fist and away he goes. Up, up, up. I do the same and crash into— through—and past a building. I guess this is a good thing since I don’t actually break anything in the process. No bones or concrete.
Though that last condo I blasted through had some seriously questionable stuff happening in that middle unit—was that a cato’- nine-tails I saw? I tumbled out and put the brakes on, backpedaling in midair as I concentrated on the darkened world, looking for the telltale signs of the Fetch I’d been chasing.
What’s a Fetch? Hell if I knew. The only intel I’d been given was that if I could catch them easily, I would graduate from grasshopper to padawan. Yes. I know. Mixing media here. It’s good practice, going after the small baddies. Gets me in shape for the big baddies, right?
What I did know about Fetches was what I’d read in the Dioscuri notes the Society of Ishmael had let me read. Was still reading.
Nasty little suckers. Really nothing more than a stray bit of Abysmal essence discarded by its creator. They were a lot like Daemons, brought into existence to spy or do icky things. Some were used as assassins. They weren’t given forms like me or you—but left naked in a way so they could blend into their environment. This one’d been made out of office supplies—like an Office Depot transformer. And every time it’d gone through a wall, its accouterments had been ripped off, and then it’d pulled whatever else was nearby to itself, giving it form again. Last time I checked—this one was made of toilet paper—two-ply.
Oh—let me explain. My name’s Zoë—and you’d think I’d get tired of reintroducing myself. But see—I never know where people join the adventure. Or tragedy. Depends on how you look at it.
Martinique. Last name.
I’m a twentysomething former retail salesgirl turned Wraith. Wraith. That’s what I am. All because—and let me make sure I got this straight in my own head—I was born an Irin, the child of an angel, and was touched by the Abysmal plane.
Got that? Good, ’cause I ain’t repeating it.
“Hey—lover—” came a deep voice to my left. A voice that rightfully belonged to a detective I knew but was being used by my companion at the moment. I was hovering as I got my bearings, my arms crossed over my chest, and turned my head to take a look at my enemy, my nemesis, and the reason all this shit had happened to me.
Let me introduce you to that part of the Abysmal plane I was touched by.
The Archer. TC to me and my buddies. Trench Coat.
That would be the bald guy with sunglasses hovering to my left. Not that he knew what would happen back then—or I. But apparently we’re irrevocably linked together in all sorts of oogy ways. Before he touched me, I could go out of body, or OOB as I called it. Astral projection. But then things changed—I changed when he marked me. I glanced at the light red hennalike tattoo of his handprint on my left wrist, could only imagine the streak of white in my otherwise-dark Latina hair.
My being was now a miasma of both planes—existing as one.
This bastard next to me had kidnapped my mother’s soul. And then I lost my ability to OOB because of a spell my mom did when I was a child. Because of this, my dual soul split down the middle. And the evil half of me possessed the man I loved.
Detective Daniel Frasier.
My . . . darker half drove him to do things against his nature. To kill. And enjoy it. The consequence of that was madness—and an undying passion to kill me.
He tried, but killed his captain instead. Kenneth Cooper.
That’s when I started seeing the skulls. Death masks. I’d seen them before—on people—when they were about to die. Now I saw them on everyone. I didn’t go out much anymore. Not in the daylight. I didn’t want to see them. Not anymore.
A week later, I learned I no longer needed to go OOB to go Wraith. And Archer was there. Waiting on me.
Daniel was insane and committed to an asylum. Out of state. Away from me.
That’s my life experience. Getting one’s heart ripped out and stomped on a few times. Oh yeah—and condemning one’s soul.
Oh—but we haven’t confirmed that one yet. That whole condemnation thing. Seems to be one of those vague provisos in small print. In a language nobody speaks anymore. Except for Rhonda. And a guy named Dags.
No, no, no . . . not going there. That boy is gone. Out of the city. Out of my life. No thoughts to him. Nope. No, sireeee.
I moved a good one hundred feet or so above the reconstruction of the Bank of America Building. I sort of blew it up a month or so ago when I rejoined with my darker half. The Abysmal part of me. The media said it was a tornado.
Man . . . my life’s so screwed up. Most women when they have a bad day throw clothes all over the floor. Me? I screw with construction. Can’t say it wasn’t my fault. Because it was.
TC moved closer to me, dressed in a long black trench coat, drivers’ gloves, and dark glasses, hovering eye level with me. Vin Diesel—with a smirk. “I lost it.”
His smirk deepened. “Because you’re not looking.” He pointed past me to my right. “There.”
I turned my entire body, my wings working independently to keep me afloat in the air. I saw it, an iridescent paper-covered blob moving below us, back into the building. I dove down after it, managed to go incorporeal long enough to move through the building’s walls, then through the offices, right on its tail.
Stay with it, TC said in my head. That was getting annoying. One of these little new things that kept cropping up since rejoining with my Horror self. Oh . . . might need to explain that too, huh?
Maniacal laughter echoed through the halls.
Uh, hold that thought.
Wasn’t sure if the laughter belonged to the Fetch—or something else. The little fucker blasted past me and through a door at the end of a long hall. I willed myself forward, imagining myself as a bullet, and sieved easily through the door. Wood. Easier. Though . . . I always felt like I needed to pick splinters out of my teeth afterward.
I stopped abruptly. The thing wasn’t moving—just hovering in the center of some schmuck’s office. A piece of toilet paper fell from its body and drifted to the floor. In the darkness, the Fetch glowed a soft aqua green through the paper. Usually, whatever it attaches to itself forms into some sort of face—and this one was no exception. The paper looked as if it’d been moistened and molded into some old bald guy with a look of surprise. Made me think of a sand sculpture on the beach.
A beat later, I realized the face wasn’t looking at me, but up at a point above my head. It looked as if it wanted to scream, to bolt out of there—but it was frozen in place.
Every Wraithy hair on my back and arms shot up as I was overcome with the freaky factor—
There was something behind me. Above me. Something this Fetch was so scared of it couldn’t move.
Get out of there! came his reply in my head—his response so loud I felt it reverberate against my skull.
I turned just as something struck the side of my head, the force sending me to the right of the Fetch and into the wall—oops—I’d forgotten to go incorporeal. But then—I was a little preoccupied with whatever it was that’d just knocked the shit out of me.
I landed on top of the office-desk bureau, doing some serious damage to the wood, then bounced forward onto the wheeled chair, which popped out from under me. I settled on the floor with a cracking thud.
Laughter filled the awkward silence after my ten-scoring nosedive, closely followed by the scream of the Fetch. How did I know it was the Fetch screaming? I’d popped off a few of them. There is nothing more disarming than their cry of pain. Imagine taking a million nails and pulling them down a chalkboard.
Your hair standing on end now?
That’s what I heard as I moaned and righted myself, feeling my wings pull in and vanish. I could tell from the dark charcoal color of my taloned hands I was still Wraith—sans flight apparatus. Twisting my neck to the left and right, I started to push myself up from behind the desk.
“Stay down!” TC yelled, and the mental force of his warning yanked me back into a crouch.
I sensed that the Archer was in the same room—and peered up over the side of the desk as I heard the sound of scuffling. For me, seeing at night was the same as seeing in the day—only with the added shadows and wispiness. I could see TC wrestling in midair with—
My eyes bugged out.
What the hell is that?
From what I could see, he was doing an alligator death roll in midair with—red hair?
Standing up to my full height—which is nothing to sneeze at—I moved closer, waiting for the opportunity to wail on the big red hair ball. Seriously—it looked like the comic character Dawn’s red hair had walked off her head and was attacking Vin Diesel, wrapping itself around his neck, his body, his arms and hands.
But he wasn’t exactly losing though. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, yanking the hair out by its roots. Of course when he let go of it as if to throw it away, it just got right back up and rewrapped around him.
I blinked. “What?”
“Yell at it!”
Well now, how in the hell was I supposed to do that and not hit him?
Boy . . . that was a reversal of roles. I could remember that night months ago—with Daniel’s broken body at the base of that building— taking aim at this asswipe and screaming him into oblivion.
And now I was afraid of just nicking him.
“Zoë!” he bellowed. “Stop fuck’n around!”
I held out my arms, took in a deep breath—
Abruptly TC was tumbling in midair toward me. I squeaked and went incorporeal just before he sailed through me and into the wall behind me, physically smashing into the bureau I’d already mangled. I winced as I re-formed and looked around for the thing he’d been fighting.
But—it wasn’t there. Besides the creak of wood and TC’s muttering, there wasn’t a sound. The shadows that usually moved like liquid mercury along the periphery of my vision crept out from their hiding places. A sure sign that whatever that was—
It was gone.
I moved to the pile of gooey, gloppy toilet paper and pointed. “Ew.”
TC righted himself, his shades gone from his face. He looked like he wanted to wrap a tree around someone. As he stomped closer, still muttering, I pointed to the floor. “Uh . . . Fetches don’t usually do that when you kill them.”
He was looking back at the pile of cheap pressboard and bent over to retrieve his glasses. Finding them, he plucked them from a pile and turned to me, wiping them on the edge of his black silk shirt. “I’ve told you already—you can’t kill anything Abysmal or Ethereal, you just sort of pop it out of the form it—”
TC stopped when he stood next to me and looked down at the pile. His eyebrows arched, and he hooked his shades on the back collar of his coat. In silence, he knelt beside what was once the Fetch and rubbed at his chin. I knelt beside him, looking at him, then looking at the pile, then looking at him.
He continued rubbing his chin. “Well—” He looked at me. “This is bad.”
“Bad as in ‘wow, whatever that is kicked this shit’s ass,’ or bad as in ‘uh-oh, we’re all gonna die’?”
He pursed his lips and gestured with the index finger of his left hand. “The last one.”
That wasn’t what I’d expected. “Wha’?”
TC looked up at the air, his expression serious. Now, let me really drill home how odd that was to see a serious expression on the Symbiont’s face. Normally, TC’s expression rests between mildly annoyed to annoyingly smarmy. Angry—he does angry well. And pissed off. Smirking too. The king of smirking.
Though Dags had a nice smirk.
Phhhtt . . .
Watching this lack of anything definable on his face made those hairs on the back of my neck rise. “TC . . .”
“I—” He was shaking his head as he looked at me. “I don’t know what that was.” He shrugged, the leather shushing. “I’ve never felt or seen anything like it. The closest in smell is . . .” And he looked at the pile. “I don’t know. It’s like it had the darkness of the Phantasm’s soul, but it had the strength of an Ethereal.”
I searched his face. “Like a Horror?”
“No . . . not a Horror. This was something . . .” TC sighed. “I need to find out what it was. Because this . . .” He nodded to the pile in front of us next to my killer bunny slippers. “This ain’t right.”
“Did it kill it?”
“Yeah. It did kinda kill this Fetch. It mutated it. It’s all but dead. It won’t ever corporeally form again. I’m not even sure there’s much of a sense of being left in it.” He raised his left hand, and a red light sparkled from his palm. Within seconds, the thing pulled and twisted into that light until the only thing left was damp toilet paper. And by the time TC lowered his hand, even the paper was dry.
“Won’t that give you like . . . indigestion?” I asked.
He shook his head and stood. I stood beside. And no matter how big being a Wraith made me feel, he always managed to make me feel small. “I don’t think it will. I’ll give it back to the Styx when I leave.”
At that moment, my watch went off. I cussed and lifted my left wrist, looking at my Harry Potter watch—the only watch of its kind that could move with me through the planes and still keep on ticking. My best friend and magical MacGyver, Rhonda Orly, had fashioned it for me. In the beginning of my Wraithdom, I’d used it to warn me when I’d been out of my body long enough so I wouldn’t experience the lethargy and illness that always seemed to accompany staying out after curfew.
“When’re you gonna tell ’em?” TC said as he moved to the office window. The moon was waxing, close to full, its glow making an ethereal halo behind him, casting his face in slight shadow. He looked . . . impressive.
I pushed the alarm button. “Soon.”
“You said that last week.”
“So this is this week.”
He shook his head. “You sure they have no idea you’re sneaking out at night moonlighting with me?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“And you’re sure they don’t know you can go Wraith—without slipping your mortal coil?”
“No.” Which was the truth. I really didn’t know. But I doubted it. He reached behind him and retrieved his shades. Sliding them on, he turned his face to me. “I wouldn’t be so sure, lover.” He smiled, but I could tell he was thinking about that hairy thing he’d just fought.
“So sure about what? Mom’s and Rhonda’s reactions?” I made a noise. “Oh, I’m sure they’d be pissed and try to exorcise me.”
“No.” He shook his head. I couldn’t see through those shades. “Don’t get comfortable, Wraith. Palling around with me isn’t safe. You’re still a threat to the Phantasm, which makes you a threat to me. You shouldn’t trust anyone—especially me.” He gestured to the window, and the glass shattered outward—freezing in midair just outside. He didn’t have to do that to leave—he just wanted to make an impression. “And you won’t find the answers to your future on that old society’s books.”
“Will you tell me what you find out—about what that was?”
He looked back at me and faded away. The glass fell straight down to the asphalt below.
Don’t trust me, Wraith. Don’t trust anyone.Dear Reader,
I love vampires. Looooove them. Always wanted to write about them. There was a time I would buy a book just because it had a vampire in it. Among my all time favorite vampire books are I, Vampire by Michael Romkey, Shattered Glass by Elaine Bergstrom, and Better In the Dark by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Heck—this last example goes to anything in the St. Germain series by Yarbro).
But after a while I hit saturation. And I started reading more fantasy, and then urban fantasy, and then decided to write my own. But always there was that indefinable love of the vampires. Which, if you really look at it, it's kinda gross. I mean—it's an undead creature that drinks blood. Sleeps in a coffin or in the earth (my favorite idea), and probably has the worst breath on the planet. Ew.
Over the years my interest in the trope shifted—or as I like to say—became refined as you can tell from my example of books. I like the unique mixed with the traditional. I like a spin. So when I began plotting out Revenant, the idea of an Abysmal vampire had been brewing for a while. I'd entertained the concept in a short I'd written for a friend's website who wanted a Halloween story for an event he was running.
And so Jason Lawrence, Revenant, was born.
I started asking myself—what if a Symbiont fully bonded with a human? Not like in Wraith, with the Reverend Rollins, but to a point where the Symbiont and the human soul become one. Yet, the Symbiont remained a constant companion inside of the Revenant's mind, as well as a fount of knowledge from its previous hosts, available upon request.
And what if the Symbiont needed blood to keep it grounded within the host? To keep the host looking—human? And what if, in order to become a Revenant's host, the Symbiont had to be invited in? Voila! Revenant…or in layman's terms, Vampire. Oh, and to give it even more fun, what if there was a nasty spell that could destroy the Symbiont, as well as the human soul inside of the body? And what if this mess plopped itself right on top of Zoë as she dealt with her ever changing powers, and the intricacies of her heart, which is now torn between Dags, Daniel, and Joe?
Revenant is the mid-climax of Zoë's road of discovery. In this book she learns not even her family can be trusted to tell her the truth and sometimes what we perceive as good, isn't always the case.
Cheers and Happy Reading!
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