Unedited Excerpt: The Chameleon's Bite

Coming soon

Excerpt: Blood Talisman

I approached the bar and ordered a JD on ice, casting a small, nullifying spell to kill the alcohol. I needed to be alert today, but I still wanted to pretend I was having fun. I knocked back the drink, missing the kick of whiskey but enjoying the other patrons’ admiring glances. I’d won many a drinking competition that way. Bill MacKay, or Mac, the obligatory hunky barman, had no qualms about letting a woman set up his patrons, especially when he was taking bets. Also, he fancied me rotten.
“Heads up,” Mac said, pouring me another. He nodded in the direction of the door.
“A very wicked witch comes this way.” He grinned widely, obviously meaning wicked in the best possible sense of the word.
I turned to see a Blue witch enter the bar. Blue witches train in the succubus arts, using the power of sex to create magic. And judging by the buzz her entrance caused, this wasn’t just any Blue witch; she was a master.
Blue witches always make me feel dowdy. It would take a super model three hours of intense make-up to look half as good as a Blue witch does when she wakes up first thing in the morning. Often they have to cast dampening spells on themselves so as not to blind mortals with their beauty.
She slid her pert butt onto the barstool beside me, making me feel like an elephant perched on a saucer. I swallowed my second shot of JD, not bothering with the nullifying spell this time.
“Helene?” she asked, accepting a colorful cocktail from Mac.
I raised a brow. Not so much at her greeting, but because I’d never seen Mac mix a cocktail before—this dive wasn’t that kind of place. Nor had I ever seen him give away anything for free, not even to me.
Her perfume filled my nostrils, a mix of cherry blossoms and candy floss, subtly underlaid with a musk that made my head spin. I cast a quick ugly spell—it barely made a chink in her looks. Now she looked about as good as Cindy Crawford. In other words, she was still too damned hot for my liking but at least I was no longer contemplating a quick foray into bisexuality.
“Who’s asking?”
“Marlena Dahl,” she replied, holding out her hand. I knew better than to take it.
“Leader of the Eastern Blues, to what do I owe this honor?” Dahl was high up in coven hierarchy, and incredibly old, perhaps centuries. She looked about twenty, which made me think of all the things she’d done to stay so young—or rather, all of the people she’d done.
“There’s someone who needs taken care of.”
No one is immune to Blue witchcraft, and I mean no one. So far Dahl was just being friendly. It took all of my strength to keep my eyes off her. I stared hard at the bottom of my glass, as if it were the most interesting thing I’d ever seen. If she’d turned on the charm I’d have switched teams in seconds, which made me wonder how come she needed my help. I mean, if there was anyone who needed killing, all she would have to do is put on the charm and they’d put her knife in their back for her.
“I don’t do bounty work anymore,” I mumbled.
“I know, you decided that working as a hired killer for the Mage Council was more . . . rewarding.”
True, my new job paid well, but not only that, the people I hunted were mostly bad guys. At least the Mage Council had judged them as bad, and the Council members were as close to the good guys as it came in the supernatural world. But I resented the label of killer. Okay, so in my line of work a great number of my marks wound up dead. But what did you expect when you hunted vampires and witches? When the only way to stop a vampire from killing you is to shine a solar lamp in their face, the mortality rate is pretty high.
Anger welled up inside me, but the sultriness curling through her words drained me of that emotion before it could take hold. I wondered how anyone managed to stay mad at a Blue witch and it occurred to me how powerful her magic truly was.
“Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a hit woman. When you fight creatures intent on sucking you dry, things tend to get a bit . . . .” My mind began to wander. Marlena was doing this thing with her hair, twirling it around her finger and looping it into her mouth. Very distracting. “Get a bit . . . heated.”  The last word came out all breathy, and I-don’t-talk-like-that.
“Really?” Marlena made an elaborate display of wetting her lips. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything more fascinating.
“Ah, yes I . . . what was I saying?”
“You were saying that you aren’t taking on bounty hunting duties, which is fine. That’s not what I’m here about, actually.”
Blue witches don’t make social calls. There’s only one reason for them to be visiting a fellow witch. She was here to recruit me. Frankly I was surprised. At barely over five foot tall, and a generous size twelve—I was hardly Blue material.
“Well I can’t say I’m not flattered. But I’m not really interested in carnal magic.” I managed, barely, not to shudder. I hated the thought of gaining power from the sexual energies of strangers.
Her decadent thick lips spread into an inviting smile. But for a minute I thought I saw a glimpse of darkness, a trace of what she really looked like, or would have looked like, had she not turned to the succubus arts. She reminded me of a snake. The vision was gone as quickly as it appeared.
She laughed. “I’m not here to turn you. If that was my intention you would not refuse.”
“Oh I doubt that very much,” I lied.
Her hand shot out like a bullet, too fast for the human eye, and my wrist was captured in the succubus’ grasp.
The bar disappeared. We were lying on a satin bed. My hands and feet were tied. Marlena’s mouth was everywhere, kissing, licking me all over in places I would never have thought of as being erogenous. Her tongue was nectar in my mouth; her hands played me with ruthlessly efficient sensuality. I’m not sure how to describe what she did in words. Think of the most delicious thing someone could do to you with their tongue, and then multiply the number of tongues they have by a hundred.
I heard myself moaning as the first wave of orgasm hit. In the back of my mind I knew that I was having an orgasm right there in the bar and although deeply ashamed, I couldn’t stop.
I had to do something. I tried to think of the sexiest man I knew, but no male was sexy enough. Well there was one. But fanaticizing about him might be more dangerous than Marlena.
Too late. The memory of the last time we had been together flashed into my head.
Carved out by the prowling actions of a top predator, his muscles were bulky from centuries of the hunt. He was on top of me, my legs pinned under his great thighs. He had my wrists trapped in his vice-like grip. He had the strength of a man who had lived a thousand years by feasting on human blood. I threw my head back. As he kissed my neck I felt his canines graze my flesh. There was no going back after that. All I wanted was for him to sink those teeth in. I was desperate for that first prickling pain to enter my virginal veins.
He pulled away sharply and stood above me. His rigid muscles shone with sweat. He was shaking.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
I sat up, dazed by the sudden disconnect from the vampire’s spell.
“What? why?”
“I can’t fight it anymore. Your body offers what your words deny.”
I sat up, causing the blood to rush to my head. His eyes locked on the throbbing vein in my neck.
“We’ve discussed this,” I said. “You know that I can’t help it. When I’m near you my body has to respond to your hunger. I can’t stop it.”
He stepped back. “Well, I don’t think I can stop myself. I want you, Helene. I want to taste you. I love you.”
He shook with raw emotion, a powerful man with tears in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but I won’t be a vampire for you. I can’t, I’m a witch and if I let you drink my blood, I won’t want to stop and then I’ll feed on you. I won’t be a witch anymore. You said you can control it, you can stop yourself from feeding.”
He looked at me for a long time, so still, so silent he might have been a statue. “I don’t want to anymore.”
He stalked out of the room.
Suddenly I came back to myself. I was back in the bar. And then I noticed Marlena lying on the floor.
She was weak. So weak that her own dampening spell failed to cover her beauty and my own was not working. Her beauty blinded me. I found my mind screaming in agony, it burned my soul. I knew then that only God’s eyes could behold her in this state. I felt my sanity slip away.
Before that could happened a curtain dropped over my eyes.
I came to moments later. Her face was above me, still horrendous in its beauty but no longer maddening. I thought she’d be angry with me for breaking the succubus spell but she was grinning as if she had learned some delicious secret.
“I would never have guessed.”
“What?” I asked quietly, too drained to manage more.
 “That you were into bondage.”
I didn’t have the strength to argue about the fact that she was the one who had me tied up and that I’d had little say in the matter. Also I knew succubus witches fed on people’s fantasies. So I didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“Okay you made your point,” I said, struggling to my feet and regaining my seat at the bar. I could only imagine what the other patrons were thinking. Hopefully they just figured us for a couple of tipsy women. I refocused my attention on Marlena. “Why don’t you tell me what it is you want?”
“I need help capturing a killer who is using vampires as hitmen.”
“You’re asking me to break the peace?”
The vampires and witches around the world had tentatively agreed to a peace after three hundred years of war which had raged between various supernatural factions.
She nodded.
“And what if I say no?”
“You won’t.”
She seemed so sure of herself. And given that the little bondage session had only taken place in my mind and not in reality, I guessed she had good reason. What would happen if she touched me that way for real? And then stopped. I’m not too proud to admit I’d be begging her, because I knew of stronger witches than I who had given up their power for one night with a succubus.
“Go on then, tell me.”
“It’s about a girl,” she said, “murdered by a group of vampires.” 
Okay that was bad. For one thing it was illegal; vampires were not allowed to kill their prey. Legally they weren't even allowed to nibble a human's ear without permission. But I couldn’t understand the Blue’s interest. Blue witches are not compassionate people. Most know when they sign up for an eternity of sexual predation that they are going to damage their souls. If they didn’t start out as selfish, years of feeding turn them into nothing more than heartless predators.
“I suggest you go to the Mage Council if you have evidence of criminal activity amongst the vampires.”
“What’s the difference, when you’re the one who will be on the case?”
The difference was that I didn’t trust her. There was something she wasn’t telling me. About the vampires or the girl who had died.
“So it shouldn’t matter either way, should it? If you want me on the case then you have to go through the correct channel, unless there’s something about this case you don’t want the Council knowing.”
The succubus frowned; the lack of wrinkles would have made a Botox specialist green with envy. “I can’t tell you the reason, but trust me you don’t want the Council getting wind of this. If you agree not to include your superiors, I’ll tell you everything I know.”
I frowned back, sure my forehead was respectably lined. “No deal, tell me everything first and I’ll decide what the Council does and does not need to know.”
Miss Dahl did something utterly uncharacteristic. She started to cry. I had no idea Master Blues had the ducts remaining to produce tears.
“Please,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid.”