Cory Dale, a.k.a. Karen Duvall, has released her latest book: an urban fantasy set in a version of New York that blends demons, steampunk-style tech, ghosts, and witches. It sounds like great fun, and today she’s got an excerpt to from the book to share with you that lays down some clear goals for her demon protagonist Henry Paine. Check it out!
“Your neighbors don’t seem to like you very much.” The woman hadn’t stopped smiling.
The word “neighbors” sounded like “naybehs.” A Southern girl. Henry sighed and backed his way into the apartment, sweeping out his hand to welcome her in.
“Thank you,” she said and stepped inside.
The woman had guts, he gave her that, but he questioned her intelligence. He outweighed her by a good hundred pounds, though that hadn’t stopped her last night. The bruise on the back of his head was gone, but not the memory of how it got there. She obviously wanted something else from him and he was curious to know what it was.
“I’d offer you coffee, but I’m fresh out,” he lied, inhaling the luscious scent of his morning brew.
“I prefer chicory.” She gazed around the apartment, not bothering to take off her coat, which meant she didn’t intend to stay. Good. But she did unbutton it and flapped the lapels to fan herself. “You keep it mighty hot in here.”
“My kind like the heat.”
She nodded as if she understood. “Nice kitchen, though that’s the oddest-lookin’ refrigerator I’ve ever seen.”
The robotic arm on the fridge unfurled from its side, two eggs clutched in its steel-clawed hand. It angled as if to throw them straight at the woman’s head.
Henry stepped in the way and scowled at the fridge. It seemed to know more about her than he did. “What is it that you want, uh…”
“Wanda. Wanda Snow.” She stretched her fingers to grab the pinwheel on the table and it flew out of reach, twirling up to the top of the bookcase. “Your little spy is a nice touch, Mr. Paine.”
“How do you know my name?”
“The cab company where I traced your possessed steam car told me you lived in this building. But no one would give me your apartment number. Thanks to your spy—” she glanced up at the bookcase —“I knew just where to look.”
Wanda stared down at his copper heater and it scuttled underneath the bed. It was scared of her. Why?
“The name’s Wanda.”
“Whatever. Look, you’re upsetting my machines and you stole my demons last night. I’ve been patient, but if you don’t tell me where my boxes are right now, I’ll—”
“You’ll what?” She didn’t sound so pleasant now. A thick strand of hair braided into her bun began to glow a vibrant shade of green. “Please tell me, Mr. Paine. What will you do?”
He didn’t know anything about this woman, but his demon intuition told him she was dangerous. She was up to something, and it had to do with the demons she’d stolen.
He locked eyes with her, his will funneling through him like water through a rain spout. He poured it directly into Wanda.
Her smile faltered and she scowled. “What are you doing?”
“I only want to make you happy, Wanda.” His eyes sizzled in their sockets. “And you won’t be happy until you tell me where you stashed my boxes.”
“Can’t.” She swallowed and in a choked voice added, “Must send them back to Hell.”
“But they’re here to help people.” He meant every word, though his intention was to soothe whatever had aggravated her into taking his Vox to begin with. “They want to be here.”
She shook her head. “They can’t understand. It’s not right.”
It was Henry’s turn to scowl. “What’s not right?”
A thin line of blood trailed from one of Wanda’s nostrils. That wasn’t good. She had to stop resisting him.
It was vital she tell him where his Vox were. Those boxes held the future. They represented progress for the modern world. And most of all, they were tied to his family’s livelihood.
Wanda launched herself at him and he caught her by the elbows. Her right hand pressed against his chest, fingers splayed over his heart. “Stop,” she whispered.
“I will. Just as soon as you—”
There was a tugging sensation beneath his skin, then beneath his rib cage. His heart pounded, the muscle cramping and then opening, as if to release something from inside. Part of him felt compelled to return to the Earth’s center and the molten core where the source of his being still lived. It hungered for half of him, his demon half, pulling at one part of his soul while the other part clutched desperately at his humanity.
He gasped. “No!”
They stood locked together in a stalemate of power. If he didn’t release her, she’d die. If she didn’t release him, his demon half would leave him forever. And he’d surely die without it.
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