It’s almost here, guys!
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce the next book in Shades Below: The Devil’s Disease. Lena and MacMillian are together again…and things are about to get bloody.
In the city by the Bay, things are about to get bloody…
Psychic medium Lena Alan always sticks to what she knows, and what she knows are dead people. When her brother Cyrus agrees to look into a troubling incident for local vampire Seneca Lynch, Lena finds herself in unfamiliar territory.
One thing is clear: she needs a detective, and there’s only one she trusts.
Private investigator Jesper MacMillian is ready to get back to business. Between his duties as leader of the city’s Romani community and the stack of unfinished paperwork on his desk, he doesn’t have time to think about ghosts, witches, or Lena Alan. After nearly a month of no contact, he’s starting to think she’s forgotten about him…until she waltzes through his office door and hands him a new case.
Still reeling from his last encounter with the subversive world, MacMillian is tempted to turn it down. But this is Lena, and he can’t bring himself to tell her no. He soon finds himself drawn even deeper into the shadows, into a part of the demimonde where folklore is real and nightmares are born.
This time, there are more than just ghosts walking the streets of San Francisco.
There are monsters, too.
MacMillian looked around. He was in a basement of some sort, but it was unlike any basement he’d ever seen. There were no shelves, no storage boxes. The entire room was lined with what looked like oversized gym lockers.
Footsteps sounded behind him. MacMillian tensed and flattened against the locker nearest him. He raised his cane like a bat.
“For god’s sake, MacMillian, if you’re going to insist on wandering off, I’ll be forced to get you a leash.”
MacMillian relaxed. “Lynch.” Thank god. He’d never thought he would be relieved to see the man. He stepped away from the locker just as Lynch reached the bottom step.
The other man looked him up and down. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like shit.”
MacMillian snorted. His brain chose that moment to send a spear of pain down his nonexistent leg. He grimaced.
Lynch’s brow furrowed. “Your injury is giving you trouble?”
MacMillian didn’t know what to make of the look on his face. He shifted. “Nothing a little rest won’t cure.”
“I’m sorry. I should have realized you weren’t behind me.” Lynch paused. “No one tried anything untoward, I trust?”
MacMillian thought back to the young man, and their odd almost-conversation. “Don’t worry. My honor is safe.”
Lynch’s lips twitched.
MacMillian nodded around the room. “What is this place? I wouldn’t have thought a house like this would come with a root cellar.”
“This house comes with many things.” Lynch took a few steps forward. “This is our crypt.”
MacMillian balked. “Your—”
“That’s right. Our vault. Sepulcher. Mausoleum.” Lynch’s eyes roamed over his face. “Does that surprise you?”
That was certainly one word for it. MacMillian cleared his throat. “I thought your kind was immortal.”
“We are.” Lynch strode over to one of the lockers. “Barring certain circumstances, that is. No, we don’t keep our dead here. This is where we keep those Sons who have chosen to sleep.”
MacMillian started to speak.
Lynch unlocked the locker, and swung open the door. MacMillian kept his mouth open, but the words died on his tongue. Propped inside the locker was a man, his skin the color and texture of fine white marble. His eyes were closed. He was motionless but for the steady rise-fall of his chest.
MacMillian stared for a moment, then looked back at Lynch. “What the hell?”
Lynch shrugged. “You may find this difficult to believe, but immortality can be an unendurably burdensome proposition at times. Many of us grow weary over the centuries. Sons cannot die, but we can sleep.” He gently closed the locker again. “If we wish, we can sleep forever.”
There was an almost wistful note in his voice. He started back towards the stairs.
MacMillian didn’t move. “Have you ever thought about doing that?”
“Sleeping eternity away?” Lynch shook his head. “No.”
“Because some of us don’t have dreams, Mr. MacMillian. Some of us have nightmares.” Lynch stopped at the foot of the stairs, turned and met his eyes. “You strike me as a man who knows a thing or two about nightmares. Tell me, what do you see when you sleep?”
MacMillian pressed his lips together. Blood. Glass. He shrugged. “Don’t remember.”
Lynch’s lips twitched. “Of course not.” He swept a hand towards the stairs. “I think it’s time I returned you to your car. Can you walk well enough?”
“I’ll manage.” MacMillian made his way to the staircase. It looked even longer than he remembered. He clenched his teeth, and started the arduous climb.
Lynch didn’t rush him, didn’t say a word until they were back at ground-level. He took the lead, measured his steps to MacMillian’s halting pace. MacMillian didn’t allow himself to breathe easily again until they made it outside.
By the looks of things, the rest of the party was winding down. People poured into the front garden, everyone from fishnet-clad goths to silk-swathed Victorian ladies. MacMillian moved off the path to let one motley group pass.
He shook his head. “Bet you anything half those people are going to work in an office tomorrow.”
Lynch stood beside him and watched as still more people emerged from the house. “I need to tell you something. Kasey Chaplin, the young lady Lena communicated with; there’s something about her you should know.”
MacMillian looked at him. “What is it?”
Lynch’s eyes locked on a raven-haired woman in a corset. “She was a black swan.”
MacMillian blinked. “You mean like Stella?”
A smirk dusted Lynch’s lips. “I’ve met very few people like Stella.” His face grew serious. “I knew Ms. Chaplin. She was part of my circle. She’d been here for blood drives. She was actually a very lovely girl.”
MacMillian snorted. “A lovely girl who hung out with vampires.” He remembered himself too late, winced. “Sorry.”
“Say what you will about us, Mr. MacMillian, but every human you saw tonight was here of their own free will.” Lynch watched the people still trickling past. “They seek us out. They flock to us in droves. Do you know why?”
MacMillian didn’t speak.
“Because we give them something.” Lynch turned back to him. “They give us their blood, their energy. In return, we give them a place to belong. We give them an identity. You’d be surprised how many humans have never had either of those before.”
MacMillian shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see people with an identity. I see people playing dress-up, so desperate to belong they’ll believe anything you tell them.” He tightened his jaw. “They have no clue what’s really going on.”
“And now you do.” Lynch shifted. “You may be right. It is in our best interests to facilitate certain…fantasies. But really, isn’t that what identity is? The stories we tell others, the names we call ourselves?”
MacMillian didn’t have an answer to that. He gripped his cane a little tighter. “And what about you? What do you call yourself, Lynch?”
Lynch smiled into the darkness. “Why, my dear detective. I am a monster.”