Is it weird for authors to fall in love with their own characters?
I hope not, because I’ve always been a little bit in love with Darius de Compostela.
Ever since he swaggered onto the scene in A World Apart and declared he doesn’t get involved with “hokey bullshit”, he’s had a special place in my heart. I don’t get the chance to catch up with him nearly as much as I’d like, so I’ve decided to drag him away from Georgia long enough to show him a little extra love.
This post is part of my Witching Season Extravaganza, which means a “like” and a comment will gain you entry to my Season Of The Witch Personalized Book Giveaway! You can find the details on that here.
Without further ado, I give you San Francisco’s original psychic detective…
All To Myself Alone – Ray Charles
“This isn’t some movie, Ms. Clare. You’re not Mary Astor, and I’m sure as hell no Humphrey Bogart. Here in the real world, there are rules.”
← EXCERPT →
Not even Ray Charles could lift his mood.
Darius sat in his armchair, a new bottle of Grey Goose open on the end table beside him. He splashed a measure into the shot glass in his hand, and slugged it back. It burned a freezing trail down his throat before landing in his empty stomach. Darius squeezed his eyes shut.
Georgia’s scent still lingered on him. He’d stripped off his undershirt the instant he walked through the door, but it hadn’t made a difference. It was as though her essence was baked into his skin. The taste of her still clung to his lips, that flavor he couldn’t quite place. A quarter into the bottle of vodka, he still hadn’t managed to wash it away.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to.
Darius let his head fall back against the chair. What was he doing? He couldn’t get involved with a witch. Of course he couldn’t. He might be working for a witch. Might be working with a witch. But that was different. That was just business.
He felt the spirit’s presence before it actually materialized. Darius groaned out loud. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with this. How did they keep getting through his wards? A ghostly figure slowly emerged in front of his record player. Darius’ mouth went dry.
The little girl wore the same My Little Pony’s t-shirt as before. Sound waves shimmered through her etheric form in time to Ray’s rendition of Hard Times. She cocked her head when she saw him looking at her.
Darius poured himself another shot. He didn’t drink it.
The girl watched him through eyes that weren’t quite eyes, a curious expression on her cherubic face. For once, Darius didn’t look away. He studied her back. Her clothes looked clean and well-kept. The pigtails in her hair were neat, matching Disney princess barrettes fastened around the roots.
Someone had clearly cared for this child. Loved this child. And somehow, she was dead.
Darius leaned forward a little. The girl’s eyes widened, but she didn’t try to move away. He tried to speak. His voice failed him.
He succeeded the second try. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
The girl stared at him for a moment, as though stunned he’d actually spoken to her. Darius didn’t blame her. He could scarcely believe it, either.
When she answered, the words flowed out in a rush. “I’m Madison. Are you a friend of my mom’s? My mom has a lot of friends. I don’t think Daddy likes them very much.”
Darius opened his mouth, but then Madison jerked. A loud pop echoed through the studio. Her face twisted. “Ow.”
Oh, fuck. Darius pressed back in his chair. His pulse started to race.
Another pop, this one accompanied by a sickening crunch. Madison started to cry. Her shoulder dangled in its socket. “What’s happening to me?”
Darius pressed his lips together. His breaths came shorter, faster. Nausea rolled in his gut, and pain stabbed at his temples. This was wrong. This was too much. He hadn’t signed up for this shit. His hand instinctively flew to his pocket.
Empty. He still hadn’t replaced the sanctuary oil.
Something cracked in Madison’s chest. A deep crimson stain spread down the front of her My Little Ponies shirt. She looked down, and cried harder. “Why is this happening? Where’s my mom?”
Darius fought to breathe normally. Georgia. Georgia had taught him that technique—what was it called? Grounding. He forced his racing thoughts to quiet, pictured the energy within him gathering, focusing.
Madison let out a wail, pain and confusion. “Wait! Where are you going?”
Darius didn’t let himself dwell on the guilt that surged with the sound of her panicked voice. He envisioned the energy spreading outward, cocooning him in a quiet, empty bubble.
Madison whimpered. “I want my mom. Please don’t leave me here alo—”
The energy closed around him with a hiss. Abruptly, the girl disappeared.
Darius let out a breath, but this time the pain in his head didn’t go away. He stared at the spot where Madison had last stood. A crushing sense of loneliness washed over him.
Just business. Georgia Clare was just business. As long as he didn’t forget that again, he could ride out the remainder of this case and walk away. He could leave ghosts, witches, and the subversive world behind, and get back to his life.
Darius huffed out a breath and tipped back his shot.