Hellbound – Chapter 1

hellbound

Chapter 1

“Well, Mac. What’s it going to be?” Mammon, the demonic Prince of Greed asked as he loomed over me, one hand holding his glowing pimp staff like he was trying to decide whether or not he wanted to brain me with it. “Are you going to kill her?”

I glanced from him to Jenna. My ex-girlfriend lay unconscious on the ground a few feet away, and as much as I wanted to kill her and make good on my promise to end her, now that I was standing here in front of Mammon, I knew I couldn’t. Even after she’d shot me in the gut a couple times and left me for dead. I just couldn’t.

I’m not sure if that made me sad and pathetic or just plain stupid, but there was no way I was going to kill my ex because deep down, I knew it was my fault she was in her situation. If I’d been a bit better, I could have kept her from getting involved in all this. I could have saved her.

So no, I couldn’t kill her. I had to make things right between us if it was the last thing I did. Killing her while she lay unconscious on the rooftop of a crappy building in Hell was just not in the cards. Yeah, that’s right, I said Hell.

When she’d fallen into Hell, I’d gone after her, and no sooner had we landed on what looked like the demonic version of Las Vegas, Mammon had reared his ugly demonic face and demanded I make good on our deal. That wasn’t going to happen, but I didn’t want him to know that just yet.

For one, I wasn’t sure if there was a way out of Hell, nor if I could actually take on Mammon while in Hell. I mean, I’d gone into Hell before when I’d faced Beleth and Baphomet, but I’d had an entire team of bad asses with me then, one of which was currently unconscious next to me. I’m sure I’d faced worse odds before, I just wasn’t quite sure when.

I was also pretty sure I wasn’t getting out of here alive without her help. Mammon might say he’d honor our deal and let me go home once I axed Asmodai, the demonic Prince of Lust and Mammon’s rival, but I was pretty sure Mammon was a lying sack of shit. No, I couldn’t off my own ally. There had to be another way.

“I need her help, Mammon. I cannot kill Asmodai without her.” I stepped closer to the demon and glared up at him. He was tall and gangly, and he towered over me like a basketball player at a midget convention, but I ignored his awe inspiring height as I curled my black as soot right hand into a fist. The demonic tattoos scrawled across my flesh began to glow with crimson energy, sparking to life like I’d called upon my power, only I hadn’t done that. Weird, definitely, but I didn’t have time to worry about it now.

“I don’t believe you.” Mammon replied, staring down at me. His face had settled into a scowl that made the blood run cold in my veins, but I ignored it. Power rose off of him in waves that fell all around me, but I wasn’t worried about that either. He might be able to incinerate me with a touch, but I had ways of dealing with psychic mojo. What I couldn’t deal with was getting my skull caved in by his stupid magically-enhanced cane.

Cotton candy pink sparks leapt from the diamond tip as he stepped back, probably to give him more room to swing his pimp staff, which was one of the reasons I’d moved closer. Call me crazy, but I wanted as much advantage as possible if we threw down.

“Why would I lie?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at the demon. “It makes sense if you think about it.”

“I am the Prince of Greed,” Mammon replied and his voice brought with it the chill that proceeded the bleak night. “You will do what I ask or you will pay the consequences. We had a deal. You were to kill Asmodai, Prince of Lust and his Council of Seven. She is the last of the Seven. ”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said as I decked him in the face. Well, sort of. I threw an uppercut at him like I was Mike fucking Tyson. My right fist lanced upward through the air, catching him under the chin and snapping his head backward with a sickening crack.

He wobbled, his hands going out in front of him in shock as I stepped into him, grabbed his wrist and twisted. He cried out as the bones in his hands snapped and the cane toppled free of his grip. I snatched it as it fell and whirled as he started to recover. The glowing end of the staff hit him square in the side of the temple and the sound was like a cannon going off. Mammon’s head exploded in a fountain of gore as he toppled sideways under the force of the magic.

Unfortunately, the blow hadn’t killed him and that was bad. Very, very bad. It meant he could get back up and kill me. Call me crazy, but pissing off an all-powerful Prince of Hell seemed like a bad fucking idea while in Hell. I just wished I had a better option. That was part of the problem. Lately, it felt like I’d been dragged from one situation to another with no time to rest, and every time I tried to get out of it, more shit just fell on me.

Now I was literally trapped in Hell and had no idea which way to swim to even get to the surface. I mean, I was going to try, and by try, I meant kill the fuck out of everyone in my way, but at the same time, I was kind of getting over this. I mean, fuck, I had a girlfriend, and I hadn’t even taken her on a real date. Let’s just say if Lucifer himself came to me right now and offered me a chance to walk away from all of this, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, I seriously doubted that was going to happen, so I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

“Watch your step,” I said, kicking him in the center of the chest as blood dripped down from the caved in side of his head. He flew backward, the air rushing out of him with a whoosh. I knew the kick wouldn’t hurt him much, but as he stumbled backward under the force of the blow, his heel slipped off of the roof and he toppled from view. “That last one’s a doozy.”

Adrenaline pounded in my veins as I spun on my heel and raced toward Jenna. She was breathing, but wasn’t otherwise moving. I’d have to be quick. I snatched her up under the arms, and as I did, I shut my eyes, calling upon the cat demon residing in my skull. Only, instead of being able to contact her like normal, I got static. I could feel her there, sort of like I was alone in a dark closet and had the feeling something monstrous was in there with me, but no matter how I flailed mentally, I couldn’t contact her. Fuck.

“Okay…” I whispered as the sounds on the street below stopped. No one was screaming which was sort of sad even if we were in Hell. I mean, okay, for whatever reason, this part of Hell sort of looked like Las Vegas and there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people on the boulevard below. Surely someone would think it odd the Prince of Greed had just done a swan dive off the top of a casino.

Then again, maybe he did it for fun. How the fuck was I to know? The one thing I did know was I did not want to be here when he came back. I wasn’t sure on how good his ability to find me in Hell would be, but I wanted to at least try to evade him if I could.

“Jenna, wake up,” I growled, hauling her to her feet and throwing her over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry. I didn’t have a gun, but I had the pimp staff. Hopefully, it would be enough. Then again, I was sure that unlike the two of us, most of the people here were already dead, and I wasn’t sure how to kill them if I needed to.

Still, bridges and crossing. Or water and bridges. Who the hell knows?

I turned my attention toward the door at the far end of the roof and scrambled toward it. Jenna wasn’t exactly a swimsuit model by any stretch. She wasn’t fat, rather she was all dense muscle, and moving across the roof was harder than I expected. I was breathing hard by the time I reached the door.

Thankfully it didn’t have a handle, just a piece of rectangular silver metal with the word push stenciled vertically across it where a knob should have been. I shouldered the door open and was met with a stairwell filled with what seemed like miles of fucking stairs. Low light emitted from emergency lights set into the stairs, but it was otherwise dark. Awesome.

“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” I grumbled, hoisting the unconscious Jenna up as I began making my way down into the depths of the stairwell.

Claimed – Chapter 1

Interested in the first chapter of Claimed, the fifth book in the Thrice Cursed Mage series? I thought you might be =D

**

Chapter 1

When I opened my eyes, the first thing I noticed was the sheet covering my face, leaving me in pitch-black darkness. As my vision started to adjust, I found myself unable to make out more than cursory details, and as I tried to move, I found I couldn’t. At least not really. The frigid, frozen walls surrounding me were so close, they restricted movement to only a few inches.

I wasn’t sure how I’d gotten here. The last thing I remembered was being wheeled into surgery after Jenna, my ex-girlfriend, put a couple .45 caliber bullets in my gut. Now that I thought about it, my stomach didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Curious, I explored my belly with one numb hand. What I found was especially disconcerting because I could feel two distinct flaps of scabbed over flesh. Only that made no sense. Shouldn’t there have been stitches and a bandage at the very least?

Then again, I wasn’t a doctor. Maybe this was normal. At least, I tried to tell myself that, but if fifteen seasons of ER had taught me anything, it was that people recovering from surgery usually woke up in bed, not shivering in an icy tomb.

Okay. I needed to figure out what was going on. I sucked in a breath that tasted of formaldehyde and called on my power, but as I tried, twenty sticks of dynamite exploded in my head. A cry I barely bit down threatened to leap from me as I shook with agony. Sweat trickled down my forehead as I sucked in a huge gulp of air that tore down my throat like a radioactive chainsaw.

“What the fuck?” I tried to say aloud, but the words caught in my throat and came out in an indecipherable rasp. It was probably for the better since I had no idea what was going on. I needed to calm down. I was lying in a pitch black coffin, it was cold as balls, and near as I could tell, I’d been stitched up by Dr. Frankenstein himself. Those were all bad signs to be sure, but on the other hand, I was alive.

Besides, I was Mac Brennan, and I never let a little thing like whatever the hell this was stop me.

I slowly released a breath that came out in a burst of icy fog and pulled one foot back as far as I could. I wasn’t sure which direction would lead me out, but I wanted to try using my legs before I went all “Hulk Smash!” on the solid steel three inches from my face. Just as I was about to try kicking my way out, I heard voices.

“Look, Doc, I believe you when you say he’s dead, but why don’t you just let me check to make sure, okay? I’d hate to have things get messy because if he isn’t actually dead, things will get messy real fast.” The voice had a weird sort of Texas drawl that reminded me of moneyed oil tycoons and cigars.

His words chilled me in a way that was completely unlike the cold surrounding me. I wasn’t sure if he was referring to me, but something told me if I was in an icy, pitch-black box, whoever was out there thought someone in here might be dead.

Still, that didn’t make sense. I’d been in surgery. So how could I have wound up in a morgue? Hadn’t Ricky gotten the vampire blood in time to save me? Evidently not, otherwise the doctors would have stitched my wound shut and I wouldn’t be locked in a freezer. Goddammit.

As that horrible realization settled over me, another thought surged to the forefront of my mind. Why hadn’t Ricky come back? Was she okay? I had to find out. Now.

“The victim suffered two GSWs to the stomach. As they attempted to surgically remove the bullets, a gas line explosion leveled the goddamned building. Rescue crews dug him out of the rubble three days later. He had no pulse. Trust me, Mr. Sargent, he’s dead.”

Holy fuck, did they think I was dead? No, that couldn’t be. Surely I’d just been put on ice for some reason. I just needed to find out what was going on.

“Look, it’s just a matter of protocol. The people I work for won’t accept he’s dead if I don’t have a look at him myself.”

“I sliced him open without anesthesia and he didn’t so much as peep. If he were somehow alive, he’d have felt it, trust me. People tend to notice when I root around in their guts.” I heard something rattle as the girl who I assumed was the doctor spoke. “I pulled these .45 caliber rounds out of his stomach. Trust me. He’s dead.”

What she described sounded an awful lot like what happened to me. I took a long, slow breath, and strained to listen harder. I wasn’t sure who Sargent was, but I had a bad feeling about him. Only someone who wanted to make sure I was dead would go through this much trouble.

“Like I said, Doc. I believe you.” He rapped on the metal next to my feet. “Just open her up and let me have a look-see. I’ll be out of your hair before you can say Bananas Foster.”

“Bananas Foster,” the doctor deadpanned, but I could already hear the defeat in her voice. She was going to let him look if he kept needling, and while I didn’t know who the Texan was, I was starting to think him finding me alive wouldn’t end well for me. No, he had to think I was dead long enough for me to escape.

And I had to escape. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong. There was no way Ricky would let them stick me in a morgue unless something had happened. No, she’d be dragging me all over this godforsaken planet in an effort to bring me back. At least, I thought she would. It’s what I’d have done if our situations were reversed.

“Doc, my friend Benjamin thinks it’s fine.” I heard a wad of cash slap against a metal counter. “All his buddies want you to open her up too. Don’t be a party pooper.”

“Fine,” the doctor replied with a heavy sigh, her resolve broken under the onslaught of money.

A moment later, I heard metal scraping against metal beside my feet, and I hastily pulled the sheet back up over my face and lay perfectly still. Why? Because it was pitch black in here, and chances were good that the moment I was exposed to the light, I’d be blind as a bat. If I was about to fight for my life while naked and sliced open, I wanted to be able to see. It probably wouldn’t help, but it damned sure wouldn’t hurt.

I shut my eyes and tried to calm myself as the door at my feet opened, spilling cool, antiseptic light into my tiny coffin. The sound of a thousand ball bearings sliding beneath my body filled my ears as my tray was wheeled out. I kept my eyes narrowed into thin slits and held my breath as light spilled over my face. It was blindingly bright, and it took everything in me not to cringe away from the light.

“See, dead,” the doctor said, pulling back my sheet. She was a tiny woman and old enough to be my grandmother. Her hand shook with a very slight tremor as she gripped the sheet in one paper-thin fist. “Now leave.”

“Well, hold on a second, Doc,” the Texan said, studying me with his cold gray eyes. He had reddish blonde hair that fell to his neck and a bushy handlebar mustache straight out of a John Wayne movie. He tipped his white Stetson back and leaned in close to me. His nostrils flared as he inhaled next to my face. “Just as I thought.”

“What did you think, Mr. Sargent?” the doctor asked as the Texan reached back very slowly with his left hand.

“This son of a bitch isn’t dead. Don’t be sour about it, Doc. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with one of those mean sons of bitches, but they’re damned hard to kill.” He brought up a Colt Anaconda with a six-inch barrel, and I had a pretty good idea of what he planned to do with it.

Before he could put a .44 Magnum round in my skull, I reached out with my right hand and grabbed his wrist. Agony unlike I’d ever felt before raged through every ounce of my being. My abdomen felt like it was on fire as I strained against him, barely slowing the gun on its path toward my head.

“Zombie!” the doctor screamed as I tried to keep the Texan from blowing my brains out.

“Not quite, darlin’,” Sargent replied as a grin spread across his lips. The gun leveled against my forehead despite my best effort to push him away. “But I’ll send him back to Hell, anyway.”

“Sorbeo,” I whispered, and a surge of energy leapt from the man and into me in a crazy, wild gush as he pulled the trigger.

Seized is finally out!

Seized is finally out and you can get it on Amazon US and Amazon UK!

Seized

My name is Mac Brennan, and in order to save my family, I made a deal with a devil. Now, that demon has come to collect his due. If I want to get back to my family, I’ll have to pull off one last job.

It sounds simple enough. Save a kidnapped girl from the succubus who runs New York City. I’ll be honest, he had me at rescue a kidnapped kid because I’ll be damned if I let some poor girl get taken from her family when I have the power to save her.

My name is Mac Brennan, and apparently, I’m a sucker who risks his life to save children.

Read the first chapter here!

Seized – Chapter 1

Here’s the first chapter of Cursed 4, Seized! Enjoy!

**

Chapter 1

“Send me back, jackass,” I growled, glaring at Vassago. I could hardly believe the demon had trapped me in his interdimensional game room the moment I’d succeeded in rescuing my family. I mean, Jesus tap-dancing Christ, I’d fought my way through werewolves, vampires, and killed a demonic king of Hell to rescue my sister and my nephew. I was running on fumes as it was, and now, just when I had them in my sights, he picked now to call in his favor? Seriously? He couldn’t have given me even five minutes with my sister and nephew? What bullshit.

“I will gladly send you home if you beat me,” Vassago said, gesturing toward the dartboard on the wall. “Play me for it? Double or nothing? What do you say?” His lilting voice had a hungry, interested edge as he licked his lips and eyed me up and down in a way that made me feel like a piece of meat on a butcher’s counter.

I glared at the demon and gritted my teeth. Part of me wanted to play him. I’d won the last time we’d played at darts, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it again. I doubted he’d fall for the same trick he had last time, and I didn’t want to be further indebted to the slime ball. Besides, I had no idea what he wanted me to do. Maybe it was something simple. For all I knew, I’d be back with my family by dinner. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

“Maybe another time,” I replied, waving his offer away with my black as pitch arm. My crimson tattoos glinted in the sterile light of his bar as a satisfied smile spread across the demon’s face.

“Pity, I was hoping to get more use out of you, Mac Brennan,” Vassago said, looking more pleased than a cat with cream. “Well, there’s always time for that. Maybe you’ll find you don’t want this to be a one-night stand after all.”

I had half a mind to grab my revolver out of my belt and put a bullet in his forehead just for the fun of it, but unfortunately, the gun was out of bullets. Instead, I turned on my heel and made my way behind his stocked bar.

Without bothering to ask his permission, I grabbed the most expensive thing I could find, a bottle of Dalmore 64 Trinitas, off of his shelf. I was partially surprised he had the whiskey since only three bottles had ever been made, and the last one had sold for over one-hundred-sixty-thousand dollars. Then again, he was a Prince of Hell. Knowing him, he’d gotten it to mix with Coke just to show he could. After all, what was money to a demon?

“You know how to pick ‘em,” Vassago said in his syrupy sweet drawl while sidling up beside me. He jerked the bottle from my grip with one hand and set it lightly on the counter in front of us. He pulled two glasses down off the shelf and plunked a huge chunk of ice in one. He opened the Trinitas and filled both glasses with three fingers worth. “You seem like the type who would like it neat.” He slid the iceless drink to me. “Enjoy.”

“Thanks,” I said, not even able to fathom how lucky I was to be holding a glass of Trinitas. I mean I still hated Vassago from the core of my black heart for stealing me away from my moment of triumph, but at the same time, I’d only heard about this whiskey in hushed whispers. I never in a million years thought I’d be able to drink it.

I wasn’t sure what his play was, but giving me thirty thousand dollars’ worth of whiskey was a pretty good way of calming me down after stealing me away, especially since my family was safe. Still, there had to be better ways to say “I’d like a minute of your time.”

“I was never really a fan of whiskey.” He swirled his glass for a moment and took a tentative sip. He made a face like someone had poisoned him. He shook his head and pushed the glass aside like he was content to let the ice melt until the perfect amber liquid turned into undrinkable sludge. “Or really anything that comes out of a wooden barrel. It just doesn’t do it for me.” He shrugged and reached into the fridge under the bar. He pulled out a forty ounce Mickey, popped the top, and took a huge swig. “That’s right, I own a bottle of Trinitas, and I still drink Mickey Four O’s.”

“Whatever floats your boat,” I said, understanding why he was a demon. Only a creature from the depths of Hell would trade a glass of Trinitas for a forty of Mickeys.

“Glad you’re not one of those judgmental types. You have no idea how much that’d upset me.” He took another gulp and wiped his mouth with the back of one hand.

“So what do you need me to do?” I asked before taking another sip of the Trinitas. I savored the sweet burn of the whiskey on my tongue. It was like a bunch of big-titted pixies pillow-fighting in my mouth. It was almost enough for me to ignore the sudden lump of guilt rising in the back of my throat. Almost.

Part of me couldn’t believe I was going to hear the demon out when I should be trying to get back home as soon as possible. Still, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice. There was no way out of this bar without Vassago’s say so, and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to butter me up just to let me go.

Still, as fear for my family’s safety threatened to overwhelm my thoughts, the logical part of my brain reassured me my family was safe. After all, Ricky was with them, and she was the most powerful werewolf in the state.

Besides, if I wasn’t back home soon, I was pretty sure the devil who had given me my very own cursed arm would be more than happy to help me get back there if only to rub Vassago’s nose in it. She seemed antagonistic that way. Listening to the demon still didn’t sit quite right, mind you, but it sat well enough that another sip of whiskey was nearly enough to make me believe I’d get back to them alive.

“How do you feel about children?” Vassago asked, moving around the bar and seating himself at a stool. He patted the spot next to him before fishing a pretzel out of a bowl that resembled a skull that had been cut vertically in half. He popped it in his mouth as I sat down next to him. “Do you like them?”

“In what way?” I asked, hoping I would be able to finish my whiskey. I’d really hate to have to throw it in his face and smash the glass into his throat. If he was implying anything untoward, him and I were going to have a serious problem.

“In the way that you don’t like them being kidnapped so they can be ritualistically murdered to resurrect some two-bit nobody?” he deadpanned while eyeing me carefully. There wasn’t even a trace of humor in his voice, and something about that combined with the way he looked at me, made a snake of fear twist in my guts. “How did you think I mean it?” He raised an eyebrow at me.

“I’m not a huge fan of kids being ritually murdered,” I said very carefully. My mouth was suddenly so dry, even another sip of whiskey barely helped me get the words out of my mouth. I hate to say it, but I have a certain soft spot for kids in general, and the idea that kids plural were in danger of getting killed made me so angry, I could barely see straight. “Why do you ask?”

“Good. That’s what I’d hoped,” Vassago said, clapping me on the shoulder with one hand. “I’ve been recruiting a team to rescue said children. I need you on it.”

“Why?” I asked even though my first impulse was to agree to help on the spot. The last thing I wanted was for kids to be kidnapped and murdered. If I could save them, I was pretty much in, but there was one tiny problem. I didn’t trust Vassago even slightly. If he wanted me to save some kids, there had to be an ulterior motive the size of Kansas lurking around in the shadows. That was how guys like him operated. It wasn’t enough to watch the right hand while the left moves because if you were watching him move, it was already too late.

“Because you killed Van, and now the rescue is one Cursed short. Normally, I’d reschedule, but the cultists are sort of on a timetable. They’ll be going through with their dastardly plan despite the time being very inconvenient to me.” He spread his hands on the bar. “You see my dilemma.”

“Uh, huh,” I said, looking into my whiskey so I’d have somewhere to look that wasn’t at him. I took a deep breath and tried to remain calm even though I was on the cusp of freaking out. I didn’t want to do that, at least not with the demon eyeing me like the last candy in the bag. Everything inside me screamed “BAD IDEA!!!” and yes, there were that many exclamation points.

“What’s in it for you?” I asked because there was no way I was going to save a bunch of kids just to hand them over to him if he had something equally nefarious planned. I might owe him, but I’d never owe him that much.

“You know what the problem is with our world today?” Vassago said with a shrug before popping another pretzel in his mouth. “No one drinks from the skulls of their enemies anymore. It’s important because it shows those around you that you are not to be fucked with. Someone has forgotten that lesson and is trying to fuck with me. So yes, I need you to save some kids. Can you do that for me?”

“I can be down with rescuing kids, but I don’t understand why you care. Make me believe delivering them to you isn’t worse. Give me a reason to not pull a John Constantine and let you all burn,” I said even though I knew I ought to hightail it home, but kids. Kids. Goddammit, was I ever a sucker.

“Mac, do you think I want to harm children once you rescue them?” Vassago put a hand to his chest in mock horror. “That makes no sense. Why would I go to all the trouble of having you rescue them just to have them killed? No, no, no.” He shook his head. “If I wanted them dead, there’d just be a little accident– like a plane falling out of the sky or a gas line explosion. You know, something easy.”

The way he said those words made me think he’d actually done that before, and worse, that it was a perfectly natural thing for him to do. Part of me was surprised, although I didn’t know why. Vassago gave off an appearance of someone normal, so I kept thinking he was human, but he wasn’t just some fucked up human. He was a demon.

“Easy?” I had no choice. I took another sip of whiskey to calm myself. “I think the word you were looking for is evil.”

“You really are an innocent pup,” Vassago replied, pushing the pretzel-filled skull toward me. I ignored it.

“You wanted to cut John’s finger off when I missed a shot,” I said, gesturing at the dartboard with my whiskey. John was Sera and Danton’s eight-year-old son. Vassago and his Cursed, Van, had used John as a bargaining chip in a dart game that had almost ended very badly for both of us.

“Okay, you know what? I was being nice, but I need you to remember something since you seem to think you have a choice,” Vassago said, sliding off the stool and taking a step toward me. As he did, a ball of emerald flame leapt across the distance between us and hovered in front of my face like a miniature sun. “I don’t actually have to tell you anything. I don’t have to do anything in particular to get you to help me. I merely have to tell you what I want. You owe me, Mac.” Something dark and sinister flashed through his emerald eyes. A sudden surge of panic made the whiskey in my mouth turn acrid. Swallowing it was nearly impossible, but I managed to do it without choking.

“I know,” I whispered, surprised I could speak coherently.

“Good.” Something about the way he looked at me let me know refusing to help him would end very badly for me. I mean, I was going to do the job anyway, because of the kids, but I hadn’t wanted him to know that. Apparently, I’d been coming at this the wrong way. I couldn’t refuse. I was a slave. Well, fuck him then.

“Okay, I’m in. tell me what’s going on,” I said before throwing back twenty K worth of whiskey in a single gulp. I slammed the glass down on the bar and reached for his glass. I picked it up, eyeing the whiskey and trying to decide whether or not too much ice had melted. “Please.”

“Well, since you asked me so nicely, I’ll have you know that one of the children is the daughter of Douglas A. Prescott,” he paused and looked at me like I was supposed to know who that was, but I didn’t because I had lost all my memories. In fact, I couldn’t remember anything that’d happened more than a couple days ago, not even how I’d gotten my very own demonic arm. Unfortunately, Mr. Prescott hadn’t come up during that time period. “You don’t know who that is, do you?”

“No.” I shook my head and sipped his whiskey. The faintest hint of char touched the liquid. Was that because the demon had sipped it? I stared down at the drink, wondering if it was still safe to drink. It was so expensive I’d hate to waste it, but who knew what kind of diseases could be living inside Vassago’s mouth.

“I guess it doesn’t matter.” Vassago waved his hand like it was an unimportant point. “What does matter is Mr. Prescott and his wife will trade their souls to me in exchange for rescuing their daughter. It’s a very human thing if you think about it. Risking your eternal soul to save someone in this fleeting blip of an existence, but what can I say, getting souls from chumps pays the mortgage.” He grinned, showing his teeth, and as he did, the parallels to my own life were not lost on me. “I plan to collect both of them. You’re going to help me do it.”

“By saving the kids?” I asked, and he nodded very slightly. “Well, that makes sense.” Danton had told me who Vassago liked to prey upon. Parents with no hope left. Well, I’d make sure these parents hadn’t sacrificed their souls in vain, and with any luck, maybe I’d get them out of it too. “I hadn’t pegged you for the altruistic type.”

“You know what happened to the last guy who came to help humanity?” Vassago asked, getting up and snatching his drink from my hand. “You guys nailed him onto a wooden cross. If that isn’t a lesson in how undeserving humanity is, I don’t know what is.” He tossed the nearly full glass in the sink, and I watched in horror as the whiskey circled the drain. “I resolved on that day to never ever do anything for free.”

“Good to know,” I said as he put his arm around my shoulder and led me to toward the only door in the room. Apparently, there was no more whiskey in my immediate future. It was almost enough to break my heart. Still, the sooner this job was done, the sooner I could go home.

“By the way, Mac.” The demon gestured at the bottle of Dalmore 64 Trinitas. “If you ever touch one of my bottles without asking, you’ll spend the next decade cleaning the floor of a truck stop bathroom with your tongue.”

How does this sound?

My name is Mac Brennan, and I’m getting pretty sick of demons. For one, they’re jerks. For two, they’re ugly. For three, see points one and two.

I should have known making a deal with a devil would end with me getting double-crossed, but what can I say, I’m an idiot who wanted his family back.

That demon may have put an army between me and my family, but if I’ve learned anything these last few days, it’s that you can kill anything if you shoot it enough times.

And I’ve got a whole lot of bullets.

Cursed 2 is out!

I just wanted to let everyone know Marked is finally out. You can pick up a copy on Amazon if you’re so inclined.

Marked

Pierce Ambrose. That was the name of the man I’d been sent to kill. The man I’d failed to kill. I have one day left to make good on my contract before the thugs holding my sister and her son start sending me pieces of them.

Pierce Ambrose. A man with a secret I didn’t uncover until it was too late to turn back, too late to give up on trying to kill him.

Now, if I want to see my sister and nephew again, I have to try one last time.

My name is Mac Brennan, and this time, I’m playing for keeps.   

Cursed 2 – Chapter 1

Guess what I just got from the editor? That’s right, Cursed 2! Here’s the first chapter, enjoy.

**

Chapter 1

As I stood there staring at my wall, trying to process how the hell I was going to finish a job I couldn’t remember by the end of the day so some kidnappers would release my sister and her son, someone slipped a garrote over my head. My left hand shot up, barely getting between the piano wire and my throat. As it pulled tight, the loop bit into my flesh, slicing open my palm while my attacker tried to pull me backward off my feet.

Instead of trying to retain my balance while simultaneously keeping the garrote from slicing into my carotid artery, I opted to throw us both backward with everything I had. My assailant stumbled as the combination of weight and momentum sent us crashing into the drywall hard enough for my brain to rattle in my head, but thankfully, the wire loosened just enough for me to catch a shallow breath that burned like cheap whiskey and cigar smoke.

Blood pounded in my temples as I drove the back of my skull into my attacker and was rewarded with a satisfying crunch. The loop loosened further, but not enough for me to escape. Pain and blood spilled from my left hand as my assailant regained his hold from beneath me. I brought my right hand up and fired my gun awkwardly behind me. The sound was deafening in the tiny room. A cry I could barely hear over the ringing in my ears erupted from behind me as the wire fell away.

I spun, jerking the garrote free while pointing my Desert Eagle at my attacker. He was bone white and as far as I could tell, had shaved all the hair off his body, probably so he wouldn’t leave evidence behind. Well, judging by the scarlet spray on the wall behind him, there was little chance of that happening.

This guy was no doubt some kind of professional hitman, and I didn’t think that just because he was bald and wearing a tailored Italian suit with a red tie. No, it was because his eyes held the flat, dead stare of a crocodile. Those were eyes that had watched a million men die, and if given the opportunity, would watch a million more.

Crimson slowly spread out from the bullet holes in his chest, staining his crisp white shirt scarlet. As I leaned in close to him, my pistol still pointed at him, his blood-splattered lips opened and closed slowly, reminding me of a fish’s futile gasps for air on dry land.

“Who sent you?” I growled, shoving the gun up under his chin even though it was sort of pointless because even if he was on a surgeon’s table right now, he wouldn’t be living for more than a few minutes. Still, I was betting he didn’t know that, and if he did, maybe he’d do me a solid. The day was young, after all, so anything was possible.

The man smiled at me, revealing a mouthful of scarlet teeth. “Pierce Ambrose sends his regards.” His grin grew wider as his white-gloved right hand fell to the floor. A grenade spilled from his grip, rolling across the tile toward me.

As my eyes widened in shock, my heart went absolutely schizophrenic in my chest. Was he seriously going to detonate a grenade to take me along with him? The sound of his choking laughter seemed to fill every inch of the room as I spun on my heel and sprinted toward the big window along the far wall. I fired at the window, reducing the glass to shards as I dove threw it, tucking myself into a ball. A blast of heat and sound erupted from the room as I cleared the frame. The force of the explosion caught me in mid-leap and flung me through the air like a ragdoll. My back slammed into the concrete deck and agony shot through every last vertebrae in my body as I tumbled haphazardly into the pool.

The sudden cold shocked me back to my senses, and I nearly sucked in a lungful of water. I managed to clamp my lips back together as flame washed over the top of the pool. My feet touched the cement bottom a second later, and as debris began to rain down through the water overhead, I marveled at how I was still alive. Chunks of me should be splattered across the backyard, but somehow I’d survived. Someone up there must like me, or more likely, someone down below.

Lungs burning, I pushed myself off the cement, propelling myself toward the surface. The water around me erupted with gunfire. Bullets sliced through the space all around me, leaving trails of bubbles in their wake. The only thing that saved me from becoming a holy corpse was the depth, which robbed their ammunition of the force to puncture my thick trench coat. I pulled up short of the surface, halting myself as the blurry faces of over half-a-dozen bald men in suits appeared overhead.

I cried out in shock, but the only thing that really came out of my mouth was a huge bubble. My lungs screamed for air as I tried to figure out what to do. If I didn’t do something quick, I was going to blackout. If that happened, well, I didn’t want to think about what that would do for my chances of survival.

Already, my vision was starting to go dark around the edges. As I searched my mind frantically for some kind of plan, the demonic cat who had cursed me looked up at me from the shadows of my brain, causing me to remember a critical piece of information. I had devil magic. I glanced from the men still filling the pool with hot lead to my black as night right arm before settling my gaze back on the shooters. They were about to learn a valuable lesson on confronting Mac Brennan.

“Ignis!” I yelled with all my might, and even though it was more a soundless stream of bubbles in the water, the scarlet tattoos emblazoned on my right arm flared like the sun. As the water around my hand turned to steam, the pool exploded in a burst of scarlet light. Crimson hellfire sprang to life in my right palm. A grin spread across my lips as I flung it at the closest of my attackers.

The fireball hit the man in the chest, burning through him in the space of a heartbeat and leaving a plainly visible hole in his torso. He slumped forward onto his knees, face distorted in a strange mixture of pain and shock. He toppled forward into the water as his companions scattered, taking cover from the weirdo in the pool with the flaming hand. Which was me, so it worked out.

I burst upward through the pool’s surface just as my lungs were about to explode. Water cascaded down around me as I conjured more hellfire and brandished it like a weapon. Their faces were awash with confusion and fear, cementing one tiny factoid in my brain. These guys hadn’t known I was a Cursed and had sold my soul to a demon in exchange for magic. After all, who in their right mind would attack a guy with a flaming hand with a piece of piano wire? Besides, I’d had my powers all of a day. There was no way they’d have known, especially since this was my first trip to this house since I’d lost all my memories.

Still, a bullet to the brain would probably kill me just the same, and I wasn’t quite ready to meet Death upon his pale horse. So what did I do? I threw myself out of the pool and ran like the dickens while flinging fire around the backyard like it was going out of style. Some for you, and you, and oh, I didn’t forget you, you little scamp.

I reached the black wrought-iron gate set into on the cinderblock wall a second later, and instead of trying to fiddle with the lock, I did the only sensible thing I could. I punched the hell out of the gate with my blacker than the hair on Satan’s ass fist of fury. The fancy wrought-iron crumpled inward with a shriek that was like nails on the chalkboard of my brain before it tore free of the cinderblock in a spray of stone and debris. It struck the well-manicured lawn and gouged a swath into the sod that made me hope this wasn’t actually my home. If it was, the repair bills were going to be nuts. Then again, I was pretty sure I’d have to be alive for it to matter. Something told me there were no lawns in Hell.

Bullets ricocheted off the stone next to me as I dove sideways through the blown-out gate. I landed hard on the dirt beneath a twenty-foot-tall cherry tree. The air burst from my lungs as my entire right side went a bit numb. Even still, I scrambled to my feet and took off running, a fresh surge of adrenaline rushing through me. My chest heaved with effort as I rounded the corner at the end of the block, afraid to look back and see how many of them were chasing me. Hopefully, it wasn’t all of them.

It only took me less than a minute to make my way out of the neighborhood and onto the main street, which was good because across the street, I could just make out what looked like a swap meet filled with people. I could definitely hide there, assuming, of course, I didn’t get shot in the back or hit by a car.

I took a deep breath before sprinting for the entrance. My wet feet slapped onto the concrete a moment later. It was a good thing too because that was when the guys who had redecorated my house in postmodern war zone burst from the neighborhood. Evidently, they weren’t deterred by hellfire. Good to know.

I ducked in front of a large black man in a clown costume who was messing with a bunch of red balloons and hoped I wasn’t making him into a human shield. When he wasn’t immediately perforated, I breathed in a sigh of relief and ducked into the nearest booth to catch my breath.

“Can I help you?” asked an old Asian man with spectacles as he looked at me from across a wide variety of cabbages and other assorted vegetables way too ethnic for me to identify.

“Yeah, just let me catch my breath,” I said in between gulps of sweet, sweet air while I leaned on the corner of a table for support. I couldn’t stay here long. If I did, this place would turn into a blood bath. Unfortunately, my body felt like it had been pushed to its limit. Evidently, throwing around hellfire willy nilly while sprinting away from bad guys was physically taxing. Who knew?

“You should hide in Harper’s, over at the other end,” the old man said, giving me one last, dismissive glance before going back to his magazine. “If you aren’t going to buy anything, please leave. You’re dripping all over my floor, and the absolute last thing I need is for some jackass to slip and sue me.”

I was about to make a snarky reply when gunfire burst through the side of the stand, cleaving a swath of lead death through the cabbages in front of me.

 

Teasing

Pierce Ambrose. That was the name of the man I’d been sent to kill. The man I’d failed to kill. I have one day left to make good on my contract before the thugs holding my sister and her son start sending me pieces of them.

Pierce Ambrose.  A man with a secret I didn’t uncover until it was too late to turn back, too late to give up on trying to kill him.

Now, if I want to see my sister and nephew again, I have to try one last time.

My name is Mac Brennan, and this time, I’m playing for keeps.