QSFer Cari Z. has a new MM urban fantasy (bi gay) out: “Dark Around the Edges.”
Devon Harper isn’t just an agent with an elite private security firm, he’s also a cambion, the half-breed offspring of an incubus and a human. While on the trail of Porter Grey, a dangerous summoner, Devon’s own demonic birthright betrays him and he’s captured by those who want to use his heritage for evil, leaving his sometimes-partner Rio to step in and save the day. Unfortunately, their quarry has escaped by the time Devon is freed. If they don’t catch him fast, Porter Grey could once again vanish overseas and out of their reach.
As the two men begin their search, the urgency of their mission can’t quite distract Devon from the growing affection he feels for Rio—the one person whose calm nature seems to quiet his restless spirit. Their hunt leads them to Seattle, but Devon is captured and Porter Grey almost killed as the demon who has been pulling his strings springs his ultimate trap. He’s got plans for Devon, and unless Rio is willing to risk everything by revealing his own hidden nature to stop him, he may have found a way to become the most powerful incubus to ever walk the Earth.
The first thing Devon noticed about the underground lair that he was entering—though “lair” might have been coming on a bit too strong, given that the place was well lit and decorated like a cross between a cathedral and a seraglio—was the smell. It was too delicate to be called a smell, really; a scent, wafting up the stairs and past the two burly men who were waiting to escort Devon into the belly of the beast. The delicate curls of incense were flavored with spikenard, a derivative of the valerian family and supposedly the stuff that drove Judas to rebel after Mary Magdalene used the costly ointment to anoint Jesus’s feet, and…
Devon could feel his overactive memory trying to dive down irrelevant avenues of information in his head, and he firmly refocused himself on the men walking toward him.
“Arms up,” one of the men said, his English barely scratched by an Italian edge. He wore a cheap, shapeless polyester suit and a bolo tie, with some sort of rough-cut brown stone for a pendant. Not exactly contemporary fashion choices, but it looked like the standard uniform for henchmen, if the other guy was anything to judge by.
Devon just smiled and raised his arms, letting the man frisk him and taking note of the Taser at his hip as well as the piece he was trying to hide, a small-caliber pistol in the small of his back. The way he walked suggested there was something strapped down at ankle height, too, but Devon didn’t plan on getting up close and personal enough to make sure.
The man’s hands ran briskly down his legs, and Devon gave a tiny, experimental shimmy of his hips. The man finished his check and stepped a foot back, as square-jawed and implacable as ever. No reaction. Interesting. “This way,” he grunted. The other man never spoke, but he followed behind them, sandwiching Devon between them as they headed deeper underground into the place called the Pearly Gates.
This place, hidden under ten feet of rock and sand in the middle of the Mojave Desert a hundred miles from Las Vegas, seemed like an odd place to set up a lofty den of iniquity. It was hard to get to this ghost town in the center of nowhere. The only visible things that marked the entryway were a crumbling adobe motel and a shuttered gas station. Few people knew about the Pearly Gates, and even fewer were allowed entrance.
No matter how exclusive the entertainment on offer, the inconvenience should have been enough to put people off when the glitz and glamour of Vegas was so readily available. In this case, though, it looked like the first rule of fight club was working in the Pearly Gates’s favor, because this serpent’s belly was filled to the brim with people.
Devon was led into a large central room that looked like it had been plated with marble: floors, ceiling, walls, all of them were white shot through with a soft, pale gold that soothed the eye as much as it captivated. There were silk carpets here and there on the floor, recessed enclosures behind carved wooden dividers for the fortunate few who’d found a place to sit, and beautiful, silent women and men weaving between the guests bearing trays of everything from drinks to drugs. Most of the clientele seemed to be male, men of many different nationalities, if the cut of their suits was anything to judge by, all drinking and smoking and trying to restrain their glances towards the center of the room, where a tall crimson candle in a gold candelabrum was slowly burning down. No one touched it, no one even bumped into it, despite the crowd.
Ah-ha. A timepiece, then. Symbolizing that something everyone was waiting for was going to happen when it burned down to a nub.
“Mr. Klein.” A young woman in a form-fitting silver and blue dress approached with a welcoming smile on her face. “Welcome to the Pearly Gates.”
“Thank you, miss.” Devon smiled charmingly; he couldn’t smile any other way. “Its reputation has preceded it.”
“I trust you’ll be well pleased with what our establishment has on offer. May I bring you anything as you wait for tonight’s entertainment? A bottle of our finest champagne, perhaps, or something stronger, to calm the nerves?” She fluttered her eyelashes enticingly, and it was all Devon could do not to laugh. “Or perhaps even the company of myself, to help occupy your time until the show begins?”
He shouldn’t do it. He knew he shouldn’t, but Devon couldn’t help himself. Being on the receiving end of a seduction was pure challenge for him. He had to prove he could outdo her, even though he was supposed to be keeping a low profile. But then, no one had ever said Devon was good at denying himself.
Devon captured her gaze with his and extended his hand. She gave hers over, almost unconsciously, and he bent over it slowly, in a gesture that appeared courtly from a distance but was smoldering up close. As he bowed, Devon pressed lightly against her body with his power.
Her scent changed instantly, growing stronger as her temperature rose, sweat and musk sliding more freely from her pores and between her legs. She gasped, then clutched her free hand to her neck. Too late, Devon realized that she was wearing the same brown stone as the guards, this time as a choker. It must have acted as some sort of warning, because an instant later she drew back, and the guards immediately reached for their Tasers.
Shit. This was not how the op was supposed to go. “Maria,” Devon muttered around his clenched teeth, “they can tell what I am.”
Cari Z. is a Colorado girl who loves snow and sunshine. She writes award-winning LGBTQ fiction featuring aliens, supervillains, soothsayers, and even normal people sometimes Cari has published short stories, novellas and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on her blog and Patreon. Follow her there to read her serial stories, with new chapters posting every week.
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