QSFer Ofelia Gränd has a new MM paranormal mystery romance: “Soul Eater.”
Detective Thaddeus Ezax is in over his head. He’s the only wizard in Rockshade’s Paranormal Investigations Department, and it was his name that got him the job. The Ezaxs are known as some of the most powerful wizards in the world, but Thaddeus isn’t your average Ezaxs. Is it any wonder his family shuns him?
When a kidnapping case is dropped into his lap, Thaddeus must act fast. While most five-year-olds can cast a location spell, Thaddeus can’t and is forced to get creative. When he finds himself in possession of a black market werewolf skull with a ghost trapped inside, accidentally releases the spirit, and somehow forms a connection with it, things get even crazier.
Sandulf Hunter doesn’t remember dying, but he remembers the last thing he saw before everything went black—a wizard. All wizards must die! The only problem is, the wizard standing next to him smells too damned good, so good Sandy thinks he might have to keep him.
And since wherever Thaddeus goes, Sandulf finds himself yanked along, he might not have a choice in the matter anyway.
As he rounded a corner, he came into the main cavern. Table after table were filled with anything a magic user could need. Herbs, potions, knives, stones, and a lot of things he didn’t want to acknowledge.
The howl of a cat in a cage had blue sparks rain from his fingertips, but he tried to suppress it as he hurried past the traders.
Pickering had the last table in the row—of course he had. By now, Thad should have learned nothing ever went quick and easy. He held his breath as he stopped by the table.
“Thaddeus.” Pickering had short, red hair, and his face was filled with freckles.
“Einar.” Thad nodded at him.
“What can I do you for? Looking for a familiar?” He grabbed a cage with the largest toad Thad had ever seen.
“Ah… Eh… no. I was wondering—”
“A love potion?” He held up a tiny, red flask with a skull painted on it, and Thad almost laughed.
“No, thank you. Have you heard about—”
“Shrunken head?” He bent down behind the table.
“No!” Thad hoped he didn’t have a shrunken head back there. Could he ignore a shrunken head or did he have to report it at work? If a raid came out of his visit here, he’d be hunted for the rest of his life, and he did not want the wizards running the largest black market for miles and miles on his tail.
“This then?” Pickering tossed something at him, and Thad caught it. A buzz spread into his fingertips as he held up the…skull. Swallowing hard, he studied the sharp canines. The dog must’ve been massive when it had been alive.
“W-What is it?”
Pickering looked nervous as he leaned in closer and lowered his voice into a whisper. “Werewolf skull, very powerful. But I guess it’s wasted on you, mage.”
Werewolf? Was someone killing werewolves now or was it an old skull? Thad swallowed hard.
“Yes.” Why did it buzz? Thad was a mage, everyone in his family was a mage. Spirits meant nothing to him.
“A hundred and fifty.” Pickering raised one red, way-too-bushy eyebrow at Thad.
“A hundred and fifty dollars?” He could almost pay that to be able to bring it to work and have it analyzed. If someone was targeting werewolves, they had to be stopped.
“Thousand. A hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Do you think they’re easy to come by?” Pickering’s blue eyes were wide as they searched the shadows around them.
Thad’s hands shook as he placed the skull on the table. “No, I guess—”
“I can get you another animal if you want? Lion shifter? I know where there’s a pride. I need your order by the end of the night, though. There isn’t much time left to get it set up. Samhain is the only day a harvesting ritual works, and special orders increase the price, so you know…” Pickering shrugged.
Thad nodded. Coming here had been a huge mistake.
Pickering narrowed his eyes. “So what do you want?”
“I wanted to ask you a—”
“This more your price range perhaps?” He held up four black candles. “Blood candles. They’ll help you call forth the spirits. A hundred dollars.”
Thad nodded. He’d heard of blood candles, never owned any. Warlocks made them—a blood sacrifice to increase the power of the candles. When they were lit in a circle, they’d enhance the power…or something. Thad didn’t do circles. He was a mage, he had the power at his fingertips and not contained in a circle. Not that sorcerers and warlocks couldn’t bring their powers outside their circles—they could—but all their big, powerful magic work required a circle. But if it would get Pickering talking…
“Okay.” He grabbed his wallet and handed Pickering the money he’d budgeted for groceries.
“Excellent.” He turned to a side table to wrap the candles in paper. Thad must’ve lost his mind, but the skull vibrated.
“Have you heard of any…” Thad cleared his voice before hissing, “…soul eaters in the area?”
Pickering froze. “Jesus, Thaddeus. If that’s what they have you working on, you need to quit. Right away.”
“There is someone?”
Pickering shook his head, almost dropping the candles. Thad’s core filled with ice. There was a soul eater? He’d hoped he was imagining the signs.
The skull moved.
It couldn’t have, and yet Thad saw it turn. Perhaps he’d touched the table without noticing.
Pickering wiped his palms on his thighs, not looking at Thad.
“Einar. Someone is carving up young women. My stupid werewolf colleagues think it’s a shifter. It’s not. Someone is stealing their energy.”
Pickering didn’t move. He stared at the half-wrapped candles.
“I’m right, am I not?”
Pickering shoved the candles at him. “You need to leave. Leave now, Thaddeus, and don’t ask any more questions.”
“You think he’s only making angels?” Pickering’s voice was so low, Thad had to strain to hear him. “You think a powerful warlock would leave anything behind for the police to find? It’s a game to him. It amuses him to have the dogs running around in circles. Don’t get involved in this case, Thaddeus.” He turned around so fast Thad jumped.
As Pickering pretended to unpack a box on the ground, Thad picked up the skull. He opened his mouth to get Pickering’s attention so he could hand it back but halted. Looking around, he couldn’t see anyone watching him although that didn’t mean no one was watching him. As carelessly as he could, he placed the skull on top of the candles and cradled the bundle to his chest.
Trying not to run, he took aim at the exit, a furious voice screaming in his head.
Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.
Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.
When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.