Demon Kissed

Demon Kissed

J. D. Blackrose

February 2022  $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-167-8

The Summoner’s Mark, Book 1

Our PriceUS$15.95
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My name is Rebecca, but everyone calls me Becs.

Years ago, a mark appeared on my inner wrist--The Kiss, they call it--and it makes me a summoner. I can summon, well, things…entities of power, including demons. Which, I did, until recently. I quit, because I summoned a demon on behalf of a client and things went south. I fixed it, but now I owe that demon a favor and I don't know when he's going to call it in, or, what he's going to ask.

One thing's for sure, it won't be kosher.

Now I work in a fae bar, trying to stay out of trouble, waiting for the hammer to drop. But trouble tends to follow me. And my upstairs neighbor, Ash, seems to be right in the thick of it. He's gorgeous, with sexy curls, kissable lips, and a body to match. I can't believe someone like him even glanced my way.

Things get complicated when a local mob boss wants my help, a warlock decides I'm next on the menu, and my six-foot-tall fairy friend can't find his way home.

What's a Jewish, bird-watching summoner with family and friends to protect, to do?

The Summoner's Mark is J. D. Blackrose's first series with Bell Bridge Books. Previously, she's published The Soul Wars, The Devil's Been Busy, and the Zombie Cosmetologist novellas through Falstaff Books. She's also published multiple short stories, enjoying the art of brevity now and then. She's always lived in her head and is often accused of not listening. To make up for it, she's mastered the art of looking interested. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

"A fantastic protagonist, killer magic system, and a supporting cast you'll fall in love with, J. D. Blackrose's Demon Kissed is a fantastic new urban fantasy. I loved this book and can't wait to read more!" --John G. Hartness, Award-Winning Author of The Black Knight Chronicles

"This book is GOOD! Blackrose proves that a creative writer can grab you with an original twist." --Faith Hunter, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series

"Magic, snark, a dash of romance, and a ton of action. Demon Kissed offers a compelling blend of fun and edge-of-your-seat excitement. Compulsively readable and highly recommended!" --David B. Coe/D. B. Jackson, author of Radiants and the Thieftaker Chronicles

"J. D. Blackrose's latest tale spins together demons, mobsters, fairies, and a kick-ass heroine under a curse that may end up being her salvation. *Chef's Kiss*." --Darin Kennedy, Author of Fugue & Fable and The Pawn Stratagem

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Chapter 1

"I WAS FAT-SHAMED by a fortune cookie.”

"Did you eat it and show it who’s boss?”

I checked my rearview mirror. The black sedan slipped one lane left of mine, but it was still on my tail.

"Rebecca Naomi Greenblatt, are you even listening to me?”

Ah. All three names. Mickey only used them when she was angry, like our mother. My sister often droned on about her latest fad diet or workout, and when she did, I tuned her out, so it was a fair question. Also, she was on speaker, so I raised the volume to hear her better over the traffic.

"Yes,Mikayla,” I said, stressing her first name, teasing her as only an older sister could. "What did the fortune cookie say?”

I sped up and swerved around the red Jetta in front of me, earning a honk and a middle finger, but the black car still followed. Damn. They weren’t even pretending to stay hidden now. Who were these people?

"The damn slip of paper said, ‘No one looks good in skinny jeans.’” Mickey sniffed to express her displeasure. "And I was wearing skinny jeans at the time!”

"That’s not even a fortune.”

"Right? My point exactly.”

"Maybe try another restaurant next time?” I took a sharp right into a parking garage and zoomed up a down ramp, fish-tailed around the curve, narrowly missing an oncoming dark-green Ford Escape, and circled to the left, heading toward the exit ramp on the far side of the garage. The black car followed but didn’t make it, slamming into the Escape. The crunch of metal on metal and loud cursing echoed through the concrete lot.

"Becs? What was that? Were you in an accident? Are you in trouble? It’s that damn job of yours, isn’t it?”

I touched my neck where my locket used to be, wishing I still had it. Mickey wore a duplicate. "I stopped doing that job, Micks. I work at a bar now.”

"You say that, but for some inexplicable reason I can’t visit you at this bar. You’re still summoning, aren’t you? Becs, you almost got killed six months ago.”

"I’m not summoning, and things happen to people in all kinds of jobs.”

"It’s the kind of people you work with, Becs, and you know it. The scum of the earth.”

"Worked with, past tense, and they were desperate. They needed help, and I provided it. I’m sorta the only one who can do it, and you know that.”

"You don’t help. You hand them a shovel so they can dig a deeper hole.” Her voice was hot and angry, and I knew nothing I said would make a difference. We’d had this argument a million times.

I sighed. "It wasn’t my fault they made bad deals.”

Except that one time. That time it was my fault, and it was the reason I gave it up.

My sister didn’t believe me, and I couldn’t blame her. It was true— she couldn’t visit me at my new job. I worked at a fae bar and she, like any other normal, couldn’t see the door or find the address.

"Mickey... ?”

"Ruthie got her first tooth.” After a pause, she said, "Your niece misses you. Even if she’s too little to say so.”

"I know.” I missed her, too. All of them. Even my brother-in-law. "Text me a picture?”

"I will. She’s so cute. It’s a bottom one.” Her mommy enthusiasm cut through the sadness, and I smiled.

"Does she have any more hair?”

"You would know if you ever came by to visit, Auntie Becs. When can we see you? Shabbat dinner Friday?”

I squirmed in my car seat. Jonah, Mickey’s husband, wasn’t my biggest fan. He hid it from Mickey, but we’d had words in private. Mickey didn’t believe in the creatures I summoned, such as demons. She was aware some people did believe, but a literal Dante type of Hell with demons wasn’t in her personal belief system. She knew I summoned bad things, but that was it. Jonah, however, understood that whatever people believed in, I could manifest and summon, and he didn’t want my demon "stank” to come near his wife and daughter. I didn’t blame him because he was totally correct.

I owed a powerful demon named Valefar a favor for fixing the mis­take that made me walk away from summoning, and I didn’t know when he’d call it in. I lived on edge every minute, thinking he’d use the locket I’d given him to prick my soul, get my attention, and trade in his chit.

Part of me hoped he’d never do it. Another part of me wanted him to do it and get it over with. All of me lived in terror of what he’d ask me to do.

For the bazillionth time in my life, I glanced at the symbol on my inner left wrist. The sign of the Devil, some people called it. The protect­tion of Satan, said others. The mark of Hell. Most people called it the Kiss. It did sort of look like lips. The top curved like an upper lip, although to me it looked like the outline of a seagull, and beneath it, a "v” shape. Call it by any name you want, it made me one of a handful of people on earth who could do what I could do. I was, or had been, a summoner. I was born a summoner, although I hadn’t known it until my thirteenth birthday when the Kiss appeared on my wrist. Mickey had been eleven. I was twenty-eight now, so I’d been living with it for a while.

Mostly I summoned demons, but that’s only because I had a lot of New Testament-following, Dante-believing clients. In reality, I could summon anything from any theology, pantheon, or belief system. That was up to the client’s beliefs, not mine. Once, using an ancient pair of wakizashi swords as a focal point, I’d summoned a particularly unhappy ancestor in the form of a dragon. The Japanese couple had paid a steep price for the knowledge they’d gained, and they’d lost the swords too, because the swords had disappeared with the dragon.

No one asked to summon beings without power, meaning it was all dangerous, so despite wanting to see Mickey and Ruthie more than anything, until I figured out who was following me, I said the only thing I could and hoped that one day soon I wouldn’t still be running from my past.

"Rain check?”

I heard my sister’s teeth grind together. "With you, it’s always a rain check. Ruthie won’t know you. You must make the time.”

Making the time was easy, making sure of their safety was harder. Jonah had worried for a reason. I could summon a demon or entity without a circle, and while it could never take my soul, that didn’t protect anyone else.

If others tried to summon a demon, and it got loose, well, there was literal Hell to pay. If I summoned a demon, all it could do was sit there, negotiate, and have a cup of tea. Until recently, I’d been fine with that, but I was beginning to see things Jonah’s way. In addition to Valefar showing up at any moment, some humans didn’t like me much either. Which made me wonder again, who the hell was tailing me?

Mickey would never understand.

"Hey, I hear you. In the meantime, thank the internet gods for texting. Can you send me a pic of our cutie-pie’s little face?”

"I will.” Mickey sighed. "Speaking of the cutie-pie, she’s crying. I gotta go.”

"Kiss her for me.”

"I will. Love ya.”

"Love ya, too.”

Hanging up, I slammed the steering wheel with the butt of my hand, blinking to hold back the tears. It wouldn’t do to cry because I needed to see where I was going, so I swallowed the lump in my throat and continued. I couldn’t afford to be late. I’d stopped summoning six months ago, and that had been my only source of income. I’d blown through my savings despite being frugal and didn’t have a nickel to my name. I was damn lucky to have the job at the bar.

I wiped my nose on my sleeve because who had money for tissues? I wondered about the people in the black car, who they were, and what they wanted. Maybe someone had heard I’d hung up my shingle and needed me to summon a power? I’d lost them for now, but I knew I wasn’t lucky enough to have gotten rid of them forever. I headed to Joey’s for my shift.

Joey’s wasn’t the kind of place you walked into by chance. A fae bar, you’d only see it if you had magical energies. She enjoyed the company of other paranormal oddballs and the lost and lonely. I fit right in.

I parked behind the bar, hoping the dumpster would hide my car from prying eyes. The only thing to steal was under the hood, and no one would know that by looking at it. If they wanted to break in, I’d rather they didn’t smash the window. On the outside, it looked like a red Prius. In reality, it was far older than that. On the inside, it purred like a Ferrari since I’d had Max, my magic mechanic, put a little woo-woo in the hoo-hoo.

My phone dinged, and I checked the text. It was a photo of my sister and my niece. Ruthie smiled with a single tiny tooth in her bottom gum. She lay on her tummy wearing a darling outfit with hearts on it and a red sequined headband with a glamorous pink satin bow. She looked like a baby model in a magazine. My sister glowed with happiness. We looked nothing alike. I had dirty blond shoulder-length hair and green eyes while she had warm brown eyes, and rich, dark hair that reached her butt. I texted back, "gorgeous” with three kissy emojis and ran a finger across their beautiful faces before saving the photo. I held the phone to my heart before putting it away.

I stepped out of the car into the humid air. Smokey Point, Ohio, positioned on Lake Erie, tended toward warm and muggy in the sum­mer, although never too hot, even in mid-July. I’d grown up here and had never lived anywhere else.

I took one step and splashed in a puddle of vomit. A little seeped through the hole in my boot’s sole and soaked my sock. As usual. I did my best to ignore it and opened the bar’s front door. I stopped to admire the layout of the dim room, full to the brim with customers. Red leather-topped stools lined the center counter, and tables circled the outside. The wood gleamed, lending a natural glow to the bar’s interior.

Joey used copper on spouts and rivets, a metal the fae tolerated, gnomes more so than others, a little-known fact she’d once confessed to me after too many ales. I kept that knowledge in my back pocket, certain it was a secret.

Runes covered the ceiling, and the collection of ceiling fans circled alternately clockwise or counterclockwise to dissipate magical energy. I saw demon energy clear as day, and when I summoned other powers, I could see their energy as well, but fae energy eluded me. Joey saw fae magic as smoky purple waves and was teaching me to identify it. She said the fans scattered the energy so it couldn’t concentrate into a useful spell, making Joey’s a safe space for her guests. We had several bars of this type in Smokey Point. Joey said the rough currents of Lake Erie thinned the barriers and made for an easy access point to get in and out of Faerie.

Joey was only half-gnome, which had allowed her to reach the pro­digious height of four feet. Her gnome father gave her hair, lots of it, all over. Long white hair trailed down her back, and dark hair covered her arms, back and chest, peeking out at the neck of her shirt. I had never met her mother but always wondered what kind of human fell in love with a gnome. She was almost a friend, but I didn’t have many friends. No one in my former line of work did or should.

She greeted me with a cock of an eyebrow.

"You’re late.”

"I’m sorry. Had a little car trouble.”

"Can’t afford car trouble your first week. Get behind the bar.”

I did, storing my backpack in a secret hidey-hole behind a wall of liquor bottles so my high-powered, expensive binoculars wouldn’t get stolen. I grabbed my apron and served my first round of drinks to a couple of dwarves who gave me a gold coin in tip.

"Joey, what do I do with this?” I showed her the gold coin.

"Ah, that’s a good tip in Faerie. They’re generous today.”

"Can’t use it in here in the real world.”

Joey flicked her towel at me. "First of all, calling this the ‘real world’ is fae-ist. Faerie is as real as here.”

"Okay, what do I call it?”

"We call it the Slow World.”

"Slow World? Why?”

"Time moves differently here. Slower, but sometimes faster. You can never tell.”

A pixie in her human height tapped the bar top. "A gimlet please.”

I shoved the coin in my pocket and grabbed the mixology binder. "Sure thing. Hang on a minute.”

I opened the file, skimming my hand down the page as I searched for the right drink. The pixie’s stare bore holes in the side of my head, and I tried not to look at her from the corner of my eye.

Fuck. Gimlet. Something with gin. I remembered because they both started with a "g.” I flipped the pages with enough force to make me glad they were laminated.

I looked up at the pixie. "How about I bring it out to you?”

She pouted her pretty lips. "You suck as a bartender. It’s only got three ingredients.”

I took a deep breath. "I’m new.” I’d promised Joey I’d keep my temper, but this bitch was pushing me.

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and pointed at her table. "I’m over there, and you’re not getting a tip.” She flounced back to her stool.

I measured out the gin when another patron called for a beer, and then two more wanted to see a menu, and someone else requested a whiskey drink, but I didn’t hear past whiskey so I didn’t know what kind. I handed the menu to the two waiting elves, poured the beers, and then got back to the gimlet.

The pixie obviously couldn’t wait because she returned and smacked her palm on the bar. "Did you get that drink made?”

"Yup,” I said, forcing a smile, dumping in the lime juice. "Here you go.” I handed her the glass and grabbed another for the whiskey drink.

Gimlet Girl spit the drink out on the floor.

"There’s no simple syrup in this drink!”

I counted to ten in my head and then said, "I’m sorry. Here, let me fix that.” I knew we had a squeeze bottle for simple syrup somewhere.

"Never mind.” Her pixie hit team of mean girls sidled up to sur­round her. It was like high school on steroids.

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