For those of you just tuning in, this week we're discovering what happens to Taran when he walks across the street, intent on killing the woman who reminds him of the one woman he can't forget.  It's the second half of chapter one from Marked for Death, the last book in the Inherited Damnation series, which releases January 16th.


Marked for Death
Inherited Damnation, Book VIII

Taran McLaine knows the agony of his incubus father's curse more intimately than his siblings. A century ago he murdered the only woman he ever loved. When he finds her alive, he's faced with the ultimate heartbreak. They have no chance at a future--he's done all he can to insure that on his day of judgment the ancestors will deny him a mortal life.

Years ago, Solene Larouche embraced Taran and the dark curse that cloaked him. She knew the risk she faced, but when Drandar pulls her back to life, she agrees to aid the demon and damn Taran to eternal suffering. One look at the man who held her heart so long ago, however, changes her mind. She must find a way to free him, even if it means condemning herself to eternity as Drandar's slave.

As Samhain approaches, Solene and Taran conspire to destroy Drandar. But will their combined effort enable them to kill the incubus or will they be cast into Drandar's own special Hell and all hope of their renewed love marked for death?


As the back door creaked open, Solène took a deep breath to steady the trembling in her hands.  She faced the long row of shelves behind the well-worn counter, unwilling to reveal herself in entirety to Taran.  The one encounter they’d had, had been close enough.  But time was at a premium.  Samhain occurred in two nights.  She couldn’t ignore her obligations any longer.

And she couldn’t deny a small part of her relished the knowledge that Taran would suffer for taking her life so long ago.

A very small part.

The rest of her was too busy wanting to throw herself into his arms and tumble back into the bed they had shared.  The life they had created.  The love they had known, despite the curse he suffered that damned her to an early grave.

Still, the reality of death had a way of tarnishing emotion.

Footsteps crossed the uneven marbled floor, bringing him closer.  She ordered her fingers not to shake as she reached for a green glass jar on the shelf above her head.  Pretending she couldn’t feel the threatening presence that clung to him, and ignoring the intoxicating scent of old world spice that drifted off his clothes, Solène removed the glass stopper and picked up a bowl of fresh ground sage.  She poured as Taran moved toward the counter.

At the fringes of her awareness another presence stirred.  Her spirit wards closed in, hovering just beyond the barrier of recognition, ready to thwart Taran’s murderous hand.

Oh, she knew why he had come.  Had expected it from the moment the demon Drandar reunited her with the mortal plane.  It had only been a matter of time.

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” she called.

Without a word, he moved to the north wall, where silver talismans nestled between thin tomes designed for Paris’s true masters of witchcraft.  Solène turned her head a fraction, watching the way he ran a reverent hand over the cover of one old spell.  Her breath hitched at the sight of his sharp profile, his long dark hair, the mouth that could curve so sensually, and so wickedly as well.  Over one hundred years, and he was still every bit as mesmerizing as the night they’d met at the opening of the Moulin Rouge.

His posture belied discomfort.  The lines on his forehead spoke of pain.  Her heart shuddered in sympathy.  Taran hadn’t come near this place they had once called home since he laid a single red rose on her freshly dug grave.  He passed down the street, lingered at a distance, but not once had he entered, not even when it had been opened for display the three times it had been on the market.

If his reaction was anything like hers when she’d set foot inside the dusty shop they had established together, he bled inside.  Looking on the things they had crafted together, the magic they had drawn and channeled during the quiet hours of night, had nearly broken her.

Taran jerked his hand away from a silver-handled dagger and his mouth formed a harsh line.  He turned toward the counter, his onyx eyes glittering.

Solène restored the jar to the shelf above her head, smoothed her hands down the front of her black shirt, and summoned courage.  She pulled a smile from deep within before turning to face him.  In the calmest voice she could craft, she asked, “How may I help you?”

Shock washed across Taran’s features.  He opened his mouth, snapped it shut, then gave a slight shake of his head.  “I was told…”  His voice vibrated with a lack of confidence that didn’t fit his character. 

She moved to the edge of the counter, keeping her gaze locked with his.  “You were told I knew the arts, yes?”

A short nod of his head confirmed.

He was lying, but then she hadn’t expected anything less.  He’d need some sort of excuse to come into the store.  She didn’t cater to the general public, only to those who passed quiet referrals.

“Was there something in specific you needed?”  Solène took care to keep her voice light.  It wasn’t yet time to reveal her hand.  Spirits above, he looked delicious.  She could still feel the weight of his strong arms folding around her.  The warmth of his breath as he feathered a kiss across her lips.

Old longing stirred in the depths of her soul, and Solène had to grip the edge of the counter to ward off a dizzy spell.

Taran approached the counter warily.  His eyes raked down the length of her body, slowly flicked up to rest on her face.  Curiosity flashed in his dark stare, then morphed into pained disbelief.

Yes, it’s me, Taran.  Her smile faltered.

He looked so wounded.  So anguished.  How could she have ever believed she could damn him to an eternity of suffering?  She could no more carry out Drandar’s dark wishes, than she could hand Taran the knife he needed to kill her.

And yet… she’d give a thousand lifetimes to ease his pain.

Focus.  She swallowed down the cobwebs that gathered in her throat.  “If you’re looking for a rite for Samhain, I have a few hand-crafted rituals on the counter where you were just looking.”

“No.” he answered brusquely.  “I’ve forgotten now.”

Fine excuse.  Did that mean he’d changed his mind?  No, knowing him, he’d simply become so off-center that he needed time to reorganize his thoughts.

Taran tapped a fist on the scarred countertop.  His long black hair whipped over his shoulder as he pivoted on his heel.  He pushed it aside with a muffled oath and stalked to the door.

Solène stepped behind the false safety of the countertop.  When he set his palm on the door and pushed it open, she dug her nails into the wood.  He was halfway outside before she managed to force out words.  “Come back when you know what you’re looking for, Taran McLaine.”


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