Our Sultry Summer Offering
We wanted to call this one Hot Delta Nights, but the titled got changed to Spellbound Desire.
On the Nightside of Memphis, werewolves teach college, zombies load trucks and private investigator D. J. is hard at work, finding missing persons, solving cases and drinking herself into an early grave. Then Bran walks into her office, asking for her help in destroying the demon Oeilett, and everything changes.
Something about the battered, scarred combat mage ignites all the lusty feelings D. J. thought she had successfully drowned in rum. The mana he exudes weaves a web of desire over her, clouding thought and making the sultry summer even steamier.
Bran’s body and face may be marked by his previous battles, but everything under the black leather kilt works perfectly, and D. J. learns there are more things in Memphis, the hellplanes and her own heart than she had ever imagined.
Plug: If you enjoy the excerpt, buy the book. If you want more of DJ's world, please check out Undeath and the Detective and Dominant Tendencies, both of which have short stories set in this universe.
Then someone stood up by the fire. I looked and saw it was Ian, our medic. He nodded to the mage working the music and the Southern rock cut out. A drum and guitar started up. Ian cut loose in a mellow baritone.
“Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled. Scots wham Bruce has often led. Welcome tae yer gory bed or tae victory!”
“His accent’s not half bad. Most of you Yanks can’t do Burns,” Bran whispered to me.
“What is it?”
“Unofficial national anthem, written by Bobbie Burns back in 1793.” He pulled out his pipe and lit it, and then wrapped an arm around me.
I didn’t like the song, about dying for freedom. I didn’t want to think about death, not tonight. Not on the last night I would have my first and only lover by my side. I snuggled in tighter to him. He bent down and kissed me. It only made me feel a little better.
Then he let go and stepped up for the last verse, his own baritone filling the yard.
“By oppression’s woes and pains
By your sons in servile chains
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free.
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in ev’ry foe
Liberty’s in every blow
Let us do or dee!”
Do or dee. Do or die. And tomorrow would be exactly that. Bunch of bonkers Celts, loving life and death equally, and singing about freedom and death like they went hand in hand.
I had another drink from Bran’s bottle. It didn’t help. I wished for my own rum, but that wouldn’t help either. Inside twenty-four hours, the man I loved would be dead or gone.
The thought set me back on my heels. Love. I’d never loved anyone. Mom and I had barely put up with each other while she was alive. She hadn’t wanted to have me, and despised being tied down by a kid, and she made sure I knew it. I tolerated Jinx, but was constantly annoyed at him. I loved Bran. I wanted him with me. I wanted to wake up with him, hear him talk about his family or work. I wanted the lessons he could teach me. And I wanted to make him happy. That thought was as foreign as the love.
I was D.J. Admire. I didn’t make people happy. I satisfied their curiosity, for a price. I found stuff for them. I relieved their minds. I made people dead occasionally. But I had never made anyone happy.
I might only have twenty-four hours, but by damn I was going to make them add up to the best day of Bran’s life.
Someone had done some serious research because we made it well into the second hour of singing with only Scottish songs on the menu. Food had come out by then, a roasted pig from a pit and platters of side dishes. Bran skipped most of them, and so did I, still feeling my burger, but grabbed a triangle of shortbread.
They had gone all out to make him feel welcome and at home. As the guest of honor, I figured that was right.
He sang and ate and drank a lot of the scotch. Everyone wanted a minute with him, for a well-wish, a blessing or just a moment to reassure themselves about tomorrow. I suspected that anyone who survived would tell their friends and nieces and nephews about the battle, and about fighting with Bran McKay, most powerful combat mage of our generation. And the tale would keep getting bigger, until Bran was a nine-foot-tall giant with eyes that flashed sparks and lungs like a bagpipe.
Finally, as the fire died down and the songs grew sadder and slower, Bran gave me a squeeze.
“I’m thoroughly ceilidh’d, love. I have other things to do before we get a good sleep.” He kissed me and announced to the others, “Thank you all for this. Ma couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. I think all battles should do this before. But now, one last song and then my lovely lady is going to drive me home, so I can sleep before I face the beastie. Clear mind, sharp spells and all that rot.”
He conferred for a moment with the mage at the sound, and got a nod.
“This song was written by one of Bonnie Charlie’s soldiers, imprisoned in Carlisle Castle. He was to be executed, so he gave it to his cellmate, who was to be freed to walk the twelve kilometers back to the Scottish border and thence home. His friend will take the high road, the road ordinary people travel, but he will take the low one, the road the faeries open for those of us who die far from home, so that our souls may speed on the way.”
Oh, hell. He was already talking like he was going to die. If Bran went into this thinking he’d die, he would.
He nodded at the music, and looked straight at me. His burr thickened and I wondered if this was what he sounded like at home when he wasn’t trying to make a bunch of Yanks understand him.
“By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.
where me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.”
I wasn’t going to cry, dammit. He could sing all the sad songs he liked, about walking the low road home, or about dying for freedom or whatever else he liked, but I wasn’t going to cry in front of a bunch of combat mages who thought I was a No-Talent weakling to start with.
I swallowed a lot on the walk to the car.
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