Unhallowed Love #2
Year of the Demon
CEO Debbie and demon Shaker’s first year of partnership was a smashing success for both Pandora Productions and their own new intimate relationship. Shaker now inhabits a human host, Pandora’s rising action star Jett Black, putting the possibility of a family within Debbie’s tentative grasp.
But as before, one crisis after another ensues, beginning with the death of Debbie’s father, bringing her into the sights of a demon-hunting priest, Father Matthew, who will stop at nothing to not only send Shaker back to the Hell he came from, but also ensure Debbie is free of sin… permanently.
When Shaker is sent back to Hell and Debbie is left bereft, her team of allies decimated, she must decide if she will succumb…or rise from the ashes and fight for everything she loves.
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Genre: Paranormal - Demons
“I’m sure we have an Incubus down here.”
Debbie followed the demon Rack down the wooden stairs into the heavy gloom, feeling with her feet for the stairs and hanging onto the curved rail. “You may be able to see in the dark, but you’re going to have to flip the light switch for me.”
She heard the smile in his reply. “You’ve got some dark sight from Shaker, Debbie. You should use it, since you’re paying for it.”
“Don’t be so dour, Rack dear,” Mrs. Triss called down the stairs after them. “You can’t live in the 1800s.” Light abruptly flooded the basement, making Debbie stop mid-stair and blink.
The wine cellar held very modern wooden stands of bottled wine, and also large unusually shaped old bottles, earthen jugs of various colors, and monstrous wooden casks in large sturdy supports. “You must entertain a fair amount, Mrs. Triss,” Debbie quipped, as she walked down the stairs to join Rack.
“Just Triss, dear,” the young woman said as she came down the stairs, her expression that of a much older woman. She smiled. “We provide the vintages for the various demon gatherings throughout the year. These are safer here under our close supervision.”
Safer from whom? “Thank you again for agreeing to provide the alcoholic refreshments for our office party last night,” Debbie replied. “The New Year celebration was a great success.”
“Yes, it was,” Rack said, turning to Debbie with a dusty bottle. “Demonkind thanks you, Debbie Deal. Here you go, one bottle of Incubus. Congratulations.”
The lights abruptly went out, making Debbie take a quick breath. Various candelabras around the basement sputtered into life, the warm glow transforming the room into something out of a gothic romance story.
“I prefer candlelight,” Shaker intoned, appearing behind Debbie. He kissed her hand, his vivid blue eyes flashing his true red briefly.
You look good, Debbie thought to him, her eyes lingering on his chiseled features and wide muscular chest. “How was Jett’s interview?”
“My interview was very good PR,” Shaker corrected gently, flipping his black hair out of his eyes. “I’m not sure if I’ll make the cover, but they did take a few pictures of me in my costume for Smoke and Ashes II.”
“That’s fabulous!” Debbie said excitedly, giving him a hug. “This will be great press for Pandora Productions. Were you able to talk much about the sequel?”
“Yes. Plus I mentioned I got engaged last night,” Shaker said with a shark’s smile, displaying several rows of serrated teeth. “But I waited until the end as you coached, so they weren’t able to make the entire interview about that. But they had a lot of questions.”
“We have a lot of questions,” Triss broke in, her smile no longer so wide. “So will the others.”
She means demonkind, in reference to me and what’s next for Pandora Productions, Shaker said in Debbie’s mind. Let me answer this and go along with what I say.
“I’m not sure why,” Shaker drawled in response, his expression deliberately casual. “You can see I’m Jett now. Debbie’s shooting star actor was falling fast from drugs and disease. He’d likely have died of an overdose or heart attack if I hadn’t stepped in, so to speak. Possessing him was the only way, especially after he betrayed Pandora and sold us out to our competitor, Titan Pictures. Now that Jett’s clean—and he’s got a brain to direct his brawn—we won’t have any more problems with him.”
“You know we mean about you two getting engaged, Shaker,” Rack said pointedly. “You getting attention as Jett for the company’s good is one thing. You marrying your boss is another.”
“Shaker’s my lover and my demon, like Rack is yours, Triss,” Debbie said evenly. “He can’t put on Jett like a suit of clothes every other week. So Jett’s become my lover. But I’m not a fan of scandal, and you’re right, the CEO dating their lead rates headlines. That’s why the engagement. We’re getting married for the same reason you two did. It solves several problems while displacing interest.”
“Told you,” Rack said triumphantly to Triss.
“You have our support,” Triss said, ignoring him. She laid her hand on Debbie’s arm. “That is unchanged. We just want to make sure what we’re building isn’t going to collapse.”
“How can you say that?” Debbie’s throat was suddenly so dry all she could manage was an offended whisper. “You know what I went through last year to save Pandora from being taken over by Titan Pictures? My best friend Sheila nearly died from that Hellfire meant for me. That renegade priest nearly killed me. Shaker was badly wounded multiple times.” Her tone could have etched steel. “I have killed for Pandora.”
“All of us here have,” Shaker rumbled, glaring at Triss. “Except you.”
“Because call it what you will, catastrophe often follows demonworkings,” Triss went on, ignoring Debbie and Shaker. “Karma, fate, divine intervention... they mean the same thing for us: failure and a lot of wasted time. Rack and I have worked hard at making Triss Vineyards into a global name. We’ve had more than our share of hardships.” She paused. “You know what I’m saying, Debbie. You remember last year. It was a good year, yes, but you had major struggles every single month. You’re a smart woman. Don’t take risks this year like you did then. None of us can afford it. There’s been enough death linked to Pandora...and you.”
“I am a smart woman,” Debbie said slowly. “And you’re right that there’s been enough death. Which is why I’ll ask you right here and now: are you the same Mrs. Triss that I had lunch with the day you told me about demons and what they were capable of with their mortal cohorts? And later, the true story of how you met Rack? You are, aren’t you? You pretended to be that woman’s daughter yesterday at the New Year’s party when you appeared, suddenly fifty years younger, telling me that your mother died. But when you said you were going to marry Rack in the same conversation, there was no grief, just eagerness.”
“When I met you, you were old, close to death,” Debbie challenged. “Now you are young enough to be my own daughter, Triss. Don’t talk to me about risks while you’re trying to pass off a lie as big as that one, especially to me.”
“If you’re saying I told you something, I would guess I was there and that same person,” Triss said with a cold smile.
“Enough,” Rack said quietly, his expression somber. “Triss and I did what we had to in order to be together, now and always. No one was hurt to make that happen, though you likely suspect otherwise to say what you just did.”
“I’m not judging you,” Debbie said bluntly. “I’m telling you that if you want to be in the inner circle with us, then stop playing games. I have no intention of Pandora going down in flames. Or this year being anything but better than the last year. I’m not going to take risks. Shaker’s been around for a thousand years and he and I have made a good team.”
“Yes, you do,” Triss said approvingly, her smile for the first time genuine. “I agree, no more secrets from now on.” She took the Incubus from Shaker. “Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to celebrating. I’ll be upstairs.” She turned and left.
What a bizarre woman, Debbie thought.
Not one to tangle with, Shaker replied in her mind.
“Come and let me show you my wine cave,” Rack said proudly, gesturing to the stacks of bottles. “Most wine anymore comes in bottles, but there are larger sizes. A methuselah is a container equivalent to eight regular bottles. A balthazar is twelve liters or about sixteen bottles. A nebuchanezzer is about twenty. A cask is equivalent to a barrel and is about two-hundred and twenty-five liters or twenty-four cases of twelve bottles each.”
“Rack is a Master of Wine, also known as a sommelier,” Shaker said.
“Triss Vineyards will provide you a cask of the Incubus for all your upcoming parties at Pandora this year, provided you like what you taste,” Rack went on. “It’s hedonistic, decadent and velvety, with a long finish or aftertaste. Alternately, we could provide you with Incubus for some months, and alternate with some others of our cult wines.”
“Cult wines?” Debbie echoed.
“Wines that demand a high price because of rarity or desirability,” Shaker said. “I would rather the latter, Rack. I like the Incubus myself, but let’s alternate full with light bodied, and vary ages. But shades of red only.”
“That sounds good to me,” Debbie agreed. “As of right now, I know we have planned several launch parties after first screenings of the newer bigger movies, like Smoke and Ashes II. Also a spring picnic, a Halloween party, a Christmas party, and a New Year’s Eve Party. If possible, make the bottles look as different as you can, to showcase your versatility. Even differentiate the openings, like screw tops and corks.”
“We should nix the planned Christmas party,” Shaker said. “Someone is sure to bring some kind of religion into it. You know that it doesn’t matter what faith believers are: what matters is their belief.”
“All right,” Debbie said with a shrug. “I’m not sure anyone will care, with the New Year’s Eve party the week after.”
“Not as long as they get their Christmas bonuses,” Shaker laughed.
“We do have a lot of different newer wines,” Rack interrupted, beckoning them to the more modern section of the cellar. “These are blendings, where we take a mix of two or more wines to make a consistent singular wine. The AOC—or DOC if we were in Italy—states the origin of the grapes, where they are from. If the grapes are young, they have an aroma. If they are old, it’s referred to as a bouquet. How long the wine is in the cask determines the body, if it’s light or full. A charcoal burned into the inside of the wine barrel gives wine what is referred to a its “toast.” Above all, though, wine should have balance. Acid should be checked by sweetness, fruit flavors should be checked by tannins, and alcohol should be checked by acidity or flavor.” He nodded. “If you will provide me with some keywords for different months, I’ll make sure we have the perfect wine to represent Pandora.”
He clearly is a master of wine. We should definitely use that expertise. “Wonderful, Rack,” Debbie complimented. “But you really don’t need me to provide you with keywords, when you’re involved enough with Pandora’s upcoming movies to know what the focus of each is. You have approval to make choices in wines and bring them to me right before the scheduled celebrations, just so I have advance notice of what they look like.”
“Then I thank you for your confidence,” Rack said, giving her a small bow. “Let us go upstairs. Triss is asking me what’s taking so long.”
The three walked back upstairs, where Triss was waiting with the Incubus wine. She handed glasses to Shaker and Debbie. “To our partnership, and a fabulous year!”
“To the year of the demon,” Shaker said, grinning and raising his glass.
The others raised their glasses, clinking them together. “To the year of the demon!”