Dark Knight’s Kiss

by

Leigh Ann Edwards

LAMB operative Fiona Maguire isn’t happy about the company Halloween party. A gathering of magical beings in a remote location when the veil between realms is thinnest? With alcohol, a full moon, and an antique suit of armor possessed by a treacherous spirit? It’s a recipe for disaster.

Half-demon Lorcan Wright senses the spirit targeting Fiona and desperately wants to protect her. The powerful witch hardly needs his help, but unfamiliar emotions are driving Lorcan, and it’s making him crazy. Together, they banish the creature but Fiona’s left injured. Wracked with guilt, Lorcan shuts her out. When the grisly remains of women killed by dark magic begin appearing, the agency is tasked with locating and assessing this magical being––without their best team.

The power of this creature, however, is unprecedented, and Lorcan and Fiona have no choice but to travel through time to recruit help. As they fight the malicious magic together, they’re forced to face the worst of their history…and the truth of their relationship. Will they survive their toughest challenge yet? Or will the dark knight’s kiss destroy the bond between them forever?

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Chapter One

Fiona Maguire walked in the Massachusetts countryside, hoping the fresh air and exercise would mentally prepare her for the evening. As the breeze ruffled her hair, she inhaled the familiar sharp scent of autumn leaves, their already vibrant reds and oranges ablaze in the setting sun.

She glanced at the castle-like inn where the company Halloween party was being held. The massive stone structure had turrets, parapets, and even gargoyles projecting from the roof gutters. Was it built in another century or made to look ancient? She couldn’t tell, even with her supernatural perception.

Although it was only three hours northwest of her Boston home, Fiona hadn’t even known it existed. The historical architecture reminded her of her journeys back in time. It was ideal for tonight’s event; thankfully it had modern electricity and plumbing.

She jumped when movement from one of the four gargoyles caught her eye. They were so lifelike she thought it had moved—probably one of the pigeons she’d seen roosting earlier.

She needed to get back; the party would be starting soon. Fiona shivered and tugged her vest as the wind gusted stronger, noisily scattering curled leaves down the path. She admired the display of jack-o’-lanterns along the stone steps as she started toward the inn, shaking her head at how Lorcan Wright had managed to convince their bosses at LAMB to hold a Halloween party. Given that they ran an agency named Locating and Assessing Magical Beings, they were remarkably unimaginative.

With his notable charm, English accent, tall, sex-god-category body, fascinating green eyes and devilish good looks, her half-demon partner could sweet-talk most females into anything. But Henry Dalton, their CEO, was all business. His vice-chief Minerva was gay and not thrilled with most men; she’d never hidden her dislike of Lorcan. Lorcan had given some embellished speech claiming this would be good for employee morale.

Even Fiona hadn’t been sold on the idea, initially. Most would think that as an Irish witch, she’d love celebrating today’s version of the ancient pagan festival of Samhain, but she had good reason to be conflicted.

Lorcan promised to cook her favorite dinners for a week and take care of the cat litter in exchange for her help. He wore a gas mask the first time he’d changed the litter, having underestimated the effect on his supernatural sense of smell.

They didn’t live together, but Fiona rented a small top-floor apartment in Lorcan’s three-story brownstone, and they’d become close. Lorcan had adored Magic since the day he’d brought the tiny kitten home, as a gift for her. And though most domesticated animals disliked anyone with demon blood, Magic loved him, too.

She paused at the entrance to the stone castle. Tonight was also Lorcan’s birthday, and he wanted this party to be a grand occasion, choosing the venue and entertainment himself. For his sake, she’d try to have fun tonight.

He’d rented the inn to allow guests to drink and not have to drive. The fancy chartered buses he’d hired arrived late afternoon and the guests went directly to their rooms to get into their costumes. The buses would return everyone to Boston tomorrow.

She put her hand to her throat, fighting a gasp when two people who’d been crouched behind the decorative rocks suddenly sprung up shouting, “Boo!”

It was Dewey and Ringo, LAMB’s two young scientists. Because they looked identical and always dressed the same, it was rumored that they were clones. Dewey headed the lab that monitored ghosts, time anomalies, and unusual MB behavior. Ringo was in charge of the time portal at LAMB’s facility.

The brothers were now in alien attire. Martians, judging by their green skin and antennae, with nerdy black glasses.

“We scared you, huh?” Ringo grinned.

Dewey, the meeker of the pair, stepped behind his brother. “Or did we upset you?”

“It’s Halloween.” Fiona smiled. “Isn’t it supposed to be scary?” She made her voice eerie.

The boyish men looked uncertain now.

“You don’t have your katana, right?” Ringo asked.

She’d earned a reputation with the weapon when she’d beheaded a dangerous, supernatural old hag.

Fiona turned showing them her back. “No katana. Weapons aren’t allowed at the party.”

They let out simultaneous sighs.

“But…” She stepped forward widening her eyes. “That doesn’t mean I can’t use witchcraft to turn you into…toads!”

Fiona smirked when they scurried up the steps and through the castle doors, antennae bobbing.

When she walked inside, she couldn’t help but be impressed. The Halloween party planning company she’d found, Spooky as Hell, had outdone themselves. She’d gotten a ride today with the owners, magical siblings named Lucifer, Pandora, and Maleficent. They’d picked her up in a hearse and she’d ridden in the back amidst crates and an off-putting coffin filled with party supplies.

The ballroom was decorated spectacularly with helium balloons and flashing LED lights. They had some tacky paraphernalia—spider webs, tarantulas, and bats, but there were also realistic-looking monsters and gory props. Fiona looked at a life-size vampire figure and shuddered. They were her least favorite of all nasty creatures LAMB agents dealt with.

She glanced at Lucifer, who looked like a creepy undertaker from a horror film. What kind of MBs were they? Their accents sounded Eastern European—hopefully not Transylvanian. They were out during daylight, so they couldn’t be vampires…unless they were a hybrid variety? LAMB was investigating such possibilities.

She took a deep breath and pushed the thought away. The long food table and round dining tables in the banquet area were adorned with ragged black tablecloths, antiquated goblets and candelabra centerpieces that might be found in a haunted house.

When she first arrived she’d witnessed echoes of people whom she believed once lived here. Primarily two boys, maybe early teens, and a smaller girl, all with darkish hair. In the visions the place was decked out for Halloween but there were balloons and birthday banners, too. She heard their voices and saw the girl sliding down the banister squealing in delight as the younger boy caught her. How lovely to have such happy family times.

She felt an icy tap on her shoulder and jumped.

“Ms. Maguire.” Lucifer stood right behind her. She backed away a little.

“We shall be retiring to our rooms,” he said. “Should you require anything please do let us know. Otherwise, we’ll endeavor to have a quiet evening.”

“The music and partying might be loud,” Fiona warned.

He only nodded and slunk away.

Lorcan had said to tell the caterers to plan for up to one hundred guests.

God, she hoped everything would go smoothly.

She took another deep breath, willing herself calm. What could go wrong bringing magical beings of several varieties together during the time when the veil to the spirit world and other realms was thinnest and ghosts and supernatural creatures could come through? Add a full moon, alcohol and relative isolation and it was a recipe for disaster.

She’d better summon some optimism or she’d be manifesting trouble. Fiona glanced at her watch. Where was Lorcan? His contagious enthusiasm would no doubt alleviate her stress when he arrived.

He was supposed to be here to help greet the guests. Unlike him, who had first-name relationships with almost everyone, Fiona was an introvert and didn’t even know all LAMB’s agents, let alone other employees.

She wouldn’t recognize most anyway. The rule for attending was you had to be in costume, but you couldn’t go as who or what you were. For instance, Fiona couldn’t dress as a witch. Not all employees knew about LAMB’s time portal, but people were encouraged to dress in historical attire.

She hadn’t wanted to wear a mask that would impair her vision and so she chose to dress as a hippie. After all, she’d lived in the Sixties for a while and even kept a skirt from that time. Fiona was wearing the above-the-knee tie-dye skirt, a T-shirt with a large peace symbol, and a fringed suede vest with matching knee-high boots.

Attendees also couldn’t use magical holograms to only appear to be in costume. She had used witchcraft to make her shoulder-length brown hair fall to her waist. Lorcan would accuse her of being a rebel, but wigs were hot and itchy. A wreath of silk flowers in her hair completed her ensemble.

Fiona stood at the ballroom entrance ready to begin welcoming people. Where the hell was the birthday boy who’d insisted on this party?

Her stomach did an unwanted flutter when Rohese entered the room. The half-elven half-Fae prince was in full Viking attire. That suited him with his tall, muscular frame and mid-back-length light hair and one signature braid. The blonde woman with him also wore a Viking costume. Her ears weren’t pointed—she couldn’t be elven or Fae.

Maybe she was one of the people he’d hired to run The Third Eye, the apothecary shop Fiona had started with her late friend Genny, and then sold to him a few months ago. She remained co-owner and Rohese moved into the attached apartment.

Fiona had been relieved to hear Rohese and Jaycee—the woman who’d put Fiona, Lorcan and others in danger—were no longer a couple. She didn’t know what caused the breakup but was damn glad Rohese was done with her.

Yet Fiona couldn’t ignore the rumors that he’d begun to sleep around nearly as much as Lorcan. Presently Rohese was barely speaking to her because of what occurred on their last mission.

“Good evening, Fiona Maguire.” Rohese’s voice disrupted her thoughts. He called everyone by their given and surname. Still, she didn’t miss how cool he sounded.

“Hi, Rohese,” she said. “I’m glad you came.”

He narrowed his enchanting blue eyes. “The demon claimed it was required for those employed with LAMB to attend.”

Rohese referred to Lorcan as the demon even though he was also half human. The two males were often at odds. Rohese disliked Lorcan’s smart-arse comments. Lorcan thought Rohese was uptight and enjoyed taunting him about his naiveness regarding the human world.

Rohese also opposed her being partnered with Lorcan, believing he’d eventually put her in danger. She hadn’t heard it from him, but evidently he’d been upset when he found out she’d gone on a holiday with Lorcan.

“I hope you and your date have a nice time,” Fiona said.

“I’m Hildr.” The woman who spoke with a Scandinavian accent held her hand out. Fiona shook it, briefly. She could often see snippets of a person’s past or their future through a mere touch.

“I’m a Valkyrie but tonight I’m Lagertha and he’s Ragnar.” Hildr squeezed Rohese’s commendable bicep.

Fiona knew she referenced legendary characters made popular by a television series. Was Hildr an actual Valkyrie—a Norse mythological female who guided souls in Valhalla? Or was she a LAMB agent?

Fiona gestured to their swords and shields.

“Sorry, I’ll have to check those. Real weapons aren’t permitted at the party. I wouldn’t want you doin’ any pillagin’ or plunderin’ tonight.”

Hildr laughed. Rohese didn’t. He didn’t always understand her humor. Now she suspected he wouldn’t find anything she said amusing. They unsheathed their hard plastic swords and Hildr produced a realistic-looking faux battle-ax.

“Okay, thanks,” Fiona said.

Rohese nodded. They sheathed their weapons and Hildr grasped his hand as they walked away.

Fiona was surprised to see Minerva enter the room. She hadn’t expected her to attend. Maybe she felt she had to since Henry likely wouldn’t. He was older, walked with a cane and was often in pain.

Hopefully Minerva wouldn’t make everyone uncomfortable. She was the enforcer of LAMB’s strict rules. Fiona hoped the party didn’t get out of hand but wanted people to enjoy themselves.

Minerva’s costume suited her. The late-thirties, six-foot-tall, attractive black woman with werewolf lineage looked like an Amazonian warrior. She wore a leather miniskirt, sleeveless top, tall lace-up sandals, and metal wristbands. Her hair wasn’t the usual dreadlocks but dozens of beaded braids.

“Love your hair,” Fiona said.

Minerva nodded. “Thanks. Things seem to be under control for the moment.”

That was about as friendly as Minerva got.

“Yes,” Fiona replied. “I hope everyone has a nice time.”

“Where’s your partner?” Minerva asked.

Fiona gave a one-shoulder shrug. “I haven’t seen him yet.”

“Maybe he’s carnally engaged and won’t make it to the damn party he insisted LAMB host and spend a shit-ton of money on.”

Fiona tensed. Minerva was quick to demean Lorcan.

“He contributed, too,” Fiona defended.

“Henry, LAMB’s directors, and I agreed to footing the bill for the food, drinks, and music. But since your partner with his opulent tastes chose the venue out here in the sticks, he paid for it.”

“And the party planners, buses to transport people, and everyone’s lodging,” Fiona reminded her.

Minerva sneered. “Apparently he has money to burn.”

Fiona glanced around. There had to be eighty MBs here. She supposed most wouldn’t turn down free food, booze, transportation, and an overnight stay. The scenic drive alone was amazing and the only cost to attendees would be their costumes.

Lorcan did appear to be wealthy and was generous. He wasn’t charging nearly what he could for the apartment she rented from him. He’d also paid for their three-week European river cruise, insisting it was her birthday present.

“I’m surprised you’re still speaking to him,” Minerva said, “much less helping plan this elaborate party.”

Fiona stared, unsure what she was referring to.

“I know he’s seeing other women.” Minerva lifted her chin. “Well screwing them at least. That’ll never change. But apparently it continued after you moved in together and went on that trip. I doubt you’re the type who’d accept an open relationship.”

Fiona fought a smirk. After the last mission she’d led some at LAMB to believe she and Lorcan were living together as a couple. It had been amusing seeing people’s reactions. Fiona was fit, youthful-looking, into martial arts—even had a black belt. But she was old enough to be Lorcan’s mother. In fact, he was younger than her son, Cal.

She mostly ignored Lorcan’s evocative comments suggesting they sleep together. Yet she had to admit she’d been tempted. She was a woman with strong physical desires; he was drop-dead gorgeous, not to mention sexy as hell.

People presumed they were a couple when they’d gone on the cruise, but it had remained a platonic holiday.

Occasionally she wondered if they could make it work being friends, partners, and lovers, but she wouldn’t want to risk changing the status quo. Someone would end up hurt…undoubtedly her.

Minerva pulled a face. “Even I can’t deny he’s sinfully handsome. Most females are beguiled. But you’re an intelligent, mature woman. You might’ve known a man of demon descent couldn’t be monogamous. They seldom have scruples.”

Yeah, well werewolves aren’t known for their honorable traits either, lady.

Fiona bit her tongue not to say that. She still wasn’t pleased with Minerva, who’d admitted that agents were seldom permitted to simply leave LAMB. Either their memories were wiped clear, or the operative was rectified. LAMB didn’t like the word kill. But then they were suspected of doing a lot of unethical things.

Fiona could see Minerva awaiting her reply.

“It was fun while it lasted.” She tried to sound dreamy. “Lorcan does know how to make a woman feel special.”

They’d finally agreed they’d tell people they’d broken off their brief pretended romance. Lorcan wasn’t giving up his active sex life but didn’t want people thinking he was cheating on her.

Minerva flared her nostrils and snorted, both werewolf traits.

“By the way,” she said, “there are armed security personnel here…incognito. Only employees, MBs and escorts who’ve been LAMB-approved will be in attendance. Still, there could be trouble with this many together.”

Fiona looked around. Several people carried weapons she’d checked to ensure were only props, although she hadn’t asked to look under capes or cloaks.

“With your witch perception you’d likely find them if needed.”

“Have a fun evening,” Fiona said.

Minerva scowled and walked away.

The bar was now open for cocktails. The caterers had set out a selection of snacks and hors d’oeuvres.

Fiona was making her goblet of Pinot Grigio last. Kumar Mehta—LAMB’s top doctor, the gentle Indian man with distant demon lineage—entered the ballroom. He was in an ogre costume, like from the film Shrek. His dark hair and beard streaked with gray didn’t match the look. Fiona greeted him warmly.

Next to arrive was Dickens, LAMB’s goblin-shapeshifter librarian dressed as a fairy with glittery wings. Fiona covered her mouth not to laugh, for the crotchety old goblin didn’t have a sparkly personality.

“Dickens, I didn’t expect you to be here.”

She seldom left her library. Was she really intending to stay overnight?

“Young Lorcan talked me into it. He’s good at that, you ken?” she replied in her Scottish accent.

“He is,” Fiona said. “Well, have fun, Dickens.”

She grinned. “Aye. I intend to.”

Where the hell was Lorcan? If he missed the party, Fiona would be annoyed. Her breath hitched. What if he was in trouble? With a jealous boyfriend? Maybe a vicious MB?

As one of LAMB’s top agents he’d made plenty of enemies. Xavier, the ancient grand elder vampire, for one. Lorcan had taken out his original coven and that vamp had caused havoc for him and Fiona before.

She closed her eyes and concentrated on Lorcan, then heard a piano with old-time music—like you’d hear in a saloon. It was his birthday. He’d probably taken a quick trip to the Wild West. He’d told her it was one of his favorite eras. He’d be here soon. He’d never miss this party he’d spent so much time planning.

End of Excerpt

This book will begin shipping June 25, 2024

Dark Knight’s Kiss is currently available in digital format only:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-61-9

June 25, 2024

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