Monday, August 02, 2010

Foxes' Den Excerpt...

Foxes' Den releases tomorrow! Here's a taste.

The being who currently called herself Akane Moritomo froze.

The hair on the back of her neck prickled, not entirely unpleasantly.

Someone recognized her for what she was. The curse had left her with that pathetically small power, to know such things.

No one had recognized her in decades. Even trapped in this form, she’d occasionally be spotted in Japan. But never in America.

This time, she had been.

Cautiously, pretending she was retying her boot, she scanned the people around her, looking for someone who was not the ordinary human he or she appeared to be.

The Agency?

Her heart raced, though once she would have scoffed at mortals trying to capture her. If the Agency discovered she was a non-human Different passing for human, even though she’d taken care to do no harm in this form, she might be deported back to Japan. The shame of that would be unendurable. The confinement beforehand would be worse.

She’d die inside. But trapped in human form, she couldn’t even will her own fading as a kitsune should when her heart was broken.

Something caught the sharper senses that still simmered below the dull human form. Someone in the outdoor café was not what they appeared. Might be Agency. Might be a potential ally. In either case, it was worth checking out. These days she might not be able to perceive more than, say, a half-trained mortal witch, but any information was better than operating blind.

It wasn’t the dreadlocked student bent over her books or the old couple sharing a piece of cake. She turned her attention to the two young men holding hands at a table off to the side.

For a second, she studied them with her merely human senses, appreciating the view. One was tall and elegantly lean and so blue-eyed she could make it out from across the street, his dark hair worn long and loose, waving past his shoulders in a sweep most women would envy. The other was shorter and solidly built, broad shouldered, with a collar-length, red ponytail and a warm smile. Not for her, not from the way they seemed to shut out the street and its noise to be together in their own world. She knew better now. But their sheer beauty made her shiver.

Beauty didn’t prove a thing. Masao and Hiro had been beautiful too, and look where that had gotten her.

She turned her other senses, hampered though they were, on the handsome couple.

Maybe it was a good thing they didn’t work as well as they ought to. After so long in the human world, using human senses, she had to blink, protecting her eyes against the blinding glare of power from the dark-haired one. It poured off him in streams of healing white, herbalist green, psychic blue and the vivid crimson of sex magic.

Nothing dark, though. No demon taint or hint of blood magic on that one. Just strong, well-trained, positive power. The few times she’d met a witch in America, their magic was weak, wild, disordered, or tainted with impure practices. She’d known there were powerful witch families in America, but, as in Japan, they kept to themselves and came forward only when they felt there was need.

Had her need for release finally called out to one of them?

His power certainly called to her. He might have the knowledge to free her after two hundred years of suffering. It was unlikely—after all, the conditions of her curse were stringent and specific—but if anyone would know how to get around them, it would be a strong, well-trained witch with powerful red magic.

And if he didn’t have a clue? At this point in her unwanted mortal life, Akane would take what fun she could get, and chatting with a handsome man would brighten her day.

Even if he was holding hands with another handsome man, which meant he was off-limits.

She crossed the street without looking, shrugging off the squeal of brakes and the “Hey, watch it!” from a bike messenger who barely missed her.

It was only when she got closer that she sensed what his partner was.


Not like her. He had the sweet, hot, alluring smell of mortality on him as much as any human, and besides, there were no males of her kind. A dual-natured one, with a fox who walked inside his human appearance, waiting to come out to play.

Until you lie with a male of your kind, Hiro had said when he’d cursed her. There were no male kitsune. But perhaps coupled with the other’s powerful magics, the fox dual would do.

Akane knew the Japanese forms for petitioning a powerful wielder of magic, an elegant, subtle dance like much in Japanese culture both human and Different. This young country, though, favored directness.

All her instincts told her to bow, but she’d been in America long enough to know better. Instead, she walked over to the handsome witch. Making herself look at him instead of the equally attractive fox, she said, “Please. I need your help.”

It was the fox who answered, though, with a winning smile and a hint of the southeastern states in his accent. “We thought you’d never ask, darlin’. Paul and I have been looking for you for weeks now. He dreamed of you for a few months before that, but it took a while to narrow down where you might be. And I don’t know about you, Ms. Foxy Lady, but I am past ready to get out of this city.” He twitched, a twitch she recognized all too well. The fur beneath his human appearance wanted out, and his fox-nature was restless among tall buildings and concrete.

“I’m Paul Donovan,” the dark-haired one said simply. “I’m a witch and a true-dreamer. I’ve been dreaming of you since sometime after Midsummer.” When she’d moved to the area, led by her own dreams of release. “And you are a kitsune who has a serious problem that can be solved only by sex magic. From the look of your aura, I’d say it’s a sorcerous curse.”

“I’m trapped in human form. Have been for two hundred years.” She realized her voice was barely audible. After all this time, the curse was still a cause for shame. She’d brought it on herself, after all. But she’d learned her lesson. “Please. I need my own body back. I’ve almost lost hope.”

Paul smiled reassuringly. It lit up his blue eyes like sun on the ocean. “Sex magic is a Donovan specialty, as is healing—and removing a curse that’s tormented you for so long is definitely healing. I’d like to take you home with us and see what we can do to get you back to your proper form.”

She nodded, stunned by how much he already knew and even more so by his confidence. He must have been sure she was the right woman, because the things he was saying would get a man into all kinds of trouble if she hadn’t truly been a kitsune who needed witchy help.

He reached out, took her hand. His grip was strong, although his hands were smooth, belonging to a man who used his brains more often than his brawn.

Inari protect her, he was a beautiful man.

He ran his fingers lightly over her palm, and raw red magic coursed through the mere touch. Akane clenched a little. She didn’t dare look, but she was sure her erect nipples must be clearly visible under the ugly shirt.

While her blood was still racing, he slipped his hand away and moved it under the table. She suspected it was on his lover’s thigh. Still, it would seem Paul was not unattracted.

Even a gloriously handsome sex-witch couldn’t put that much sensuality into a minor caress if there wasn’t some real interest.

The redhead chuckled and held out his hand in turn.

When she took it, he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, an old-fashioned, gentlemanly gesture—or it would have been if he hadn’t held her gaze so intimately as he did it. “Delighted to meet you,” he said, the honey in his voice laced with smoke and bourbon. “I’m Taggart Ross-Donovan, the witch’s chauffeur, muscle, designated rogue, and husband.” He looked up and down her body in a most appreciative way, as if he saw through the ugly clothes to the body underneath—and perhaps through that body to her real one.

“Akane.” No need to bother with the last name. They’d know it was assumed, that she had come into existence centuries before the custom of surnames had. “And you’re a fox.”


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