“…a nice change from the usual tales of vampires and werewolves running around shrieking about mates and soulmates. It is also a fun-filled read that I find so enjoyable from the first page to last.” —Mrs Giggles
“…an exciting new addition to the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre. It’s action packed, humorous and suspenseful.” —Spotlight Review
Megan promises listeners to her new radio call-in show that she’ll “slay their personal demons,” and they believe her. So do the personal demons. Although she doesn’t know it, Megan is the only human without a personal demon on her shoulder. This, coupled with her psychic abilities, makes her a valuable weapon for any demon “family” that can gain her allegiance. It also makes her a serious threat — not just to the personal demons, but to a soul-sucker known as The Accuser who has an old score to settle. Megan and her allies — a demon lover who both protects and seduces her with devilish intensity, a witch with poor social skills, and three cockney guard demons — have to deal not only The Accuser, the personal demons, and the ghosts of Megan’s past, but a reporter who threatens to destroy Megan’s career.
“Welcome back to Personal Demons,” Megan said into the microphone. “Our next caller is Regina. Hi, Regina, how can I slay your personal demons?”
The words tasted like shame. She and Richard had fought over that line, just as they’d fought over the massive publicity campaign he and the station had orchestrated for the show.
Richard signed the paychecks, so Richard won. Never let it be said that good taste and actually helping people outweighed silly gimmicks in the media world.
“Regina? Are you there?”
“I’m scared.” The rush of images accompanying the small, almost childish, voice raised goosebumps on Megan’s skin and drove all thoughts of Richard and tacky taglines from her mind. The pale, pointed face of a woman, limp blond hair tucked behind her ears. Blood poured over the vision, red and viscous. Gnarled six-toed feet stepped in the blood leaving strange misshapen impressions that fissured the vision like a shattering mirror.
Megan gasped, rocking back in her chair. What the hell was that? She instinctively raised her psychic shields, only to immediately drop them. Regina was her patient now, just like any other. She deserved everything Megan could give to help her.
Bill and Richard gestured at her from the booth, their faces reddening. Dead air was a mortal sin in radio and both her engineer and her boss looked ready to inflict eternal punishment.
“Sorry, sorry. We had a minor technical problem. You said you’re scared?”
“Yes.” Regina sniffled. “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t take it anymore.”
Now that the initial terrifying flash had passed, Megan received more mundane pictures. A car, a bland pale green office cubicle looking like every other bland pale green office cubicle. An attractive man, smiling down at her–at Regina. A boyfriend, maybe?
Megan forced her muscles to relax. “Why don’t you tell me what’s happening.”
“It’s the voices. They talk to me all the time. When I’m awake, when I’m asleep . . . I hear them.”
“Evil voices. They tell me to . . . to hurt myself. To hurt other people. And I don’t do it, but I think I might. I have to make them stop.”
“Have you spoken to anyone–”
Regina’s sobs shuddered through the phone line, cutting off the question. “They won’t go away, they won’t leave me alone, and they say horrible things, and they want me to do horrible things, and I think if I were dead I wouldn’t hear them anymore. I don’t want to die, but I can’t listen to them anymore either!”
To Megan, Regina didn’t feel organically disturbed, but mentally sound people did not hear voices. And none of this accounted for that scaly, misshapen foot she’d seen or the cold panic it inspired.
“Regina, suicide is never the answer. Listen to me. You can be helped. We can find out why this is happening to you, and we can make those voices go away. Okay? You can be happy again. You’re a good person and you deserve to be happy.”
“I don’t know if I deserve happiness. I don’t think I do. They told me I’m not . . . they told me they’re with me because I’m bad.”
“You’re not bad.” Megan sat up straighter in her chair and leaned forward, staring at the microphone as if Regina could somehow see her through it. “Not at all. Your friends, your family, the people you work with don’t think you’re bad, do they?” The face of the man in the office flashed again. “Is there anyone you can trust, who you can talk to?”
Regina blew her nose–not, most decidedly, a pleasant on-air sound–then squeaked, “Maybe.”
“Then here’s what I want you to do. I want you to think of those people, okay? Think about them, and think about your parents, and all the people who care about you. When you hear those voices telling you to hurt yourself, you think about them. My engineer, Bill, is going to give you a different phone number to call. The people who answer are going to help you, too. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”
“Thank you,” Regina said.
“Good,” Megan replied, relieved. “Our time is up for this evening, but I want you to call me back next week and tell me how you’re doing, Regina. Will you do that?”
“Yes. I’ll call you. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome. You take care of yourself and call me next week.” Megan signaled Bill to transfer Regina back. He already had the list in his hands, ready to give her the suicide hotline number. At least Regina had genuinely wanted help, unlike most of Megan’s other inaugural show callers. Three lonely hearts, one rebellious teen, a man who thought Elvis lived next door, and one pervert had not made for a stellar beginning.
Thirty seconds to the blessed moment Megan could go home and not come back for another week. “There is always a reason to live, no matter how you might feel right now. There are always people who care about you, people willing to listen and try to help you. If you think you don’t have anyone, you’re wrong, because you can call me, here on this show. I care and I’ll listen. We’re out of time for tonight, but I’ll be back next week.”
Once more the music filled the studio. Bill gave her the thumbs up, but Richard leaned over him and pushed a button. “That was great.” Megan smiled, but he continued, “But you didn’t use the phrase. Don’t ever go to break or end the show without using the phrase. It’s the most important thing you’ll do on the air.”
He continued harping about it all the way through the almost-empty station and into the parking garage. “Your show is a vehicle for advertisers, Megan. You understand that, right?” He didn’t even glance at her, which was probably a good thing as she was having difficulty keeping her face blank. “You must identify the show and the station. You must use your tagline. We put a lot of thought into–”
“I understand.” Opening herself to so many people, so many problems, over the course of two hours drained her more than she had expected. All she wanted to do was go home, have a glass of wine and a snack, and take a long, hot bath. None of which she could do until she escaped Richard and his evidently unending lecture.
“I’m still new at this, Richard, but I realize the audience needs to be reminded of brand identity, especially when they may have been distracted by something as insignificant as suicide. It won’t happen again.”
“I hope not,” he said, completely missing the sarcasm. In Richard’s world, everyone was a consumer. The only help they needed was to be steered toward the right brands.
They walked through the parking garage, their heels echoing on the gritty concrete. Megan shivered. She hated parking garages, with their stale, oil-smelling air. A minor phobia, but one that still bothered her. Even Richard’s echoing monologue seemed preferable to silence here.
“I have an interview set up for you,” he said. She’d been wrong. It was better when he didn’t speak. “Tomorrow evening, a dinner. Seven at Cafe Neus. It’s a reporter for Hot Spot.”
For what felt like the millionth time in the last few weeks, she cursed her decision to take the show. The only reason she accepted was because Richard would have hired Don Tremblay–the male Nurse Ratched of local counselors–if she’d turned it down. Now she wondered if it mattered. Would any of her callers have minded? Maybe the heavy breather; calling a guy might not be fulfill his particular “needs” . . . and Regina.
“Richard, I don’t want to be in that tabloid.”
“You say ‘tabloid’, we at the station say ‘invaluable source’. Do you have any idea how many subscribers they have?”
They reached Megan’s car, sitting all by itself under one dim fluorescent light. “No, but I bet you’re going to tell me.”
“Over fifty thousand. Fifty thousand subscribers, and that doesn’t include off-the-shelf readers or people in waiting rooms. They’re a big deal, and they want to do a big story.”
“One interview isn’t a big story. I don’t think GQ or Vogue do just one brief dinner interview and turn it into–oh, no.” Clutching her purse in front of her like a shield, she said, “You didn’t sign me up for that ‘Week in the Life’ thing, did you?”
“It’s good publicity. Besides, they’ll plug the Femmel Foundation by writing about the charity ball. You do want to do your part for charity, don’t you?”
“It’s an imposition.”
“It’s your job.”
Megan glared at him. “Fine.”
Richard waited while she got into the car and settled into the driver’s seat. Just before he closed the door for her, he said, “Wear something sexy. They might take pictures, too.”
By the time she thought of a nasty enough reply, he was too far away to hear it.
Someone waited on her porch.
Megan froze in the middle of the walkway, her fast-food bag still clutched in her hand, and lowered her shields. Better to have some idea what was in store. Her free hand twisted the little cap on her pepper spray keychain. If he planned to slit her throat and run, at least she’d have a fighting chance.
She opened the shields more. Surely something would come through. She almost always managed to get some glimpse of the other person’s character or motives.
Still nothing. Perhaps she was more drained than she thought.
The figure in the shadows moved. “Hello, Dr. Chase.” A man’s voice, smooth as glass against silk. “I enjoyed your show very much.”
Megan took a cautious step forward. This was her home. It was just past 9:30 p.m. on a bright September night, and she would stand her ground.
“Thank you,” she said. “And who are you, please?”
The man stepped off her porch. Moonlight made the sharp, aristocratic bones of his face stand out like bas-relief under a shock of thick dark hair. He was tall–of course, to someone as short as Megan most people were tall, but she thought he was a few inches over six feet. She’d remember that if the police asked her about it in the emergency room later.
He could send her there without breaking a sweat, too. Broad shoulders encased in a suit even she could tell was tailor-made hinted at a muscular body. He looked like a successful businessman.
Successful businessmen could be rapists too.
“My name is Greyson Dante,” he said, reaching into the interior pocket of his suit coat and pulling out a card so white it glowed. He held it out to her. She didn’t step forward.
“And what are you doing here?”
He lowered his hand to his side without a trace of embarrassment. Was he a lawyer? She’d never met anyone who enjoyed being rebuffed as much as attorneys seemed to. “I came to speak to you about your show. I have a client who is very interested in your concept.”
“If it’s about the show, your client should call the station.”
“It’s not an offer for the station. It’s for you, personally.”
She sighed. “Then he or she should call me at my office, not send a lawyer to lie in wait at my home.”
“Did I say I was a lawyer?”
He waited for her to continue, smiling when she remained silent. The more she looked at his face the more she wanted to look, and she couldn’t imagine she was alone among women in that reaction.
And she bet he knew it. She concentrated very hard on seeming unimpressed.
“Listen, Mr . . . ?”
“Dante.” His voice was a perfect blank. It wasn’t just a bland accent, it was accentless, as if he’d spent years removing any identifying trace from his speech.
“Yes. This is all very pleasant, but it’s late and I’m hungry and tired. You can leave a message at my office tomorrow if there’s something you need to discuss. I may even have time to call you back.”
He kept smiling. Megan reached out to him with her mind. Maybe he simply wasn’t much of a transmitter. Some people weren’t. If she could have a little feel-around inside his head, though, she might get a better idea of what he wanted.
It was no use. Not only could she not get into his head, but the grin on his face made her think he knew–or at least suspected–what she was doing. Which wasn’t possible. Was it?
“Dr. Chase.” She could almost see him switch gears from “slick and sophisticated” to “your good friend who wants to help you” mode. “I don’t think I’m making myself very clear. My client wants only to aid you and possibly come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you would just give me ten minutes of your time, I could explain–”
“I’m sorry, but I have a lot to do this evening. I don’t have time to sit here and talk.”
“I don’t have time to sit or stand with you.” She crossed her arms over her chest. The paper bag full of fries flopped against her stomach.
He studied her for a minute, his head tilted to one side. “I’ll be in touch,” he said. “Meanwhile, I’d appreciate it if you could do me a favor.”
“You want me to do you a favor?”
“Don’t accept any new offers until you’ve heard what my client has to say.”
“Fine.” What difference did it make? Wasn’t as if any offers of any kind were likely to come her way soon. Besides, if listening would get him to leave, then she’d listen.
“Thank you.” He turned to go, then stopped and held out his hand. “My card.”
He didn’t move as she took it from him. The heavy, thick card stock whispered against her skin as her finger slipped over the raised lettering.
Megan watched him go, crossing the street and stopping next to a sleek black Jaguar, which unlocked with a discreet click. “Oh, and Dr. Chase?”
He opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. Megan was ready to give up and go inside when he finally spoke.
Read chapters two and three, learn more about the author (including a recipe for meat pies, yum!), and buy Personal Demons directly from the publisher or your local bookstore.