Lola Guntram is used to being an outcast. She's the only blood witch in Fort Rosser, mistrusted by other witches and happier working solo. But when her dark practices make her the prime suspect in a brutal murder investigation, she's forced to turn to others for help. Not that she has many allies—her ex-girlfriend thinks Lola is the killer, and the local coven leader thinks Lola will corrupt them all if she gets too close.
Help comes in an expected—and alluring—form. Tristesse is a demon on the run, beautiful, enigmatic, and suspiciously keen to assist Lola while she chases down the real killer. How can Lola refuse? With the police breathing down her neck, accusations flying, and inhuman monsters on the streets, Lola needs all the help she can get. The killer is angry, desperate, and determined. But so is Lola Guntram. And she doesn't care how dark or bloody the magic has to get—she's going to stop them.
Be Warned: f/f interaction
The Red Lotus was a sleek, discreet building nestled in the heart of Fort Rosser's club district. From the outside, it didn't look much different from the cocktail bars or dance clubs around it. Once you got inside, that changed. Lola had no intention of going inside.
The police were gone when she arrived, but the streetlights shone off the neon police tape running along the front of the building. Rowan leaned against one of those streetlights, holding a pair of towering high heels in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In the pre-dawn light, she looked ethereal, blonde ringlets tumbling round her porcelain-skinned face. She ought to be wearing a flowing white gown, Lola thought, and clutching dead roses to her chest. The shoes and cigarette just didn’t work with the Victorian waif look.
Lola felt a moment of apprehension as she approached. Rowan looked wounded, her eye make-up smeared, her hands shaking. Then that primitive voice reminded Lola that Rowan had accused her of murder. If either of them deserved to look – and feel – wounded, it wasn’t Rowan.
“Hey,” she shouted as she stalked up. She couldn’t bring herself to use Rowan’s name. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Rowan jolted as if she’d been hit, swinging her head towards Lola. Her eyes widened and she dropped her shoes to the pavement, slipping into them quickly and expertly. With the heels, Rowan was a good four inches taller than Lola. She used that height well as she walked to meet Lola, glaring down at her and blowing cigarette smoke into her face. “What the fuck is wrong with me?” she spat back. “How dare you –”
“How dare you send the cops to my house with murder accusations! How could you?” Lola’s wrists itched and she dug her nails into her palms to suppress the urge to scratch. “Do you honestly think I’m capable of murder or is this just some sick coven game?”
“The Choir doesn’t play games with people’s lives,” Rowan said. “That’s a blood witch’s work.”
Lola felt her nails slice into her palms. The pain was grounding, just enough to keep her from screaming at Rowan. “I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never harmed anyone. Making completely baseless, vile accusations against me—”
“Baseless!” Rowan did scream. “I found the body, Lola! I saw what was done and I know what it meant.”
“And you thought of me,” Lola said softly. “You saw a dead woman and your first thought was that I did it. Do you hate me, Rowan? Do you really think I’m capable of killing someone?”
Rowan’s face softened. “I don’t hate you.”
“You hate me enough for this.”
“No…No. I just…” Rowan took a deep drag on her cigarette, then dropped it and stomped it out. “Swear to me, Lola. Swear you’re not responsible.”
“I shouldn’t have to swear. You should trust me.”
“You’re the only blood witch I know and this woman died in a blood ritual. Swear to me you weren’t involved and I’ll believe you.”
She wanted someone to talk to, Lola thought, someone who might understand or explain. Rowan’s eyes shone with unshed tears and she was shivering. Cold, tired, scared, that was how she looked. A little of Lola’s anger melted away.
“I swear. Of course I swear. I have an alibi, Rowan. The police will be calling her first thing to verify. I haven’t been anywhere near the Red Lotus and I haven’t killed anyone. Ever.”
Rowan’s shoulders sagged. “Okay,” she said. “Then tell me who did.”