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Demon's Delight, Page 1

MaryJanice Davidson




  Demon’s Delight

  Demon’s Delight

  MaryJanice Davidson

  Emma Holly

  Vickie Taylor

  Catherine Spangler

  BERKLEY BOOKS, NEW YORK

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locals is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  DEMON’S DELIGHT

  Copyright © 2007 by The Berkley Publishing Group

  “Witch Way” by MaryJanice Davidson copyright © 2007 by MaryJanice Alongi

  “Street Corners and Halos” by Catherine Spangler copyright © 2007 by Catherine Spangler

  “The Demon’s Angel” by Emma Holly copyright © 2007 by Emma Holly

  “Angel and the Hellraiser” by Vickie Taylor copyright © 2007 by Vickie Spears

  Cover art by Cliff Nielsen

  Cover Design by Leslie Worrell

  Edgar Cayce Readings copyright © 1971, 1993–2006 by the Edgar Cayce Foundation Quoted by permission. All rights reserved.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  BERKLEY SENSATION is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  ISBN: 978-1-1012-0567-9

  An application to register this book for cataloging has been submitted to the Library of Congress.

  CONTENTS

  Witch Way

  MARYJANICE DAVIDSON

  Street Corners and Halos

  CATHERINE SPANGLER

  The Demon’s Angel

  EMMA HOLLY

  Angel and the Hellraiser

  VICKIE TAYLOR

  Witch Way

  MaryJanice Davidson

  To my husband, who is my opposite in every way:

  politically, religiously, economically, and neurologically.

  Do I believe in love at first sight? You bet! Do I believe

  opposites attract? I have two children (both look like him)

  who would testify to that fact.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Thanks again to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, who never clutches her head (at least in my presence) when I pitch a new idea. And thanks to the fabulous cover artists and the flap copy techs; I could never sum up a book (or four novellas) in two paragraphs, but those bums make it look easy.

  AUTHOR’S NOTE

  Not all witches were bad. Not all witches were even witches, particularly during the madness of the Salem witch trials.

  But some were. And they got pissed. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

  She turned me into a newt! It got better.

  —Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  My mother says I must not pass

  Too near that glass.

  She is afraid that I will see

  A little witch that looks like me.

  With a red mouth to whisper low

  The very thing I should not know.

  —Sarah Morgan Bruamt Piatt, The Witch in the Glass

  There is no hate lost between us.

  —The Witch, Act iv, Sc. 3

  There is no love lost between us.

  —Cervantes, Don Quixote, Book iv

  Prologue

  TUCKER Goodman did not take his hat off, a whipping offense if anyone else dared try it. He pointed a long, bony finger at the witch in the blocks and said, in a voice trembling with rage and age, “You are an unnatural thing, cast out by the devil to live among good people—”

  “Good people,” the witch said, craning (and failing) to look at him, “like the Swansons? You know perfectly well the last three littluns born on that farm weren’t got on the missus, but instead, the eldest daughter. Not to mention—”

  “Liar!” Farmer Swanson was on his feet, his face purpling, while Mrs. Swanson just huddled deeper into the bench and cried softy into her handkerchief. “That thing filled my girls’ heads with lies!”

  “Silence, Farmer Swanson!” Silence reigned, as the witch knew it would. There was no reasoning with a mob. Unless you were the leader of the mob.

  “I think we can all agree—”

  “That you’re a creaky old man who likes having marital congress with fifteen-year-olds to keep the evil spirits away.” The witch laughed.

  “—that since you were sent here, there has been naught but wickedness afoot.”

  “Except for all the children I cured of the waxing disease,” the witch pointed out helpfully.

  No one said anything. The witch wasn’t surprised. Say just the wrong thing at the wrong time, and things like guilt or innocence didn’t matter. Defend a witch, and you’d be burned alive, too. Just a handy scapegoat to roast and dance about. That’s all they really wanted.

  “You will die in agony, yet cleansed by fire.”

  “Terrific,” the witch muttered.

  “And in penance for your evil deeds, your children and your children’s children, down through the ages, will be persecuted and hunted until you share your powers with your greatest enemy.”

  “I see no logic in that order of things,” the witch commented. “Why not just kill me and get it over with?”

  “Because you keep coming back,” Goodman said, clearly exasperated. “My great-great-grandfather told me all about you. You bring your mischief to the town and have your fun and then are burned and show up in another town a few years later.”

  “I like to keep busy.”

  “This time, if you don’t give over your powers to your greatest enemy, you’ll be doomed to walk the earth forever, alone and persecuted.”

  “And if I do give over my powers to my greatest enemy?”

  Goodman smirked, revealing teeth blackening with age. “But you never will, unnatural thing. You don’t have a heart to share, to open. And so I curse you, as this town curses you, doomed to walk the earth forever, alone.”

  “How very Christian and forgiving of you,” the witch muttered.

  Goodman, wrapped tightly in his cloak of smug judgment, ignored the witch’s comment. Instead, he sprinkled a foul-smelling herb poultic
e in the witch’s hair and clothes, ignoring the sneezes, then stood back as flaming chunks of wood were tossed, arcing through the air and landing on the pile of wood the witch was standing on.

  The witch wriggled, but the town elders knew their business: The witch was trussed as firmly to the center pole as a turkey on a spit. An unpleasant comparison, given what was happening right now…

  “Well, if I do come back,” the witch shouted over the crackling flames, “you can bet I will never set foot in Massachusetts again!” Then, as his feet caught fire, Christopher de Mere muttered, “Fie on this. Fie all over this.”

  The villagers watched the man turn into a living candle, making the sign of the cross, as he hardly made a sound, except for the occasional yelp of pain or muttered taunt. And later, scraping through the ashes, they never found a single bone.

  Things were quiet.

  For a while.

  Chapter 1

  RHEA Goodman sat at the broad wooden table in her mother’s farmhouse and waited expectantly. Her parents, Flower and Power (real names: Stephanie and Bob), were looking uneasy, and Rhea felt in her bones that It Was Time.

  Time to explain why she’d been brought up a nomad, moving from commune to commune.

  Time for Flower and Power to explain why they clung to the hippie thing, even though they were in their fifties and ought to have ulcers and IBM stock.

  Time to explain her younger sister’s insistence on playing “kill the witch! kill the witch!” with the kid as the hero and her as the witch.

  Her theory? Flower and Power had robbed a bank. Or blown up a building. Because they were on the run, no question.

  Only…from whom?

  And her little sister was just weird.

  “Rhea, baby, we wanted to sit you down and have a talk.” Flower ran her long, bony fingers through her graying red hair, waist length and for once not pulled back in the perpetual braid.

  “About your future,” Power added, rubbing his bald, sunburned pate. He was about three inches shorter than her mother, who, at five-five, wasn’t exactly Giganto. She had passed both of them in height by the time she was fourteen. “And your past.”

  “Super-duper.” She folded her hands and leaned forward. “And whatever you guys did, I’m sure you had to do. So I forgive you.”

  “It wasn’t us,” Flower said, sitting down, then changing her mind and standing. Then sitting again. The sun was slanting through the western windows, making the table look like it was on fire, and for the first time in memory, Rhea saw her mother wince away from the light. “It was destiny.”

  Yeah, you were destined to rob a bank. Or free test animals. And then have kids and spend the rest of your life on the run. Homeschooling, ugh!

  “As the eldest—”

  “Yeah, where are the other ankle biters, anyway?” Rhea had four brothers and sisters: Ramen, Kane, Chrysanthemum, and Violet, aged nineteen, fifteen, twelve, and eight, respectively.

  “Away from here. This is business strictly for the eldest of the family. For centuries it has been this way.”

  Abruptly, Flower started to cry. Power got up and clumsily patted her. “We can’t tell her,” she sobbed into her work-roughened hands. “We just can’t!”

  “We must,” Power soothed.

  “Hey, whoa, it’s all right!” She held her hands up in the universal “simmer down” motion. “Whatever you did, it’s cool with me.” Good God, did they kill someone? “I’m sure we can figure something out.”

  “It’s not what we did, it’s what you’re going to do.”

  “Go back to college? Forget it. Like the man said, it’s high school with ashtrays. Get a new job? Working on it. Try to get one of my poems published? Working on that, too.”

  “No,” Flower said, lips trembling. “Nothing like that.”

  “Then what is it?”

  “It’s destiny.”

  “Yeah, great, what does that mean?”

  “You’re going to kill the greatest evil to walk the earth, and you’ll die in the process,” Power told her. “So it is, so it has been, so it shall be. Only if the hunter makes the ultimate sacrifice will the witch be vanquished.” He sounded like he was quoting from a book. Then he continued, and his voice no longer sounded like a recitation. “I’m so sorry, Rhea. I’m just so, so sorry.”

  Her mother was beyond contributing to the conversation and simply cried harder.

  Rhea felt her mouth pop open in surprise. “So, uh, you guys didn’t rob a federal bank?” Then, “Don’t tell me all those fairy stories you told me about witches and witch-hunters and demons are true. Because if they are—”

  Flower and Power nodded.

  “Jinkies,” she muttered and rested her sharp little chin on her folded hands.

  Chapter 2

  CHRIS Mere tried. He really did. If his family history wasn’t reason enough not to draw attention to himself, ever, the fact that he had parked in a rough neighborhood was.

  But the girl was screaming. Screaming. And as he approached, he could hear the man ripping her clothes, talking to her in a hissing whisper, could see the moonlight bounce off the blade he held at her neck.

  Chris cleared his throat. “Uh. Excuse me?”

  Victim and would-be rapist both looked at him.

  “Yeah, uh. Could you, uh, not do that?”

  “Fuck off, white bread. Me and the bitch got bidness.”

  “I guess you didn’t hear. Times have changed. No means no, and all that. And it looks to me like the lady is saying no. Emphatically. So why don’t you let her go, before I turn you into a turnip?” And what the hell rhymes with turnip, anyway?

  “You come any closer, I cut the bitch!”

  “With what?”

  “You blind? With this!”

  “You who have a knife at her throat

  Put it down or be turned into…shit!”

  They were both staring at him. And the knife was still jammed against the underside of the woman’s chin.

  “What’s this? Rhyming an’ shit?”

  “Help me, you idiot,” the woman practically hissed, glaring at him.

  “Wait, wait, I’ve got it.” Chris closed his eyes and concentrated on the mental image he needed.

  “If you keep robbing ladies,

  You’ll come down with rabies.

  Not to mention scabies.”

  “Stop with the poetry and call. The. Police,” the woman grated.

  “Man, you are nuts. You—” He stopped suddenly and clutched his throat. “Oh, man…I am so hot. Are you guys hot?” He coughed and spat and spat again. “Where am I? Who the hell are you guys?” He dropped the knife. “I’ve got to get out of here!”

  “That seems like a good plan,” Chris agreed.

  “I—I—garrggh!” The would-be rapist started foaming at the mouth and actually barked at him.

  “What the hell?” the woman said, twisting away from her assailant. “Did you just give him rabies?”

  “Uh, yeah.”

  “Will he die?” The woman warily watched Sir Foams-a-Lot, as he darted in and out of a nearby alley.

  “No, it’s only temporary. Of course, every time he tries to bother a lady, it’ll come back. Either that,” he added thoughtfully, “or scabies will get him. That’s some kind of skin condition, isn’t it?”

  “He was right,” the woman said, backing away from him. “You’re nuts.”

  “Hey!” he yelled at her rapidly departing form. “Don’t thank me or anything!”

  She waved a hand over her shoulder, but never slowed down.

  Chris sighed and kept walking, stepping over the knife like most men would step over dog poop. He was not really thinking about what he was doing, he was just automatically avoiding something unpleasant. He thought about turning it into a banana, but for the life of him couldn’t remember anything that rhymed with banana.

  Why did he even bother? They never hung around. No matter what he did for them, what magic he could make, they always
got scared and ran away. For two cents, he’d give them something to really—

  He stopped walking and pressed his palms over his eyes. Don’t think like that. You’re one of the good guys, remember?

  Yeah, sure. As if he could fight three centuries of ingrained behavior.

  You’d better.

  Or what?

  You know what.

  He snorted. His inner voice sounded weirdly like his late grandfather…who had been killed by a witch-hunter from the Goodman line. His father had died at the hands of a Goodman twenty years later.

  Now it was his turn. Unless he could prove to Goodman that he wasn’t a danger to society.

  Because if he could fight three centuries of conditioning, she sure as hell could.

  Hell, he was as much of a demon fighter as a witch…how many demons had he vanquished? How many lives had he saved?

  Did you do it for them, or for you?

  What difference did it make?

  But sometimes, when sleep wouldn’t come, he’d burn with the desire for revenge. The Goodmans had been killing his family for centuries. Wasn’t it time the de Meres got back some of their own?

  He’d shove the thought away, try to be a good enough guy, but it always came back. Freakin’ always.

  Mixed feelings or not, he’d spent the last five years tracking down just about all the Goodmans in the country. And he had satisfied himself that, in every past case, the surname was just a coincidence. And he’d had many pleasant conversations as a result…and even a few free meals. Not that, as a Mere, he needed free anything. But still, they had been nice. They gave him hope for what was to come.

  Annoyingly, the last batch lived in—ugh—Massachusetts. Salem, to be exact.

  Salem. Just reading the name on a map gave him chills, never mind driving there.