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Monday, October 15, 2012

Release: Tarnished Halo by Kayden McLeod

Tarnished Halo
Demon Queen #1

XOXO Publishing 
August 2012

Liwet is a less-than-lily-white angel, who has a chip on her shoulder just begging for someone to knock it off.
She refuses to come to heel, yet the time for Liwet to play by her own rules has come to an end. Oriax comes back to his old flame, with a proposition he doesn’t want to pursue, and has no choice but to make. Dark, chilling forces beyond Liwet and Oriax’s control drag them back together and down into a rabbit hole so deep, escape is futile. The prince of the underworld wants them in his court; a request never to be taken lightly. Can the couple overcome their pasts, and find each other once more, before it’s too late to save either of them?
Excerpt From "Tarnished Halo"
Ascream sounded from down one of the alleys I’d crossed, but paid no mind while I set my course to where I’d been bid. 

Let the humans rot this night, I thought bitterly. Or any other. 

What had they done for me? Nothing. Yet I had been borne to be their humble servant, directed by rules I’d never had a say in. Screw it. Screw them. Fuck the world. 

I walked down the darkened streets of this forsaken town of lust, greed and sloth, an hour past the twilight settling upon the horizon. I had been a beautiful sunset this eve, with deep hues of violet, crushed orange and vivid blood red. Though I hadn’t enjoyed it. 

I didn’t take such pleasures in simple things. I didn’t delight in much anymore—hadn’t in many a year. 

The human screamed for help again, and my hand flew up in an unconscious rude gesture in the direction from where it’d come. Another, farther ahead—a painter no less—babbled about needing an idea for a new project. 

I rolled my eyes. Fat chance. 

That would be my department. 

My name is Liwet, the “angel” of inventions, inspirations. A muse. However, I wasn’t pristine as most thought me. I’d been shunned from the normal crowds of my realms, who knew what I was on sight. 

I am a demon and an angel, a dirty half-breed, to be pushed to the shadows and forgotten. 

But I had long since come to terms with all of this. I tended to stay at the edges of all societies, and took part of none and looking in. Life shopping, I called it. Sort of like window shopping, but I didn’t get to gaze at things I wanted to buy. I just wished it went both ways. 

The angels shunned me, but the demons…They wanted me, badly. The supreme notch on their bedposts, to be screwed and discarded, the perfect conquest compared like the women who trolled these streets, ignorant of us. 

Most of them were arrogant assholes I could never stand to be near enough to talk to, let alone see naked. Though some were acceptable to be around for short periods of platonic time. 

I headed into the darkened back entrance of the Red Corkscrew a bar that fronted the ocean cliffs. It had been named this, because this was the nickname of the Salix matsudana, trees imported from China and planted around the bar. The stems twisted at sharp angles, their color a vivid shade of orangey scarlet, a startling shade to the eye this far into winter. The owner had been quite insistent on these trees be planted everywhere on the one-acre property. 

The man had always been strange like that. He was also my half brother. 

The moment I’d passed the threshold into the building, I knew he was there, but not a second before he let me. 

“Li,” Mastema greeted from the empty back of the kitchen. I could hear the sounds of food being cooked and clinking plates from around the corner, made by demon hands. We weren’t alone, and no doubt brother dear planned this meeting that way. 

Mastema was a full demon, one who kept the underworld from interference of his life, by staying quiet. This surprised me, since his life’s purpose was to tempt men toward sin. Even more ironic, he rarely partook in any himself. Mastema denied his most basic principles and instincts, to stay out of hell. And unlike his dangers of damnation, I was exempt, unless I broke the sacred laws applied to being one of the Guides to humanity. Hadn’t happened yet, but I rode the line often, never actually crossing it. Always could, I supposed. 

“Why have you called me here?” 

“I need you to work tonight. We are unusually busy, and I do not like so many humans mixing with my people, without proper balance in case something happens.” 

In other words; he needed someone to kick ass and take names if his brethren stepped out of line. Someone who wasn’t him. Great. Gotta love diplomacy. 

“Why me, Mastema?” I asked, determined to be purposely “dumb.” Even though he didn’t let it show, it pissed him off. Good. 

And I was just in that kind of mood. Thankfully, half of my status put me almost on his playing field—almost. He had a millennia or two on me. Did wonders for someone’s power. 

I made up for it in the pure-pissed-off-bitch factor. I’d had to from square one. The higher powers had decided I wasn’t allowed to learn about certain capabilities I’d been born with, from either side. This, in effect made my best attributes dormant and useless to me. They wanted me this way. Couldn’t have an “angel” running about with demon super-powers. Or some crap like that. 

Mastema took on my expression. “You’re being unreasonably pissy tonight.” He crossed his arms over the black material stretching over his wide chest. His thick, muscular body was covered in ritual blue-jeans and a t-shirt, just tight enough to show he was ripped. He’d once told me women liked it. I didn’t know. Being his sister didn’t allow me an opinion on it. “In fact, a lot lately.” 

I didn’t reply to the statement. I wanted to turn and leave, though if I did, Mastema would only talk me into staying. Had I left in his time of need, one of my few sanctuaries would be lost to me, until my brother had unruffled his feathers. That could be decades. Immortality wrecked havoc one’s conception of time. 

“What do you need?” 

“You, on the bar,” Mastema muttered. “Nicor heard about a thunderstorm near to coast and…” 

“Decided to go play in it?” 

My brother nodded, but never with disgust. Full-blood demons that chose to stay on earth for long periods very rarely had the chance to act or be who they really were. When the chance presented itself, they took it. 

“I allowed him to go—it has been too long for him to touch base with himself. Acting human so much does things to a demon’s mind.” 

I winced. In a backward way, the barb had been intended for me, not Nicor. 

“Of course,” I relented. 

“I suspect the rush will only get worse the later it gets. But I do have to warn you… Oriax is here tonight, with his friends.” 

My mind stilled from hearing that damned name! “What?” This time, I didn’t act stupid for any petty impulse. The sheer memory of the man did one of two things; froze me solid, or made my blood boil. “You expect me not to throw something at him in the course of an entire evening? Fifteen minutes is pushing it.” 

Mastema rolled his eyes, then pushed off of the counter’s edge, with a sleek roll of threatening sinew. “Behave.” 

The warning didn’t go unheeded, though my eyes darkened and burned when he turned from me and began walking further into the kitchen. I followed only somewhat dutifully. We cut around the corner, emerging into the timeless art and war of fast-paced cooking. Ten or so bodies moved with methodical energy and flow. 

Not a human in the bunch. 

None of the minor or half-blood demons looked up from what they were doing. Their movements would be blurry to an untrained eye, with too quick dexterity they didn’t bother to hide in the safety of the enclosed kitchen. 

The smell of grilled beef and frying oil for the fries wafted to me, making my stomach rumble. Though I wouldn’t eat most of what these demons served. The demonic clientele didn’t care for their meat cooked. The staff would just barely sear it on the outside, so the humans who ventured in here couldn’t tell the difference at first glance. Happy mediums. 

I snagged a fry as I passed, bringing it half-way to my mouth when Mastema whirled, with a nasty scowl on his face. 

“What? Did you want me to put it back?” 

Mastema shook his head. “You know you may eat anything you want.” He stared behind me so hard, I turned my head to see what was there. “But we have a problem.” 

“You always have a problem—whatever could it be this time?” 

He growled at my impertinence. “Have you fallen so low that you walk in this realm with your wings exposed, and making no move to hide them? Are you looking to get thrown into the hell realms?” 

“Humans cannot see them whether I conceal my wings or not,” I replied coldly. 

The fry cook looked up from his station with shining black eyes. Our gazes connected, and I knew then he approved of my refusal to act as if I were the other race. 

“Those are the rules. You risk a great deal to break them. We are granted very limited access to this world, and you are part demon. You have the obligation to keep your nose clean—you never know when you just might mess it up for the rest of us.” 

“I tire of living in secret,” I argued. “If I had the same benefits the rest of you do…” 

Mastema snarled, raking a hand through his hair. “I might have more power and ability to use them, I will give you that. However, I am not permitted to do anything with them, anymore than you can. Just by being here on earth, we have to act like we don’t even exist. Every wrong move you make, tightens the collar around the necks of the rest of us.” 

I hated it when he made sense! My stubborn nature reared its head nonetheless. “I will no longer be spurred under someone else’s terms. Only full-bloods can see these black-feathered contraptions and the otherworldly glow those angels gave me, the same combination that condemned me from birth. So now, I will be upfront about it. At least then I can see their sneers upfront, know what they think, before they even say a word.” My chin went up. “I am sorry if it causes you danger, I really am.” I spoke to the kitchen as a whole, who had stopped around me. Had my words been so very shocking? My brother’s eyes had softened, causing a similar reaction in the very small part of my heart holding affection for him. “I have to feel like I’ve done something to be an outcast. Mastema, don’t take that from me.” 

“You risk much.” 

“And you’re a coward,” I whispered. They all were. “Just because I cannot see your wings nor horns, does not mean they are not there. You have modified the color of your skin, so it looks more tanned than burnt red, but it is only a secondary appearance to what you really look like.” 

“And your point?” 

I swore every set of lungs around us stopped breathing, awaiting my answer. “This is what I look like.” 

With a curt nod, Mastema’s falsely blue eyes hardened into ice-chips. Really, they were a pitiless black. The absence of color stretched from lid to lid—like the fry cook’s. My brother didn’t care for my assessment. He couldn’t deny it either. 

“So be it, sister. But if the powers that be come down on your head…” 

“It’s on me, Mastema. Promise.” 

“Let’s go then. We have quite the crowd to keep happy tonight.”
About the Author:

Kayden McLeod lives in beautiful British Columbia, and is the author of the M/F Paranormal Romance and erotica series, The Coven Series, which consists of three Covens; The Foxworths, The Cornwalls and The Jerichos. She also dabbles in a multitude of other genres that are in the works, like BDSM, Ménage, M/M and Horror. As well, Kayden is a freelance Graphic and Cover artist, a Cover Artist for XOXO Publishing, and an owner of Otherworlds Publicity and Siren Book Reviews.

Visit Kayden on her website at
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