Sydney St. James
All villains have a story.
This is how mine began…
I began as a nobody, a tavern girl in a backwater town, with one saving grace: the ability to use fairy artifacts. That put me squarely between four of the seven High Demon Lords, the most powerful creatures in our world. Belial and Eligos want me in their bed. Oriax would dissect me. And while I don’t know what Shax would do, but I both desire and fear him.
Caught in a pretty cage, my survival depends on the demons I now call lord. While matters of the heart become complicated, another plot is afoot that will change the course of our world.
Years from now, someone else will write my story. They’ll call me the butcher, the destroyer, the ravager. But those people, those creatures, they don’t know me. They want you to believe that I’m every bit as evil as they say I am. I’m just a woman who made an impossible choice in the name of love.
We meet Lioria as she accepts a shipment of the Lord’s Tonic for the Silver Roo Inn. Her name has the Demon Lord’s man insulting her. Not an uncommon occurence since her name says everything about her, she’s an orphan with no lineage to entice a match.
We also meet her friend Malka, she has a gift or some would say curse of seeing spirits. In Malka’s case she wears a blindfold and the spirits guide her so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by walking through them. Most with her gift are locked up and don’t live long going mad from the whispers of the souls surrounding them.
Lioria grabs a couple vials of the tonic when she discovers Malka has never had it and they almost get caught by Mistress Claridieu, the owner of the establishment. The Mistress has a special task for Lioria that requires her special skill.
Old magical things like Lioria, and often wake for her. In this case a decorative orb is required for a meeting that will be taking place. If it doesn’t work the Mistress will be in trouble with the ones who requested it.
Lioria’s friend Kirra, the cook for the tavern has made a special treat for her. Four small pastries that will lead to a change in Lioria’s life.
Belial is drawn by the scent of the little hand pies and finding Lioria has caused something intriguing to happen, his demon begins to awaken. This is only the first of these important men to notice her.
Eligos is the second one to encounter Lioria. She’s resting after proving the orb would cover the area needed for the meeting, having depleted her magic. At first Eligos berates her for being in the room at all then realizes the reason she would be there. He gives her some advice about using the orb so it doesn’t drain her magic and then stays with her while she rests. It’s then he also discovers his demon awakening.
The meeting is of the seven Demon Lords, Alastor, Shax, Raum, Oriax, Valac, Belial and Eligos. They each control a part of Eden maintaining the peace that is non-existent on the continent. Well, all but Belial and Eligos, who always stay together, so they control their area together.
Both Belial and Eligos want Lioria and to make that happen they meet with her and the Mistress to come to an agreement.
Oriax decides he wants a chance at Lioria when it finally hits him that she is the one who was able to awaken the orb. There is quite the confrontation as Lioria is saying her good-byes at the Inn.
This is a favorite scene.
Kirra waves at me, beckoning me to the relative safety behind the island, but I don’t budge. If anything happens, I don’t want her to be a target. If I can throw myself at their mercy to stop this, I will. I don’t understand why my trick with artifacts is so valuable.
“Fine.” Oriax holds his hands up and turns his head to look at me. “But should you ever desire a change of pace, I am but a letter away.”
Belial growls and lifts Oriax off the ground nearly a foot by his robe. “Shut up, you silver-tongued devil.”
Oriax’s head falls back and laughs. “So predictable, Belial. I haven’t harmed your treat. Do you really want to fight me here and now? Do you think you’re up to it?”
“Do you really want to take on two of us at once?” Eligos counters. His tone is haughty and cold.
It drives home to me that these men are not human. They are demons and they have dominion over all. They did not have to ask for my contract last night. These immortal, all-powerful creatures have lowered themselves to mundane labor negotiations.
None of this makes sense. “Stop. Please? All of you,” I say.
Three sets of eyes turn on me. Not a one of their eyes are rounded and human. Their pupils have become slits, the rest of their eyes a vibrant color.
Eligos’ are a deep purple, so deep the slit of black is almost imperceptible.
Oriax’s eyes are a brilliant green, with the black slit seeming to suck everything into it.
And Belial’s are a coppery red, almost orange that threatens to overpower the blackness dividing them.
Belial leans in closer until he’s almost nose to cheek with Oriax and says, “She is decided for us. Not you.”
Oriax sighs. It’s a long-suffering sound, as if he’s accustomed to being put out by these two. “Yes, yes, I heard. Will you get off me?”
Eligos reaches out and grips Belial’s shoulder. They don’t do anything. At least nothing I can see, but they seem to shrink a slight degree. The tense atmosphere in the kitchen dissipates and I can breathe again.
Eligos waves at the broken mugs. “And clean this up. It’s not fair to force others to fix your messes.”
Oriax makes a disgusted sound in the back of his throat. He flicks his fingers and—is something under his robe glowing green?
The pieces of the shattered mugs rise from the ground.
The tavern door swings open and Mistress Claridieu stands there gaping.
We all watch as piece by piece, the dozen or so mugs are put back together, right down to the fine dust between the cracks. They float to a stretch of empty tabletop and I continue to stare as if they might break out in a jig.
“There. Happy?” Oriax asks.
Eligos or Belial grunt by way of an answer.
“Very well. I’ll be leaving shortly.” Oriax glances over his shoulder at me. “Expect my letter, treat.”
Mistress Claridieu moves out of his way, and then it’s the five of us.
“Shit,” Kirra mutters and hustles over to the oven to rescue the pastries.
Belial is at her side in an instant, peering at the baking sheet with her while Mistress Claridieu takes it all in with wide eyes. I feel Eligos watching me. Unlike Oriax, who appears to have just risen, Eligos is dressed in boots, breeches, and a long coat, as if he’s ready to leave. I am acutely aware of him as he crosses the kitchen to my side.
My future is no longer my own. Like it or not, I belong to them now.
“I’m sorry we scared you,” he says in a voice for me alone.
“Better get used to it,” I mumble.
This will happen again. Maybe not this same conflict, but I imagine I will see more behavior like this between the lords if I am to work for them. I can’t imagine that I will be able to take up some out-of-the-way job. I draw in a steadying breath and steel myself to meet his gaze.
“I’m fine. Thank you for your concern, my lord.” I add a little curtsey, though it seems silly to stand on such formality.
“Not for you!” Kirra snaps, followed by a loud thwack.
My eyes go wide and I whip my head around to stare at Belial, shaking his hand and recoiling from Kirra.
She shakes her finger under Belial’s nose. “This is not your kitchen. You can’t just take what you want. You’re already stealing my best friend from me. I won’t let you take anything else.”
“Belial?” Eligos calls out.
Belial wisely retreats to join us on the other side of the island.
“I just wanted a taste,” he mutters under his breath.
I’m still gaping at him. Just a few moments ago, he was about to throw down with another Demon Lord. Now he’s pouting because a cook smacked his hand? What on earth am I getting involved with? And what was Kirra thinking?
Eligos trails his fingers down my arm and I shiver. They’re both standing so close they tower over me. There’s a tightness slowly knotting up my muscles, causing my panic to rise the longer they remain intent on me. And yet, despite their heavy-lidded gazes that speak of desire, I feel something else from them. It’s more like…
I struggle to find the word.
Their nearness makes it feel as though everything will be okay. Which is not at all reflective of reality. I highly doubt I will come out of this unscathed.
“We intend to leave soon,” Eligos says.
I sway slightly on my feet, and Belial places a steadying hand on my shoulder. Eligos’ fingers are still on my wrist and I’m more aware of those two places of my body than anything in my whole life. It’s as though something inside of me is reaching for them. Magic? Is this what makes me different? This ability inside of me?
It’s hard to wrestle my brain into focus.
“I’m ready,” I say in a husky tone, and it sounds as though we’re having a much different conversation.
“Good.” Eligos’ fingers drift up then down. “After you’ve said your goodbyes, the carriage will be waiting.”
The pair of them turn and exit back into the tavern.
The door swings on well-oiled hinges several times, giving us diminishing glances of the lord’s backsides.
Kirra and I both let out a breath.
Mistress Claridieu rushes forward and grips my shoulders. I don’t know if I can handle more today, but I look up at her worry-lined face.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I had no idea it would lead to this.”
Kirra circles the island to stand with us, her quiet solidarity welcomed. I’ll miss her. So much.
My anger is a weakly flickering candle, but I bear no ill-will to my mistress. I take her hands and squeeze them in mine.
“I know,” I whisper. “None of this is your fault. With any luck, they’ll bore of me quickly and I can simply come home. Though you won’t need me by then.”
“You’ll always have a place here,” Mistress Claridieu vows, and it stops my heart.
All this time I saw myself as apart from the others. She pulls me in for a tight squeeze.
I meet Kirra’s gaze finally.
“This is it, yeah?” Kirra mutters. “Time to get going? With them? After that shit show?”
I wipe at my eyes. “Yes.”
Kirra grabs a rag and mops up her face while she stares at the floor. Has she realized who they are yet?
“Better take some tea with you,” Mistress Claridieu says.
Kirra’s brow furrows. “What? You don’t think they drink tea anywhere else?”
Mistress Claridieu shakes her head. “Not like our tea, they don’t.”
Kirra rushes to the large tin sitting on the counter. She doesn’t open it, just turns and thrusts it at me. “There’s more in the storage room and I’ve been saying for ages I need a container that opens easier. Damn thing is going to stick on you, so keep something around to wedge it open. You’ll need at least two strong pots a day to deal with those two. This should be enough to get you through two months at least, maybe three, if you’re careful.”
“You know I’m not. I’m greedy.”
“Course you are,” Kirra mutters.
I glance between the two women.
“Thank you. Thank you both,” I whisper. “I haven’t told anyone. I don’t know what to say.”
“What can you say?” Mistress Claridieu whispers, earning a glare from Kirra. “Go. Go now.”
Sydney St James. Demon in My Veins (Kindle Locations 900-976). Inked Press. Kindle Edition.
From the moment Lioria leaves with the two Demon Lords she knows her world has forever changed. From the household staff to her new position as secretary there are challenges everywhere. Oriax has taken to writing her notes which she is actually enjoying. Then there’s Shax who seems to hate her but the vibes are wrong.
We meet some pretty amazing magical characters as well as some scary ones, as Lioria finds her place in this new environment.
I love the world building here, it’s subtly intertwined with the story and each new area offers challenges. Some good and some downright dangerous. There’s laughter, tears, action, frustration, and sizzling heat as we learn more about these Demon Lords and Lioria.
There is a cliffhanger ending but I was expecting it so it wasn’t too terrible, I just have to suck it up and wait for the next book!
5 Contented Purrs for Sydney!
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Sydney St. James is the pen name of NYT and USA Today Bestselling author Sidney Bristol. The best part is that Sydney doesn’t have to choose. Welcome to a world of fantastical tales where the choices open doors.