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    Excerpt from The Book of Jezebel

    I’m slowly, finally, writing The Book of Jezebel. This will be the complete story of how Jezebel officially challenges the King of Hell in an effort to stop Armageddon. It will be one book, a standalone, written so that it’s OK if you haven’t read the four books in the Hell on Earth series (Hell’s Belles; The Road to Hell, Hotter than Hell; Hell to Pay) or any of the Hell short stories and novellas (let’s just call them A Little Piece of Hell). This book has been a long time in coming, and it will be a long time before it’s done — I have three other projects I’m working on, all of which take priority — but the Book of Jezebel is coming.

    Here’s how it will start.

    ~~~

    CHAPTER 1

    A witch and a former demon walk into a bar.

    No, that’s not the start of a joke. My name’s Jezebel. Jesse to my friends. I’m the former demon. Also a former human. My life’s a little complicated.

    “It’s completely packed in here.”

    That’s the witch. Also my twin sister. Sort of. Rather like being “sort of pregnant,” without the baby but with all the denial.

    I said, “It’s great in here.”

    “If it weren’t your birthday. . . ”

    “But it is. You said I got to pick the place. Consider it picked.”

    We’d just walked into one of the higher-scale bars in Saratoga Springs, New York, the sort that has five stories with a different atmosphere on each floor, ranging from rooftop bar (ideal for those who like a view with their booze) to ground-level tavern, where we were currently loitering. What I really wanted was to go to the second floor, which had the nightclub, but I knew that Caitlin, my witch sister, would need a little convincing. You’d think witches would be all about the dancing, but maybe that was only if they were naked in the moonlight.

    I peered around, scanning for a table. It was six-thirty on a Thursday night, and the bar was lousy with the after-work crowd. People in power suits lingered over their chic martinis with cute names and watered-down booze. I felt more than saw a few gazes check me out, so I did a little head shake, just enough to toss my thick black curls over one shoulder. When I glanced left, I caught a guy staring at my chest. He was utterly adorable — he actually blushed before he looked away.

    Grinning, I said to Caitlin, “I’ll get us a table.”

    “How? It’s so crowded, I can’t even see the bar.”

    “Trust me. And the bar is that way,” I said, motioning with my chin. “I’ll have my usual.”

    She frowned at me, and I smiled sweetly. She still has some trust issues with me. A year ago today, I’d knocked on her door and asked her to magic me from demon to human. She did, but along the way, I stole her form. And her credit cards. Now, in a fit of karma, I was stuck as her identical twin. If I’d known back then that the form I’d taken would be mine until the day I permanently died, I would have morphed into a supermodel.

    Caitlin let out a long-suffering sigh as she started to worm her way over to the bartender.

    Still smiling, I sauntered over to the bashful twenty-something who’d been so fascinated by my 36-Cs. Unlike Caitlin, who had to push her way through the crowd, I just walked, and people made way. We might be identical twins, but there was very little about us that was exactly alike. She tended to play down her appearance and blend into the background. I wore my sex appeal like a flashy accessory.

    “This seat taken?” I asked, grinning big as I sat across from the brown-haired blusher.

    His mouth twitched into a nervous smile. “Actually . . . yeah. Sorry.”

    “No worries. I’ll just keep it warm.”

    “But — ”

    “I noticed you looking at me,” I said. “Well, at parts of me.”

    His face did its best impersonation of a tomato, and he made a sound close to “Urk.”

    “Hey, it’s okay, I don’t mind. If I didn’t want people to notice, I wouldn’t wear low-cut tops.” Without makeup, I’m just second-glance pretty, and at the taller side of petite, I’m basically armpit-level to the world. But my figure doesn’t quit. A girl’s got to play to her strengths. “I’m Jesse.”

    “Bob,” he said, still blushing. “I hate to be rude, but really, the seat’s taken.”

    “I heard you the first time, Bob. So, how long have you been cheating on your wife?”

    His color quickly paled until he looked like a sunburned ghost. “I don’t . . . I never . . . !”

    “Kidding! Boy,” I chirped, “some people are so serious!”

    Actually, I wasn’t kidding at all. Around him, his aura glowed cherry red, tinged poison green at the edges: lust, with a coating of envy. In sin-speak, Bob was an adulterer. In Jezebel-speak, Bob was fair game.

    “Learn how to take a joke, Bob! Relax a little! If you don’t mind my saying so, you need a drink something fierce. Good thing you’re in a bar. So what do you do? Wait, let me guess.” I took in his wrinkled shirt, his off-the rack suit jacket that was a size too big. “Public defender. You still have ten years to go to pay off your law school loans.”

    His mouth opened and closed and opened again, like a fish strangling in air.

    I chuckled. “I’m right, aren’t I? Get any bad guys off on technicalities lately, Bob?”

    “Really,” he said. “You should leave.”

    “But I just got here! So tell me, who’re you sleeping with? Not a client, I’m sure. You don’t seem like the conjugal visit sort of guy. So is it . . . your secretary, maybe?”

    His eyes bugged.

    “Secretary it is.” I clucked my tongue. “Really now, Bob — don’t you think that’s a tad cliché?”

    “Bob?” a voice asked. “Who’s this?”

    I turned to face a woman hovering by the table. She was polished from her sun-drenched highlights to the manicure flashing from her peep-toe pumps. Unfortunately for her, the way her brows knit as she frowned undid her last three sessions of Botox. She put one of her two mixed drinks down in front of Bob and held onto the other as she glared at me.

    Smiling big enough to blind a passerby, I said, “Hi! I’m a friend of Bob’s.”

    Bob spluttered, “I never saw her before!”

    “He’s such a kidder,” I said with a laugh. “So, you’re the other woman, right? I’ve heard so much about you.”

    Her carefully lipsticked mouth opened in a shocked O.

    “You look surprised,” I said. “Maybe you’re not Bob’s main squeeze. My mistake. I should have realized — you dress more like a side dish than the chicken dinner.”

    Her face purpled.

    “Hey, nothing wrong with that,” I said cheerfully. “Chicken can be so boring. I mean, it tastes like chicken. Who doesn’t want a side dish to spice things up? Bob likes it spicy. Makes his heart pound and sweat pop on his brow.” I winked at him. “Isn’t that right, sweetie?”

    He stared at me, horrified, then turned to the other woman. “Stacey, I swear, I don’t know her!”

    I sighed loudly and shook my head. “Stacey, is this how he acts when you show up unexpectedly and he’s with his wife? Does he pretend he doesn’t even know you? Really, how do you put up with it? Any tips you can share?”

    She hissed, “Wife?”

    Bob stammered the three most detrimental words in any relationship, ever: “I can explain.”

    Her drink went in Bob’s blushing face. Then she spun on her four-inch heels and stormed away. Well, tottered away. It’s hard to pull off a good storming when you can barely keep your balance.

    Bob, face dripping, stumbled after her.

    I grabbed Bob’s glass, leaned back in my seat, and put my feet up on the empty chair. Mission accomplished.

    ~~~

    That’s the beginning of The Book of Jezebel. Like it? Eh, not so much? Leave a comment below and let me know. Comments make me feel loved, and feeling loved encourages me to write more. Yes, I’m a needy writer, eager for validation. My secret’s out! 😉

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