Cover Reveal: The Necromancer's Dilemma
The Necromancer's Dilemma
By: SJ Himes
Cover Design by Garret Leigh
IS THAT SIMEON???????
It is Simeon!
Assorted humans of Earth, it is my pleasure to share with you all the cover reveal for The Necromancer's Dilemma, Book Two of The Beacon Hill Sorcerer!!
I'll post the blurb and the entirety of Chapter One below! Happy reading!!!
(No release date as of yet, I'm expecting sometime before the end of May 2016.)
Even love can die without trust.
Angel’s brother, Isaac, has returned home, and the pair begin to make slow and awkward attempts back to each other. Learning how to be a brother to a grown man instead of a parental figure has Angel adjusting his behaviors and habits, and Isaac still remains a mystery. Was it merely entering adulthood that turned Isaac away from an overprotective Angel, or does Isaac carry a secret that will keep them from finally being a real family?
Daniel Macavoy, Angel’s new apprentice, is torn between his bond with Angel and the grasping machinations of his father. Dealing with a traumatized apprentice with dangerous holes in his magical education, saving Daniel may be harder than Angel first thought—especially since the biggest problem is not revenge, but guilt.
The one shining beacon in his life is Simeon, Elder vampire of Boston’s only Bloodclan. Four hundred years old and sexy as sin, Simeon is warrior and sage, patient and cunning. The strength Angel draws from Simeon’s devotion and the newborn mate-bond between them is steadfast and true…and the fount of death magic that animates the undead lord places Angel in the midst of a power struggle for control over himself, his lover, and his family.
Through it all, Angel is beleaguered by the unwanted attention of a troll-hybrid, the adventures of a dragon in the city, and a serial killer has decided to hunt the back alleys and midnight streets of Boston.
The following Excerpt from The Necromancer's Dilemma is copyrighted © by SJ Himes 2016
The tattoo was smooth under his tongue, Simeon’s skin cool but warming the longer Angel played. Shadows and the quiet of pre-dawn covered their bed, but Angel could see the glow of emeralds from his lover’s eyes, and hear Simeon growl, his chest reverberating when Angel got to one peaked nipple, laving at it before sucking the bud into his mouth. Angel bit, gentle, and Simeon bucked his hips, his thick cock slapping against his stone-hard abs. Angel grinned and moved on to the next tattoo, a design that made no sense to Angel at all. It was haphazard and faded lines in a dark, mysterious blue-ish green, made from woad, and applied to Simeon’s skin over four hundred years prior.
Angel slid over Simeon, dragging his cock over the chiseled marble that passed as his lover’s upper thighs, until he hovered chest to chest, groin to groin, Simeon’s hands gripping his waist. Angel leaned down, Simeon lifting to meet him, and their lips barely touched, smooth and soft. Taking his time, Angel kissed Simeon with patient intent, content to explore the lips of the man he loved, his heart beating hard and fast for the both of them. Simeon caressed his back, his powerful hands bringing Angel closer, holding him safe and inciting his desire all at once.
Simeon moved, and Angel found himself on his back, Simeon between his thighs. He lifted his hips in silent invitation, grabbing his knees and a lubed finger entered him with care, opening him. Angel sighed into Simeon’s mouth, their tongues entwining for a languid, delicious moment. Angel floated in a haze of pleasure and want, a pleasure that pained him as deeply as it set him free, and he keened a low whine when Simeon slid his thick cock deep inside of his ass, seating with a cool and smooth glide. Simeon broke their kiss, faces centimeters apart, gazes locked. Hips lifting in a controlled and devastating undulation, Simeon set the pace, each withdrawal heartbreaking, every stroke back in destructive. Angel was destroyed, mind and body broke down into tiny pieces that Simeon rearranged into a vibrating masterpiece of pleasure.
“I love you,” Simeon breathed out, so quiet Angel felt more than heard the words. Angel wrapped his arms around Simeon’s neck, and he clung, sobbing at each perfectly aimed stroke of hard flesh over his prostate and the sting of stretched muscles.
“I…,” Angel gasped, sweat and tears running down his temples, “I love …you too.”
It was too much. The devotion and desire in those ageless eyes, the way Simeon took him apart and left him a ruin of agonized pleasure. His back arched, an orgasm slamming down his spine and erupting in his groin, cum wetting the hairsbreadth between their bodies. Angel yelled out his release, and Simeon gripped him tighter, hips pumping in a punishing tempo. A strong hand grabbed the back of his head, and Angel’s face was pressed to Simeon’s shoulder, and he bit, hard. There was no thought, no process or plan—Simeon’s blood filled his mouth as Simeon’s release filled his ass.
Spicy, cool, with overtones of rich chocolate, his lover’s blood filled his senses and electrified his taste buds. Angel took a mouthful as another peak was reached, and he jerked and shuddered beneath Simeon. He came again, his body over-sensitized, and Simeon held him so tight that he lost what breath he had left.
He lost time. His arms and legs buzzed in the far reaches of his nervous system, and his skin sizzled and the air that seeped into his shocked lungs snapped and chilled. He felt hot and cold and hovered on the edge of unconsciousness, eyes blurry. He was able to see the vague outline of Simeon moving beside him, and the pass of a wet washcloth over his stomach and chest. He tried to jump in reaction to the damp cold between his legs and under his ass, but his body failed to move.
A deep rumble that sounded like a chuckle met his ears, and Angel managed a smile at his lover’s satisfaction. He was gathered close, Simeon’s body still warm from their lovemaking, and Angel burrowed into his arms. A blanket was pulled over his shoulders, and Angel fell back asleep to Simeon’s whispered endearments.
The cell alarm shrieked at him, and Angel slapped it into silence where it skittered across his nightstand. Groaning, Angel lifted his head and came face to face with the demon warming his chest.
Eroch chirped at him, emerald green wings flapping in surprise, and Angel dropped his head back to his pillow. Eroch, the former demon that once tried to kill him, gave him a glare from daffodil-hued eyes before crawling off his chest and snuggling down onto Simeon’s side of the bed. Which was empty, again.
“How hard is it for him to stay in bed until I wake up? Just once I’d like a morning snuggle,” Angel grumbled, and Eroch chirruped back in a commiserating tone. The little dragon let out a puff of smoke out of his nose and smacked one of his leathery wings at Simeon’s pillow. Angel chuckled and leaned over to pet his familiar. “Aw, c’mon now. He isn’t that bad. I was just complaining. He stopped stealing the blankets from you, yeah?”
Angel scratched the top of Eroch’s head, enjoying the hard, pebbly sensation of the dragon’s scaled hide. Eroch had a line of ridges over each eye, and he stretched out his long neck, pushing up against Angel’s hand. Eroch purred, sounding much like a cat. Eroch slept with them most nights, curled up at Angel’s back or warming Simeon’s feet under the blankets. Simeon tended to steal the blankets, yanking it up away from the bottom of the bed, exposing Eroch to the chill during the night. Eroch hated it, and Simeon had awakened several times to a cranky dragon chewing on his toes.
Simeon was a vampire, and while his sleeping patterns varied, his lover had adapted to Angel’s sleeping habits. Which meant erratic and unreliable, especially if he was working a case with BPD or a private consultation. Technically, Simeon didn’t need to sleep, though Angel had learned that the older a vampire got, the more resistant he became to the lethargy that came over younger, less powerful vampires during the daytime. Simeon said he still felt the urge to rest during the day, but it was no hardship for him to adapt, to be awake during daylight hours.
Angel sat up, and slid from the king-size bed, fishing around for his bathrobe. He found it hanging off the end of the bed, tangled up in one of Simeon’s shirts. They hadn’t taken the time to put away their clothes after they got in last night, and their bedroom activities had gone on for hours.
A crash sounded through the apartment, and Angel jumped before throwing his robe over his naked ass and running out his bedroom door. A scream destroyed the relative quiet, and Angel’s heart jumped to his throat. Daniel was screaming, his cries full of pain. Bare feet slapping the hardwood floors, he ran the short distance between his bedroom and the living room and turned to look into the kitchen through the brick arch that separated the two rooms.
Daniel was swearing and shrieking, his right hand a ruin of flesh and steam. The old kettle that used to belong to Grandma Salvatore was spilling its steaming contents across the hardwood floor, the metal container scorching the floor as it rolled and spun. Magic stunk up the room, sulfur and ozone making Angel gasp and cough. Isaac perched on the island counter, inching away from the boiling hot puddle, his bare feet inches from the disaster. Angel pushed out his will, and swept the residual magic from the room, stifling whatever caused the kettle to erupt. Isaac staggered in his attempt to escape the water, and Angel spared his brother a glance to make sure he was unharmed.
“Ahh!” Daniel screamed, falling back on the counter, holding his right wrist in his left hand. Angel’s stomach roiled at the sight of his apprentice’s hand. “Angel!”
“Fuck, don’t move,” Angel swore. The puddle was still boiling even as it spread, and steam rose to cloud the air. Isaac was in the way, and Angel couldn’t get down on that side of the island without landing in the hot water. Isaac was going to get burned if he didn’t move. “Isaac, get out of the way. Crawl over the island if you have to.”
Isaac for once didn’t argue, his concerned expression and the way he grimaced at Daniel’s screams making it clear his brother was more worried about how badly injured Daniel was than sniping back at his big brother. Isaac slid his ass over the island and jumped down the other side. Angel jumped over the puddle, and grabbed Daniel, dragging him to the sink and away from the danger ruining his floor.
Daniel’s hand was destroyed. Daniel shrieked again when Angel took his wrist, and the agony in his apprentice’s voice decided Angel’s mind—he reached up, and using their bond as apprentice and master, knocked Daniel out. Using the cold water was out—a burn this severe would lead to more damage if he held it under the icy water in the building pipes. Winter in Boston meant city water was artic temperatures.
Daniel slumped, and Angel pushed on him, using his weight to keep Daniel braced upright between him and the counter. “Isaac! Is Simeon here?”
“I’m here, a ghra,” Simeon said, and Angel was beyond relieved. He looked over his shoulder, and Simeon was entering the kitchen. Simeon grabbed Isaac and yanked his little brother away from the water into the living room, and then Simeon leapt the ten feet over the spill to join Angel at the sink. “Let me help you. Tell me what needs doing.”
“I was going to cool his hand in the water, but it’s too severe,” Angel said, holding the unconscious boy’s hand away from his body. “We need to get him to the couch. I have to see how bad this is. We may be going to the hospital.”
Simeon nodded, and with a graceful swoop, took Daniel in his arms and then leapt back across the length of the kitchen to land next to Isaac in the living room. Angel grimaced, took one look at the curdling puddle that was hot enough to boil the varnish on the floor, and jumped up on the island. He walked over it and jumped down the far side, barely missing the leading edge of the mess.
“Isaac, I need you to contain that mess. Strip the causal magic from it, and cool it down.”
“What?” Isaac stuttered, unable to take his eyes from Daniel’s destroyed hand. Simeon set the boy gently on the couch, and Angel knelt on the floor next to him. Simeon moved away, giving him room to work.
“You’re a fire mage, dammit! Absorb the heat and the magic keeping it that damn hot, and clean it up! No arguments!” Angel had no patience for Isaac’s hesitancy to use magic—something happened in the kitchen, and Daniel paid the price.
The entire back of the boy’s hand was split open by the intense heat, the skin white and thick, the flesh beneath cooked by the magic spike that turned the kettle and its content into a kitchen supernova. The heat curled in his fingers, and the flesh was weeping fluids. Blisters distorted the edges of the worst of it, the flesh red and warped all the way up the back of his hand to his wrist. The curling of the hand was so severe he couldn’t see how badly Daniel’s palm was injured.
“Isaac, never mind, I need you here.” A burn this bad was not life threatening—not yet—Daniel was going into shock, but he wasn’t hovering on the edge of death, so Angel was unable to heal him. This injury was caused by intense and powerful heat—and so was under the purview of any practitioner with a fire affinity. “You need to heal this.”
“I’m not a healer!” Isaac gasped out, but he came anyway. Angel grabbed his brother and yanked him down so they were both kneeling by Daniel’s hand. Angel held Daniel’s arm aloft and put his other on Isaac’s shoulder.
“Isaac, all you need to do is settle into your inner sight, look at Daniel’s hand, and call to the heat in the injuries. The actual temperature has nothing to do with healing—this is a mental exercise that relies on how your brain interprets and processes the injury in his hand. It was caused by heat, and you can reverse the damage,” Angel instructed, and he squeezed his hand on Isaac’s shoulder when a wave of uncertainty crossed his features. “No room for doubt. I taught you how to heal fire and heat based injuries before you even got your driver’s license, so don’t lie to yourself and think you can’t do this.”
“How… his hand…how can I fix that?” Isaac whispered, looking sick.
“You can do it. I know you can. That power lives in you, just waiting for you to take it out and make use of it. I can block Daniel’s pain as his master and supply energy for his recovery, but you’ll have to do the hard work.” Angel shook Isaac gently, impatient, though he made sure to hide the worst of it. Isaac had something holding him back, and his magic was sporadic, his aura flaring and dulling. Seeing Angel’s impatience would get his back up and make him balk. Yet his little brother was a powerful sorcerer—all the Salvatore scions were. He could do this.
“The magnitude of the injury is irrelevant. It is fire touched, and it answers to you,” Angel whispered to his little brother, and Isaac breathed out before taking a deeper, steadier breath.
“Oh…okay,” Isaac gasped out, and Angel smiled. They had to hurry, or it would be harder to heal. Angel could feel the pain tearing at Daniel’s mind through their link, and the boy would soon wake regardless of the knockout Angel used on him. Angel opened the apprenticeship link—one similar though not as intimate as the Leannán link he shared with Simeon. Daniel’s mind was close to awakening, the pain overriding the knockout spell, and if Isaac didn’t hurry this was about to get really bad—healing an injury like this while the victim was awake would be torturous. Angel soothed Daniel as best he could, and poured energy into the boy’s reserves as Isaac began to recite the spells under his breath.
Isaac always cast as if embarrassed—his Latin was spot on, and his spell work was solid. He was talented, as most fire mages were; Isaac’s doubts came from that inner mental hiccup Isaac carried around and left Angel flabbergasted. One eye on Isaac’s casting, another on keeping Daniel out and supplying his body with the energy to heal—the conversion of energy to matter was taxing, the drain tremendous, and there was plenty to repair and replace in his hand—Angel remained removed, watchful, but Isaac knew what he was doing once he started.
Slow motion, a horrific CGI scene in reverse, the wound and ruined flesh flowed as liquid. In the early years of his participation in the Blood Wars, Angel saw many terrific wounds, and the majority were caused by fire-based spells. Fire mages were frequent combatants in war. Burns and scorch marks, seared flesh and crispy appendages were forever etched in his memory, and yet it was still hard for him to watch as the damage done to Daniel was repaired. A decade removal may not have erased his reflexes or his inability to back down from a fight, but it certainly took from him his iron stomach. He could deal with decaying zombies and corpses of deceased friends, but seeing someone under his protection so injured was too much for him. Angel swallowed back bile since Isaac would likely vomit as well if Angel lost control of his urge to throw up. Remaining stone-faced and stoic was killing him, and he was beyond thankful when Simeon moved into his line of sight behind the couch.
His lover smiled at him, white fangs flashing in the bright morning light. Angel funneled energy into Daniel, the surge more than sufficient to fuel the healing Isaac was directing, and Angel gave Simeon a grateful smile of his own when he felt a wave of power come along the nascent mate-bond that shimmered between them. Simeon’s core was a bountiful wealth of power, an expanse of primordial death magic that animated Simeon as one of the undead. Angel could tap the veil to fuel the energy he was sending his apprentice, but Daniel would feel the surge in ambient magic fields, especially this close, and it might wake him early. Simeon sending him so much power, and so selflessly, made his heart swell and tears prick at his eyes. Simeon was the better man by far—Angel wasn’t worthy of his sexy vampire.
Death magic, smooth as funereal silk and cool as the taste of ice wine on a heated tongue flowed over him, through him, more than Angel was accustomed to handling outside reaching for the veil. He swayed, eyes shutting, and he breathed in and out, the magic one even swell of perfection, singing in his soul and making every cell in his body chime in harmony. The bond between him and Simeon was a golden cord of light, visible only to his inner sight, the once thin and fragile bond growing more solid, substantial, and the selfless gift from Simeon to Angel made it flare even brighter.
Daniel jerked, and Angel blinked his eyes open. The damage was gone. Isaac sat back, exhausted, but his work was impressive for a sorcerer who’d rather watch television than cast spells. Angel held his breath as Daniel coughed, his dark eyes opening. Sweat darkened his blond hair at his temples, and his lips were dry, but he was recovering. Angel and Isaac managed to abort the process of falling into shock, but the upheaval to his system in the last hour probably had the boy feeling wretched.
“Angel?” Daniel whispered, tears running down his temples. His poor apprentice sniffled, his arm limp in Angel’s grip, and he figured the boy was terrified he was still hurt.
“Hey, kiddo,” Angel smiled, and he gently took Daniel’s now restored hand in his and squeezed. “Everything is fine. Your hand is all better. Can you feel my hand?”
Daniel nodded, and carefully squeezed Angel’s hand back.
“Did you heal me?” Daniel asked, voice cracking.
Angel looked at Isaac and smiled. Isaac was tired and leaning back on the coffee table, and his face flushed, but he smiled back at Angel. “I didn’t. Isaac fixed you right up. Good as new.”
“You did?” Daniel asked Isaac, surprised. Isaac nodded, and awkwardly patted Daniel’s knee, biting his lip and not saying anything.
Daniel and Isaac may be close in age and they hung out the most, but they were still new to each other. Daniel had switched from his fear of Salvatores to needing Angel like a lifeline—the degree to which Daniel needed him was worrisome, but Angel would make sure to release Daniel from his apprenticeship as a well-trained sorcerer and balanced adult, and at this stage such dependency meant Daniel trusted him above all others. Isaac was already trained, and his issues came from whatever lead to his anger and magic-abhorrent behavior, and Isaac needed less from Angel as means of support. Angel had raised his little brother after their whole family died, and learning how to be something other than teacher and the parental unit was hard for Angel and weird for Isaac. They were brothers, and they needed to learn to act like it. The boys were close, but the differences in how both interacted with Angel were drastic and it made things off-kilter sometimes in their own relationship.
“Thank you,” Daniel whispered to the both of them, and the lanky kid curled up on his side and his slow blinking and pallor told Angel that Daniel was about to fall into a natural sleep. Simeon came over and looked down at the exhausted apprentice.
“Should I carry him to bed?” Simeon asked, and Daniel tensed. The young man was still dealing with the abuse and mistreatment he’d received at the hands of the vampire Deimos, and though he liked Simeon, the vampire made him nervous.
“No, that’s ok. Isaac is gonna help Daniel to bed,” Angel said, and he was grateful for his brother’s short nod in agreement. “Isaac, take a nap yourself. I’m very impressed. You did a good job, little brother.”
Isaac looked back at him, surprise and something like happiness in his eyes. His little brother nodded, face red and flushed, and he leaned down and carefully helped Daniel to his feet. Angel withdrew from the bond with Daniel, the boy sufficiently recharged. Sleep would help him more than anything. Isaac drew Daniel’s arm over his shoulder and all but carried the lanky blond out of the room to the hall. They disappeared around the corner and Angel frowned, eyes to the kitchen.
Angel got up, and walked to the threshold of the kitchen, one hand on the old brick arch that marked the two rooms. He could see the whole room, and the spilled kettle had ended up on the far side of the room, blackened lines in the hardwood marking the kettle’s journey from the stove. Simeon came up to his shoulder, and a cool hand gripped the back of his neck, squeezing hard enough to make Angel groan as his tense muscles relaxed. Simeon always knew what he needed, easing his tension before he even registered he was stressed.
“What happened?” Simeon asked quietly. The sounds of the boys talking down the hall filtered up to where they stood, so anything they said may be heard as well. His apartment wasn’t all that big.
“I’m not sure. What did you hear?” Angel asked in turn. He looked up at Simeon, his lover towering over him. Simeon was at least a foot taller than Angel, and half again as wide. He was strength, wild and yet reliable, and Angel leaned back into his hand, Simeon immovable and steady.
“I was reading the paper in the front hall,” Simeon replied, “the door was open and I wasn’t listening, but the boys were talking to each other as Daniel made tea. I think they may have been arguing, as their tones were sharp, but I was not listening on purpose.”
Simeon often went to get the paper, as the windows in the hall and landing of the staircase outside his apartment were placed in such a way that Simeon could safely step into the hall during the day and not get fried. The runes and wards that Angel designed to protect Simeon while letting him enjoy actual daylight didn’t extend past his apartment, but thankfully the building faced the wrong direction for sunlight to reach his door. If they ever had to leave during the day, they could exit the back way out of the building into the alleyway, and get into a car, all in shadow.
Simeon could hear for a solid block in each direction, and the vampire had learned the seemingly backward ability to turn his super-hearing off. Angel could hardly stand humans in small quantities, so being able to hear veritable strangers talking about inane details of their lives would drive him batshit crazy. If he were Simeon, he’d stop listening, too.
The water was cold, though the damage done while it was hot was pretty severe. Not even counting the damage done to Daniel’s hand, the kitchen was sorely wounded. The floors were original to the building, and the generations of layered varnish and shellac had turned to waxy gray and in some places peeled up in gooey strands.
“How hot did the water get?” Simeon asked, stunned as they took in the widespread damage.
“Hot enough to destroy Daniel’s hand and my security deposit,” Angel sighed. “That old kettle should have melted, but instead, it scorched and burnt the floor and ends up against the far wall. Water is everywhere in here, damn near, and just dropping the kettle would have led to a smaller area of damage. This was magic, not just an accident.”
“Daniel or Isaac?” Simeon said, his big thumb rubbing along the side of Angel’s neck.
“I’m thinking both. Neither of them has the best control. Isaac from lack of effort and practice, and Daniel from his bad education. The kid can summon a demon and not get eaten, but some of the easiest spells and matter of control escape him. I really want to visit Leicester Macavoy and bitch slap him for letting Daniel out in the world with such huge holes in his training.”
“Are they a danger?” Simeon didn’t look worried at all. He would be more worried for Angel’s safety, but he could handle his apprentice and little brother.
“I think this incident may be the wakeup call they both need,” Angel said. “I’ll keep an eye on them both, but they’re smart. Sometimes bad things happen and it’s the slap a person needs to become better.”
“You sound like you know from experience, my love,” Simeon tugged, and Angel went into his arms. He rested his cheek over the spot where a heart should be beating. The silence there once left him feeling odd, but now it was familiar and normal, reassuring. Simeon existed, and loved him, despite the lack of heartbeat. Even Death could love.
He smirked at himself and his romantic thoughts and hugged Simeon tight for a moment before leaning back in his lover’s arms. “Soo…..” Angel started, Simeon arching a dark auburn brow at him as he waited, “Mop or bucket?”