Katana Midland can’t catch a break. She finally sells her first big graphic novel—complete with the scorching hot guardian angel who’s been haunting her dreams—only to have her apocalyptic tale come to life.
Now there are magic bombs dropping on New York, demons running through the streets, and a deadly cabal of sorcerers gunning for her and her angel. Has she finally met the perfect hero only to lose him?
Hugh of the Syx, the most devious demon of an elite squad of brutal enforcers, has a problem. His one shot at redemption is to convince a human female that he’s—wait for it—an angel, because she’s more psychic than a box of Magic 8 Balls and the Syx’s only chance at fixing a world gone mad.
From the moment Hugh jumps off the page and into Kat’s life, she triggers emotions he didn’t know he could feel—and desires he wants more than anything to be real. But every step they get closer to the end of Katana’s twisted tale is one step closer to their story ending, forever.
The truth will never set you free when you’re a Demon Betrayed.
Read an Excerpt
Hoboken, New Jersey
The lights flickered ten minutes into Jeremy Bolling’s Master of Miniatures presentation. There was a slight murmur of interest through the room, a few glances to the ceiling, but most of the small crowd at Gotham City Games & Magic kept their eyes trained on the maestro on the small stage in the corner.
Dressed in a Jets jersey and cargo pants lined with uniformly overfilled pockets, Jeremy was the star attraction of the day-long RPG and Fantasy Fest at the bookstore. Kat was happy to let him bask in the limelight. She’d talk about her graphic novels that afternoon for anyone who was still around. But she’d only come to this event to justify the cost of the real reason why she’d flown to the city: to hand-deliver a manuscript to her first official New York editor.
Her agent had told Kat that she worried way too much, that she could have easily emailed the Dead End file and it would’ve been perfectly safe. But her agent didn’t understand how much all this meant to Kat—to finally be chosen, to be the one whose dream was coming true. No more doors getting slammed in her face, no more sucking it up and biding her time, no more paths turning into, well, dead ends. She’d made it.
And it was magic.
Her editor, a Princess Leia-bunned, Birkenstock-and-socks-loving nerd named Emily, had indulged her earlier that morning, solemnly accepting the Hello Kitty thumb drive from Kat as if it wasn’t a glorified children’s toy. She’d given it a place of honor alongside her collection of other whimsical paraphernalia that lined her real live New York editor’s desk.
Kat didn’t care how silly she seemed to either woman. This new graphic novel had been something special from the very beginning. Though she had been dinking around with pieces of the story for years, the final idea for Dead End had come to her in a flash about nine months ago. It’d been so fully formed and perfect that Kat had stopped cold in the middle of designing the mind-numbingly boring email she’d promised to one of her best clients and had spent the next two hours sketching out possibilities. The story was the perfect combination of high stakes action and richly energetic artwork, with just enough emotion to keep the whole thing bouncing along.
She’d thought that would be enough for a sale—a legit sale to a big shiny publishing house—and it had been enough for her to secure representation for the book. But her new agent had strongly suggested she make some changes to the early going of Dead End, mainly because she’d killed off the love interest and blown up half of New York by page thirty. Kat had argued, cajoled, and finally outright whined at the changes, but by the time she was finished with the updated story, she had to admit her agent was right.
Now the story started with a much smaller cataclysm—and in Chicago, not New York—then took off into a twisting, crazy race through a world filled with chaos and magic, pitting the plucky heroine against some evil magicians who’d created a shadowy court in a citadel she’d named Sorcerer City. The heroine—with the help of a powerful, charismatic, and, this time, very much alive love interest, at least for several more chapters in the book—traced a perilous, adventure-filled path to said city, unlocked the citadel to let in the good guys, confronted the evil magicians, and saved the day. Confetti and magic all around, each step perfectly laid out in gorgeous, full-color, easy-to-follow panels.
Kat grimaced. At least, she hoped the panels were easy to follow. They had to be, because she didn’t have all the words for them yet.
It’d always been that way for her. Images first, words later. Even now, six years after she’d self-published her first graphic novel short, and despite the modest indie success she’d had up to this new book, the words came way too slow. She knew, roughly, what should be conveyed in every one of her panels, but crafting that message down to a handful of sentences was an art she hadn’t quite mastered. She used too many words or not enough at the critical points, always rushing on to the next panel unfolding in her mind. The story was like a house with too many intersecting hallways, each one a possible dead end.
Her lips twisted. Dead End had been the working title for this graphic novel longer than it should have. She’d grown attached to it. She didn’t harbor any hope that Emily would keep it, of course. It would get shifted to something that would sell more books, maybe even catch the interest of a content streamer looking for a new animation or live-action urban fantasy.
That extra sale could happen, her agent had assured Kat after she’d seen the first few chapters of the novel. It was the whole reason why they’d held back those rights, even though Kat would’ve been equally happy to sell everything all at once. She’d been on the fringes of the business long enough to know you didn’t often get a second chance.
“And now for the big show,” Jeremy announced, his voice loud enough that Kat refocused on him. “This baby’s my pride and joy. You gotta let me know if you like it.”
He brought the small figurine under the lights, and Kat jolted.
“Who is it?” someone deeper in the room asked excitedly. “One of the Mystic Warrior line?”
“Birds of Prey?” someone else demanded, while Kat could only stare.
Jeremy grinned, turning the figurine under the camera, but looking up at the screen like the rest of the room, his face radiating pure, unfiltered joy. “It’s a whole new line, guys. The idea hit me a couple of weeks ago like a ton of bricks, filled me up with so much fire, I couldn’t stop working on it. It made me hopeful, you know? The idea that something—someone—was out there waiting to stand up for us, to help us fix the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. And we’re the ones who’ll see that someone coming first. You, me, all of us—we’re standing on holy ground here at Gotham City Games and Magic. We see things other people don’t.”
The crowd murmured an approval that sounded a little too earnest, too loud. Kat tore her gaze away from the figurine to scan the group, blinking quickly at the shift of energy in the room. Jeremy’s words were bold, but this wasn’t some crazed cabal of wannabe psychics. Half of them were gamers who never grew up, the other half maybe-probably believed in magic, but that really didn’t get them very far in the real world. Still…there was no denying the fervent expression on too many faces, the gleam in several sets of eyes.
They believed in—something. What, she didn’t know, but something bigger than themselves. Even if they’d never gotten a chance to express it.
Jeremy sighed down at the figurine he held so reverently.
“This is the first one, a prototype never before seen before today, and I’ve still got some kinks to work out. I’m calling it the Guardian Angels line. Whattya think?”
A hushed “Ohhhh” of appreciation rippled through the room, and it was deserved. The image on the screen that focused on the figurine no larger than the palm of Jeremy’s slender-fingered hand was hyper-specific in its detail. The wings, spread in a canopy of heavy gray-and-white feathers, opened in anticipation of flight. The male beneath them was human in his features, but even in miniature, he looked built to a larger scale, with bulky arms, broad chest, and heavy thighs.
The most arresting thing about him, though, was his face. Jeremy angled the figurine toward the camera to give everyone a better view. The guardian angel’s eyes smoked with a deep, wickedly purple gleam, and his mouth was pulled back in a snarl that managed to convey a feral glee. He looked dangerous and not entirely stable…and he was also devastatingly gorgeous, something you couldn’t say about most figurines.
He was also completely familiar to Kat, and not just in a general wicked-cool superhero kind of way. She knew those eyes, that face. She knew the way the angel’s thick black hair flowed back from his head. She knew the wings that crested far over his head, and how much strength and power rolled out from him when he leapt into the sky, those great, feathered limbs propelling him upward. In contrast, she knew that when he landed, when his feet first touched the earth, he made no sound at all. He could as easily be a single feather dropping to the ground before surging forward, shaking the earth with his pounding boots.
She knew all these things because they’d been part of her original download of inspiration for Dead End—at least the version of the story that had ended up with the beautiful angel getting betrayed by her heroine and slaughtered on the streets of New York—but how the fuck did Jeremy know about her angel?
“Is it a commissioned piece?” She was surprised at the question, mostly because she was the one who asked it.
Jeremy looked up, brows lifting. He was a medium-tall guy with sandy brown hair, shrewd brown eyes, and an easy smile—and even for a demonstration such as this, he never dressed up. That jersey and those cargo pants had made an appearance at every con they’d attended together. Jeremy wasn’t heavy, but he was skinny soft, his arms and legs as thin as spaghetti while his stomach rounded like an oversized meatball.
They knew each other, of course. There weren’t that many sci-fi and fantasy cons in the northeast, and Kat had always understood that her particular style of artwork played better in bigger cities—New York, Chicago, LA. But she lived in a tiny little town in North Carolina, lucky enough to eke out a living as a graphic designer while she worked on her urban fantasy graphic novels. She’d met Jeremy maybe six years ago when she was still in college and dreaming of the big time, and he was a thirty-five-year-old living in his mother’s basement, and they hadn’t progressed all that far since then.
He grinned at her, waggling his brows. “It could be commissioned, for the right buyer,” he said. “I’ve got other orders, but this baby was too eager to be first. He’s done now, at least in prototype, but I haven’t shopped the series yet.”
“How many will there be?” someone else asked as Kat’s mind jumped to her own meager bank account. The sale of Dead End had promised her a windfall. But she’d signed that contract months ago, and no money had shown up yet. The nature of publishing, everyone said, but that platitude didn’t pay the bills.
“Six, I think,” Jeremy said, scratching his chin. “I haven’t quite got a fix on the other five, but I know they’re all a set together. Six avenging angels, setting the world to rights. Came to me in a vision, you could say.”
There was a murmur of approval from the room, while Kat nodded at Jeremy. “Let me know when you set a price.”
Jeremy grinned back at her, looking pleased. She couldn’t press him too hard, or he’d jack up the number. They might be nodding acquaintances at the cons, but this was a business. Artists had to eat.
A crack of lightning streaked across the sky, so bright that everyone jumped.
“What the hell?” Jeremy asked, squinting towards the windows. “Why is it so dark outside?”
A few fantasy enthusiasts stood, straining toward the windows as the proprietor of Gotham City Games and Magic, Gable Sizemore, stepped onto the sidewalk.
“Holy shit, it’s cold,” he reported, sounding shocked. “It’s probably dropped twenty degrees.”
Another flash of lightning sparked, this one blanketing the room in white light. And Kat suddenly realized what was wrong with this picture.
“There’s no thunder,” she blurted. And in her mind’s eye, she saw a tower thrusting up out of the ground made of nothing but electrical currents and sparking light. It had been a fantastical structure, ominous and awesome, and it had graced the original opening pages of Dead End. But she’d made that up—she’d made all of it up. The guardian angel, the electrical tower, the green smoke…the bombs.
Only now, it was happening.