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ISBN: 0061138037
ISBN-13: 978-0061138034
 

Rachel Morgan has fought and hunted vampires, werewolves, banshees, demons, and other supernatural dangers as both witch and bounty hunter—and lived to tell the tale. But she's never faced off against her own kind . . . until now.

Denounced and shunned for dealing with demons and black magic, her best hope is life imprisonment—at worst, a forced lobotomy and genetic slavery. Only her enemies are strong enough to help her win her freedom, but trust comes hard when it hinges on the unscrupulous tycoon Trent Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and an ex-boyfriend turned thief.

It takes a witch to catch a witch, but survival bears a heavy price.

 

Black Magic Sanction was originally published in hardcover, February 2010 through Eos

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Available just about everywhere, and a few places I'd never expect, but if you're having trouble:

                                 

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Black Magic Sanction

by

Kim Harrison

One

         Tucking my hair back, I squinted at the parchment, trying to form the strange angular letters as smoothly as I could.  The ink glistened wetly, but it wasn’t red ink, it was blood—my blood—which might account for the slight tremble in my hand as I copied the awkward-looking name scripted in characters that weren’t English.  Beside me was a pile of rejects.  If I didn’t get it perfect this time, I’d be bleeding yet again.  God help me.  I was doing a black curse.  In a demon’s kitchen.  On the weekend.  How in hell had I gotten here?
            Algaliarept stood poised between the slate table and the smaller hearth, his white-gloved hands behind his back.  He looked like a stuffy Brit in a murder mystery, and when he shifted impatiently, my tension spiked.  “That isn’t helping,” I said dryly, and his red, goat-slitted eyes widened in a mocking surprise, peering at me over his smoked spectacles.  He didn’t need them to read with.  From his crushed green velvet frock, to his lace cuffs and proper English accent, the demon was all about show.
            “It has to be exact, Rachel, or it won’t capture the aura,” he said, his attention sliding to the small green bottle on the table.  “Trust me, you don’t want that floating around unbound.”
            I sat up to feel my back crack.  Touching the quill tip to my throbbing finger, my unease grew.  I was a white witch, damn it, not black.  But I wasn’t going to write off demon magic just because of a label.  I’d read the recipe; I’d interpreted the invocation.  Nothing died to provide the ingredients, and the only person who’d suffer would be me.  I’d come away from this with a new layer of demon smut on my soul, but I’d also have protection against banshees.  After one had nearly killed me last New Years, I’d willingly entertain a little smut to be safe.  Besides, this might lead to a way to save Ivy’s soul when she died her first death.  For that, I’d risk a lot.
            Something, though, felt wrong.  Al’s squint at the aura bottle was worrisome, and his accent was too precise tonight.  He was concerned and trying to hide it.  It couldn’t be the curse.  It was just manipulating an aura—captured energy from a soul.  At least . . . that’s what he said.
            Frowning, I glanced at Al’s cramped handwritten instructions.  I wanted to go over them again, but his peeved expression and his soft mmmm of a growl to get on with it convinced me it could wait until the scripting was done.  My “ink” was running thin, and I dabbed more blood from my finger to finish some poor slob’s name, someone who trusted a demon . . . someone like me.  Not that I really trust Al, I thought, glancing at the instructions once more.
            Al’s spelling kitchen was right out of a fantasy flick, one of four rooms he had retained after selling everything else to keep his demon-ass out of demon-ass jail.  The gray stone walls made a large circular space, most of which were covered in identical tall wooden cabinets with glass doors.  Behind the rippled glass Al kept his books and ley line equipment.  The biological ingredients were in a cellar accessed through a rough hole in the floor.  Smoky support beams came to a point over a central fire pit, a good forty feet up.  The pit itself was a round, raised affair, with vent holes to draw the cold floor air in by way of simple convection.  When it got going, it made a comfortable spot to read at, and when fatigue brought me down, Al let me nap on the benches bracketing it.  Mr. Fish, my beta, swam in his little bowl on the mantel of the smaller fire.  I don’t know why I’d brought him from home.  It had been Ivy’s idea, and when an anxious vampire tells you to take your fish, you take your fish.
            Al cleared his throat, and I jumped, fortunately having pulled my quill from the parchment an instant before.  Done, thank God.  “Good?” I asked, holding it up for inspection, and his white-gloved, thick fingered hand pinched it at the edge where it wouldn’t smear.
            He eyed it, my tension easing when he handed it back.  “Passable.  Now the bowl.”
            Passable.  That was usually as good as it got, and I set the painstakingly scribed bit of paper beside the unlit candle and green bottle of aura, taking up Al’s favorite scribing knife and the palm-sized, earthen bowl.  The knife was ugly, the writhing woman on the handle looking like demon porn.  Al knew I hated it, which was why he insisted I use it.
            The gray bowl was rough in my hand, the inside cluttered with scratched off words of power.  Only the newly scribed name I was etching would react.  The theory was to burn the paper and take in the man’s name by way of air, then drink water from the bowl, taking in his name by water.  This would hit all four elements, earth and water with the bowl, air and fire with the burning parchment.  Heaven and earth, with me in the middle.  Yippy skippy.
>            The foreign-looking characters were easier after having practiced with the parchment, and I had it scratched on a tiny open space before Al could sigh more than twice.  He’d taken up the bottle of aura, frowning as he gazed into the swirling green.
            “What?” I offered, trying to keep the annoyance from my voice.  I was his student, sure, but he would still try to backhand me if I got uppity.
            Al’s brow furrowed, worrying me even more.  “I don’t like this aura’s resonance,” he said softly, red eyes probing the glass perched in his white-clad fingers.
            I shifted my weight on my padded chair, trying to stretch my legs.  “And?”
            Al’s focus shifted over his glasses to me.  “It’s one of Newt’s.”
            “Newt?  Since when do you need to get an aura from Newt?” I asked.  No one liked the insane demon, but she was the reigning queen of the lost boys, so to speak, and knew everything—when she could remember it.
            “Not your concern,” he said, and I winced, embarrassed.  Al had lost almost everything in his effort to snag me as a familiar, ending up with something vastly more precious but broke just the same.  I was a witch, but a common, usually lethal, genetic fault had left me able to kindle their magic.  Al’s status was assured as long as I was his student, but his living was bleak.
            “I’ll just pop over and find out who it is before we finish this up,” he said with a forced lightness, setting the bottle down with a sharp tap.
            I looked at the assembled pieces.  “Now?  Why didn’t you ask her before?”
            “It didn’t seem important at the time,” he said, looking mildly discomforted.  “Pierce!” he shouted, the call for his familiar lost in the high ceilings coated in shadows and dust.  Mood sour, he turned to me.  “Don’t touch anything while I’m gone.”
            “Sure,” I said distantly, eyeing the green swirling bottle.  He had to borrow an aura from Newt?  Jeez, maybe things were worse off than I’d thought.
            “The crazy bitch has a reason for everything, though she might not remember it,” Al said as he tugged his sleeves over his lace cuffs.  Glancing at the arranged spelling supplies, he hesitated.  “Go ahead and fill the bowl.  Make sure the water covers the name.”  He looked at the image of an angry, screaming face scribed into his black marble floor.  It was his version of a door in the door-less room.  “Gordian Nathanial Pierce!”
            I pushed back from the table as the witch popped into the kitchen atop the grotesque face, a dishtowel over his shoulder and his sleeves rolled up.  “I’d be of a mind to know what the almighty hurry is,” the man from the early 1800s said as he tossed his hair from his eyes and unrolled his sleeves.  “I swan, the moment I start something, you get in a pucker over nothing.”
            “Shut up, runt,” Al muttered, knowing to backhand him would start a contest that would end with Pierce unconscious and a big mess to clean up.  It was easier to ignore him.  Al had snared the clever witch within the hour of his first escape, the demon taking great pains to keep us apart during my weekly lessons until Al realized I was ticked with Pierce for having willingly gone into partnership with Al.  Partnership?  Hell, call it what it was.  Slavery.
            Oh, I was still impressed with Pierce’s magic that far outstripped mine.  His quick one-liners in his odd accent aimed at Al when the demon wasn’t listening still made me smirk.  And I wasn’t looking at his long wavy hair, or his lanky build, much less his tight ass.  Damn it.  But somewhere shortly after seeing him naked under Carew Tower’s restaurant, I’d lost the teenage crush I’d had on him.  It might have been his insufferable confidence, or that he wouldn’t admit how deep in the crapper he was, or that he was just a little too good at demon magic, but for whatever reason, that devilish smile that had once sparked through me now fell flat.
            “I’m stepping out for a tick,” Al said as he buttoned his coat.  “Merely checking something.  A tidy curse is a well-twisted one!  Pierce, make yourself useful and help her with her Latin while I’m gone.  Her syntax sucks.”
            “Gee, thanks.”  The modern phrases sounded odd with Al’s accent.
            “And don’t let her do anything stupid,” he added as he adjusted his glasses.
            “Hey!” I exclaimed, but my eyes darted to the creepy tapestry whose figures seemed to move when I wasn’t looking.  There were things in Al’s kitchen that it was best not to be alone with, and I appreciated the company.  Even if it was Pierce.
            “As the almighty Al wishes,” Pierce said dryly, earning a raised-eyebrow from Al before he vanished from where he stood, using a ley line to traverse the ever-after to Newt’s rooms.
            In an instant, the lights went out, but before I could move, they flashed back to life, markedly brighter as Pierce took over the light charm.  Alone.  How . . . nice.  I watched him meticulously drape his damp dishtowel to dry on the top of the cushioned bench that circled the central fire pit, and then, jaw clenched, I looked away.  Standing, I moved to keep the slate table between us as Pierce crossed the room with the grace of another time.
            “What is the invocation today?” he asked, and I pointed to it on the table, wanting to look at it again myself but willing to wait.  His hair fell over his eyes as he studied it.
            “Sunt qui discessum animi a corpore putent esse mortem.  Sunt erras,” he said softly, his blue eyes shocking against his dark hair as he looked up.  “You’re working with souls?”
            “Auras,” I corrected him, but his expression was doubtful.  There are people who believe that the departure of the soul from the body is death.  They are wrong, I silently translated, then took it from him to set it with the bottle of aura, bowl, and the name scribed with my blood.  “Hey, if you can’t trust your demon, who can you trust,” I said sarcastically, gathering up the pile of discarded signature attempts and moving them out of the way to the mantle.  But I didn’t trust Al, and I itched to look at the curse again.  Not with Pierce, though.  He’d want to help me with my Latin.
            The tension rose at my continued silence, and Pierce half-sat on the slate table, one long leg draped down.  He was watching me, making me nervous as I filled the inscribed bowl from a pitcher.  It was just plain water, but it smelled faintly of burnt amber.  No wonder I go home with headaches, I thought, grimacing as I overfilled the bowl and water dribbled out.
            “I’ll get that,” Pierce said, jumping from the table and reaching for his dishtowel.
            “Thanks, I’m good,” I snapped, snatching the cloth from him and doing it myself.
            He drew back, looking hurt as he stood before the fire pit.  “I’ll allow I’ve gotten myself in a powerful fix, Rachel, but what have I done to turn you so cold?”
            My motion to clean the slate slowed, and I turned with a sigh.  The truth of it was, I wasn’t sure.  I only knew that the things that had attracted me once now looked childish and inane.  He’d been a ghost, more or less, and had agreed to be Al’s familiar if the demon could give him a body.  Al had shoved his soul into a dead witch before the body even had the chance to skip a heartbeat.  It didn’t help that I’d known the guy Al had put his soul into.  I didn’t think I could take another person’s body to save myself.  But then, I’d never been dead before.
            I looked at Pierce now, seeing the same reckless determination, the same disregard for the future that had gotten me rightfully shunned, and all I knew was I didn’t want anything to do with it.  I took a breath and let it out, not knowing where to start.  But a shiver lifted through me at the memory of his touch, ages ago but still fresh in my mind.  Al was right.  I was an idiot.
            “It’s not going to work, Pierce,” I said flatly, and I turned away.
            My tone had been harsh, and Pierce’s voice lost its sparkle.  “Rachel.  Truly.  What’s wrong?  I took this job to be closer to you.”
            “That’s just it!” I exclaimed, and he blinked, bewildered.  “This is not a job!” I said, waving the cloth.  “It’s slavery.  You belong to him, body and soul.  And you did it intentionally!  We could have found another way to give you a body.  Your own, maybe!  But no.  You just jumped right into a demon pact instead of asking for help!”
            He came around the table, close but not quite touching me.  “I swane, a demon curse is the only way to become living again,” he said, touching his chest.  “I know what I’m doing.  This isn’t forever.  When I can, I’ll kill the demon spawn, and then I’ll be free.”
            “Kill Al?” I breathed, not believing he still thought he could.
            “I’ll be free of him and have a body both.”  He took my hands, and I realized how cold I was.  “Trust me, Rachel.  I know what I’m doing.”
            Oh my God.  He is as bad as I am.  Was.   “You’re crazy!” I exclaimed, pulling out of his grip.  “You think you’re more powerful than you are, with your black magic and whatever!  Al is a demon, and I don’t think you grasp what he can do.   He’s playing with you!”
            Pierce leaned against the table, arms crossed and the light catching the colorful pattern of his vest.  “Do tell? You opine I don’t know what I’m doing?”
            “I opine you don’t!” I mocked, using his own words.  His attitude was infuriating, and I looked at the bowl behind him—the remnant of others who had thought they were smarter than a demon, now just names on a bowl, bottles on a shelf.
            “Fair enough.”  Pierce scratched his chin and stood.  “I expect a body needs proof.”
            I stiffened.  Shit.  Proof?  “Hey, wait a minute,” I said, dropping the rag to the table.  “What are you doing?  Al brought you back, but he can take you out again, too.”
            Pierce impishly put a finger to his nose.  “Mayhap.  But he has to catch me, first.”
            My eyes darted to the band of charmed silver around his wrist.  Pierce could jump ley lines where I couldn’t, but charmed silver cut off his access to them.  He couldn’t leave.
            “What, this?” he said confidently, and my lips parted when he ran his finger around the inside of the silver band, and the metal seemed to stretch, allowing him to slip it off.
            “H-How,” I stammered as he twirled it.  Crap on toast.  I’d be blamed for this.  I knew it!
            “It’s been tampered with so I can move from room to room here.  I tampered with it a little more is all,” Pierce said, sticking the band of silver in his pack pocket, his eyes gleaming.  “I’ve not had a bite of food free of burnt amber in a coon’s age.  I’ll fetch you something to warm your cold heart.”
            I stepped forward, panicking.  “Put that back on!  If Al knows you can escape, he’ll—”
            “Kill me.  Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, hitting the modern phrase perfectly.  His hand dipped into another pocket, and he studied a handful of coins.  “Al will tarry with Newt for at least fifteen minutes.  I’ll be right back.”
            His accent was thinning.  Clearly he could turn it off and on at will—which worried me even more.  What else was he hiding?  “You’re going to get me in trouble!” I said, but with a sly grin, he vanished.  The lights he had been minding went out, and the ring of charmed silver he had stuck in his pocket made a ting as it hit the floor.  My heart thumped in the sudden darkness lit only by the hearth fire and the dull glow of the banked fire pit.  He was gone, and we were both going to be in deep shit if Al found out.
            Heart pounding, I watched the creepy tapestry across the room.  My mouth was dry, and the shadows shifted as the figures on it seemed to move in the firelight.  Son of a bitch! I thought as I went to pick up the ring of charmed silver and tuck the incriminating thing in a pocket.  Al was going to blame me.  He’d think I took the charmed silver off him.
            Edging back to the small hearth fire, I fumbled for the candle on the mantel, pinching the wick and tapping a ley line to work the charm.  “Consimilis calefacio,” I said, voice quavering as a tiny slip of ley-line energy flowed through me, exciting the molecules until the wick burst into flame, but just as I did, the ley-line powered lights flashed high, and I jumped, knocking the lit candle off the sconce.
            “I can explain!” I exclaimed as I fumbled for the candle now rolling down the mantle and into Mr. Fish.  But it was Pierce, tossing his hair from his eyes and two tall grandes in his hands.  “You idiot!” I hissed as the candle hit the scraps of paper, and in a flash, they went up.<
            “Across lots like lightning, mistress witch,” Pierce said, laughing as he extended a coffee.
            God, I wish he’d speak normal English.  Frantic, I brushed the bits of paper off the mantel, stepping on them once they hit the black marble floor.  The stink of burning plastic joined the mess, and I grabbed the bowl of water, dumping it.  Black smoke wisped up, stinging my eyes.  It helped mask the reek of burning shoe, so maybe it wasn’t all bad.
            “You ass!” I shouted.  “Do you realize what would happen if Al came back and found you gone?  Are you that inconsiderate, or just that stupid!  Put this back on!”
            Angry I threw the ring of charmed metal at him.  His hands were full, and he sidestepped it.  With a thunk, it hit the tapestry, and then the floor.  Pierce’s hand extending the coffee drooped, his enthusiasm fading.  “I’d do naught to hurt you, mistress witch.”
            “I am not your mistress witch!”  Ignoring the coffee, I looked at the bits of burned paper in a soggy mess on the floor.  Kneeling, I snatched the rag from the table to sop it up.  I could smell raspberry flavored Italian blend, and my stomach growled.
            “Rachel,” Pierce coaxed.
            Pissed, I wouldn’t look up at him as I wiped the floor.  Standing, I tossed the rag to the table in disgust, then froze.  The aura bottle wasn’t green anymore.
            “Rachel?”
            It was questioning this time, and I held up a hand, tasting the air as my eyes stung.  Shit, I’d burned the name and gotten the charged water all over me.  “I think I’m in trouble,” I whispered, then jerked, feeling as if my skin was on fire.  Yelping, I slapped at my clothes.  Panic rose as an alien aura slipped through mine, soaking in to find my soul—and squeezing.
            Oh, shit.  Oh shit.  Oh shit.  I’d invoked the curse.  I was in so-o-o-o much trouble.  But this didn’t feel right; the curse burned!  Demons were wimps.  They always made their magic painless unless you did it wrong.  Oh God.  I’d done it wrong!
            “Rachel?”  Pierce touched my shoulder.  I met his eyes, and then I doubled over, gasping.
            “Rachel!” he cried, but I was trying to breathe.  It was the dead person, the one whose name I’d scribed in my own blood.  It hadn’t been his aura in the bottle, but his soul.  And now his soul wanted a new body.  Mine.  Son of a bitch, Al had lied to me.  I knew I should have trusted my gut and questioned him.  He said it was an aura, but it was a soul, and the soul in the bottle was pissed!
            Mine, echoed in our joined thoughts.  Gritting my teeth, I bent double and tapped a ley line.  Newt had once tried to possess me, and I burnt her out with a rush of energy.  I gasped when a scintillating stream of it poured in with the taste of burning tinfoil, but the presence in me chortled, welcoming the flood.  Mine! the soul insisted in delight, and I felt my link to the line sever.  I stumbled, falling to kneel on the cold marble.  It had taken control, cutting me out!
            No! I thought, scrambling for the line in my mind only to find nothing to grasp.  My chest hurt when my heart started to beat to a new, faster rhythm.  What in hell was this thing!  What sort of mind could make a soul this determined?  I couldn’t . . . stop it!
            “Rachel!”
            Eyes tearing, I blinked at Pierce, struggling to focus.  “Get.  It.  Out of me!”

[ . . . .]

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  Revised: 07/01/2015       Copyright © 2009 by Kim Harrison.  All rights reserved.