When you write a novel, you are mentally living in the world of your story from beginning to end. Make it a dark fantasy, and you’re living in a hybrid universe with sometimes bizarro events that cast long shadows over your big-arcing plot and, trust me, when you get out of your chair after a writing session, you can feel disoriented. But the weirdness is mitigated by what you know is the end result. Amid the jagged, upward progression of plot points are big reveals and emotional summits and canyons—in other words, a gripping rollercoaster ride. Hell, yeah.
When I conceived Demonesse: Avarus, I knew I wanted readers to be right there in the action with Maia Kelly as she learns who she is—who she was always meant to be—but the point of view for the story wasn’t really a conscious choice. I looked up from my keyboard one day and realized the story was writing itself in first-person present tense. I decided not to fight something so organic. Now my readers get to live Maia’s life with her, connecting in-depth as her life unfolds in sometimes fantastical and catastrophic ways before her.
See, empath Maia Kelly is the virtuous Catholic daughter of an excommunicated nun, for starters. After months of erotic fantasies, Maia awakens into her shocking new life as a seductive killer powerless to resist the moon’s calling, and no one she loves will ever be safe again. With her pious island existence shattered, she must choose between the demon who made her or going it alone in a supernatural sphere of unseen dangers she can scarcely comprehend. Either way, her nightmare has only just begun, and you get to be there when the black hole pulls her in.
In the rain, Liam and I dash through the soggy fields behind St. Helens neighborhoods to Nigel Wickersham’s neglected farm. Fifteen months after the barrister’s death, burgeoning weeds have strangled a once-robust garlic crop and commandeered the five-hundred-year-old family graveyard. Hand in hand, we trudge between disintegrating headstones, up to our knees in wet, brittle sticks and thorns, until we reach the copses of rowans my ancestors planted to guard the dead against malevolent spirits and black magic. Clusters of crimson berries make them deceptively inviting. It was the Rowan tree on which the devil hanged his mother.
If you believe that sort of thing.
Again, the bitter chill of foreboding settles inside my chest. Lightning illuminates the dense fog descending upon us as we hurry toward Wickersham’s abandoned barn. We’ve almost reached it when a wand-like rowan branch scrapes the back of Liam’s hand—the hand clasping mine. He flinches from the sting, as I do vicariously through him, and he lets go to examine the raised, oozing wound. His reflexive gasp and the alarm in his eyes as he glances sidelong in my direction reveal that his long-held superstition about witches remains intact.
But he wipes the fresh blood on his pants and reclaims my hand. The twitch of his jaw, the flare of his nostrils, and an intrepid gleam in his eyes tell me more than any flashing inside his heart. He is too motivated by the girl at his side to let worry of the supernatural get in his way.
He pushes open the barn door, and we hurry inside. The air heaves with the smell of damp hay, and the tin roof above shivers and moans noisily in protest of the downpour. Liam lunges for the lantern that hangs from a rusty nail in a splintering support beam.
As I squint through the darkness at our musty retreat, I hear the scratch of a match, the whir of the lamp, and the clunky repositioning of the glass chimney. Incandescent light and the oily stench of stale paraffin wash over me, and our shadows shudder eerily across gray wallboards, shrunken and warped from unforgiving gales off the Channel.
Liam removes his newsboy cap, shakes the rainwater from it, and tosses it into the shadows. He sweeps up hay with one hand and sifts it between his fingers until he finds just the right straw and places it between his lips. Then he hikes his leg over a sawhorse and gets comfortable, beaming at me.
“Welcome to my castle,” he announces, arms indicating the vast emptiness of the barn.
Rain drips on my head and pools on the dirty cement floor. “You call this shelter?”
“You’re standing under the holes, lass. Move to the left and you’ll dry quite nicely, I should think.”
For the first time since I’d found myself in the garden staring at him across the fence, the prescience gathering in my spine will not be dismissed. The air particles flutter around me, tap-dancing on my shoulders, causing me to shiver.
“Do you think this place is safe?” I say.
“Safe for what?”
I follow Liam’s gaze across my white blouse. It is soaked, as is my undershirt, and reveals the chilled nipples beneath. I cover them quickly, warming them with my palms.
Liam’s eyes never waver.
I like that.
His admiration stirs a dire yearning inside me that I can’t quite explain. Only in dreams have I acknowledged such desire. Only in my fantasies have I invited a mindless abandon and allowed it to overtake me. But it has never swallowed me whole. I have always woken up just before, terrified and trembling to think what might happen if my body went that little bit further. Would I be changed forever?
I want to find out. What is it like to be swallowed whole? To lose yourself to sensations? To feel instead of think? To welcome submission with every breath instead of fearing the loss of control?
Sex is the one thing my moral compass—and my reverent Mum—reminds me I ought not do; and as if to spurn every pure thought ever instilled in me, I imagine how lovely Liam’s fingers would feel on my bare skin.
I gingerly remove my hands, daring myself to stay still and let him look, until my burning self-consciousness settles in my cheeks, clenches my stomach, and shallows my breathing. A storm is brewing, inside as it is outside, and I weigh running outside into the tempest, or staying right here in the eye of this one.
It is a dare I’m not yet ready to accept, so I turn and wander about while Liam palpates my backside with a hungry gaze. I feel him there, lingering.
“Aye, but you are fine, Maia Kelly,” he says. “Like a graceful rose in a field of scrappy violets. I confess, you had me spellbound from the first.”
I glance over my shoulder at a crooked smile as captivating as it is unnerving. “Liam McGill, the beatnik poet.”
“I’ve written of you many times. When I first saw you, crouched in your garden, you were gathering ripe tomatoes in your skirt and humming. An old Beatles tune I think.”
The apex between my legs tingles and I try to ignore it. “So, you’re a poet and a Peeping Tom?”
I second-guess whether I’d meant to say that. My tongue feels thick and my brain off-kilter, like when I’d first woken up from my nap.
Liam scoffs and smooths the hair from his forehead. “I hid in the barn, but I’m no Peeping Tom. I’ve just been too much of a coward to talk to you. Till now. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because—I don’t know—you accept me?” He disembarks the sawhorse and moves toward me. “You’re chilled. Can I warm you?”
Thunder booms outside and sea winds whistle through cracks between the wall planks, whipping Liam’s scent across my nose. Raw, male, magnetic. My breasts swell and tighten, nipples straining against wet fabric, and my womb feels like it’s vibrating. My breath hitches. My skin is a rippling, prickling cascade of goosebumps. And a wildfire sparks deep inside me—in my sex—as surely as if Liam has torched me with boiling paraffin.
Liam’s breaths escape his lungs in an evanescent fog, but no silvery streams escape me. My body is not acknowledging the cold, yet I quiver with the feeling that a thousand ants march across me. From the inside. As if I am vibrating with the intensity of an electrified fence. I am so preoccupied by my body’s internal machinations, the simple act of sending a thought to my mouth is a physical struggle.
I try to make the sign of the cross to assure God of my intent to be Mum’s good girl, but my hands refuse to cooperate. I can only pray silently.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Help me exorcise these maddening cravings. Help me look beyond this farm boy’s alluring eyes, his irresistible aroma, and the bulging curve in his trousers.
I’ll bet his lips are soft and wet, and decadent as warm caramel.
I would like a taste.
Kimberly Jayne is the author of the sexy dark fantasy series Demonesse: Avarus and the hilarious romantic comedy Take My Husband, Please! See more about her and her books at readkimberly.com. You can also catch up with her on Facebook at facebook.com/readkimberlyjayne/.