Sinner’s Heart


The Hellraisers:
Book 3
From Zebra Books
ISBN-13: 978-1420122299

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DEMONS OF THE PAST

Abraham Stirling, Lord Rothwell, was a fighter once, a soldier in the Colonies. But Bram returned to London with more nightmares than tales of glory. Now he drowns his senses in the arms of countless women, while his friends, the Hellraisers, ensure he needn’t sin alone.

Until, that is, the Devil himself grants them each a wish, undoing their camaraderie as they explore their wicked powers. Bram finds himself magically bound to Valeria Livia Corva, the sensuous priestess who raised the Devil the first time—and died to send the demon back.

She may be a ghost, but Livia is no angel. The raw passion she witnesses in Bram’s memories isn’t much different from her behavior when she had a body to enjoy. But it doesn’t make it any easier to convince Bram to become a warrior again, lest all London burn. And the fierce desires reawakening within her might just start the blaze…

“Four stars! Sexy, stylish, intelligent fiction at its best.” — RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

“Zoë Archer writes breathtaking stories that I doubt I will ever forget. Spectacular!” — Night Owl Reviews

 

After taking another deep drink, Bram paced back to the cabinet.  His hand closed around the handle of a tomahawk.  Holding it up, he studied its brutal, efficient lines.  A memento he’d taken from the bastard who had cut his throat.  Bram had torn it from the Algonquin’s grasp and buried its blade in the Indian’s skull.  The weapon was his now.

He hefted the tomahawk and turned his attention to the thick logs leaning upright against the wall.  Strange decoration for a room that still had gilt paneling and crystal chandeliers, but he’d insisted, and no one dared gainsay him.

Restless energy still tightened his muscles, so strode to the logs.  Raised up the tomahawk.  Then brought it down, hacking into the wood.  Over and over, using the tomahawk like the vicious weapon it was.  He chopped away at the fury and despair within him, not stopping even when sweat slicked his body and his arm ached.

His own face stared back at him from the log.  He redoubled his efforts—hacking himself down, the tomahawk’s blade sinking into his flesh as he destroyed himself.

“Bastard,” he snarled.  “Deceiver.  Betrayer.  Villain.”

He lifted his arm, preparing to strike again.  Then froze.

Hovering between him and the log was the ghost.

“I made myself abundantly clear,” he said through clenched teeth.  “Hie yourself off to Tartarus, or wherever you dead Romans go.”

The ghost glared at him.  “I don’t take commands.  Certainly not from you.”

He swung the tomahawk.  She actually flinched as the blade passed through her torso and into the log.

After giving her a cold, contemptuous stare, he stalked away, leaving the tomahawk lodged in the wood.  He took another drink as he strode into the corridor.  The brandy was doing nothing.

The specter hovered in front of him, her expression murderous.

“Would’ve thought an axe to the chest sent a clear enough message.”  He narrowed his gaze.  “Get out of my house.  Leave me.”

“There are many other places I’d rather be.  Many other men with whom I’d rather keep company.”

“Then go to them, and with my blessing.  Spread your ghostly thighs for as many bucks as you like.”

Her mouth flattened.  She seemed unaccustomed to having anyone tell her what to do.  In her life, she must have been a woman of status.  He’d seen the same upright posture in aristocratic women, the elegant hauteur that came from generations of selective marriage.  Yet this ghost held more confidence in the set of her shoulders than any living female, a confidence born from innate power.

He frowned as desire flared through him.  He couldn’t desire a ghost, and certainly not this ghost.

Needing away from her, he walked on, until he found himself in the library.

Neither the fire nor the candles were lit.  The only source of illumination came from the sickle of a moon throwing weak gray light upon the patterned rug and calf leather-bound books.  Their impassive spines offered no comfort—but he’d never turned to books for solace.

As he stared at the shelves, the ghost took shape beside a heavy cabinet.  She threw off her own light, a pearlescent gleam that softly touched the wooden carvings in a way that was almost beautiful.

He took another drink.  “How impossibly dull you are.”

Lifting her chin, she was haughty as an empress.  “I’m not here by choice.”  She eyed him, her gaze lingering on his partially-unlaced shirt, and how the fabric clung to his damp skin.  Alive or dead, he understood women.  And he was not mistaken in the flare of carnal interest in her eyes.

Objectively, he recognized that she was wondrous to look upon, possessing a regal, dark beauty, even in this non-corporeal state.  In the bold angles of her face, her full mouth and proud nose, there could be no mistaking her Roman origin. Knowledge and experience shone in her eyes, far more than possessed by even the mostly worldly English lady.  Her thick dark hair was piled in artful arrangement and held back with a fillet.  The pinned, draped tunic she wore revealed a lushly curved body.  He was a man who knew the feel of many women’s bodies, yet hers he would savor.  Were she mortal.

But she was not mortal.  He wanted no dealings with her.  “You’re dead.  You have choice in abundance.”

“Not in this I don’t,” she snapped.  “Dragged around like a mule, tethered to an even bigger ass.  A dissolute second son.”  She threw a dismissive glance toward the books.  “Nothing has changed in here, not in decades.  It’s derelict.”

He wheeled away, then strode up the stairs, until he found himself in the master’s bedchamber.  His room.  In deference to current fashion, the walls were covered in silver paper imported from France, and silver tasseled silk hung from the canopy of the large bed.

A gentleman’s chamber, in which he had conducted himself in a most ungentlemanly manner.  The servants knew better than to make remarks or even acknowledge the behavior of their master.

Restless, angry, he walked the length of the chamber.  The clock on the mantel showed the time, so distressingly early he felt almost embarrassed.  He could not recall the last time he was in this room, alone, at this hour.

Something gleamed beside the fireplace.  A glowing shape that took the form of a woman.

Her.

“Hecate curse it.”  She said something else, something that might have been Latin, but he’d retained nothing of his brief Classical education.  He could infer her meaning, though.

“Most women are pleased to find themselves in this chamber,” he felt compelled to say.

She eyed him, unamused.  “I am not most women.  And none of your trollops ever found themselves in my plight.”

The firelight shone through her as she drifted closer.  He saw the set of her mouth.  Nights at the gaming hells with Whit had taught Bram something of how to read a face.  This ghost held a bad hand of cards.

“You and I,” she said, “we are now bound together.”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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