Much Of Madness
S. E. Summa
Seraphina Pearce doesn’t know what’s more frustrating: her magic’s affinity for death, her best friend’s transformation into an albino Sin Eater, or that simply touching a guy she loves means someone’s headed to the morgue.
After a sin-eating job goes awry, she casts a risky spell and butts heads with a handsome stranger in order to win an infamous grimoire.
Marceau L’Argent is the last person she should confide in because the occult cat burglar has a mysterious past, and he’s made it no secret he also wants the grimoire. He recognizes her dark magic and offers his unique help as a rare curse breaker. If all that weren’t enough, Marceau causes butterflies in her stomach—a feeling she’d long thought dead.
Seraphina was only trying to break her curse—not piss off Death himself.
Marceau smiled as his finger caressed the cursed hourglass. It looked like nothing more than a novelty Halloween decoration with two skeletal hands and yellowed, fraying rope to hold the glass bulbs in place. But he wasn’t fooled. Max wouldn’t have sent them to steal the rustic timepiece unless it was priceless.
Breaking into Thibodeaux’s stately Garden District mansion had been the easy part, despite the modern security system. Vespa was taking care of the final guards while Marceau took the greater risk.
This particular hex was a tricky one, and flickers of fiery crimson upon its cords warned Marceau a wrong move could be fatal. He knew one this complex must have cost Thibodeaux a pretty penny.
The voodoo priestess was crafty when she’d woven the hex into the threads of time itself. The very nature of the hourglass allowed for an unusual bond. Now, that he had identified the source of the curse’s strength, it was only a matter of time before he discovered its weakness. Then he could begin his favorite part, unwinding her careful construction.
Thud! The distinctive sound of a body hitting the floor preceded the creaking of the study door behind him. High heels clicked against the hardwood floor.
Marceau exhaled, then said, “I cannot concentrate with all the racket you’re making, Vespa. Find another guard to play with or better yet, sit down and be quiet.”
Vespa wore her usual black working attire, a tight black cat suit and a thigh-high pair of leather stiletto boots that fit like a second skin.
“I’m fresh out of guards, lover. I bought some time, but you’d better break this one fast. The next scanning spell is due in less than five minutes.”
Lover indeed. The thought made his flesh crawl.
Smudged lipstick framed her dangerous mouth. How many souls had she fed on tonight? Her forked tongue slid along her lower lip. Marceau often lost sleep after Vespa glutted herself during one of their jobs as if he then bore some responsibility for the twisted fate of her victims. Maximilian, his benefactor, and her boss, prized her little gift and used her macabre ability to his advantage.
Marceau said, “All the more reason for you to stop rubbing my arm. Go sit down.”
Vespa sauntered to a chair facing him, sat, and kicked, sending expensive tchotchkes clattering to the floor before propping her boots on a table.
“Oops. You think it was a real Fabergé egg?”
Marceau gave her a look. “You call that quiet?”
Vespa raised a shoulder.
“I’ll just enjoy the view, then,” she purred, looking him up and down. “Oh, do stop rolling those baby blues of yours. What type of curse have we tonight?”
Marceau placed his hands back against the grim hourglass. His eyes closed in concentration as he searched through the hex’s vibrations for a weakness.
“The hex is woven to kill anyone, besides Thibodeaux, who removes the hourglass from the curio with selfish intent.” Marceau froze as he felt a loose thread, a tiny opening into the inner workings of the curse. “Ah, here it is.”
“This part can’t be rushed, Vespa. I’m close.”
Marceau tilted his head and pushed more power into his palms.
“Got it! There’s a loophole. You can remove the particular item for a very short time as long as your intention is not to use it.”
Marceau lifted his hands from the hourglass and scanned the room. Not seeing what he needed, he turned to Vespa. “Where’s the nearest bedroom?”
Vespa’s eyes lit up. “Really, lover? I thought you’d never ask, but we are almost down to three minutes.” One eyebrow rose as her eyes trailed lower. “Better make them count.”
Working with her could be a real pain in the ass.
“Vespa. Focus. I need an item to replace the hourglass in the cabinet. Where is the nearest bedroom?”
“Just when things were getting interesting.” She slumped back in her chair. “Second door on the left. The guard in there won’t be a bother.”
Marceau rushed to the bedroom. The sentry would certainly not be a bother. His corpse lay on the floor. What remained of his flesh was little more than a dry husk covering bones. Marceau stepped over the skeleton, grabbed what he needed from the bedside table, and refused to look at the withered remains on his way out.
Back in the office, Marceau raised his hand to grab the hourglass… and hesitated.
“Two minutes until the next security spell, lover. Do pull the trigger and get us out of here,” Vespa urged.
Marceau took a deep breath. A miscalculation would be more than unpleasant because the priestess was renowned throughout the French Quarter for her savagery.
Grabbing the hourglass, he lifted it a few inches off the shelf. Power from the curse surged up his arm, contracting muscles and sending electric pulses into his chest in warning. Yet he did not release the precious item as the hex demanded; instead, Marceau removed it from the curio and willed the priestess’ hex to take hold. He fought his reflex to drop it and repeated, “I will put you back in the curio. I will put you back…”
About the Author
S.E. Summa lives in Tennessee with her husband and a menagerie of spoiled pets. After her daughter left the nest, she rediscovered her love for writing. Growing up in Nashville, she always felt the city’s unique culture and landmarks would be the perfect setting for monsters to play.
A PRO member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Shantele serves as the Volunteer and Membership Coordinator for her local chapter, the Music City Romance Writers (MCRW). She graduated magna cum laude with a BBA from Belmont University.
S. E. started The Debut Collective, a supportive online tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors. The Debut Collective is publishing a series of five anthologies in June 2016.
MORE OF SIN, The Conexus Chronicles, Book #2 – TBD
Four short stories for following The Debut Collective anthologies releasing in June 2016: Act of Bravery, Underdog, Insurrection/Hostile Takeover, and Secret Identity
*The Underdog & Secret Identity stories are tie-ins for The Conexus Chronicles and will feature characters from Much of Madness.