"Phoenix makes a splash into the world of the wolves with this sensational hoodoo story!"
Reviewed by Heather Lobdell
Posted February 19, 2012
CAUGHT FOREVER BETWEEN is a short story set in the world of
Phoenix's Hoodoo world. What I really loved was getting a
story about Devlin Daniels and Gabrielle LaRue, both of
which play roles in Phoenix's Hoodoo series. However, this
was like an inside story for readers that gave me a
completely different view of both of these stunning
characters. Neither of the main characters from the Hoodoo
series is involved in this story which was a surprise for
me. I felt that CAUGHT FOREVER BETWEEN provided a connection
to Devlin and Gabrielle that I never had before reading the
series. For those of you who have not read this series,
never fear CAUGHT FOREVER BETWEEN can be read as a
The series itself is set in the bayou of Louisiana, in the
world of Hoodoo, mumbo, loas, and all magics in between.
However, the storyline in this one is vastly different from
what I was expecting. Cassandra, the main character, is a
deeply complex character. For one she is an intuitive, which
means that she can see into the heart of people and know who
or more importantly what they really are. The story opens
shortly after her partner gets shot and Cass has vowed for
justice. In the world of the Hoodoo one should always be
careful for what one wishes for. When Cass takes the help of
a powerful Voodoo mambo, Gabrielle LaRue
and her somewhat human godson, Devlin Daniels, she finds out
that things are not always what they seem. Life as Cass
knows it is about to change forever.
Normally I am not a fan of short stories, but this one was a
complex work of art. I love Phoenix's characters every time
and even in a short story she did not disappoint me.
The characters came to life and one right after another
captured my interest and my imagination. Devlin was the one
character that I felt stood out more than the others simply
because he had captured my interest during the series and I
always hoped to see more of him. I must say that my vision
of werewolves will forever be altered to the image of this
dark, shifting, and powerful man. Caught Forever Between is
an action packed, sit on the edge of your seat kind of hot
that has you feeling like you never know what is going to
hit you next! Phoenix's imagery and complexity have created
a story within a story that leaves me hoping that she comes
back to give us a little bit more.
Deep in the bayou, justice comes in many forms.
When Cass finds her partner lying on the floor of their New
Orleans tattoo shop in a pool of blood, the world as she
knows it ends. Alex, her ink-slinging Michelangelo, lies in
the hospital comatose, perhaps permanently. Lacking faith in
the police and their ability to find whoever shot Alex, Cass
puts the word out that she's seeking justice, justice she
will willingly pay for.
When a Voodoo mambo offers the services of her mysterious
godson, Cass finds herself stepping into a dark, deadly
world, one that she may not walk out of again intact.
This is a short story set in the world of my Hoodoo novels,
Black Dust Mambo and Black Heat Loa, and features Gabrielle
LaRue and Devlin Daniels from those books. It is not
necessary to read the novels in order to enjoy the story.
Tearing down the yellow crime-scene tape, Cass keyed
open the door to INNER EYE TATTOO and stepped inside.
Closing the door, she glanced around the shattered shop she
and Alex shared.
Broken glass from the windows glittered like mica on the
stone-tiled floor and on the sofa; night-glo inks, their
pungent odor lingering still in the humid air, smeared the
walls, ceiling, and floor in neon-bright Rorschach designs.
Almost everything had been bashed or ripped apart —
the computer, the phone, Alex's patterns and sketches and,
behind her . . .
Cass turned, glass crunching beneath her Doc Martens,
and looked past the remains of the sterilizer and the tat
gun scattered on the bloodstained floor.
Alex's blood. Clotted and dried into eerie designs that
rivaled some of his best work —
Throat tight, Cass looked away. Whoever had done this
had hated Alex, hated him in secret until it had finally
burst free, spattering the shop with a bitterness so thick
she could feel it still; smell it bile-rank beneath the
spicy-sweet odors of boiled shrimp and cayenne, magnolias
and chicory coffee drifting in through the broken windows.
A week since That Night and Alex remained in a coma at
Charity Hospital — would her Michelangelo dream
forever? Never again open his eyes? — and nothing had
Just like nothing had been done when her mother was
murdered fifteen years ago in Boise.
Switching on the fan, Cass sank down onto the client
lounger. She sighed in relief as the fan's breeze dried the
sweat on her face and throat. The warm rush of air
plastered her black mesh tank top against her perspiration-
dampened skin and fluttered the hem of her red plaid skirt.
From outside, jazz and faint laughter from Dumaine Street
floated in to mingle with the fan's determined hum.
Another sultry N'awlins night. Her seventh night in
hell. And counting — until Alex opened his eyes again.
If, a traitorous part of her whispered, repeating the
doctor's words. If. And even then, he could remain in a
vegetative state, blue eyes open, but empty. Forever.
Cass pulled her feet up onto the lounger and wrapped her
arms around her fishnet-clad legs. She shut her eyes and
rested her chin against her knees. She felt like a little
kid again, no longer eighteen, longing for the comfort of
In the darkness behind Cass's eyes, an image of her
mother formed — the only one she had — bending
over Cass's bed, long red hair shadowing her face, but
something glittered — fairy sparkles? magic dust?
tears? — on her mother's cheeks as she reached for
Cass and shushed her, saying in her husky voice that
everything was all right.
Cass often wondered what had brought her mother in to
comfort her — a nightmare? fever? simple love? She'd
asked Helena once. Her sister had stared at her, dark eyes
shadowed by long red curls, looking so eerily like their
mother in that moment that Cass's heart had started
pounding hard and, for a split second, she'd been terrified
of what Helena might say. In the end, though, Helena had
shaken her head, and said, her voice low and taut, "Geez,
Cass, I don't know. I was on my own then."
Cass half believed that Helena still wished she was on
her own, not saddled with a kid sister. Helena had followed
the free trade South, teaching Cass the Art along the way
and with the years. They'd always had to hide since Helena
refused to go legit, refused to join the Tattoo Artists
Union, refused to be anyone's apprentice. Preferred to be
an ink-slinging outlaw.
They'd settled in New Orleans when Cass was thirteen.
That was the year they'd discovered that Cass was an
Intuitive — an artist who could see into and
symbolize the inner person.
Helena had abruptly stopped teaching her, insisting she
wasn't qualified. Helena had found someone who could,
though — Alexander "Michelangelo" Paris —
another Intuitive and an apprentice to a legitimate ink-
slinger. Over the next five years, between his regular
duties, Alex had guided and taught Cass.
And when, six months ago, Alex had opened his own shop,
and Cass'd left Helena to be his apprentice, she'd seen
darkness brewing in her sister's eyes and, beneath her
cigarette-and-vanilla scent, Cass'd smelled something
Like she did now.
The cops were dicking around, and the Union pretended to
make an effort, but nothing was being done to find Alex's
shooter. So Cass'd sent word that she sought justice
through the streets, bars, and botanicas of the French
Quarter, and even into the Projects. Sought justice and
would pay for it.
Her mother's murder had never been solved, but that
wasn't going to happen with Alex.
Tinkling bells, followed by the swoosh of the front door
swinging shut, roused Cass. Her eyes flew open, and she
jumped up from the lounger, heart thudding.
The woman standing just inside the door appeared to be
in her late fifties or early sixties. She wore a simple,
flowered sundress and sandals. A red scarf hugged the gray-
streaked black curls framing her face. Gold hooped through
her earlobes and encircled her wrists, bright as sunshine
on her cypress-brown skin. Her gaze met Cass's. Cass's skin
prickled. Power radiated from the woman, dark and bayou-
"Be you M'selle Danger?" the woman asked.
Cass nodded and smoothed down her skirt. "Actually, it's
Danzinger, but I work under the name Cassandra
Danger . . . ma'am."
"I be Gabrielle LaRue."
"Ma'am. I wasn't expecting an answer so . . . soon,"
Cass said, more than aware of the shattered glass, ink, and
blood on the floor. "I thought maybe . . . well . . .
that I'd have to . . . " What? she wondered, her fingers
pleating her skirt. Undergo some midnight ritual, give a
secret handshake, slaughter a chicken?
"I don't have time for that kind of nonsense," the mambo
snorted, as though Cass had spoken aloud. "How can I help
"Cass, if you please, ma'am," she said, forcing her
fingers away from her skirt. Pondering how to answer the
mambo's question, Cass glanced into her eyes. Their hazel
depths tugged at her like quicksand, and the harder she
struggled, the deeper she sank. Gabrielle's scent —
dark earth, water, and incense — whirled into her,
The mambo clasped Cass's hand; cool fingers latched
around her wrist. "What is it you need?"
Cass shook her head and forced her gaze down to their
linked hands. Summer dusk and pale winter noon, their
hands. She felt the sudden urge to draw. She shook her head
again, trying to focus.
"My Michelangelo. . . . " Cass said, then lapsed into
silence. There were no words for what she needed to say.
Still holding the mambo's cool hand, she turned. She looked
at the dried blood pooled on the floor, the designs
streaking across stone tiles and spattering one wall. "My
Michelangelo," she whispered.
The woman beside her drew in a breath. "Ah," she said,
squeezing Cass's hand, then releasing it. "The blood's been
spilled, child. You can't put it back. Name the thing you
"I want Alex to open his eyes," Cass said, her gaze
still on the floor. "And justice. I want justice." She
glanced at the mambo.
A wry smile curved Gabrielle's lips. "So," she
murmured. "Justice." She shook her head. The mambo stepped
gingerly to the counter, glass and other broken things
gritting beneath her sandals. She traced a design on the
counter with a long-nailed finger.
"I wonder if you know what that truly means or what
shape it can take," Gabrielle said. Her finger stopped
moving. She turned to face Cass. "Or how cold and brutal
justice can be."
"Colder than a bullet to the head?" Cass asked, throat
tight. She strode over to the wall. With a trembling hand,
she tore down one of the tacked-up patterns. Whirling, she
held the blood-spattered paper up for the mambo to
see. "More brutal than that?" She shook the pattern. "If
so, then it's justice I want."
Lips compressed, Gabrielle stepped forward and gently
tugged the pattern from Cass's fingers. She looked at it
for a long moment, then folded and tucked it into a pocket
in her sundress. She sighed. A deep line creased the skin
between her eyebrows. She held Cass's gaze, and Cass
thought she saw something submerged like a 'gator in those
"It won't change a thing. You understand?" the mambo
said. "The bullet still fired . . . the blood still
spilled. And your Michelangelo, his eyes still closed."
Cass dropped her gaze. Outside, summer thunder rumbled
across the sky. She remembered Alex sprawled on the stone
floor, his head pillowed on her lap; remembered her hand
pressed against the wound, his blood hot against her
Her hands curled into fists. "Maybe so. But it'll even
things out," she said, voice strained. "Blood for blood."
"Nothing ever evens out spilled blood, child," Gabrielle
said, weariness edging her voice. "But . . . so be it.
Come to the bayou tomorrow night, after sunset. Bring your
tattoo gun and your inks. Tell mon filleul — my
godson — what it is you want. If he lets you set your
gun to work on his skin, then all you'll need do is give
him a name."
Glass crunched under the mambo's sandals as she walked
to the front door. She opened it, tinkling the bell.
Glancing over her shoulder, she said, "Then you will get
your justice, child." Neon light from the street flickered
across the dark planes of her face, creating a mask of ever-
shifting colors. "As cold and brutal as you could ever
"Wait," Cass called as the mambo started out the
door. "I don't know how to find you. I need directions."
Gabrielle nodded toward the counter. "You already
got 'em." Then she was gone.
Cass looked down at the counter. There, glowing on the
polished wood surface, was a map — drawn by the mambo
as she'd talked to Cass. She stared at it, heart pounding,
sweat trickling between her breasts and along her ribs.
Thunder rumbled and drumrolled. Heat lightning flashed
white across the horizon.
Going to the back room, Cass filled a bucket with hot
water and cleanser. She caught a glimpse of herself in the
mirror above the sink — long auburn hair streaked
with purple to match her dark violet eyes; eyes blue-
smudged from lack of sleep instead of outlined with the
usual black kohl; pale face, rose-tinted lips — a
ghost startled by her own unexpected reflection.
Struggling for air, Cass looked down. Her fingers
clutched the cold porcelain edge of the sink. Head bowed,
face shielded by her hair, she refused to look up again.
Didn't want to see Alex fading from her eyes.
Cass pushed away from the sink and gave the mirror her
back. After tying up her sweat-dampened hair, she fetched a
broom, dustpan, and a roll of trash bags. She had a night's
hard work ahead of her.
Fixing her gaze once again on the dried blood, Cass
memorized every streak and spatter, needling its design
like a tattoo onto her heart. "Whoever Madame LaRue's
godson is," she whispered, "he'll never be cold enough or
brutal enough for me."
An evening breeze blew in from the street, bringing the
smell of distant rain and the river's odor of fish, mud,
and decay. As Cass set to sweeping, an image gleaned from
Helena's heart right after Alex's shooting burned in her
mind: a tiger rearing up on muscular hind legs, claws
slashing, fangs bared in a snarl, guarding a sleeping cub
behind it. A figure — just a black silhouette, really
— went down beneath those claws. But Cass recognized
her Michelangelo bleeding on the floor.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cass stopped and switched off her scooter when she
reached the end of the dirt trail. Lifting her shades, she
glanced at the map she'd copied from the counter. The
scooter's motor clicked as it cooled, blending with the
insect hum and buzz — the only sounds she heard. The
air was thick with the smells of green things and wet tree
roots and sun-heated swamp water.
She wiped sweat from her forehead as she looked up at
the Spanish-moss-draped cypress. Beyond the dark trunks,
the sunset blazed like a forest fire, searing the sky
purple, orange, and red.
Sliding off the seat, Cass stood beside her scooter,
squinting into the sunset-hazed darkness beyond the trees.
She thought she saw a building of some kind ahead —
maybe a swamp shack. Something tickled the back of her bug-
spray-guarded knee, and Cass slapped the spot without
looking, her gaze still locked on the barely discernible
path through the cypress and along the edge of the swamp.
She shrugged her knapsack higher onto her shoulder, its
weight pressing her sweat-damp velvet-and-mesh dress
against her skin. Perspiration trickled between her
shoulder blades, and her heart pounded so hard her body
trembled with each beat. The humidity and heat sucked at
each shallow breath as she drew it in.
Something rustled in the tall grass beside the swamp.
Cass's heart ratcheted up to warp speed. She stared,
frozen, at the heat-yellowed sawgrass. 'Gator! her mind
babbled. But nothing moved. Nothing she could see, anyway.
Drawing in a deep breath, she stepped onto the path.
Dirt crunched beneath her Docs. Dropping her shades back
over her eyes, she walked in between the trees and into the
sun-gilded mosquito-laden darkness. The insect buzz and
chirping, croaking frog song stopped abruptly, abandoning
her to a thick, watchful silence.
With each grass-muffled step she took, Cass became more
certain she was being watched. The hair on the back of her
neck prickled, and her muscles tensed. She kept her gaze
straight ahead and her pace even. She fought the urge to
run, sensing that if she did, whatever was out there would
chase her. And catch her.
After five long minutes, the back of a weatherworn shack
on flood stilts appeared out of the twilight. Cass stopped
several yards short of it. She removed her shades, then
tucked them into a side pocket of the knapsack. A
motorcycle was parked beside the towering oaks behind the
shack — a Harley, Cass judged.
Off to one side was a cistern to catch rainwater, and on
the other side was an outhouse as weathered as the shack.
As Cass walked along the right side, she passed a tree
stump holding an ax. She paused for a moment as unwanted
slasher-film images popped into her mind; then, shaking her
head, she circled around to the front of the shack. A porch
with a dock extended to the swamp and the pirogue tied to
it. A short flight of steps in front led to the porch.
"Hello?" Cass called, her voice loud and uncertain in
the silence. "Madame LaRue?"
A single cricket chirruped, then fell silent.
"Oui, girl," said the mambo's familiar voice. "Over
Breathing a sigh of relief, Cass glanced in the
direction of the mambo's voice. An engine chugged to life,
filling the air with a mechanical hum. On the right side of
the porch, Gabrielle LaRue straightened up from the
generator she'd started. A blue scarf matching the royal
blue dress she wore, covered her curls.
"I be right wit' you," the mambo said. Giving the
generator one last glance, she descended the steps to join
Cass. She looked Cass over from head to toe, then shook her
head. "Ain't you a sight in your red dress, girl? Mmm-mmm."
She shook her head again. "Nothing subtle about you,
Cassandra Danzinger. You might as well be wearing your
Heat rushed to Cass's cheeks, and she was grateful for
the deepening dusk. "No, I . . . that is. . . . " She
lapsed into silence, wondering if Gabrielle was right. Had
she chosen red to symbolize the thing she sought — to
win her cause with the mambo's godson?
Gabrielle glanced past Cass. "Introduce yourself, boy,"
Cass whirled, the knapsack flying off her shoulder and
thudding hard onto the grass-matted ground. In the
lingering shadows cast by the cypress and oak trees, the
mambo's godson stood no more than a handspan away from
"Evenin', m'selle. I be Devlin Daniels," he said, his
voice low, the rhythm of his words Cajun-spiced.
"Uh . . . evening," Cass managed.
She quickly looked him over, her artist's eye noting
details. He appeared to be in his mid- to- late twenties,
taller than Cass's five-two by eight or nine inches, his
body lean, muscular, and broad-shouldered. Tangled black
hair fell just past his shoulders and swept over the left
side of his face, almost hiding the left eye. He was bare-
chested and barefoot, his black jeans torn and weathered
almost gray. A vévé-etched ouanga bag on a leather thong
hung around his neck, and through the blackness of his
hair, she caught a flash of silver. Two sets of scars
— thick and white with age — crisscrossed his
His ash-gray eyes gleamed, capturing and reflecting the
dying sunset behind her. Cass's breath caught in her
throat. Lambent eyes. Hungry and watchful — like
something wild waiting in the brush, all glowing eyes and
"Somethin' wrong?" Devlin asked, leaning closer.
Cass shook her head, not wanting him to come nearer. But
he did anyway, closing the short distance between them. The
hair on the nape of her neck rose and her hands knotted.
Survival instincts insisted she not run.
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