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October ushers in great books with holiday themes!

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You never get a second chance at a first kiss…


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Fake Homecoming. Fake Boyfriend. Real feels.


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She's come to Captivity to go wild…


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A terrific, twisting romantic thriller that will keep you guessing.


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Tis the season … for unexpected love.


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Blessings, Georgia series, where the glow of a small-town Christmas and excitement of a winter love story will warm your heart!


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Secrets are every where

Excerpt of Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur

Purchase


Book One in the Nikki & Michael Series.
Imajinn
March 2001
Featuring: Nikki James; Michael Kelly
236 pages
ISBN: 1893896595
Trade Size
Add to Wish List

Paranormal, Mystery Woman Sleuth, Thriller Psychological

Also by Keri Arthur:

Blackbird Crowned, July 2021
Paperback / e-Book
Magic Misled, February 2021
Paperback / e-Book
Blackbird Broken, October 2020
Paperback / e-Book
Deadly Vows, June 2020
Paperback / e-Book
Blackbird Rising, February 2020
Paperback / e-Book
Wicked Wings, October 2019
Paperback / e-Book
Burn, June 2019
Paperback / e-Book
Demon's Dance, February 2019
e-Book
Cursed, November 2018
e-Book
Hunter Hunted, August 2018
e-Book
Unlit, May 2018
Paperback / e-Book
Hell's Bell, February 2018
e-Book
The Black Tide, December 2017
e-Book
Ashes Reborn, September 2017
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Blood Kissed, May 2017
e-Book
Winter Halo, December 2016
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Flameout, July 2016
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
City of Light, January 2016
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Wicked Embers, July 2015
Paperback / e-Book
Darkness Falls, December 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Penumbra, November 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Generation 18, October 2014
Trade Size / e-Book (reprint)
Memory Zero, September 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Fireborn, July 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Circle of Desire, April 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Circle of Death, March 2014
Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
Circle of Fire, January 2014
Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
Darkness Splintered, November 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Darkness Hunts, November 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Beneath a Darkening Moon, October 2012
Hardcover / e-Book (reprint)
Beneath A Rising Moon, August 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Darkness Devours, June 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Darkness Rising, November 2011
Paperback
Darkness Unbound, October 2011
Paperback / e-Book
Mercy Burns, May 2010
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Bound to Shadows, November 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Deadly Desire, April 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Destiny Kills, November 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, October 2008
Hardcover
Hotter Than Hell, July 2008
Mass Market Paperback
The Darkest Kiss, May 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Embraced By Darkness, August 2007
Mass Market Paperback
Dangerous Games, April 2007
Paperback
Tempting Evil, March 2007
Paperback
Kissing Sin, February 2007
Paperback
Full Moon Rising, January 2007
Paperback (reprint)
Full Moon Rising, February 2006
Hardcover / e-Book
Penumbra, November 2005
Trade Size
Beneath a Darkening Moon, December 2004
Trade Size
Memory Zero, June 2004
Trade Size
Kiss the Night Good-Bye, March 2004
Trade Size
Circle of Desire, July 2003
Trade Size
Beneath a Rising Moon, March 2003
Trade Size
Chasing the Shadows, November 2002
Trade Size
Circle of Death, June 2002
Trade Size
Hearts in Darkness, December 2001
Trade Size
Circle of Fire, August 2001
Trade Size
Dancing with the Devil, March 2001
Trade Size

Excerpt of Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur

Someone followed her.

Someone she couldn’t see or hear through any normal means, but whose presence fairly vibrated across her psychic senses.

Someone whose mission was death.

The wind stirred, running chill fingers across the back of her neck. Nikki shivered and eyed the surrounding shadows uneasily. She’d never been afraid of the dark before--had, in fact, found it something of an ally, especially in the wilder days of her youth. But tonight there was an edge to the silence, a hint of menace in the slowly swirling fog.

People disappeared on nights like this. At least they did here in Lyndhurst.

She returned her gaze to the slender figure just ahead. This was the fourth night in a row Monica Trevgard had come to the park after midnight. So far, it was to do nothing more than sit on a bench for an hour before slowly returning home.

Nikki had no idea why. If the teenager had a reason for coming here, she sure as hell hadn’t found any evidence of it. Her actions to date made very little sense. The only child of one of Lyndhurst’s--and possibly America’s-- richest men, Monica had spent most of her life rebelling against her family and their wealth. And yet, ironically, it was only thanks to her father’s money that she was free to walk the streets tonight. Though nothing had ever been proven, it was a generally conceded fact that John Trevgard had at least one judge and several police officers on his payroll.

Nikki smiled grimly. Trevgard would probably have been better off keeping his hand in his pocket and letting his only child spend some time in jail. Maybe a day or so locked behind uncompromising concrete walls would shock some sense into the girl.

It sure as hell had with her.

Shoving cold hands into the pockets of her old leather jacket, Nikki let her gaze roam across the fog shrouded trees to her left.

He was still there, still following her. The man with darkness in his heart and murder on his mind. Not her murder, not even Monica’s. Someone else’s entirely.

She bit her lip. With two knives strapped to her wrists, and her psychic abilities to fall back on, she was well enough protected. At least under normal circumstances. But the man out there in the darkness was far from normal, and something told her none of her weapons would be good enough if he chose to attack.

Maybe she was as mad as Monica. Four women had already disappeared from this particular area. She should play it safe and go home, let Jake take over the case. A teenager looking for trouble was going to find it, no matter how many people her father hired to follow and protect her.

Only Jake had enough on his plate already, and his night sight wasn’t particularly good, anyway.

The sound of running water broke through the heavy silence. Though the fog half-hid the old fountain from sight, Nikki knew it well enough to describe every chipped detail, from the wickedly grinning cherub at the top to the embracing lovers near the bottom. It was amazing what became interesting when you had nothing else to do but watch a teenager watch the water.

Only Monica didn’t stop at the fountain.

Didn’t even look at it. Instead, she glanced quickly over her shoulder, a casual move that raised the hairs on the back of Nikki’s neck.

Monica knew she was being followed. Tonight, she didn’t just wander. Tonight she was the bait to catch the watcher.

The bitter breeze stirred, seeming to blow right through her soul. Nikki swore softly, and ran a hand through her hair. It was nights like this, when she was caught between common sense and past promises, that she really hated being psychic. Had it not been for the gifts warning that death would claim Monika’s soul if she weren’t protected tonight, Nikki would have run a mile away from here.

But she couldn’ stand the weight of another death on her conscience and had no real choice but to follow.

They neared the far edge of the park. Streetlights glimmered, forlorn wisps of brightness barely visible through the trees and the fog. Nikki’s unease increased. Monica wasn’t heading for the street or the lights, but rather the old mansion on the far edge of the park. The place had a reputation for being haunted, and though she didn’t particularly believe in ghosts, the one night she’d spent there as a kid had sent her running from the place. Ghosts may not exist but evil sure as hell did.

The mansion was steeped in it.

Monica squeezed through a small gap in the fence and cast another quick look over her shoulder. There was no doubt about it--the kid definitely wanted to be followed.

Nikki stopped and watched her walk up the steps to the back door. Common sense told her not to follow. Psychic sense told her danger waited inside. She clenched her fists. She could do this. Had to do this.

She stepped forward, then froze. No sound had disturbed the dark silence. Even the breeze had faded, and the fog sat still and heavy on the ground. Yet something had moved behind her. Something not quite human.

Throat dry, Nikki turned. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a hint of movement; a hand, merging from darkness, reaching out to touch her...

Yelping in fright, she jumped back and lashed out with kinetic energy. Something heavy hit a nearby oak, accompanied by a grunt of pain. She stared at the tree. Despite the sound, there was nothing or nobody at its base.

Something had to be there. It didn’t make any sense-- bodies just didn’t disappear like that. She swallowed and ran trembling fingers through her hair. Disembodied hands couldn’t merge from the darkness, either.

Had it just been her imagination, finally reacting to the overwhelming sensation of being followed? No. Something had been there. Was still there, even if she couldn’t see it.

Not that that made a whole lot of sense. She turned and studied the dark house. Trouble waited inside that place. But so did Monica.

She climbed through the fence and ran across the shadowed yard. Edging up the steps, she slipped a small flashlight from her pocket and shone the light through the open doorway.

The entrance hall was small, laden with dust and cobwebs that shimmered like ice in the beam of light. Faded crimson and gold wallpaper hung in eerie strips from the walls, rustling lightly in the breeze that drifted past her legs. The house really hadn’t changed much in the ten years since she’d last been here.

Motes of dust danced across the light, stirred to life in the wake of Monica’s passing. She directed the beam towards the stairs. Monica appeared to have gone upwards. Up to where the evil lived.

Gripping the flashlight tightly, Nikki walked through the dust towards the stairs. The air smelled of decay and unwashed bodies. Obviously, it was still a haunt for those forced to scratch a living off the streets. It was odd, though, that there was no one here now---no one but Monica and whoever it was she’d come here for.

A floorboard creaked beneath her weight, the sound as loud as thunder in the silence. She winced and hesitated. After several heartbeats, someone moved on the floor above.

It wasn’t Monica. The footfalls were too heavy.

Reaching into her pocket, she turned on her mobile. If things started to go bad, she’d call for help. Trevgard might not like the publicity a call to the cops would raise, but if it meant the difference between life or death--her life or death--he could go to hell.

The staircase loomed out of the shadows. Nikki shone the light upwards. Something growled; a low sound almost lost against the thunder of her heart. She hesitated, staring up into the darkness.

It had sounded like some sort of animal. But what animal made such an odd, rasping noise?

One hand on the banister, the other clutching the flashlight so tightly her knuckles began to ache, she continued on. The growl cut across the silence again.

It was definitely no animal.

She reached the landing and stopped. The odd sounding snarl seemed much closer this time. Sweat trickled down her face. The flashlight flickered slightly, its beam fading, allowing the darkness to close in on her. Nikki swore and gave it a quick shake. The last thing she needed right now was the light to give up the ghost. Being stranded in total darkness was not a prospect she looked forward to.

The light flickered again, then became brighter. She moved on, but kept close to the wall, just in case. At least she could use it as a guide, even if the peeling remains of the wallpaper felt like dead skin against her fingertips.

The hallway ended in a T-intersection. Moonlight washed through the shattered window at the end of the left-hand corridor. On her right, there was darkness so complete it almost appeared solid.

Monica was in there somewhere. Of that she had no doubt. But that odd sound had come from the left. Whatever it was, she had to check it out first. There was no way in hell she’d run the risk of being attacked from behind in a place like this. She turned left. Two doors waited ahead. One open, one closed.

Was it just fear or instinct that warned against entering either room?

The wind whispered forlornly through the shattered window, accompanied by a low moan that raced goose bumps across her skin.

It was definitely human more than animal. And it wasn’t Monica. The teenager still waited in the darkness of the right corridor. Edging forward, she peered round the doorframe. Nothing moved in the moon-washed darkness, but something was in there, nevertheless. The sense of malevolence was so overwhelming she could barely breathe.

So why do you not turn around and run?

The thought whispered into her brain, feather light but hinting at anger. Nikki froze, fear squeezing her throat tight. Just for an instant, her mind linked with another; she tasted darkness and concern and the need to kill. This was the man she’d half seen in the darkness near the fence- -the man who’d followed her through the fog.

Turn around and leave. You cannot help the child now.

No. Why could she hear this man’s thoughts? Telepathy had never been one of her talents, even though she’d been able to receive Tommy’s thoughts well enough. And who the hell are you to tell me what to do?

I merely try to save your life. You will not like what you find. Not in that room, and not with the teenager.

Yeah right. Who was this weirdo? A would-be prophet of doom? I have never run from anything in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.

The lie gave her courage. She took a deep breath and stepped into the room.

***

Michael Kelly hit the fence in frustration. The little fool had entered the room, despite his warning. Perhaps, because of it.

She knew danger waited--he could taste the fear in her thoughts, despite the distance between them. So why wouldn’t she run? Why did she continue this fruitless quest for the teenager? Given the strength of her psychic talents, she had to know the child was well beyond salvation.

He let his gaze roam to the far end of the house. Hidden by the darkness, evil waited for his next meal, ably served by his young companion. Unless he intervened, Nikki James would become the fifth woman to go missing in this area.

Had it been anyone else, he wouldn’t have particularly cared. His task here tonight was to trap and kill a murderer, not save lives. But her abilities added a dangerous dimension to his task. It was for those abilities, more than her blood, that Jasper hunted her.

He turned and walked to the end of the fence. The sudden movement caused pain to shoot through his head, but he resisted the urge to rub the lump forming near his temple. He deserved that, and more, for being so careless. But he just hadn’t expected the fool to use her kinetic abilities against him. Why, he hadn’t he couldn’t say. He smiled grimly. Maybe senility was finally setting in.

He stopped and studied the houses opposite. Like the area in general, the homes appeared deserted, forgotten. Yet several of the nearest were occupied; he could see the slight haze of life through the walls. Though he couldn’t actually enter the main buildings, such restrictions didn’t seem to hold when it came to garages. If he could find a container of some kind, he could siphon the gas from the cars.

Michael glanced back up to the house. Jasper hated fire. Feared it.

It might be enough to save Nikki James.

***

The room smelled awful--a putrid mix of stale urine, excrement and death all rolled up into one breath- withering mix. She cupped a hand over her nose and mouth and tried not to gag as she swept the flashlight’s beam across the room.

Something shied away from the light’s touch--a hunched, humanoid shape that smelt like death.

Nikki backed away. She didn’t know what hid in the shadows and didn’t really care to find out. She’d learned long ago that some things were best left unexplored; this was certainly one of those times. Perhaps if she closed the door, the thing would leave her alone. She knew from past experience that all the doors in this old house creaked; it was one of the things that had spooked her as a teenager. At the very least, it would give her some warning if the thing decided to move.

She half turned away, then stopped. A prickle of warning ran across the back of her neck. The shadows parted, revealing a mass of hair and pale naked flesh.

It was definitely human. And yet not.

Fear slammed through her heart. What the hell...?

The grotesque figure lunged at her. Stumbling backwards, Nikki threw out her hand, thrusting the creature away kinetically. It slammed into the back wall, grunting in surprise. No sooner had it hit the floor than it was scrambling to its feet, its agility surprising.

Glimpsing movement to her left, Nikki whirled. A second creature ran out of the shadows, its face a mocking image of humanity. She reached again for kinetic energy. The heavy steps of the first creature were an express train drawing close. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck; she thrust the second creature back through the doorway then flicked a wrist knife into her palm. Spinning, she met the charge of the first, stabbing at it wildly. The blade cut through its skin as easily as butter and her fist slammed into the creatures pale flesh; flesh that was as cold as ice.

Or death.

Nausea rose, tightening her throat. Nikki swallowed and tried to back away, but her feet wouldn’t move fast enough. The creature lashed out, connecting hard. The blow flung her backwards. Her back hit the wall, and for a moment she saw stars. Blood spurted from the creature’s wound, spraying hot droplets across her face. Nikki gagged, scrubbing at it with the sleeve of her jacket.

The creature made a second grab for her. Dropping the flashlight, Nikki scrambled away, but it caught her shoulder and pulled her back. Talon like fingers tore into her arm, burning pain down to her fingertips. She gasped, fighting the sudden wash of nausea. The creature snarled; its breath was fetid, full of death, full of decay. Nikki shuddered and slammed the heel of her hand into its face. For a spilt second, its hold weakened. She reached quickly for kinetic energy. A sliver of pain ran through her mind, a warning that she was pushing her psychic strength to far. She ignored it and forced the heavy creature away from her. It flew across the room and smashed through the window, tumbling out backwards with a guttural cry of surprise.

Moonlight fanned across the darkness, lifting the shadows and touching the face of the second creature as it lumbered back into the room. For an instant, it almost looked pretty. Nikki backed away. What on earth were these things?

It snarled, and any illusion of prettiness shattered. The creature took one ponderous step forward, then stopped. Nikki readied another kinetic lance. The glimmer of pain in her head became an ache. She was going to have a hell of a headache tomorrow--if she survived tonight.

Blood ran past her clenched fingers and dripped to the floor near her feet. She had no choice but to ignore it. One move, no matter how small, and the creature would attack.

Why wasn’t it attacking now? It simply stood in the doorway, shaking its head and snarling softly. It was almost as if the creature was fighting a leash of some kind.

She had absolutely no desire to find out just who, or what, held the end of that invisible leash.

The creature snarled again, an angry, sullen sound. Then turned and leaped out of the nearest window.

The retreat sent a chill up her spine. She waited tensely for something else to happen. The breeze stirred the dust from the corner shadows, and the heavy silence returned.

After several heartbeats, she sank down against the wall, and drew her knees close. For a minute she simply sat there, breathing deeply and letting the silence run over her.

Why did the creature retreat? The desire, maybe even the need, to shed blood had been all too evident in it’s eyes. But it had left.

Because it had been ordered to.

Moonlight played across the glass that lay scattered all around her. Glass that was stained with bright splashes of red. She wasn’t sure if the blood belonged to the creatures or her, and knew in the end it wouldn’t really matter. He would come for the blood. He would smell it and come for her.

Who he was, she didn’t really know. Or care. She had to get out of this crazy house, had to escape, while she still could...

The thought stalled. What about Monica? Did she really want to leave the teenager to face fate alone?

Yes.

No.

She took another deep breath and pushed upright. At sixteen, Monica had barely begun to live. She had so much yet to learn, so much more of the world to see.

Ten years ago, she’d left another teenager to his fate. He’d been a hell of a lot more capable of taking care of himself than Monica ever would be, and still he had died. This time round, she was not letting fate get the upper hand.

She eased off her jacket and studied the wound on her forearm. While the three gashes bled profusely, the creature’s talons obviously hadn’t severed anything vital. She could still move her fingers, even if it did hurt like hell. Digging a handkerchief out of her pocket, she wrapped it around the wound. Hopefully it would stem the flow of blood long enough to find Monica and get out of this house.

Putting her jacket back on, she walked across to retrieve her flashlight, only to discover it no longer worked. She gave it a quick shake and heard a slight tinkle coming from the globe area. It must have smashed when she’d dropped it.

"That’s just great," she muttered, thrusting it back in her pocket. Now she’d have to cross the threshold of utter darkness with only instinct to guide her.

Instinct that had proven somewhat unreliable in the past.

The hallway was quiet. Her gaze was drawn to the darkness at the far end of the hall. Monica had to be down there somewhere. But so was the presence that tasted so evil.

She took a deep, calming breath, then walked back to the T- intersection. A tingle of awareness ran across the back of her neck as she neared the stairs. She hesitated, studied the shadows that hid the staircase. The stranger had entered the house. Michael Kelly... his name is Michael Kelly.

Nikki rubbed the back of her neck. Why could she read this stranger’s mind? And why had he entered the house? Was he here to help her, or did he have something more sinister in mind?

No answers came from the darkness, and the spark of awareness flickered and died. Nikki frowned but continued on. The rapid beat of her heart seemed abnormally loud in the strange silence. Her senses warned of another door, even though she couldn’t see it. She ran her fingers along the wall and touched a doorframe, then the cold metal of a doorknob. Stopping, she listened to the silence.

Evil was near, maybe even in the room beyond this door. She clenched the doorknob so tightly her knuckles practically glowed, and wondered why in hell she was doing this.

The answer was easy enough to find. Monica reminded her of Tommy, the teenager she’d left to die so long ago. To appease his ghost, to appease the guilt in her heart, she’d follow Monica through the flames of hell if that’s what it took to save her soul--simply because she’d been unable to save Tommy’s.

Swallowing, she opened the door. Laughter greeted her, laughter that was young and sweet, and yet somehow cold.

Monica.

The teenager stepped out of the shadows, her smile easy to see despite the shadows that hid her face.

"If you wish to talk to me," she said, her voice melodious yet holding a touch of menace. "First you must follow me."

She turned and walked into another room. Instinct told Nikki not to follow--told her to run as far and as fast as she could. Told her Monica wasn’t worth dying for.

Told her if she ran, Monica would die in her place. That was a weight she just couldn’t bear. Taking a deep breath, Nikki followed the teenager.

Straight into the arms of the devil himself.

Excerpt from Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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