Audrey Brice,  books,  excerpts

Sneak Peek: Into Darkness

Chapter One

Saturday, June 24


       The beginning was the end. Of all the stupid things I could have thought at the end of my life, that was it. I felt the clay Lucifuge amulet I wore press hard against my left breast, reminding me that it was because of those damn amulets I was in this mess to begin with. Beneath me the unyielding rocky ground dug into my flesh. Above me, the psychopath who’d murdered Mike loaded the gun.

But I digress. How I ended up the victim of another murderer in the short span of a few months is a longer story.

My name is Elizabeth Tanner and I’m a magician. The story I’m about to tell you is true.

Only a few short weeks ago I sat at my dining room table carving sigils into clay amulets. It’s a little tradition of mine; something I do around every summer solstice. Michael, Mike, my sexy detective boyfriend who I’d hooked up with after my last entanglement with a killer, was working that Saturday on a theft case, so I was home alone. Like usual I had CNN on in the background.

The clay I was using had a faux metallic sheen to it, giving the clay disks I was working on the illusion of metal. As I carved I mused at how, for centuries, humans had believed in the power of magickal talismans to do everything from repel evil to bring good health. I’ve always thought there’s something comforting in a talisman. For me, there’s something even more comforting in the act of constructing them. I enjoy feeling them between my palms as I imbue them with the essence of their design. Every year I make about fifty or so to give to friends. This often satiates my talisman making lust until the next summer solstice comes around. The most interesting thing about talismans, however, is sometimes they’re not always what they seem to be.

When I’d finished carving the last one I got up and went into the kitchen to pre-heat the oven. I’ve often thought whoever invented oven-bake clay was a genius. It made a magician’s work that much easier when it came to creating certain tools.

It was directly after I’d turned on the oven that my cell phone rang. I didn’t bother looking at the caller ID even though the ring tone suggested it wasn’t anyone I knew. Probably a wrong number. I was feeling cavalier so I answered anyway. “Hello!”

“Ms. Elizabeth Tanner?” an older woman’s voice asked.

For a second she almost sounded like my mother. “Speaking.”

“My name is Marjorie Ellis and I need your help,” the woman started.

“May I ask how you got my name and number?” I didn’t want to be rude, but it wasn’t the habit of strangers to call my cell phone and ask me for help.

“Oh, of course, I’m sorry,” the woman apologized as if giving me that background information hadn’t occurred to her. “Mel Davis gave me your number. I’m a solitary Daemonolatress in Fort Collins and I need someone to dispose of some unique Daemonolatry items for me. Things I no longer want. Mel said you could help me with that.”

“Oh!” I said, finally realizing who Mel was. Mel was one of many solitary Daemonolaters along the front-range who weren’t regularly involved with any of the established groups. We called them solitaries or solitary practitioners. There were many solitaries who were still members of The Order. “Okay, I didn’t mean to sound so confused. I just haven’t talked to Mel since last Yule,” I explained clumsily, then got to the point. “What kind of items?”

“Well,” the woman started. I could sense some uncertainty in her voice. “I was with a man for a few years and we practiced together. He gave me a few things very Daemonolatry specific. A mantel clock engraved with the sigil of Lucifer, a few talismans, a lap board he made me and a really beautiful old altar. We split up recently and I really don’t want them anymore. Too many painful memories attached if you know what I mean. Would you come get them?”

I thought about telling her to just put up an advertisement on one of the online message boards because I knew she could easily get rid of the stuff herself, but I had to admit I was interested in the altar, the lap board, and the clock. The altar because mine was getting a bit rickety, the spirit board because I collected them, and the clock because I didn’t have a mantel clock and quite frankly, my mantel was bare except for some family and friend photos in mismatched frames.  Not to mention that if they turned out to be items I didn’t want, I certainly had the connections to get rid of the stuff quickly. “Well,” I started.

“I know I could just advertise them online myself, but I really just want this stuff out of my house because I’m moving and you’re more centrally located. I don’t even want money for them,” she said quickly.

A little too quickly. “What’s the catch?” I asked carefully.

She let out a nervous laugh. “You’d have to drive up to Fort Collins and pick it up. If you do that, all of it’s yours to get rid of however you see fit!”

“Fair enough.” I smiled, kind of excited at the prospect of a new altar. I took down her address and phone number and told her Mike and I would drive out the following day.

“You won’t change your mind will you?” she asked before we hung up.

“I’ll be there,” I assured her. We said our goodbyes and I hung up, all the while shrugging off the familiar tugging sensation that twisted in my gut.

I wandered into the bathroom of my small, three bedroom ranch-style house that I’d bought with money my grandfather left me. Flipping on the light, I looked at myself in the mirror. I felt the tug again.

There was a brief flash of light.  I had the sensation I was being sucked out of my body only to find myself standing in darkness, surrounded by swirling gray smoke. I heard strange noises in the dark around me and to my right a hiss emerged from the blackness.

Turning toward it I stopped short when I spotted two red eyes looking at me. “You really are a masochist, aren’t you?” She said.

I couldn’t really see the Daemon, just the faint outline of a humanoid-like creature. “I, I don’t know what you m-mean,” I stammered like an idiot.

“You know exactly what I mean, Elizabeth. You never listen to me,” the Daemon chastised. “You deal with this now or you will suffer for it.”

And just like that, with a dizzying jolt, I found myself falling backward onto my bathroom floor. I hit with a thud, catching myself with my hands and my right hip. When I realized I was okay and not in severe pain I looked up. The first thing I saw was the painting of Levi’s Baphomet one of my friends had done for me. It hung over the towel rack. Done in black, gray, and red, it matched the rest of the dark art hanging throughout the house. See, I’m somewhat a collector of dark art being that I’m a Daemonolatress, so finding myself in a trance and speaking to Daemons isn’t abnormal for me. Not by a longshot. The Daemonic speaks to me on a regular basis, in fact.

I hoisted myself to my feet, splashed some cold water on my face and wandered back into the kitchen, noting the house probably needed a good sprucing up. Maybe that’s what the Daemon meant when she said I needed to deal with it? After all, I’m certainly not the domestic type. I’m not super messy, but my house is never really tidy either. Letting out a deep sigh, I shook my head.

Of course that wasn’t what the Daemon meant and I knew it. What was I supposed to deal with? I hated how cryptic the Daemons often were. Usually they’d give me messages and if it wasn’t apparent what they were trying to say, it became apparent in hindsight. Needless to say, being a medium isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If the Daemons weren’t stepping in with something to say, the dead were. I could usually tune the dead out, and often did, but if the Daemons wanted your attention – they got it.

The TV was still blaring CNN. It was the only thing I ever watched. After getting myself another cup of coffee and putting the talismans in the oven,  I settled on the couch and waited for the oven timer to go off.  Eventually the Daemons would reveal to me what I needed to know, so I decided not to worry about it.


Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at


  • Jenn

    Hmmm…not to nitpick, but if she finishes the talismans before she goes to turn on the oven, then how does she continue to work on them at the end of the scene?

    Otherwise it sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it!

  • Steph

    LOL! Well technically she never stuck them in the oven, she just turned it on to pre-heat it. But good point. I shall fix that. Mind you this hasn’t been back through my editor yet. I’m still working on final edits and this entire scene was just rewritten, so technically it hasn’t seen the editor yet. 🙂

  • Jenn

    Ah, that makes sense. Those are the kind of things that tend to really stand out to me when I edit manuscripts, but I assumed this had been through an editor so I wasn’t sure how to phrase my comment without questioning the abilities of your editor. I’m glad this hasn’t been through the editor yet!

    And I like the revised version 🙂

  • Jenn

    Technically neither, those I guess freelance-hobbyist would describe it. I do editing for friends who are in various stages of submission with agents and publishers, prior to the paid editors coming into the picture. I’m the permanent editor for one person in particular who has an agent now, and her first novel is on submission, but otherwise it’s just more of an ‘if someone needs an editor, and I happen to have the time, I’ll offer up my services’ type thing.

  • Steph

    I ask because I use beta readers all the time to help me catch huge MS flops (like the above, lol!), and I need editors for DB Publishing stuff (and I’ve been trying to pay for that). Is that something you might be interested in? Like for the new revision of TCBD, I want a real careful eye to go over that entire MS. I want to standardize all the spellings of the Daemon names I use throughout the book (to quell the complaints that the book is riddled with typos when in fact I’ve merely used a variant spelling of a name) and I want to make sure everything I say is clear. Right now the editors I have, I’m not sure they have the skill to do that. Not to mention, I’m not sure how much they actually read (unless it’s Demonolatry books).

    Sorry to any of my editors reading this, but it’s true. I need someone who pays really close attention to detail.

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