the writing life

Illuminated Darkness: Excerpt

The following is an unedited excerpt of Illuminated Darkness (OTS #5)

I like the Goetia programming, Lucifuge told me.

“You would,” I murmured to the Daemon. Ever since he’d helped me out of my last bind, he’d taken his role of protectorate a little too far. Lately a day hadn’t gone by when he didn’t show up to say something, oftentimes jumping into my body at strange moments, sending every cell dancing with vibration. It was like being plugged into an electrical socket.

You don’t like it? His voice was like a whisper on the air, but instead of hearing it, I felt it, thought it, knew it.

I shrugged. “I like it, I just don’t think I like the host.”

You’ll find a better one, the Daemon said with certainty.

“Good. Now where is Kara?” I let out an exasperated sigh and looked out the half open office door wondering where my new assistant was. Then I laughed and wondered what people thought of me talking to myself. They probably thought I was a little off.

No sooner had I finished wondering where she was, Kara rushed into the conference room with a pile of disheveled paperwork. “I have it here, but uh, I called that guy. I forget his name…”

I bit my tongue and forced a smile. “That’s okay. I just need the contract for Go-Go-Goetia Incorportated. I think the guy’s name is Simon. Simon Levine.”

She dropped half the papers on the floor, her eyes brimming with large, wet tears. “Oh, sorry. You’re not going to fire me, are you?”

Not this again, I thought. Kara was the most emotional person I’d ever worked with. She cried at the drop of a hat and thought every little mistake would get her fired. “No, relax. You worry too much.”

You’ll have to fire her, Lucifuge said matter-of-fact. I thought I detected a bit of amusement in his voice.

“I just don’t want you to be mad at me,” Kara whimpered.

I fought back a groan and inwardly agreed with Lucifuge because I was going to be mad at her if she kept it up. Being rather thick skinned and abrasive myself, I rarely cried at work and didn’t do well with criers. “No, Kara, I’m not going to be mad. Why do you think that?”

“You were upset about the Evenbright contract.”

“Only because I told you how to prepare the documents four times and you screwed them up four times because you weren’t listening and didn’t write anything down.” Now I was annoyed and I could hear it in the edge of my own voice. I’d really only agreed to let her work with me because I needed to get things moving and I didn’t have the time to hire someone new if I wanted to hit the ground running. Kara looked and sounded reliable in the way Kirk presented her. It was only after the first emotional breakdown I realized I’d made a grave mistake.

She sniffed.

I fought back another groan. Clearly Kara had never been bullied as a child, otherwise she would have had a far thicker skin. Maybe because she had been the bully? I could only speculate. One thing was for certain though — you couldn’t even tell her she’d done something wrong without her crying. She also seemed to take offense when she wasn’t hoisted on top of people’s shoulders when she did something right. Saying thank you and good job wasn’t good enough. No, there had to be laurels and public acknowledgment in front of a crowd. A high maintenance co-worker if there was one.

“Look,” I finally said, “That’s water under the bridge. Let’s do Go-Go and move forward, okay?”

What I really wanted to do was tell her she wasn’t working out and tell Kirk I needed to hire someone with a brain, because Kara, even though she did keep my phone calls down to a minimum, did a half-assed job with everything else. Suddenly I had sympathy for all of my previous employers who had kept less than stellar employees long past their usefulness.

“Okay,” she sniffed, her clumsy fingers sifting through the contracts.

There was no doubt the contract was out-of-order or attached to something else. “Just leave it and go grab a box of file folders.”

She continued trying to sort the mess.

I put my hand out to stop her, scooped up the paperwork and pulled it to my chest. “File folders.”

With a sniff and more tears, Kara rushed from my office. I rolled my eyes. Of all the assistants I could have been stuck with, I ended up with the one who tried to manipulate me with tears.

Put an ad in later today, that one is trouble, Lucifuge said.

I nodded and said to the Daemon under my breath, “You ain’t kidding.”

Let’s go downstairs and see what’s going on. I’m bored, Lucifuge said. He sounded bored, too.

I needed a walk, so I set the papers on the edge of my desk, grabbed my coffee cup and my wallet, and slipped out of my office hoping no one would notice me leaving.

The main secretarial area was empty except for Kirk’s assistant, whose back was to me. She was on the phone. Hurrying to the elevator, I pushed the button, thankful when the door opened to an empty elevator. I’d made it out unscathed.

I wandered down to the stages and sets, found a cup of bitter coffee, and stood at the back of studio A, watching the latest taping of our Draconian show, boringly titled Draconian Gnosis.

“Ho Drakon, Ho Megas,” came the chant from the front of the room.

I listened to the Draconian ritual and marveled at the artistic beauty of it, even though I was still convinced most of their sigils looked like vagina art. Vagina’s in the seals of Sorath and Lucifer even. Someone there really enjoyed that imagery. Either that or I was the one obsessed with vaginas.

Lucifuge laughed. Now, wait for it…

The high priestess read another long oration. Weren’t they supposed to be meditating? I recalled the words of an acquaintance of mine. A well-known, in certain circles anyway, Chaote named Darren Steele out of Rhode Island. He’d been on a recent show to discuss Chaos Magick, and we’d been online acquaintances ever since. Our last lunch together, the conversation ended with: “If you’re allegedly in deep meditation and are coherent enough to pause and read some fancy oration, you’re not doing it right.”

We’d agreed on this point, and now, Lucifuge agreed, too. I felt Lucifuge roll my eyes. It seemed that even Daemons found human prattling annoying at times.
The rituals, however, made for gorgeous live television, which is why many magicians at BMN looked to Draconian ritual for ideas to draw their rituals out and make them sound all secret-society on camera. Elaborate rituals like this were good for ratings, so no doubt it was also good for selling books and wares. And here I was, a practicing Daemonolatress. Our rituals were effective, certainly, but didn’t have nearly as much in the area of monologuing, making them undesirable as theatrical fodder.

You could always dress them up, but their usefulness drops significantly, Lucifuge said. Then he sounded hopeful. Hey, this coffee is terrible, let’s go get some more of that mocha latte from the shop down the street.

You’re going to make me fat, I scolded him inwardly.

The Daemon laughed and when he did, my right eyelid twitched involuntarily. We, and by we I mean me with my attached Daemon passenger, left the studio and started toward the main doors. It was almost noon, and executives often came and went as they wished, so no one batted an eye as I left the building. There was a coffee shop just around the corner.

My body was buzzing again. You’re burning my body out. Probably going to give me cancer, I told him. In a way I was glad we could communicate telepathically because people would have thought I was a crazy woman if I spoke to him aloud out here. In my office it was one thing. In public, quite another. On the upside, the Daemon stayed out of my body for work tasks, bathing, dressing, and the like. Gods only know what my hair, makeup, and wardrobe choice would have looked like with the Daemon Lucifuge as my stylist. However, he seemed to be bouncing in and out of my body more and more often. When he did, I could still see and hear, but I didn’t have control over my mouth and limbs. It was a helpless sensation that caused my heart to palpitate and my palms to sweat, though I was becoming more accustomed to it.

I made it to the coffee shop in full control of my faculties and ordered the coffee, then chose an outside table to sit at. The Colorado spring air still had a nip to it. It was sixty-two degrees, with the forecast calling for snow over the weekend and temperatures expected to rise back into the sixties the following Monday. Springtime in the rockies, as the locals were fond of saying.

What an asshole thing to say, Lucifuge said, taking over my body so he could have a sip of the mocha latte. It’s like when it’s hot and people say, it sure is hot today, the Daemon continued. No shit. Why point out the obvious?

I laughed just as Lucifuge took a drink, and coffee dribbled from my mouth and straight down into my brand new, violet blouse with the knotted accents over my cleavage. Damn it! Mike always laughed at how I dribbled food and drink down the front of myself, and while it probably was funny, my blouses ended up stained after one too many mishaps and I regularly had to replace my blouses as a result. Lesson learned. Apparently the Daemon hadn’t had full control, or he’d been relaxed while having his mocha latte.

Don’t laugh this time. I didn’t get to taste it, Lucifuge said, making another attempt at sipping the piping hot liquid. After he swallowed he said, this is good.

“You know, it’s a little weird you popping into my body for the occasional mocha latte. While I appreciate you as my protectorate, I’m pretty sure I don’t need twenty-four-seven protection,” I managed to whisper under my breath.

I need you for more than that, Lucifuge said. We have a situation we need to deal with. We Daemons don’t possess people without reason as you well know. We always take willing hosts when we can, and I think you’re the perfect person for the job.

My heart sank. Some days it felt like no one was really your friend – they just wanted something from you. Especially in my new job. All sorts of old acquaintances had resurfaced and began emailing me, acting like we were old friends once word got out that I was BMN’s new programming director.

Now, wait a minute. I’m divine intelligence, right? I like you just the way you are, even if you refuse to help me, Lucifuge assured me before taking another drink from the steaming mug. You physical beings have no idea what a treat this is.

What can I help with? I silently asked him.

The Daemon shrugged my shoulders. “In due time,” he said aloud in my voice. “I think I’d really like one of those cheeseburgers,” he said, my eyes fixed on the burger joint across the street.

Against my will, Lucifuge stood and made his way from quaint coffee shop patio towards the crosswalk, dead set and determined to get a double bacon cheeseburger and a large order of fries. “Don’t worry, you can always tell people the devil made you do it,” he said in my voice again. Then he chuckled.

Ha, Lucifuge, I thought. Well played.

An hour later, with the mustard and ketchup stains barely visible on my once pristine blouse, I sat at my desk Lucifuge-free waiting on Kara to get my weekly ratings report put together. From the open office door I could see her on the other side of the copy room, struggling with the hole punch. Who couldn’t work a hole punch? I held back the urge to get up and go help her. Kara had probably been one of the preppy girls in high school, I finally decided. You know the ones – they dated the jocks and belonged to the honor society. Her hairstyle hadn’t changed since the mid-eighties, and I wondered then what she thought about having a boss at least fifteen, or more, years her junior. I was actually surprised Kirk had hired a Wiccan office clerk, and even more surprised a Wiccan had wanted a job working with a cadre of ceremonial magicians and practitioners with darker sensibilities.

Kirk, my boss, stepped into my office, his gaze following mine to my inept office assistant in the windowed copy room across the way.

“I need to hire someone who can use a hole punch,” I deadpanned.

“That’s not fair. She’s a bit slow, but…” Kirk grimaced as he said this. Kara had erroneously hole punched something because she cringed. “Okay, I can move her back to supplies and shipping.”

“Thank you. Are you sure she can handle supplies and shipping?” I almost laughed at my own sarcasm. Lucifuge was wearing off on me.

He nodded his head toward Kara. “Is she working on the ratings report?”

“What’s left of it, yes.” A spontaneous yawn erupted from me and I stretched.

“Not getting enough sleep?” Kirk stepped into my office and pulled the chair across from my desk away from the wall and closer to me.

“Between my mother and mother-in-law hounding me about the wedding every other day, and struggling to get anything done with my helper here…” And the Daemon who keeps interrupting for coffee and burger breaks, I added silently.

“Have Tracy put an ad in for someone new and at the end of the day I’ll have Tracy inform Kara that she’s moving back to shipping. I kind of feel bad for her. She does try…” Kirk gave me a hopeful smile.

Apparently Kara had used her crying manipulation routine on him, too, but the difference was – he’d fallen for it. “I can understand that. I just need someone quicker on their feet and Kara isn’t it.” I straightened a few file folders and forced a smile when I saw Kara leave the copy room and start heading toward my office. She looked to be almost in tears again. “Here comes the report,” I told Kirk in the cheeriest voice I could muster.

Kirk knew me better than that though. He raised an eyebrow and looked expectantly at the doorway as Kara entered with two copies of the Weekly Ratings report. “Now this has the streaming data in it?”

I gave him a brisk nod. “All two months of it.” I stood and took the reports from Kara and handed one of the folders to Kirk. “Thank you Kara, could you close the door behind you?”

Kara nodded shyly and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

I opened the report to the streaming data page. “It’s page thirty-six.”

Kirk opened his folder and his face went from relaxed and curious to contorted and confused. “Unholy Goddesses.”

I knew exactly what he’d found – a complete mess. Exactly what I’d been dealing with for weeks now. I held my report out to him and reached across the desk for his. We switched folders and I fought back a groan. This report folder was out of order, backward, and upside down. She’d hole-punched the wrong side of the pages, and possibly dropped them, too.

“How about I take this home with me tonight and look it over and if I have any questions we can do lunch tomorrow?” Kirk stood. “I was thinking of leaving early today. Get a game of golf in.”

“That’s fine with me,” I said with a grin, thankful when he left and I was in my office, door closed, all by myself. I finished the afternoon putting my copy of the report back into proper order, then ducked out an hour early so I could miss the water-works of Kara being told she’d been busted back down to supply and shipping clerk.

All the while, Lucifuge was silent.

Watch for Illuminated Darkness, the final book in the OTS series, coming in late August/September 2018! In the meantime – the rest of the novel series is currently on sale for under $10 in ebook (novellas sold separately)!  GET IT HERE

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

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