In a post-apocalyptic world ruled by magicians and their demon pets, twenty-four-year-old Becca survives the dangerous streets by relying on her wits, her fists, and the limited goodwill of her boss, a local crime lord. When news comes of a fire back home and the family she left behind dead, she realizes her dark past has finally caught up to her. On the hunt for her missing sister, she must rely on Darion, a treacherous ex-boyfriend with ties to the local coven, for back-up. Problem is he’s a pyromancer who can’t be trusted. Will she escape the sticky web of treachery and deceit with her sister and her heart, or will she sacrifice it all to save another?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Demon Rising by DeAnna Browne, Becca is a Mudane (a person without magic) in an apocalyptic world, surviving by her wits. When her family is killed, Becca is determined to get revenge and find her missing sister, whose body was not among the dead, but before Becca can find any answers, she is taken captive by a powerful magician. Now her only hope is that her ex-boyfriend, also a magician, can somehow save her—if he only will.

For a debut novel, the story is extremely well written, filled with wonderful characters, strange happenings, and fast-paced actions. I, for one, found it very hard to put down. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Demon Rising by DeAnna Brown is the story of a young woman with no apparent magical powers trying to survive in an apocalyptic world ruled by magicians. Becca survives in the city by her wits and the good graces of her boss. She hates magicians and suffers under their rule as one of the Mundanes, people with no magic. Then Becca’s family is killed, and she is desperate to find her missing sister. The only one she can think of to help her is her ex-boyfriend Darion, a magician with whom she did not part amicably. Now he is her only hope, but can she trust him? And even if she can, will he help her?

Demon Rising is well written with a solid, well-thought-out plot, plenty of surprises, and great characters. Fast-paced and compelling, it will keep you on your toes all the way through.

Chapter 1

The tattoo on Becca’s neck prickled as she walked the crowded path to work. Searching for the possible source of magic, she continued forward, with coffee in one hand and the other resting by the knife at her waist.

She moved amid a throng of people, shuffling along the worn walkways. Heavy clouds were scattered across the sky, while dilapidated buildings surrounded them, a haunting reminder of what once was. A young man pushed past Becca, dressed in blue coveralls. He must be heading to the line.

The warehouse traveled up twenty stories high, the tallest building in town with a large fountain in front. It must have once been a beauty. Now the fountain, covered in graffiti, ran dry and the boarded up windows could barely keep the wind out.

A familiar, lanky guard stood watch on the side of the road. Could he have been the source of the magic warming her tattoo? He scanned the crowd with a demon dog at his side, a German shepherd with unnaturally large black eyes.

Turning forward, she let her dark hair fall into her face, not wanting to draw his attention. She stepped past the guard undisturbed. She could handle herself with the guards, but her boss, Nikko, constantly nagged her about keeping a low profile.

The crowds pressed together, and a large man knocked into Becca’s side, tripping her. She stumbled, spilling the remains of her coffee all over her black jeans. Someone swore as the crowd surged forward, and she stepped to the side.

At five-foot-five, she was on the small side, but strong enough to cause pain and scrappy enough to avoid it when she could. The crowds weren’t her problem, though. That would be the presence behind her, causing her tattoo to burn.

She whipped around and grabbed the small hand, reaching for her hunting knife. A young boy, maybe ten or twelve years old, struggled in her grasp. Blond hair curled around his ears. His face was lined with dirt. Once she glimpsed his eyes, she tightened her grip and shoved him back against a brick storefront.

A hellish black, his eyes revealed the demon residing inside of his body. Becca clamped down on any sympathy she might have had for this child, for he was no longer a child but a Soultorn. Fury rose, fast and fierce. Some wizard had corrupted this boy past repair by summoning a demon and using the boy’s body as a host.

She pinned him against the wall with her forearm, her knife pointed at his throat. “Where’s your master?”

“It could be you if you want,” he lied.

His lips twisted into a wretched smile, revealing broken and stained teeth. The sour smell of his fetid breath turned her stomach. There could be only one master a Soultorn would ever answer to, and that magician must be an idiot to let a Soultorn roam free. Maybe they wanted someone else to dispose of it.

She should just kill this body. It would be a kind mercy for this poor boy whose body had been stolen. His blond curls and freckles tugged at her gut, reminding her of a past she didn’t want to remember.

“Come on, lady. A kid’s gotta eat,” the demon whined, trying to force his expression into something pathetic.

A black leather jacket and steel toed boots didn’t scream “lady.” Ladies didn’t work as a runner for the local drug lord either, but at twenty-four, it was the best job she could get.

“You’re a demon. All you eat is other’s pain.” Becca edged the knife deeper against his neck.

Demons could eat food. The human bodies they stole preferred it, but death and destruction was a demon’s main course. The Soultorn in her grip struggled to swallow against the blade’s lethal edge.

Her lips pressed into a tight dark smile. “What? Realizing that a lesser spawn of hell like yourself may not have a shot at the afterlife?” Not that she knew much about demon realms, but she’d heard that demons never enjoyed returning.

What idiot summoned this lesser demon? Weak magicians recklessly played with demons in a hopeless attempt to grasp power. Demon pets and Soultorns were not allowed in the Mundane market streets without a leash. The law, weak as it was, helped to keep the Mundanes somewhat safe from being enslaved by every two-bit magician. It wouldn’t do any good for the wizards to kill off the work force.

The Soultorn spoke in a foreign tongue. Her tattoo tingled and dark spots filled her vision. She focused on maintaining her grip. As the Soultorn’s dirty fingers dug into her jacket, pain shot up the arm that clutched the knife. Her tattoo protected her against minor magic, but not direct attacks.

Out of time, Becca grabbed its hair and rammed its head into the wall, hoping to weaken it and break the spell. It took several hits before those pitch black eyes rolled back, and it collapsed on the ground.

Her breath left in a rush. Her fingers tingled with the return of feeling. She shook them out and stepped back, knocking into her now empty coffee cup. Dang demons, she’d lost her coffee and had to deal with a minor demon before nine a.m. Yeah, it was a Monday.

The Soultorn fell at an awkward angle, knocked out but still breathing. She didn’t have the stomach to kill a child host this morning. Now the magician who created it? That was a different story.

“Are you going to finish it?” Ted, the local coven guard from across the street, appeared behind her, placing a hand on her arm. His vicious grin and long brown hair almost mirrored the look of the possessed German shepherd at his side. The dog’s tail wagged high in the air, his teeth sharp and white. Not only could demons reside in humans, but magicians could put them into animals as well–changing the whole meaning of family pet.

Becca shuddered in disgust and backed away from his touch. “Isn’t that your job?” It was the one useful thing maggots like Ted did to help the Mundanes.

“Yes, but I like a girl with a little blood on her hands.” As if in agreement, the demon dog at his side barked.

The only blood she wanted to spill was his. Wizards like him caused deaths like this without a second thought. “Just do your job,” she said, pushing past him. She might be able to take on a minor demon, but not a wizard. Besides, she had to get to work.

Growls erupted from the possessed German shepherd, and with a single command from its master, the dog pounced on the boy’s body. She walked away, the grisly sounds of his attack echoing off the buildings.

She was grateful that she’d skipped breakfast, because there was no way it would have stayed down. Most people avoided the scene, except a couple of onlookers who watched with vacant expressions. Hurrying down the street, she tried to block out the noise. The face of the boy flashed into her mind. Her chest tightened as she mourned the boy–not his body, but his spirit that was stolen too soon.

One more demon vanquished. Hopefully, the creator would be punished, though probably not. And the boy–just more collateral damage.

Something she’d seen all too often with city life. Still, it was better than living outside the city walls, where gangs and demons roamed free. Somehow, that didn’t make the boy’s death easier to swallow.

She didn’t slow her pace until Nikko’s building came into view, an old two-story bar with dusty floors, but clean glasses. Its dark frame appeared vacant, but there was a full house. People watched from the darkened windows around the clock. Before she could knock, the door creaked open.

“Hey, sweetie.” Tyson welcomed her with a sly smile. His large frame and soft face gave him the appearance of an oversized teddy bear, but she’d seen that teddy bear break a man’s neck.

“Nothing sweet here.” She strode past.

“Okay,” he replied, one hand rose up in defense.

As she continued on, he murmured, “Heard she knifed her last lover.”

Her lips lifted in a grim smile. She’d worked hard for that kind of rep–a necessary tool in a business full of men.

The bar reeked of smoke and alcohol. One wall was decorated with a rainbow of colored bottles. Across the floor, two guys played a game of pool. An older man nursed a cup of coffee at one of the many small wooden tables. She’d have to grab a cup later.

She turned down the hallway and maneuvered to the back, to Nikko’s office. After a quick knock, Nikko called her in.

He hovered over papers at his desk while a cigarette burned away in the ashtray. He played with one of the metal studs piercing his brow. She studied him while he remained deep in thought, knowing better than to interrupt.

A dark, intricate tattoo decorated one side of his face. Ancient runes she often tried to decipher. Rumors said his family came from Asia, farther away than she could imagine.

Dressed in a fitted navy suit that complimented his short, dark hair, he emanated beauty and terror all at the same time. Long ago she advised him to forget about dressing so nice, since everyone stopped at his face.

“Becca.” He didn’t bother to look up. “I need this out of here.” He finished writing a note and sealed it in an envelope.

“Who in the world needs to get high this early?” She fell into a nearby chair not quite ready to head out. Yes, she ran drugs and other things for a crime lord, but she was never dumb enough to do them. At least with Nikko, she could face the thugs head on, instead of at the factories where they lurked in the shadows.

“What we supply is in constant demand.” His brown eyes glimmered with mischief. “That’s why we both have jobs. Today, I need you to head out of the city to Mariah’s place.”

Tension shot through her and she bolted upright, hands fisted on her knees. “Not Mariah’s. I’m not going there again.”

“Calm down.” He dismissed her objection with a wave of his hand. “You’re the only one I can trust not to get sucked into her little tricks. Last time, Tobi returned in such a state he couldn’t remember how to piss straight. I can’t afford that.”

“Tell your guys to grow a pair. Or get them tats.” She didn’t remember even getting her tattoo as a child, but it had saved her hide more than once.

“That would cost more than Tobi.” He finished packing the bag. “You know the deal. You want another job, you do this one.”

“I may end up killing that witch.” She meant it. The best kind of magician was a dead one. She also couldn’t ignore the nagging voice in the back of her mind that said she might run into someone she knew, someone she didn’t want to see again. The only magician she ever let get close to her, too close.

Nikko ignored her protest. “Just get me my cash first.”

“I hate you,” she said with no real malice. Lucky to have landed a job outside of the factories, she owed Nikko a lot. He’d helped improve her knife skills and paid her enough so she could afford her own studio apartment. However difficult the job, she’d do it. And he knew it.

“That’s why we get along so well.” He smiled. “Take the bike. Mariah wants this soon.”

“What? Is she sacrificing small puppies?” Becca grumbled as she got to her feet. “Or her own mother this time?” A witch could stew up endless nightmares.

Nikko ignored Becca and tossed her the bag.

Catching it, she sighed. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” Who knew what dead creatures or bones might be in there? Drugs were easy in comparison.

“I never do.” He pushed keys across the table. “Just take good care of my baby. She’s worth more than you.”

“Telling me that every time I touch Dedra doesn’t help my self-esteem.”

“Can’t believe you named my Ducati like an old mare,” he mumbled, standing up. “Just get it done, and bring it back tonight.”

“Will do.” A smile lit up her face. She’d named his bike when she realized the price he paid for it. Guys only do something that stupid or expensive for a broad. With the bag on her shoulder, she turned to leave.

“And, Becca?”

She turned back. “Yeah?”

His dark eyes warmed. “Be safe.” Beneath the sarcasm and crappy jobs, Nikko watched her back, maybe because she was his best runner, or maybe he considered her a friend. She never asked.

She winked. “Ain’t I always?”

© 2017 by DeAnna Browne

Jami Gray:

“An enthralling new voice gives us a magical world where love leads to dark decisions.” ~ Jami Gray, award-winning author of the Kyn Kronicles