Check out below the break for the excerpt!
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About the books:
Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. This Omnibus Collection includes books I, II, III, and IV of the series. Included are Heart of a Dragon, Vintage Soul, My Soul to Keep (The Origin story of Donovan DeChance) and Kali’s Tale – book IV of the series. Also included are the bonus novellas “The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature,” and “The Preacher’s Marsh,” both of which provide background on settings and characters that appear in Kali’s Tale. If you enjoy this book, you should read Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, which follows on Kali’s Tale, has a cameo from Donovan DeChance, and leads into Book V – A Midnight Dreary,
Heart of a Dragon, When a local houngan begins meddling with powers she may not be able to control, a turf war breaks out between the Dragons motorcycle club and the Los Escorpiones street gang—a war that threatens to open portals between worlds and destroy the city in the process. With his lover, Amethyst, his familiar, Cleo – an Egyptian Mau the size of a small bobcat –the dubious aid of a Mexican sorcerer named Martinez and the budding gifts of a young artist named Salvatore, DeChance begins a race against time, magic, and almost certain death.
Vintage Soul, When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved, three hundred year old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover’s nose, Donovan is called in to investigate. There will be no ransom for the kidnap victim, and if Donovan doesn’t prevent an ancient, forbidden ritual from reaching its culmination, far more than a single vampire’s undead existence will be at stake.
My Soul to Keep, Donovan DeChance is a very private man, and he is in love. When he invites his partner and lover, Amethyst, for a quiet dinner, she has no idea of his true intention. Donovan has planned a sharing – a vision that will give her the keys to his early life – the origins of his power – and a lot more than she bargained for. Join young Donovan as he fights to keep his soul, save a town, and learn the roots of his teacher and guardian – and meet his familiar, Cleo.
Kali’s Tale, When Donovan is asked to follow in secret as a hot-headed group of young vampires set out on a ‘blood quest’ to kill the ancient who created the young vampire Kali against her will, he learns that – as usual – there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Through the juke joints of Beale Street in Memphis, to the depths of The Great Dismal Swamp, Donovan and his lover and partner, Amethyst, find themselves drawn along on one of the strangest quests in their long, enigmatic lives as they delve into the world of the undead, the magic of The Blues, and the very heart of alchemy both to protect their young, vampiric charges – and to prevent an ancient evil from destroying the balance of power in the universe.
A Midnight Dreary, the long-awaited fifth volume in The DeChance Chronicles, picks up outside Old Mill, NC, when Donovan, reminded that he has promised his lover, Amethyst, and Geoffrey Bullfinch of the O.C.L.T. a story, draws them back in time to a vision of the final chapter of the novel Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. At vision’s end, they realize that they have to act, to free Eleanor MacReady from the trap that holds her on the banks of Lake Drummond, in the Great Dismal Swamp,
These novels directly crosses over to the original series O.C.L.T. – where Donovan is a sometimes consultant. It features appearances by Geoffrey Bullfinch and Rebecca York, O.C.L.T. agents, as well as Old Mill, North Carolina’s own Cletus J. Diggs.
EXCERPT – THREE
Donovan DeChance sat in a comfortable chair, beside a very warm fire and stared out over the city skyline, thinking. On his lap a sleek, silver-white cat with dark leopard-like spots purred contentedly, her feet asprawl and her tail dangling over the arm of the chair. The cat was a large creature, an Egyptian Mau named Cleopatra, and while Donovan watched the glitter of the stars, she watched the firelight dance through the ice cubes in the whiskey tumbler he held, contemplating her chances in an attack.
The room was an organized jumble. Heavy wooden bookshelves lined the walls from the floor to just below the ten foot ceiling. A rolling ladder clung to the face of the shelves, about halfway down one wall, but its progress was impeded on either side by cartons and stacks of more books waiting to be shelved. They would wait a long time, as not an inch of empty space could be found on any of the shelves. It was a problem, and Donovan knew he’d have to address it soon, or be pushed out the front door of his own home by the sheer volume of clutter.
A short altar stood in an alcove in one corner of the room. This, too, was cluttered. It held an ornate, silver goblet in the form of a robed woman with demons clutching her feet, a crystal ball on a wooden stand carved of a single branch of olive wood, a book open somewhere near the middle and marked with a heavy gold-colored ribbon, a small brazier black with ashes, and a dagger. The dagger was long and curved. Its handle glittered with jewels and was trimmed in four metals, gold, silver, copper and platinum. These were woven equally into a pattern that circled the hilt in concentric rings.
Charts and maps dangled and jutted from the shelves. A few of these were rolled, or folded, but still others were attached to the wood by tacks or small nails. One shelf held an assortment of divination equipment, Tarot cards, joss sticks for reading the I Ching, a small geomancy box and a leather bag of stone runes. In a jeweled case a set of animal bones rested at odd angles.
Still another shelf had a small rack attached beneath it where talismans, crystals, pendants and charms dangled. There did not seem to be any particular order to them, and there was no index or label to differentiate one from the other. Their chains and thongs were tangled together, snarled hopelessly and all-but-forgotten.
Two doorways opened out of this main room, which served as office, library, and sitting room. One was the hallway that led to the two bedrooms and the bath in the rear of the apartment, the other led to his small kitchen. Both were separated from the main room by heavy wooden doors, and both were closed. A third door, larger and more ornate, led to the hallway beyond and, in turn, to the world below and beyond.
There was little light. A few feet to the side of where he sat in his arm chair stood a battered old desk. It was the one uncluttered horizontal surface in the room. On it sat a computer, a telephone, a pendulum dangling from a small metal stand, and a single lamp. The lamp was old. Its base was carved metal in the form of a tree. The tree had ten branches, and from each of these a small and very ancient coin dangled. A rod ran up the center to a spiked finial, which screwed down to hold the fragile slag-glass shade in place. The glass itself was thick and lustrous. It was violet, giving off an odd, soothing radiance similar to that of a weak black light. Around the rim of the shade, formed of inlaid bits of colored glass, ran the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
The lamp, as most of the other objects in the room, had been a gift received in return for services rendered. Also, as was true of most of the other objects, it served more than its obvious purpose.
Donovan raised his whiskey tumbler and took a sip. As he did so, the violet light from the lamp pulsed. It flared more brightly for a moment, and then returned to its normal glow. Donovan turned and stared at it with a slight frown. He placed his glass on the table beside his seat, shooed Cleo from his lap, and stood.
He was six-foot three inches tall with broad shoulders and an athletic build. His long dark hair swept back over his shoulders in waves, and when the light caught his eyes, they flashed a violet shade of their own. His clothing, dark pants, a rather ornate jacket over a shirt open at the neck to reveal several chains that disappeared beneath, and dark, polished boots might have seemed eccentric or affectatious on most men, archaic on others, but not on Donovan. He wore them like a second skin. He didn’t move quickly, but his motions were deceptively graceful. The lamp pulsed a final time, and then settled back to its normal violet hue. Donovan, who had crossed the room in that space of time, reached for the ornate knob of his outer door.
Behind him, Cleo leaped back to the seat of his chair and bounded up to the back cushion. She seated herself and began to wash her face casually. Donovan heard the thump as she came to rest, and knew she was watching. It was good to know she had his back.
A soft chime rang, and Donovan opened the door before the sound could die. He liked to have the advantage over visitors, and knowing they were at the door before they rang the bell was one method of achieving this. This particular time, his effort was wasted.
A very thin apparition stood in the hall outside the door, and he – it – held a thick, ornate envelope in one hand. At least Donovan assumed it was a hand. The robes concealed the messenger’s features, so that it was impossible to tell if it was a man, or a woman, or if there was anything below the billowing cloak at all. Donovan thought he caught a flash where the eyes should be, but it was impossible to be certain. The same was true of the point where the envelope dangled from the creature’s arm. If there was a hand clutching it, that hand was concealed beneath the dark material, and Donovan was fairly certain that, either way, he just didn’t want to know.
“Good evening,” he said. He held the door open slightly, filling the gap with his own form. The messenger said nothing. It wavered slightly and extended the envelope.
Donovan frowned. No verbal message. He reached out and accepted the envelope. The second he touched the paper, whatever force had held it evaporated. Donovan stepped back with a start as the cowled form disintegrated into a cloud of black dust. It maintained the vague form of a man, just for an instant, and then whirled into a funnel that resembled a small tornado before roaring down the hall in a rush of wind. Donovan’s hair lifted from his shoulder, and a sensation like being pricked with ice cubes danced down his spine. He glanced at the envelope, frowned again, and stepped back into his apartment, closing the door behind him. As many times as he’d received such deliveries, the sensation of unease they caused never diminished.
Cleopatra regarded him cautiously from her perch atop his arm chair, but he ignored her, stepped around his desk, and sat down. He dropped the envelope into the soft pool of light from the lamp and stared at it. His name was carefully penned across the center of the envelope. There was no name attached to the return address, but he knew it well enough. The envelope was standard stationary from the Bloodstone Financial Group, and he only knew one member of the administration of that fine institution. He kept most of his valuables in the institutions vault, but somehow he didn’t believe this missive related to his personal account.
Donovan pushed his keyboard and mouse aside to reveal an intricately carved design on the wooden desktop that covered most of the wooden surface. It was a circle within a circle, the outer of which brushed the bottom and top edges of the desk and curved just inside the lamp. Between the two concentric lines, symbols had been carved. Within the center circle, an eight pointed star stretched so that each of its longer points, north, south, east and west, touched the ring. Smaller points bisected the joint of each of the longer tines.
He placed the envelope in the center of the circle, and then reached into a drawer to his right and pulled out four small metal braziers. He placed them at the four large points of the star. Next he filled each with a small measure of powder. He laid a tiny, ornately decorated dagger in the circle beside the envelope, and cleared everything else from the desk. He muttered a name under his breath and touched the tip of his right index finger to the powder in the first brazier. It caught, blazed brightly for just a second, and then faded to a deep orange glow. Tendrils of smoke rose, scenting the air with sandalwood.
Donovan repeated the process with the other three braziers, chanting a different name each time. When all four were lit the smoke whirled, trapped between the two carved circles. The symbols, and the desk, were obscured from view, and as Donovan sat back and concentrated, the envelope floated into the air as if plucked by invisible hands. Donovan’s hands mimicked the motion. He then reached down and lifted an invisible dagger from the air. The dagger in the circle rose at the same time, and he wasted no time pressing the thin blade beneath the flap of the envelope and slicing it open.
The dagger floated back to the desktop, and the paper within the envelope slid out, then unfolded to float about an inch above the circling smoke. Donovan shifted slightly so that the violet light from the lamp caught the paper just right. The first thing he noted was at the top of a list of signatures at the bottom of the letter. It was signed, Preston Johndrow. Beneath Johndrow’s bold script were nine other signatures, including that of Joel Bloodstone himself.
Donovan knew Johndrow, though the two were not close. He’d performed a few tasks for the council in the past, and though he was never fully comfortable in their presence, he respected their power and authority. In any case, they were not wizards, and though they employed a small army in the name of security, it was not likely they would resort to a cursed letter if they intended Donovan harm.
He snuffed the braziers with a quick gesture of one hand. He slid them aside with the tip of the dagger too cool and placed the blade itself back in the drawer. Then he leaned over the desk to read. It was not a long letter; the facts were laid out quickly and with a slightly shakier hand than the signature beneath them. Donovan scanned the note quickly, and then read it over a second time more slowly. When he reached the part about Stine’s death he stopped and frowned.
Donovan knew the small wizard by reputation. Whoever, or whatever, had brought off this kidnapping was no slouch. Stine was not only old and powerful, but he was a stickler for detail. If his defenses were breached, there were only two ways it could have happened. Either someone, or something extremely well versed in stealth and combat had crashed that party, or it was an inside job. No ordinary wizard – and certainly none of the death-challenged guests at the party could have breached a gnomish defense shield, even if security had been light with only Stine himself present. There had been no reason to expect trouble for many years, and things had grown slack in some quarters, but not with Stine. Every job was as important as the last, and the next. The security firm’s motto was “Nothing lost, ever.” Donovan wondered if they’d be changing that now.
Cleo leaped down from the chair and padded across the floor. With a quick, graceful leap she landed on the desktop beside the lamp, narrowly avoiding sending the small braziers tumbling in all directions. Donovan looked up at her.
“What is it, Cleo? More company?”
Donovan glanced at the lamp, and it flared so suddenly and so brilliantly that he was blinded. He dropped the letter and drove back from the desk, cursing. As the flash of light faded from the room, Donovan recovered and scanned it quickly. Nothing seemed out of place, but he had only a fraction of a second to take it in. The room went dark. The lamp hummed. There was still a faint glimmer of radiance from the bulb, and for an instant it tried to rekindle and blaze, but its effort failed.
The fire, which had snapped and popped merrily only moments before was silent. Warmth fled with the light, and Donovan felt as if he’d been doused in ice water.
As the room went dark, he crab-walked to the side as quickly and silently as he could manage. He drew up with his back tight to one of the book cases. He remained there, immobile and silent, waiting. Sweat rolled down his collar and he repressed a shiver as cold sweat slicked his arms and chest. Salty drops rolled into the corners of his eyes, burning, but he kept them open, and he remained still.
Cleo meowed mournfully across the room, but he made no move to find, or comfort her. Donovan held his breath and concentrated. With no light, his eyes were useless, so he closed them and concentrated his other senses. His heart pounded loudly, and he worked on calming it. He needed silence. Cleo meowed again, and he let out a slow breath. Whoever it was hadn’t found or harmed the cat.
At first he heard nothing; then it came. A whistling, whining sound echoed down the chimney, low at first, but rising in pitch and volume until, within moments, it was so loud he had to cover his ears against the pain. With hearing cut off, he instinctively opened his eyes.
The fireplace flashed with flaming light, and Donovan dove around his desk, rolled once and spun. As he rolled, he drew one of the talismans that hung about his neck free and held it in front of his face. Still blind from the flash, he couldn’t see it, but he knew he had the right one by touch. Cleo brushed his back and curled around him, hissing at the fireplace, and Donovan blinked, trying desperately to regain his sight.
Then the whining died to a hiss, and, as his vision cleared, Donovan saw it. A white, flaming face hovered just above the logs in the fireplace. The face was featureless with the exception of two black pits that served as eyes. The flames burning around them made them look like lumps of fiery coal. As Cleo flattened herself against Donovan’s back and dug her claws into the carpet, the face began to shimmer.