Marion Churchman, code name SAFFRON, is an assassin employed by the vengeance goddess Nemesis. She may have been trained by an elite academy and rubbed elbows with immortals for five years, but it’s not her dream job.
Sent on a particularly tough run, Saffron has no idea that she herself is being stalked, and her life is in danger.
She’s not as invincible as Nemesis makes her feel.
**Saffron is a fifteen-thousand word novelette, the first in a serial series. It DOES have a cliffhanger.**
Read an excerpt below!
When I got the summons, I was in the middle of some Olympic gymnastics-worthy sex. The kind where my legs were at angles I’d never thought humanly possible, and I was looking at parts of his body that probably should never have seen the light of day, much less my eyeballs. At one point, I was certain I’d gotten turned upside down, and then we were backwards, and that was… odd.
But that was what happened when you had anonymous sex, right? When you had one too many amaretto sours at a bar in a strange city because you’d just killed a serial killer, and you went to a motel with some guy named Mark just because you thought the way he wore his glasses was cute. You weren’t always sure what you were getting into before you, well, got onto him.
The sex got sweaty, and Mark started making some weird grunting sound similar to a pig eating, but I was determined. Pushing on towards that goal of certain orgasm, my eyes screwed shut as I rode him like a rodeo cowgirl.
Fulfilling my missions made orgasm a necessity. You can’t just run around killing bad guys without some kind of release afterwards. So yeah, I sometimes felt like a slut, but in a career where death dripped from my fingertips, a bit of life made it better.
I felt the sweet sensation of climax rise within me; a little niggle in my lower abdomen that snaked its way through my lady parts until I was panting. One minute, I was on the verge of paradise…
… and the next, I was whooshing into the Other Realm.
What the hell?
Whenever it came, the summons was like a flat screen TV to the head. BAM! Saff, you’ve got work to do. Nemesis made demands like a prison warden or an overbearing mother. Suddenly, my extremely enthusiastic sparring partner was a blip on the radar, and my spirit was tumbling with flailing arms and legs through purple time and space.
Even after five years of working for Nemesis, the summons took my breath away. I landed on my knees, hard, catching myself with both hands and flattening tall grass against soft ground. I swayed, trying to blink the woozy from my eyes. My fingers were translucent; I could make out grains of sand through my fingernails. With my akasha—my spirit—here, my body would be unresponsive beneath Mark.
Poor guy. He was going to freak.
Nemesis’s voice cut through my post-world-jumping stupor. “Stand, girl. We haven’t got all day.”
“I was a little busy,” I retorted, pushing myself to my feet. I wobbled a bit on the incline, and then stooped to brush dirt from my knees. My bare knees. Naked in form, naked in akasha. Lovely.
The Other Realm always freaked me out. Even though I was in spirit form, in the Other Realm, I was solid. Real. If I traveled to another dimension in this particular form, I’d be non-corporeal. Here? Just another day at the office.
We were on a steep, round hill overlooking the rough waves of an ocean stretching into the gunpowder-gray horizon. The emerald grass was tall enough to brush my thighs in the warm breeze. The sky above was royal purple: dusk, dotted with the first pinpricks of stars. I could hear the lonely cawing of crows.
“Looks like rain,” I remarked, motioning to the clouds.
Nemesis was beautiful, as always. Her long, dark hair draped elegantly, tendrils curling beside Her heart-shaped face. The robe that clung to Her thin, curvaceous body was so white it glowed in the evening, drifting into obscurity below the grass line.
“It always rains in this world,” She said.
I sighed. “And what world is this, pray tell?”
“You wouldn’t care to know.” She raised a lovely eyebrow, black eyes shining with humor. “Saffron, you’re naked.” Her bow-shaped lips, the color of blood, pursed in amusement. “Bad time, love?”
I grunted, wrapping my arms around my breasts modestly. It was just a bit of nudity between women, but Nemesis already knew everything about me. Couldn’t I at least preserve my modesty?
I figured if I tried to hide my below-belly-button naughty bits by crossing my legs, She’d laugh, so I didn’t bother.
“Darling, you look wonderful. Have you been working out?” Nemesis walked forward, Her gait smooth and perfect, until She was in my personal space. She poked my abdomen and squeezed my bicep like I was a science experiment. When She began scrunching my long black hair in Her palms, I stepped away.
Glaring, I echoed Her own words, “ ‘We haven’t got all day.’ ”
“Ah, dear Saffron.” Nemesis tutted. “You never forget a word I say. I should be honored.”
“I’m naked, and it’s about to rain. Can we move along, please?”
Her tinkling laugh drifted on the wind. As She stepped away, the jeweled scabbard that held Her sword, Hubris, smacked against a shapely thigh. She regarded me with the same ambivalence of a satiated hawk eying a fat rat—I could eat you, but I won’t. “So sorry, love. Sometimes I forget what it’s like for humans. Modesty and the like.”
“Oh, really? I had no idea.”
“I’ve had word from Demeter,” Nemesis went on.
I froze, my arms slowly falling to my sides. I wasn’t going to like what followed. Demeter was the Mother Goddess, protector of children. Whatever was happening, it was going to be one of those hard cases that ended with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a good cry.
“Travel to Savannah, Georgia,” Nemesis ordered, making Her words a full Decree. Her voice took on the echo that accompanied my formal assignment; the echo that forever wed me to Her. I felt it reverberate deep in my bones, binding me to Her will. Goosebumps spread across my pale skin. “Seek Amy and Andy McClore. The children must be avenged.”
My body went hot, my heart ratcheting until it felt like it would burst from my chest. The purple ether of passage back to the real world whipped around me, disorienting, and I crash-landed, bouncing on the creaky motel bed in the manner of someone waking from a dream of falling. I lay there for a moment, willing the empty feeling in my stomach away, my fingers digging into the coarse sheets beneath me for stability.
Mark, the handsome, bespectacled man I’d been carnally enjoying before Nem’s rude interruption, cowered in the far corner of the room. His arms were wrapped around his knees, his breathing shallow and rapid in between his hysterical recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom—”
I sat up, a hand fluttering to my spinning head. “Mark?”
He rocked slowly back and forth, not looking at me. “Your eyes. God, your eyes, they went white, and you went limp and cold, and I thought you were dead.”
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at how silly he looked. But who was I to judge? I wasn’t the one left after the summons, trying to figure out why my bed mate was suddenly unresponsive.
“Women have died from orgasm before,” Mark mumbled. “I did a study on it in grad school.”
Could you imagine? Humping along, all fine and dandy, enjoying a bit of a shag, and then, sorry, dead. Sure, you get a small bit of satisfaction, but, still. Dead.
“Odd choice of study,” I quipped, shakily putting my legs over the edge of the bed as I let my pounding head rest in my hands. “I’m fine. Really. You should get off the floor. It’s probably covered in e. coli. This isn’t the nicest of motels.”
Receiving an assignment from Nemesis was comparable to the morning after a Saturday-night bender. The magick involved in the spoken Decree could split my head open. Metaphorically. On top of the alcohol from three hours at the bar, it felt literal.
It was much too cold in the room, the ancient air conditioner kicked up on ‘high’ due to our sweaty acrobatics. I rummaged around the stiff, industrial blankets and came up with my t-shirt and underwear. “Where are my jeans?”
Mark crawled across the dirty shag carpet on his freaking knees and pulled my Refuge denims from under the bed. A shaky hand held them by two fingers.
“They won’t bite,” I snapped at him, jerking the offending clothing from his grasp. Turning my back, I slipped into my Coca-Cola tee and black string bikinis before pulling my jeans up over my hips.
“What happened?” Mark asked, his question barely audible as he fumbled to get dressed.
“Spontaneous narcolepsy?” I offered to lighten the mood.
He didn’t laugh. Fine then.
“Nothing.” I gave him a quick peck on his cold cheek. “It was fun. Nice to meet you.” Plucking my purse from the bureau by the door, I made my escape.
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