Sunday, September 14, 2008

EXCERPT: Magik Ink: Dark Lotus by Fiona Jayde

Magik Ink: Dark Lotus
by Fiona Jayde
Cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-064-3
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Theme(s): Magic and Mayhem, Shunga
Series: Magik Ink
Length: Novella


He has been cold for nearly two centuries. A tattoo artist by day and an assassin by night, Kyoto Hajime must kill the ones chosen by Magik to keep the gift from twisting into something dark. Ensuring that monsters like his brother cannot consume the dark power they crave.
Jim’s ink will denote Magik’s choice. He must kill Tia Morse, the woman he had marked with the Dark Lotus -- a Vegas bartender whose touch gives him the warmth he has not felt in years.
Duty must come before desire. But years of discipline may crumble when passion’s fire burns through ice and Magik’s choices are no longer clear.


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He had learned to deal with the cold. The constant ice that rasped his veins kept reminding him he was nothing more than Magik’s soldier. Forged like a weapon; cold like the steel he used to take another’s life. Kyoto Hajime. Not altogether human, not immortal, he was just ice, hungry and sharp, kept alive by the same Magik he protected.
In the dark, high up above the masses, Jim stared at the glowing Vegas skyline. He watched the swarms of tourists and the ones who served them, the flares of light, hearing the clicks of heels, the drunken high-pitched laughter. While the times and fashion changed, he remained young, his body frozen, his heart ice. And if the humans on the street below knew the price of immortality, they’d thank whatever god they followed for keeping their lives short, and for the most part, meaningless.
Luxury meant nothing. If he could bother to turn on the lights, the soft glow would bathe over rich fabrics and satin sheets. The shiny coffee table would gleam in cherry reds, the lush patterns of the carpet would swirl their jeweled tones. And none of those opulent colors had ever helped him when the cold turned brutal, or when sleep, his only respite, wouldn’t come.
He’d chosen this place because the height of it suited his mood, just as he’d chosen this life because the cold suited his purpose.
He was a killer, a warrior assassin who took the lives of those who chose Dark Magik. He atoned for his weakness because he could not lift his sword to end his brother’s life.
He watched the city breathe below him, and found his thoughts returning to the woman he’d met earlier today. The one who came to Magik Ink both scared and determined to have him mark her body.
She had a glow of vulnerability around her, one she kept hidden under the protective layer of a tough girl -- a layer of makeup, and skintight jeans molding her ass. A broken wing hid somewhere below the war paint. She had demanded him specifically, and didn’t blink when she was told his price and that he chose his own artistic license.
Jim wondered what she would have done had she been told that the world famous steady hands were sure and swift due to hours with a sword. Kyoto Hajime, sought-after tattoo artist of intricate Nipponese designs, created art by day and killed in the hot Nevada night.
She’d bared her body despite the shyness he had glimpsed in those witch-hazel eyes. Those sweetly rounded curves were tempered with muscle, a discipline Jim understood. In Vegas, one lived through their beauty. And she was beautiful with that curved, firmly muscled body, her dark blonde hair bundled up into a messy bun, those green eyes challenging him, shyly asking him to look at her, to want her.
Had she been showgirl gorgeous and fully aware of the fact, he wouldn’t have given her a second thought. But this vulnerability so valiantly hidden under a mask of toughness captured his interest. Too bad he had no time for wounded angels, especially those who forced themselves to meet his gaze despite their shyness.
She’d chosen a lotus and surprised him. He pegged her wanting something flashy, perhaps a dragon since she appeared to be into Japanese motifs, perhaps a string of Kanji. Something ridiculous like “honor” or “the way” -- symbols often worn but rarely understood. But Tia Morse wanted a lotus, something to curve over her hip and buttocks, and she’d lain on the padded bench expecting him to mark her skin.
He had to force himself to keep his touch impersonal. With what Magik he had, Jim had lulled her to sleep and hadn’t waited around to see if she had liked his design on her. The power was already there, a small touch that had him recoiling. If Magik chose her, he’d have to kill her soon enough.
He thought of those bright eyes dulling with pain or darkening to black from abusing Magik. He thought of her lips bleeding once his brother fed on her power, a kiss of death, a long dull twist and pull of everything she had.
His heartbeat pounding, Jim reached behind him, feeling for the leather bindings of his sword. The hilt was warm against his palm, the only warmth he had been allowed to feel in a long while. The leather had been worn smooth and soft with age, the sword it cradled forged in the tradition of the Samurai. He didn’t have the mental strength to slice it through his brother’s neck, or the honor to end a life that had lost all but the greed for more. More Magik and more power. Simply more.
He pictured this same sword plunging inside the girl while Dark Magik pumped inside her veins. She’d choose it -- all the humans did. In past centuries he’d never met a human who didn’t use the gift in anger, in the need for revenge, or simply greed. Eventually she would twist Magik into something vile and open herself so Yoshida could feed.
The Dark could only feed upon itself. Because of weakness, he watched Yoshida turn innocents to darkness for the sole purpose of devouring their power. By torture or by promises, his brother sought out Magik’s chosen and twisted them until he could consume their gift into himself. The more he had, the more he craved it.
And still Jim could not lift his sword to kill his brother, even when Yoshida had prepared for that final blow to sever Jim’s head from his body. Jim had thought he would find peace at last.
The Lorekeepers thought otherwise.
The cold inside him let Jim live for centuries, killing the ones gifted with Magik so his brother would eventually starve. He would atone for his cowardice by killing innocents before they turned to the darkness -- before Yoshida could feed on that twisted Magik.
The irony was that Jim was the one to mark them. They’d seek him out, wanting a brand, an imprint. Tattoos were sacred in his world, marking the skin with truth, glowing with excess Magik.
And in the modern world where tattoos had become a fashion statement, he never knew if he would have to kill the ones he’d just marked.
Tiana. Tia Morse, with tough girl clothes and cautious eyes, too much mascara and a lush, full mouth. Perhaps if she weren’t chosen after all, he would allow himself a chance to see her once again, if only for the pleasure of it.
Vegas lights glittered on the sharp edge of his sword. Inside his mind, the Lorekeeper spoke in his birth language. She will be sacrificed.
Jim’s gut churned wildly at the thought.
The ink will speak. You must kill her before your brother does.

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