A cursed amber amulet unearthed in Pompeii flings Arcona into a past life of witchcraft, bloodshed, revenge, and sexual slavery to the cruel Master of a gladiatorial school. This violent parallel world is populated with “Slayers,” blood-drinking immortals devoted to the gods of war and mayhem.
As a Strix, or malignant witch, Arcona once used sex and blood rituals to create a race of immortal warriors to unleash on Rome. Now it’s time to pay.
The gladiator Tyr was one desperately lonely lover she betrayed. Against his will, she turned him into Upir Likhyi, a foul vampire. For two millennia he’s lived a grim existence as a Slayer, in constant sexual arousal yet denied release; now, he’s pissed off and wants revenge. He kidnaps Arcona, planning to drink her dry and break the curse.
Along the way Arcona and Tyr relive their sexual slavery at the hands of Rome and blood sport in the arena, but the real magic is they forgive and fall in love.
Too bad another Slayer wants them dead.
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: anal play/intercourse, dubious consent, female/female sexual practices.
(Arcona is speaking to Salem witch Dame Bishop in the Silver Moon Scrying Shoppe)
“Are you familiar with the legend of the Strix?”
“No.” Arcona shook her head, noting that the amulet was warming almost too quickly in her cool palm.
“You won’t find this myth in many books; few know or speak of the Strix. The Strix was a compilation of all ancient Rome’s guilty fears about the so-called barbarians they enslaved, punished, and brought under their own roofs as domestics, lovers, and lethal entertainment. The Strix combined fearful barbarian lore and Roman superstitions in a single horrific creature that traveled the night as a grotesque bird of prey, sucking the blood from innocent people and turning them against Rome.
“The Strix might start life as a worshipper of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft and necromancy. She could be born Roman or Celtic and work as a healer, witch, or midwife, but somewhere along the way, hatred and the need for revenge against the oppressor corrupted the witch’s capacity for doing good. Rage and destruction took the place of healing acts. Stray witches made bargains with dark forces in exchange for the power to grant invincibility in battle to others, who in turn would walk the earth in violent wrath.”
Arcona grimaced. “The Strix sounds absolutely repulsive.”
“She isn’t, and by the way the Strix is always a she. The essence of Venus imbued the Strix with the power to seduce and sexually torment any young man she approached. She sought out strong, battle-worthy men. Her victims were powerless to refuse. At the climax of the sexual act, she’d drink their blood and send them into a violent rage. During these unnatural couplings, rarely but sometimes a male, Upir Likhyi, was created.”
Arcona was almost afraid to ask. “What’s an Upir Likhyi?” She struggled to pronounce the unwieldy words.
“It’s an old pagan Baltic term for wicked or foul vampire. It is a revenant, or undead soul, that seeks the thrill of blood sport and warfare. In ancient times many were recruited to secretly serve Mars.”
A shiver trembled up her spine. “We certainly don’t need any more of those violent, bloodsucking sorts hanging around, that’s for sure.” She laughed with nervous self-consciousness until she noticed Dame Bishop’s serious face. It was apparent she did not share the dismissive attitude.
Arcona struggled to compose herself. “I don’t mean to sound so disrespectful, because I love mythology too. It’s had a huge influence over human history, but myths are just a way to explain human desires and behavior. I’m a bit puzzled that you’re talking about the Strix as if it’s a real entity.”
Dame Bishop blanched. “It is a real entity. Make no mistake; every myth carries a grain of truth within. There are realms loosely tethered to this one far stranger than anything you can imagine. To say these realms are less real than ours is to profess the Earth is flat. It is a statement only the ignorant can speak freely.”
“I’m sorry.” Damn, she really put her foot in it. Arcona gently lowered the amulet back into its box. “Thank you for sharing this with me. It’s fascinating.”
She gazed at the skeletal bronze birds and strange craftsmanship one last time. “How exactly did you come across this? A rare artifact of this age seems like it should be safely stashed in a museum.”
“I agree.” Dame Bishop’s expression brightened. “Some associates of mine at the Universita di Roma know my interest in such things and were kind enough to allow me to examine the amulet.”
“I’m familiar with the University of Rome! My ex-husband once taught there. Who are your contacts; perhaps I know them?”
“I highly doubt it.” Dame Bishop’s mouth drew tense. “My colleagues are very private people.” Her gaze dropped toward the amulet. “Tomorrow it’s headed to the Smithsonian in an armored car. I just wanted to share it with one last soul before it continued on its journey to lie locked away in some sterile vault until the curators can figure out what to do with it.”
A heightened gleam shone in Dame Bishop’s eyes as she lifted the amulet from the box and held it toward Arcona. “Why don’t you try it on? Just to see what it feels like.” A sly smile crossed her lips. “This is a bit of living history. You may never get an opportunity like this again.”
Something about the amber riveted Arcona’s attention. The center of the amulet was translucent and glowed like a fiery ember. Against her better judgment about carelessly handling antiquities and possibly ill-gotten property, she reached for the leather thong and looped it around her neck.
The amulet hung heavy and prominent atop her breasts. Arcona glanced downward. This was a big, bold piece of ornamentation obviously meant to immediately identify its wearer as a witch who had wandered over to the dark side.
A loud knock pounded on the front door of the shop.
“Excuse me.” Dame Bishop pulled the curtain to the back room aside. “Let me see who’s at the door.”
Arcona was left alone in the back room to gaze down at the amulet and decided that in spite of the somewhat disturbing bronze motifs it was actually very beautiful and must have made a strong impression in its day.
The warm, subtle scent of amber resin reached her nose. She sniffed again in disbelief, knowing there was no way this ancient piece of fossilized amber could possibly be emitting a scent.
She inhaled the mystery fragrance, and sure enough, the rich scent of earthy amber was filling the air. She glanced around curious to know if there was anything near that could possibly be the source of the aroma and saw nothing she could hold to account.
She glanced toward the curtain. What was Dame Bishop up to? She didn’t hear anything going on in the front of the shop. All was silent.
She turned to leave the back room, and her knees buckled. A moment of extreme dizziness knocked her off balance and sent her flailing toward the dusty countertop in a scrambling attempt to keep from falling to the floor.
She blinked in shock as she doubled over the countertop. God, it was getting warm in here. Her skin felt burning hot. She gasped and tugged her coat away from her body, but it didn’t help.
A terrifying sensation of thousands of vicious needle jabs prickled the tender soles of her feet and spread upward. She struggled to kick her tall leather boots free of her feet but couldn’t. The burning sensations licked higher up her legs. She gulped air, fighting rising panic. Her skin felt crispy as if it were being cooked. The pain escalated until it was unendurable. “Help!”
The curtain of the back room was thrown open, and Dame Bishop appeared. “What’s wrong, dear?”
Arcona pulled herself upright. Suddenly nothing was wrong, except the sleeves of her trench coat were covered in dust up to the elbows from writhing against the countertop. The horrid burning sensation left as swiftly as it had arrived. “Dear God, that was weird. For a moment it felt like I was on fire.”
“Really?” Dame Bishop didn’t look the least bit surprised.
“Really. I think this amulet is cursed. Wearing it feels awful.”
“Cursed?” Dame Bishop balked. “I thought you were a skeptic?”
“I’m still a skeptic, but I’m telling you there is something unwholesome about this piece of jewelry. Perhaps it should be kept in a sterile museum vault.”
“Hold on a minute. Don’t be so quick to judge.” Dame Bishop wagged an admonishing finger in the air. “You were the one who was burning. Maybe we should concentrate on that.”
“Are you implying that what just happened to me was my fault? I put the amulet on and immediately felt like I was on fire. That never happens to me. Does that sort of thing happen to you? It’s kind of weird. I think I’m entitled to blame the amulet.” She half listened to herself, cringing at the childish tone of her argument.
Arcona took told of the leather thong and tried to yank the amulet over her head, but it tangled in her long auburn hair. She grasped the bronze setting and tried to untangle the thong. The setting hooked onto her sweater and clung like a bur. “Look at this thing!” She tugged at the amulet in exasperation. “It’s like an octopus grapping me.”
“Leave it alone,” Dame Bishop said tersely. “Don’t provoke it.”
“What?” Arcona frowned. “I want it off.”
“It’s not coming off, at least not until it’s ready.”
“No way.” Arcona grabbed the thong and gave it a sharp upward yank. A hellish burning sensation reminiscent of having cooked skin peeled from her bones racked her. “Oh my God!” she wailed.
She let go of the amulet, and the pain stopped in an instant.
Dame Bishop’s brow creased with serious concern.
“You didn’t know this would happen, did you?” Arcona fought a rising sense of panic. “Please take it off me. I don’t want it near me, and I’m afraid to touch it.”
“I wouldn’t dare.” Dame Bishop took a cautious step backward. “I can’t take it off you. You’re the only one who can free yourself.”
I’m an artist, an author, mother and wife. I write for Loose Id Publishing and Ellora’s Cave. I try to bring a touch of the mystical and a big sense of adventure to everything I write because I believe there’s a bold, kick-ass heroine inside all of us who wants to take a wild ride with a strong worthy hero.
Night Owl Reviews Author page http://erotica.nightowlreviews.com/nor/Pages/Authors/Katalina-Leon.aspx
Seven Sexy Scribes blog http://sevensexyscribes.blogspot.com/
Katalina’s blog http://katalinaleon111.blogspot.com/
Ellora’s Cave http://www.jasminejade.com/m-569-katalina-leon.aspx