Deciding what’s next after The Demon Lord of California should be easy: write book 2. But it’s not as simple as that, at least with me. Because I love to make things super complicated. (My good friend Max, who I dedicated Demon Lord to, is helping me break that habit.)
While I am in the midst of expanding my synopses for books 2 and 3 of the Infinity 8 series, I’m also in the middle of a book that’s needing a few more chapters and a final polish. That book is The Phoenix Hatchling, book 2 of my Seasons of the Phoenix saga.
Seasons of the Phoenix (SotP) is related to the Infinity 8 (I8) universe via Calico Winghorse. Much of I8’s world building stems from the SotP universe.
Currently there seems to be a great divide between the two series. SotP is gritty dark fantasy. I8 is something lighter, with a bit of grit.
While there are plans to lighten up SotP, just a little, I8 is going to meet it half way with storylines just a tad grittier than what is shown in The Demon Lord of California. Don’t worry though, because Calico and Gus’s relationship will remain foremost within the adventures. The I8 series remains a curious hybrid I can’t quite find a label for.
Demon Lord was written as an introduction of the series, and its cast. How do they label it in the romance world? A meet-cute? However, I8 is a romance that’s not a romance. It’s more focused on following long term relationships, family, and all the drama that comes with it.
Cal and Gus have a special place in my heart, and I hope that they’ll find one in yours, too.
Title: The Demon Lord of California (Infinity 8 #1)
Author: Jeanne Marcella
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: March 3, 2019
Page Count: 242
Reviewed by: Paris Dude
Calico Winghorse has no choice but to flee to the plane of existence called Earth. His great grandfather, suffering from a terrible curse, strips him of his psychic abilities and nearly murders him.
As a mixed-blood phoenix concealing himself in human form, Calico first settles in England, then in the San Francisco Bay Area. In order to make a living, he opens a small bakery and quietly licks his wounds.
But just how Calico escaped his childhood home—via interdimensional portal—is the very reason why he’s drawn the unwanted attention of Infinity Corporation.
Representing this angelic-run company is Agustín Chávez de la Cruz, the Demon Lord of California. Even though Agustín is IC’s heir, he finds himself demoted from his daily duties for a new assignment: take absolute control of Calico’s portal.
Calico and Agustín’s first brief encounter ignites sparks of attraction. Their second is highly explosive, bogging down initial communication with innocent mistruths and a healthy dose of fear.
As Agustín struggles to restore trust, Harper, the demanding head of IC interferes, further complicating matters. With negotiations slowed, Calico and Agustín realize they both wish to establish more than just a business deal.
However, until the extensive and brutal psychic injuries Calico received from his great grandfather are healed, the portal remains vulnerable to the darker forces that want it at any cost. Agustín will have to push both his angelic heritage, and his psychic powers to the very limits to mend someone who bears more than celestial blood, but who is also the god of space and time.
And the clock’s ticking.
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Agustín glared, studying the man who now possessed two of his many jobs, and also knew his weakness for sweets. Chocolate cake and butterscotch pudding were his favorites. Damn Harper for leaking personal information.
He tempered most of the rage out of his inquiry. “Is this your first time working for IC?”
Beneath the heavy layers of gauzy veils, Agustín imagined Triptych smiling wide, his teeth flashing. “I’m no bright-eyed newbie if that’s what you’re asking.”
Agustín frowned. He’d traveled abroad for several decades after graduating from The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, and he could not place Triptych’s strange slang and dialect. It took alien liberties with the English language, felt slightly lazy and too intimate, and did not match anything currently spoken. As if it did not even exist.
“Where are you from?” Agustín asked. “I haven’t seen you around ICHQ.”
Triptych seemed to mash his lips together to keep from a raucous laugh. “You don’t trust me.” He opened his carry case and offered a thin envelope.
Flipping it over, Agustín inspected the wax seal. It was Harper’s official crest as head of Infinity Corporation: an open hand above the infinity symbol.
He studied Triptych’s tall and easy grace before breaking the wax and removing the missive. And immediately dismissed his instincts. Triptych shouldn’t feel familiar. He didn’t even know this man. He’d never seen him before until now. Well, seen was merely an expression, as the veils concealed even the faintest view.
Agustín’s gaze dropped to the paper. There was no proper form of address beneath the letterhead. Just Harper’s familiar hurried scrawl and smeared ink.
Mr. Pascal Triptych is now Infinity Corporation’s liaison. He is also the new district overseer on the peninsula.
You and your Infinity 8 team now report to him. He will present your new assignment. Do not put up a fuss.
Demoted. Agustín’s jaw clenched further as he folded the letter back into the envelope and pocketed it. The emphasis on and slashes beneath the words were another long-suffered and familiar touch.
Straightening his shoulders, Agustín looked at his new boss. “Raynard’s,” he said.
When Triptych tilted his head, his large hat followed the motion. It made him look like a rather large bird in flight, lazily changing direction.
Agustín sensed he was being teased, perhaps mocked in a chummy sort of way. And he didn’t like it. He also sensed the man’s unseen grin. It was like an invisible beacon beneath those veils.
“Raynard’s is a private club that does not permit the mundanes,” Agustín clarified. “It is a haven for our kind.”
“Is it far from here?”
“It’s within the city.” Agustín’s eyelid twitched. Triptych was playing with him. He knew damn well where the club was.
Briefly, he wondered if the man was a fae. Harper permitted most kinds into the corporation, as long as their worth had been proven prior.
Triptych hailed a horse-drawn taxi. The driver expertly navigated around wayward pedestrians and the afternoon cacophony of ringing trolley bells and automobile horn honks. They arrived within the hour, and were immediately greeted at the door, by name, with gushing fanfare.
The maître d’ acted as if he’d known Triptych awhile, asking him of his travels and, strangely, a family. It just proved that the man had been messing with him, and Agustín did his best to keep his temper to a minimum.
They were escorted into one of several dining suites at the back of the club. As Agustín took his seat, he noted this private nook had glass walls set with French doors. It overlooked a private outdoor garden. A stone path snaking over green grass led to a gazebo covered with flowering vines. Scattered cigarette stands encouraged clients to loiter and smoke.
His attention didn’t remain among the manicured nature for long. Because inches away, on the fine linen tablecloth, was an intricately decorated chocolate cake.
It was a cake unlike any he had ever seen in his life. It wasn’t just the chocolate garnishes molded into jagged, dramatic trees that caught the eye. It was the three-dimensional miniature dragon basking atop the cake’s surface.
Agustín stared at it. Baffled. At first he thought it was a cake topper. But it appeared edible, so it had to be made out of fondant? Marzipan?
Decorated pastries were always in high demand among the elite, but the artistry and originality of this three-dimensional beast was incredible. It looked nearly real. Whoever created it had a firestorm of imagination and talent.
Triptych’s chuckles were small at first, then candid. It jarred Agustín from his musings, so he snapped out the serviette that had been in the form of a swan and spread it over his lap. When he looked up, Triptych was staring at his own plate and the swan serviette on it.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “It’s just that this is”—he pointed to the cloth swan—“unplanned. But a lovely coincidence backdropping your assignment. Do you like birds? Of course you do.”
“And my assignment is?” Agustín prompted with a hint of impatience.
A waiter arrived with coffee before Triptych could answer and then cut two rather large wedges of the cake. Agustín watched the knife slice through the head of the dragon with a little bit of effort, and the chocolate sponge dipped from the light pressure. The plated delight set before him displayed the beast’s head. Triptych got half the body.
Their server bowed to him, then nodded at Triptych. Triptych handed over a generous wad of bills, and the waiter exited with a huge grin on his face.
This new IC liaison was true to his word, not only claiming the tab for refreshments, but paying for the cab and the private dining suite itself.
“My lord, have you heard the rumors?”
Considering his reply, Agustín picked at his dessert. Spearing the sugary snout with his fork, he shoved it in his mouth. Delicious.
What rumors was Triptych getting at? There were always waggling tongues among their community, and for the right price, they’d waggle more.
His mansion’s servants and his Infinity team had a friendly competition going about who could tell the best stories. He permitted the pastime as long as it didn’t dive into waspish and hurtful undertones. But sifting through all the gossip that had passed by his breakfast table, he settled on the one most bantered about.
“So I’m to bring in the mongrel triplet demons who recently moved to town.”
“Yes and no.” From his satchel, Triptych presented a stack of papers, which Agustín ignored. He could read them later. Now was the time for his briefing.
Triptych tapped the pages. “Our focus is on the one calling himself Acanthus Scrivens. His real name is Calico Winghorse.”
Winghorse. Hmm. The surname bothered him. It seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He knew a lot of demons—from nobility to commoner—and had been introduced to hundreds more in every corner of the world.
Triptych reached for his coffee; Agustín broke from his thoughts to watch. But the man only partially lifted the veils of his wide-brimmed rattan hat and sipped from behind them. Not even showing his chin. It made Agustín all the more curious.
He ruled out vampire. Harper banned vampires from IC, even in a liaison capacity. Humans as a food source was not something angels tolerated.
Jeanne Marcella was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Granted unlimited access to books at a very early age via the library, she quickly acquired a fondness for creating her own stories through word and drawing.
She writes queer dark fantasy not for the faint of heart, and fun (but sometimes gritty) urban fantasy soaps, all with romantic elements.