Here’s the first two unedited pages of The Sharpest Edge, coming soon in the Carnivale Diabolique anthology from Parker Publishing:
A man and a demon walk into a bar…
“Well, will you look at that.”
Cam looked, and almost dropped the coffee carafe. Everyone had turned to stare at the towering, bronze-skinned man with black tribal markings etched into the left side of his face. Definitely not a common occurrence in Elberton, Georgia.
The demon that came in behind him? She’d seen plenty of those, unfortunately.
She forced herself to resume pouring Willie’s coffee. “I’d heard that a carnival was coming to town. Looks like it’s here.”
“Is he the strong man or the side show?”
“Those tattoos mean he’s Maori, from down by New Zealand way. Ain’t you ever seen Whale Rider?”
Willie frowned. “Is that some kind of interracial porno?”
Cam shook her head. “There are times when I’m glad you can’t contribute to the gene pool, and this is one of ‘em.” She returned the carafe to its warmer, then moved behind the counter to greet the new arrival. She stood an even six feet barefoot, but this guy had at least five inches on her. Man, they sure grow ’em big Down Under. “Welcome to Cam’s Café.”
“Thanks.” His voice, a surprising tenor instead of a bass rumble, held just a bit of an accent. He slid onto a stool as she held her breath, but the seat took his weight. Her peripheral vision caught the demon sliding onto the stool to his left. “Seems like a nice place.”
“We do all right.” She reached beneath the counter for a menu, placed it in front of him. She so wasn’t getting out a menu for a demon. “You with the carnival, I guess?”
“Yes. We pulled in about an hour ago.” He picked up the menu with large hands covered in black swirling patterns, like a masculine version of lace. It made her wonder if his entire body was marked, but she was too polite to ask. Just like she wouldn’t ask if he knew he had a demon for a shadow. Sticking one’s nose into other folk’s business could get you killed, and Cam liked her life just fine.
“I don’t suppose you have hot tea?”
“I do. It’s the closest you’re going to get to unsweet tea around here. I got a bunch of different herbal kinds you can choose from.”
“Excellent. I’ll take tea and a cup of coffee, black. Oh and if you have tomato juice, I’d like a glass of that with a bottle of Tabasco sauce.”
Cam raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Did the guy know he had a demon—and was actually buying it a drink? If so, he was dangerous. Maybe the entire carnival had demons and humans who could not only see them, but wanted them around.
Big problem. She suppressed a shudder as she moved off to fill his drink order. Too many demons running free. Part of the reason she’d come to Elberton and stayed was because the town was full of honestly good people of different faiths, a mysterious tourist attraction called the Georgia Guidestones, and absolutely no demons. That had been two years ago. Just when she’d finally gotten past being “the outsider” and had made her café one of the main congregation spots, demons started appearing.
It was enough to make her wonder if she was the magnet that drew them.