The Devil's Playground (Morgan Kingsley Exorcist Series)

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9780749940164: The Devil's Playground (Morgan Kingsley Exorcist Series)
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No one ever wants to serve in Hell...The Seven Deadlies, a demon club in Philadelphia, has always catered to the most attractive and desirable hosts. Recently, though, more and more of the lower dregs of society have been showing up with demons of their own - in alarming numbers. Morgan is sure that Dougal is behind this, but isn't sure why. Is Dougal building an army to snatch the throne of the demons from Lugh? If there's one person who can get to the bottom of this, it's Morgan Kingsley, but caught between her mortal lover Brian and the demon she lusts for, Lugh, it's going to take everything she has to keep her head - and heart - in the game.

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About the Author:

Whilst studying physical anthropology, Jenna Black dreamed of making fabulous discoveries about primate behaviour. However, after concluding that primates spend around 80% of their time sleeping and eating, she moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

No one would have called my life normal even before I became the human host of Lugh, the demon king, who was embroiled in a mostly covert war for the throne. So the fact that I was beginning to think of my life as “normal” now could have been a cause for alarm. But hey, it had been more than two months since anyone had tried to kill me, torture me, or frame me for murder. These days, that was about as normal as it got.

The truth is, my life had settled into something that resembled a routine, and I was beginning to get pretty comfortable with it. Since I was no longer under suspension by the U.S. Exorcism Board, I spent time at my office almost every day. I performed an exorcism maybe once or twice a month, and there was enough paperwork and general office management to keep me busy for a couple hours a day. Not exactly a nine-to-five, but routine enough to lull me into something like complacency. Before I’d become Lugh’s host, I’d routinely done one or two exorcisms a week, but that required me to travel all around the country—something I couldn’t afford to do anymore. Lugh and all the members of his royal council on the Mortal Plain agreed—possibly a first—that it would be “unwise” for me to venture too far from home when a crisis could pop up at the drop of a hat.

After the disastrous exorcism of Jordan Maguire Jr., which had almost cost me my career and my freedom, I’d been on a lucky streak, with more hosts than usual coming out of the exorcisms with their minds intact. My lucky streak had just ended, however. I’d had an early morning exorcism—a teenaged boy with a face only a mother could love. When I’d cast out the demon who’d possessed him, he’d been catatonic. There was no way of knowing if he would ever snap out of it. I could still hear the mother’s heartbroken sobs when the authorities gave her the news.

Naturally, I was a bit depressed afterward. I went to my office and tried to bury myself in paperwork, but I wasn’t exactly being productive. So when someone knocked on my office door, I was glad for the interruption. Until said interruption opened the door at my invitation.

I hadn’t seen Shae, owner of The Seven Deadlies— a demon sex club that made my stomach curdle just thinking about it—in over two months, and that was just fine by me. I’d have been happy never to see her again in my entire life. She was a mercenary and a predator. She was also an illegal demon—one who’d taken an unwilling human host—and a snitch for Special Forces, the Philly police department’s demon-crime unit. I’d have loved nothing more than to exorcize her ass, but her status as a police snitch protected her.

I’m not what you’d call a conservative dresser—I love low-rise jeans and low-cut tops—but I could never compete with Shae for sheer flamboyance. If her tight white pants dipped any lower, she’d need a bikini wax to wear them, and her sheer red lace top made no attempt to hide the black bra she wore beneath. On most people, that outfit would have looked silly at best, and slutty at worst. On Shae, it reminded me of the plumage on a tropical bird, showy and exotic.

My first impulse was to tell her to get the hell out of my office, but I was getting better at this whole impulse-control thing. There was no way Shae was here on a social call, and I probably needed to hear what she had to say, whether I wanted to or not. I flashed her my best imitation of a welcoming smile.

“Well, this ought to be interesting,” I said. “Have a seat.” I gestured toward one of the chairs in front of my desk, then frowned theatrically. “If you’re capable of sitting down in those pants, that is. I wouldn’t want you mooning passersby.” Never mind that Shae and I were alone in my office with the door closed.

Shae’s smile always reminded me of a shark. Or the Big Bad Wolf. I don’t think her teeth are really any sharper than a normal person’s, but they always looked it. Plus, they were movie-star white against her Heart of Africa skin. She made a big production out of sitting gingerly on the edge of the chair and craning her neck for any signs of visible butt cheek.

I rolled my eyes and refrained from comment. “So, what brings you to my neck of the woods?”

Shae’s smile turned sly and calculating. “I have some information you might be interested in hearing.”

“Okay, lay it on me.” But I knew it wouldn’t be that simple. Shae did nothing out of the goodness of her heart. If she was offering information, then it would be for a price.

“What’s it worth to you?” she asked, right on cue.

I laughed. “How should I know? You haven’t told me what ‘it’ is yet.”

She pursed her lips, and a hint of annoyance flared in her eyes. “I’m doing you a favor by coming to you. I can just as easily walk right back out that door.”

If she thought I’d find that option unappealing, she was very much mistaken. “You don’t get to call it a favor when you’re offering it for a price.”

“Fine.” She stood up and made to leave. I let her get as far as the door before I caved.

“All right, I’ll quit being a smart-ass,” I said. “Come and sit down.”

She didn’t leave, but she didn’t come sit down, either. Instead, she just stared at me, her head cocked to one side. It was hard not to squirm under that intense regard. I’m not at my best when I’m uncomfortable, so I did what I usually do at such times—I lashed out.

“I wonder what Raphael would do if I told him you were trying to sell me information,” I mused, and was gratified to see a momentary break in Shae’s composure.

Raphael, Lugh’s youngest brother and member of the royal council, had a reputation for cruelty that was, as far as I could tell, unparalleled. The fact that I knew he deserved it didn’t make our alliance an easy one. But he was one hell of a bogeyman to threaten Shae with. She was the only person outside the royal council who knew who was hosting Raphael on the Mortal Plain, and she was scared enough of him to keep the secret.

Unfortunately, Shae regained her legendary composure almost before I had a chance to see the flash of terror in her eyes. Her spine straightened, and she bared her teeth in something that bore little resemblance to a smile.

“I know more about the demons of this city—both legal and illegal—than anyone. I can be a valuable asset. But if you sic Raphael on me, I swear to you I will never volunteer another scrap of information again, no matter how important it might be.”

I pondered that for a moment, but she continued before I came to any conclusions.

“Raphael can’t intimidate information out of me if he doesn’t know I have it. I’m much more useful to you in the long run as a willing business partner.”

Her logic was impeccable, though I didn’t like it. Sure, Raphael could probably “coax” her into spitting out whatever it was she had now, but I knew her threat wasn’t an empty one. I might not much want her as a friend, but I wanted her as an enemy even less.

“Okay, fine. I’ll leave Raphael out of this. But until you give me some hint what it is you have, I can’t even begin to figure out what it’s worth to me.”

The last time I’d had to negotiate with Shae, we’d determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t have the kind of money I’d need to pay for her . . . services. Hell, I barely had any money at all! My insurance company had finally come through with the money they owed me after my house burned down, but since I wasn’t exactly raking in the bucks with my one to two exorcisms a month, I knew I’d have to make that money last. Though I yearned for my quaint little cottage in the suburbs, I couldn’t afford to rebuild it and was still living in a cookie-cutter apartment in Center City.

“What if I told you my information pertained to Dougal’s ambition to take the demon throne?”

I really hated the fact that Shae knew I had any involvement in Lugh’s struggle with Dougal, but since information was her currency of choice when cash wasn’t available, and since I’d been forced to negotiate with her before, she knew far more than I was comfortable with. I suspect that the moment those words left her lips, my face froze in some kind of ridiculously transparent expression of interest mingled with alarm. I’m finally starting to accept the reality that I will never have what you’d call a poker face.

“Okay, you’ve got my full attention,” I told Shae, since she could see that already.

“Glad to hear it. Now let’s talk payment.”

I’m a sucky negotiator, and I wasn’t in the mood to spar with Shae. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”

Shae blinked, like the idea that I might not want to spend half an hour playing cat and mouse came as a complete surprise to her. Maybe those tight pants were giving her the wedgie from hell, or maybe my bluntness genuinely made her uncomfortable, but I swear Shae actually squirmed.

Then she rallied her mental troops and tossed out what she had to know would be an impossibly outrageous demand. “I want to know exactly what your involvement is with Lugh and his . . . family troubles.”

I snorted. “Not going to happen. Nice doing business with you. Bye-bye.” I crossed my arms over my chest and waited for her next offer.

Shae clucked her tongue. “Perhaps you...

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Book Description Little, Brown Book Group, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. No one ever wants to serve in Hell.The Seven Deadlies, a demon club in Philadelphia, has always catered to the most attractive and desirable hosts. Recently, though, more and more of the lower dregs of society have been showing up with demons of their own - in alarming numbers. Morgan is sure that Dougal is behind this, but isn t sure why. Is Dougal building an army to snatch the throne of the demons from Lugh? If there s one person who can get to the bottom of this, it s Morgan Kingsley, but caught between her mortal lover Brian and the demon she lusts for, Lugh, it s going to take everything she has to keep her head - and heart - in the game. Seller Inventory # AWC9780749940164

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