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*includes a digitally signed author note*


L.A. is teeming with demons. Only one man and his ragtag team of supernatural misfits can stop them.

Three weeks have passed since Artemus Steele discovered that he is part angel, brother to a twin he knew nothing about, and now technically the unwitting leader of a gang of freaks. Following an epic battle in New York that saw him and his new allies unearth the identity of the demonic organization the Vatican has been fighting for decades, all Artemus wants is for life to return to some semblance of normality – which is kinda hard when his home has been invaded by unwanted tenants.

Thrust into a role he never wanted, Haruki Kuroda, the new heir to L.A.’s most infamous Yakuza group, desires only one thing: to avenge the death of his brother. After tracking down the sole witness to the brutal killing, Haruki’s path crosses that of Artemus and his friends in a confrontation that sees a new power awaken inside the Yakuza heir.

Destinies collide when Elton LeBlanc enlists Artemus and his team to help investigate a rise in demonic manifestation in L.A. and uncover what Ba’al is up to in the City of Angels. But what they unearth is not what they were expecting. Because Ba’al is looking for something. And if they find it before Artemus and his allies, Hell will come to L.A.


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Blood and Bones
Fire and Earth
Hallowed Ground


Yashiro Kuroda stepped out of the black sedan and paused to look at the sky to the west. The setting sun was an orange fireball dipping below the dark line of the Pacific Ocean, way out beyond the surf crashing onto Long Beach. Above it, the heavens were scored with a dizzying kaleidoscope of ever-changing reds and purples.

A trace of disquiet danced at the edge of his consciousness as he gazed upon the crimson hues tainting the horizon.

“Is everything okay, sir?” one of his bodyguards murmured.

Yashiro hesitated before dipping his chin at the hard-faced man beside him. “Yes, thank you, Riuji. I was thinking of a silly superstition. One Haruki and I learned of when we were still living in Kyushu.” He grimaced. “Among the many other garish stories told to us by our nannies.”

Riuji Ogawa studied the blood-red sky. “It is a rather ominous color.”

Kaito Sasaki climbed out of the vehicle behind them and stood nervously watching the dark building they had pulled up in front of, his briefcase clasped to his chest. For once, Yashiro couldn’t blame the skittish man. Tian Gao Lee, the Triad gang leader they had come to discuss business with, had chosen a rather unsavory spot for their meeting.

Yashiro headed for the main door of the run-down warehouse with Riuji, Sasaki, and Masato, his second bodyguard.

“Master Haruki will be back the day after tomorrow, won’t he?” Riuji murmured as they crossed the blacktop.

“Yes.” Yashiro sighed. “Though why he had to go all the way to Stanford to get his MBA is beyond me. At least he’ll be home for his birthday.”

Riuji maintained a diplomatic silence.

They both knew the reason why Yashiro’s younger brother had chosen a university so far away to get his business degree.

They slowed when they entered the shadow of the building. Yashiro scanned the empty parking lot at the side with a faint frown.

“Their cars must be out back,” Riuji said, his tone cautious.

Yashiro smiled faintly, grateful once more for the man’s presence. Riuji had been in the employ of the Kuroda Group for twenty-five years and his personal bodyguard for almost as long. The man had always been able to read him, even when Yashiro was still a snot-nosed, little brat.

Darkness and silence greeted them when they stepped inside the warehouse. Yashiro’s eyes slowly adapted to the gloom. Shapes materialized out of the shadows.

A sudden wave of tension emanated from Riuji and Masato. Yashiro stiffened, his senses on high alert.

Fifty feet away, beyond the carcasses of abandoned machinery and piles of rusting drums, a group of people stood silently watching them from the other end of the abandoned depot.

“Is that you, Tian Gao?” Yashiro called out in a steady voice. He could hear Sasaki breathing fast next to him.

For a moment, there was no reply. A cigarette lighter suddenly flicked into life, the click so loud it echoed around the vast space.

Sasaki gasped and startled in the shadows to his right. Yashiro ignored the man and watched the dancing, yellow flame illuminate a scarred and ghoulish face across the way.

“Who else were you expecting, Kuroda?” Tian Gao Lee said gruffly.

A spotlight came on and washed across the interior of the building.

Yashiro relaxed as he gazed upon the familiar, pockmarked features of the Triad gang leader. He ignored the inner voice warning him that something was off and closed the distance to Tian Gao and his entourage.

There was no way the man would jeopardize the alliance between the Triad and the Kuroda Group. Not after the years of gang warfare and bloodshed that had preceded their current truce.

Riuji’s expression remained guarded, he and the other bodyguard sticking close to Yashiro.

Yashiro stopped a few feet from Tian Gao and examined the other man with a neutral smile. “Of all the places you could have chosen for our meeting, this does not exactly suit your flamboyant style.”

The corner of Tian Gao’s mouth hitched in a lopsided smirk. “You mean it doesn’t suit yours, don’t you?”

Yashiro sighed. “There is nothing wrong with liking the finer things in life, Tian Gao.” He scanned the faces of the silent men behind the Triad gang leader. “I see you’ve had a change of personnel. Did you get bored with your old guard?”

Something flashed across Tian Gao’s face for a second.

He shrugged. “I decided to make some new friends.”

Yashiro stared. It was a strange term for the Triad gang leader to use in relation to the men in his employ. His gaze moved to the watchful figures behind Tian Gao once more. Though he couldn’t quite put a finger on the why, there was something about them that was putting his nerves on edge.

“How’s your old man keeping?” Tian Gao said.

“My father is fine, thank you,” Yashiro murmured. “And how’s your boss?”

Tian Gao grimaced. “As tight-assed as ever.”

Yashiro started to smile. That was when it came to him. The reason why the men with Tian Gao were making him uneasy.

They’re not blinking.

Fear washed over Yashiro then. An irrational, gut-wrenching fear that stemmed from the most primitive part of his brain. With it came a sudden premonition.

We’ll be lucky if we get out of here alive.

Riuji glanced at him, the stiff set of his shoulders telling Yashiro he had also picked up on the strange vibe coming from the men with Tian Gao. Yashiro avoided the bodyguard’s gaze and kept his eyes firmly on the Triad gang leader.

“Now that we’ve exchanged pleasantries, let’s talk business, shall we?” he said in a light voice.

Tian Gao’s expression grew sober. “Yes, let’s.”

He walked up to Yashiro and punched his right fist straight through his chest.

Yashiro gasped and rocked back on his heels, fingers rising instinctively to grip the other man’s wrist. Shock reverberated through him as he looked down to where Tian Gao’s hand had disappeared inside his body.

Impossible! That’s impossi—

The pain came with a fury that robbed him of his breath. Yashiro grunted and sagged to his knees. Screams reached him, the sounds echoing dimly above the loud roar of blood in his ears. He turned his head stiffly and saw the men with Tian Gao tear Riuji and Masato from limb to limb.

Except they weren’t men. Not anymore.

As the horror of what was unfolding before him finally registered in his mind and coldness swamped his body, Yashiro realized that the gruesome folk tales of his childhood were not made-up stories after all. That monsters did exist and that they walked this world inside the bodies of ordinary-looking men.

“Why?” Yashiro whispered.

Something hot bubbled up his throat and filled his mouth with a coppery taste. Blood burst from his lips. It splattered onto the clothes of the man who had his fingers wrapped around his heart.

Yashiro stared up at Tian Gao. The thing that looked back at him smiled savagely, features distorted by the beast within.

“Don’t take this personally, Kuroda,” Tian Gao said, his words underscored by a faint animal growl. “This is just business.”

Yashiro’s gaze found the remains of his bodyguards. The creatures who had killed the two men were crouched over them, hands and mouths filled with gore as they feasted upon the flesh of their victims.

Rage erupted inside Yashiro. He gritted his teeth, his racing pulse throbbing through his body with every beat of his dying heart as he called upon the last reserves of his strength and courage.

This is unbecoming of me. I am the heir to the Kuroda Group, goddammit!

He lowered his right hand from Tian Gao’s arm, flicked his wrist, and sliced through the Triad gang leader’s forearm with the spring-loaded blade that appeared from beneath the cuff of his suit.

Tian Gao roared and staggered back a couple of steps, his severed limb spraying out a black liquid that splashed onto the ground and stained his clothes.

Yashiro reached for the stump still embedded inside his body and ripped it out of his chest with a guttural cry.

Sound faded. The world shrank to a rapidly diminishing circle of darkness.

Yashiro thudded onto his side. The last thing he saw before death claimed him in an icy embrace was his bloody, battered heart shuddering to a stop inside Tian Gao’s hand on the ground before him.

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