Mar 17 2014 12:00pm
Illusion: Exclusive New Excerpt
Be careful what you wish for... You just might get it.
Nick Gautier is tired of his destiny. He doesn’t want to be the son of a demon who’s fated to end the world. Nor does he want to see another demon or other preternatural creature who wants to kill or enslave him. He just wants to be normal and have normal problems like everyone else.
But normality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When he gets sucked into an alternate reality where his mother has married his mentor and his Atlantean god best friend has become a human geek, he begins to understand that no life is free of pain, and that every person has a specific place in the universe . . . Even the son of a hated demon. Most of all, he sees that his powers aren’t the curse he thought they were, and that the world needs a champion, especially one its enemies can’t imagine rising up to defend the ones he should destroy.
Get a sneak peek of Sherrilyn Kenyon's fifth Chronicles of Nick book, Illusion (available April 1, 2014), with an exclusive excerpt of Chapter 2.
Haven't read the Prologue and Chapter 1 yet? Listen to a clip below, and then leave a comment on this post to be entered for a chance to win one of two copies of the Illusion audiobook!*
Pursing her lips in sympathy, Selena patted Nick on his shoulder. “Sure, kid. Where do you live?”
Nick shook his head. “Not like that. You said you believe in alternate realities, right?”
He braced himself to sound like the absolute flaming moron lunatic he was. Just don’t call the cops on me. He had no desire to repeat that nightmare. “I’m not from here, okay? I went to sleep in my world or dimension or whatever it’s called, and I woke up here in this one. And no offense, this one is…” He bit back the word weird, because it wasn’t weird. It was normal. But for him, normal was the strangest kind of weird imaginable. “I don’t belong here and I want to go home. Please help me return to my world.”
She took a step back. Not that he blamed her. If someone had said that to him, he’d have been running for safety in the opposite direction after the third word out of their mouth. Said a lot for her that she was only staring at him.
Nick started to close the gap between them, then stopped himself. If he did that, she might bolt. “Look. I know I sound crazy, okay? But in my world, your sister Tabitha has a boyfriend named Eric St. James. She graduated from St. Mary’s, and your aunt Ana owns a voodoo shop named Erzulie’s on the corner of Royal and St. Ann. Your sister, Tiyana, who’s named after her, works there, too.” He clapped his hands as he remembered another detail he hoped was still right. “And Tabitha has a twin named Amanda, and um … what’s her name … your other sister’s a midwife who did an internship with a woman named Menyara Chartier—my godmother. And your aunt Kalila, who isn’t really your aunt, but your mom’s best friend from childhood, does the Haunted History vampire and Voodoo tours in the Quarter. I’ve handed out flyers for her and Sid. And you have another blood-related aunt who owns Pandora’s Box on Bourbon Street. Tabitha works there sometimes, and in your aunt Zenobia’s jewelry store on Royal.”
Selena burst out laughing then sobered. “Wait a minute … you’re really not lying. You believe everything you just said to me.”
“It’s the truth … at least it is where I come from.”
She reached out and cupped his cheek before she pulled him against her and held him close. Nick wasn’t sure why she was sexually harassing him, but he didn’t fight her hug. Instead, he held his breath, praying she believed him.
After several really long, uncomfortable minutes, she let him go. Stroking his cheek in a motherly fashion, she nodded. “All right. We need to find out about your home and see about returning you to it.”
Really? That was it? He’d expected a little more fanfare or argument. “You believe me?”
She shrugged. “Honestly? I’m not sure. But you’re either one heck of a stalker to know all those names of my family members or … Tell you what, let me drop my stuff off with my friend who has a stand in the Square that’s right beside mine. Walk with me and—”
Nick interrupted her as everything fell into place for him. “You’re Madame Selena, aren’t you? I’ve seen your stand a million times as I walked past it in the Square, but I never realized you were Tabitha’s sister Selena.” Partly because he never really looked at any of the psychics there.
As far back as he could remember, his mother had always been adamantly opposed to them as fakes and frauds, and since he’d learned what he really was, he’d been too afraid to go near them in case they weren’t all charlatans. With the paranormal price on his head, it paid to be cautious. Last thing he needed was a psychic trying to collect his bounty like everyone else.
Or worse, his Malachai powers.
But this one … her elaborate stand was hard to miss, even from a distance. “You’re the psychic who has the card table right outside the Visitor’s Center next to that artist woman who has all those pastels of landmarks … Sunshine Artworks.”
She appeared impressed. “Who’s your mama, boy?”
“Cherise Gautier.” He smacked himself on the forehead as he remembered she was different now. “In my time. Here, she’s Cherise Burdette née Gautier.”
Gaping, Selena laughed. “Triple Threat Burdette? The huge football player’s wife?”
Triple Threat … yeah, that definitely described the man Nick knew so well. Much more apropos than the Triple B Bubba used in his realm. “You know Bubba?”
“I know Cherise and Michael both. Cherise and I used to work at the Café Pontalba together when we were in college. It’s how they met. Michael was in town for a game. But I haven’t talked to her in years.”
“Yeah, well, I talked to her this morning, and if she hears one word of this, she’ll have me committed.”
Selena laughed. “Boy, any sane person would have you committed. You’re so lucky I’m nuts and that I accept the impossible as everyday fact.” She looped her arm through his and pulled him in the direction of the streetcar.
As they walked, there was something about her that confused him even more than waking up in this bizarre place. “Why are you exactly the same when no one else is?”
“I wouldn’t say no one. Tabitha doesn’t sound like she’s all that different. Tiyana, either. My theory would be that some of us are just too dang stubborn to be anyone else. Our personalities are so strong or intense that no matter where you put us, we’d still be us. Or you could say that the universe wills it so. Does it really matter?”
“Does to me, especially right now.”
“’Cause some of the changes of the people I know don’t make any kind of sense, especially given what you just said. Trust me, no one has a stronger personality than they do.” He stopped short of mentioning that Caleb and Simi were demons in his world or that Acheron was an immortal … something with a great deal of power. How could they be those things in his world and be typical humans here, while Selena and possibly Tabitha were the same in both places?
Just didn’t make sense to him at all.
Selena patted his arm. “Well, don’t worry about it. We’re going to fix your situation and find out what’s really happening.”
He caught the underlying note in her voice that sent a shiver down his spine. “What do you mean?”
“Well, if you’re here and this isn’t where you’re supposed to be, and yet there was another Nick living here before you arrived, it begs the question of where that other Nick went, doesn’t it?”
Ah, dang. He hadn’t even thought of that. His newly spawned ulcer burned at the mere thought. “Are you telling me there’s some dude in my skin at home?”
“That would be my assumption.”
Great. Just flippin’ great. That was all he needed. Someone else screwing up his screwed-up life. Like he didn’t do that enough on his own. But worse … the other Nick, if he was from this world, wouldn’t know he was part demon, nor would he have the skills to fight those who wanted to enslave him.
Or kill him.
And that was just his mother and girlfriend. Never mind all the real threats to his life.
“You’ve got to get me back there. That Nick … he could mess up everything. Bad bad.”
He could unlock Nick’s Malachai powers and unravel the entire universe.
His gut knotting even harder, he allowed Selena to escort him to her red Mustang, then drive him back to the Quarter. But instead of going to her stand like she’d said, she veered off to the corner of Royal and St. Ann’s, where Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo was located.
Nick frowned at the pink building that was impossible to miss in both worlds. “Your aunt still owns this?”
Selena parked the car. “Sort of. Tabby and Tia are technically the owners now. They’re making payments to her for it.”
“What about Pandora’s Box?”
She turned off the car and unbuckled her belt. “That hasn’t been part of our family since our aunt was murdered in her store ten years ago.”
Nick let out a sympathetic sigh. “Sorry.”
“Thanks.” She got out.
Before joining her, Nick took a moment to absorb what she’d said and lay it down with what Ambrose had told him about Nick’s future. None of it made sense. Why would some things here be so altered while others weren’t?
For now, though, he’d go with it. Not like he had any other choice.
He got out of the car and waited on the curb while Selena locked the doors. As they walked around the corner and neared the shop entrance, a weird sense of déjà vu hit him. Hard.
One of the last things they’d done before he’d been sucked out of his realm was to come here and buy the items Caleb needed for the binding spell they’d used on Nick’s powers.
The minute Nick had entered that store, all heck had broken out into the longest night of his life. Now, it seemed like a lifetime ago.
How could so much happen in such a short span of time? But then that was life.
The hits just keep on coming.…
Selena led the way into the neat pink and purple store that was identical to the one from his world. Right down to the green shutters and dark shelving that held Voodoo dolls, spells, oils, perfumes, soaps, wangas, and all manner of things.
“Hey, Tab!” Selena shouted so loud, it made Nick jump. She frowned at his reaction. “You ought to see a doc about that nervous disorder, buddy. Reflexes like that, you must have been a cat in a former life. Congrats on evolving.”
He didn’t respond as he eyed the large Voodoo altar on his left that had been set up for the goddess Erzulie the store had been named for. Last night, Selena’s aunt had threatened his body parts if he touched it or any of the offerings that lined it and the floor around it.
Tabitha most likely wouldn’t give a warning shot. She’d just geld him.
And speak of the devil, she came out of the back room. Only she was much more sedate. Gone was the Queen of the Damned-and-Emo and in her place was a woman in a muted blue sweater and jeans.
She brushed a hand through her dark auburn hair. “Tabby isn’t here. She and Tia ran off to the rock shop for some new shipment they”—she made air quotes with her fingers—“had to see.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s another box of rocks. Really. What is it with you whackadoodles?”
“You must be Amanda,” Nick said without thinking.
She narrowed a suspicious gaze on him. “Yeah. And you are…?”
“Friend of the whackadoodles,” Selena answered before he could speak. “Ignore the kid in front of the altar.”
“Not a problem. I’ve got plenty of work to do in back. I’m teaching myself to make a Voodoo doll of Tabby I can stab with pins.”
Selena scoffed at her. “That won’t work.”
“Won’t stop me from trying. I obviously adore futility, as I’ve struggled to talk sanity into the lot of you for almost thirty years now.” Amanda returned to the back room. “Don’t touch anything and get cursed while I’m not out front to stop you.”
Strangely amused by Tabitha’s twin, Nick met Selena’s perturbed grimace. “What now?”
She didn’t answer as she began pulling things off the shelves and placing them in a small wicker basket that she’d picked up from the stack of them by the register.
“Are you making a potion?”
Selena held a wrapped package up to smell it before she added it to her stash. “No, I’m out of soap and perfume at home. My aunt makes sure that only the best ingredients go into hers and they’re all natural.”
Nick glanced to the door and windows, and remembered Mark and Bubba fighting demons and a Hel Hound from the night before. Gah, it was so strange to be here where no one knew his real life. Knew what he’d been through.
Maybe I am crazy. Maybe this was his real life and the other a delusion. Kind of like The Wizard of Oz. Maybe the demon Caleb was just a manifestation of the boy he’d grown up with and Nick’s subconscious had demonized him for eating a slice of Nick’s pizza or something.
Certainly made a lot more sense than Nick had jumped realities for no reason while he slept.
What is reality, anyway? Really? Was it what he knew or what he thought he knew?
Man, a guy could seriously lose his mind attempting to make sense of it all. Closing his eyes, he tried one more time to tap any of the powers the Grim Reaper had taught him.
Not even a burp or hiccup.
He was as powerless as the day he’d been born.
Irritated, Nick moved to the counter, where there was a small display of pendulums. They weren’t that different from the one he had that Grim had taught him to use. Without thinking, he reached for the one made of jet. It should protect him from whatever evil was messing with him.
But the moment he touched it, it shattered into a million pieces. With a Cajun curse, he jumped back to see the blood on his index finger.
Facing him, Selena gaped. “What are you?”
Before he could answer, his chest began burning like someone had set his clothes on fire. Clutching his heart, Nick fell to his knees. Dog, it hurt. Bad.
His breathing ragged, he tried to center himself. To bury the pain so that he could function. But just like earlier at school, he couldn’t. It felt like something was trying to suck him out of here.
Or take him over.
Worse, his hands turned translucent again.
He heard Selena, yet he had no way of answering her. Words wouldn’t form, no matter what he tried. Someone laughed inside his head. Only it was more like a roar.
With the speed of rapid-fire arrows, images flashed in his mind. He saw his own past and a past he didn’t know at all. Bubba was the same lunatic he knew and at the same time he was the man who was his father here. In another place and time, he was a scarred commando in the jungle, fighting zombies and other things Nick couldn’t identify. He saw his mother dying, over and over, in world after world.
His own future self on a demonic rampage …
Flames leapt around him as he flew through a destroyed New Orleans landscape that was littered with bodies and twisted remains of cars and military transports and weapons.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.… Kody’s voice filled his head. As it was in the beginning, it is now and will be to the ages of ages. Closing his eyes, he allowed her gentleness to give him something he could focus on.
Pax tecum, little brother. Ash’s voice joined hers in his mind.
And then a third soothing voice joined theirs. Speak your name, demonspawn, and I will give you what you want most. Peace will be yours. Forever.
Nick scowled. Speak his name? That made no sense. Why was the voice in his head if it didn’t know him?
I am crazy.
Swallowing hard, he looked up into Selena’s panicked eyes and saw what was to come for him in his world. “You summoned Julian of Macedon for Grace on her birthday. She set him free. And Kyrian…” In six months from now, he’s supposed to meet Amanda. Nick could see it all so clearly.
That was why Ambrose—Nick’s future self—had told him to stay clear of Amanda and Tabitha. Ambrose knew exactly what was to come for them, and by messing with the timeline, Nick could stop Kyrian from finding happiness and breaking free of his pact with Artemis.
Nick could stop Kyrian’s destiny and thereby alter everything.
One life touched thousands. For the first time, Nick truly saw the vastness of it all and fully understood.
Every man is born as many and dies as one. With every choice made, a part of the future died and an opportunity was lost. You narrowed your options and steered yourself down the path of your life.
A path that led Nick straight to a fate he didn’t want. He’d been born to end the world.…
To destroy everything he loved and valued.
Defy your destiny!
Darkness surrounded him. It breathed into him and pressed against his chest until he feared he was dying. He couldn’t get it to turn him loose. It was here and all it wanted was his life. His powers.
His immortal soul.
Nick shook his head as he struggled for consciousness. But he was losing this battle.
He was losing himself.
Give. Me. Your. Name!
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Copyright © 2014 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Learn more about or order a copy of Illusion by Sherrilyn Kenyon, available April 1, 2014:
Can't get enough of Nick Gautier? Learn more about (and get caught up on) the Chronicles of Nick series with Inferno, out in paperback April 1, 2014:
New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon is a regular in the #1 spot. This extraordinary bestseller continues to top every genre in which she writes. With more than 40 million copies of her books in print in more than one hundred countries, her current series include The Dark-Hunters, The League, and Chronicles of Nick. Her Chronicles of Nick and Dark-Hunter series are soon to be major motion pictures.