Excerpt – The Necromancer’s Betrayal

Warning!  The stories in my Final Formula Series are intended to be read in order.  Reading them out of order will spoil the fun of an earlier tale.  For blurbs, excerpts, and retailer links on the previous books in the series, just click on my BOOKS tab above.


The-Necromancers-Betrayal-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalChapter 1

Elysia tucked her hands in her pockets and bent her head against the damp wind. This February had been mild—mild enough that it rained instead of snowed—but it was still too cold for the lightweight jacket she wore. She had left her heavy coat at her grandmother’s house when she visited over Christmas. She should call and ask for it to be sent to her, but that would give Grams another opportunity to lecture her about wasting her life—and talent. Elysia had gotten her fill of that over the holidays.

She hesitated at the corner, and after a quick look in both directions, crossed against the light. It was too cold to obey the traffic laws. She cut through an alley and stepped out onto the parking lot behind the building where she tended bar five nights a week. It wasn’t the career she had envisioned when she graduated college three years ago, but it paid the bills. Mostly.

The wind shifted, tugging at her hood, and she reached up to hold it in place. That’s when she became aware of another tug on her senses. This one familiar and as natural as breathing. Death called to her, somewhere in the darkness near the back door of the bar. She stopped in the shadow of a neighboring building and reached out. The call was too strong for it to be anything other than a human.

The back door of the bar opened, and Elysia jumped in surprise. She had been so lost in the call, that she hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings. A tall blonde stopped in the doorway, her legs and arms bare beneath the mini skirt and sleeveless top she wore.

“You out here?” The woman squinted in the dim light. The illumination from the dirty bulb over the door didn’t carry far.

Suddenly, the woman wasn’t alone. A man stepped out of the darkness beyond the door and walked toward her. His footfalls made no sound against the wet pavement. The woman didn’t flee into the bar like Elysia expected. Instead, she nudged a broken brick against the doorframe to keep the door from closing, and walked out to meet him.

“Where did you go?” the woman asked him. “That brunette was hot, and interested.”

The man moved closer. If he said anything, Elysia didn’t catch the words. She reached out once more, and gasped. Here was the death she had felt. Dear God, a zombie. And this woman seemed to know him. Had he just been killed and animated? If so, he was animated by blood. Elysia didn’t sense direct necromancer control. Then there was the fact that he was right behind her place of employment. That couldn’t be a coincidence. Who knew she was here? And why would—

The dead man captured the blonde by the shoulders and pushed her back against the wall.

“Hey!” Elysia shouted and walked toward them. She hesitated to take command of the zombie. If his handler was nearby, he would know what Elysia was, and she wasn’t about to give that away until she had to.

The woman whispered something to the zombie, then shoved him. To Elysia’s surprise, he stumbled back a step. “Don’t screw this up,” the woman told him. She stepped back inside, kicking the brick out of the way to let the door slam behind her.

Elysia slowed. Had the woman been the zombie’s controller? Now what? Should Elysia follow her inside and confront her?

The man began to turn, and Elysia noted the wide shoulders and how well the ripped jeans fit. She had to give the woman credit. She knew how to bait her.

Elysia gave herself a mental shake. Gross. She was admiring a corpse. Maybe it was time to find a boyfriend before she ended up like crazy Aunt— No, not going there.

The man finished his turn. “Yes?”

Elysia skidded to a stop, almost falling on the wet asphalt. He wasn’t a zombie. Zombies were mindless shells of humanity animated by a necromancer or her blood. This man was a lich: an animated corpse with his consciousness still intact.

“Did you need something?” He cocked his head slightly, earnest eyes meeting her own. She couldn’t discern the color of his eyes in the dim light, but she could see that they weren’t filmed over in death. God, he hadn’t been dead long.

“Miss?” He took a step toward her. “You look a little pale. Do you need to sit down?” He reached out as if to take her elbow. “Can I help you get somewhere?”

She said the first thing that came to mind. “Sit.”

His legs folded and his butt hit the ground with a wet splat. He looked up with wide horrified eyes that likely reflected her own expression.

“Oh, shit,” they said in unison. She never expected to meet her first lich behind a bar in Athens, Ohio. Maybe at a family reunion…

“You’re a necro,” he said.

“And you’re dead.”

He glanced around, checking for witnesses. “And now I’m yours.” He frowned up at her. “What would you command of me—other than a wet ass?”

She blinked. “I didn’t expect you to be this… articulate.”

Anger lit his eyes. “What? Did you think I was just a dumb animal?”

Wow, she had insulted a corpse. That was a new one.

Without warning, he shoved himself off the ground and into a crouch.

“Stop!” She took a hasty step back.

He dropped to a knee and doubled over with a grunt, as if he had been punched.

“Stay where you are,” she added, her tone softer. “Who do you belong to?”

He lifted his head and glared, perhaps hoping to intimidate her. It would be more effective if he wasn’t kneeling at her feet.

“Were you sent to expose me?”

He maintained his frown—and his silence.

“Tell me,” she said.

“I belong to no one.” He fisted his hands, but made no other move.

“Who Made you?”

He gritted his teeth and the muscle in his lower jaw flexed.

“Was it the woman you were talking to?”

“No. She’s my friend.”

Elysia frowned. She didn’t think he could lie to her, but he could avoid telling the whole truth. If his creator had given him a command, Elysia would have a hard time subverting it. But there was a solution. If she made him hers, he would tell her everything.

“Get up,” she told him.

He rose to his feet, moving closer as he did.

She stood her ground. “You will not harm me.”

Something much like a growl came from his throat. It was the creepiest thing she had ever heard.

“Come.” She turned and headed for the street.

“As my lady commands,” he muttered and followed.


Elysia walked the three blocks to her small apartment, keenly aware of the dead man following a few paces behind. He maintained his silence, and each time she glanced back, he was busy surveying their surroundings as if he expected someone to jump out at them. His intensity made her nervous.

She knew little of liches aside from the stories. The power to create one was so rare that only a few were said to be Made each century. That meant that a very powerful necro could be nearby. She only knew of two others powerful enough to create a lich. One was the Deacon, the most powerful necromancer in the Midwest, and the other was his son.

Elysia followed the cracked sidewalk to her apartment, eyeing every shadow and potential hiding spot. She glanced over her shoulder and found the lich’s gaze on her. A shiver crawled up her spine. Rumors held that a powerful necromancer could watch the world through the eyes of those he had Made. She didn’t believe that, but now, alone in the dark with this dead man, she couldn’t help but wonder. It was another reason to make him hers.

She led him around to the back door and into the outdated kitchen. It looked like Ernie, her roommate, had already left for his shift at Dairy Mart, though he hadn’t been gone long. The smell of his favorite frozen pizza still hung in the air.

“Please have a seat.” She gestured at one of the three mismatched chairs surrounding the 1950s-style dining table.

“That’s more a request than a command.” He studied her as he spoke. In the bright light of the kitchen, she noted that his eyes were a vivid forest green. An interesting contrast to his jet-black hair. What a shame he was dead.

He pulled out the nearest chair and dropped into it. At the last moment, she remembered his wet jeans and flinched. He had probably ruined the seat cushion.

He caught her eye and the corner of his mouth curled upward.

A chill rolled over her. Death hadn’t robbed him of his intellect.

He frowned under her scrutiny. “What?”

She chewed her lip, but didn’t comment. All she wanted was to get this over with. Crossing the room, she tugged at the warped drawer beside the sink until it abruptly rattled open, almost spilling its contents on the floor. She considered the three knives and selected the one with the shortest blade.

“What are you doing?” The scrap of chair legs across tile accompanied his words.

She turned to find him on his feet. His will brushed against the sliver of her soul she had injected into him on her first command. With no soul of his own, he couldn’t hope to push her out, yet that touch of a will surprised her. And if she were honest, it fascinated her, too. She had always denied her gift, but deep down, the lure to use it always remained. She thought of it as her darker self. A self she would love to deny existed.

“Sit,” she said.

He fell into the chair so quickly it almost tipped over backward.

His eyes dropped to the knife she held. “What are you going to do?”


His mouth snapped shut.

Elysia had to stop herself from apologizing. After all, he was little more than a corpse, sent here to antagonize her. She forced her feet to carry her closer.

“Don’t move,” she said, aware of how easily he could overpower her. The dead possessed incredible strength. She stopped beside him. “I’ve never done this before. I know there are fancy ceremonies and weeks of preparation, but I don’t need them.”

His brow wrinkled in apprehension.

“You’re lecturing a dead man, Ely. Get on with it.” She gripped the knife tightly, trying to force out the shakes, and eyed the other hand. The fingertips were not an option. Too sensitive and not enough blood. The wrist? That seemed dangerous. People slit their wrists to commit suicide. She wanted to bind with the dead, not become one of them. Her eyes slid up the pale skin of her inner forearm. Out of the way and an easy place to stick a bandage—providing she had one.

“Okay,” she whispered.

He watched with wide eyes, probably thinking she intended to use the knife on him—though the dead had nothing to fear from a paring knife, or any weapon. Nothing short of fire or decapitation would stop them.

She pressed the blade against the soft flesh of her arm, making an indention, but no wound. “I should probably sharpen my knives.” She applied more pressure, drawing it slowly across her skin. “Peeling potatoes can be—”

The knife broke the skin and she sucked in a breath.

He growled—there was no other way to describe it. She looked up in surprise and then down again as a bead of crimson rolled toward her wrist. She dropped the knife to the table.

“Tell me your name,” she whispered.


“James,” she repeated, and they both gasped as what she had tied between them tightened. She held out her arm. “Drink.”

This time his growl stood her hair on end, but he gripped her arm in both hands and brought the wound to his mouth. She braced herself for the cold brush of his dead lips, but gasped instead when his warm mouth settled against her skin. His hot tongue scraped across the wound and pain shot up her arm all the way to her shoulder.

“James,” she whispered, intent on finishing it. “You are mine. From this moment forward, for as long as I live, you are mine.” The pain vanished and the soul-bond shifted and grew.

He groaned and ran his tongue along the wound again.

“We are bound,” she forced out. “When my life ceases, so does yours.”

The link between them exploded into life, slamming deep into the very core of her being—and his. He threw himself away from her with enough force that he ended up on the floor beside his overturned chair.

She turned and stumbled across the kitchen, catching the doorframe to regain her balance. She pushed off and all but fell into the living room. The arm of the sofa saved her from landing in the floor.

A howl rose from the kitchen, and she whirled to face the door. The deep baritone was hauntingly beautiful, but terrifying at the same time.

“Hades’s blood,” she whispered, her grandmother’s favorite curse. What the hell was that?


Chapter 2

Elysia hurried across the room and snatched up the phone. Fingers poised over the buttons, she hesitated. Better think this through. She couldn’t call Grams and tell her she had soul bound someone else’s lich. Aside from being rude, it was a bit on the paranoid side. She rubbed her face with her left hand. When she lowered her hand, her eyes were drawn to her forearm. Thin streaks of blood soiled the skin, but the wound was gone. How—

A chair scraped across the kitchen tile, and she turned to face the doorway, keenly aware of the dead man in the next room. James appeared a moment later, gripping the top of the doorframe as he swayed on his feet. He bowed his head and black hair tumbled over his forehead.

If Elysia needed any evidence that he had been sent to mess with her, she only had to look at him. Tall and broad-shouldered with a handsome face, and an athletic build. He would have commanded her attention even without the call of his death.

Her eyes were drawn to his mouth—the reason she was standing here gripping her phone like it might save her from drowning. His mouth had been warm. Could he be that newly Made? She knew that liches decayed far more slowly than the average dead, but she didn’t think they retained any warmth.

James lifted his head, staring at her through the dark hair hanging over his forehead. His eyes literally glowed like green flame. She froze as if she were a deer sensing the gaze of a predator.

“What have you done?” he whispered.

His voice broke her paralysis. She turned the phone in her hand and dialed Gram’s number.

“Elysia!” her cousin’s youthful voice answered the call.

James released the doorframe and straightened, but he didn’t move toward her.

“Hey, Livie.” Elysia forced more cheer into her voice than she felt. “Is Grams around?”

“Last I saw, she was up to her elbows in Mr. Michaels.”

She assumed that was Grams’s current client, otherwise Livie would be a lot more excited.

“Could you put her on?” Elysia glanced at the doorway, but James had returned to the kitchen.

“She’ll be pissed you interrupted,” Livie said.

“Mind your language, and this is an emergency.”

Livie huffed. “Fine. Hang on.”

“James, don’t leave the house,” Elysia said. She didn’t raise her voice, but he appeared in the doorway a moment later.

“Yes, Mistress.” His eyes bored into hers from across the room. At least, they were no longer glowing. He turned and paced away, back into the kitchen as if he couldn’t stand still.

A rattle in her ear preceded Livie’s return to the phone. “So what’s this emergency?”

“I found an animated one,” Elysia said, lowering her voice. “Just off campus.”

“Really? Wow. Who’s your admirer?” A grin colored her voice. At fourteen, everything revolved around boys.

“This is serious. What respectable necromancer turns lose the undead on a college campus?”

“Maybe he’s not that talented, and it got away from him.” Livie clearly thought Elysia was talking about a zombie. But that’s what most necromancers would think. Liches were too rare to even be considered.

“Then he wouldn’t be far from the corpse,” she reminded her.

“I take exception to being called a corpse,” James said.

Elysia whirled to find him halfway across the living room. She hadn’t heard him, and she had been too absorbed in the conversation to sense him. Realizing how close he had gotten without her notice set her heart to pounding.

He flopped down on the couch and cracked open a Coke he had taken from the refrigerator. He had removed his leather coat to reveal a black concert T-shirt that fit him well.

“If you drink that, you’ll vomit,” she told him. The dead didn’t possess a working digestive system.

“Hardly. I like Coke.” He took a drink, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed.

“If you make a mess, you’re cleaning it up.”

“You should be more worried about what my ass is doing to your couch.”

“Who are you arguing with?” Livie asked.

“The corpse,” James called.

“You heard that?” Elysia asked him. No way.

He ignored her, taking another drink from his can.

“Grams!” Livie screamed. Elysia pulled the phone away from her ear.

“Little sister?” James propped his feet on the coffee table, crossing his black biker boots at the ankle.

“None of your business. And get your feet down.”

His boots thumped against the carpet. A muscle ticked in his jaw, but he didn’t look at her. “You forget. My business is now nothing but your business.”

A muddled conversation and Grams’s stern tone came over the line, “What is this child talking about?”

“I just finished a binding.”

Grams must have been stunned to silence.

“A blood binding,” Elysia clarified.

“You finally embraced your calling.”

Elysia cringed at the relief in her grandmother’s voice. This was going to get ugly. “No. I found him wandering around campus.”

“You blood bound someone else’s zombie?” Grams sounded disgusted.

Elysia could feel James watching her, but didn’t look over. “He’s not a zombie. He’s a lich—I think.”

“A lich?” James demanded, rising from the couch. He seemed upset.

“What do you mean, you think?” Grams asked. “If he’s dead and walking around, he’s either a zombie or a lich.”

Elysia didn’t answer, too preoccupied watching James stalk toward her. He was lethal grace and power. Her necromantic senses screamed that he was dead, but her eyes said differently. He didn’t look dead. He didn’t move like he was dead.

“You didn’t know,” he said.

“That him?” Grams asked.

“Stop,” Elysia commanded.

James froze where he stood.

“You’re not a lich, are you?”

James frowned, but didn’t answer.

“Tell me about him,” Grams said, her tone low and urgent.

“He’s dead, but he doesn’t look like it or move like it. I sense no rot, and he’s… warm.”

James turned away, raking a hand through his hair.

“And Grams, sometimes his eyes glow.”

“Not possible,” Grams muttered.

“I’m not making this up. Might he be New Magic?” If someone with New Magic was Made, did the magic stay? She had no idea.

“No, I meant it’s not possible that you found him. We knew he had to be out there, somewhere.”

“What? Who?”

“Tell him to change.”

James whirled to face her. “No.”

“Do it, girl,” Grams said.

“Fine,” Elysia muttered. Crazy old woman. “James, change.”

Darkness swallowed the space where James stood, but it happened so quickly, she would have missed it if she had blinked. James vanished, and in his place stood a huge black dog, familiar glowing eyes focused on her.

“Shit!” Elysia cried. “He’s a dog!”

“He’s a grim,” Grams said, between gales of laughter.

Elysia stared into green eyes that were almost on level with her own. “A what?”

“A grim. The culmination of the necromantic arts. A conglomeration of human and hellhound.”


“My dear, he is the Holy Grail. Bring him to me.”

James growled, soft and low. He lifted his black lips exposing a mouth full of sharp teeth.

Elysia took a hasty step back. “I, I have to work,” she said into the phone. The excuse came easily, her attention on the massive canine before her.

“This is more important. You don’t understand what you have there, what it means to us.”

Ah yes, time to play the Family card. Elysia, the Family’s brightest hope, was letting everyone down again.

“Nor do you understand the danger.”

“He’s dangerous?”

“He has the ability to rip the soul from the living.”

“What—” She cut off the question as he took a step toward her. “Stop!”

James stopped and snarled softly.

“Elysia?” Grams sounded worried.

“I’m fine. He still obeys me.”

“Hades’s Blood,” Grams muttered. “If you don’t come here, I’ll come there. Do you want your friends to see your weird necro grandma?”

Well, no. “Fine, but I don’t see why you can’t wait until Sunday.” That was her day off.

“Today, Elysia.” The line went dead.

Elysia hung up, and looked down at the huge black dog. “Grams. Any wonder why I left home?”

He growled and she took another step away from him.

“Change back.” She could handle the man.

A flash of darkness and James stood before her. He looked the same, except his dark hair was tousled, his green eyes still glowed… and he was completely naked.

Something like a squeak escaped her throat as he took her by the shoulders and pressed her against the wall.

“You didn’t know what I was,” he whispered.

“I still don’t.”

“Then why did you bind me?” His grip tightened on her shoulders.

Her breath caught as she felt the sharp edge of… claws through the fabric of her sweatshirt. “I, I thought you had been created for nefarious purposes or maybe to draw me out.”

“Draw you out?”

“Necromancers can be… territorial.” She tried to shrug, but couldn’t under his hold. “You’re a hellhound?” she asked, not sure she believed Grams.

“I’m a grim.” He spoke the words between clenched teeth. “You know, the Holy Grail of dead things.”

Damn, he had some seriously good hearing. She studied him. He was clearly pissed, but his grip didn’t hurt her. Was he as dangerous as Grams believed? Or did the soul bond she had tied him with keep him in check?

“What?” he asked. “Pondering what to do with your prize?”

“No.” It was her turn to frown. “Who Made you?”

“I was born this way.”

“How can you be born dead?”

“How can you be this clueless?”

“Well excuse me if this topic never came up in my necromancy classes.”

He lifted a dark brow. “You took classes?”

She almost laughed. “Of course not.” She pressed her hands to his chest, attempting to push him away. Warm skin over solid muscle met her palms. Startled, she pulled her hands away. “Why are you warm?” She couldn’t get over that.

“Actually, I’m finding it a bit drafty.”

Heat rose in her cheeks. “You know what I mean. You’re dead. You should be cold.”

“God, I’ve been bound by the world’s most inept necromancer. How humiliating.”

“Release me.”

He jerked his hands away as if burned. “Forgive me, Mistress.” He held up his hands and took a step back.

Her blush deepened. “What happened to your clothes?”

“You commanded me to change without removing them. Poof. And thanks. There went my wallet, along with my IDs, credit cards…”

She refused to apologize. “My roommate isn’t a big guy, but I’m sure you can find something. Go. Dress yourself and return to me.” She waved a hand toward the hall.

“As my lady commands.” He bowed at the waist.

She tried not to watch the play of muscle along his abs or his backside as he walked away.

Dead, she reminded herself. Dead, dead, dead. But warm. How did that work? Why did her necromantic senses tell her he was dead when every other sense told her otherwise?

She rubbed her face. Shit. What had she gotten herself into? Worse, she felt so guilty. He didn’t seem like a monster. But if Grams was right, he needed to be bound.

Grams. She would take him to her. She would know what to do.

Elysia wandered into the kitchen taking James’s Coke with her. He hadn’t drunk much, if any. Why the charade? Maybe he wanted to rinse the taste of her blood from his mouth. She shivered, remembering the way he had groaned, the feel of his mouth against her skin. She really needed to get a boyfriend. Or maybe it was just the magic. It had been a long time since she had truly used her power. It surprised her anew how… alive it made her feel.

She turned toward the table to collect the knife. The table was empty.

“Did you move my Coke?” James asked.

“Damn.” The word came out on a gasp as she turned to face him. “Do you do that on purpose?”

“What?” The sardonic twist of his lips belied the question. “Mine?” he asked pointing to the condensate-covered can on the counter.


He crossed the kitchen to retrieve it. He had pulled on a pair of shorts, and though they covered what they needed to, they were clearly too small. He hadn’t bothered with a shirt.

“Where’s the knife?” she asked.

“Sink.” He leaned against the counter, taking a slow sip from his can while he watched her.

Goosebumps pebbled her arms under the intensity of those green eyes. Refusing to let him intimidate her, she walked over to the sink to check. The paring knife lay against the chipped porcelain surface that lined the ancient sink. The blade didn’t bare evidence of its recent use. It looked clean. Still, she turned on the hot water to give it a quick scrub.

“You thought I took it.” He didn’t sound angry.

“It wasn’t where I left it.”

“I don’t need a knife to cause harm, and besides, you put in the kill you, kill me clause.”

She tried to ignore how easily he said that, as if he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her otherwise. “It’s called a soul bond.”

“But I have no soul.”

She looked over at him. “Everyone has a soul, yours is no longer bound to this plane of existence.”

He frowned, a slight cock to his head as he considered her explanation.

“And the soul that was bound is my own. You could say we now share it.”

“That’s not the way I understood it.”

“Perhaps you should attend necromancy class.”

His lips curled, hinting at a smile, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Perhaps.”

She picked up the neatly folded towel and began to dry the knife. She wasn’t cut out for this. She wanted to go to work this evening, not drive home. She returned the knife to the drawer. “We need to get on the road.”

His humor evaporated. “Take me to Grams? Show her your prize?”

Elysia sighed. “I’m going to go pack.” She eyed him.

“I have a condo on the other side of town.”

“You’re not a student?” Students had to spend their first two years in campus housing.

“Part-time student. This is my first semester.”

That might explain why she had never bumped into him before. But it also bothered her. What if he really was just another magical being trying to get by in this world? No, Grams said he was dangerous, and Grams would know.

Elysia nodded and left him standing there.


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