Anthony Dobranski has a new urban fantasy book out: “The Demon in Business Class.” And there’s a giveaway:
She can speak all languages. He can smell evil intent.
They’re enemies. They crave each other.
With secret magic, international settings, a conspiracy plot, and star-crossed lovers, The Demon in Business Class is a stylish modern fantasy spanning continents and genres.
A shady executive hires Zarabeth Battrie to help start the next global war, giving her a demon that speaks all languages. But other people know more about her job than she does…
A resolute investigator recruits Gabriel Archer to use his emerging psychic powers, for a visionary leader who turns others from evil. As his senses develop, his doubts grow…
When the two meet by chance in Scotland, passion becomes fragile love, until the demon’s betrayal drives Gabriel away. Before Zarabeth’s revenge destroys the visionary’s plan, Gabriel must stop her — for both to survive, neither can win.
Fans of Jeff VanderMeer, David Mitchell and Michel Faber will love this cross-genre novel with crisp literary style. The Demon in Business Class is an international story of fantasy, intrigue, and love, on the uneasy ground where the human meets the divine.
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“If William Gibson wrote paranormal …. weaves the dark worlds of the occult and big business into an intoxicating tale.” – D. J. Butler, author of Witchy Eye
“Creative spark? Anthony Dobranski ignites a creative bonfire …A masterwork of invention.” – Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive!
“A swank cocktail of international intrigue, steeped in the supernatural, mixed with literary flair …. so sleek it flies off the page.” – Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic VelocityWarnings: FOR ADULTS! Drugs, fistfights, vigorous sex, murder, an orgy (witnessed), a cult, and a (told not shown) history of child sexual abuse.
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Chapter 1 – Washington, DC
In the fake-oak-paneled conference room, Zarabeth Battrie found a dozen others standing. All looked wilted and worn, with bunched shirts and bowing ankles. The plastic tables were gone, the plastic chairs stacked in the corner. More people arrived but no one unstacked the chairs. A herd instinct, Zarabeth decided, to keep a clear path for fleeing.
A natty beige man in a crisp blue plaid suit came in, pushing a low gray plastic cart with stacks of documents. If the standing people surprised him, he didn’t show it. With practiced ease he lowered the room’s screen, plugged in his powerstrip. Someone passed the documents around but no one spoke. In the silence, Zarabeth felt anxieties around her, about money, status, children, groping her like fevered predictable hands. Too intimate, these people’s worries in her skin when she didn’t know their names, or want to. She shook them off, pushed through to the front so as not to stare at men’s backs all meeting.
Projector light bleached the natty man while he talked through slides of sunsets and bullet points, with the real news a seeming afterthought. Her office and two others were merging with Optimized Deployments, in Boston. A great move. Efficiency for all. The animated org-chart realigned over and over, three squares gone and Optimized’s no bigger. Reorganized like a stomach does food.
People asked tired questions, their hot worry now clammy hope. The natty man smiled no matter what he said. Yes, redundancies. Jobs would move, details to work out. All would be well and better.
He left to spread his joy. The room lights rose.
Zarabeth’s boss, Aleksei Medev, slouched in the corner like someone had whacked his head with lumber. His unshaven olive skin hung gray and limp. With all eyes on him, he straightened.
“A very challenging time,” he said. “We’re sending reports to justify — to guide the transition. Client work is secondary.”
Zarabeth was in no hurry to fill out Aleksei’s useless reports. Nothing she had done in the last two months justified keeping her employed, she knew that. She went out the broken fire exit to a stand of pine trees behind the parking lot. She lit a cigarette, paced in the shade.
Once, Zarabeth Battrie had traveled the country as an Inspiration Manager, connecting the best people at Straightforward Consulting to an in-house knowledge network. She had good instincts which managers to flatter, which to cow, which to sneak past. It surprised her how much she understood when she finally got her quarry to talk their special arcana, over morning jogs, lobster lunches, steak dinners, midnight hookahs with shots of tequila. Later, on airplanes, she’d think of those and other conversations, watching the pieces fit together in this strange unity and balloon, her world growing with a drug-like jolt. To let her do that, week in week out — taking off, landing, on the move, on her feet — had been the greatest praise.
On Valentine’s Day, it had evaporated without explanation. Zarabeth had been reassigned to Reston, in the Virginia suburbs, to do public-relations grunt-work for industry trade groups. Aleksei Medev, still shiny then, had put his feet on her new desk and spun a great tale, core knowledge toward a turnkey marketing solution, select team deep study. At least she got an office with a door.
Zarabeth had visited Boston twice in her old job. Optimized had smart people and kept them by being greedy. They would suck the money from her division like marrow from bone. Everyone fired, no matter how they danced.
Doubt ate through her like some parasite come to lay its eggs. She pinched the cigarette’s cherry to burn it off with pain. Six years at this firm would not end this week.
Zarabeth sublet a furnished apartment in Foggy Bottom, facing west and the Potomac River. She had chosen it for the balcony view and the location near the highway, but she didn’t like the place much. The heavy dark furniture and metallic abstract art looked good at night, but menacing in morning shadow and grim in afternoon sun. Some days Zarabeth fantasized trashing it, taking a sledgehammer to the whole gloomy aquarium. This was a good day for that.
But Missy Devereaux was there, watching TV, in new red hair, her dirty bare feet on the coffee table.
“Hey, sugar,” Missy said, in her perky Kentucky accent. “Want some wine?”
“Get your bow legs off my table,” Zarabeth said. “When did you go ginger?”
“Do you love it?” Missy muted the sound. “I love it. Gramma hates it. Do you love it?”
A year ago, Missy Devereaux had been a Straightforward legislative liaison, frost-blonde hair and pricey suits, working her congressman daddy’s contact list. Now on the ground floor of Missy’s Georgetown mansion, her grandmother died slowly of bone cancer. Missy came to Zarabeth’s place as a retreat, a chance to smoke without blowing up the oxygen tanks. In return Missy watered the plants and filled the wine rack. It was a good arrangement, most days.
“It’s great.” Zarabeth went to her bedroom. She wiped off her makeup, washed her face with cold water. Her copper skin looked flushed. Small zits on her forehead. Twenty-seven, and she still broke out. She turned from the mirror so as not to smash it.
Missy came with a glass of white. “Three hours ’til the nurse leaves. You want dinner?”
Zarabeth shook with fury. “I so don’t deserve this.”
“I know, sugar-pea. I know.”
“The fuck you know, witch?”
Missy’s eyes flashed, from blue to bright green. Like the unlocking of a cage.
Zarabeth backed down. She checked herself by punching her palm repeatedly. “Fuck me! Fucking fuck.”
“You just relax,” Missy said. Maybe to herself too. Her eyes blue again, at least. She pulled a joint from behind her ear. “Drink and smoke. I’m ordering food. Lamb kebab with fries, right?” She closed the door.
Anthony Dobranski is a native of Washington DC. He studied English Literature at Yale and made his first career working internationally for AOL. His first novel is the cross-genre modern fantasy The Demon in Business Class. He also created Business Class Tarot, a modern Tarot deck inspired by his novel. He is a member of SFWA, and serves on the board of The Inner Loop, a Washington DC live-reading series. He lives in Washington now with his family. He loves to ski.
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