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Infinity 8

by Bennu Bright

COMING SOON
The Demon Lord of California - Bennu Bright
Part of the Infinity 8 series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B0B75WFTHW

Baker. Wizard. God of Space and Time. Cupcake enthusiast. How long will it take to fan the flames and enrage this gentle phoenix? Start counting.
What's a wounded and lonely little cinnamon roll to do? Stripped of his psychic powers, Calico Winghorse flees to 19th century earth via his inter-dimensional portal. As a mixed-blood phoenix trapped in human form, he opens a bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area and quietly nurses his wounds. But the unique method of his arrival has drawn the unwanted attention of Infinity Corporation.

Representing this angelic-run company is Agustin Chavez de la Cruz, the Demon Lord of California. Even though Agustin is IC's heir, he finds himself demoted from his duties to concentrate on his new assignment: take absolute control of the portal. But Calico refuses to sell for any price.

Before Agustin can formulate a more gracious avenue of acquiring Calico's gateway, the demanding head of IC interferes, further complicating matters. So as negotiations stumble along, Calico and Agustin realize they both wish to establish more than a mere business arrangement. In the mean time, Calico ensures that the good people of the city are getting their fill of baked goods.

However, due to Calico’s injuries, the portal remains vulnerable to the darker forces that want it at any cost. Agustin will have to push both his angelic heritage, as well as his own psychic power to the very limits to mend someone who not only bears celestial blood, but who is also the God of Space and Time.

The Demon Lord of California book 1 is a queer slooow burn meet-cute. A queer / mm paranormal fantasy series with romantic elements. Featuring phoenix shifters, hidden world, first love, found family, hurt/comfort, and a sugar daddy grasping at his second chance.

Excerpt:

San Francisco, 1900 

He was the Demon Lord of California, dammit. His California citizens counted on him for guidance and protection. But here he sat in a stuffy, dark, and nearly empty theater with peeling wallpaper. Watching the most god-awful vaudeville try outs. 

The matinée had been half price due to the open casting call, so he’d ducked inside to seek some relative quiet. Agustin had needed a place to think, to reflect on the life choices he’d made—as well as ponder his future angelic obligation. One that Harper chained him to with no possible way out. One he wasn’t sure he’d ever wanted to begin with.

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And of a more immediate concern, to digest that questionable lunch from an even more questionable eatery. Holding a fist against the fading heartburn, he belched quietly. Thankfully, at his distress, the mundane human waitress had taken pity on him by offering water with a sprinkle of baking soda. He’d tipped her generously. 

Fidgeting in a chair too small for his size, Agustin didn’t want to know why the floor was sticky beneath his polished oxfords. He really didn’t, for the theater was vaudeville by day, and burlesque shows by night. He’d chosen the front row against the stained wallpaper to be inconspicuous. It was the only place suitable for his long legs. 

He made a mental note to burn his shoes before entering his home. 

Even here in the shadows, he stood out like a peacock amongst plucked chickens. It was due to his towering height and perfectly pressed nobleman’s attire. His black braids, brown skin, upside-down golden triangle earrings, and heterochromatic eyes didn’t help matters.

The mundanes—the humans, speared him with nervous glances, and he unfortunately wrecked two acts due to the performers being unable to handle his scrutiny. While Agustin felt guilty over that, he reminded himself actors couldn’t allow themselves to be distracted during a show. 

He was at this matinée because he’d been temporarily barred from seeking paranormal places to loiter. Nyms were often in mundane human spaces, although hidden from the mundane world. Many, like himself wore spells to conceal their most frightening and fantastic attributes. Or were able to shape-shift.  

Etney, his second in command, did her job too well. She’d been the one to rally their Infinity 8 team, as well as his entire household staff. They’d informed him it’d be too much of a temptation to think of work if he visited his usual haunts. 

They insisted he’d been working himself too hard when that wasn’t the case at all. He’d still been mob-escorted—with Etney in the lead—out to the motorcar anyway. They’d ordered him to telepathically shut out the chaotic minds of every San Francisco resident for six hours and just relax. Then, he was chauffeured into the heart of the city and abandoned. 

He’d been kicked out of his own damn mansion.  

Agustin grumbled. There were trade agreements and various contracts stacked on his desk waiting for approval. Laws to enforce. Meetings to attend. Reports to read. Not to mention he was still working to merge his offices with the court of the Demon Queen of the United States—with permission from the Demon Queen of Mexico, of course. The humans had only made California a state fifty years ago, and it’d taken this long to convince Her Majesty the unification would be a smart move for their kind. 

Although now he had twice—thrice, in reality, the responsibility by reporting to an additional superior. Their demonic communities were busy ones. Each noble had a portion of the general paranormal—nym—population to look after. 

However, those duties paled in comparison to what Harper expected out of him. The angelic-run Infinity Corporation was yet another duty of his birthright. One that came with a tremendously heavy burden. 

Protect the humans from harvest at all costs. 

That was Harper’s motto. The Corporation’s motto. And the pledge of all earthbound angels employed by IC. That maxim had been drummed into his head since Agustin had been a small boy. Harper’s severe schooling had begun and ended with him reciting the phrase three times in a row. But the only lesson his young brain absorbed was: At all costs… At all costs… At all costs… 

Damnation, Agustin, Harper would yell when presenting another rigid and frustrating lecture, which had been often during his childhood. The Lady California was too lenient with you. I knew I should’ve removed you from her care sooner. If you love me, if you love humanity, just do as you’re told. Why can’t you just do as you’re told? 

It was suddenly difficult to breathe. His heart was pounding too fast. He felt like he was coming out of his own skin, then running away from it. At the same time, the numbness swallowed both his heart and his brain, sinking into his gut and spreading from there. 

Think about something else, dammit… Anything but Harper. 

In the low, shadowed light of the electric wall sconces, Agustin hurried to consult his fancy new wristwatch on a shaking wrist. It was a gift from his son away at University. It was 3 p.m. 

The day was half over. He might survive his forced recess after all. But he had to get out. He had to move. Had to keep moving and get Harper out of his head. He clenched his fist to quell his upset.

His feet wouldn’t yet obey. 

He winced when the miniature dogs on stage all started barking on command. As much as he loved dogs, the constant, high-pitched cries had him shrinking down in his squeaking chair. Vaudeville was too mundane, too pedestrian for his taste. It reminded him too much of what he was forbidden to have. 

Happiness. Joy. A family. A life of his own. 

A jarring sensation started in his gut, and blossomed. It nearly had him doubling over. Not in pain, more like…an epiphany unfurling in his brain. Where this originated from he didn’t know, as his powers didn’t work this way.

But the way of euphoria urged his attention to the revelation. Why? Why couldn’t he have the life he wanted? Harper didn’t own him. Agustin had put in his time to the Corporation, and more. He’d given everything, even when he’d had nothing left to give. And still, Harper had demanded even more over the centuries. And he’d obeyed.

There were others among Harper’s ranks who were just as capable to run the business and keep the humans safe. There were certainly others more dedicated to such an unyielding angelic cause. Others who were eagerly willing to be Harper’s shiny new… puppet-in-command.  

What Harper thought, of him, suddenly, strangely, didn’t matter anymore. 

That jarring realization split open and flooded outward. Its soothing tendrils sluicing throughout Agustin’s mind and body. He felt lighter. More at ease and eager with this newfound revelation of freedom.

From the other side of the theater, movement caught Agustin’s peripheral vision. A man, vibrant with paranormal energies emerged from the side stage door. He was engaged in animated conversation with the mundane human beside him. 

Agustin reeled. As if his psychic abilities had known ahead of time, they reached out, hungrily soaking up the discarded thought threads from the pair. Only, the remnants from this fading conversation wasn’t in English. Or any other language his hyperpolyglot brain could interpret.

Yes, there were root words of other languages he could identify. But those words were cut in half and stitched together with a word from a completely different language he did or did not know. Some of these cleaved words were blended together better than others, but it still made an all new comprehensive language he didn’t understand.

Both men appeared to be of the working class. Although the nym’s Victorian-style suit was of better quality than the human’s more contemporary clothing. The nym clutched at his top hat along with a flimsy-looking box.

The noise and barking onstage blotted out their voices. But Agustin continued to savor the myriad of happy thought-threads pouring out of them both. Getting a taste of another’s contentment—a fellow paranormal’s contentment—would temporarily console his own that was forever limping along.  Even if he was breaking his promise to Etney and his household staff—at least in part. But when attraction and feelings were involved, it wasn’t as easy to bank psychic abilities that had been switched on while he’d been in the womb. 

Attraction? Agustin felt the heat rising in his cheeks. The back of his neck, and his armpits. His fellow nym was adorable. …Wholesome in a sense, although he wasn’t sure where that observation came from. Maybe it was the way the man moved. Proper, yet bubbly. Carrying himself somewhat stiff, maybe a little awkward, with his arms up and elbows out. The tailcoat of his jacket brushing that trim backside with each step. As if the nym wasn’t quite comfortable in his overly thin human form, but embraced it all the same. 

Besides sporting a nice black jacket, the nym wore a matching silk scarf tied neatly around his head. Agustin spied a modest bun of dark hair hidden beneath the knot at the nape of his neck. He continued to balance that thin box he carried along with his top hat. 

While the nym was vibrant with paranormal energy, Agustin could tell there was something odd about that energy signature. Like it was broken or disrupted somehow. 

The two men parted with a wave. The human retreated backstage. The nym came striding across the isle in front of the stage, waving and smiling to the theater management seated there. They exchanged brief pleasantries, as well as the box of… Agustin craned his head to see…cupcakes topped with brightly colored frosting. The treats were gladly accepted.

Gifts given, the nym moved on. Agustin almost chuckled at the endearing quality of the man’s gait—slightly march-bouncing up the middle isle. He chose a row of seats, and sat down. Agustin wanted to go over. But as usual, would his height and two different colored eyes come across as too intimidating? Even to a nym? Especially to a nym who seemed so… adorably… wholesome?

When the dogs stopped barking and scurried off the stage, the nym leaped up in a standing ovation and clapped wildly in support. He did the same for the next two acts. 

Agustin found himself smiling. Smiling at the carefree nature of the moment itself. Of this fellow nym finding joy in the smallest of things. Agustin was shocked he was still sitting here in the theatre. Not watching the tryouts, but the nym in the audience. Being genuinely supportive and kind to most likely, complete strangers—to these mundane humans at that. 

Agustin felt lured. Sunk. Captured. Thoroughly intrigued.

By this time, romantic and dramatic piano and flute tunes echoed throughout the auditorium. A quick glance at the owner and managers showed they had kerchiefs at teary eyes with one hand, and half-eaten cupcakes in the other.

Agustin hadn’t realized he’d gotten up and strolled over to the nym. In his eagerness, Agustin realized he’d been looming a little too close, and backed up a bit. “Hello,” he said, getting his voice to work. “Is this seat taken?”

Okay. Good start, Agustin told himself. You’re not so rusty in a courting attempt after all. He stopped. Courting? Was that what he was doing?

Sky blue eyes blinked up at him in question. Then widened in surprise. Then those eyes shifted left, right, then stared at him again as a large, frozen grin rose in greeting. Agustin was captivated by those incredibly blue eyes, like a warm and cozy spotlight in the dim auditorium. 

A noise that sounded like longing grumbled from the nym’s throat, and he opened his mouth to speak before slapping his palm over it. Composed, the nym’s fingers steepled, then fluttered with obvious nerves. Then those fingers splayed out in welcome, gesturing at the empty seat beside him, moving the top hat to the seat opposite him.

Agustin sat, aware his knees were quite crowded and nearly at his chest, but he didn’t mind. What was he doing? This was something he would’ve done in his university days. Now, it was so out of his character. He was too mature and too sophisticated for this avenue of simple, spontaneous introduction. Too busyHe had work to do.

“Do you come here often?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Agustin wanted to face-palm himself. What a stupid and cheap opening. That tawdry suggestion was not what he’d intended. 

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