Authors: Juliann Whicker
Praise for Hybrid, House of Slide
The young protagonist, Darianna Sanders, spent the first novel (and the last ten years of her life) separated from her soul, which had been stolen by her brother who died before revealing why.
Dari gave up the strong, lethal Hotblood soul she had been carrying in order to be reunited with her own Cool/Wild hybrid soul. Childlike and pure from its years of disembodiment, it is unclear whether Dari's soul is suited for the dark and dangerous world Dari now inhabits.
As demons continue to encroach the material realm, and Dari's grandfather, head of the House of Slide, makes his move to co-opt Dari and her new soul for his own mysterious purposes, Dari must put aside her fears that she might lose control of the opposing forces that battle inside her in order to accept Lewis as her soulmate.
Is that summary exciting enough? The book is even more so. Cows fly, unstable hybrids play with knives, lust consumes, and death cheated more than once.
House of Slide
by Juliann Whicker
Copyright © 2012 by Juliann Whicker
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Of the four suits created by the Nether, Wilds are organized into Houses where they work to promote various schemes as declared by the Head of the House. White Houses refer to those houses that prefer to follow Code and focus on more traditional threats of demons and rebel Hybrids. Red Houses follow the mandate of the Head, however unconventional, vying for position and power over other Houses.
Wild’s Nether gifts have power over the physical world, manipulating different elements as well as foretelling. Wild ability is determined by how much Nether still flows through the family, those with more recent infusions of Netherblood having greater talents in wind, water, earth, stone, fire, glass, ice, blood, metals, bone, wood,
Wilds can enhance their talents with runework either as embedded tattoos or incantations.
Unlike Wilds, Hotbloods live in constantly shifting clans. Loyalty is based on respect instead of blood. The Nether gifts to the Hotbloods is their fury: a metabolic change that increase physical size, speed, and heightened senses. The fury, if left unchecked, will burn until the Hotblood becomes consumed.
Of the four suits, Hotbloods are most likely to become Hunters, or those dedicated to combating demons and demonkind. Hotbloods can increase their abilities and skills by performing bloodwork on another person, absorbing their longevity and skills. Otherwise, Hotbloods live short, violent lives.
Generally peaceful with mostly defensive skills, they live in communes or wander on the fringes of society. They can manipulate the emotions and thoughts of others; some of the most powerful can control other’s actions. They can bond with plants or animals and have the longest life spans of all the suits.
They absorb the skills of those they are raised with: Wild, Hotblood, or Cool. When they mature (turn), they can manipulate souls. A few turn later, and the later they turn the more souls they can hold. They sometimes become possessed by lost souls, or Hollows who were killed but whose souls linger, waiting for vengeance on those who destroyed them.
The snow came down and down and down. It covered the sidewalks and streets dulling the sounds of cars crawling by, leaving me feeling insulated and far away from everything.
“Dariana, aren’t you coming down for dinner?” my mother asked from the doorway of my bedroom.
Startled, I looked up at her. She had new lines around her eyes, wrinkles from worry about me, but still looked beautiful with her sheet of glossy black hair and large, dark blue eyes. I nodded and slid off the window-seat. I tried not to notice the painting as I crossed the room. It was painfully alive and beautiful, a swirling miasma of life and color that reached out to me as I passed. I absently scratched my arms beneath the long sleeved t-shirt as I followed her.
Downstairs in the white gourmet kitchen, Satan scowled, his bald head and black runes more ominous than usual, while my father looked up at me from the table where he sat in front of something cheesy and gooey, Satan’s cooking.
“Dad! When did you get back?” I said as I darted around the table and threw myself on him as he half rose, stopped by my attack. I squeezed him, smelling the woods, the oil paints, and something else that had me drawing back to stare into his silver eyes with white specks like rushing waters.
“You smell like blood and death,” I said without thinking.
“He doesn’t smell like it, he simply radiates it,” Satan corrected me, settling his massive frame in the chair beside my father, Alex of the Woods.
“You’ve been killing for the House? How could you do that?” I demanded, distancing myself from him, glaring at Satan and my mother before returning to my father.
“I have not been dealing death,” my father said, but his words didn’t pacify me.
“No, he simply kept people from defending themselves while the Sons took care of business. He didn’t want to get his hands dirty,” Satan said, grinning at me with his dangerous white teeth.
I swallowed and rubbed the insides of my arms while I tried to calm down. I didn’t want to lean anyone. I didn’t want to pick up anyone’s intentions, feelings, desires, but it took calm to control the leaning. My own soul had its own challenges.
“How can you rationalize your actions, father?” I asked in my most adult and cool voice.
He frowned at me, his eyes flashing dangerously. I had a flicker of understanding, of his power, his dynamic and conflicting intentions that threatened his ideals.
“He doesn’t need to explain himself to you,” my mother said, placing her hands on my shoulders, her tone of voice making mine tepid in comparison.
I glanced at her and felt her anger at him, layers of fury that should have made the air crackle.
“Not at all. It’s a complicated situation, Dariana,” he said, his voice like water flowing over me, through me, filling me with an assurance of the rightness of his actions.
“If you’re going to destroy something, maybe it would be more honest to wield the blade and take the death,” I said primly as I sat down and took a bite of gooey and unappetizing noodles. He’d taught me that lesson the summer before, teaching me to own my nature, to take the death when I consumed a life.
Satan laughed, the sound scraping over my nerves like a delicate bulldozer.
“Maybe it would,” my father answered quietly. “However, it would have been difficult to see the Sons safe while I lost myself to violence.”
I realized I was scraping my arms again and gripped the table, focused on breathing and maintaining my heart rate. The effort I’d spent learning to control a fury served me well as I struggled to control everything else.
“Have you gone hunting?” my father asked, changing the topic, well, pointing it in a slightly different vein.
“She can’t handle the blood. She’s been having nightmares of the deaths she took at the gallery,” Satan rumbled, not waiting to see if I wanted to confide in my father.
I didn’t. I’d grown close to him during the summer, but after the gallery, the slaughter, the blood, I couldn’t look at him without remembering his confession.
“Dariana is handling things extremely well,” my mother defended me.
I stared at her. Since when did she side with me?
My dad stood, abandoning his dinner.
“Would you mind speaking with me privately?” he asked, his question compelling me to my feet on their own volition.
My mother’s hand gripped my shoulder, her nails holding me back.
I sighed as I shrugged her off.
“Yeah. Let’s go into the music room,” I said, leading the way to the room off the entry where my piano sat sadly neglected. I hadn’t tried to play since I’d returned from the city. It didn’t seem like a good idea to express my emotions. I thought once I started they’d come pouring out of me, flooding the world and drowning me in them.
I waited until my dad came in before I closed the door behind him and turned, crossing my arms over my chest.
“What are you really doing here?” I asked.
He raised an eyebrow and started to smile. “I’m here to see you. We were all concerned how you would hold up without your own soul after we lost Lewis.”
“And how have I held up?”
“You haven’t told anyone what happened, how you got your own soul. I’m afraid that I must insist.”
He cocked his head, smiling, but instead of looking pixie-like and whimsical, I saw the deadly, the Nether in him, the otherworldliness that made him an old one with blood full of mists that carried the gifts of our kinds.
“You wish to protect him. I take it that he’s still alive.”
“What does he have to do with anything?”
“The transfer of souls is of deepest interest. You must see this.”
“It had nothing to do with him, other than that he kissed me and I stole his soul, then I kissed him and got mine back again. You have the story from Jackson. Ask him for details.”
“Axel is back from the dead and kissing my daughter. Jackson doesn’t know the details that most interest me.”
I gritted my teeth as I tried to control the humming that filled my veins. I wouldn’t have a fury, not with my own Cool/ Wild soul, but if I leaned him, or worse, allowed my own emotional state to be broadcast, he wouldn’t need a verbal confession.
“Kissing a mostly dead person is not very interesting.”
He grabbed my hand, jerking it towards his face before he ripped the sleeve of my shirt from my wrist to my shoulder in a smooth movement so fast I barely registered it until the remnants of my shirt fluttered down.
I didn’t even have time to gasp before he gazed at me, so much power in his eyes that I barely recognized him.
“I’m not insane,” he said in a calming voice that belied his sudden violent behavior. “Your blood has been tampered with. What did he do to you? Did he do bloodwork on you?”
I ripped my hand out of his grip, cradling my bare arm against my chest. I could see the raw flesh I’d scratched over my veins. My nervous habit wasn’t good for my skin, particularly when I couldn’t heal like the runed Wilds in my mother’s family, but it wasn’t bloodwork.
“It’s nothing,” I whispered as his voice sank into my head.
I resisted, or thought I tried, but it didn’t make any difference. Instead of stripping me and searching my body for signs of bloodwork, he stripped my soul, searching for evidence I’d been tampered with.
“He didn’t do anything,” I protested weakly as I slumped down on the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees.
“Then who? Was it the monster, the Nether that haunts you who poisoned your blood?”
I looked up at him, head buzzing. “I haven’t seen him since the gallery.”
My father’s nostrils flared while he stared into my eyes, willing me to continue.
I started talking about Lewis, about everything that came into my head, even things I hadn’t allowed into my head.
“He said he loved me, but he didn’t wait for me to answer him. He destroyed the handle. I pounded on the door, but I couldn’t get to him. How could he lie to me, all that time? How could he manipulate me, pretend that he was a nice normal guy when all along he was completely out of my league? I still don’t know why he kissed me. Why didn’t he leave me to die? What kind of a creep kisses nearly dead people who are wandering around without a soul? I miss him so much. He smelled like sunshine on grass. His eyes were like fire and mud, candlelight specks and mossy banks. He never should have sacrificed himself for me. He never should have tried to fight Jason, tried to destroy him with my soul. My soul can’t kill anything. I can, though. I killed so many. I see their faces, so many faces. How could anyone kill so many people?” I gasped through my sobs, but the words wouldn’t stop.
“I had to save him. I dreamed him, saw him dying. Everyone helped, risked their lives for him. I didn’t stop them. I behaved so selfishly. I couldn’t let him die. I couldn’t let him die no matter how many other lives I risked. I don’t know if that’s me, or his soul. How can I know what is me and what is my soul? I went to him. I gave Lewis Old Peter’s blood. Old Peter is dead,” I wept, but he had no mercy and the words kept coming. “I didn’t have enough blood. He didn’t move. His face was pale like marble. I took my blood and gave it to him.”
My words stopped suddenly, cut off as my father relaxed his hold on me. I wept into the Persian rug, trembling, weak, and angry.
When I could, I raised my head and glared at my father.
“How do you justify that? How dare you force me to confess my deepest thoughts? Who do you think you are? Murderer of an entire race. I never before saw it, but now, I see. You have no mercy.”
He blinked, for a moment stung by my words, but then another blink and the pain was gone, only the façade of calm strength left for me to see.
“That explains everything. You are not yet blood bound to him, but you have made a beginning. Your veins will ache until the bond is completed. I’m sorry for you.”
I stared at him speechless as the room began to spin around me. “My veins will ache until I complete the bond? What is a blood bond?”
He raised his arm, pulled back his sleeve and showed me the line of a scar that had never fully healed. “Blood binding is a Nether ceremony like marriage. You two are soul mates or you could never have taken his soul with a kiss.”
“You’re blood bound to whom?”
“Your mother, of course,” he said, frowning for a moment before he once again went back to his maddening placidity. “I’m sorry for intruding on your privacy. As Daughter of the House your days of privacy are numbered.”
I squeezed my arms around my knees and tried to clear my head. Yelling at him wouldn’t get any response, not from a Cool with a vast amount of Netherblood to make him less human.
“Now what?” I demanded. “How do I reverse the blood binding?”
He frowned as he shook his head. “It can’t be done. If he dies before you finish the bond, that will take care of the problem.”
I gasped as I clenched my fists, feeling my nails press through the palms of my hands. I thought furiously. There had to be a way out of this.
“What about him? Will his veins ache for me?”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Yes,” he said, shortly. “It will be much worse for him than for you.”
“So, there’s nothing to do but finish the bond?”
“Or kill him.”
I stood up, backing away from my father, a sudden monster to me in spite of his mild smile and sympathetic eyes.
“You can manipulate how I feel.”
“I am not leaning you right now. I only constrained you to speak out of what I felt was a great necessity.”
“But you can manipulate how I feel, as in, you can stop my veins from burning for Lewis.”
He frowned. “Is it psychological or physiological? Do your veins actually itch, or is it a mental…”
I cut him off. I didn’t have the patience to listen to him wax philosophical after he’d compelled me to speak.
“Please take away the symptoms of my unfortunate blood binding. If I’d been instructed more completely on the dangers of blood transfusions… But that’s in the past. Will you?”
He frowned at me, thoughtfully.
“Meddling with people’s desires, needs, destinies always has unforeseen consequences.”
“I’ll die if I keep gouging at my veins. I can’t heal very quickly.”
“You won’t die so easily,” he assured me, but I saw the frown in his eyes.
“Look. You just meddled with me without my permission. Now that I’m asking you to meddle isn’t the time to examine your scruples. You might come across as slightly hypocritical. We both know that you’re far too self-aware for that.”
He shook his head slightly, but his eyes twinkled. “You’re manipulating me. Very good. I wonder if you could lean me. With training…”
I shuddered at the thought of doing what he had done for the House, holding people in a stupor while the Sons slaughtered everyone.
“I’m practicing not leaning people. I can’t hunt. The sight or smell of blood makes me sick. The only thing I’m interested in is survival on my own terms.”
“What are your terms? Are you truly determined to be a pacifist?”
I nodded. “And to be my own person, not manipulated by the force of a blood bond. It wants to be completed, doesn’t it? Tying my life to Lewis’s would be a very hard choice to make. I don’t want it made for me by my own ignorance, or anyone else’s.”