Death's Daughter (A Calliope Reaper-Jones Novel)

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9780441016945: Death's Daughter (A Calliope Reaper-Jones Novel)

Buffy fans will go wild!

SHE WAS TARA ON BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Now she’s the author of Ace’s hottest new series— killer novels featuring Calliope Reaper-Jones, who doesn’t want to be daddy’s little girl anymore...

View our feature on Amber Benson’s Death's Daughter.

Calliope Reaper-Jones so just wanted a normal life: buying designer shoes on sale, dating guys from Craig’s List, web-surfing for organic dim-sum for her boss...

But when her father—who happens to be Death himself—is kidnapped, and the Devil’s Protege embarks on a hostile takeover of the family business, Death, Inc., Callie returns home to assume the CEO mantle— only to discover she must complete three nearly impossible tasks in the realm of the afterlife first.

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About the Author:

AMBER BENSON co-created, co-wrote, and directed the animated supernatural web-series Ghosts of Albion with Christopher Golden, followed by a series of novels including Witchery and Accursed, and the novella Astray. Benson and Golden also co-authored the novella The Seven Whistlers. As an actress, she has appeared in dozens of roles in feature films, TV movies, and television series, including the fan favorite role of Tara Maclay on three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Benson wrote, produced, and directed the feature films Chance and Lovers, Liars, and Lunatics.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

 

one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

nine

ten

eleven

twelve

thirteen

fourteen

fifteen

sixteen

seventeen

eighteen

nineteen

twenty

twenty-one

twenty-two

twenty-three

twenty-four

twenty-five

twenty-six

twenty-seven

twenty-eight

twenty-nine

epilogue

 

NICE DOGGIE . . .

Cerberus turned its Snarly head, and the giant, jaundiced eye unblinkingly trained itself on my frozen form. The dog’s eye narrowed, and I knew without anyone saying anything out loud that I was only one slo-mo minute from getting digested.

The other two heads stopped their obsessive licking and raised themselves in line with Snarly head. They didn’t look nearly as mean as Snarly, but as I watched, something much worse began to register in their eyes: excitement. The big hellhound’s tail started thumping more quickly against the gate.

Then, without warning, Snarly head swooped forward, teeth bared, giant eyeball trained in one direction . . . mine. Frozen in shock, I could do nothing but stare as Cerberus, the guardian of the North Gate to Hell, prepared to make me its lunch . . .

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

DEATH’S DAUGHTER

 

An Ace Book / published by arrangement with Benson Entertainment, Inc.

 

PRINTING HISTORY
Ace mass-market edition / March 2009

 

Copyright © 2009 by Benson Entertainment, Inc.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

 

eISBN : 978-1-101-01451-6

 

ACE
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

 

 

For the two special men in my life:
Dad and Adam

Acknowledgments

There are three people integral to the creation of this book: my awesome literary manager, Brendan Deneen; my equally fantastic editor, Ginjer Buchanan; and the man who started it all, my frequent collaborator and good friend Christopher Golden. Without their encouragement and support, Calliope Reaper-Jones would never have seen the light of day. I also want to send a shout-out to the singersongwriter Angela Correa, whose album Correatown furnished the sound track for the writing of this book.

one

My name is Calliope Reaper-Jones, and I think I’m losing my mind.

 

Okay, maybe I was being a touch melodramatic. I wasn’t completely losing my mind, but things were definitely getting a little screwy in my neck of the woods.

It was like the universe couldn’t help itself. It had to mess with you every once in a while—you know, just to make sure you were paying attention. I guess it reasoned that since we were all so busy being anal little worker ants, its job was to step in occasionally and shatter whatever carefully constructed illusions of normalcy we had created for ourselves.

Just to shake things up a little . . . for our sakes, of course.

Because, unlike us, the universe knew that illusions were just that: illusionary—and they could be destroyed with one well-placed roundhouse kick.

my kick in the pants came last Saturday: the day of my most recent blind date.

My next-door neighbor, Patience, had decided she was sick and tired of my sad ass feeling all sorry for itself—her words, not mine, but the sentiment was definitely correct. I mean, I hadn’t had a real date in, well . . . It was so pathetic an expanse of time that I didn’t even want to talk about it.

You see, my not-so “dream job” job had totally precluded me from having any kind of social life. Period. I spent all week working my butt off, so that when Saturday finally did roll around, I was too dead to the world to enjoy it. Plus which, my few pathetic attempts to “hook up” through craigslist were just that—pathetic.

I usually ended up in zombie mode until Sunday when—somehow mildly recharged—I’d get up, do my laundry, run a few necessary errands, then meet some girlfriends at whatever new “happening” breakfast place they’d decided we were going to have brunch at that weekend. They never bothered asking for my foodie opinion, just e-mailed me the address—for reference only, since I wouldn’t know a “happening” place if it hit me over the head with a shovel and whispered into my ear: “I’m a hot spot!”

Anyway, that’s enough about my pathetic excuse for a social life. Let’s go back to the blind date, and the day everything in my life went to hell in a handbasket.

Said blind-date guy was one of Patience’s office mates at Brown, Stimple, and Brown, Esquire, a big law firm uptown. I wasn’t exactly sure what she did there, but she had a really big television hanging on her wall, so it must’ve been something very important and unbelievably exciting—not. The legal world was nothing if not nail-bitingly . . . tedious.

Anyway, the guy she’d decided was my soul mate worked in a different department, but since they had mutual friends, she said it would be as “easy as pie”—her words again—to get him to take me out on the town one Saturday night in the near future, ending my fantastically long dating dry spell—hurrah!

Well, it turns out the “near future” was only two days after she’d told me about the idea in the first place. There wasn’t even enough time to get freaked-out about the whole thing. All I could do was take my Friday lunch break at Saks, and pray there was something on the designer sale rack that fit.

Unfortunately, the one dress I fell in love with at first sight, a beautiful DKNY silk number that was marked down to a ridiculous forty-three bucks, was way too big. No matter how I tried to cinch the waist, it looked like I was wearing a mumu. Empty-handed, I went back to work feeling—for the first time in my life—slightly perturbed that I wasn’t twenty pounds heavier.

That night, I was stuck in the office until eight thirty collating four copies of my boss’s son’s book report, by which time all the stores were closed, or getting ready to close. I knew right then and there it was gonna be Saturday afternoon or nothing.

When I got home, I set my alarm for nine thirty, determined to get up, brush my teeth, and go find something slinky, sultry, and cheap to wear on the blind date. I had decided that even if the guy was a total dog—which he probably would be, with my luck—I was gonna look hot, and take somebody yummy home, even if it only turned out to be my old standby: Ben and Jerry.

That night, all tucked up in my little Battery Park City bedroom, I fell asleep with visions of department stores in my head, more excited about a Saturday than I’d been in a long, long time.

Had I known what the next day was going to have in store for me, I don’t think I would’ve slept a wink. Needless to say, I was completely clueless, so I slept like a baby . . . on Ambien.

 

 

the day did not even start well.

First, my alarm decided to not go off.

I’d set that sucker, checked it twice—I can be a bit OCD when I feel like it—and even made sure the alarm was set to buzzer rather than radio. I knew it was going to have to be one of those screaming “alarm only” mornings if I was going to make myself crawl out of bed at a quasireasonable hour, so I took, like, extra, extra precaution.

So, of course, no alarm meant no wakey-wakey on time. Which in plain English meant that when I finally did get up, it was one (!) in the afternoon.

The next thing I discovered was that all the water from every tap in my apartment was boiling hot. The scalding water made it almost impossible to brush my teeth, let alone take a shower or wash my hair, so now I was stuck stinking my way into what was supposed to be a brilliant Barney’s shopping-excursion day.

Weird, but not unheard of.

In fact, only six months earlier the entire building had been without water for two days, in which time I learned the true meaning of the term “Irish bath.” Take it from me, not the best way to make friends on the subway.

In retrospect, I guess I should have seen all the above weirdness as a sign. But at the time—and you have to believe me here—it did not seem like a big deal, definitely not strange enough to warrant an exorcism of the old homestead.

It wasn’t until I got to the front hall of my building that I realized I might very shortly be in the market for the phone number of the local Catholic church.

The monster was blocking the whole length of the entranceway to my building. His back was to me, his front facing the window-paneled door. (I guess so he could watch the traffic?) I say it was a he, but that was only a hypothesis. I just could not imagine any self-respecting female—monster or not—ever getting as pudgy as this thing was.

Strangely, I wasn’t frightened of the big guy, not even as I was getting my first glance of its tremendous bulk. I don’t know how to explain that other than to say that there was something about the creature that was . . . soothing.

At the time, I had no idea what kind of monster the thing was, but if I really think back on it, I’d have to guess it was probably, at least, part dragon. I mean, it had a long, scaly brown tail, huge brown haunches, and a row of blue triangular-shaped flaps of skin that ran the length of its back. So, it was either a medium-sized dragon, or a smallish dinosaur. Take your pick.

Luckily, it didn’t appear to notice my arrival—which I took as a good thing—but I played it safe by standing still as a statue on the bottom step of the stairwell, trying not even to breathe if I could help it. I was a lot of things, but super idiot wasn’t one of them. If the dragon/ monster thing wanted to sit in my front hall and watch the traffic go by out the window, like a dog, I wasn’t gonna be the dum-dum who disturbed it.

As quietly as I could, I backed my way up the front stairs until I hit the second-floor landing. Then I hightailed it up the next four flights until I was back in the relative safety of my own apartment.

After taking a moment to catch my breath, and have a shot of the Bailey’s I’d had in the back of my fridge since Christmas, I sat down on my couch and made my plans: I was gonna go next door, get a witness, and then go back downstairs. Patience would see the dragon/ monster and freak out, verifying the fact that I was not losing my mind.

There was just one slight hitch in my plans: She wasn’t home.

I thought about knocking on some random person’s door and trying to get them to go see the dragon/monster with me, but I was too scared it might have gotten bored in the interim and left—which would’ve made me look like a real nut job—so I put an ix-nay on that one.

After taking another calming sip of Bailey’s, I did the only rational thing a person could do in my situation: I called Animal Control.

“I’m making this complaint anonymously,” I said tersely. “There’s a big monster dog in my front entranceway, and I need you to send someone out to get it!”

The woman on the other end of the line kept asking me for my name, but I wasn’t stupid. If I gave it to her, then everyone would know I was the weirdo caller, and I might actually end up in Bellevue before my blind date could save me.

Finally, sick of her wheedling for more information, I blurted out the address and hung up. Then, I raced to my bathroom, which was home to the only window in my whole apartment that looked out onto the street in front of the building, and rolled up the shade, ready to watch and wait for the man with a big net to come and catch my monster.

I waited a long time. I called again. I ate some peanut butter out of the jar, returned to the bathroom, and waited some more.

At six thirty my buzzer sounded. I was sitting hunched over the lip of the bathtub, furiously filing my nails with a weather-beaten emery board. I quickly sat up straighter, so I had a better view out the window, and craned my neck to see who was at the front door.

I could just make out a man-sized shape on the stoop, and my heart began to beat inside my chest like a nasty little ball-peen hammer.

Damn, had Animal Control traced my phone number to my apartment?

It was only when I peered closer that I saw that the Animal Control guy was carrying a bouquet of . . . flowers?

Crap! It wasn’t Animal Control . . . it was my blind date! I had totally forgotten about him!

I had always thought of myself as a normal kinda gal, and normal gals—even if they saw a giant dragon/ monster in their front hall—did not let said monster interfere with a possible encounter with Mr. Right. I was gonna have to pull it together, stop being a wuss, and answer the door.

I ran to the living room and pushed the button on the intercom.

“Shit! I mean, hello . . . ?”

“Uhm, is this Calliope?” a dreamy voice sai...

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