Today I welcome Karen McCullough, who spotlights her novella Guardian of the Grimoire
Magic, mystery and romance combine in a gothic story that sees a peaceful, small-town library turned into a supernatural battleground. In the library’s basement a dangerous book lies hidden somewhere in stacks of old crates, and librarian Jess O’Rourke is caught in the middle of a battle between a demon and the book’s mysterious guardian for possession of it…
Librarian Jess O’Rourke already has her hands full with her father’s declining and health and the under-staffed, under-funded library she runs. A new preacher in town waging war on her books is just an annoyance at first, but an attractive mysterious stranger warns her that there’s more behind the reverend’s campaign than she can guess. The new preacher is a human possessed by a demon and he’s searching for an old grimoire that’s part of an uncatalogued collection of books stored in the library’s basement.
Gabriel Sutton has been the guardian of the book for a long time, a very long time, he claims, since that has been his penance for crimes he committed as a soldier during the Civil War. He convinces Jess that she needs to find the grimoire and use it to return the demon to where he belongs.
Their time gets short when the reverend realizes she’s searching for the book and resorts to desperate measures to either retrieve or destroy it.
Jess studied the Reverend as he approached and had to admit he was kind of impressive—big, broad-shouldered, with over-long blond hair, sky blue eyes and the kind of looks that made women swoon and men jealous. He wore his own charm and charisma with obnoxious self-awareness.
He’d shown up in town six months ago with a few “followers,” and they’d set up camp beside the abandoned church. She had no idea who actually owned the church and whether the newcomers had arranged to buy or lease it, but a week later they were holding some kind of odd services in the building. A few of the townspeople had gone out of curiosity and some had continued to go, even dragging friends or neighbors with them.
Initially she’d deemed them harmless, if a bit screwy with their unorthodox beliefs, but within weeks, he’d begun leading groups on expeditions to her library. Then she’d started hearing that the Reverend preached against the “Godless” books the town library offered. When he set up a dais on the town square across from the library building and began preaching from there against science texts that lied, fantasy novels—with particular scorn for one series featuring a teenage British wizard—and “pornographic” romance novels, she became alarmed.
She didn’t find out about the next part of the program until his followers had checked out virtually every biology text that even mentioned evolution and sociology texts dealing with magic and religion. Checked them out and kept them out. When she asked about them, she was told they were lost. She’d just begun sending out bills for the lost volumes.
She kept her eyes on the Reverend as she asked, “Can I help you?”
He didn’t answer. His gaze had traveled beyond her and focused on the stranger who’d been haunting both the library and her thoughts the last few weeks. For a moment the Reverend’s composure slipped. Astonishment and alarm flickered in his expression, hardening for a moment into a glare of pure hatred, before he regained control.
“What is he doing here?” the Reverend asked in his most theatrical and self-righteous tone, pointing to the man who still sat in the shadows. “This is a creature who has done wicked things beyond your comprehension. How can you allow this walking evil to sit here among the good and decent people of this town?” His stare sharpened as he challenged the other man, “Do you deny it?”
They all turned to watch the stranger’s reaction, waiting for his denial. He stood, unwinding his long, lean length with deliberate care. He glanced at Jess for a moment before returning his stare to the Reverend. “I deny nothing. Whatever else I’ve done, I’m not a liar.”
Jess sucked in a harsh breath. What the hell was going on here? Whatever it was, she wasn’t about to have it escalate into anything more in her library.
A nasty smile shone on the Reverend’s face as he looked around at her, Carrie, and the five or six other patrons who’d come to check out the fuss. He turned back to the stranger. “What do you call yourself these days?” he asked.
The other man answered quietly, with almost studied calm. “I call myself by the name my mama gave me. Gabriel Sutton. Gabe.”
“Gentlemen,” Jess interrupted, raising her voice enough to cut across the Reverend’s theatrics. “This man,”—she turned to glance at Gabe—“whoever he is, hasn’t done anything wrong that we know about.
Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.