By Karen Lynch
Copyright @ 2019 Karen Lynch
This is a sample. The number of pages is limited.
Jordan Shaw is one of the Mohiri’s best young warriors.
Fearless and bold, she’s passionate about completing every job and living life
to the fullest, even if that means breaking all the rules.
When Jordan encounters a demon believed to have been killed off centuries ago, her discovery sends ripples up to the highest levels of the Mohiri. While they discuss how to face the biggest threat to humanity yet, she prepares herself for the mission of her life. She’s not afraid of danger or dying, and she’ll fight to the last breath to save her family.
There’s just one problem – the frustratingly fierce male warrior who calls to her demon. In her heart, Jordan knows he’s her perfect match, but she has things to do before she’s bound to a mate. Like saving the world.
11 years ago, San Francisco, CA
I lifted the bottom corner of the plywood that covered the window and slipped through the opening. Inside the building, it was dark, and I took a minute for my eyes to adjust before I moved away from the window.
A shiver went through me. I didn’t mind the dark, but it was chilly in here and my coat was thin. I was going to have to find something warmer to wear before the weather turned cold.
My stomach rumbled painfully, reminding me I hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Spurred by hunger, I made my way down a hallway to what had once been the lobby of a small hotel. Here, the sun shone through a higher window that hadn’t been boarded up, providing enough light to see my surroundings.
I headed for a large square patch of sunlight in a corner, grateful for any warmth I could find. Sitting cross-legged on the dirty floor, I listened to make sure I was alone. The other kids I shared this building with rarely came back until dark, but I’d learned to be careful.
I had been living on the street since I ran from my foster home three weeks ago, and it hadn’t taken long to learn to trust no one. Out here, everyone was trying to survive from one day to the next, even if that meant stealing from the new girl.
Hearing nothing, I opened my small backpack and pulled out the turkey and cheese sandwich I’d lifted from a deli an hour ago. My mouth watered at the smell of bread and mayo, and I could barely wait to get the plastic off before I took a huge bite. I had to force myself to chew slowly despite the gurgling sounds coming from my stomach. If I ate too quickly when I was really hungry, I’d end up throwing it up and I would be back to where I’d started.
“Whatcha got there, J?”
My heart leaped into my throat, and I nearly choked on the food in my mouth as a red-haired boy entered the room. Shane. I cringed inwardly because he was the last person I wanted to see. I made a point of avoiding him as much as I could.
At fourteen, Shane had four years on me, and he was at least a foot taller. He was scrawny like most of the kids I’d met out here but tough from years on the street. And he was a bully.
I flicked a nervous glance behind him. He also didn’t go anywhere without his little group of friends. The four of them said they owned this building, and they bossed everyone around. If I could find another safe place to sleep, I wouldn’t stick around here.
“Just a sandwich.” I wrapped it in the plastic again. No sense lying because he’d already seen it.
“You gonna share?” he asked, his eyes never leaving my hands.
I tucked the sandwich inside my backpack. “No.”
Shane scowled and lifted his gaze to mine. He wasn’t hungry. I’d seen him and his buddies eating hot dogs two hours ago. He just didn’t like someone telling him no. Well, too bad. I worked hard to get this sandwich, and I was so hungry I could cry. Not that I’d ever cry in front of him.
He took a menacing step toward me. “You know this is my place. You want to squat here, you got to pay. That’s the rule.”
I was on my feet before he could get any closer. Dropping my backpack behind me, I clenched my fists as fury erupted in me and a familiar growl filled my head. The voice was angry. It didn’t like most people, but it hated anyone who tried to hurt me.
Shane snickered as I tensed for his attack. “You going to fight me, J?”
“If you don’t back off, I will.”
“Just give me half the sandwich, and I’ll consider it fair payment.”
“No,” I shot back, almost shouting this time. “It’s all I have to eat. Get your own food.”
He drew himself up to his full height, towering over me. But as big as he was, he didn’t scare me. He’d get in a few punches, but I’d taken my fair share of hits over the years. I had learned from an early age to either suck it up or fight back. I fought back. I’d beaten up the son of my last foster mom for trying to touch me, and he was a year older than Shane.
“Just for that, I’m taking the whole thing,” Shane snarled before he lunged at me.
I was ready for him, and as soon as he was within reach, my foot landed between his legs. The breath left him on a high-pitched squeak, and he doubled over, cupping himself in his hands.
More, growled the voice that was still seething with anger.
As if someone else was moving it, my arm drew back and my fist plowed into Shane’s eye. The blow hurt my hand, but it made the voice crow with glee. It liked to fight. Sometimes, I could stop it, but mostly it was too strong. It didn’t care that it got me kicked out of every home I’d lived in. I should hate it, but having it inside me made me feel like I was never really alone.
Shane fell to his knees, wheezing with hatred blazing in his eyes. He was in no shape to hurt me now, but once he was better, he and his friends would gang up on me. I could take on one of them but not four. I needed to disappear before the rest of them came back.
Snatching up my backpack, I ran back the way I’d come. Voices up ahead brought me up short, and I swallowed hard when I recognized Shane’s friend Lana. She might be a girl, but she was almost as mean as Shane. And she had a crush on him, which meant she would be mad when she found out what I’d done.
I ducked into the first doorway I found and hid in the dark room as quiet as a mouse. I held my breath as Lana and the others walked past my hiding place, talking and laughing. As soon as they reached the end of the hall, I slipped out of the room and raced silently toward the way out.
I was almost at the window when I heard shouts and running feet. My heart thundered in my ears as I shoved my backpack through the opening and followed it. It would take a few minutes for them all to get through the window. If I could get far enough, I might make it out of this.
A pair of hands latched onto my ankle when I was halfway out, and I let out a small scream.
“I got her!” yelled Kevin.
I kicked out hard and felt my foot connect with soft flesh. Kevin let out a muffled oomph and released my leg, sending me crashing to the ground. My shoulder took the worst of the fall, and I knew I’d have a nasty bruise later. But I was free.
Scrambling to my feet, I grabbed my backpack and took off. I ran for at least an hour, up one street and down another, putting as much distance between me and Shane’s gang as I could.
I was panting when I finally stopped behind a small strip mall. There was a patch of grass at the back of the parking lot, and I sank down wearily, mostly obscured from view by a large dumpster. Feeling safe for the moment, I pulled out the bottle of water I kept in my bag and downed the contents. Then I unwrapped the squished sandwich with trembling hands and devoured my well-earned meal.
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand when I finished. I didn’t feel full, but at least my stomach was no longer hurting. It would have to be enough until tomorrow.
I had a bigger problem than hunger. I couldn’t go back to the hotel, so I’d have to find a new place to sleep tonight. There was safety in numbers, which was why I’d stayed at the hotel. Now I was alone, and it was more than a little frightening.
There had to be other groups of kids like me. I just needed to find them before it got dark in a few hours. I couldn’t sleep outside. I’d seen some scary things my first few days on the street, like those two short guys with the cat eyes and horns I’d watched breaking into a butcher shop. I didn’t know what they were, but no way were they human.
A shudder went through me when I remembered the strange creatures emerging from the shop with a bucket of blood. I knew it was blood because I’d watched them drink the stuff. That was an image I wouldn’t soon forget.
The thought of spending the night out here alone drove me to my feet. I brushed off my jeans and put my water bottle into my pack as I walked across the parking lot toward the street. Someone had said a lot of kids liked to hang around the mall. I’d go there and try to make some new friends. It was the only thing I could think of right now.
I was walking past the dumpster when I discovered I wasn’t alone. Shane and Lana stepped out from where they’d been hiding on the other side of the dumpster, and their smiles told me I was in trouble. I didn’t see Kevin and Ash, but they were here somewhere. Shane knew I could take him alone, so he’d bring his whole gang. I was pleased to see his right eye was almost swollen shut.
“Well, hello, J. Fancy meeting you here,” Shane drawled in a smug voice.
I held my chin up, hiding my fear. “I don’t have any food left if that’s what you’re after.”
He sneered at me. “I don’t want your crappy sandwich. I’m here to teach you that you don’t mess with me and get away with it.”
“You messed with me first.”
“You were in my building,” he said as if that made it okay.
Lana huffed. “Can we just do this so we can go get a pizza?”
Shane turned his head to say something to her.
I made it to the end of the strip mall before Ash leaped out in front of me, shoving me to the ground. He was twelve, overweight, and stronger than he looked. I’d wondered how he didn’t lose all that weight living on the street. We didn’t exactly get three square meals a day out here.
I rubbed the back of my head, which had hit the pavement. It hurt so much that tears pricked my eyes. I blinked them away, refusing to cry.
Footsteps approached. Shane and Lana loomed over me, grinning.
Shane kicked me in the thigh, and I couldn’t stop the small cry of pain that escaped me. His grin widened, and Lana laughed.
The voice in my head growled like an alligator I once saw on a nature show. It was madder than ever, but I didn’t think it could help me this time.
Lana bent down and snatched up my backpack, which had fallen off my shoulder. “Let’s see what you have in here.”
“Give that back,” I demanded. There was nothing of value in the bag, just a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and my water bottle, but it was all I owned in the world.
Ignoring me, she dumped the contents of my pack on the ground, making sure to step on my toothbrush and grind it with her foot.
“Junk,” she muttered. “Not even a few dollars.”
Shane crossed his arms, wearing a triumphant look. “Tell me you’re sorry, and beg me to let you go. I’ll go easy on you this time.”
“No,” I said defiantly.
“Suit yourself. But this is going to hurt.”
I glared at him, refusing to be cowed. “You’re nothing but a bunch of sissies who have to gang up on people. One of these days, I’ll be big enough to kick all your asses.”
The three of them laughed, and Shane kicked me in the leg again, harder this time. He stared at me expectantly, but I refused to cry out again.
“What’s going on over there?” called a woman’s voice.
Shane, Lana, and Ash turned toward the street. I couldn’t see what they were looking at, but I heard them swear under their breaths, and Shane hissed, “Let’s get out of here.”
The three of them took off running, and I eased myself into a sitting position on the ground. My leg and head hurt, and I could feel a bad headache coming on. On top of that, my change of clothes were on the ground and Lana had made off with my backpack.
The tears I’d been holding back threatened again, and I swallowed past a lump in my throat. Why did everything have to be so hard?
“Are you okay, sweetheart?” asked a gentle voice.
My head jerked up in surprise, and I stared at the woman I hadn’t even heard approach. She was tall and pretty with kind blue eyes and long blonde hair in a ponytail. She wore jeans and black boots, and I thought I could see the hilt of a knife peeking out of the top of one boot.
I didn’t speak as I watched her come closer until she was only a few feet away. I let out a soft gasp when a strange sense of recognition filled me. I’d never felt anything like it before, but I knew instinctively that it was something big.
The woman’s eyes widened, telling me she felt it, too. She crouched in front of me. “I’m Paulette. What is your name?”
“Jordan,” I whispered, unsure of why I was telling a complete stranger my name. But something about her told me I could trust her.
“How old are you?” she asked gently.
Shock flashed in her eyes before she smiled again. “Where’s your family, sweetheart?”
“Got none,” I replied defensively. My mom had given me up when I was four, and none of her family had wanted me. As far as I was concerned, I had no family.
If Paulette was surprised by my answer, she didn’t show it. “How long have you been living on the street?”
I shrugged. “Not long. A few weeks.”
She laid a hand on my foot, and a strange emotion that felt like joy surged in me. I knew in that moment Paulette was like me.
“Do…you have a voice inside, too?” I asked her breathlessly.
Her smile grew brighter. “Yes, I do.”
My chest tightened. All my life, people looked at me like I was crazy when I mentioned the voice. Paulette acted like it was perfectly normal. And she said she had a voice, too.
“Do you want to know something else?” she asked softly.
“I’m from a place where everyone has a voice in them, just like you and me. And we have children your age. Would you like to live there?”
I chewed the inside of my cheek. Paulette seemed nice, but every adult I’d met had acted like I was crazy and shoved me in one awful home after another. I’d rather take my chances on the street than go back to living like that.
“Is it a foster home?” I asked.
“No. It’s kind of like a little town. There’s a playground and a school, and you’ll have your own room in a nice house.”
“I don’t like school.” I rubbed my hands on my jeans, remembering the fights, the taunts, the suspensions.
She smiled. “I think you’ll like this school. It’s a special one where you’ll learn all kinds of cool stuff, and you’ll train to be a warrior like me.”
My whole body perked up at that. “A warrior? For real, like with a sword?”
“Would you like that?”
I nodded eagerly. “Yes!”
“Good.” Paulette stood and held out a hand to me.
I stared at it for a long moment before I put my smaller hand in hers and let her help me up. I stumbled when I put weight on my sore leg, but she caught me and kept me from falling.
I looked down at my pitiful possessions strewn across the pavement. Maybe I could get new clothes and a toothbrush where I was going.
Paulette squeezed my hand. “We’ll get you all new things when we get home.”
“And a sword?” I asked hopefully.
She chuckled. “I think we’ll start you out with a practice one. But I can already tell you’re going to be a fine warrior, Jordan.”
I beamed at her. “I’m going to be the best warrior ever.”
“What do you say we hit up Suave tonight?”
Mason grunted. “Can we discuss this later? Little busy here.”
“Pfft.” I swung my sword, the blade slicing cleanly through the throat of one of the two vampires I was facing off against. Her eyes took on that shocked, angry look vampires always got when they realized their worthless life was over, and she crumpled to the floor.
Behind me, a vampire shrieked in pain, and I knew Mason was holding his own.
“Don’t think you’re getting out of it again,” I said, turning my attention to my remaining opponent. “You promised to hit the club with me.”
Mason groaned, and I smiled at the male vampire whose gaze was darting between me and the nearest doorway. He was calculating whether or not he was faster than I was.
“Go for it.” I waved my free hand at the door. “I’ll even give you a head start.”
He didn’t think twice. He bolted for the door, and true to my word, I didn’t run after him.
“What are you doing?” Mason asked incredulously. “You’re letting him go?”
“Please.” I scoffed and drew the knife strapped to my thigh. A flick of my wrist sent the weapon into the back of the fleeing vampire. He screamed as the silver blade burned him from the inside out, but he kept staggering forward.
I sighed as I went after him. I really had to work on my throwing skills. I’d been at least an inch off his heart.
The vampire stumbled past the concession stand, where the smell of stale popcorn and butter still hung in the air even though the movie theater had been closed for over a year. I caught up to him near the entrance to one of the theaters and plunged my sword into his back, making sure to hit his heart this time. He gasped and collapsed, his body sliding off my blade.
“Heads-up, Jordan and Mason,” Raoul called over the comm. “Two coming your way.”
I straightened and spun to see two vampires sprinting toward Mason from the opposite direction. I ran to intercept. “On it.”
Mason was still fighting his opponent, so I engaged the newcomers alone. Their speed told me they were young, like most vampires we encountered, though still a little faster than I was. It annoyed the hell out of me that I’d have to wait years to build up the speed of the older warriors like Raoul. Whose brilliant idea was it to create a race of vampire hunters that took a century to reach their full strength?
The vampires snarled and came straight at me. I gripped my sword, ready for them. What I lacked in speed, I made up for in combat. I had better be good after sparring regularly for months with Nikolas Danshov. I’d also trained briefly with Desmund Ashworth. They were two of the best swordsmen alive, and I was going to join their ranks one day.
The first vampire took a swipe at me, and I relieved him of one of his hands. He screamed and clutched his bloody stump.
“What?” I quirked an eyebrow at him. “It’s not like you’re going to need it.”
If there was one thing I knew about vampires, it was how badly they reacted to taunts. He bellowed and lunged at me. I removed his head. A little messy but effective.
Running feet drew my attention to the second vampire, who was making an escape. I shot a look at Mason and saw he didn’t need my help finishing off his kill. Then I set off in pursuit.
The vampire disappeared through a door, and I yanked it open to see him racing up a flight of stairs. The building had three floors, and we were on the bottom. My gut told me he was headed for the roof. We were close enough to the neighboring buildings for him to make his escape that way.
I sped up the stairs, my eyes on the figure two flights above, frantically trying to kick down a door.
“Jordan, where are you?” Mason asked over the comm.
“Stairs,” I replied. “Have one going for the roof.”
Raoul cut in. “Wait for your partner, Jordan.”
The door above me crashed open, and a rush of cool night air hit me.
“My partner better get his ass in gear because I’m not letting this bastard get away.”
I could hear swearing on the other end as I ran through the roof access door that now hung on its hinges. I caught sight of my quarry as he leaped to the roof of the next building.
“He’s jumped to the bakery roof,” I informed the team as I went after him.
I landed on the other roof as the vampire sped to the opposite edge to jump again. Obviously, no one had told him he could survive a three-story fall, or he wouldn’t be making it so easy for me to follow him. I’d survive three stories, too, but not without some bruises, and he’d most likely get away.
The next roof was a story lower. This time, the vampire jumped down to the alley between the buildings.
I followed suit, wincing as the shock of the landing traveled up my legs. Maybe it was time to invest in more practical boots for work. Heels were hot, but combat boots were a lot better for jumping off buildings.
The vampire sped away, and I put on a burst of speed to close the distance between us. He ducked through a door into another building. I went in after him.
I came up short when I found myself in what looked like a storage area of some kind. The room didn’t hold my interest as much as the three vampires I was suddenly facing.
The one I’d been chasing smiled, showing off his snakelike fangs. “Looks like you’re outnumbered. Your friends won’t save you now.”
I shrugged. “That whole damsel in distress bit is not really my thing anyway. So, who wants to go first?”
“Me.” The biggest one, who looked like he’d been a thirtysomething biker when he was changed, licked his lips. “I’m going to rip your guts out and eat them while you watch.”
I made a face. “Someone’s been watching The Walking Dead too much.”
“You won’t be cracking jokes when I’m done with you,” he said as the three of them spread out, trying to surround me.
I kept my back to the door so the most they could do was form a semicircle. Holding my sword in a relaxed grip, I waited for them to make the first move.
My friend from the theater and the third vampire, who looked like he’d been a computer nerd in his former life, rushed me from either side. Twisting, I ran my blade through the stomach of Nerd Guy and sent a high kick to the throat of the other. It was a move I’d been practicing for weeks, and I was kind of bummed no one was there to see it.
Both vampires went down, and I turned my attention to the ex-biker as he charged. He swung a clawed hand at me, and I ducked, coming up behind him. Before he could turn around, I drove my sword into his heart.
The vampire with the gut wound writhed on the floor, so I went after the other one. He’d recovered from the blow I’d given him, but instead of helping his friends, he was running for the door. Bending, I whipped a blade from my boot and threw it. He let out a choked cry, and I did a fist pump because my aim had been perfect this time.
A whimpering sound behind me reminded me my job wasn’t done. The last vampire seemed almost happy to be put out of his misery when I went to kill him.
Feet pounded on pavement, and I looked up as Raoul filled the doorway with Mason and Brock behind him.
Raoul’s lips pressed together as he took in the scene. “You turned off your radio?”
“Of course not.” I patted the inner pocket of my jacket where I carried the small device, but the pocket was empty. Crap.
I gave Raoul a sheepish smile. “It must have fallen out when I jumped off the laundromat.”
He sighed and rubbed his forehead.
“You jumped off a two-story building in those boots?” Brock gave me a lopsided smile. “Hot.”
Raoul shot him a warning look. “Do not encourage her.” He cocked his head as if he was listening to something. Then he said, “Copy that,” before he looked at us. “All clear.”
“How many in total?” I asked.
“Fourteen,” Raoul replied. “And six humans recovered.”
“I’d call that a good night’s work.” I tallied up my kills in my head as I wiped my blade on the jeans of one of the dead vampires. Six out of fourteen. Not bad at all.
“And since Jordan had the most kills, she gets the honor of writing up the report,” Raoul announced.
The smile fell from my lips, and I didn’t try to hide my dismay. There were few things I detested more than writing up field reports. It was so tedious and boring. But the Council was a stickler for record keeping. One of these days, I was going to tell them what they could do with their reports.
Raoul patted my back. “It should only take an hour, two tops.”
Mason snickered, and I fixed my gaze on him.
“Don’t worry. It will still give us plenty of time to go out tonight,” I said sweetly.
He looked like he was in pain. “Wouldn’t you rather find some other girls to go out with?”
“I don’t know any other girls here, so you’re my new BFF.”
“I miss Beth,” he grumbled.
I missed Beth, too. And Sara. I didn’t make female friends easily, and it figured that my two best girlfriends had gone and settled down with mates. They were ridiculously happy, and I was happy for them. But I missed having them around. Mason was fun to hang with, even when he pretended not to like it, but it just wasn’t the same.
Maybe it was time for a visit. I talked to Sara and Beth all the time, but we hadn’t seen each other since the week I spent at Westhorne for Christmas, and that was five months ago. The two of them, along with Nikolas and Chris, were in Chicago now, setting up the newest command center.
Sara was six months pregnant – something I still found hard to believe – and whenever we talked, she complained that Nikolas wouldn’t let her do anything fun. I bet she would love a visitor.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I loved Los Angeles and my job, but every girl needed a little vacation once in a while.
I didn’t realize I was smiling until Mason waved a hand in front of my face.
“What’s so amusing?” he asked warily.
I winked as I walked past him. “I’m just thinking about how much fun we’re going to have tonight.”
* * *
“How long do we have to stay here?” Mason complained as he leaned back against the bar, wearing a bored expression.
“We’ve barely been here an hour.”
“And that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.”
I nudged him with my shoulder. “Come on. It’s not that bad. Maybe if you moved away from this spot, you’d enjoy yourself. God knows there are enough girls wanting to dance with you.”
One corner of his mouth turned up. “Jealous?”
A laugh burst from me. “I can barely keep from throwing myself at you.”
“You wound me,” he said with a sad face that might have been believable if not for the gleam of amusement in his eyes.
“I’ll make it up to you.” My gaze moved past him to the hordes of women nearby, some of whom were staring greedily at my friend.
“What are you doing?” he asked as I studied the faces around us.
Ignoring him, I continued my perusal. There were a lot of gorgeous women here, but most of them weren’t his type. Mason was pretty laid back, and the majority of these women looked too high-maintenance for him. No, he needed someone more like…
I smiled when my gaze landed on a trio of blondes. Two of them were dressed in short tight dresses that showed off their toned bodies and enhanced breasts. The third one wore a dress, too, but she was trying to discreetly tug on the hem when she thought no one was looking. She was as pretty as her friends, but her whole demeanor told me she felt out of place here. She kind of reminded me of Sara when I used to drag her out clubbing with me.
The girl’s two friends said something to her. She shook her head, and they walked to the dance floor and started dancing with each other.
“Back in a sec,” I said to Mason as I left him and walked over to the girl.
I gave her my most winning smile. “Hi. Love your dress.”
“Thanks.” She shyly returned my smile. “I like yours, too.”
I leaned in to speak in her ear. “Hey, do you see that tall, hot guy behind me in the gray shirt?”
She glanced around me, and her eyes widened when they found Mason. “Yes.”
“That’s my friend Mason. I made him come with me tonight, and this is not really his scene. I think he’d feel better if he had someone other than me to talk to.”
She shook her head. “I… He doesn’t look like he needs help meeting people.”
“He’s shyer than he looks,” I lied. “You want to meet him?”
“You have a nice face,” I told her honestly. “I have a good feeling about you.”
“Oh.” She stole another peek behind me. “Okay.”
“Great! I’m Jordan, by the way.”
“I’m Emily,” she replied as I led her over to the bar. Mason watched me curiously as I approached with my new friend in tow.
“Mason, this is Emily. Emily, Mason.” I smiled at them, ignoring his questioning look. “You two get to know each other. I’ll be right back.”
Before either of them could say anything, I split, disappearing into the crowd. When I got to the other side of the club, I looked over to see Mason and Emily deep in conversation.
Called it. I gave myself a mental pat on the back as I searched for someone to dance with. I was always bursting with energy after a job, and dancing was one of my favorite ways to burn some of it off. My other favorite way required a bit more privacy than this place offered.
I checked out the men around me and got more than a few interested looks in return. I passed on them because in my heels I was over six feet, and I didn’t like dancing with someone shorter than I was. It cut down on my options, but a girl wants what she wants.
The crowd parted, and I found what I was looking for. Standing at around six-four with wide shoulders and a trim waist, he was perfect. He looked my way, and I took in the black hair and olive skin that gave him an exotic appearance. I smiled in appreciation. You’ll do nicely.
I walked up to him, and neither of us spoke when I took his hand and led him to the dance floor. Pressing my back to his chest, I lifted my arms above my head, and began to move. His hands settled on my hips, and he ground against me in a sensual dance that sent heat to all the right places in my body.
By the end of our third dance, I didn’t need to feel his arousal to know he was as into me as I was into him. I could smell the lust coming off him in waves. We still hadn’t spoken, but no words were necessary. I wanted him, and he wanted me.
I turned in his arms and leaned in close enough for my lips to brush his ear. Mmmm. He smelled good. “Want to get out of here?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” he said in a deep, husky voice that sent a thrill through me.
I glanced in Mason’s direction and found him still at the bar, talking to Emily. Smiling, I looked at my companion. “Don’t go anywhere. I have to tell my friend I’m leaving.”
I was going to get an earful from Mason about forcing him to come with me and then ditching him. But I’d offer to go surfing with him this week to make up for it. I’d done it a few times, and it was kind of fun. I was a California girl through and through.
I’d barely gone two steps when a girl stumbled into me, dumping the contents of her glass down the front of my dress. I swore as a pink stain spread across the white fabric.
“Oh, shit! I’m so sorry,” she slurred.
Waving her off, I turned toward the restrooms to clean up as best I could. I bypassed the small line outside, and a few women complained until I turned to face them and they saw my dress. They waved me in ahead of them. Not that it mattered. The dress would require a professional cleaning to get the stain out.
I grabbed some paper towels and started blotting up the liquid, barely paying attention to the people around me. My mind was on the man waiting for me and how I planned to spend the rest of my night. The way he’d held me against him and his unhurried movements told me he was good at more than dancing, and I was looking forward to getting him alone.
The sound of retching in one of the stalls pulled me from my pleasant thoughts. In the mirror, my eyes met those of the girl at the next sink. Her lips pressed together, and she looked a little green as she hurriedly finished washing her hands. I went back to cleaning my dress. I’d seen and heard worse things than some drunk girl puking.
“Oh, my God. What is that smell?” someone choked out a second before a putrid odor filled the air around me. My nose twitched, and I nearly gagged on the foulness that smelled like a mix of sewage and blood.
Stall doors were flung open, and women ran for the restroom door without stopping to wash their hands. In a matter of seconds, I was the only one left in the room. Well, me and the unfortunate woman who was still throwing up.
“Hey, are you okay in there?” I called, figuring someone had to check on her.
She moaned and started sobbing between bouts of retching. I stared at her bare legs visible beneath the stall door, unsure of what to do. Aside from Sara that one time, I hadn’t been around many sick people in my life. I put a hand over my nose. Was it normal for it to smell this awful?
The woman began making a gagging, choking sound. Afraid she might be dying in there, I banged on the stall door. “Hey, are you –?”
My question was cut off by the sound of something hitting the water in the toilet with a loud plop. That in itself was alarming enough. And then a squelching, splashing sound came from the toilet.
“What the fuck?”
There was a soft thump as the woman collapsed on the floor. Bending down, I grasped her foot, which was jutting out beneath the door, and dragged her from the stall. Her dark hair was plastered to her face, and a greenish black sludge covered her mouth and the front of her red dress. It left a trail on the floor, and it smelled even worse up close, if that was possible. I checked the pulse at her throat and found a faint heartbeat. She was alive but barely.
More sloshing came from the toilet. It didn’t take being a warrior to know that puking up something that moved was a very bad thing.
I reached for my clutch on the vanity and pulled out my phone to send off a text to Mason. Trouble in restroom. Human down. Call for backup.
His reply came thirty seconds later. On my way.
Stuffing my phone back into the clutch, I grabbed the folded karambit I carried when I went clubbing. My dresses didn’t leave any room for concealed weapons, but I’d seen enough in my life to know I’d have to be an idiot to go out unarmed.
The curved silver blade was only three inches long, but I could do damage with that. Gripping it in one hand, I placed myself between the unconscious woman and the stall. I wanted to know what that thing in the toilet was, but my main priority was to protect the human until backup arrived.
Water splashed again, followed by a scraping sound. Before I could register that the thing was trying to climb out of the toilet, I heard a wet plop on the tile floor.
An ominous silence filled the room. I didn’t breathe.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement, and I jerked my head to the right in time to see a black tentacle appear under the neighboring stall door.
I barely had time to react before the creature came flying at me. I sidestepped the attack, and the thing crashed hard into the mirror, sending glass raining down on the vanity.
A shapeless black glob landed in one of the sinks. I raised my knife and took a step toward the vanity. At the same time, the restroom door started to open. I shouted a warning as the creature launched from the sink toward the door.
My arm moved without conscious thought, and my knife sailed across the room. The blade struck the creature and pinned it to the wall, inches from Mason’s startled face. Impaled on the blade, the thing thrashed violently and went still as smoke poured from its body.
Mason hurried into the room and shut the door, his eyes never leaving the creature. “What the hell is that?”
“No idea, but my guess is it’s a demon.”
He scanned the room, taking in the damage. “Where did it come from?”
I pointed to the woman on the floor. “It came out of her.”
His eyes went wide. “Shit. Is she dead?”
“She was alive last I checked, but God knows what that thing did to her.” I studied the demon that had stopped moving, but I couldn’t make out a shape. It was a blob with tentacles. I saw a curved black claw on the end of one tentacle.
Someone banged on the door, and Mason put his hand against it to prevent them from coming in. He looked at me. “I called for backup, but we won’t be able to keep people out of here for long.”
His meaning was clear. We had to get rid of the demon before the humans saw it. It was too big to flush, and I had a feeling Raoul was going to want to see this one. I could stuff it in the garbage, but what if it wasn’t dead and it attacked someone else? Or one of the humans found it?
I grimaced when I realized there was only one place I could hide the thing so we could get it out of here. I dumped my phone and cash from my clutch and carried it over to the door. Grasping the handle of my knife, I yanked it out of the wall and dropped the demon into the purse. I had to use paper towels to get all the tentacles inside because no way was I touching that thing if I could help it. It was a tight squeeze, but I managed to squish the demon into the clutch.
Once the demon was safely tucked away, I handed my knife to Mason, and he put it in his pocket. Then I motioned for him to stop blocking the door.
A bouncer in a black club T-shirt was the first one to enter the room, and he came up short at the sight before him. “What’s going on in here?” he demanded, no doubt wondering why Mason was in the women’s restroom.
I put one hand to my chest and pointed to the unconscious woman with the other. “She was throwing up, and then she went into convulsions and broke the mirror.”
Moving past Mason, the bouncer crouched to check on the woman. “What is this black stuff? And what is that god-awful smell?”
“I think a toilet backed up,” I said innocently. I hoped he didn’t push the matter because I had no good answer for him.
He stood and spoke into a wireless radio attached to his ear. “Call nine-one-one. We have a possible OD.”
More club staff poured into the room, and I motioned to Mason that we should leave. We slipped past the crowd outside the restroom and exited by the club’s rear door. Before I left, I looked back and found the man I’d danced with. He was still where I’d left him and looking at his watch. I felt a stab of disappointment as I turned away and followed Mason outside.
Raoul and Brock were the first to arrive, and they met up with us in the parking lot of the building next to Suave. I gave them a rundown of what had happened in the restroom, and Mason added the part where he’d come in.
By the time we’d finished recounting our story, a white van pulled in and Jon’s team got out. I used to share a safehouse with them when I first came to Los Angeles, so we knew each other well.
Jon, a big blond Norwegian whom I’d nicknamed Thor, grinned at me. “Why am I not surprised to see you? Causing trouble again?”
“Just saving the world. Same old, same old.” I waved at the van. “You have a cleanup kit in there?”
“Yah, what do you need?” he said.
I held up my clutch. “Something to store this thing in.”
He eyed the purse. “What is it?”
“Dead demon. At least, I think it’s dead.”
That got everyone’s attention, and they came closer as Jon reached into the van and lifted out a large bin. From the bin, he took a thick plastic bag, which he held up to me. I walked over to him and unclasped my purse, dumping the demon into the bag. Jon immediately sealed it and placed it inside a silver mesh sack as an extra precaution. If the demon was playing possum, it would not be able to break free of its confinement.
Raoul took the bag from Jon, turning it over in his hands and staring at the demon for a long moment. “This came out of the woman?”
“Yes.” I waited for him to say something else, but he just continued to study the demon.
“Do you know what it is?” Mason asked him.
Raoul wore a puzzled expression when he looked at us. “It looks like a Hurra demon, but that’s not possible.”
I looked from Raoul to the demon. “Are they not usually found in North America?”
He frowned. “They aren’t found anywhere on Earth because they were eradicated three centuries ago.”
“Whoa.” Mason’s eyes rounded, and I’m sure his shocked expression mirrored mine.
Raoul rubbed his chin. “We need to get it back to the lab for identification before we report this.”
“And if you’re right about what it is?” I asked him.
His eyes met mine. “Then we have a serious problem.”
“Any word yet?” I sank down on one of the visitor chairs in Raoul’s office. Mason took the other chair.
Raoul looked up from his laptop. “Should hear something soon.”
Once we had gotten back to the command center, we’d taken the demon to the medical ward that had been set up in the old guesthouse. At any given time, there could be up to two dozen warriors in southern California, so the powers that be had seen the need for a full-time medical staff at the house. We had two healers who also ran a small lab in the ward. The lab wasn’t as sophisticated as one you’d find at a stronghold, but it worked in a pinch. Like now. Instead of having to send the demon to the nearest stronghold for identification, the healers could run a genetic test in our very own lab.
I tapped my fingers on the arms of my chair. “While we’re waiting, can you tell us what a Hurra demon is? Must be bad for us to kill them all off.” I decided not to point out that we’d obviously failed in that endeavor.
Raoul leaned back in his chair. “A Hurra demon is a parasitic middle demon. Outside of the demon dimension, it can only survive inside a human host.”
“Like a Vamhir demon,” I said.
“Or a Mori,” Mason added.
Raoul nodded. “Closer to a Vamhir demon. A Hurra demon takes control of the host, and it feeds off the flesh of other humans. But unlike a vampire, the host body will deteriorate and die within a year of infection, so the demon has to find a new host.”
I made a face. “A demon zombie. Nice.”
Raoul nodded. “It’s actually where some of the zombie lore started. Fortunately for us, the Hurra can’t reproduce outside of their dimension, which made it easier to wipe them out.”
So how did this one get here? I wondered. Demons couldn’t just pass from their dimension to ours. About two millennia ago, something happened to create a hole in the barrier between Earth and the demon dimension, and thousands of demons escaped to our world. According to our legends, angels fixed the breach and created the Mohiri to hunt the more dangerous demons, like vampires. But by then, the demons had started multiplying and there was no way to get them all.
The only way a demon could cross the barrier now was by a summoning ritual performed by magic wielders such as warlocks and shamans. Only upper demons could be summoned, and only in non-corporeal form. Physical matter could not pass through the barrier.
The demon I’d bagged tonight had definitely been in solid form. If it was in fact a Hurra demon, then we obviously hadn’t killed them all off.
I voiced my thoughts and Raoul nodded gravely. “Good question. Maybe I’m wrong.”
“You’re not wrong,” said a voice from the doorway.
I looked over my shoulder at the red-haired healer standing there. George, who usually wore a pleasant smile, was as serious as I’d ever seen him.
He stepped into the office. “Leslie and I ran a DNA sample against the database and found a match. It’s a Hurra demon. We’re sending it off to the lab at Valstrom for further analysis.”
Raoul nodded and reached for his phone. “I need to notify the Council immediately.”
“Wait.” I held up a hand to stop him. “I don’t understand. If a Hurra demon stays in a host until it’s worn out, why did that girl throw up this one? She looked pretty healthy…except for the whole puking thing.”
“I think I know the answer to that,” George said. “I spoke to one of my contacts at Cedars where they took the girl. He said she had lupus. I don’t know how she came in contact with the demon, but I believe her body rejected it.”
“She didn’t make it?” I asked.
George shook his head. “She died in the ambulance.”
I slumped in my chair. That poor girl. What a horrible way to go.
“Jordan,” Raoul said almost apologetically. “I know it’s been a crazy night, but the Council is going to want a thorough account of what happened at the club. Can you write up the report while I make this call?”
I sighed and pushed up out of the chair. “Yeah. I’ll get on it right away.”
“I’ll help,” Mason said, following me.
I shot him a grateful smile as we left the office and entered the main control room. We pulled up chairs to an available workstation, and I opened a blank report.
“What do you think the Council will do?” Mason asked in a low voice.
“I have no idea,” I admitted. “But we probably won’t like it.”
“What do you mean?”
I turned to look at him. “A demon they tried to wipe out hundreds of years ago suddenly popped up in a nightclub in L.A. Mark my words. In twenty-four hours, this place will be taken over by one of the Council’s special investigative teams.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
I huffed softly. “Mason, the Council interferes in my life enough as it is. The last thing I want is them stepping in and telling me how to do my job.”
He bumped me with his shoulder. “I don’t know. It might be fun to watch someone try to tell you what to do.”
A smile tugged at my lips as I focused on the report again. They can try.
* * *
I was wrong. The Council didn’t send someone in twenty-four hours. Their people showed up less than eight hours after Raoul made his call. They hadn’t even reacted this fast when they found out we had an active Lilin in Los Angeles, which made me suspect there was more going on here than the discovery of a supposedly extinct demon.
When I entered the control room the next morning, I found a blonde female and two dark-haired males I didn’t know sitting around the small conference table with Raoul. They stood as I approached them.
“Jordan Shaw, this is Vivian Day, Aaron Lee, and Eugene Harris,” Raoul said. “They were sent by the Council to investigate the Hurra incident.”
Vivian held out a hand to me. “It’s good to meet you, Jordan,” she said in an English accent. “Raoul’s told me all about you.”
I slid my gaze to Raoul as I took her hand. “I’m not sure whether to be flattered or worried.”
Raoul chuckled, and amusement lit up Vivian’s eyes.
“It was all good,” she said. “Although, now I’m thinking he might have left out some things.”
I merely smiled and turned to greet her two companions. I had a feeling I was going to like Vivian Day, but she was here on behalf of the Council. I decided not to disclose too much until I got a better feel for her.
After the introductions had been made, we all sat and the three investigators got down to business, drilling me about last night.
“How did the victim look when she first entered the restroom?”
“How many strikes did it take to kill the Hurra?”
“Would you say it moved quickly or slowly?”
“Did you observe any other humans displaying similar symptoms?”
I held up a hand after I’d answered half a dozen questions. “All of this is in the report I wrote up last night.”
Vivian smiled. “We like to get a firsthand account of these things.”
“Why did I spend over two hours working on a report when no one is going to read it?” I asked irritably, thinking of the countless hours I’d wasted doing reports since I came to Los Angeles. Did anyone even read those?
“Reports are mainly used for research material in future jobs,” Eugene said unhelpfully. “And they allow the Council to keep track of statistical data such as how many vampire kills took place in a geographical area in one year.”
I wanted to tell him I already knew this, but a warning look from Raoul kept me quiet. These were Council investigators, and I was going to have to play nice with them. For now. Hopefully, they’d wrap up their job here in a day or two and be on their way.
Vivian wore an amused smile. “You remind me of Nikolas. He always hated doing reports, too.”
“You know Nikolas?” I asked, and then I did a mental eye roll. Of course, she knew Nikolas Danshov. Who didn’t?
Her smile grew fond. “Since we were children.”
“Wow.” She was the first person I’d met who had known Nikolas that long, and I bet she had some stories to tell.
“About the reports,” Eugene cut in.
“Yes.” Vivian got back to business. “We read your report, and we appreciate the level of detail in it. But memory can be tricky, especially when it comes to situations like this. Asking the right questions might help you recall something you didn’t think of when you wrote up the report.”
“Okay,” I conceded because what she’d said made sense.
Over the next hour, I answered every question they asked. Eugene took notes while Aaron mostly nodded thoughtfully at every answer. Vivian did most of the talking, and I found myself appreciating the way she filtered through the details, focusing on what she clearly thought were the more important ones.
“I think we have everything we need,” Eugene said at last. “Thank you, Jordan.”
It sounded like a dismissal. A polite one, but a dismissal all the same, and I felt my hackles rising again.
I looked at Vivian, who appeared to be the leader of their team. “Now that we’ve told you what we know, why don’t you tell us something?”
Her expression was open and friendly. “What would you like to know?”
“I get that finding a live Hurra demon is a little exciting, but there seems to be more behind your questions. This isn’t an isolated incident, is it?”
A glance at Raoul told me he thought the same thing. Unlike him, I wasn’t content to let the Council take over without pushing for answers.
Vivian exchanged a look with Eugene and Aaron, and then she shook her head. “We’ve had two other incidents, one in Florida a week ago and one in Alaska three days ago. The Florida one was a Hurra demon. The one in Alaska was a Geel.”
I sucked in a sharp breath and heard Raoul do the same. A Geel was the kind of thing you’d find in your worst nightmares. It was a lower demon that attached itself to its victim’s face and laid its eggs in their throat while they were fully conscious. It took two days for the eggs to hatch, and then the offspring consumed the victim.
Resembling large worms, Geel lived in the deserts of Africa because they could only survive in a hot, dry climate. Even if someone had captured one and taken it to Alaska, it would die within a day.
“Was the Geel alive?” Raoul asked.
“Yes.” Vivian clasped her hands on the table. “And it was already attached to a host when our people got there. We were able to extract it and save the human. Fortunately, we were also able to erase his memory of the attack. No one should have to live with that.”
“Christ,” Raoul muttered.
I folded my arms across my chest. “Time for the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. How does a desert demon end up in Alaska, of all places?”
“That is what we are trying to find out,” Vivian replied. “The Council’s lead investigator is there now.”
“You’re not the lead investigator?” I asked.
“No. I was called in to assist on this one until he is free. As you can imagine, these incidents are troubling and of great concern to the Council.”
It all made sense. No wonder the Council had jumped on this so quickly. “So, what happens now?”
“Our next plan of action is to look into the victim…” Vivian glanced down at a notepad on the table. “Chelsea Head. We’ll check out her home and try to retrace her steps over the last few days to see if we can discover how and where she came into contact with the Hurra demon.”
I leaned forward eagerly. I might not be the Council’s biggest fan, but this was definitely not an ordinary investigation. I was more than a little curious.
Vivian picked up on my interest, and she gave me a knowing smile. “If Raoul can spare you, you’re welcome to come with us.”
“You bagged the demon, so it’s only fair that you get to be on the job,” she said. “But we’ll take the lead.”
“Sure,” I agreed readily. “When do we start?”
Vivian laughed. “I’ve been traveling all night, so I’m going to freshen up and eat something first. We’ll head out at noon.”
“Are you staying here?” I asked her as we stood.
“If you have room. I normally stay at hotels, but I thought it would be better to be at the command center for this job.”
“We can sleep on couches if there are no available beds,” Aaron offered. I figured that in his job, he’d probably slept in a lot less comfortable places.
“We have one bedroom available,” Raoul said. “Vivian, you take that. Aaron and Eugene, we have couches or some army cots you can use.”
“I’ll show you where it is,” I told her.
We left the control room and walked to the main entryway to grab her bags. I grinned when I saw the large suitcase and a smaller carry-on. Unlike most warriors, Vivian Day apparently didn’t like to travel light. I might have found a kindred spirit in her.
I led her to the other end of the Spanish-style villa where the bedrooms were. One room was Raoul’s, and next to it was mine. I’d moved into Sara and Nikolas’s old room after they left because this place was a lot less crowded than the safe house.
Brock and Mason shared a room with twin beds since they were hardly ever here. Those two lived like college kids, and all they cared about, outside of being warriors, was surfing. If it had been safe to sleep on the beach, I think they would live there.
I showed Vivian to the room across from mine and left her to settle in. An hour later, I found her in the kitchen making a cup of tea.
“I always carry some Earl Grey with me,” she said as she added milk and sugar to the cup. “You never know if you’ll be able to find good tea.”
“I guess not.” I sat at the breakfast bar, resting my elbows on the granite counter. “So, you knew Nikolas when you were kids? What was he like back then?”
“I met him when we were sixteen, and we trained together. We were very competitive with each other, and I think that’s how we became such good friends.”
I tried to imagine Nikolas as a boy in training. “I wish I could have been there.”
Vivian smiled over the top of her cup. “I have a feeling you would have given us both a run for our money back then.” When I raised an eyebrow, she chuckled softly. “I read your file on the way here. You already have an impressive record for such a young warrior.”
I tried to hide my surprise. I didn’t like the idea of the Council having a file on me, but they probably had one on every warrior, even Nikolas.
“I started younger than most.” I grinned. “Thanks to Sara.”
“Nikolas’s mate? I’ve heard a lot about her, and I’m looking forward to meeting her.” She sipped her tea. “I work mostly overseas, and every time I plan to visit them, a new job comes up.”
“You’ll love Sara. I can honestly say there is no one like her.”
Vivian set her cup down on the counter. “I believe you. It would take a very special woman to claim Nikolas’s heart. Seems like only yesterday we were setting out into the world, and now he’s mated with a baby on the way.”
I made a face. “Having seen the way he is with Sara, I can’t wait to see how protective he’ll be over his daughter. If we could go gray, I think this would do it for him.”
Vivian burst out laughing. I wasn’t sure what it was about her, but I liked her. I could see how Nikolas had liked her, too. She had to be very good to work directly for the Council, but she wasn’t as serious as Aaron or Eugene.
“So, this is what you do, traveling all over the world to investigate for the Council?” I asked her. “Sounds like you’re not settling down anytime soon.”
“Lord, no.” She wore a look of mock horror. “Although, don’t say that to my mum. She wants grandchildren, but I’m perfectly content with my life.”
“Me, too,” I declared. “I have enough people trying to tell me what to do without adding some overbearing male to the mix.”
Vivian raised her cup to me in a toast. “Amen to that.”
* * *
“What was it like on your first official Council investigation?” Mason asked.
“First and only,” I corrected him. “And it was interesting.”
I took a bite of my hot dog and chewed slowly as I watched people walk by on the boardwalk in Venice Beach. It was good to be back on patrol after spending the last two days tagging along with Vivian’s team. I hadn’t lied when I said the work was interesting, but I much preferred to be in the action instead of observing.
I had to admit, the Council investigators were nothing if not thorough in their work. We’d started with Chelsea’s apartment in Burbank, which she had shared with her boyfriend of three years. He’d told us the night she died, she’d gone out with some girlfriends to celebrate a birthday. He was adamant she had never done drugs even though that was the official cause of death. The poor man was devastated, but there was nothing we could do to make it better. Neither the Council nor the human officials wanted the public to know a woman had died throwing up a parasitic demon. It would cause a panic, and that was something we didn’t need.
After going through her home, we’d checked out her workplace, a dental practice where she’d been a hygienist. That turned up nothing, as did the interviews with Chelsea’s friends who’d gone to the club with her. We’d gone through Chelsea’s neighborhood, visited her favorite coffee shop, and even scoured the little park where she walked her dog.
While the investigation had turned up nothing, Vivian and I had hit it off and she’d entertained me with stories about the jobs she’d done over the years. She led an exciting life, traveling all over the world, staying in five-star hotels, and driving fast cars. Not to mention the things she’d seen. The lifestyle held more than a little appeal for me, except for the part where she worked directly for the Council.
A phone rang nearby, and I peered past Mason at Brock as he answered the call.
“Yeah. We’re not too far from there. We’ll check it out,” he said to the caller before he hung up and looked at us. “Command picked up a nine-one-one call from a woman who claims a giant spider tried to eat her dog. The police aren’t taking her seriously, but Raoul wants us to have a look.”
“A giant spider?” It didn’t sound like any creature or demon normally found here, but anything was possible after the Hurra incident and the Geel appearance in Alaska.
“How big is giant?” Mason asked as we tossed our food wrappers and walked to our bikes.
Brock picked up his helmet. “As big as the woman’s collie.”
It took us less than ten minutes to reach the address Raoul had given Brock. The elderly woman looked surprised to see us instead of the police, and Brock told her we worked for animal control. That seemed to appease her, and she told us she’d been walking her dog like she did every evening, when that thing came out of nowhere and went after her dog. She described a brown, furry creature with six or eight legs and pincers for a mouth. Brock asked how she’d gotten away from it, and she proudly showed us the stun baton she carried on her walks.
She told us where she was when the attack happened, and we left her to investigate. When Brock found several drops of blood on the street, we started searching from there. It didn’t take long for me to find a broken basement window in what looked like an empty house. The glass fragments outside the window indicated it had been smashed from the inside.
I alerted Brock, who made short work of the lock on the back door, and we quietly entered the house, weapons drawn. The door opened into the kitchen where we discovered an assortment of pewter bowls, candles, and packets of brown and red powder. I knew without asking that these items were used by warlocks in spells. But what kind of spell, and where was the person who had cast it?
“Stay together,” Brock whispered. He led us from the kitchen and into a living room that looked untouched. A search of the first and second floors turned up nothing, but we needed to make sure there were no humans in the house.
As soon as Brock opened the door to the basement stairs, the stench of blood and sulfur hit us, and I had to put a hand over my mouth. The grim look on Brock’s face when he shut the door again told me it was bad.
“What is it?” I asked, following him back to the kitchen.
“Looks like a summoning gone wrong,” he said as he pulled out his phone and called Raoul.
I suppressed a shudder. Warlocks summoned upper demons and held them captive to strengthen their magic. Summoning was dangerous because it required a powerful spell to pull a demon through the barrier. More than one warlock had ended up dead – or wished they were – because they’d messed up the spell and lost control of the demon. Just because summoned demons weren’t in their physical bodies, it didn’t mean they couldn’t inflict a lot of damage and pain.
Brock hung up and looked at us. “Raoul and the Council team are on the way.”
“Why would Vivian’s team care about a summoning?” I asked. As dangerous as they were, summonings were commonplace among magic users, and not something the Council bothered with. Unless, they thought this was more than a normal summoning.
Mason leaned against the doorframe. “You think that spider thing is a summoned demon that got loose?”
“Not possible,” Brock and I said together. He smiled at me and continued. “Even if the spell went wrong, the demon wouldn’t have an actual body. It could possess the summoner, but it would look human. That spider might have come from this house, but it wasn’t summoned.”
“Well, there goes that theory.” Mason’s brow creased. “By the way, shouldn’t we be out there looking for it?”
Brock nodded. “We’ll go out after Raoul gets here. He wants us to sit on this place until then.”
Over thirty minutes later, an SUV pulled into the driveway. Los Angeles traffic is a bitch unless you’re on a motorcycle that can maneuver easily around the other vehicles.
Not exactly the most patient person, I was pacing when they entered the house.
“Have you been down there?” Vivian asked Brock.
“No. Raoul said to wait for you.”
“Good.” She turned to Mason and me. “Ever been to the site of a failed summoning?”
Mason answered for us. “No.”
She smiled grimly. “It can be messy, and there might be residual magic, depending on what happened. We’ll go first, and once we give the all clear, you can come down.”
“Got it.” I watched Eugene set a metal box on the counter. He opened it and pulled out a rectangular device, which he switched on. Seeing my curiosity, he said. “It’s warlock-made, and it detects magic so we don’t accidentally walk into a spell.”
“Handy device.” I’d never seen one before, and I wondered if it was new technology they were trying out. I thought about how Sara could see through glamours, detect magic, and neutralize spells. Maybe our tech guys were trying to replicate that ability in a device.
Raoul opened the basement door, and Eugene went first, holding the device in front of him. Raoul and the others followed, leaving Mason and me alone.
I was more than happy to stay up here for now. It wasn’t that I had a weak stomach around dead bodies. I detested magic. A warlock named Orias had bound me with magic once, a few years ago, and I hated how helpless it had made me feel. The only magic user I trusted was Sara because I knew she would never use her power against me.
“Crazy shit, huh?” Mason said.
I kept my gaze on the open door to the basement. “At least it never gets boring.”
He snorted. “I swear I’ve seen more action since I came to L.A. than most new warriors see in ten years.”
“You picked the right assignment.”
“Actually, L.A. was Beth’s idea. If I’d had my way, we would have gone to Westhorne.”
“Really?” Why would anyone want to go to a stronghold over a place like Los Angeles? Sure, Westhorne was home to Tristan and Nikolas, but nothing beat being in the field.
He smiled as if he’d read my mind. “I wanted to go there to work with Nikolas, but Beth refused to go because of Chris. We all know how that worked out.”
“What about now?” I asked. “You still think about going to Westhorne?”
“And give up all of this? And surfing?” He gave me a look of mock horror. “Not a chance.”
“All clear,” called Raoul.
Mason and I hurried down the stairs. I braced myself for whatever was waiting for us. As a warrior, you had to have a strong stomach, but I’d heard how gory a failed summoning could be. I prepared to see blood and body parts everywhere.
I reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around the open basement in surprise. There was a body and some blood, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected.
A large circle was painted on the concrete floor in what looked like dried blood. Outside the circle, symbols had been drawn with a crystal placed in the center of each one. At the center of the circle was a smaller one done with more crystals. The inner circle was broken by the body sprawling across it. Based on the white robe he wore, he was most likely a warlock. Or he had been before his chest had been ripped open.
My eyes took in the trail of blood from the circle to the broken window. Could the warlock have been killed by the thing that had attacked the woman and her dog? And what kind of creature was present at a summoning? My gut told me it was a demon – maybe even a new one – despite what we’d said to Mason about it being impossible to summon a physical demon.
I shivered at the thought. Our people had spent a millennium identifying and documenting every species of demon on Earth. We knew their strengths and weaknesses, how they killed, and more importantly, how to kill them. If someone had figured out how to bring new demons out of their dimension, the implications were too great to consider.
I went to inspect the window. I had no experience with summonings, but I knew how to kill things, so I focused on that. Demon or not, that thing was clearly a threat to humans, and we needed to hunt it down before it killed again.
“Raoul,” I called. When he joined me, I pointed at the window. “You guys have this situation under control. I think Mason, Brock, and I should track down whatever broke out of here. I’m guessing it’s the same thing that attacked the woman and her dog earlier.”
He stared thoughtfully at the window for a moment before he nodded. “I’ll go with you. Vivian can handle this.”
“I will hunt the demon,” said a deep, accented voice from behind us.
Raoul and I turned at the same time to face the newcomer, and my stomach gave a little flutter.
“Hamid,” Raoul said. “It’s great to see you again.”
We hope you enjoyed this sample!
Buy the book now in ebook, paperback or hardcover.