Demon Lovers: Book 1
What it comes down to is that my inner control freak is alive and well. There are some stories I want to write that really can't find a home or that I'm not willing to turn loose. My Demon Lovers serial is one of those, and so I'm doing a bit of an experiment and, with the help of my agent, self-publishing. This first story, a short novella, sells for .99.
© Kate Douglas 2011
“Jett! Look out!” Locan stumbled, twisted awkwardly to the right and barely avoided the slashing claws and gaping mouth. What the hell was it? Whatever this beast was that hunted him moved with demonic speed, using tusks and fangs and claws with almost mechanical precision.
Jett cursed, but the slash of his sword turned the beast back. It jerked to one side, shook its ugly head and snarled. Locan lunged forward and managed one sharp jab into the creature’s side. It shrieked, spread all four arms wide and seemed to grow even larger.
Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the thing was gone. Wisps of foul-smelling steam drifted on the night air. Locan flopped down on the frozen ground beside his partner. Jett’s breath escaped in uneven gasps and dark blood trickled from a deep gash across his forehead. Slowly shaking his head, Locan stared at him for a long moment before asking, “You okay?”
Sucking air, Jett nodded. “For now. What the fuck was that?”
“I dunno. Demonkind, but not. Stronger. Smarter. Definitely smarter.” Locan lifted Jett’s long black hair aside and dabbed at the blood with his torn sleeve. “Sucker has the sharpest teeth I’ve seen.” He glanced into the shadows, frowning. “Where the hell’s Leah?”
Jett shook his head. Stared at the spot where the creature had disappeared. “Shit. The creature must have gotten her.”
Locan jerked his head up. “What? She wasn’t even here. You know she wants out. She wasn’t in the fight.”
“She was. Showed up just after that—whatever the fuck it was—attacked. She was there. Behind it...” Scrambling to his feet, Jett cursed. “I’m sure the bastard got her.”
“Fuck.” Locan revved up his senses, reached out, waited. “Nothing. I can’t feel her.”
“Me, either.” Jett stared at Locan. “The link’s broken. If we can’t feel her, how can we look for her?”
Locan shook his head. Ice encased his heart along with his non-existent soul. “We have to find her.” He cocked one eyebrow and shot a knowing look at his partner. “Before one of us ends up killing the other. If that thing realizes what she means to us, it’s all over.”
Jett’s harsh laugh sent chills down Locan’s spine. “I’m not easy to kill. It’s not like you haven’t tried.”
Locan sent him a sharp glance. “Exactly. Which is why we need Leah whether she wants us or not.” He planted one hand on the ground and pushed himself slowly to his feet. There wasn’t a single part of his body that didn’t ache. Whatever they’d fought was strong—more powerful than any entity they’d come up against in centuries of hunting. “Leah’s powerful on her own. Maybe he didn’t take her too far. We’ve gotta look for her.”
“Fuck it. Okay.” Frowning, Jett glanced away.
Locan wondered what Jett was thinking. Polar opposites, they’d fought together for centuries, fought each other even longer. Leah was the anchor, the one who forced them to focus on the enemy. The one who had the power to weave their antagonistic souls into a single, functioning unit. She was the one thing standing between him and Jett, the only one capable of keeping their eternal struggle in balance.
The pale glow from a nearby streetlight cast a blue sheen over Jett’s black skin. Crimson blood flowed sluggishly from the rapidly healing slash. He shot a harsh glare of undeniable hatred in Locan’s direction, and winked out of sight.
Locan snarled. Then he sighed. Already it was starting. The anger. The rivalry. The hatred the two of them couldn’t control. Damn it all, they had to find Leah. Now, before he and Jett turned on each other. Before only one—or neither of them—was left standing.
Addie slurped the last of her margarita, licked the few remaining crystals of salt off the rim and set the glass back on the bar. One good thing about getting laid off. She didn’t have to worry about working with a hangover.
“You okay to walk home, Addie?”
Neither did...what was his name? No matter. “Yeah. You?”
He shrugged. “I’ll have a hell of a headache tomorrow, but no job means no reason to get up too early.” He laughed. “More time for video games. M’thinks Demonikus will finally die.”
“Yeah. Right.” Stupid video game freak...Addie slipped off the tall bar stool and looped her tote bag over her shoulder. Everything personal from her office, and it all fit into a single canvas sack. She’d been about as attached to the stupid cubicle as to the ex-coworkers here at Paddy’s for a last night of commiseration. “Maybe I’ll see you around,” she said, not meaning a word.
She threw a wave over her shoulder and headed out the door. Pausing for a moment in front of the bar, Addie got her bearings. She definitely felt the margaritas she’d had, but the night was clear and it was still fairly early. She took off at a brisk walk, crossed the street and followed the paved trail that would take her through the park and home.
She stubbed her toe on a crack in the sidewalk, stumbled, swayed precariously, then caught her balance. Maybe that last drink hadn’t been such a good idea, but her ex co-worker was right—it wasn’t like she had to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.
The streetlight overhead flickered. An owl hooted. Addie shivered, suddenly aware of the quiet, the darkness. The unnerving sense of vulnerability. She definitely preferred this walk in daylight.
The path was well-lit, but shadows reached for her. The lights on the top floor of her apartment building were visible through the trees, but they looked a hell of a lot farther away this time of night.
A sound caught Addie’s attention. She paused, listening as her imagination flew into overdrive. A cry for help? Maybe a moan of pain? She shivered again and trapped a nervous giggle by slapping her hand over her mouth.
“Help me. Please...someone...”
“Crap.” It wasn’t her imagination. Shoving the straps from her tote higher on her shoulder, Addie stepped off the main trail and away from the overhead lights, drawn by the soft cry for help.
Glancing around, she pulled her cell phone from her pocket. Using the light from the screen, she searched for the source of the cries while every Grade B horror movie she’d ever watched flooded her mind with terrifying, blood-soaked images.
A young woman lay all curled up, almost hidden in the shadows. “Oh, shit. What happened? Are you okay? Of course you’re not okay. Sheesh...what...?” Kneeling beside her, Addie noted her badly torn clothing, the dark bruises, and blood flowing from what looked almost like deep bites in the girl’s chest and shoulder. She looked so young, not more than fifteen or sixteen, though her injuries made it hard to tell her age.
Addie tried to steady her hands so she could punch in 911 on her phone. The girl’s hand shot out. Bloodied fingers clasped her wrist and Addie bit off a scream as the phone went flying.
It hit the ground and the light went out.
“No. You’re the one. You have to...” The girl’s voice faded, but her claw-like grasp on Addie’s arm tightened. She pulled her closer. Addie sucked in a deep breath, fighting terror even as she struggled to hear what the girl whispered.
Suddenly, her eyes flashed with incandescent blue fire. She lunged forward, pulling Addie down with superhuman strength.
“No. Let me go!” Addie tried to jerk free, but the hand holding her wrist was impossibly strong, the woman lying on the ground no longer weak and helpless.
Hissing like a wild thing, she opened her mouth and caught Addie at the juncture where her neck and shoulder met, sinking her teeth through skin, into muscle and tendon. Shocked by pain and fear, Addie tore free, shoved the woman away and scrambled backward on all fours.
The girl—no, she was much older than Addie had first thought, a woman grown—gazed at her out of suddenly dull eyes. “I’m sorry.” Blood-stained lips parted. She gasped each shallow, tortured breath. “No choice...had to pass the curse...to you. Forgive me.” She swallowed deeply, shuddered. “Tell them I wasn’t strong enough to fight it. Beware. It’s more powerful than anything we’ve seen.”
Addie crouched there, watching fearfully.
The woman’s eyes flashed. “I don’t know what it is,” she hissed. “Take care. The thing hunts. It hunts us all.” Her eyes went wide. Her lips twisted and she cried out.
Addie stared, trembling in shock and fear as she tried to make sense of the impossible.
The woman gasped. Her body jerked and her back arched. Then, just as quickly, she seemed to relax. A smile tilted her lips and she reached upward, grasping with one hand for something Addie couldn’t see.
Then her body burst into flames.
Scrambling away from the intense heat, blinded by the roiling flames, Addie shielded her face and turned away. When she risked a quick look, there was nothing. No ash, no smoke, no stench of burned flesh. No sign of a badly injured woman.
Shaking so hard she could barely stand, Addie found her cell phone lying where it had landed. She had to call for help. She...she stared at the phone. Who the hell would believe her? There was nothing here. No sign of anything. All the police would find was Addie, a bit drunk, a whole lot scared shitless.
Slowly, almost mechanically, she grabbed her bag, looped it over her shoulder, and returned to the main trail, trembling so hard she could barely walk. Within minutes, she was home.
After locking and bolting the door behind her, Addie dumped her tote on the brick hearth by the fireplace. She raced into the bathroom, ripped her shirt back and stared at her throat in the mirror.
“Impossible.” Running her fingers over smooth flesh, right at the point where pain still throbbed in time with her uneven pulse, she searched for a wound. Something. This was the spot, the place where the woman’s teeth had sunk deep enough to find bone, where she expected to see torn flesh and drying blood.
Nothing. Not a single mark. Even the pain was beginning to fade. Slowly, Addie sat down on the closed lid of the toilet. Sat before she fell on her ass. She couldn’t have imagined it. She glanced at the knees of her tan slacks. They were stained with mud. A leaf stuck to the nubby fabric.
She stood up again and held onto the tile around the sink. Raising her head, she stared at her dark and now haunted eyes. Something had happened, but what? Had she imagined it? Was she losing her mind? Was she more looped than she’d thought?
A headache was building, throbbing behind her eyes and making her feel slightly nauseous. Stress or margaritas, it really didn’t matter. Stripping out of her clothes, Addie threw them in the hamper and turned on the water in the shower. She stepped under the spray before it was hot. Cold water shocked her into unnatural alertness.
She stayed under the pulsing spray as the water turned warm, as steam rose. Stayed there so long the water cooled once again. Then she turned off the tap, dried quickly and grabbed her warm flannel gown off the hook on the door. Shivering again, she tugged it over her damp body. Moving by rote, not allowing herself to think of what had just happened, she went out to the front room of her apartment and checked the lock and the deadbolt on the door once more. Reassured that all was secure, she went into her bedroom and crawled under the covers.
Too nervous to face the dark, Addie left the lights on, but she lay there in her big bed, still shivering. Whatever had happened would make more sense in the morning. It had to. If it didn’t, there was only one other explanation.
Not only was she unemployed, she was seriously losing her mind.
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