Blood of the Hunted (the Demon Cleaner #2): Sample

BLOOD OF THE HUNTED

THE DEMON CLEANER BOOK TWO

BY

NADIYAH ABDUL-KHALIQ

Prologue

Lillas stood in a white gown. The floor felt cold against her bare feet and strange, a little squishy. The jail walls were weird. They looked like glass, but moved when touched. She could push a wall as far as it could go, but it always went back to shape. It was wrong. This whole place was just wrong. But so was she. That’s why they brought her here. This is where they put little girls who do really bad things.

Inside the jail was a cozy bed with a duvet and stuffed toys, including the teddy bear she clutched to her chest. And no jail would be complete without a bucket for waste. Outside was another room with lemon walls, a bigger bed, and a bathroom. Brand new girl clothes hung in a closet. Most surprising to the young Mehkinnan was the computer. There was a desk and the only thing it had was a large monitor,

keyboard, and a panel with lots of buttons. As far as jails, she was fortunate. The fact that she was in jail was even more fortunate. Anyone else who had done what she did would have been executed.

The door opened and in walked an old white man with black and grey hair. He wore a black suit and walked with a cane, something she knew all old people needed. A younger man entered behind him dressed like a doctor in a long white coat and green pants. As the old man limped towards her she swallowed and clutched the teddy tighter.

He paused and frowned, looking around. The walls had begun moving, rippling, and shifting like a bubble in the wind. Lillas dropped to the floor, clamped her knees to her chest, buried her face in the bear, and cried. “Please. Please, let me out. Please, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” The movement grew wilder. Lillas screamed, “Let me out!!! Please, let me out!!!”

Meanwhile, the old man pulled up a chair and sat in front of her. Why wouldn’t he help? Was he planning to watch as this monster ate her alive?

“Lillas,” he said with the calm of a good teacher. “You are in no danger.”

Was he crazy? Did he not see the same thing she saw?

“Lillas, this is a kinetic cell. It responds to you. If you stay calm, it will stay calm.”

Yeah, right. Who would be crazy enough to believe that? This “cell” was going to eat her alive.

“Lillas, can you be calm?”

She shook her head, keeping it buried in the bear.

“Okay. Then we’ll just wait until you can be calm. Okay?”

She shook her head.

“You’ve had a long day. Are you hungry?”

She shook her head.

“I’ll bring you cereal. Do you like Trix?”

She shook her head.

“I’ll bring you Cheerios and a banana. Do you like bananas?”

Rocking back and forth, she had to take a moment to think. Right now, in the midst of this monster of a box, she wasn’t sure she liked anything.

The door opened then shut. Her head popped up. “Please, don’t leave me.”

“I’m not going to leave you.”

The doctor had gone. The walls still moved, but not as badly as before. She clutched the bear to her face, but didn’t cover her eyes. The more terrified she became, the wilder the walls became.

“You have to breathe, Lillas. It’s the only way to deal with fear.”

“It smells fear?” she asked under the faintest whisper, her little voice shrinking.

He laughed. “It’s not a dog, my dear. It is just a space. The walls respond to how you feel. And what you do. Don’t be afraid.”

She locked eyes with him for the first time. They were like ice. Could have been blue, grey, or green for all the color in them. He watched her; the look he gave made her feel like there was something wrong with her. She went to bury her head again. But he smiled.

“It’s okay, my dear. Right now you are in the safest place in the world. As long as you’re in there nothing can harm you and you can’t harm anyone.”

She looked down at his shoes, then at her toes.

“I know you don’t want to hurt anyone. Do you?”

She shook her head.

“That’s why we put you in there. You are a very powerful little girl…”

“I don’t want to be.”

“But you are. But it’s okay. We’re going to learn about you and teach you to control that power.”

The door opened. The young doctor returned, carrying a tray.

“Are you hungry?” the old man asked.

She nodded.

“Are you calm?”

She took deep breaths. Soon the walls stopped moving. He was right. As long as she was calm, the walls were as well. Wow! Where had this place come from? Probably aliens. That was where all weird technology came from.

“Are you calm, my dear?”

“Yes.”

He nodded to the doctor who pushed on a section of the wall. A door opened where there had been none. His shoes made virtually no noise. He sat the tray on the floor in front of her. A bowl of Cheerios, a slice of buttered toast, slices of apple, and a glass of orange juice with a twisty straw.

“Thank you,” she said.

He replied with a warm smile, stood, grabbed the bucket, and left the cell, then the room.

“Do you know why you’re here, Lillas?” the old man asked.

She sat the bowl down as a sick feeling twisted her stomach. “I killed people. And now I’ll be here forever.”

“Well, forever is a very short time for humans. Let me ask you, do policemen kill people?”

She looked around the room, searching for the correct answer. “They kill bad people.”

“Do soldiers kill people?”

“Yes.”

“Are they bad?”

“No. I guess.”

“So, how do you know you’re bad?”

“Well, Mrs. Jenkins wasn’t bad. Sally wasn’t bad. They were nice to me and I killed them.”

“What you did was an accident.”

“But…”

“You’re not here because you’re bad, Lillas. You’re here because you’re special. The most special human in the world. You have talents, skills that I’ve never seen in anyone else. With the right training, with the right understanding, you can do incredible things. Then you won’t have accidents like this ever again.”

She took a small idle bite of toast.

“What do you say, kiddo? Do you want to work with me?”

“You can fix me? You can make me normal?”

“Whatever normal is for you, that’s what you will be.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” He slapped his legs, grabbed the cane, and forced himself to stand. “Then rest up. Tomorrow, we get to work.” He walked towards the door. He turned to her. “By the way, I’m Doctor Ferdinand.”

She smiled.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” He winked at her then left the room. The young doctor returned and replaced the bucket.

“Thank you.”

Again he smiled and walked out. As she ate, a sense of calm relaxed her nerves. It was a feeling she hadn’t felt since her family died, since Cross and her mother left her. She’d get normal, then Marisai and Cross would come back. Everything would be the way it should be.

Back to the top

Fresh Hell

Lillas woke on her back, staring up at the stars, little sparkles of light that drilled into her aching head. God, her head throbbed. And the ringing would not shut up. Emotions all out of order.

The demon lord was near.

Fucking Viktor Michael. If she ever saw his ass again… Groaning, she sat up and took a deep breath. Slowly, the ringing and pain subsided. All around were trees. Lots of trees covered in lots of dark. Looked like some type of urban legend horror movie.

Across the street was…

“Oh, my God! My car!” She ran—well, hobbled since any weight on her feet was torture—to her car. The door was opened and keys in the ignition. She slid comfortably into the cotton-covered driver’s seat. On the dashboard was a new addition. She hit a button.

Keep straight for thirty miles.

The GPS was set to send to her to Cross Point. The hell? What was Viktor up to?

Up the driveway was a house. A three-story mansion. Light neither touched nor escaped it. It was more a shadow of a house than anything tangible.

The demon lord.

He stood in one of the windows. Watching her. She could feel it as if they stared each other in the eyes. This is a trap. What would her next move be? Walk away and get help like the sensible person she was, or walk into that house and find the man who’d been haunting her, had beaten her to a pulp? Let’s see. What would Evera do?

They locked in stare like two cowboys in a duel a decision had to be made. What would her mother want? What would her friends want? She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t go in. Lillas was Marisai’s only blood child, and Lillas, herself, was still childless. If the demon lord killed her this time, before she’d left her mother a grandchild, there’s no telling what effect that would have on the matriarch’s already shredded psyche. Lillas’s death would be the end of the Mehkinnan line, of her father’s line. If Isaiah could see her, there’s no question what he’d want her to do.

Then again, as far as she knew, her father was the demon lord. No. That was craziness. She hadn’t talked to Evera about her dream. Basing the assumption that her father is the demon lord on a confusing dream was ludicrous. From what she knew of Isaiah, he was a good decent man, not a baby-killing psycho.

A baby-killing psycho. He killed babies. Tore them apart. She couldn’t let this go. She couldn’t. All of those families, all of those people destroyed. Her hands shook as anger hit her. In her city he did this. In her city! Lillas’s shoulders relaxed; her resolve stronger than ever. She would get him. Tonight. Or burn this motherfucker down.

Against the pain, she attempted to march up the driveway, but had to take a break midway through and breathe a bit. If there was a body part that wasn’t throbbing, she didn’t know the name of it. And she knew just about all the names. Helped the doctors diagnose faster. And with all certainty, some of those parts were broken.

In the realm of bad ideas, she was venturing into a new level of terrible and stupid. What was it that Evera had said a few months earlier? He was not going to help the next time she did something like this. She looked up at the door. Dead babies. She had to do this.

As a bonus, the mystery of the demon lord’s identity could be revealed. All she had to do was go inside. After picking the lock on the huge door with the lock-pick buried in her hair, Lillas eased the door open. Inside was nightmare black and ghost cold. Complete contrast to the sweltering heat outside. A slice of moonlight spread across the floor. Surprising, considering the demon lord’s apparent chronic allergy to light. Unless, of course, he was using it as stabbing weapon.

Once she was inside, the door inched closed on its own. Running or trying to stop it from closing seemed pointless. So, she just watched it then turned her attention to the matter at hand. Not even bothering with the lights, candles, or fireplaces this time, she went straight to sending fire up the walls, saving about thirty seconds. Judging from the outline presented by the fire, she was in a box. There was nothing except a flight of stairs. There was a fireplace, and some art on the walls, but there were no other doors, no other rooms. She looked a little closer. Maybe she just missed the other door. But nope. Nothing. Not even walkways. Just a flight of stairs. Okay. This was new.

She gave herself a pat-down. All weapons not lost in the demon fight were still present and accounted for. Well, at least Viktor didn’t disarm her. That was one thing he wouldn’t have to die for. Before heading up the steps for round two of the demon hunter versus demon lord face-off, she decided to take this opportunity and do something different.

“We need to talk,” she said. “I know what you are. You know what I am. Let’s sit down and talk about this like adults.” Everything about him radiated, made her skin tingle. “I don’t know who you are. So, that gives you the advantage, I suppose.” Still no response. “I know you can hear me. Who are you?”

Light exploded from the chandelier. The sudden burst of fluorescence was blinding. After a moment, she dropped the fire. At the top of the stairs was a huge painting of a gorgeous woman. She had long white hair, milky skin, and eyes like green jewels. She had the posture of someone in power, a dictator maybe. Actually, she resembled Ravenna. Maybe they were related.

Lillas had seen this woman before, but never knew who she was. This house must have belonged to her. But what was the demon lord doing here? Had she died? No. Not likely. She was far too powerful. Lillas had never been in the presence of someone so strong. And that included Evera.

A shadow moved over the painting, reminded her of the mission at hand. She ran towards the stairs, but was knocked back before one foot touched their base. The blow knocked her into the thick door so hard that it cracked. She flopped to the floor breathless. Her head spun and vision blurred. All bones reverberated with the impact. Fuck! This was a bad idea. And it was about to get even worse. Heavy footsteps stomped towards her.

On her knees, she looked up at the assailant. It was huge, much like one of the demons in her dream. He had a bat the size of his massive forearm held over his head to crush her. Calling a combination of wind and fire, she set him ablaze then blew his ashes away. He disappeared with a scream like a banshee. Using Rain and Spiral as crutches, she pushed herself to her feet.

Now, the whole room was flooded with demons. Oh, that bastard. No matter what he thought, this was not going to be like the last time. This time she was focused on only one thing and no amount of demon shenanigans was going to derail this train. He was not going to kill her here. She reconnected with fire and blew all of the demons back to hell.

Once they were cleaned up, she raced upstairs, ready to shoot the first thing that moved. But all was quiet and still…and dark. But there were candles, so, small favors. She holstered Spiral and walked cautiously down the hall, lighting candles along the way. There were lots of rooms, lots of doors, but there would be no ambush this time.

The demon lord’s presence led her to a room. As soon as her fingers wrapped around the doorknob, she coughed and gagged as cold and pressure enclosed around her neck. Before she could react, she was in the air, flying backwards. She broke through a door into another room. A mid-air spin landed her on her stomach. Oxygen seemed in short supply, leaving Lillas to gasp while struggling with the chain. A demon grabbed her by the back of the neck, bringing back memories of the dream. The idea of French-kissing floorboards did not sound tight. Neither did being tossed out a window and barbecued. That couldn’t happen. Not now when she was so close to the demon lord. A powerful updraft lifted her and the demon to the ceiling. It hurled her out the destroyed doorway. She tucked and rolled into the door across the hall, then popped to her feet, ready to battle again.

However, as much as a good demon fight got the blood pumping, focus was in order. The demon lord was the objective not his cannon fodder. She created a shield of fire and went hunting. demons tried to attack her, but one touch from the shield and they exploded. The last time she did this, the demon lord interfered and dropped her shield without her knowing. This time, she was more proactive, constantly relighting it. Demons attacked from all sides. But she ignored them. The lord was downstairs. That was where she was headed.

A massive crash shook the floor. It threw her back and spread debris. The shield protected her from all of the debris it could until she dropped it. She hit the floor and slid into one of the doors, hurting her head, arm, and back. Fortunately, thanks to adrenaline, the full effect of these injuries wouldn’t be felt until much later. Which meant she was still in full form now. Groaning and coughing away dust, she peeled herself out of the floor and wall. She was dizzy and her vision a little blurred and she wasn’t quite sure what the hell hit her. At first glance it looked like a mallet the size of a small car. But on what planet was that correct? Then again, why should anything work on conventional rules tonight? It wasn’t like she wanted to live to see tomorrow or anything.

A series of crashes rumbled across the floor. She ran from the room to see, yep, a mallet…the size of a small car. Shit! It swung like a pendulum across the hallway, taking out rooms as it went. Oh dear Lord. The demon who could swing a weapon like that must have been very, very scary. The mallet sped down the hall. Swearing, Lillas turned and threw herself down the first flight of stairs, narrowly having her head smashed in. Still on the floor, she rolled and twisted so that she could kick off of the wall and slide down the last flight of steps on a thick sheet of ice that ran over the stairs and all the way to the floor. Her timing was close. The mallet fell through the ceiling like a gavel, smashing the floor where Lillas laid a split second before.

The slide maneuver not only saved her life, but was about the most brilliant last minute plan she’d ever come up with. And it landed her right in the middle of another demon mob.

Fucking demon lord!

Only one logical thing to do. All of that ice turned into pellets that flew into the mob, penetrating heads, torsos, and anything else in their way. But the assault didn’t last long. The mallet crashed through the ceiling, carelessly crushing any demon it landed on. “Oh, Lord,” she groaned. All the other demons turned and looked at the weapon. Down the hole dropped a female demon smaller than Lillas. The extreme difference in the size of the demon and its weapon was extraordinary. She’d never seen anything like this before.

Not surprising the other demons didn’t seem to care that there was a demon killing them with a giant hammer. At this point they were nothing more than a distraction. The demon hunter paid no attention to them as they approached her. All her focus was on the hammer-wielder. What had it been in its previous life that allowed it such a weapon? The demon adjusted the handle. Understanding what it meant to do, Lillas ducked and plastered herself to the floor. The demon threw the mallet, wiping out droves of its comrades. The handle nearly touched Lillas’s head.

Still glued to the floor, Lillas looked behind her. The mallet crashed into a brick wall. How the hell was there a wall where there was a door? Ignoring her body’s pleas for rest, Lillas stood and eyed the demon. It called the mallet back from the brick wall. Lillas dove out of the way, then hopped to her feet and fried the demon. Its scream, though short, was unlike anything she’d ever heard before and drove her to her knees, making her ears bleed in the process.

Swearing, she cradled her head before forcing herself to walk it off. The demon lord. Had to get to the demon lord. He played a good game. But it was over tonight. The force of his presence led to a door on the right, a door that earlier, didn’t exist. Whatever this house was, it was clearly unnatural. But likely a piece of engineering genius. She ached and grimaced her way to the door. Finding it locked, she melted the locks and pushed it open. The room was dark. Naturally. If she ever walked into a room that was already lit, she wouldn’t know what to do. There couldn’t be anyone else in the world who could make simple darkness feel thick as ink.

Oof. Walking and standing straight were chores like none other. As soon as this was over, a portable cane would definitely need to be added to her arsenal. The door slammed shut behind her. The lights flashed on. Before her stood a pale young man in black. But it was the floor that almost sent her over the line.

Instead of wood, marble, or anything that made sense, she stood on a very interesting view of our great planet Earth…from space. Seeing that, she stopped in her tracks then fell back against the door, plastering herself to it. Her whole body trembled. Not just because her heart sprinted faster than Usaine Bolt. Why the fuck was she in space?

Back to the top

Meet Mikkolaidol

“Don’t worry,” the man said, chuckling. “It’s just a screen.” He jumped up and down. “You see? It’s perfectly safe. Please, relax.”

Relax? What means this word, “relax?” And in any case, that “screen” looked shifty. Of course it was okay with one, but what about two?

“My name is Andreas Brusso. But you may call me, ‘Mikkolaidol.’” He bowed, crossing an arm over his stomach. “You look like you could use a seat…or a bed…in a hospital.”

She scoffed. “I’m fine. But, if I weren’t, you wouldn’t happen to have an emergency room in your desk drawer, would you?”

On its own accord, a chair rolled away from the desk, across the glass, and stopped in front of her. She stared at it as if it were a foreign object. “You’re a human telekinetic.”

He gave her a sly smile. “I’m a lot of things. As are you.” He gestured to the seat.

Reluctant, but in no real position to say no, she sat and released a sigh. A seat hadn’t felt this good in forever. The cushions must have been shipped down from heaven. The chair moved, startling Lillas. Once she was seated at the desk, Mikkolaidol sat on the other side and locked his fingers.

Candles lit the room aided by a chandelier that only had two bulbs. There were shadows in every corner. There was a massive bookshelf built into one of the walls. The wooden desk had a small reading lamp and a single sheet of paper. A considerably smaller desk at the other end of the wall sat beneath a window. The wall directly in front of Lillas was completely covered in shadow. “So, Mikkolaidol…”

“Call me, ‘Mikki’ or do you prefer, ‘Mik?’ Maybe we’ll go with, ‘Mikko,’ just so there’s no confusion.”

“Of course, you know who I am.”

“Who doesn’t know who you are?” His words were carried on an accent that was difficult to place. America was definitely not his native land. “You’re Lillas Mehkinnan. The human with the power of the elements in the palm of her hand.”

Hundreds of thoughts flew through her mind. She could still feel the demon lord. But now something else was troubling. “Where is the woman who lives here, the woman whose picture is at the top of the stairs? Did you kill her?”

“Come on. Even if I wanted to, we both know I don’t have that kind of power.”

“Where is she?”

“Out. She’ll return shortly.”

“How do you know her?”

His dark blue eyes stood out like beacons amid his straight, black hair that hung past his chin and framed his almond-colored face. Power radiated from him. He was by far the strongest human she’d ever crossed paths with. “I owe her my life.”

“Really? How?”

“She saw my potential, saw what I can do, and showed me the way, made me stronger, more confident. Gave me purpose. As I’m sure you know, a man without purpose is a danger to others and himself.”

“Why would I know that?”

“Come on. We both know without Evera you’d be lost or dead now.”

“You know an awful lot about me and I know nothing about you.”

“You’ll learn soon enough. I hope one day we may even work together.”

“Work together to do what?”

“Peace, Mik. Not some temporary silencing of the hatred and turmoil that plagues humanity. But a fundamental change at the core of every human being on this planet. And it would last forever.”

“I’ve heard talk similar to this before. Did you possess my mother?”

“No. Of course not.”

“See here’s the thing. That woman, the only place I’ve seen her was at the Guild City Genetics Institute. She’s a friend of Ferdinand’s. And any friend of Ferdinand’s is an enemy of mine. And any friend of a friend of Ferdinand’s is an enemy of mine. So that puts us at odds automatically.”

“Well, that’s kind of a narrow view of things, isn’t it?”

“Add to that, you sit there, so calm and polite, while the demon lord hides upstairs. What are you doing with him? You talk about peace. Do you know what he is? What he’s done?”

“He is not what you think he is.”

“Ha! Really? He’s not a baby-killing monster? Because that’s what I think he is.”

“And how many children have the weapons of their parents killed? And how many will they kill when they get older. Generation after generation of mass murder and mayhem. And they have the nerve to fear us? To fear vampires? To fear anything other than themselves? It’s preposterous. Humans have been given a gift unlike any God has bestowed on any other beings. And they squander it. They don’t deserve it. The demon lord agrees with us and he wants the same thing we want. Justice. For every life that’s been lost to the backstabbing blade of mankind.”

As Mikkolaidol talked Lillas couldn’t help but chuckle, feeling trapped in the plot of a dark comedy. A human telekinetic, the woman, and the demon lord. “Oh, God,” she gasped as a realization hit her like lightening. “You’re the Inheritors.”

“I must thank the media for that. Until they came along with their rather creative moniker, we had no name. We were just a group of concerned citizens of this planet. I must say we do find, The Inheritors, to be far more fitting as we will be the ones to inherit this precious Earth once the old humans and their barbaric ways of thinking have been…ummm…retired.”

Lillas’s eyes wandered as she struggled to wrap her mind around the fact that before her was a brutal serial killer. “Viktor’s working with you.”

“He is. He has his own personal reasons. We leave him to it.”

“You had him bring me here.”

“We could have killed you.”

“Why didn’t you? You have to know that I will never join you.”

“Never is a really strong word. We are going to change the world, Mik.”

“Lillas,” she corrected. “My friends call me Mik.”

“Well, Lillas…”

“And there is not a chance in bright holy hell that I would ever consider, for even a second, joining your little terrorist cult. We are enemies. And will be as long as you continue doing what you’re doing. In fact, I should just ash your ass right here.”

“Tsk. All that power and brilliance controlled by impulse. Such a waste.”

She wanted to say something, but was distracted by the demon lord. He was above her. The only thing separating them was his floor/her ceiling. She could freeze dry him and be done with it. But she’d never know who he was or anything about him. And she had to know. She had to.

“I don’t recommend that,” Mikkolaidol said.

She gave him a droll stare. “Really?”

“I realize as the demon hunter your compulsion is to hunt and kill the demon lord at all costs. You must not continue this course of action. If you kill him, you will regret it.”

She pushed her seat back and hobbled to her feet in order to follow him. He was going towards the dark wall. Closer a flight of stairs appeared. Finally, after so much time and searching, she was going to meet her nemesis. “I don’t plan to kill him.”

Using the chair, desk, anything as a crutch, she carried on with the mission. But proceeded no further than the first step. Out of nowhere, something yanked her back. She hit the floor like she’d been tackled by a football player. As she opened her eyes, and tried to gain enough focus to stop the blurry room from spinning.

“Patience,” Mikkolaidol said. “He’s just as eager to meet you as you are to meet him. However, neither of you is ready.”

You would think after digging yourself out of flooring as often as she has, it would be second nature. But alas, this was not something that grew easier with practice. Dizzy and in too much pain to do much more than groan, Lillas tried anyway. She rolled to her side then sat up. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. This was not going to end before the demon lord did. After a few painful falls, she managed to get to her feet. She hobbled, keeping her balance as best she could, using the wall for stability. When she reached the stairs, she held herself up with the railing. She held her hand out. Without turning to him, she asked, “What…happened to me…this time?”

He said nothing.

She put one foot on the first step then paused. Oh God, the pain was so bad, but she could do this. She had to do this. Not afraid to fail. Not afraid to fall. Finally, another foot on the step. Holding tightly to the railing, she got another step in. But that was the end of the journey. Without warning, she was yanked backwards again and thrown out of the office.

She plummeted through the air at incredible speed into darkness that seemed to have no end. She flipped uncontrolled until she landed in a giant pool of water.

Back to the top

Two Months Later

“Mikki!!” Nema yelled, bringing Lillas back to the present. A very bleak present that made her wish she had drowned in that tower of water. “Mik, did you hear what I said?”

“They’re just going to execute me? No trial? No…”

“They tried you in absentia. Given your record they decided they had enough evidence to convict you of mass murder and terrorism. They’re going to kill you. Tonight. They agreed to let you to say goodbye to one person. Evera said it should be me. He also said don’t do anything stupid. To go through with it.”

“He said that? Is he crazy?”

“I don’t know, Mik. We don’t know what to do. We’ve tried everything. Talking with prosecutors, with the Supreme Court. Everything, Mik. They want you dead like you’re a plague.”

All she could do was shake her head out, hoping the motion would jog some memory of the last two months.

Nema knelt down in front of her, touching her legs despite the fact that she was a big, bloody mess. “Mikki, did you do this?”

“Of course not. Do you really think I’m capable of something like this?”

“Well, you’ve done it before. Viktor’s church, his house, car…anything that had his name on it.”

“Ha! Yeah, I remember that. Anyway, that was completely different. That was an attack on Viktor after he killed Alistar. And no one died when I did it.”

“Well, be that as it may, either you did it or someone did it using you. Either way, you have been found too dangerous to live. Unless…”

After waiting as long as her patience could stand, Lillas prompted, “Unless what?”

“Could the Institute help you?”

“You know, execution’s not that bad. I mean, we all got to die sometime, right?”

“Mik, you do not have to die tonight…”

“No. Absolutely not. Ferdinand is Hitler and everyone there are Nazi’s. I will take a firing squad.”

“Mik, this is not just your life!” she yelled, her cheeks red. “We have lost too much for you to be this stubborn!”

“If I go back there, they will not stop experimenting on me until I’m dead. So you may as well kill me now and be done with it. They can donate my body to science.”

“Well, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about Ferdinand.”

“Why?”

“He went missing around the same time you did.”

Lillas was hit with a mixture of feelings. On the one hand, he could be dead. But on the other, he could be up to something astronomically evil. Unfortunately, the latter was more likely. “Has Evera looked for him?”

“I don’t know. Why would that matter? What, you think he’s got more resources in his gallery than I’ve got in my entire worldwide network of law enforcement?”

She was right. What was Lillas thinking? Of course, if Evera had looked for him and found him, Ferdinand wouldn’t be missing. And if the himmel couldn’t find him, that only meant one thing. Ferdinand was dead. She breathed a sigh of relief and restrained a smile. And yet was still a little sad. She always thought she’d be the one to kill Ferdinand. Now, that chance had passed.

Thinking about Vero Ferdinand and the Institute brought back memories that she couldn’t quite place. Fog. A strange house. Two unknown boys. And a feeling about them that couldn’t be grasped. “There’s something I need to tell you about him…but I cannot remember what it is.”

“Well, you’d better hurry up and remember it. Looks like this will be your last chance.”

Officers entered the room. “Excuse us, Detective. It’s time.” They lifted Lillas from her chair, shackled her arms and feet, and proceeded to the vehicles that would be the chariots to her death. They didn’t even bother changing her into proper prisoner’s clothes, the blood-covered hospital gown she wore when arrested was what she’d die in.

The execution was to take place immediately, allowing no time for escape and no time for a jail break by friends. SWAT came with a bulletproof van to take her to the execution site. Given her resistance to most drugs and relationship with electricity, the only real options for execution were beheading or firing squad. Firing squad was thought to put the shooters at too much risk. So, to the guillotine it was. Oh, cruel irony. Because she’d failed, Xavier and Javier died by beheading. Now she would, too. Fate had a nasty sense of humor.

They walked out into a night lit by camera flashes. The press was eager to report every move and gesture Lillas made. It was the stuff biopics are made of. The woman who went from being Guild City’s heroine to one of the greatest villains history had ever seen.

What made you do it? Are you sorry? Did you save your mother from the flood? If so, do you think she will mentally survive your death or will she kill herself since you are the last of her family? Just some of the questions reporters threw. All she really wanted to say was that their flashes were blinding

Her mind was all over the place despite desperate attempts to focus. Death could not come like this. Not with a killer’s name. No matter what Evera said, escape was not an option, but a necessity.

Snipers were everywhere. The plan had to be flawless or she’d be shot dead without hesitation. The escape had to be quick and she had to be hidden. The snipers needed to be distracted. What did she have that would distract while hiding her? Ooooh! That’s what was perfect. And brilliant.

As the officers pushed through the media, the joints of the chains melted and slid to the ground like syrup. A wall of cold fire sprang up, spread across the whole block, engulfing everyone. The risk of hitting an officer or bystander was far too great for any sniper at any angle. Meanwhile, Lillas dashed around a corner, down an alley. Once clear, she froze the cuffs then ran them into a wall to break them off. A hole opened in ground, swallowing her.

The demon hunter had no idea where she was going. All she knew was that the city was no longer safe; she couldn’t go back to her house, to any of her friends, nowhere familiar. This unbelievably long nightmare had to have a better end than its beginning. Thoughts and emotions were beyond control. Elemental power coursed through her like a water rapid. Evera always warned about relying on him so much for balance. But he was immortal. That there could be a time when she didn’t have him never seemed like a possibility.

If CSI: New York was of any accuracy, they could be chasing her through the ground now with heat detectors, seismic activity, or something. Throwing fire in different directions may throw them off, or it may just give them another way to find her. She didn’t know. She didn’t know anything right now except that if they caught her, she was dead.

Hours later, she still hadn’t gone to the surface for air, afraid of what would be waiting. The mind-over-matter routine had taken her as far as it could. Now, matter demanded rest and would not be ignored for much longer. She had to sit. Had to.

While taking five, a feeling like nothing she’d ever felt doubled her over. It wasn’t pain. It wasn’t a tingling sensation. Not even an emotion. It was just weird. Like something was trying to reach her. Too strange to experience when vertical.

“Lillas?”

Her heart jumped, happy to hear that voice. “Evera?”

He materialized inside the tunnel and wrapped his arms around her as she shuddered “I’m here. You’re okay.”

“Can you stand?”

“Ev, I’m in so much pain.” She sniffed back a few tears, but some made it down her cheek.

“Shh. Shh. Shh. Come on.”

Next thing she knew, she went from kneeling in dirt to kneeling in grass. Rain pelted her body. Relief washed over her and she started to sob.

“Mehkinnan.”

That wasn’t Evera’s voice? Who was calling…oh, hell. “You!” Rain drops congealed to form icicles.

“Lillas, don’t you…”

Too late. Daggers of ice zipped at Cross at bullet speed.

But by the powers vested in Cross and Evera, the weapons didn’t reach their intended target. “Damn it, Lillas!” Evera yelled. “You cannot attack him every time you see him.”

“What the hell is he doing here anyway? And where the hell were you? They were going to kill me.”

“I was waiting for you. Nema, told you to go through with it. All you had to do was not be hardheaded.”

“Was there a plan that I wasn’t aware of?”

“Yes. There was a plan. And you ruined it.”

“You can’t blame me for not knowing a plan I didn’t even know existed. You should have communicated better.”

“Okay. Okay, let’s calm down for a moment,” Cross said, getting between them before tempers weren’t the only things flaring. “Mehkinnan, are you hurt?”

“Yes! I’m hurt! Do I look like some who’s well?”

“Okay,” Evera said, intervening before she launched another attack. “Can you, without yelling, tell me what’s injured?”

“Everything!!!!”

Evera palmed his face and shook his head. Then, seemingly without control, he burst into laughter. “Oh God, woman.” He continued laughing and shaking his head. “You are going to be the death of me.”

“Hm, I think he’s laughing at me. I don’t know how I feel about that,” Lillas said to no one in particular since the only person there was Cross and she wasn’t talking to him. Ever. At all ever.

After a moment, Evera sobered. “Listen. We need to get you out of the country.”

“That is a great idea,” she said, opting to sit in the mud rather than exert herself any more. “Oh, wait, that’s not going to work because I don’t have a passport. Oh, and the Feds are after me, but that’s obviously second to me not having a passport.” She shrugged.

Evera squinted and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Lillas, I need you stop talking.”

“They’re coming,” Cross said. “We need to go.”

Evera attempted to pick her up, but she stopped him. “I’m okay. I’m okay. I can walk.”

“She’s lying,” Cross said.

She glared at him and forced herself to stand. Humming instead of groaning or screaming, then fixed her shirt when she was done. That’ll show him. “I’m a little tired and in a lot of pain, but it’s nothing new to me.” One step and she was done.

Evera caught her before she crumbled to the ground. “You are not okay.” He placed one of her arms around his shoulder then scooped her up.

“Where are we going?”

“Italy.”

“Around vampires? You know how I feel about Italian vampires.”

“Yes. You’re going to sleep now.”

Her head wobbled as she shook it. “I’m not goi…”

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**End of preview. Purchase the entire ebook at Amazon.**

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