Jade Lee

 

Books by Jade Lee

Seduced by Crimson (uncorrected proof)

Chapter 1

A man can get tunnel vision during battle. He fixates on the sight of blood spurting from a white throat or the smell of charred flesh. If he’s trained, he can still fight the demons-yes, the black hearted Bak-Faru he’d only seen in a book-but a large part of his mind fixates on one hideous thing.

For Patrick Lewis, his mind locked upon the taste of blood and bile in the air. Metallic and bitter, it made his throat close and his chest heave. But he had enough training to still fight even if he was coming late to the battle.

The screams reached him first. They were in the San Bernadino Botanical Garden, so the sound could travel far, especially at night. He was running full tilt for the grove when the smell hit him-charred flesh-and that taste in the air.

He didn’t even stumble-that’s how well he’d trained-but his mind was so caught up in not retching that he almost missed the sight of his first live Bak-Faru. The thing was human-like: large, dark haired, with eyes that glowed bright lavender beacons in the night. His mother had told him the demon gate was open-and indeed he had felt the disruption. Still, he hadn’t actually believed the disaster was possible until he saw one-no, two- make that four of the beasts walking away. Two sported wounds-jagged flesh that bled dark on their naked torsos. But it wasn’t slowing them down.

Patrick didn’t think. He had seven ceremonial knives with him and he began throwing. Score. The closest demon clutched his neck and stumbled but didn’t go down.

The demon’s companions barely even glanced Patrick’s way even after another knife lodged beneath a second one’s shoulder blade. The demons were leaving with amazing speed, and nothing-not even a neck wound-slowed any of them.

Patrick took a step to pursue. A single step until reason penetrated his focus. He had to get to the grove. The sacred place where his mother had stopped screaming. Much though it burned in his gut, Patrick shifted his movement from attack to stealth. It wouldn’t help his parents any if he stumbled blindly into more of those creatures.

He slipped around a redwood and slid into the grove where his tunnel vision returned with full force. The taste of the air, the smell of death, the clench of his gut as he refused to wretch even as he searched the faces of the bodies.

He found his father first. His dad had only one shoulder and half his chest left. The rest was burnt to oblivion almost as if a rocket had burst a hole through him. Numbness seeped into his hands and feet. At least Dad hadn’t felt any pain.

He stumbled, scanning the rest of the bodies. He found his mother. She hadn’t been as lucky. She’d been gutted by a short blade, or more specifically, by long claws. Blood and bowel poured relentlessly from her into the ground where she lay, but she was still alive.

He skidded to the dirt beside her, but there was nothing for him to do. Too much of her spilled over the ground. His hands hovered uselessly above her torn belly. What could he do?

His mother opened her eyes.

He tried to reassure her. He opened his mouth to lie to her, to say that she was going to be just fine. But all that came out was a single word.

“Mom?”

She focused on him and her expression softened even as she struggled to speak. Her voice was a bare whisper and he abruptly dropped as close to her mouth as he dared.

“Run,” she said.

He pulled back. “They’re gone. The...” He couldn’t bring himself to name the monsters. “They’ve left.”

She swallowed, and he was sure he saw relief whisper through her eyes.

“Hang on...” he began, but stopped when she began speaking.

“Find her,” she said. “Close. Gate.” She was fading. He could see it. Her eyes were growing more distant, her hands were like ice. He wanted to strip off his shirt to cover her, but he would have missed her next words.

“Draig-uisge,” she said. It shocked him to hear his druidic name spoken with such a note of command. “Close the gate.” Then she closed her eyes, completely exhausted.

“Mom! Hold on! Mom!”

She never opened her eyes again, but she did speak. Two words before she died.

“Love you.”

© 2007 Katherine Grill

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