A DAEMON HUNTER NOVEL
I loved the tickling feeling of the sand eroding from underneath my feet as the ocean waves continued to roll in and then back out to sea. I'd stood in this spot so many times over the past year. It was beautiful here, the way the ocean looked like it went on forever in the distance. Still, as significant as this beach was to my new family, the way their entire existence seemed to gravitate around this spot, it didn't hold any significance for me. I'd never dreamt of this place or met some soul mate hottie in my dreams in this spot. It was just a beach where I hung out with friends and family, nothing more. God, self-pity much? I thought. This wasn't why I'd come to the beach. I came here to think about the anger-filled blowup during dinner earlier. Coming here always helped me chill out, and I had hoped that for once this spot would finally unlock the memories that were lost to me. The fight I'd had earlier with my supposed aunt and uncle, who were practically my age, by the way, was typical. I was over their evasive answers about my past. They didn't seem to understand how frustrating it is to know nothing about who you are, where you come from, or even worse, why you have no memories of anything like any normal person. At times like this, I missed my best friend, Lynn. I needed someone to vent to, but she had left two weeks ago to join her Protector in Utah on an extended mission. It sucked not having her around. Sure, we texted and Facebooked each other twenty-four/seven, but it wasn't the same. Truthfully, I didn't see why Robert couldn't handle the mission on his own. Of course, I knew how the whole "link" thing worked, which made how I was feeling totally irrational, I realized, but I didn't care. I missed my only friend, damn it.
My errant thoughts were interrupted when my pulse quickened and the hair on the back of my neck felt like it was standing on end. I wasn't the only mystical being on the beach tonight.
Sweeping my eyes over the boardwalk behind me, I spotted the source of my "freak alarm"—Daemons. Two of them by the looks of it. They were using human hosts they'd obviously hijacked from the mortuary, judging by the gaping bullet hole in one of them. They both had waxy complexions courtesy of a mortician's hand. The sky around us was dark enough that the other occupants of the boardwalk paid no attention to the Daemons' odd appearances. It showed how oblivious humans could be.
I walked casually toward them, knowing they couldn't sense me. I didn't emit the same vibe that a Guide or Protector or even an Arch Angel would. I was like the shadow you couldn't see until the sun decided to cast its rays. I watched them for a moment, creeping along the shadow from the wall that separated the boardwalk from the beach. I wouldn't be detected until I was ready. Typical Daemons. Steal human hosts and prey on the weak. They're nothing but cowards themselves. I knew I should have called Haniel the moment I'd sensed them, but I was still pissed off enough at the world right now and decided to throw caution to the wind. I could take them out. I may be an anomaly, but at least I was a badass one.
It wasn't until I was within three yards of them that I spotted their source of entertainment. Homeless Joe was leaning back against the wall in a drunken stupor. One of the body snatchers proceeded to pour tequila down Joe's throat while the other held Joe's head in place.
"Two on one seems a little unfair, don't you think?" I asked as they dropped the bottle to the sand in surprise.
"What the hell are you?" the bullet-holed Daemon mumbled, breaking through the wire the mortician had used to sew his lips closed. It was obvious they sensed I wasn't ordinary.
"Are you two dipshits normally this stupid, or did you leave your brains at the mortuary?" I taunted them, placing my hands on my hips. They hesitated to make a move, no doubt thrown off by the fact that they were unable to get a read on me. I rapidly calculated how I would take them out in my head. "Surely you know this area has angelic protection?" I mocked.
"You're no angel," the second Daemon slurred through the dead mouth of his host. He dropped Homeless Joe back to the ground and turned his hulking body toward me.
He was right, but what a dick thing to say. I wasn't an angel, and I never would be. It wasn't in my genetic makeup, but hearing a soul sucker remind me of that fact only pissed me off more.
"Wow, you're a sharp one," I answered, stepping closer. My nose wrinkled from a sudden whiff of embalming fluid the mortician had used on the bodies.
"You're awful cocky for such a small little treat," Bullet Hole taunted, taking a menacing step forward.
His words struck my hilarity button and I burst out laughing, which I could tell confused them both as they studied me like I'd lost my marbles.
"All I can say is talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time," I said through my laughter. "Let me guess. Your boss has no idea you're here. You thought you'd win brownie points by bringing back a soul, right?"
My knowledge of their origins seemed to unsettle them.
"What are you?" Bullet Hole demanded again.
"Your worst nightmare," I snickered before turning deadly serious. Cheesy, I know, but I heard it in some old movie I'd watched over the weekend.
This time they both laughed, which came across distorted and eerie around the wires that poked out of their lips on both sides.
"You're one crazy little bitch," the Daemon slurred, taking a bounding jump toward me.
Anticipating his movement, I used my momentum and his forward motion against him by slamming my small but effective fist into his esophagus. While he was reeling from the blow, I twisted him around and thrusted my foot against his spinal cord, snapping it in half. Without a backbone to hold its host upright, the Daemon dropped to the sand at my feet like a sack of bricks.
"So, pretty girl can fight," Bullet Hole snarled, no longer playing as he slowly circled me.
"Dude, you have no idea," I mocked, keeping my eyes on his.
He smiled crookedly before sweeping in to wrap his massive arms around me.
Jerk off, I thought as I threw my head back. The force of the blow broke the bones in his face, causing him to drop his arms. With lightning-quick reflexes, I scraped my fingers across his face, grimacing as my sharp fingernails dug through the soft waxy skin.
I maneuvered toward my next strike when the body of the host dropped at my feet. The Daemon stood in front of me, no longer using the cadaver as a shield.
"What's the matter, can't handle the excess baggage?" I teased. He was ugly as sin. Large grotesque boils covered his body and crooked horns stuck out on either side of his head. I sighed when he jumped forward. He laughed darkly, naively believing he held the upper hand as he reached out to grab my arm. This time it was my turn to laugh as the skin of his clawed hand ignited in flames which slowly danced their way up his forearm, past his elbow and toward his shoulder.
"What are you?" he yelped one last time as the flames moved across his shoulder, engulfing his head.
"I'm an aberration," I finally answered as he landed in a pile of ash at my feet.
I turned to the remaining Daemon who studied me, puzzled over what had transpired. I took a step toward him. He glared at me before bursting into a ball of flames, leaving me with another pile of ash.
I kicked at the pile of ash, frustrated. I was pissed that the fight had ended before it really started. Kicking Daemon ass would have at least taken my mind off my woes from home.
The sound of applause behind me made me stop in my tracks. I felt no human pull, which meant the unwanted visitor behind me was not human. I used my gifts to access which side of the earthly realm he came from, but came up empty.
"What are you?" I asked, turning around to glare at my unwelcome audience that stood in the shadows. The irony that I had repeated the Daemons' question wasn't lost on me.
"I think the more important question is: What are you?" he asked, letting out a low whistle of appraisal at the piles of ash at my feet.
"I asked first," I demanded. I wasn't used to being in the dark in a situation. I felt no threatening vibe from him, but the fact that I couldn't tell where he came from unsettled me.
My wayward thoughts were interrupted when he finally stepped out of the shadows. A glaring ray of light from the boardwalk shone down on him and I was startled to see he was roughly my age, although he looked nothing like the boys I went to school with. His dark hair was longer than what I was normally attracted to, falling just below the collar of his jacket, but for some reason it worked for him. Human or not, he looked the part. His jeans had a distressed worn-in look and a plain red t-shirt and black leather jacket covered his torso, completing his simple but cool ensemble. I'm sure he picked his clothing, thinking he would blend in, but it had the opposite effect. He looked like he belonged up on a stage holding a guitar. The guy was hot.
There was something magnetic about him, and I curiously stepped closer, hoping to figure out what the strange vibe was. His eyes glistened in the light and a small smirk turned up at the corners of his lips.
"Jordyn, that's close enough," a stern familiar voice bellowed behind me.
"Haniel," I acknowledged my mentor without turning around.
"Jordyn, back away from the Soul Trader," Haniel commanded loudly when it appeared I wouldn't listen.
"Soul Trader?" I asked, more than intrigued.
"Haniel, good to see you, buddy," the stranger mocked, ignoring my question. "I thought you were banished to the heavenly realm a few years back," he added.
"I was not banished," Haniel bristled. Something about the dark stranger seemed to be rubbing the Arch Angel the wrong way.
"That's not the way I heard it, but hey, at least you got the girl, right."
"Jordyn, come with me, now," Haniel insisted.
"Haniel, what is a Soul Trader?" I asked, not taking me eyes off the guy in front of me.
"Soul Trader sounds so harsh," the stranger taunted. "I'm just a negotiator."
"What does that mean, you take souls?" I asked breathlessly, feeling lightheaded from his words. Any kind of Soul Taker was scum in my book. They went against everything we believed in. Everything we fought against. They repulsed my kind and yet, he didn't repulse me.
"Someone has to do it, sweetheart," he mocked, answering my question.
"Yes, but it should be Angels," I answered, confused about the conflicting emotions racing through me. My DNA should have put me on the defensive. I should be plotting how to take him down, not wondering where the tattoo ended that I has just discovered on his neck that disappeared beneath his collar.
"And what about the rotten-as-sin souls?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow at me.
I cringed at his words. I didn't like to think about the Daemons that claimed those souls.
"Or what about the questionable souls? The ones your Light hasn't decided what to do with. Should they be forsaken?"
"The Guides save them," I defended, thinking of my friends and family who were created for that purpose.
"So, you're telling me that Guides manage to save every questionable soul?" he chided me like I was a naive child.
"Well, no, but they do the best they can," I retorted, aggravated at what he was insinuating.
"Ah, well, that's where I come in, right, Haniel?" he asked.
"Correct," Haniel bit out, still clearly bothered. "Jordyn, we must go. Humans are approaching. It would not bode well for you to be found with cadavers from the mortuary and an unconscious human," he added, latching his fingers around my wrist to drag me away.
I dug my heels in to the sand, not quite ready to go. "Wait, I have more questions for..." I floundered, realizing I didn't know his name.
"Emrys," he answered, grinning wickedly at me.
"Emrys," I repeated, rolling the unfamiliar word off my tongue.
"It means immortal," Haniel said, dragging me quickly across the sand toward the steps that would lead us to the parking lot.