Not everything I write makes it into the final book. This scene was originally in VALIANT LIGHT but was cut due to pacing. I thought you might like to see Riley and her apprentices on a trapping run at Beck’s favorite bar.
Here we go again.
Riley really did like the Armageddon Lounge and its impressively tacky End of the World décor. It was great place to play pool with Beck and unwind. But its new owner was an idiot, and a cheapskate. He’d flatly refused to put Holy Water at the entrances, even after she’d warned him the last time she’d been here to trap a demon.
Not surprisingly, another Grade Four Hypno-Fiend had made its way inside, looking for a tasty soul or two to harvest. Mezmers were the ultimate tricksters, taking any form they wished as they whispered all sorts of impossible promises in your mind. They also sucked out your life force while they were at it. Some were easy to trap, others downright dangerous.
“You have to use Holy Water,” she said, frowning at the owner as they stood outside the establishment’s front door. “The name of this place just attracts Hellspawn like crazy.”
“Why should I? It costs money.”
“So does trapping demons.”
The owner gave a sly smile. “Not for me. The Church has to pay for all that.”
Behind her, Richard swore. She agreed. Maybe she could find a way to fix that problem.
Riley pulled her apprentices aside. “Okay, I’ll take this one down, you watch. Key thing here, it’s going to play with your head. It’ll offer you things you didn’t even know you want. Once it gets a hold of you, it feeds on you. When you’re weak enough, you’ll agree to give it your soul and it’s all over.”
“How does it know what we want?” Jaye asked. She’d rejoined them just this morning and looked to be in good shape after her recent injury.
“It will hunt around in your head and find things. These things are major scary. You need to find something that blocks it. Each of us have our own way. I do Latin homework in my head, Beck hums a song. Find what works for you, because you’ll need it down the line.”
All three of her apprentices blinked at the same time.
“Yeah, we’re getting into the big leagues here, folks. Ready?”
Three wary nods returned. Pushing through the double doors, Riley entered the bar. The usual smell of beer and spirits assaulted her nose. The place wasn’t that busy with only five patrons ranged around the room. Two had been in the midst of a pool game, but were staring blankly at the figure near the bar. The other patrons, and the bartender were doing the same.
“Oh no,” Kurt muttered.
Riley turned to find herself staring at her fiancé. “Den?” Then she felt the demon touch her mind.
“Riley,” it said, smiling. “I’ve missed ya.”
Her anger went white hot in an instant. “Really? You have got to be kidding me!” she spat. This was just too much.
“Why don’t ya come here and give me a hug, sugar?” the demon’s voice murmured, extending his hands. He was every inch Beck, right down to the cocky smile. “Ya know ya want to.”
“Sugar?” Beck never called her that. Her eyes narrowed, furious that this thing would even try such a thing. Because the next time she hugged Beck she’d remember this moment. The demon laughed, knowing what it’d done to her.
A glance back at her apprentices told her they were already under the thing’s control, all of them with glazed expressions. She needed to snap them out of it. Remembering how Harper had dealt with this problem over year ago, she walked over, pulled a pool cue from the rack. Stepping to the closest pool table, she slammed the cue down on the edge, generating a sharp crack.
Jaye and Kurt came out of their fog first. Once they realized Richard was still enthralled, they shook him until he blinked his eyes.
“You bastard,” Richard said, taking a step forward.
Riley smiled, removing a sphere from her pack. The demon snarled, a noise she’d never heard Beck make.
“You won’t hurt me, Blackthorne’s daughter,” it said. “You love me.”
“Ha! Wanna make a bet?”
The Babel sphere nailed it right in the head, shattering glass in all directions. It was a bit of overkill, but right now Riley wasn’t feeling sociable. With a panicked cry, the demon’s illusion vanished as it shrunk toward its real form. Now it stood about two feet tall and defined a new level of ugly with those misshapen teeth, long claws, glaring eyes.
When it tried to make a run for it, it found itself on the losing end of Richard’s steel pipe. With Jaye and Kurt’s help, they dumped it into the bait box that would hold it until they could get it to Fireman Jack.
“Wow, that was spooky,” Kurt said. Jayne nodded her agreement.
“That wasn’t a powerful one. I’ve dealt with some that are far worse. So, what did we learn here?” she asked, falling back into teacher mode.
“Find a way to block the thing,” Jaye said.
“But before that?”
“Figure out which one is the demon. I mean, if there were a bunch of people in this place, how would you know?”
“They were all staring at it,” Kurt replied. “That should be a big clue.”
“True,” Riley replied, “but it could have easily told them to look somewhere else. Once it’s in their minds, they’ll comply.”
She looked over at the other folks in the room now. Most were shaking their heads, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. A couple had slumped into chairs, but looked like they’d be okay.
“Damn,” Richard said. “It really does suck something out of them.”
“Yeah, what he said,” Kurt added.
“What was it telling you?”
“Oh, come on. Tell us.”
Kurt shot a look at Jaye and then back. “Nothing important.”
It offered you Jaye. Of course, it did. “Okay, get the thing out of here”
The owner was waiting for them outside.
“Use Holy Water from now on,” Riley warned.
“No point in it.”
She’d had it. She didn’t know if what she was about to say would stick or not, but this fool needed a wake-up call. “Then the next time we have to come to your place to trap a Mezmer it’s going to cost you four hundred and fifty dollars.”
“What? Why? I don’t have to pay for that.”
“You were asked to change the theme of your bar, but you left it the way it was. That’s sort of understandable, but you also refuse to protect your patrons against the Hellspawn you know will show up here. From this point on, we will charge you for every trapping, do you understand?”
“That’s unfair. I’ll fight this!”
“That’s your right. But this is the third Mezmer in five months. If one of your patrons dies, you’re looking at a huge lawsuit. Just buy the damned Holy Water, will you?”
The man huffed, then stomped inside.
Riley blew out a long stream of air. She’d better give Harper a heads up because it was a good bet he’d be getting a call from this jerk.
“Go Master Blackthorne,” Richard said, grinning.
“Probably did more damage than it was worth, but it sure felt good.”
“Can we really do that? Charge them for trapping?” Jaye asked.
“In very special cases. I’m hoping this is one of them.”
“It told me that it’d make my mom healthy again. It knew exactly what to hit me with,” the girl admitted.
“They always do.”
And sometimes they hit you where it hurts the most.
© 2017 Jana Oliver
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is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.