Demon Trappers Book 4
Beck pulled into Stewart’s driveway, then bailed out of the car though the engine was still running. Simon had just pulled up to the curb when he was rousted out of the driver’s seat. He’d barely gotten into the passenger seat and the door closed before Beck drove away.
What a drama queen.
Riley turned off the engine and gave herself time to calm down. These sorts of confrontations would continue until one of them cracked. If she were lucky, Beck would break first. If not . . .
She gazed up at Master Stewart’s home while the car made funny tick-tick noises as the engine cooled down. Not every window in the grand Victorian structure was illuminated, but those that were gave off a welcoming glow. Her apartment seemed so empty now that her dad was gone.
This place was full of life. With its fancy gable fretwork and the multistory turret, Riley swore this building had been transported to Atlanta from another century. Love felt real here, along with the promise that it could be nurtured and protected from a violent world. Until the Vatican said otherwise, she was to remain under Grand Master Stewart’s wing. It wasn’t a bad thing; Stewart was nice, his house was huge, and his housekeeper was an awesome cook.
The master was in his sixties with silver hair and penetrating dark eyes. Behind his jovial smile was a clever mind and a ready wit. A member of the International Demon Trappers Guild, he’d lived in Atlanta for a decade, spoke a number of languages, and carried a lot of weight with both the local trappers and the Vatican’s Demon Hunters. Riley’s father had apprenticed with Angus Stewart and had always spoken of him with genuine affection. Now she knew why.
After locking the front door behind her, Riley kicked off her shoes and laid the scorched jacket on top of them. She really didn’t know why she’d kept it.
“Lass?” a voice called out, a rich timbre overlaid with a muted Scottish accent.
“Coming,” she said.
It was a habit now—when she arrived home in the evening she would spend some time with Master Stewart before she went to bed. He’d be in that big den of his, sitting near the oversized stone hearth that held a cheery fire. They’d talk about school, about everything. It was something her father had done over breakfast every morning and she’d missed that so much after he’d died. Though this wasn’t her dad asking the questions or gently guiding her through life’s mysteries, she looked forward to this time.
As with previous nights she found the owner of the house in his favorite chair with a copy of a Scottish newspaper in his lap and a glass of whisky at his elbow. A pipe rested in a stand near a fat pouch of tobacco.
Though Riley was apprenticed to Master Harper, it had been Stewart who had come to her aid when the hunters had arrested her, using his rank with the International Guild to plead her case. When the “Inquisition” was over, an agreement had been struck—Stewart was responsible for her behavior and would pay with his life if she strayed too far off the path.
She settled into one of the overly comfortable chairs, placing her backpack at her feet.
“Good evenin’, lass.”
“Master Stewart,” she said politely. “Is there some reason you told Beck to drive me home?”
“The Guild received a death threat today.”
If it’d been against the entire Atlanta Guild, Stewart wouldn’t have called Beck. “It was for me, wasn’t it?”
What could she say to that? Someone hated her enough to threaten to kill her, all because she’d stood between the armies of Heaven and Hell and talked them out of the Big War.
“A few folks have figured out what happened, and they’re talkin’. Some still believe ya helped those demons attack the Tabernacle. Yer just too high profile right now.”
“I won’t hide,” Riley protested. “I have to work to pay my bills.”
“I know. We’ve gave the letter ta the police and hopefully they’ll find whoever is behind it.” Stewart loaded his pipe with tobacco and then tamped it down. “Give me the run report,” he added. “Harper’s at an AA meetin’, so I’ll pass it on ta him.”
It wouldn’t do her any good to freak out about the threat, so she delivered her report.
“It wasn’t a clean capture,” she explained, “but we did trap that Pyro at the Five Points MARTA station.”
“How did Simon do?”
“Okay. He didn’t freeze up or anything.”
“How about Beck? Is he still bein’ a bear with a sore bum?”
He’d totally pegged Backwoods Boy. “Definitely.”
“Are ya willin’ ta tell me what happened between the two of ya ta make him that way?”
I swear this guy is psychic. “How’d you know it was about us?” she asked, puzzled.
“I’m good at readin’ people. It’s part of bein’ a grand master.”
Riley could try to avoid the question, but that wouldn’t work because Stewart would get the answer out of her eventually. Maybe he could help her figure out how to break through Beck’s defenses.
“We had a huge argument the morning after the wake. I thought everything was fine between us after we . . . ” Riley’s cheeks warmed at the memory. “We kissed at the cemetery.”
Sure they were both going to die, Beck had let down his guard, admitted he couldn’t live without her, and delivered a heart-melting kiss that had completely rocked Riley’s world.
“I was the one who told him not ta let the moment pass,” Stewart said. “I told him he might not have that chance again.”
“Oh, so that’s why he did it,” she said, disappointment welling up inside her.
“He took that bold step because he’s verra fond for ya, lass. That wasn’t a kiss between friends and ya know it.”
“No, it wasn’t.” It had been epic. Everything she’d ever hoped for.
Her host was still waiting for an explanation. “The morning after the wake, I went to see him. When I got to his house that skank of a reporter chick was just leaving. Whatever she said to him set him off. He was furious.”
“Ah, Justine Armando again. Do ya know why she was there?”
“Beck said she’s writing another article about him and he was really worried about it.” Riley shook her head in dismay. “Then suddenly he tells me to leave, says that he doesn’t want to see me ever again. At first, I thought it was something I’d done. Then he said I deserved someone better than the bastard son of a drunk who couldn’t read or wr—”
Crap. She’d let one of Beck’s biggest secrets loose in front of a master. That was very bad. “Oh, man, you didn’t hear that.”
“I know he’s semiliterate, lass,” Stewart replied. “Yer father told me.”
Riley sighed in relief. “He’d be way mad if he knew I said anything to you.” Then she rolled her eyes. “Like it matters. He’s pissed off at me anyway.”
“Aye, and that troubles me. There’s somethin’ else goin’ on or Beck wouldn’t be treatin’ ya this way. Not when he was so keen with ya at the cemetery.”
“Maybe it has something to do with his mom.”
“I’m sure he’s upset about her illness, but it’s more than that. Beck’s a warrior at heart, and he will always protect those around him.” Stewart paused and took a puff on his pipe.
“In yer case, it’s even more than that, which makes me think the reporter knows somethin’ he feels will harm ya. Or change yer opinion of him. Either way, his protective instincts would come inta play.”
It was a shrewd analysis of the situation, and a lot freer of emotion than Riley could manage.
“He won’t tell me anything about his life before he came to Atlanta. It’s like he’s embarrassed or something.”
“Paul told me a bit, but even he never got the full story.” Stewart flicked his lighter and took a few puffs of the pipe. The sweet scent of caramel and lemon filled the air. “Anythin’ else?”
Riley told him about the near exorcism outside the MARTA station. He didn’t seem surprised.
“Yer too visible right now. What with the threat hangin’ in the air, I want ya out of sight for the next little bit. Beck’s mother is much worse and he’s leavin’ for his hometown tomorrow mornin’. Harper and I both agree—we’d like ya ta go ta Sadlersville with him.”
Riley shook her head. “I’m not the best choice. He’s so mad at me I’ll only make it worse.”
“Beck has confided in ya more than anyone else. Though he might be actin’ like a total arse, he truly cares for ya.” Stewart paused. “Even loves ya in his own way.”
Riley’s breath caught. Maybe it hadn’t been her imagination.
“He’s not real stable at present, and when his mother passes over it’ll be worse. He needs ya at his side, Riley, even if he denies it.”
She knew the master was right. It’d be ugly, but she’d been through that before, and it’d get her out of Atlanta until things settled down.
“All right, I’ll go.”
Her black funeral dress was upstairs in the closet rather than at the apartment. There never seemed to be an end to the mourning.
“Bless ya,” Stewart exclaimed. “That’ll ease my worries a notch. Keep an eye on things down south. I want ta know more about Beck’s background and what’s causin’ him so much anxiety.”
Now I’m a spy. “He’ll go ballistic when I tell him I’m coming with him.”
“That’s why I’ll be the one doin’ the tellin’.”
As he materialized in a pitch-black alley in Demon Central, the angel wept in despair.
“No!” Ori cried, raising his fists in defiance. “Damn you, Lucifer! Why?”
He was not supposed to be alive. He’d been ready to journey into the nothingness that awaited a Fallen when they took their last breath. He had even agreed to Riley Anora Blackthorne’s outrageous terms for her soul simply because he was convinced he would die that day, and she would be free of Hell’s chains.
But his master had denied him that solace. Though Lucifer could not create new life, he could sustain those who were in his thrall, and he had healed Ori even as he’d begged to die. He could still hear the Prince’s voice as he woke from what was to be his final rest.
You will die when I permit it and no sooner. Slay my enemies. Do not think to cross me again, for the peace of death will not be your reward.
“How dare you?” Ori cried, his fists tightening. He had willingly followed Lucifer into exile, cut himself off from the Light and the love of Heaven, and now he was being treated as if that sacrifice was nothing.
When Ori’s eyes opened, he lowered his arms and ensured that his wings were no longer visible. There were no mortals around to see him at present, but that would change. They were far too curious for their own good. If he encountered one now, one who challenged him, he may well have to kill it.
Turning, he strode down the alley until he reached one of Atlanta’s main streets. The city’s populace flowed around him, unaware of what he was, whom he served, or the growing darkness within him. As he walked, he passed a necromancer bristling with magic, then a street preacher exhorting people to rid the city of its devils.
He had no choice but to do his master’s bidding, hunting rogue Hellspawn who defied the Prince’s rule. Ori would never find the respite death offered as long as Lucifer reigned in Hell.
Perhaps it’s time to change that.
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Demon Trappers® Book 4
Copyright ©2012 Jana Oliver
2nd Edition November 2021
Angel Wing Graphic used with permission of Macmillan Children’s Books
Cover image courtesy of Yocla Designs
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Demon Trappers is a Registered Trademark of Jana G. Oliver
is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.