JUDE’S POV PART I: IN THE CLUB from FORGED IN FIRE
The voices in my head whisper louder, calling to their demon brethren. That’s how I know I’m in the right place. I see him across the dance floor. Music pumps loud. Laser lights flash. No one notices his red eyes glaring. Demon eyes. I follow his gaze to the bar, finding his target for the night. A black-haired beauty sips on a beer, completely oblivious to the fact she has drawn dangerous attention. She leans with her back against the bar, elbows propped behind her, revealing a long line of lovely curves. There’s something about her that feels familiar. Yet I know I’ve never seen her before. I would’ve remembered.
She notices me watching. She can’t look away. Neither can I.
Her little blonde friend drags her to the dance floor with their dates. The demon spots his cue, maneuvering through the horde. He dances too close. Way too close. She elbows him to push off. But this one isn’t giving up easily. He grabs her wrist and yanks her against him. Anger flares in my gut. I’m in motion, suddenly behind them.
“Let her go.”
The demon recognizes me at once. I don’t know him, but he knows me. Not unusual. I want to rip the host in half and crush the demon inside. But I won’t. Not here.
Calm. Breathe. Fear skitters across the demon’s eyes the second before he lets her go and quickly finds the exit. Smart demon.
Now I can focus on her. An unwavering, clear blue gaze tells me she is strong and confident, despite her unease. She sees past the veneer. She knows I am more than what I seem. The beacon shining within her is a nostalgic lure, like nothing I’ve sensed or felt in two thousand years. I sense the black cloak, which constantly keeps me company, sheering thin as I draw closer to her. She is definitely one of us. Could she possibly be…?
“Are you all right?” I ask her.
“Yes. I’m fine,” she answers.
She’s nervous. Not because of the man who was rough with her. Because of me. I shouldn’t enjoy this fact. But basic chemistry tells me she would be a fine lover. I let that thought slip away.
What did the demon want? He targeted her for more than her beauty. He knew she was one of us. The black pushes me, wanting violence as usual. The one thing that keeps the voices at bay.
I take one last lingering look into that crystal gaze, then take my leave. The demon will wait outside for her. And I will wait for him.
JUDE’S POV PART II: ON THE STREET from FORGED IN FIRE
The streets of New Orleans are heavy tonight, pulsing with demon activity. None of them come near enough for me to spot them. Smart. Best give the hunter a wide berth, lest they chance a one-way trip back to hell.
Kat was worried to leave New York for a face-to-face. I move faster toward the river, up the stairs in front of Jackson Square to the riverwalk.
She’s already waiting. Her cast of illusion hides the gear she’s packing from humans. By my count, she’s packing two knives, a sword at her back, and a six-inch stiletto in her boot sheath. That one’s her favorite.
“Kat.” I nod in greeting.
“So why the reunion? A phone call or email wouldn’t do?”
“Not this time. Demons are everywhere, and I’m pretty sure they’re bugging our phones and hacking our emails.”
Troubling. “Why would they care what the hunters are up to?”
“Good question. I think they’re looking for something.”
My instincts go on high alert. I know what they’re looking for. Or actually, who. “So what’s this about?”
She shifts her weight to her other leg for the third time in this brief conversation. She’s anxious. This isn’t like Kat.
“I believe…the prophecy is coming to fruition. Now. There are signs.”
“What kind of signs?”
“You know very well what the signs are, Jude.”
“And have you spoken to George about this?”
I knew the mere mention of his name would get a rise out of her. Sure enough, her eyes narrow. Yeah. She’s still got it bad for him. After all this time.
“No. I don’t need his permission to theorize, do I?”
“I never said you did.” Definitely got it bad. I try not to smile.
She stiffens and turns on professional hunter mode. “My region has been overrun by servants to a high demon, one of the highest. He’s crafty, stays well hidden and not always here on our plane. He’s the reason I’m here in New Orleans.”
“He’s come here?” Anger burns hot, knowing a demon prince may be in my territory. Near Genevieve.
“No. His henchmen are here, though. Something big is going on. I think he could be—”
I sense an otherworld being the same time she does. Kat whips out a blade. I zone in on the beacon within seconds.
What the fuck is she doing in the French Quarter at night? And who the fuck is the kid with his arms around her?
Dark rage covers me in a blink, a shell of fire and steel. Her eyes widen in fear. Good. She should be scared. It’s about to get a whole lot scarier. I march directly for her.
I move into her space, not giving a shit if it makes her uncomfortable. “Do you have a death wish?”
The college kid she’s with tries to intervene. “Dude, excuse me. What are you doing?”
He even lifts a hand as if he’s going to push me away. I stake him with death in my eyes if his hand lands on my leather. He reconsiders. He wants to survive this altercation. Maybe he’s not as dumb as he looks.
I turn my attention back to her. “Answer me, Genevieve. Why are you here?”
“You know this guy?” asks the boy.
“We were just taking a walk.”
Her voice shakes as she tries to stammer out an introduction of the kid. Like I give a fuck who he is. I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.
“Lie,” I say.
“Jude, seriously, I was just—”
“Do you have any idea how dangerous this place is for you?”
Anything could’ve happened to her between the time she stepped out of her car and wandered through the Quarter. I notice her choice of attire—a bright red jacket, like waving a flag at the raging bull. Come and get me. “Little Red comes wandering in the woods infested with wolves.”
I inch forward. Her pulse quickens. I can sense it fluttering in that pretty neck of hers. I war with wayward thoughts as I always do in her presence. Her eyes dilate and widen a fraction more. She finally realizes what kind of danger she’s put herself in. With the demons. And with me. The boy is getting in the way.
First things first, get rid of him. Then show Ms. Drake exactly what kind of world she’s a part of now. My world. Time to take my Vessel to her first demon den.
JUDE’S POV PART III: IN HELL from FORGED IN FIRE
Red. Red. Red. Blood pounds through my veins, pushing me over the edge. That fucker had put his mouth on her skin, her lips. When I find him, I will crush him into nothing with my bare hands. He marked her. No matter. She will never be his. Never. I will cast my soul into oblivion and drag him with me before I let that happen.
Her lips were swollen from more than one kiss. She thought he was me. How much had she given to him before the asshole revealed himself? Her mouth, parted, wanting. Oh, Genevieve. The danger you’re in.
Hell and damnation!
The darkness clouds everything, every thought in my head. I can’t contain the rage.
I sift to his gates and roar my arrival, the black castle looming in the gray haze. Pointed turrets stab upward into the constant night of this place. Gleaming yellow eyes peer down from the watchmen on the battlements.
“Where is he!”
Cassius dangles gaunt, skeletal limbs from his perch, twenty yards up the precipice of black rock beside the iron spires of the gate pointing into the gloom.
“Now, now, Master of Demons. He is not at home at the moment. And you know you are not allowed here. So take your little temper-tantrum and just be on your way.”
My black glare makes Cassius draw up his bony feet in case my wrath turns on him. The spindly red spiders that keep him company crawl somewhere into his ribcage and an opening at his throat, hiding from the likes of me. Good.
“I want that fuck in front of me. Now.”
“We all want lots of things, Demon Hunter. I would like to be free of my perch. I’ve paid the price for my sins long enough,” he says, eyes glowing white, “but I can’t have what I want. Just as you will not have what you want.”
I laugh, feeling the rage slip just a little.
“I will have what I want. Soon enough. Here’s a gift for your Lord and Master, Cassius.”
I grab two bars of the gate, ignoring the searing pain of its touch, wrenching the entire left side from its hinges. I bend each spire inward upon itself, releasing my fury through the stabbing pain, until I finally hold a mangled ball of black iron.
“You’d better stop, Demon Hunter!”
Cassius stands now on the edge of his precipice, pointing and shaking a bony, gray finger. I stare at the pathetic creature, grinning.
“Tell Goldilocks to stop hiding and come out to play.”
I launch the ball of unnatural metal. It arcs and smashes into the wooden Gothic door, splintering the black facing, leaving a gash a foot wide and deep. Cassius shrieks. I give him a withering glare, then sift through time and space until the smothering blackness cracks and diminishes from burning inside my gut. I could not go back to Genevieve with death on my mind, fury in my heart, and desire pumping a furious beat through my body.