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The Demon Within (A PeaceKeeper Novel Book 1)(11)

By:Stacey Brutger



"Definitely not." Jarred spoke at the same time. "There's no reason to believe they'd be willing to help. They're likelier to slaughter you as soon as you open your mouth."

"Give me a better alternative." Her heart lodged in her throat as she waited for a response that would save her from revisiting a past better left alone.

No one spoke.

They had no way to coerce a demon into working for them. Oscar's group was known for their high kill count, not their leniency.

Surveying the dingy brick buildings, Caly turned her back to the others. "Something came back with us from the temple. When it comes for me, I don't want any of you to be caught in the crossfire." Without saying goodbye, Caly walked to her car.

"Caly."

"David, leave her. This is something she has to figure out herself."

Though Caly was grateful for Kelly's understanding, she also knew it wasn't limitless. She put her car in gear and sped away, estimating she had until noon at the latest before they descended en masse.

She parked her car near the farmhouse a little before midnight, thankful the house was five miles outside the city limits. She needed the solitude to build her walls as she decided where to begin her search for the one demon that might help them.

Her djinn.

Peering into the darkness, she detected no threat and made her way in the house and her room on autopilot. Without bothering to turn on the lights, she stripped, carefully folded her clothes and shoved them in the back of her closet, never to see the light of day again.

Ready for a hard training session, needing the exhaustion to sleep, Caly slipped into her workout clothes. The house was sparse, a testimony to her meticulous habits. Oscar taught her everything had a place, and if it didn't, it didn't belong. Caly didn't mind most of the time. She couldn't stand to lose more of herself, not when so little of it remained.

With a quick jog down the stairs, she paused on the landing. The library lay to the right. The only luxury Oscar had allowed were books, a weakness he himself couldn't control. He explained them away as research, but they were also his pride and joy. She'd devoured them for the sole purpose of ridding her body of the demon it harbored, but had fallen in love with the lore.

She'd inherited his private collection, including his old tactical maps. The main research pieces would remain at the training center, but his personal favorites were here. A trickle of gratitude devastated her control.

She wrapped her fingers around the handle, but before the door swung open, she dropped her hand to her side. The latch clicked shut, and she rested her forehead against the cool wood.

Without a backward glance, she changed directions, preparing herself for a long, rigorous hike up the mountain trail. If she exhausted herself enough, maybe she wouldn't relive Oscar's death in her dreams.

Or even more disturbing, fantasize about the mystery man she'd left behind in the jungle.





Chapter Eight





Ruman watched the woman disappear out the door, disgruntled to see her on the move again. They'd just arrived home. How was he supposed to check for weaknesses in her living establishment if he couldn't remain in one place long enough for him to reconnaissance the area?

Indecision wavered. He should follow his charge and make sure she stayed out of mischief, but he needed space to allow himself time to gather his thoughts. Being near her mangled his thinking process, made him ineffective. Detecting no overt threat, he lingered in the house, rationalizing that he needed to gather information about her in order to be able to better protect her.                       
       
           



       

For the life of him, he couldn't find anything about her beyond the basics. No one in this backwater place seemed to be aware of anything about her. She couldn't have just popped out of nowhere.

The normal daily ins and outs of a human's life held no interest for him. This one was different. The way she moved, the way she reacted to situations, disturbed him.

It reminded him of himself when he first descended. Cocky, sure of himself, and terribly alone.

When she'd returned from the temple, it had amused him to watch her try to catch him unaware. The intricate traps she'd constructed, the tricks she'd used to confirm whether or not she'd been followed had delighted him. She could sense him. He wasn't invisible.

Now it became an annoyance.

True to her namesake Calypso, Caly was an expert in concealing herself. On more than one occasion when he trailed her, she'd lost him.

Impossible but true.

The only plausible explanation was that his senses had dulled by centuries trapped inside the statue.

But that was not the only thing that fascinated him about this woman. It was by happenstance that he noticed the way the demons acted around her. Some watched her like a wild animal prowling its cage, while others went out of their way to avoid her.

What confused him the most was he'd swear she could sense them as well. But demons, unless they were in their true forms, should've been undetectable.

Unless the person was marked by a demon and labeled property. Only, Caly wouldn't willingly allow herself to be used by demons in exchange for favors. She wasn't the type.

In any case, if that were true, it would've been impossible for her to wake him at all. With his freedom at stake, the unanswered questions plagued him worse than centuries of imprisonment. She presented an intriguing mystery, one he was determined to unravel.

Or at least he tried to convince himself that was the real reason he couldn't take his eyes off her. Even while she slept, he lingered by her side when he should be setting up safeguards.

He justified his attention that he needed to pick up her habits, needed her to be predictable so he could keep her safe. The rational part of him warned that his fascination was a danger to his freedom if he didn't get it under control.

In the hallway, Ruman shifted restlessly. He couldn't let go of the feeling that he was missing the obvious. There had to be a clue here. To the right was the entrance to the basement, the left was the living room. Small and unused, the place appeared abandoned.

Furniture rested under mauve covers, leaving the room haunted by eras gone by. He wouldn't be surprised if past generations walked through the door, alive and well, and made themselves at home.

The longer he searched the house, the stronger the feeling grew that she wasn't normal. Women cluttered things up. This one cut everything out of her life.

She was hiding something.

A silver frame above the fireplace caught the light, luring him closer. It was the only picture in the whole house. In it was a younger version of Caly with a pale lab at her side and the stern old man he recognized from the temple. Instead of the joy he expected to see, Caly looked hunted. He lifted the frame off the mantle, angling it closer.

A garrote slipped around his throat before he sensed anyone behind him. Heat scorched wherever the metal touched. Dropping the frame, he clawed for the wire imbedded in his throat. Air rattled in his chest as he struggled for breath. The only thing that prevented the metal from dissolving his flesh was his ancestry.

The pain was new for him, physical sensations were usually diluted to allow him to focus on his task without concern for himself. That barrier had disappeared, ripped away when he needed it most. With his freedom so close within reach, it could only be another test. He couldn't spend another decade in this eternal hell. Arching his back, he hissed in a much needed breath of air but couldn't get a grip on that blasted wire.

His attacker took advantage of his distraction, jumping on his back for better leverage. Stumbling under the added weight, Ruman lurched across the room. His shin bashed into an end table, but the person clung to him like a leech. No matter which way he twisted, the damn creature retained its hold.

Each second weakened him.

Ringing sounded in his ears, his vision darkened around the edges. This newfound frailty not only surprised him, but pissed him off. He twisted, trying to throw his attacker over his head and ended up ramming into the couch. The hard wood gouged deep into his thigh.

Damnation anyway.

He couldn't die and leave Caly vulnerable until he recovered. In a last-ditch effort, he turned and slammed his back into the wall, fast and hard.

For a fraction of a second, the hold loosened.                       
       
           



       

Blessed air wheezed through his throat.

It was enough.

Anger sizzled in his veins at being caught unaware. He cracked his elbow back into the body behind him. The sheer power, if somewhat dubious strength of a demon, should've been enough to cave in the chest of a human. The blow only glanced off his assailant.

A grunt of pain escaped his attacker, and a grim smile curled his lips. The garrote dislodged. He reached up and ripped away the offensive wire, tossing it aside like it was a live thing ready to spring at his throat again. The thought of Caly having to face the intruder, all alone, enraged him. The possibility of her escaping was slim at best.

How dare they try to steal his salvation from him.

She was his.

Ruman crouched low and turned to face his attacker.

Only to come face to face with the woman he'd been stalking. Shock of recognition nearly dumped him on his ass. How could he not have known?

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