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The Demon Within (A PeaceKeeper Novel Book 1)(7)

By:Stacey Brutger



Caly's legs wobbled pathetically as she gasped for air. She caught her balance, straightening in time to see Henry destroy another demon. But instead of assisting Oscar, the bastard turned his back and looked at her.

He shook his head. "One of us has to survive."

He actually did look sorry when he turned tail and ran like a rat from a sinking ship. She clenched her fists, a growl rumbling at the back of her throat. When she got ahold of him, she'd rip out his yellow spine.





Chapter Five





"Oscar!" Caly's shout emerged as a whisper, her throat too damaged to speak louder. Anticipation hummed along her nerves, a relish to destroy so deliciously dark she could barely curb it.

All her anger, all her rage funneled into one thought. Kill the demons quickly and bury the secret deep. With a short run, she launched herself at the creatures before they could overwhelm him. Arm out, blade at the ready, she landed dead center of the demon's chest. The impact buckled her knees. Shards of pain shot up her back.

With a sharp jab, the last remaining demons dissolved. They were alone for now, but not for long. If they were going to move, they had to do it now. Blinded by the bright light that signaled their death, Caly ran her hands along the floor. "Oscar?"

She found him cradling his arm, lying on the frigid stone. "We have to leave." Crouching, she lifted his uninjured arm over her shoulder and struggled to rise. The strain tore at her body, and her overworked muscles trembled in protest. He had to get up. She couldn't get him out by herself.

Two more creatures slunk into the room. One headed toward them, the other toward the bombs. She refused to go through all of this for nothing. Untangling herself, Caly sprang for the knife a few feet away, landing hard on her side. She haphazardly tossed it with more muscle than grace.

By luck alone, the blade hit the base of the skull and sank deep. The bright flash was blocked by the second demon as it ran toward her. Lashing out with her boot, she smashed her foot against the creature's knee with bone crushing force, dropping him to the ground.                       
       
           



       

She scrambled back to Oscar's side as the half-destroyed beast snarled and dragged itself forward by his claws. Out of weapons, she picked up Oscar's spear, prepared to finish him off. Oscar placed a shaky hand on her arm, preventing the killing blow.

"Too late. Leave. Find my will. You're named as my heir." She whipped around to face him, shock striking her near speechless.

"But Henry is second in command. He-"

"-Is an idiot. Show them the new will."

She stubbornly shook her head and bent to heft his arm over her shoulder again. "We can make it. They're only two demons."

He shoved her roughly. "Five. Six. And more are coming." Oscar gazed over her shoulder, a grimace contorting his face. "I won't make it out by myself and neither of us will survive if you try to help me. You have to make sure this place is destroyed. I won't have you sacrifice yourself for an old man."

Caly shook her head in denial. Oscar never cared whether she lived or died. But she knew his rules inside and out, having had them beaten into her thick skull. He could damn well follow them, too. "Never desert a soldier in battle. Your rule."

The back of her spine tingled. The skin on her shoulders tightened. Something was waiting for her. A purr of pleasure rumbled inside, wanting release, wanting to play. Her stomach hovered in her throat as Caly turned and faced the door.

The statue she had so recently fantasized about stood in the opening.

Moving.

As in alive.

And so gorgeous she lost her breath.

Only the statue had nothing on this man. Even across the room, she couldn't tear her gaze from him.

He gripped an ivory handled knife in his right hand, the blade glimmering in the dim light. Although she knew him to be a demon, she didn't detect any threat, only a strange calmness that left her all the more unsettled.

"Oscar?" A glance showed he'd risen and fought a desperate battle with the wounded demon. Bleeding, his arm broken, his leg mangled, Oscar refused to retreat. She took a step forward to protect him when a strobe of white lights flickered behind her.

Caly swung around to see another demon streak through the opening, his speed incredible.

Only to lose his head when the statue spun, arm straight out, his ivory blade at the ready.

The way he moved fascinated her. Not slow or clumsy like a human, nor fanatic like a demon. Each move was measured, calculated to do the greatest damage. Moves like that took years of training to prefect.

Over six, possibly even six and a half feet tall, her once gray statue was dressed in black leather pants and no shirt. His muscles did not need stone to look as hard as a rock. Dark hair and darker eyes drew her gaze.

Only one thing ran through her mind.

Mine.

Possessiveness zinged through her system, every inch of her skin prickled painfully to life as she battled the urge to cross the room to him and claim him. The weight of Oscar's hand on her arm was the only thing that held her back from making a fool of herself.

Two more demons met their end, clearing the room. Together, she and Oscar faced the stranger. The man who'd saved them. Suspicion curbed the thrill she received by looking at him. "Who are you?"

Before he could answer, three demons materialized and attacked the stranger. The group stumbled further in the room, a jumble of arms and legs. As Caly jumped out of the way, her hip smacked into one of the altars, knocking her on her hands and knees.

When she lifted her head, a gaping black hole met her gaze. The stone she'd previously guarded was gone, leaving behind a yawning darkness that sent a chill creeping through her body. She scuttled backwards, the threat in the air palpable.

She'd screwed up.

Almost too afraid to move, too terrified at what she would find, Caly stood. And watched, wide-eyed as the skeletons moved. Flesh inflated their tattered uniforms, their arms jerked as muscles grafted to the bone. In a reverse decomposition, the body fleshed out and spidered with veins. The surface of the body bubbled up like wax, forming a thin layer of almost clear skin. It slowly thickened until they resembled humans.

Her skin crawled at the process, and the air seemed too thin to breathe. One at a time, the Fallen sat, even the one that Henry had desecrated. His head sat drunkenly on his shoulders, but there was awareness in his eyes.

Caly swallowed hard, backing away. They creaked as they moved. With a few experimental gestures, a wave of an arm, the twist of the neck, they appeared … alive.

The certainty that she would die here filled her bones.

At least she would go down fighting. Reaching down, she groped for a knife, cursing when she found only empty sheaths.

"Run!"

The raspy voice rippled through her, a dark, visceral response like a tuning fork being struck pulled her attention to her statue.                       
       
           



       

"I'll hold them off as long as possible. You have to leave."

"No." She shook her head, unable to believe they'd ask her to abandon them. The arrogant man didn't even have the gall to look at her as he issued orders.

"I'll follow you as soon as I can."

Still Caly hesitated.

"Do as he says." Oscar leaned heavily against his staff, wilted but ready to face off with the new threat. Even as she watched, a demon raced forward and slashed a wound across his torso. Blood gushed down his shirt in a dark river, and she bit back a gasp of disbelief.

He staggered, grimaced and blocked the second blow. "The bomb should generate enough heat to incinerate everything. You must live. Must destroy the Fallen. If even a small piece survives, they'll swallow up the world."

Four of the Fallen had already risen. The living statue fought three to one. The odds were not in their favor.

Stumbling backwards, Caly reluctantly retreated. Her mind rebelled, but logic told her it was the only option. They couldn't be allowed to survive.

Oscar received a brutal blow that sent him to his knees. Two demons surged past her, sensing blood. They swarmed over him, obscuring him from view, and she lost the stomach to watch more. The mean old bastard went down swinging, the way he would have wanted. When she almost wished for the demon inside to take control, she couldn't even feel a stirring.

Caly hesitated by the door, determined to make sure his killers didn't survive. She removed the last chemical bomb from her pack. Her fingers trembled so hard, she almost dropped it. With a few rough shakes, a snap of the tube, she threw it at the group swarming her mentor.

The impact ruptured the pressurized tube. Powdered metal stuck to the bodies of the demons, eating away at the flesh just like she envisioned. Only she never anticipated the screams of rage that threatened to shatter her ears. Each swipe only spread the watery metal mixture further. In under a minute, they were reduced to sooty-ash.

Only three demons fell to the chemicals. The other four continued to slash at Oscar and the old man disappeared from view for the last time. Her rescuer landed on one knee, taking a vicious wound to his back.

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