Above the flames the fla.., p.12
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.12

           Cassandra Fear
 
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  Bael’s evil, high-pitched laughter rang out and goosebumps erupted on her flesh. He moved like a snake, creeping around the group until he stopped in front of Caim. “It’s sweet, really, that you all would die to protect this girl.” He closed his eyes and scrunched his face, his hands folded over his heart. “Precious, in fact. But it won’t help you, nor her. I will have her.”

  Jasmine shoved her way out, even as hands grabbed her to pull her back. “You want me?” she asked.

  Bael grinned. “There’s the brave little soldier. Sacrificing herself again for fallen angels she barely knows. You almost made this too easy.”

  “I’m pretty sure I didn’t,” she said. Then she reached for her power. It was already at the surface, knocking to be released. Anytime she’d been around demons it acted crazy, perhaps it could somehow sense them. She didn’t know. But she tugged it out of the box, letting it spread over her body like jam on toast. Protect us. Keep us safe, she whispered inside.

  Heat warmed her body as her gift coursed through her. Her fingertips tingled as she guided her power there, ready for release. Now.

  Jasmine didn’t throw it from her body like she usually did. This time, she let it flow like water in a well. It listened to her too, weaving a wall of blue fire together, which surrounded them. They were all inside their very own bubble of protection. Energy zoomed through her, making her arms and hands shake with excitement.

  She risked a glance at Bael. He was frowning, so she smiled, reveling in her success. “Didn't see that one coming, did you?”

  More demons came from the shadows to stand behind Bael. Their heads were tilted toward the ground, as if bowing. Bael pointed at one of them, wearing a white button-up shirt and a big red and black bowtie. “You. Go crash the wall.”

  The demon darted forward, but as he hit the neon blue wall, he let out a bloodcurdling scream that twisted Jasmine’s stomach into knots. His skin sizzled like he’d jumped into a bathtub filled with acid.

  His body fell to the ground, writhing and twisting in unnatural ways. Jasmine cringed, almost feeling sorry for the pain she’d inflicted. The demon dug his nails into the hard road below him, pulling with all his might, trying to inch his way out of Jasmine’s power shield. Everywhere the fire touched him, his skin bubbled and fizzed, a sound like a two-liter soda being opened after it had been shaken up. But this lasted a lot longer.

  Soon, the only part of his body still in the flames was his arm. Jasmine swore she could see part of his bone sticking out. She winced, her stomach flip-flopping. On instinct, her hand covered her mouth.

  “For pity’s sake, Belze. Get out of the fire,” Bael yelled. When Belze collapsed, closing his eyes, Bael finally darted forward. He grabbed Belze’s leg and tugged hard. The demon moaned as pieces of his flesh stuck to the ground. Bael then dropped his legs and Belze rolled into a ball, his badly injured arm stretched out to his side. Jasmine shut her eyes tight and swallowed down a choking cough.

  “How are you doing this? For the fifth time?” Gemma asked, her tone irritated.

  Jasmine opened her eyes, but kept her focus on the ground. “What?”

  “We all would love to know how you are managing a protection shield,” Amon stated. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

  The moment she looked at Amon, Belze’s melted skin stuck to the pavement came into view. She bent at the waist, gagging. When she stood, Beau’s side of the shield was fading.

  She steeled herself and reconnected the pieces, but her eyes were growing heavy. Her shoulders fell too.

  “Well, are you going to answer?” Lamia asked.

  “Who cares how she’s doing it,” Azzy said loudly. “This shit is awesome! I wish I could pull something like this off.”

  “Me too,” Cole agreed.

  “I…don’t know. I—” Jasmine couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. She fell forward, right into Amon’s arms.

  “Jasmine. Jasmine.” He lightly smacked her cheek, and she fluttered her eyes. “She can’t hold this much longer.”

  “Guys, the demons just ran off. And when I say ran, I mean pretty much disappeared,” Beau said. Jasmine could hear an edge to his voice.

  “Good. Then let’s go,” Amon said. He scooped her up in his arms.

  “Why don’t you hand her to me,” Beau said.

  “We don’t have time for this!” Amon exclaimed.

  While they argued, Jasmine struggled to reign her power back inside. She tugged on it like a rope. Piece by piece she got it in the box, but couldn’t get the lid shut in time. It boiled over the top, over and over.

  Focus. You have to do this.

  She opened her eyes wide and yanked this time. When she finally got every last section in the box, she flipped the lid closed and locked it. Then she let her eyes close and didn’t worry about opening them again.

  ***

  When Jasmine woke, she was in a blue bedroom. The walls, the blankets, even the carpeting were royal blue. She blinked a few times, and then tried to sit up. Her head spun, so she lay back down.

  A pounding in her temples made her bring her hands up to rub them.

  “Jasmine. Are you awake?”

  She opened her eyes to slits as Amon stepped into the room. “Yeah,” she croaked.

  “Good. Now for the hard question. How do you feel?”

  “Like I got run over by a truck. That same truck decided running me over wasn’t enough, so it backed over me. That pretty much sums it up.”

  Amon chuckled. “Well, if you are well enough to joke, I’d say you will be fine in no time.”

  Jasmine ran her thumb over her necklace. “Tell me last night was a dream.”

  “I wish I could.”

  “So it wasn’t? Everything really happened? Ma and Pa are really dead?”

  Jasmine sank down as Amon sat beside her on the bed. “They are. I’m sorry.”

  A tear slipped down the side of her face, followed by many more.

  Amon brushed his fingers over the side of her head.

  She started to lean into the touch, but pulled away. Sympathy wasn’t what she wanted right now. Revenge was.

  “When can we start our next training session?” She kept her voice hard. Assertive.

  “I don’t think you’re ready for that.”

  She forced her eyes wide. “I don’t care what you think I’m ready for. I know what I can handle. The faster I learn how to defeat the demons, the fewer people will die. And that’s what’s important.”

  “We can start today, then. If you’re up to it.”

  “All I need is a glass of water and a couple Advil and I’ll be good to go.”

  Amon smiled at her and mumbled something under his breath.

  “What?” Jasmine asked.

  “Nothing. Get dressed and come down when you’re ready. Today, we will tackle some hand to hand combat and we’ll finish the lesson with some more power control.”

  “Sounds good. Be down in a minute.”

  He left then, and Jasmine pondered the words he’d whispered. If she didn’t know any better, she would have thought he’d said she was a force to be reckoned with. But that couldn’t be. Could it?

  Shaking her head, she crawled out of bed, found some black shorts and a black tank top, and hobbled downstairs. Training wouldn’t be easy today, but it was necessary. Like breathing. And she would be damned if she missed a single lesson. She had a mission now. One that would only end with each and every demon lying on the ground. Dead.

  Chapter 14

  Last Chances

  Bael

  Bael stood above Belze, staring. Belze was curled in a ball at his feet, moaning in pain. His skin had already begun to heal in spots. Really, Bael didn’t understand what the big deal was. Jasmine filleted his skin. Who cared? It would mend, although it would always be scarred. Tears leaked from the corners of Belze’s eyes. Bael hadn’t known a demon could cry. Wasn’t that kind of an oxymoron?

  Jasmine had humiliated them. Especially
him. The blame couldn’t fall on his demon army. No, it was completely on his shoulders. He’d underestimated her and he shouldn’t have. Her power was like nothing he’d ever seen. But if he could capture her, make her do his bidding…well, this war would be over before it began.

  The sound of Belze’s skin hissing drew his attention back to the demon. His hair, once red and bushy, was now singed and blackened at the tips. As pathetic as he looked, Bael didn’t feel sorry for him. Quite the opposite. Perhaps this would finally make the awkward demon stronger. Belze was Bael’s second-in-command, but his strength was somewhat lacking. Belze wasn’t smart, or cunning, or really any help at all. Why had he made him his second? Bael smiled to himself. Because he’s easy to control, and will never try to usurp me.

  Bael widened his stance and stepped over Belze, who groaned as Bael stepped on his hand. Oops.

  “Get up,” Bael ordered. “You look pathetic.”

  “I d-don’t th-think I c-can,” Belze replied, his bottom lip trembling.

  Belze looked more like a scared teenage boy than a demon. Freckles lined his rosy red cheeks, his skin pale with no marks. He was short and very thin. His biceps had muscles, but his legs looked like toothpicks.

  “You will get up. You will not be a coward. A little pain never hurt anyone.” Or did it? He’d been second in the chain of command for so long; pain had become a distant memory. Although, he’d felt plenty of it as he had worked his way through the rankings. Lucifer used to hold competitions, sort of like cage fights, but the only way to win was by ripping the opponent’s head off. Killing a demon. He could still hear Lucifer’s cackling every time he’d won a fight.

  Belze rolled over, scooted back, and slowly sat up. When he stood, he stumbled forward into Bael, then backed up quickly and almost tumbled down again, but somehow stayed on his feet. “I-I’m sorry, M-master.”

  Bael brushed the front of his shirt with the backside of his hand. “I need you to find the girl who did this to you. Jasmine.” Bael moved forward and leaned down so he was eye-level with the smaller demon. “You must find her. Bring her to me, and I promise you will get a taste of revenge.”

  Belze’s eyes pulsed red hot, giving Bael a glimpse of a real demon. Until he said, “Wh-what kind of r-revenge?”

  “Must I spell everything out for you? Are you that much of a moron?” Bael roared.

  Belze flinched and bowed his head. “Forget I a-asked. I am sure I w-will be able to f-find something that suits the s-situation.”

  The flapping of large wings above him rustled his hair. Bael smiled. “And there is your healer. Come to save the day.”

  “My h-healer? W-why would you get a h-healer for me?”

  Bael moved his face into Belze’s and sneered. “Because you have a mission. I need you at your best. That way, when you fail, you won’t have any excuses for your incompetence.”

  “Bael. So good to see you,” a woman said.

  “And you.” He gazed at the beauty before him. “Heal him. Please.”

  Her laughter was like flowers blooming. “You said please. That’s progress.”

  “Belze, when you are healed, find Jasmine and bring her here. Do not kill her.”

  Belze nodded. “O-okay. I w-will not f-fail.”

  “I hope not, because this is your last chance.” Bael walked away, leaving the woman alone with Belze. A strange sensation flitted through his stomach at the thought, but he shrugged it off as nothing important.

  Bael found a tree stump near a grove of tall trees. He sat on it, looking up at the sky. The angels were up there right now, trying to put Heaven back together. It had been all but destroyed in the battle of good versus evil. Bael laughed out loud, probably longer than he should have. People used to say evil never wins. Ha. If only those people were still alive, so he could show them exactly how well evil could do for themselves.

  Static filled his mind, a connection being established. “Bael. What’s this about evil never wins?”

  Lucifer always popped up at the most inopportune times. And, of course, he could hear every single thought floating around Bael’s mind. He wiped his slate clean, hoping that was all Lucifer had seen.

  “Lucifer. How are things in Hell?”

  “Hot,” Lucifer sneered. “But manageable. I do see you’ve been busy there.”

  Bael nodded, even though Lucifer couldn’t see him. “Yes. We have.”

  “My walls have started to fall, but not enough. You need to spill more blood.”

  “Yes. We will continue our attacks. We’ve only attacked one town, and there are plenty more to choose from.”

  “Good. You must keep the momentum strong. The bloodier the kills, the better.” Lucifer paused. “Any other news?”

  “Yes. I have found an Angel Blessed.”

  “That was easy. Do you have her, then?”

  “Not exactly. She slipped from our grasp. Her power is impenetrable when active.”

  “Then you know what you must do,” Lucifer said smoothly.

  “What must I do?”

  Bael hated when Lucifer did this. He turned everything into a game of sorts. A way of ensuring his demons were subservient. But Bael was tired of playing along.

  “You don’t like my games?” Lucifer laughed, long and hard. “Too bad. You will play them as long as I want you to. Now, you must make sure the Angel Blessed cannot use their powers. Find the source of release for them and block it.”

  Bael rolled his eyes. “Actually, I’ve sent Belze to capture Jasmine.” Bael bit his lip to stop himself from laughing.

  “You haven’t killed that mongrel yet?”

  “No, I haven’t,” Bael mind whispered.

  “It sounds like you have everything under control.” Lucifer growled.

  Bael couldn’t help feeling like Lucifer was somehow mocking him.

  “One more thing, Bael. Remember, if you fail in your task, you fail me. And that isn’t a place you want to be.”

  Bael had no time to answer. The connection was severed as fast as it had been established. Lucifer always had to have the last word. This time was no exception.

  Bael looked to his feet. He’d been pacing the whole conversation with Lucifer and worn the grass down to the dirt below. In Hell, if he had tried to stomp around, jagged pieces would cut into his feet, but here it was soft. Almost mushy.

  Without thinking, Bael followed the path to where he’d left Belze. The demon was gone, as was the woman. But another demon lingered there, searching the ground for something.

  “Moloch. What is it you’re looking for?”

  Moloch jumped and turned around, but his face remained emotionless. “There are gold flecks on the ground.”

  “So there are. What do they mean to you?”

  Moloch shrugged. “Nothing.”

  Bael curled his top lip up. “Do you feel like taking a walk?”

  “If you’d like the company.”

  “I would. Come. Let us go make sure our friend doesn’t fail at his task.”

  Moloch sidled over to Bael’s side and nodded. Together, they followed the golden flecks on the ground, leading straight to Belze.

  Chapter 15

  Learning the Basics

  Amon

  Amon walked a circle around Jasmine, who sat cross-legged on the grass staring at the ground. He had no idea where to start with their training. After the demons attacked the other night, Jasmine had remained very quiet, keeping mostly to herself. Amon didn’t know what to say to her to make the smile return to her face, but he had to start somewhere. The time had come to stop being a coward.

  “Jasmine,” he said softly. Her big coffee-brown eyes met his own, making Amon take a deep breath.

  “Hmm?”

  “It is time to start our training session now. Are you ready?” Amon asked hesitantly.

  Jasmine shrugged. “I guess. If that’s what you want to do.” Her eyes fell to the ground again as she ran her hands over the tips of the grass.

  What cou
ld he say to make her eyes light up with laughter? His brain seemed to be on vacation, leaving him stranded to come up with some ideas all on his own.

  Amon dropped to his knees in front of her, grasping her shoulders. “I understand you’ve gone through a terrible loss and the last thing you want to do is train—”

  “Actually,” she said, wiggling her shoulders so his hands fell away, “that’s kind of exactly what I want to do, boss. That way, the next time I see demons, I can fry their asses.”

  Amon leaned forward. “Revenge is a powerful motivator. But it can also lead to ignorant choices.”

  Jasmine’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Are you calling me ignorant?”

  Amon smirked at her, hoping to diffuse the situation. “Not at all. I’m merely suggesting that you don’t leap before you look. In order to be effective, you must learn how to use your power. How long does it last before taking a toll on your body? What are its limitations? Strengths? There are so many things you need to know before you can be completely in control.”

  Jasmine nodded.

  “And in order to do that, we must find a place where it isn’t dangerous to throw your fire around,” Amon said as he focused on the woods. “How about over there?”

  “Yeah, I mean, it’s only woods in there. No houses around or anything. It should be safe,” Jasmine said, standing. “I’ll lead the way.”

  Amon followed her as she sped through the open fence at the side of the house. He wasn’t sure why she felt the need to walk so fast, but his legs were longer than hers so he caught up to her quickly. They entered the woods together, side by side, but didn’t stay that way for long. The trees had started out far apart, but as they proceeded deeper into the wooded area, the trees grew thicker and less spread out. Soon, Amon fell behind Jasmine, his steps more careful than before. Branches snapped underneath him, causing his ankles to roll, but he quickly righted himself and continued.

 
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