Above the flames the fla.., p.17
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.17

           Cassandra Fear
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  Her hands gripped the wheel and her arms shook. Amon placed his palm against her wrist. “I will keep you safe. Let’s go have a look.”

  Now that she’d arrived, all the excitement she’d had about demon hunting was gone. Replaced by a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her heart hammered in her chest as she opened the car door. It creaked, and the sound echoed down the barren streets.

  She stepped to the sidewalk. A crow cawed, and her heart slammed into her throat as she backstepped, running straight into Amon’s chest. He grabbed her shoulders and straightened her body. “Calm down,” he whispered in her ear. “And stay behind me.”

  With no other options, she followed him. She wanted to run back to the car. Wanted to hide under the dash and wait for him to return. But then that wouldn’t make her very strong. She had something to prove. She wanted the angels to know they hadn’t made a mistake in choosing her. So she lifted her chin and opened her eyes wide. She was ready.

  A soul-shattering scream caused Jasmine to tense. Amon stretched his neck, then darted forward, running so fast Jasmine couldn’t keep up. Even if she wanted to. I do want to. Legs, pump faster. She flew by an ice cream shop and a grocery store, finally catching Amon, but only because he stopped. She leaned against a telephone pole, trying to catch her breath.

  Between a bank and a lawyer’s office, there was a dark alley. Why are alleys always dark? I mean, I know it’s nighttime, but seriously. Do things have to get even creepier? As if on cue, a crow cawed again, flapping its wings so close to her head, a few strands of hair flew up. She jumped and cupped her hand over mouth to stop the scream. Is that thing following me or something?

  “Shh. They are down there,” Amon said, looking at her over his shoulder. His eyes glowed gold, and she stepped back. Amon frowned. “What’s the matter?”

  Jasmine pointed. “Y-your eyes are glowing gold.”

  The glass from the window of the bank turned into a mirror. Amon peered into it, and then raised his hands to his eyes. “I don’t believe it.”

  “What does it mean?” Jasmine asked.

  Amon whispered, “We don’t have time for this right now. I will tell you all, but later.”

  Jasmine nodded. “Okay.” Another shrill scream rendered the air. “Can you see what’s happening?” The only thing Jasmine could see was the darkness that wrapped around them. Wait. What’s that? She squinted, and at the far end of the alley, she could barely see the color red. “Are there demons down there?”

  “Yes. They are attacking a girl. They won’t kill her right away.”

  Jasmine stomach roiled. “Then let’s help her.”

  “Of course we will help her. But we should have a plan.”

  “There’s no time for a plan.”

  Amon nodded and crept forward, keeping close to the brick wall at their side. They both wore dark clothes, so that helped them blend into the night. Jasmine carefully avoided scraping her clothing against it. Any noise right now would be a bad one.

  When they approached the end of the alley, a dim light from a small streetlight lit a corner on the back wall. She focused, seeing a girl squirming against the ground, but she couldn’t see what she looked like. The girl grunted and kicked at the demons, but they kept coming, and then falling back. Taunting her.

  “I think it would be wise if you let her go.” Amon’s deep voice rumbled the walls surrounding them.

  The demons’ heads snapped up and slowly turned to the side. Their glowing eyes brightened as they moved toward Amon. She didn’t think they’d seen her, so she quickly faded behind the larger form of Amon.

  “And who are you to tell us what to do, Fallen One?” a demon sneered. “You are nothing. A waste of space. Get out of here, and maybe I’ll let you live.”

  She breathed deeply, her chest shaking, and the smell of sulfur entered her lungs. She coughed. Shit!

  The other demon’s whiny voice rang out. “Who do you have with you? A snack for us?

  Amon growled. “No, she is not a snack. And I won’t let you live,” Amon said. He leapt at the demons.

  The minute his heat left her, she called her power forth. She unlocked the box it rested in, then let it spread along her arms, her legs. It took over, warming her. When her fingertips tingled, she was ready. She looked up from her glowing blue hands and into glowing red eyes. She stumbled back, her heart racing. What am I doing?

  The demon smiled. That did it. She grabbed his skin and projected her power into him. Pushed it even harder until it leaked from her into the demon, causing him to light up like a bar sign at night. She pushed harder, stroked her power. It responded to her pleas. The demon exploded from the inside out. Balls of the demon’s glowing blue skin smacked against her face. Her arms. Thick saliva coated her mouth as the shrapnel thumped the pavement. She swallowed around the ball in her throat and looked for Amon.

  He grappled with the other demon. Small, light footsteps tapped the pavement. A gust of wind flew past her as the girl ran off. She turned back to Amon, not sure what to do. He was on the ground now, the demon pushing on top of him. She had to help him.

  Her power roared inside of her, and she welcomed it again. She stuck a hand out and stretched her finger tips. The power shot out, a sharp line of it aimed at the demon. The whole alley lit up the color of her power and her eyes widened as that thin line struck the demon, slicing right through his neck. The sizzling of his skin as it separated from his body made her stomach flip-flop. His head plopped to the ground as Amon threw his body from him. She stared, wide-eyed and open mouthed at what she’d just done. Does this mean I’m evil?

  “Amon. The girl got away,” she said, her voice monotone.

  She couldn’t blink. Her eyes were frozen open; her feet rooted into the pavement below. Amon ran past her, and she willed her legs to move. Her body to turn. But it wouldn’t listen. Instead of moving, she tucked her power away. Locked it with the key. Amon’s loud shout woke her up. She spun around and pumped her legs.

  When she rounded the end of the alley, she saw the girl. Dead. On the ground. Her throat was slit straight across. Long, deep scratches had formed on the inside of her arms. On her face. She’d been tortured. How she’d had the energy to get out of that alley, Jasmine had no clue. So many slices from a demon claw should have rendered her immobile. Her death had been painful, no doubt. And Jasmine couldn’t have saved her. No matter what she’d done.

  Shoulders slumped, she walked toward the car. “Let’s go home.”

  Amon followed. She heard his footsteps. But she didn’t turn to make sure. Just continued forward, her eyes still open and her heart bouncing at her feet.

  Chapter 20

  Right Place, Right Time


  “This night worked out better than we planned,” Bael said, brushing gold flecks from his arm as he turned to his new second, Moloch. “Don’t you think?”

  Moloch nodded his large head. “It did. Having that girl attacked worked well. We got lucky when we followed them here; it was a town we’d already attacked. But finding the girl was even luckier. What a fluke that she came back from college to visit her parents.”

  Bael laughed. “Yes, that did work out rather well too. Tonight was a success.”

  Bael strode down the sidewalk, Moloch beside him. “They make it too easy to follow them. They are oblivious.” He stopped, focusing on Moloch. He rubbed his chin. “What I don’t understand is why Amon isn’t being more cautious. He should know better.”

  “Didn’t you see his eyes?” Moloch asked.

  Bael shook his head. “No. I didn’t. Explain.”

  “They were glowing gold.”

  Bael smiled. “More good news. His emotions are out of control. He’s letting them control him. I guess some of his angel powers still remain.”

  A loud crash sounded inside the grocery store. “What is that?” Moloch asked.

  Bael had already flung the door open and moved inside. He found a boy. He’d dropped a bottle
on the ground and it had shattered. Broken glass littered the black-and-white tiled floor. When his eyes met Bael’s, he turned and ran out the back door.

  “Catch him,” Bael said, and Moloch hastened after the boy.

  Bael knew who he was. The new addition Lamia had rescued today. He had eyes everywhere, and everyone was followed at all times. He had to keep up with what was going on. He did some of the dirty work himself, but not much. His dirty work was following the girl. Jasmine.

  Moloch returned, pulling the man by his black shirt. He yanked him over to Bael, straightening his spine so his eyes gazed at Bael’s. Moloch said, “Here he is.”

  “Yes. So I see.” Bael smiled. He saw the fear from the man’s eyes as he looked at Bael’s sharp, yellow teeth. “I’m so glad you could join the party.”

  “Wh-who are y-you? You look whacked, man!” The boy’s voice cracked.

  “I am Bael. A demon. Second to the Devil himself. And I have a proposal for you.”

  Bael almost laughed as the man jutted his chin out. “What is your proposal?”

  Bael leaned his face into the man’s. “I want you to spy on Jasmine and the fallen ones. I want to know their every move.”

  The man shook his head. “Nah, man. I’m not really into that kind of crazy stuff. Plus, Jasmine’s, like, the love of my life. No way I’m gonna hurt her.”

  Bael growled and the man flinched. “You will do as I ask, or I will kill you.” He held a finger out and extended his claw. A drop of poison glistened in the lighting of the store. “One slice with this and you will wish you were dead, until you actually are. Demon poison is a torture unlike any you’ve ever experienced. And it will kill you, but not for a long time. And with a lot of pain.”

  The man gulped. “All right, man. I’ll do what you ask. But you aren’t gonna, like, hurt her, are you?”

  “Oh, no. I have much bigger plans for Jasmine. I want her alive. I will use her as a crutch. You see, the angels are plotting something. I know they are. And if I have Jasmine, then they will barter with me to have her released unharmed. They will be in the palm of my hand then.”

  “That’s the only thing you want her for?” the man asked, one eyebrow raised.

  “Oh, yes. That is all.” Of course it isn’t. She will end the demon race forever. Her power will destroy us all. Unless I can turn her to our side, that is. Then she will end the humans’ lives.

  “All right. Where can I meet up with you?”

  “There’s a house right across the street from where you are staying. You will meet me there every evening. Tell them you are taking your walk. It’s a tradition you had with your parents, who are dead. You want to feel close to them. So take that walk, and once you are out of view meet me at the back door of that house.”

  The man nodded. “Okay. Can you let me go?”

  “Of course.” Bael nodded to Moloch and the demon let go of the shirt he held. “Don’t fail me.”

  “I won’t,” the man said, walking toward the front door.

  “Oh. Boy. One more question. Why are you here?”

  The man looked at the ground, and then raised his gaze. “My name is Bub. And I was following Jasmine and Amon. There’s something I don’t like about that guy.”

  Bael waved at him. “Now shoo.”

  He scattered out the door and into the darkness. Bael turned to Moloch. “Interesting. Things keep going our way, don’t they?”

  Moloch nodded. “Like clockwork.”

  They disappeared from the store and blended into the darkness, heading back to their new house.

  Chapter 21

  A Man Thing


  Amon bent at the waist, leaning down to touch his toes. He wanted to focus on some different training today since Jasmine had learned a lot about controlling her power. Now it was time to learn how to fight, and as much as she hated it, she needed to run. Both were vital to survival.

  The back door slammed and he looked up. Jasmine bounced across the grass. She met his eyes and then quickly dropped her gaze, a shy smile peeking from the corners of her mouth. When she stood beside him, she asked, “You ready to train?”

  Amon nodded. “We won’t be working with your power today though.”

  “Why not?” Jasmine asked, the bottom of her lip sticking out.

  Amon put his hands in his pockets. “Because you have learned a lot about your power and how to control it already. It’s time to learn how to fight.”

  Jasmine rolled her eyes. “Is there running involved.”

  Amon tilted his chin down and peered at her. “What do you think?”

  She beamed at him. “Guess that’s a yes. Fan-fricking-tastic.”

  Amon guided Jasmine through some stretches, and they ran side by side, a comfortable silence encompassing them. The strong breeze blew Jasmine’s vanilla scent to him and he breathed it all in. He still couldn’t believe he was on actual land, underneath the real sun again. The problem was, as happy as it made him, he couldn’t let himself surrender to the feeling. The reason he’d arrived here crushed every bit of excitement this world brought. Demons were probably killing people right now, as he ran around a fenced-in yard with a beautiful woman, who happened to be an Angel Blessed. But they needed to get out there and fight back. Hopefully the angels had a plan to get rid of the demons. He’d just have to ask Evangeline when she came back. If she came back.

  “Can we stop now,” Jasmine asked, panting. To her credit, she didn’t stop. Even though she was tired, she kept going. Finally, she was learning.

  They’d run around the yard at least five times, so he nodded and went to a chair closer to the house. Jasmine followed him, sitting in the one right next to him.

  “You seem lost in thought today,” Jasmine said. “Is it the girl who died yesterday that’s bothering you?”

  Amon frowned. “No, although that should be bothering me. The truth is I haven’t even thought of her. I’ve been thinking about Evangeline, and wondering if the angels have a plan.”

  Jasmine leaned closer. “I’m sure they have a plan. They have to. I mean, they are angels. And they planned on making humans Angel Blessed long before they were actually defeated by the demons. They seem like a group that likes to get their ducks in a row, ya know?”

  “Why would they want to make ducks walk in a row?”

  Jasmine laughed. “It’s just another saying. Like they want everything in place before something happens.”

  “Ah. That makes much more sense. Why didn’t you just say that?” Amon asked, trying to stifle his grin.

  Jasmine shrugged, and again that same comfortable silence stretched around them. Amon leaned back in the chair, stretching his long legs out. His hands went behind his head, and he closed his eyes, letting the sun soak his skin with warmth.

  “I thought we were going to fight—”

  Amon held a hand up and without opening his eyes said, “Shhh.”

  There were very few moments in his life where he ever felt so much peace, and he intended to take advantage of this one. At least for a couple of minutes.

  The door slammed again, and his moment was stolen as his eyes jerked open.

  “Hey, guys,” Gemma said.

  “Gem. Where have you been?” Jasmine asked.

  “Just training with Azzy, mostly. But we’ve been going out, searching for wounded animals and things like that to practice my healing. Sorry I haven’t been around much.”

  Amon motioned to the chair across from them. “Why don’t you have a seat?”

  Gemma bit her bottom lip. “Sorry. Can’t. I was just looking for you to let you know when we went out hunting earlier, we didn’t find any demons. That’s two days in a row we haven’t found any. Where could they be?”

  Amon shrugged. “I don’t know, Gemma. But we will find them.” He paused. “Have you seen Evangeline by chance?”

  “The angel?”

  Amon nodded.

  “No, not since last night when you introduced us.”
  “Where is everyone else?” Jasmine asked.

  “Not sure, but I saw Beau and Lamia in the living room, watching TV together,” Gemma said quietly.

  “Shouldn’t they be training?” Jasmine asked.

  Gemma shrugged.

  “They should be training. Especially Beau. He’s got nothing to help him, nothing extra that makes him stronger. He is only human.” Amon stood. “Perhaps I should give them some incentive.”

  “I’ll go with you,” Jasmine said.

  Gemma smiled. “Well, I’m going to find Azzy. We will probably head out again for a little while.”

  Amon turned to Gemma and softened the features of his face. “Thank you for all of your hard work, Gemma. It is much appreciated.”

  Gemma’s cheeks turned pink. “Don’t mention it, Amon. See ya later.” And she disappeared around the side of the house.

  Once inside, Amon marched to the living room. Beau leaned up against the arm of the couch, and Lamia was leaning back into him. Beau’s arms were draped around her shoulder. Amon stopped in the doorway, his mouth falling open.

  “What the hell is going on in here?” Jasmine asked, her voice rough.

  Beau’s head shot around and he shrugged Lamia off of him. “Nothing. Just watching TV.”

  A satisfactory grin spread across Lamia’s face.

  “That’s not what it looks like to me,” Jasmine said. There was hurt in the tone of her voice. Amon glanced at her, and her eyes were watery.

  “Lamia, a word. Please,” Amon said, his voice commanding.

  Lamia got up and sauntered across the room. Amon grasped her arm and pulled her into the kitchen. Then he faced her. “What are you playing at?”

  Lamia blinked seductively. “Nothing. We decided to take a break from training. It’s such boring business, you know?” She circled Amon, sliding her palm across his back until she stood in front of him again.

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