Above the flames the fla.., p.6
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.6

           Cassandra Fear

  Doc lifted the needle.

  “For God’s sake, at least use a different needle. That one’s not sterile,” Jasmine said, louder than intended.

  Doc met her eyes, trying to reassure her, but they widened with fear. Sweat dripped from her brow and she wiped her forehead with the back of her arm. She’s terrified. She doesn’t want to be here. I bet neither of them does.

  “Please. Don’t do this,” Jasmine pleaded.

  “I’m sorry. I don’t have a choice here. He’ll kill me, and my family,” Doc whispered.

  Jasmine steeled her resolve. She wouldn’t be the reason a family was harmed. Not today. Not ever. “Okay, just do it quick. I can handle it. But please, don’t miss the vein.”

  Doc smiled, and Jasmine braced herself.

  “Relax a little or it’s going to hurt,” Grizzles’ deep voice boomed behind her, and Jasmine jumped, but then she loosened her tense muscles.

  The needle slid in and was relatively painless after the initial pinch. Jasmine looked the other way, making sure she didn’t see her own blood leaving her body. She was pretty sure that was what made her faint every time, but she couldn’t be completely sure. It seemed like it took forever, but it was probably only a minute or two, and she was done.

  “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Doc asked.

  Jasmine shook her head. “No, not bad at all. Thanks.”

  “Isn’t this just precious. Doc and Jasmine have bonded.”

  Doc spun around, her legs wobbly. “No, I haven’t—”

  “Remember Doc, I can kill your family with one slice of my claw. It will do you good to remember that.”

  “Yes, Master Bael. I will not disappoint you.” Doc turned back and gave Jasmine a defeated look before wheeling the cart out. Grizzles released her and followed after Doc, leaving Bael, who didn’t follow.

  He stared at Jasmine with intensity, as if he could get every answer to every question he had just by looking. Jasmine narrowed her eyes, refusing to look weak again. It was important to stay as strong as she could.

  After a few moments, Bael left the room, and Jasmine released a long, shuddery breath.

  “I didn’t think he’d ever leave,” Cole said. “He sure was interested in you, Jasmine.”

  “He was—er, is. He is interested in me, and I can’t change that. Even if I wanted to.” Her voice came out more breathless than she wanted. It was impossible to breathe down in the musty basement.

  After a few moments of silence, Jasmine found Cole, his eyes watching her with concern. “Anything I can do to help?”

  Jasmine shook her head. “This isn’t going to end well for us, is it?”

  She’d hoped that Cole would have something insightful to say. Since he had visions, maybe he’d seen something.

  “Probably not,” he said.

  Every ounce of hope Jasmine had tried to hold on to about getting free escaped from her body, the thick air swallowing it in one mouthful. There has to be a way out.

  But she knew deep down that there wasn’t. She would die here, in this basement. Or she would wish she was dead. Probably the latter.

  Chapter 6


  Eventually, Jasmine slept. Fear-driven dreams of demons and death plagued her. When she opened her blurry eyes, she looked around, wondering how much time had passed. Hours? Days? Not knowing drove her crazy, so she tried not to think about it. Instead, she shut her eyelids and rested, even though she didn’t fall asleep.

  She didn’t open her eyes again until she heard the sound of shuffling footsteps. A tall, red-eyed demon carried a woman into the room. Jasmine stiffened as his eyes landed on her. She met his gaze with a slight lift of her chin. A brief moment passed, and then he dropped his gaze, carrying a ginger-haired girl to the chain directly across from Jasmine. Thick cuffs were snapped around her wrists, then he turned and left the room without a word. The girl’s eyes remained closed.

  “Is she dead?” Cole asked.

  “No, they wouldn’t bring a dead girl here. What would be the point of that?” Jasmine answered with an irritated tone. Cole must have had a “duh” moment.

  “Good point,” he said.

  A few minutes passed, and Doc entered the room, followed by Grizzles and Bael. She wheeled her cart in again, setting up in front of the new girl.

  “What did you do to her, Bael?” Jasmine asked.

  Bael smiled, but didn’t answer.

  Grizzles held the girl while Doc took her blood, and Jasmine found herself mesmerized by the process. It was funny, if she watched her own blood leaving her body, she would faint, but she could watch someone else’s and be fine. It made no sense.

  When they were finished, Doc left. Bael hung back and whispered something to Grizzles, who nodded. Then Bael left too, leaving Grizzles behind.

  “So I guess we’ve got a guard now,” Jasmine said.

  “Looks like it,” Grizzles said.

  Jasmine leaned back against the wall, her eyes on the ceiling. She couldn’t break her chains, that much she knew. So how could she get free? Doc had looked terrified as she was taking Jasmine’s blood earlier. Obviously she didn’t want to be here, so Bael was forcing her in some way. Maybe Grizzles was being forced to be here too.

  “So, how do you like working for the demons?” she asked.

  Grizzles pressed his lips together and looked the other way.

  Guess he doesn’t want to talk. Go figure.

  She focused on Cole, but he had his eyes closed. Jasmine had a feeling he wasn’t sleeping, since he was just talking, but in case he was she didn’t want to bother him. She tapped her finger on the floor, causing her chains to rattle.

  “Can you stop with the noise?” Grizzles asked.

  “Why? Is it bothering you?” Jasmine snickered, finding it funny that Grizzles was bothered by a small noise, but was perfectly fine working for demons.

  “As a matter of fact, it is. So how about you knock it off.”

  “Listen, I know you don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here either. So why don’t you do us both a favor and let us go. We’ll take you with us. Keep you safe.”

  “It’s too late for that. As much as I’d like to help you…it’s just too late.”

  “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Jasmine said.

  Grizzles stared hard at Jasmine. He placed his thumb under his chin, his index finger over his mustache. When he dropped his hand to his side and opened his mouth, Jasmine leaned forward as much as she could, as if she was about to hear something pleasing.

  “Where am I?” a drowsy, feminine voice asked, drawing Jasmine’s gaze away. “Oh my God. What the hell? Why am I chained in a basement? Seriously freaking out over here.”

  “Calm down. It’s okay. I’m Jasmine. Cole’s across from us, over on that wall.” She pointed as the girl looked at her. “We’re all in the same boat.”

  “I’m Gemma.” Her eyes widened as she found Grizzles in the middle of the room. “Who are you?”

  “He’s our guard. To make sure we stay put,” Jasmine said. “I call him Grizzles.”

  “Grizzles? Really? Why?” Grizzles’ eyebrows scrunched together.

  Jasmine grinned. “It’s fitting. You’re a big guy, reminding me of a bear. Of the stuffed variety, that is. Tough on the outside, but nice and friendly inside. You are definitely great at holding conversations!”

  Grizzles rolled his eyes.

  “Why are we here?” the girl asked.

  Jasmine shrugged. “Ask him.” If she could make Grizzles talk, maybe he would give some information away.

  Gemma fixed a pointed stare at Grizzles, but he just looked away. Again. Coward.

  “Bael told us he wants our powers for his army. Not sure why. I mean, it’s not like I know how to use mine. They pretty much do whatever they want to do. And Cole said he’s not real good with his either,” Jasmine said.

  “So you guys have powers too?” Gemma asked.

  Jasmine nodded. “Yup
. Sure do.”

  “Cool. I didn’t think there was anyone else out there like me.”

  “Well, there’s two more right here just like you,” Cole chimed in. I knew he wasn’t sleeping.

  “Didn’t realize you were awake. Gemma, meet Cole.”

  Gemma looked down. Her long hair fell forward, and she used it to hide behind as she said, “Hey. Nice to meet you.”

  Everyone fell silent after that. Gemma had no more questions, or at least if she did, she didn’t have the courage to ask them. Jasmine stretched her arms over her head as much as she was able, and then stood up. The chains gave her enough room to move a few steps, but that was it. So she tried to move her leg muscles around, which were a bit achy from being in the same spot for so long. The chains dragged across the floor, a sound that belonged on a spooky effects CD for Halloween haunting the room. Jasmine flinched. Something to make things even creepier. As if it’s not creepy enough.

  Out of nowhere, Bael sauntered into the room, his gaze roaming over Jasmine, then Cole, but stopping when he reached Gemma. “Oh, goody. You’re awake!” He crouched in front of her. “So nice that you have come to visit.”

  Gemma’s bright green eyes widened, a look filled with fear on her face. She tried to mask it, but only managed to make it worse.

  Jasmine had to step in. “She didn’t come to visit you, ass-hat. You kidnapped her, just like you did to us.”

  Bael seemed to roll his head around, as slowly as a snail crawling along the side of a fish tank. His eyes narrowed to slits. “I don’t believe I asked your opinion, did I? Maybe you need an incentive to remember who is in charge here.”

  Jasmine blinked. That was all the time it took for Bael to be in her space. His elbow pushed against her chest, making her back slam into the wall.

  “Ow. Get off me!” She shoved back with all the strength she could muster. “You’re hurting me.”

  His face moved so close she could feel his hot breath on her face. “Good,” he whispered. Then he pressed harder.

  She wiggled against his hold, but he didn’t budge. Her strength was nothing compared to his. “I said. Let. Me. Go,” she said through clenched teeth.

  Bael moved his arm up to her neck and applied more pressure, cutting off her airway. “Do you want to die, Jasmine?”

  Not able to speak, Jasmine shook her head frantically, tears sliding down her cheeks. She didn’t want to die. Her mouth just didn’t know when to stop talking sometimes. Okay, all the time. There was a thin line separating the need to be brave and stupidity. Unfortunately, the latter category was winning.

  Something crashed above them, like a plate dropping to the floor, shattering into a thousand shards of porcelain. Bael disappeared as quickly as he’d come. Grizzles stood, started to follow, but thought better of it. He sat back down and shrugged as Jasmine gazed over at him.

  Her heart raced and her mind went into overdrive as she thought about what could have happened. A loud thump reverberated, then another.

  “Somebody’s fighting up there from the sounds of it,” Cole said.

  But who?

  “Aren’t you gonna go help them, Grizzles?” Jasmine asked.

  His answer was silence. Yet again. Just as Jasmine gave up on him speaking, he mumbled, “I hope whoever it is kills him.”

  Jasmine focused on Grizzles, more so than she had before. He had dark circles under his eyes and a frown on his face. His hands were wrapped around his stomach as he rocked back and forth. He doesn’t want to be here either. The demons are forcing him.

  “We can help you, you know. Bael wants us because of how powerful we are. If you help us get out of here, we can protect you,” Jasmine said.

  “Nobody can protect me. It’s too late.”

  “That’s not true.” Gemma’s voice was soft and gentle, her eyes full of concern as she caught sight of Grizzles.

  Grizzles bit his lip. “There’s nothing I can do to get you out of here.”

  “Do you have a key?” Cole asked, standing up.

  Grizzles nodded. “It’s only for emergencies. In case someone finds you guys. Then I am in charge of getting you out of here and hiding you until Bael comes.”

  “I’d say this is an emergency,” Jasmine said. The noises grew louder above them. “Do you hear that? There’s more than one person fighting up there. It has to be our rescue party. Best to get us hidden, don’t you think?”

  Grizzles smiled. “I like your way of thinking, kid.”

  “I have my moments.” Jasmine laughed. “Now hurry up!”

  Grizzles hopped to his feet much more gracefully than Jasmine would have imagined for such a big guy. He ran over to her, even though he only had to take about three steps. The room wasn’t that big. He lifted the keys from his jeans pocket and pulled her wrists up.

  “She’s downstairs, guys. Hurry!” someone yelled.

  And just like that, Amon strode through the doorway in all his tall glory. His eyes seemed to smile at her mockingly as he took in Grizzles and the keys in his hand. “Looks like you were on your own rescue mission.”

  “I don’t need rescuing. I know how to take care of myself,” Jasmine responded.

  “I am going to beg to differ on that one, but only because you’re still a child.” Amon rushed forward and turned to Grizzles. “Which key?”

  With shaky hands, Grizzles grabbed a key and held it out to Amon. He snatched it, popped it in the keyhole, and the cuffs sprung free.

  Jasmine rubbed her wrists.

  “Why didn’t you use your power?” Amon raised his golden eyebrows. “Don’t you think they might have come in handy?”

  “Who are you to tell me what to do?” Her face heated.

  He grinned, and then went to Cole. “Friend or foe?”

  “Friend,” Cole said.

  “I’m a friend too. Can you get me out of here?” Gemma’s words were fast paced and loud, but still soft in comparison to Amon’s deep baritone.

  “I will. As soon as I’m done here,” Amon said.

  Cole’s cuffs dropped, clinking against the floor.

  Next was Gemma, and when she was free, Amon gestured for all of them to follow.

  “Wait a second. How do you expect to get us out of here?” Jasmine asked. “Did you forget about Bael?”

  “I don’t forget. Ever,” he said.

  That’s it? He says he doesn’t forget and that’s supposed to explain everything?

  Jasmine pressed her lips together tightly. Inside she listed every synonym she knew for hatred, since it bubbled inside her like a pot of water on a stove. Outside, though, she remained as cool as a bucket of ice.

  They climbed the stairs and continued down a narrow hallway which led to a spacious room with a glass case in the corner, filled with knick-knacks. Pictures of two children hung on the rose-colored walls. Jasmine halted, squinting up at a picture of a family. The woman crouched down in front of two children and a very handsome man looked very familiar.

  “Is this…” Jasmine couldn’t finish.

  Grizzles appeared beside her and nodded. “This is Doc’s house. And that’s her family.” He cleared his throat. “Come on. The door’s over there, and the others already went through it.”

  “Did she get out?” Jasmine asked.

  “Not sure, but I know I’m going to.” Grizzles left, leaving Jasmine to stare at the photo alone. Her feet felt rooted to the spot as she looked at the woman. She looked so happy in this picture. Her family seemed to shine in the sunlight as they stood in front of an ocean.

  “She looks happy, doesn’t she?” a silky voice said.

  Jasmine recognized the voice instantly and tried to run, but his hands grabbed her shoulders, spun her around, and slammed her back against the wall with so much force the plaster cracked. Instant pain attacked every nerve in her shoulder. She groaned loudly, then screamed as she stared into the demon’s face. The same one that killed her father two years ago.

  “You were dead…”

“Or so you thought.” He smiled. “Obviously, you were wrong. And now you’re all alone. Because you couldn’t follow orders.” He smelled of blood and sulfur as he leaned his chest against her face and gathered her hands behind her back. He held them at the wrist. “Just in case you feel like trying your little power out again.”

  Jasmine gasped for breath. “They’ll come back. You need to let me go, or you’ll die.”

  “You’ve already killed me, or didn’t you know?” He leaned back. “Take a good look at your handiwork.” There were only a few patches of his dark demon skin left. It had all been replaced with crispy fried demon.

  “Good. You deserve everything you got. You killed my father!” she screamed.

  “And now I’ll kill you.”

  He backhanded her, and she flew to the floor on the other side of the room. The back of her head cracked against the corner of the glass case and instantly she saw stars. Her eyelids snapped shut, and she forced them open to see him getting closer, but then everything grew dark. When she opened her eyes again, he was right in front of her.

  The demon balled the front of her shirt into his fist and yanked her to her feet. Everything was a blob as she tried desperately to focus her eyes. If only there was a knob like a telescope would have. It would make it so much easier.

  “Just leave me alone,” she muttered.

  “Let me think about it.” He paused and looked up, then held eye contact with her again. “I considered your offer and have decided to decline.”

  With a closed fist, he punched her straight in her jaw. Jasmine tasted blood. He punched her again, but this time on her nose. She moaned loudly, but couldn’t muster the strength to talk.

  The demon’s eyes widened as he went airborne. Without him to hold her in place, Jasmine fell to the ground. Tears leaked from her eyes and pain lanced every orifice of her body. She attempted to look up, but her focus was blurry and she couldn’t make anything out.

  Her power was there, coaxing her, whispering to her, but she couldn’t let it free. Couldn’t find the strength to pull it out. She had no focus right now to do anything. Keeping her eyes open had become difficult, so she let them fall shut, then opened them as strong arms lifted her.

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