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Paranormal hunter box se.., p.19
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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.19

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Raziel raised an arm, encompassing the space between them and the castle. “After you.”

  Sonnet just shrugged. “It’s not like I have anywhere else to go.”

  Chapter Two

  In a state of shock, Sonnet entered the Gothic castle through a set of massive double doors. Her mind was reeling; she hadn’t expected her absentee sperm donor to invite her into his home for a pleasant chat.

  The moment the doors had shut behind her, her common sense screamed: Turn around and run—you’ve been lured to your death! But where could she go? Outside the castle gates lay vast wastelands teaming with drakes and God only knew what else. At least here she had her brother, Remy, by her side. That had to count for something…right? She couldn’t care less where Spiros had run off to after he’d entered the castle only seconds before everyone else.

  “Sire, welcome home, your dinner is prepared and your guests are waiting for you in the banquet hall,” a very large Colossal demon informed Raziel as they entered the foyer.

  “Very good, Kian. My family and I will be in shortly. Please keep my guests entertained and well fed until I can join them.”

  Kian bowed his head, long, electric-blue hair slipping over his shoulder. “As you command,” he said in a rich European accent, and walked away.

  “Show your sister to Leighn’s chamber. She can freshen up there.” He looked her over briefly. “Your cousin’s wardrobe should fit her quite nicely.”

  Remy nodded and Raziel walked away.

  “Leighn’s room is this way.” Remy gestured toward a grand staircase to their left.

  Sonnet’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets over the opulent marble balustrade, the exquisite paintings on the wall, and the gleaming crystal chandelier that hung like a brilliant star over the entrance hall. The interior of the castle was extravagant, unlike the exterior badlands it sat upon.

  As they walked up the stairs, Sonnet trailed a hand across the railing: cool, smooth, it felt luxurious to the touch.

  Her brows pulled together curiously. “I thought you were the demon king now? Why did the giant address your father as the lord of the house, instead of you?”

  He shrugged indifferently. “He’s the elder demon and the head of this family. Titles are all but meaningless within the castle walls. Here, he will always be king. Until his death, that is.”

  That made her a bit fearful. She was counting on Remy for protection, after all. So she decided to ask, “Is our father more powerful than you are?”

  He shook his head. “No.”

  She watched her brother with interest as they reached the top of the stairs. With a confident gate, he veered off to the left to continue walking down a wide hallway that had gold, ornate framed doors to their right. In wonderment of her surroundings, she trailed him, barely paying attention to her hunter instincts, which were going haywire in the presence of so much supernatural activity.

  Remy stopped in front of the only room that had double doors. She noticed that there was more wall space to each side of these doors than between the other rooms. This room was of greater size, she swiftly deduced. Cousin Leighn had to be a cherished member of the royal family to be given such a boon.

  Sonnet’s thoughts traveled back to her small but cozy room at the Vales’s house. There hadn’t been much love inside her adopted parents’ house, but there, she’d finally found a space within her very own four walls to do with as she pleased.

  Remy pushed open the doors and hurried through, making his way across the plush carpet, he stopped on the other side of the massive room in front of another set of double doors. Those ones were smaller, but more elegant, with their pink, whimsical frame and mirrored fronts that reminded Sonnet of Alice and her Wonderland.

  Gobs of clothes hung color-coordinated within the closet, with tons of drawer and cabinet space. An island sat prominently in the middle, easily the showpiece of the closet’s breathtaking design.

  “Do you see anything you like?”

  She shrugged indifferently, although she saw a few things she wouldn’t mind trying on. “I’m sure I can manage to put something together.” A red, thigh-length dress with a low back caught her eye. “That one will do.” She pointed at the dress and her brother stripped it from the hanger.

  He looked down at her boots and grimaced before reaching over to pluck a pair of red pumps, the same shade as the dress, from the closet’s shoe carousel and handed the outfit over before closing the doors. He pointed to the far side of the room.

  “The shower is behind that door. When you’ve finished dressing, I’ll be just down the hall, three doors over. We’ll go to dinner together.”

  Her stomach growled at the thought of food.

  Sonnet nodded and then strode across a plush pink and black area rug, past a very comfortable-looking bed, until she reached the door her brother had pointed out. Before opening it, she took a look around, her gaze drifting to Remy, who quickly disappeared out of site.

  Once alone, she felt the weight of her situation come crashing down around her. And even though she was surrounded by splendor, it was an agitating blow.

  In a swift motion, she opened the door. And wouldn’t you know it? Leighn’s bathroom was even grander than her closet.

  Sonnet cleared her throat, “A regular garden of Eden…”

  Of course, she’d never had anything so opulent, but she was okay with that. A roof over her head, clothes on her back, and a warm meal was all she could ever hope for. So there was no way she was jealous of her demon cousin. Not even a little bit…

  Chapter Three

  Before leading her inside the dining room, Remy took Sonnet’s hand and thread her arm through his.

  That’s when she felt it…a searing jolt of awareness that alluded to a creature with incredible strength and power. A species of monster she’d never come across before. Possessive, dangerous, predatory, her inner instincts warned. Then she looked straight at him as she walked fully into the room.

  A well-dressed man sat tall and straight at a rectangular table situated in the middle of the dining room. He was large of stature, his bulk all muscle with no discernable body fat. His hair was wavy, past his shoulders, and as black as a raven’s wing. He watched her walk into the room, drawing her hesitant eyes to his keen emerald ones.

  There were three other guests sitting around the table. One of them was a Stratos demon, green skin, with humanoid features. Moss-colored long hair that was banded back, sharp chin, wearing a black tuxedo. Stratos demons were known for their speed and incredibly docile temperaments—which was why she thought it odd that he was yelling obscenities across the table at the other two guests, two mated werewolves.

  Sonnet pegged the couple as wolves because of her hunter instincts, and she knew they were a mated pair because of the magical energy jumping between them like Pop Rocks in Pepsi.

  Sonnet walked farther into the room. She dropped Remy’s arm and sat in an empty chair adjacent to the Stratos demon, and across the table from the wolves. The green-eyed stranger sat two chairs down, far enough away, she thought, for her to avoid his penetrating stare. She couldn’t help but wonder why his attention bothered her so much. He was damn sexy, she’d give him that. But no way in hell—pun intended— would she ever give him the time of day.

  A wave of power swept over the room, and with a surprisingly calm tone, her father spoke.

  “Let’s all calm down and enjoy our drinks.” His gaze jumped over to the female werewolf. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Letha.”

  She winked a sparkly blue eye at Raziel. “The pleasure is all mine—”

  Her reply was cut off by the sudden sound of growling.

  She covered up a cough, and then a quick smile tugged at the she-wolf’s lips. “Cut it out, Dorian. This is not the place or time for that.” Another cough, that one was deeper.

  “Are you alright, dear?” Raziel asked.

  Letha wiped at her mouth with a napkin and then quickly tucked it away.
“Sorry, the wine is a little bit strong and I’m somewhat of a light weight.”

  Dorian grunted, not looking entirely happy with her flirtatious nature.

  Besides the wolf’s act of aggression, everything settled around the table. All eyes were on Raziel. Except for the set that belonged to the dark-haired stranger, his eyes were on Sonnet.

  She squirmed a little in her seat but ignored him.

  He has some nerve, she thought. Pervert much?

  “Logan. We’ll start with you.”

  With the king’s full attention on him, the Stratos demon sat up straighter in his seat. After clearing his throat, he said, “It’s the dragons. They’re breaking border laws, terrorizing and seizing lands that aren’t their own.”

  The imposing stranger leaned forward, his expression none too happy. “He lies.”

  The king extended his arms, his hands linking on the table in front of him. He sent the dark stranger a menacing glare. “Explain yourself.”

  Listening intently, Sonnet lifted a glass of what appeared to be wine sitting in front of her and took a sip. The taste of cherry and sandalwood coated her lips and tongue…hmmm, very earthy, but good. She took another sip.

  “We’ve taken no lands or innocent lives. In fact, it is my clan that has been aggrieved; our unhatched dragonlings have been stolen from their nests. My soldiers’ only intent is to find our young and bring them home safely…by any means necessary.”

  The weariness in his voice made her feel bad for him.

  The king seemed unmoved. And after a few moments of contemplation, he said, “I think this is the perfect opportunity for my daughter to prove her worth. She will help find your dragonlings, Brecon, and in doing so, put an end to this ridiculous feud between clans, before I have to start pulling out entrails and feeding them to the royal drakes.”

  Brecon’s gaze came back to her. He didn’t smile, didn’t frown, he just stared at her blankly.

  Her eyes went wide as she wondered if she’d heard him right.

  “What the fu—?” She set the wine glass down and leaned forward for a better view of her father. “Excuse me?”

  What in the hell could she possibly do to help in this situation? She wasn’t a part of any of this—the royal politics of demon-hell. She didn’t even know what they were all going on about. Border laws and missing dragonlings; it was all a foreign language to her.

  Sonnet took another drink…

  Brecon broke his stare and then shook his head. “How will she manage that without chipping a nail?”

  ...and almost spat it back out.

  “No offense, but your daughter seems more concerned with drinking her wine than what’s going on outside the protection of the castle walls.”

  Raziel’s laugh was a low, sarcastic rumble that made her want to choke him silent. Instead, she stared daggers at Brecon. “Who in the hell do you think you are?”

  He raised his eyebrows at her. “For starters, not a spoiled and pampered brat.”

  Sonnet’s fingers trembled with anger as she pushed her glass of wine farther away, just to insure she wouldn’t wind up throwing the damn thing across the table at him, or even better, breaking it so she could use the jagged edges to puncture the oaf’s jugular. “You don’t know anything about me.” Her tone was a clear warning for him to shut the hell up…or else.

  His greens eyes roamed over her lavish dress and the diamond necklace, which she’d also borrowed from her cousin, draped around her neck. “I know all I need to.”

  Is that right?

  Little did the bastard know, she was suppressing the urge to reach under her dress, where she’d strapped Ruby to her inner thigh, and use the weapon to stake the life from each and every paranormal creature in that room. But lucky for them, she had a conscience, and manners. Plus, the act of staking was a hard and messy business, and she wanted to stay clean for more than two minutes, and to maybe even feel somewhat human for a change.

  She cleared her throat. “No, Raziel. I won’t be helping this asshole do anything, but thanks for offering me up like you have any say whatsoever in what I do.”

  Brecon shook his head at her and leaned back in his chair. “You dare speak to your father and king in such a manner? Tell me again how you’re not a spoiled little brat?”

  Her fist hit the top of the table, glasses tipped, silverware jumped. “How dare you!”

  “Enough!” the king bellowed. “You will do as I say!”

  The bastard had some nerve… “The hell I will!”

  Remy spoke up, a bare hint of amusement twitching his lips, which in turn made Sonnet want to punch his lights out too. “I have a proposition.”

  She swallowed a string of profanities.

  The king snorted. “Go ahead, boy, I’m listening.”

  “In return for her help, will you agree to grant Sonnet a single boon?”

  Sonnet couldn’t decide who she wanted to throttle more, her father, brother, or the arrogant dragon staring at her as if he smelled something foul.

  She shot her brother a look of caution. “Remy, I really hope you know what you’re doing.”

  He gestured for her to be silent. “Let me handle this, Sister.”

  Sister? That was the first time anyone had ever called her that. And damn if she didn’t sort of like it. She studied him for a moment and found something compelling and honest about his request that echoed through her very being, so she complied, but had to swallow a pretty massive screw you in the process. She’d trust him, for now.

  The king’s gaze roamed across the table, where Remy sat at the other end. There was wickedness about his features that suggested he was all too eager to stoke the fires of this building drama.

  Sonnet tuned out the whispers between the wolves, and the pinched look on the Stratos demons face that made him look on edge. Apparently it was a big deal to ask the demon king for a boon. Her eyes narrowed as she listened and waited for her destiny to play out.

  “Before the two of you do something you will come to regret, you should know that a deal with the demon king is a deal for your soul,” Raziel explained. “You only have one chance to rescind you request, or for Sonnet to say simply say no.”

  “Wait just a goddamn minute! No one said anything about me bargaining my soul,” Sonnet snapped.

  “Sonnet, before you say anything, you should know that it’s not your soul we’ll be using as a bargaining chip—but my own,” Remy added.

  She ground her teeth together. Nobody asked him for his help, or for him to risk his soul. She didn’t even know how this dinner had escalated to that point. Why did she need to bargain for anything? She could just tell the demon king to take his bullshit and shove it up his ass. She wasn’t beholden to him; he wasn’t her lord and master. All he was to her was a demonic sperm donor. Damn it all to hell, there had to be something she was missing.

  Raziel grinned, his dark, cold eyes dancing and pointy, white fangs showing, making him resemble the mad hatter at a Gothic tea party. “Why don’t you take the night to think about it,” he suggested. “Before you end up doing something rash…”

  Brecon pushed out of his chair and stood. “You must really be desperate if you’re willing to send a princess to her imminent death.”

  “She’s a huntress, you imbecile. She’s exactly who you’d want helping find your dragons.”

  Sonnet didn’t mean to smile when Brecon’s face went pale at Raziel’s words, but she did.

  Not to be braggadocios or anything, but she was a hunter, and a damn good one at that. And now that she was stuck in demon-hell, for god only knew how long, it wouldn’t hurt for everyone who resided there to know exactly what she was capable of.

  Pushing her hair out of her eyes, she looked at Remy. He smiled and gave her a single nod, which she took as, Give the old man what he wants. And because the trust had to start somewhere, she would do just that. But putting the show of good faith aside, Remy would still have some serious explaining to do.

nbsp; She nodded at the king. “Alright, I’ll think about it.”

  Chapter Four

  My daughter will help you find your dragonlings. She is a huntress…

  Her father’s words still rang in her ear as she rifled through Leighn’s closet in search of something appropriate to sleep in. She preferred to sleep naked, but against popular belief, it was freezing cold in hell, so she needed some layers.

  Grumbling, she pushed through a plethora of fine silk dresses and thin swaths of material her cousin called shirts, the lot of it hanging in neat rows of girly-girl splendor.

  Even now, all she’d wanted to do was leave the castle walls and run far, far away from her father and the cocky dragon. The idea of combing the wildlands of demon-hell in search of a species of creature she knew nothing about sounded like pure insanity. Frustration and anger burned within her, she really wanted to get back to Bane. She could only imagine how worried he must be about her disappearance.

  A knock came at the door. And then it opened.

  “It’s about time you got here.” Sonnet stared over at her brother, her voice laced with irritation. “Now you can tell me what all that scheming was about.”

  Remy nodded. “I suppose I do owe you an explanation.” He ran a calm hand across his stubbled chin. “And I also appreciate you trusting me back there. I know how hard that must have been for you.”

  She turned with a Victorian-style cotton nightgown in her hand. “You don’t know the half of it.”

  He looked at her, his face gentle. “I did all that to get us out of here.”

  “So we’re truly stuck here then?”

  He nodded. “The portal that brought me here has closed, its magic tapped out. So for now, we’re stuck. But I have a plan, and I’ll need your help to make it happen.”

  Sonnet tossed the nightgown on the bed and rubbed her cold hands together, creating warmth. “I’ll help.” She faced him, and paused. “So dragons are real…”

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