The demon in me, p.1
The Demon in Me,
Table of Contents
“You can hear everything I’m saying?” He sounded surprised.
Eden swallowed hard. “Of course I can.”
“It’s just that others… some haven’t been able to hear me at all. And the ones who can don’t hear everything.”
She curled her hand around the baseball bat she kept under her desk. One could never be too careful. Triple-A wasn’t exactly in the city’s best neighborhood.
“What others?” she asked cautiously.
“My other… my other hosts. Look, I don’t want you to be afraid—”
“It’s getting a bit late for that, whoever you are.” She gripped the bat tightly and stood up from the desk. Nobody else was going to sneak up on her. One serial killer a day was her limit.
She nudged open the door to the bathroom with her foot. The office was completely empty. She began to tremble. Even if someone had been hiding, their voice wouldn’t be so loud in her ears. So loud that it sounded as if it was coming from—
Inside of me.
The Demon in Me
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THE DEMON IN ME
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
PRINTING HISTORY Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / May 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Michelle Rouillard.
Excerpt from Something Wicked by Michelle Rowen copyright © by Michelle Rouillard.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-40451-5
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This one’s for my mom!
Thank you so much to my editor Cindy Hwang. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be working with you!
Thanks to my agent Jim McCarthy for believing in this book from the very beginning when it looked absolutely nothing like this final version.
Thanks also to Bonnie Staring, Laurie Rauch, and Eve Silver for beta-reading and to Maureen Skinner for answering my police-related questions. You all rock!
“You’re Eden Riley, right? Wow, it’s so exciting to meet a real psychic!”
Eden cringed and slowly turned to see a wide-eyed man with a receding hairline staring at her expectantly. She forced a smile. “That would be me.”
He beamed back at her. “I’m Constable Santos. I was sent ahead to keep you company until Detective Hanson arrives. He’s running a bit late.”
Since she’d been waiting a half hour already, she kind of figured that.
“I should probably warn you that the detective’s a bit of a skeptic. He’s not that big on adding psychics to the investigation.”
“Trust me, Constable, I’m used to that kind of attitude.”
He waved a hand. “Don’t let it bother you. You’ll just show him how insightful you are and make a believer out of him.”
Eden tried to hold on to her smile. “Fair enough.”
“So how does this work?” he asked.
“How does what work?”
“The psychic thing to solve our unsolved cases. Everyone’s still buzzing about what you did last month.”
Eden’s stomach twisted unpleasantly. Up until last month, and just before she’d moved to the city, she’d worked at Psychic Connexions, a phone-based service located two hours north of Toronto, meant for entertainment only—astrology readings, love life, and job advice. She had a talent for saying the right thing at the right time and keeping her customers happy enough to get them to be repeat callers.
She simply told people what they wanted to hear, helped by some mild insight and a knack for reading tarot cards. Everyone was happy.
But it didn’t mean she was really, truly psychic.
Little did she know that one of her regulars was Meredith Holt, the wife of Toronto’s current chief of police and a devout believer in All Things Mystical. She’d discovered Eden by accident (or fate, as she’d later relate the story) when her usual fortune-teller was away on vacation and she “got a hunch” to call the number advertised in the Entertainment section of the newspaper. Eden simply knew her as Merry, a lovely woman who always ended their daily twenty-minute sessions with a wish of “brightest blessings.”
One day Merry called in crying and near hysterical. Her beloved Maltese terrier, Sunny, had gone missing and she was beside herself with worry.
There were… moments… when things just clicked psychically for Eden, even without consulting her deck of cards. As Merry poured out her emotions over the phone at $1.99 a minute, a very clear and precise image of a little white ball of fluff slammed into Eden’s head with all the subtly of a Mack truck.
She knew that the dog was locked in Merry’s neighbor’s rarely used toolshed, living off birdseed and rainwater for two days, and was about to be adopted by a family of concerned raccoons.
She made up the last
Merry had thanked her profusely and Eden had gone back to her day, which included assuring a hysterical Aquarius that her Gemini boyfriend was going to pop the question soon. However, she didn’t specify exactly what the question might be.
The next day, her boss got a phone call from the chief of police, who wanted to get in touch with Eden because of the grateful ravings of his dog-obsessed wife. He wanted to have Eden on the roster of psychic consultants for future police work.
The man would not take no for an answer.
Eden’s boss at Psychic Connexions let her go later that week, explaining that his business, such as it was, would be better off without any close police scrutiny.
If she’d been able to psychically foresee that unfortunate outcome, she would have saved some money for a rainy day.
The first time she’d been called in to officially consult on a police case two weeks ago, it’d been a total bust. Even though she’d concentrated so hard it felt like her head would explode, she’d sensed absolutely nothing useful to do with the missing person. She hated disappointing people, especially when they looked at her with that too-familiar, hard-edged, cynical glare. Most people thought psychics, even mild ones like her, were major frauds, and failing to prove them wrong was even more annoying.
She had no guarantees this time would be any better. The house she presently stood in front of had recently been home to a serial killer and the police wanted to see if she could “sense something” about the killer’s current whereabouts.
She wanted to help if she could, but maybe she was in way over her head.
In fact, she was quite sure of it.
Eden cleared her throat nervously. The mid-October air was getting cool enough that she regretted not bringing a light jacket along today. “So… how much longer do you think Detective Hanson will be?”
Santos seemed stumped by the question for a moment, but then looked over to his left side. “Oh, here he comes now. But since you’re psychic you probably knew he was nearly here, right?”
So very wrong. Eden took a deep breath, held it, and glanced over at the approaching figure.
Detective Ben Hanson was six foot two of gorgeous with a body like a Greek god and a face like a movie star. There was a reason that his last name sounded like “handsome.” She’d noticed that women swooned—seriously swooned—when he walked past. And the fact that he was a cop, not to mention an unmarried cop, only added the proverbial fuel to the sexy-man fire. Eden had seen him twice before when she’d visited police headquarters at the chief’s insistence. When she found out he was the one assigned to walk her through this case, she dropped everything and rushed over.
Did that make her seem completely sad and pathetic?
Yeah, well, Eden thought as she let her breath out in a long sigh. The truth hurts.
He approached and her heart did an annoying ka-thunk-a-thunk . It wasn’t as though she expected them to get married and have lots of babies, but she did like checking him out.
He made her feel like a sixteen-year-old high schooler—geeky and pimply and drooling over the out-of-her-league football quarterback.
Eden was closing in on thirty now. She wasn’t pimply anymore. However, the geeky thing was still up for debate. Gorgeous guys had a tendency to make her completely and embarrassingly tongue-tied.
“Is the psychic here yet, Santos?” he asked.
Hello? Had she suddenly become invisible?
Santos nodded at her. “This is Eden Riley.”
That finally earned her a glance, but there was zero warmth or humor behind it. “Then let’s get this over with.”
Obviously, she thought wryly, he’s already fallen madly in love with me, but is having a hard time showing it.
“Sounds super,” Eden said, forcing enthusiasm past her nervousness. “Lead the way, Detective.”
The sour-faced look that comment received from him confirmed it was official: She was still a geek.
She followed him to the average-looking house. The front door had some of that police-line-do-not-cross tape on it. He ripped it away and entered the front hallway that led to a small kitchen.
“Here’s how this is going to go. The suspect vacated this location about six days ago. Our leads as to where he went have come up dry. The sergeant seems to think you might be able to”—he glanced at her—“work some mojo and tell us where he’s hiding.”
Eden raised her eyebrows. “Mojo?”
He waved his hand in a flippant manner. “Whatever it is you think you can do. Hocus-pocus. Mojo. You know.”
He was lucky he was so hot or she might be annoyed by his rude and dismissive attitude. “For the record, Detective, I didn’t ask to be here. It was requested of me.” She cleared her throat. “If you’d prefer, I can take my, uh… mojo somewhere else.”
“The chief thinks you can help.”
“But you don’t.”
“No, actually I don’t.”
“Because you don’t believe in psychics.”
He raised his blue-eyed gaze steadily to hers. “That’s right.”
“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not all that convinced, myself.” She crossed her arms.
She chewed her bottom lip and tried not to feel like a big, fat fraud. “I can’t seem to control where and when I see stuff. It’s not a tap I can turn on and get a big glass of sparkling psychic water. I just want you to know that up front so you’re… you’re not disappointed if nothing happens today.”
“I won’t be disappointed. I’m expecting nothing to happen.” He tilted his head to the side. “Does the chief know how you feel about this?”
“He wouldn’t listen to me.” She had explained that it was doubtful she’d be much use to them, but he’d insisted—although Eden suspected it had a lot to do with appeasing his enthusiastic wife. “I figure if I don’t turn out to be much help, he’ll start to leave me alone. Maybe I only have a knack for finding lost dogs.”
Ben looked confused. “So you’re a psychic who doesn’t believe in psychics?”
“I… I honestly don’t know.” It was the truth, at least. “Feel free to kick me out of here, you know, whenever you like.”
Why was she sharing this information with him? She wasn’t exactly sure, although sometimes it was better to admit one’s weaknesses right away so there’d be no room for later misunderstandings. It might have also had a lot to do with Detective Hanson bringing out the schoolgirl babble inside of her. Once her mouth started spilling words, it was hard to stop the flood.
He studied her for at least thirty seconds before his frown turned into the first smile she’d seen on his face—and wow, he had one hell of a great smile. “I think you might be the only skeptical psychic I’ve ever met.”
He scanned her then, from her long auburn ponytail draped over her right shoulder to her green peasant-style silk shirt to the tan leather ankle boots she’d bought only yesterday to go with the dark jeans she wore.
Whatever she’d said—well, the truth—was enough to make handsome Detective Hanson look at her a little differently. A good differently. She leaned against the kitchen counter and tried to look as alluring as humanly possible, but her elbow slipped so she straightened up. She was more than a little uncomfortable being in the house of a serial killer—although, by the looks of it, a very neat and organized one—but she pretended not to be as she felt Detective Hanson’s gaze take her in.
“Huh. Interesting,” he finally proclaimed.
She couldn’t tell if he meant that in a good or bad way. “I’m sorry if you think I’m wasting your time.”
He grinned. “Actually, I already thought this trip here today was a waste of time to begin with. You had nothing to do with it. But I appreciate you being honest with me.”
“Honesty is a virtue, Detective Hanson.”
“Please… call me Ben.” He glanced at the clock on the wall that read almost five and then turned his at
Remain calm, Eden, she commanded herself as a flush of pleasure heated her cheeks. Detective Handsome was asking her out. And he wanted her to call him Ben.
Her empty stomach growled its enthusiastic approval.
“That sounds like—” Then she froze as the strangest feeling came over her. A chill that made the hair stand up on her arms. “Shit.”
Ben frowned. “What?”
She brought a hand to her head as a strange, fuzzy image flickered through her mind. Damn it, not now.
She was the “skeptical psychic,” as Ben had just described her. But there it was—a feeling crawling down her spine that she couldn’t ignore if she’d wanted to. She’d had the feeling many times before in her life, since she was a little girl, but it came and went and was never anything she could channel or control. An awareness that didn’t rely on any of her usual five senses.
Suddenly the coat closet just beyond the kitchenette was all she could concentrate on. Something was in there—possibly a clue to help find the maniac the police were looking for.
“What exactly did this creep do?” she asked quietly.
His expression turned grim. “What he did was kill one woman a week by posing as a pizza delivery guy. Eight weeks and eight deaths. Then suddenly he stopped three weeks ago— no more murders since then. It’s strange because usually serial killers begin to escalate once they’ve established a pattern. We don’t know when he’ll start again, but it’s only a matter of time.”
A chill went down her spine. If she could do something, anything, then it would be worth it. She pushed away from the counter and walked directly toward the coat closet.
“I know what I said earlier about not really believing in my abilities,” she began, “but I’m getting this weird vibe right now.”
“Weird vibe?” The cool, cynical edge was back.