Seducing the Hunter
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Read an Excerpt from Seducing the Hunter:
The candlelight illuminating the small chamber flickered when the heavy wooden door opened. Daeva looked up from the backgammon board to see who had entered her private room. She smiled as the little green creature, carrying a bronze tea tray, hobbled in on his spindly and knobby legs.
He set the tray on the small round table next to her, then slid into the velvet-covered chair on the opposite side of the backgammon board.
She reached over and poured tea into two porcelain cups then handed one to him. “Prompt as usual, Klix.”
The creature took the offered cup and took a sip, his beady black eyes staring at her over the rim. “I wouldn’t miss our daily game, Mistress.”
She drank the hot spiced tea and watched the goblin set up the game. It was her one small pleasure in the day, to play the ordinary game with him in her private chamber away from the others. Away from the reality of her situation.
Here she couldn’t smell the rancid odor of brimstone and sulphur or the stench of burning flesh. Here she could block out the woeful screams and pitiful mewls of those being tortured in the fire pits below. She didn’t have to make polite conversation with the other demons she wholly despised. As long as she had to stay in hell, she could at least pretend she was elsewhere when she was here in her room playing her games with her friend Klix.
Hell was the place of Daeva’s birth, but she’d done everything possible for thousands of years to get out and stay out. And she’d done pretty well. Staying topside most of her life, possessing bodies, living their lives, until some clever exorcist or demon hunter would exorcise her back to hell Then the process would start all over again. It wasn’t perfect but she’d accepted the fact that she’d never be able to walk the mortal realm in her true form, so she’d stolen identities and pretended to be those people. It wasn’t quite like being a real mortal. But it was the best she could do in her circumstances.
At least when she took over a body, she kept her host in a dream state. They didn’t know they were being possessed. They just thought they were having one heck of an amazing dream. Daeva always gave them good happy dreams.
Despite what a lot of lore said, not all demons were wicked. In fact, most lived, just as other beings did, somewhere between good and evil. Here, in hell, demons were split into seven types. Daeva was of the second, which consisted of lust demons. She wasn’t a full-blooded lust demon though; there had been some mixing of types over millennia, but she had one in the family tree somewhere. She didn’t possess people to just suck the sexual energy from them or those that they seduced. She wasn’t what some people would call a succubus.
But she did derive some energy from sex. Which was one of the reasons she preferred to possess the bodies of women. She liked sex with men. She supposed her affinity to them was one of her weaknesses. She’d been told as much by every other demon in her family tree. Which was one of the many reasons she hated it so much in hell.
She’d been doing okay as a mortal for years, surviving, forging a pretty good new life with a job, a home, friends, family and a man she loved. The woman whom she’d possessed had been near death in a coma when Daeva had come along. Her brain had little function so it would’ve been like being in a dream for her when Daeva had taken over. The girl was mercifully unaware of Daeva’s presence. But that all had come to a halt about three years ago when she’d been exorcised out of her most favorite body, her most favorite life, and sent back to this…hell. She’d been looking for a way back ever since.
She’d been looking for payback on the man who’d sent her back, who just happened to be the same man she’d loved.
“So, my friend, what is the word out in the world?” she asked as she took her turn.
“Loir is going topside,” he said as he rolled again.
“Really?” This surprised Daeva. Loir was Klix’s twin sister. Goblins usually didn’t go to the mortal realm. They weren’t very good at assimilating into the human world. Seeing a four-foot, bald, green-skinned creature with bulbous eyes, razor-sharp talons and four sets of teeth would send anyone into a panic or an asylum. “What is her purpose?”
Klix shrugged. “I am not sure. She would not tell me much.”
“She must be accompanying someone on a task.”
He nodded. “Yes, that would be logical.” He moved some of his black pieces into the winning box. “She did say something about a key.”
This perked Daeva up. There were only a few important keys up there in the world. “What kind of key, do you know?”
Daeva nearly dropped her teacup. She set it on the table, her hand shaking.
“Are you ill, Mistress?”
She swallowed, then gave him a small smile. “I must be a bit under the weather, Klix. Could we finish our game later? I believe I need to rest a bit.”
“Yes, of course.” He rose from his seat. “Shall I take the tea tray?”
“No, that’s fine.”
He bowed his bald head to her. “I will be back later to check on you, Mistress.”
“Oh, Klix, could you deliver a message to your sister for me?” Daeva reached for parchment and a quill. She scrawled three words on it, and folded the paper. She handed it to the goblin.
“I will do this right away.”
“Thank you, Klix. Please tell her to burn it after she reads it.”
The little goblin left her chamber, shutting the door firmly behind him.
Once he was gone, Daeva rose from her chair and went to the floor-to-ceiling bookcase along one wall. She ran her finger along the book titles until she found the one she needed. She slid it off the shelf and went to sit on the sofa.
She opened the thick tome on her lap and flipped through the pages. She stopped at a picture of a large wooden box with an elaborate lock on it. She read the text that went with it, then her finger circled another picture, that of a key. A skeleton key. The key that fit the lock. The key that opened a box that had been buried.
A plain wooden box she had buried herself, over a hundred years ago.
She sighed and leaned back against the sofa cushions. She prayed that this wasn’t the key Loir had gone topside to look for. As far as she knew, she was one of only a few people who knew who had the key. If someone was looking for it, then they were looking for the box.
The box had been entrusted to her more than a century ago by an elderly human scholar. He’d been an intelligent, well-read man who knew about the curse on the box. He knew exactly what had been sealed inside. And he had pleaded with her to bury it where no one, no human, no demon, would be able to find it again. He had been her friend, one of the few she had as a demon, so she did as he asked. With the help of a local man, she’d buried it deep in the earth in northern Canada.
They couldn’t allow what lay inside the box to be used again. Daeva feared what would happen if it fell into demon hands. It had been used against demon kind two millennia ago, used to enslave them and do one insane man’s bidding. But if it fell into demon hands, it could be used to subjugate the entire human population. It would overthrow humanity.
Recently, she had heard rumors and whispers about who possessed the key. And the last confirmed report had chilled her blood. If only she was still topside, she could’ve protected him, the key keeper, and he would never have even known.
Because she’d spent years right under his nose, hiding in plain sight. Hiding inside the woman he’d fallen in love with. The woman she’d been possessing for years, before she even met him. So, in Daeva’s mind, he had fallen in love with her.
And she had loved him. Damn him for it.
She pushed the book to the side and stood. Pacing the room she flicked her hand and all the candles in her chamber lit. She tried to warm her body with their flames. It would surprise everyone to know that even in hell she could be cold. She worried about what was to come, fretted about the future.
Daeva knew she would be called upon. There was only one being still alive who knew she’d hidden the box. The man she’d loved, the man who had sent her back to hell.
Soon, Quinn Strom, exorcist extraordinaire, would come a-knocking at her hellish “door”.
A knock startled her. It couldn’t be Klix; she had told him to come back later. Her heart thudding in her chest, she opened the door.
Two soldiers with swords at their sides stood waiting for her. “Daeva, you must come with us.”
“What is this about?” Although, deep down in her churning gut, she knew.
“Please comply, or we will be forced to be unpleasant.”
Swallowing the fear that was quickly rising, she nodded and stepped out between them, firmly shutting her door behind her.