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Authors: Sarra Cannon

Bitter Demons

BOOK: Bitter Demons
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Bitter Demons

By Sarra Cannon

Published by Dead River Books

This book is dedicated to my amazing husband.

George, you are my heart. <3

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Sarra Cannon Bittmann

 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

 

Find Sarra Cannon on the web!
www.sarracannon.com
www.twitter.com/sarramaria
http://www.goodreads.com/sarra_cannon

 

Cover Design by Robin Ludwig Design, Inc.
http://www.rldprint.com/

Acknowledgements

I can’t say thank you enough to my critique group and best friends, J.D. Robinson, Erica Reeder, and Alok Baikadi. You guys are a treasure to me, and I don’t know if I could have written these books without your support, willingness to read, and insightful critiques. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you to my good friend Lori Hayes who invited me to Crystal Coast for a writing weekend. I’m not sure I could have finished this book without that mini-vacation, so thank you. Plus, your friendship means a lot to me!

And always, to my soul mate. For allowing me to follow my dreams. I love you.

Peachville High Demons Series:

Beautiful Demons

Inner Demons

Bitter Demons

Table of Contents

She’s Just Like Her Mother

Will It Hurt?

Prima Futura

This Isn’t Going To Make Me Love You

I Only Had To Think It

Myself, But Better

She’s Just Different Now

Just Do It

She Was Nothing

Aerden

There’s Got To Be A Way

I Guess I Was Expecting More

You’re A Public Figure Now

This Better Be Good

Caroline, Is It?

Get Away From It All

Crows Can’t Scream

There’s Only Fear

The Fear In His Eyes

You’re All That Matters

A Plague On This Town

Motive

Zara

It’s Yours, You know

Butterfly

It Should Have Been Me

The Black Stone

Someday

Consequences

A Crow Feather Wouldn’t Be So Hard To Overlook

The Silver Box

They Can’t Keep Us Apart

Since You’re At The Top Of The Pyramid Now

Her Blue Eyes

I Have A Lot Of Gifts

Mrs. Shadowford’s Desk

Wrath

I Couldn’t Cry Another Tear

Quite The Storm

Eyes As Red As Blood

Friends Don’t Hurt Each Other Like That

A Matter Of Life And Death

The Crow

I’m Sorry, Mother

The Cup Of Blood

A Coven of Crows

Trust Takes Time

A Proper Trainer

The Rift

She’s Just Like Her Mother

 

Outside, a gentle mist coated the windshield. Dread pooled deep in my stomach as I stared out at the Ashworth mansion.

“Hurry along,” Ella Mae said. “You shouldn’t keep them waiting.”

“Aren’t you coming?” I asked.

She tightened her jaw and shook her head. “You’ll find them in the living room.”

I pulled the handle on the door and slipped out into the rain. My damp blonde curls hung limp against my coat. I shivered and raised my hand to knock just as the door swung open.

“The ladies have been expecting you.” A short man in a black suit took my coat, then ushered me toward the living room.

The members of the council of the Order of Shadows sat around the Ashworth’s living room. They were dressed in suits and skirts and held china teacups in their hands. My faded jeans and t-shirt seemed dingy and way too casual for the occasion. I shifted awkwardly and cleared my throat. All eyes turned to me.

“Harper,” Mrs. Ashworth said with a smile. “We’re so happy you could join us.”

As if I’d had a choice.
My jaw clenched tight, but I tried to keep my face expressionless. I’d gotten in trouble enough times in my life to know when someone was about to lecture me. This room had that sort of tension in the air, and I braced myself for what was coming.

In most foster homes, this was the moment when a family decided they wanted to get rid of me. But this wasn’t just some foster home. In Peachville, the stakes were much higher.

I glanced around the room and felt grateful for the few familiar faces. Sheriff Hollingsworth. Mayor Chen. Mrs. King. The rest of the women were strangers. From the way they were looking at me, I gathered they all already knew who I was.

“Why don’t you have a seat over here,” she said. She pointed to an uncomfortable looking chair next to Mrs. King, and I sat down.

I was grateful to be able to sit by the one person in the room I knew best. Someone I felt I could trust. Mrs. King gave me a closed-lipped smile. Her worried eyes made my stomach twist into knots. I didn’t typically do well in these types of situations. I pressed my lips tight, determined not to lose my cool.

Mrs. Ashworth stood by my side with her hand on my shoulder, as though she were claiming me. Either that or showing her power over me. I forced myself not to pull away, no matter how badly I wanted to.

“Ladies, this is Harper Madison,” she said.

Everyone looked at me and nodded, smiling and mouthing “hello” as our eyes met.

“Harper, I’m sure you’re wondering why we brought you here tonight.” She walked into the center of the makeshift circle, her palms pressed together tight. “We wanted to talk to you about some of our concerns.”

I raised my eyebrows, my heart pounding. I could already feel myself growing defensive and tense.
Here it comes.

“The incident at Brighton Hospital was extremely dangerous and quite frankly, it was reckless.” She paced in front of my chair. All eyes followed her. “We’re very concerned that you are not taking your training seriously.”

Mrs. Ashworth chose her words carefully, but I could tell what she really wanted to say was that by risking my own life, I was risking the lives of everyone in this room. Why didn’t she just come out and say it, then? Why keep tiptoeing around these secrets? My hands tightened into fists.

“What I mean to say is that being a trainee for the Order of Shadows is a very serious responsibility,” she said. “We can’t have our girls throwing themselves into dangerous situations like that. You should have come to us for help.”

“Especially when it comes to saving people like that Hunt boy,” an elderly woman said. The disgust in her voice brought a sour taste to my tongue. I fought to control my temper. My face burned with the effort. That Hunt
boy
had spent every afternoon by my side when I was in the hospital last week. Hotness aside, he was definitely someone I wanted in my life. And I would have been with him tonight, too, if I hadn’t been called to this stupid meeting.

Mrs. Ashworth turned quickly and gave the woman a strange wide-eyed look. Then, she looked back my way with a hesitant smile. “I’m afraid your behavior that night has us all more than a little bit upset,” she said. “The incident came up for discussion at the council meeting, which is why we asked you to come here tonight.”

“So you could tell me to be careful?” I asked.

The women shifted in their seats at the sound of my voice. I guess they weren’t used to people talking back to their leader. In the back of my mind, I was aware that I needed to watch my tone, but I could feel myself losing control. I was just so tired of the secrets and the lies in this town. Why didn’t they simply say what they meant instead of tap-dancing around it?

“Yes,” Mrs. Ashworth said with a curt nod. “We brought you before the council hoping it would help you understand just how serious we take your actions when you fail to follow the rules. I would hate to have to remove you from the cheerleading squad.”

I snorted. Loud. It was kind of an accident. An immediate reaction to the thought that I was in danger of being taken off the squad. I knew they would never take me off the squad. I was the Prima and would eventually be in charge of this town. Her empty threat made me laugh, but as soon as the sound left my body, I knew I’d made a big mistake. I felt Mrs. King tense in the chair beside me.

“Sorry,” I muttered, sitting up straight again.

Mrs. Ashworth cleared her throat and adjusted the hem of her blouse. “I don’t think you understand the situation you’re in here,” she said. “It’s only because of your spot on the cheerleading squad that you avoided another visit from your social worker.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. Was she seriously threatening me with this? As if they would simply send me away to be placed in juvenile detention all the way in Atlanta? Seeds of anger took root in my belly. I opened my mouth to tell her exactly what I thought of her threats, but the touch of Mrs. King’s hand on my arm made me pause.

“The council has voted to place you on probation.” She began to pace again. “It’s only temporary, of course, and will be contingent upon your behavior in the coming weeks.”

“Weeks?” I said, unable to hold back my tongue.

Mrs. Ashworth lifted her chin. “Yes, weeks. If needed, possibly months. That all depends on you.”

I clenched my jaw tight to keep from screaming. They had no right to place me on probation! If it hadn’t been for me, we’d have had a fourth dead student in this town. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anyone to go calling me a hero or anything, but I didn’t expect to be reprimanded so harshly either.

“What exactly is probation?” I fought to keep my voice steady and controlled, but I could hear the quiver of emotion underneath.

“Your curfew will be seven o’clock on weeknights,” she said. “Eleven on the weekends unless you’re participating in an approved activity.”

Seven o’clock? Was this woman serious? I was sixteen years old! That barely gave me enough time to get home from cheerleading practice some days. Plus, I’d never have time to hang out with Jackson.

“What else?” I crossed my arms over my chest and swallowed hard.

“As you already know, the tattoo on your back is a link to the Order,” she said. “With it, we’ll be closely monitoring your location. You shouldn’t have any reason to be anywhere besides school and Shadowford Plantation.”

“Yeah, thanks for telling me before I got the damn thing,” I mumbled.

“What was that?” she snapped.

“Nothing,” I said, teeth clenched.

“We’ll be looking for behavior like reckless use of magic and hanging out with the wrong kind of crowd,” she said. “You need to be on your best behavior, especially since we have a game coming up on Friday night with a fellow demon gate community.”

The playoff game Friday night was with Cypress, Georgia, a slightly larger town north of here. For the past week, it was all anyone could talk about.

“I think we both know you’re old enough to know right from wrong.” Her voice took on a demeaning tone, like she was talking to a five-year-old who’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “Follow the rules and we won’t have any more problems. Do I make myself clear?”

I was sick of being treated like a child. I was tired of all the secrets. Instead of just telling me the truth about my family’s history and my role in this whole thing, they continued to lie to me. How did they ever expect me to trust them?

At that moment, something inside me snapped. Call it anger or call it rage. Or maybe it was just plain, old-fashioned fed-up. I’d had enough.

“How long are we going to play this game?” I said. My body was still posed in a casual, could-care-less position, but inside, I was revved up like an engine.

“Excuse me?” she said. Clearly, she’d heard me, but didn’t believe her ears.

“How long are you going to pretend that I’m just like all the other girls on the squad?” I asked.

I saw bodies shift all over the room. A woman across from me broke out in a coughing fit. My heart raced inside my chest, but speaking out was exhilarating. It made me feel free for the first time all night. Not just some pawn in their game, but a real person with real feelings.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said. She walked over to her chair and sat down. She picked up the glass of water on the side table, and I saw her hand tremble slightly.

“Oh come on,” I said, slapping my hands down on my thighs and sitting up. “Everyone in this room knows what I mean.”

The room was dead silent. No one moved. I stood and walked over to the coffee table where an array of snacks was laid out. I grabbed a grape and popped it into my mouth. As I chewed, no one dared even breathe. I hoped they couldn’t see how badly my hands were shaking.

“You guys are all so anxious for me to trust you,” I said, meeting each person’s eyes as I looked around the room. I certainly had their undivided attention. “But how can I do that when you obviously don’t trust me?”

“You haven’t earned that trust,” the elderly woman said.

“You haven’t either,” I said. Someone behind me sucked in a quick breath. “Ever since I got to this town, you’ve all been lying to me. Why should I obey your orders and follow your rules when you refuse to tell me why you really want me to stay safe? You act like you care about me as a person, but all you really care about is yourself.”

“Wait a second,” Mrs. Ashworth said, standing again. “You’re completely out of line here. I won’t allow you-“

“I know who I am,” I said, cutting her off. “I know I’m the Prima. I’ve known for a while now.” I looked over at Mayor Chen. “And don’t worry. It wasn’t Lark or any of the other girls on the squad who told me.”

“Jackson,” someone whispered.

“Traitor.”

The room broke out in murmurs.

“It wasn’t Jackson either,” I said.

“Then who?” Sheriff Hollingsworth asked.

“Morgyn Baker.”

“Impossible,” the elderly woman hissed.

“Before she died,” I said. “She told me about how the Order’s been using Shadowford as a way to look for me. You find girls with magical abilities who are in the system because their mothers are dead or they’re too much to handle. Then, you bring them here, drug them, and test them to see if they are your beloved, long-lost Prima.”

The room erupted in protests and questions.

“I thought you had this under control,” one woman in a pink dress said to Mrs. Ashworth. “We should have told her right from the start.”

“What are we going to do now?”

“This girl is out of control.”

My ears couldn’t latch on to every outburst, but one in comment particular caught my attention.

“She’s just like her mother.”

BOOK: Bitter Demons
6.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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