Authors: Lanie Jordan
Tags: #YA paranormal, #Urban Fantasy YA, #Young Adult, #vampires, #paranormal, #Romance, #Young Adult Urban Fantasy, #Teen Urban Fantasy Series, #Urban Fantasy Young Adult Romance, #Paranormal YA Romance, #demons, #teen series, #Demon Hunters, #YA Paranormal Romance, #Demon hunting, #Young Adult Paranormal Romance, #ya, #Paranormal Young Adult, #Secret Organizaion, #Paranormal Young Adult Romance, #urban fantasy, #Young Adult Urban Fantasy Romance, #1st Person, #Young Adult Paranormal, #Urban Fantasy Young Adult, #Demon-hunting, #YA Urban Fantasy Romance, #YA Urban Fantasy, #Paranormal YA, #Urban Fantasy YA Romance
Six hours ago, men in dark suits and sunglasses came looking for me.
Four hours ago, they offered me training to hunt the things that killed my family: demons.
Two hours ago, I joined their secret organization—the CGE.
Now, all I have to do is survive demon-hunting school.
The classes won't kill me, but the finals might.
To everyone who had a role in the making of this story: Thank you all. You’re an awesome group of people and your support (and threatening when necessary) has been amazing.
To my mother: The list is too long to, well, list, so I’ll make it short and tell you I love you.
And to myself: It’s been a long, long road, but I finally did it.
“There are people here to see you, Jade.”
I turned my head toward the door. Mrs. Gill stood at the doorway to my shared-room wearing her customary disappointed look—the pucker purse, which was why I silently referred to her as Fishface.
“I didn’t do anything,” I said automatically, speaking more out of habit than guilt. I wasn’t guilty of anything this time. Staying out of trouble in a house with eight other people who all hated your guts wasn’t an easy feat, but I’d been managing. Mostly.
Fishface rolled her eyes and planted her hands on her hips in one of her favorite stances. “Oh, don’t try that look of innocence on me. I’ve been around you long enough to know you can’t pull it off. Now hurry up. They’re in my living room. Waiting,” she snapped. She twisted around to leave. I started to make a face but stopped when she glanced over her shoulder and shot me a dirty look. “And keep your mouth shut.” Her tone was a low whisper now. “Don’t think for a
I won’t find out if you say anything.”
I gave a mental eye-roll. Her warning was clear: if you tell them the truth, that I’m an evil witch that shouldn’t be trusted with a demonic dog, I’ll find out—again—and make your life even more of a living hell.
I smiled at her, but there was nothing sincere about it and we both knew it. “Your secrets are safe with me, Mrs. Gill.” And just because I knew it'd have her seething, I added a wink.
She spared me one last glare, plastered her I’m-a-good-role-model smile on her face, then stormed away.
I let out a long sigh and dropped back, making the bed squeak. Sitting up again, I ran my fingers through my hair. The last time
came to see me, I’d ended up getting a lecture about running away and what a wonderful opportunity I was wasting when someone as
kind and generous
as Mrs. Gill took me in. Read: no one else wants you, and she’s the only one crazy enough to put up with you.
The one time I pointed out that Mrs. Gill was
to take me—and other girls—in, I was reminded it was better than being in a juvenile detention center. I wasn’t so sure.
Can’t avoid this forever and can’t jump out the window.
They’d all been boarded up since I got to Mrs. Gill’s (aka The Pond), probably to deter the others from sneaking out and running away. It didn’t work. With or without the bars, we’d all snuck out more times than we could count. Though for some reason, I seemed to be the only who got caught or got in trouble for it.
I stood up and headed toward the living room. My stomach twisted and turned, and I tried ignoring the feeling that I had a black cloud hanging over my head with a bolt of lightning just waiting to strike me down.
Mrs. Gill and two of the other girls (aka the Tadpoles) were sitting on the couch. They both wore the same fake pod-people smiles as Fishface. At the front door, two men in dark suits and dark sunglasses stood like statues. Both of their mouths were set in thin, unhappy lines.
By their matching suits, shoes, and broody expressions, I guessed they were cops. It wasn’t my first encounter with them, and I doubted it’d be the last, but I couldn’t figure out why they wanted me this time. I hadn’t done anything to warrant a visit, unless thinking bad things counted.
And if that’s the case, then I’m guilty as charged.
Maybe Mrs. Gill called in some fake report. She hated me, I hated her, and I wouldn’t put it past her to try something like that to get rid of me.
The men nodded when they spotted me. I gave a nonchalant shrug, then quickly wiped my sweaty hands down my pants. “Yeah?”
The taller of the two men stared at me and lowered his sunglasses, revealing eyes the color of Mrs. Gill’s favorite drink: rum and coke. His hair was brown and shaggy, not quite meeting the suit-and-tie look. He was kinda cute for a cop. “I’m Mr. Holt,” he said, then indicated to his partner. “This is Mr. Walden.”
Mr. Walden had slicked back black hair. He never removed his sunglasses, so I didn’t know what color eyes he had. Of the two, he seemed most comfortable in a suit.
Mr. Holt spared Mrs. Gill a look, and then said, “We’d like a word with you. In private.”
Fishface leaned forward in her seat with an argument ready. She turned her focus to me and smiled thinly. I knew exactly what the woman was thinking, what she was screaming in her head: Don’t go outside with them!
Poor Mrs. Gill. It was hard to spy on a conversation (or direct it) if she wasn’t part of it.
I sent her a smile of my own and then nodded to the men. I didn’t necessarily
to have a word with them—private or otherwise—but since it would drive Mrs. Gill up a wall, it seemed like the better option.
My hands started to sweat more and it had nothing to do with the Florida heat. I rubbed the back of my neck as I followed them out. The shorter of the two—Mr. Walden—held the door open for me.
As I headed outside, I glanced over my shoulder and found the Tadpoles smirking. They were probably thinking (or hoping) I’d be handcuffed and hauled away. Mrs. Gill had her arms crossed over her chest, sending me a continuous death glare. The second the door closed, they’d all have their noses plastered to whatever surface they could find to eavesdrop.
I started down the porch stairs and everything seemed to move in slow motion. Except my heart—it seemed to have gone into overdrive. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, instead of stopping like I’d really planned to, I did what any normal sixteen-year-old trouble-maker did when they had cops on their heels: hooked a sharp left and ran.
“We’ve got a runner!” I heard one of the men yell an instant before I heard footsteps pounding behind me. Surprisingly, the guy didn’t sound angry or annoyed—he sounded amused.
Still, I pumped my legs faster. Rocks and dirt kicked up in my trail as I skidded on the ground.
Stupid, stupid, Jade!
Why the hell was I running? I hadn’t done anything, but now when they caught me they’d never believe me. And they
catch me, because that was just how my luck would go. The group home was in the middle of No-Freaking-Where with nothing but woods and mosquito infested water surrounding it.
It definitely wasn’t a matter of
they’d catch me but
All they’d have to do is wait for me, because sooner or later, I’d have to go back to the house. Everything I owned was there, and I didn’t exactly have a line of friends that’d offer me a place to stay.
Glancing behind me, I only spotted one of the men—Mr. Holt—on my trail. The other one had disappeared.
I pushed myself faster. At the end of the driveway, I headed south toward the main road. I should’ve just stopped, but I couldn’t. I’d already come this far. And, okay, it might’ve been naïve to think, but my luck could change, couldn’t it? Maybe I could hitch a ride to Someplace-Not-Here, which had to be infinitely better than The Pond with Fishface and the Tadpoles. Probably wasn’t the greatest idea I’d ever had, but it wasn’t my first bad one.
The main road came into view seconds later. I started to smile then felt something wrap around my waist. Before I knew what was happening, I was airborne. I landed on my stomach a few feet away with my nose all but buried in the grass.
I tried to jump to my feet, but a hand pressed into my back and kept me down. Turning my head to the side, I took a breath of air instead of dirt. “Let me go! I didn’t do anything!”
Mr. Holt raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Then why’d you run?”
See, you idiot! Now they don’t believe you.
“You’re cops. You make me twitchy.” I shrugged—at least as much as I could facedown on the ground with someone holding me in place. “It’s a condition, just ask my therapist.”
It was…mostly the truth. I didn’t like cops. Or doctors. And I especially hated dentists. My therapist said I had ‘issues with authority’, though he couldn’t figure out why dentists made the list. (They got paid to pull your teeth out and/or drill into them. If you asked me, it was just a form of legalized torture.)
The pressure on my back eased slightly. “We’re not cops, Jade.”
I scoffed. “Then why did you chase me?”
“Probably for the same reason you ran. Habit,” he said. His brown eyes twinkled. “We just want to talk with you, that’s all.”
“Well,” I said, angling my head up to get a better look at him, “I’m kind of grounded at the moment. Try again later.”