Authors: Christine Ashworth
(A Demon Soul Prequel)
© Copyright 2016 Christine Ashworth (as revised)
P.O. Box 620427
Las Vegas, NV 89162
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he night was dark
, with even the moon resting before starting anew on her cycle of growth.
Santa Monica, California was quiet this hot summer night. The bars were closed, and the streets were empty. Jimmy Carter had been sworn in as President of the United States, and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing presided over France.
Marie-Therese Gosse stretched her calves and quads before heading down the cement stairs to the beach. It was her favorite time to run, whatever continent she happened to be on. She’d been told it was the best time and place to meet Gideon Caine. A difficult man to track down, but she was determined to find him. Seeing as how she’d come here from France to ask him for help, she hoped her informant was accurate, as the run tonight had a dual purpose.
Find Gideon Caine, and get him to teach her how to close a portal to the Chaos Plane.
She took the last few steps at a leap and landed on the sand. She breathed deeply of the fresh ocean air and marveled at the beauty of the night. The sand stretched far on both sides, and the froth of the waves seemed to glow in the darkness.
She shook her arms out while jogging in place. “Stop stalling,” she muttered, before sprinting for the ocean. Once she hit the wet, hard-packed sand, she turned south toward the pier.
Not even a mile into her run, sweat gathered between her shoulders, causing her skin to itch under the leather harness on her back that held her knives.
Need and nerves grew stronger the further she headed south. Damn it, where was Caine?
As she drew closer to the pier, she stopped, sneezed, and stared. Only one thing made her react that way. The scent, reminiscent of moldy cheese mixed with the ashes of a liar, always signaled demon.
Ahead of her, the demon – looked like a Boargan - and a man were locked in battle. A noise prevention spell had to be in place because no sound came from the two as they fought.
She watched the Boargan attack. Twice the size of a wild boar, its body was covered in coarse brown hair. The spiraled tusks, protruding from its snout, secreted a deadly poison.
The noise-canceling spell prevented her from hearing its high-pitched squeal as the man’s blade disappeared into the base of its skull then was pulled free. Blood dripped from the steel tip as the man danced gracefully out of the Boargan’s way.
He had to be a hunter, like her. A Warrior Fae. His bare chest and jeans were splattered with demon blood. Must be Gideon Caine, she mused. He was easily half a head taller than her six-foot frame.
Her muscles flexed along with his as the Boargan rounded about, then charged.
He leapt high into the air, coming down hard on the beast’s back. Starlight flashed across the blade as the hunter sliced the demon’s throat ear to ear. It stumbled and fell to its knees, swaying in pain. Blood spread over the sand and the demon collapsed in a heap. The hunter brought out a book of matches, struck one and flicked it onto the demon. Flames engulfed the creature.
Her skin had flushed watching the show. It had been a while since she’d fucked, and the exhilaration of seeing the fight made her hot, as always. The man made her hotter. She edged forward into the light of the dying fire before forcing herself to stop.
A slight pop sounded as the bubble of silence vanished. The waves rushed the shore. The demon-fire burned out, a gust of wind scattered the ash, then everything stilled. It was time to meet the he-man.
“Gideon Caine. You’re a difficult man to find.”
The man stilled. Took a moment before turning to face her. “You’ve found me, though.” He plunged his knife into the sand several times, cleaning it. “What do you want?” He straightened, slid his knife home into the holster strapped around his waist and tied to one strong thigh.
Marie-Therese tilted her head and studied him. “You have a good way with a blade.” He also had a rough quality to his voice that melted her panties. It had been far too long since someone looked like he knew what he was doing…and he certainly did.
His eyes were startlingly blue, set in a sculpted brown face with high cheekbones and a well-defined chin that had a hint of a cleft in it. Brown dreadlocks were tied back with a strip of leather. He wasn’t smiling.
She swallowed. “Marie-Therese Gosse, from Lyons. I’m here to learn. There is much I don’t know, and incidents of demon incursions in France are growing. We beat back an incursion in Provence recently, and the one who closed the portal to the Chaos world died, taking his knowledge with him into death. I need that knowledge. France needs that knowledge.”
“Ask the Council of the Fae.”
“The Council hasn’t been communicating with anyone.”
He stared at her. Silence lengthened between them until he moved abruptly toward the shore. “Bunch of meddling aristocrats. So they aren’t communicating? Why are you here?”
She walked along with him. “Warrior I may try to be, but there is much I need to learn, and how to close a portal to the Chaos Plane is a priority. Word has it that your family is the one to learn from. That before you all split up, there was a major incident, and several portals were closed.”
“So you do know how.”
“I know.” His face grew a bit harder. “Wait here. I need to clean up.”
Before she could react, he’d sprinted to the water, waded in waist deep, and splashed that magnificent chest of his clean.
She followed, drawn by his charisma, unable to do otherwise, almost as though there were a string connecting them—he moved, she moved—she frowned at the thought.
He came back toward her and she took an involuntary step backward. Striding easily through the waves, his jogging pants soaked and the blood washed away, for a moment she felt as though she were his prey, locked in his sights, for his gaze didn’t waver from her.
This was ridiculous. They were both part Fae. They were on the same side. Weren’t they?
He stopped in front of her. “So the Council won’t train you.”
“They aren’t there to talk to. No one has had contact in several years.” She met his burning gaze.
“Damn isolationist fools.” He shook his head. “Let’s run. I go to the next pier before turning around. I take it you came from the stone steps?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Good. You set the pace. You sound American, not French.”
They set out southward. “I spent my first fifteen years in New York City before moving with my family to Lyons. My mother used to work with the Fae there. I grew up bilingual.”
He grunted in answer.
Marie-Therese sighed. “You don’t want me here.”
“I am not the only person to have closed a Portal in the world. Yet you chose to come all this way, to me. Which makes me wonder why.” He narrowed his eyes. “Are you running away from a potential mate? Will I have an enraged lover shedding mating threads on my doorstep soon?”
“No, no enraged lover or mate-to-be.” She sent him an irritated glare. “I am not looking for a mate. Sex, yes. Happy ever after, no.” Damn it. Another decade or two would be plenty of time for her to settle down. She had things to do, the world to see, before resigning herself to a mating bond that lasted beyond death.
“Sex is good.” He elbowed her gently, and she chuckled.
Oui. Le sexe est bon.”
“Je l'aime quand vous parlez français.
“You speak my native language.” It warmed her heart that he would let her know. “I love it when you speak French, as well.”
A congenial silence fell between them, and Marie-Therese indulged in a few harmless fantasies.
They ran to the next pier, then as one turned around and came back. The miles flew beneath their feet, but the farther north they went, she grew uneasy. She was forgetting something,
As they drew closer to the Santa Monica pier, her feet slowed and dread rode her back. Gideon slowed with her and finally put a hand on her arm, stopping her.
“I’m not sure.” She lifted her head and listened on the wind. “It’s like I’ve got an itch at the back of my memory and I can’t quite figure it out.”
“Something’s missing, huh?” Gideon lifted his head, and sniffed the wind.
“Yes.” Marie-Therese mentally ran down everything she’d learned about the demon he’d fought. “That’s it.” She snapped her fingers. “Boargan run in packs. There should be more.”
“On the Chaos Plane, they run in packs,” he agreed. “But here they come across alone. Which is also how they die. Alone. Which is sad when you think about it. A pack creature is shoved onto this plane from their home, for whatever reason, only to die here.”
“Sad?” Marie-Therese snorted. “It’s a demon. They don’t need our pity.” They approached the spot where Gideon had incinerated the Boargan and she peered into the darkness under the pier. “I guess I was wrong. No more demons.”
Squealing, two Boargan jumped off the far side of the pier and landed on the sand. The demons whirled to face them.
“Shit, they used my surprise tactic.” Gideon whipped out his knife.
Marie-Therese pulled her knives from the holster on her back and gave them an experimental twirl. Taking steps to the left, she separated herself from Gideon. The heavier demon was on his side, so she kept her gaze on the slightly smaller one facing her.
Their smell made her want to sneeze. She pinched the bridge of her nose hard enough to bring tears, but it stopped the sneeze right before their standoff ended. For a moment the demons didn’t move, just watched them—then they attacked.
The one that came for her was on all fours, and it came fast. Marie-Therese did as she had been taught. Running straight at it, she jumped and spun in the air. Landing on its back, she planted the twin blades into the beast’s tough hide and pulled. Deep gashes opened its flesh as she leaped off it. Blood spurted off the demon onto both her and the sand, a darker spatter against the dark sand. The Boargan bucked and squealed in pain.
A lot of cursing, as well as more squealing sounds, came from where Gideon did battle. So was she on the inside of the silence shroud? She tucked the thought away for later and fought to focus on the one she faced.
Her demon had turned and, this time, stood on its hind legs, its front hooves slashing the air.
“Motherfucker,” she muttered, and sneezed hard. If she rolled toward it to cut its belly, it could easily drop right on her, smashing her internal organs. She swayed lightly from side to side as it came forward, considerably slower on two feet, though the front hooves kept up the slashing motions.
She darted in low, swiped with her blade at its torso, content with the welling blood. A slashing hoof made contact with her shoulder, pushing her into a stumble and making her hiss. She turned the stumble into a roll, rose and swiftly turned, double-jabbed its underbelly and swiveled away, rewarded with a loud squeal as the demon dropped to all fours.
Panting, Marie-Therese circled it and jumped on its back, crossed the knives under its chin, and pulled toward her and out, almost slicing its head right off, similar to what Gideon had done earlier.
The demon stopped, collapsed to the ground. She scrambled off it and looked to where Gideon was riding the back of his beast. Blood trickled down his arm, and his knife, buried to the hilt into the neck, quivered with the animal’s panic. The demon made odd brushing motions at its eyes and kept up a keening squeal that hurt her ears.
“Catch,” she called. He looked around, caught the knife she tossed, leaned over and thrust the knife into its chest, roughly where its heart should be, before he slid off its back.
The beast fell. Gideon approached cautiously. When the demon didn’t move, he pulled the knives out of it and plunged them into the sand to clean them, as he had before.
Marie-Therese called down a fire bolt, split it, sending half into each demon. Once the carcasses were burning, she held a hand out to Gideon. He came to her side, returned her knife. She holstered her knives and tilted her face to him, searched his eyes.
“What is it?” His voice was deep, demanding. It made her body tighten low.
A shiver of awareness prickled her skin. His gaze dropped to her lips.
She licked them. “I need…”
He sent her a wry grin. “You need a quick swim. Come on.”
Marie-Therese let him grab her hand and pull her to the ocean. The water was cold, but not as cold as she had expected, and she waded in without hesitation. Gideon let go of her and struck out, away from the pier, into slightly deeper water. She followed and soon lost touch with the bottom, took the time to dip under the water. Her knives and harness had known worse than sea water.
Her head broke the surface and she looked around. Grinned when his arms circled her waist.
He pulled her to him and her body softened, loosened as her curves came in contact with the hard planes of his body. His mouth found hers and she got lost in sensation. She loved the taste of him, intoxicating, their tongues twining and stroking. His hands were hard on her back, moving, learning the structure of her until she thought she would die if they didn’t get naked.
A wave lifted them up gently and she wrapped her legs around his waist. “We shouldn’t.”
He trailed his lips down her throat. Suckled just above her collarbone. A shock of lust went straight through her and heat pooled between her legs. “Gideon.”
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he growled against her ear. “My place.”
“Yes.” She would do anything he asked.
The waves helped push them to shore and they stumbled, found their feet, and took off, back to the stone steps, lust an almost-visible aura pulsing between them.
Marie-Therese was half Fae, and no prude. She would willingly go to his bed. She searched her memory. No other half-breed had made her feel this way. She’d found a true Alpha. One who knew how to control not only himself, but her as well.
They were almost to the steps when Gideon stumbled. “Shit.” He slowed and she slowed alongside him.
“Are you okay?”
Gideon stopped, rubbed his eyes. “Is a marine layer coming in?”