Home > Demon Kissed (Demon Kissed #1)(5)

Demon Kissed (Demon Kissed #1)(5)
Author: H.M. Ward

I swallowed the lump in my throat, “And if they defeat us?”

Eric’s gaze broke as he turned away from me, “They can release Kreturus.”

A horn blared, making me flinch. Throwing my head back, I looked into the pale blue sky, and wrapped my arms around my waist. I didn’t know what to think. Looking over at him, I asked, “So, what do we do?”

“Keep ourselves hidden, and destroy them before they can kill us off.” He sounded perfectly reasonable, like killing immortals was an everyday thing.

“Hidden? That’s why we hide our mark, right? So the Valefar don’t know if we are human or not?” I asked.

“Yes, it makes it harder for them to find us. If you leave the mark uncovered, it’s like walking around with a bull’s-eye on your forehead—any Valefar can see it, not just their hunters.” He paused, “Why, what’s wrong?”

I felt myself blanch. “Eric, he knows me. The Valefar that attacked me last night—Jake—he knows who I am. He knows where I live. I was seeing him for a while, before all of this happened.”

“Ivy, they can hunt you, once they know who you are. We have to find him, before he finds you, and hope he didn’t tell the others. What’s his name? Tell me everything you know about him.”

I told him what I knew about him, or what I thought I knew.

Eric’s hand rose to my cheek, but he hesitated, and then rested his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll take care of him. Don’t worry about it.” His amber eyes were reassuring, but I didn’t see how he could defeat Jake.

I shook my head, “You can’t go after him. He’ll kill you.”

“I know what he is. And I’ve fought the Demon Kissed before, Ivy.”

Looking up into his face, I stared at him. “What are you? How do you know all this stuff?”

His amber eyes glittered in the afternoon sun. “I would've thought it was obvious—I’m a Martis.”

That’s why he saved me. That’s how he overpowered Jake. I felt something stirring within me. I didn’t like being drawn into this, and not having any say in the matter, but there were much worse people to be allies with than Eric. I owed him my life. I didn’t know what to say.

Regret spilled across his face, “Last night—I wish I’d gotten there sooner. I haven’t ever met someone who survived an attack. Getting kissed by a Valefar is supposed to be unbearable.”

I shivered and said, “It was.”


Eric deposited me on my doorstep, and went to find Jake. I couldn’t pretend the things he said were false. Not after last night. And, not when the fear of Eric fighting Jake was so real. I flopped onto my bed, hoping I didn’t send him off to get killed. If something happened to him because of me, I couldn’t bear it. Especially not today.

It was a year, to the day—October 15th. I stared at my ceiling, trying to not remember. My last birthday was spent finding out what happened to my sister, after the accident. Apryl went on an international vacation with her best friend, Maggie. I was jealous, but I got over it, happy to read her postcards and see what she was doing.

One day the postcards stopped. There was nothing the next day either. Then on my birthday, my life shattered like cheap china. The postcards disappeared because she was gone. A freak accident on a pier and we never saw her again. Mom and I buried an empty casket, and the tombstone had her name, although she was never found. For a long time, I expected to see her walk through the door, laughing. Dreams plagued me like memories, trying to convince me that she was alive. But she wasn’t. I had to keep telling myself that. Apryl is dead.

Admitting it still made my stomach clench. Every day, I had to relive the same realization—my sister was dead—even though nothing had changed. It was an anchor that didn’t become lighter as the year passed. I got stronger, and managed to lug it around without it constantly pulling me under.

My phone chirped with a new text from Shannon. Her message said that we were doing something very un-birthday like. Pull out your overalls. We r cleaning out d church attic later!

Jumping off my bed, I crawled into the bottom of my closet looking for old sneakers, wondering if it was stupid to go out. If Jake were looking for me, he would find me, no matter where I was. I couldn’t wait here alone. I couldn’t. I was going, and that was that.

Shannon’s distraction would lighten my mood. While someone else might think cleaning an attic was a crappy birthday present, I loved it. I had an odd fondness for old stuff, and Shannon knew it. She was a year older than me, and my other best friend. It totally sucked that she was in some private school, and I wasn’t. My mom was pro-public school despite its harshness, drugs, sex, and normal hoopla. She thought it was better to get toughened up while I was young.

Pulling out a pair of jeans with holes in the knees, I slid them on and laced up my shoes. I threw an old sweatshirt over a tank and tried to tame my frizz. Shannon’s one of those girls who never has frizz. She’s really clueless about how stunning she is with her perfect skin, and long cinnamon locks. Her frame was slight, and a smidgen taller than mine. She wore her clothes a size too big, which gave her a skater-chick-got-lost-in-J. Crew kind of look. Her green eyes sparkle, and her mouth contorted into a slim smile when she was up to no good.

The floorboards in the hallway creaked, giving away her silent footfalls before my mom pushed open the door to my room. In her hand she held a square box with a bow. I grimaced as she stood there.

“Mom,” I whined.

Before I could finish, she waved her hand and cut me off, “I know you said no gifts, but this isn’t from me.” She approached me slowly. “And it was left for you before you announced your, ah,” she paused looking for the right words, “gift aversion.” She smiled a sad smile and handed it to me.

It was wrapped in silver paper with a dark blue bow. A to/from tag dangled off the top. My heart dropped in my chest as I recognized the handwriting.


The small box made me feel like I was holding a ghost. If Mom wasn’t there, I might have never opened it. Pain and curiosity were mingling, as I wondered what was inside. Pushing back the paper, I uncovered a dark wooden box. It was carved with ivy and flowers. It looked like it was made for me, but that couldn’t be possible because it also looked really old. My fingers traced the pattern cut into the smooth wood. Flipping open the lid, a scarlet pillow poofed around a silver comb that sat nestled in the center. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The comb had tines that were made of long curved silver with pointed tips. The grip was ornately carved, with stones inset, to reveal a pale purple butterfly sitting on swirls of ivy. It was perfect.

A single sob escaped from my chest, as my fingers shook above the comb, too afraid to touch it. “Where did this come from?”

“Apryl mailed it from Italy last year. Before everything happened.” Mom’s arm wrapped around my back, “She wanted to give it to you on your birthday. She asked me to hide it. She was sure you’d find it if she brought it home in her luggage.”

I laughed, but it had no feeling. That was just like Apryl. She planned everything out, down to the smallest detail. And freakishly far in advance.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, as my shaky fingers pulled the comb from the velvet. I closed the delicate box and put it on my bed.

“Yes, it is. Your sister was so excited about giving it to you. She knew how much you liked antiques. She was sure this was very old, and it looked like it was made for you.” A sad smile crossed her face.

I nodded. Mom took the comb from my hand, and pulled me in front the mirror. In an artful swoop, she twisted up my curly locks and secured them in place with the comb. The silver filigree of the ivy and the gems on the butterfly glimmered against my dark hair.

I stared at my reflection. Remorse washed over me—for all the things I had done, and even more for the things I’d left undone and unsaid between us. Mom kissed me on my forehead. Then, she turned, and left me to gaze at my reflection, alone.

The past and the present crashed together in a deafening silence. I wanted the past to die, so I could distance myself from the pain, and forget—even for a little while. But it didn’t happen. Staring at the comb, touching it softly with my fingers, my eyes drifted to my concealed mark. I should have been able to see a slight tinge of purple showing through, ever so slightly. But it was gone. I rubbed the make-up off with the back of my hand. It smeared enough that the purple mark should have showed its full color. The mark was gone.

“Oh, thank God!” I ran to the bathroom and washed my face. The mark was gone. No trace of it remained. I smiled weakly at my reflection, thinking my troubles lessened, as I heard the doorbell announce Shannon’s arrival.


“Ivy, you are so friggin weird,” Shannon said, as she crinkled her nose in disgust. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I got you the perfect birthday un-present. But we’re sitting in a nasty old attic, surrounded by mildewing crap, and your face is lit up like Time Square.” She smiled, letting out a little snort, and turned back to the boxes. Shannon didn’t get my fascination with old stuff. She could appreciate it, but she didn’t revel in it the way I did. Shannon moved a box and peeled the lid back. A spider ran out across her hand. She swallowed a scream before it could escape, and shivered. “That. Was. So. Nasty.”

I laughed. It felt odd, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. “This is awesome! I can’t believe they let us up here. They never let anyone up here.”

“Yeah, yeah. I think all the old church ladies were just glad they didn’t have to clean out the attic this time.” A lazy smile crossed her face. “Enjoy your divine dumpster dive. I’ll just start over here. Somewhere. Geeze.” I heard her shifting boxes, trying to get to the back of the attic.

Three bare bulbs lit the room. They hung the length of the ceiling, echoing the shape of the nave below. Their bulbs cast a warm yellow light onto the boxes and books that were stacked to the ceiling in neat piles. The stacks divided the room into a maze. While it didn’t look like the stacks would topple over, I didn’t want to bump into them either.

I picked up a threadbare Bible. Turning the cover open, my finger slowly drifted down a list of names. My eyes soaked them in, one by one. It was filled with families, people who lived and died, with names and dates of the forgotten. The hollow place in my chest burned. Sensations of being robbed flooded me. I wish I knew what happened to her. My grip on the old book tightened, as I thought of what I would do if I ever found out how Apryl died. How would I react? Would the pain ease? I got up and walked to another pile, trying to ward off the hollowness that was pulling at me, sucking me into the past. My hands shifted through the pile, touching, but not seeing. Before Apryl died, I’d been such a dreamer. I thought anything was possible. But, I finally came to grips with the reality that my life would go on, without her.

A glimmer caught my attention, and pulled me out of my deteriorating mood. A corner of a golden frame stuck out from under an old sheet. Curiosity clutched me, and I walked toward it wanting to see what was hidden. A dusty pile of books blocked my path. Moving them aside, I wedged myself between the books and the frame.

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