Home > Demon Kissed (Demon Kissed #1)(8)

Demon Kissed (Demon Kissed #1)(8)
Author: H.M. Ward


Mental hoopla was slapping into the sides of my skull, giving me a headache, as I stared at the ceiling in my room. I was cast head first into the vat of chicken-fried crap, and I didn’t know how to get out. Denying it wasn’t really working out. I could say this whole thing didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t change anything. I’d still be hunted.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I pulled my pillow over my face and screamed. When the air escaped my lungs, my anger fizzled a little. I rested the pillow on my belly, and stared blankly. I had no choice, but to accept everything that was thrust at me, and try to make something of it. The part that bothered me the most wasn’t the Seeker stumbling on me in the middle of the night—it was that they thought I was evil.

Having someone call me evil to my face was weird—since I’m not. But it made me wonder if on some level, they were right. Maybe that was where I was headed. I’d done some dumb stuff over the past year, but I wouldn’t have said any of it was evil. I partied, drank, and threw myself at random guys. Most teenagers did that anyway. It wasn’t good, but I didn’t think it gave me a Fastpass to Hell either.

I needed something. This felt too dream-like to be real. If I had something to touch and hold, this wouldn’t feel so freaking weird. The plan formed in my mind without much conscious thought. And I waited.

When night fell, I felt a little better. My mom fed me birthday cake and I blew out seventeen candles. Next year there would be one more candle, but I’d still be seventeen. I’d be seventeen when I was seventy. How was I supposed to hide that? I’d have to deal with that later.

Staying alive was more pressing at the moment. It was odd, but I had no idea how much I wanted to live, until Jake tried to kill me. I was glad that I was still around to blow out candles. After too much birthday cake, I jumped on my bed forgetting the delicate box was still there. It bounced off the bed and crashed onto the floor.

I rolled over to grab it, but the wood didn’t survive the impact. It lay on the floor, cracked. I closed my eyes, blinking back tears. My fingers picked up the box, and I held it delicately in my hands, trying to fix it. It wasn’t that messed up. My fingers ran across the crack in the bottom of the box. I pulled out the velvet pillow to see how bad it was, but the inside of the box wasn’t cracked. When I flipped it back over, the outside bottom of the box was cracked all the way through. I pressed my nail into the space to confirm what my eyes saw, and instantly regretted it. The box split in my hands.

“Oh no. No.” I pushed the pieces back together, but it was too late. They were split clean through. Sighing heavily, I felt the tears well up. I ruined the last gift Apryl gave me.

I dropped half of the broken box on the bed, to wipe a tear from my eye when I saw it. A black chain slid out of the bottom. Looping the chain around my fingers, I pulled it out. It was a necklace with a small pendant, the size of a quarter. It was a solid black stone disc that held two tightly woven ivory peonies. I held it in my palm, looking at it, wondering if Apryl knew it was in the box. I undid the clasp and draped it around my neck. The pendant hung in the hollow of my throat, exactly where I would have worn a choker.

My fingers slid across the rough ivory. Breaking the box didn’t seem so bitter now. I found a hidden treasure. And it matched everything. It wasn’t too dressy or too plain. I could wear it all the time. I fumbled the cold disc in my fingers wondering why it was hidden in the bottom of the box.

I wasn’t tired when I went to bed that night. Sleep was something I no longer needed. I flicked at the frayed edge of my blanket, waiting. Mom had to be asleep. So I waited, twitching my foot restlessly until the sounds of silence echoed through the house. Jerking my body upright, I padded across to my dresser. Looking in the mirror, I ran my slim fingers down my cheeks. I still looked like me, and that purple mark was still there, delicately strewn with lots of swirls. The mark was changing, becoming more elaborate. It changed my life faster and harder than anything I’ve ever encountered.

I wondered if I’d survive it.

Quickly, I slapped on sweats and swept my hair into a tight ponytail. I stabbed it with my silver comb to hide my mark. Then I launched myself out the window, into the night air. My sneakers struck the pavement in quick blows. I wasn’t a runner. I didn’t even walk, if I could avoid it. But that night, I ran faster and longer than ever before. I ran until my lungs burned, starved for air.

I stopped. My church sat bathed in blackness in front of me. I walked through the empty parking lot. The trees’ canopy creaked, as I walked under their enormous branches. Placing the key in the lock, I turned it once, and pushed the door open. My feet made a beeline through darkened halls, going straight to the attic. I found the frame covered in a sheet, as I’d left it earlier.

I grabbed it and began to tug the metal staples out of the wooden frame. I’m destroying fine art. Great. But I had to take it. I had to see what I became and how I became it. The painting had to tell more than it seemed. It was my only link to the person I would become. The person I didn’t want to be. The canvas came loose, and I rolled it up silently. Returning the sheet, I placed the empty frame back into the dusty corner. The painting rolled up to the size of a paper towel tube. I shoved it in my jacket, and got out of the building. No one saw me.

Slipping back into the night, my ponytail swished, as I ran. My lungs burned while my feet pounded the pavement not knowing where I was going. I didn’t care. The frigid night wind whipped my face until my flesh burned. But I couldn’t stop. My worry spilled out of my limbs, and the nervous energy took me further and further from home. As I ran the tall buildings shrunk, and the trees thinned out. Soon only the bare land of sod farms surrounded me.

When I couldn’t force my body to run another step, I abruptly came to a stop. I doubled over, and my face turned sideways gasping for air. A massive dark building stood in the distance. I braced my hands on my knees, painting. My sweat-soaked shirt clung to my body. I straightened, recognizing the silhouette of a church spread out in front of me. The dead lawn crunched under my feet, as I walked toward the decrepit building. The magnificent shambles called to me. It spoke to me in the silence, revealing abandoned hopes and promises.

A steeple stretched into the inky sky, and was anchored by a stone building that was falling into ruin. It looked like it was a chapel-sized version of one of the old European cathedrals. The kind with great arches that stretched into space with stones, locked into place, at angles that defied gravity. The doors were made of solid carved wood with decorative ironwork and door pulls. The building sat alone draped in quietness and shadows. Unease gnawed at me. I looked around, not recognizing where I was. And I was alone, unless you count the graveyard.

My hands pushed against the wooden door, expecting to be met with resistance, but it gave way to my touch. I stepped into the building, and out of the moonlight. The interior was black, but I could still see with my Martis vision. However, the comforts of sunlight, like the fact that it chases the creepies away, were missing. I wrung my hands, and walked forward. I passed through a small entryway, and perfectly aligned pews covered in a thick layer of white dust. My feet pressed softly to stone. The sound of my footfalls broke the silence. The stained glass that was intact glimmered in the moonlight. Shattered panes revealed stars, as the coolness of the night air leaked in through the openings. I don’t know if I loved it because it was abandoned, or because it had once been beautiful—and now it was broken.

When I reached the front of the church, I stopped. The crucifix was gone. The altar stuff was gone. Everything that wasn’t bolted down, like the pews, had walked off. A large rose window hung high above the altar. It had more colors than a kaleidoscope. I sat down, and folded my legs under me, my gaze fixed on the round window. The air was still. I sat alone, in the hallowed space, feeling lost and helpless. Defeat was beckoning me. I slumped forward. The scrolled canvas poked me in the chest.

Reaching into my jacket, I removed the canvas. I unpeeled my jacket from my sweat soaked body, and tossed it to the floor. The chill in the night air made me feel better. Desperately wishing I could control this mess; my fingers unrolled the painting onto the floor. The canvas was small. It was much more manageable stripped from the stretchers. The thought that I’d stolen from a church, well, that hadn’t crossed my mind yet. It felt like I had a right to this painting—I needed it. I lived or died by what was in this thing. It was about me, and I had to know how I got to the point in the painting—the point where everything went wrong.

My fingers slid across the oils, as I studied the faces. The humans looked peaceful and happy. No faces jumped out at me. They were all strangers, wearing clothes not recognizable from any era. My eyes slid to the depiction of me. Anguish was washed over my face. The girl in the painting looked the same way that I felt. Confused. Lost. Alone.

Her fingers were woven tightly together with the boy’s. He would fall, if she let go. I wouldn’t let go. I wouldn’t just let him die.

Slapping the painting, I spoke to myself, “How does that make me evil?” I didn’t understand. I held the canvas closer, shaking my head. At the edge of the painting, there were small markings in gold paint. The frame had covered these before, so I couldn’t see them. I looked at them, hoping to make sense of their tiny intricate patterns, but that’s all it was—a pattern. Something that would look pretty in place of a frame.

Desperation surged through me, filling my veins. It poured out my mouth in a raw scream. I clutched my face with my hands, not knowing what to do. There was nothing there. There were no clues as to how I would become this sinister monster. When I looked at it again, I had hoped that I would have a revelation or something. But I didn’t. Nothing. There was nothing else there. My eyes searched the paint for signs of hope, direction, or anything that would help me. But there was nothing. I’d have to figure it out on my own. Alone.

Brush strokes were painted, cutting into the dark cliffs, forming little paths. All of the paths seemingly led nowhere. No wonder why all these people were stuck on the cliff. There was no way out. That summed up my new life. There was no way out. I was the only purple marked freak out there. Until I messed up, and threw this guy off a cliff. Maybe that was how I became evil? Maybe it wasn’t that I tried to save him, but that I didn’t save him. Letting him die, if I could prevent it, wasn’t something that I would do. Ever. I lowered my head in my hands. I could barely survive my regular life, and now this was hurled at me. My fingers slid over the smooth paint beneath my skin. This was my future, whether I accepted it or not.

“Fuck,” I muttered under my breath. I was slightly shocked at the word, even as it fell out of my mouth.

A voice spoke behind me. “I’ve never heard you say that before.”


My fingers darted to my face wiping away the tearstains. He didn’t approach me. He stayed where he was, behind me, in the deepest shadows.

“Collin,” I said quietly, not turning to look at him, knowing he heard me. My sweat-soaked shirt clung to my body. I wanted to throw on my jacket, but the painting was hidden underneath, and I didn’t want to admit that I stole it. From a church. Oh, God. What was I doing?

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