"I killed you."
Jess wore the mask of stone cold killer. Fierce. Terrifying. Gut-wrenching. "Yeah, you did, Bart. And I told you, you son of a bitch, that I’d be back for you." He spread his arms wide. "Here I am."
Bart came to his senses and unloaded all six of his bullets straight into Jess’s body. The rounds left small puffs of smoke as they embedded in his chest without hurting him. He didn’t even bleed that much.
Even with the chamber emptied, Bart continued to uselessly pull the trigger.
Jess laughed evilly as he stalked across the room to jerk the gun out of Bart’s grasp with one hand. With his other, he grabbed him by the throat and held on so tight that Bart’s eyes bulged while he knelt on the bed. Jess pulled him closer so that he could growl into his reddened face. "It was bad enough you killed me. I might have spared you for that. But you had no right to rape Matilda and kill her father in front of her, you worthless bastard. It’s what you’ve done to her that will cost you your life. She was the only decent thing I’ve ever known. Damn you to hell for hurting her. You had no reason for it."
He waited until Bart was almost dead before he released him and slung him to the ground. Bart lay on the floor, wheezing while Jess went to the wooden washing stand in the corner and pulled the ceramic pitcher up and emptied it over Bart’s head.
Now completely drenched, Bart sputtered and coughed.
Jess kicked him onto his back and planted his booted foot on his chest. He slammed the pitcher down on the floor, shattering it near Bart’s face. Bart jerked, closing his eyes as shards rained down on him. Some of them even caught in his tousled hair.
"You didn’t think I was going to kill you that easily, did you?" Jess taunted. "For what you did to her, you are going to suffer every second between now and dawn. I’m going to give you pain the likes of which my mama’s people were famed for. And when I finally end your life, you will thank me for it."
"Go to hell!"
Jess scoffed. "You already sent me there. It’s your turn now. Give the devil my regards."
Abigail jerked out of the memory as the sound of a horn blared. Blinking, she realized she was about to plow into an oncoming truck. She jerked the wheel and headed back into her lane.
Her breathing ragged, she rubbed at her forehead. Why was she seeing Jess’s memories? And she knew that was what they were. It was too vivid to be something she created. She could still smell the fire and the stench of Bart’s breath mixed with his sweat.
Jess had sold his soul not to avenge himself. He’d done it for Matilda.
Her gaze clouded as she saw another image. This one was a few years later. It was just after midnight, and Jess stood inside what appeared to be a lawyer’s office. A man with a handlebar mustache and parted black hair sat behind a huge mahogany desk. He wore a dark gray suit over a bright burgundy brocade vest. Over his head was a large clock that ticked so loudly, it hurt Jess’s hearing.
"I’m breaking all kinds of rules here," the man said as he passed a piece of paper across the clean desk to Jess. "But I did what you asked."
The lawyer nodded. "I transferred another half million into her account so that she could buy that house and land she wanted. She now has enough to do anything she wants for the rest of her life."
A tic worked in Jess’s handsome jaw. "It’s not enough. Keep adding to it every year like I said originally. I don’t ever want her to have anything to worry about other than what dress looks best on her."
He inclined his head to the paper Jess held. "That’s an extra photograph I talked the photographer into making of her. Thought you’d like it."
There was no missing the love in his eyes, even though he kept his features completely stoic. "Does she need anything else?"
"No. She’s married to a good man who owns the local mercantile."
Jess frowned as if the lawyer had said something wrong. "But?"
"I didn’t say there was a but."
"She sits at her window at night and cries." Jess’s tone was hollow.
"How did you-?"
"I can read your mind." Jess swallowed hard. "Thank you, Mr. Foster. I appreciate everything you’ve done." He went to the door and put his hat on his head before he left.
Outside, he tucked the photo into his jacket, and it was only then that she saw the moisture in his eyes.
He quickly blinked it away, then headed for his horse.
Abigail ached as she felt his pain like it was a part of her. He really had loved his Matilda.
"Stop it!" she snapped at herself. This was ridiculous. She didn’t want to see Jess. Not now. She had more important things to do.
Slapping herself on the cheek, she focused her attention on the road that led her home….
* * *
Jess cursed as he lost all trace of Abigail. The GPS literally flashed bright, then vanished altogether. It looked like something had burned it out.
What the hell?
He started to dial Ren, then remembered he was in crow mode so he wouldn’t be able to answer. Instead, he rang Sasha, who picked it up immediately.
"I’ve lost her," Jess said without preamble. "Can you give me any guidance?"
Sasha snorted. "On what? A new personality? Car buying? I’m a Wolf, cowboy, not a life counselor."
That sarcasm snapped at his tolerance. "Can you track her, Scooby, or am I asking too much of you?"
"Now, that I can do. But it would leave Choo Co La Tah unguarded. Send birdbrain back, and I’ll swap off."
"Fine." Jess hung up and mumbled under his breath how much he really hated shape-shifters.
Changing lanes to avoid a slow-moving Toyota, he used his powers to talk to Ren. He’d never tried to do this before when Ren was in crow form, so he had no idea if it would even work. While his powers were starting to recover from being in the house with Ren all day, they still weren’t up to their usual strength.
"Talk to me, penyo. You there?"
Luckily, Ren came back fast. "I’m here."
Jess breathed a sigh of relief. "You wouldn’t happen to know where Abigail got off to, would you?"
"No. I can’t track her scent and I haven’t had a visual on her yet."
Figured that would be too much to ask. "Then I need you to swap duties with Sasha so that he can track her down."
"Why isn’t the GPS working?"
"Twenty-million-dollar question. No answer, and I have no idea who to call to get a clue. I’ll keep heading in the direction she was and hope she doesn’t turn off anytime soon."
"All right. I’m flashing back. Will get Sasha to you ASAP."
Jess slowed down and tried to use his own abilities to track her. He didn’t really have that power, but … At this point, he was willing to try most anything.
Why? The bad feeling in his gut that said if he didn’t find her quick, something awful would happen to her. It had nothing to do with needing to get her to the Valley to save the world. This was something else entirely. Something that made him desperate to locate her.
"Hang on, Abby. I’m coming."
* * *
Abigail slowed as she reached the modest home she shared with Hannah in Henderson. She cringed a bit as she scraped the front of the car on the angle of the aggregate driveway. Hope Jess doesn’t love this thing.
He might kill her after all.
She parked outside and headed for the front door. But as she neared it, a strange red haze seemed to drop down over everything. It was like she was staring out of a pair of red glasses. She heard that strange thrumming sound again-the same she’d heard when they put the demon blood in her.
Like she was listening to the heartbeat of the world.
Shaking her head, she forced herself forward.
"If something’s happened to her, Kurt, I swear I’ll never forgive you."
"Shut up, Hannah, and sit down."
She knew they were inside the house, but she could hear them as clearly as if they were standing beside her. More than that, she could see them sitting at the table with Jonah.
"We know where Sundown lives," Hannah said. "Why can’t we go get her?"
Kurt curled his lip. "Are you out of your mind? We march into a Dark-Hunter’s home and do what? Tell him to hand her over?"
She lifted her chin defiantly. "Yes."
Looking up from the laptop where he was working, Jonah rolled his eyes. "I’m really sick of you two fighting. Take your sister out of here while I do this."
His voice …
There was something about it that tugged on the edge of her memory. But what?
Kurt grabbed Hannah by the arm and hauled her out of the room. As soon as they were gone, Jonah pulled out his phone and dialed it. "Hey. I’ve got her heartbeat on the monitor so we know she’s still alive. Yeah, I think it’s a good sign that the Hunter hasn’t killed her yet."
At the sound of those words, Abigail felt a surge of some odd emotion throughout her entire body. Her teeth elongated. It was the demon again. It was reacting to being here.
Raw, unfettered rage followed the wave. The demon wanted to taste Jonah in the worst sort of way.
I can’t do that.
Yet she salivated. The taste of warm, sweet blood filled her mouth, making her ache to take some from someone else. The haze turned brighter. She walked through the door without opening it. With no real understanding of moving, she found herself in the kitchen with Jonah.
He looked up and blanched. He dropped his phone straight to the floor, where it landed with a thud. "What’s wrong?"
She licked at her fangs. Taste him…. You know you want to.
Strangely enough, she did.
Abigail reached for his throat, but he jumped to his feet and put distance between them.
He kept backing away from her. "What did they do to you, Abby?"
No, that didn’t seem right. She was …
Caught in a maelstrom. She could feel the winds whipping, howling, and tearing at her. The room spun around as more images flashed. She saw the past, the present, and a future filled with horrors that were indescribable.
But the one thing she saw clearest …
The night her parents died. And this time she knew why that voice had been familiar. Who had been there with "Sundown."
"You were there." She pointed her finger at Jonah, who stood before her, gaping.
"What are you talking about?"
She didn’t answer as the demon swallowed her whole. Before she knew what she was doing, she was on him, biting into his neck. The moment she tasted his blood, she knew the truth.
Jonah was a Daimon. It was why the demon in her wanted to annihilate him.
The souls of his victims screamed in her head with a chorus that was deafening and sickening. They wanted their freedom.
And she wanted his blood.
She recognized Kurt’s voice, but there was no way she would listen to him. Not now. Not when the demon had her.
Kurt ran at her back and tried to knock her away. She turned on him and hissed, while she maintained her grip on Jonah, who was crying and begging for mercy.
Really? After all the people he’d ruthlessly killed to live, he had the nerve to beg for his own life? The hypocrisy sickened her even more.
"Coward," she breathed in his ear. "You could have saved my mother, and you didn’t." He had swallowed her soul so that he could live. Damn him! Agony and fury bonded inside her to such a level that it was all she could do not to rip him apart.
Instead, she reached down to his boot, where he always kept a knife hidden. In slow motion, she saw Kurt lunging for her back. Before he could reach her, she stabbed Jonah in the heart.
He gasped, then burst apart into a shower of gold dust.
"No!" Kurt drew the word out, but it was too late.
Jonah was dead. She’d killed him.
Numb and dizzy, she stared down at her pristine hand. There was no blood there. Nothing left of Jonah except a shimmering film that graced the floor. Iridescent like the wings of a summer butterfly.
She could hear the laughter of the human souls as they finally ascended to their rightful places. But more than that, she heard their gratitude. At least she had saved them. Too bad no one had saved her parents.
"What have you done?" His eyes wide, Kurt stared at her as if she was a stranger.
And she was. She didn’t know herself any more than he did. "What have you made me?"
"You were supposed to be stronger. Not … not-" He gestured wildly at her. "-this."
A weird odor filled her head. It was like sulfur, only stronger. It was …
"You took demon blood, too," she accused him as she understood what the demon was telling her.
He didn’t deny it. "What was I supposed to do? I’ll turn twenty-seven in a few months. I don’t want to die any more than you do. At least it’s better than killing a human."
Hannah came out from the back of the house. She stared at Abigail with horrified eyes before she let out a shrill scream.
Abigail covered her ears as pain split her skull. She glared at her "brother." "You lied to me. All of you. You didn’t tell me about Daimons."
Kurt narrowed his gaze on her. "You didn’t need to know about them."