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Seduced by Crimson
By Jade Lee
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA man can get tunnel vision during battle. He fixates on the sight of blood spurting from a white throat or the smell of charred flesh. If he's trained, he can still fight the demons-yes, the black hearted Bak-Faru he'd only seen in a book-but a large part of his mind fixates on one hideous thing. For Patrick Lewis, his mind locked upon the taste of blood and bile in the air. Metallic and bitter, it made his throat close and his chest heave. But he had enough training to still fight even if he was coming late to the battle.
The screams reached him first. They were in the San Bernadino Botanical Garden, so the sound could travel far, especially at night. He was running full tilt for the grove when the smell hit him, the smell and that taste in the air.
He didn't even stumble: that was how well trained he was. But his mind was so caught up in not retching that he almost missed the sight of his first live Bak-Faru. The thing was humanlike. Large and dark haired, it had eyes that glowed bright lavender beacons in the night. Patrick's mother had told him the demon gate was being used, and indeed, attuned as he was to nature, he'd felt every tremor as something passed through. Still, he hadn't actually believed the disaster was possible until he now, seeing one, two ... no, make that four of the beasts walking away. Two sported wounds-jagged flesh that bled dark down their naked torsos. But the demons didn't seem slowed.
Patrick didn't think. He had seven ceremonial knives with him and he began throwing. Score. The closest demon clutched his neck and stumbled but didn't go down.
The demon's companions barely even glanced Patrick's way even after another knife lodged beneath a second one's shoulder blade. The demons were leaving with amazing speed, and nothing-not even a neck wound-slowed any of them.
Patrick wanted to pursue. He even took a step forward, but the need to find his parents burned hotter. He had to get to the grove. Especially since his mother's screams were growing weaker. Yet he had to go slowly. Much though it burned his gut, Patrick shifted from battle mode to stealth. It wouldn't help his parents any if he stumbled blindly into more of those creatures.
He slipped around a redwood and slid into the grove, where his tunnel vision returned with full force. His mind registered each sensation as a disparate element: the taste of bile in the air, the smell of death, and the clenching of his gut. He refused to look for long, searching the bodies on the ground with as much speed as he could manage.
He found his father first, with only one shoulder and half a chest. The rest was burnt to oblivion almost as if a rocket had burst through him. Numbness seeped into Patrick's spirit. At least his dad hadn't felt any pain.
Patrick stumbled, scanning the rest of the bodies. He found his mother. She wasn't as lucky as his father. She'd been gutted by a short blade, or more likely, by long claws. Blood and bile poured relentlessly from her into the ground where she lay. She was still alive.
Patrick skidded to a halt in the dirt beside her, but there was nothing for him to do; too much of her was spilled across the ground. His hands hovered uselessly above her torn belly. What could he do? He dialed 911 and stammered out details. The operator was speaking to him, but he didn't hear her because his mother opened her eyes. The phone left his ear as he leaned forward. He opened his mouth to reassure her. He was going to lie, to say that she'd be just fine, but all that came out was a single word:
She focused on him and her expression softened. She struggled to speak, her voice a bare whisper, and Patrick lowered his head as close to her mouth as he dared.
"Run," she said.
He straightened enough to look into her eyes. "They're gone. The ..." He couldn't bring himself to name the monsters, the creatures of nightmare that had invaded his world. "They've left."
His mother swallowed, and he was sure he saw relief in her gaze. He grabbed her hands, his mind scrambling for something to do. "Hang on ..." he said.
"Find her," she replied. "Close ... the gate" She was fading; he could see it. Her eyes were growing more distant, her hands were like ice. He wanted to strip off his shirt to cover her, but he would have missed her next words.
"Draig-Uisge," she said. It shocked him to hear his druidic title spoken with such command. "Finder her ... the Phoenix Tear. Close the gate. Permanently"
Then his mother shut her eyes and was gone forever.
Excerpted from Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
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