Gin Crawford has enough problems dealing with her empath abilities. Finding out she's the world's newest demon-slayer is the last thing she needs. Unfortunately, when she slips on a mysterious bracelet she is given no other choice. On the plus side, her new gig comes with Tall, Dark and Handsome, a mage who may or may not have her best interests at heart. Thrust into a power-play between good and evil, Gin must choose a side before she becomes the next victim in the ongoing battle.
Read an Excerpt
A Demon Huntress Novel
By Karilyn Bentley
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Karilyn Bentley
All rights reserved.
Colors explode in my mind, their corresponding emotions a sucker punch to my brain. Red anger, gray sorrow, and then Will Wunderliech, our top ER doc, moves his hand from my bare arm, releasing me from his tumultuous thoughts.
Despite the lack of contact, Will's wife continues to scream at him — at me — her voice bouncing through my brain like a ball in a pinball machine. I gulp in a breath, squeeze my eyes shut, force the voice into hiding.
Being an empath is a curse.
Whoever thinks it fascinating needs to live my life. Then maybe they'd stop calling me crazy.
Will's wife fades into nothing, her voice and image disappearing into the dark recesses of my mind.
I take a deep breath. Steady now. I should be used to the flashes, to the glimpses of people's thoughts and emotions, but nope, I'm not. At least it only happens with skin-on-skin contact. But I don't have on my scrub jacket, and he touched my bare arm.
"You okay, Gin?"
I look into the pair of blue eyes featured prominently in my dreams since high school. Who would've thought we'd end up working together years later at Blue Forest Hospital in the Emergency Room. This time, though, I'm not the school freak. I'm a kickass ER nurse staring into the eyes of the local Dr. Dreamy. My old friend.
Who needs lying to about my empath ability. No use in him thinking I'm still a freak.
"Yeah, sorry. Lost my balance. How are you?"
"Eh." His hand floats in the air, twisting back and forth in a so-so motion. "I've been better."
"Is it the wife?" Or as I've always thought of that trashy blowjob queen, a ho.
He pauses, blinks, clearly weighing past friendship with professional pecking order. When he sighs, I know friendship wins. "You must be psychic or something. Yeah, we got in a big fight this morning." Pain-filled eyes meet mine then look away. When he replies his voice softens so only I can hear. "I think she wants to leave. Maybe it's for the best. I don't know." He clears his throat, offers a lopsided grin. "Anyway, I've gotta get busy. There's a new patient in number one. Stomach pains. Those are always fun." The intimate glimpse into his thoughts disappears, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
He waves and hightails it away from where I stand. I sigh. It's not meant to be, obviously. I mean, sure, I see what's going on with him and his wife, so I could easily say something to encourage him to leave her. But how likely was it that he would come knocking on my door?
Unlikely to not. And I'd feel bad about it.
Almost as hard as being an empath.
Since Blue Forest doesn't pay me to stand in the hall and stare at Dr. Dreamy's buff bod, I might as well check on the dehydrated patient. Putting the fantasies of us lying tangled in silk sheets into the review-before-going-to-sleep section of my mind, I push open the door to the patient's room and reach for the glove box hanging on the wall.
"Hello, Mr. Talley, how are you feeling?" Snap, snap, and the gloves sheath my hands.
"A little better. Still not right."
And he thought he would be all right with one liter of saline? The man walked, or more like shuffled, into the ER after several days of pooping and puking. He thought he could rehydrate himself at home. Oops. Faulty logic there.
"Well, Mr. Talley, we're going to need to pull a bit of blood out of you. Is that okay? I'll access the needle we already have in your arm."
"Sure, sure. Whatever you need to do."
Protected by the gloves, I grab a needle and get to work accessing the catheter in his arm. With gloves on, I can touch patients and not have to worry much about their thoughts and emotions intruding on me. Only if they're broadcasting loudly, and I do mean loudly, will it bother me. Mr. Talley is too out of it to project anything but pain and illness.
Being a nurse might seem an odd career choice for an empath, but occasionally I can help someone. Touch them and know where their illness comes from. What will help them feel better. Or if they're too far gone to ever feel better, as the case may be. And those rare instances make the unwanted flashes of memory worth every minute.
"Okay, I got it. I'll go take this —" I hold up his tube of blood "— to the lab and see what you have in there. Then I'll come back to check on fluids." I point to the bag dripping a rehydrating solution into his veins.
He chuckles and closes his eyes.
I drop the blood off at the drop station for the hospital lab to pick up and am about to return to the nursing desk to make my diligent notes in the patient's online chart, when I hear what sounds like coughing coming from Room 1. Dr. Dreamy's stomach pain patient.
In an ER coughing is par for the day, but this cough sounds different, inhuman. The sound stops me midstep, a live statue in the hallway. A fine tremor captures my spine in its grasp. The intuition buzzer wails like a tornado siren in a hailstorm. The coughing, so normal in here, and yet, clearly not right, precedes a dull thump, a light shake of the wall missed, in the bustle of the ER, by all other ears but mine.
My vision narrows, blocks all the noise, the rush, of medical staff, focusing on Room 1 like light shining at the end of a tunnel. As if pulled by invisible strings, I walk to the exam room, heart double-timing a crazed beat. What's wrong? Why do I feel this way? Why doesn't anyone else hear the coughing, the unusual thud?
My hand reaches for the handle on the door, only to hit air as a nondescript man barrels out of the room as if chased by the hounds of hell. Before I can move, he runs right into me, and I almost fall over.
His thoughts, oh my god, his thoughts. Tangles of dark strands mesh together, piling upon one another in a jumble of terror. Anger, revenge, disappointment. What he wanted wasn't here. A body, blood running down its chest, over its white lab coat.
And then he steps away from me as the door clicks closed.
"Excuse me." The melodious tone of his voice doesn't jibe with the web of thoughts dashing through his mind. I look into his eyes, into vast pools of empty obsidian and a cold shiver consumes my being. My muscles tense, shaking a jitterbug. I can't move, can't flee, can't scream.
"Where's my sister?" my twin T's shout booms down the hall as if fired from a canon. "I need to see her now! Where is she?"
And just like that T's voice breaks the communion I'm having with the scariest thing I've ever met. I say thing, because his thoughts, his emotions aren't human. Or not totally human. Or maybe it's just I've never met a human that evil.
For that's what the tangles were, evil.
My muscles relax enough with the sound of T's voice for me to glance over my shoulder toward the waiting room. Why was T here? T only showed up when bad things were about to happen to me.
And what could be worse than that evil thing?
I turn my head so fast it's like I'm Linda Blair. But the evil thing disappeared. I glance up and down the hall only to see my co-workers going about their business.
T continues to yell at Sally Ann, our intake coordinator, to let him pass. If she doesn't, he'll give up on being polite and shove his way through the doors. It doesn't matter if they are locked to the ER. T has no problem with making locks disengage.
I ignore T's outburst. Room 1 calls me, my intuition shrieks a warning as my skin erupts in tingles. I take a breath, push open the door, and step inside. The coppery scent of blood assails my nostrils. Fresh blood. I'm standing in it.
Will is slumped against the wall, blood streaming out of him from gunshot wounds in his chest and abdomen. His eyes flick to me, pleading for help, for relief, while his lips form words I can't hear.
I do not keep a cool head like I've been trained to do in emergencies. I'm standing in a pool of blood from my friend, and everything goes blank in my brain. I scream, realize I'm screaming and shut myself up.
"Doctor down! Doctor down!"
A loud shattering sound streaks down the hall, but I'm inside the room and slipping to Will. I grab his hand because lucky for him all I need is a touch to see what happened, to get into his head.
I want you to have it, I want you to have it, I want you to have it.
His thoughts hit me first, and then I'm pulled past them, into his memories.
Will walks into Exam Room 1, but the man is not doubled over, is not having stomach pains and he looks familiar. Where does he know him? Unease scratches across his skin and into mine as I relive his experience.
The man stands and tries to smile, but it's a hideous imitation of a welcome.
Will takes a breath, tension spreading to his muscles. He's two steps into the room and going no further. "I'm Dr. Wunderliech, what seems to be the problem?" "You have something I want."
"I don't know what you mean."
The man's eyes look black, cold as space and as welcoming as an out of control eighteen-wheeler headed his way. Must be an addict looking for a hit. But even as he thinks it, he realizes that's not true. An addict's stare lacks the cold calculation and spark of glee this man's possesses.
Like a stone-cold killer's dark gaze.
Will steps backward, toward the door.
"Oh, no you don't." The man stretches out his hand and catches Will by invisible strings, each strand a frozen length cutting into his flesh, forcing him to stand against the wall.
He fights, but to no avail. How can he free himself if he can't even see what's holding him? Nothing moves except his lungs working overtime.
"Where is it?" The man takes a step closer. "I've spent years tracking it down. And back to you. I killed her trying to get it, but never could find you."
Thoughts blossom in Will's mind, thoughts hidden for years, remembrances of when he was a child, the last night of his mother's life.
Terror blossoms in his throat, an acrid scent wrapping him like a blanket, a threat of death in the guise of comfort. He hid under a bed, hearing sounds of a fight, hearing the thuds of fists as they struck his mother, over and over until nothing but silence remained. His breath echoed loudly in his ears, even as he tried to relax the see-saw of air raking in and out of his mouth. He clutched a silver-link bracelet in his hand, held it so tightly it cut into his skin.
Please don't see me, please don't see me, please don't see me. Don't hurt me, don't hurt me, don't hurt me.
The phrases ran through his mind, circling around, until they were all he heard. The bracelet felt hot in his palm as if it tried to fuse with his skin. It burned now, he felt blisters forming, smelled his skin burning, but didn't make a sound, didn't move. He was a good boy. His mother said so. She said to hide under the bed, to hold the bracelet, to not let it go. She said everything would be okay, she said so, and yet he knew it wasn't.
Footsteps creaked on the floorboards, each step bringing someone closer. Not his mother, though. Her steps weren't so heavy. He pressed himself against the wall, trying to make himself tiny.
Please don't let him see me. Please don't let him hurt me.
The comforter of his bed was thrown back, a bland face peering underneath.
Please don't ...
The comforter dropped into place, as the man walked around the room. Doors opened and shut, opened and shut. Drawers were pulled out, their contents dumped on the floor.
The boy huddled against the wall under the bed, clutching the bracelet, whispering over and over for the bad man to go away, to leave him alone. The silver links hurt his hand, burned his palm, but he gripped it tight like he had his mother's hand on the Ferris wheel at the state fair. He was still gripping the bracelet, hiding under the bed, when the police found him hours later.
And now the man, the one who had killed his mother, the one whose face was seared into his memory, who scarred his life, was at the hospital, pinning him to the wall with an invisible hold.
"Where is it?"
Will knows what the man wants, knows but refuses to tell him. His mother died protecting that bracelet. For whatever unknown reason, she considered her life a fair trade to keep the silver links safe from this man. How could he honor her memory by doing less?
"Don't have it."
"I. Don't. Have. It."
The man growls, a low rumbling threat and pulls out a gun. Panic ricochets through Will's limbs as he tries in vain to escape his bonds. He's not ready to see his beloved mother again, but the choice is taken away on what sounds like a string of soft coughs. Pain blooms throughout Will's chest and stomach as the man laughs with no sound.
A hand shakes my shoulder, pulling me away from a now unconscious Will. His pain still pings around my chest and abdomen, traveling throughout my limbs. I taste terror in the back of my throat, threatening to choke my breath, Will's terror, not mine, but I can't differentiate between the two. Doctors stream in, nurses hurrying around, but I stay slumped on the floor, my brain slowly turning over. I'd never touched another person in that manner for that long before, never been that deep into their thoughts, their remembrances. Blood soaks through my scrubs, soaks right into my skin, like the remains of Will want to become a part of me.
"Gin!" T bellows from the hallway, blocked by the frantic motions of the ER staff working on Will.
T and I can talk telepathically. Maybe all twins do this, I never bothered to ask one.
What the fuck did you think you were doing?
Going to work?
Don't be a smart ass with me. I saw you in a pool of blood up here at the hospital and dropped everything to get to you. You think I like seeing shit like that?
I look out the doorway, straight at my twin. He stands in the hall, fists balled at his side, a muscle twitching along his jaw. It takes a lot for T to come to a hospital.
The dead walk at hospitals.
Or so he says.
I wouldn't know, having never met a ghost, but T says they're here and I believe him.
I'm sorry. It's not my fault Will got shot, but it seems like the thing to say in the face of my jawt-witching, fingers-clenching twin.
T sucks in a deep breath and shakes as if throwing off his anger. Which is good. Anger and T — I'm thrown from my thought by a touch on my arm. A touch with a glove, thank god. No emotions.
"Are you okay?" Laura, another nurse, peers at me from where she squats in Will's blood.
By okay, does she mean, am I physically hurt? Because emotionally I bounce around, unable to focus. My friend has been shot. He might not survive. Will I ever be okay? But as she expects an answer, I decide she means physical and answer accordingly. "Yeah. No. I mean —" I gesture to where the doctors are trying to stabilize Will "— I lost it seeing him like that."
She does the little rub on the arm thing people do to show support. It feels nice. "I know. I can't believe it. Did you see the guy who did it?"
I shiver and close my eyes. When I open them, T stands in front of me, staring down, his brown eyes full of concern. Laura glares at him.
"How did you get in here?"
"It's okay," I say.
"It's not okay. He's not supposed to be in here. How did he get past Sally Ann?"
He has this thing with locks. "He's my brother."
"I'm taking her home." T reaches for me, but before he makes contact, the huddle of doctors around Will moves.
"Out of the way! We need to get him to the OR!" They shove the gurney across the room, and T hops back to avoid being hit. The wheels streak lines of blood through the doorway and down the hall, crimson reminders of death. We watch them run down the hall to the elevators, a huddle of shocked faces, exploding into excitement.
"Let's take you to a room." Laura rises, pulling on my hand. "I think you're in shock."
Yeah, ya think? But the shock she thinks I'm in is not the only shock I'm experiencing. Not only am I dealing with the emotional trauma of seeing my friend shot and lying in a pool of his blood, but a million questions about the shooter rush through my mind. Who was that evil man? Why did he want Will's bracelet? Really, what was so important about a bracelet? Couldn't he have just broken into Will's house and stolen the thing instead of shooting Will?
I rise to my feet, my head swimming, and put a hand out to T for support. He grabs my palm and squeezes, and instantly I feel better. Laura grabs my other arm and together we walk down the hall toward an empty room.
Something rattles in my pocket, hitting against my work cell phone, a metallic clink. Odd, nothing but the phone should be in my pocket. I shake loose of Laura's grip and stick my hand in my scrubs.
One phone. One ... I pull the object out and stare. Gulping in a deep breath does nothing to calm my speeding heart. My stomach makes a pit and shoves my body into the gaping maw.
Excerpted from Demon Lore by Karilyn Bentley. Copyright © 2014 Karilyn Bentley. Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gin is an empath which means she has the ability to real people’s feelings and thoughts by touching them. She also shares a bond with her brother T. Gin is an E R nurse. Then one of Gin’s co-workers is assaulted. Then a strange silver bracelet with a mind of it’s own appears in Gin’s pocket urging her to put it on. Then things change and Gin is introduced to a sexy guardian named Smyhte and his colleague . Gin also learns her bracelet: the Justilia was created to slay demons and she is now a Demon Slayer. Also there are demonic minions and certain guardians that want to see Gin dead. People show up by a portal to kill Gin. Gin’s brother T encourages Gin to put on the bracelet so Gin does. Then Gin is kidnapped by a demon. I liked this story a lot. The plot was very good and I really enjoyed the story. This also kept my attention from the beginning to end. I loved the twists and turns. Even though Sargon was a demon it made me snicker with his love of peanut butter. I loved the bond between Gin and T. I loved the characters and the ins and outs of this story and I recommend.