Bitter and resentful toward humanity because of her past life, a ruthless hunter demon tracks and claims the souls of her human victims, offering them nothing but terror and death. As her career as a hunter progresses, she discovers that a rogue demon is hatching a diabolical plot to raise an army of demons to take control of Saint Peter’s Gate to usurp power. As the hunter begins to discover more about her past, she finds out that the rogue demon is responsible for her family’s death. Will the knowledge of what really happened to her family change her feelings about humanity, or will she be dragged into darkness, consumed by her constant contact with the damned souls she harvests?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.73(d)|
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Her last victim was still fresh on her lips, even though it had been more than a week. Bitter, she thought. The victims she sent to the hereafter didn't taste like chicken, or the other white meat. They tasted like deceit and wickedness. She decided he had deserved his fate. She had brought him to his knees and made him scream in terror, just like the countless other souls she had sent to meet their maker.
She hadn't always been so hateful, but since having started her career, she could tell that the scent of dishonor had become much thicker in this place, more so than from the time before. It was evolution, she thought. Humans seemed to have always been ruled by whatever evil was laid before them, but they only got worse, never better. They always got weaker, never stronger.
If good people like her parents could succumb to evil, these others most certainly deserved to die. So what if they all died like rabid animals?
Over the years, she had seen an uncountable number of humans fall to darkness. Looking up at the sky, she knew that she could be making better use of her time, but she couldn't help her feelings. Humans were weak and pathetic. These were the only words she could use to describe the inhabitants of this world, spreading across it like a plague. Humans were easily capable of destroying everything they touched but were, unfortunately, just as capable of compassion at nauseating, annoying levels.
She knew her emotions were bordering on anger and that could be dangerous, but that feeling could come to be useful too. Very soon, she thought. She only needed to control it until the proper time. It didn't matter much to her, but she realized that nearly all humans could show some level of compassion, even if it was only on a microscopic level. She more often saw the darker side. Almost always, humans would slice your throat or stab you in the back, if no one were looking. If they stood to gain from their acts of treachery, no matter how large or small, they would slip into that darkness that was ever so enticing to their dark desires.
Some committed their treachery with heartfelt guilt and others with a smile on their lips, without even a second thought. They were always trying to get ahead or looking for the easy way. They were always trying to secure even the slightest chance for wealth or power. However, all of them would also shake their heads in emphatic agreement that human life was more important than any material gain they could ever hope to secure, but they didn't really believe it, not for a second. Hypocrites, she thought. Of course, her victims almost always changed their tune when she plied her craft. More often than not, with her target's last breath, they would ask for a second chance. Some actually rated one, most not so much. That wasn't her call though. Second chances weren't in the cards for the people she most often dealt with. Sure, there were always exceptions, and she rarely looked forward to dealing with that particular lot.
The do-gooders were the ones that actually had morals and values. They were strong and usually had very few regrets in life. These were the people that when push came to shove, would always choose what was right, even if it meant that it would make their lives more difficult and hers a little more, well, awkward. When she came for them, they always seemed to have questions that she could not answer. Some called her an angel. She always scoffed at that. An angel wouldn't be caught dead harvesting human souls. Angels were far too powerful, far too important for such menial work. They had better things to do with their time. However bitter she might be, she never derived any real pleasure from having to take a life that actually benefited the human race, even if that benefit was small and seemingly insignificant. Ember smiled cruelly then. That wasn't the case at all with her current target, was it?
Daniel Matherson III was born into a rather wealthy family on the West Coast of the United States. Intelligent and ambitious, he grew up fast. Around the rich and powerful people that he was exposed to, he had needed to. He learned quickly whom he could align himself with and whom he should discard as a potential benefactor. He had lost a brother and his father during his teenage years, but that never seemed to have affected him emotionally. Daniel had stepped on many a neck to get to where he was now. Some were enemies, but most were friends. They were friends that came to dinner at his home on Friday or play a round of golf on Saturday. It never even occurred to him that his friends were far and few between these days, but he really didn't care. Many of his friends had lost their jobs, their homes, and even their families and lives to Daniel's treacherous business practices. Profit was the name of the game for him. The world of finance, it seemed, was like a school of piranha, feeding on anything and everything just to make that extra dollar more than the next guy. As far as piranha went, Daniel had very big teeth, and if he had to chew his way through a few of his rivals or friends along the way, so be it. He had a ravenous appetite, even for a piranha. Nineteen eighty-six was panning out to be a great year.
He had planned for a big day today. He spent the previous evening going over financial reports and preparing what he would wear for his afternoon meeting. He picked out a dark blue suit with pinstripes and a white shirt. Daniel didn't really care for all the pastels and odd colors that he saw men wearing at the office these days. He selected a yellow tie with a small dark blue diamond pattern on it to complete his ensemble. He took a couple of pills that his doctor prescribed for a heart condition he'd had since childhood and settled into his favorite chair. He watched some financial babble on television and turned in earlier than his usual 11:30 p.m.
If Daniel knew that an assassin was watching him, he wouldn't have been so confident. In the darkness of his large bedroom, she sat perched like a gargoyle atop a large antique armoire, watching her victim try to sleep. Daniel felt like something was different. A presence was looming above him, staring straight at him, hate seething through the darkness. He looked around the room, but shadows were all he could discern. For the first time in his life, he felt like something was wrong. The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end. He lay down and felt the incomprehensible feeling increasing in waves. He rolled over and forced himself to stop thinking about it.
Ember sensed the building fear in her victim and took the opportunity to engage in some mischief. Her tail silently unwound and slithered along the wall, knocking a picture from its hanger. The picture clattered to the floor, startling Daniel into a sitting position. "Who's there?" he yelled, but only silence greeted his challenge. Daniel reached over to the light on the nightstand and yanked on the chain, nearly knocking the lamp to the floor. Ember's devilish grin barely hid her desire to shred Daniel to pieces right here. She fought down the urge and looked around to see if there was more trickery to be played before the sun rose.
Daniel looked at the print lying on the floor. The glass on the frame was cracked. He sighed and decided it could wait. At least it didn't shatter, Daniel thought. He'd have the housekeeper take care of it tomorrow. He turned off the light and got back into bed. Turning off the light, he looked around the room, still feeling like something wasn't right. Daniel turned on his side and tried to shut out his uneasiness so he could get some sleep.
Ember decided to have a little more fun while it was still dark. She waited until the human was asleep, and then slipped soundlessly down to the floor. Picking up the fallen picture frame, she pushed a razor-sharp claw into the glass and dragged it down the length of the print. Ordinarily, the sound would have woken the dead, but it was a peculiarity of her kind. Hunters never made a sound unless they wanted to. She inspected her handiwork. Satisfied that it would have the desired effect, Ember replaced the picture on the wall and retreated to her perch on the armoire to watch the show. She waited in the shadows for the sun to come up on Daniel's last day on earth.
The dawn broke and with the lightening day, all the shadows faded away, save one. Daniel awoke to the alarm at 7:30 a.m. Normally, he would have been relieved to see that the weather would be favorable, but the hair on his neck stood on end, and the uneasy feeling he had experienced the night before quickly tied his stomach into knots.
His head down, Daniel swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Thankfully, he caught a glimmer of broken glass on the floor before he put his feet down. Looking around for his slippers, he looked toward the wall where the picture had fallen, and his heart nearly stopped. He gripped the edge of the bed, knuckles turning white. There, hanging on the wall, was the picture that had fallen last night. Daniel quickly rationalized that he had hung the picture back up. After all, if someone had broken in to his house, the state-of-the-art alarm would have woken him, and half the neighborhood. What he couldn't rationalize away was the terrible feeling that continued to gnaw at his insides.
Looking at the picture again, he realized that it was torn, like someone had used a knife to make a long vertical gash the length of the print.
Ember could feel Daniel's ever-growing fear. She was almost drooling, so delicious did it taste. Good, she thought, the bitter is almost gone. As Daniel got out of bed and began walking around it, Ember slipped her tail around his ankle and sent him sprawling to the floor. Daniel scrambled to get to his feet, but Ember tripped him again, almost laughing out loud.
Bewildered and clearly flustered, Daniel got to his feet in a panic. He felt his heart hammering in his chest. Daniel wasn't athletic, but neither was he clumsy. Feeling more nervous than he could ever recall, he shrugged on his robe and tried to get on with his day. Ember decided she had one more surprise for her next victim. She watched him move out of the bedroom and down the stairs without further harassment.
Trying to put the last eight or so hours behind him, Daniel quickly fell into his regular morning routine. Noticing the weather made him feel much better.
He didn't like going to work when it rained or snowed as it often did in this part of the country. April showers and all that malarkey. It's just that precipitation had to be cleaned off cars, and shoes needed to be polished afterward. He really didn't enjoy either. He wasn't the handy, do-it-yourself type. He paid other people to take care of those types of mundane necessities. Daniel had a tall glass of orange juice and then walked out to grab the morning paper, which was almost always delivered in a plastic bag and was almost always thrown into the shrubs against the house by the paperboy. Daniel removed the plastic bag from the newspaper, tossed it in the garbage, and sat down at the kitchen table. He read the entire paper front to back, and then went up to the second floor of his suburban mansion to get ready for work. He showered. The heat and steam relaxed him. He washed his hair, rinsed, and then let the hot water beat on his neck and shoulders.
Ember slid into the bathroom, a swirl of steam marking her passing. She scrawled a message for Daniel on the mirror. Whether he saw it or not, she left to fate. She drifted back out and decided to wait for him in the bedroom. She sprawled out on the big bed and waited. Nice sheets, she thought with a scowl.
Daniel turned off the shower, dried himself, and then moved to the sink. Without looking up, he brushed his teeth. Ready to shave, he grabbed a hand towel to wipe the mirror dry. He looked up and there, written in the steam, was one word: Today. Daniel backed away from the sink, almost falling back into the shower. Moisture ran down the letters, obscuring them. Panic and confusion took over. He turned away from the mirror and hurried out of the bathroom. He quickly dressed with what he had laid out the night before. Normally as easy as tying his shoes, it took him four tries to get his tie right. Rubbing his hand across his face, he stumbled downstairs and realized he didn't shave. He checked the alarm panel at the bottom of the stairs. It was still set. He tested it. All the bells and whistles were working — if the panel was working properly, that is.
Daniel started to calm down after testing the alarm. While still feeling nervous, he thought that perhaps last night's events had rattled him more than he initially believed. No one could have broken into his castle. That was a ridiculous notion. As the morning wore on, he started to feel better.
Daniel began to plan out his day again. He still felt a bit uneasy, but he told himself the feeling would pass. He'd have his secretary call the alarm company and have someone clean up the glass in the bedroom. By the time he got home, this will all have been a bad dream. Then he turned his attention to other matters.
If the meeting today went well, he thought, maybe he'd consider finding himself a wife, and then she could take care of the house. It would certainly beat paying someone else to do it. An ironclad prenuptial would, of course, have to accompany any wedding vow that he and his potential wife would take. She would also not want to have children, unless she wanted to raise the little brat by herself. His professional life didn't need senseless distractions, and he certainly didn't want to have ridiculous toys and dirty diapers in every room of his luxurious house.
Ember had watched him go through his panic with amusement. Now as Daniel's thoughts reverted to the monster he really was, she realized there was nothing funny about this human. A little rage was building inside her as she continued to absorb Daniel's thoughts. Wretched creature, Ember thought. He would not be happy when they finally met.
Daniel grabbed his leather briefcase and walked down the large spiral staircase that led into the rear foyer of the house. He moved into the three-car garage and looked over his selection. He chose the Mercedes Benz. He also had a Range Rover and an old model E-Type Jaguar, but the powerful Mercedes matched his mood today. He opened the bay door, slowly coasted down the cobblestone driveway, and made a left. The freeway would be clearing up by this time, and it would be a scant thirty minutes to the parking garage that catered to the wealthier class in Downtown Morgan City. After that, it was only a five-minute walk to the office. He would be at work at exactly 9:45 a.m. Perfect.
Daniel had no idea that he was being watched. His assassin was absorbing every move and every nuance so that it could all be used later on, against him if the need arose.
Ember was waiting for her target just outside of the parking garage. As far as appearances went, she was just another faceless working upper class woman on her way to wherever. Her disguise was perfect. No one would question her presence when she followed the soon-to-be deceased into the building lobby, or up to the office for that matter. She could follow him all the way into his suite if she needed to. She had decided how she would deal with the target while she had watched him read the newspaper earlier that morning. She found it odd that Daniel read the entire newspaper. He certainly wasn't interested in real estate or sports. Maybe, she thought, he believed it gave him some small edge over his coworkers. Whatever the reason, it wouldn't help him today.
As Ember followed her victim across a busy intersection, she flowed effortlessly through the crowd that was always present in the city at this time of day. She was in no hurry, and it seemed that there was plenty of time to complete her task.
Time was one element of the job that she would always have an abundance of. She had been with him most of the previous week and all morning today. The date of the target's demise was set in stone, but the how and the time were completely left up to her. Ember appreciated that her employer allowed her that freedom. There were very few opportunities for her to exercise what little free will she had left. It was something that she remembered from her past, but never really learned to be grateful for. Like all people, she took it for granted, but not anymore. She continued following Daniel the two blocks to the office building, matching his pace so as not to get too close.
Excerpted from "Saint Peter's Gate"
Copyright © 2017 Fran Comesanas.
Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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