Surrender to DawnJ. Kenner
Surrender To Dawn
The Redemption Chronicles, Book 3
About Surrender to Dawn
Carpe Demon: Chapter One
J. Kenner Series In KU
Also by J. Kenner
About the Author
About Surrender to Dawn
Redemption Chronicles, Book 3
I’m going to save the world … or I’m going to die trying.
It’s been one hell of a ride. First I died. Then I came back, resurrected as an assassin for good. Or so I was told. Imagine my surprise when I learned I wasn’t fighting evil, I was helping it.
So I changed my game. Became a double agent. Started fighting for good. For light.
Now, however, my cover’s been blown, and I’m forced to go underground with a ragtag cadre of otherworldly warriors. Our mission: foil a demonic plan to unleash the full fury of hell.
But to save the world, I’m going to have to face some harsh and terrifying truths … and hunt out the traitor who is closer to my heart than I could ever have imagined.
The Redemption Chronicles:
Born in Darkness
Lost in Shadows
Surrender to Dawn
Originally published as Tainted, Torn, and Turned, this trilogy has been lightly edited for this re-release.
Surrender to Dawn
The Redemption Chronicles, Book 3
Copyright © 2009, 2013, 2018 Julie Kenner
Originally published as Turned in mass market format by The Penguin Group
Cover design by Michele Catalano, Catalano Creative
Cover image by: acidgrey/Bigstockphoto.com
ISBN Digital: 978-1-949925-02-9
ISBN Print: 978-1-949925-03-6
Published by Martini & Olive
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.
My name is Lily Carlyle, and because of me, the world is counting down to the Apocalypse.
How would you like that on your resumé?
Trust me when I say it sucks.
Not that I did it on purpose, mind you. I was tricked. Told I was keeping the demons out when really I was making sure they each had a front-row seat to the end of humanity.
And we're not talking some namby-pamby Internet countdown by some hoo-ha who read Revelation, heard about an earthquake in Taiwan, and concluded that The End Is Nigh.
No, I'm talking the full-meal deal. The real end of the world. When the demonic horsemen are going to burst from the demon realm to swarm over the earth like a plague of really nasty locusts, feeding off torture and torment and evil and lies.
Not a happy time. Trust me on that.
It's coming because of me. I can say that. I can accept it.
But that's not the end of the story. Like every good player, I've got a card up my sleeve. Two, actually.
Play the Ace of Spades, and I can use the Oris Clef, a demonic key that I tracked down, stealing it from a master demon who'd been determined to find it. It won't lock the gate closed, but it will lock it open. And every demon who crosses over owes fealty to the one who wields that key. I'd be a queen, the most powerful creature on earth.
Except I'd be a demon queen, thrust into power by a demonic tool. And the demonic essence that lives inside me—that I've been trying so hard to suppress and compartmentalize and control so that I could hang on to humanity by my fingernails—would surely rise up. It's hard enough fighting it as things are. Fighting it when that kind of power is at stake?
Honestly, I didn't think I could control the madness. I'd make a hell of earth whether I wanted to or not, and a demon of myself. So far, my track record has been less than stellar. I'd tried to avenge my sister and gotten killed instead. I'd tried to stop the Apocalypse, then nailed the gates open. Not really a vote of confidence in my ability to be a warm, fuzzy demon queen. I was pretty sure I'd lose it. I'd give in to the dark. I'd become horrible and vile and dangerous even if I didn't want to.
And then we have door number two. Play the Ace of Hearts, and I can actually lock the Ninth Gate shut tight. Because it turns out there is at least one way left that will do that. Trouble is, that lock is me. My body. My blood. All I have to do is toss myself into the hell dimension right as the portal opens.
No problem, you say? Kill yourself. Go to heaven. Accept the afterlife accolades that would surely come with stopping Armageddon.
Um, don't I wish?
Because I can't die. Not even if you whack off my head. I'd still be alive. In pieces, sure, but alive.
Alive, and suffering. My flesh burning forever. An eternity of agony and horror and utter torment. Torture beyond endurance with absolutely no escape.
Dear God in heaven, "scared" doesn't even begin to describe it.
I've read the bio of Joan of Arc, and yeah, I want to be like her. But then I look at what I am and who I am, and the truth is I'm not St. Joan material. I'm terrified of the pain. Petrified by the torment. And when I peer into hell like that, I've got to admit that the demon-queen thing looks better and better.
But the one thing worse than suffering in the fires of hell is letting down the entire planet. Which pretty much sums up my dilemma.
As you can tell, I'm not sure which way I'm going to go, because both options suck big-time.
But the end is rushing fast toward all of us.
And soon, I'm going to have to make a choice. I hope like hell I make the right one . . .
Deacon's voice cut through the haze in my head, and I realized that the ground was shaking, huge chunks of concrete and lethally sharp steel girders thrusting upward as the earth buckled and snapped.
Except this wasn't an earthquake. This was much, much worse.
I didn't argue, didn't stop to analyze. Instead, I grabbed my sister's hand and tugged her across the undulating floor of Zane's fast-disintegrating training basement. There was only one way out, and we needed to be on that elevator. Right then. Right that very second.
Because I knew what was under the floor—I hadn't seen it, but I was certain.
Penemue. A master demon.
More specifically, a master demon I'd just royally screwed. Somehow, I had a feeling he wasn't planning a nice, reasonable little chat. Instead, he wanted what hung around my neck: the Oris Clef. The key that would lock open the Ninth Gate to Hell and give the bearer dominion over all the demons who crossed into the earthly realm.
"Lily!" Rose's shriek was filled with terror, and I turned automatically in the direction she was looking: Behind us, the floor had opened like a sick parody of a flower, concrete peeling away like inelegant petals to reveal a deep pit that reached all the
way down into the blackest depths of hell.
"Move." I grabbed her arm and wrenched her back into motion even as I visually scoured the dust and rubble for Deacon.
The stench of sulfur filled my nostrils as the chasm burped vomit-green gas. From the black pit in the ground, I could hear a deep, menacing rumbling as what was down there began to emerge—the demon himself in all his powerful, festering, massive glory.
And beyond him, separated from me and Rose by the widening void and the rising beast, I saw Deacon.
"Go!" he shouted. "Just go."
One long, squidlike tentacle shot free of the abyss, then crashed down, shattering the ground as if it were no more substantial than Styrofoam.
"Dammit, Lily! Run!"
I knew I should. Knew I needed to get the hell out of there. But I couldn't. Instead, I stood stock-still, my hand on my knife, my jaw clenched. This was the beast who had fucked up my life. This was the beast who had pulled the strings to trick me and make me believe I'd been doing good when really I'd been Evil's puppet.
This was the bastard who'd done that to me, and damned if I didn't want to look in his eyes. Damned if I didn't want to ram my blade right through him. And, yeah, I wanted to wallow in the darkness that filled me following a demon kill, the bitter black that was the price I paid for doing what I was created to do. A master demon like Penemue would be the ultimate hit, beyond anything I'd experienced before. And oh, yeah, like an addict, I craved what could so easily destroy me. But I didn't care. I wanted it. Hell, I needed it.
"Lily!" Rose screamed as the tentacle lashed out toward us, coming so close we could feel the breeze left in its wake. She screamed again, the sharp edge of her fear cutting through both my fury and my craving. I took a step backward, abandoning my demonicidal fantasies.
Because the truth was, I couldn't end him. Not this beast. Not even with all the power that came from being Prophecy Girl.
He was too much—too massive, too powerful. And even with my supercharged body and Über-girl skills, I was no match for him. I couldn't risk losing. Not to him. Not then.
Lose, and he would get the Oris Clef.
Lose, and he would use it.
Lose, and Penemue would control all of the demons that crossed over at the convergence. He'd rule the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Not four, but four billion. Even more. Countless, untold demons that would cover the earth like a plague. And Penemue the master of them all.
Not if I could help it. With Rose's scream still echoing in my ear, I turned, grabbed her hand, and ran, the floor buckling beneath our feet as we fled across the room.
"Lily!" Rose tripped over a length of steel girder rising from the concrete like a sentinel. She slammed to the ground, crying out in pain as the sharp edges of stone and metal sliced through her jeans and cut into her hands.
No time to worry about that, though. I grabbed the back of her T-shirt and hauled her to her feet. "Go!" I shouted. She stumbled a bit, probably not entirely used to her new legs and taller body, but to her credit, she picked up speed and headed toward the elevator, not falling despite the way the floor was undulating beneath her.
"Come on, come on! Dammit, come on!" Rose tugged on the gate to the old-fashioned elevator, trying to slide it aside, but it was easy enough to see that her efforts were futile. A little fact that sucked big-time, because as far as I knew, there was no other way out of the basement that had once been Zane's prison.
I clenched my jaw, determined not to die. Not when Zane had sacrificed himself, banking on me to step up to save the whole damn world. I feared I didn't have it in me to be the hero that the world needed, but right then I didn't have to find out. Right then, all I had to do was survive.
I pushed in beside Rose and grabbed hold, then gave the gate a good, solid tug.
Well, damn. What was the point of superstrength if you couldn't even open one stuck door?
I spun around, searching for Deacon. I needed his help, but he was still yards away, circumventing the gulch that was opening wider and wider in the floor, sucking everything in—furniture, weapons, training ring—as if it were a black hole. I held my breath because Deacon had lost his left hand, so he had only one set of fingers with which to grip the wall. The gray-metal cabinet was still bolted there, and as I watched, Deacon ripped open the door one-handed, then pulled out a crossbow. He met my eyes, then tossed the weapon toward me.
Penemue's tentacle lashed out blindly, knocking the crossbow off its trajectory, but I launched myself sideways and managed to catch it before it disappeared into the abyss. Deacon pitched a quiver of arrows next, and those I caught more easily, then quickly slid the sheath onto my back and hefted the crossbow, already feeling better for the weapon in my hand. My knife was the only thing that would actually kill a demon once and for all, but under the circumstances, I was keen on just knowing I could slow the creature down. Although I have to say, a crossbow wasn't exactly a panacea. Considering the size of the beast fighting its way up through the concrete floor, what I really needed was a missile launcher.
Deacon armed himself, too, then grabbed onto the door and used it to swing himself over the edge of the widening chasm. I held my breath. There were only about three inches of floor left where he was. If he tripped . . . If he needed to reach out and grab something . . .
But he didn't, and once his feet were on firm ground I allowed myself one tense breath. He was steady, but he was hardly safe yet. He stood with his back pressed to the wall, his toes hanging over the ragged concrete edge in a sick parody of a suicidal jumper balancing on a high-rise ledge.
"Deacon! Hurry!" I shouted, as he pushed away from the wall and leaped from the narrow portion to where the ground widened. He landed, steady, and I exhaled in relief, only to feel the sharp sting of cold horror as the tentacle lashed out, circled his waist, and pulled him backward into the abyss.
"No!" I yelled, as Rose cried out Deacon's name.
I don't remember moving, but I was on my belly, my hand reaching out, down into the blackness. Down into where Deacon had gone. Into the night, into the void, into hell.
"Deacon!" I screamed, though I could see nothing in the dark. Not him. Not Penemue. Not even the fires of hell. "Deacon!" I cried. "Deacon! Can you hear me?"
But even as I called, I knew it was futile. He was lost, and my stomach roiled as I choked back bile, willing myself to keep focused and in control despite the fact that my demonic partner had been thrust back into the hell that he'd so desperately longed to escape.
I couldn't think about that just then. If anything, Deacon had bought us time, and I was going to use it. No way was his getting sucked down into hell going to mean the end of me and my sister.
"Come on," I said, scooting back from the abyss and grabbing Rose's elbow. She stood stock-still, her face pale, her lips parted as if she wanted to say something but couldn't quite find the words. "Rose!" I snapped, tugging her back toward the elevator. "Move."
Not that my determination got us any farther. Deacon's demise hadn't magically loosened the elevator gate, and we were still down in the training basement, trapped beside a hole to hell where a gigantic demon would surely reemerge at any moment.
I gave the gate one more futile yank, then kicked the damn thing. It was no ordinary metal we were dealing with. As a training arena for preternatural assassins, the room was chock-full of special protections. How nice.
"Can you make a portal?" Rose asked. "Can you get us out of here?"
I closed my eyes and concentrated, but nothing happened. I'd only recently acquired the skill to create a "bridge" that would take me and my companions through space, time, and the whole nine yards. I'd done it just a few minutes ago, actually, when Rose, Deacon, and I had been racing for our lives. But we'd been returning from a quest for a mystical vessel, and without some object as my goal, I didn't have any way to mentally anchor the bridge.
Which was the long, rambling way of saying that we wer
"We'll figure something out," I said, giving the gate another hard yank.
"Lily . . ." Her voice was low, and far too steady. Which to me meant that she was scared shitless.
I looked over my shoulder—and immediately saw why. A mountainous mass was rising from the dark, like the time-lapse formation of primeval hills. The purple mountains majesty, however, weren't covered with demon slime, and the viscous, snot-like goo that slathered this demonic head made me want to puke.
It wasn't like I hadn't seen scaly, slimy demons before, but the Grykon I'd fought my first day on the job had been more or less my size. A monster, sure, but still manageable.
This, though . . .
The head alone was the size of a Suburban even without the massive, filth-covered horns that extended at least five feet in opposite directions.
His eyes were red with black slits for pupils, and, within the black, I swear I could see the souls of the damned. He had no nose, only what appeared to be a rotting orifice, and green slime oozed out. His skin looked to be as tough as an elephant's hide, and it appeared to be moving, as if living things were sliding around under the flesh.
"Lily . . ." Beside me, Rose whimpered.
"Don't look," I said, pushing her behind me as I lifted the crossbow that seemed utterly insubstantial. "Don't look; don't watch. We'll be fine."
I reached up and closed my hand around the necklace that was the Oris Clef, the demonic key that Penemue himself had created and I'd recovered only moments before. The thing had the power to control the coming apocalyptic horde of demons, and damned if I didn't wish I had that power right then. At the moment, a subservient hell monster would be a really good thing.