The Secret Life of a Witch, Page 7Jessica Sorensen
Two words pop into mind at the sight of him: bad boy. If it wasn’t for his fiery orange eyes, I probably wouldn’t have figured out who he is.
“Definitely not the gangly Evan I grew up with,” I mutter in surprise.
Evan’s gaze glides up and down me before residing on my eyes. Then his lips pull into a sexy half-grin. “Well, holy shit. Little dead body girl is all grown up.”
“I don’t go by that name anymore, thank you very much,” I joke then move in to give him a hug. “How’s life been? I heard you graduated with honors or something like that.”
He waves my remark off as I step back. “That’s completely untrue. In fact, everything you’ve heard is probably untrue.”
I give him a skeptical look. “Either that, or you’re just trying to be modest, like you used to be.”
He leans against the doorway with his arms crossed. “Do I look like the same person I used to be?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t.” I gesture at his outfit. “This could all be a façade.”
He rubs his jawline, eyes twinkling in amusement. “Interesting speculation.” He chuckles, his eyes crinkling around the corners. “God, I’ve missed you.”
“Me, too.” I stick my fist out for a bump.
He shakes his head, but taps his knuckles against mine. Then his eyes wander to my right. “So, are you going to introduce me to your brooding friend or what?”
At first, I’m utterly perplexed about who he could possibly mean, but when I realize he means Hunter, I become even more lost. Hunter brooding? That’s a new one.
Sure enough, when I look over, Hunter is in complete brooding form: arms crossed, eyes narrowed, and lips set in a thin, annoyed line.
“Evan, this is my friend Hunter,” I say while shooting Hunter a what’s-up-with-all-the-glaring look. “And Hunter, this is my old friend Evan.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Hunter says, sounding quite the opposite.
“Likewise,” Evan replies tightly then directs his focus back on me. “So, did you just stop by to say hi, or is there an ulterior motive for this blast from the past?”
“Well, I have been meaning to catch up with you,” I answer truthfully. “But I do need your expert advice with a little problem I ran into.”
His brows pucker. “And what exactly is this problem?”
“I recently lost something very important to me, and I need to get it back. The problem is, I have no idea who took it. It did leave a clue behind, and I’m wondering if you can help me figure out what kind of creature it belongs to.” I stick out my hand, indicating for Hunter to give me the container with the sample in it.
Hunter grunts something incoherent and I mouth, “What the hell, dude?”
Huffing, he shoves his hand into his jacket pocket, retrieves the container, and slaps it into my hand.
I shoot him a warning look before turning back to Evan, who looks extremely curious about what I have. “We found this on the table that the … item went missing from.”
He takes the container from me and lifts it to eye level. Then his lips part in shock. “Holy shit.”
I perk up a notch. “Does that holy shit mean you know what it’s from?”
His gaze flicks to mine. “Yeah, it’s from a demon. A very powerful, very rare faerie hybrid demon.”
“Faerie hybrid demon?” Hunter and I say simultaneously.
“I thought hybrids didn’t exist,” I add, jumping at the sound of booming thunder.
My gaze travels to the gloomy sky, splattered with hues of yellow, red, green, blue, and purple. Great. Not only is a storm brewing, but a rainbow storm. While that might sound pretty in theory, trust me when I say that being blinded by a thousand rainbows covering the sky for at least several hours is very exhausting. Plus, it brings out the dancing leprechauns.
Hunter tips his head back and frowns at the sky, probably experiencing the same thoughts as me.
Then my attention is swiftly yanked back to Evan as he gives the container a soft shake.
“Hybrids do exist,” he says. “But they mostly live in underground tunnels, so not a whole bunch of people know about them.”
“Underground tunnels?” I cast a quick glance at Hunter, who looks as befuddled as I feel. “Where are those, exactly?”
“I’m not sure.” Evan takes one final look at the container before his gaze settles on me. “If you really want to know, I might know someone you can ask.”
I nod eagerly. “If you could do that, that would be fantastic.”
“Come on in, then.” Evan backs away and signals for us to come inside.
I hesitate. “This person is inside?”
He nods, wariness flooding his expression. “He is.”
Putting my guard up, I step inside the warehouse. Before I get very far, Evan’s fingers fold around my wrist.
“I don’t want to come off weird,” he says quietly, “but did you, by chance, bring a large sum of cash with you?”
My fingers drift to my pocket as I remember the overwhelming feeling of needing to bring cash with me. “Actually, I did.”
“Really?” He seems surprised.
“I had a hunch I’d need it,” I explain, slipping my hand into my pocket.
He waits for me to embellish. When I don’t, he turns and leads us into the warehouse. Hunter stays close behind me as we make our way down a narrow hallway lined with electric lanterns and framed skull paintings.
“Are you sure you can trust this guy?” Hunter whispers, his mouth so close that his lips kiss my earlobe.
I bite down on my bottom lip to suppress a moan threatening to escape. “Yes, I’m pretty sure.”
“Pretty sure?” he questions. “That doesn’t sound very convincing.”
“Pretty sure, if close to one hundred percent sure.”
My gaze wanders to the flickering chandeliers hanging from the low ceiling. Power shortage? It could be from the storm. However, there are a few other things that suck energy away from objects. One being a demon.
I screech to a halt as I reach the end of the hallway, warning flags popping up everywhere. And for a good reason.
Standing in the center of the rounded room is a guy with dark hair, piercings ornamenting his face, and glowing red eyes.
My heart hammers in my chest.
The demon from the park.
Hunter’s fingers circle my upper arms as he prepares to yank me back behind him when Evan sticks out his hand.
“You don’t need to freak out. I promise he can’t hurt you.” He approaches the demon with zero caution and lifts his hand as if to pat the demon. Instead, his hand knocks against an invisible force. The air ripples like water and the demon’s eyes flame as he nips at the air. “It’s locked in an invisible cage,” Evan explains, dropping his hand to his side. “I assure you that it can’t escape.”
Hunter makes no move to release me from his death grip. “Sure, it is. That’s why it attacked us in the park today.”
Evan’s forehead creases. “That impossible. I’ve been here all day, and I can assure you that the demon hasn’t left the cage.”
“He’s not lying,” I tell Hunter while eyeing the demon. “Either it escaped without you knowing, or there’s a demon running around that looks exactly like this one.”
The demon targets his gaze on me and lowers onto all fours, snarling.
Evan stays in Confusion Land for a handful of seconds before realization crosses his face. “Oh, he’s mirroring. Interesting.” He circles the cage, and the demon turns, his red eyes tracking Evan’s every move. “I didn’t know you could do that. Clever.”
“What’s mirroring?” I ask, stepping forward, but Hunter digs his fingers into my arm as he tows me back.
“No way. You’re not going any closer until we figure out what’s going on.”
“Yes, boss,” I mumble, obeying and staying put.
“It’s when a demon can manipulate his appearance
to look like the last demon someone saw.” Evan stops circling the cage, keeping his gaze glued to the rabid demon. “To me, he looks like an ugly, little troll. To you, he looks like the last demon you laid eyes on.”
Huh? So, he’s not the demon in the park, but just making himself look like him.
“Well, he definitely doesn’t look like an ugly, little troll to me,” I say automatically, picturing the sexy but extremely annoying demon that cursed me earlier.
Hunter coughs from behind me. “Get a grip over yourself. That guy in the park was a demon.”
“I know that,” I tell him, my cheeks warming. “That doesn’t mean he was ugly.”
Hunter sighs audibly while Evan appears confusedly amused.
“Anyway …” I clear my throat and change the subject. “Why do you even have a demon?”
“To study,” Evan explains, fidgeting with the chain attached to his jeans. “It’s actually not that uncommon for an expert to have a few species to study. I only have the one, though, since demons are a handful.”
As if to prove his point, the demon charges at the invisible cage walls and the entire room ripples in protest.
“Whoa.” I press my hand to my forehead as the red walls and the black and white tile floor spin around like a whirlwind. “Head rush.”
Evan stares the demon down. “Behave, or no dinner.”
The demon’s lip twitches before he takes a seat on the floor.
“Good boy,” Evan says almost tauntingly before facing the demon with his arms tucked behind his back. “Now, we need a bit of information from you. If you do that, then I’ll throw in dessert tonight.”
The demon’s eyes illuminate brightly, which I assume is a good sign until he shakes his head.
“Pay the fee, or my lips are sealed.” His baritone voice reverberates around the room as he crosses his arms and elevates his chin in defiance.
“I thought you might say that.” Evan turns to me with an apologetic look. “Sorry, but this is where you’re going to have to pay him. I mean, I can try to get him to talk without the cash, but I’ve had him for over a year and have yet to ever get any sort of truth out of him without anteing up first.”
“It’s okay.” I fish the wad of cash out of my pocket then look at the demon. “But I’m not paying you in full until I get answers.”
His eyes light up with dollar signs. Honestly, I find his reaction kind of stupid since he’s locked in a cage and has no real purpose for money. Demons can be greedy like that.
The demon kneels up and sticks out his hand. “Half up front and half after I answer your questions.”
I start to step forward to give him the money, figuring Hunter will release me, but instead he moves with me, refusing to let go. I internally sigh. While he’s always been a bit protective of me, he’s being crazy protective right now.
“Hunter, I’ll be okay,” I whisper over my shoulder. “You can let me go for a few minutes.”
His hold only tightens. “No, I can’t.”
This time, I let my sigh escape. However, I let the subject drop as I approach the cage.
“Do I just hand it to him?” I ask Evan.
He walks a perfect line around the cage and steps up beside me. “Yes, but don’t reach through the cage. Just throw the money in. You’re safe out here, but if you breach the perimeter, he can harm you.”
Nodding, I count out half the money then toss the bills into the cage. Grunting like an excited baboon, the demon scoops up the money and clutches it to his chest.
“Now, the first question I have is if you know anything about the bodies being stolen around town.” Because after everything that’s happened today, I have a hunch demons might be behind the stealing. Why, though, I don’t have a damn clue.
The bills crinkle as the demon hugs them tightly against his chest. “They do.”
I motion for him to explain further. “And, why are they?”
He shrugs. “I have no idea.”
I wave the money in the air. “Tell me the truth, or I keep these bad boys.”
If looks could kill, I’d be dead where I stand.
“They’re trafficking them,” he bites out, drool dripping down his chin as he snarls.
“Who’s trafficking them?” I ask. “And why?”
Using one arm to hug the money, he lifts his free hand to his mouth and places a finger to his lips. “I’m not sure on the why part, but the who I might be able to answer.” A grin twists at his lips as his greedy eyes zero in on the cash in my hand. “For a small fee, of course.”
“Fine.” I chuck a few more bills into the cage. “Now tell me who’s behind the trafficking.”
He scrambles to get the money, dropping some bills in the process. Growling, he does a belly flop and sprawls his body over the pile of cash. “The hybrids,” he spits out as he reaches for a few dollars in front of his face.
“Faerie hybrids?” I ask.
He zealously nods as he snatches up the bills with his grubby fingers. “That and all the other kinds. So many kinds. Vampire kinds. Werewolf kinds. Pixie kinds. An army of kinds.”
“An army?” Hunter and I say at the same time.
A sinister smile carves across the demon’s face as he glances from Hunter to me. “Yes, an army.”
I swallow hard. “An army for what?”
The demon pushes to his feet and stuffs the money into his pocket. “Who knows? But you should probably be worried, considering you might be one of them.”
My muscles constrict as Hunter’s fingers tense on my arm.
The demon grins, taking a step toward me. “You didn’t know?”
My heart slams against my chest as I worry he might be right. Then I remember how powerless of a witch I am, definitely not half-demon material, and laughter sputters from my lips.
“Boy, oh boy, that was a good try,” I tell the demon. “But next time you try to worry someone into thinking they’re some special sort of creature, you should probably make sure the person is super talented and unique, instead of mediocre.”
His lips curve downward. “You think I’m kidding?”
“No,” I stress. “I know you’re kidding.”
A low growl rumbles from his chest. “Stupid girl. But that’s okay. One day, you’ll realize it. Then you’ll come crawling back to me.”
I roll my eyes. “Nice try, tricky demon. If you want the rest of your money, you better start telling me the truth.”
Now he rolls his eyes. “Fine, tell me what else you think you need to know.”
“Well, for starters, I want to know who this sample of magic belongs to.” I nod my head at the container Evan is still holding.
The demon’s contorted grin sends a shiver down my spine. “You mean, you want to know who the hybrid is who stole your sister’s body.”
Evan nearly drops the container as he realizes what my lost “object” is. “That’s what the demon took from you?”
“Sorry I wasn’t straight forward,” I tell him. “I just didn’t want to seem like a total nutjob.”
His expression softens. “I’d never think you were a nutjob, Eva. In fact, you’re probably the most levelheaded person I know.”
I offer him a smile. “Thanks for trying, but I know there’s no way that can be true.”
He reaches out to either pat my arm or take my hand, but when his gaze strays over my shoulder, he pulls back. “I’m telling the truth. You’re one of the smartest, bravest girls I’ve ever known.”
My lips part in protest, but the demon’s creepy-ass cackling cuts me off.
“Oh, my God. Drama, drama, drama,” he says then laughs, hunching over and cradling his sides.
“Yeah, keep laughing, you little twerp.” I wave the money in the air. “Maybe I’ll just hang on to these.”
His laugh promptly dies. “You can’t. We have a deal.”
I fan the money in front of the wall. “Then tell me who the hybrid is who broke into my house and stole my sister’s body, an
d how I can get her back.”
“The last answer seems pretty self-explanatory. But since you’re obviously stupid, I’ll give you the answer,” the demon says in a bored tone as he examines his chipped fingernails. “You go to the underground tunnels.”
I take a subtle breath, trying to remain calm, but my patience is wearing thin. “And how exactly do I get there?”
He looks up from his fingernails. “You really don’t know?” When I shake my head, he dramatically sighs and inches even closer to the barrier. “To the place on the card in your pocket. You know, the one your sister left behind for you.”
My hand instinctively travels to my pocket. “The Illuminating Horror House of Truth?” I ask, and he nods. “How did you know about the card?”
He taps his ear. “Curse of the demon hearing. I can hear everything that’s going on amongst my kind.”
Hope glimmers in my chest. “So, you’ve heard things about my sister?”
“Hearing things right now,” he clarifies with a smirk. “But to hear what she’s saying will cost you a lot more than what you have in your hand.”
“You can hear her?” I whisper, my voice shaking.
“Don’t trust everything he says,” Hunter warns, holding on to me securely. “Remember what he is.”
The demon glowers at him. Then a devious grin illuminates his face as he focuses on me. “Or maybe you shouldn’t trust anyone. I mean, for all you know, any one of your little friends could have been the one to tell the hybrids where your sister was hidden.”
I freeze. “What do you mean, tell?”
His laughter is all mocking. “What? Did you think they just accidentally stumbled across her body?”
“I don’t know …” Confusion clouds my mind, making me dizzy. “I hadn’t really thought about it. A ton of other bodies have been stolen.”
“From the morgue, where bodies are supposed to be. Very rarely do people keep bodies in their basement.” The demon looks at me like I’m an idiot, and he might be right. “How do you think the newspaper found out about the theft only minutes afterward, other than maybe the little rat running around in your house momentarily getting a guilty conscience.” He hums a foreign tune under his breath. “Sucks to be Mr. Trickleten. He got into a lot of trouble for printing that piece.”