The Pact, 2
They have opened the door to the apex predator, and now it is hunting them.
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Deals with the devil always have their price. Problem is, the devil collects with interest.
Serenity Walker thought she had the upper hand when it came to her partnership with a demon. D’aej is dangerous, but he was always on her side. Then an old friend lifts the scales from her eyes, and Serenity sees her contract for what it truly is: imprisonment, bloodshed, evil. All done by her own hands.
Now Serenity must pay for her ignorance and work harder than ever to fight a demon who can use her body, fool her senses, even twist every thought in her head. Only one sorceress has the power to teach Serenity what she really needs to know…a sorceress possessed by a fiend even bigger and badder than any Serenity has seen before.
Serenity’s gaze darted from one to the other, and she lifted her hands to whip a chain of runes at them.
She jerked to a stop mid-curse, staring, as before her eyes her fingers transfigured into long, curving, knifelike claws. The tips of them blackened, carving sooty trails in the air, shedding cinders and smoke.
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head.
The claws of a shadowy feline. The claws of a lost soul.
Whit seized the moment of surprise and looped his rope around her, tightening it with painful quickness.
That was when D’aej whipped into a frenzy. Agony, cruel as an axe blade, split through her brain as the darkling surged forward, and Serenity screamed. Before she could stop him D’aej seized control, raging against the thieves’ hold, spitting a vile string of curses at them.
“You arrogant little rat carcasses,” he hissed through her teeth. “Thuri—”
Bowen set Jack’s pistol firmly against her skull, and Whit slugged her across the mouth. The taste of blood spattered her tongue. They’d caught D’aej off guard. The instant Serenity tried to regain control, though, he clamped his furious rage down on her spirit to stop her. Phantasmal talons scraped across her brain with a keening screech, and in that bright instant, the thieves gained the advantage.
Pain like shattering glass raced up her palm as Bowen and Whit made good on their promise to break her hand—as one, she and D’aej cried out, and the darkling raced around their brain, trying to regain the moment.
He didn’t need to speak to cast runes. He’d forgone that advantage to try and overawe them, and stupidly given himself away, and it cost them both. To send his curses at a target D’aej did need to form the signs, and now one of Serenity’s hands was useless.
At the darkling’s order the body’s good hand fluttered up like an angry bird, forking the sign of the thurisaz again, throwing a force of energy like a war hammer at the leader’s face. Bowen recoiled, struck aside by the angry strike, blood and teeth flying. Serenity’s scar burned again, growing in intensity as the demon turned his sign on Whit.
Bowen fired Jack’s pistol. His reaction time proved fierce and deadly-quick, his aim perfect. The cruel lead shot shattered her palm, taking off the last three fingers of her left hand.
D’aej screamed. For the first time ever, his spiritual presence inside of her spun into chaos. Scattered, broken, and insane, he dissolved all sense of purpose or thought and left only outraged, panicked, feral disbelief.
She seized the moment and threw him aside, taking control of the body and clamping all her will over him to keep him prisoner. The body relaxed, seized once, and relaxed again.
“It’s all right,” she whispered, dizzy. She was crushed. There was nothing to be done. She’d lost. She had lost more than she’d ever thought possible. “He’s down for the time being. You can tie me up now. I won’t fight.”
Bowen, wiping blood from his mouth, glowered at her, brimming with wary distrust. She turned her face away from him. If it weren’t for the searing bright throb in her mutilated left hand, she might have passed out.