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CHAPTER ONE

Adelle

The demons came again last night. I was sleeping alone in my aunt’s house, and their swishing whispers woke me. At first I thought someone had broken in, that I was going to be robbed—murdered, maybe. But then I realized it was just evil spirits and relaxed.

It was one of those moments when I realized my life is entirely too messed up. A person shouldn’t be relieved to find evil spirits rather than burglars inside the house.

Is it any wonder I don’t sleep well?

They slunk into my room, moving through the walls and door as easily as smoke through air. I can’t see them; I just hear them. I don’t feel cheated by this fact. I don’t want to see them. Hearing them is bad enough.

Dr. Bruchac, my first therapist, asked how I know I heard demons if I couldn’t see them. I know it the same way I know that ice is cold and fire is hot. I feel it immediately. Completely.

Generally they come in ones or twos. I’d never heard as many as I heard that night. An entire crowd traipsed into my room, all of them rumbling with smug laughter—like invisible frat boys out carousing. You wouldn’t expect something that can usually be banished by a good, firm prayer to be smug. But demons always are. I asked one once why he was so confident.

His words formed in my mind, answering my question. We’re winning.

It goes without saying that you can’t believe evil minions. Still, he seemed to believe his own words. I wonder about that sometimes.

Lying there in bed, I was tired and alone and in no mood to deal with an otherworldly party happening in my room. My aunt was away for three days at a convention, but even if she’d been home, I wouldn’t have called out to her. She didn’t realize demons actually existed. Most people don’t. I imagine that people like me who can hear them quickly learn to keep their ability a secret. The surest way to get sent to the shrink is to mention that you hear voices.

The demons got louder as they circled my bed, and I felt a wave of suffocating evil radiate through the room. My heart beat faster. I’d never dealt with this many. Maybe a prayer wouldn’t be enough to make them all leave. Too many spoke at once for me to pick out individual words, so their echoing whispers blended together. I didn’t know why they’d come and didn’t ask. Demons never show up for a good reason. Besides, talking to them gives them more power, emboldens them.

I attempted to form the words of a prayer in my mind. Usually praying that way was easy, almost instinctive. But I wasn’t used to dealing with so many evil spirits. The weight of them all, pressing around me, made me feel numb, almost incapable of thought. Were they dancing? The way their voices shifted, they seemed to be.

“Stop it!” I said, struggling to focus. And then a prayer formed in my mind. At the mention of God’s name, the spirits retreated, and the room went silent. They’d completely vanished by the time I sat up and turned on the lights. I stared at the ruffled blue curtains and cream provincial dresser I’d tucked my clothes into two and a half weeks ago. In the silence everything seemed so normal. So benign. Still, I shivered.

No matter how often evil brushes against your skin, you never get used to it. I read once that demons don’t have bodies of flesh like we do. I guess that comes in handy for seeping through walls. But physical or not, they still make me shudder in revulsion.

Had I done something to attract the demons here? I couldn’t think of anything I’d done out of the ordinary today. I’d gone to school, worked the dinner rush at Rosie’s, come back to my aunt’s house, and read before bedtime. Perhaps the novel I’d chosen was the cause. Maybe the romance between the duke and his voluptuous ward had been a little too hot and heavy. Maybe the story had put too many sensual thoughts in my mind, weakening me.

I’m probably the only teenager in Southbrook, Kentucky who chooses to be morally upstanding as a method of self-defense. I grabbed the book from the nightstand, took it the kitchen trash, and dropped it inside. There. I was done with hot dukes and would never know how his vixen-ish ward had tamed his cynical heart.

As I climbed back into bed, I felt a twinge of regret. I didn’t have any romance in my real life; did I have to cut it out completely in the fiction I read, too?

I’d never had a real boyfriend. When it came down to it, I hadn’t had a lot of real friends either. Not ones I could confide in. I’d learned the hard way that if you want to ensure no one comes to your birthday party, let it slip that you occasionally hold conversations with evil spirits. Secrets like that don’t keep for long. When word gets out, you become the school’s weird girl in no time.

I pulled the covers up, and tried to go back to sleep, but ended up laying in the dark, listening to every sound the house made. This was doubly frustrating because I had to get up for school in the morning, and it was hard enough to keep up with my classes. I moved from New Mexico and enrolled in Southbrook High almost a month after school started. I’d been playing catch up ever since.

As I tried to sleep, one thought kept rattling around in my head: I’d done worse things than read a trashy novel without inviting a parade of nighttime visitors into my bedroom. Demons generally only paid attention to me when I was about to do something significant, like make a key life decision. But right now I wasn’t about to make any big changes. Not that I knew of, anyway.

Around four, I finally drifted off. When the alarm sounded a couple of hours later, I felt worse than if I’d stayed up. I considered skipping school, then decided against it and pulled myself out of bed. I couldn’t afford to get further behind, and besides, I didn’t want Aunt Cheryl thinking that I was taking advantage of her absence by playing hooky. While living with her, I was supposed to be the model teenager. That was the deal. Aunt Cheryl would take me in so I could finish my senior year in a safe place, and in return, I would pretend to be a normal teenager. I was determined to do just that.

*

I rode the bus to school as I did every day—it was one of my parents’ rules. They had an unrealistic view of how dangerous teenage drivers were, and both of them were sure that if I drove, some reckless person would plow into my car. Today I didn’t mind riding the bus. It was easier to rest my head against the window and let someone else drive.

In first period, I was fine. Math gives your brain something to do, so it’s easier to concentrate. I blinked through Spanish class, then dragged myself into English. Usually I like English; where else do you get to read books where the characters string together elegant words like: venerable, sumptuary, and betwixt? But today, Mr. Hoyer droned on about symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. I put my elbow on the desk, leaned my cheek into the palm of my hand, and fell asleep. In my defense, The Scarlet Letter has put many students to sleep. I’m not sure how long I was out. At some point my arm relaxed, and my head slipped off my hand, then hit the desk. The sound of laughter brought me sharply back to the classroom. I jerked awake, confused. My forehead stung.

Mr. Hoyer stopped writing on the white board and sent me a stern look. “Are you having a problem, Adelle?”

Heat flushed through my face. “Uh, no. Sorry.”

The class went silent.

Mr. Hoyer kept his gaze on me. “Then perhaps you’d like to explain to us all why Hester Prynne kept her daughter’s identity a secret.”

Was that a rhetorical question, or did he expect me to answer? That’s the problem with being new—you don’t know the teachers well enough to be able to figure out what they want.

He kept staring at me.

“Sometimes telling the truth makes things harder,” I said.

His stony expression let me know he wasn’t impressed. “That’s a vague generality, not an answer. In the future, I expect you to pay attention.”

I nodded and shrank into my chair, blushing again.

He turned back to the white board, writing again. A trio of jocks who sat to my side were snickering about something, exchanging smirks. Were they laughing at me?

A flash of panic went through me. Maybe I wasn’t the weird girl because of the demons. Maybe I was just hopelessly awkward.

I rubbed my forehead where it had hit the desk and hoped it wouldn’t bruise.

Ten minutes later the bell rang. I scooped up my stack of books. Since I sat close to the door, I was usually the first one out of the room. This time, as I stepped into the doorway, I stopped short.

Demons were making their way down the hallway.

Hearing them in high school wasn’t a new sensation. When I’m close enough, I sense them near certain people. Usually, it’s the drug addicts, the criminal lot, or the people who dress like they’re auditioning for the part of Satan. But occasionally, I sense them even around honor students or people who look like they could be poster children for wholesomeness. Apparently no one is immune to the occasional demon stalking.

A time or two, I’d heard demons near teachers, but until I saw Principal Anderson walk down the hall, I’d never felt anyone so engulfed in evil spirits.

First the coldness set in, a feeling that gripped my insides and made it hard to breathe. Then I heard the whispering. The scoffing. The laughing. The noise drowned out the sound of lockers and students. I stood frozen to the spot, staring at the man I’d only seen at a distance before.

There was a certainty to his steps, to the way his tall, lean figure filled out his suit. His thick, blond hair and distinguished looks probably impressed a lot of parents—at least the mothers—but when he turned his eyes in my direction, a dark emptiness sliced through me. I couldn’t move.

What did this throng of evil mean? Was it in any way related to the demons I heard last night?

One of the jocks from class, a burly brunet, shouldered past me, bumping into my arm and knocking the books from my hands. They clattered into the hallway.

Instead of apologizing, he gave a dismissive grunt. “Fall asleep again?” He didn’t bother helping me pick up any of my scattered things.

Jock number two went by next. He was tall with curly dark hair. “You snooze you lose . . . your books.”

Yeah, thanks for those words of wisdom. I moved into the hall, but the stream of students pushing by made it impossible for me to retrieve my books. They were being trampled, kicked around in the mass of Converse and sandals. Finally, when the crowd thinned, I located them. The Scarlet Letter’s cover was bent. It wasn’t like I planned on keeping the book. Still, tears pricked the back of my eyes. Even when people didn’t know I was a freak, they still treated me like one.

As I brushed dirt off the novel, I noticed a blond guy, jock number three. He bent down to grab my notebook from where it had slid into some lockers. I vaguely remembered his name was Levi.

I watched him, half afraid he’d punt my notebook down the hallway. Instead he walked over, holding the book out to me. “Sorry about that. Owen and Jake think they’re funny. A lot of times, not so much.” Levi shrugged and smiled. “They might have been dropped on their heads as babies. Or had one too many tackles in football.”

I knew Levi’s type: athletic, handsome, and popular. The kind of guy whose cheerleader girlfriend would get all squinty-eyed and vengeful if she saw me talking to him. I took my notebook from his hand. “Thanks.”

Levi’s gaze didn’t leave me. “Are you okay? You’re kind of pale.”

“I’m fine.” I wasn’t fine. I was still shaken from seeing the principal with his demon entourage—and still stinging from having books knocked to the ground.

Levi looked at me for a moment longer, weighing my words. He seemed to know I was lying, but he didn’t press the point. “Okay. See you around.”

He would. I’d see him and his two Neanderthal friends tomorrow in English. But knowing that Levi would be there made the Neanderthals seem more bearable.

CHAPTER TWO

Levi

I stayed after football practice to talk to Coach Jepsen. He wanted to start me in Friday’s game but worried about putting too much stress on my left shoulder. It had taken a hit during last week’s game and I’d favored it ever since. I wouldn’t mind sitting out, but half of the time, Caleb, the second-string quarterback, folded under pressure. The whole school would be ticked if we lost another game to Shelby County.

By the time I left school, the parking lot was almost empty, which should have made it easy to find my truck. For a moment, though, I couldn’t. Then I remembered that my truck was in the shop and I’d driven my dad’s BMW. I spotted it in the middle of the parking lot next to a silver Dodge pickup that hadn’t been there when I parked—I would have noticed it. I knew everyone at school who drove a truck.

As I got closer, I noticed a man sitting behind the wheel. Just sitting there, waiting. He was probably someone’s dad. But why was he all the way back here in the student lot instead of waiting at the front of the school?

The sight set me on edge, which was stupid. He was just some random dude.

Still, I glanced around the parking lot, checking to see if anyone else was around. The few remaining cars were empty. No one else was making their way across the pavement. I would have to walk by him to the driver’s side of my car. Almost unconsciously, I assessed what I could use as a weapon: my backpack and my hands. Unfortunately, neither could stop bullets, although my chemistry book was thick enough to put up a decent effort.

As I walked, I kept my eyes on the man. He was heavyset with dark hair and a prominent chin. He wore sunglasses even though it was nearly five thirty and overcast. It was probably rude to stare at him, but everyone had been more cautious since the shootings in this parking lot last January.

I hadn’t known the victims, Patrick Cooper and Kevin Reed. They’d graduated from Southbrook High when I was in eighth grade. People said they were drug dealers. Probably killed by some unhappy customer.

Still, the fact that they’d been shot on school grounds freaked everyone out. You didn’t expect that sort of thing to happen in a small town like Southbrook. Murders didn’t happen around here. Or at least they didn’t used to.

The man watched me walk up to my car and scowled. He muttered something I couldn’t hear, started his truck, and peeled out of the parking lot.

Weird.

Even weirder—the feeling that I’d seen the man before. In fact, I was almost sure of it. I just couldn’t remember where or when.

I got in the BMW and drove out of the parking lot. When I got home, Dad wasn’t there. No note either, which was unexpected, since I had his car. I figured he was probably out with one of his buddies or on a date. The guy had a busier social life than I did.

While I warmed a frozen pizza for dinner, I turned on the TV. Before I could change the station from Dad’s lame local cable channel, a perky female reporter with matching perky hair started interviewing Sheriff Lyman in front of the police station. “What can you tell us about last week’s drug bust?”

I paused to watch. The sheriff was one of my dad’s friends and usually couldn’t string more than a few words together without swearing, but on TV, he was all shine and respectability.

“When you have a dedicated police force such as ours,” he said, “you see results. We’ve stopped three hundred thousand dollars’ worth of cocaine from making its way to the streets”

The reporter wore a serious expression that clashed with her Barbie-doll appearance. “Is the drug arrest in any way connected to last January’s fatal shootings at Southbrook High?”

Sheriff Lyman’s eyebrows dipped in a somber and assuring sort of way. “Those events are an indication that drugs are still a problem in Southbrook. And as long as that’s the case, we’ll continue to bring anyone connected with the drug trade to justice.”

She didn’t seem to like his answer. “There’s speculation that the murders of Patrick Cooper and Kevin Reed signaled that a new drug-selling gang moved into Southbrook. If that’s true, now that you’ve apprehended these drugs, will you have enough evidence to identify the murderers?”

Sheriff Lyman’s neck flushed with impatience, which probably meant no. “I can’t comment on an open investigation, but I can say we’re doing everything we can to make Southbrook safe.”

I changed the channel. The police obviously didn’t have anything on the murders. It had been nine months and there were still no witnesses or suspects. Cooper and Reed were found by the grounds crew, both shot in the back multiple times. That’s all anybody knew.

After surfing through a few more channels, I turned off the TV, took the pizza from the oven, and started my calculus homework. As I was finishing up, the phone rang. The caller ID said unknown number.

I picked it up anyway. “Hello?”

“Listen good,” a man’s voice said, low and angry. “I’m sick of this runaround. You pay up, or you take the consequences. And I promise, you won’t like the consequences.”

Uh, right. “Who is this?”

Silence filled the line. Then the man swore and hung up.

I stared at the phone, trying to make sense of the call. It seemed like the type of stupid prank one of my teammates might play, but I hadn’t recognized the voice. Was it a wrong number, or had that message been meant for my dad? Was he in some sort of money trouble? I glanced around the house, at the large kitchen with granite countertops and travertine floors. We’d moved here three months ago and were still unpacking things. Had Dad gotten in over his head when he bought the place?

I dismissed the idea. A bank would have identified itself and been way more professional.

Maybe one of my friends would call back in a minute, laughing.

No one did.

I called Dad’s cell. The call went straight to voicemail. I hung up without leaving a message and finished my math homework. By the time Dad got home, I was almost done with my English essay.

Dad was tall—an inch taller than I was, he liked to remind me—and in pretty good shape. We had our own weight room downstairs, and he made good use of it. I could bench press a hundred pounds more than he could—something I liked to remind him.

He still wore a button-down shirt and tie from work. He cared about his clothes, priding himself on having expensive tastes, as though that were a good thing. My mom said he refused to accept his age. She’d had a lot to say about Dad since their divorce three years ago. But I figured he was just making the most of being single.

He walked into the kitchen, glancing at my school books on his way to the fridge. “You done with homework?” That was always the first thing he asked when he saw me. Apparently he thought that if he didn’t remind me to do it, I’d drop out of school and become a mime.

“Almost. Where have you been?”

“Out with Kyra.”

She was his Real Estate agent turned girlfriend, and probably one of the reasons Dad bought this house. She’d supposedly gotten him a great deal. I glanced over to see if he carried a restaurant bag. I usually pilfered his leftovers.

Instead of putting anything into the fridge, he took some chicken out.

Dang. “You went out on a date and didn’t get dinner?”

He hesitated, seeming not to know how to answer. “We ate at her house. She’s not the best cook, so I’m still hungry.”

“Great,” I said. “If you marry her, I’ll have to keep contraband snacks in my room so I don’t starve.”

“I’m not planning on marrying anyone anytime soon.” He slid a couple of pieces of chicken into the microwave, turned it on, and glanced over at my books while he waited. “The Scarlet Letter. That was the book Hawthorne wrote out of guilt.”

Dad remembered an amazing amount of useless information he’d learned in school, and he frequently felt the need to share it with me. It was like he had to prove he still belonged to some intellectual club. “One of Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials, and he was ashamed of his Puritan connection. Hawthorne even added the w to his name so people wouldn’t associate him with that judge.”

“Guess that didn’t work.”

“After you’re done with your essay, I’ll check it for grammar.”

Dad didn’t just check my papers for grammar; he frequently felt the need to tell me to rewrite large portions of them. I would have appreciated his help if I hadn’t already been getting an A in the class, but I was, and I didn’t want to argue with him about the central theme of the novel.

I changed the subject. “I got a strange phone call while you were gone.”

“How so?”

“Some angry dude with a blocked number told me I’d better pay up or face the consequences.”

Dad frowned. The microwave chimed, but he ignored it. “What else did he say?”

“That I wouldn’t like the consequences. When I asked who he was, he hung up.”

Dad shrugged and got his chicken out of the microwave. “Probably a wrong number.”

I kept watching him. He seemed stiff, irritated, and he didn’t continue talking about Hawthorne or go off on some tangent about the Puritans. “Dad, you’re not having money problems, are you?”

He scoffed and went back to the fridge for a beer. “No more than anyone else.” He shut the fridge with too much force.

“If we need to move again, I’m fine with that.” I’d thought it was stupid to buy a house in an exclusive neighborhood. It’s not like we needed such a big place. My brother, Max, had already left for college, and I’d be graduating at the end of the school year.

Dad opened the beer and took a drink. “We don’t need to move out of this house. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I deserve to enjoy it.”

That was Dad’s excuse for buying a lot of things lately. His version of a midlife crisis, I supposed.

He noticed me still staring. “I don’t know who called tonight. There are a lot of whackos out there—even in Southbrook. From now on, if the phone number is blocked, don’t answer.”

I nodded and went back to my homework. He was right. The world was full of whackos.

CHAPTER THREE

Adelle

The next day, school went well enough. Well enough, meaning I didn’t have any encounters with the powers of evil, and none of the students paid much attention to me. That’s all I wanted, really—to finish up high school in relative obscurity. If no one here found out about my secret, no one would burn crosses on my lawn because they thought I was possessed or ask me theological questions I couldn’t answer.

I didn’t have any insights into heaven. The only thing I knew about God was that he wasn’t forthcoming with explanations. I’d asked him plenty of times why I had this ability. I’d never gotten an answer.

After school, I did a couple of hours of homework, and then called my mom and checked in with her before my shift at the diner. When she asked how everything was, I said what she wanted to hear—tidbits about the girls at my lunch table and predictions about tonight’s football game. My attempt at proof that everything was normal—that I was fitting it.

I didn’t mention that the girls at lunch hadn’t invited me to go to the game with them, or that I wouldn’t have gone even if I didn’t have to work. I also I didn’t mention my recent less-than-welcome, middle-of-the-night visit. Mom would only have worried. She half believed Dad’s idea that my problem was schizophrenia. If she knew I was still hearing voices, she might want me to start taking medication again, even though it had never worked.

My family had always gone to church, and in theory, my parents believed that demons existed, but somehow that belief didn’t quite stretch into accepting that I actually heard them. At best my parents were ambivalent about the whole thing.

I could have asked to speak to my sister, Charla. She trusted me when I told her about what I heard. She would have empathized. I didn’t want to worry her, though. I was determined that my life in Kentucky would be normal.

My brushes with demons didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to do anything to let people here know about them. I’d learned that lesson freshman year, when my parents uprooted our family from Albuquerque and took us to Las Cruces to give me a fresh start. I’d known it was a bad idea to let on to anyone that I heard otherworldly beings—after all, I was called Demon Girl all through junior high—but I’d thought I could get around letting people know the truth, while still using my ability to be helpful.

One of the things demons do is whisper horrible stuff into people’s minds. Sentences like, “You’re a loser. You’ll never be happy,” and their biggest hit: “It’s too late for you to change.” I’m pretty sure people mistake demons’ words for their own thoughts.

At my last high school, I’d tried to counteract the demons’ negative influences. Here’s an example of my failure to make things any better:

One day as I made my way through the halls, I passed a girl alone at her locker. I heard a demon whispering to her: You’re fat. That’s why no one likes you. You’ve got fat hanging off you.

I walked over to her and smiled. “You know, you’re not fat. If anything, you’re on the thin side.”

I knew she’d be surprised I’d known what was going through her mind, but hey, some people believe in psychics. I wouldn’t have minded being the psychic new girl. That would have been cool.

Instead of being amazed, she stared at me in horror. “Why are you telling me this? Are people saying I’m fat?”

I shook my head. “No. Not at all.”

She lowered her voice to a hiss. “Then why would you walk up to me and bring it up out of the blue? People are talking about me, aren’t they?”

Needless to say, the conversation didn’t get better. Apparently when people are confronted with someone who knows their negative thoughts, psychic ability is not the first explanation that comes to mind.

Another example of a fail: Different girl, but the demon near her was whispering the same sort of thing. You’re too fat and ugly. You’ll never be beautiful.

Neither was true.

I tried to be more subtle with my compliments that time. I walked up, paused as though noticing her and said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that you’re really pretty.”

The girl out and out sneered back. “Um, I don’t know who you are or what you think you know about me, but I don’t swing that way.”

I could give more examples, but really, it’s too painful to relive them. So yeah, I’ve given up trying to be helpful.

My shift at the diner went like usual. Customers came in, and I served them plate after steaming plate. Being friendly with diners was easy because that’s what they expected. A waitress is nothing but a smiley-faced fixture who can spout off the day’s special. Sometimes middle-aged men flirted with me, which was a bit awkward, but at least they left good tips.

I’d forgotten about the evening’s football game until a stream of people from school came in. They were as jubilant with the win as if they’d made the touchdowns themselves.

In the two weeks I’d worked at Rosie’s, I’d learned that teenagers were lousy customers. They had no qualms about doing stupid things like unscrewing the salt shaker lids or turning napkins into paper airplanes. They thought it was hilarious when they made you repeat the soup of the day five times, and they were bad tippers. Sometimes the guys flirted, which I didn’t know how to handle. Obviously they weren’t really interested in me, or they would have spoken to me at school. It’s as if they thought their testosterone was a gift to the world, and I was one of the lucky recipients.

An hour later while I was doing my best to juggle four tables, I felt the cold. Not the regular cold. This was the sort that clutched my bones and raised the hair on the back of my neck. I glanced at the door to see who had brought a demon with them, intending to avoid whoever it was.

My last therapist once asked why I didn’t pray away evil spirits whenever I came into contact with them. I couldn’t, because prayer only works if the demons are coming after you. It doesn’t affect the others.

Avoidance was always my best strategy. Demons are like fishermen with fish already on their hooks—they don’t pay attention to anything else swimming by unless you draw attention to yourself.

Levi and his book-knocking friend, Owen, came through the door. Jake, the other guy from English, followed them into the restaurant, along with another football player; a huge Polynesian guy. They were all strut and swagger.

Which one had a demon with him?

Levi caught me staring and nodded, then smiled a little, as though he thought I was another groupie admiring the returning football heroes.

I turned away, embarrassed.

Debbi, the hostess, led the guys right to my section. Which meant that every time I went near their table, I’d feel the cold and hear what the demon was saying. Great. Just what I needed on a busy night—an otherworldly commentary to distract me from hearing the customers.

I pulled out my order pad and went to their table. Before I got close, I heard them. Not one demon, but two. Whispering in their echoing way. I put on a smile, doing my best to ignore them. “Congrats on your win.”

Owen leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms. “It wasn’t a win; it was an execution.”

An execution, a demon repeated with glee. We’re going to have an execution. And it cackled. I scanned the area around the table, even though I knew I wouldn’t see anything, then forced myself to look away from the voice. My gaze landed on Levi’s eyes. They were swimming-pool blue. With his wavy blond hair and square jaw, he was handsome enough to provide a good distraction.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“Dr. Pepper,” he said.

“Coke,” Jake and the other guy said at the same time.

“Martini,” Owen ordered with a wave of his hand. “Shaken, not stirred.” He said the words so loudly, it seemed like he’d already had something to drink.

“Sorry,” I said. “We don’t serve those. How about I shake you a Coke instead?”

Owen groaned. “What sort of cheap joint is this?”

Levi flipped through his menu. “The same cheap joint we’ve come to for years.” To me he said, “Give him a Sprite. That’s what he always has.”

I wrote the drink orders down.

He doesn’t know, a demon’s voice near Levi said. None of them know. Such a tasty soul.

Levi set the menu down. He had broad shoulders muscled from years of training. Undoubtedly an intimidating foe on the field. “We already know what we want to order.”

“Okay.” I put pen to my pad, focusing on his voice.

“Double cheeseburger and large fries.”

I wrote the words, then turned to Owen. “How about you?”

“You look familiar,” Owen said. “Have we met?”

Before I could answer, Jake said, “She’s in our English class, dude. Pay attention every once in a while.”

The demons laughter grew closer, as if they were climbing onto the table. They felt so solid, I almost believed I’d be able to see them if I stared long enough. I gripped my pen hard and returned my focus on Owen.

He handed me his menu. “I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger, large fries, and a victory dessert. Something hot and awesome, because that’s what we are.”

I wrote his order quickly. I wanted to leave, to get away from the chill. “And what do you want for dessert?”

They’ll celebrate tonight and weep tomorrow.

“What do you suggest?” Owen grinned and wagged his eyebrows. “What sort of thing gets you hungry?”

Seriously? The guy was flirting with me? Did he even remember that he knocked my books out of my hands yesterday?

“Just decide,” the Polynesian guy said. “The rest of us still need to order.”

“Do you have nice buns?” Owen asked. His eyebrows found this all very amusing.

There was no good way to answer that question. “We have apple pie, hot fudge sundaes, and carrot cake.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Janette Rallison/ CJ Hill writes books because writing is more fun than cleaning bathrooms. Her avoidance of housework has led her to writing 23 novels that have sold over 1,000,000 copies and have been on many reading lists. Her books are fantasy, sci-fi, and romantic comedy because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of humor, romance and hot guys who fight dragons. She lives in Arizona with her husband, kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
When I first had the idea for a character who heard demons, I planned on setting the story back in the Middle Ages. Having such an ability back then could have gotten you killed for witchcraft. But I decided the story would be more interesting if I set in in modern day. I hope readers agree with me.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
JanetteRallison.com
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write for many reasons, including the fact that I'm avoiding cleaning the fridge. I write because I love to read a good book and want to share my stories with other readers who enjoy romance, humor, and some action. If a book can make me think too, all the better.

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