So Celine’s problem is that she’s stuck in the past… in the worst way.
Her hero understands that. He spent more than a little while dealing with the same problem and he gets it better than most.
She’s too new at what’s she’s doing and too caught up the pain of what happened that she can’t see clearly. She’s in for a rude awakening, though.
Slowing to a stop at the intersection, Celine swallowed against the tears, the pain, the anger. He wanted a fucking divorce—
It’s never enough to say I’m sorry… It’s never enough to say I care…
Theory of a Deadman. “We’re Not Meant to Be”. Also known as “one of the absolute last songs she needed to hear”.
Cutting her gaze to the radio, she stared at it in disbelief. She couldn’t believe that song was on. Jamming the power button with her finger, she turned the radio off, plunging the car into silence.
Gavin wanted a divorce…
She needed to breathe. Fuck. Usually coming up into the Knobs made it easier for her to think, but she couldn’t think—
A sharp, broken scream cut through the night.
Celine stiffened, slanting her eyes out the passenger window. Squinting her eyes, she searched the night. Dark, so fucking dark—
Just go home. You need to go home and work things out with Gavin, she told herself.
But she heard it again—another scream. Fainter. Weaker. Off in the dark parking lot of a closed bar, she thought she saw shadows…
The woman had been screaming, all right.
And Celine understood why as the pain tore through every last millimeter of her body—pain unlike anything she’d ever felt.
They held her down with hands so strong and so cruel.
And their eyes—there was a madness in them. Madness, and a lack of…human.
One of them came at her again—she jerked a knee up, even though it hurt so fucking bad to move—
He laughed and backhanded her. She blacked out, and when she woke up, he was already done with her. Numb, she stared at the broken body off to the side. The woman she’d heard screaming. Dead. She’d tried to help…and she was going to die…
“You’re a fun little piece. I don’t think we should kill you yet,” somebody muttered. It was the one she’d tried to rack earlier. He was crouching by her. He reached down, fisted a hand in her hair and jerked her up.
She bit back a scream.
Fought the urge to beg. She had to live, damn it.
She couldn’t die… She had to get back to Gavin… As the man grabbed her breast, she couldn’t stop herself from fighting. Get back to Gavin… That was the one thing in her mind.
Curling her hand into a fist, she struck.
As she punched him in the gut, there was a brilliant flash of light.
It almost blinded her—or it might have been the way the bastard bellowed and punched her in the temple, knocking her to the ground.
Then there was only darkness…
“Shit.” Mandy stared down at the broken body of the woman at their feet. She was still alive. Barely.
“She shouldn’t be here,” Will muttered, shaking his head.
“Did you see her fighting him?” Mandy knelt down by the woman, grimacing at the blood spilling out from under her head. “She’s bleeding like crazy.”
The woman’s lashes fluttered and Will found himself staring in to desperate eyes.
And then Mandy looked at him. “She’s a fighter, Will.”
Kneeling down, he cupped the woman’s head in his hands. “She can’t survive these wounds,” he said quietly. “And they are too severe for me to heal.”
“Then bring her over.” Mandy stared at him, her eyes pleading. “She fought fucking parasei. They raped her, and she still fought.”
Mandy was his student. She was also his weakness. As she continued to watch him with those pleading eyes, he wavered. The woman was strong. And something had led him here, directly here. There were parasei, and other demons, everywhere.
Perhaps he was here for this woman…
She could handle the journey one had to take to go from human to Grimm. He knew that in a way only he could know.
Shifting his gaze down to her, he pushed into the woman’s fading mind and offered her the choice. He’d never done it with one so close to death, with one who had no idea what he was…what they were.
Even angels make mistakes.
“The whole damn city is infested,” Celine muttered as she followed her trainer into a crowded mall south of Cincinnati. It was in Kentucky, and being so close to home made her heart ache.
The good news—judging by how many fricking demons there were, she was going to have her hands too full to think for a while.
“Which is why we are here,” Jacob said, his voice flat, level. Just as always. He was a cool, icy son of a bitch, one who showed absolutely no emotion. Ever. In the past nine months, she’d never once heard him raise his voice, never seen him angry, never seen him laugh, never seen him smile.
Not that I really care, she told herself. But it was hard to get booted to another trainer when she couldn’t piss him off. And she wanted to get booted. Again. And again. Until they gave up on her and let her go.
She never should have agreed to this…
“Watch for groups of them. We need to see who they are targeting,” Jacob said quietly. “And keep yourself cloaked.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, master.” She wasn’t new at this. But she didn’t bother pointing that out because it wouldn’t do any good. Cloaking herself kept her unseen by human—and demon—eyes. Demons. It had only been a few years ago when she hadn’t even known they existed. And now she fought and killed them. Now she was a reluctant guardian angel in a paranormal army.
It was disconcerting, even now, to see the demons. She eyed one that wore the body of a girl who was probably barely out of her teenaged years. She’d have to be adult—or mostly. Stripped of her innocence in some way. Jaded. Demons couldn’t inhabit all bodies. They could only enter with an invitation, although the invitation wasn’t always worded so clearly.
It wasn’t like people would just go, Hello, demon. Yes, you can take over my body, even though it’s going to end up killing me…
It happened slowly. Insidiously. Through random, reckless wishes and careless words and cruelty. That was what drew the demons near. And then seductive whisperings…
Wouldn’t you like to be strong?
Wouldn’t you like to stay young forever?
Wouldn’t you like to fuck like a sex god?
By the time a person realized things weren’t right, it was very often too late. Once a demon had fully settled inside a mortal body, they possessed it, completely. The only way to end a possession was through the death of the mortal coil.
Kids, and a few select other people, were protected against demonic invasions. They still possessed an innocence demons couldn’t break. The stronger-willed were a harder lot for demons to take over as well.
Next to her, Jacob slowed and took a slow study of the crowd. “What do you see?”
“Young people,” Celine murmured, scowling as another demon with a pretty, barely adult face strutted past.
“More than that, please.”
She sighed, skimming a hand back over her hair. “A lot of demons in here—twenty, easy. And almost every one I’ve seen is young. That’s weird.”
“The young don’t keep their innocence the way they used to.”
“They shouldn’t all be young.” She paused as she watched a guy coming out of Hot Topic. He was dressed all in blank, including his lipstick. A girl came up to him. Demon clung to the girl. The boy took one look at her and spun on his wheel, heading the other direction as fast as his long, skinny legs could carry him. Smart boy.
“He sees the demon in her,” Jacob said, noticing her attention on the boy before shifting his elsewhere. “Many do. They don’t fully realize what they see, but they see something. The smart ones steer clear.”
Which means we’ve got a lot of fools around us. Of course, she wasn’t surprised by that.
She knew what a demon dressed in mortal clothing looked like though. She knew it intimately. She’d seen it…felt it. Hurt from it. Died from it.
That madness, that blackness, that evil had been the last thing she’d ever seen…until it was too late.
Too late to go back to her life…too late for everything.
Once more, the fury started to whisper in her blood. And once more, she fed it, nurtured it. “Are we here to walk around or kill things?” she demanded.
“You have no patience.” Jacob continued to walk.
And that was about all the answer she’d get from him too. She thought about just leaving. She could find a few demons of her own to kill. But he was better at it. If she wanted to kill more than one or two at a time, she should stick with him.
So she’d stay with him. But she wasn’t playing the good little pupil bit anymore. As her mind started to drift, she let it. It circled, back to the past…back to when her life had been something…more.