Haylen (Fangs and Fists 4)
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Copyright ©2017 Kate Hill
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Haylen’s nightmares were intense — even for a demon.
He heard howls and gunfire.
He smelled magic and blood.
He sensed death all around.
Maybe he wasn’t dreaming at all. The throbbing pain from nape to tailbone felt real enough.
Lying on his side in an unfamiliar bed, he gazed at his surroundings through half-open eyes. He was inside a small caravan — or RV, as the modern version was called.
His last memory before blacking out was a painful descent down metal stairs in the warehouse where he’d endured a gruesome surgery. Only the physical and magical support of the young witch Madeline had enabled him to reach the bottom of the stairs and crawl into the RV parked below. No sooner had she helped him into bed than everything went dark.
The soreness in his back worsened. He was now fully awake, but still not sure if everything he’d heard and smelled was real, or a nightmare. He and Madeline had escaped in the midst of battle. The city of Detroit was in chaos.
Even now he didn’t know if they had truly escaped, or at least made it to a safe place. His wound must have affected his mind even more than he’d thought, for he knew there was no safe place in a world ruled by the masters. Still, if he was under their control, he wouldn’t be suffering in the comfort of a tiny bed. He would be grotesquely tortured in the deepest, darkest chambers in the tower.
As consciousness took a firmer hold on his mind, he noted that the vehicle was running roughly. He gritted his teeth against the jarring pain each time the RV hit a bump in the road.
Finally it stopped. Haylen drew a deep breath — and even that hurt — before sitting up. Fire spread down his healing spine and he groaned.
Removing the tracking device that the masters had implanted had been even more painful than he’d imagined — and not just physically. After centuries as a demon, he had learned to withstand just about any sort of pain. His kind weren’t known for mercy, even among themselves.
It was the return of long dead emotions that had taken him by surprise. As a resurrection demon, repressing emotions was an especially important ability. Apparently the tracking device had served a dual purpose — to allow the demons to monitor him and to help control his humanity.
When the witches had started to extract the device from his spine, emotions he’d suppressed since the Middle Ages had burst through — loss, death, murder, joy, hate. He’d seen and heard his wife and son again. He’d witnessed the aftermath of the massacre on his village, and he had endured the savage lessons in black magic from countless teachers who had inevitably led him to the demon masters.
He didn’t want to focus on that now, but needed to find out why the RV had stopped.
On unsteady legs, he stood and braced his hand against the wall. After a slight pause, he made his way to the door and painfully down the few steps, where he paused again.
The clink of metal on metal was followed by Madeline’s frustrated, “Oh shit.”
Sighing, Haylen made his way slowly toward the front of the vehicle, where she was tinkering with the engine, a lantern in one hand and a toolbox by her side.
“What’s the trouble?” he asked, trying to look and sound stronger than he felt.
Not that it mattered. This witch had seen him at his worst. He must be getting better, though, because now he was humiliated by what she’d witnessed. It had been centuries since anyone had seen him in such a state of agony. Even as a man, blatant displays of emotion hadn’t been part of his nature.
She glanced at him and straightened. The sleeves of her yellow sweatshirt were rolled up to her elbows. Grease smeared her cheek and the tip of her nose.
“Haylen,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
“Well enough,” he muttered.
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
He wasn’t sure yet, and he didn’t want to discuss it, so he asked, “What’s wrong with the caravan?”
A smile tugged at her luscious mouth. “We need to update your vocabulary. It’s an RV.”
“RV. Caravan. It’s a tiny house on wheels. What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing now. I fixed the problem, so I think we’ll be good — at least until we run out of gas. We should have filled up before we left the city.”
He glanced around. It was still nighttime, but like most demons, Haylen could see well in the dark. They were parked in a dirt turnoff in a wooded area. “Where are we?”
“Almost into Reed City.” She tossed the wrench into the toolbox and stepped toward him, holding the lantern up so she could see his face. “You’re not feeling much better, are you?”
He held her gaze and reached out to wipe the grease from her nose. The motion hurt, but it was worth it to touch her. From the moment they’d met, he’d struggled to keep his hands off her. Not since becoming a demon had he desired a woman. Unfortunately for her, everything about this witch tempted him…