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Authors: Lexi George

Demon Hunting In Dixie

BOOK: Demon Hunting In Dixie
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Hunting in Dixie
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To Megan Records—
Thanks for “getting” me and for giving me this chance.
To Jill Marr—
Thanks for having my back.
To Carla Swafford—
You are my guardian angel.
Chapter One
ddy glanced up at the rumble of thunder, her pace slowing to a jog. Alabama summers were a pressure cooker of high temperatures and humidity, and thunderstorms came up in a hurry.
“Whatcha think, Dooley, is it gonna rain?”
Dooley whined and tugged at her leash, eager to continue their late-night run in the quiet, gated community they called home.
“Okay, but you're sleeping in the kitchen if we get wet.” Addy allowed the dog to urge her toward the trees at the end of the park. “Eau de Wet Dawg is not my favorite cologne, especially on my new sheets.”
She set off down the smooth path at a comfortable pace with Dooley panting at her side. Running was her stress reliever. And between owning and operating her own floral business and lending a hand at the family funeral parlor, Addy had a lot of stress.
As they rounded the curve, she eyed the clump of trees ahead with unease. A sense of quiet expectancy had settled over the little park. She and Dooley had made this run a hundred times before, but tonight the cluster of oaks seemed brooding and sinister, the shadows beneath their branches a living, breathing thing. She ran a little faster, anxious to get past the trees and reach the safety of the lights beyond. The steady slap of her running shoes against the pavement and the sound of Dooley's snuffling seemed loud in the stillness.
She heard a second clap of thunder and skidded to a halt, tightening her grip on the leash. Dooley feared no mailman, but she was a major weenie when it came to thunder. She glanced down, expecting to find the dog trembling with fear. To her surprise, Dooley stood stiff-legged beside her, hackles on end, her unblinking gaze fixed upon the murky thicket. The dog rumbled low in her chest and took off without warning, jerking the leash from Addy's hand.
“No, Dooley, no!” Addy rubbed her stinging palm against her thigh, watching in growing dismay and dread as the Lab headed straight for the trees and disappeared into the darkness. “Come back here, you stupid mutt!”
“Damn!” She took off at a run after Dooley. “Why couldn't I have been a cat person?”
She plunged into the woods and faltered. The trees had
the dozen or so familiar oaks mushrooming into a forest of birch, elm, maple, beech, and ash. She squinted into the gloom. The trees seemed to be waiting; the forest hushed, but for the steady, faraway sound of Dooley's barking.
Addy's heart pounded as she picked her way through the woods. The thick carpet of leaves dulled the sound of her footsteps. Here and there a birch tree shone ghostly white in the darkness. She stumbled over fallen branches and scratched her arms and legs on briars and vines. Muttering under her breath, she pushed her way deeper into the forest. Stubbornness and concern for Dooley were all that kept her moving forward. If she stopped to examine things too closely—like how and why an entire forest of hardwoods had sprung up overnight in the middle of her boring little park—she knew she'd be too scared to go any farther. Better to keep her mind focused on the task ahead. Find Dooley and strangle her. She climbed over a fallen tree trunk and stepped into a clearing. The damn fool dog stood in the middle of the open glade barking like mad at . . . at
“Shh!” Addy marched up to the dog and tugged on her collar, her unease increasing by the minute. “Stop it, you big doofus. I'm totally creeped out. I want to go home.”
To her chagrin, her voice shook. Her big brother Shep would have a field day if he could see her now. Addy Corwin scared of the dark. She was no stranger to the woods, had tagged along with Shep many a time when he and his buddies went camping, hunting, and fishing. She'd learned to be tough—one of the boys—so he wouldn't send her home. No whiney pants girly-girl stuff allowed. But this was different. This was
Something lurked in the surrounding darkness.
It was out there, watching her.
The dog pulled away and growled low in her throat, her gaze on the shadows in front of them.
Addy knelt beside Dooley and laid her hand on the quivering dog. “What is it, girl?”
Unbidden, an old superstition came to mind. Look between a dog's ears and you can see the devil. Without thinking, she glanced over the top of Dooley's head into the woods beyond. To her horror, something moved in the trees, a misshapen, undulating form darker than the blackness around it. The smudge of darkness flowed into the clearing, bringing with it a sickening sense of wrongness. Terror slammed through her, white-hot and paralyzing and all too brief, and then the thing was upon her, touching her with clammy, skeletal fingers. Bonechilling cold seeped into her limbs, robbing her body of strength and sapping her will to fight. In the distance, she heard Dooley barking.
A third rumble shook the glade, and the evil being drew back with an angry hiss. The icy grip on Addy's heart eased, and she slumped to the ground, struggling to draw breath into her shriveled lungs. Dooley whined and stuck her cold nose against Addy's cheek. She rubbed the dog's ears with trembling fingers. That horrible thing was gone, thank God, and Dooley was here. Everything was going to be all right.
Some small creature stirred in the underbrush, and Dooley took off like a shot.
Addy sat up with an effort and pushed the hair out of her eyes. Dooley was nowhere to be seen. So much for doggie loyalty. Heart thumping, she looked around. The little clearing was empty, but the evil thing waited in the trees beyond. She could feel it. Addy swallowed the lump of terror clogging her throat. She had to go into those trees to get her dog. Oh, God, she did
want to go in there. But what choice did she have?
Great. Just freaking great.
A tiny pinpoint of light caught her attention. A rectangular opening appeared in mid-air and widened. Blinding light poured into the dark clearing. She blinked at the brightness. A man stood in the doorway, his tall, broad-shouldered form silhouetted by the patch of white light behind him, his face in shadow.
The portal snapped shut behind him. Without warning, the thing from the gloom struck.
“Hey, buddy, watch out behind you!” Addy cried.
To her astonishment, the man drew a flaming sword and spun to meet the attack. The thing screeched and drew back in alarm, circling the warrior warily. Light from the man's shimmering sword illuminated his face. Above the shining blade his eyes burned like bits of flame in the darkness. Addy gaped at him, too stunned by the sheer beauty of the man to be afraid. Wow, this guy was something else, a study in perfection, his features cold and unyielding, expressionless as carven stone.
I'm dreaming, Addy thought, staring at him in shock. Yeah, that was it. She was dreaming. This could not be real. No one could be that gorgeous.
A flicker of movement drew her attention from Mr. Perfect. A second wraith-like smudge of darkness slid into the clearing, bringing with it the same rotten, soul-sucking sense of evil as the other. Rising on ragged wings, the new attacker swooped down upon the unsuspecting warrior like an evil bird.
Dream or no dream, the hunky guy with the glow-in-the-dark sword was about to get his butt kicked by Mr. Nasty and his creepy sidekick.
Addy leaped to her feet. “Look out, mister! There's another one.”
He whirled and lifted his sword, impaling the smoky figure upon the blade. The wraith wailed in agony and vanished into the flames. With a furious shriek, the first wraith pushed past Addy and fled into the night. She swayed, staring in shock at the jagged knife of black ice that protruded from her chest. The knife sizzled and dissolved in a puff of oily smoke. Burning cold seeped from the wound and curled around her heart. With a sigh, she slipped into darkness.
Addy awoke on the couch with a groan. Her chest ached and her head throbbed. She took a deep breath and tried to ignore the stabbing pain in her ribs. Stabbing pain? What had happened to the thing in the woods, and how did she get home? And she
home, thank God. The scent of the new pineapplesage candle she'd burned earlier in the evening still hung in the air, and the clock on the mantel ticked its steady rhythm. Dooley whined and licked her hand.
She patted the dog on the head. “Some dream, huh, girl?”
Addy opened her eyes and looked down. A large, charred hole marred the front of her favorite T-shirt and the sports bra she wore underneath. Surely, the freaky little thing in the woods hadn't been real? Supernatural woo-woo was way out of her league. Who was she kidding? The stuff she'd seen tonight didn't happen to anybody. It was too Syfy Channel for words.
She nudged the ruined material aside with the tip of one finger. An irregular black mark marred her right breast in the exact spot where Mr. Nasty stabbed her. She was still trying to absorb the ramifications of this discovery when a very deep, very
voice startled her.
“You should rest. I have repaired the damage to your organs from the djegrali blade. You will live, but I fear some of the poison is still in your system.”
Addy shot off the couch like she'd been bitten. The sword-carrying, creature-of-darkness-fighting dude from the park gazed down at her without expression. In the semidarkness he'd been handsome. In the bright light of her living room he was devastating, a god, a wet dream on steroids. Tall and powerfully built, with wide shoulders and a broad chest that tapered down to a lean waist and hips, he was the most handsome man Addy had ever seen. His long, muscular legs were encased in tight-fitting black breeches, and he carried a sword in a sheath across his back. He was also a stranger, a very big stranger, and he stood in her living room.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I am Brand.” He spoke without inflection. “I am a Dalvahni warrior. I hunt the djegrali.”
“Of course you do.” Hoo boy, the guy was obviously a nut case. Real movie star material, with his shoulder-length black hair and disturbing green eyes, but a whack job nonetheless. Addy grabbed the back of the couch for support as a wave of dizziness assailed her. “That would explain the flaming sword and the medieval getup you're wearing. Nice meeting you, Mr. . . . uh . . . Brand.” She flapped her hand in the general direction of the door. “If you don't mind, I'm a little freaked out. I'd like you to leave.”
“I cannot leave. The djegrali that attacked you will return.”
Addy clung to the couch for dear life as the room began to spin. “Look, I appreciate the thought, but I'll be fine. Really.” She closed her eyes briefly and opened them again. “Dooley will protect me.”
He crossed his arms on his chest, his expression impassive. “Dooley? You refer, I presume, to the animal that led me to this dwelling?”
This guy was unbelievable. His superior attitude was starting to tick her off.
“The ‘animal' is a dog and, yeah, I mean her.”
“This I cannot allow.” He spoke with the same irritating calm. Dooley, the traitor, ambled across the room and sat at the man's feet, gazing up at him in adoration. “She would not be able to defend you against the djegrali.”
“Cannot allow—” Addy stopped and took a deep breath. She was dealing with a lunatic. He wouldn't leave, and she couldn't run. She was too woozy to make it to the door. Best to remain calm and not set the guy off. Besides, the spike in her blood pressure made the dizziness worse. “Okay, I'll bite. What exactly is this juh-whats-a-doodle thing you keep talking about?”
“The djegrali are demons.” He raised his brows when she gave him a blank stare. “Evil spirits. Creatures of dark—”
“I know what a demon is.” The guy thought he was a demon chaser, for Pete's sake. “Okay, just for grins, let's say this demon business is for real. What's it got to do with me?”
“The demon has marked you. He will return. He will be unable to resist.”
“Oh, great, so now I'm irresistible. Just my luck he's the wrong kind of guy. Don't worry, I've got a thirty-eight, and like any good Southern girl I know how to use it, so you can leave.” She waved her hand toward the door again. “I'll be fine. If this demon fellow shows up, I'll blow his raggedy butt to kingdom come.”
The corner of his lips twitched, and for a moment she thought he might smile.
“You cannot kill a djegrali with a mortal weapon.”
“I'll rush out first thing tomorrow morning and get me one of those flamey sword things, I promise.”
Again with the lip twitch. “That will not be necessary. I will protect you.”
“Oh, no, you won't!” Addy straightened with an effort. Her chest still hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. “I'd never be able to explain you to my mama.”
“This mama you speak of, she is the female vessel who bore you?”
“Yeah, but I wouldn't call her a vessel to her face, if I were you.”
“You fear her?”
Addy rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding? The woman scares the crap out of me.
Thirty-two hours of labor, and don't you ever forget it,
” she mimicked.
“You owe me. Big time.”
BOOK: Demon Hunting In Dixie
11.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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