Authors: Tina Folsom
Edge of Passion
(Cloak Warriors #1)
It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.—Thomas Fuller (1650)
* * * * *
Edge of Passion
Copyright © 2012 by Tina Folsom
* * * * *
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.
* * * * *
No matter how many books I’ve written and how many more I’ll write, each book is a labor of love, and none would ever reach you, the reader, if it weren’t for some people in my life who make it all possible.
First and foremost I thank my best friend and critique partner Grace Callaway for her guidance and help whenever I need it to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Writer’s block has nothing on you, girlfriend. You make me see my characters more clearly and help me spin my stories.
As always, I have come to rely on my friend Wilson for his excellent instinct and for giving me insight into a man’s world, delivering all his advice with a good dose of dry humor. I owe you a very dry Martini, top shelf.
And last but not least, I wouldn’t know what to do without my husband Mark. You are my backbone, my support, and you make it all worth it.
Aiden launched his dagger at the demon, aiming for his forehead, but the weapon missed its target as the bastard spun with superhuman speed. Whirling to the left, Aiden avoided what was coming next: an ancient blade flying in his direction, leaving the demon’s deft wrist just as fast as the underworld vermin had turned on his heels. The sharp edge of the knife passed by him not an inch too close. Forged in the Dark Days, the weapon could kill even him, an immortal Cloak Warrior. And he wasn’t here to die. He was fighting evil to save his charge, the human woman he’d been assigned to protect from the influence of the Demons of Fear, the greatest enemies of mankind.
Aiden watched in horror as the three demons collected their powers and projected a vortex of black fog, engulfing the entrance to a rundown apartment building, its tendrils reaching the feet of his charge as she took another step toward it as if pulled by invisible strings.
Sounds akin to a tornado deafened his ears, and his screams were swallowed up by it just as Sarah would be sucked into its depths. Seduced by the demons’ promises of power and riches, she advanced toward the dark portal that would take her into their world and turn her into one of them.
She turned her head as if she’d heard him over the din in the alley. But her eyes were empty. As if she didn’t even see him.
He knew the only way to get her to stop was to destroy the portal, which meant killing the demons who’d created it. In a flash, he turned to retrieve the knife the demon had thrown at him. Just as such a weapon could kill him, it could kill a demon. They were as vulnerable to tools forged in the Dark Days as Cloak Warriors were.
Aiden glanced down the narrow alley toward the intersection, but none of his brothers was coming to his aid. When he’d realized that he was outnumbered, he’d immediately called for his second, Hamish. But his fellow Cloak Warrior was nowhere to be found. As if he’d vanished into thin air.
Their code of ethics dictated that a Cloak Warrior’s second would be close at all times to respond quickly in situations like these—situations of life and death. Aiden had often been second to Hamish, and even though the term implied rank, a switch between being sentinel and second occurred assignment-after-assignment. It assured a constant honing of their skills, of being as comfortable with issuing orders as with following them without question.
They were brothers, if not in blood, then united by a common goal: to protect the human race from the influence of the Demons of Fear and to further the good in this world.
From the corner of his eye, he perceived a movement and realized instantly that two of the demons had left the protection of the vortex, clearly to finish him off in close combat.
Aiden expelled a bitter laugh. They were in for a surprise. Killing up close and personal was his specialty.
“Come and get me,” he taunted them, opening his arms in invitation. A gust of wind blew through his coat, causing its tails to flap wildly behind him.
The mocking laughter of the demons droned over the noise, and for a moment, it was all Aiden heard. His pleading look toward Sarah disappeared into her barren eyes. She moved her head slowly from side to side as she took another step forward. She was merely a weak human, the influence the demons had over her too strong for her to resist.
Gritting his teeth, and gripping the ancient blade tightly in his fist, Aiden leapt at the first demon, a creature humanoid in appearance, yet with glaring green eyes, the telltale sign of the malevolence inside. He bumped against his opponent, who was built as massively as a tank. It didn’t dissuade Aiden in the least. While he was not as strong as the demon, he was more agile and faster. It was his advantage in close combat.
Snarling like a beast, the demon drove a dagger toward his chest, but Aiden sidestepped him in the blink of an eye and catapulted behind him. With one clean swipe, he ran the knife along the demon’s neck, cutting it open from left to right. Amidst the surprised gurgles of the dying creature, green blood spurted onto the street. Aiden thrust his knee into the expired demon’s back and tossed him to the ground.
But he didn’t get a chance to breathe. With a ferocious growl, the second demon jumped him, tackling him. The impact squeezed all air out of his lungs, for a moment immobilizing him.
As he lay on the damp surface, the massive creature pinning him, he chanced a look at the vortex. Sarah was almost upon it, her steps less hesitant now. Aiden could fairly hear the seductive whispers of the third demon who was coaxing her to come to him. And weak as she was, she approached.
Yet Aiden wouldn’t allow it. Collecting all his strength, he freed one leg and kicked it hard between the demon’s thighs. Luckily, demons too had balls. And by the sounds the son of a bitch was making now, they were just as sensitive as a human’s.
With a shove, Aiden pushed the hurting demon off his chest. His eyes searched for the knife he’d dropped as the prick had forced him to the ground. As he did so, the demon regained his strength and rose, his arm clutching the dagger as it whipped toward Aiden’s neck. He rolled to the side, avoiding the deadly blade by a split second, and shot to his feet in the same instant.
But the demon was just as fast and threw his leg against him, catapulting him into the wall behind him.
A rib cracked, but the power coursing through his body made sure Aiden felt no pain. As an immortal, his tolerance for pain was many times that of a mere human, even if his body was entirely human in appearance. Beneath the skin and muscle, though, lay the collective experiences of all Cloak Warriors that had ever walked this earth.
they called it, and it lent them the power to fight demons and cloak themselves and humans from their view as if they’d thrown an invisibility cloak over them. They’d been bestowed with powers that defied physics—powers humans would deem supernatural—if they knew Cloak Warriors existed. But their existence had been hidden for centuries. Since their beginning in the Dark Days.
Just as Aiden scrambled to his feet, his hand brushed the dagger he’d tossed at the demon’s forehead earlier. He gripped it and lunged forward again, barreling against his attacker, landing the knife in the lowlife’s stomach.
As the Demon of Fear’s eyes widened in disbelief, Aiden drew the dagger upwards, slicing him open like a pig. Guts and green blood spilled from him, the stench filling the crisp night air, before his body collapsed.
Not losing a second, Aiden turned and ran toward his charge. In a desperate attempt to pull her back, his body coiled in tension, his long, black trench coat flapping at his sides, blown back by the force of the swirling air and fog. Reaching his hands forward to try pulling her toward him, he concentrated all his energy on one thought: to save this human from the clutches of evil.
Anger boiled in him like in a caldron about to overflow. He couldn’t allow them to take her. Every soul the demons brought to their side made them stronger. Soon, they would rise again from their lairs deep down in the netherworld and dominate mankind once more. The bleakness of this prospect made him shudder to his bones.
A scream from behind him caused him to spin his head around, making him lose his concentration for a moment. He spotted a woman with a toddler in her arms, frantically ringing a door bell at one of the apartment buildings, her eyes wide in horror.
Shit! He didn’t need any witnesses to what was happening here. But there was nothing he could do now. His first priority was to save Sarah.
Collecting the ancient power that was within each Cloak Warrior, he allowed it to surge through his body and recharge his cells. He lurched forward, electrical charges dancing on his palms like little flames, and reached for her.
She pushed him back, anger glowing in her eyes. Behind her, he glimpsed the third demon as his hand reached forward through the vortex, a dagger in his palm. Whispering something to her, the demon pressed the ancient weapon into her hand.
With dread, Aiden noticed how she accepted it and flicked her wrist as if she’d been trained to do so. The demon was controlling her body now.
All Aiden could do was spin to the side to avoid the blade.
Then her eyes turned green. By giving in to the demon’s demand, she’d become one of them.
Another scream pulled his attention to the woman behind him. What he saw turned his stomach. Sarah’s dagger had hit the child in the head. Blood seeped from the gash onto the tiny white sweater and onto the hands of the mother who was trying desperately to save her baby.
God damn it! He should have killed Sarah the moment he realized that she couldn’t be saved. Now she’d killed an innocent. And he was to blame, because he hadn’t acted fast enough. He’d let her live because he’d hoped he could save her.
He’d failed again. Feeling his past reach for him, he forced the painful memories of his first-and-only other failure down and concentrated his energy on his erstwhile charge. Without hesitation, he aimed. The ancient dagger lodged in Sarah’s neck, arresting her movements. Blood spurted from the fatal wound as she fell forward into the vortex.
The demon’s cries of frustration filled the alley, and charges of light illuminated the dark night. A moment later, the air and fog stopped churning, and everything went quiet, except for the sobs of the woman whose child lay dead in her arms.
When he walked to the spot where Sarah had fallen, it was empty. The vortex had swallowed her up. Only his bloody dagger was left as evidence that he’d killed her. He’d had no choice but to do so. It was better than allowing the demons to use her. Better for her and this world. It was the reason he couldn’t regret his action. He only regretted that he had delayed the inevitable and not acted sooner.
Never again would he hesitate to kill a human he had reason to believe had been compromised already. It was better for one human to die than for the demons to capture another soul or for an innocent to suffer, as this child had—and its mother. Next time, his dagger would find its target the moment he suspected that a demon was influencing his charge. He wouldn’t hesitate again.
Humans were too weak. They should be eliminated as soon as they represented a danger. The Council was wrong to try to protect them when clearly they would turn against their protectors, against the Cloak Warriors who only wanted their best. Sarah wasn’t the first one who’d proven that to him.
Old memories, yet fresh as ever, reminded him once more that he could never be allowed to waver again. His hesitation had cost him too dearly many years ago. As a result, his entire family had suffered; they'd lost a loved one, and it was his fault. His heart clenched painfully as guilt about his past mistake resurfaced. He could never make the same mistake again. Evil had to be eradicated swiftly, no matter in what form it presented itself: demon or human.