Authors: Charlotte Copper
Tags: #Demons-Gargoyles, #Paranormal, #Contemporary
“No neighbors.” She scanned around again at the empty solitude. “Isn’t that kind of…”
“Lonely?” he finished.
“Actually, I was thinking scary.”
Oz raised an eyebrow, and she started to laugh. “I guess there isn’t much that scares you.”
“Not much. What about you?”
“Men with beards and things that go bump in the night.”
“Sounds like a bad run-in with Santa.”
A muscle twitched at the corner of Oz’s mouth and his hands balled into fists. “What happened?”
“To me? Nothing. Bobby was my protection. Vince seemed like a nice guy until he married my mom. Then he started drinking more and hitting my mom. Bobby and I were still just kids, maybe eight and ten. We just hid in my bedroom and Bobby would hold me while I cried. One night Vince came home, and I guess he was looking for a little variety, so he came into my room. I don’t think he was going to rape me or anything like that. I was too afraid to move, when suddenly Vince goes flying across the room, Bobby clinging to his back like a bat outta hell. Bobby started hitting him and punching him, and yelling at him to get out and never come back.”
“And did he?”
“Well, it was his house actually, but I guess either Vince coming after me or Bobby standing up to him was a wake-up call for my mom. We packed up and moved across three states the next day.” Angela didn’t realize she was crying until she felt a tear tickle the side of her nose.
Oz took the gun from her dangling arm and put it on the makeshift table. He pulled her tight against his chest. “You won’t need to worry about anything like that again after we’re done today.”
She relaxed into the resolute strength of his embrace.
Angela woke with one of Oz’s arms hidden under her pillow while the other rested heavily over her hip. She was snuggled back into him, his morning hard-on pressed steadfast against her bottom.
She had promised herself that she would leave after lunch, but lunch turned into shooting lessons, then into late night steak and beans for dinner, and then to more sex.
Yes, he reminded her of Bobby. His eyes. His build. But the man curled up behind her walked with confidence and an air of experience beyond his years. Bobby never had that! Would a sister even notice that about her brother?
Maybe she should slow down. She had no family left. Everyone she loved had been torn away from her. There was a hole in her life…and her heart. Maybe she was rushing to fill the latest void. And yet, Oz seemed to belong in that void.
His hand began to explore from her hip to her breast; he gently twisted the nipple between his fingers. Angela arched in response, and pressed herself harder against his erection.
“Nice tattoo for a blackjack dealer,” he said, as he kissed the black and red inked picture of the two playing cards.
“Actually, I got the tattoo before I landed the job, so I guess becoming a dealer was kind of fated. Ace and King…AK…those are my initials. It’s Angela Knight, by the way.”
“Oscar McAvoy. Pleasure to meet you,” he said as his mouth moved to her neck. His hand traced the curves of her body down over her hips, and his teeth nipped at the sensitive lobe of her ear. His fingers eased into her growing wetness, first one and then a second.
All was silent but for the sucking moistness of her, when he suddenly stopped what he was doing. “Shhhh,” he whispered into her ear.
Oz got out of bed, and kept low as he made his way to the window, turning his head from left to right. What had he heard? She strained to listen.
“Get dressed quickly. And stay here, no matter what,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. I should never have brought you here, but I thought we would be safe.”
The large man slipped on a pair of jeans that had been lying on the chair. From the satchel they had retrieved from the accident site he pulled a long double shoulder holster. He slipped both arms into the battered leather, took one last glance at her, and ran out the bedroom door.
The front door slammed. What was that noise? Was that the sound of metal clashing? She went to the window and lifted the corner of the curtain to peer out. Oz stood in the middle of his yard. He held a short, thick sword in each hand and was fighting off three guys in ugly monster masks. Two of the masked attackers wore gloves with short knives attached like fingers, while the third man held what appeared to be a two-headed scythe.
The handgun she had practiced with yesterday was locked in her trunk, but she had seen a shotgun in the kitchen corner. She had not actually agreed to stay in the room when he asked. She slipped on her jeans and grabbed a denim shirt from the back of the bedroom door, buttoning the garment up as she made her way down the stairs.
Angela opened the door and stood rooted to the spot. Oz defended himself against the trespassers with undeniable skill. Barefoot, in only his jeans and the holster, he wielded the two weapons with obvious experience. The newly risen sun reflected ribbons of yellow and orange off the silver blades as he battled one of his attackers. The second man was on the ground. Where had the third guy gone?
Angela stepped forward and the porch door swung closed with a bang. “Damn,” she said between clenched teeth as Oz and the two men looked over.
So much for the element of surprise.
Taking two more steps, she approached the corner of the porch. Oz continued to duel with both weapons against the gloved man. The intruder was backing away, leading Oz to Angela’s right. The other man with the scythe-like weapon was now behind Oz. He rose to his feet and raised the deadly blades over his head, ready to strike. Angela lifted the shotgun. Stance. Aim. Fire.
Her shot missed, but the surprise allotted Oz the time he needed. He brought his blade up and across the throat of the man he had been fighting, and then turning quickly he arced the other sword up and over, beheading the second man.
Her mouth fell open, and she slowly crumpled to the porch floor.
Covered in blood—a mixture of his own and the intruders’—Oz strode toward the deck. He wiped the blood off the two small swords onto his jeans, and returned them to the holster on his back.
Angela sat silently. What had she just seen? Had he killed those men?
Oz ignored the stairs and jumped up on the deck. He crouched down next to her. “Angel, baby, I told you to stay inside. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I think. But...where are the bodies?” Her eyes scanned the empty expanse of field. Oz turned. Piles of gray ash and loose clothing were all that were left of the bodies. Even as they watched, the ash started to disappear, carried off by the cool morning breeze.
“Gone,” he replied.
“Hell, I guess.”
Had she imagined the monstrous faces? Was it possible she was dreaming? “They weren’t human, were they?”
“Yes. Well, I was.”
“And now?” After all she had witnessed, she felt surprisingly calm.
He had been a sheriff, married but a short time, no children. He had been smaller then. Not shorter, of course, but thinner. His mother had always called him a long, tall glass of water. It didn’t make sense to him fifty years ago, and it didn’t make any more sense now.
He and his wife had lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Her idea, not his.
He remembered being tied to a horse and dragged through town. He remembered the dust and dirt in his eyes, and nose, and mouth. He remembered the people coming out to see what all the ruckus was, but they could not do anything for fear of their own lives. He didn’t blame them.
He remembered being tied upside down to a tree. He remembered that the first bullet hurt the most, and he remembered the sound of their laughter. He remembered the metallic taste of the blood as it ran into his mouth, and the sharp sting as it went into his eyes. He remembered opening his eyes and thinking that angels were supposed to wear white, not dark jeans and a Stetson.
The stranger took out a sword and cut him down. The stranger saved him, and helped him mend. And then the stranger asked Oz’s permission to kill him.
“It didn’t hurt as much that time. The sword was quicker than being used for target practice.”
“The stranger was Jared, wasn’t it?”
Oz stared at her.
“His pendant. It’s the same as yours,” she explained.
Oz reached up to the small dagger he wore. “Yes, the man was Jared. Jared, myself, and our brethren, we’re demon hunters. We hunt down and kill demons. Rapists. Murderers. Worse. Men who feed upon the evil they commit to the point where they aren’t even recognizable as human anymore. One managed to cut me with his claws a few days ago before escaping, and with my blood scent he was able to track me here.”
“Was it him…the demon…that ran you off the road the other night?”
“I can’t be sure, but I think it is a safe guess. I saw red eyes as the SUV pulled beside me. My house offers protection. They must have followed my scent to the yard, but they wouldn’t have been able to come in. That is why I told you to stay inside.”
“Was he…was he one of
?” Angela asked inclining her head to the empty field.
“I think so. I won’t know for sure for awhile. Demons aren’t very smart. They’re consumed by their need for pain and destruction. Jared and my brothers are coming soon and then we’ll make sure. I think for now, however, it is best that you leave.”
Oz paced back and forth, the cue still in his hand but the game of pool forgotten.
“What has your sword in a knot? You’re more restless than normal, and your game sucks.”
“Nothing,” he said as he drained the last of the scotch from his glass. The cool burn of the liquid felt like heaven to his throat. He walked to the cabinet mounted on the wall and returned the cue.
“Don’t lie to me, McAvoy. I’ve known you for years. Something has you troubled. I’ve never seen you like this—this preoccupied before. The demon who had your blood is dead.” Jared took aim, and sank the last ball. “It can’t be love, can it?”
“You know it’s not,” replied Oz to the elder hunter. He stared at Jared’s pendant, its miniature hilt encrusted with a tiny ruby which spoke of the other man’s seniority.
“And why not?”
“We're demon hunters, Jared. We can’t fall in love. What would the point be?”
fall in love and you know it. Some hunters manage to fall in love and nurture relationships. I have loved and lost. Just because I have no one now does not mean I will stay without a mate forever. Love chooses us; we do not choose who we will love or who will love us. Everything that happens today was written by the Fates long ago, and you cannot change that, young Oz.”
Oz walked to the bar and poured himself another scotch, the smell as heady as the nectar itself. What was Angela doing right now? Did she think of him? “I can’t endanger her life again.”
“You are making excuses. In all these many years, you have only let two demons escape, and they were both dead soon after. That is a number to be proud of. With the right spells and wards, you and the woman you chose could be safe. It was the wrong place at the wrong time. That is all. A demon attack like that at your house is unlikely to happen again.”
Jared put down his cue and walked over to the bar. He sat on a scarred wooden stool beside his friend.
“So, what are you going to do?” asked Jared.
“There’s nothing to do. They’re dead. They won’t be back.”
“I don’t mean about the demons. I mean about the woman.”
Angela stopped at the corner sign and counted silently to three. As she turned onto her street, a motorcycle pulled to a stop behind her. It had been two weeks, and yet every time she saw a motorcycle, her mind jumped to thoughts of Oz. He had been dangerous and charming, and although she tried, he remained unforgettable.
In shock—from all she had witnessed and from the story which Oz told—when he suggested she should leave, Angela simply walked back in the house, picked up her belongings, and drove away. She still had his shirt, and she wore it often.
She had spent the last two weeks working, or at least trying to concentrate on work, but her mind kept returning to Oz. Not about the fight or his story about being a demon hunter. As incredible as that all was, she believed everything he said. Even more than the story, her thoughts kept returning to the man.
She hadn’t thought to ask for Oz’s phone number before she left and his number, as suspected, was not listed.
Why did it matter? His life, crazy as it was, was a day’s drive away. It was not as if they would go out on dates. He wasn’t the sort of guy that would be interested in internet dating.
Besides, he had probably forgotten about her the moment she left. Did he feel the same way?
What would a demon hunter want with someone as ordinary as herself?
Angela parked her car in the narrow driveway and got out.
The motorcycle pulled up to the curb behind her, and the rider, leaning the bike over on its stand, swung his leg over the bike. He lifted off his helmet and set it on the bike. It hadn’t been her imagination. It really was Oz.
She was once again awed at the impression he made, leather jacket taut across his broad shoulders, faded jeans that hugged his thick thighs and emphasized the size of his manhood.
“Hey,” Oz said coming to stand next to her. He had a habit of standing close enough to be in her space, and she wondered again if this were an intentional move on his part to intimidate and influence people. The heat she had felt two weeks ago began to burn through her once again.
“What are you doing here?”
“Thought a drive to Nevada might be nice.”
“It’s a bit out of the way for just a drive, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but I always wanted to visit Sin City. I thought a change of pace might put a little excitement in my otherwise boring life.” Oz reached up and brushed a piece of hair off her face. She shivered as his fingers caressed her cheek.
“Are you planning on staying for long?”