"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.