With Hunter of Demons coming out next week, I thought I’d post a little excerpt. In this scene, hotshot federal exorcist John Starkweather is trying to remove a Non-Human Entity (NHE) which is possessing Caleb Jansen. Things do not go as planned.
John finished the invocation and reached out with the psychic sense he couldn’t describe to anyone except another exorcist. It was like extending a rope barbed with hooks, but the rope and the hooks were somehow part of him, connected to his own energy and nervous system. He’d snag the NHE, drag it out of Caleb, force it into the spirit bottle, and hand it over to the disposal team.
Piece of cake.
John’s ears popped as the pressure inside the circle dropped sharply. The smell of ozone filled the air, underlain with a whisper of sandalwood and desert earth dampened by rain. A mad wind sprang up from nowhere; Caleb’s long hair whipped back from his face, and his clothes ruffled wildly. All four of the candles went out at once.
Not according to plan.
Caleb’s head snapped back; his eyes were no longer soft brown, but black as obsidian mirrors. Jagged flashes sparked in their depths.
But the outward manifestations were nothing compared to the energy suddenly flooding the circle, playing along sensitive nerves. John stood in front of an oncoming storm, a leviathan of thunder and lightning, which had the power to obliterate everything in its path.
Fuck. John took an instinctive step back, his hand tightening on his athame. How the hell had things gone wrong so fast, from no physical symptoms to a full-blown possession in a matter of seconds?
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Sean had said, and damn it, he should have listened. Because, however the NHE had reacted to Sean’s weaker talent, John certainly had its attention.
The entity wearing Caleb’s body took a step toward him, and damn, the way it moved, all animal strength and grace. Backed up with such energy, it was like being trapped in a cage with a hungry tiger.
John took another step back himself, instinct warring with intellect. Predator! Run! Hide! screamed his hindbrain, and it was everything he could do to lock his knees and hold firm, because breaking the circle would let it out where it could get at the rest of the team.
Kaniyar was back there with her gun, somewhere. If things got truly out of hand, she’d fill it with silver-jacketed lead. And if John was lucky, she’d drop it before his head was ripped clean off his shoulders.
Etheric energy swirled over and around him. In response, his cock swelled and strained against the zipper of his slacks.
What the hell?
He’d done dozens of exorcisms, and the only one to get a rise out of him had been an incubus—and not even it had affected him like this display of pure, raw, power.
“What are you doing?” the NHE asked. Its voice was Caleb’s, but underlain with a bass roar, like the roll of thunder.
John’s mind froze, torn between his training, which said he should stab it with his athame and throw every bit of energy he could summon into forcing it out of Caleb’s dying body, and the fact it sounded…well, annoyed.
Not angry. Not raging. Not groveling or conciliatory, as if it wanted to trick him into letting it go. Just irritated, as if he posed a minor inconvenience.
The sheer amount of etheric energy bleeding out of it staggered him. There was no way he could make this entity leave Caleb’s body if it didn’t want to go, not without killing Caleb. And he wasn’t ready to do that yet, not when it didn’t seem to pose an immediate danger.
“What’s your name?” John asked cautiously. Some NHEs had them, or took them, and it was as good a stalling tactic as any while he figured out what to do next.
The NHE stared at him unblinking. “Gray,” it said, and this time there came the flash of fangs behind its lips.
Fucking hell. Of all the times for Sean to be right. Drakul indeed.
“Gray?” he repeated stupidly.
“Everything was gray.” Oh. Not a name, then. “Muted. Even the memories of the dead were faded and ghostly. Now there is color. And smells. So many. I never knew there was any scent except for demons.”
Stranger and stranger. “You mean NHEs? Non-Human Entities? We, er, don’t call your kind demons anymore.”
The drakul—Gray, he couldn’t help but think of it now—shot him an annoyed glare. Apparently, John had a talent for pissing it off. “They are not my kind. Demons are food. I am not food. Therefore, I am not a demon.”
“Demons—I mean, other NHEs—are…food?” Goddess, he sounded like an idiot, just repeating things back, but this entire conversation was crazy. Maybe this was a dream. Maybe he’d wake up in bed, and Caleb would turn out to be some completely normal, non-possessed hottie he’d picked up in a bar.
Except the crackle of energy rolling off Gray, vast and dangerous as a thunderstorm, was too real to be part of any dream. Let alone the hard-on John was still sporting.
“Of course.” Irritation again, as if John were a particularly stupid child. “I hunt them. I eat them.” Gray raised one hand, fingers curling, each one tipped with a retractable claw, like a cat’s. “There was one here. I have been tracking it, but it found me first. The mortals got in my way. They destroyed the body I inhabited. So I took the nearest one.” Confusion crossed over the impassive features. “But he did not remain dead.”
Ah. Was this why it bothered to talk to him in the first place? Was he—it—whatever—looking for answers?
“Someone gave him CPR.” John hesitated, but what else was he going to do? “Leave him. If you truly only hunt, uh, demons, then leave Caleb’s body and find another.”
A low growl issued from Gray’s throat, like a rumble of thunder. Then he was only inches from John’s face, and oh fuck how had he moved so fast? His black hair whipped around his head like angry snakes, snapping in the wind, and his lips drew back to expose the jut of fangs. Adrenaline sent John’s heart into overdrive, but he forced himself not to flinch, not to even blink.
The hunt begins, February 5, 2013