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BY JOOLS SINCLAIR
A fallen angel by her side, Abby Craig is going straight to Hell.
But not without a fight.
The battle lines have been drawn. It’s a fight between good and evil, darkness and light, Heaven and Hell, the past and the future, and may the best ghost whisperer win.
Except this isn’t a fairytale, and Abby Craig doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.
BY JOOLS SINCLAIR
I rode for hours on my motorcycle under a sweltering summer sun with Samael’s arms hooked around my waist, my mind replaying that chilling vision of him standing at the top of a hill high above an ancient city.
He was younger, his hair cropped close to his scalp, but he had those same eyes. Ice cold and fierce. He was staring out with death in those eyes, ready to destroy anything and everything that dared cross his path.
But it wasn’t Samael that made me shiver even as I wiped the sweat from the back of my neck. It was the thing that walked up the hill to meet him that filled me with terror. Although Samael’s face was brimming with disdain as they spoke, he didn’t turn the demon away. And when the creature began speaking of revenge the angel’s eyes flickered hot with interest.
The demon pushed harder then, his voice soft and rhythmic, almost like a prayer. Whatever he was offering, Samael wanted it. Needed it. And as the snow began to fall, the disgust in Samael’s expression fell away too.
He looked out at the city once more, dropped to his knees, and kissed the hand of Evil.
The smile that crept across those inky lips spoke of a great victory, as if the demon had just acquired something very special.
I touched the St. Christopher dangling from my neck and said a prayer over the rumble of the engine. I thought of the old woman in the chile fields of New Mexico who had given me the medal, remembering how afraid she was of Samael when she saw him that first time. Her eyes had grown three times their normal size as she stared, shaking her head. She had called him “diablo.”
I wondered now if she had been right.
When Samael had met me at the bottom of the lake at my death, I had assumed he was an angel. I never questioned his motives. I never thought for one moment that he was aligned with Lucifer.
If Samael sensed my suspicions now, he didn’t let on. But there was something different. It wasn’t like when we traveled before and he’d meet me in a town somewhere or linger in a garden until I showed up. Now he never left my side. He rode with me all day and at night he’d stay outside my window in the parking lot. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d pull back the curtains and find him out there sitting on the roof of a car, hovering near the motel office, leaning against the bike.
Was he worried that I would leave him? He didn’t have to be. Regardless of his own motivation or alliances or why he needed my help, there was no way I was walking away. Not now. I was finishing this.
Too much had happened, too many lives had been lost and ruined. Nathaniel Mortimer needed to be stopped. Somehow, he had come back from the dead. And now he was trying to bring an army of dark souls with him. These souls would possess the living and signal the end of life as we knew it.
I was in this until the end, until I threw Nathaniel into a black void so deep that he could never again crawl out. There was nowhere else for me to go now except straight into that darkness.
When we crossed the state line into Florida, I pulled into a rest area and cut the engine. Getting off my bike, I fought through a river of running children and shuffling old men walking little white dogs. Normally with this kind of crowd I would have kept going, but my body was still adjusting to riding several hours a day after all those months at the monastery. I had knots in my back and legs and felt like a tin man. I needed a break.
I wandered over to the row of vending machines, shot in some quarters, grabbed a cold bottle of water and took it over to the large travel display in front of the restrooms. I gulped as I studied the map on the wooden board.
It was dotted with cartoonish renderings of parrots, flowers, palm trees, pelicans, and smiling alligators. I saw that I was still far from Marathon, a small town in the Florida Keys.
But even without looking at a map I knew that I was heading in the right direction. I sensed him up ahead like a storm, waiting. When I closed my eyes, I could see those tall thunderheads piling high at the rims on the horizon, smell the rain pooling in the layers, feel the tug of a dark watery riptide pulling at me. Even if I wanted to, there was no escape. The battle had already begun.
When the crowds parted for a moment, I stepped in the restroom and splashed handfuls of water on my face, dousing my head. As I toweled off, I caught my reflection in the mirror and stared at it for a time.
Something was different. Something had changed.
I no longer looked like that scared, pale-faced girl with Ben Mortimer’s blood soaked in her hands, running from the law. The one with the hollow eyes drowning in a bottomless pool of fear and sadness.
Those emotions had been replaced by something else. Now when I looked in my eyes, I could see something I hadn’t seen in them since I started this journey.
A belief that I could win. A belief that I could somehow end Nathaniel Mortimer once and for all.
Outside, the sky filled with dark clouds rolling in fast from the east. I saw Samael lying back on the seat of the bike, relaxed with his arms folded across his chest like he was napping. As always, he was wearing jeans, motorcycle boots, and his leather jacket. And now with the new sunglasses wrapped around his blue eyes, he looked like a middle-aged James Dean.
I let out a sharp breath.
No matter how much I wanted to believe Samael was on the road to redemption, that he had broken whatever pact he had made with that demon on the hill, I couldn’t count on it. I couldn’t trust him. The only one I could trust was me. I had to rely on my own strength to get me through the storm.
I had to be my own hero.
Jools Sinclair is the author of the 13 books in the Forty-Four series and co-author of Whiskey Rain: A Rose City Novella. She loves the outdoors, Komodo Dragon Coffee, and a good story. She usually lives in Bend, Oregon, but has embarked on a two-year road trip with Mr. Jools. She has one giant Lion Cat, who wakes her up each morning demanding food and pets.
Links to Jool’s website, blog, books, etc.
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Jools will give away an Amazon digital copy of FORTY-FOUR BOX SET, BOOKS 1-10, to one lucky reader who comments on today’s **Author Peek** Interview or Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog on Wednesday. Thank you, Jools, for sharing your stories with us
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