Drowning In The Dark - Pippa DaCosta


Demon claws sliced into my waist, sending sparks of pain dancing up my right side and stealing a ragged cry from my lips. I twisted away, more by instinct than thought, and cracked my fist across the demon’s brittle jaw. His face fractured like glass, which would have been a victory, had the shards not pierced my knuckles. Damn, it was like fighting barbed wire. I saw the right hook coming—his claws spread wide—and realized I might have underestimated my quarry and overestimated my current abilities. I ducked, snatched my dagger from its sheath at my ankle, and lunged upward, driving the blade deep into his gut. He grunted. My gaze met his opaque eyes. His slippery blue lips peeled from jagged teeth. Hot blood spilled over my hand, but from the look of glee on his crumpled face, you’d think he’d won. I was missing something. His brittle laughter confirmed it.

“They’re coming, half blood,” he growled around his fangs.

“Yeah, I got the memo. The princes are coming, blah blah. Tell me something I don’t know.”

His hand shot out like a viper strike. I yanked the blade from his gut, recoiled from his scalpel-like claws, and arched away, but my balance wobbled. Overreaching, I staggered. My stomach flip-flopped. Fear churned my gut. The big grin on his bony face morphed into a hideous, toothy snarl. He lunged and slammed his not-so-lightweight body into me. My back hit the alley dirt, knocking the breath out of my lungs. This would be one of those times when calling the fire would solve my misbehaving demon problem. I could kill him in an instant. A flicker of a thought was all it would take. But I knew I wouldn’t stop there. The alley would look nice draped in fire. That overflowing dumpster back there would go up like the 4th of July. The buildings would catch next. My fire would lick the sky, devour the neighborhood, and gobble up every living thing in the immediate vicinity. Insane laughter bubbled through my thoughts.

The demon coiled his hands around my throat. His legs straddled me. I took a swipe at his arm with my blade. His skin peeled apart and blood dribbled, but he didn’t loosen his grip. I sliced again. My lungs burned. His grip on my throat tightened. My vision clouded. The edges of his broken face blurred. My demon snarled inside my mind and rattled her mental bars. Let me out… she urged. Let me play. We will make short work of this beast. We are destruction. We taste his death. Ashes in the air. Let us devour. It was pretty crowded in my head. Next to add to my demon’s cacophony was my personal parasite, and he spilled his poison into my veins, stoking my thirst for fire. I couldn’t hold out much longer. The fire would come. My demon would break the reins, and this time, I might not come back. This could be it: the very last time I had control. Was it over so soon? Would I lose my battle in this alley?

Demon spittle dribbled onto my face. My head lolled to one side. Through the fog of impending unconsciousness, a dark figure walked toward me. I didn’t need to see clearly to know him. His element flooded ahead of him. Heat. A terrible, breath-stealing, skin-crawling heat. Fire without the flames. The demon with his hands around my throat jerked his head up. His chokehold vanished as foreign words spilled from his lips. He scrambled off me, but he stayed kneeling, skinny shoulders hunched.

Akil’s image shimmered behind a veil of heat-haze. The air around his body rippled and strummed. He wore a double-breasted overcoat over his trademark suit, as though he might actually feel the cold on this chilly Boston evening. Only Akil could stalk back alleys and still look like he’d stepped off the pages of GQ magazine.

As my demon attacker mumbled and growled in an ancient and exotic language, I concentrated on filling my lungs with air, ignoring the odors of mildew, fish, and urine. The air tasted pretty sweet to my oxygen-starved lungs.

“Return to the netherworld,” Akil ordered, his tone level and direct. He didn’t expect to be disobeyed. He stopped in front of the prostrate demon, handsome face perfectly neutral.

“It won’t do any good, Sire. They come. There is nothing there but death.”

Akil’s dark eyes flicked to me. I wiggled my fingers at him. It was all I could muster.

“Perhaps you misheard because I’m