Try As I Smite (Brimstone Inc #4) - Abigail Owen
News of a mage going mad and lashing out with magic would typically raise alarms, but today, yet another such report in his hands was the least of Alasdair Blakesley’s worries.
A bigger problem had just walked into his office.
His long-time personal assistant, Agnes. She entered laden with a tray. Presumably his lunch.
“Thai today,” she sang out.
He had no idea what alerted him that something was seriously wrong. The tone of her voice probably. Serious, semi-snappy Agnes did not use a singsongy voice. Ever.
Nearing her late sixties—though she refused to retire, informing him that he’d be a pathetic mess without her, which was true—Agnes wore her steel-gray hair severely scraped back from her face, never a strand out of place. Like her hair, she was scarily efficient at her job, and as abrasive as a Brillo pad when she deemed it necessary.
A voice like a sweet little mouse was not in her repertoire.
In fact, having to order him lunch because, as often happened, he’d let his job distract him from the time, would irritate her. As the head of the Covens Syndicate—the body of witches and warlocks who monitored, policed, protected, and ruled the established covens of magi throughout the world—he found his focus on the needs of his people overruled eating. Brillo voice would be more likely right now.
He watched her closely as she set the tray down on the round table in the corner. Made of petrified wood, the table stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of his ultra-modern office, which was all glass, black leather, and chrome. With a cheerfulness also nothing like his Agnes, she arranged the plates to her liking, then glanced up.
And blinked. Because Alasdair had taken her distraction as an opportunity to move to the door, which he shut with a quiet snick.
“Can I get you anything else, sir?”
Sir? Alasdair reached for his power, allowing the magic to flow through like electric current over a wire, his fingertips buzzing with it.
“Yes,” he said in a quiet voice any friend, and most enemies, would recognize meant he was holding back rage. “You can tell me what you’ve done with Agnes.”
The imposter tipped her head to the side, doing a fantastic imitation of a confused frown. “I don’t understand, sir. Of course it’s me—”
With a single thought, a slithering line of electricity shot from his fingers, aimed at the fake in front of him.
She dropped all pretense of misunderstanding, and, with a snarl that raised the hairs on the back of his neck, jumped out of the way, only to land lightly on her feet, straightening from his assistant’s customary slightly hunched posture, eyes and mouth turned the color of gangrene, the color leaching into the surrounding skin, as though evidence of an infection of the soul.
At least Alasdair knew what he was dealing with.
Which meant he couldn’t kill it. He’d learned that the hard way a long time ago. Demons possessed human bodies, their corporeal forms too noticeable in the human realm to be used. If he killed the demon, he killed the vessel, and he couldn’t do that to Agnes. Which meant he’d need to bind it.
Please let this be a lower level demon.
Alasdair raised his hands in the air, calling on his magic. Immediately, a violent wind slashed through the office and tore at his immaculate suit jacket. The demon didn’t even sway with the impact. A glass statue in one corner wobbled and fell with a crash, shattering into a million shards, which Alasdair immediately summoned, using his magic to hurl at the demon.
With a swipe of its arm, the thing inside Agnes diverted the shards around its body. They embedded in the wall, sounding like a thousand tiny bullets hitting their mark with sharp, popping thuds.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” the demon sneered, its deep, scratchy voice at odds with Agnes’s body.
It lunged, streaking with inhuman speed across the room at him. The winds he’d summoned had reached hurricane force but might not as well have been blowing for all the detriment they posed. Alasdair held still, waiting for the right movement to strike. Waiting for its sickly sweet breath to hit his face before he struck.
The words of his spell punched through his mind, and, in an instant, a length of cord materialized in his hands, glowing bright white with energy. At his will, it shot forward to wrap around the demon charging him.
The thing was fast, and damn strong, and Alasdair didn’t time it