Monday, December 3, 2018

Demon Warden (The Cursed and the Fallen)

After having lots of fun with a writing prompt that spawned the short story: How not to Summon a Demon, I realized my characters had a bigger destiny. 
So a new saga was born!
Demon Warden will be the first book of The cursed and The Fallen series.
Here you have the first chapter.


DEMON WARDEN


CHAPTER 1

DINAH

I look at Lisa’s disaster of broken code and wonder how the hell she managed to mess it up so badly.

“Wow, this is terrible, I am impressed,” I say with a wry smile.

Lisa laughs, running a hand through her short black hair. A snake tattoo adorns her right forearm, her nose piercing glints under the lamplight.

“Happy to impress you,” she says with a wink.

I start typing, fixing the broken tags while she sits beside me, flicking a glance in my direction every now and then. I pause to drink a sip of lukewarm cocoa. The cafĂ© is almost full, couples and students with their noses in books or laptops. I recognize a couple of them, they’re in the same major I am, Computer Science. Even after 4 years, the thought of being in such a great university with an almost full scholarship makes me giddy. The pleasant smell of baked goodies and hot beverages relaxes me.

Lisa scratches her neck. “So, uh, you can do it, right, fix my website before the Con?”

I smile. “No worries, it will be done in one hour.”

Lisa nods. She looks nervous, running her hands up and down her faux black leather-clad thighs and fidgeting with her many bracelets. That’s odd, I’ve never seen anything remotely disturb the vegan, gothic feminist.

“Want a refill?” she asks, standing up.

“Sure,” I mutter distractedly as I load one of my pre-made code patches to speed up the process.

She comes back quickly and continues to send nervous glances towards me, which makes it a bit hard to focus.

“So, I heard Wesley asked you out,” Lisa comments.

My fingers still for a moment. “He did, but I am not interested.”

“Oh.”

Wesley is the typical I-get-who-and-what-I-want type. His idea of asking me out had been stalking me in the library and invading my personal space.

Nope.

Been there, done that.

Lisa gets distracted by her phone as I work at full speed. Writing code is simple for me, anything to do with numbers and languages I can learn ridiculously fast. Basic skills like cooking or communicating with other human beings come a bit harder.

As promised, I finish a little over an hour later, a bit stiff on the shoulders and yearning for Netflix and copious amounts of pizza.

“Dude,” Lisa whistles. “It looks way cooler than before, thanks.”

“Just get some pro help the next time, ok? We don’t want you breaking the internet by mistake,” I joke.

Lisa chuckles.

“Will do, maybe you can be my code girl if you want,” she says.

I shrug. “Sure, why not?”

I do this sort of thing all the time, getting some quick money that pays the bills and gives me time to be what I was destined to be. A couch potato.

I turn to her and watch how a beautiful pink blush rises in her usually pale cheeks. Her arm slides from the backrest to fall gently on my shoulders as she crosses the small space between us and brings her soft lips to mine.

Surprise freezes me to the spot. Her lips are sweet and gentle instead of demanding, so I don’t push her away. I let my eyelids fall, feeling a faint thrill as her lips caress mine. Lisa sure knows how to kiss. She pulls back, looking at me with a shy smile.

“Sorry, just thought I’d make it clear since hints don’t seem to be your thing,” she murmurs, biting her lip.

“Hints are so not my thing,” I agree, swallowing hard. “I like you, I think you’re beautiful and cool, but I’m straight.”

She pulls back, disappointment plain on her face though she masks it with a smile.

“It’s okay, no fuss, I just had to try,” she says with a shrug.

I bite my lip, part of me fearing Lisa can be angry, that she lashes out at me. That coward part of me I’ve fought hard to bury for almost 4 years.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Hell, I wish there were a gay or bi bone in my body, ‘cause we’d look totally hot together.”

Lisa laughs, the distress erased from her expression. “Agreed.”

She looks at her phone. “Damn need to go, I’m supposed to go to finish this project. Thanks again, Dinah.”

I know she’s lying but I don’t mind, I’d want to run the hell away too.

“Anytime,” I reply with a smile.

She hands me an envelope with my pay and puts some money on the table before leaving.

I sigh, packing my PC in my bag and wait for a few minutes before getting up and leaving too.

As soon as I get outside my right thigh cramps with pain, I bite my lip to stifle a yelp. When I was 12, I broke my left leg. A platinum implant and screws were necessary to align the bone. It hurts even worse when it’s cold, and chilly March night air blasts me hard.

I huddle in my coat and walk slower than I’d like back home, it’s only a few blocks away. My spine tingles with awareness and I stop, looking around, examining the pedestrians and the dark corners. I feel watched even though I can’t see anyone.

Meh. Maybe I just need a drink.

I hurry and arrive a few minutes later to the house, running into my roommate, Spencer, as he gets his keys to leave. As always, he is wearing designer clothes and exquisite perfume. 6-foot-1, athletic, with perfectly mussed locks of brown hair and milky-chocolate eyes.

“What is it with that shocked face, babe?” he asks, cocking his head to examine me.

“Lisa kissed me,” I say. I rarely keep things from him, well, present things at least.

He laughs. “I knew it.”

I slap his arm and he flinches. “Dammit, why didn’t you tell me she had a thing for me?”

“Because I knew she couldn’t hold it for long and was dying to see your reaction,” his grin grows. “So, did you kiss her back?”

I flush. “Yes, no. Well, not really, I didn’t pull back though.”

Spence smiles wickedly. “So…”

I bite my lip. “So nothing, she is intriguing and stunning but she is a girl, and I don’t like girls that way.”

“100% sure about that?” he asks, eyes uncharacteristically serious.

I roll my eyes. “Yes.”

Are you now? Asks an annoying little voice in the back of my head.

Shut up.

Spence kisses my cheek, barely having to lean, I’m 5-foot-10 and something.

“Aw babe, you need to get out. What if you join Xander and me tonight, huh?”

Xander is Spencer’s boyfriend. Sexy as hell, but quieter than Spence.

“Nope, it’s couch potato time.”

He rolls his eyes. “Fine, I’ll give you a pass today, but soon I will take you out even if I have to drag you.”

I stick my tongue out to him and he passes beside me, swatting my bum before leaving too fast for me to retaliate.

I chuckle, plotting my revenge, and walk straight to the kitchen, hungrier than I thought. The granite counters and stainless steel appliances are elegant and the entire place is immaculate, courtesy of Spence’s hired maid. He was raised with all the comfort and money he could want. At 18, he received his trust and moved as far away from his family as possible. For some mysterious reason, we clicked and ended up living together. Something I am more than grateful for, I couldn’t afford to live in such a nice place by myself, and grandma would freak out if I weren’t safe.

I open the well-stocked fridge and consider trying to make an omelet when I see a box of cold rice noodles.

“Jackpot,” I murmur. The kitchen is safe tonight.

I’ve caused a couple of fires in the past trying to make soup.

Truth is, I’ve caused many fires and my lack of culinary skills is not always to blame.

“Hello, Dinah,” says a male voice behind me.

I whirl around, a hand reflexively flying to my neck.

My heart begins a mad race as I see the worst part of my past enter the kitchen.

“D-Daniel,” I stammer. “How in the hell did you get inside?”

He smiles, confident as always. His 6-foot-2 sturdy frame dwarfs my lean physique. My stomach cramps painfully as he takes a step closer.

“Stay away from me,” I say, voice weak.

My head spins. He is supposed to still be in jail, not in my house many miles away from our hometown.

“Haven’t you missed me, Dinah? I’ve missed you, I’ve thought about you every day for the last 3 years.”

His blue eyes are glowing with anger and lust. My chest constricts painfully as I remember what happened the last time he looked at me like that.

Enough, I order myself.

The phone is on the table behind the island. I dart as fast as I can towards it, but he beats me to it and tosses it towards the foyer.

“No, not so fast, you owe me at least a conversation,” he growls.

“I owe you nothing,” I say, my voice steadier with anger.

Why thank you for showing up, adrenaline.

“You tossed me into jail without reason!” he yells. “You left home to become a stuck-up bitch!”

I flinch back unwillingly.

His lips curl in an ugly snarl. “And look at you now, a whore that fucks other women!” he takes a step closer. “You are mine, only mine or dead, choose.”

“Neither,” I growl, hitting him with my knee where it counts. I try to run toward the foyer, to get the phone, but my stupid leg throbs and makes me fall. I pull myself up and manage only another step before he grabs my ankle and takes me down to the floor. I break the fall with my elbows and kick him with the good leg, coaxing a grunt of pain from him as I rise and run, quickly reaching the foyer, my fingers clumsy as I dial for help.

My hair is yanked and I lose hold of the phone, panicked that I’ve only managed to enter two numbers. He pulls me back toward the kitchen, one of his arms around my neck.

This is why you took self-defense classes, you idiot!

I stomp my foot against his toes, making him grunt. His grip mercifully loosens around my neck. Then, I turn in his grasp and free myself, twist his arm behind his back and push him forward. He sends his elbow back and catches my upper stomach; the pain makes me lose hold of him, all air gone from my lungs. He takes advantage and fast as lighting throws his fist to my face. His athlete reflexes are still sharp, unfortunately. My ears ring and stars dance in my vision, the searing pain on my left cheekbone makes me wince. I would’ve fallen to the floor if not for him taking me by the neck, pulling my face to his.

“Had enough?” he pants, looking demonic, his rank breath on my face. “Keep fighting and it will only get worse, you hear me?”

My hands flail madly until I feel something hard and metallic. I grip the iron skillet and swing it as hard as I can. It produces a dull thud as it crashes against his skull; he releases me at once, stumbling. Grabbing the skillet with both hands, I swing again and again, catching his forehead, the side of his head, his shoulder until he falls hard to the kitchen floor. But to my disgrace is still conscious.

The hell is his skull made of?

I consider hitting him again, but I can’t risk killing the idiot either. So I kick his crotch, he curls up and moans. Stumbling, I make my way to the foyer, pick up my bag, the phone and open the door.

I limp down the few steps, looking around for someone I can call out for help. A few pedestrians focused on their phones or their thoughts walk by; I decide to call the cops instead. My hands are shaking so badly I can barely use my phone.

An incoming call thwarts my efforts.

“Dammit!” I cry.

I am about to hang up when Daniel stalks out of the house; his eyes promise revenge I freeze waiting for round two, but like any good coward, he hurries in the opposite direction, not daring to do something in public.

My phone buzzes again and with trembling fingers, I answer it. “Y-yes?”

“Miss Dinah Marie Novak?” asks a male voice I don’t recognize.

“Yes,” I say warily.

He sighs. “I’m sorry Miss, but Magdalena Novak has passed away.”

Dark spots dance in my vision as I try to understand.

“What?” I ask.

“Magdalena Novak, your grandmother, has passed away,” he says.

“How?” I question.

“A heart attack, I am very sorry.”

I fall gracelessly on the last step, barely listening to what he says as memories flood me. Me and grandma baking my favorite cookies, reading together, her unwavering support and encouragement.

I listen to the instructions and reply to the questions the police officer asks as numbness spreads inside my chest, making it hard to breathe.

I look at the phone in my hand, wishing it was all a nightmare, wishing I could go back to that morning and have a long conversation with grandma. I would’ve if I’d known that was the last time I’d hear her voice.

“Hey, you okay?” asks the neighbor from his door.

I don’t answer him and simply go back inside, limping but feeling no pain.

©Selene Kallan 2020


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