The mass suddenly reared back, and a long oval shape formed, almost like a head. It swung toward us, and panic punched a hole through my chest.
This thing just wouldn’t die.
Beyond the mass, the tops of the trees began to shake like Godzilla was about to make an appearance. At this point, anything was possible. Branches waved back and forth, shaking loose the last of the leaves that had been clinging on. They fell like rain, clouding the sky in muted browns and greens.
Something big was coming.
Then, along the edge of the trembling woods crowding the roadway, the fading sun caught and reflected over a thick, shiny onyx tail slithering along the leaf-strewn ground.
My breath caught. Bambi.
The mass pulsated and twisted, but that damn snake was fast. Shooting across the ground, it arced into the air, swallowing the evil essence within a second.
And then there was nothing—no essence or giant snake. The horrible scent of sulfur lingered, but it was no longer potent, and the malicious feeling had vanished. There was just the sound of Morris’s heavy breathing and my pounding heart.
“Did you see that?” I looked up into Morris’s face.
His expression said “see what?” And I wasn’t sure if he had seen Bambi, she’d moved so fast.
“Jesus,” I murmured.
* * *
It was chaos in the mansion.
From the moment Morris and I explained what had happened, anger and tension seeped into every room in the sprawling house. A possessed human coming after anyone wasn’t good. And the idea of one coming so close to the house had all the Wardens in a tizzy. All except Zayne, because I had no idea where he was.
Even with all the security and the charms blanketing the acres of land the house rested upon, only so much could be done. Because of...well, because of me.
My presence threw off the protective charms. Probably not as much as a full-blooded demon or a possessed would, but the Wardens had to be careful they didn’t accidentally take me out.
I had no idea how my day started off somewhat normal—at least normal for me—and ended with my whole belief system being questioned, sharing my very first kiss with a demon, finding out my mother could possibly be the Lilith and being chased by a possessed human.
How in the world had things gone so wrong?
Nicolai, a Warden in his mid-twenties who had lost his mate and his child last year during childbirth—like so many of them did—stopped by where I stood on his way to dispose of the body and the wreckage of the two cars.
“Are you okay, Layla?” he asked, placing a hand on my shoulder.
Though Nicolai rarely smiled anymore and was more reserved than the others, he’d always been kind to me when some of the Wardens, even some in the clan, treated me like I wasn’t worth the dirt on their boots because of my blood.
I was bruised and shaken, and more than a little freaked out, but I nodded. “I’m fine.”
He squeezed my shoulder and headed out, leaving me in a room full of ticked-off Wardens. Tired, I sat down on the couch.
In the center of the six Wardens, Abbot stood in a pure warrior’s stance. Legs spread wide, back rod straight and arms folded. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy. They were speaking in low voices, and Elijah and his son were there, exchanging dark looks that made their way to me every so often. No doubt Elijah and Petr blamed me.
I’d already been debriefed. Not talked to or comforted, but interrogated about the events. It wasn’t a big deal. A possessed human was a crisis. My coping skills weren’t a priority.
After telling Abbot and the clan everything I could remember, from the first inkling of something being off to when I realized the poor driver had been possessed, he turned his attention to the men.
“Canvass the city for Upper Level demon activity,” he ordered, and several heads nodded in agreement. “Detain any demon for questioning. If a demon is possessing humans, then something’s brewing. Even a Fiend might know what’s going down. Make them talk.”
One of the Wardens smirked. Several glances were exchanged, all saying they were looking forward to their night’s work.
An uncomfortable twisty feeling unfurled in the pit of my stomach. Dying would be a more pleasant outcome for a demon. If they were captured for questioning... My insides twisted. There was a warehouse in the city where the Wardens detained demons. I’d never been there, but I’d heard the Wardens talking about what went on there and how they made the demons talk.
I hadn’t told the clan about Bambi, since Morris hadn’t seemed to see her. Guilt chewed my skin raw, but Bambi had come to our aid. There was no telling what that evil essence would’ve done if the snake hadn’t swallowed it.
Tapping my foot, I wrapped my arms around myself and bit down on my lip. Not telling Abbot was wrong. Warden lives could be in danger. Humans could be in danger. But I’d been keeping the whole Roth situation to myself so much that I wasn’t sure even how to begin. And if Abbot knew about him, he’d pull me out of school. And I hated the part of me that was demon, because it was more concerned with what I got and what I would lose than how things affected other people.
But that was the catch. Sometimes the demonic blood won out. I knew it was wrong. Totally understood that, but it meant nothing in the end.
“We knew this would happen eventually,” growled Elijah. “That this day was—”
Abbot shot him a look that said “shut up,” and I wondered what in the Hell the other Warden was talking about. No doubt he was about to blame all of this on my demonic blood.
Closing my eyes, I sucked in a long breath. Immediately, I saw the mangled face of the poor man who had been possessed. As long as I lived, I would never forget what the man looked like. Shuddering, I forced my eyes open, and my gaze searched for one face in particular.
I cleared my throat. “Where’s Zayne?”
Geoff, whom I never really saw moving around the house since he seemed to live in the control room, turned to me. His shoulder-length brown hair was pulled back, revealing broad features. When he smiled, there was a dimple in his chin. But he wasn’t smiling now. “He’s out with Danika and Jasmine. They took the twins to the park with another male.”
The bitter burn of jealousy was quick to rise, and so wrong, but it crept over my skin anyway.
Geoff’s acute eyes missed nothing. “We’ve called them, and they are returning immediately.”
Casting my gaze to the carpet, I could only wonder and cringe at what Geoff caught on his cameras. If anyone knew everything, it was him.
“Layla?” Abbot’s voice drew my attention, and I glanced up to find him standing before me. “You’re positive the possessed said nothing to you?”
I shook my head as I watched the clan leave to find and question demons. Petr stopped briefly, his eyes narrowing on me, and then he was out the door, following his father. Only Geoff remained. He stood by the door, arms crossed. “No. I don’t think it was capable of talking. It had a...” I trailed off, shuddering as I remembered the jagged hole in its throat. “It couldn’t talk.”
He knelt down, his gaze exceptionally sharp. “And this Seeker who pretended to be a Poser, it didn’t say anything?”
My head jerked up. “No. I mean, I think it said ‘gotcha’ but I can’t be sure. Why?”