I got started educating Coty and her sisters the next afternoon after finishing my work for Alaun. My sister knew I was up to something, but Alaun was not the type to question me about… More
I’ve been alone for days now. It’s a different world, alone. My work for Alaun is only ever going to be part-time. We knew that going in. Classes take up another small fraction of my day. That still leaves…hours.
Hours to sit in my room on the sixth floor and just…think.
Mak is gone. He’s been sent somewhere that I am not allowed to know about. On a secret mission. I suspect he’s guarding Kindara now, in the actual demon world.
I feel like I’ve lost my only real friend in the world.
I can’t stand it. I’m going to get out there. Actually walk around of the evening. See what the hotel has to offer without having to have my big sister there to hold my hand. I’m going to stay where there are other people. I have my phone with me, too.
I can’t do this; I can’t stay in my room forever. I already feel invisible. I don’t want to be invisible, too. I’m on the sixth floor. Next to Joselyn’s cousins, though they rarely venture out. When our paths cross, we rarely speak. They are just as afraid as I am.
Demons want to kill them, too. No one is exactly sure why demons are suddenly so angry at Dardaptoans. Especially since their new queen is one of us. Then again, maybe that is it.
This time when I opened the door, there was a young female leaving the room next door.
She paused and stared at me, a suspicious look on her face. She had green eyes, like Mickey’s. She is a head shorter than I am, with straight dark hair.
“H-hello.” I can’t stand it. Not connecting with my neighbors. I have spent the last sixty-eight years living with and working the farm in Woald Hollow. It was not unusual for us to meet up once or twice a month for cookouts and sitting around the fire, roasting marshmallows while Alleah and the Woald cousins would play.
This…this floor in the hotel is nothing like that of the ruling Equa and Equan. It looks much more like your generic chain hotel anywhere in the world. There are no beautiful decorations, just a few floral arrangements—plastic—here and there. The doors to the small suites are plain and utilitarian.
It’s also where government refugees were housed. There were four suites three doors down from mine used to house the witnesses in some of Theo’s trials. A guard stands at the door to keep them from intermingling. Another three guards were throughout the hall—to guard me, and to guard the Boltier sisters.
“I-I’m Jume. I’m stuck here in hell, too. Would you like some company? We can share a guard? Make it easy when the demons finally c-catch up to us.”
“What?” She shot me a suspicious look. “What do you know about demons?”
I pushed back the sleeve of my yellow vestis. The scars would be with me always. “They came for me, too. And I don’t know why. It’s the reason I am stuck here on this floor—instead of at home with my sisters.”
“I’m sorry. I…demons want us dead, too.” She held out her hand, in the typical greeting for humans. I shook her hand quickly. “I’m Coty Boltier. Third sister.”
“Jume Woald, fourth sister. Of seven.”
“There are seven of us, too. Strange that. We have seven cousins, as well.”
“Some say seven is the number of the goddess. I’m not sure I believe in that. I’m headed to the cafe. I want real food.”
“I just have to get out of the room. My sisters…sometimes I just need quiet.”
“I understand. Would you like some company?”
“I’d like that very much.”
I’m sorry I’ve been so morose. I’ve decided to keep this journal, even after my digital media class ends. It…feels like my actual lifeline to the outside world. To a life beyond these doors. I’m going to try to be more positive.
I’ve been here a while now, I think. Mickey’s cousins are everywhere. Her entire family relocated to the resort. Everyone’s focus has been on them.
And on the demon king. He took Cormac’s sister with him a few days ago. In search of medicines for our people. I guess it’s going to be a permanent relocation for Kindara, as she’s now the queen of the demon world. What she’d found before saved my life. I’m praying to the goddess that her new mission is successful.
It would mean so much. My own sisters—they’ll find their mates one day. The idea that they might be lost in childbirth terrifies me. I love them so much.
The isolation from them is what hurts me the most about all of this. I can deal with being threatened, with knowing I’ll never have my male, but not being with my sisters, that’s the true nightmare.
I can’t keep going on like this, all purposeless. There has to be a reason the demons came to me in the first place. I can’t just sit back and let Cormac Jareth and Theo be responsible for answering my questions. For finding a way to get me back home.
Why would they worry about me when they have so much else going on?
My first task is going to have to be finding out everything I can about the demon type that had attacked me. I can do that through my job with Alaun, in the resort library. I’ll just funnel all that info to Alaun. I’m going to ask her questions tonight. She is a bit of a night owl, preferring to write late at night when the rest of the house is asleep.
I’m still having the nightmares here. When they wake me late, I’ll get on my phone. See if my sister is still awake. She usually is.
She’ll understand my new quest. And she’ll keep it quiet. I don’t want the rest of them to worry. Especially Kellis.
I’m actually more worried about her now.
Something…Kellis has her own ghosts that haunt her…
I’ve started to come to the realization that I’m probably never going to be able to leave the resort. It’s been several weeks since the demon attack on me. I can’t help but wonder if after a few years pass, Theo and the others will just assume I am safe, and let me go.
Let me go.
I do feel like I am being kept prisoner here.
Or maybe I’ll just stay in this little 2-room suite and be forgotten. Just a forgotten charity case who needs to be protected from phantom demon attackers.
I used to dream my male was a member of Dardaptoan royalty and that I would one day be able to live in the resort, basking in the lap of luxury.
I think every young girl dreams that at one time or another. Marrying the handsome Equa. The reality of living in the hotel is far different. Yes, there are many things to do—if you have the coinage to do so. Thanks to my work for Alaun, I have enough to adequately feed myself. Kellis earns probably the second-highest income after Alaun, but it is still very little for where we now find ourselves living.
Both of us know we can’t stay in this limbo forever.
I suggested Kellis go home. Back to the others. Ambrea needs Kellis. Kellis does so much around the house—of course we all do, but with me gone, Ambrea and my sisters need Kellis more than I do.
Kellis isn’t too happy with the idea. I knew she wouldn’t be. She has a habit of picking the most vulnerable of us at any one time and then hovering.
I’m not exactly keen on the idea of sending my sister home. She’s been my companion since this started. But it’s not fair for her to live her life in constant limbo either. And it’s not like I won’t see her almost every day. Her precinct is located a block over from the hotel. She was already coming back to my suite for lunch every day. I’m sure that will still happen when she can.
But as I watched her walk out of the hotel tonight, I stood there and bawled.
My world…it has changed. And I feel like a captive here.
That’s exactly what I’ve become.
I no longer go to classes. Theo spoke with the dean at DU. Everything will now be done virtually—for me. But it isn’t the same. Part of my joy in taking classes—until Olietus, anyway—had been in being with others who enjoyed learning. That has been taken from me now.
I no longer work with Theo, but to be honest, I’m not missing that at all. I didn’t realize how our archaic justice system actually pulled me down at times.
I work with Alaun each day, and I get to video chat with her twice a day—supposedly about the books, but I think my older sister is just checking on me.
Ambrea calls me three times a day. Usually, I’ll hear from my other sisters throughout the day, too. Even Alleah will take Ambrea’s cell phone and start texting me when she is supposed to be doing her schoolwork.
Dear Goddess I miss them.
I want to go home so badly. But I just know that isn’t going to be possible. It isn’t. I’m probably never going home ever again.
Anyway, it was a few days before Cormac came to me again.
He was full of questions about the things the demon had said to me that day.
“Why could you understand what he said?” Cormac demanded. “Mak didn’t; and he’s spoken demon languages for three hundred years.”
I just stared at him. “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. He yelled it; I understood it. I wasn’t exactly thinking, How do I translate demon? when it was happening. I’ve never even seen a demon until that day. And I don’t want to see another one ever again.”
He stepped closer; no doubt the big jerk was trying to intimidate me. Well, he’d tried that many times before when I was Theo’s poor beleaguered secretary—as Mickey described me a few days ago.
She likes to yank Theo’s chain whenever she can. It’s good for him; he’s far too serious in his old age.
I was (moderately) used to Cormac’s tactics. He’s not a bully. Far from it. He’s actually a big softie at times. But when it comes to protecting the city, he’s relentless.
“I…I honestly didn’t realize I understood what he said. Is it some kind of demon thing? Something they do with their victims?” I like to think I know how to handle the male in front of me. The way a house cat can handle a tiger, maybe, but I have gotten good over the last fifty years at hiding my anxieties about things.
Working for Theo hasn’t been easy. But I’ve gained a few skills in fifty years.
“Not that we’re aware of. Whatever he said—you somehow automatically knew what he was saying. We’re trying to figure out why.”
I felt a sudden stabbing in my head. Not painful, but very, very noticeable. I lifted a hand to my head and cried out softly.
Then I looked up at him as I remembered. Cormac was one of the few members of our Kind who could read people’s thoughts. “Stop it. You’re hurting me. I think y-you’d better leave. I don’t know what it is you want from me or why you think I know what’s happening. All I know is someone wants me dead. And a demon screamed at me about a queen. You’re the predatoi. You figure it out. But leave me alone!”
I didn’t wait for his reply. I just ran. There was a guard from Cormac’s House assigned to me today. I was only vaguely aware of him following me. He was younger than I am, and hadn’t said much. Just watched every move I made.
You know, on my three trips this week to the library. And the two times Kellis has lured me out to the moderately priced cafe on the main level—where the more “common” of our Kind would patronize. You know, the exact opposite of the exclusive restaurant on the top level where Mak had taken me.
Because I am such a scary threat!
In that moment, I absolutely utterly beyond a doubt despised Cormac Jareth with every fiber of my being.
Why can’t these males just leave me alone?
Ambrea brought Alleah to visit three days ago. The little one loved exploring the resort. We had cookies in the cafe, and ice cream. It was almost like it was before, our family taking pleasure in the small things we can afford to do. But I knew; it was far different.
I’m not certain I will ever make it home again.
I don’t know where the feeling is coming from—but it is there. Real.
Just like the nightmares.
They’ve only gotten worse.
I thought about telling Kellis about them, but what if they are premonitions or something?
I don’t want to worry my sister. Not at all.
She has enough on her plate.
When she’s not with me in the Sebastos wing, she’s off doing something with Kierce’s female and that girl’s family. I’m not exactly certain what she’s doing, but I think she’s acting as a guard for them—and helping them get oriented to life here in Dardanos.
They’re still human.
And they know about us. I’m not certain how that is going to work out, but it can’t be good. Humans… knowing about us…that’s dangerous.
Very, very dangerous. For them and for us.
I don’t like the idea of my sister being in the middle of all of that.
But how can she not be? I know why they are getting to her—there are seven of them. Seven sisters who have no one but each other.
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
I put my books away—I’ve been studying about Lupoiux political structure, as Alaun’s next novel features a Lupoiux/Dardaptoan female being captured by a rogue demon somewhere near Finley Creek, Texas—and stood. I still have hours before I turn in for the night.
I’m going to find them.
Let them know that they have friends here.
I’ll never forget how alone I felt, even with my sisters, eight years ago when we lost our parents. These females lost their whole world just as suddenly.
Rumor has it their own father wants to kill them.
I can’t imagine such horror. Family…family is everything. How can anyone want to kill their own babes?
Something horribly evil must be at work deep within him.
Perhaps he is a demon or something?
I left my suite, feeling ill at ease, as always, when I walked down the wine-and-gold-accented, antique-laden hallway.
This is not my kind of place, by any means.
I am used to being Theo’s servant, not his favored guest.
I really don’t like this at all.
I had just left the hallway when I bumped into Theo’s female. She had another young female with her, one who resembled her greatly, but with a long riot of blond ringlets.
They stopped when they saw me. Mickey smiled. “Hello, Jume. How are you today?”
“I-I’m good.” I’ve spoken with Mickey before. She is a very determined young female who is on a quest to help Theo with his duties as justice. And she’s also engrossed in helping her family build the Taniss Industries lab that everyone has been talking about lately.
I have a feeling she may be just as much a workaholic as Theo.
Most importantly, everyone is talking about the news she just released.
Mickey is carrying the Sebastos heir.
But there are demons out there who don’t want that babe to be born.
Mickey is in constant danger; there are guards that follow her everywhere she goes now.
I am so glad I am not royalty.
Hiding out from demons for whatever sin I’ve committed is bad enough.
NOTE FROM CJ: Jume is referencing events from book 1: Fated to her Vampire
It was about a week before Cormac came to my small suite in the Sebastos family wing. I am definitely not used to living in the resort, even with Kellis around. She’s upset about something. Worried. And I don’t think it’s just about me. I think it has something to do with the female that everyone says is Kierce’s new female. She’s barely of age, and terrified.
One of the Taniss cousins, I think. I’ve seen her. She’s beautiful. Very, very young. Even younger than Julea. Kellis has taken it on herself to protect her, too. I heard her arguing with Kierce yesterday; telling him he was being a total jerk where the girl was concerned. That he had to consider Grayce’s feelings as well. That her entire world had been upended, and he couldn’t just make unilateral decisions for her without even consulting her.
I will admit, I find it odd—I mean, I know Kellis loved Kierce. She told me so when I was in the Healers’ Hall.
We’d talked a great deal about not having Rajnis and what it meant for us.
It helped, knowing that I wasn’t alone. We made a pact, too.
No matter what, Kellis and I—we’d always have each other. Even if our sisters found their males and moved far away to be with them, Kellis and I would stick together.
Two old-maid spinsters. Kellis promised to go out and find us a handful of cats when the time came.
We settled into a routine. I can still be Alaun’s research assistant from the hotel. Actually can do it better from the hotel. Theo let me have access to the Sebastos libraries. I’ve only been in there a handful of times before, for my job. Now, I spend most of my day reading anything and everything I can find.
I haven’t touched anything on demons, though.
Kellis says I may have a good deal of PTSD from the demon attack. I might need to visit one of the mind-soothers—a psychiatrist the humans call them—to help me deal with what happened.
I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. Besides, how would we afford to pay for it? They are so rare among our Kind, that I’d probably have to leave the hotel to find one, anyway.
I’m not quite ready to do that. Not yet.
I had almost made it out of the Healers’ Hall when they stopped me.
The dhar himself. I have met him, of course. I have worked in the justice hall for fifty years, after all. But we haven’t spoken that often.
He wanted to thank me for agreeing to basically be the guinea pig.
Well, what exactly was I supposed to do? Die?
I decided during the long hours I was stuck almost immobile in that hospital bed that I still have far too much to do with my life before I leave this world for the next one.
There were other males with him. They were who really threw me off.
Cormac Jareth had been in several times to—as Kellis put it—harass me with his questions. He is a harsh male, but I was starting to get used to him.
Theo, of course. He seems to be taking a special interest in what has happened to me. I suspect that it is because he felt guilty for the way we’d argued after the ruling the day he’d found his female.
He’d asked me if I wanted to keep my job, after all.
Well. No. I had a lot of time to soul search. And I came to the conclusion that I am good with. I am interchangeable in the justice hall. Just a secretary. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that I’ve been a secretary for fifty-three years. It’s time for something new!)
I almost lost my life; I’m not ready to lose the rest of it. No matter what I have to do—I’m going to do what I enjoy doing. Live my life to the fullest.
While watching out against demon assassins, that is.
Kind of hard to forget that!
I stayed in the Healers’ Hall for three weeks. Mak would visit every day, and somehow, he arranged it with all three of my professors that I could attend class virtually. They recorded the lectures, and Mak and I would watch them together the next morning. My arm healed so rapidly that fifteen different healers made a point of stopping by my room to see the results.
I…tolerated…that. Only because I know what it means for our people. The hope so many healers have lived with for so long, their prayers in vain to the goddess for this very thing.
I couldn’t do it—the torture of watching my charges die while I stood helplessly.
The Woald line has been given two healers—Iahanna and Cayri—now. They are the first Woald healers to have been born in over five hundred years. Theo’s sister Bronwen is another, though she is a Sebastos by family name. Woalds do not have healers born. It is just known.
A painkiller alone is remarkable. Something they are likening to human antibiotics is a miracle.
One that many praised the goddess for.
Me, I’m not so sure how I feel about the goddess. She got so involved in a nasty fight with the Lupoiux wolf god five thousand years ago that they practically destroyed our people as we were then. It’s written down in the Woald Family Journals.
Journals that the Equa of the Woald keep locked in our vault, hidden under the fountain in the private courtyard I’d shown Mickey just a few weeks ago.
I have been meaning to ask if I can read them someday soon. For my history of families research project I’m required to do.
Class is about the only thing I can focus on right now.
Otherwise, I’ll get caught up in worrying—there are demons out to kill me, after all.
Mak said it ties into what happened before. With Olietus Black and that stupid arrow that nearly took off my head that night.
Theo came by. To apologize for being wrong in what he had seen. He’d said he has been inundated by visions of our people lately. And he misinterpreted the one about me. That there had been a strange cloud surrounding it that had obscured what it actually meant. Or twisted it, as if someone knew he was looking, seeing, and wanted to throw him off somehow.
Well, there are few beings that could have been. Fates, maybe? The goddess herself? I’m not sure I believe him, honestly.
It is just too far-fetched to be believed.
He’d seemed sincere. As long as I have known the male—my entire life—you would think I’d know him well enough to evaluate when he is being truthful.
Still…I’m not so sure that I do believe that.
No one knows what the demon meant by queen, either.
Everyone assumes it means Kindara Jareth, Cormac’s sister and the First Healer of our people. Did you know she’s bonded with the High Demon King now? He is good friends with the Tanisses.
Her own Rajni was murdered by Mickey Taniss’s grandfather.
Kindara has mated that demon king.
I’ve not seen him, but he’s in the building somewhere.
I don’t want to meet him, or his brother—who is also here somewhere, I’ve heard—ever.
I don’t ever want to see a demon again.
Demons mean nothing but trouble. I don’t know why one would have come for me. That is an answer no one really has.
I’m being discharged from the Healers’ Hall tomorrow. But I’m not going home. I’m being assigned a suite. In Theo’s wing. Where I can supposedly be watched over and kept safe.
Kellis is staying with me.
I just worry that this will never end. Will I ever get to go home again?
I…have a feeling I never will.
Well. I have stitches. Hundreds of them. Not to mention superglue. They are holding my skin together. It looks wickedly raw and very dangerous. Not to mention painful. “It’s not green any longer!”
“No. There are no signs of infection or of poison, thank the goddess,” Barlaam said, carefully inspecting every inch of my arm. “Kindara’s demon find has saved your life, Jume. If this attack had happened even a week ago, I’m sorry to say we wouldn’t be seeing the same results. You’ll need to stay still for a week or two. Let the skin heal over it. Nothing strenuous. Bed rest completely. I’m going to have you assigned to one of our private rooms three floors up, with a junior healer to care for you. If you need anything, she’ll fetch it for you. Try to keep as still as you possibly can. Thank you…for being willing to test this out. I know how terrified you must have been.”
Well, I hadn’t exactly had a whole lot of choice, had I? But I didn’t say that. My mother had raised me to be more polite than that. I said something appropriate, though I can’t remember what it was.
Then I looked at the Predatoi staring at me.
He had pulled a digital camera from his pocket. “I need to take photos of the wounds now. Thadd took initial photos after he stitched you up. While you were unconscious from the damned demon brew my brother-in-law provided to my sister.”
I nodded. Part of my job with Theo had been to make copies of assault photos. It was never easy to see. And I’m not exactly thrilled that my photo will forever be in a file in Theo’s office for any law clerk or justice worker to see whenever they wanted. All it would take would be them getting curious about demon handiwork.
But our system of justice did work well. Up to a point, anyway.
To be honest, the entire conversation was starting to exhaust me. I lay back against the pillows while he took his blasted photos.
“So tell me, Jume,” Cormac said. “Why would a demon assassin come after you? And what was the exact message he shouted?”
My eyes flew open, and I just stared into his. “I don’t know. I don’t know why any of this keeps happening to me. I’ve never done anything to anyone to deserve it!”
After that, Kellis lit into him. So badly I thought he was going to fire her on the spot. But he didn’t.
He just turned to me after Kellis was starting to wind down. A sharp pain went through my head at his look, and I closed my eyes quickly.
“I’ll find out the answers for you. I damned well promise that. You just…keep yourself safe in the meantime.”
I nodded, thinking the whole time:
Just how in the three hells am I supposed to do that?
Cormac Jareth looked at Ambrea and Kellis. “Leave us. We have questions for your sister.”
“I don’t think Jume needs to be alone,” Kellis said hotly. “I’m staying. As her representative. To protect her interests.”
“She doesn’t need a rep unless she’s done something criminal.”
Like abduct a young, deaf human and keep her as his captive mate? Like Cormac had? Mickey’s cousin—Cormac’s new female—was deaf, after all.
I almost asked it. I don’t know where the impulse came from. But it was there.
Maybe demon-spirin loosened a Dardaptoan’s tongue, so to speak?
This Equa was a good friend of Theo’s. He’d been involved in the taking of the Taniss Four. I had no doubt that he—actually Kellis’s boss, along with Aodhan Adrastos—was about to interrogate me like I was a criminal.
I’m trying not to be nervous. But it’s hard. I’m not a criminal. I’ve not done anything wrong.
The worst thing I have ever done in the past ten years was sneak out of class to go to the bathroom and wash my face this afternoon. If that’s a crime, lock me up and throw away the key.
I do not feel up to this. Not at all.
“In the event of a medical incapacitation, a familial representative is allowed and required by section 1.345b of the Dardanos City Code.” Kellis shot back. “Remember that…sir?”
I was getting the strange feeling that Kellis didn’t like this guy at all.
Well, I don’t blame her. He’s terrifying. I don’t like him much, either.
He’s the best Predatoi our Kind has ever seen. The Demon Hunter, he has been called for centuries.
Demon. No wonder he was so intense. Those things…I never want to see a demon again.
“I’m n-not sure why the d-demon came for me,” I said as Ambrea scooped a sleeping Alleah into her arms and my sisters left me.
Like I had known she would. She settled on the bed next to me, her hand going around my uninjured one. She’s smaller than me, she and Alaun both, but Kellis can be fierce.
Especially when she’s as afraid as she is now. I can feel her fear as strongly as if it were my own.
The healer, Barlaam, brother to our king, started pulling the tape from my other arm.
I tensed, even more than I already am. I am not certain I wanted to see what the demon did to me.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked quietly. “Am I going to be ok?”
Barlaam smiled at me reassuringly. I have met him many times before. He and Thadd are good friends and colleagues. Plus, he was in and out of Theo’s office on a frequent basis.
He brought me roses on my sixtieth birthday. And to tell you a secret, he caught me under the human mistletoe hung in the hotel lobby when I was fifty-nine. He gave me my second kiss that day. Short, sweet, a memory I will always cherish, though, of course, he meant nothing by it. He was the only male to have ever given me flowers.
I had forgotten Mak. I looked at Kellis. “Where’s Mak? Is he ok? Was he injured?”
Kellis squeezed my hand. “He’s fine. He’s with Aodhan Adrastos in the prison cells now. He asked to be allowed to…participate…in the interrogation of the demon.”
She’d hesitated. I knew what an interrogation meant. They were going to get the answers out of the demon. Even if it meant beating them out of him.
Sometimes, Dardaptoan laws could be exceptionally archaic. Especially when there are threats to our people. Theoretically, I can understand the how and why of that, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.
I had heard Mishja and Theo arguing about that hundreds of times over the last few decades.
Barlaam finished with the bandages.
He swore. My attention jerked to him immediately. “What is it?”
I was terrified to look. What if Thadd had been wrong? What if the demon medication had failed? What if it just prolonged the inevitable?
I was afraid to hope.
“Barl?” Cormac asked.
“It’s…healing.” He shot me a look, one filled with amazement. “Kindara was right. She’s done it. It’s healing.”
Ok. So I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found something to help our people heal. But…it is my arm they are oohing and aahing over here.
That deserves some decisive action on my part.
It is time I look for myself.