DANCE WITH THE DEVIL
A Hellfire Novel
© 2021 Jena Gregoire
“Say it again,” Dez purred. She watched his lips as he uttered the words she so longed to hear.
“Hot, dark, Columbian, deep inside you.” His words came out in a sensual whisper, causing her mouth to water with anticipation.
“Mmmm…” She closed her eyes and tipped her head back, imagining the level of satisfaction in her near future. “Let’s do it now,” she begged, “come on, it’s been almost four months. I swore I would never go this long without it again.” She leveled a deadly stare at him to make sure her urgency was understood. “I need this, Vegas. My body needs this.”
“You’re desperate, huh?” His reply was playful.
“You have no idea.”
“All right, but we have to take care of business first.”
“I got this.” A wicked smile crept across her face.
Coffee will have to wait just a tiny bit longer.
Turning her attention back to the task at hand, she fired several shots in quick succession, taking out the three possessed men currently stalking toward them across the wide expanse of the run-down warehouse building. Once, the complex had been home to a series of crystal meth labs, and in a not-so-bright maneuver, a group of demons had set up shop inside a band of tweakers.
The condition of their bodies showed the drugs had taken their toll long before the demons came along, their mobility limited to a slow limp. Dez had watched plenty of demons function absolutely fine in bodies with broken necks and signs of advanced decay. Meth, on the other hand, actually did enough damage to limit their motor skills.
“There are two more somewhere here,” she said as she stepped over one of the fallen bodies. She could feel the presence of the other two lurking in the shadows – weak and it felt off somehow – but the demons weren’t making any moves toward them. They were in no danger. All it would take is one command and the demons would be forced to do as she wished, which included being able to bring them to a complete standstill. However, she and Vegas both enjoyed the hunt to a certain extent, so she didn’t often use that aspect of her demon powers.
They had bounced from one city to another since her little brush with death in the desert. Although spending lots of alone time with Vegas had been fun, she had reached her breaking point and ached for the extravagantly comfortable life she had built for herself in New York. The novelty of sleeping in shitty roadside motels had long worn away, even if she didn’t have to spend it alone anymore.
Her life had changed.
She had changed.
Everything she thought she knew about who she was and where she had come from had been nothing but a pack of lies specifically designed to bring her to that fateful moment in the desert.
After centuries of belief that she had perished at her own hand following Dez’s birth, Catalina, her biological mother, had turned up to complete the charge set forth by the Daughters of Eris. The long-hidden sect of the witch covens had taken it upon themselves to usher in the apocalypse by way of unleashing a demon hoard onto the human plane of existence, and then to play the hero of the day by wiping them all out in one fell swoop. Dez’s blood combined with a heavy dose of celestial magic was the key to the second part of their plan and had it not been for Vegas, they would have succeeded in their mission.
And she’d be dead.
After spending some much-needed downtime at Charlie’s house to recuperate, she and Vegas had both become rather antsy, desperate for some normalcy. The pair set out on the road, having already sent Kade back home, and had been hunting ever since. They had come to grips with the fact that hunting demons would have to be part of their daily lives, but it had become their entire life. This last stop━a shitty little New Hampshire town made most famous by its mass production of methamphetamine━had Dez craving the comforts of home and a cup of coffee from the best café the city that never sleeps had to offer.
“I won’t even make you go out and get it for me,” she informed him. “We can just stop on the way home. We’ll stock up on coffee and those little cranberry cake things.”
“Those are good,” he agreed.
“See? You’re getting excited. I knew it.”
“Dez,” he replied, “I never said I wasn’t excited about the prospect of going home. I’m excited.”
“You don’t sound excited.” Glass smashed in a room down the hall, pulling their attention away from a conversation which was going nowhere fast. The small betrayal of their location was all Dez needed to finish the job.
She swiftly moved toward a small row of rooms along the southern wall of the structure. The boarded-up windows enclosed what she assumed were small offices once upon a time. As she passed and cleared each one, she could see that, as of late, the small rooms were set up as labs, each used to cook meth. All of the rooms contained glass bottles over burners, which were connected by clear, plastic tubing. She recognized it from news broadcasts about meth labs being raided by police in the city over the last few years.
As she crept from room to room, she noticed that none of the labs were active. The overwhelming smell of rubbing alcohol slammed into her with every doorway she stepped to, each room taking her breath away and making her eyes water. She couldn’t imagine living with or anywhere near that odor. Not for the first time, she found herself questioning why anyone would choose this brand of drug production to make their money. The acrid odor aside, the chemicals required to cook meth were notoriously unstable; most meth lab raids either resulting in, or a byproduct of, the lab exploding.
As Dez neared the end of the row of offices, she pushed her senses out into the ether. She fully expected to find the hate-fueled presence of two demon minds just beyond one of the nearby doors. Instead, she found the same dull hum she had encountered previously. At close range, drug-addled or not, the demons’ psychic energy should have been unmistakable. She started to wonder if demons weren’t the only creatures she was going to bump into in the filthy warehouse.
Dez signaled to Vegas, indicating she wanted him directly in front of the doorway when they opened the door. She would open the door from the side, and he would be there to cover her, just in case anything particularly nasty decided it was a good day to test its luck.
She reached for the door handle.
Loud enough so she was sure the room’s inhabitants heard her, she yelled out, “Don’t move!”
Any demons inside would be forced to follow her command. Anyone else would probably just assume she was a cop. She turned the knob of the door as silently as she could and pushed. The door’s hinges creaked as it swung into the office.
“It’s clear,” Vegas said.
“Definitely not empty though,” Dez replied, tapping her index finger to her temple, reminding him she had felt the presence of two minds in the room.
She brought her gun up in front of her and crept into the room. She quickly spun around making sure there was nothing hiding behind the door. With the exception of the large wooden desk serving as a table for a small cook operation, the room was empty. She was about to close her eyes and reach out into the ether again when a tiny movement pulled her attention downward.
The small gap at the bottom of the desk revealed a delicate human foot, and whoever it was attached to was trying their best to pull it back in hopes of not being seen. Dez pointed her gun at the wooden panel covering the front of the desk.
“Since the particular people I’m looking for wouldn’t be able to move right now, I’m guessing you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Dez tried to keep her voice calm and pleasant, which sounded completely at odds with the words coming out of her mouth. “I have a loaded sidearm pointed directly at where I assume your head would be, and if I think for one second you’re about to do anything stupid, I’ll pull the trigger. Come on out of there, nice and slow.”
There was a rustling noise under the table and a small hand gripped the edge. The dirt-caked fingernails were chewed to the quick. The delicate pixie face peering back at her, framed by disheveled brown and honey-blonde streaked hair, was not what Dez had expected.
The girl’s eyes were bright blue, not that different from her own, and clear of any demons, supernatural or otherwise. Aside from her clothes being covered in dust, she was clean. Whoever she was, she didn’t appear to be the type to frequent a meth lab. Not anymore, at least. The girl’s slender arms hung at her sides, tiny pale scars the only remaining evidence of long-since healed track marks, betraying her past addiction.
“Heroin?” Dez asked. The girl self-consciously grabbed her arm, covering the scars, and nodded her head slightly, never taking her frightened eyes off Dez’s gun.
“But you’re clean, right?” The girl nodded again, a nervous twitch to her movements. “Then what are you doing here?” The girl opened her mouth to speak, but before she could get a word out, Vegas interrupted her.
“You’re not alone.” The girl turned her attention to him, her eyes widened with alarm and recognition, and she nervously shook her head. She hesitantly glanced down and waved her hand to someone unseen. More rustling and another set of tiny hands led the arrival of another girl.
The new girl’s hair was dyed black, her lighter brown roots grown out far enough for Dez to know it’d been a long time since she’d seen the inside of a salon. She was in far worse shape, her gaunt appearance assuring she wouldn’t be a poster child for walking the rocky road to sobriety any time soon. Her hands twitched and she started lightly scratching her neck, probably without even thinking about it. She was younger than the first girl, but not by much, if Dez had to guess. She lowered her gun and nodded to Vegas for him to do the same. Both girls relaxed but only slightly.
“How long have you been clean?” She posed the question to the older girl, knowing the question was wasted on the younger one.
“I just got my one-year chip,” the girl replied, referring to a milestone for many in addiction recovery programs.
“What are you doing here? A meth lab isn’t exactly a good place for a recovering addict to be spending their time.”
“This is my little sister’s best friend. I came here looking for her. I knew this is where she comes to buy. When no one had seen her in a few days, I figured this is where she had ended up. We’ve been stuck here since yesterday morning.” She paused for a moment, then her tone completely changed, as if she were just waking up. “Were they zombies? I didn’t believe zombies were really possible, because, you know, decay, but those were zombies, right? Those things definitely looked like zombies. We hid in here when we saw them. Her mom would kill me if I got her turned into a zombie. Did you know zombies were a thing?” Her words came out in a rush, the tangle of thoughts spilling out of her.
“They’re gone,” Vegas answered.
“But that’s what they were, right? Zombies?”
“Not exactly,” Dez replied, “but arguably similar. How many of them did you see when you came in here?”
“Three, I think.”
Dez turned toward Vegas and flipped the switch. She let her demon senses take over. She felt once more for any other presence in the building. She blinked her eyes, returning them to their normal icy blue, and an excited smile spread across her face.
“That’s all of them. You know what that means.”
“Time to go home,” Vegas responded, his own smile matching hers. Dez turned back to the girls.
“So, what’s the plan here? Are you taking her back to her parents?”
“Yes but I know someone who might be able to secure her a bed at a good rehab center up north. They helped me sober up and my counselor there might be able to help her. I’ll get her home and make some phone calls.”
Dez pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, opened her address book, and selected the icon to add a new record.
“What are your names?”
“Tessa,” the older girl replied, her voice shaking, “and this is Kaitlyn.”
“Nice to meet you both. I’m Dez and this is Michael. Tessa, what’s your phone number?”
Dez typed in the digits as the girl rattled them off and clicked the save button before tucking her phone back in her pocket.
“I’m going to check in with you soon, just to make sure you’re okay. If you ever need anything, anything at all, look me up at Onyx in New York City. Can you remember that? Onyx?”
“Yes, Onyx. Got it.” Her reply was polite, but the look in her eyes said she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
“I’ll help you out in any way I can, you just have to promise to keep that shit out of your veins. It kills people. There are much better things you can be doing with your time than pumping your body full of that shit. If you find yourself in a rut, I can give you work. There is no situation you don’t have a way out of. Consider me your get-out-of-jail-free card. Use it if you need it. Are you okay to get home or do you need a ride?”
“Um, no, we’re okay. I can get us home, I mean. Can I, um, ask a question?”
The girl turned her attention toward Vegas before continuing. “Are you a vampire?” She stumbled a bit on the last word.
“I am,” he answered, no point in attempting to hide his true nature. His golden eyes instantly gave him away, but the girl had to ask.
“He’s not what you pictured?” Dez asked.
“I don’t know. I thought you’d be paler or something.” She stared at Vegas for a moment before speaking again. “And, if they weren’t zombies, what were those guys?”
Dez looked to Vegas for guidance. Without any words necessary, his eyes conveyed his feelings. He felt the same way she did. How much she knew was up to Tessa at this point. The girl had seen and been through enough. If it earned her anything, it was the truth.
“How much do you want to know?”
“Just the basics, I guess.”
“They were demons. Well, people possessed by demons.”
The girl stared in thought for a moment before responding. “Demons?” Dez nodded, surprised by the girl’s lack of panic. “Wow. Bummer. All right, well, we’re going to go home now. I’m starving and I’ve had enough weird for one day.” She quickly looked to Vegas. “No offense.”
“Before you leave, what’s the name of my bar?” Dez asked.
“Onyx, and it’s in New York.”
“Good. Okay, be safe.”
Tessa took Kaitlyn by the arm and guided her out from behind the desk. The pair hurried out the door toward the exit of the building. Dez watched them go as she and Vegas strolled toward the same exit. She couldn’t imagine losing herself to an addiction, but over the centuries, she’d watched it happen to countless numbers. She watched it ruin lives and tear families apart. But there was something in Tessa’s eyes, a spark she didn’t want to see extinguished like so many before her.
Tessa had hope.
She’d recovered from an addiction that could have taken her life at any time, and now her path could lead anywhere.
“Are we taking in strays now?” Vegas cocked his eyebrow at her as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“No strays, smartass.”
“I know, I’m just playing with you. I think what you offered is sweet. I just don’t know where it came from. You don’t like people.”
“I don’t know. There is just something about her. Call it a gut feeling.”
“Good enough,” he replied, pulling her closer briefly to place a light kiss on her forehead. “So, dark roast?”
“For starters, I am thinking a perfect cup of medium roast. Then maybe a mocha latte or I’ll go classic with a cappuccino.”
“You’re going to be bouncing off the walls of the penthouse,” he said as they strolled toward the exit.
“I can think of a few ways to burn off the extra energy.”
NOT ALL DEMONS COME FROM HELL.
Demon hunting sucks. Dez and Vegas decide to take some time off to be normal for a while and quickly fall into their old routine, spending their evenings together at Onyx. Aside from a few unexpected developments with her magick, things are beginning to look like business as usual for the demon-witch hybrid and her vampire boyfriend.
A rash of apparent heroin overdoses rock their neighborhood and the NYPD suspects someone at Onyx is the source. Believing a new supernatural drug is in fact the culprit, Vegas and Kade decide to get involved in the investigation before the human police bite off more than they can chew. Bodies start turning up with no discernible cause of death and Dez has a gut feeling that something else is at play. With enemies coming at them on multiple fronts, the fight has become bigger than a handful of supernaturals can handle on their own. Something has to change.
A friend of theirs vanishes amidst all the chaos, leaving behind nothing but a cryptic wall of clues. With the help of old friends and new allies, Dez is in a race to find the killer before their friend becomes the next mysterious death to turn up on her doorstep.
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, the third full-length novel in the Hellfire series.