Temptation by Fire(10)

By: Tiffany Allee

Arrogance got new hunters killed.


Caleb paused and crossed his arms. “I don’t know why you’re bothering with all this bullshit, anyway.”

“Your opinion is noted.” I tapped my temple with the dry end of the bloody paintbrush. “I’ll mentally file it under ‘who gives a fuck.’”

“Chances you’ll get the guy back are one in ten, tops. And screw ’em anyway. Anyone who gets themselves demon bit isn’t worth the trouble.”

I mostly agreed with Caleb, which pissed me off. So I ignored him.

Caleb turned his head and spit. Without another word, he left the room.

I looked back at the runes. I hadn’t expected Caleb to jump on board with what I was doing. He was a newish Venator, but between the shit that brought us into the fold—the lifestyle and the demon blood we were marked with—it didn’t take long for us to become jaded. Of course, he’d probably get the promotion angle—the fact I wanted my own cell. But that was none of his business.

Besides, yeah, Franklin was right. There was a small part of me that wanted to actually save the kid hidden underneath the demon in Thomas. Admitting that would be too close to showing weakness.

We were a fucked-up group, as a whole.

I was almost finished with the runes. Almost finished with this town. Almost finished with Thomas. And if things went right with this operation, the place I moved on to would be my city. My cell.

All the work I’d put in, and a slip of a girl had almost screwed it up.

Fuck. I sat back on my heels. No matter how I worked to shove her face from my mind, she kept slipping back in. The innocence behind her pretty eyes. Her seemingly endless legs. Her oddly long sleeves. The weather was turning hot and sticky, not at all conducive to long sleeves. It was odd, and I didn’t like strange things I couldn’t explain easily. And there wasn’t much about that woman I could easily categorize.

Especially the way she’d stood up to me. If she’d been afraid, it hadn’t been of me.

“Ava,” I murmured, liking the way her name tasted on my tongue. It was too bad, really. If I’d run into her during a different time, I could have tasted more than her name.

And I would have.

Miriam and I had watched the Colin Firth movie the night before, but I couldn’t even recall what it was about. At work the next morning, I watched the computer boot up, my eyes blurry from weariness. After Miriam left, I’d gone straight to bed, and amazingly, straight to sleep. But then I dreamed of young Thomas, of his death. But it wasn’t him, not in the dreams. In my dreams I was Thomas. I smelled the smoke. I felt the heat. I burned in the fire.

I’d woken up covered in sweat-soaked sheets, my hair matted, my throat painfully dry.

Seriously not the best night’s rest I’d ever had.

But I’d managed to get myself to work on time. Not that it was such a huge accomplishment—I worked as a vet tech at a local veterinarian hospital and only really had to impress the animals with my half-awake brain and only sort-of matching outfit. Luckily, they were pretty easily impressed by breakfast alone, and I liked the work. It was one of the few jobs I could find where I didn’t come into contact with humans on a regular basis. Plus I got to work with animals, and I’d always enjoyed their company.

The ding of the bell hanging over the door yanked me from my thoughts. Arms full with an oversized purse and a box of donuts, the receptionist, Eileen, shoved the door open with her back. Big smile affixed to her round face, she didn’t seem to notice my mood.

“Morning, dear. How are you?” Eileen didn’t wait for my answer. Instead, she started in on what I liked to think of as “Eileen’s Daily Update.” She generally began with her kids, whom I had never met, then moved to her less-immediate family members, before rounding out the news with friends and acquaintances.

For once, I welcomed the gossip.

Even as Eileen started in on her daughter-in-law, one of her favorite topics to gripe about, I couldn’t concentrate on her words. Had I done the right thing? Should I have told Tough Guy what I’d seen happen to his friend, instead of hinted around it? Maybe. The future would still have happened, most likely, but I wouldn’t feel guilty about not giving a more forceful warning.