Temptation by Fire(6)

By: Tiffany Allee

Part of me—the super loud part yelling in my mind—wanted to hide from the word, just like I’d hidden from my visions. But once again, Miriam was right. Life was nothing without purpose. What if the Venators—whatever they were—could help me figure out mine?

Scary thought. But I was sick of hiding.

Chapter Two

What a bullshit week.

Keep your cool, Karson. I could hear the voice of my Venator teacher, Franklin, ringing in my ear. And if he’d been with me now, he would have reminded me of the obvious: don’t forget there’s a fucking demon sitting next to you.

The demon who inhabited the body of a young man named Thomas had no idea I wasn’t just an average man, serving as his human liaison and all-around thug. Had no clue I planned to exorcise him—get him the hell back to wherever he’d come from—but the woman we’d encountered at the hospital earlier had almost blown my plan with her stupid psychic thing.

I tightened my grip on the steering wheel of the new Lincoln Navigator and refused to look at Thomas, seated in the dark next to me, as I ran through the scene with the woman. All the strength of character I possessed had barely kept me from doing something violent to her. Not that I had much character to draw on anymore.

Fuck character, anyway—I had purpose. And purpose had gotten me through some tough shit.

Not that the violent urge had lasted long after the initial surge that hit when I thought she might have tipped Thomas off. That desire had quickly shifted to something far needier, hungrier, and more interesting.

And probably a hell of a lot more dangerous.

It was the blood that made the desire so strong, so quick. The blood I carried in the tattoos that made me more than human. It wasn’t the woman, I told myself.

Hell, okay, it wasn’t just the woman.

I’d managed to put off talking to Thomas about her in the hours since we’d left the hospital. A well-timed call helped give me the time to figure out a good cover story, and by then we’d arrived at the location of his next meeting. One that had lasted well into the night.

Why the hell had I mentioned the Venators to her? The word had slipped out—mostly because I’d been so damn shocked to hear Thomas’s future on her tongue. The future I had planned for him. It hadn’t sounded pleasant coming from her. But hell, demon hunting was messy business.

I managed to keep my face blank when Thomas spoke.

“What information did you get from the woman at the hospital?” he asked. “The whole burning thing—a little close for comfort, wasn’t it?”

I grunted, but kept my attention fixed on the road ahead. Show no emotion, Karson. Keep your face as hard as stone. Clear your thoughts. One moment of weakness and they will have you. The words reverberated in my mind, as clear as the day I’d first heard them from my teacher, Franklin.

“Just a stupid prank. College punks.”

Thomas nodded, accepting my words. The tattoo around my neck itched at his easy acceptance. He thought he had me collared with his blood tattooed into my skin. That it made me his to command.

Even the idea pissed me off. But I was patient, and this ruse was necessary.

But not for much longer.

I yanked on the steering wheel, making a sharp right turn just before Thomas’s penthouse. The young woman at the hospital hadn’t exactly been a kid, but there was a bit of naivëte clinging to her that made her seem young. She could probably pass for a college student though, especially to Thomas. Demons weren’t that observant of things they regarded as unimportant.

Besides, Thomas was new—to this world, anyway. Who knew how old demons were, in truth? The demon possessing him had taken the young man Thomas only a few months before. He didn’t have his feet on the ground in this world yet.

It made him vulnerable.

But keeping him from thinking about the incident too much was important. Because of the tattooed collar, Thomas trusted me. Trusted me as much as a demon could ever trust anyone, that is. But there was another demon out there that Thomas obeyed and reported to. I’d yet to get a glimpse of the fucker. He seemed to leave Thomas to figure shit out on his own more often than not. But he could become a problem if Thomas said too much.