Spells & Ashes (The Dark Files Book 1) - Ebook
Spells & Ashes (The Dark Files Book 1) - Ebook
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USA TODAY BESTSELLING SERIES
Are you ready for a new kind of witch?
My name is Samantha Beaumont and I’m a witch.
But I’m not your average dark witch. I specialize in Goetia—the ancient art of conjuring demons—and exorcisms.
That’s right. I hunt and banish demons and other supernatural baddies. But not with a fancy sword or a dagger. No, I banish these suckers with good old-fashioned magic.
All is well until a human girl is murdered and her soul taken by a Greater demon. It gets worse. Human bodies are dropping like flies and it’s up to me to find the Greater demon and kill it. But everyone knows it’s not that simple.
I might have to reveal my secret... if it came to light, I would be dead and all my friends with me.
Find out why readers are loving this fast-paced urban fantasy adventure with a kick-butt heroine and plenty of action, suspense and humor.
Look Inside Chapter 1
Look Inside Chapter 1
The demon was fast. Damn fast.
It had dragged me all through the streets of Upper East Side Manhattan, snaking through the backwoods of Central Park to finally arrive in Hell’s Kitchen.
Groaning, I forced my legs to keep working, my lungs starving for air as I tried to ignore the cramp pinching at my side.
I didn’t get paid enough for this crap.
This would be my tenth exorcism this month. No, I’m not talking about heads spinning while spewing out fountains of pea soup. That’s Hollywood. This is real life, and demonic possession is very real.
It happened when a demon hitched a ride inside a person’s body, making them do obscene things and act out of character, all the while sucking on their life force until they eventually dropped dead.
There had been a sudden influx of demons the past two weeks in New York City. Rumors had it that an unusually large Rift—a tear in the Veil, the dividing line between humans and the Netherworld demons—had opened, and thousands of demons had escaped through it.
It had been a busy month for the City of New York in terms of demon parasites, but that didn’t mean the city was free of other demons. Hell no. There were a lot of creepier crawlers and things far worse than your average body-snatching demon bastards. Still, tonight I was graced with the presence of yet another demon.
There was no way in hell a fourteen-year-old human girl could run that fast for so long without having to stop and catch her breath. The demon inside her was running her down, pushing her body to an extreme no human could endure. It had stolen her body and now ran it like a puppet on strings, feeding on her life force. If I didn’t get to her soon, the girl’s body would collapse, and she would die, leaving the demon to consume her soul and then human-hop into another poor bastard. Typically possessions happened when humans were stupid enough to play at summoning demons in exchange for the usual crap—money, fame, sex. Still, I couldn’t let her die.
Unlike demons or other half-breeds blessed with supernatural speed and endurance, I had to rely on my bursts of sweet adrenaline and my profound hatred for body-snatching demons to fuel my legs. I was fit, but I wasn’t an athlete. My mortal body could only endure so much, and if I didn’t banish the demon soon, I was going to drop dead of exhaustion.
I’d been hired by the Dark Witch Court to keep tabs on the Veil, mostly on hunting and banishing whatever demon or supernatural baddy came through. The pay wasn’t great, but it took care of the bills and helped me keep my family home, which was all I needed.
Demons were always tampering with the Veil. They’d pierce it and manage to cross over to our world to feast on a few human souls. Days like the solstice or full moons, when the Veil was at its thinnest, resulted in a larger outpour of demons.
That’s where I came in.
I’d blast them back to the Netherworld. Fire usually did the trick. A couple of fireballs later, and the demons were back in their world, leaving the mortal world a little safer.
I hated nothing more than a body-snatching demon. Okay, maybe two body-snatching demons. The fact remained; I loathed them. There was something utterly disturbing about being trapped in your own body while someone else piloted it around, and you couldn’t do a damn thing about it. I wouldn’t stand for it. I would rip that demon out of her, through her throat if I had to.
I caught a flicker of movement across the darkened street and turned to see a shadow retreat. Julia, the girl, disappeared through a door at the bottom of a six-story apartment building on West 46th Street. Good. I couldn’t exorcise a demon openly in the streets of New York City, not without getting my ass arrested and my face splattered all over social media.
I took a deep breath and followed her.
A few humans blurred past me as I ran up the street. Humans—blissfully ignorant of the paranormal dangers and horrors that surrounded them. The Veil acted like a glamour, changing the way things looked to human eyes and preventing them from seeing the paranormal world and its inhabitants. Must be nice to wake up each morning with only your bills and mortgage and kids to worry about. Not the giant-winged ugnur demon that slipped through a Rift and decided to feast on your brain because, well, that’s what they do.
Exhaust fumes, hot pavement, and the stench of garbage displaced the night air as I ran across the street. The gathering dark rushed in to fill the spaces where the streetlights couldn’t reach. There were no lights in the windows, which was the perfect breeding grounds for demons who thrived in darkness. In turn, the darkness fed them with power. But that didn’t stop me.
By the time I reached the apartment building, my heart wanted to explode through my chest to say hello to the concrete slab at my feet. Damn.
You’d think by now I would have made a charm for endurance and speed. I made a mental note to look into that when I got home. A pair of super legs would have been golden right about now.
Pinching the cramp at my side, I gulped down buckets of air, feeling slightly dizzy, and pulled open the door. I stepped into the darkened lobby and stopped to listen. The faint whisper of water running through pipes answered back. Then nothing. The dim scent of sulfur lay on the air. I smiled. My demon.
The lobby led into an equally dark hallway—a recipe for more trouble. But I never followed recipes.
With my heart pounding in my ears, I stepped forward, and the sound of glass crunching under my boots stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked to the side wall, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could make out the two adjacent light fixtures, their glass bulbs shattered.
Not knowing which apartment door the demon had slipped through, I ran to the first door on the first floor and checked the knob. Locked. I hissed in frustration. It would take me hours to check all the doors in this place. Julia didn’t have that long.
I made my way forward again and then hesitated for a moment at the corner of the hall. The soft click of a metal door opening and then closing reached me.
I was running. As I rounded the corner, I saw a door with a faded sticker denoting 6A. Soft, yellow light shone from the gap between the floor and the door. I went to the door and tried the knob. It rolled freely.
“Gotcha,” I whispered.
My pulse pounded, and I opened the door as quietly as I could to step inside. The air was filled with the stench of blood. The apartment was of moderate size by New York City standards, lit with nothing more than a few candles on the wood floor. The burning candles lit the walls with dark, vague, and creepy shadows. Great.
The ceilings were at least ten feet high, and the walls were covered with wallpaper straight out of the eighties. Chairs, tables, and a desk were strewn against the walls, as though to make a larger space in the middle of the apartment. And then I saw why.
A large stone circle lay in the middle of the room. The stones were small, the size of my thumb, and bone white. Six black chicken heads were spread evenly around the circle, and in the middle was a black lamb’s head above a blood-drawn triangle. Strange runes I’d never seen before were written in fresh blood inside the circle, suggesting more of a pagan ritual than your modern demon summoning. Creepy.
I took another step forward for a better look.
A girl stepped into my line of sight. Gone was the healthy, happy girl I’d seen in the photo. Her hair hung limp and greasy over her dirty face. Her body was thin, almost gaunt, and her limbs, what I could see of them through her clothes, were stained and dirty. Her jeans and T-shirt were speckled in blood, but I couldn’t tell if it was her own or someone else’s. The flesh on her face was sunken and the bones sharp, leaving her black eyes feral and unsettling. They watched me with unrelenting rage. She was pissed.
That made two of us.
I knew if I didn’t move I was dead. I didn’t have time for small talk. Moving on instinct, I dropped to my knees, pulled out my chalk and began to draw a circle with a seven-point star in the middle—the exorcism sigil.
Exorcisms were the highest level of hard magic. Deadly, if you didn’t do it right. With an inexperienced priest or witch, more times than not, the human died in a rivulet mess of blood and guts.
But I’d been doing this for more than a decade now, and I knew my craft. And I was going to kick this demon’s ass back to the Netherworld where it belonged.
There was power in words, magic words, just like there was power in sigils and seals. If you knew how to use them. Not many witches did, though. You needed to be precise in your drawing of them. One little squiggle out of place could send you to the Netherworld or cause you to end up with your head on backward. Yeah, that happened to a witch down the block before I was born. Since then, witches had grown frightened of the power of sigils. They didn’t trust them, but I trusted them more than I trusted blood magic. Sigils were like math and art. You did your calculations, and then you did your drawing.
I’d screwed up a few times in the beginning, but I wasn’t stupid enough to try complicated sigils at first. No, I started with the typical easy sigil, like a hovering teacup sigil or paint-your-toenails-blue sigil. My toenails had disappeared completely the first time I’d tried. Oops. Thank God it had been winter so no one had to know or see me, Sam the toenail-less idiot.
I was now so good at my sigils that I’d scanned them into the computer and printed out copies. Yes. They worked just as well and saved me the time to draw them up when I was in a hurry.
But I had an advantage over the other witches. My grandpa always said I had a knack for them. I was an artist. I loved to draw and paint, so images came naturally to me just like breathing. My sigils were each a piece of art, and I’d put my energy and time into creating them. They were beautiful. And powerful.
But I was also lazy.
When I realized that one sigil was the equivalent in power to hours and hours of spell reciting and reading and then some more conjuring, I opted for the sigils. Why spend hours on a transmutation spell when I could draw the transmutation sigil in thirty seconds flat.
Hence came my passion for Goetia. I’d already mastered the sigils—the drawing and the energy that came from them—so it was time to turn things up a notch.
Sweat beaded on my forehead as I drew as quickly as I could without making a mistake. I couldn’t screw up now because a mistake could cost me my life, and Julia’s.
I brought the chalk up and around, adding three smaller stars inside the circle and making the connections. My pulse quickened, and I strained with effort to keep my hand from shaking from the shots of adrenaline.
Next, I spelled out the word exilium, the Latin word for banishment in each of the three stars. Where I should have put the demon’s name, I left it blank. It would have been easier with its name, but I’d done countless exorcisms before, successfully, without a name. I knew it would work.
The air crackled with electricity. The hairs on my arms rose.
I looked up. Demon-Julia’s lips were moving.
A blast of energy hit me in the chest and I shot backward, hitting the wall at thirty miles an hour. I heard something crack, possibly my skull, as I slid to the floor.
I’d yet to meet a slobbering demon polite enough to wait for me to finish setting my banishment sigils.
The girl giggled. No. Not the girl, but the demon that was riding in her body.
“You need to be quicker with your scribbles, you half-breed bitch,” said the demon, its voice harsh and guttural. It sounded disturbingly like a serpentine whisper and had the hairs on the back on my neck rising. That was not a teenage girl’s voice, but I was glad it was using English. My Enochian—the angel and demon language—was a little rusty.
“Thanks for the tip.” I pitched forward on my stomach, sliding to my circle. With my chalk, I wrote exilium in the last triangle, finishing the sigil.
With my heart pounding in my ears, I glanced back at demon-Julia. She stood in the same spot, grinning at me like I’d just finished doing her laundry. The demon hadn’t tried to stop me a second time. That wasn’t a good sign.
I shook my head. “You could at least pretend I’m scary. You know, for the overall dramatical effect that I’m about to kick your ass back to the Netherworld. A little shaking would be nice. Tears are best.”
The demon-Julia crossed her arms over her chest and showed me her teeth. “I’m going to take my time with you,” she sneered. “I’m in a good mood, see. I’m going to start with your arms and rip them off one at a time.” She showed me more teeth. “I’ll let you watch while I eat your arms and your legs. Then I’m going to suck your brain out through your eyes, witch bitch.”
Nice. Okay, then.
I scrambled to my feet and drew upon the energy gathered in the sigil. It grew along with a buzzing in my ears and a prickling along the back of my neck. I was going to fry that demon.
“In the name of our Lord Creator,” I chanted, bringing forth the energy and molding it. I shaped it into the effect I was looking for with my thoughts, fiercely picturing the exorcism sigil. “I exorcise you, Demon,” I added fiercely, my stance strong. “Every impure spirit, every demonic power, every incursion of the infernal adversary. I command you.” I raised my right palm and said firmly, “Flee this place! Flee this body! May your power issue forth from her. Be not and be gone!”
At the words, the energy poured out of me in a rush. There were no lights, no glowing energy or anything else that would cost a special effects company a crapload of money, just a tingling in the air like tiny electrical currents and a burst of wind.
I staggered as the sigil’s energy roared out of me and almost lost my balance.
It hit demon-Julia.
She stumbled back, shock replacing her smile and her features growing distant. She thrashed, her head shaking as she kept muttering the same word, over and over again—no. She froze with a frightening suddenness, and her body eased into relaxation. Then her shoulders shook as she began to laugh.
“Told you so,” said demon-Julia, a smile in her voice. “Your witch tricks won’t work on me.”
Damn. This was really not my night. I flicked my gaze back at my sigil. It was fine. Perfect, even drawn under duress. So why hadn’t it worked?
Breathing hard, I sagged with a bit of tiredness. Channeling so much energy through me was like running a marathon, and a sudden weakness in my limbs made me sway.
But I wasn’t giving up. Not today. Not ever. And not when a young girl’s life was at stake.
Jaw clenched, I took a step toward the demon until we were but ten feet apart, focusing on the energy I was still channeling through the sigil.
I took a shaking breath and said, “In the name of our Lord—”
A hard burst of energy hit me, sending me across the room. I landed sprawled on my butt with my legs in the air. Not pretty. My head smashed against the ground a moment later, complete with a burst of black spots in my vision and very real pain. My palms curled into claws as I panted through the pain and tasted blood in my mouth. My concentration vanished, and with it, some of my nerve.
Did I mention this was seriously not my night?
“You have no power over me, half-breed,” laughed the demon, a sneer to her voice.
My magic didn’t work. The exorcism that should have released the girl did absolutely nothing. Head pounding like I’d hit it with a sledgehammer, I blinked and rolled over to my side.
Demon-Julia walked over to me and snarled, “I’m going to feast on your flesh, little witch.”