Authors: Julie Nicholls
Demon Within Copyright 2014 All rights Reserved
Kelly Read, Elaine ‘Lainey’ Wilson, Julie Nicholls
Cover art by Julie ‘Mirishka’ Nicholls - [email protected]
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Without any question my first acknowledgement has to be to Cherie. Without encouragement from this wonderful lady, this book wouldn’t exist. Thank you also to Sandra and Cristy for your endless support. My niece, Kelly Read for persisting with my old age and making me see ‘less is more’ and Elaine ‘Lainey’ Wilson, for smoothing out the wrinkles in the bedroom.
My final acknowledgement is to the person in my life who saw the ‘beauty within’. My soul-mate, husband and friend, Ian…thank you for believing in me, and for your support.
Gazing at an angel has a humbling effect. Graced with beauty beyond compare they are a wonder of the world and I’m fortunate to look at such magnificence and splendor. My eyes rake over him, slowly taking in the individual features that make him glorious. A dazzling array of color suddenly appears around him and it’s impossible to focus my attention on his form. Lowering my eyes to avoid the dazzle from the surrounding light; I am in awe.
Silky words spill from perfect lips. His eyes remain closed; seemingly content to recline on my linen sheets, fully aware of my hot gaze.
‘Forgive me. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. You’re a wonder, and for all I know you’ll be leaving soon.’ The thought alone brings feelings of sadness. ‘I’m taking advantage while you’re here. Taking my fill, so I can preserve the memory for when you’re gone.’ There’s humor in my words but I speak truthfully. He’ll be gone by morning.
His hand reaches out to my cheek and brushes my skin. My eyes can’t help but close at the sensation; devouring his touch, I savor the moment. My hand touches his; an invitation, and with his eyes still locked onto my face, he slides it towards my lips. I lay a soft kiss on his elegant fingers, and smile.
Caressing his hand with my soft lips, I gaze into his delicious eyes, bright and clear.
Afraid to look away, for the end of the world would surely follow; I don’t want this moment to end.
I move towards him and lean into the warmth of his body. His arms wrap around me and he places one long finger on my chin, forcing me to look at him, holding my gaze.
Brushing a tress of hair away from my face, his eyes follow his finger. Idly traveling across my cheekbone to the delicate patch of skin next to my ear and ending its journey onto my lips. He slides the soft pad into my mouth and his lips rise at the corners; a spark emerges in his eyes. My womb spasms as he pushes it deep inside. He is tantalizing and seductive with everything he does, and he knows it. Grinning, he senses my excitement, and draws his finger from the warm caress of my tongue.
My empty mouth feels the loss and my eyes narrow.
‘Don’t stop.’ I barely whisper, unable to control the feelings rushing through my body.
‘Do not frown; I shall put something else back in its place.’
He grins and with wicked intent closes the space between us. Leaning forward with parted lips he slants his over mine and catches the gasp escaping my mouth. My senses instantly come to life as his tongue slips between my ready lips. It's impossible to form a coherent thought. Soft lips claim mine as he consumes me; he is a beast devouring all, until nothing remains. I cling to him and know there will be a time when he goes and never returns.
Pushing negative thoughts away, my concentration returns to the present. I relish his attention to detail with each caress of his hands across my waist, cradling my back, before he brushes his thumb across the sensitive skin under my breasts, I gasp again, shuddering beneath him. He breaks the kiss and his lips rake down my neck to swollen breasts, my nipples rising to his touch. Wet lips and a flash of his tongue bring my back in an arch. Awash in a sensual frenzy, I run my hands through his soft hair, tugging at their roots, I enjoy the low growl escaping his mouth while he teases my body mercilessly, his hands increasing the pressure. I want time to stand still, or for it to at least move more slowly when we’re together; but I ask the impossible. Unappreciative my lover is an angel; I’m greedy, selfish, and want more. If he were mine to keep, I’d be content with life; dying happy at the end, I will reflect how joyous my existence had been.
He senses my distraction, and moves to fill my mind with more pleasurable thoughts. Sliding his legs between mine and spreading my thighs wider, his body settles. Feeling the weight of his thick cock resting against my heated sex sends a shiver through my body. I’m excited and dripping wet, glowing with the promise of vigorous love play that will exhaust me and bring about a deep sleep. At that moment, I hope he chooses to leave while I slumber, so I won’t have to face the painful goodbyes.
Months have passed now, since I last saw my angel, and I fear he’s abandoned me forever. Tear-stained cheeks and swollen eyes are unattractive, but I can’t stifle the flow. I’m wretched, and there’s no life for me without him.
Running my hands over my swollen belly leaning against the windowsill, a sad smile plays across my lips. Thankful he’s left a part of himself with me, I close my eyes. I find contentment in the knowledge the father’s beauty will grace the face of his son. The baby is male, I don’t know how I know, it's just a feeling. He’ll break hearts, and I can already see women falling at his feet, begging for his attention. I’ll see those women, and know how they feel. Knowing what they’re thinking, as they gaze at the beautiful half angel; and I will be jealous of their youth, as I remember mine.
My sleep, troubled by vivid dreams, prays on my mind during waking hours. My lover is burning alive, in horrible nightmares from which I can’t awaken. His wings are no longer feathers, but charred remains. Ringlets of smoke rise from the stubs in swirls, as his screams echo around us. Fire consumes him. He’s choking on the tar that binds to his skin, and covers his once exquisite features. I want to look away; to cover my eyes, but bound hands unable me. I’m forced to see his body burn and blister, while his screams of agony fill my ears. He’s begging for mercy and forgiveness, but no one is listening. Tears fall from my eyes, stinging and burning from the smoke and ash that fills the air.
Something shinning on the pillow next to me draws my attention; I hold it to the moonlight and am confused where it came from. A gold medallion, small, on a delicate chain with markings I’ve never seen. Clutching it to my chest, I question its origin. Did my lover leave a parting gift?
I lie quietly and slide my hands around our baby; I pray his father is no longer suffering. He’ll never again grace my bed, kiss my lips or touch my body to make me gasp in ecstasy. I hope he is with us in spirit, even if not in body and guides us through the troubles of our lives.
Summer had reached its peak, and the cooler weather began, bringing relief to everyone. Struggling crops thirst for water and wait for the rains that will end their torment. Tempers flared, and every day brought another matter causing unease. It posed an issue for Kai of Darkmide, leader of the people in Blackhill.
Kai rose from his seat, leaving the comfort and shade under the terrace to step out into the courtyard. Folding his arms across his muscular chest, he assumed a menacing stance. People gathered and raised their fists in temper; his furrowed brows studied the crowd, looking for the cause of the disturbance. Instances of unrest had doubled recently, and this morning promised to be no different. With his head raised to the breeze he closed his eyes and drew in a long breath.
Standing six feet seven, a wall of muscle graced with tanned skin that glowed beneath the morning sun, Kai was a rare breed. Handsome, despite the scars across his chin and brow, his features are stunning. The mesmerizing stare from deep green eyes pierce through to the soul. Dark blonde hair falls past his shoulders; a few small sections are braided and fastened by leather threads and beads. Highlighted with silver and gold strands that, when caught by the gathering breeze, shimmered in the sun’s rays like a sea of gems. On his massive arms, Kai wore large, ornately decorated bands of gold; fashioned especially for him by the smiths of Darkmide.
Described as commanding and majestic, Kai stood out in a crowd. Anyone who’d ever seen him could see that mere words failed to capture the true effect of his presence. His breathtaking existence made women sigh with flushed cheeks, but his frosty manner deterred their advances.
The crowd parted, making room for his friend and right hand man, Sabe. Shorter than Kai by a few inches, his black hair and deep brown eyes were distinguishing. Handsome and full of wit, he made a stark contrast to Kai. Watching Sabe come forward, Kai remembered his first meeting with his most trusted companion and his sister, Kiera.
Four years ago, after escaping the fighting pits of Darkmide and the slavers who ruled there, Kai and a few other rebelling slaves attacked a prison camp. Placed just outside the city, the camp housed the slaves for the gold mines. Kai went there and tried to find a comrade slave who killed a brutal master. Immediate death should have followed. But taking advantage of his strength and stamina his punishment was to do the dangerous, backbreaking work of harvesting gold. Kai’s dreams of freeing him turned to dust when he found his brave friend, Lorne, had perished in a mine shaft collapse just days earlier. Disheartened he'd arrived too late, he moved swiftly to leave, but halted by a cry for help beneath his feet as he trampled over a covered pit. There was something about the desperate plea that made Kai stop and listen. Looking between his feet at the grate and greeted with slender fingers, curiosity overcame him and he crouched and looked into the pit. Piercing brown eyes stared up before the woman moved away to allow her brother to speak. The man begged Kai to free him and his sister. In a silver-tongued manner that Kai would become familiar with, Sabe promised their loyalty in exchange for his aid. In addition, he promised the loyalty of a group of skilled fighters to aid his cause. Though at the time it had felt like a moment of ill-advised weakness, Kai never regretted rescuing Kiera and Sabe. Proving their dedication to him many times over in later battles, he knew they would follow him to the ends of the earth; gladly laying down their lives to save his.
‘Make way, coming through!’ Sabe called, dragging two men behind him by a lead rope.
Giving a final tug when he reached the center of the yard they stumbled forward. Bound hands broke their fall and they scrambled to their knees with lowered heads. Sabe untied the lead rope then cast it aside before facing the crowd.
‘Gather round friends, move in closer.’
Hesitantly the crowd conformed; they preferred to keep their distance in matters of discipline. Mischief lurked in Sabe’s eyes. He knew how this event would end, and having the crowd involved excited him.
With a grin, he turned to face Kai and whispered close, then turned to look at the prisoners before gazing to the crowd. Sabe filled his ears with the details then slapped his hand on the large shoulder when Kai moved forward.
The crowd hushed when Kai’s hands moved to rest on the fighting knives sheathed on his hips; his favored weapons of choice, forged for him personally. The cool touch of metal caused his fingers to squeeze and tighten around them. Inquisitive eyes stared at his poised form. Pausing before he took a few more paces, his eyes searched the crowd. People averted their eyes; looked at their neighbors or the ground, anything else other than Kai, his scowl proving too intimidating to confront. He studied the men at his feet; they shook and trembled in fear with their heads lowered, and he sneered in disgust. He detested cowardice.
Kai addressed everyone. ‘Do your bellies ache with hunger?’
His voice, loud and deep, filled the courtyard. Mumbling started until eventually the crowd found their voices. Shouts echoed from the rear before others joined in gaining volume every second.
‘Do you have shelter and clothing?’
Kai listened; cocking his head to the side, letting words fill his ears as they continued to reply. His fingers squeezed tighter around the hilt of the knives as he stepped closer to the captives.
Circling the men slowly, he paused behind one of them. Slamming his foot against his back, the man lurched and landed face first into the dirt. His open mouth filled with dust, making him choke. He coughed and spluttered before words broke loose.
‘We were going to share the money!’ A shaky voice mumbled against the ground.
Kai had a menacing glint in his eye; reviled by the pathetic wreck at his feet, he sneered with bared teeth. Hissing, he drew in a breath before his foot slammed flat onto the figure and pinned him to the floor. The man could barely move, gasping frantically for air.
Sabe stepped forward tossed a purse to Kai. Quickly snatching it from the air, he showed the evidence to the crowd then gave the second man a sideways glance and smirked. A worried look spread over his face as he peeked over to his ally; he began to cry.
‘Get up!’ Kai snapped at the man after he’d released him from the weight of his boot on his back.
He didn’t move.
After a swift warning kick, the man scrambled to his feet; squeezing his eyes shut in fear of another blow. Irritated by the other man knelt at his feet, Kai crouched in front of him and emptied the purse. Coins fell to the ground.
‘They sold our grain for their own profit!’ Kai’s voice thundered across the courtyard.
The crowd gasped, and then, ‘Bastards! Kill them!’ Came from all directions.
Aggressively punching the air, they demanded justice. Kai circled the thieves. He listened to the crowd hurling insults. Seeing Kai’s wild eyes made Sabe step back, the look that covered his face was rabid. He’d seen it before, and didn’t like to get between Kai and his prey.
Keeping law and order had been no easy task; more so for Kai. Spending more years as a slave than a free man, he could only use his experience to guide him. Trying to find a balance, he made many people happy giving them security and stability; but there were exceptions, as with everything in life.
Kai marched towards Saul and Maika standing near the terrace.
‘Your swords, give them to me.’
Surrendering their weapons, Kai held them high and turned to show the crowd. He let out a roar.
‘Take them!’ Presenting the weapons to the crooks, his patience ran low when they hesitated. ‘I’m giving you a chance to defend yourself. TAKE THEM!’
Gingerly, one hand took a sword, Kai smirked. The other whined and pleaded for mercy, but wouldn’t take the swords; blaming his partner for making him do it. Kai shook his head in disbelief.
He leaned in close. ‘Ask your people! They are the ones you cheated! Pointing to the crowd, ‘Ask them to forgive you!’
Fear clouded the man’s face when blood red eyes confronted him. Kai looked inhuman as his open mouth showed razor sharp teeth. The man screwed his eyes tightly shut in disbelief and cowered.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kai saw the armed man take up a fighting stance. Reeling backwards, he drew his long knives; snarling like a wild dog, stared down his opposition.
Crouching low, his flexed muscles looked impressive; a savage animal baring his teeth in a predatory grin. Gasps erupted from the courtyard, when a guttural growl bellowed from deep in Kai’s chest.
The armed thief took on a determined posture, ready to go out fighting; Kai accepted this, he never enjoyed killing in cold blood, preferring a fight rather than a massacre. The tension grew when Kai’s opponent raised his blade and thrust. Deflecting it easily, Kai laughed at his weak attempt.
‘You’ll have to do better than that!’
His arms relaxed, giving his foe an opening to strike at his body.
Seeing an advantage, his opponent struck again; this time, Kai swung his arm around the side and caught his opponent across the shoulder. Blood seeped from the injury.
Stumbling to his knees and crying out, assuming a more severe wound, the man whined. Kai grunted and relaxed his arms by his sides; upset his opponent hadn’t lasted longer, he turned to Sabe, scowling disappointedly.
‘It’s not my fault!’ Sabe rolled his eyes before his expression changed to one of concern. ‘Look out!’
Kai spun on his heels and leaned backwards. His arms opened wide as he avoided the sword thrust at him from his supposed disabled opponent. The crowd gasped.
‘Coward!’ Kai spat.
He stepped forward slowly, angling his head from side to side, both eyes focused on his prey, then attacked. Pivoting, arms outstretched, his knives sliced through the air like a propeller across flesh and bone; blood sprayed everywhere. The man stumbled and sank to his knees. Calls from the crowd for Kai to finish him, rang through the yard.
Wounded hands reached to hold the gaping wound in his throat, but a knife arrived first. The people cheered louder when his head spun through the air before finally landing next to his fallen corpse.
Raising his blood-soaked knives into the air, Kai saluted the roaring crowd. But his moment of victory was reduced, when the remaining thief tried to run; managing only a few yards before one of Kai’s knives slashed across the back of his legs. It spun and sliced across the runaway’s thighs, cutting the arteries on both legs showering the crowd with blood. He fell to the floor and screamed; but all calls for mercy were ignored and drowned by the crowd.
‘You should have run faster!’ Kai laughed.
Blood soaked into the dry soil around the crying man, rapidly changing the color as it thirstily absorbed the moisture. Some covered their mouths in shock, while others laughed. The ones nearest the front regretted the charming words from Sabe when they’d first arrived; next time they’d stay at the rear. There was a brief silence as they watched Kai stride forward and drag the man up by his hair. He ignored the screams for mercy and rested his knife across his victim’s throat, while looking to his audience for his next move.
Someone called out, then another. ‘Finish him! Kill the pig!’
Those nearest caught the initial shower of blood when the knife-edge sliced through his throat. Quickly and without hesitation, Kai ran it down his chest and stomach, opening him up. Some managed to turn away; the grisly finale was too much for their weak stomachs. The most squeamish, vomited. Kai pushed the body forward, letting it fall to the earth. Placing his long knife to the bloody corpse he lectured the crowd.
‘This here…’ Pointing with his knife,
‘…is what happens to thieves.’
Kai spat over the body then shouted to Sabe. ‘Hang the bodies on the wall by the gate.’
He recovered his other knife from the floor and gave the crowd one last salute with his knives. Almost everyone cheered before dispersing to go about their daily business. Quickly sidestepping the bloody bodies, Kai felt nothing but loathing and contempt.
Kai marched towards Sabe and the other warriors, handing his swords to an awaiting young boy for cleaning, he grinned when the boy gasped at the blood covering the knives.
Sheltering beneath the terrace Sabe followed Kai. Fresh water, in a large bowl waited on a nearby mesa; reaching behind his neck, Kai tugged at the back of his shirt and pulling it over his head, cast it to the side.
Sabe stared at the scars that covered Kai’s back and winced. No matter how many times he’d seen them, he cringed, and wondered what else he endured at the hands of the slavers. Spreading from the top of Kai’s muscular shoulders to below his waist; red and swollen in some places where the whip cut deep, the wounds hadn’t healed completely. He couldn’t imagine what pain he‘d lived through; they reminded him of how thankful he was to Kai for freeing him and his sister.
Wetting a cloth in the basin, Kai wiped away the blood and sweat. After grabbing a fresh, dry cloth, he turned and watched Sabe, who had made himself comfortable at the table.
‘Not a good start to the day, but eventful at least.’ Sabe chuckled as he casually rested his boots on a stool and crossing one foot over the other, he poured wine from a pitcher on the table, ‘And there I was, thinking it would be a quiet morning.’