To everyone who read, loved, and demanded more from this world.
You guys just continue to make dreams come true.
The scream tore through the canyon, echoing back the same ear-splitting sound, but hollowing it out, intensifying it.
It was a familiar sound.
A hellish sound.
I tried not to let any sort of hope swell. We'd been through this half a dozen times for the past year with no results.
None of the spots ended up having enough energy left in them for Lenore to open up the Hellmouths like she'd been able to once before.
The night we lost Red and somehow got stuck with the demon version of a puppy and his curmudgeonly older brother.
Since then, though, nothing.
We'd traveled across the country, up into Canada, down into Mexico. And while Lenore claimed each of the spots had the right energy she could sense, none of the spells she'd tried could break through the earth, open up way down into the depths of hell.
So there we all were, standing in a deep canyon in Utah in the middle of the fucking winter. No amount of moving around, or layers of clothing seemed like they could chase the chill away. It had burrowed through my skin, muscles, organs, and was deep in my marrow, a constant and distracting sensation.
"Keep going," I demanded, getting a hard look from Lycus, not liking it when he thought I was getting pushy with his woman.
The ground trembled beneath our feet, a small hole emerging a few feet in front of Lenore, the earth crumbling down inside as the heat rose up. I only barely resisted the urge to place my hands over it, warming them like one might with a campfire.
Minos stood back from our gathered circle, knowing there was no way for him to go back, that he was stuck on the human plane for eternity, never dying, never getting a break from his misery.
That was part of the reason we needed to get back so badly. I'd already lost two of my men to the Claiming. I couldn't afford to lose Aram, Seven, Drex, and now Daemon and Bael.
It seemed like the longer we were on Earth, the more susceptible we became to pesky human needs and desires.
None of us ever could have known that, prepared for it, since there had never been any records of demons leaving hell and getting stuck in the human world for as long as we had. Or if anyone had, they'd never made it back to hell to tell their stories.
Who knew what the fuck could happen to us if we stayed another hundred years. Two hundred.
We had to get back.
I'd made peace with the idea of leaving Minos, of leaving Ly. Even if doing so made me feel like a failure as a leader. It was my place to guide them, to teach them, to protect them if necessary.
I hadn't had the knowledge.
And they would suffer for it, staying here in this dumpster fire of a world while the rest of us went home, got to get back to work, continued to fulfill the lifestyles we were made for.
Fire and brimstone and all that.
Anticipation skittered over my nerve endings, giving me temporary relief from the cold that clung to me like death, its cold fingers raking its long nails over every inch of skin no matter how many layers I piled on, how warm we kept the heat.
"I like it here," I heard Daemon complain under his breath. Young and stupid, he thought his destiny was between the thighs of a human woman, so he buried himself between as many as possible.
"Shut the fuck up," Bael, his older brother growled, positioning himself slightly behind his younger brother's shoulder in case he got any ideas about running off, trying to stay here.
"Get back," Lenore said, voice a little tight as she herself moved back several feet as the ground kept falling inward, as the heat got more intense.
It was the most comfortable I'd felt in a year and a half. Since the last time Lenore had been able to open a Hellmouth. And not just because of the comforting warmth. But the promise of getting back to where we were always meant to be, doing what we were meant to do.
Sure, we kept ourselves busy here.
We had house parties and went to rallies. We passed around drugs and our bodies and our voices, whispering encouragement to the humans, bringing out their innate, often barely-buried evils.
The fire always needed fuel and we'd been feeding the flames for generations.
I figured that when we got back, we would be praised for making the best of a bad situation, would be welcomed with open arms, given good positions again.
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