I hold my hand up, signaling to Cora and Amelia to stop. My senses are peaked, trying to locate Jocelyn and her ex Jeremy. Right now, though, I’m sensing the heat and tell-tale light, sweet scent of an innocent, human female. Seeing as we’re deep in the back country of northern Wisconsin, I think it’s safe to assume we’ve found Jocelyn. I signal to Cora, and she appears out of thin air at my side.
“What’s up, Az?” she asks, her eyes sweeping the landscape around us.
“I’ve found Jocelyn,” I say. “About fifty yards that way.” I point off to the northeast. “I think she’s alone, but just to be sure–”
“I’ll go on ahead,” Cora interrupts. “I was going to anyway whether you wanted me to or not. The last thing the girl needs is another evil male sneaking up on her.” She smirks as her eyes run down my body.
“I’m no more evil than you or Amelia,” I retort quietly.
She begins to fade as she sashays away, grinning. “I see. That’s why you can wield the universe’s most evil sword, right?”
I pull the demon blade from its sheath across my back and cradle it like an infant. “Don’t listen to the mean lady, baby,” I whisper lovingly to the deadly piece of aspelantium in my arms. “She’s just jealous. Every woman wishes they could have a piece of what I can wield.” I hear Cora make a vomiting sound in the distance and smile.
“You are such a pig, Az,” Amelia states as she drops her backpack at the base of a maple tree a ways behind me. She sits down and leans back on it, closing her eyes.
“That’s all you got?” I ask, setting my bag down next to her. “I’ve been called worse.”
“I know you have,” she mutters. “Cora’s got quite the vocabulary when it comes to you.”
I plop down and pull my right boot off, shaking it out. About half of the forest we hiked through pours out of it: sticks, leaves, and even a spider. It scampers off into the undergrowth, undoubtedly confused as to why biting me hurt it more than it did me. I sort of feel bad for the little guy. Instead of him filling me with poison, it’s the other way around. I estimate he’s got about another thirty seconds before he kicks the bucket. You dont bite a demon. Bad things happen.
“You know, I’m not as bad as you ladies make me out to be,” I say as I slip my boot back on. “It’s not like I harm any of the women I’ve had, um, relations with in the past. They all know I’m a one night stand.”
Amelia snorts. “Oh, so you’ve told them all what you are then? My mistake.”
I scowl at her. “Of course I didn’t. How could I? You know what would happen if it got out that I’m a demon? I’d have every damn woman in this world chasing me. I’d never get anything done.” I watch her slowly open her eyes, and my scowl rises into a wide grin.
She raises her head, and the dirty look she gives me begins to tremble until she can’t hide her smile any longer. It flows across her pixie-like face, brightening it even more than it already was. She is a truly beautiful woman.
“There is something seriously wrong with your head. You know that?” she asks, kicking me lightly and giggling.
I chuckle and lean back against my backpack, laying my demon blade across my belly. All this ribbing from them doesn’t really bother me, but I do wish they knew me when I was in a longterm relationship. I am capable of love. I’ve felt it a number of times. From what I hear, I’m quite the catch, too. Not to toot my own horn.
“I do have to say, though, that this team would suck without you, Az,” Amelia says, closing her eyes and resting her head back against the tree again. “You’re a great guy to be honest. ‘Course, I am just speaking for myself. Cora may have a different opinion.”
Cora and I might not get along as well as me and the others, but she has my back and I have hers. That’s what counts. We’re all one, big, happy, demented family. I don’t know where or what I’d be without them.
A few quiet minutes pass between us, the only sound being the wind in the trees. I can still smell Jocelyn in the cold breeze and take a deep breath. The scent of an innocent woman to a demon is like the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies to a human. I don’t want to eat her, but it calls to my inner evil that I keep carefully buried. Demons have always been attracted to beautiful souls, more to defile them than anything else. But because I’ve changed my ways, it’s a comforting scent. Innocence and righteousness is a good thing. It gives me hope for the world.
“What’s it like, knowing you’ll never die?”
Amelia’s voice breaking the silence surprises me, and I actually flinch. That’s a rare thing, catching me off-guard. But I think about her question and sit up. “I don’t know,” I say, pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms around them. “I’ve never known any different. I don’t have anything to compare it to.”
Her eyes open, and she stares up at the canopy. It’s on its way to changing colors with the oncoming fall. “Well, I mean, you said you’ve had relationships before. I’m guessing they’ve been with humans. Didn’t it hurt to live past their deaths?”
I shrug my shoulders, gazing in the direction of Jocelyn’s scent. “It sucked, yes, but I knew it would happen so I was prepared for it.” I turn and look at her. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. Just curious I guess.”
My dubious glance is lost on her as she’s still not looking at me. No one’s ever asked me a question like that, and I honestly wouldn’t expect it from little Amelia. Something must be bothering her. I’m about to ask her about it when I catch the scent of death in the air. It’s weak, as if it’s coming from miles away, but it’s definitely there. And it’s nowhere near human.
Jeremy’s getting close.
I leap up, surprising Amelia who jumps, glaring at me. I don’t want to scare her with this new observation. She’s been trained in fighting techniques, but she’s nowhere near a warrior. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if she got harmed when I could’ve avoided it. I need to get to Cora and Jocelyn. I can’t leave them without my help if Jeremy finds them. Cora is human. She can’t sense that he’s out there.
“I’m tired of waiting,” I say, lifting my backpack over my shoulder. “Let’s go.”
Amelia sits up and regards me with a bit of anxiety. “We can’t go. Cora hasn’t come and gotten us yet. We’re supposed to wait for her. You know that.”
I turn away from her in case she catches the uneasiness in my expression. “I don’t care. Let’s go.” I take a few steps in the direction of the shack, waiting for Amelia to follow. I hear her jump up and grab her things.
“Dammit, Az,” she snaps. “Cora’s gonna be pissed.”
“She’ll be pissed at me. Not you.” I try to keep my pace relaxed, but the ominous scent of a vampire in the distance has me on guard, and I automatically start to hurry.
I have to get to Jocelyn. The need is too great to ignore.