Sacrifice (The Gryphon Series Book 3)(7)

By: Stacey Rourke

Fully emerged, the demon rose up to its full height. It towered over us, a geyser of orange, yellow, and red flames that acted as a pedestal for that creepy bonehead. It raised one arm and pointed at me. Flames snapped and hissed a warning. Its sinister grin widened to something that looked like twisted delight.

“Stay behind me,” Caleb ordered.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the diamond-shaped waves of blue that shimmered to life across the surface of Caleb’s skin as he called water to him. Helpful, yes, but still not enough to make me sit out a fight.

“Yeah, right,” I snorted and sidestepped him.

I didn’t even have time to assume a fighting stance before a lasso of fire flew out from the demon’s extended digit and cinched around my neck. The pain of my skin scorching knocked me to my knees. My fingers blistered and cracked as I scraped and clawed against the flaming noose for a whisper of air.

Through blurred, teary eyes I watched Caleb raise his palms toward me. “Just once I wish you’d listen.” He unleashed a blast of water that doused me from head to toe and extinguished my assailant’s weapon. Coughing and gasping for air, I tumbled forward and ate a mouthful of sand.

A puff of black smoke and Caleb was at my side. He crouched beside me, but kept his gaze fixed on the demon. “Ya a’right?”

“Do me a favor,” I wheezed. “Go kill that thing.”

“Gladly,” my Irishman growled, then rose for battle. His shoulders squared and his chest expanded. The power of the ocean was his to beckon. The fire demon didn’t stand a chance. I would’ve smiled if I weren’t a heaping lump of prickly, writhing pain.

Mr. Flaming-Skull curled and then extended his pointer finger like he was casting out a fishing line. Flames reeled from the tip of his digit, hungrily licking their way toward Caleb. As they neared Caleb slowly raised his arms in the air. Behind the demon the formerly calm seas rose up. A lone wave materialized. It festered and churned, rushing toward the shore with the strength and speed of a freight train. The brunt of the massive tidal wave crashed down right where the demon stood. When the water rescinded, nothing remained of our blazing attacker except a lifeless skull that drifted out with the tide.

I pulled myself up to sitting. Wet sand clung to every inch of me. The pain lessened by the second, thanks to my nifty rapid healing, but it still hurt like heck. What I needed was to submerse myself in a tub filled with aloe vera.

“Just once I’d like us to have a normal date.” I turned my hands over and admired the bright pink scars that now decorated them. “Free from demons, shapeshifters, muses, and anything else supernatural.”

Caleb squatted down next to me and wiped sand off my cheek with his thumb. “With that criteria, lovey, neither of us would be allowed on that date.”

I scowled. Yes, that was the truth. But I didn’t want to hear it. Before I could open my mouth to request he leave rational thought out of this conversation thundering footfalls and snapping foliage cut me off.

“What now?” We both spun toward the noise on high alert.

The ground shook as a stampede of deeply tanned island folk broke through the line of palm trees. Saplings broke, palm leaves flew. Terrified men, women, and children pushed and shoved in their scrambles to get away from … something. Women desperately tried to keep hold of their screaming children in the chaos. One man fell to the ground. Some of the crowd parted, while others trampled over him.

“Well that can’t be good,” I grumbled under my breath and hopped to my feet.

Caleb rose beside me. His gaze fixated in the opposite direction. “I’m guessin’ it has something tah do with that.” He jerked his chin, motioning at the water.

I turned and followed his stare. A shape in the distance moved across the surface of the water. It had a human-like form, but couldn’t be confused for a person. Partially for the whole “walking on water” thing, but mostly because of the charcoal grey storm cloud that swelled and rolled around it like a living cloak. Bursts of lightning sparked through the angry cloud. Rumbles of thunder trumpeted its arrival. The being raised one hand and drew the lightning from the cloud. Absorbing it made the shadow man spark and crackle. He raised one black, translucent arm and sent a jolt of lightning careening toward the shoreline. Sand flew as the lightning exploded not twenty feet from us.

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