Home > Burn (Dark in You #1)

Burn (Dark in You #1)
Author: Suzanne Wright

CHAPTER ONE


From her seat in the large dome, Harper Wallis winced along with the other spectators as one of the contenders in the combat circle collided with the ceiling. His opponent looked on with a blank expression, seemingly unmoved.

“That guy doesn’t show an ounce of mercy,” commented her cousin, Ciaran. “It’s awesome.” He was referring to the reaper that, like many demons, often dueled for money in the Underground.

The subterranean location was like the Las Vegas strip on steroids. There were restaurants, bars, nightclubs, casinos, hotels, and amusement rides, among many things. Considering their kind was impulsive, plagued by restlessness, had instant gratification problems, and were prone to pursue cheap thrills to chase off their oppressive boredom, the Underground was every demon’s version of heaven.

Moreover, it was a place where they could blow off steam and didn’t have to pretend to be anything other than what they were.

Harper winced at the snapping of a bone. Fighters were always guaranteed to leave a duel with injuries, broken bones, or even internal bleeding. Some had died during or after duels, despite demons having an accelerated healing rate. That was why she wasn’t joyful at the idea that her other cousin, Khloë, was due to enter the combat circle any minute now. Even if Khloë won the duel, she was still liable to be badly hurt by the end of it.

Harper watched in morbid fascination as the losing contender dealt the reaper, Levi, a series of blows that barely managed to register on the reaper’s radar. He just lifted his contender by the throat and flung him across the dome. Levi’s eyes bled to black, which was a tell-tale sign that his inner demon was in control.

Much like shifters, all demons – no matter the breed – had a dualism to the soul. Whereas shifters shared their soul with an animal, demons shared theirs with a conscienceless dark predator that lacked empathy, was unable to emotionally connect, and had a strong sense of entitlement. An inner demon could surface, enabling it to then talk and take control. The only outward indication of such a thing would be that the person’s eyes would turn totally black.

“Levi will easily end this,” stated Ciaran. “I don’t know what Franklin was thinking when he agreed to this fight. Fuck him up, Levi!” he hollered along with the rest of the crowd. She winced as the reaper proceeded to do just that by telekinetically sending Franklin crashing into the ceiling once again.

Some demons were relatively harmless in that their only abilities were to cause nightmares and read thoughts. At their strongest, however, demons could do things such as possess others and steal souls. Although Harper was powerful, she wasn’t particularly impressed by it. She liked to earn the things she had, and her demonic abilities were something she’d been born with – not the same thing at all.

She scowled at Ciaran. “You’re supposed to be supporting Franklin!” Her scowl deepened at the shifty expression on her cousin’s face. “You bet on Levi, didn’t you?”

He gave her a sheepish look. “Hey, I like Franklin, he’s my friend…but I also happen to be fond of money. That meant backing Levi.”

“Where’s the loyalty toward your friend?”

He pointed at himself. “Duh. Imp. You know…selfish, sneaky, fickle, not to be trusted under any circumstances.”

He did have a point about imps. Her family, like all imp families, had a reputation for being what her grandmother Jolene liked to call ‘multi-talented.’ Humans would term them criminals. They tricked, they stole, they lied, they cheated, and they could get in and out of any place without being noticed…and they were completely casual about it.

Jolene had ensured that Harper was just as ‘multi-talented’ as every other Wallis, despite that Harper wasn’t an imp. There were no hybrids in the demon world. If two different breeds procreated, the child would be one or the other. Harper was the same breed as her absent mother.

Ciaran elbowed her lightly, practically radiating excitement. “Look, Levi’s ready to finish him off.”

The reaper was currently looming over Franklin with his hand hovering over his chest, palm down. Franklin was crying out, his back arched like a bow. A few seconds more of what was clearly excruciating pain and Franklin raised his arm – a signal of surrender. The crowd went wild, cheering and chanting Levi’s name. He stood clenching his fists and breathing deeply, clearly battling his inner demon for complete control. Finally, his eyes returned to normal and his muscles unlocked as the entity retreated.

Levi didn’t strut cockily around the circle like many others did. He was too busy glaring at Franklin, and she got the feeling that he was annoyed with his opponent for surrendering so soon.

“No wonder he’s Knox’s sentinel,” continued Ciaran.

And who was Knox? Well, Knox Thorne was not only the creator of the Underground, but a demon whose lair spanned most of Nevada and even much of California. The Prime was a ruthless billionaire who owned a chain of hotels, restaurants, security firms, bars, and casinos. That was what demons did: they hid in plain sight, mingled in with unsuspecting humans; often in positions that provided them with power, control, respect, and challenges. Many were entrepreneurs, politicians, stock brokers, CEOs, bankers, lawyers, police officers, journalists, chefs, surgeons, and people in the media. Harper herself co-owned a tattoo studio that had many oblivious human customers.

Knox blended in with humans so easily that she doubted even other preternatural species would suspect him of being anything other than human. However, there wasn’t a demon in the world who hadn’t heard of Knox Thorne, since he was rumored to be the most powerful demon in existence – something apparently he’d never denied or confirmed.

There were many other rumors about Knox: that he was dangerous, calculated, notoriously sexual, and someone who lived by his own rules on his own schedule. It was also believed that he had the ability to call on and control the flames of hell, which was extremely rare. It was also scary, because nothing was impervious to the flames of hell.

Hearing her cell phone ring, Harper fished it out of her pocket and frowned at the name on the screen. It was Khloë. “Shouldn’t you be immersing yourself in ‘your zone’?” teased Harper on answering.

“I need you to come back here.” Pain dripped from her words, making Harper stiffen.

“Khloë, what’s going on?”

“Quickly.” With that, she ended the call.

“Khloë needs me for something.” Harper gave Ciaran her half-eaten hotdog for safekeeping, though they both knew he’d eat it. “I’ll be back in two minutes.”

Harper rushed to the end of the row, vaulted down the steps, and headed to the manned door that led backstage. The doorman, who knew her family well, said, “Khloë’s in room twelve. You’re not going to like what you find.”

Shit. Harper dashed down the corridor before reaching the door she was searching for. Stepping into the room, she came to an abrupt halt. Anger whizzed through her system. “Khloë, what the fuck?”

The small, olive-skinned girl’s attempt at a smile earned her a wince; she put a hand up to her split, swollen lip. Her clothes were torn and she was covered in bruises and scratches. Peeking up at Harper through one eye, she said, “It wasn’t my fault.”

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