Day of the Demon - J. Kenner

Day of the Demon

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Trials of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom (Book 7)

Mom and Demon Hunter Kate Connor can never catch a break.

She may have just helped save the world from a full-on apocalypse, but there’s still the problem of her dead ex-husband having come back to life in the body of another man. And her current husband wanting to reconcile after walking out on her so recently she can still taste the pain. Granted, he’d been knocked sideways by the news of her secret vocation, but that didn’t change the fact that they were still on shaky ground.

To make matters worse, her toddler’s sudden refusal to sleep at bed-time isn’t helping Kate’s mood. But that’s really just an annoyance. After all, if she can handle demon hordes, a cranky toddler’s a no-brainer.

No, the real problem is her teenage daughter, Allie. Not dating woes. Not grades. Not a desperate lust for a learner’s permit. Instead, Kate’s facing a dilemma that neither her parenting skills nor her demon-hunting prowess can fix.

Because what exactly is a Demon Hunter supposed to do when it’s her very own daughter who’s the demon?

Day of the Demon
Day of the Demon is Story # 7 in the

About this Story

Publication Date 04/29/2021 Story Type Book Primary Characters Kate Connor Series Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Place in Series Story #7 Genre Paranormal Women's Fiction Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I always knew that parenting a teenager would be like living with a demon from hell. The hormonal explosions. The friend drama. The dating drama. The high school drama. All of the little passion plays that make up the theater that is known as adolescence.

I read all the parenting books. I talked with other moms. I watched movies and television shows.

I anticipated everything … except for the one thing I couldn’t possibly have imagined—

My teenager really is a demon.

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Technically, she’s only part demon, and that from her father’s side. And I’m not even sure how much demon is in her, because we don’t really know how much was in her father in those years when he was growing up, his body and soul unknowingly entwined with a demon put there by his own parents when he was an infant in a ritual that no parenting book would ever endorse.

And, yes, the fact that our daughter is part demon did save the world just a few days ago—though that little tidbit didn’t even make the local news. Not like that’s a shock; preventing the apocalypse hardly ever makes CNN.

But none of that changes the fact that something demonic lives inside my strong, beautiful, snarky daughter. Not just lives—is. She’s not possessed. She’s not playing host. That darkness is part of her. That yearning for power and mayhem. That fundamental, hard, cold evil.

I’ve never seen it in her. It’s never come out.

But I know it’s there, and that simple reality scares me to death.

Because how do I protect her from something hidden deep inside her?

My name is Kate Connor and I’m a Level Five Demon Hunter.

And right now, my biggest fear is that someday the demon in my daughter will burst forth, and that will be the end of everything. Because even if it meant the apocalypse, how in hell could I kill my child?

 

CHAPTER 2

“So the kid’s got some evil inside her,” Eddie said, leaning back in the recliner he’d claimed as his own. He rubbed his stubbly gray beard and made a snorting noise. “Like that’s news? She’s fifteen. Whoever heard of a fifteen-year-old who wasn’t evil?”

“Um, hello?” Allie said. “Sitting right here! And so not evil!”

My daughter Allie, the subject of this particular conversation, glared at her great-grandfather. Or, rather, at the man she considered her great-grandfather. Like me, Eddie Lohman had retired from the Demon-Hunting life. Also like me, he’d been pulled out of retirement and is now back in the thick of it.

I’m a Level Five Demon Hunter, which puts me out in the field. And although he’s not officially on the Forza Scura payroll, Eddie’s stepped up as my alimentatore, a sort of mentor-teacher-researcher-coach. And, in Eddie’s case, a sometime babysitter and all-time curmudgeon.

Forza Scura is the secret arm of the Vatican created thousands of years ago to train, educate, and organize hunters to fight the demons, vampires, zombies, and other creatures of hell who move secretly through our world. Demons are the most prevalent because they’re the ones who can look the most human because, well, they pretty much are human.

Day of the Demon

The thing is, demons are all around us all the time, and I mean that literally. Walk through the world, and you’re walking through demons, albeit demons in another dimension. Those of us in Forza call it the ether, but it’s fair to say it’s a kind of limbo, and it’s where demons wait, lurking around for the chance to slide into a body that a human doesn’t need anymore.

Not that they can take over every dead body. There’s a very short window of opportunity, so the demon has to be right there and ready, paying attention and on his toes.

But that’s not all. Even if the timing is right, the departing soul can still protect the body. It can fight, and most souls do. And the more faith that a person had in this life, the harder it is for the demon to battle its way inside.

Still, quite a few demons make it, and you hear about it every day. A heart attack victim miraculously revived? A drowned swimmer brought back to life? Maybe that’s just exceptional work by the EMS folks, but I usually assume demon. Call me a pessimist, but I figure it’s better safe than sorry.

Once a demon is inside a body it could simply stay there for as long as the body lasts, living out its life as a super-strong human. Most don’t, though. They’re demons, after all, and that means they want to get out and do a little damage. Shake things up and go all evil on the world. Also, most tend to be minions, doing the work of High Demons who have a Serious Agenda. Like, oh, bringing about the end of the world as we know it.

Those demons are easy for a Hunter to spot.

But the others? Well, they manage to blend in. Some slide into regular jobs. They’re demons, yes. They’re evil, absolutely. But they also just want to be human. I’ve known demons who ran convenience stores and strip clubs and telemarketing farms. Usually their true nature gets the better of them after a while, but the point is, they’re out there.

And now I can’t help but think that Allie now has something in common with them.

The thought isn’t a happy one.

“—just like Father Donnelly said. Right, Kate?”

Eliza’s voice pulled me from my reverie. “I’m sorry. What?”

My eighteen-year-old cousin and Allie exchanged exasperated glances.

“Jeez, Mom. Distracted much?”

I didn’t answer, because yeah, it was fair to say I was little distracted. Exhausted, too. We’d only arrived back home in San Diablo two hours ago after flying more than fifteen hours from Rome. There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to unfog my tired and garbled brain.

“Eliza said that all the stuff inside me’s good,” Allie plowed on as my husband Stuart, who was sitting beside me on the couch, tightened his grip on my hand. “Just like Father Donnelly said. I’ve got the essence but not the evil. Strength. And strategy. So, that’s all a plus on the hunting end. Right?”

She shifted to look from me to her father, Eric, who was sitting in one of the dining room chairs that we’d pulled into the living room for this impromptu family meeting. “Right?” she said again, and though I couldn’t be sure, I thought there was a note of panic in her voice.

Day of the Demon

“Of course it’s all good,” Eric said, his body shifted toward the left to favor his working eye. He’d lost the right one in our last battle before going to Rome, and all things considered had adapted remarkably well.

“Right,” Allie said. “Okay.” I was grateful that Allie was looking at Eric so intently that there is no way she could have noticed the way Eddie rolled his eyes, making his caterpillar-like eyebrows twitch.

“You saved the world, didn’t you?” Eric added.

“Damn right she did,” Eliza said fiercely. “She saved all of us.”

At the time Allie had been saving the world, Eliza had been in the hospital, having faced death in the process of trying—and failing—to save her mother, the aunt I’d never known. I glanced at the leather cuffs she now wore on her wrists. They looked like the fashion statement of a badass girl with attitude. And while that description fit Eliza, the real reason for the cuffs was to hide the nasty, jagged scars.

“I’d never freaking kill myself,” Eliza had said on our last day in Rome, two weeks after the world hadn’t ended. We were on her first outing after the hospital, and she’d wanted to go to the open-air market. I’d understood why when she’d headed toward a display of leather goods and picked out the cuffs, then snapped them around her wrists and had Allie adjust the laces so they were perfectly sized.

“And there is no way I’m letting every clerk at Target think I tried to slit my wrists,” she’d added, then thrust up and down as if blocking an attacker. “Plus, they should do good for deflecting knives, right?”

I’d agreed. More than that, I’d even bought a set for both me and Allie, though we don’t wear them constantly the way Eliza now does.

Now, Allie scowled from where she was sitting cross-legged on the floor beside Eliza. “I saved the world because of what I am.” She pulled her knees up and hugged them, her attention tight on Eric. “I’m different, aren’t I? From you, I mean. We got it out of you. But with me—”

She cut herself off with a frown, then shook her head.

I knew what she was thinking. For years, the demon Eric’s parents had put inside him had stayed bound, trapped through a binding ritual performed by the Church. But the binding didn’t work the way it should have, and things got out of hand not that long ago. Eric had gone all Jekyll and Hyde, losing it so much that he’d almost hurt Allie, not to mention me.

It’s better now; the demon was destroyed and Eric survived. And there weren’t any little demonic bits lingering inside him. At least as far as we knew.

“It’s different,” Eric assured her gently. “I had an actual demon shoved inside of me. That’s not you. You’ve—”

“Got it all through me,” she said. “Infused with the essence of the demon. Isn’t that what Father Donnelly said? I mean, I’m stuck with it. I am it. And I just—”

“Essence,” Eric said. “There’s no demon inside of you, waiting to take control.”

Day of the Demon

“Oh, right,” Allie snapped. “And you know this because it happens all time. I’m the first, remember? Because your parents wanted to freaking breed their way to me, and—”

“Sweetheart,” I said gently, because her voice was rising, edging toward hysteria.

She took a deep breath, then tossed her hands out to her sides the way she does when she’s overwhelmed by a pile of homework. “You know what? Never mind.” She stood. “Can I go?”

“Go?” Eric asked. “Go where?”

“Out. The beach. The mall. Mindy,” she finally said, referring to her best friend. “Can I just go out with Mindy?”

Her eyes were still on Eric, and for a moment he said nothing. I could read his face well enough, though, and I knew he wanted to keep her in the house, safe with us. Safe from the outside world. And, hopefully, safe from herself.

Apparently Allie could read his expression, too, because she snapped, “I can take care of myself, you know. And I’m not going to go all demonic at the beach. I promise not to open any portals to hell. You just said there’s no demon waiting to pop out. All I want is to get out of here. I want to see Mindy. I want—”

“Of course you can go,” Stuart said gently, and the storm I’d seen brewing on Allie’s face started to fade.

Eric turned to Stuart, and since I could tell he was about to argue, I held up a hand. “Stuart’s right,” I said. “Allie and Mindy have a lot of catching up to do. And it’s a gorgeous day for the beach.”

“I’ll come too,” Eliza chimed in. She’d been watching the four of us, obviously trying to assess the situation.

“I don’t need a babysitter! I’m not going to grow horns!”

Eliza sat back, her hands rising as if in self-defense. “Didn’t say you did. But I thought you wanted me to meet Mindy. That’s what you said in Rome, right? And I’m dying to go to the beach. I went all the time in San Diego, and I’m having withdrawals. Is there anyplace to rent boards?”

“You surf?” The looming issue of Allie’s demonic heritage faded against the shining brilliance of learning to surf. “Will you teach me?”

“Allie,” I said. “Remember the last time you were interested in surfing?”

“Well, yeah. But this time, I’m the demon.”

“Allie!”

“Kidding.” She scrunched her shoulders, looking like my little girl. “Honest, Mom, surfing isn’t the problem, and you know it.”

“Well, it might be a problem, but we can have the sports and safety discussion later. Now, I guess you can just go.”

“Really? Awesome. Can you drive us?”

“Bus,” I said. “Consider the walk to the bus stop part of your surfing training regimen.”

Allie rolled her eyes. “Can Eliza drive us?”

I frowned, having forgotten that we had another licensed driver in our midst. At least, I assumed she was licensed. “Can you?”

“Sure,” Eliza said. “But my car’s still in San Diego.”

I nodded, suddenly remembering that Eliza hadn’t told us her plans. Was she going back home? Was she staying in San Diablo? Was she moving to Rome to train?

Day of the Demon

That, however, was a discussion for another time.

“You can borrow the van,” Stuart chimed in, when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to answer.

“Oh, right. Yeah. The keys to the Odyssey are hanging in the kitchen. Check the gas,” I called as they hurried off. “And the tires!”

A whisper of worry cut through me, and I tried to shove it down, telling myself that I was nervous because Allie was being driven around by another teenager. But Allie’d been driven around by her older high school friends for the last year.

No, the real reason for my worry was exactly the same as Allie’s. It stemmed from what she was. From what we now knew about her. I was afraid that like every teenager, she’d lose her cool. But unlike every teenager, her explosions of temper might cause real damage.

True, they never had before. Her toddler temper tantrums never opened a portal to hell, and her snits as a teen never summoned an army of vampires to our home. But that was before.

Things were different now. She’d stood at the portal to hell, and her blood had held back the demonic hordes. Her blood.

A golden light had filled the chamber then, bathing us all. For all I knew, that day had changed something fundamental inside her. Even if it hadn’t, she was growing up. Growing and changing.

As a mom, that made me excited and thrilled and a bit sentimental.

As a Demon Hunter, it terrified me.

Not only because I didn’t know how the scary demon bits inside her would ultimately manifest—if they did at all—but also because her grandparents had purposefully bred her in the hopes of creating the ultimate demon-fighting weapon. And I had a feeling that the general demon population wasn’t too happy with that.

Mostly I was afraid of the unknown. Afraid for my baby. And frustrated that I didn’t have a clue how to help her.

As if he knew what I was thinking, Stuart squeezed my hand. “She’s a great kid. It’s going to be fine.”

I smiled, and for one blissful moment, I let myself believe him.

Then Eddie went and shot my fantasy all to hell by releasing a loud snort. “You got a damn funny view of ‘fine,’ boy,” he said. “Because I’m thinking that things are about to get messier than ever.”

“Thanks, Eddie,” I said dryly. “Thanks so much.”

“Just calling it as I see it, and the truth is, I don’t see much.”

Eric cocked his head as he listened intently to Eddie. “What do you mean?”

“Just that we don’t have the whole picture. And if Father Donnelly’s running the show at Forza, you never will.”

“Father Corletti is still in charge of Forza,” I said loyally. Father Corletti had been like a father to me when I’d grown up as an orphan inside Forza’s dorms.

“Maybe,” Eddie said. “But he didn’t know about Father D’s little Frankenstein plan. The way that traitorous bastard helped get the demon inside of that one,” he said pointing to Eric. “Father Corletti didn’t even know the truth after you gave birth to Father D’s monster.”

Day of the Demon

“Eddie!” There was both shock and anger in my voice.

He waved away my outburst. “Just following the analogy. I couldn’t love that girl more if she really were my great-granddaughter, and you know it. I’m just saying that we thought Eric was supposed to be his secret weapon, but really it was Allie.”

“But Father Donnelly told us that he didn’t realize she had demonic essence inside her,” Stuart said, looking between me and Eric. “When we had that meeting in the Vatican before we headed home. That’s what he said. He wouldn’t lie to us. He’s a priest.”

“You go right on being a good Catholic boy,” Eddie retorted. “But as for me? I never believe a word that man says. And in the end, what does it matter whether he knew or not? The end result is that he got what he wanted. He engineered a new breed of Demon Hunter.”

“Eddie’s right,” Eric said slowly. “Whether he knew that our daughter would have demonic essence or not, she’s what he was trying to accomplish with me. That’s why he wanted her to stay behind in Rome. That’s why he used words like weapon when he talked about needing her to fight the demons.”

My stomach twisted, but I tried to think rationally. To think like a Hunter and not like a mom. And Kate the Demon Hunter knew they were right.

“You said he wasn’t happy when you refused to leave her behind to train,” Eddie reminded me, his fingers sliding over the hilt of the stiletto we’d brought back as a gift from Rome. “I think that’s because he’s not telling you something.”

“What?” I demanded.

“Don’t know. But he’s holding something back. I’m betting there’s more power in that girl than he’s telling you, and we don’t know how it’s gonna come out.”

“Good lord,” Stuart said.

Eric said nothing, but his eyes were on me, and I saw the fear in them.

“She’s a good kid,” I insisted.

“She’s a teenager,” Eddie countered. “And that means she’s gonna go a little wild. Nothing wrong with that. Except that with this one, who the hell knows what wild means?”

I stood up, then started to pace between the living room and the kitchen. I didn’t want to hear this. Didn’t want to think about it. I wanted to think about all the other things that needed to get done. All the regular mom stuff that had been waiting for me upon our return. Getting ready for the upcoming school year. Taking care of unpacking. Getting back into a workout groove. Grocery shopping. Planning Timmy’s third birthday party. Cleaning out the damn garage.

Normal stuff. Life stuff.

And, honestly, I didn’t think that was too much to ask. After all, we just closed a gate that was going to release all of hell into the world. So surely the universe owed us a little break.

That was only fair, wasn’t it?

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