Today’s Deadly Destination is from Meljean Brook‘s Jake Hawkins on Hell from GUARDIAN DEMON, Guardians #8 (published on August 6, 2013 by Berkley Sensation). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
Meljean Brook’s Jake Hawkins on Hell from GUARDIAN DEMON
Meljean’s Note: This scene takes place directly after Demon Marked and before Guardian Demon, and includes spoilers for the Guardian series.
Don’t you get it into your fool head to go looking for Michael by yourself, Drifter had told Jake. The older Guardian had been his mentor way back when Jake had still been a novice – okay, only four years ago, but a lot of shit had gone down since then and Jake wasn’t exactly the effing new guy anymore – but Drifter still liked to give Jake advice and a guiding hand, even when Jake didn’t really want to hear it. Irena, who’d been acting as the Guardians’ leader since Michael had sacrificed himself, had a bit more blunt. If you go alone, I’ll rip out your idiot brain to see if you are smarter without it.
And maybe teleporting around Hell wasn’t the greatest idea, but Jake Hawkins wasn’t alone. He had a rocket launcher with him.
Quite a few rocket launchers, actually.
He didn’t intend to use any of them now, though. This close to Lucifer’s throne, the last thing he wanted to do was draw attention to himself. Even though he couldn’t see any sign of the demon lord, Jake could feel him – a malevolent presence pressing in on his psychic shields, like a snake coiling tightly around his mind. No doubt Lucifer was somewhere in the enormous tower that speared into the crimson sky, and even though Jake hovered miles away, he wasn’t at a safe distance. There was no such thing as ‘a safe distance’ if Lucifer realized a Guardian was here.
But he didn’t need to stay long. Michael wasn’t here.
The ancient Guardian had been here, that much was clear. Charred demon bodies littered the wasteland that surrounded Lucifer’s tower. Not long ago, the wasteland had been a frozen field filled with the faces of the damned – those unlucky souls who had broken a demon’s bargain and were trapped and tortured for eternity. Michael had been one of them.
Now…Michael was something else.
Jake glanced down at the trail of burnt demons. His stomach lurched uneasily. Those demons weren’t just roasted. Some were missing limbs, torsos – and they hadn’t been neatly severed with a sword. Unless he was badly mistaken, it looked as if they’d been bitten off with giant teeth.
Holy flippin’ hell. They’d been eaten.
He just wouldn’t think about it. Those bodies gave him a direction to go.
And hopefully Michael wouldn’t still be hungry if Jake caught up to him.
Jake lost the trail in one of the demon cities. The towers and buildings – all smaller than Lucifer’s, of course – had already been crumbling due to Lucifer’s neglect, dropping blocks of black marble into rivers of orange lava. Now many of the buildings looked as if they’d taken direct hits from a bomb.
That wasn’t neglect. That was Michael.
Hot damn. If the ancient Guardian could flatten a demon city now, maybe it wouldn’t matter that he’d also burned and devoured half the inhabitants.
Unfortunately, eating more of the demons meant that Michael hadn’t left much evidence to follow. Where in Hell would a Guardian with Michael’s power go?
Maybe to the Pit, where millions of human souls were tortured before being released to Heaven. Jake didn’t have much compassion for those souls – they were the murderers, the rapists, the bastards who deserved to suffer for everything they’d done in their lives – but no one deserved what Lucifer allowed his demons to do to those souls. Michael could release those souls by burning them.
Of course, burning them would make Lucifer a lot more powerful than he was now. And a more powerful Lucifer might be able to bust through the Gates between the realms and bring Hell to Earth. Michael probably wouldn’t risk that, not after spending thousands of years protecting mankind from Lucifer and his demons.
But Jake had to check. He had to be sure, because the Guardians desperately needed Michael back.
He braced himself before teleporting. He’d been to the Pit before, clinging to his wife’s hand in a desperate escape from the belly of a spider the size of a city. Before teleporting to the endless red desert beyond the demon cities, they’d landed in the Pit – a ten-second stopover that Jake would never forget. Even though he’d tried. God damn, he’d tried.
He jumped and it was the same, the same anguish and screams and heat, the bubbling lava and the agony of so many souls, the burning blood and burning flesh, and the stain that wouldn’t wash away no matter how many tears the Pit scrubbed from their eyes.
Covered in red scales, a demon stood directly below, its knife gleaming and its grin wide. The thing strapped to the table beside the demon might have been human once, must have been human, but flayed and opened, there was nothing recognizable as human except his screams. The tormented shrieks bore into Jake’s head, filled him, but it was his Gift that came out – an arc of lightning that sizzled from his fingers.
The bolt struck the demon below. Leathery wings snapped wide and stiffened, the tips smoking. Fanged teeth clenched in a rictus of agony.
But it wasn’t dead. Only stunned. For now.
Even as thunder cracked across the Pit, Jake teleported down and beheaded the asshole. A second later he touched the human – what was left of him – jumped above the bubbling river of lava, and let the poor soul fall.
An instant of pain instead of centuries. It wasn’t enough to help just the one. It could never be enough.
But Jake wasn’t going to have time for more. Hundreds, maybe thousands of demons were looking toward him now, their eyes burning with a crimson glow.
Shit. Shit, shit.
But even though sense told him to teleport, he probably shouldn’t waste this chance. He was in Hell for a reason, after all.
“Hey, there!” he called out over the screams. “I’m looking for a dragon. Really big. Answers by the name of Michael. Anyone seen him?”
Hundreds, maybe thousands of swords suddenly appeared in taloned hands, and the demons launched into the air. Coming toward him.
Jake took that as a ‘no.’
A few hours later, Jake anchored to Drifter and teleported – into the night sky. Earth. Outside Seattle, unless the Space Needle had suddenly up and moved while he’d been gone. Drifter was flying along in his leisurely way. Jake formed his wings and caught up to the other Guardian.
Drifter didn’t glance his way; he just sniffed. “Fried some demons, did you?”
“Hundreds. Maybe thousands.”
“Any sign of Michael?”
Though he frowned, Drifter didn’t say much about that. Just, “Alice called me up, looking for you. If you’ve got a brain in your head, you’ll tell her you didn’t go alone.”
Nah, Jake wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t need to. He knew from frequent experience that his wife would forgive him for being an idiot. “If I’d taken someone with me, I’d just endanger them, too.”
“Explain it to her just like that. Then tell me how well that goes over.”
“I’ve got to tell Irena, too,” Jake said.
Drifter winced. “And I’ll tell a nice story at your funeral.”
“Tell the one where I kissed Alice even though she made me think a tarantula crawled out of her mouth.” Jake’s bravest moment. “You know, they’re scarier than anything in Hell.”
“Alice and Irena.” All of the Guardian women, actually.
“I reckon they are,” Drifter said. “So maybe you’d be smart enough to take one of them with you, next time.”
Jake probably would – though he wasn’t sure it would do any good.
“I’m thinking that if Michael wanted to be found, I’d have found him. And Hell’s a big place.” Literally endless. “We might search for an eternity and never find him.”
“Then how do you figure we’ll bring him in?”
How to tempt an eight-thousand-year old Guardian who had recently turned into a dragon? “Right now, he apparently wants to fly around, eating demons. We just need to find out what Michael wants more than that.”
Drifter shook his head. Not disagreeing, Jake knew. That was his “You’re stumbling onto a real bad idea, Jake” headshake.
Because they both had a pretty strong clue about one thing Michael wanted, and it was something far more dangerous than any demon-eating dragon.
A Guardian woman.
Drifter glanced at him. “You going to suggest that she can go down there and be the bait?”
No way. “I’ll let someone else do it.”
“And that’s one of the smarter ideas you’ve ever had.”
Jake had to agree.
2 copies of GUARDIAN DEMON
Available on August 6, 2013 by Berkley Sensation
In this thrilling conclusion to the Guardian series, New York Times bestselling author Meljean Brook delivers another stunning page-turner, in which the fate of humanity depends upon a tortured warrior winning the trust—and heart—of the woman he wounded…
After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardian’s powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again…
To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell…or it might destroy them both with a single touch.
“A fabulous conclusion to an amazing series!” –Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of Heart of Obsidian
Read an excerpt
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