Fire and Ice Young Adult and New Adult Books

Amidst The Chaos

Demon Hunter #2

by Alice J. Black



"Amidst the Chaos" by Alice J. Black Defying the laws of nature, Ruby Dawson is a Demon Hunter.

Ruby is coming to terms with everything that at one time, seemed impossible. Surely life can't get any harder. Only it seems things are going from bad to worse as she begins to notice not only shadow demons, but other creatures that once were hidden. As she begins to embrace the gift of her genetics, it seems that the people in her life are not impervious to the effects of the darkness settling over Black Haven and she must figure it out before her friends are pulled into the shadows.

Can Ruby stop the darkness and save those she loves before it's too late?


 

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Romance
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Teen


Excerpt

The morning was crisp as I made my way through the empty streets. I sucked in a deep breath of air and let it out slowly as my chest heaved. The music thudding through the headphones was enough to keep my energy going as I marched towards my destination.

So much had happened in the last few weeks—layers on top of layers—that I was still processing. It was a slow process, as one thought invaded the next and my mind couldn’t really settle on which issue to deal with next.

Not only had I found out that my dad wasn’t who I thought he was, but I learned that the place I worked for was actually a demon hunting agency. I’d been stalked by shadows, chased by one of the seven sins—Sloth—and I had to stop the whole town coming to a standstill.

When I thought about it, even now in the aftermath, I still couldn’t wrap my head around things. Sometimes I wondered if it was all a dream, that I’d wake up and find that I’d been in some induced coma or just having a really long dream. But I knew that wasn’t the case. I was a Demon Hunter—the first female Demon Hunter, and the first one to come of age before eighteen. I sure liked to mess up their figures.

Something still lingered in the periphery of my mind. I still had questions that needed answers, and I often questioned my sanity. Something told me—call it gut instinct—that it wasn’t over. I knew it wasn’t time to slack yet.

Sloth might’ve relinquished his hold on the town after I cornered it in the bathroom at school, leaving everyone to continue their lives as normal, but it hung over me like a dark cloud I couldn’t seem to shift. Where had Sloth been taken? And why couldn’t I shake the feeling that it was far from over?

I made my way past Manor Grange School, where I was in my first year of sixth form and kept walking. It was early, even for me, but sleep had been harder the past few nights, so rather than risk waking up my roommate Becca, I decided to head out. I had someone to visit, anyway.

My trainers hit the ground softly with each step I took, and my breath fogged in a white haze that joined with the air and disappeared. It was still early in the year, and winter was still in full swing. Everything was covered in a fine layer of frost. It crunched under my feet and held in the chill wind as it buffeted my face. I didn’t care. It felt good to stretch and release some energy.

It had been a while since I was in the training room at The Agency. That was Sheila’s idea. Sheila Quigley, the manager of The Agency. She dealt with all things managerial in the aspect of Demon Hunting, and after catching Sloth and trying to come to terms with becoming a Hunter, she insisted on me taking some time away. She said she’d let me know when I could come back. So far, I had silence.

I shook my head as I thought of the woman who’d lied to me since I was twelve. After my dad died, she posed as a bank manager and told me he passed from a heart attack. A heart attack—not because he’d sacrificed himself to save someone else. That part was left out until I met Delta, his hunting partner, four years later. That was the other thing I’d struggled with—working alongside a woman who I found it hard to trust.

And it all came back down to The Agency. Technically, I wasn’t even employed. I’d come of age, something nobody was expecting, and they made sure to keep telling me. I was spending plenty of time there training, being kitted-out and generally learning how to defend myself, but she still wouldn’t put me on the books officially. Well, I was going to change that. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing without the proper equipment and support, and that included the real training program. I would argue with Sheila and I would be made an official Hunter of The Agency.

Finally, the gates came into view. The cemetery. My breath caught in my chest. I’d have liked to think it was the cold, but I knew it was a mix of guilt and apprehension. I hadn’t been here since my dad was laid to rest, and that was four years ago.

I reached the gates and paused as I stared at the word emblazoned on top of the gates in black wrought iron. I could tell myself all I wanted that I was grieving in my own way, but the truth was, I avoided the place. I knew it would hurt to be there, to see the marker where my dad lay buried beneath the ground in a box. And now it hurt even more to know that he was a stranger to me, in more ways than one.

I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly through my lips. I could do this. Crossing the threshold, I made my way along the path. Despite the fact that I hadn’t visited, I knew exactly where his plot was, and my feet carried me there without thought.

My eyes swept over the plains around me, vaulting the hill as it rose into the morning air, and landing momentarily on the huge crypt of a loved one, where it stood on the verge. Headstones rose as if they’d grown in lieu of someone passing beneath, and I saw square markers, epitaphs, and crosses.

It had always struck me how unfair human life was. Fragile. We were made of flesh and bone, and it only took moments for it to be ripped away. Mortality was a strange thing, and there I was, doing something that stared death in the face.

I didn’t deny I was scared. I’d be stupid if I wasn’t, but it held some strange fascination for me. I was able to see demons, almost crossing the line between life and death as I fought with them, and it was all just part of a job. Nothing was even normal in my life.

When my dad died, he left me alone in the world at twelve years old, and it hurt. I was taken into St. Helen’s, the place I still live now, to be a ward of the state and told I was going to be there until I turned eighteen, when I was an adult.

For a long time, I was angry, lashing out at anybody. I was put through counselling, and at the time, it didn’t help at all, but maybe now I could attribute my calm demeanour to the fact that I was supported through my grief. I thought about him every day, now more so than ever. I used to picture him collapsing in a bank, surrounded by people who cared, and now I knew different. Now I knew he was hurt in the midst of a case, saving someone else, and that he died alone.

Climbing the hill, I took a sharp right and clambered through the grass. It was slick with dew and beads of water soaked into the bottom of my jeans. I went on and on, weaving around headstones, some with fresh flowers and some that hadn’t seen the loving hand of a relative in a long time, until I finally reached it. Dad’s marker.

I stopped and stared down at the black stone rising from the earth.

 

Hudson Rhys Dawson

1969-2013

Always loved

 

That was it. No touching eulogy. No words from his family.

I bit back the cloying thickness in my throat and sucked in a deep breath. The cold hit my lungs, and I was refreshed. I was his only family. I’d never known my mum. Dad told me she died when I was a baby, and sometimes I was glad I didn’t remember her. Having the grief of two parents would’ve been too much to bear.

The bank paid for his funeral. Everything was organised, down to the flowers I had for him. I had no choice, no voice, and I was cast aside. A child lost in the world of grief with nobody to lean on. My mouth turned down into a sour smile as I stared down at his headstone. The bank. That’s what I’d thought for years. A naïve child believing what I was told. It turns out, it was all a lie.

Confusion and anger ripped through me. I’d been lied to my whole life. The Agency, Sheila, Delta. My dad, that one hurt the most, but I understood it. He hid aspects of his life from me to protect me. What would a child do with the information that her dad was a Demon Hunter?

Nobody else had a reason to lie, and it hurt to know that the main aspects of my life had been diluted to such an extent that I grew up thinking my dad was a bank employee.

I couldn’t go back and change the past, but I knew I could learn from it. Trust wasn’t an issue for me, and I knew I’d keep relying on those around me, but now I would do it with caution. I’d speak my mind and do what I needed to do to know the truth and be true to myself.

I wiped my eyes as the tears of frustration began to build and glanced back down at his stone. His headstone stood alone. They hadn’t even had the decency to bury him with my mum. I had no idea where her gravestone was. My dad never brought me here. I always figured it was too painful for him. Now it left me with another gaping hole in my chest. I was an orphan in the world, a ward of the state, and I was trying to find my way, but sometimes, without the parental guidance of my dad, I was lost.

I sank to my knees and felt the damp earth shift beneath my weight. My hand automatically went to the stone, and I brushed off a few stray leaves that had landed on the top of the headstone. Then my hand trailed down the cold granite until it came to rest on his name. My finger traced it, and my eyes stung.  “I miss you, Dad.” My voice was quiet in the early morning hush.

It had been a long time since I’d said those words. A long time since I’d allowed myself to mourn. Sometimes it felt like living my life was wrong when he was taken away from me. And I needed him now more than ever. He was always a calming mind and a guiding influence in my life.

He would’ve walked me through everything I was going through. He would’ve trained me. He would’ve given me the knowledge and tools I needed to fight whatever was coming, and I would never have had to ask or beg for it.

A tear slipped down my cheek, and it was caught by the cool breeze skimming across my face. I sniffed and wiped away the tear. I wish I had brought some flowers or a memento, but I had nothing. Only the salt and torch I carried in my bag, and I knew I needed them in this new life I was living.

My eyes took in his name again on the gravestone, and I wondered what, if I’d been given the chance, would my words have read. Then, maybe something simple about missing my father. Now, something about a brave man giving his life for another.

Pushing myself up from the ground, my knees groaned, and my bag swung forward, almost pitching me forward. I caught myself just in time, hand resting on the top of my dad’s stone. I couldn’t help but smile. He’d always been there for me.

“See you soon, Dad,” I called over my shoulder as I turned and headed back towards the path. My jeans stuck to my legs where they were soaked through with damp, and my trainers squeaked in the wet grass as I left my dad behind.

I took a slow walk back through the cemetery and along the streets, back home. The morning remained quiet as I strolled along the pavement. When Sloth had the town in its grip and everybody seemed to lose the will to live, I was wishing for chaos. Now that everything had been righted and the world was back to normal, I could enjoy my moment of solitude, guilt free.