Excerpts for Demon in My View


Prologue

The night is full of mystery. Even when the moon is brightest, secrets hide everywhere. Then the sun rises and its rays cast so many shadows that the day creates more illusion than all the veiled truth of the night.

I have lived in this illusion for much of my life, but I have never belonged to it. Before my birth, I existed for too long in the realm between nothingness and life, and even now, the night still whispers to me. A strong cord binds me to the dark side of the world, and shields me from the light.



Chapter 8

After school Jessica took the bus to the center of town. She walked to the bookstore, hoping to find Tiger, Tiger on the shelves. The book was supposed to have come out more than a week before, but this was the first chance Jessica had had to look for it. The advance copies she had at home didn't hold quite the same allure as the sight of her work in a bookstore display.

Jessica sighed when she saw Caryn browsing the shelves, but she wasn't about to let the annoying teen chase her away.

"Oh...hi, Jessica," Caryn said, sounding surprised. "You looking for anything? "

"A book. What else would I be in a bookstore for? " Jessica answered crossly.

It took her only a second to spot Tiger, Tiger on the shelf next to Caryn, and she reached past the girl to grab a copy. As the book was written under Jessica's pseudonym, Ash Night, Caryn wouldn't be able to connect Jessica with it. Even so, Caryn's eyes widened when she saw the book.

"I've read that one," she said in a voice that sounded falsely casual.

"So have I," Jessica answered, turning away from Caryn and toward the counter.

"I wonder what the author is like," Caryn commented. "Where do you suppose her ideas come from?"

Jessica ignored Caryn effortlessly until she added, "What if it was all real? If Ash Night's vampires actually existed? If Ather and Risika and Aubrey--"

Jessica spun on Caryn as she spoke that last name. "Vampires don't exist," she snapped. "Get over it." After having had this conversation with herself all day long, she was glad to finally have an excuse to say the words aloud.

"But-- "

"Caryn, I've been subtle, rude, and even offensive," Jessica interrupted. "Now it's time for direct." She met Caryn's delicate blue eyes with a glacier-cold glare. "I don't care if you think vampires exist. I don't want to talk about it, just like I don't want to chat about combination locks or anything else. I don't want to talk to you at all. Do you understand? "

With a bit of a sigh, Caryn nodded, deflated.

That had been rather satisfying. Next Jessica just had to convince herself that Alex Remington wasn't the Antichrist, and she could return to the regularly scheduled tedium of her daily life.

"Cold," she heard behind her. "Very cold. I approve completely."

Jessica turned and saw Alex leaning against a shelf. His gaze as he watched Caryn hurry away reminded Jessica of a wolf watching a rabbit run to cover.

"Maybe I'm paranoid, but I could swear you've been following me." The words were out of Jessica's mouth before she had a chance to consider them. Hearing her own tone, she almost choked. If she caught herself flirting, she was likely to become ill.

"On and off," he answered vaguely, and didn't add anything more. He turned to wander down the aisle, glancing from shelf to shelf as if looking for something. After a few yards he looked over his left shoulder to see if she was still behind him, and it occurred to her that she was following him. Embarrassed, she stopped doing so.

"Anything good in here?" he asked, returning to the shelf where Jessica had found Tiger, Tiger.

"What's your definition of good?" she asked, making a point not to move toward him.

He pulled a book from the shelf: Renegade, by Elizabeth Charcoal. Showing it to Jessica, he said, "You'll love it. Trust me."

"You've read this?" Jessica had seen a magazine article about the author, though she hadn't had a chance to read the book. Elizabeth Charcoal claimed that she was a vampire, and that Renegade was actually her autobiography.

"I know the author," Alex answered matter-of-factly. "She gave me an autographed copy of the manuscript. Right after she tried to slit my throat, but why sweat the details? "

"Oh, really?" Jessica said skeptically.

He was either teasing her or trying to impress her.

He shrugged. "We got into an argument."

"Does this happen to you often? "

"Fairly frequently," he answered, his tone nonchalant. "Elizabeth and I don't like each other very much, but her book is...interesting. It's the kind of thing you'd like."

"How do you know what I like to read? "

"I can tell," he answered cryptically, and then he turned to the checkout. He paused so that she could catch up and walk beside him, not behind.

The woman at the counter looked at Alex with contempt and whispered something under her breath.

"Hasana, what a surprise." Alex greeted her coolly. He smiled malevolently. The woman glared at him, but he ignored it.

"You two know each other?" Jessica asked foolishly, seeing the angry sparks fly between them.

"Hasana is Caryn's mother," Alex offered, as if that explained everything. Jessica remembered Caryn's reaction that morning when she had first seen Alex, and wondered what had happened between him and this family.

"Watch out for this guy," Hasana warned, nodding toward Alex. "He probably knows more about you then your taste in books."

"And how could that be?" Jessica asked dryly.

"I can read your mind, and learn your secret fears and darkest desires," Alex answered.

Jessica paused, examining his expression. She had written those exact words, Aubrey's words, in Dark Flame, the novel that was presently waiting on her editor's desk. She couldn't remember whether she had used them in Tiger, Tiger.

"Do you always talk like that?" she asked, unnerved.

He looked at her challengingly as he said, "Don't you know?"

She just shook her head, alarmed but unwilling to show it.

As Alex paid for his book, Jessica realized that she was still holding Tiger, Tiger. She placed it on the counter, not intending to buy it; she had plenty of copies at home.

Alex's gaze drifted to the cover, and his expression leapt immediately from amusement to anger. He spun away and, without another word, stalked out of the store. Jessica was left staring after him, too shocked to react.

"If I were you, I'd just avoid him," Hasana advised.

"Why? Is he going to hurt me?" Jessica's sarcasm was sharpened by her confusion regarding Alex.

"Unless you keep away from him, he most likely will," Hasana answered seriously. "He has a temper."

Jessica was out of sharp remarks. To hide her discomfort, she picked up the copy of Tiger, Tiger and said, "I guess I'll put this away before it makes anyone else freak out."

"If you want it, just keep it," Hasana answered softly. "You are the author."

Jessica froze, dumbfounded.

"I'm sorry," Hasana said quickly. "I just--"

"How did you know? " Jessica interrupted, annoyed to learn that this woman had connected her to Ash Night. She had used a pen name to avoid recognition.

"I've read it, and I...recognized you as the author," Hasana fumbled. "You just have a look about you...

"What look?"

"Never mind," Hasana said, shaking her head. "Take the book and the advice, and ignore me."

She turned away, suddenly very busy with some papers, and Jessica left in a daze.

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