So, I've been completely at a loss as to what to share with you this week. There really isn't a lot to update you on. Yes, I'm editing, yes I'm writing, but there are no magic moment or amazing insights that I feel are worthy of sharing. So, instead, I thought I would offer another sneak preview of The Scourge of the Demon Hunters.

This is Chapter 2. I'm not going to tell you about it, but Content Warning. It does contain blood, death and some nakedness. Please remember it is a demon romance so it does also contain demons.

If you are ready then, here is:

Chapter 2 - The Bloody Mess

Cornelius scanned the gardens ahead of them as they left the shelter of the manor. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to happen. He was rarely wrong. His hand instinctively went to his jacket pocket, checking one of the many daggers he kept on his person. Patting it, he smiled and whispered, “It never hurts to be prepared.”

“What was that Cornelius?”

“Nothing my lord, just intoning to myself.”

Tobias rolled his eyes. “That is the first sign of madness, you know!”

“We are far beyond that, my young master.”

They continued in silence, Cornelius half a step behind Tobias. As always, he struggled to keep to the human’s much slower pace and shorter stride. Cornelius had a clear view over Tobias’ head. The boy had grown slowly in the past five years but was slight compared to many his age. Cornelius’ eyes darted around the grounds as they walked.  He was ill at ease, something was coming, but he couldn’t put his finger on it, and he did so like to have his fingers involved.

Rustling in the gnarled old oak trees that edged the estate’s large gardens caught his attention. Cornelius leapt in the direction of the swaying branches just as a figure appeared from the trees and collapsed to the ground. A second figure followed. Cornelius drew his dagger and moved closer. He saw the figure fall, clutching frantically at a knife that protruded from its neck. It collapsed to the ground as Cornelius reached it. It was male, human, and close to death. The metallic smell of the man’s blood overwhelmed his senses as it spurted from the wound. With no heart pumping, the spurt soon turned to a dribble and blood began to pool around the body, staining the grass as it congealed.

A rasping sound caught Cornelius’ attention. He moved cautiously over to the other body; his dagger still drawn. As he bent down, he could see that it was a young woman. Multiple wounds crisscrossed her chest, arms and face and blood slicked to her hair and clothes. Despite a gaping gash across her throat that exposed the sinews beneath the skin, she was breathing. It was shallow and ragged, but she was breathing none the less. No human could have survived such an onslaught.

Cornelius’s unease increased as he looked at the blood-soaked mess in front of him. He sheathed his dagger and tore the sleeve from his tailcoat. His eyes flickered across the woman’s face and body as he wrapped the sleeve firmly around her neck to stem the worst of the bleeding. There was something familiar about her, something else that he could not put his finger on. 

Tobias reached Cornelius as he scooped the female up into his arms.

“This one is still alive, my lord.”

“What happened?” Demanded Tobias.

“I don’t know; the other one was inconsiderate enough to die before I could ask.”

Tobias’s stone-like expression told Cornelius that his comment hadn’t been appreciated.

“The only way we will know is if this one lives,” Cornelius continued.

“Let’s get her back to the manor and call for the doctor.”

Cornelius set off for the house, moving as fast as he could without leaving the now running and panting Tobias behind. “While I am loathed to disagree with you, young master, I fear a doctor would be of little help in this case.”

Cornelius glanced back at the struggling Tobias. He could see the confusion on his face as he struggled to keep up with the butler’s much quicker pace and longer stride. Cornelius wanted to run, to use his natural speed to get the young woman to safety but his first responsibility was to his young master. If he moved any faster, he feared the boy’s damaged lungs might crumple and he could not risk leaving him alone with a potential threat still loose in the grounds.

As they reached the safety of the manor, Cornelius left Tobias to catch his breath while he took the unconscious form to one of the spare bedrooms. “Sadie, fetch fresh towels, water and dressings to the guest suite,” He shouted as he ascended the stairs.

He placed the young woman on the bed and began to assess the bundle of ripped flesh before him. He could make still make out a faint heartbeat. Cornelius slid his fingers across the top of her scalp, feeling for injuries under the matted hair. Satisfied that there were no traumatic injuries to her head he ran his fingers down her neck, feeling the edges of each of the vertebra that he could reach without turning her. His fingers tingled with every pass of her delicate skin. Staring at his fingers as if they held answers to the strange feeling, he thanked the fates that he had caused no injuries to her upper spine in his rush to carry her from the garden.

The door handle turned, “Mr Cornelius, I have the water and…”

Cornelius darted to the door, intercepting Sadie before she could enter the room. Her voice trailed off as her eyes flickered over Cornelius’ upper body and settled on the blood stains on the front of his shirt. Cornelius grasped the bundle and moved closer to her, blocking her view of the room behind him. His sudden step forward caused Sadie to blush and stumble backwards.

“Thank you, Sadie. That will be all.”

“Mr Cornelius, is the young master hurt?” She asked, her eyes still trained on his chest.

“No, we have an injured visitor. It is nothing for you to worry about. Please see to the young master downstairs and then go about your chores.” He turned and re-entered the room, closing the door behind him before she could reply. Cornelius shook his head as a loud thud outside the door signalled that the young maid had once again fallen over her own feet in her rush to complete his orders.  

Cornelius placed the towels, water and dressings on the bedside table and vigorously rubbed his temples. By all rights she should already be dead, no human could withstand such injuries. A demon would have begun to heal themselves and even an angelic being would be showing greater signs of life than she was currently showing. Lifting her head to remove the sleeve from around her neck, he breathed in her scent. It was not angelic, for which he thanked the fates. A shiver ran through him at the thought of unwittingly allowing such a creature this close to his master, even in this state. Her scent was unfamiliar, it did not belong to any nonhuman race that he was aware of; yet contained something he thought he should know.

He began to remove the shredded remains of her clothes. Blood continued to trickle from the ragged cut across her throat. White bone glinted through a slash to her chest, the surrounding deep red bruising suggesting that at least one of the ribs was also broken. Torn flesh on her right arm exposed twisted muscle and tissue that needed to be dealt with before the wound could be closed. As he worked carefully to remove material fibres from the wounds, his eyes strayed to the rest of her body.

Raised white scars criss-crossed her stomach and arms. Older, faded scars sat beneath fresher wounds. A low growl rose unbidden in his throat, a sudden need to punish those responsible shook Cornelius to the core. He refocused on cleaning the remaining fibres from the wounds, his mind betraying his intentions as his eyes darted to her full breasts and the curve of her hips. He admonished himself for his lack of control, his mind awash with thoughts that did not seem his own.       

Cornelius’ hands continued their work, instinct taking over from his clouded mind. He had just removed the last of the tattered material and started to clean her wounds when the door swung open. Tobias, still red and panting, appeared and turned a deeper shade of scarlet at the sight of the naked girl on the bed.

“What the hell, Cornelius, you can’t just, well, you…” Tobias struggled for breath.

“Please do not pass out young master, I have my hands quite full here.” Said Cornelius, briefly glimpsing at Tobias before continuing his work. “I am sorry master for the explicit sight, but I need to see the full extent of the damage if I am going to save her.”

“Hmm, I can never tell with you,” Tobias grunted, his eyes still firmly fixed on the young woman.

“I do not know what you mean, young master.” Cornelius grinned as he pressed a fresh dressing to the wound on the woman’s neck.

“What about Lord Grey’s daughter! What was your excuse, you were gathering valuable information?” Tobias walked around the side of the bed dragging his gaze away from the young woman just as Cornelius plucked a needle and thread from thin air.

“Yes, my lord, the difference being, that young lady consented freely to everything you saw and much more and was most definitely of age. If I remember correctly, the information was extremely valuable to you.” Cornelius looked up, realising that Tobias wasn’t listening and was fixated on the needle and thread.

Cornelius grinned and began fixing the torn muscle in the woman’s arm.

“I sometimes forget that you passed out long before I tended to your wounds that night my lord. One of my many gifts is the ability to create inanimate objects seemingly from nothing. It requires a great deal of energy and is, of course, much more complex than that, but the human brain has such difficulties with magical concepts.”

Cornelius’ grin widened at the darkening expression on his master’s face. He continued to work, stitching the worst of the wounds, his hands working so quickly that the movements were barely perceptible.

As Cornelius finished and covered the girl with a sheet, Tobias finally found his voice again. “What did you mean, a doctor would not help?”

“Young master, just one of those wounds was enough to kill a mere human, yet here she is, just a slip of a girl, and still warm and breathing.”

“Mere. Watch your tongue, demon, you are still the servant in this house.” Tobias commanded.

“Of course, young master.” Cornelius placed his hand over his heart and bowed. “I simply meant that physically speaking, a human would be dead from those injuries.”

“I don’t understand, are you saying she’s not human?”

“Not entirely, young master.”

“You are being deliberately cryptic again, Cornelius.”

“I will not know any more until she wakes; if she wakes.”

Cornelius’s mind was clouded, and he didn’t like it. There was something so familiar about the girl. Something that made him want to protect her, to keep her away from his master and the dangers his life or their contract held. But he could not place her or the reason why she provoked such feelings in him. Shaking his head, he brought himself back into the present. He needed to assess the danger all of this held to his young master.

 

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