Page 26 of The Demon in Him

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The second difference was his age. He was fucking ancient, older than any other demon on Earth’s surface as far as I knew. Powerful, strong, and downright fuckingdangerous.

Exactly what I needed right now.

Earl couldn’t hold down steady work on Earth any more than he could hold down a relationship, and he flitted between the criminal factions, picking up work where he could and stealing when he wanted to. Previously, when I had worked under Emrick—a fallen angel who was brimming with self-righteousness and working toward taking over the city from the underground up—he’d told me Earl had survived for a long time without working by mooching off Frank, a demon who ran a successful architecture business at the rich-bitch end of town. Eventually, Frank had tired of Earl’s shit and cut him off, forcing Earl to get his funds elsewhere. He then worked for Emrick for a short while but couldn’t be trusted, and more than once, Emrick had tried to send folks Earl’s way in an attempt to have him killed.

Accidentally, of course.

Earl was loyal to no one and knew everyone. He was a valuable resource.

Which is why I was here.

He knew I was here too. No matter how quiet I was when I broke in through his kitchen window and made my way through the townhouse, Earl knew I was there. So as I stood behind his armchair, drumming my fingers on the old floral fabric, Earl sighed heavily before speaking, “If Emrick sent you here to kill me, and you fail, I can assure you I’ll make a formidable enemy.”

I chuckled as the dull blue light of the television played over both of us, casting our shadows into flickering caricatures, animating us into movements we weren’t making, our shadows dancing on the wall behind us. “He didn’t. I’m here because I want him dead, too, among other reasons.”

“Since you invited yourself into my home, you best explain what these other reasons are.”

“Nice place.” I smirked. “Who paid for it?”

It was Earl’s turn to chuckle, a slow and dark drawl that left the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Earl could be a powerful player in the crime world if he wanted to be, but leadership wasn’t his type of thing. He preferred to slink along underground, keeping out of sight of everyone he didn’t wish to encounter and slipping up only to take what he wanted. He was violent and strong, but only for a price.

“Emrick did,” he said, not taking his eyes off the television, not at all threatened by my presence behind him and not feeling as though he needed to turn around and protect himself. “Although he doesn’t know quite how much.”

“He wasn’t quite as on top of missing merchandise as he thought he was, right?”

The pause was heavy this time, not his usual lazy response. He was thinking. “No.” Earl chose his words carefully, and his long fingers gripped the arm of the chair. “Sometimes his merchandise was easy-picking.”

“Sometimes too easy, wouldn’t you say?” Earl simply hummed in response, and I imagined he knew where I was going with this. “Almost as though someone was feeding you information, hmm?”

I could hear the smile on the edge of his voice. “It was you then.”

“Yes.” One of the many seeds I’d planted while I had worked for Emrick. I was always planning on getting rid of him, and since my last attempt didn’t work as planned, I had backup now. Those who owed me because of help I’d given them over the years were now being gathered.

It had been years since someone had the guts to storm Emrick’s base—the club, Urban—but that was all going to change soon. People here had no loyalty. And demons? Even less so. All they needed was the promise of reward and bloodshed, drugs or money, and they were as pliable as pawns. The bottom-feeders who weren’t strong or skilled enough to be under Emrick’s direct employ were now under mine. Enough of them together could do a lot of damage. But really, the only one I needed to take down was Emrick. Once he fell, his empire would topple.

That is, of course, if there wasn’t someone like me to hold together the pieces. Then the business would be back in the Murphy family, in my hands, where it should have been all along. I had to give Emrick credit for expanding and solidifying the business as quickly and thoroughly as he did. But he was simply a tool to my end game.

Until Mike started a new bond.

I would bring Emrick down later, but getting the revenge I wanted on Mike? Two birds with one stone as it were. The opportunity was too sweet to pass up.

Earl was making noises again, as though he was constantly rolling his tongue around in his mouth, feeling out and choosing each word before he spoke. “What, pray tell, did Emrick do to piss you off?”

“Emrick took what was rightfully mine. The business, all of it, should have been mine and mine alone.” I sighed and recommenced drumming my fingers on the back of the chair. “I knew eventually I’d need certain beings on my side.”

Earl unfolded himself from the chair to stand and turned to face me. I didn’t flinch, although I would admit only to myself that it was a herculean effort not to. Earl’s head almost scraped the ceiling, and his arms, too long for his body, fell to his sides. My grip on the chair increased, and when he noticed the slight movement, he smirked, a lazy lift of his lips to reveal uneven teeth. When he reached up to rub his chin, his eyes flashed with anger, a hint of yellow as his smirk turned into a scowl.

“Don’t think for a moment you own me, child.” He hissed in that same slow tone but edged with a clear threat that permeated the air between us. “It was your choice to leak information to me so I could make some extra cash, I didn’t ask you, and therefore, I owe younothing.”I held his gaze, saying nothing as he continued, “And if you expect me to go afterEmrick, then my regular price just tripled.”

“You leave Emrick to me. Something else has come up that caught my interest. Unexpected, but gives me the chance for a bit of extra fun before I go to take my business back.”

“What?” The question was a challenge.

“I want you to bring my sister to me.”

Whatever Earl was expecting me to say, it wasn’t that. “Why do you need me?”

“She’s with a demon, and honestly, I just can’t be fucked dealing with that shit now. You can take her from under his nose with barely any effort.”