Spells & DEMONS

Chapter 1


      “Hazel, I’m asking you,” says Damien, his voice hoarse. “No, I’m begging you. Please use the last wish to release Mei. Mr. Fookes will understand. He’d want you to save Mei if you could. It’s important, and not just because it’s Mei. We can’t leave the spell web in the hands of the director.” Damien looks feral, his hair standing on end, and his dark eyes wild. Next to him at the kitchen table at Mike’s house, Seth looks even worse. Both of them are intently focused on me.

      I take a breath, shifting anxiously in my seat, my heart breaking. The silence in the room is painful. I understand their desperation; I want Mei back as much as they do. And I don’t want the director to have control of the spell web, either.

      But should I do it at the expense of Mr. Fookes? A life for a life? Is that fair?

“My skin is hot and itchy, and I don’t know what to say. This is a decision that I won’t win, whichever way I choose.

      Everyone else in the crowded kitchen is staring, too. Carrick is standing just behind Damien, his craggy features set like stone. Zane is leaning against the doorframe, looking dark and dangerous as usual. Mike and Tracey are leaning against the counter side by side, arms crossed. Tracey’s eagle eyes are sharp, taking everything in.

      The weight of expectation is lying so heavily across my body, it’s like a physical blanket. And it’s not just covering me—it’s choking me. Next to me, Blade shifts, and his thigh touches mine. He’s the only one who understands how hard this is for me. I take another breath, trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do.

      Can I really leave Mr. Fookes inside the toaster? I gave him my word.

“But I can’t leave Mei at the mercy of the director, and I definitely can’t leave the spell web in his hands either. She’s been missing for three long days, and we have no clue where she is. They’ve searched everywhere. The only way we know she’s still alive is because the spell web is still in place.

      Fingers shaking, I pick up the tiny toaster that’s mostly been hanging around my neck on a gold chain for the last few weeks. It feels heavy and solid in my fingers, almost like it’s the weight of a real toaster, instead of a pendant.

      Damien clears his throat, and I glance up. He’s watching me with an intensity he seldom shares with the world. Usually he’s suave and a bit blasé—to the point of being rude. Right now, he’s staring at the toaster hungrily, like it’s going to answer all his problems. I glance away, not looking at anyone else. I can’t. I’m definitely not going to look at Seth. I can feel his heat burning into me, and that’s enough.

      In the last three days, Seth has become increasingly desperate. He’s on the edge, his phoenix self close to the surface at all times. Flames flash constantly in his eyes, and there’s a light around him that has nothing to do with whether it’s night or day.

      I scrunch up my eyes, wishing I was anywhere but here. For a crazy moment, I wonder if I could use my final wish on a request like that. I’d wish to be somewhere safe, and fun, where I could have chocolate chip cookies, and maybe a game or two to play. I’d take Blade with me, and we’d curl up on the sofa, ignoring the world.

“Except that’s worse. I’d be letting even more people down.

      I put my hand to my chest. It’s almost like I have the favor bond back again. My heart feels like it’s being ripped in two. The pressure is too much. Blade shifts again, and he puts one hand on my thigh, trying to calm me down. He understands. I’ve been keeping this wish, saving it for Mr. Fookes. The idea that I have to betray him, to use the last wish for someone else…

      It’s breaking my heart.

      It’s going to break his heart.

      But I have no choice.

      Mei is missing. It’s a desperate situation.

      Everyone is here, watching.


“My hand hesitates over the metal toaster. Maybe I should tell them I need more time? Just to make sure? I think of Damien’s face, and know he’s not going to wait patiently. No one in this room is going to wait patiently.

      My hand lowers to the toaster, and I cup it gently between my palms. Taking a deep breath, I rub the tiny toaster that holds Mr. Fookes, my genie. My brain is still whirring frantically.

      What am I going to wish for? My stomach churns and my little demon buzzes inside me. I think I’m going to throw up.

      Thick smoke fills the room, swirling majestically around the people crowded into Mike’s kitchen. I blink a few times, trying to stop my eyes watering. But it doesn’t smell like normal smoke. I take a sniff, and notice for the first time that it smells like waffles.

      Mr. Fookes’s favorite.

To one side of me, Tracey, who has clearly never seen anything like this before, is staring wide eyed. All eyes are focused on the toaster and the swirling smoke. Without thinking, I glance at Seth. He’s staring at the smoke and the toaster like it’s going to answer all his dreams, which I guess it is. He desperately wants Mei back. My stomach churns again. I want her back too.

      Mr. Fookes appears in a perfect swoosh of air, his genie charisma almost painful to experience. Perfect hair, perfect teeth, eyes that sparkle like he’s got a million diamonds hiding inside them.

      “Yes, master? You have a last wish for me?” he says, his soothing voice filling the room.

“I wince. I’ve never gotten used to him calling me that. It’s almost like he’s poking me with a sharp stick, reminding me of the balance of power in this relationship. He’s the all-powerful genie with the ability to grant me anything I want—but I’m the one who “controls him. I push my glasses up my nose, and let the tiny toaster drop back against my skin.

      I stare at him closely, but there’s no hint of emotion on his face, nothing to say that he’s angry I might be about to betray him. He’s hiding behind a smooth surface version of himself. I don’t know if it’s real, if this is all the emotion that a genie can have. Or if he’s burning, boiling, seething inside.

      I really miss my old friend Mr. Fookes, who was always a little bit disheveled, had stains down his front and a pot belly. He also had kind eyes and a sense of humor and protected everyone in our building no matter what. This strange genie version just isn’t him.

      “Yes.” My voice squeaks as I say the word, and I clear my throat. I put one hand down onto Blade’s, where it’s still lying on my thigh. My whole body is shaking.

Mr. Fookes bows his head regally. “I am yours to command,” he says.

      I take a breath. “My final wish is….” I clear my throat on the words. It’s like my throat has closed over, and it won’t let me speak the words. “My final wish is…” I clear my throat again.

      “Yes?” says Mr. Fookes impassively.

      “My final wish is… to free you, Mr. Fookes, from being a genie,” I say the words in a rush, unable to stop them coming out. I don’t look anywhere else except into Mr. Fookes’s eyes. In that moment, I can see on his face that he knew exactly what was going on. That he expected me to betray him. And he can’t quite believe that I didn’t.

      For a second, there’s silence. Mr. Fookes is hanging in the air, his dark eyes still focused on me. A shimmering light appears around him, getting brighter and brighter, making it harder to look directly at him. I blink, and suddenly everything erupts around me.

      Seth leaps out of his chair, snarling, flames lapping at his body. Damien is holding him back, but he’s also staring at me with an incredulous expression, like he knew exactly what was going on. That he expected me to betray him. And he can’t quite believe that I didn’t.

      For a second, there’s silence. Mr. Fookes is hanging in the air, his dark eyes still focused on me. A shimmering light appears around him, getting brighter and brighter, making it harder to look directly at him. I blink, and suddenly everything erupts around me.

      Seth leaps out of his chair, snarling, flames lapping at his body. Damien is holding him back, but he’s also staring at me with an incredulous expression, like he can’t believe what I just did. The others are all moving closer, looming in over me and Mr. Fookes. My throat closes up, and I’m struggling to breathe.

      “Take it back!” shouts Seth, flames licking his body.

      I jerk away from him, leaning into Blade. I can’t quite believe what I just did.

      “It’s not too late. You can take it back. You can still find Mei,” says Damien, even as he struggles to hold Seth in place.

      But it is too late.

      Mr. Fookes is changing. He’s losing his perfect sheen, and starting to seem more like the hairy, portly, tomato-sauce-splattered super I’ve known all this time. His eyes have gone from being emotionless to being filled with tears. He’s looking at me with an expression I can only describe as devotion.

Blade stands up, dragging me with him. Only a couple of yards away, Seth is changing, his expression full of a raging wildness I’ve never seen on his face before.

      “I don’t think he’s in control,” says Blade in a low voice. “He wasn’t expecting that.”

      “I wasn’t expecting it,” I say. I purse my lips for a second. “But I’m not sorry. I made a promise.”

      Seth is transforming into his phoenix shape, and I realize for the first time that he’s actually going to be a problem. He’s out of control, and if he’s going to attack anyone, it’ll be me.

I hold up my hands in an attempt to be placating. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t break my promise to Mr. Fookes. I’ll help find Mei. I won’t leave any rock unturned—”

      “We don’t need your help,” snarls Damien, his expression hard. “You’ve shown us which side you’re on.” His eyes are darker than I’ve ever seen them, and he has scales up one arm. Not for the first time, I wonder what his supernatural side is.

      “I didn’t—” I don’t get more than a couple of words out before Seth screeches and lunges for me.

      It’s only because Carrick and Damien are holding him securely, Damien barking orders into his ear, that Seth is prevented from leaping over the table and ripping me apart with his phoenix talons.

      I glance between Damien, Carrick, and Seth, but none of them are sympathetic to what I just did.  Are they right? Did I make the wrong decision? I’m struggling to breathe properly. Mr. Fookes steps closer to us, angling his body in between me and Seth. I’m not sure what he could do against a phoenix, but I appreciate the thought.

      “We need to get out of here, fast,” says Blade. He grabs my arm and pulls me around the other side of the table to Seth, toward the door. Mr. Fookes follows us. Seth screeches again, and the flames on his body rise higher. Damien swears and steps away, but Carrick keeps hold of Seth’s arm. The large Mountain super’s eyes—normally so gentle—are like granite when he stares at me across the kitchen.

      I swallow hard. No one in this room is taking my decision well.

      “I can’t believe you did that,” mutters Mike from just behind me, his eyes wide as he watches us go by. “I’m not a fan of Mei’s, but she’s being held by the Man in Black.” He glances uncertainly at Mr. Fookes, clearly wondering why I chose him over Mei.

      I blink yet again and shake my head, trying to get Mike’s words out of my head. The idea of what Lakas might do to Mei is something that will haunt me. Did I make the right decision? Will we really be able to find Mei without the help of a genie?

      I swallow down the bile that’s rising up my throat. I did what I had to do. What I promised I would do. Blade puts his arm around me as Seth screeches again behind me. This time, chairs are knocked over and the table scrapes along the floor as if it’s being pushed to one side.

      Zane is at the entrance to the kitchen, his whole body tensed. He gives Blade a long look, and then follows us outside.

      “We need a ride out of here,” says Blade to Zane.

      Zane glances back toward the house, nodding in agreement. “I’ve never seen him like that before,” he says. “He’s not in a control.”

      Seth screeches from the kitchen as if in agreement. The sound is painful, heartbroken, and angry all at once. I shudder from my position in Blade’s arms. Everything is starting to look a little blurry, and I’m realizing what I’ve just done. They were all so angry at me. I cost them a chance to find Mei. If she’s hurt, tortured, anything like that from now on, it’ll be my fault.

      Because of my decision.

      Zane throws off his clothes and transforms into his dragon shape, holding out one leg to help us climb. I keep checking behind me, to see if they’re going to follow me outside. Surely Damien isn’t really that angry at me? Surely Seth will see that I had to let Mr. Fookes out? But all I hear is the sound of Seth’s tormented screeches and furniture being knocked around the room.

      Blade grabs Zane’s clothes and then pushes me up onto Zane’s back, climbing on behind me. He leans down and helps Mr. Fookes scramble up behind him.

I see movement at the back door, and Seth emerges out into the garden, his body a flaming half-transformed phoenix shape. He lifts his head and screeches at us as Zane takes off, directly into the sunset. My heart is pounding in my chest. He’s going to chase us down and burn us all to a crisp because I didn’t save Mei with the final wish.

      Except… he’s only half transformed into his phoenix shape. He can’t fly. It’s like he can’t focus quite enough to make the full transition. Maybe he’s just too upset? I let out a rush of breath. At least he can’t chase us through the clouds, his burning flames licking at our skin.

      I close my eyes and lean back into Blade, my thoughts whirring inside my head. I don’t know why I chose to set Mr. Fookes free and make everyone else in that room hate me. I wish I hadn’t hurt Seth like that.

      All I know is, I can’t take it back now.

Excerpt From
Spells & Demons: Demon Hunter in Hiding Series, Book 5
Trudi Jaye
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