The Trouble with Destiny
Sarah McInnes just wants to be left alone to finish grad school, but fate has interfered with her carefully laid plans by saddling her with a troublesome destiny, whether or not she wants it.
Dorian is a take-no-prisoners kind of guy. For him, duty comes first…in fact, duty is all encompassing. So when he saves Sarah from the murderous hands of a daemon and discovers she has the innate ability to fight the evil beasts, he steps in and offers to train her.
All of the bad guys notwithstanding, Sarah’s destiny would be much easier to bear and her relationship with Dorian less complicated if he didn’t also happen to be the hottest thing this side of hell. Now, instead of spending her nights in the library studying, Sarah spends them trying to keep her city safe…and her mind on the job.
From the youthful age of eleven or twelve I planned on being an accountant when I grew up. I could even see myself doing something a tad more adventurous like pushing paper at a law firm. Modest, respectable dreams. Achievable. Safe. Right?
It probably seems like a very dull career choice for someone at such a young age, but I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and even more so over the last few months, and I know why the safe route was so appealing. I think I was on the right track.
You see, I was the kid who always found herself knee deep in the middle of every schoolyard fight and at the heart of every childhood prank. I must have subconsciously known that this predilection for trouble would only get more pronounced, and I thought I could head off that inbred propensity for danger by planning to become the most boring person imaginable—and that’s where the accounting degree was supposed to come in, although it also helped that I’d always been a whiz with numbers.
But facts are facts and let’s face it, trouble and I go way back, so it’s no wonder it came around to bite me in the ass when I least expected it.
Still, divine troublemaker or not, nowhere in all my childhood imaginings did I dream I would end up being Buffy the daemon slayer. Ah, yeah, that’s daemon, not vampire. No vampires in my neck of the woods. Thank God. Because, come to think of it, if there were, I’d probably be stuck hunting them down, too, and I’ve had enough on my plate lately dealing with the daemons—half-demon, half-hellhound beasts–that managed to come through the hell gate before it was shut down by my boss earlier this year.
And no, my name’s not really Buffy either. Thank goodness for small favors. It’s Sarah. Plain old Sarah, who should have been a plain old accountant. But fate can be a funny thing.
Okay, I’m leaning more toward lousy. Fate can be a damn lousy thing.
Take tonight for instance. It’s really not my night. Actually, night isn’t much my thing at the best of times. I tend to pass out around nine if given half a chance. Another reason why I really thought that accounting career was the way to go.
But since I came into—fell into—this fateful occupation three months ago, I’ve been forced to assume perma night owl status. I now spend my time from dusk to dawn prowling the darkest corners of Toronto, not in search of the next happening club—which is what I should be doing at the carefree age of twenty-three—but on the hunt for daemons.
I feel no bitterness about that. Really.
Have I mentioned yet that I’m a horrible liar?
I know the daemon story sounds ridiculous. I know, because that’s exactly what I thought when I was attacked by one of them on my way home from the library one creepy night and somehow woke the next day having been stuck with the job of killing them.
Yes, I’m still in school, although for how much longer I won’t hazard a guess. My grades are slipping faster than a couple of greased pigs in a freshly tilled field after a rainfall. University is tough enough without having to try and explain to your algebra professor that you miss his class every morning because you’ve been up all night slaying evil monsters. I doubt I’d get a lot of sympathy. Although, if it was an English class, I just might make an A for creative thinking.
But I digress. I do that a lot. I think it’s the nerves. When the only exciting thing in my life was the release of a new Marvel movie, I used to brag that I had nerves of steel.
Hah. I think I jinxed myself, tempted fate, and now see where it has led me? I looked down at myself, and my heavy sigh was ripe with disgust. Knee deep in a dumpster out behind the Lucky Dog Chinese restaurant on a Saturday night, that’s where.
I came here on a date once...back when I used to date. The Shanghai noodles aren’t that great and I’m not sure how lucky the dogs are, given the quality of the food, but whatever.
“Hell,” I muttered to myself, mainly because there was no one else to complain to and I’m pretty vocal by nature. Drove my brother batty when we were kids. My difficulty isn’t ever going to be that I bottle things up inside. Then again, I’ve got my fair share of other problems and annoying personality quirks, so I guess it pretty much comes out as a wash in the end.
“Why did I have to dust the bastard in a freakin’ dumpster?” My eyes went skyward as if to demand some sort of answer, but the only thing up there was a heavy layer of smog that did a great job of blocking out any potential for a celestially induced sign.
I’d been close on the heels of the Angel daemon—ironic name for a hell beast isn’t it? What can I say, I just kill ’em, I don’t name ’em—for six blocks before it darted into the alley by the Chinese joint and tried to hide from me in the dumpster. Fat chance.
Angels aren’t known for being real intelligent, and this idiot’s move was proof positive of that fact. Know thine enemy.It really should have done some homework on me before daring to step foot in my city, considering I’m one of the only people on earth that can kill it. At least then it would have known that it could maybe outrun me, maybe out-muscle me, but trying to hide from me is a pointless endeavor and a waste of my time. Since I don’t have a lot of time to waste, I tend to get cranky when that happens.
You see, I’ve got some serious daemon radar built deep into my brain. It’s lodged in there between the impeccable fashion sense and the troublesome smart mouth. Just don’t ask me how it works. I don’t quite know, and I’m positive I don’t want to. The good thing is that daemons don’t generally know this about me either, and so I have the advantage of being mistaken for your run-of-the-mill tasty human cheese doodle until it’s too late and they’ve already fallen beneath the sharpness of my blade.
Stepping up to the dumpster, I had pulled my trusty katana—I call her Betsy because every perfectly crafted, expertly balanced, and totally lethal weapon should have a girl’s name—jumped onto a slat board crate next to the metal bin and flung open the heavy lid with a squeal of its rusted hinges.
The nasty bugger hadn’t stood a chance.
“I could have waited until it lunged for my throat,” I started mumbling to myself some more. “At least then it would have jumped out of the garbage can.”
What does it matter, you ask? I swung my blade, and the beast obligingly poofed into fine ash all over me and the rotting leftovers. You’d think that should be more than enough to take care of business.
Well, it matters because unless I find the daemon’s heart—the only thing that’s left after I cut off their heads and they explode into dust—then do my woo woo magic trick of destiny thing, the beast will come back.
Yep, that’s why they call them the evil undead. It wouldn’t be the same if you could just shoot them once, nice and neat in the heart, or cut their ugly heads off and be done with it.
Which meant that tonight I was stuck here wading through the garbage until I found the blackened lump that passed for a heart with these guys, or I’d be forced to kill the beast all over again.
With a grimace I pushed aside a take-out carton spewing left-over kungpao, and amazingly my stomach started to rumble. Staring into the pile of waste, I seriously doubted I would want to eat anything for at least a week, but my belly was telling me differently. It was angry that I had skipped breakfast to try to make it to class, and then lunch to do some much-needed research at the library. I did manage to grab a muffin somewhere in between, but the sustenance from that was long gone, if there’d been any to begin with. It had been a chocolate chip muffin after all.
“Where is the damn thing?” Appropriately, the heart of a daemon is black and shriveled up like a malformed prune, making it even more difficult to find in the dark, buried in this disgusting mess.
I gave a hefty sigh of relief, and then, forgetting to breathe in through my mouth, gagged at the rank air I pulled into my nostrils. “Oh God that stinks. What the hell am I doing? I’ve really got to get a better job.” I wonder again, why me? Why had I been picked for this gig?
Have I mentioned I’m not quite diggin’ it?