Demons of Good and Evil by Kim Harrison
Eden Park’s overlook was one of my earliest childhood memories, not in its sun-drenched glory of a summer afternoon filled with dogs and kids cutting loose, but in the dark as it was now, the rumble of Cincinnati’s lives muted under the moon’s haze, the lights from the distant buildings an inviting glow. Far below and behind me, the Ohio River glinted as if a living thing, a welcome separation between the city and the more . . . unique citizens in the Hollows. Fixed between and overlooking both, Eden Park felt like the middle, which was where I had always been, surrounded by all, never quite fully belonging to either.
My dad had come up here when his choices lay heavy on him, invariably when my mother was at her distracted worst. I’d long been convinced that he had known who and what I was, and lately . . . the thought had occurred that perhaps he had brought me here to sit beside a ley line much as the woodsman had taken his children to the forest, not to leave them to starve, but to find someone who might be able to raise them to their full potential, because to stay ignorant of what I was might be more dangerous still.
Which might sound vain or presumptuous if I wasn’t now sitting on that same park bench, staring at a ley line, a demon beside me instead of the man who had raised me as his own.
“My synapses are singed,” I complained, and Al’s expression became rife with annoyance.
“If you get caught in a circle by some wannabe magic user and can’t jump out, it will be more than your head hurting,” the demon said, hitting his affected, proper-British accent hard. “You’re making us look bad. You are a demon. You should have at least one ley line memorized with which to jump to. That you have to stand within a line and translocate to get to the ever-after is embarrassing.”
True, I was a demon, and as Al was fond of pointing out, it wasn’t hard to make me vulnerable if you knew how. Just my luck that there was an entire university major devoted to it. “Yeah?” I said sourly. “Singeing my synapses to char isn’t going to help.”
Al’s wide shoulders shifted in an unheard sigh. It was an unseasonably warm October night, and he had forgone his usual crushed green velvet frock coat for a lightweight and decidedly Victorian-feel vest. His high-top hat was gone as well, and the lace. But a new, silver-tipped walking cane rested against his knee—possibly holding a spell or two—and a pair of blue-tinted glasses he didn’t need hung low on his nose. Seeing him eye my jeans and boots over them, I wondered if he felt he’d fallen to a new low despite his still-overdone appearance.
His mood, too, was off, being an uncomfortable mix of forced cheerfulness and dejection. I was fairly sure it wasn’t my lack of progress. Honestly, the reason the demons had created gargoyles was that they couldn’t master transposing, or jumping, the ley lines on their own. Gargoyles could “hear” the lines as easily as reading a book and, once bonded to a demon, could show them how to shift their aura to join with the ley line and pop out wherever they wanted, either here in reality or in the ever-after. But until I managed it, the only way I could get to the ever-after was by standing in a line and translocating myself there.
“The ley line is right there,” Al grumped, looking at it on the other side of the small footbridge. “You can see it. You can hear it. Adjust your aura to match it—”
“And become a part of it, shifting my body to nothing but energy within its flow. Yeah, that’s not the part I’m having trouble with,” I smart-mouthed, and he mockingly gestured for me to get on with it. Losing myself in a ley line wasn’t anything new, but trying to jump into it from halfway across a park was. I’d tried three times tonight already, failing miserably.
Frustrated, I sent my attention to Bis. The adolescent, cat-size gargoyle had perched himself in a nearby tree, on standby to snag me out of the line if I should somehow manage the jump and get myself stuck. Al’s far older and larger gargoyle, Treble, had settled herself on a nearby streetlight as a secondary spotter. The craggy, hut-size beast appeared too large to be supported by the thin pole, but gargoyles, for all their stony looks, were relatively light.
Bis had bonded to me over a year ago, which basically meant he could teach me how to shift my aura to match any ley line on the planet. After a hundred years or so of gargoyle-aided practice, I’d be able to not only jump into a ley line from anywhere but jump out again at any location I wanted by using three or more ley lines to triangulate.
Unfortunately Bis and I had lost our instinctive connection when his soul had been stuck in a bottle. The first hints of our mental linkage were beginning to show, but until he could pass through my protection circle with impunity, the best I could do was learn the lines by rote. Trial and error. Which hurt and singed my synapses when I got it wrong.
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