We have an exclusive excerpt for our readers from Death's Hand, the first book in the Descent series by S.M. Reine.
Death's Hand (Descent #1) by S.M. Reine
Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it-- until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn't stand to see one more dead body.
Now they've been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world's best killing teams.
After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed.
Some enemies aren't willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead...
Lucinde’s room was colder than the rest of the house. Heavy curtains cast the room in near-complete darkness, and a portable swamp cooler made the air chill and muggy. A white canopy bed blocked the back half of the darkened room.
There were multiple obstacles strewn across the floor: an overstuffed comforter, rose-colored pillows in varying sizes, and a toy chest. Possible hiding places included the closet and the shadowed area behind a pink trunk with princess costumes draped over the sides. No girl in sight.
Elise didn’t like the room’s poor visibility. It felt confined. Dangerous. “I’m going to open the window, Marisa.”
“She won't like it.”
She moved toward the window, hugging the wall, and stepped over a toy unicorn with blood caking the mane to its neck. Ears perked for any hint of motion, she jerked aside the first layer of curtains, then the second.
Light filled the room. Someone squealed.
Elise rounded the bed in time to see bare feet disappearing under the bed. “Lucinde?”
She dropped to her hands and knees and leaned her cheek close to the carpet. A pair of luminous eyes stared back at her. The girl under the bed looked nothing like Marisa. Her skin was dark, like her father's, and her flat nose was offset by his same expressive lips.
“Cold,” she hissed. “Cold!”
Elise's gaze traveled over her bared legs. Her knees were heavily bruised, purple and black and brown on the edges. The flesh on her shins looked like broiled strawberries. “Have you used force to restrain her?” Elise asked.
“She hurts herself,” Marisa said. “We can't stop her.”
“Colder!” Lucinde demanded again, sinking further into the corner as though she wanted to hide inside the wall. Elise glanced at the swamp cooler. Colder.
Lucinde tried to jerk away when she touched her foot, but Elise caught her ankle, pulling her foot into the light. A few remaining flakes of pink nail polish decorated her toenails under caked blood. One nail had been torn out. She released the child’s ankle, and withdrew again.
“How are you doing?” Elise asked. “Quomondo vales?”
Lucinde froze. Her eyes widened fractionally.
“Quomondo vales?” she repeated. “Loquerisne Latine? No? ¿Hablas inglés?”
“She speaks English,” Marisa said, offended.
Elise pulled the chains of her necklace over head and picked a bronze pendant from amongst the other charms. It caught the sun and scattered gold light on Lucinde’s forehead. The whites of her eyes were almost yellow, shot through with crimson veins, and a long, low hiss issued from between her lips.
“Crux sacra sit mihi lux,” Elise whispered. Lucinde recoiled, covering her face.
“What are you doing?” Augustin demanded.
Lucinde remained flat against the carpet, fingers spread through the dusty shag as though she feared being dragged away. She whimpered like a wounded dog.
She was so small. Elise was sure she had never been that small.
Elise leaned closer. “Can you speak?”
Marisa stepped forward. “Watch out—”
The girl's foot lashed out and the bedroom exploded into red stars. The pain struck a moment later like being struck in the jaw by a baseball bat.
She reeled, hand flying to her mouth. Lucinde scurried from beneath the mattress.
“Colder! Colder!” Her voice was shrill, piercing.
Lucinde's nails flashed. Elise raised her arm in defense—but the little girl stopped short, swiping the hand inches from Elise’s face. Lucinde’s wrist was roped to the corner of the bed.
Augustin hauled the exorcist to her feet, dragging her away from Lucinde. She shook his elbow free of his grip.
“We told you to be careful,” he said, voice rough. “She's not normal anymore.”
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