CHAPTER 43

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"Wait. What?" I said. "How could it be empty?"

"The kids are below," Tom said. "Let's look for a door or stairs down."

"You can't sense any demons?" I asked.

He shook his head, his eyes scanning everything. "I only hear the children. Why would they leave them?"

"Scared of us? Or maybe we killed all his demons?" Briana said.

The open room had a long, black leather couch facing a wall filled with a stone-faced fireplace. A fan hung down from the vaulted ceiling, and desert landscape pictures decorated the walls. It looked lived-in for the most part, but who owned this? Smith?

Tom's dark eyes bore into me. "Doesn't feel right. Something's off."

"Well, of course it's off." Smith's voice came within earshot. His body soon came into focus as he rounded a corner from the kitchen. "He shelters our minds in this place, much like you shelter Dakota's."

"Jordan, get the kids," I said through my clenched teeth.

I ignited my hands, and a ball of electricity hovered just above my open palm. Its crackling static rattled in my ears. I cranked my arm back and threw it at Smith. He ducked around the corner. Plaster sprayed as the energy smashed the wall. I darted forward with another energy ball ready.

We passed a spiraling staircase leading to a second floor. My shoes squeaked against the marble floors. The scent of burning wood stung at my nostrils. I vowed the next smell would be Smith's burning flesh.

We turned the corner and stormed down the narrow hallway. Dark paintings cluttered the walls, making it seem tighter and smaller than it was. Light at the end of the hallway signified a new room. I slowed as we reached the end and squatted, then peeked around the corner. Smith stood in a massive kitchen flanked by two demons, hands pointed my direction.

Flames shot out from his palms. He knew I'd squat down, he'd taught me that himself. Damn.

I jumped back, taking Tom down with me. The front of my body flattened against Tom's as his back met the floor. He wove his arms around my waist and rolled, shielding me from the flames crackling through the wall and the wood splintering over me.

He pushed himself up and to his feet to face the demon who rounded the corner. He connected his glowing hands with the creature's neck and dust plumed.

I hopped up and peered around the shattered corner. Smith still stood in the center of the room arms to his side. What was he doing? The other demon lunged, and I zapped him into dust with a flick of my hand.

Damn my powers are wicked-strong right now.

"You are strong, Dakota, but you will never defeat him," Smith said.

"Who's this him, anyway?" I stood in the entryway, my hands pointed at my former mentor, my former leader. I scanned the area, and there were no more demons. Had we gotten them all?

Bright light spilled in through the tall, bay windows surrounding the half circle breakfast nook. Smith's tall frame cast a long shadow against the wall on the other side of the spacious kitchen as he stood in the center of the room, watching me.

What the hell was he doing?

Smith clasped his hands in front of him and smiled. Tom stepped around me and toward Smith, hand outreached. I hustled in front of him.

I want to touch his head. Maybe I can pull something from him.

I nodded, keeping my eyes on Smith's hands. No flames.

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