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The Demon Kiss

The Demon Kiss

Rite World: Blackthorn Hunters Academy 1

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The first book in a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance set in the RITE WORLD! 

  

A young woman with a secret heritage. A man who made a deal with the devil. And an academy where the students are just as dangerous as the demons …

Erin
I’ve been kept from the truth all my life. Demons walk the earth, and I’m destined to slay them—I only wish I hadn’t lost someone I loved while discovering that truth. Now the demons are after me. The only way to stay alive is to attend an academy for demon hunters—a school where I’ll learn how to kill supernaturals and slay the underworld’s minions. But I still feel there are secrets I’m not being told …

Rey
I sold my soul to save my family—and lost everything because of it. Now I’m a slave to the underworld, a fake hunter with half-demon blood. I’ve been sent on a special assassination mission. If I fail, it means my life. But protecting Erin soon becomes more important than any other task, and there’s something about her that tells me her arrival at the academy will change everything …

An upper young adult paranormal romance novel set in the universe of the Rite World, this is a dark fantasy you won’t want to miss! Forge your weapons and cast spells in a school where demons are hunted and the hunters themselves become prey.

Blackthorn Hunters Academy (series complete!)
Book 1: The Demon Kiss
Book 2: The Hunter Secret
Book 3: The Soul Bond
Book 4: The Shadow Trials
Book 5: The Infernal Curse

 

★★★★★ "I love this book! Sweet baby demons I was surprised how much I was sucked in. In a world Erin knew nothing about, her character is outstanding and Rey is a wicked badass!" -- Amazon reviewer

★★★★★ "Demons, Hunters, Werewolves and Zombies... oh my!! This was a very twistly plotted series starter! [...] If you like academy books with a unique twist and a fresh take on paranormal creatures, this is sure to entertain you." -- Amazon reviewer

★★★★★ "Unique and interesting! I loved the concept and the twist and turns throughout the story." -- Goodreads reviewer


 

Main Tropes

  • Academy Setting
  • Enemies-to-Lovers
  • Forced Proximity
  • Soulmates
  • Forbidden Love
  • Secret Society
  • Found Family/Band of Friends
  • Chosen One
  • Cameos from Rite World Characters

Chapter One

Chapter One

The ride to the haunted house was quiet. 

Well, on my part. Mike drove his fancy Mercedes, with Karla in the passenger seat, and Noah and Alisha in the back with me. In the twenty minutes it took to drive from Spring Hill to the base of the mountain, they didn’t stop talking about their college plans, all the parties they would go to, all the fun they would have, and all the studying they would avoid.

I kept my eyes trained on the darkening sky, across the Colorado mountains, wondering what the hell I was doing. Seriously, what had gotten into me? It wasn’t like me to do something crazy like this.

But now that I was here, I couldn't chicken out. I would go through with this ridiculous game, get my money, and go home fifteen hundred dollars richer.

When Mike turned onto a dirt-packed road, I knew we were close. I fished my phone from the pocket of my blouse and texted my aunt.

Me: I’ll be late tonight.

A moment later, my phone vibrated.

Aunt Paula: Why? Is everything okay?

Of course, she would think something was wrong. I had no friends and never did anything other than staying home and checking on her at work. I had never stayed out late, except for when I was craving ice cream from the food truck that sometimes stayed open past midnight near the main square during the summer.

Me: Yeah. Everything is fine. See you later.

Aunt Paula: Later.

I was sure that, by now, my aunt had come up with fifteen ridiculous scenarios, trying to figure out why I was suddenly out. Like the hidden college applications in my bedroom, she would kill me if she found out where I was going and with whom.

When I was little, I had a phase when I couldn’t sleep at night. I thought there was a monster living in my closet. My aunt had been adamant that such things didn’t exist. When I watched horror movies and became afraid, she would yell at me, saying it was all make believe.

Ghosts and any kinds of supernaturals didn’t exist, she always said.

It took me a while, but I became convinced she was right by the time I was a teenager.

As for the group I was currently with, my aunt didn’t like them much. She had had some heated arguments with Karla’s mother and with Noah’s older brother. She always complained the rich people of Spring Hill didn’t know how to spend their money and wasted it on useless stuff. She thought they were vain, selfish, and arrogant.

I thought so too.

A moment later, Mike stopped the car at the end of the road. He pointed to a faded wooden sign nailed to a large tree trunk. “The house is supposedly that way.”

We hopped out of the car and trekked toward the house, using the lantern function on our phones to illuminate the way. I went ahead, avoiding talking to them. Not that they would talk to me, not when they were whispering about me behind my back.

“She’s crazy.”

“Is she that desperate for money?”

“I heard her aunt is crazy. I think she is too.”

“Did you know she’s not going to college? She’s going to stay in this hellhole. I almost pity her.”

I sped up, trying to put some distance between them and me, so I didn’t have to listen to their mean words. One thing my aunt had drilled into me was respect. Even when you didn’t particularly like someone or have anything in common with them, you showed them respect.

I guess their parents hadn’t taught them that.

Blinded by my rage and stupidity—seriously, why the hell had I volunteered to do this?—I only saw the house once I was practically at its doorstep. My stomach dropped as I lifted my head and took it in. The house was three stories tall, with a round turret on the right, a wraparound porch, and a balcony on the second floor. The wooden walls were rotten, the windows and doors broken, the roof either missing or caved in, and the grass around it overgrown.

As if teasing me, a chilly breeze brushed past me, sending a shiver down my spine.

“Now, that is one haunted house,” Noah said from right behind me.

“You could say that again,” Karla muttered.

Mike walked to me. “All right, Erin. See here?” He flashed the money in front of my face. “Fifteen hundred dollars. It’ll all be yours if you stay inside the house for an hour.”

Shit. So much for easy money.

I looked at each of them. They had gone to high school like normal kids, and now they all would be leaving our shitty town to go to college and pursue their dreams. They all also had way more money than me.

A part of me resented them for having more opportunities at their feet.

Another part of me was disgusted that I had come so low.

Too late to back up now.

“Just sit tight,” I said, forcing my voice to sound normal, even. “See you in an hour.”

Holding my breath, I walked forward. I forced my feet to keep moving at a steady pace, even when I stepped onto the porch and it creaked beneath my feet. Even when I pushed open the front door and almost fell back. Even when I entered the house and the light from my phone didn’t seem like enough.

I halted in the foyer, trying to find my bearings before picking a spot to sit down and wait. Wide, curving stairs hugged the wall on the other side of the broken chandelier lying in the middle of the foyer, and an archway opened underneath the stairs.

“Go farther inside!” Mike yelled from outside.

Groaning, I closed my eyes for a moment and thought about the money. Money. Money. Money. It was the only reason I was doing this, right?

It had been stupid, really. I had been alone at the town square, contemplating how I would go home and show my aunt the stack of college applications I had gathered. Although I had been homeschooled all my life, I knew all the kids and teenagers in town. When Mike and his gang walked past me, talking about their bright futures and the many colleges that had accepted them, I felt angry. Jealous. Why could they go, and I couldn’t? Because we didn’t have money? Because I would have to move away? Those didn’t seem like plausible excuses, even if my aunt was a freaking general and expected me to obey her every wish.

I had thought about running away several times, to live my own life and go to college and do whatever pleased me, but I knew my aunt would just go after me and either drag me back or come with me. To her, I would always be a little girl.

Then, these dumbasses had to talk about a dare. When Mike kept raising the bid for whoever went in the haunted house and none of them manned up, I volunteered.

I guess the biggest dumbass here was me.

Inhaling deeply, I opened my eyes and walked beyond the foyer.

I crossed under the archway and found myself in a living room. Spiderwebs dangled from the high ceiling, and a few furniture items were covered by white sheets and dust. I put a hand over my nose, trying to cover the moldy scent emanating from the house, and breathed through my mouth.

To my left, double doors, mostly off their hinges, opened to another room with built-in shelves that extended to the ceiling. It probably was a library once. To my right was another large room, which resembled a dining room, and beyond it the kitchen. The cabinet doors twisted on their hinges, and the appliances were missing, but it was easy to see this house was old—probably from a time when refrigerators hadn’t been invented yet.

Despite the look and odor, this place wasn’t bad. We all had heard about the haunted house just outside Spring Hill. I just never thought much about it. Who knew it wasn’t haunted at all, just old and uncared for?

Still, being alone in this house made me uneasy.

I went back to the living room and looked around, trying to find a spot without a lot of dust so I could sit down. Something shiny flashed to my right. I looked in its direction. There was something underneath the couch.

But I wasn’t here to find things. All I needed to do was sit down and wait. But as I turned my back, the shiny object underneath the couch seemed to shine brighter.

“What the hell …?”

Curious, I crouched down beside the sheet-covered couch and reached for the item. I picked it up and stood, my eyes on the strange item. It was a gold chain, with a pendant—thin metal twisted around a deep red stone. In my hand, it didn’t seem to shine as much, but it was still pretty.

Very, very pretty.

I glanced around the house. This necklace might have been here for years. If I took it, nobody would notice, right? I shook my head. What the hell was I thinking? Even if this jewelry was beautiful and expensive and ownerless, I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t right.

Yet, I didn’t want to drop it.

I couldn’t.

I put my phone down on the couch’s armrest, opened the chain, and hooked it around my neck.

An electric jolt coursed through me, making me gasp and almost driving me to my knees.

What the hell was that?

I reached for the chain’s clasp, eager to take off the necklace, but I couldn’t. The clasp wouldn’t open. Seriously? I didn’t want this damn necklace. I tugged on it, hoping it was so old that the chain would snap, but I only ended up cutting the skin on the back of my neck.

A moment later, a scream pierced the quiet.

My blood chilled.

“Erin, get out!” someone yelled from the outside.

I ran to the foyer, but the door shut in my face. Panic started in my stomach and spread as I grabbed the knob and tried to open the freaking door, to no avail.

“This is not funny!” I banged on the door. “Let me out!” Another scream echoed from outside, then it all went quiet. “Guys? You’re there, right? Open the door!”

Nobody answered.

I leaned my back against the locked door and inhaled deeply, trying to calm my nerves and think. This was a mean prank. Mike and the others had planned all of this from the beginning, I was sure. Why, I had no idea. I had never done anything to them. Regardless, they were having way too much fun at my expense. Screaming and locking the door to scare me? That was a low blow.

I would climb out a broken window and kick their damn asses from here to hell.

My heart beating so fast that it hurt, I ran back to the living room, past the couches, and to one of the French doors in the back.

I was a few feet from it when dark shadows appeared behind the glass doors.

My knees trembled.

The waist-high, gray-skinned monster hopped into the living room. They bared their pointy teeth and stared at me with their yellow cat-like eyes, as they dragged their large feet toward me.

“Stay back!” I cried, retreating a few steps.

But I halted, as soon as I realized there were more of them—coming from the kitchen, the library, the balcony from upstairs, the foyer … They had me surrounded.

I put my fingers to my temple and closed my eyes.

“This isn’t real. This isn’t real,” I repeated to myself.

But when I opened my eyes, the little monsters were even closer.

“Give it to us,” one of them said, his voice chilling, his words slurring.

Give what?

The necklace. I reached for it, but it wouldn’t open. It was stuck around my neck.

“I can’t—”

One of the little monsters jumped over me, his hands clawing at the pendant. Screaming, I fell on my butt. I tried pushing the monster back, but another one pulled my hair, while another tugged at my blouse, and another grabbed my shoe.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. This couldn’t be real. 

I screamed. I swatted my arms and kicked my feet, trying to get rid of them.

It couldn’t be real. Monsters and ghosts didn’t exist.

A little creature tugged on the necklace, hurting my neck. I screamed, thinking he would decapitate me if he tugged any harder. I lifted my arm, pushing the monster back, but not before it scratched my forearm with its long, clawlike fingers.

Another one snatched the necklace and pulled harder. The chain broke, hurting me, scratching my skin. The little creature cradled the necklace, then dashed away. But the others advanced on me.

“Erin!”

My breath caught.

I knew that voice.

“Aunt Paula! I’m here,” I yelled. I looked up at the second-floor landing.

My aunt stood on the ledge, where the rail had been broken and was now missing, her hair pulled up into a ponytail, wearing dark leather clothing and holding a sword with a dark blade.

She jumped over the balcony, landing effortlessly a few feet from me. With a murderous glint in her hazel eyes, she swung her sword wide, cutting through three of the little monsters.

Their bodies fell on the ground right beside me.

Then, the other monsters jumped on her.

I stared in awe as Aunt Paula moved like a ninja. She spun out of reach, stabbed and slashed, as if she had been fighting all her life. The awe turned into wariness. Who was she? How did she know how to fight like that? Why didn’t she ever tell me?

Aunt Paula lifted her sword above her head. A dark glow emanated from the blade and the remaining little monsters cowered. She turned to me and grabbed my hand. “Listen to me,” she said, her eyes wide, her voice absolute. “You have to run. Get out of here and run. Go back to our house and stay there.”

“W-what?” I held her hand. “What about you?”

“I’ll stop them, then I’ll join you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t like this.”

She offered me a forced smile. “It’s okay. I’ll be okay.” She freed herself from me. “Now go.”

I didn’t want to leave her alone in this damned house, but she seemed to know what she was doing. I nodded, then turned to run back into the foyer. I took two steps before I skidded to a halt.

A bigger, wider shadow fell in my way.

A monster at least five times the height of the little ones stepped forward. Dressed all in black and with fair skin and black hair, the monster looked almost human. Almost. His eyes were all black, his ears were pointy, his teeth were razor-sharp. A low growl came from his throat. Fear paralyzed me. I tried moving, running, screaming, but found myself frozen.

The monster lifted his big, lean, sharp hand.

“Erin, no!”

My aunt pushed me out of the way.

The monster dropped his claws.

My aunt’s body fell to the floor.

What is the RITE WORLD?

The RITE WORLD is a "universe" Juliana created -- it's our own world, in modern times, but with a large, hidden, supernatural society.

Many of Juliana's series are set in this "universe," and have many cameos.

Think like Marvel, where many of the superheroes have their own movie series, but you see cameos all the time. Same for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals--it's all the same world, the same "universe," but the stories happened separately, with cameos here and there.

If you love when the side characters you were rooting for get their own stories, then the RITE WORLD is perfect for you!

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