Yield the Night by Annette Marie


  She looked toward the kitchen, chewing her lip. The long strip of counter and appliances accommodated a lot of cupboards and drawers where plates and utensils might be hiding.

  “Hey.”

  She turned. A girl stood beside her, shoulders hunched, two plates in her hands.

  “Um ... do you want some food?”

  Piper tried not to look too surprised. “Uh—yeah, sure.”

  She accepted a plate and followed the girl to the counter. They served themselves in silence, dishing out noodles, tomato sauce, and salad, before taking a seat at the table. The girl glanced shyly at Piper, nervously fidgeting with a lock of blond hair, half-heartedly brushed at some point much earlier in the day. The casual look matched the sweats and t-shirt she wore. She hesitantly passed Piper a fork.

  “I saw you getting the tour,” she said so quietly Piper had to lean closer to hear her. “I figured you were new and wouldn’t ...”

  “You guessed right,” Piper said, putting on her cheerful face. “Thanks. I had no idea where to find the dishes.”

  The girl smiled, her round face relaxing. “I’m Kylee.”

  “I’m Piper.” She twirled some noodles around her fork then looked over and discovered Kylee staring at her.

  “You’re Ms. Santo’s daughter?” the girl asked.

  Piper managed not to cringe. “Yeah, that’s me.”

  “That’s cool. Ms. Santo has mentioned you a couple of times. She must be really happy that you’re here now. When did you arrive?”

  “Early this morning.”

  “Oh, so you just got here. I’ve been here for a month. I’m a newbie too.”

  “Why did you come here?”

  “My mom and stepdad kicked me out after I was expelled from school for blowing up a desk.”

  Piper snorted down a laugh and shoveled a forkful of pasta into her mouth. “Why did you blow up a desk?”

  “I didn’t mean to. My parents forbade me from ever using magic and I couldn’t control it. But my teacher was ... calling me names and I got so upset and it just ... happened.”

  Piper knew what being humiliated in front of peers felt like. “Are you happier here?”

  Kylee’s face lit up. “Oh yeah! Everyone here likes me. I start magic lessons with the next group in a week. I can’t wait.”

  “I bet that’ll be fun. So I’m guessing your biological dad ...?”

  Kylee frowned at her bowl. “He must have been a daemon, though my mom didn’t know it when she met him. She didn’t like talking about him.”

  “I’m sorry. You probably don’t like daemons much, huh?”

  “Definitely not. I’ve never met my dad. No one here knows their daemon parent. They make children but then abandon them. I don’t think that’s right. And they all do it. It’s pretty heartless.”

  Piper couldn’t argue there. She focused on her meal, her thoughts twisted with ideas and realities she’d never bothered to consider before. As she and Kylee ate, the room began to fill up. People glanced at her curiously, the newcomer, as they served themselves dinner or sat in the living area to catch up with friends. The lesson at the other end of the room concluded and the tired but happy students came to get drinks, talking excitedly about their progress.

  “Hey look,” Kylee said suddenly, her eyes lighting up. “The scouts are back.”

  Piper looked over at the entrance to the communal area. Four guys in black were striding across the room toward the kitchen.

  “Scouts?”

  “Yeah! Usually they’re just looking for runaways and stuff, but they’ve been working on a big project lately. I hope I’m good enough with magic to become a scout. I’d love to help rescue other haemons.”

  Big project, huh? Were any of the regular members aware of the Consulate attacks? These scouting guys had probably been out choosing Consulates for their demolition schedule. Piper almost returned to her plate for her last bite when one of the men caught her eye. Fury flooded through her, burning in her veins. Travis.

  “Piper.” He stopped beside her, sandy hair flattened from the ski mask he’d been wearing the night before while destroying her home, murdering her friend, and abducting her. The other three stopped behind him. “How do you like your new home?”

  Kylee shrank away from the cold hostility in his voice. Piper turned halfway toward him, propping one elbow casually on the table as she fought back her swirling anger. The spray of blood as Kindra fell kept replaying in her head.

  “Hey there, Travis. Finished with all the murder and mayhem for the day?”

  Kylee’s eyes went wide.

  Travis smirked. “It’s not murder when it’s daemons, Piper. I told you that last time.”

  “Yeah, I remember, along with how quick you were to pull the trigger on your own comrade. Was that not murder either?”

  He paled slightly but managed a cold snort in reply. The friendly chatterer from three months ago was long gone. Was she responsible for the change in him? She had a hard time believing her attack could have caused such a drastic transformation in him, from a naive and trusting young man to a callous killer.

  “I brought something for you,” he said, pulling a folded newspaper from under his arm. “Picked it up this morning and figured you’d enjoy it.”

  He shook it out and read loudly from the front page. “Griffiths Consulate Destroyed, Head Consul’s Daughter Presumed Dead.”

  Her mouth fell open. She snatched it from his unresisting hands and flipped it around. The headline blared from across the top. She skimmed the first few paragraphs. There was almost no info, just a reiteration of the previous attacks and the ongoing search for bodies. Westwood Academy had confirmed dropping her off last night and all evidence suggested she’d been inside when the explosions had gone off. There was no mention of Kindra’s body; the Gaians must have dumped it somewhere.

  The rest of the article was speculation about what the Consul Board of Directors would do next. The Head Consul hadn’t been available for comment. Piper dropped the paper on the table.

  Travis leaned down. “I thought you’d like to know that the whole world thinks you’re dead, which includes anyone you were hoping would come to your rescue.”

  She fought to keep her reaction off her face. Oh shit. Double shit. She hadn’t thought of that. How would her father and uncle know she was missing if they thought she was dead and buried under the Consulate’s rubble? Would Lyre think she was dead too? Who would look for her?

  “Piper,” Kylee whispered, “what does he mean by ‘rescue’? Don’t you want to be here?”

  “Piper needs some reeducation,” Travis said, his glare locked on Piper’s. “She’s a glam-girl and doesn’t have a clue what daemons are really like.”

  Piper’s hands clenched at the insult, a derogatory term for women with daemon fetishes. “You don’t have a clue. You’re just a little boy so terrified of monsters you shot your own friend to keep the scary daemon away from you.”

  He smirked and leaned in, getting right in her face. “And I’d do it again,” he hissed. “That murderous bitch got what she deserved—”

  She grabbed the back of his head and slammed his face into the table.

  He lurched back, spewing curses, blood running from his nose. She sprang to her feet, her surge of anger waning as quickly as her temper had snapped, but the image of Kindra falling still kept playing in her mind—the sound of the gunshot, the thud as she hit the ground.

  Travis wound up for a punch that would break her jaw. She slid aside, grabbed his other arm, and spun him around using his own momentum, making him stagger in the wrong direction. He reoriented and took another swing. She ducked under it, the breeze ruffling her hair, and saw his friend rushing her. Damn it.

  She danced away from the new guy’s punch. The others closed in. She sighed, struggling to control her anger. However many months of martial arts training these guys had, it was just enough to make them overconfident. Block the incoming punch, strike to the gut, ki
ck to the knee, and one went down. Rinse, repeat. When Travis came at her again, it took all her self-control not to break any bones as she put him on the ground.

  “Piper!”

  She looked up from the middle of a circle of moaning guys clutching their bruises. Her mother stood at the entrance to the space, mouth hanging open. Piper belatedly noticed the entire room was watching. Her two shadow Gaians hadn’t moved from their seats; the creepy one was smirking.

  “He wanted a fight,” she said loudly, pointing at Travis. She looked around at Kylee, who was possibly about to faint. “You saw, right?”

  Kylee gaped at her, not making a sound.

  Mona’s mouth thinned. “Come with me. Travis, report to your supervisor.”

  She shook her head and turned, striding away. Whispers erupted throughout the room, shocked voices quietly exclaiming. Piper glanced at Kylee and shrugged. The girl managed a weak smile. As Piper turned to leave, the two teens sitting nearby gave her grins and thumbs-up. She wondered who else didn’t much like Travis.

  Hurrying out of the room, Piper caught up with her mother in front of the elevator. She braced herself for a lecture but Mona merely frowned at her.

  “This community doesn’t tolerate senseless infighting. I expect you to show more respect.”

  “I am not a member of this—”

  The elevator dinged and the doors opened.

  “Don’t make any decisions yet,” Mona said. She suddenly smiled. “The Council is waiting for you.”

  CHAPTER 4

  THE ELEVATOR rattled as it ascended. Piper silently watched the floors tick by.

  Why didn’t Mona get it? Piper didn’t want to be part of her special community. Introducing her to a bunch of people and making her feel sorry for the poor abandoned haemon kids wouldn’t change that. She could list a lot of good reasons why she hated the Gaians, starting with her mother leaving the family when Piper was a kid and ending with the whole “hello, you kidnapped me” thing going on at this very moment.

  When the light for the twenty-fourth floor lit up, the elevator groaned to a halt and the doors creaked open. Oh, this had to be the executive level of the building. Two glass doors opened into a reception area with a curved desk of glossy mahogany. Mona led her straight through and down a wide hall. The door at the end opened before they reached it and an older man in a suit waved them in. A long conference table took up most of the room, with six people already seated around it, three men and three women.

  Her mother sat and the door-opening guy took his seat as well. That left the chair at the head of the table for Piper. She sat, eyeing the others warily. These were the leaders of the Gaians, the men and women responsible for the destruction of her home.

  “Welcome, Piper,” the nearest man said. His deep-set eyes were serious above a broad nose and full mouth. The dark skin of his bald head gleamed under the fluorescent lights. He was around thirty, maybe a little older. “I am Chairman Walter.”

  Piper gave him a cold look. “So should I thank you for attacking my Consulate last night and kidnapping me?”

  “It’s not like that, Piper—” Mona began anxiously.

  Walter held up a hand. “She has every right to be upset. From her perspective, we have not been allies of any kind.”

  That was an understatement. Piper folded her arms and waited, anxiety slowly churning in her stomach.

  “Piper, we want to change your perspective. In spite of recent events, we are your allies. We are the allies of every human and haemon. We want to make the world a better, safer place. With daemons here, spreading fear and corrupting our attempts to rebuild, our progress as a society has stalled.”

  He gestured toward the window at the back of the room. A downtown vista, though of what city she wasn’t sure, stretched out as far as she could see. From above, the impression was overwhelmingly drab and rundown.

  “Not since the Dark Ages has humanity gone so long with so little progress. Seventy years. What kind of progress could we make if we removed the outside threats from our world?”

  Piper pulled a disbelieving face. “You’re blaming daemons for our lack of progress since the war? Based on what?”

  “Cities. When have you ever heard of great innovations coming from tiny, isolated towns? We need people to live in the cities again but as long as daemons are here, they won’t.”

  “There are lots of people in cities.”

  “No. Statistically there are very few. Over seventy percent of the population resides in rural communities and towns with no more than 5,000 inhabitants.”

  Piper grimaced and swallowed her arguments. Might as well let him finish his spiel.

  “People are afraid of daemons. Too many are unwilling to work or live in cities where daemons reside. Remember, Piper, outside well-trained Consuls, people can’t recognize daemons. To a human, anyone could be a daemon waiting for a chance to prey on them.”

  “Daemons aren’t vampires,” she said shortly. “They don’t—”

  “They prey on humans more than you’d like to admit, but that is beside the point. Humans believe daemons are a threat to them—and they aren’t wrong—so they stay away. If we remove daemons from the cities, people will return. We can rebuild the infrastructure, improve the power grid, kick-start the economy. Innovation and progress will begin again. As people return to the cities and society begins to function, higher education will once more become possible. We can reverse this slide back into the middle ages where the common people are nothing but ignorant farmers.”

  That sounded all grand and everything, but she didn’t believe daemons were the root of the problem. She couldn’t say what the root was, but without hard facts, all she saw was a scapegoat.

  “That is our goal. We are not extremists out to destroy the daemon race. We simply want them to return to their worlds while we put ours back together. When things are stable again, we can work out fair and controlled ways for daemons to visit again.”

  “Let’s say you did get them all to leave, how would you control their visits? How would you even know they were here?” It wasn’t like policing a land border; daemons could drop in through ley lines anywhere on the planet.

  “Some of our brightest minds have developed new technologies to help identify ley line disturbances.” Walter smiled benevolently. “But I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with you. Because we don’t intend to bar daemons from Earth entirely—nor would that be feasible—we need to create a system to control the daemons who do come here. Such a system does not currently exist.”

  She frowned. “The Consulates—”

  “The Consulate system doesn’t work, Piper,” Walter interrupted. “You know this.”

  She flinched. She used to believe wholly in the Consulates. Daemons needed them for safe accommodations on Earth, and they needed the Consuls as fair ambassadors between them and the human government. But she’d since come to realize that the system only worked for weaker daemons. Powerful daemons didn’t need Consulates or the protection they offered. And the daemons that did need protection were often guilty of something illicit, even if it was unrelated to human laws.

  “The Consulate system was born thousands of years ago to shelter daemons coming to Earth,” Walter said. “It was never intended to control or police them. Seventy years ago, when daemons came out to the public, the Consulates were thrust into a position of authority without the power to fulfill their responsibilities. The world continues to change but the Consulates have not—or will not—evolve to keep pace.”

  Piper pressed her lips together. Her only goal for most of her life had been to become a Consul, and she had been far more concerned with that than whatever problems existed within the organization. She hadn’t been walking around with her eyes closed; she knew there were some issues, but she’d never thought of them as something serious enough to undermine the system’s effectiveness. She’d never considered the possibility that it was irredeemably flawed.

  “Co
nsulates and prefects need to be abolished,” Walter continued, “and replaced by a new system with the authority and ability to police daemons effectively.”

  Piper shook her head. “If there was an easy way to police daemons, the Consulates would already be doing it.”

  “Would they? The Consulates exist for the convenience of daemons, not the protection of humans. The new system would protect humans and haemons alike, and hold daemons accountable for their actions.”

  “And how are you planning to do that?”

  “Knowledge, technology, and magic.”

  She raised her eyebrows questioningly.

  “Knowledge of daemons—how and where they travel, the limits of their abilities, their weaknesses. Technology to empower us—the ability to track them, restrict their movements, and subdue them when necessary. And, of course, magic of our own to counter even the most powerful daemons.”

  Piper barely held back a derisive snort. No haemon could compare to a reaper or a draconian. Did Walter have any idea what he was talking about?

  “Piper,” he said, folding his hands on the table and leaning toward her. “Your experience, knowledge and training afford you the opportunity to be instrumental in the creation and leadership of this new system.”

  His words took a moment for her to process. She looked from face to face, waiting for someone to crack a smile or yell, “Gotcha!” Silence met her stare as they waited for her to absorb Walter’s words. She gave her head a sharp shake.

  “Me?”

  “Your familiarity with daemons and their natures, and your unique ability to meet them on equal ground—a talent many Consuls struggle with—are exceptional. You’re a natural leader, a natural fighter, and you possess an unquestioning sense of justice. You are uniquely qualified to influence the development of the system.”

  She looked from him to her mother and back again. “I just turned eighteen and you want me to help build your new super-Consul force?”

  “You would not be working alone. This isn’t something that would happen overnight. This will be an ongoing effort of years, not months.”

 
Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]