Home > The Gargoyle's Captive

The Gargoyle's Captive
Author: Katee Robert







“Let me out, you horned fucking monster!” I bang my fists on the door, but just like every other time, there’s no answer. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but I had no idea how difficult the damned demon was going to make it. I was under the impression that there was a time crunch, but he tossed me into this room as soon as he teleported me into the demon realm, and I haven’t seen him—or anyone else—in the three days since. Well, there was a very exciting moment where a demon with horns in the place of eyes tattooed a sigil onto my skin that allows me to understand all the languages spoken in the demon realm. Ramanu was a chatty one but cryptic enough to make me want to pull out my hair. I was sorry to see them go, though. No matter how aggravating I found them, being with him was still better than being alone.

No one has come to my room since.

I turn from the door with a curse. My hands ache, but it’s almost a relief because at least it’s something different. I’ve already explored every inch of the luxurious, well-appointed bedroom. The mattress is the kind that invites you to sleep for a solid eight hours and then some, but I’m too stressed to catch up on the rest that I’ve been missing.

I hope Mina is okay.

I’m sure if the rest of my family were still alive, they’d have some comments about me being friends with . . . whatever Mina is. Vampire, yes. But something else too. I’ve never seen anyone with an aura like hers.

Azazel better have held up his end of the bargain. I gave him seven years of my life, and he saved the three vampires Mina’s father took captive. I don’t know the other two, but if Ryland is alive and well, he’ll take care of Mina. That has to be enough.

For a monster hunter, lately I’ve been saving more of the so-called monsters than I’ve killed.

There’s no use thinking about that, though. There’s no use thinking of anything at all. I’m stuck, and yet I’m exactly where I want to be. I didn’t expect to be locked in a room and left alone for days on end, but I’m in the demon realm now.

The same place my mother disappeared to, all those years ago. I even made a deal with the same demon, though I expected it to be easier to snoop around for the answers I seek. Azazel certainly didn’t seem interested in offering them up when I first asked.

Time passes, but I can’t begin to guess how much. The sun rises and sets outside my window, and people move about their day, but surely there are more hours in a day here than back home. There must be, because time stretches like taffy while I’m stuck here. My meals seem to show up at regular intervals, but the fare, while delicious, is difficult to identify. Maybe demons don’t categorize their meals into breakfast, lunch, and dinner the same way so many humans do. Impossible to say.

I’m closer to answers than I’ve ever been, and yet finding them feels like an impossible task.

I can’t pick the lock. I gave up trying after the dozenth time I got it unlocked and then it locked again before I could turn the knob. There’s some magic at play, but this place is the equivalent of an enchanted castle, so of course there is.

I’m sitting on the bed, shredding one of the many dresses I found in the wardrobe, when the door opens and the demon himself appears.

Azazel is a big fucker. He’s got to be well over seven feet tall when one accounts for his horns, great curving black things that bring a bull to mind. His shoulders fill the doorway, and despite myself, a little shiver of fear works through me. Somewhere, some scholar of the Bible must have had an interaction with a bargainer demon like Azazel when they started crafting their depiction of the devil. His crimson skin is otherworldly, and while his face isn’t exactly unattractive by human standards, it is decidedly not human.

He crosses his arms over his massive chest and looks down at the mess I’ve made. “If you’re thinking of tying those together and scaling out a window, I’m going to disabuse you of the idea. Not only are we too far off the ground for you to make it down safely, but there are carnivorous winged creatures that hunt the skies in these parts.”

Truth be told, I don’t actually have a plan for the dress. It just helps to stay in motion. Not that I’m about to tell him that. “Considering that the deal I signed says I can’t come to harm, I’m surprised you let those creatures flock around your precious castle.”

“On the contrary, I find their presence incredibly useful. They keep the gargoyles, the incubi, and the succubi from getting any ideas. My people don’t generally fly, and so the skies are a potential weak point.”

I search his aura for a lie, but it’s only the deep yellow of amusement threaded with the deep forest green of pride that always seems to be there. He’s laughing at me. Bastard. I force myself not to drop the fabric. Instead, I tear another strip. “If I knew I was agreeing to such a boring seven years, I would’ve insisted on including some additional clauses in the contract.”

No use thinking about the contract now. It does, in fact, promise my safety and that I won’t be forced into doing anything that would cause me harm. It also has a clause that spells out exactly what would happen to any child I have here in the demon realm. That sure as shit isn’t going to happen, though.

Azazel steps into the room fully, and the door shuts behind him as if blown by a strong wind. I jump. He doesn’t. He just gives me a long look. “Tonight, there will be an auction. The leaders of the other four territories will come here, and each of them will choose one of my humans to be their companion for the next seven years. There will be a secondary contract in place that reinforces everything you already agreed to.”

I stare at him for several beats. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’re Grace Jaeger. I know what your family does, and I know what you’re capable of. So I’m going to be explicit with you, right here, right now. If you kill, maim, or otherwise harm a single being in the demon realm, your contract will be null and void. Should that happen, I will stick you out on the roof of my castle and allow the hunters in the sky to eat you at their leisure.”

My shiver of fear becomes a full-on tremor. “Do you normally threaten the humans you make bargains with?”

“No.” His expression gives nothing away. “Only the ones who come from a family whose reputation warns of the atrocities they’ve committed against nonhumans.”

The comment stings more because he’s not wrong. I may only go after monsters who have already harmed a human, but my grandparents? My great-grandparents? My great-great-grandparents? Add as many “greats” as you want—the further back in history we go, the less the Jaegers cared about what really made a monster. For them, it was less action and more bloodline. I read the journals. I know exactly how fucked up it was. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“All the same. I want there to be no misunderstanding between us. Too much is resting on the next seven years, and I won’t have anyone endangering my people.”

I bite back my instinctive response. He’s not technically being unfair, no matter how frustrating I find this conversation. “I won’t hurt anyone who doesn’t fuck with me first.” When Azazel just stares, I curse and clarify. “I won’t hurt anyone who doesn’t . . . hurt me first. That’s as good as it’s going to get.”

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