Class is in, but Evangeline Hollis is struggling to get through the requisite training to be a full-fledged Mark. When her class goes on a field trip to an abandoned military base, passing the course isn't just a matter of pride...it's a matter of life and death. There's a demon hidden among them, killing off Eve's classmates one by one.
In Eve of Destruction, as the body count mounts, a ragtag team of cable TV ghost hunters unwittingly stumbles into the carnage. Now keeping the Mark system secret competes with the need to keep the "paranormal researchers" alive. With Cain on assignment and Abel on an investigation, Eve must fly solo on her hunt to stop a killer before he strikes again.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
SYLVIA DAY's resume includes a variety of odd jobs ranging from amusement park employee to POW interrogator. She's presently a full-time writer. A native Southern Californian, S.J. thinks there's no place like home, but she loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her to Japan, Holland, Germany, France, Mexico, Jamaica, and all over the United States.
Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than 40 countries, including (under the pen name S. J. Day) The Marked Trilogy. Day is a #1 bestselling author in 28 countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Her Crossfire series has been optioned for television by Lionsgate. She has won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award and been nominated for Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award twice.
S.J. DAY's resume includes a variety of odd jobs ranging from amusement park employee to POW interrogator. She is presently a full-time writer whose award-winning and international bestselling books include The Marked Trilogy and, under the pen name Sylvia Day, the Crossfire series; paranormal, historical, and futuristic fiction; and several nonfiction books.
Read an Excerpt
Eve of Destruction
By Sylvia Day, S.J. Day
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 Sylvia Day writing as S.J. Day
All rights reserved.
Evangeline Hollis woke to the scents of Hell — fire and brimstone, smoke and ashes.
Her nostrils flared in protest. She lay on her back, unmoving, willing her brain to catch up with her circumstances. Licking her lips, she tasted death, the bitterness coating both her tongue and mouth in a thick, immovable wash. Her muscles shifted in an attempt to stretch and a groan escaped her.
What the hell? The last thing she remembered was ...
... being burnt to a crisp by a dragon.
Panic assailed her with the memory, quickly followed by her mind lurching into full awareness. Eve jackknifed up from her sprawled position, sucking in air with such force it was audible. She blinked, but only inky darkness filled her vision. Her hand reached up to her arm and her fingertips found the raised brand there. The Mark of Cain — a triquetra surrounded by a circlet of three serpents, each one eating the tail of the snake before it. The eye of God filled the center.
The mark burned whenever she took the Lord's name in vain — which was often — and whenever she lied, which was less often but useful on occasion. When dealing with Satan's minions, playing dirty leveled the playing field.
Where the fuck am I? In her upright position, the smoky stench in the air was magnified. Her nose wrinkled.
Maybe I'm in Hell? As a longtime agnostic, she still struggled with facing the reality of God. Heaven, Hell, souls ... They were concepts that couldn't be explained with reason.
Besides, if there was a merciful God and a Heaven, she'd be there. She had only been cursed with the Mark of Cain for six weeks and she hadn't yet been properly trained in how to kill Infernals, but during that short time she had eradicated a tengu infestation, killed a Nix, and managed to vanquish a dragon. She'd also helped put a lid on a major new threat to the good guys — a concoction of some sort that allowed Infernals to temporarily hide in the guise of mere mortals. And she'd managed to get Cain and Abel to work together for the first time since they were kids.
If all that wasn't enough to save her soul, she would take her chances with the Devil. Maybe he'd have a better sense of fair play.
As Eve's mind struggled to catch up with her present, the sound of singing penetrated the fog of her thoughts. She couldn't understand a word, but it was familiar all the same. The language was Japanese; the voice, her mother's.
The idea of sharing Hell with her mother was oddly both comforting and chilling.
Eve's hands clenched tentatively, testing the soft surface beneath her, attempting to discern where she was. She felt satin, like the sheets on her bed. A cool breeze touched her brow and Eve's vision exploded into living color. She jerked violently in surprise.
She was in her bedroom, sitting atop her king-size bed. As if her senses had been muted, the steady crashing of waves against the Huntington Beach shoreline increased in volume. The soothing rhythm drifted down the hall from her living room balcony and brought welcome relief.
Home. As her tension dissipated, Eve's shoulders relaxed. Then, a brief glimmer in the periphery of her vision made her turn her head.
Lifting her arms to shield her eyes from the blinding light, she barely made out the silhouette of a winged man standing in the corner between her bleached pine closet doors and her dresser. Eve blinked back an unusually thick wash of tears. She risked another glance at the angel and found that, once again, her mark enhancements knew what to do even when she didn't. Her arms lowered. She could see him now without damage to her vision.
The angel was tall, with brawny arms and legs displayed by a knee-length, sleeveless robelike garment. The gown was white and belted with a tan braid. The black combat boots with wicked spikes running up and down the outside were a surprise, as was the impossible perfection of his features. His jaw was square and bold, his hair dark and restrained in a queue at his nape. His irises shimmered like blue flame, and he had an air about him that warned her to keep on his good side.
His gaze lowered to her chest. Hers followed. She was nude.
"Yikes!" Grabbing the top sheet, Eve yanked it up to her neck.
Miyoko Hollis appeared in the doorway, buried in an armful of laundry.
"Hey, you're awake," her mother called out, her voice flavored with a Japanese accent.
"I guess so." Eve was so happy to see her mom, her eyes burned. "It's good to see you."
"Eh, you say that now." Striding toward the bed with the brisk stride of a retired nurse, Miyoko was a compact whirlwind of energy, a tornado that often left Eve feeling exhausted. "You didn't move a muscle for a while. I nearly thought you were dead."
Eve had been dead, that was the problem. "What day is it?"
Another noxious breeze assaulted her nostrils and Eve waved a hand in front of her face. Her gaze found the source on her dresser — an incense stick.
"Whatever fragrance that is," Eve muttered, inwardly reeling that she had lost two days of her life, "it stinks."
Miyoko moved to the end of the bed and dumped the still-warm pile of clothes onto the comforter. She wore Hello Kitty pajamas — pink flannel pants and a T-shirt that had a giant Hello Kitty face on the front. With her black hair in pigtails and her unlined face, she looked more like Eve's sibling than a parent. She also acted as if she owned the place, which she didn't. Darrel and Miyoko Hollis lived in Anaheim — home of Disneyland, California Adventure, and Eve's childhood. Still, whenever her mother visited, Eve found herself fighting for her place as alpha female in her own house.
Eve watched her mother walk right past the angel without batting an eye. Standing with crossed arms, widespread legs, and folded wings, he was impossible to ignore ...
Unless you couldn't see him.
"Aromatherapy aids healing," Miyoko pronounced.
"Not when it smells like shit. And why are you doing my laundry again? I wish you could come over and just relax."
"It's not shit. It's jasmine-chamomile. And I am doing your laundry because it was piled up. Can't relax in a messy house."
"My house is never messy." Her mom did laundry every time she came over, despite the fact that at twenty-eight years of age Eve was perfectly capable of doing her own. No matter how spotless her condo might be, her mother cleaned it — rearranging everything to her liking in the process.
"Was, too," her mother argued. "You had an overflowing basket by the washing machine and a sink full of dirty dishes."
Eve pointed at the boxer briefs, men's shirts, and towels in the pile. "Those aren't my clothes. The dishes aren't mine either."
She wondered what her mother would do if she learned that she was washing Cain and Abel's clothes. The brothers went by the names Alec Cain and Reed Abel now, but they were still the siblings of biblical legend.
"Alec has been using all the towels and leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor." Miyoko's tone was starkly chastising. No man was good enough for Eve. They all had some flaw in her mother's eyes, no matter how small. "And both he and your boss get new glasses every time they have a drink."
"Alec lives next door. Why doesn't he go mess up his place?"
"You're asking me?" Her mother snorted. "I still don't know why Reed spends so much time at your house. It's not natural. Or why your boyfriend is CEO of a corporation like Meggido Industries, but I've never seen him in a suit."
The thought of Alec in a suit made Eve smile. "When you run the place and you're good at it, you can wear whatever you want."
Eve stretched gingerly, wincing at the lingering tenderness in her spine. Then, she hollered, "Alec!"
"It's my house, Mom."
"Men don't like to be yelled at."
"Mom ..." She heaved out a frustrated breath. "What do you care, anyway? He leaves towels on the bathroom floor."
It was a pet peeve of Eve's, too, but she didn't think it made a man unsuitable for marriage.
"It's inconsiderate," Miyoko groused. "And unhygienic."
Eve glanced at the angel, embarrassed to have him witness their squabbling. His burning gaze met hers, then his nose wrinkled.
"Mom!" Eve's tone was more urgent. "Put that incense out, please. I'm serious. It stinks."
Miyoko grunted, but moved to tamp out the incense stick. "You're difficult."
"And you're stubborn, but I love you anyway."
"You're awake," Alec interjected, walking through the open bedroom door. He stared at her with fathomless eyes, his gaze darting over her in search of any cause for concern. "You scared me, angel," he said gruffly.
Angel. It was a pet name only he ever used. Every time she heard it, her toes curled. Alec's voice was velvet smooth and capable of turning a reading of Hawking's A Brief History of Time into an orgasmic experience.
Dressed in long shorts and white tank, he looked hotter than most men did in a tuxedo. His black hair was a little too long and his stride boasted a bit of a swagger, but no matter what he wore or how casually he moved, he looked like someone you didn't want to piss off. It was the hunter in him, the predator. Alec killed for a living and he excelled at it.
He was the reason she'd been marked. He was also her mentor.
His brother Reed entered the room behind him. Their features were similar enough to betray them as siblings, but they were otherwise as different as night and day. Reed favored Armani suits and sharp haircuts. Today he wore graphite gray slacks and a black dress shirt open at the throat and rolled up at the wrists. He was her superior.
Every Mark had a handler, a mal'akh — an angel — directly responsible for assigning them to targets. Reed had once likened the mark system to the judicial system. The archangels were the bail bondsmen, Reed was her dispatcher, and she was a bounty hunter. She wasn't a very good one ... yet. But she was learning and trying.
In the meantime, Reed was responsible for her assignments and for peripherally ensuring her safety. As her mentor, Alec's sole responsibility — under usual circumstances — was keeping her alive. But God had been unwilling to lose the talents of his most established and powerful enforcer. Alec cut a deal to be with her, and the result was that Reed often had more liability where she was concerned. Considering the festering animosity between the two brothers, the setup was fucked all around.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Ms. Hollis," Reed greeted. He smiled his cocky smile, but his dark eyes held an uncertainty Eve found endearing. He had no idea what to make of his feelings for her. Since she was in a relationship with his brother, she couldn't help him with that. She tried not to think about her feelings for him. It was just too complicated. Her life was already a disaster of biblical proportions.
Both men spotted the angel in the corner, who stood unmoving. They bowed slightly in deference.
Because Miyoko was too busy glaring at Eve, she failed to catch the gesture. Eve used her job as an interior designer as an excuse for Reed's frequent visits. As far as her family knew, she worked from home most days and if Reed wanted to see what she was up to, stopping by was the best way to do it. But Miyoko didn't believe the lie. She assumed all male interior designers were gay and Reed was most definitely not. Eve had no idea what her mother thought was really going on, but she knew the obvious animosity between the two men was fodder for suspicions.
Alec's smile warmed her from the inside. "How are you feeling?"
"I'll get you some ice water," Reed offered.
She smiled. "Thank you."
Alec bent and pressed his lips to her forehead. "Are you hungry?"
"A banana would be nice." She caught his wrist before he could draw away. "I had a dream. A nightmare. I was killed by a dragon."
"Your subconscious is trying to tell you something," her mother interrupted. "But you couldn't have dreamt you died. I heard if you die in your dreams, you die in real life."
"I think that's a myth."
"There is no way to know," Miyoko argued as she folded laundry. "If it happened to you, you would be dead and couldn't tell us."
Alec sat on the edge of the bed, watching Eve with an alert gaze. He knew she couldn't say what she meant while her mother was in the room.
"It's over now," he soothed. "You're safe."
"It was so real ... I don't understand how I'm sitting here now."
"We'll talk later, after you've had a chance to eat." He squeezed her hand. His expression held the softness he showed only to her. "Let me get you that banana."
He left, and her mom returned to the side of the bed. Leaning over, Miyoko whispered loudly, "He fights with your boss. About everything. You would think they were married. Too much testosterone in those two. Not enough brains."
The angel made a choked noise.
"Mom ..." Eve glanced at the corner. He looked pained. It was an expression her father wore often.
Miyoko straightened and gathered up the now-folded clothes. "A thoughtful man would carry sunscreen to the beach. He wouldn't let you get burned."
Sunburned at the beach. Eve snorted at the excuse. If only she'd been bedridden for something so simple. "I can count on one hand the number of guys I've seen carry sunscreen."
"A good man would," her mother insisted.
"I've never seen Dad with sunscreen."
"That's not the point."
"I thought it was."
Eve loved her father, she really did. Darrel Hollis was a good ol' boy from Alabama with an even-keeled temper and a gentle smile. He was also oblivious. Retired now, he rose at dawn, watched television or read, then went back to bed after dinner. The most unexpected thing he had ever done was marry a foreign exchange student (and Eve suspected her mother hadn't given him much choice in the matter).
"Stop dating pretty boys," Miyoko admonished, "and find someone stable."
Eve shot a beseeching glance at the angel in the corner. He sighed and stepped closer. His voice had a soothing resonance no mortal could create.
"You want to replant the flowers in the pots by your front door," he whispered in Miyoko's ear. "You will go to the nursery, then home, where you will spend the rest of the afternoon indulging in your passion for gardening. Evangeline is fine and no longer needs you."
Her mother paused, her head tilting as she absorbed the thoughts she assumed were her own. The gift of persuasion. Eve hadn't mastered that one yet.
"You should get a spa pedicure, too," Eve added. "You deserve it."
Miyoko shook her head. "I don't need —"
"Get a pedicure," the angel ordered.
"I think I'll get a pedicure," Miyoko said.
"With flowers painted on your big toes," Eve went on.
The angel shot her a quelling glance.
Eve winced. "If you want," she amended quickly.
Alec returned with the banana. Standing by her bed, he peeled it, arresting her with the sight of his flexing biceps.
"I'm going home," her mom said suddenly. "The laundry is done, the dishes washed. You're fine. You don't need me."
"Thank you for everything." Eve intended to stand and hug her mother, but remembered that she was naked between her satin sheets.
Miyoko waved her off and headed toward the door. "Let me change first and get my stuff together, then I'll say good-bye."
Reed's voice rumbled down the hallway and swept over Eve's skin like the warm caress of the sun. "Let me help you with that, Mrs. Hollis."
Eve looked at Alec, who resumed his seat on the edge of her bed. Then, she glanced at the angel. "Hi."
"Hello, Evangeline." He stepped forward, his heavy boots making no sound on the hardwood floor. He had an inordinate number of feathers and appeared to have three pairs of wings. He was beyond impressive; he was the most perfectly gorgeous creature she had ever seen.
"Who are you?" she asked before taking a bite of the fruit. The first chunk was swallowed almost whole, followed immediately by another. Her stomach growled, reiterating that the mark burned a ton of calories and she was expected to keep up by eating frequently.
Chewing, she glanced at Alec again.
"He is a seraph," he explained.
Her eyes widened and she chewed faster, embarrassed to be naked in such company. The seraphim were the highest ranking angels, far above the seven archangels who managed the day-to-day operations of the mark system here on Earth. Alec was a mal'akh — the lowest rank of angel — as was his brother. Eve was a lowly Mark, one of thousands of poor suckers drafted into godly service for perceived sins. They worked for absolution by hunting and killing Infernals who'd crossed the line one too many times. A bounty was earned for every successful vanquishing, indulgences that went toward the saving of Mark souls.
Excerpted from Eve of Destruction by Sylvia Day, S.J. Day. Copyright © 2009 Sylvia Day writing as S.J. Day. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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