Georgiana woke to the putrid odor of charbroiled flesh burning her nostrils. Drawing an involuntary breath, ash and smoke filled her lungs suffocating her. Georgiana’s body convulsed as she began to violently cough in an attempt to breathe in fresh air. As she dispelled the burning cinders and smoke from her body, a cool breeze cleared the ash-filled haze around her and Georgiana gulped in the fresh air.
“The first breath is always a little shaky,” a sultry, husky voice filled the air making her tremble. “But that second breath is just life giving. Don’t you agree, love?”
Opening her eyes, Georgiana found herself gazing up at a star-filled night sky. “I died …”
“True. Welcome to your funeral, Georgiana.”
Slowing rising, Georgiana realized she was laying on top of a smoldering funeral pyre. Standing several feet away from her, with a triumphant smiled splayed across his handsome face, stood Howell, the demon king of the north—her murderer.
“I don’t understand. What---No!” Tears welled up in Georgiana’s eyes as she took in the heinous scene before. Laying between her and Howell were a mass of mangled, bloody bodies. At the base of the pyre laid her mother. Her arms stilled wrapped protectively around the lifeless bodies of her two younger brothers. A few feet from her mother was the village baker and his wife. Next to them lay, Rosa, her best friend. Every person Georgiana had ever known was scattered around her funeral pyre dead.
“As I told you before you challenged me, your actions have consequences.” Howell looked down at the body laying at his feet and Georgiana followed his gaze.
“Papa!” Sliding of the pyre, Georgiana stumbled and crawled through the mass of bodies till she reached her father. “No, please. Papa!” His lifeless eyes gazed at her as she shook him. “Please don’t leave me.”
Suddenly she felt Howell’s hot breath on her neck. “Too late, love.” Lifting her off the ground, he forcefully grabbed Georgiana’s face making her face him. “The only person you have now is me.”
“You’re a demon!” Spat Georgiana as she pushed away from him.
“So are you,” Howell stated with a smug smile on his face. Pulling her into his chest, he brought her trembling hand to his lips and kissed it. “Pale skin, golden eyes—you are breathtaking.”
Georgiana tried to push him away, but his sharp nails dug in to her flesh as he tightened his hold. “What did you do to me?”
“The worst possible thing I could imagine.” Intertwining his fingers through the back of her hair, he pulled her head back so she would have to gaze up at him. “I made you like me.”
A growl escaped Georgiana’s throat as she broke his grasped and pushed away from him. “I swear you will pay for this.”
“Oh,” Howell chucked. “I look forward to it, love. Now,” the demon stuck a hands into his pocket. “I have a gift for you.”
“I want nothing from you,” hissed Georgiana. “You have taken everything from me!”
“Just hear me out, love. Because I am giving you a choice.” Grabbing her wrist, he laid Georgiana’s hand over his heart. “You can rip my beating heart out of my chest or have this.” Howell pulled a slightly charred piece of wood out of his pocket. Carved in to the dark wood was a rune Georgiana knew very well, “This is what is left of your father’s shepherd’s crook. The fool actually tried to kill me with it.”
Instinctively, Georgiana lunged for the piece of wood. “Wrong choice, love.” Howell pushed her away. “I offer you my life and you choose this. There is too much goodness in you. But the demon will surface soon enough.”
Georgiana held out her hand, “Give it to me.”
Howell’s haunting gaze bore in to her. “Turn around.”
Complying, Georgiana held her breath waiting for the death dealing blow to come. But nothing happened. She was about to turn back around when she felt Howells body up against hers. Brushing away her hair, he tied something around her neck. “A deal’s a deal.”
Tears cascaded down Georgiana’s cheeks as she reached up and clutched the splintered piece of wood. “I hope you made the right choice,” Howell clutched her shoulders as he whispered in her ear. “I’ll be seeing you, love.”
A sob escaped Georgiana’s mouth as the demon released her and vanished. Finding herself alone and surrounded by the bodies of everyone she loved, Georgiana sank to the ground crying for those who died for her and the life she lost.