Hunter Moon Online - Jeanette Battista

Prologue

Three Years Earlier

His name was Lukas Jaegar. He was going to make a deal with the devil.

He lit the saltpeter mixture, the dust igniting in the pentacle pattern he had carved into the wood-planked floor. The flames flickered out almost immediately, leaving a burning line of embers that glowed redly in the darkened room. He stepped inside another pentacle, this one drawn in black paint on the hardwood floor. He’d memorized the incantation months ago, but it had taken him some time to get all of the ingredients he would need for the summoning.

He wanted to make sure he got everything right. Being eaten by a demon wasn’t the way he wanted to spend his eighteenth birthday.

He breathed deeply to steady himself. He was in his family’s cabin in the woods. They hadn’t used it in years—not since the nightmarish hunting trip with his father and brother. There was no one else around for miles, which suited Lukas just fine since he couldn’t afford any interruptions. During the weeks of preparation leading up to this moment he hadn’t been worried—there was too much else to occupy his mind. But now that he was here, alone, with the moment of acting upon him, his whole body shook with nerves.

It was too late to turn back, even if he had wanted to. There was nothing else for him now.

Lukas spoke, his voice low and rough. Candle flames flickered on the edges of his vision. His words came faster, as if they were being pulled from him now, as if something else was controlling the spell he cast. He forced himself to slow, to say the words properly and keep his focus on the center of the empty pentacle.

He finished the incantation with the final command. “Zamiel, I summon you! Zamiel, I call you! Zamiel, come forth!”

Nothing happened.

Lukas wasn’t stupid and he had the patience that all hunters had. He merely stood in his own pentacle, staring at the one opposite him. He had waited for hours for a deer to show itself; he could wait a few minutes to see if a demon would appear.

At first there was nothing. Then a sign: a telltale haze around the edges of the candles behind the pentacle. It was like the heat shimmer that he sometimes saw on hot summer days. He waited a few more moments to see if whatever was there would solidify further. Lukas thought it might be playing a game with him; he’d read that demons were cagey and loved to catch humans out. He had no intention of stepping out of his protective pentacle until he knew the thing was banished or had agreed to his terms.

“Zamiel! Show yourself!”

The grin appeared first. It was wide and sharp, and contained a great number of very pointed teeth. The grin was followed by the rest of Zamiel, who appeared in the form of a tall, thin, dark-haired man. His age was indeterminate; he could have been twenty or sixty. His skin was smooth and pale, almost lacking of color, making him look rather dead. He was dressed in a form-fitting black suit.

“Hello,” the demon said, drawing it out in a leer.

“Zamiel?” Lukas frowned at the entity.

“You did call me.” The demon prowled the edges of the pentacle, testing its boundaries, then stood with its arms by its sides in the center of it.

Lukas swallowed hard, a little rattled. He hadn’t actually thought that he’d be successful, no matter how badly he wanted to be. But here was Zamiel, trapped in a pentacle, awaiting his command. Still, in all of the times he’d played the scenario out in his head, he always asked for the same thing.

“I want to make a deal.”

Zamiel’s left eyebrow lifted. That was the only expression he made.

Lukas stopped, waiting for some other reaction. He hadn’t expected the demon to leap up and clap its hands in joy while singing a jaunty tune, but he had expected a bit more of a response. “Didn’t you hear me?” he asked finally, losing his patience. “I said, I want to make a deal!”

“Oh, I heard you,” the demon said, pausing to examine its perfectly tipped oval fingernails, fingernails that tapered into sharp points at the end. “I’m just waiting for the rest of it.”

Lukas narrowed his eyes. He’d already planned what he was going to say, what to ask for. If he was honest with himself, he’d known for years. He came from a long line of hunters—the men in his family