Escaping the Devil: Chapter Twenty-Nine

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CONTENT WARNING

This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.


It was happening again. Yui’s life was flashing before her eyes. Every moment she spent with her played over and over, tattooing itself on her splintering heart. Eli did her best to comfort the Siren, keeping her head in her lap as they hurtled through the back streets of God-knew-where-they-were.

“We have to get her help!” She pleaded, soothing her with her fingers through her hair. Yui’s eyes had begun to bleach of color. Those hideous purple veins were crawling along her jaw, over her chest. “We don’t have much time!”

“I know!” Gunner snarled, hanging a sharp right. Eli had to brace herself to stop them both from being sent toppling to the other side of the back seat.

“Where are we going?”

“I know someone!” He snarled. “She’ll be all right. Just… shut up and let me drive!”

Eli grit her teeth, struggling to suppress the Beast within her. Her temper roiled, and every part of her wanted to tear him apart for how he spoke to her. It was for Yui that she managed to keep her head on straight. For her she kept her temper in check. After they arrived, though, would be another matter entirely.

It felt like it took a lifetime to reach their destination. By that point, Yui’s body had gone rigid and started convulsing. Her skin had taken on a sickly pallor, and she was covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

Yui looked too far gone. Too lost. 

The thought of losing her froze Eli. The door to the back seat wrenched open, and Gunner reached inside. She followed numbly, watching as the sunlight glinted off Yui’s dark hair.

They were in the middle of nowhere — an empty field. 

She wanted to ask what they were doing here, but worry sealed her throat. Tears stung her vision as she plodded after, stumbling on the uneven earth.

A willowy figure appeared. She was tall, her dark hair coiled into tight braids with various shells and beads woven into the strands. Black lines curved their way over her arms, legs, and torso — tattoos. 

Shifter.

Eli swallowed hard, hurrying the last few strides after them to hear their conversation. 

The Shifter glanced at Yui and then shifted her attention to Gunner. “You put us at risk,” she snarled but offered no further objection. Instead, with a strength the woman should not have possessed, she gathered Yui in her arms and turned.

“You’ll help her, right?” Eli pleaded, hazarding a half-step closer.

“I will,” the woman replied. “Because it’s what we do.” 

The air around them shimmered. Magic parted like a curtain, revealing what appeared to be a village. Various structures swelled to life around her. Yurts, log cabins — all rudimentarily built. Their guide hurried through the dirt paths, leading them to a large, white building. The scent of sage and something flowery stung her nostrils as the curtain parted. Eli watched as Yui was handed to another stranger — a thousand conversations shared between their guide and the healer within with just a look.

“You stay out here,” their guide said, her dark eyes darting to Gunner and then to Eli. “We will do everything we can for your friend.”

Their arrival had caused quite the commotion. The villagers hovered around the mouths of their homes, peering suspiciously at them. She may as well have not existed. They all seemed more interested in Gunner. 

Afraid, even.

Gunner offered a small, curt nod. “Thank you, Elder Taraji.” 

She offered one final nod — a dismissal — before disappearing into the tent. 

The villagers seemed to lose interest in the exchange soon after, all disappearing into their homes or returning to their work. But the undercurrent was impossible to ignore. 

Gunner was not welcome here.


Night fell, plummeting them into darkness. They had made their camp far from the villagers to provide them some semblance of comfort. Despite their frosty disposition, they were incredibly communicative regarding Yui and her recovery.

The collar had been removed, and so had the enchantment. They were told that the spell around the collar was an old form of blood magic. Eli had known that it had bound her abilities, but she never understood the full extent. What she wore was a mark of her slavery. And when she ran away, the magic had claimed her life as forfeit. It chilled her to know that it could have ended anywhere, at any time, and they would have been none the wiser. Yui would have died, and they wouldn’t have known why or how — let alone have been able to help her.

The thought chilled her to her marrow. 

She held her knees to her chest, watching as the villagers milled about in the distance. 

“What is this place?” Eli asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Gunner looked up at her briefly before returning his interest to the fire he kept needlessly poking. “It’s a Shifter community,” he said after a long moment. 

“That sounds a bit like a cult.”

His eyes darkened, his teeth gritting together. “They are protectors of the old ways. A haven for other shifters.”

“Why would shifters need a haven?”

Gunner looked at her like she had sprouted several extra heads. “As far as supernatural slaves go, Shifters fetch a pretty penny,” he growled. 

“Oh.”

“Witches prefer us over their Familiars. We’re stronger. Faster. More capable,” he traced the inside of his cheek. “A lot of the people here have defected from Covens. They needed a place to stay — a place to be safe. So. Serenity was born.”

“Serenity.” She frowned thoughtfully. “Is that where we are?” 

He nodded.

“Have you… Did you ever live here?”

“I was born here,” he offered, somewhat hesitantly.

“And why did you leave?”

His gaze snapped to meet hers, his tense shoulders and locked jaw serving as the only warning she needed. She dropped the line of inquiry entirely, consoling herself by pressing her cheek to her knees and watching the flames. 

“Do you think she’ll be okay?”

He nodded without hesitance, and it relieved the sourness of her insides. “They know enough magic to handle most things. When I saw it… I knew…”

“You knew?” She encouraged.

“My mother.” He said, at long last. “She had a collar like that.” His voice grew quiet, and Eli didn’t feel the need to push further. 

“Thank you,” she said after a long moment’s silence. “For getting her here. For… saving us. For doing…” She gestured vaguely. “Everything you’ve done.”

He watched her levelly for a beat, his expression pensive as if trying to find another meaning to her words. He seemed to find none. He shrugged. “It’s what you paid me to do.”

“I didn’t pay you for all of this.”

“Well,” he sighed, glancing toward the tent. “I guess I have to charge you a bit extra.”

Eli laughed. The temporary levity was everything she needed to soothe some of the hurt in her chest. 

“You’re not so bad when you’re not being a dick.”

“And you’re not so bad when you’re not being a bitch.”

She nodded, her jaw working as she returned her attention to the flames. 

“You care about us, don’t you?”

He stiffened, his eyes finding hers through the flames. “Not that you make it easy, but yes. I do.”

She nodded, smoothing her hand over the back of her neck. “Nothing good ever happens to anyone who cares about me.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” he said, throwing another log onto the fire. 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He regarded her, his expression flat. “You got Yui out. Out of slavery. We’re on our way to safety.”

“And she could have died!” She snapped. “She could have died because of it. Because I dragged her away.”

“She wasn’t living before. You know that.”

“So that means it’s okay for her to bite the big one?”

“Better to die free.”

Eli scoffed, her teeth gritting. “Don’t start that shit with me. If she had died, it would have been my fault.”

Gunner gritted his teeth, letting out a frustrated snarl. “You’re fucking infuriating. You know that?”

“Like you’re one to talk!” 

He was on his feet, and soon, so was she. They stared down their noses at each other, electricity coursing between them as they stepped closer. “You insist on making everything about you! Everything is your fault. Everything bad that happens is because of something you did. It’s like you don’t think anyone has any autonomy of their own and that they’re just caught in your fucking orbit!”

“That’s what I am,” she snarled, her teeth bared in a feral smile. “The destroyer of worlds. A fucking black hole.”

“You know you’re not,” he growled, taking another step closer, his body invading her space. “You want to play pretend that you’re this big bad villainess. But you’re not. Do us all a favor and stop fucking pretending!”

“Why do you care?”

“Because I fucking hate seeing people becoming who they’re told they are. You’ve got a fucking backbone, Eli.” He poked her square in the chest, driving her back a step. “Use it.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me,” she growled, shoving him back. “You fucking arrogant—

He shoved her.

The words died on her lips as she shoved him again.

They fell to the ground, scrambling, him gripping her wrists to pin them to the earth. She refused to be overtaken. She drove her knee hard into his side, forcing him to fall off her.

Eli wasted no time crawling onto his lap, their hips aligning as she pinned him beneath her weight.

They were panting, drawing in the same breath. Her lips were so dangerously close to his. She felt him stiffen beneath her — and she was powerless to stop herself from rocking her hips into his, feeling the delicious friction between her legs from his impressive length. 

The moment stunned her. Long enough that he was able to turn the tables and flip her onto her back. He wedged himself between her legs, and with another slow, purposeful thrust, he robbed the breath from her lungs. Their fingers laced as he kept her pinned to the dirt. 

Their mouths were perilously close again. Eli could taste his breath, feel his heat overtaking her. The ache at the apex of her thighs worsened. His pupils blew wide, and she knew that he could scent it on her. This purely animal lust that would have them tearing at each other’s clothes. 

“Uhm—” A voice squeaked, jarring them from their trance.

Gunner scrambled off her, somehow managing to hide the stiffness in his pants. 

“Your friend,” the girl announced, hooking her thumb over her shoulder. “She’s awake. She’s… recovering. If you… If you want to go see her.” 

Eli stood hurriedly and brushed the dirt off her clothes. “Yes.”

Gunner followed, silent as the grave as they hurriedly made their way to the village. 

“Elder Taraji says you can help yourselves to our facilities to bathe and re-stock for your journey,” she explained, her cheeks burning dark enough to be seen even in the starlight. “But then you must go.” 

“I know,” Gunner drawled from over her shoulder. “I wasn’t supposed to come back.”



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