Sacrifice (Revelations Book 1)

SACRIFICE

 

Revelations Book One

 

Mia Bishop

Copyright © 2016 Mia Bishop

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced without the expressed permission of the author.

DEDICATION

 

 

This dedication is to my mother-in-law.  She will probably never read this book, but I wanted to take a moment to say that she is the strongest woman I’ve ever known and I draw inspirations in all things in my life from her. She is my example of what a mother, wife, sister, and caregiver should be. She is strong even through the hardest of times. She happens to be the inspiration for one of my characters, not in the characters (possibly) bad or immortal traits but in her fierce loyalty to protect her family at all costs. My “mom” is a 4’7” mama lion who will fight tooth and claw for her children and grandchildren. She never gives up. She’s a fighter, a warrior, and the most beloved member of our extremely large family. So, to my “mom” Crucy- we love you so much. I love you and I’m grateful to be a part of your family.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Beta Readers: James Herron, Sara Galbraith, Tiffany Tabor, and Amber Parham

 

Edited by: Stacey Tardif

 

Cover by: Soxsational Cover Art (Tracey Weston)

 

Formatted by: Imagine Ink Designs

 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."

Matthew 24:36

 

PROLOGUE

 

Ten Years Earlier...

 

The engine of the faded green Chevrolet Bel Air began to knock. Nico glanced around at the desolate landscape and groaned. "Come on. We couldn't make it to a city?"

The
Chihuahua
desert of New Mexico stretched out as far as the eye could see and it seemed fitting this would be where he ended up. In the middle of nowhere. With any luck he would run across some wandering demons and have himself a good old-fashioned fight--or at least find an end to his miserable life.

It had been a month since the Church cast him out, and yet the sting of those memories made it feel like yesterday. How could he go on without the Church? It was his calling, the deal he’d brokered years ago with God. Now he was left with nothing. After this long hard month, giving up seemed to be a better option.

The flood of unwelcome memories assaulted him, trying to block them out would do no good. He’d tried several times over the past four weeks to ignore what happened, but every time his brain refused to turn off the torment. Bishop Marcus’ familiar voice rang in Nico’s ears. "For your crimes of devil worship, practices of witchcraft, and most abhorrently the death of Molly O'Hagan, I sentence you to a fate far worse than any human prison. You can either admit your wrongdoings, stay, and face the Tribunal; or leave this House of God immediately. If you choose the latter, then may God have mercy on your soul, because you won’t get any from us. Either way you will burn in hell for eternity, Nico Lynch."

Nico snorted as his broken down car started to shake. He turned the stiffening wheel and pulled off the road. "Well, this sure looks like hell to me."

The car sputtered to its death a few meters later. This was the end of the line. He couldn’t call a tow truck and even if he could he would never be able to tell them where he was. No one would be coming down this road any time soon, it had been hours since he saw another vehicle on this stretch of desert highway.

He caught a glance of himself in the rear view mirror. He still wore his cassock. It was his way of punishing himself. The collar no longer filled him with pride. Now it felt like a noose, but one he wasn't ready to cast off. He deserved this pain. He'd killed an innocent girl. His lip curled into a snarl as he looked himself over. The five o’clock shadow and purple bags under his eyes were the calling card of a lost man and lost was exactly what he was. He knocked the mirror away sending it crashing to the floor of the car. "This old heap is falling apart anyways."

Casting a guilty glance at the shattered mirror, Nico sighed and sunk into the seat. In truth he wanted his 1957 Bel Air to keep going, to see him through this journey. But she'd earned the right to rest. Like her namesake, Lucy, his car had stuck with him until she couldn’t do it any longer.

The rusted old hunk of metal probably knew this was the end of the line, maybe it wanted to crap out here in the middle of nowhere instead of getting stripped down and destroyed by whatever might come for Nico. He’d hoped to keep the car forever, but a lot of things change when the world turns on you. If she was ready to die, then he’d have to leave her to the desert and fend for himself. Maybe, if he survived, he’d come back and try to find her. In truth, he’d do anything to come back for the car. She was the last physical connection he had to his childhood.

He perched his dark sunglasses on his nose and grabbed a suitcase from the back seat before opening the door. The hinges creaked in protest, but he couldn’t stay in the car. It would be a death trap after less than five minutes in the desert heat. He stepped out of the car but stopped, giving a sidelong glance at the vehicle once more and walked to the passenger side. Again the rusted hinges creaked as he pulled it open. "I'm crazy for doing this, I know I am." He opened the glove compartment and grabbed his worn copy of the Holy Bible and kicked the door shut.

Nico walked in the direction he had been driving. He couldn't recall the last sign he'd passed or where he might be going, but he put one foot in front of the other, suitcase in one hand, bible in the other.

Afternoon passed into evening, he tried to lick his blistered lips but it was no use. The sun had drained every bit of energy from him. Dehydrated, exhausted, and on the verge of hallucinating. Every footstep began to falter. Then the darkness came.

 

"We can't keep him, Meredith."

"I didn't say we needed to keep him, but we can't let him die."

Nico's head pounded as he regained consciousness, he could hear female voices nearby. Not only that, but they were like a melody. His body stilled. He tried to wiggle his toes, but the best he could do was a small twitch of his pinky toe. Dread settled in, the sing-song tone of their voices was something all too familiar. A siren's call lulling him to remain still. Physically he was at ease, no pain, no discomfort. Even his mind found some sort of comfort in their hypnotic voices. But there was still a part of him unfazed by their trance, it screamed at him to fight. To resist their power. He hated the feel of magick. It left an unnatural residue on his soul, and his soul was already tainted enough he didn’t need anyone else blackening it for him.

If he hadn’t honed his skills over the past month while on the run he would’ve been completely lost to the trance, as it were his physical self was too calm for his liking. He’d been exposed to a limited amount of magick during his priesthood, but in the month following his expulsion he’d become well versed in detecting the darker arts thanks to a handful of scrolls and books he’d stolen on from church library. The small primal corner of his subconscious was clawing its way to the surface, it wanted him to survive. Even with all he’d been through, even with him wanting to be at peace, his mind fought against the spell. As calming as the magick was, it would never completely soothe his soul or give him peace. He would fight it, he had to.

"We can let him die and we will. He’ll kill us if he awakens."

"He couldn't even move when I found him, he's in no shape to kill us."

"Leave him here, child. The Wolfman will come soon. He doesn't take kindly to anyone being in his territory. We will let the animal deal with the priest. If God wants him to live, then he’ll survive."

"This is wrong."

Nico coughed, he tried to sit up but the magick binding him tightened like a boa constrictor. "I—," he coughed again, "I am not a threat to you witches."

"Striga." The more hostile voice snarled.

He snapped his mouth shut. Striga. Far worse than ordinary witches. He couldn’t have heard them correctly. "Impossible. There are no Striga left."

"Why?” the angry voice snapped. Blinking against the darkness, his vision started to clear enough to see the two figures before him. Both tall, elegant, ethereal. The one who’d spoken appeared slightly older with light hair and a hostile stare Nico imagined could turn a man to stone.

She leaned over him and pressed a long manicured fingertip to his forehead, effectively pushing his head back against the ground. “Because your kind killed all of us off? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Father, but some of us survived your Church’s genocide."

"The way I hear it, your people delved into dark magick.” He coughed. “You wanted more power.” Every breath burned in his lungs. The cool night air stung like razors cutting into his dry lips, but still he argued. "You acted against your orders and defied God. Catholic mystics who turned dark, they had no choice but to kill your kind."

"Lies. They stopped believing in the old ways. To save face they fabricated the case against us. You are no better than every other priest. You are a lap dog. You drink down every lie they feed you."

"Then prove me wrong, prove you aren't wicked." Nico winced from the pain, every inhale seemed to tighten the spell binding him and his dry, cracked lips were starting to bleed. Bartering seemed to be his only way out of this. He didn't necessarily want to live, but he certainly didn't want to die at the hands of whatever or whoever this Wolfman was. "Don't leave me for whatever animal is coming."

The other female stood close enough to the beams of moonlight that he could make out strands of fiery red hair. Her features were softer than the other Striga and the planes of her face were pained as she watched him. “Mother, please. Don’t do this.” She pleaded with the older woman, “Let me help him, our coven doesn’t have to be involved, only me.”

All hope was lost with the hostile woman’s next words. “I forbid you from helping him, Meredith.” The elder Striga sneered as she looked down on him. "We do not get involved with your kind. Good luck, Father."

The spell enveloping him constricted. He sputtered for a breath, with every second the weave of magick around him tightened and restricted his airways. The Striga’s spell, dehydration, sun exposure- everything worked against him. He fought against the darkness threatening to pull him under, but fighting did no good. The darkness won out.

As he was losing consciousness something wet and cool trickled down his throat and the redhead’s soft voice whispered in his ear, "I'm sorry."

CHAPTER ONE

 

"Another bottle, Father?"

Nico snarled. "I wish you wouldn't call me that."

"Yeah, I know." The man behind the bar flashed a smile and pulled an amber bottle from beneath the counter. "But it seems to aggravate you, which means it kind of makes my day."

"Dick." Nico lifted the glass to his lips and reveled in the burn as the drink slid down his throat.

"In this town I've gotta take what little entertainment I can get. Sorry, Father, but pissing you off is all I've got going on."

Nico rubbed his rough hand over his stubbled cheeks. "I'm flattered. Remind me why I don't kill you?"

"Because I'm the only friend you've got."

"Ah. And here I was thinking it was because of the free drinks."

Lobo howled a laugh and shook his head. "Never free, my friend. Never. You have a running tab. I'll call it in when I need a favor."

"Lovely, Can't wait. In that case I'm taking this bottle to go. Bill me for it."

"Not so fast, have you seen Meri around?"

Nico snorted. "Still barking up that tree, eh?"

Lobo gave an uncharacteristic growl. "It's not like that."

"Oh yes, it is. You can try to fool everyone else, you can sure as hell try to fool her mother, but you can't fool me. So save it. And for the record, I haven't seen her in a few days. Last I heard, Arveda had all the girls locked away at the Striga House. They must be brewing up something wicked." He snickered at his own joke, but Lobo gave another warning growl. His friend found no humor in the Striga’s magick. It was a dick move, but to add salt to the wound Nico added, "Isn't it a full moon soon?"

He didn't wait for an answer. Any answer he got was likely to come with one hell of beat down. Instead, he slid off the barstool and threw open the rickety door to Lobo's Saloon. He managed to get his sunglasses on as he stumbled into the bright daylight.

Children who should have been in school, if there were any type of formal schooling in the run-down town, ran through the streets kicking a deflated soccer ball and yelling. All of them waved at him. He grimaced. A group of woman followed after the children, keeping a watchful eye on them. They greeted him with smiles and waves. Nico adverted his eyes, wanting to look anywhere but their warm and welcoming faces. Why did they have to acknowledge him? Everyone in this hell-hole knew he wanted to be left alone and yet not a single one of them would give him any sort of solitude. If he had known ten years ago his life would be full of people constantly trying to kill him with kindness he would have picked a different hole in the desert to call home.

He laughed to himself. Who was he kidding? He had nowhere else to go. Time had forgotten Dusk long before other towns in the unforgiving desert had withered up and become ghosts. Drive a few hours outside of Albuquerque, take some wrong turns off the lonely highway, get yourself good and lost and you’d still find yourself in America but a million years away from being civilized. The town didn’t make slaves of men like the bustling cities and their modern trappings. Even better it was a place free from the bureaucracy of the Church.

He passed by the run-down, old church and glared at the aging building. Well, maybe not completely free from it. The people of Dusk practiced an old form of religion, probably due to the location and the mix of Spanish and Indian cultures. They combined Catholicism, mysticism, and various pagan practices. It worked well for them and no one seemed to realize or care that what they practiced would get them excommunicated from any modern-day church.

Excommunicated. He hated the word. And yet it summed up his entire existence, even if locals like Lobo and Meredith refused to acknowledge he was no longer a priest. Every time they called him Father it was a reminder of what he’d lost.

His hands shook at the memories of his former life. Words like Church, Father, Preacher, Savior used to comfort him. Now the only comfort he got was from being a sinner. Words like devil worshipper and murderer haunted his dreams. Excommunicated from his calling, banished to hell by sinful men wrapped in holy robes. This sweltering desert town, so far removed from civilization, was the only place he could be free to drown himself until the day the devil came for him.

Until that day, Nico planned on numbing himself from sun-up until whatever time he passed out and then he'd start the cycle all over again in the morning. In the rare moments he wasn't stinking drunk, he’d decided to make sure hell was padded with the remains of as many demons as he could kill before he got there. For ten years now he'd hunted them. Ten years of drowning in cheap liquor and hellish nightmares.

He made his way to the dilapidated shack he called home. Real estate agents weren't in heavy demand in Dusk, he’d seen an empty house and walked in one day making it his home. Nothing resembling the outside world could be found here except for run-down vehicles, liquor, porn, and whatever items the Striga or the oil field workers brought in. Companies occasionally took up residence nearby hoping to hit it big with an oil vein, but rarely did they stick around. Still, when their workers stumbled across Lobo’s bar the town would see an uptick of people willing to buy, barter, and trade for a little bit of local flare. There were no stop lights, big-box retail stores, or fast food restaurants. Only Lobo's bar, a market, rickety stands for the locals to sell their handmade items and food, the church, and ramshackle houses. The population consisted of stray animals and people who had no idea what life could be like if they'd get in a vehicle and drive north a few hours.

"Lost in time." he muttered to himself.

"Like you, Father."

He should have known Meredith was there in the dark. She always lurked in dark corners, typical Striga behavior. "Not today, Meri. I'm a little too inebriated to get it up, even for you."

"Darling, you've been too inebriated to get it up for the past ten years."

He took a drink from his bottle and narrowed his eyes at her. "Now you know that’s just plain not true."

"Nine years, sorry. My bad."

"So, if you aren't looking for a fuck, what are you doing in my house? Here for confession?"

She came out of the shadows clenching her teeth. She was dressed in typical Striga attire. Her fiery red hair fell to her waist in loose curls. The red body-hugging dress she wore fell barely past her well-toned ass, everything about her screamed sex and yet she rarely ever gave any man the time of day. Rarely, but not never. "I've nothing of interest to confess. I'm here because we need your help."

His playful tone died on his tongue. "Help with what?" There were only a few reasons a Striga would ask him for help. And none of them were good. His gut knotted. "What sort of trouble have you gotten into, Meri?"

"Not me. A girl, she's possessed."

"Then exorcise her."

She moved closer, running her finger over the top of the dusty table. "We can't, we've tried and nothing works. She needs a holy man. She needs you."

"I'm retired, remember."

"Nico, please. She needs your help. We need your help."

"Let her die or figure it out yourself. I don't get involved." He hoped his voice sounded as cold as his words.

"Coward."

"Yes, I'm a coward. I can't help you, I am no more a holy man than you are a saint."

Her hand shot out but he grabbed her wrist before she could make contact. Meri ground her teeth. "Damn it, Nico. She's an innocent. Will you let her die because of your pride?"

Yanking her towards him, he whispered, "No one is innocent. Why is she important?"

The Striga shook her head, as if she shouldn't tell him, but she would. He could tell by the desperation in her eyes. The Striga needed him. "She came to us three weeks ago. Mother did a reading for her."

He released her arm and blew out a heavy breath. "She came to you? Like a tourist?"

"Yeah. Occasionally we get college kids and whatnot, kids interested in the occult. They seek us out and try to join us."

"This girl wanted to be a witch? That hardly makes her an innocent."

"No, she wanted a reading. She'd been blacking out, when she would wake up everything smelled like sulfur and she’d be different part of town. Things of that nature."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Let me guess, she also had terrible nightmares? Visions of Satan?"

"Don't be an ass. She was genuinely scared, and no, she's not having nightmares or visions."

"Well, excuse me. It sounds like some B-rated movie on late night TV."

"You're such a jerk.” Meri continued, “Anyways, we did the reading. Mother refused to even tell the girl what she'd seen. She sent her away after studying her palm for less than five seconds. Then a day ago we found her out in the desert. Full on possession. We've tried everything, I have no idea what is inside of her but whatever it is we can't pull it out. Mother, reluctantly, thinks you might be better at dealing with whatever has taken over."

"Of course she does. Gotta send a man to do the heavy lifting, eh?"

"Oh shut up." She gave a sigh, glancing up at him with her sultry emerald eyes, it must work on most men. Although Nico wasn't most men, he couldn't deny those eyes did work some sort of magick, even on him.

"Fine. I'll take a look. But you and your mother owe me." He moved across the room and gathered up his tattered bible and adjusted his Roman Collar. "You've tried and failed? Does your mother have any idea of what crawled up inside this poor soul?"

Meri was busy inspecting his hovel while he was getting ready but absently shook her head. "Possession isn't really a specialty of the Striga. So, she doesn't know what it might be. But it's determined to stay put which Mother says makes it even more dangerous."

Nico arched a brow. "She said that?"

"Yep." She met his gaze through her long lashes and batted them unnecessarily. "You're still going to help us, right?"

He rolled his eyes. "Don't try to use your womanly wiles on me, Meri. Yes, I'm still going to help. I wanted to get a feel for what the old hag might think was going on."

Meri gave him an exasperated frown. "Do you have to refer to my mother as a hag?"

"Does your mother have to constantly try to ruin my life and make my existence here a living hell?"

She made her way to the door and held it open for him. "I suppose I see your point there. But honestly this friction between the two of you is exhausting."

As he passed by he ignored her comment and called over his shoulder, "Oh by the way, someone was asking about you today."

It was enough to grab her attention. As he made his way to the car, her voice practically purred, "Really, who?"

"A wolf in sheep's clothing," Nico quipped.

Meri cursed under her breath and snapped back, "Should have known you would be at the bar today."

He held the car door open for her, she slid into the driver’s seat and he made his way to the passenger side. "What can I say, I like the company."

"Probably because Lobo is the only one who puts up with your surly attitude."

"Well, yeah, and he's not too hard on the eyes," he paused, "But then again, you'd know all about that."

"You're an ass, Nico. I don't know why I even consider you a friend."

He leaned his head back, enjoying the air conditioning as she pulled out of his driveway. "Because I'm the only one around here who won't judge you for being in love with him."

 

The prospect of doing an exorcism and the pain over what happened during his last attempt was working overtime on his conscious. He ran his hand over the cool leather seat to ground himself, finding focus in the details of the car. The hand stitching on the seat, the gold accents on the dashboard, the engine that purred like a cat in heat. Meredith, or more accurately, whatever man she conned into buying her a vehicle, had spared no expense. Compared to his beat-up old mattress and walking most places in shoes whose soles wore out long ago, this was the lap of luxury. The drive to the Striga house was the most comfortable ten minutes Nico had experienced in the last ten years. Even with the knot of dread forming in the pit of his stomach and his heightened anxiety, he forced himself to enjoy the ride. He had to suppress a sigh as the car glided over potholes without so much as a shudder.

He glanced at his chauffeur and glared. "Wipe that smug grin off your face, Meri. It's a nice ride, but it's not orgasmic."

She gripped the steering wheel tighter and turned into the driveway. "Please, you wouldn't know what orgasmic feels like anymore." As she put the car into park she turned and raised an eyebrow, "You can't even get it up these days."

He shrugged. "What can I say, I'm celibate by choice."

"You're celibate by intoxication." She gave him a quick glance and licked her lips, "You strayed off the celibate-by-choice path when you first arrived."

"Still missing me, huh?" His hand hovered over the door handle. This banter was normal between them and he was more than willing to keep it up if it meant he didn't have to actually go inside the Striga House. He hated interacting with Meredith's mother. In truth, he'd say or do just about anything to avoid the older Striga.

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