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Demon Heart: The Darkworld Series Book 3 (Ebook)

Demon Heart: The Darkworld Series Book 3 (Ebook)

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Book 3 of 5: The Darkworld Series


Ash may have escaped death several times, but now things are finally looking up. The doppelganger is gone, she’s dating Leo, and the magic police are staying away from her – for now. But a new threat rises from the Darkworld: Lucifer, a sorcerer who did the impossible and cheated death through escaping to the Darkworld, has sent his second-in-command into our realm to win Ash over to his side -- at any cost.

With the threat of a second Demon Wars imminent, Ash starts to dig into the town's forgotten history to learn what really happened during the demons' attack on the Blackstone family 150 years ago. But what she finds leads to a revelation that shocks her to the core. Blackstone’s dark history is rising to the surface, and it seems even memory can lie. The worst betrayal waits around the corner, and Ash has to decide whether to trust Leo with her darkest secret, even when it has the potential to destroy them both…

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“ASHLYN TEMPLE! You spent the night in a haunted house and never told me?” I winced as Cara’s voice turned static, and she leant so far towards the webcam that I half-expected her head to come out of my laptop screen. “AND you have a boyfriend? You have some explaining to do.”

I should have seen this coming a mile off, but the truth was, things had been so mad lately that I’d forgotten to keep my best friend up to date on developments. Trying to stop a crazed underground organisation of sorcerers from arresting me had been higher on my priority list for the last couple of weeks than informing everyone about the change in my romantic status.

Now I was paying the price. 

Cara leaned back from the screen, brushing back her short cropped hair with one hand. She’d dyed it jet black since I’d last seen her, and it suited her. She pulled off the Goth look far better than I did, her eyes shadowed and outlined in liquid black.

“I’m coming to visit,” Cara informed me, folding her legs underneath her. Like me, she sat on her bed, except hers looked like a make-up explosion had taken place on top of it. “Next weekend. No excuses. And I’m meeting Leroy.”

Leo,” I corrected her. “And one of us will have to sleep on my crappy camp bed.”

“I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to. But I’m meeting Mr Prince Charming. Did you say he took you to a ball on Valentine’s Day?”

“Nope, we spent that night scaring the crap out of the Literature Society at that haunted house. But he did take me to see a film last night.”

“Fair enough.” Cara rearranged her legs, knocking what looked like half the contents of a Boots make-up display over in the process. “Did he pay?”

“Uh, yeah.” I felt kind of guilty about that, but it wasn’t as though Leo didn’t have money. His dad worked for the Venantium and they hardly paid their employees a pittance, unsurprising as they supposedly risked their lives on a daily basis. Leo had hardly seen his father in years; like many people who joined the organisation in charge of maintaining the magical Barrier that kept demons from invading our world, Mr Blake had sacrificed responsibility for his children in favour of trying to get into the highest ranks of the organisation. But he still gave Leo, and his brother Cyrus, a pretty decent allowance.

“Was it really romantic?”

“We watched a zombie sci-fi film with lots of explosions.”


Admittedly, I couldn’t remember most of the film. I’d never felt self-conscious around Leo before, but knowing we were on a date suddenly made me hyperaware of everything from what I wore to whether I breathed too loudly. It was ridiculous, but I supposed this was what it felt like to be a normal teenage girl. Speaking of which, watching that film had been the first time we’d spent any time alone together in an ordinary situation—in other words, not sneaking around underground tunnels or haunted houses. Not ideal first date spots, however much fun it had been to hide in the cellar of the supposedly-haunted old house on Tombstone Hill and scare the living daylights out of the Literature Society members who’d decided to stage their postponed Halloween Sleepover there. I wasn’t entirely sure Alex and Sarah, who’d also been there, had entirely forgiven me for that.

Of course, Cara really wanted to know if we’d kissed. I said, yes, we had—omitting to mention, of course, that our first kiss had been in a crypt, near an open grave I’d almost died in. Yeah, normal dating didn’t exactly seem to be my thing. The truth was rather more complicated, of course. The crazed sorcerer, Jude, had been convinced I’d witnessed him murdering vampires, not realising that instead of me, he’d actually seen the doppelganger, the lost spirit of a dead half-demon who’d sneaked under the Venantium’s radar. The leaders of an organisation well-known for its paranoia about magic-users certainly seemed to have missed a few issues with its members.

If it hadn’t been for Leo and the others, I’d have died that night. I’d originally gone along with Leo to help find out why his guardian, Mr Melmoth—also a vampire—had been murdered, and what connection that had to the murderous ghoul who’d been walking around pretending to be me. Instead we found ourselves in the middle of Jude’s plot to fight demons by seeking the advice of a lunatic sorcerer hiding in the Darkworld. Instead, a higher demon had intervened and killed the doppelganger. 

“You set so much by the so-called virtue of your humanity? You don’t even have a heart. You can’t love. You can’t be loved.”

So the doppelganger had claimed… but the fortune-teller had told me otherwise. I’m human. In all the ways that matter. What I felt for my family and friends was no illusion. And Leo… he was fun to be around, a great friend, but it had been a revelation to know that he thought of me like that at all. And when I’d really thought about it, I wondered how I’d missed the signs when they were right in front of me. I’d thought I’d liked someone before and turned out to be mistaken, so I’d asked him to take it slow, and he’d respected that. So far, though, it was going well.

Except for the part where he didn’t know I was a human-demon. The truth would come out eventually, I knew, but I’d barely wrapped my head around that revelation myself, let alone considered how to share it with someone who’d seen more of me than I’d ever thought I’d share.

I’d never been the type of teenage girl who had a different crush every month. I’d wondered if romance was something I wanted at all, though the fact that I was an unrepentant workaholic had made my social life entirely disappear during the time that everyone else in my peer group had started serious dating. But with Leo came warm fuzzy feelings and when he’d kissed me, it was like I’d been waiting for him to do it all along. I might not be certain of a lot of things, and I couldn’t imagine doing the same with anyone else, but Leo and I had had a real connection before shit had hit the fan last term. Which was more than I could say for a certain former flatmate of mine.

“Next weekend,” Cara reminded me, and switched off the webcam.

I stared at my screensaver. Okay, I thought, I can deal with this. I hadn’t seen Cara since Christmas, anyway, since she lived in Edinburgh now. She was the only person from my secondary school I still kept in touch with, partly due to my life turning into a horror film in the middle of my final year. Seeing sinister eyes everywhere had driven me into my own private world, and in the end, most of my former friends had gone their separate ways. But Cara was different. She wouldn’t even let even possible insanity ruin a twelve-year friendship, let alone a hundred-mile distance between our universities. I was lucky to have her.

Sometimes I wished I could tell her the truth, but I knew it would do more harm than good. Cara didn’t need to know that her fear of the sinister unknown might be any more than superstition. I wouldn’t wish that knowledge on anyone else. Leo and I were a part of it because we had to be. We could see the Darkworld, and it could see us. I envied normal people sometimes, but I couldn’t change something I had no say in. Besides, it had brought me to Leo.

I’d told Cara we’d met at Gamesoc, the same story I’d told my flatmates, Alex and Sarah. I’d never had a boyfriend before so her opportunities to tease me about guys had been limited—not that she hadn’t tried. Last term she’d encouraged me to make a move on my former flatmate David, who’d seemed to have a thing for me, but it he’d turned out to be a spy for the Venantium. I’d liked him, but whether the feeling had been mutual or not, I hadn’t been able to forgive what he’d done. I’d acted pretty irrationally, but thankfully, no one other than me and Claudia know about the accidentally-turning-him-into-an-ice-statue fiasco. After that, forgetting about him seemed the simplest solution. At least we no longer lived in the same flat.

Leo was different. Being with him made me feel more alive than I’d felt in months.

My phone buzzed. I smiled when I saw Leo’s name. Pizza 2nite?

Sure, I replied.

The on-campus pizza restaurant was hardly a five-star date, but I couldn’t have cared less. Leo and I never ran out of things to talk about, and his easy-going smile made me feel I could talk about anything on my mind—well, almost anything. It was the perfect bridge between being with my flatmates and Cara, who I couldn’t talk to about anything concerning magic and demons, and being with Claudia and the rest of our group, who would talk of nothing else. I didn’t even have to concoct an alibi to tell Sarah and Alex, like I did when going to the group meetings where a few of us—magic-users, that is—gathered to discuss the kind of thing we couldn’t say in the outside world without being carted off to the madhouse.

As I left my room, I found my flatmates, Alex, Sarah and Mandeep, gathered in the corridor.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Alex stepped forward, arms folded. “We need to have words, missy.”

“About what? I’m going out.”

“To see this mysterious boyfriend of yours?”

“Yes, I’m meeting Leo outside.” I turned to lock my door, hitching my bag on my shoulder.

“As in, outside the flat?”


“Great! We can all meet him, then.”

“Oh, no,” I muttered. I’d managed to stop her from interrogating Leo so far by meeting him on the woodland trail, but I supposed it was only a matter of time.

“Oh yes. I’m not convinced he’s real.”

“Not this again,” I said, exasperated. “Look.” I held up my phone. “Text, from Leo. Totally real.”


The buzzer rang, and I jumped. Alex laughed, grinning at Sarah and Mandeep.

“Here we go,” she said. “Let interrogation round one commence.”

“You’re joking,” I said. “Please. No interrogations. Not all guys are psychopaths.”

“Hey, if you brought a girl back, I’d do the same.”

“Remind me never to bring a girl back to this flat,” said Mandeep, shaking his head. “Is it always like this?”

“Unfortunately,” I said, resigning myself to the inevitable and going to answer the door. I supposed we did have a history of weirdos in our flat, namely Terrence the demon-summoning lunatic. Well, my flatmates knew no more than Cara did about the demon part.

Leo stood outside, curly dark hair fluffed up by the wind. His eyes widened when he saw that I’d brought an entourage.

“Um… hi?” he said, uncertainly.

“So you are a real person,” said Alex, looking him up and down.

“Last time I checked,” said Leo, flashing me a grin. “So these are the flatmates.”

“And this is the boyfriend,” said Alex. “Do you like The Lord of the Rings?”

“Uh… yeah? Any reason?”

“Good.” Alex looked him up and down again. “You pass.”

I bit back a laugh at Leo’s incredulous expression. “Sorry,” I said. “She won’t let anyone in here who doesn’t like LOTR. It’s like her rule.”

“Where are you going?” Alex asked Leo.

“We were going to get pizza. I’m assuming that isn’t against the rules? Wait, do you have an actual rule book?”

“Don’t get any ideas,” I said firmly to Alex. “Right, we’re off. I’ll see you later.”

“Have fun!” said Sarah.

“Round two starts as soon as you get back! If you get back,” Alex added, loud enough for everyone nearby to hear.

“Honestly,” I muttered, as we crossed the student village. “Please ignore everything Alex says. She’s not pleased with us for the prank we pulled on LitSoc.”

“Hmm.” His hand slid into mine, and my heart stuttered. It never failed to take me by surprise how alive that simple gesture made me feel. So this was what I’d been missing out on. Even the miserable weather didn’t bother me. I felt as light as air. Though it was still a relief to reach the warmth of the on-campus Pizzeria.

When I told Leo he’d be meeting Cara, he pulled a face. “She’s the superstitious one?”

“Don’t say that to her face,” I said. “Probably best not to mention demons or vampires, even as a joke.”

“I take it setting myself on fire’s off the cards, too?”

“Unless you’re planning a circus act, then sadly, yes.”

“Shame. I had a whole performance lined up, along with a speech about how the demons are planning a mass invasion from the Darkworld.”

It wasn’t unusual for us to joke about these things, but all the same, his words triggered a memory of something the fortune-teller had said, before she’d disappeared like she usually did. This isn’t over… there’s no doubt about it. She couldn’t really see the future, but she had an uncanny knack for foreknowledge due to her close connection to the spirits in the Darkworld.

I pushed all thoughts of the fortune-teller from my mind. She infuriated me enough in person without invading my thoughts as well. I returned my attention to Leo.

“So, do I have to prepare for any more interrogations?” he said.

“Sorry about Alex,” I said. “She’s very… um… distrusting.”

“I like how at the end she said, ‘You pass’,” said Leo. “What does she do to people who don’t pass?”

“Throws them out, I imagine,” I said, never having actually witnessed this. “My flatmates are a little strange.”

“Funnily enough, I’m used to that.” He grinned at me. “I’m dating it.”

My face turned the colour of the tomato on my pizza. “It?” I said, “or did you just call me ‘little’?”

“Well, you are.”

I nudged him with my elbow and we ended up in a kind of half-wrestling match under the table. People started giving us odd looks, but I didn’t care. I deserved some fun. So did Leo. His guardian had died only a month ago, killed by Jude. Mr Melmoth had taken Leo and Cyrus in after their father had abandoned them, effectively making them orphans after their mother had been killed by a demon. I couldn’t imagine how awful that felt, but Leo never complained about anything.

Recent events haunted me enough. Especially witnessing the doppelganger kill a member of the Venantium, and that horrible night in the crypt.

My heart fluttered as he slid his hand into mine on the walk back, even though he’d done it so many times before. I felt so alert around him, my skin tingling as though I’d been plugged into a live wire. When he kissed me on the doorstep of my flat, shivers raced up and down my spine as I wrapped my arms around him.

“Night,” he whispered in my ear.

I leant on the door, telling myself to get a grip and stop acting like a cliché romance heroine. 

“Are you planning on standing out here all night?”

I must have jumped a foot in the air. My happy visions of kissing Leo were replaced by the unwelcome scowling face of Berenice Payne.

“What’re you doing here?” I said blankly. 

“Duh, I live in this house, and you’re blocking the door!”

I moved aside, muttering an apology. Berenice and I had never seen eye to eye, mainly because she’d been a bitch to me ever since we’d met. I’d never quite figured out her problem. The others in the group tolerated her, and I had to do the same, since she’d guessed my secret.

Berenice flounced past me, her curly hair brushing my face and making my eyes water at the overpowering smell of perfume. “Have you told him yet?”

“Told him what?” I said, feigning ignorance, even though I knew it wouldn’t do any good.

She rolled her overly-outlined eyes.

“You’re playing with fire, girl,” she said. “He’ll figure it out, trust me. He isn’t stupid. And then what?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m not planning a demonic invasion. I didn’t even know what—what I am until a few months ago. It won’t change a thing.”

“So why haven’t you told him yet?”

“None of your business,” I retorted, mirroring her own response when I’d asked her a couple of weeks ago why she and Howard weren’t dating.

“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” And she sauntered into the building. 

Like I needed anyone else trying to bring down my confidence. The demons and the doppelganger had done enough of that already. 

Berenice confounded me. I couldn’t puzzle out why anyone would want to be that unpleasant to people. Various hints I’d picked up over the past few months suggested she’d had a bad experience with a demon, but that went the same for all of us. Her father lectured at the university, and from what I gathered, her mother worked in the higher levels of the Venantium and had completely ditched her family, which I guessed excused her general attitude towards other magic-users. Still, she didn’t have to hang around with us. She only came to meetings to try to get in Howard’s pants―and admittedly succeeded, not that Howard saw her as much more than a diversion. 

Personally, I thought that both of them were blind to how the other felt―but suggesting anything to Berenice was like poking a sleeping cobra with a stick, and just as likely to result in a venomous bite.

Other than Howard and Berenice, the group included Claudia, the first magic-user I’d met, and Leo’s older brother Cyrus. All six members of our group had our reasons for not joining up with the Venantium. Howard held a constant grudge against them for arresting his parents, whilst Claudia’s had left to keep her safe. As for me, I was the only person without any magic-users in my family, and as far as we could figure out, no one related to me had ever been registered with the Venantium. We hadn’t yet had the opportunity to check if this was true of the Sorcerer’s Almanac, the book that held accounts of all registered sorcerers, because it had been missing from their library for months.

I wasn’t sure of the procedure for human-demons, but there was no concrete way of telling whether someone was a human-demon or just possessed―and considering there hadn’t been any records of a human-demon in years, no one had suspected a thing. The only clue, as far as I could tell, was that human-demons were better at demonic magic, and that sometimes our eyes changed to the violet colour of a demon’s. I hoped that now the doppelganger had gone, I had that particular quirk firmly under my control.

“Ash!” Alex, predictably, accosted me as soon as I stepped into the flat. Thankfully, no one waited to ambush me in a Grim Reaper costume this time around. “Tell me everything,” she demanded.

“You’re as bad as Cara,” I informed her, shutting the door behind me. “Oh yeah―she’s coming to stay this weekend.”

“Don’t change the subject. Did you sleep with Leo?”

“In the middle of the Pizzeria? What do you take me for?” I strode over to my door, sidestepping the small mountain of lager cans Pete had left lying in the hallway.

“I meant in his flat, stupid.” Alex banged on Sarah’s door. “Sarah! Ash is back.”

“I’m asleep,” Sarah’s voice drifted into the corridor.

“Don’t wake her up, you cruel person,” I said. “She’s got an early shift tomorrow.”

“Oh yeah… sorry. I’ll pester Mandeep instead.”

“I still have your scythe.” Mandeep’s voice came from behind the door that used to be David’s. I was privately glad our new flatmate hadn’t picked the other vacant room―Terrence’s. “Don’t make me come out there and use it!”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” said Alex. “We’ll need it in our epic revenge plan.” She narrowed her eyes at me.

“You started it,” I told her.

“You were more evil.” She referred to my hiding in the cellar of the abandoned house in Crowley’s cemetery and scaring her and the rest of LitSoc to death. “How did you even know that cellar was there? None of us could see it.”

“I told you, Leo and I found it by accident. I kind of fell into it.”

Alex snorted. “Sounds like you.”

“Cheers.” In truth, we’d come into the cellar by accident via the underground tunnels that snaked underneath Blackstone and Crowley—probably the whole area. With the way Alex relentlessly asked questions, it had been tough to think of a valid cover story as to what the hell we were doing there in the first place—I’d just said we’d left early to give everyone a scare.

“But that would mean you were there for hours,” Alex said. “Like… seven hours in a cellar. Tell me you weren’t screwing him in there?”

I laughed. “Yeah, right. I just fell asleep. And… so did he.”

I really need to practise my cover stories. Unlocking my bedroom door, I turned back to say goodnight to Alex.

“You can’t fool me,” she said, wagging her finger. “I know you’re up to something.”

“You can have the blueprints for my evil plan tomorrow,” I said. “Night.”

In my room, I sighed, shrugging out of my thick coat. Whenever I speculated on the possibility of any of my friends learning about my other life, Alex came top of the list. She didn’t mean to be nosy, but her questions downright exasperated me sometimes.

I turned up the heating, since I still felt the chill from outside nipping at my skin. I genuinely didn’t know why I could suddenly feel the temperature change―up until recently, I’d been constantly cold but unable to really feel it, something I’d attributed to being part demon, as demons thrived in the cold atmosphere of the Darkworld. But on the night I’d nearly died, I’d realised that I could feel warmth again like normal people could. It took some adjusting to, and now I could no longer get away with walking outside in winter without a coat. But it also meant that when Leo touched me I could feel his body heat burning like a flame.

Of course, he could literally set himself on fire, a skill most magic-users had no difficulties with. Fire was demonkind’s one weakness as it had the power to destroy their demon heart, a crystal anchoring them to this world when they were summoned. Because of this, I was doubly susceptible to burning, as I’d found out when Jude had attempted to destroy my own demon heart, an amethyst crystal that held my family’s magic, and very nearly killed me. 

My own magic was mostly centred on lowering the temperature and even freezing things, as well as killing demons using ice that burned them like fire. I didn’t like using it, but I’d been forced to, twice. The others saw it as an eccentricity and had no idea that it was a sign that I wasn’t completely human. Except for Berenice, who’d seen my eyes flash purple when we were battling the Skele-Ghouls and hadn’t bought my excuses. I just hoped she wouldn’t use it to blackmail me.

My phone buzzed again. I picked it up, thinking it was Leo, but the number came up as unknown.

The devil knows your secret.

I stared. Who has my number this time? I’d had cryptic messages before, but as the number came up as ‘unknown’, I couldn’t tell if it might be the same person. This time, however, a number appeared, an unfamiliar one.

It had been so long since the others that I’d all but forgotten about them. But just before I’d first encountered the doppelganger, someone had messaged me with the claim that A shadow has your face

Was it the same person? Who else could possibly know? Is it a warning? Or a threat?

“It’s not a very good one. Nice try,” I told my phone. 

It buzzed back at me and I nearly dropped it. Another message had crossed wires with the first. Tell no one else what you are.

I felt half-tempted to dial the number, but something stayed my hand. Tell no one. One person always said that.

The one person I wanted to avoid.


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