Sarwat Chadda: Devil’s Kiss

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Sarwat Chadda Devil’s Kiss
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    Devil’s Kiss
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There's Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself…And Billi SanGreal. As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a soldier in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy. Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to reclaim his place in Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Michael, who seems to understand her like no one else, effortlessly claiming a stake in her heart. But the Templars are called to duty before Billi can enjoy the pleasant new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years – a cursed mirror powerful enough to kill all of London 's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.

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Sarwat Chadda

Devil’s Kiss

The first book in the Devil's Kiss series, 2009

To my wife and daughters

Who made thee a prince and judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?

Exodus 2:14


Killing him should be easy; he’s only six.

Then why the bilious, twisting feeling deep in her guts? Why the cold, clammy dampness down her back?

He’s only six.

Billi waded through the tall, spiny grass towards the back of the park. The autumnal night wind whispered to her, down here in The Pit.

What a name for a playground.

But no one played here, hadn’t for years. The low fence around it had long since fallen, leaving rotten planks jutting out of the earth like crooked black teeth. The animal rockers watched her with blank, hollow eyes and their old springs creaked as they nodded their heads in greeting.

The boy sat on the swing, the middle one of three.

Only six.

Billi approached with a Maglite in her hand, its beam aided by the full moon and the red lights on the Crystal Palace radio aerial. It loomed over her like a giant black spike stabbing the sky.

The rusty chains groaned as he swayed back and forth, watching her.

Maybe it’s not him. Maybe he’s just some normal kid.

Maybe I don’t have to murder him.

He looked normal. Tatty Nike trainers, a pair of jeans with an elasticated waist, and a burgundy and blue striped Crystal Palace top.

A local boy.

Normal, except for the marks on his neck. His white throat was bound with dark purple bruises.

Billi drew a long, deep breath and crossed over the old fence boundary, her heart hammering hard against her ribs. The playground was gravel and scattered with litter: old cans, mouldy newspapers and brittle brown leaves that had blown down from the skeletal trees at the top of the hill. But the corruption was more than just gentle ageing. All the signs were here.

Of a Desolation: a place of evil. Innocent blood had been spilt, tainting the soil itself. Billi thought, if she dared to listen, she might still hear dying screams echoing in the wind, and the leaves rustling with a child’s last breath. The earth seeped with a sweet, oily vapour. It tinged the air, but as Billi passed the threshold it doubled in thickness, until after a few steps her lungs felt they were drowning in it. The few flowers and weeds that had broken through were grey and malformed. Beetles, glossy black, scuttled their armoured bodies over the stones, and fat, white, luminescent worms writhed under her feet.

‘Hello,’ said the boy.

‘Hello,’ said Billi.

The boy looked at her. He was missing a lower front tooth, but otherwise his baby teeth formed a soft, easy smile.

Just like the photo.

I could still be wrong.

But with each step closer, she knew she wasn’t. It was the bruises.

Billi stopped a few metres in front of him. The marks still held the impressions of fingers, even after all this time.

‘Have you come to play?’ he asked.

Look into his eyes. That’s what they’d told her. Wasn’t it one of the first lessons she’d learnt in the Order? The windows of the soul. She’d often stared at her own black orbs, wondering what really lay through them. Maybe only more darkness.

The boy got off the swing, and Billi stepped backwards; she couldn’t help it.

He looked up at her, catching the moon full on his plump, gap-toothed face. His eyes shone like mirrors, like cats’ eyes. Billi stared into them, but there was nothing there, just an empty reflection.

It’s him.

‘I’m sorry, Alex. I’ve come to take you back.’

‘How do you know my name?’

What didn’t she know about him? She’d read the old newspapers, trawled through the library archives for a week. Even watched the faded 8mm home movie, a flickering yellow-tinged illusion of life on a white bedsheet.

Alexander Weeks. Six years old. No. 25 Bartholew Street. Pupil at St Christopher’s Primary School. Brother to Penny.

Last seen in 1970.

‘But I’ve only just got here. I want to see my mummy.’

Only son of Jennifer and Paul Weeks. Billi remembered them sitting with her dad in the church, showing him their old photo album. Telling him of how they still dreamed of Alex, even now.

How they saw his face outside their window some nights.

‘I know you do. But you can’t stay here.’

She’d argued she was only fifteen, a year below age. But her dad had insisted. It was time. The Ordeal. Her last test before she was initiated into the Order.

And no one argued with Arthur SanGreal.

She’d expected some Hot Meet. A fight, lots of sound and fury. Why else all those extra lessons sword-fighting with Percy? Her arms and legs were a busy map of bruises and cuts and already attracted enough attention at school. She’d thought there’d be a duel against one of the real Unholy. A Loony, Fang-face, even an Infernal maybe.

Not this.

Not killing a little kid.

Billi took another step.

‘Why? It’s not fair!’ The swings either side of him rattled on their chains, agitated. Billi tensed. Goosebumps crept along her arm, even under her fleece. Alex radiated coldness.

‘I know, son.’

Billi spun round.

Her father strode over the broken fence and walked towards them. He wore his suit, his one and only suit. Dark blue and shiny with wear. In his left hand he held a scabbard, in his right, a sword. A metre and a half long, its pommel was a thick iron disc bearing the Order’s symbol: two knights on a single horse. The broad blade gleamed ghost-silver in the moonlight. It was a brutal weapon made for hacking.

The boy looked at him. ‘Have you come to kill me too?’

Arthur stopped halfway between them and the fence and discarded the scabbard. He smiled at Alex, but it was tired and wan. And there was no gentleness in his icy blue eyes.

‘No, lad. You know I can’t.’ He glanced at Billi. ‘You’re already dead.’

‘It’s not fair!’ The swings were thrashing and clanging now, the roundabout creaked to life, turning slowly, grinding its rusty axle against its corroded socket.

‘The man said I could feed the birds! The man said -’

‘He’s been punished for what he did,’ said Arthur.

‘Is he in Hell?’ asked Alex.

‘I promise you he is.’

The boy wailed. ‘I didn’t want to die!’ He held up his hands. ‘Please, let me stay.’ Crystal tears dribbled down his face, and his mouth and chin wrinkled in misery. ‘It’s dark and I’m all alone! It’s dark and I’m scared!’ He stepped nearer, begging.

He’s just a little boy…

‘No, Billi!’ shouted Arthur, but too late. Billi dropped to her knees and embraced Alex. She pulled him close to her heart and -

the chill seeps into her pores, saturating her skin with ice. Like venom, black ichor floods her veins, pumping her with Alex’s despair, envy and


that he was snatched from the sunlight by sweaty hands and crushing fingers, in the dirt and fallen leaves never to feel the


he misses so much and wants more than anything and so he sucks it from her, leaving only coldness that is brittle-bone deep, sucks the air out of her lungs, white frost, and her


blisters and tears freeze on her cheeks as she stares into Alex’s eyes, black and malice-filled, remembering only the

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