For today's First Chapter Friday post, I'm sharing the first chapter of Demon on Jackson Street. It was published January 18, 2021 with Decadent Publishing. It's the fifth book in my Shifter Towers series, and is about a young omega shifter who can't shift, and the demon whose been tasked with claiming his soul. Readers have said it's darker than the other stories in the series, and I agree. All the books in the series can be read as stand-alones.
Here's the first chapter of DEMON ON JACKSON STREET...
“Here’s your money.”
I took the bills from the shift manager as she closed the cash register. Forty dollars for a ten-hour shift. Not even minimum wage, but it was money I didn’t have to claim on my taxes. Money that would go toward paying for my grandmother’s weekly medication and allow me to pick up a few groceries as well. “Thank you. Would you like me to come in tomorrow?”
“Naw.” Becky waved her hand in the air. “We don’t need you again until Thursday. Eleven a.m. Don’t be late.”
I nodded, though I didn’t understand why she always said that to me. I’d never been late since she’d been promoted to manager after a month of working at the secondhand store or for the two years I’d worked there before she’d even started.
I grabbed my jacket from the staff room at the back then left the store. At the other end of the strip mall was the drugstore where I had Mimi’s prescription filled.
Mr. Gilli had the medication ready for me when I stepped up to the counter. “Good evening, Toby. How was your day?”
“Fine, thank you.” My response never varied. Because nothing in my life ever changed. I worked a dead-end job for next to nothing, and, when I wasn’t there, I was with my sick grandmother. Never anywhere else. And it’s not as if there would ever be any departure from the monotony that was my life.
“Well, say hi to your grandmother for me.”
“I will. Thank you.” After paying for the medication and tucking it into the inside pocket of my coat, I walked through the aisles to get a few groceries. I picked up a couple cans of chicken broth, a bag of egg noodles, a jug of milk, and some bananas. At the cash register, I gave the last of my money to the clerk then took the paper bag of food and headed home.
The sun had already set, so I walked on the side of George Street with the streetlights. Some of them had been burned out for months, but it was still better than the dark shadows on the other side.
As I made my way to my apartment building on the corner of George and Jackson Streets, I continuously looked behind me to see if I was being followed. As an omega, it was imperative I constantly know of my surroundings. But being one of only a handful of non-shifters in the whole metropolis of Saramto made me an even bigger target for alphas looking to cause trouble. I couldn’t shift to escape danger or fight back, so I had no choice but to stand there and take their harassment until they got bored with me.
I was nearly home, only a block away, when I heard a wolf whistle. Heart racing, I paused, trying to figure out my best course of action. I darted around the corner, only steps away from the front entrance when the noise came again. From right in front of me.
“Look who we have here.” Benji, a wolf shifter who was the self-proclaimed head alpha on the block, stepped into the glow from the streetlight up ahead. “A lonely omega with a bag full of groceries for us. How kind.”
As his three cronies stepped out of the shadows, I clutched the bag to my chest. It was all the food I had for my grandmother and I until I got paid again. I couldn’t afford to part with it.
“So, what are we eating tonight?” Chad yanked on my sleeve then wrestled the bag from my arms.
Dan pushed me away as I tried to grab it back. He peeked inside. “Not much by the looks of it.” After pulling out the jug of milk, he tossed it to Mark.
“C’mon, guys. This is all I have.”
There’d been too many days recently where they’d taken all my food, and I’d gone without, sacrificing what I could find for my grandmother. Until recently, Lester, a racoon shifter from the neighborhood, would tell them to leave me alone, but he’d disappeared last month. And Mrs. Apple was too ill and bedridden to chase them away with her broom.
“You’re wrong.” Mark twisted the jug open then began to drink my milk. He wiped his mouth after chugging half of it. “It’s all we have.”
As he dumped the rest of the milk into the sewer, Chad took out a can of the soup broth and whipped it at the abandoned car across the street, smashing the last unbroken window.
“Bananas.” Dan grabbed the bunch. “Do you and your granny get freaky with these? You know, if you need a fuck buddy during your heat, you can always call one of us.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and wiped my eyes to stop the tears threatening to fall. What I needed was for them to leave me alone. And I never wanted an alpha like any of them. Even if I ever did go into heat. I’d rather be by myself for the rest of my life.
Benji knocked the bananas out of his hand and stomped on them. My food was being ruined before my eyes, and I could do nothing to stop it from happening. I’d tried before and ended up with a black eye and various other bruises.
Chad dumped the bag of noodles and the last can of soup onto the sidewalk before kicking the packages onto the road. Then he tossed the empty bag away.
“Let’s go.” Benji nodded up the street. “He doesn’t have anything good so let’s see who else we can find.”
I never had anything good, but at no time had that ever stopped them from checking. Sometimes I got home safely with all my food, but, on nights like this, I wished for someone to protect me from them.
As soon as I was sure they’d left, I walked over to pick up the package of broken noodles and the dented can of chicken broth. Everything else was ruined. We’d have to make do again, but at least there was something salvageable left this time.
I stepped into the apartment building with tears streaming down my cheeks. Why did this always have to happen to me? I’d never done anything wrong in my entire life. I went to school and had done well throughout my childhood, and, when Mimi got sick, I gave up everything to take care of her, finding the first job I could to keep a steady flow of income. Then my hours kept getting cut, and my grandmother’s home care workers kept canceling. I was doing so much on my own yet continued to get further behind. And now I had Benji and his gang after me for no reason.
I leaned against the wall outside our one-bedroom apartment and tried to gain some composure before going inside. I couldn’t let my grandmother see me in this condition. She often called me her guardian angel for taking care of her. Though, she’d done the same for me, raising me from a baby. I had no idea what had happened to my parents. No matter how many times I asked, she refused to tell me. She said I had her and nothing else mattered. But I wouldn’t have her forever. She got worse every day, even with the medication. And in the future, when she finally succumbed to her illness, where would that leave me? Would I get my own guardian angel?
I shouldn’t think like that. I wiped away more tears. I had to focus on her right now and not be so selfish. I had to be thankful for all I did have.
As I stepped inside, my grandmother called for me. “Toby, is that you? Why are you so late?”
“It is me, Mimi.” I put the noodles and broth on the kitchen counter then took her medication from my jacket pocket. Thank goodness no one had gotten hold of that. “Just got out of work a little late. Are you okay? Are you hungry?”
“I’m okay. I was simply worried about you.” She smiled at me from her bed in the living room. “I’m glad you’re home now. Marlene was here a couple hours ago. She actually showed up for a change. But I am hungry. Could you make me some soup?”
“Sure, Mimi. Anything for you.”
I’d have to ration our food until I worked again, but as long as my grandmother got something to eat, I’d be okay. I didn’t know how much time I had left with her, but I wanted to keep her around as long as possible. She was the only family, the only friend I had.
Jessica E. Subject is a USA Today bestselling author of Sci-Fi and Paranormal Romance.
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