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Mask of Death: Soldier of Death Series Book 2

Mask of Death: Soldier of Death Series Book 2

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A dark force is rising. And only Gray Brooks can sense its power…

For Gray Brooks, death was only the beginning. Once a Marine, his life took a turn for the worst, and he found himself wrapped up in a robbery gone wrong. Shot and left for dead, Gray was revived in the hospital. But he was forever touched by the land of the dead, cursed to see the sinister spirits stalking this realm…

After surviving yet another deadly supernatural encounter, Gray finds himself contacted by a man who desperately needs his help. The man’s daughter lies in a coma, trapped between life and death. And her condition is caused by something not of this earth…

Gray soon realizes a diabolical creature is using the girl as a source of energy, slowly draining her soul dry. And feeding off her life force is only the beginning.

Can Gray stop it before it’s too late?

Or will he end up being the demon's next victim...

207 pages

Chapter 4

Gray woke up the next morning feeling better than he’d expected. The bruises on his face were still vibrantly colorful, but they weren’t quite as sensitive to the touch as they’d been just the day before. He wasn’t one hundred percent, but Gray felt well enough to get out of bed and go for a run. Though his fitness and stamina were better, he still wasn’t in the peak condition he’d been in when he was in the Corps. And to do this job, Gray figured he needed to be back in that kind of shape.

When he was a Marine, Gray had been in better shape than most professional athletes. He’d been strong, fast, had reflexes like a cat, and had stamina for days. Every morning during basic training, he did a five-mile run with a full pack. When they were on patrol over in Afghanistan, they’d sometimes hump more than ten miles in a day, also with a loaded pack. He’d been a specimen in those days. He wasn’t in horrible shape now, but Gray felt like he still had room— a lot of room— to improve.

After getting himself dressed in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt, Gray put on his socks and running shoes. That done, he put his wireless earbuds in, queued up his running playlist, then slipped it into the pocket in his small pack. He hadn’t ever been able to get out of the habit of running with something on his back. It just felt wrong.

Unnatural. So many years of running with a pack on in the Corps had conditioned him that way, and it was a habit Gray found he couldn’t break.

Something Juniper had mentioned to him a while back had stuck with him. And that was the need to be prepared. She had told him that eventually, some of the paranormal creatures they were hunting would notice what he was doing and come for him. She had stressed that he always needed to be on his toes and ready for a fight. That fit with Gray’s “getting back to basics” mentality just fine. That mentality and constant state of readiness were what he carried in the Corps, so it was easy for him to slip back into.

He checked the daggers attached to the sides of his backpack, making sure they were well camouflaged yet easy to get to. He knew the law didn’t permit him to carry blades that long, so he’d fashioned a cloth cover that he’d sewn onto his pack to hide the sheaths and hilts of his knives.

They were well hidden, but it still allowed him to get to his blades in the blink of an eye if he were ever set upon. It hadn’t happened yet, though again, it was always best to be prepared.

Stepping out onto the front porch of the house he was renting from Juniper, Gray turned and looked out at the park. It was a large, sprawling green space in the West Loop neighborhood he was living in, and had trails he enjoyed running. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, so the land around him was still cloaked in thick, deep shadows. He’d always loved this time of day. It felt like the rest of the world hadn’t gotten up yet, and he had it all to himself. It was all quiet. Peaceful.

Gray stepped off his porch and took off at a light jog across the street to the park. He wound his way along the path that led into the thick trees, the shadows around him growing thicker and darker. Reeves was leaning against a tree, grinning at him as Gray passed by.

“Pick it up, Marine,”

Reeves shouted to be heard over Gray’s music.

“You’re getting soft, boy! Let’s go, let's go!”

“I’m pacing myself,” Gray called over his shoulder.

“I’ve seen snails with a quicker pace!”

Gray laughed as he ran along the path that cut between the trees. He passed by Reeves a few more times down the trail, making him laugh as his old friend shouted derogatory things at him. That sort of harsh motivation reminded Gray of being back in the Corps. Reeves was infamous for his methods of motivation which often entailed blistering screeds about a person’s parentage and family life if they fell back on a run. It was sufficient enough to keep everybody on the move.

As he passed by a dense thicket of bushes, Gray felt a tingling sensation crawl across his skin. The air suddenly felt heavy with the weight of anticipation and an undercurrent of dread. He stopped on the path and pulled his earbuds out, his eyes scanning the darkness around him. Although beads of sweat rolled down his face and back, making his shirt cling to him, Gray felt cold, and his stomach churned.

When a pair of creatures burst out of the bushes to his right, Gray was already in motion. He rolled to his left, putting more distance between himself and the creatures who’d tried to ambush him. They were bipedal and humanoid but were on the smaller side, no more than 5’6” tall.

The creatures were covered in dark, coarse fur and had long arms that ended in long, sharp claws.

They stared at him with red eyes and an undisguised hatred in their faces, which were much human-like— aside from the thick thatch of fur covering them. He recognized the kind of monster they were. They were known as Chooks, and he’d killed one of them before, and these two were looking at him like they knew him. Maybe they did, and were here for some payback. Low growls issued from mouths filled with needle-like teeth.

The creatures stood before him, their bodies tensed, their muscles bunched, both ready for action. He knew from experience that although they were small, they were vicious creatures that were tough to kill. He hated running across these things. They were quicker than hell, and Gray just barely got out of the way of the oncoming furball and those long, wicked-looking claws.

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