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Dream caster shadow, p.19
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.19

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  You are so not worth it, she sneered in her head.

  Briggs’s eyes were huge orbs as she retreated back to me.

  I looked up at Lord Crane. “I guess in this family it’s natural to commit violence against your own blood.”

  I got up and walked toward my mother, Kiara still growling behind me.

  “So, what will it be? A willing volunteer to do whatever the heck it is you’re trying to do with Light Casters, or should I leave you with nothing? I will save my mother, and I will escape.”

  “Oh, please. Enlighten us on why you think you’ll accomplish that.”

  I pointed at my mother. “Because she raised me.”

  All eyes were on me. Briggs’s eyes bored into me, his anger radiating from him like a hot laser. I wouldn’t give him another second of my time. My grandfather considering me, his lips pursed and his eye twitching just like my mother’s did whenever she was contemplating something.

  He flicked his tongue over his lips, then he made a gesture with his hands, giving a signal either to release my mother or kill her.

  The guards went to her glass cubicle. One of them opened the door and stepped inside.

  I’m so sorry, she mouthed at me.

  “No, no, no, no,” I whispered. Kiara was already on alert to move the minute they raised their weapons against her.

  The guard took out his keys and unlocked her shackles.

  My mother stared up at her father, the expression on her face one I had never seen before. I couldn’t read the emotion in her eyes. Mom hurried out and I ran to her.

  The second our bodies connected, I felt like passing out. The adrenaline disappeared. I was bone-tired. I’d missed her so much. The hug didn’t last long.

  A guard seized her, ripping her from my arms, and for a moment, we were both disoriented. Without a thought, we sprang into action, battling the guards coming toward us. I clawed at one, kicked at another. I hurled my sand at a third, though inexpertly, so I missed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother punch one guard as she evaded a blow from another. Black sand poured from her wrists toward our attackers.

  We were not helpless; it was something Lord Crane was going to learn the hard way.

  I gave Kiara the signal the signal the second I saw an opening, urging her to get my mother the hell out of here and come back for me.

  Kiara’s smoke billowed in thick wisps behind her.

  “Clear your mind, think of nothing,” I shouted to my mother. She looked at me blankly.

  “Do it now!” I yelled as Kiara hurtled toward my mom. She nodded and closed her eyes.

  And just like that, Kiara’s smoke swallowed both of them and they vanished.

  The guards stopped in their tracks, bewildered. Shadow Hounds erupted with howls, and their mental moans and yips were deafening, pounding into my mind with force.

  “Why did you think I was bluffing? I told you I’m not like the others,” I screamed at Lord Crane.

  Kiara appeared at my side and I placed a hand on her blocky head between her horns for comfort. Safe? I asked.

  Of course.

  “I wasn’t going to kill her. I was merely taking your mother to my loft. It’s very comfortable up there. And I wanted to offer you accommodation, as my guests, of course.”

  “With all due respect, Lord Crane,” I said, “I don’t want to be a guest in your loft. However, I will come with you to make the final arrangements for our agreement, and to get your word—not that I think much of it—that my mother’s life will be spared.”

  Chas, Kiara said. You can’t trust them.

  I don’t want to, but consider the fact that I am my mother’s daughter. You said the women in this family have his attention? Let’s see if it’s true.

  I’m coming with, Kiara said.

  No!

  She growled softly. I said, I’m coming with.

  Thirty-four minutes later, I was standing inside Lord Crane’s loft.

  It was everything I hadn’t expected.

  It was spacious and open, and the walls and furniture gleamed a bright white. It was as if he was trying to cast out the Shadow within him.

  Voices echoed in distant parts of the house, and from what I heard, Lord Crane wasn’t happy with the men in his family.

  Briggs was in deep shit. He tried to deny my claims. I could hear his pleading and telling Lord Crane how unfair it was that he had never accepted him.

  Sebastian was also knee-deep in shit when Lord Crane asked him about the night my mother had escaped… the night Sebastian had killed my father. He wasn’t begging like his son; no, he was taking responsibility for his actions.

  At least my mother was safe, but something told me if we didn’t get back soon, she would break down this door and come fetch me.

  I ached to be with her, to sit and talk about everything that had happened. I couldn’t wait.

  I hate this place, Kiara said.

  Lauderdale stalked into the room.

  Thought you were dead, he said to Kiara, but I could hear him too. I raised an eyebrow at Kiara. How can you disrespect your master?

  “Would you shut the hell up?” I said. Kiara tried to suppress her snorty doggy laughter at Lauderdale’s confusion.

  “Shadow Hounds,” I muttered. “Of all the animals in the world, I’m the lucky one who gets to hear all your thoughts. You should be ashamed of yourself. Bullying other Hounds just because you can.”

  Lauderdale still didn’t have anything to say.

  A female voice came from the doorway. “Who are you talking to?”

  Guinevere. She was just as cruel as her Hound. I knew this girl the way Kiara did. She was pathetic and pretended to be this macho girl. But she was sadistic.

  “Teaching your Hound some manners.”

  She laughed. “Manners? Sweetheart, he only listens to me.”

  “Oh, I forgot. It’s a one-way stream for you. Well, you’re not missing much. Lauderdale is very shallow, though that doesn’t surprise me, considering who he spends his time with.”

  “Bullshit.”

  “Guess you’ll never know.”

  She froze when Lord Crane walked into the room.

  “Guinevere, you may leave. I’ll be fine.”

  Her gaze didn’t stray from mine. “Lauderdale,” she said. The Hound followed her as she backed out of the room.

  Kiara’s giggling flowed into my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him act that way.

  Lord Crane leveled his regal gaze on me. “I apologize for your cousin’s behavior.”

  I huffed. “They are not my cousins. I told you, blood doesn’t make family.”

  Kiara was still laughing. She was filled with pride, with that feeling that resulted from overcoming fears.

  Another Shadow Hound entered the room. Kiara!

  Kaleido! The two greeted each other like old friends—or better, like the twins they were. They caroused like pups for a short moment, but Kaleido stopped.

  His emotions coursed through me. He missed Ash. He didn’t know why he was here and he wanted to go home. Why hadn’t I heard him the day Ash had saved me? I’d thought he was going to rip off my head.

  “Kaleido, get back here!” Briggs yelled at him.

  Kaleido hung his head, lowering his eyes to the ground, and walked away.

  Kaleido, Kiara called. Chas, do something. He’s not happy here.

  “I know,” I replied out loud.

  “What do you know?” Lord Crane asked.

  “Just answering my Shadow Hound,” I replied as if it was the most natural thing in this world.

  Briggs sent a hate-filled glare Kiara’s way.

  “You think I made up all those things I said tonight? I really do know what Briggs did to Kiara. And why.”

  Lord Crane whirled on Briggs, his fine black cloak fluttering around his shoulders.

  “She’s lying, Grandfather.”

  Lord Crane abandoned him, though I got the feeling he was far from done with Briggs. As my
grandfather approached me, admiration softened his features.

  Pure, gleaming admiration.

  He gripped my chin between his thumb and forefinger and pushed my face up to stare into my eyes. A glint of satisfaction entered his expression, like he had found what he was looking for.

  He let out a soft chuckle. “She can hear their thoughts. She has the signs.”

  “What signs?”

  “Your eyes…” he said. “Would you like something to drink, Chastity?”

  “No. What I would like is to get this over with.”

  “Fine,” he said. He walked over to a jewelry box and took out an exquisite bracelet.

  He gestured for me to hold out my arm and placed the bracelet on my wrist, clamping it tightly.

  I stared at it, furious that he had given me a gift.

  “I’m a man of my word. Your mother will testify to that. This bracelet ensures you keep your part of the deal. This—” he brandished a tiny silvery key—“is the only key that can open the bracelet. If you are not here by nine o’clock tomorrow, it will inject you with a lethal poison.”

  Kiara growled immediately.

  “Easy, girl,” I said. And to him: “I get it. You don’t trust me.”

  “I trusted my daughter once, a long time ago. You said you are your mother’s daughter. Therefore, I must take precautions.”

  A smirk pulled at my mouth. “I totally agree with you on that.”

  He smiled, then looked down at Kiara. “Confidence suits you, Kiara. Always knew you had it in you.”

  Fleetingly, I thought he was going to compel her to go back to Briggs.

  “Oh,” Lord Crane said. “Take Kaleido with you. He’s been miserable since the day he got here.”

  “Grandfather,” objected Briggs, “that is my—”

  Lord Crane’s demeanor changed into that of a tyrant. “You lied to me about the disappearance of your own Hound. And if this to be trusted, you tried to off me. Do not push me, Briggs.”

  “I’ll see you tomorrow, Chastity,” my grandfather said.

  Kaleido shuffled to us, his head bowed.

  “It’s going to be fine,” I murmured. “You’re going home.”

  To Ash? His mood lifted immediately.

  “See you tomorrow,” I said as I sauntered out with the two Hounds behind me.

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  ONE HAPPY FAMILY

  Kiara teleported with her twin first, because he didn’t know where we were going. Then she came back for me.

  In the minutes that passed after Kiara’s disappearance, I was petrified that someone might have followed us, that Lord Crane would renege on our deal, but then Kiara appeared, and I took a breath of relief.

  Her emotions were sky-high; she was as happy as could be. She was reunited with her twin. She was giddy like a puppy.

  I laughed at her.

  Why are you laughing? she asked.

  I crouched down in front of her. “Are you happy?” I asked.

  Never been this happy my entire life.

  I smiled.

  You know what to do, Chas.

  I cleared my mind and shut my eyes, and suddenly we were at the edge of the forest.

  Kaleido was waiting for us.

  How did you do that? It’s so cool. Can I do it?

  I laughed.

  Yes, you can do it too. With Chas’s help, we can teach you and Ash how to do it.

  Can she really hear us? His big eyes, which once I had thought to be filled with pure malice and murder, regarded me with peaceful intelligence.

  Yes. Chas is special. I’m very lucky to have found my second chance with her. I’m free, and she sees me as her equal, just the way Ash does with you.

  He doesn’t see me as his equal, Kiara.

  “I’m sure he does,” I said, though we’d never spoken about it directly. “He misses you a lot. But I’d tell him to free you. You Hounds are so much more when you are not bound in slavery.”

  He really misses me? I can’t wait to finally see him again.

  “Soon,” I said as we made our way back to the cabin.

  A few moments later, Kaleido stopped in his tracks.

  What is it? Kiara asked what I was thinking.

  Ash! He’s close. His voice positively sparked with excitement.

  Ash couldn’t be here. His mother had made it clear he wasn’t allowed to come here.

  I picked up my pace, jogging toward the cabin and opened the door.

  My mother grabbed me and hugged me tight. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!”

  “I’m sorry. What are you doing here?” I pulled away. “I mean, in the Oblivion.”

  “I got word that you weren’t in Revera anymore, and I planned to find you and get you out, but then my brother found me.”

  “Mom, I…” My voice broke and I blinked away the tears that threatened to fall. She pulled me into her arms, stroking my hair

  “I know. I’m sorry.” She held me at arm’s length and, with a smile, asked, “So?”

  I finally looked around me. The cabin was completely transformed, not decaying like before.

  A cheerful fire blazed in the fireplace. The floor and walls were now marble. The living room now held three sofas and a lush carpet. It opened into a magnificent kitchen with a working stove and cherry-wood cabinets that I bet were stuffed with food.

  The staircase wasn’t dilapidated anymore, and she’d even conjured a dining room table with six chairs. Portraits adorned the walls.

  “A bit much, isn’t it?” She gestured around.

  “Why can you do this but I can’t?”

  She laughed. “Down here, I’m sort of the dark princess. I have perks,” she joked. “You’re only half shadow, remember?”

  Warmth filled my chest, unrelated to the crackling fire. “How could I forget?” I wrapped one arm around her waist and gave her a side hug. “I missed you so much.”

  “And I you.”

  “Kaleido!” Ash’s voice broke as he stepped down the staircase, followed by his mother. Tears glittered in his eyes. He dropped to his haunches as Kaleido pushed his head around the door, curious to see what was going on inside.

  Ash let out an astonished gasp as the Shadow Hound bounded over and tackled him.

  My mother laughed. “I told you they weren’t that vicious.”

  “Yes, you did. Speaking of, I would like you to meet someone.” I stepped aside for Kiara, who had been waiting politely behind me.

  She walked toward my mother, who sank down into a crouch. She took Kiara by her mouth, looked at her teeth.

  Kiara allowed the inspection.

  “Thank you,” Mom said. “For keeping my daughter safe.”

  Oh, I like her, Kiara said and I laughed.

  Mom beamed at me. “You can hear her thoughts.”

  “It turns out I can hear the thoughts of all Shadow Hounds, Kaleido’s included.”

  Ash shot Kaleido a surprised look. “Is that true, bud? Can she hear your thoughts?”

  Yep, was all he said and I chuckled.

  “What did he say?”

  “Yep,” I answered.

  Ash threw an arm around Kaleido’s neck and pulled him in close. “Thank you, Chas.”

  “Don’t thank me. Briggs lied to Lord Crane about Kiara’s disappearance. He ordered him to return Kaleido, because Briggs isn’t worthy of having a Shadow Hound.”

  “I pity him. My father doesn’t take assassination gently. Especially when it’s aimed at him,” my mother spoke up.

  “It’s happened before?”

  “More than we’d like to admit.”

  “I hate the Oblivion.”

  She nodded. “Then let’s go now.”

  “Mom, I can’t.”

  “My father doesn’t deserve your word…”

  I lift up my arm and the fire in the fireplace glinted off it. She stopped.

  “If I’m not at his place at nine, I’ll be injected with a poison…”

 
I know what it is. I can’t believe he did this!”

  “For someone you said didn’t understand you, Mom, your father seems to know you pretty well.”

  She waved it off.

  The bracelet slipped askew as I lowered my arm. “I promised him, and I intend to keep that promise.”

  Ash’s mother stepped forward. “I’m sorry I was so judgmental. If I had known you were Vinicola’s daughter, I would’ve never told Ash to stay away.”

  I smiled.

  “Judgmental?” Mom regarded Ash’s mother with furrowed eyebrows.

  “It’s okay.” I waved it off. “Nothing bad happened.”

  “I forgot to introduce you. This is my best friend, Karin,” Mom said.

  “I figured she had to know you. When Kaleido said Ash was close, I knew it had to have something to do with you, since his mother practically forbade him from coming to see me.”

  “She’s really not that bad.” Mom gazed at Karin. “A bit overprotective, but that is understandable. I’m so sorry, Karin.”

  “Sorry about what?” I interjected as the women seemed to communicate something with their eyes.

  “How did you know?” Karin asked.

  “You’d be surprised how fast news reached the Domain.”

  They embraced each other.

  “Sorry about what?” Ash asked.

  “Nothing for you to worry about.”

  Mom cooked as she chatted to Karin. I went upstairs to look around.

  She’d conjured my old room, the one in the Domain. Everything was exactly as I remembered it. I picked up a snow globe and shook it.

  A knock sounded at the door. Ash glided inside without waiting for me to give him permission.

  “Your mom is pretty amazing at conjuring.”

  “Yeah, I wish I had her gift. Then we wouldn’t…” I shook my head and laughed. “Yeah, she is good.”

  “I’m sorry, Chas. I didn’t know the Cranes were your family.”

  “They’re aren’t.” I set the snow globe down harder than necessary. “We share the same bloodline, but that’s it. My mom is my family, and Kiara.”

  We headed downstairs.

  “I’m glad Kaleido’s back. I swear, if Lord Crane didn’t give him back, I would’ve demanded it. I can never thank you enough for that.” His smile was radiant, and so like Leigh’s it made my heart hurt. “So, do you know what they’re doing to Light Casters?”

 
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