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Devils playground, p.14
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       Devil's Playground, p.14

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  A dim light sparked between my cracked lids, catching my focus, and with great force, my lids lifted once more. It was a feat I knew I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish for a second time, not if she drained me of any more blood.

  In an instant, the vampire’s fangs were ripped from my flesh, and she flew backwards. I fell to the ground and tried in vain to slap a palm to my wound. I was much too weak to do anything other than hold up the wall.

  I heard a loud crash that echoed like a hollow bass in my head and then a gut-wrenching scream. And somehow, through it all, I managed to think.

  Man, it sucks to be her.

  Since I was no longer being munched on by a vampire, I needed to get to my feet. My best chance at making that happen was to heal. I’d successfully used my power to revive Alayna, but how I could do that for myself was a mystery. I remembered the feeling, like a boost of energy moments before, when I’d established communication with Rafe, so my best bet was to try and tap back into that connection.

  I closed my eyes and concentrated. Rafe was close enough to touch, but it wasn’t my fingers I needed to adjoin to him with. It was my essence—the mystical part of me that had created him and could heal.

  For a brief second, a blue glow cast a shadow across the back of my eyelids, as a fog-like vision that rolled out and then into Rafe, in search of our shared essence. I opened myself up to the magic completely, and it was beautiful. Immediately, I felt more alert. I opened my eyes and was shocked to see that I was no longer sitting in a heap on the floor. Instead, I found myself standing face to face with my vampire, with both of my hands laid flat against the sides of his head.

  He looked at me with tender eyes, his dark hair wild and drenched with blood from his recent kills. Tiny dots of red were splattered across the muscled arms of a killing machine. His strength was impressive and had increased exponentially from when he was newly animated and weak. On the surface, his flesh held the scent of copper and sweat—the aroma of death. But underneath it all, I tasted pure energy.

  Rush walked into the room, breaking the silence and my concentration. His eyes skipped from me, to what was left of the mangled body that belonged to my attacker. I watched, as his face rolled with the realization of what happened in that room.

  He turned to Rafe and said, “You did this?”

  Rafe flashed a bit of a grin, with an ease that made me feel safe.

  “Of course, I did. The leech was attacking our girl.”

  Rush’s jaw tensed, as he said, “Thank you,” while stuffing the makeshift stake he held tight in his fist into the waistband of his jeans. “It took me a minute to notice you’d left the fight. At first, I was pissed off, but now I see you had something much more important to tend to. I just wish you had told me Kris was in danger.”

  The two men stared at each other, before Rafe said, “There was no time.”

  Rush’s stare lingered a bit longer.

  “She contacted you by using that mind meld trick you guys have?”

  “Yes, she did. It comes in handy.”

  I rubbed at the bite mark at my neck; it was healing pretty quickly. The energy I pulled from Rafe was working its magic.

  “You can say that again.”

  Full of heat, Rush’s eyes shot to mine.

  “I would’ve liked to have been the one who busted that monster apart with my bare hands for you. But somehow, I seem to always be a step behind Rafe.”

  I squared my shoulders, ready to say something, but before I could, he dropped his head.

  “Man, how pathetic do I sound, complaining about who saved you? I should just be grateful that you were saved in the first place.” His eyes lifted to mine and held. “Please forgive me.”

  Regardless of his jealous nature, Rush always seemed to find a way to do or say the right thing. My shoulders relaxed, and I walked the few steps that separated us.

  “Just hold me.”

  He opened his arms, and I fell into them. My head rocked to the side, and I caught a glimpse from the window of two women in the midst of a knock-down drag-out fight. And on the sidelines, I could see my best friend, bobbing around, cheering, like he was watching a prized fight.

  Time froze for a minute and then rushed back with the bitter truth—I wasn’t done yet.

  I drew back from Rush and searched his face. He looked calmer. Too bad that wouldn’t last. I kissed him on the chin and then bolted for the door. I couldn’t allow myself to worry that with everything I’d put Rush through, he’d eventually bolt for the door himself. But when it came down to it, I’d choose saving a life over not pissing off the man I was in love with any day. In the end, it was just an easier anguish to live with.

  Behind me, I could hear the beat of large wings and a mumbled curse. It didn’t take much for me to figure out which sound had come from whom.

  Chapter Nineteen

  I tore out of the barn, hands empty of weapons, power almost drained, with a single-minded purpose—to kill that murdering bitch with my bare hands. But not before I found out where the women were being held. I picked up the pace, reaching the fight in time to watch my grandmother rear back an arm and crack Camille in the face. She was in the process of delivering a major ass-kicking. I considered it prep work.

  I glanced at Jude, who was hovering in place, and then I craned my neck and spotted Rafe, flying the perimeter above us.

  Rush walked up from behind. Like a lion on the prowl, he quickly recognized who Lily was fighting. His chiseled features tensed, his fists clenching against his legs. The phantom queen wasn’t a woman to him. She was a symbol of evil, a monster who’d put a lot of people he cared for in danger. She made his blood boil.

  I held out a hand that signaled him to stay back.

  “My grandma has this part taken care of.”

  Nostrils flaring, he stopped.

  Jude snorted and said, “That’s an understatement.”

  We watched on the sidelines, as Camille stumbled back a few steps, recovered quickly, and then smiled through the blood that formed at her lip. In a flash, she lunged at Lily, arms thrashing. Punches and kicks were traded back and forth, wild and vicious—too vicious for me to see them all land.

  From the looks of things, my grandmother had the upper hand, so I didn’t feel the need to help her. At one point, they were both rolling on the ground, clawing and pulling hair, pounding foreheads and faces into the mud. Then just as suddenly as the fight began, a victor emerged; Lily ended the drama with a roundhouse kick to Camille’s jaw.

  She flashed me the kind of grin that made you either smile back or run for your life. Since I knew she loved me, I figured I was probably safe.

  Pulling her up by the hair, Lily dragged Camille through the mud, as the queen stumbled to get to her feet. Blood, mixed with dirt and grass, covered her from head to foot. She looked defeated, beat down, just like the sociopath deserved to be.

  I stared at Lily in amazement. I’d never seen anyone fight like she could, except on television, and that wasn’t real. It was manufactured. Fake blows, bogus blood—all choreographed to appear deadly. Lily was a true warrior, and it was a bright day for everyone that her sword arm swung for the good guys.

  Lily sent a worn look my way and smiled.

  “Let’s finish this and be done with her once and for all.”

  Jude popped in next to Camille and gave the queen of the phantoms a onceover.

  He cracked a smile and said, “You beat the crap out of her, Grandma Lily!”

  Lily shook her head but couldn’t quiet hide the grin that tugged at the corners of her mouth.

  “There’s no time for celebrating, Jude. We still need to vanquish her, before she regains her strength.”

  Jude nodded, and then both of their gazes rested on me.

  “Well, what are you waiting for?” he asked.

  I let out an exasperated breath and said, “I need to question her first.”

  Lily flung her at my feet. She hit the ground hard, air explodi
ng from her lungs, but other than that, she barely made a sound. She just lay there in the mud. If it weren’t for the fact that she was a murderous bitch, I’d have felt bad for her. As it stood, I had to stop myself from getting my own licks in, because what I saw when I looked at her was the faces of the women she’d had kidnapped, raped, and tortured. She deserved a lot more than just a beatdown and a mud bath. Truth be told, she deserved to die. End of story.

  I flexed my fingers and knelt down beside Camille, saying, “Look at me.”

  She shifted positions, turning her face far enough out of the mud, so that I could look her straight in the eyes. The normal bright green of them was muted down to olive, and her usual vibrant pale flesh was dulled. Her aura was bursting in sputtering-out sparks, leaving the body to appear more human. That could only mean one terrible thing—the queen was trying to flee.

  Somehow, I could feel Camille’s aura; it was hovering, in parts, around the host’s body. The only thing keeping her from making a swifter getaway was the silver chain wrapped around her neck. That was the bad news. The good news was that if I could see her aura, it meant my powers were returning.

  My heart gave a thump of excitement, as I sneered down at her and asked, “Where are the women?”

  She glanced left, at my grandmother, and then back at me.

  “Fuck you!” she spat.

  “Wrong answer.” Anger swept through me, as my fist found her face… thwack! “Where are you keeping them?” I repeated, that time in a deeper tone.

  Tears and blood formed at her eyes. Her pain didn’t make me feel remorseful; it just angered me further. She never showed the women she terrorized any mercy.

  Her weak arms fell out from underneath her, and she rolled over to her back.

  “Just get on with it. I’ll never tell you where they are. I won’t let you win.”

  “Jesus Christ!” Lily yelled. “Just tell her!”

  Camille’s face shifted into a mask of evil, as she said, “Like I said, fuck off!”

  Camille reached up and yanked the silver chain from around her host’s neck. Her skin glowed white, as she made one last effort to escape, if not physically, then by dumping the body she’d hijacked. And with the silver pulled away from her flesh, it was possible.

  I lifted my hands and focused on the spark of energy at the base of my third eye and urged it to ignite and then flow steadily into them. My palms itched, a prickly heat that let me know it was working, and fast. After a few moments of buildup, I felt as if I’d never been drained of my power. It had returned to me in full force.

  I reached out with that revived magic and was able to feel her, in crisp relief, as she struggled inside a prison of flesh and bone, which was barely breathing. Camille was killing her. I had to jerk the bitch out of that poor woman quickly if there was to be any chance of saving her.

  Glowing with purpose, my hands gravitated toward the body. I laid my palms against the bare flesh of the stomach. My head jerked back from the force of contact. I searched for Camille deep within the chaos of the host’s mind, and it didn’t take long for me to find and then pluck the bright white thread that was her lifeline. With my eyes closed, I pulled and tugged on that thread, much like a magician performing a handkerchief trick, until the last bit of it was removed from the body. What I was left with was one of the most powerful supernatural beings in the world, combined into spun energy, in the palms of my hands. Without hesitation, I squeezed them both into a tight fist, squashing what remained of Camille, the phantom queen, into oblivion.

  I wiped away a bead of sweat and pulled myself to my feet. A wash of unspent power churned around me like a river, rampant and hungry, wanting to do more—create or destroy. It didn’t matter to the energy; it just raged on. My fleshed burned with it, almost to a painful pitch. I fell back down to my knees, palms to the ground, and screamed, as white and blue starbursts of light streaked out, pulsing underneath the surface of the ground, spreading, like a contagious disease, toward a large tree in the distance. Dirt clods exploded through the air, and the smell of ozone filled my nostrils.

  My power was out of control, fueled by Camille’s magic, which it had just consumed. My body couldn’t store all of it, or maybe I was just so green at the new magic gig that my ignorance was the problem, and I didn’t know how to recycle it properly, so it decided to do it itself.

  Hands frozen to the ground, my eyes shot to the tree. Lily bolted to my side, but she couldn’t get close, as the magic pushed her away in a blaze of backdraft.

  I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out.

  Rain fell in tiny droplets across my heated cheeks, cooling them a little but not enough to erase the burn. As I watched the tree that my wayward magic seemed to be concentrating on, the trunk, the branches, and all its leaves began to shake furiously. The roots uplifted from the ground, as it rolled and twisted, exploding into a wall of dust and chunks of wet soil, with grass attached.

  A hand stroked across my arm.

  “Kris, love, open your eyes.”

  My eyes felt tight, but I managed to crack them. The world spun and rocked. I felt like I was going to hurl.

  “What’s going on?” I asked, gripping Rush’s hand for support. “Where am I?”

  Jude’s bright face appeared in front of me, and he said, “You had a power overload, Kris. It knocked you clean on your ass.”

  “How are you feeling?” Lily asked, as she shooed the ghost away from me.

  Memories of a fight and then the subsequent demise of the queen at my hands came rushing back to me. I jumped to my feet, my eyes cutting to the power-flooded earth beneath the tree. My influence still pulsed there, and it was calling out to me, hooking into my skin like barbed wire, pulling me in that direction.

  Rush stood and said, “Kris. It’s your eyes. They’re glowing.”

  “What about it? They almost always glow.”

  As I looked into Rush’s eyes, I could see a blue glint of light. It was the reflection of my own power.

  “Are my eyes shining blue, instead of red?” I asked.

  Eyes glued to mine, all three of them nodded.

  My hands shot over my eyes, and I rubbed and then blinked, like I was trying to get something out. At the same time, my power still called to me from the other side of the field, swirling and merging, like it was a tangible thing.

  “What is happening to me? What does this mean?”

  “It means, child, that you’re even more powerful than I could have ever imagined.”

  I heard the ground crack and rumble, and I looked around, forgetting about everything else but what was taking place across the field. Power flowed heavy, filling the air with a spicy taste of something that my instincts felt at ease with. But simultaneously, it frightened my suspicious mind. I could sense life anew, stirring in that direction, wanting to stretch and build into awareness, to breathe, and to quench an overwhelming thirst for blood.

  The origin of the magic screamed at my subconscious: Vampire!

  My head swung toward Rush, as I yelled, “I thought you killed all of the monsters!”

  He looked as confused as I felt.

  “I didn’t leave anyone standing. Rafe is sweeping the property, looking for any strays, as we speak.”

  If all of them have been slayed, then what am I sensing?

  I knew the taste of vampire coating my tongue didn’t belong to Rafe. I knew that, because his was as distinctive to me as a lemon would be to a human—it was that obvious a flavor. Besides, the one I was picking up on was nearby.

  With a thunderous charge, a large blast tilted the earth in an explosion of dirt and roots. I was thrown back. Luckily, my ass didn’t have a chance to hit ground. I was pulled back up by strong hands that belonged to my vampire. Before I’d even gotten my feet back under me, Rafe moved around me to help Rush. My grandmother, surefooted as always, was still standing, hands on her hips, shaking her head, as she stared off at the blast site. But instead of looking forward, her h
ead was tilted up.

  “Well, child, you did it again.” She looked back over her shoulder at me and smiled. “And this time… you created a doozie.”

  “Huh?” My eyes shot to the sky. “What are you taking abo—?” I was stunned silent.

  Shading the sky with midnight wings, surrounded by a fog of fresh dust, flew two reanimated vampires. The dark beauties’ wings were arched and flared wide, heads thrown back, their mouths agape in release of a turbulent scream. I watched, as their eyes flashed silver. In the next second, those eyes were on me.

  I managed to catch enough breath to say, “This can’t be happening again.”

  Chapter Twenty

  Two sets of mocha-colored feet touched down near where I stood. With their bodies covered with dirt and long black hair matted with mud, the creatures didn’t seem scared or worried about the group of people surrounding them. They stood tall—almost a full six feet if I’d guessed—with features as blank and as fresh as a sheet of paper.

  I stared at them cautiously, twins with wings like that of a raven’s but massive. Both women were exquisite, with feathers as black as night that protruded from their backs, still spread wide. My eyes skipped over their naked bodies and spotted the image of a wing across the flesh of both of them. The insignia on the one in front of me was over her pelvic area, close to her right hip. And the other woman’s identical mark was situated over her left breast.

  Their eyes shone a brilliant green, as they watched me, watching them.

  They should have been terrified, more than confused. Instead, their obsidian wings furled in on themselves and then were gone. It was the same way Rafe’s wings flashed out. But his remained as a mark across his back. Theirs left without a trace.

  “Why are we here?” asked the twin with the image near her hip.

  I found myself staring into her moonlit eyes—brilliant, like cut emeralds—and a faint smile stole over me. I stopped wondering what I was going to do about the new development and, instead, focused on what really mattered, my new creations. I closed my eyes and let the freak-out I was experiencing pour down my body for a few seconds longer, and then I sucked it up. It was time to be a big girl, or as the circumstances demanded, a responsible Creator. I’d start from the beginning.

 
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