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Created darkly, p.18
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       Created Darkly, p.18

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “Is who dead?” I shot back, confused.

  “Kris. That’s why you’re calling me, right? To tell me the bad news? I saw her ghost, Rush. You don’t have to pussy-foot about. Give it to me straight, man.”

  It took me a moment, but the reason he was freaking out finally dawned on me. Earlier, when Kristina somehow fell into her trance and ghost-walked her way over to Rafe, she inadvertently showed herself to him in a residual form. And without having any explanations as to how she could visit him in such a state, he assumed the worst. He thought she had died.

  “No…she is very much alive. I will let her explain everything to you later, but right now, her sister needs you in a bad way.”

  I could practically see his features relax as I heard a relieved sigh. “Glad to hear it. I don’t know why, but I almost lost it when I thought she was dead. Devil couldn’t even calm me down. He says our bond is unusual.” There was a pause on his end of the line. After he dealt with whatever he was feeling, he said, “Yeah, man. Of course, I’ll help. I need to see Kris with my own two eyes, anyway, so I know without a doubt she’s okay.”

  I was grateful that he agreed to help us out, no questions asked, but the desperation in his voice as he spoke of Kristina had me clenching the phone so tightly, it was close to crumbling into a million pieces. “I appreciate it,” I said, somehow able to keep my tone mild.

  Before we hung up, I gave him our location, and he promised to show up within twenty minutes. I looked down at Torra. Her head was resting on my lap. I’d taken off my jacket to drape over her unconscious form. Even passed out, the cold was sending shivers throughout her body. I could tell by her pallor and shallow breathing that she was flirting with the reaper. For her sake, and also for Kristina’s, I hoped death was a prudent tease.

  “Did you locate a willing vampire?” Deidra asked. She had been patiently hovering next to the tree, eyes never leaving Torra.

  “He’ll be here shortly.”

  I looked down at Torra once more, imagining how Kristina would take it if I couldn’t save her sister. Words couldn’t describe the anguish and loss that would terrorize her. I would do everything in my power to make sure she never had to feel that kind of pain.

  “Good. My great-granddaughter did well to associate herself with the likes of you. There may be hope for her yet.”

  Her statement took me by surprise. “Hope?”

  Deidra gave me a serious look with a creased brow and pressed lips. It was comical in a way, but I didn’t dare laugh. It wasn’t every day I found myself being scrutinized by the ghost of my girlfriend’s great-grandmother.

  “Do you know how many vampires my great-granddaughter has slain?”

  I shook my head.

  She threw her hands on her hips and huffed. “At least twenty. Our line has been given an incredible gift. And ever since she could wield this gift, her power, she has done nothing but destroy the creatures she was born to create with it. She reminds me of my daughter, Kris’s grandmother, Lilly, whom Kris will be meeting shortly.”

  My head spun with all the new information. I couldn’t think, so I asked, “How and when will she meet Lilly?”

  “That’s where the phantom is taking her right now—down into that filthy Shadowscape, the space between Hell and earth. By trickery, Lilly captured the strongest phantom ever known inside her own body. The process killed Lilly, needless to say, and her body, which is being kept preserved by phantom magic, has been the phantom’s prison for almost fifty years. Wolf, her devout and loyal lover and servant, has been waiting for another Chase woman to be born with enough power to free the phantom mistress from Lilly’s body. Kris is the necromancer he’s been waiting for.”

  I had never heard of such a thing happening before. Phantoms were never able to enter a necromancer’s body. Our species had complete control over ghosts and phantoms in a magical capacity. They could still hurt one of us in a human way, like shooting us in the heart, for example. My hand flitted over the nearly healed gunshot wound on my chest. Just a few millimeters to the left, and I would have been toast.

  Before I could badger Deidra with more questions, Rafe whooshed in beside me. He had been running so fast, there was a wall of dust trailing him, the billowing smoke, almost six feet tall.

  “What do you need me to do?” he asked.

  “Well?” I looked at the ghost.

  “Push aside the jacket and rip her shirt open,” she said, pointing at Torra.

  With gentle movements, I set her down on the ground. Her pale face reflected the moonlight, glowing softly off her rounded cheeks, making her look like a young, sleeping angel. I cursed Wolf under my breath. How anyone could hurt such a beautiful child was beyond me.

  I ripped open her t-shirt in one firm pull. Shock sent sputtering chokes of disbelief from my lips when I saw what her clothes and the dark night had been hiding. A small dagger was buried deep within Torra’s chest. Only a few drops of blood marred the skin surrounding the wound, which meant that the dagger was temporarily acting as a plug to staunch the flow of blood. It was the only thing keeping her alive.

  “Young man, I need you to get a gentle, but firm hold on that dagger.” I blinked, and she was face to face with me. “You must keep a steady hand. If you move that dagger at all, she will die.”

  “You can count on me.”

  “Vampire…” Deidra said.

  Rafe knelt down beside Torra, a grave look on his face. He pulled a stray hair from her mouth and looked up at the ghost. “I’m listening.”

  “I’m going to count to three. On three, Rush will draw the blade from Torra’s heart. As soon as the tip leaves her flesh, you must pour your own blood into the wound. This must happen the second the blade is free. Do you two understand me?”

  Rafe dropped fang and bit into his own wrist. Blood welled up from the self-inflicted wound as he nodded with worried eyes still glued to Torra’s face. “I understand perfectly.”

  She looked at me.

  “We’ll go on your count,” I said to the ghost.

  “Okay.” She hovered out of the way. “One. Two. Three.”

  With a swift yank, I pulled the knife out. Without missing a beat, Rafe’s blood replaced the steel. It overflowed out of the wound, trickling down Torra’s ribcage. The thick, dark red, life-giving elixir poured into the mortal wound. Rafe had to keep his finger inside the gash on his wrist so it wouldn’t close up, due to his vampire healing ability.

  A minute later, Torra’s upper body shot up from the ground. Her eyes darted from me, to Rafe, and then lingered on her chest for a few seconds. Her entire face collapsed in horror at what she saw. She was sitting on the ground in the middle of the graveyard, half-naked and bloodied. She pulled her shirt closed and yanked her jacket tight around her.

  Quickly recovering her wits, she demanded, “Who are you guys? And where the hell is my sister?”

  “Funny, you should mention Hell,” I began.

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  I snuck a peek over the ledge. Was I considering jumping into that nothingness? What other choice did I have? It had already been several minutes since Wolf had free fallen over it, into the thick rolls of fog that obscured my view of what lay below. My reaction to his absence was immediate; I tried to escape, but was crest-fallen to find that he hadn’t been lying. I was indeed trapped. I looked over my shoulder one last time at the locked door. There were still two rock walls running parallel next to it, rocketing straight up into the gloomy shadow, effectively closing me in on both sides. My eyes roamed the razor-sharp lip of the jutting rock. Breaths shallow, I paused long enough to suppress the tremors of fear that were racking my body, and then I jumped.

  Air whooshed from my lungs; cold blasts of wind battered the sensitive flesh of my face. I frantically kicked my legs and beat my arms. The attempt was ludicrous, but I couldn’t blame my body’s instinct to try. I continued to free fall, the beat of the wind never ceasing, always punishing, until a roar of light came barreling
at me through the grey, crashing into me, sending me flying head over feet. Without warning, I froze in midair, held immobile for the span of several heartbeats. Finally, I was released from stasis and gently lowered to the ground by an unseen force.

  “That took you longer than I thought. You foolishly tried the door, didn’t you?” Wolf smiled. He was standing about twelve feet away from me, leaning on a gnarled grey tree. He had a cocky grin twitching his lips, his arms crossed over his middle.

  Legs still wobbly from the fall, I walked directly towards him. I knew I couldn’t use my power against him right then, but I ambled my way over to him with a single-minded purpose—to prove that I could be as threatening, and a laugh-a-minute-riot, as he could. His brows arched, the smug smile quickly fading from his face. Right before I was in striking distance, I jerked my shoulders, pretending like I was going to reach for him. He shrieked and jumped back behind the tree. I took small satisfaction from his reaction. Wolf was scared of me, but I already knew that. He just needed a little reminder. With a twist of my lips, I wiggled my fingers, still keeping my arms at my side as I said, “Look ma, no hands.”

  He scoffed, not appreciating the joke. Again, I took pleasure in his discomfort.

  “You’ll pay for that. Just wait and see.”

  The creep stepped out from behind the two-foot width of white bark he had been cowering behind. But that didn’t surprise me, either. Most bullies were cowards, underneath all their false bravado.

  “Maybe I will…but just maybe, and over your shriveled-up body, I won’t.”

  There was no use in playing the nice necro. We were enemies, plain and simple.

  He mottled red as he tried in vain to plaster another villainous mask across his face. I’d put a chink in his armor, so he looked constipated, instead.

  “If you’re done with your little school yard games, we can proceed,” he said, standing a little straighter.

  I was still grinning in triumph from ear to ear. Was I gloating? Yes. Did I give a crap? No. My small victory was well earned.

  “I’m just waiting for you.”

  He gave me one more cramped look before walking away. Still seething, I followed him into the rolling, grey fog, not able to see more than a few feet in front of me. My boots trudged through piles of ash, making me wonder who could survive in that desolate wasteland.

  “Watch your step!” Wolf called. He was farther ahead of me than I thought.

  I picked up the pace, spooked by the fog. In my rush to catch up, I forgot to heed his warning. My foot came down, falling through open air. I tumbled forward, somersaulting sideways. My head smacked up against something hard, pain sliced through my side, and the wind was knocked clean out of me. I came to a jarring stop, my face landing in a pile of ash. I hacked, spitting out wet clumps of the stuff.

  He smirked and said, “That’s exactly what you deserve for not listening.”

  My face flamed, but I ignored the smug jerk standing in front of me. Instead, I took in my surroundings. We were at the threshold of yet another corridor. That one and the first we encountered were like night and day by comparison. Black marble veined with slivers of white covered every inch of the room. Two columns stood on either side of an extremely large door. The pillars loomed as tall as a two-story building; the door was half that height.

  My knees shook as I stood, from either fear or the fall. I dusted my hands on my jeans, a cloud of ash rising from the beating. Our footfalls echoed in the massive space, jumping off the walls as we walked into the room. I craned my neck, almost pinching it, as I took in the opulence of it all.

  “Why is the door so large?”

  He gave me another one of his ridiculous smiles. “Everything is grand here.”

  I chuckled, tasting ash. “It’s a bit of overkill, if you ask me. Are you trying to compensate for something?”

  He looked serious for a second, almost reminiscent. “The size and weight of the door is also used as a safety precaution. I like to throw several complications in front of any would-be foes, so as to better my chances against them. It’s why I kidnapped your sister. I could have found other ways to get you down here with me, maybe by letting it slip who’s behind those glorious doors.”

  Wolf wasn’t making any sense. Besides Helen and my sister, and after recent developments, Rush and Rafe, there was nobody behind those doors I would care enough about to crawl into the bowels of Hell for.

  Before I could ask another question, Wolf slipped four fingers, two from each hand, between his lips and blew. A shrill whistle pierced my eardrums. All at once, what sounded like a tornado came blasting through the space. A chill that was colder than the Himalayas sunk deep into my skin. The freeze crawled up my spine as I watched two of the most exotic beings I’d ever laid eyes on sashay into the corridor. They appeared out of nowhere. The women had matching hair that draped past their waists. The shimmering locks of spun gold swayed seductively in time with the erotic movement of their hips.

  A sheer dress of white draped from their curved, but lean bodies. The material left nothing to the imagination. With stoic features, they came to a stop, one beautiful vampire on each side of the door. I knew they were the undead because of the faint glow of red emanating from my eyes. In one fluid motion, the vampires slipped their fingers into a hidden latch and pulled. There was a grinding sound before the door swung open.

  “Come here, my perfect creatures,” Wolf beckoned.

  They moved, but my eyes couldn’t fully register the streaked blur of their movement. They were suddenly in Wolf’s arms.

  “Welcome home, master,” a pair of velvet voices cooed in adoration.

  “Is this the necromancer who is to save our mistress?” one of them asked.

  “Yes, my darling, she is. Did you feed well on the humans I left for you?” Wolf took his time to stroke each of the women’s heads like they were his favored pets.

  Don’t mind me; perv away, phantom boy.

  The one on his left, who had light velvet eyes, pushed out plump, round lips, looking like a sad little girl, almost ready to cry. “One of the treacherous cows killed herself before we got to her, so we didn’t get to play with her first.”

  “She threw herself on a ghoul,” whined the one on his right with powder blue eyes. Even her whine sounded sweet, almost edible.

  “Now, don’t you worry. I’ll round up some more humans for you to play with right after I’m finished here. I promise. Now, run along. I have business to tend to,” Wolf said to them both.

  Without another word, the female vampires zipped away in a flurry of sheer silk and wild hair. In that whole time, neither of those women had bothered to look at me for more than a second. Their mistake; they should have weighed me more carefully. I guess to them, down there, I was considered as worthless as a mortal, one of their playthings. Last time I checked, I didn’t have Lunchables stamped across my forehead.

  I could feel the crackle of my power riding just under the surface of my skin, tingling at my fingertips, the change of venue not hindering or tampering with my powers in the least. If anything, I felt stronger. Bring it on, vamp bitches.

  I looked through the open door and thought, If I live through this insane ordeal (my mind picturing helpless men, women, and—Heaven forbid—children in the viscous hands of these psychopathic, female vamps), I’ll find a way to kill both of those heartless blood-suckers.

  My eyes landed on Wolf’s back as I followed him over the threshold, into a room that was even more richly appointed than the large vestibule we’d just left. I planned on killing his sorry ass, too.

  ***

  I reached down and offered Torra my hand, but she shook her head at me. Pushing up from the ground, she stood on her own. If she was in pain, she was hiding it well.

  Torra’s refusing my hand reminded me so much of her sister. They were both exquisite beauties, dangerously armed with a roar of independence that could deafen any poor soul who’d dare get in their way. I smiled because I knew
how it felt to be one of those barriers.

  “Didn’t any of you hear me? Where is Kris?” Irritation evident, Torra tapped her leather boot on the ground. “I know the silly cow risked her life to save me, and I tell you what; I could kill her for it.”

  Rafe, who had been standing off to the side while Torra regained herself, stormed forward, almost tripping in the process. After getting his ass handed to him at the club, and then that stumble from a vampire, I was beginning to think he was a major klutz. For some reason, the thought amused me. I coughed back a laugh.

  “Why, you…you, ungrateful wench! Kris, at this very moment, is risking her ass for you, and I,” Rafe stood a bit taller, “just saved your life. You need to be a little more grateful, I think.”

  Torra’s eye’s flamed with heat. She closed the distance between them in two confident strides. Without fear, she shoved her face right into his, their noses almost touching.

  “I’d never want my sister to run off on a suicide mission. I can handle myself! And I sure as hell didn’t ask for a vein-drainer to save my life. If you’re looking for a pat on the back, I have really bad news for you, ‘cause you’re sucking up the wrong neck!”

  “Enough!” The night boomed with Deidra’s angry voice.

  All eyes swung to the ghost. Even Torra stopped mid-rant to look at her. I’m sure Rafe was grateful for the reprieve; he never knew what hit him.

  “It’s high time we make our way over to the portal. Kris has been down in the Shadowscape long enough.”

  “What is she talking about?” Torra asked Rafe, the threat of mutilation gone from her features. He shrugged and looked at me for an answer.

  After a curt nod at Deidra, I said, “Kris has ventured down the proverbial rabbit hole, into another land, dimension, plain, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s home to ghouls, phantoms, and the occasional vampire. From my studies at the Center, I’ve learned that it’s next to impossible to find your way there, and apparently, even harder to open the gateway between our lands, once you do.”

 
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