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       Created Darkly, p.4

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “Well, don’t just stand there staring, grab something. That long-sleeved, tight number hanging right in front of you will work a shit-ton better than what you’re wearing now. Come on, you have to leave soon. There’s no time to be mucking about.”

  “You’re taking this all in stride,” I said with an irritated huff. “Aren’t you the least bit curious as to why she has all this stuff?” I pointed to the cat suits.

  Jude gave me an exasperated look. “I’ve always known she was hiding something. Until now, I just didn’t know what. Now I do. Torra is either a ninja assassin, or she robs museums in her spare time. Both things are pretty damn cool in my book. Hey, you kill evil vampires behind her back. I’d say you two are even.”

  He had a point. The whole time, I’d been keeping my own secrets from Torra. I was acting like the worst kind of hypocrite. I’d let it rest, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to drill her for information the next time I saw her…which I prayed would be soon.

  I reached inside the cubby and grabbed the shirt that Jude wanted me to wear. It was made out of a soft and thin elastic material. He was right. That top would work a lot better than the one I had on. I stripped the tank from my body. Jude blanched and twisted around at the sight of my bared stomach and bra. I put on the replacement shirt.

  I spied a stack of dark jeans, so I grabbed a pair. Why not? We were the same size, and I was done looking for something in my own closet. A glint caught my eyes as I yanked the jeans over my hips. I reached over to a shelf and wrapped my hand around the handle of a gun.

  “More surprises,” I said, showing it to Jude.

  He leaned forward, and after placing his hand over my cheek, he gave me a warm smile. “You have a lot to process. Believe me, you’re not the only one wondering why Torra’s been lying to us, but I’m sure she has a really good explanation for everything. Let’s go find her, shall we?”

  “Yeah, okay.” I shoved the gun inside my waistband.

  Chapter Six

  It was turning out harder than I thought it would be. Squeezing the ends of the scissors together, I snipped off the last of my hair. It landed in the bathroom sink, along with the rest of it. I looked into the mirror. I hardly recognized myself. But wasn’t that the point? I ran my hand across my upper lip and chin, my fingertips brushing against smooth and warm skin. It was freshly shaven. Yanking open the vanity drawer, I eyeballed the electric shaver inside. After about a million curses, I finally said, “Fuck it.” I reached in, grabbed it, and plugged it in. When finished, all that was left of my hair was a quarter-inch fade.

  “I look like fucking GI Joe.” I scowled at my appearance.

  “Have you enlisted in the armed forces, dear brother? It would be one of the more noble things you’ve done.”

  Turning around, I faced my sister. She was standing inside the doorway with her arms crossed, staring at herself in the mirror—a reflection that mimicked mine. Kissa was older than me by three minutes. She was my fraternal twin, but we appeared almost identical. We shared the same triangular-shaped face, high cheek bones, and not surprisingly, the same hair and eye color. I leaned in, grabbed her by her small, doll-like shoulders, and gave her a quick peck on the forehead.

  “What do you want, Kissa? I have no time for your bullshit. Don’t you have employees to harass or cute little puppies to drown?”

  Kissa laughed. “Please. You know that torturing you is one of my favorite pastimes, golden boy.”

  The sound of that nickname rolling off her tongue made my blood boil, but I kept my thoughts to myself. Complaining to her about it seemed to make it worse. No, it always made it worse. On our twenty-first birthday, which brought us into our full power potential, she had come up with that name. Considering that our father was an extremely powerful Creator, it was expected that at least one, or maybe even both, of us would inherit the gift. As it happened, and to my eternal torment, I was the only one who fulfilled the expectations of our parents, and of course, the Council. To say that Kissa was a bit put off by the subsequent results of our transcending would be a colossal understatement.

  “Why did you go and shave off all your pretty hair? Won’t the ladies grieve over the loss? No matter,” she said with a glint of mischief shining in her eyes, “it’s not your hair that sends them flocking to you, anyway. It’s your lucrative position at the Center and your status as a Creator.”

  “Be careful, sister. Your bitterness is showing.” I chuckled. Besides the nickname, her teasing really didn’t bother me that much. When it came to the tenacious and spunky Kissandra Davis, if you were a family member, or if she had somehow developed a fondness for you, her bark was only a little bit fiercer than her bite.

  Kissa lifted her arms and smacked the sides of both my cheeks with her palms. In a rough circular motion, she rubbed her hands all across my face, paying special attention to the areas where I'd just shaven. The skin was still sensitive, and the friction created a burning sensation.

  "I'm not sure if I approve of this new look of yours. It's more middle-class plumber or mechanic, the complete opposite of who you are—the poster child for every elitist, pretty boy sophisticate who dines from a silver spoon. What's gotten into you? Are you going to tat up your body next?" My sister dropped her arms and walked across the room, stopping at the bed. After easing down to take a seat at the end of it, she crossed her legs. "You do know that this new makeover of yours will cause you to lose your standing as the perfect son in our parents’ eyes." Kissa threw her head back, a mop of dirty blond curls bouncing along with the slight shake of her body as she laughed. "Maybe this transformation of yours isn’t all that bad. In fact, it could end up being deliciously beneficial to me."

  Ignoring her, I walked over to my closet and dragged out a few department store bags, the haul that my cousin, Archer, had come back with after I had sent him to the mall in search of some everyday street clothes for me to wear. I shoved my hand inside the bag and drew out a dark grey hoodie. After a quick inspection, I tossed it over my shoulder to land on the bed. I rifled through the bag some more, and I ended up with a pair of dark denim jeans, a black t-shirt, and a pair of grey and black tennis shoes.

  I disappeared inside the spacious closet to throw on my new digs. The jeans and t-shirt were surprisingly comfortable. I felt like an unhindered man, freed from the trappings of high society and all the designer outfits that came with it. I had to admit, the clothes felt pretty fucking good on me. I would definitely start dressing like that more often.

  “Are there any new leads on Torra’s kidnapping?” Kissa asked. The smart-ass look she perpetually wore fell from her stricken face as she looked down. A deep crease marred her forehead. “I have a strong hunch that it was an inside job.”

  I strode from the closet and sat next to her at the foot of the bed. It was a California King that allotted me a rather large space to sit on, but I sat right next to her. It had always been like that with us. We felt better in each other’s company. More relaxed, safer in a way. It was a twin thing.

  “So far, we only have the surveillance tape to go by. I have Conrad and Duska looking through back-up files for anything we might have missed.”

  Kissa’s head swung around, and she pinned me with a death glare. “You have Duska working on this? Have you gone mad?”

  “She is perfectly capable and quite skilled at spotting abnormalities.” I reached down to tie my shoes. “Why do you hate her so much, anyway?”

  I found myself studying my sister’s reaction more closely. I had wondered why she and Duska acted like mortal enemies whenever they were in the same room together. Her face went blank, and all I got in return for my inquiry was a half-hearted shrug.

  “We have to find her, Rush. This incident makes you look severely incompetent. And as appealing as all that may sound, it also paints a bad picture of the Davis family. We can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen.”

  “Are you certain that’s the only reason you’re so concerned over th
is?”

  Kissa stood up while reaching for my hoodie that lay in a pile behind her. After a playful toss, it landed over my head, blinding me.

  “Torra is a very talented beholder. With enough hard work and training, she has the potential to rival even her own mother, the reputed great and powerful Lizet Chance. Now, wouldn’t that be something?”

  Before I could take the hoodie from my head, I heard the tapping of Kissa’s high-heeled shoes making their way across the hardwood floor. “Whatever stunt you’re about to pull, I advise you to take care. I know this dog and pony show of yours has something to do with the kidnapping. I also suspect that it has something to do with that pesky Creator you’re so fascinated with. Kristina, Torra’s sister, right? Just don’t do anything too idiotic; we’re in enough trouble as it is.”

  I freed myself from the hoodie just in time to watch the bedroom door close behind her. I ran a hand over my face and let out a frustrated chuckle. Even though her delivery was crude, per usual, she had me dead to rights. Somehow, that woman always knew exactly what I was up to.

  The door flew back open and Archer tumbled in. He cursed under his breath and stumbled to the side. He ended up in an awkward and wobbly lean against the doorjamb. “Dish your stuff fi…I mean. How’s your pants on?”

  Great. That punk-ass cousin of mine was bombed out of his mind again. That bullshit was becoming a regular occurrence, one that I was getting pretty fed up with.

  “What bottle bit you this time, the Johnny Walker Red or Black?” I rose to my feet and shrugged on the grey hoodie. “I’ll cave your nose in if you touched my Blue Label, asshole.”

  “Shh, shh!”

  Archer hushed me by tapping his finger to the top and then to the side of his nose, instead of his mouth. “I did nit drinks your shit. I sprung for it on me, I mean, shit…my own. It’s my shit, man.” He slid down the wall, into a seated position, still leaning most of his weight on his left side. He then pulled a silver flask out of the side pocket of his leather bomber jacket and took a healthy swig from it. After wiping his mouth off on his forearm, he belched. “Excuse me.”

  The sound of the elevator opening in the living room reminded me that I was running late. I’d asked my driver to purchase a nondescript dark-colored sedan or economy car for me on the down low.

  I looked over at my cousin. Our blood relation was paternal, and by our features, we could easily pass for brothers. The only differences between us were that instead of the Davis grey eyes, his were deep blue.

  Shit. I couldn’t leave him passed out like that on the floor. I walked over to him.“You know,” I said as I leaned over him, “this is getting old.” I slipped my arm underneath his armpit and grabbed his opposite shoulder. After making sure I had a good hold, I heaved him up.

  Archer cleared his throat, and after three tries, looked me square in the eyes. “I miss her, man.”

  He was referring to his girlfriend, Linda. She had been brutally murdered not too long before. Archer blamed himself for not being there to protect the woman he loved.

  I started down the hall, his sagging body tethered to mine as I held up the bulk of his weight. “I know you do. The hurt will lessen in time. I promise.”

  For his sake and mine, I prayed I was right.

  ***

  I deposited Archer in his room. I made sure to put a glass of water on his bedside table and a waste basket next to his bed in case he woke up to hurl. After leaving him to his misery, I found Theodore, my driver, standing in the foyer next to the elevator. As I approached him, he held out a small, black box. The old man’s wrinkled face gathered even more creases, and a set of bushy, white eyebrows drew together as he smiled.

  “Sir,” he said, inclining his head, “here are the items you requested.”

  I quickened my step and grabbed the box from his hands. After lifting the lid, a big satisfied grin took over my face. “Well done, old man.”

  Chapter Seven

  I stood just inside the living room. I had Torra’s gun extended in front of me.

  “Maybe she’s a secret agent or something,” I said, still hung up on finding her hidden stash of secrets. Torra could just as easily be ass deep into something shady. Maybe even illegal. Why else would she have kept all that from me? Maybe for the same reason you kept the fact that you hunt vampires from her, my inner voice chided, because you wanted to protect her from that part of your world. The world of vampires, and ghosts, and necromancers you were both born into.

  I tucked the gun back behind me, in the waistband of my jeans. Might as well bring it with me, considering I didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into that night. It was better to be safe than dead. Screw the sorry part.

  The more secrets I uncovered, the more upset, no, infuriated I became with my sister. It was no fun living with such a dark feeling, an emotion that essentially fueled the already growing cesspool of guilt in my gut. Until I found her, it would continue to gnaw at my conscience and make me hate myself for the ill thoughts I kept acquiring against her. She was in trouble, and I was her only hope. God, I was such a hypocrite. Sign me up for the world’s worst sister award.

  I glanced over to Jude. “You ready?”

  “I can’t remember the last time I left this house.” he stared at the front door and frowned. “I don’t think I ever have.”

  In a soft tone, I responded, “You’ll be fine. Think of it like this: You’re already dead, so no one can hurt you.”

  “That’s not what I’m worried about,” he explained hoarsely. “I don’t want to be sucked up into the ether, like all those other ghosts you’ve helped. I am not ready to face my white light.”

  “You have nothing to fear. Every time one of those spirits passed on, I was able to feel it happen. I could sense that it was their time to leave this world. Don’t worry. You’re stuck with me for a while…so chill out.” I smiled at him and nodded towards the door. “Let’s go.”

  “Right, let’s go,” he said, floating towards the door. Before he made it halfway across the living room, he stopped. “You wouldn’t mind going first, would you?”

  “Sure thing.” I chuckled.

  Armed with a gun and a bitchy attitude, I walked past Jude and opened the door. I was fully pumped and ready to face any possible dangers, fanged foes, boogey men, or anything else that may be thrown in my path. I was a necromancer on a mission.

  ***

  Following the note, I drove south for three miles down Main Street. I took a left on Mission Parkway and continued east for another five miles before making the last turn on the map. That turn-off led us down a one-lane, moonlit woodland road that wound like a snake to disappear behind a copse of trees. That’s where I decided to hide the car, off the road behind the first outcropping of trees. According to the map, I needed to hike north for one more mile, until I happened upon an abnormal set of trees, entwined together, forming the shape of a Twizzler.

  “How are you holding up?” Jude asked as I removed the keys from the ignition.

  “I’m just peachy, my friend, with a pit in my stomach to prove it.” When all else failed, I joked my way through fear or nervous situations.

  Warning signs blasted through me, and a sick feeling enveloped me. Something or someone was out there, and I knew it with certainty. I could feel eyes upon me. The warning was almost tangible. By the thick and sticky feel of magic, I could tell it was either a vampire or a necro.

  I exited the car. There was a chill in the air, so out of habit, I reached back inside for the jacket I brought with me. Before I put it on, I realized that even though I was exhaling fog, my body remained warm. That was odd. I reached for the top of my shirt and pulled downward. All at once, cold air rushed in, chilling me to the bone. I released the fabric, and it quickly molded to my body.

  The shirt was made out of some kind of insulating material. Not needing the jacket, I tossed it back on the passenger seat and shut the door. I mentally patted Torra on the back. If she was going to be sneak
y and up to no good, at least she was going about it like a boss.

  I began the long hike north, keeping a vigilant eye trained on my surroundings. Jude followed, keeping several feet between us. Somebody was out there, and chances were good it was the scumbag that took my sister, or one of his cronies, if he had any. I was on guard, and so was Jude. He kept looking over his shoulder.

  “Whoever it is, do you think they’re close?” I hovered a hand over the gun at my waist.

  Jude closed his eyes. After a few seconds, they popped back open. “It’s a necromancer. I was able to sense him the same way I can sense you. Do you want me to go investigate?”

  The fact that ghosts had the ability to locate and track any necromancer within a few miles’ radius was coming in handy at the moment. However, if you consider the fact that a high-level Creator could extinguish a ghost’s life force in an instant, making them disappear from the earth forever, it was a bit risky for Jude to go popping off to find the necro in question. I had no way of telling what level of necromancy he or she wielded. Or did I?

  “Jude, I need you to do something for me. It’s very important.”

  Jude rode the air, still keeping his eyes on the empty road and dense trees surrounding us. “What is it?”

  “Close your eyes again, but this time, when locating the magic, focus on mine. Tell me if you notice any similarities between me and the other necro.”

  “I will try my best.”

  Jude shut his eyes. Being in that proximity, I could feel his essence reach out to me with ease. It probed, leaching into the magic that was specific to me, putting it under scrutiny. I had to fight back an urge to strike out and stop the invading presence. I tampered down the impulse and let him continue his invasion.

  “What do you see?” I asked between gritted teeth. The space between my eyebrows began to throb, the pain weakening my resistance. I had to dig my nails into the palms of my hands to keep from attacking him. “That’s enough.”

 
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