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Created darkly, p.7
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       Created Darkly, p.7

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “If she were to embrace her destiny and learn the ways of her people, then yes. She would eventually take over my spot on the Council.”

  “Don’t hold your breath, Rush. You’ll never catch me plopping my happy ass down in that seat, so don’t go getting any stupid ideas.”

  Rush lifted his right hand and placed it over his heart. “I wouldn’t dare, darling. You’ve made your feelings on that subject clear. No ass plopping…ever. I got it.”

  My phone rang. I stuck my tongue out at the big, sexy oaf and answered it. “Yup.”

  “Kristina?” the caller whispered.

  “Yes, it’s me. Do you have a name I can call you? Well, besides asshole?”

  There went my big mouth chirping off on its own again. I really needed to learn how to be less provocative.

  He chuckled. “I wonder what shade of red Torra’s blood is. Shall I find out? Or can we keep our interactions less personal?”

  Unnerved, I said, “No, I’m sorry. I just need to know what to call you.”

  “For now, you can call me Wolf.”

  “Okay…Wolf, it is. I’m in the chamber.”

  “Perfect. Hold tight. I’m about to send someone to you. Don’t worry. He won’t bite, unless you’re bad; then, he can do whatever he pleases. Take my word on this—you’ll want to be on your best behavior. You should consider warning your friends, too.”

  My mouth went dry and I almost dropped the phone. How did he know about Jude and Rush? Maybe he didn’t know and was testing me. Keeping my mouth shut was the only option.

  “What’s wrong, Kristina? Cat got your tongue?” Wolf went silent, and then let out a huff. “Did you really think I wouldn’t find out about your little entourage? Foolish woman, I know everything. Like I said before, my only rule was no one from the Center. Those two men are insignificant.”

  Apparently, he didn’t know everything. He didn’t know Rush’s true identity. Wolf’s ignorance was a good thing.

  There was no one else in the building, and the door had locked automatically behind us, so I wondered how Wolf’s messenger was supposed to get to us.

  “When should I be expecting your friend?”

  “He should be arriving any second. Do whatever he says, and Kristina…” There was a short pause, one that sent chills all the way down to my toes. “I will be seeing you soon.” After a click, the line went dead.

  “When this is all said and done, I’m going to need a stiff drink…or ten,” I said, putting the phone away.

  “What did he say?” Jude asked.

  Rush looked me square in the eyes. “He knows about me?”

  He must’ve caught some of the conversation. I nodded.

  “Did I screw things up?”

  Both men stared me down, waiting for me to answer one or both of their questions. I was getting pretty tired of all those questions.

  “We’re about to have company.”

  As if I summoned a demon with those words, the air in the room dropped about twenty degrees in an instant. Rush’s eyes glowed a muted red, and mine immediately changed, as well. The only time a necromancer’s eyes glowed that way was in the supernatural presence of a vampire.

  The air surrounding me began to bow and ripple, distorting my perception of reality, giving the room a warped image. I dropped to my knees, the effects making me dizzy; I cupped my forehead into my palms and shook my head, trying to clear my mind.

  “Who the hell are you?” I heard Jude demand. To whom, I didn’t know, because I couldn’t see a thing.

  The heavy sound of boots slamming against stone reverberated in my ears, and then a set of firm hands came down on my shoulders. I took in a clearing breath and stood, gun in one hand and the beginnings of my building power in the other. The vampire had somehow thrown me off guard. I’d never seen one of them use the power of teleportation before in my battles with them. The shock quickly wore off, however, and I was ready for him, loaded for bear.

  “Throw that ball of power at me, Creator, and your sister is as good as dead,” the monster warned.

  I was tired of people threatening my sister. As soon as I found Torra, I was going to lock her up and hide her from the world, so no one could ever hurt her or use her against me again. Convincing the stubborn blond to stay hidden, however, would be next to impossible. Free will was overrated, in my opinion.

  “How did you pop in here like that?” I demanded.

  The man’s smooth face twisted into a cocky grin. His eyelashes were so long, they fanned out around a pair of deceivingly innocent-looking, child-like eyes. They were a baby blue. Strands of blond, greasy hair poked out and stuck against the youth’s skull. It was as if he hadn’t washed it in weeks. To add to his untidiness, stains littered his grey t-shirt, the dirt and grime spreading down to tint his snug-fitting blue jeans. To put it simply, he was a mess.

  “Wolf sent me to supervise you,” the vampire said. He looked around, considering the room, and walked to the overfilled shelves.

  “I hate vampires,” I thought out loud. I calmed myself and then extinguished the power I had churning in my palm. If it took not killing the leech to further the night’s goal, then I’d have to wait.

  I’d forgotten about the hand still resting on my shoulder until I felt a gentle squeeze. I looked behind me and saw Rush. His face had gone pale, not a very flattering look for him, and his eyes bulged out round.

  “That’s not a vampire, Kris.”

  I frowned and looked over at the blond again. “Of course, he is. Our bodies sensed it as soon as he arrived. Our eyes, even now, still glow.”

  He shook his head, then leaned in close, sliding his chin over the hand he’d placed on my shoulder. A soft whisper overtook my senses, and I listened to his words raptly. Jude leaned in so he could hear. I imagine we resembled a bunch of gossiping ol’ biddies.

  “That’s a phantom,” he whispered.

  Jude and I looked at each other, clueless. My head jerked up, face to face with Rush. I blushed when our lips almost touched. Ignoring the sudden jolt of heat that zapped between us, I mumbled, “You’re the only one here who knows what a phantom is. Do you mind explaining?”

  With a nervous eye, Rush watched the phantom as he meticulously began setting things up on a narrow shelf at the head of the metal table. He paid us no mind.

  “Have you ever watched or heard of the movie Body Snatchers?” he asked.

  Jude and I both nodded.

  “That’s pretty much what a phantom does. After centuries of existing as a restless ghost, they build up enough negative energy to squat inside a human’s living body. They hijack it, taking it over. Think vampire, without a thirst for blood and very little consideration for human life. Most kill their hosts eventually.”

  I began to say something, but words failed me. I tried to focus on the phantom, but found my world wasn’t quite as steady as usual. I closed my eyes. Was it possible? There were actually creatures roaming the earth more dangerous than vampires? My head spun at the thought. The only thing I could do or think to say was, “You have got to be kidding me.”

  Chapter Eleven

  The phantom fumbled around the room, placing things on a makeshift alter. Rush, Jude, and I stood awkwardly off to the side, watching his every move. I felt bad for the person whose body was stolen and wished there was some way to help him.

  “What is he doing?” Jude asked, leaning forward on the tip of his shoes, trying to get a better look at the phantom.

  “I don’t know. But I can guarantee one thing…” I began.

  Rush finished for me, “We’re not going to like it one bit.”

  I kept watching the phantom’s movements. Then the object of our scrutiny spoke to us with a commanding tone, the unexpected boom, startling.

  “You and you,” he said, pointing at Jude and Rush. “I need a body. Any one of those meat-bags out there will do.”

  Rush said, “I will do no such thing. Those bodies are…”

  I released the b
reath I was holding. He’d almost spilled the beans about being affiliated with the Center. I kept my facial expressions neutral as Rush tried not to fumble the ball he set into play.

  “What I mean is that those corpses were once living and breathing people who deserve to have their final resting places, as well as their last wishes, respected.”

  Nice recovery, Rush.

  The phantom stormed over to Rush. He thrust his arm forward, fisting a large portion of Rush’s shirt in his hand. He put his face an inch from Rush’s while he hefted Rush up onto his tip-toes, slamming him into the wall. Apparently, the guy didn’t like to be argued with.

  Well, I had news for the jerk-off; I didn’t like anyone screwing with my friends. Without thinking of the consequences, I pulled the gun from my waistband and leveled the barrel to the blond’s temple. Phantom or not, a direct shot to the head would really do some damage.

  “Drop him,” I ordered, keeping my arm steady, gun leveled.

  “Kris, back off. I can handle this asshole.” Rush seethed, piercing eyes filled with unsuppressed rage locked onto the phantom. “Put me the fuck down now, scumbag, or I will light this whole place up, and you know for damn sure you stand zero chance of living through that kind of heat,” Rush warned.

  What was Rush talking about? What heat? Could he siphon the life-energy from supernatural creatures like I could?

  “Try it, punk, and Torra is dead,” the phantom snarled back.

  That broke the camel’s back. I pulled back the hammer of my gun and flipped off the safety. “I was raised to shoot anything I point my gun at, so threaten my sister one more time, and I’ll do it. I swear to all that’s holy, I’ll shoot. I know the score. And you can bet your ass I will cooperate with any demand Wolf throws at me. But understand this—my friends and family are off limits. Got it?”

  The phantom transferred his gaze from Rush, the full force of his ice-cold stare landing on me, instead. I forced myself not to shiver under the weight of it. Whatever creature was squatting in that human had an evil soul. One that made me feel like worms would crawl out of his orifices any second, to plop sickeningly to the ground. The malevolent phantom was an infestation of the worst kind. I shook off the disgusting visual and returned his threatening look with one of my own. He must’ve believed I was capable of acting on my warning, because a moment later, he released Rush, who fell sideways against the wall, but I didn’t move to help him. I shot the phantom one last look before lowering my weapon.

  “You’re too brave for your own good,” the phantom said, raising a brow.

  “Probably.” I leaned over to help Rush to his feet. I held my arm out to him, but he shrugged it off.

  “I can handle myself,” he said in a tone with which he made sure I knew he was upset that I’d stepped in to save him from the phantom. He pushed up off the ground, steadying himself on his feet.

  I didn’t give a crap about his bruised ego. My interfering had worked, and in my opinion, that’s all that mattered. I eyed the big, bad monster in the room. If it was a body he wanted, then a body, he would get.

  “Be right back,” I said to the phantom.

  He looked in my direction, and then he continued arranging more things on the shelf. I turned and started for the door. Rush reached over to stop me. I smiled and said, “I’ll be fine. Just starting to feel a bit buried under all the testosterone flying around.”

  Rush flinched. I frowned and glanced over at Jude. I’d almost forgotten about him, he’d been so quiet. He stood several feet away from us with a candlestick gripped tightly in his fist, something he grabbed to use as a weapon. No matter his silence, he’d been ready to kick some ass, if needed.

  “You okay?” I asked.

  He nodded and tossed the candlestick to the ground.

  ***

  The wide corridor, which was built from the blackest of stone, echoed the dim voices of the dead off its shiny walls. The same persistent voices I had tuned out, the ability learned from years of practice, the first time I was in that area of the building. Unless they had a pressing need for attention, ghosts tended to leave well enough alone.

  I ran my fingertips across the wall’s surface. It felt cool and smooth. I’d guess the stone used in the construction of those walls was either black obsidian or hematite. Both stones were spiritual in nature and were probably placed there for the grounding and protective aspects they held.

  I took in all the different voices, letting them soak into me as I made my way towards the tombs. Being in a room full of corpses would drive any other necromancer bat shit crazy, but ghosts and their nonsensical chatter were things I was used to dealing with on a regular basis. I enjoyed the interaction with them; it was like a ‘welcome home’ greeting of sorts.

  “I like your hair,” a feminine voice fluttered in my ear before floating off.

  “Thank you,” I said, keeping my pace.

  “Once I’m a vampire, you should let me take you out. I’m very rich and I will treat you right, beautiful,” a husky male voice said.

  “You stand a better chance with me as a ghost.”

  Ugh…I almost forgot that all of these lovely ghosts, my friends, would soon be turned into vampires. The thought soured my gut, so I switched gears and began to ignore them. Thinking about the ghosts as future vampires made the task easy for me.

  “Come on, darling, you’re breaking my heart here,” the same husky voice whined.

  “Bloody hell! You went and pissed off one of the few people who can hear us. Poor form, wanker!” a male voice said, reprimanding the flirtatious ghost.

  I kept walking, deciding to ignore them all. The guy with the accent sounded nice enough, but I reminded myself again that nice or not, that same ghost paid millions of dollars to become vampire scum. Freaking vampires! I found myself thinking that a lot.

  “Kris, wait up!” Rush’s voice echoed behind me.

  I slowed my pace, but refused to turn and look at him. I thought I’d made it crystal clear that what I was doing was something I wanted to do on my own. Right before he reached me, I let out a suffered groan. “What is it?”

  He looked down and rubbed the back of his neck. The front of it was red from where the phantom had grabbed him and slammed him against the wall. I also noticed the collar of his shirt was rumpled and torn.

  “I had to come after you,” he whispered. “I feel like things between us are…well, unstable. Yeah, that would be a good way to describe it. After everything that’s happened tonight, and could still happen, I just need to clear the air with you. Let me tag along, no strings. I know I pulled some macho bull back there, but come on. Give a guy a break.”

  He lowered his hand, his head tilting up. His eyes stared at me intently, and there was nothing shy about it. His tongue slipped out, wetting his bottom lip, quickly moving to the top bowed arch. Then he began worrying his bottom lip gently between his teeth. The provocative move was probably a nervous habit of his, a habit that was sexy as hell.

  “Oh, fine,” I said, quickly giving in. “I wasn’t sure how I’d carry a body back to the room by myself, anyway.”

  “I’m sure you would have managed just fine.” He smiled.

  I moaned at the aggravating man. Rush was chipping away at my defenses, the walls I’d painstakingly built out of mistrust and a strong sense of self-preservation. I used the barrier as a way to ward off handsome and dangerous men, mainly of the vampire persuasion.

  “Thanks. Now, cut the crap so we can get this over with. The idea of having to grave-rob has me on edge,” I said, awkwardly smiling back at him. I turned and took off down the hall.

  “Which one should we take?” I asked, walking past all the names.

  Heather Day: August 12, 1900 - 2020.

  Bradley Newman: November 03, 2000 - 2100.

  Marcus West: February 01, 1850 - 2050.

  I took a second look at Bradley’s date. 2100? That was a long time to wait for an awakening. I tried to think of why anyone would want to wait
so long to be brought back from the dead, and all I could come up with was that he could be waiting for certain people to die off. I hoped for his sake if that was true, the person or people he was hiding from didn’t have the forethought to do the same thing as he had—fork up the dough to become a vampire. Bradley would be in for a big surprise. But what did I know? I was only letting my imagination run wild, making up gangsta fairytales.

  “I guess one corpse is as good as the other. Either way, a missing body will have the Council in an uproar, right along with any of the deceased’s family members. Come tomorrow morning, all hell will break loose, because each one of these tombs is individually rigged and will send a breach code error to the mainframe’s database if disrupted before the scheduled time,” Rush warned.

  “Can you bypass the alarm?” I asked, stopping in front of the next tomb.

  “I can try.”

  “Good enough for me. Let’s grab this one, then. Rafe Devereaux: September 21, 2013 - 2025. Today is your lucky day. You’re coming with us.”

  I heard an excited, “Yes!” float through the air at me. I could imagine a fist pump accompanying it. The fact that the ghost to whom the body belonged wasn’t upset about what we were doing made me feel a lot better about the desecration of his remains.

  I unhinged the front plate on the crypt by slipping my fingers into the left side crack of the squared stone. After feeling around, the tip of my index finger flicked a spiny lever or switch. The stone made a grinding noise as it opened, sliding on its own in the opposite direction.

  “Hold on,” Rush said, leaning over me. I stopped short of opening the tomb.

  His chest brushed against my back. I sank into it, hardly able to quench the urge to rub him back, as his hips slid across my backside enticingly. His body stiffened with the intimate contact, and then everything went silent.

  We didn’t move. We allowed the feeling of contentment and lust bubble over us. Even the ghosts stopped their chattering. The stillness didn’t last long. I felt the movement of his hips before his face lowered down to touch mine. Our cheeks grazed; his skin was soft and warm. I took a deep, intoxicating breath, soaking in his male scent, mint and soap with a hint of sunshine.

 
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