Tangled Web (Venin Assassin Book 2), p.8Gena D. Lutz
His face was highlighted in horror, cheeks sunken, almost skeletal. Eyes which had once been beautiful amber turned black, vacant.
“You’re a Creator,” his voice wheezed out between ragged breaths. “Please, don’t kill me; I didn’t know what you were.”
Ignoring his plea, I sent a second charge throughout his body. But that time, I released him after he convulsed into a dead stop. His lifeless form fell to the ground. He began to quickly decompose. Skin split open to reveal dried-up organs, and everything else shriveled into a dry husk. The process would leave the vampire in the same state he was in before a necromancer had the bright idea to reanimate his remains.
I stepped over his hollowed-out pair of blue jeans, accidentally kicking the bargain basement shoes he’d been wearing. A foot bone tumbled out. It bounced over itself twice and came to a stop against the base of a garbage can. He must have been a very old corpse, judging by the state of decomposition of the body. All that was left of him was a pile of bones.
“Thank you, Kris.”
A shimmering fog appeared, hovering over the vampire’s remains. The ghost it belonged to hadn’t fully formed into the vision of her earthly body. Instead, she drifted as smoke, only showing me her pixie-like face. Before, when she showed herself to me, her young, beautiful face had a perpetual frown, but that night was different. She smiled at me, the crease between her eyes smoothed out. She was around twenty when she was murdered by that particular vampire, and she had been haunting me for the last six months, begging for help.
“You’re welcome, Sarah. I hope you can finally find peace,” I said, wiping a bead of sweat from my brow. The drain from that last charge had taken a lot out of me.
“I found my peace the moment you killed that vile creature.”
Her spectral fog began to churn in on itself while her eyes darted to the side. They sought out and latched onto something that, in my many years of beholding ghosts, I had never been able to see for myself.
“It’s my time,” she said, nodding into what I imagined was the spiritual plain. Or the light. “You have no idea how many lives you’ve saved by taking his. Remember, your gifts are a good thing. Don’t hide from them.”
And with a final smile and those words that left me somewhat remorseful, my temporary sidekick disappeared into the ether.
The Council of Necromancers was on my back again. Without fail, every few months, Rush Davis, the leader of the organization, would call and hound me about joining them. Even though I had politely turned him down for the past five years straight, he still chased after me without relent. The calls started soon after I came into my full power at twenty-one, when I found out that, like most of the women in my family, I inherited the powers of creation. I was a Creator, and as such, was a hot commodity. Unfortunately for Rush and his council of elitist snobs, I had no intentions of joining their group. I preferred to be left to my own devices.
“It’s the first of the year. Rush should be calling soon.”
“I don’t know why you bother answering the phone when he calls. You have caller I.D., for Christ’s sake. You know it’s him.”
I looked over at my friendly resident ghost. He was smirking, like always. At six feet tall, he was a huge pain in the butt. I shoved my butter knife at him, wagging it in the air. A bunch of dark curls fell into his eyes as he laughed at me. The knife didn’t intimidate him; he was already dead.
“Thanks for the info, Captain Obvious. I would’ve never thought of that.”
I’d tried ignoring Rush’s calls before, sending them straight to voicemail, but he was a persistent man. Instead of calling back, he showed up on my doorstep, which is how I found out about the odd effect the councilman had on me. He sent tingles running all over my body and made me blush, just thinking about him. Not liking that one bit, I figured it was safer to answer his calls. I shivered. It would be a special kind of Hell if I found out that the odd effect was feelings of some sort or—gasp—a crush. That would be disastrous.
My thoughts wandered over to a memory of Rush, clearly seeing the sinful way his chest bulged and strained underneath his buttoned-up dress shirt. I almost drooled all over myself that first day when I opened the door and saw him standing on my front porch. He smiled, a small dimple creasing his chin. His dirty-blond hair glowed in the sunlight, the wavy, sun-spun locks curved to outline the hard, but somehow soft, features of his handsome face. I shook my head, clearing it. Yeah, he affected me, but only in a carnal want to rip your pants off way. I could go to a strip club for that. Okay, maybe not.
“Are you daydreaming about your future boyfriend again?” Jude teased. “I don’t blame you one bit. If I wasn’t totally into soft curves and big, firm breasts, I’d say he was cute, too.”
Caught and embarrassed, I whirled around and launched a tomato at him. It sailed across the room and went straight through him.
Jude chuckled. “Nice arm. Too bad your aim sucks.”
“Don’t make me cast you out for good. You know I can do it.”
Jude backed up against the wall, stopping at the spot where my tomato bomb had exploded, leaving a red burst of color splattered across the white paint. He backed up more, almost pushing through the drywall. He looked down at his chest and pointed. I could see the tomato splatter through his spectral form. It almost looked like the mess was on his shirt.
“Well, look at that. You hit me,” he joked. “No need to go whipping out your voodoo to get rid of my smart ass.”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. There was a reason I kept Jude around. He was a catalyst for a good time, and he had great taste in movies. We both shared a deep, abiding love for all things cinematic. Our favorite movie of all time was Grease.
Jude was born and died with the soul of a poet, a hopeless romantic. The women of his time must have been lining up to date him. I asked him about his conquests before, but like everything else in regard to his living-life, he couldn’t remember, or he chose not to.
“Did Sarah make it through to the other side?” Jude asked, all of a sudden serious.
His feet levitated off the ground, and he rode the air, stopping to sit on the barstool on the opposite side of the island, where I was busy cutting vegetables for dinner. I was preparing fried chicken with mashed potatoes and a salad with Ranch dressing. It was the favorite of my sister, Torra. She had just received the news that she would be the recipient of a full scholarship to NYU, and I wanted to make her something special to celebrate.
My voice dropped a decibel. “She passed through without incident. They always do.”
“I’m sure she misses you, too, Kris. You two became close while she was here,” he said, trying his best to cheer me up.
He reached over and put his hand through mine. Even though he couldn’t physically touch me, I could still feel him in the way of energy pulses, like my hand was suffering from an uncontrollable tick. The way ghosts made me feel used to freak me right out. But as long as it was done with good intention and with my full consent, it didn’t bother me anymore.
“She grew on me.”
His hand moved up and down, a phantom pat of assurance. “She grew on me, too. I think I’ll miss her god-awful singing most.”
“She did have heart, though,” I said, thinking about the cat calls she termed singing.
“Yes, she did.”
Feeling a little better, I walked over to the fridge and reached in. What I took out made Jude’s eyeballs pop.
“Did you have to make that, of all things?” he whined.
I chuckled as I set the double-layered chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing in the middle of the dining room table. I then set dessert plates and forks next to it, using the good silver and china for the special occasion.
“I’m sorry, you big baby, but it’s Torra’s favorite dessert. You can handle seeing it for one night.”
Chocolate cake was Jude’s favorite, too. As a matter of fact, anything chocolate left the po
Thinking on it, I realized we were a pretty pathetic pair. Thank God, I had a sister to look after, or I would be the worst kind of recluse. I could already envision myself as an old lady, collecting a hundred cats to fill the void left by self-imposed seclusion. But instead of making felines my constant companions, I suspect I would have a collection of ghostly ones.
As I was finalizing my place settings, the phone rang. I walked across the kitchen and picked up the receiver.
“Hi, Kris, it’s Rush.”
“I already told you. No.” I went to hang up, but the urgency in his tone made me hesitate.
“Wait. This is important. I need to come over. We need to talk about Torra.”
My heart skipped a beat; he had my full attention. “What about her? If there’s something wrong, you better tell me now.”
“It would be best if we had this conversation in person. See you in twenty minutes.”
Before I could protest, he hung up.
“What’s going on? Who was that?” Jude asked, floating up next to me.
I stood like a zombie next to the sink with the phone in my hand. I was unable to move. A long beep-beep-beep slipped from the phone receiver.
“It’s Torra. Something’s wrong.”
Twenty minutes later, I heard the sound of footsteps plodding across the front porch. After a few more seconds, I heard a rapping on the door. I rushed to open it.
“Get your butt in here and tell me what’s going on!”
Before he stepped foot inside the house, he made sure to wipe his black Berlutis on the Welcome mat. Such a considerate fellow was the head council member of Necromancers. I took in the highly polished, rich black leather of his shoes; he was also an apparent shoe dandy. Those kicks cost a fortune.
“Well, ‘hello’ to you, too, Kristina. You’ve always been such a gracious host,” Rush said on his way over the threshold.
“Yeah…whatever. Tell me what’s going on with Torra.” I was impatient, not noticing the sexy dimple in his chin…at all.
He paused, and then walked over to the couch. After pulling up the legs of his slacks, he took a seat.
“I’ll have some tea. Be sure to add lemon, please.” He looked directly at Jude.
His request took me by surprise. First off, I wasn’t used to anybody being able to see Jude. And second, I didn’t like his bossiness. We weren’t at the Center. Maybe that dimple wasn’t as cute as I’d first thought. I looked again…dang it!
Jude’s face scrunched up in a what the hell? expression. “If you’re waiting to be served, your majesty, then you’ll be waiting a long time. Besides, I’m a ghost, Einstein.” Jude waggled his transparent fingers in the air.
Rush looked at us, dumbfounded. He laughed. I had a feeling it was Jude and me he found so comical, and I didn’t like it. Not one flecking bit.
“Do you mean to tell me that your spirit companion can’t lift a simple cup?” he asked, chuckling again. “There is so much to teach you.”
What did he mean by spirit companion? Jude was a ghost. One among the many I had been able to communicate with ever since I could remember. Not once, did any of the ghosts I’d come in contact with have the ability to move objects by touch. Mean-spirited poltergeists could move things around with their dark and malevolent energy, but to actually pick something up with their hands? No way. Rush had to be smoking something.
“You have my full attention, as long as we talk about my sister. Not the Center.”
The longer we sat there without my little sister walking through that door, which she should have done about a half hour before, the more I feared that something bad had happened to her. I pushed down the beginnings of a panic attack.
“Stop jerking her around, asshole, and tell her what’s going on,” Jude growled. He knew first-hand how out of control my emotions could get. Plus, he was like my brother, and because of our close relationship, he was overprotective of me.
Rush stood. His usual charming, but passive, expression had turned to worry. “I’m sorry, Ms. Chase. I really didn’t mean to upset you. Here.” He held his hand out to me. “Come sit down. I won’t make you wait any longer.”
I did as he asked and took a seat next to him on the couch. I was extremely anxious to hear what he had to say. Jude hovered in place next to the coffee table. He had a habit of disappearing when company was over, not being able to interact with them, but that time, he stuck around. He was just as freaked out as I was.
“Your sister has gone missing,” Rush began.
I jumped up, leaned over, and put my face inches from his. “When…how?”
I had no clue what I was going to accomplish by getting into Rush’s face like that. Maybe I felt like I could scare the facts away. Or maybe that was a good example of what they referred to as wanting to kill the messenger. Whatever the reasons, I was having a hard time staying rational.
Rush removed a square, thin case from his jacket pocket. “Here, play this.”
I snatched the disc from his hand and practically flew across the living room to get to the DVD player. I reached down, opened the clear case, and loaded the disc. After picking up the remote, I went and sat back down next to Rush.
Before I pushed the play button, I gave myself a mental pep talk. I knew that whatever was on that disc would more than likely change my life forever.
All was quiet on the screen as I watched my little sister walk across an empty parking lot. She was heading towards her little beater of a car, a white 2003 Dodge Neon. I had saved for months, so I could buy it for her sixteenth birthday, two years earlier. The car was in great shape and was all I could afford. To that day, it ran like a champ, and even though it wasn’t a Mercedes, or any other extravagant vehicle, Torra loved it.
“Where was this video taken?” I asked, watching Torra as she made her way closer to the car.
“This is the surveillance footage of the parking garage at the Center. The entry log shows that she left class at three p.m. This was taken one hour later,” Rush explained.
“What class? And what was she doing for that one hour?”
“We don’t know.”
It was all news to me. I never knew that Torra was visiting the Necro Center, let alone, taking classes there. Last I heard was that she’d be at Cameo’s house, working on her valedictorian speech. It seemed as though Torra had lied to me.
Before Rush could answer me, the sound of my sister’s shouts blared from the television, filling the room. I jumped in front of the screen and knelt down. A hooded figure came up from behind as she pulled out her keys to unlock the driver’s side door. She turned, maybe hearing a noise, before he could attack, catching her off guard.
I watched as she kicked, landed a few punches, and screamed at her assailant. But then Torra froze. He had pulled a gun and pointed it at her head. I could hardly make out her face in the dim light of the garage, but I could tell that she was pissed. Her fists were clenching at her side. She pushed her blond hair, which was disheveled from the fight, out of her face and dropped the purse she was using as a weapon at her feet. Then, after the hooded man gestured at her hands, she tossed him her keys. After a few more seconds, my sister and her kidnapper drove out of the parking garage in Torra’s car.
“I’m sorry that this—”
“No problem,” Rush mumbled.
I jammed the rewind button on the remote and watched the scene play out again. I searched every movement, no matter how slight. I was looking for any clues that would lead me to whom, or what, her attacker was. Up in the corner of the screen, a clock ran. Exactly four p
“How did you find out about this so fast?” My question sounded like an accusation. It kind of was. I found it odd that she would be taken from such a well-guarded building. I also found it an extremely strange coincidence that it happened to my sister shortly after another failed attempt by the Council to recruit me.
“The security guard sounded the alarm as soon as he noticed what was happening in the parking garage. By the time security made it onto the scene, it was too late. They were already long gone.”
Rush pulled a tiny slip of paper from his shirt pocket and held it out to me.
“They did find this, though. It’s addressed to you.”
I stood and walked back over to the couch. After plopping onto it, I reached over and pulled the ripped piece of notebook paper from Rush’s fingers. I opened the two ends wide.
Creator, if you want your sister to live, you must do as I say.
Request #1. No council involvement.
My heart sank to the bottom of my chest, but just as quickly, it rebounded. My sister was alive, and that was a huge relief. But she was in grave danger. If you took into account the note was addressed to me, her abduction was apparently somehow connected to me. I tried to run a mental checklist of all the people I may have pissed off in the past. What I came up with was not encouraging.
In the last five years, since I had inherited my gifts as a Creator, I must have exterminated over twenty vampires. Any one of them could have run in a group or left behind a girlfriend or lover hell bent on revenge. But if that were the case, why kidnap my sister? Wouldn’t they kill her instead, in retaliation against me? I could only assume that someone wanted me to suffer. Mission accomplished.
Tangled Web (Venin Assassin Book 2) by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes