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Created darkly, p.8
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       Created Darkly, p.8

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Our eyes met and he blinked, dark lashes landing briefly on the tips of his cheek bones. The man was a treat for the eyes, and my teeth were aching for something sinfully sweet to nibble on.

  “Kris,” he whispered, breaking the silence.

  I turned, my body swaying towards him. His eyes were hooded, his lips wet and inviting. They were lust-filled magnets drawing me in, wanting to be sucked on, nibbled, and kissed properly.

  He slipped his hands around my waist and leaned forward. He nipped my bottom lip, testing the water. My breathing became harsh, the tiny love-bite making me dizzy. His lips were so close all I had to do was move an inch. In the next breath, my mouth covered his. He pressed us tighter together; I was enjoying it way too much.

  “We can’t do this,” I said, breaking away. My heated body wanted to rebel against the traitorous words trickling from my mouth. I was certain that if my libido had a form of its own, it would punch me square in the nose.

  “You’re right, I’m sorry,” he said as he moved around me, careful not to let our bodies touch for a second time.

  It took him a minute to cool down before he began to fiddle with a panel situated on the inside wall of the crypt. Then it was like nothing had happened. There was a hollow emptiness in the space he vacated. I sighed and watched him type in the appropriate codes on a keypad.

  “That should do it.”

  I moved to the side as he rolled out a steel table with the dead body of Rafe Devereaux lying on it.

  “You take the legs, and I’ll grab him by the shoulders,” Rush said.

  “Sure thing,” I said softly, shaking off the lingering effects of his kiss. It was time for business as usual, like I wanted it. I’d never claimed to be a genius.

  Chapter Twelve

  Back in the other room, Rush and I placed the corpse down on top of the table. I wrapped my fingers around his cold and stiff arms, placing them gently up against his sides. Looking down on his still features, I took a moment to respect the dead by whispering a short prayer under my breath. I wasn’t a religious person, but I did believe each life and death was precious and deserved acknowledgement. The prayer was my way of doing that.

  Leaning over, I pushed a patch of mussed-up, dark hair out of the dead man’s face. He looked so peaceful, like he was asleep. I made a mental note to ask Rush how the corpse remained so fresh after being dead for so long.

  After I finished with him, I looked up, eyes landing on two white candles which were nestled inside a large pile of clotted dirt. There was also a jar of water and a large bowl filled with chunks of salt. All the items were placed on a shelf at the head of the table. The phantom walked to the opposite side of the room, stopping in front of one of the built-in cabinets. He opened a panel and took out a neatly folded garment.

  “You’ll need to put this on,” he said, holding the white garment out to me.

  I strolled over and plucked it out of his hands. After unfolding it, I let half the fabric fall loose, the edges of the robe sweeping the ground. “Do you have a problem with what I’m wearing?”

  “Just put it on. I’m tired of your mouth,” he barked.

  “Watch what you say to her,” Jude said.

  My eyes swung to him. He was standing in the same spot he’d been in before I left. He was turning several shades of red, his face scrunched up like a prune. My eyes widened as tendrils of white fog began to slowly trickle from his body.

  “What the hell?” Jude whispered. As he watched the fog curl around him, fear struck across his face.

  His anger at the phantom was momentarily forgotten. Holding out his hands, he watched in horror as they began to fade in and out, losing corporeal form. The fog began to churn in on itself, creating a long stream. It continued on that way, sucking up more of Jude’s human body, until after several seconds, it reached out and began to move towards me.

  An anguished cry tore from Jude’s lips. Shaking his head back and forth, he began to move away from the concentrated smoke, away from the mist. But he couldn’t hide from it, because it wasn’t attacking him; it was exiting his body. I watched it creep towards me, the sound of laughter ringing out before an ice-cold spray of power crashed over me.

  I could vaguely hear Rush in the background. He was yelling something at the phantom who had been the source of the mischievous laughter. My body seized, overtaking my thoughts, leaving me helpless to move. I could only internally pray for the end of the agonizing pain. I heard another scream, and it was like a knife ripping, tearing, and rending the flesh from my throat. It went on, stabbing and punishing, until I realized the screams I heard were my own.

  “Kris, can you hear me? Say something.”

  I came around to the sound of Rush’s worried voice blasting from above me. I cracked open my eyes to see that he was kneeling down, holding the back of my throbbing skull in the palm of his ginormous hand. My first thought, as soon as my mind cleared, was a shameful one. It was something along the lines of you know what they say about big hands and feet.... That settled it. I was a wanton ho bag.

  “I’m okay. Where’s Jude?” I didn’t care about myself; I was breathing well enough, but I’d passed out too soon to know of Jude’s fate.

  “I’m right here.”

  I almost cried in relief when I heard the sweet sound of my best friend’s voice. “Thank God.” I closed my eyes and relaxed, letting my nerves settle down to a more bearable frenzy, instead of their constant turmoil, an all-out war of the furies that raged to wreak havoc on my sanity.

  “If you’re finished with your nap, ghost maker, we still have work to do,” the phantom stated.

  The change of the phantom’s usual harsh tone—and if I wasn’t mistaken, the look of worry—was confusing. It was almost as if I frightened him in some way. Jude came into focus in front of me; he wore a waning smile.

  “I guess the new duds were only temporary,” Jude said.

  I sat up, easily regaining my legs in one leap. I felt better than ever, stronger, and more vital. Somehow, I knew what I’d inadvertently done to Jude. Earlier, I had transferred my life energy to him, gifting his ethereal form with a body. But then, without my consent, the power returned to its home, crashing through the doors like a battering ram, not even pausing to call first or wipe its feet on the Welcome mat.

  “I’m sorry, Jude. I can try giving it back. Come here,” I offered, holding out my hand.

  Dejected, he shook his head. “Maybe later. Now’s not the time.”

  The phantom cleared his throat; the sound carried over from across the room. Was he keeping a farther distance from me than he had before? Earlier, he was all up in my face, barking orders. Interesting.

  Rush handed me the robe, drawing my attention to him. “Are you up for this?”

  “Up for what, exactly? Do you know what Wolf wants me to do?”

  He looked around the room and then back at me. “It’s rather obvious, Kris. I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out. There’s an altar, a robe, and a dead body. What else could he possibly want from you?”

  My mouth fell open. I was a blundering idiot. Of course! It came together like a flash mob, all at once. In order to save my sister, Wolf wanted me to do what he assumed was ‘what I do best,’ using his own turn of words. However, little did he know, I had never before used my powers to raise and subsequently turn a corpse into a vampire. What I did best was kill them.

  “This night just keeps getting better and better.”

  ***

  I put on the white ceremonial garment and tucked the sacred dagger inside the knot cinched at the waist, holding the robe closed. Everyone but Rush was standing off to the side, quietly waiting for me to start the ritual. I had asked Rush to stay close by me, so he could walk me through all the required steps of an awakening. He agreed, so we stood at the foot of the table. I, not knowing what to do, and he, waiting for me to tell him I was ready. After pushing back the last of my misgivings and my ever-mounting fear, I nodded, signaling for us
to begin, in my opinion, an unholy ritual.

  “First, you must create your circle of protection,” Rush began. He leaned over Rafe’s body and snagged the bowl full of salt off of the ledge. “You need to do this yourself. The protective elements from the circle are to be controlled by and bonded to you.” He handed me the container. “Sprinkle the salt once around the table, being careful to remain inside it. There must be no breaches made in the circle.” Rush turned to give the squatter in our midst a disgusted look as he continued. “A breach can invite unwanted souls in. They can fuse themselves to the body, stealing it, much like a phantom would.” Then looking back at me, he said, “Go ahead. I’ll watch and make sure you’re doing everything right.”

  I frowned and dug my fingers into the rocky granules. After scooping up a handful, I poured it out of the hole I’d made by closing my fist. A long, white line began to form as I walked around the table, creating my first circle of protection. When I finished walking the circle, I stopped at the corpse’s head. It was the same spot I’d started from, but I was on the opposite side. I completed the circle by connecting the beginning of the salt line to the end. I felt the magic of the ritual seal within the circle. It popped together like a rubber band.

  My fingertips tingled, begging for me to use the magic at my beck and call, but it wasn’t time yet. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it deep inside me, in a secret place where instincts lay in wait to pounce at you or yell bloody murder, before you did something stupid. That was exactly what was happening.

  My eyes were drawn to the dirt being used as a makeshift holder for the candles. I was supposed to do something with that dirt. I just knew it. I walked over and gathered some of it up, an ample amount to fill my hand, but not enough to knock the candles over. The candles are important and must remain intact, my inner voice scolded.

  I looked over at Rush for guidance, but all he did was smile. He was enjoying the ease with which the magic was coming to me. The feeling wasn’t mutual. I loathed being forced to do that.

  With my free hand, I dipped my fingers in the water. After pulling them out of the jar, I used the excess that remained on my fingertips to drip into the dirt in my hand. I did it a few more times, until I had enough of it to adequately mix the dirt into mud. I leaned forward, and with great care, chose a spot on the corpse. I then coated my index finger with mud and traced over his heart.

  With swift motion, I drew an image of a cross. The mud spread with ease, leaving a perfect rendering of the holy symbol marked in brown on the pale flesh of his chest. The candles flared, not once or twice, but three times, casting a shadow of foreboding over the room. I felt like a different person in that moment. I didn’t know if it was my strong adversity to vampires, or if it was the magic itself, but I wanted to scream, a release of pent-up tragedy and pain. Then I realized it wasn’t my own feelings that haunted me. They were feelings that belonged to souls approaching, banging on a metaphysical door for entrance.

  It was time to finish the awakening. My arms flew outward, and comfortable heat began to rhythmically pulse between my eyes, the burn traveling across the tops of my brows, and then pouring down the side of my face like flowing lava. It continued its searing path down my neck and shoulders, and then completely filled the entire width of my arms. When the power settled to wait in the palms of my hands, a sense of euphoria consumed me. I felt myself smile, and I glanced over at the spectators in the room. They didn’t move, talk, or even dare breathe in my direction.

  I held the power of life eternal in the palms of my hands, and it was a scary thing to behold. My head slowly turned back to the dead body lying prone before me on the table. What did this person do in his lifetime to deserve such a gift? I couldn’t help wondering. Did that question boggle the minds of all other Creators past, present, or future? Did they even care to whom, or why, they bequeathed their gifts?

  My motives were simple; I had to save the innocent life of my sister. I looked down at the body for which my magic was intended. The life I was about to give him was only a loan, borrowed time, so to speak. I fully intended to track the soon-to-be monster down personally and take back every ounce of magic I poured into him. With that moral dilemma settled, I spread my arms wide and readily received the man’s soul calling to me, among the many, from out of the ether.

  Chapter Thirteen

  I took a deep breath that shook me. It was either that, or the steady flow of power filling me up so full, I half-expected to explode like a firecracker from the pressure. Now, wouldn’t that make a sight for the morbid eye? A fireworks show consisting of spurting blood, mangled flesh, and a grandiose finale of bone shards.

  I pushed away the morose thoughts and focused all my attention on the corpse. My arms felt heavy as I held them out, beckoning for the spirit of Rafe Devereaux to answer my call. The spirit had been standing inside the circle by my side the whole time, but had disappeared moments earlier when the power started to build. I was left to assume that his spirit had been sucked up into the ether, churning and reforming, in preparation for being thrust back into his body.

  The same kind of smoke that had invaded me earlier was steadily building up before me. It was the same consistency, but not alike in color. The ball of fog was grey, and instead of reaching for me, it left me, extending out in Rafe’s direction. My body reacted to the surging of power by shaking even more. Somehow, I was able to keep my eyes open and trained on the forming wall of fog. My teeth were about to shatter, I was gritting them so tightly.

  When the smoke crept its way over to the table, it paused and eventually moved forward to hover above the body. I was shocked at what happened next. After a shrill shriek that shook the smoke mass, making it scatter into nothing, it reformed into the image of an eagle. The spirit bird spread its wings wide, and after another wail, it dove straight into the mark I had drawn on the body’s chest.

  “What the fuck was that?” Rush’s panicked voice asked from behind me.

  I couldn’t answer him. If he wasn’t sure about what that was, or how it came from my magic, I surely wouldn’t know. So far, I’d trusted my instincts by winging it. Maybe that was the problem. Did I neglect to follow some written protocol, and this could be my punishment for it? I was sure of one thing, however. That spirit-bird thing, flapping its wings in front of me, was big and scary-looking, and had me itching to say, “Screw this,” turn tail, and run.

  Rafe’s body bowed in the middle and then slammed back down to the table. The corpse began to shudder and vibrate so fast, all I could make out was a blurry vision. The smoke bird lifted away from the body, only to immediately pounce back in. The strange dance happened several times. It was like the body was battling against the bird that was viscously attacking it.

  No matter how freaked out I was, I held my ground. With my arms out before me, palms shooting off white light, sparks, and that smoke, I stood against my fear. Jude wasn’t as cool-headed as I was, however. He looked like a cat that just got its tail hacked off as he tried, with no luck, to enter my circle of protection.

  Jude flew into the invisible wall several times, and each time, it bounced him right back off. Then the buzzing around the dead body abruptly stopped. I witnessed the spirit bird dive into Rafe one more time, but that time, the bird remained inside him.

  A wash of light spilled out of my palms to cascade over him. I could barely see through the light flooding my eyes, but what I did witness was mind boggling. I watched as his chest melted in on itself, only to reinflate seconds later. When the pecs and other muscles filled back out, they did so to reflect a different visage. Rafe’s chest was no longer flat and ordinary looking. I squinted through the glare to get a better look at the brand new bumps and chiseled arches, to make sure I was actually seeing what I thought I had. Sure enough, his upper body looked tanned and muscled; it was a flawless masterpiece that had been constructed by magic. The miraculous transformation didn’t stop there. It continued to flow over him, collapsing sections of his body
, reforming, leaving the image of sheer perfection in its wake. Even the long, white, puckered scar I noticed on his shoulder earlier was gone.

  My arms fell, tingles of weariness creeping throughout my muscles, leaving them all but useless as they bounced off my hips to settle limply at my sides. I walked over to the man lying prone on the table. I kept my eyes glued to his stomach and chest. I was waiting for a rise and fall or any sign of life. Then I saw the mark. It was large enough to stick out like a sore thumb, but that was the first time I noticed it.

  Hesitating, I lifted my almost useless arm and settled my fingers on the mark. His chest instantly moved against my light touch, but I didn’t flinch away. Instead, I circled the black, raised lines that had taken form over his heart. The lines swirled together to take the shape of wings that looked similar to the ones belonging to the smoke eagle that dove inside him. It was as if the new life I had given him had taken its own form and left evidence of itself as a mark on his chest. The wings were beautiful. Not even the most skilled of tattoo artists stood a chance at replicating them. The marking consisted of black-shaded outlines, a set of wings that were spread out, the feathers flaring at the bottom like they were about to catch air and take flight.

  “Did it work?” The hushed question quivered from between Rafe’s lips. They were an enticing blush of red that bowed at the top, and at the bottom, curved to a lush. Kissable pillows, used to lure prey—a sinful promise of a death minion’s fatal kiss.

  I removed my fingers from his chest and took a step back. Off to the side, I could see Rush and Jude standing against the barrier with their toes almost touching the salt circle.

  “I can’t move,” the newly made vampire said, his voice low and frightened.

  I stiffened, eyes darting around the circle, over his body, and then over to Rush. Have I done something wrong?

 
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