Voodoo kiss, p.1
©Copyright 2011 Jayde Scott
The right of Jayde Scott to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the author, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance between the characters and persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
To Foxy, Silver and Tabby
You taught me the true meaning of love…
I'd like to thank my beloved spouse for the inspiration and for the immense support. You're my rock. I couldn't have done it without you. A huge thank you to my new editor, Shannon, for the invaluable insight and for being so thorough. Thank you to fellow author, Christine Peebles, for taking the time to critique this novel.
And, last but not least, a huge thanks to all my wonderful readers. I hope you'll enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
The Fallen will cheer
Where the Gifted mend the dead
- Jayde Scott
He came after the fall of darkness when all was quiet and the relentless heat of the late August sun had long waned into a freezing night. I wrapped my shawl around my aching bones and opened the door to let him in, but he just lingered in the doorway, his black hood covering most of his pale face, smooth as marble, and shiny black eyes.
For a moment, my breath caught in my throat. The time had finally come, meaning there was no going back now. I shouldn't be scared. After all, it had been my decision to call for him. I had no choice than to go through with it because Death was already lurking in the shadows.
A breeze blew across my face; the cool air felt good on my hot-burning skin. Against all odds, I hoped I wouldn't pass out before the deal was sealed. It was time to hurry so I pointed behind me. Without my invitation he would never be able to cross the threshold. "Come on in, Warrior."
He bowed before me and stepped into the dimly lit hut with dried lavender hanging from strings attached across the ceiling, his boots barely making any sound on the naked ground that hadn't received a good scrub ever since the fever got hold of me.
"Over here." I pulled a chair for him when white spots filled my vision and I collapsed into a heap on the cold floor.
His piercing eyes met my gaze. "Time is running out for you."
"You think I don't know that?" Laughing bitterly, I scrambled to my feet and pointed at the chair. He nodded but didn't take me up on the offer. Instead, he marched over to the hearth with the burning logs, and pulled out a scroll from under his coat, then handed it to me.
My eyes scanned the handwriting, soaking up the beauty of the cursive and the words I had never learned to read.
"Is the agreement not to your liking?" the warrior asked.
"All is well." Drawing a deep breath I grabbed the dagger from his outstretched hand and pierced its tip into my thumb, letting two drops of blood stain the paper. "Then it is done?"
"Not yet. Reincarnation requires personal sacrifice." He pushed the scroll back under his cloak and removed the hood. I stared at his pale skin, his high cheekbones, and the unnaturally black eyes, dark as puddles, soaking up the light in the room. He seemed young, maybe eighteen summers old, and yet I knew it couldn't be. His race would only send a master to deal with my proposition.
"You will inherit this sacred land and all the souls I have bound to it throughout the years. I have fulfilled my part of the bargain, now it's your turn." My voice shook because his eerie eyes made me nervous. I hid my wringing hands behind my back.
The warrior inched closer, his gaze prodding into mine. "And so we shall. As agreed, you, Esmeralda, Priestess of the Seventh Order, will be reborn as the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter of the Romanov dynasty. Your powers shall know no boundaries for they were bestowed to you by the Goddess herself."
I nodded. "Yes, that was part of the agreement."
He held up a hand to stop me. "There is more, however. As we grant life, we're also owners to take it. Nothing but the Blade of Sorrow will be able to kill you. Once it does, your powers will pass to the owner of the blade, and your soul will be forever bound to the Cemetery of the Dead."
"No." I shook my head vigorously. "That wasn't part of my offer. I will not agree to it."
"It's too late. See your mark?" He pulled out the scroll and unrolled it. I peered mortified at the blood soaking the paper, dripping onto the ground. A sudden flash of light blinded my eyes. I blinked and returned my focus to the contract. The blood formed a perfect hexagon across the entire scroll. I couldn't help but gasp. The warrior continued, "The goddess has accepted your sacrifice."
Outside, a strong wind began to howl through the nearby trees, rattling the windowpanes. The warrior started to whisper in a language I didn't understand. A sharp pain, like that of a knife, pierced my heart and I dropped to my knees, clutching the rags I had worn for more years than I could count. My breathing came in labored heaps, but my mind remained surprisingly sharp.
The door opened with a creak and he flew in, his great wings flapping softly. The reaper—a creature of Heaven and Hell, who had been lingering around me for many months, waiting for me to draw my last breath so he could transport my soul wherever he was meant to take it. He stood directly before me now—seven feet tall with a surprisingly human face. His dark gaze sharpened on me as he let out a piercing scream coming straight from the pit of Hell. It was the first time I got a good look at the creature, all skin as dark as coal and eyes as deep as the ocean.
I turned my head to look at the chanting warrior, begging him to save me, but he averted his gaze. On my knees, I pulled myself to the far side of the wall where a stack of hay covered by a thin sheet served as my sleeping chamber. The reaper lurched forward, his enormous wings fluttering behind him. Sharp claws cut into my chest. The pain intensified until I could no longer breathe. I knew then that I was about to die.
My scream found its way out of my throat a moment before my vision blurred and the room became dark. What would be the purpose in fighting with a body wrecked by age and disease? I sighed, ready to succumb to my fate. Instead of fighting, I let go willingly.
I, Esmeralda, the most powerful voodoo priestess in the world, had been deceived by the ones I had trusted.
Present day New York City
My babushka had been a witch. And while she couldn't do more than the usual love potion and heal the odd sore throat, she had always insisted I was a witch too, though nowhere near embracing my powers. Not before people didn't come looking for me to ask me to fulfill a very important task. While her superstitious words had always made me laugh, they had also left a foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had always been one to believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night, so when my life started to take a strange turn, I couldn't help but admit that something paranormal was going on and that my grandmother had been right. How else could I explain the bizarre events happening recently?
Ever since a few weeks ago when the TV set switched itself on to a show with a red-haired young woman and her pretty friend c
I'd been so sleep deprived and anxious, I almost failed my college admission exam that was supposed to get me into drama school. Hoping the summer vacation would help me get my crap together, I agreed to a one-week vacation to Brazil. Granted, it was more of a proposition from my boyfriend, Gael, but I was thankful for the opportunity when he surprised me with two flight tickets to Rio de Janeiro. My bags were packed and cluttered the tiny hall to my apartment now. My best friend, Cindy, promised to feed my fish and water my plants. It was the trip of a lifetime, not least because Gael was talking about taking our relationship to the next level now that I was about to start college. So why was I hesitating?
Standing on the stage of Area 9 with a guitar cradled in my arms and a microphone in front of me, I sang the last words to Harried. Even though my mind was a million miles away, my voice rose and fell to the bittersweet melody, my hands sliding up and down the guitar neck the way they had done countless times before. The last tune echoed through the large bar.
"Well done, Soph," my band mate, Aaron, said.
The few people sitting near the edge, frat boys and their dates plus the usual drunks, clapped half-heartedly. I muttered a thank you and goodnight to the crowd even though I knew no one was listening, and made my way out through the back entrance, inhaling the putrid smell of garbage cans and piss.
I leaned against the dirty wall facing the door and fished for the cigarette pack stashed inside the back pocket of my tiny leather skirt, then lit one, inhaling deeply. The smoke made me cough once or twice before my throat settled and the burning sensation in my eyes subsided. I had been smoking long before my sister died, but I still couldn't get used to it. As if my body protested against the slow poison destroying it from the inside. Or maybe Theo, who had never liked my habit, kept protesting from the Otherworld, influencing my unconscious. Either way, I took a final deep drag before tossing it on the ground and stomping on the burning tip, feeling depressed and disgusted with myself for no apparent reason.
The cool air blew my hair into my face. Wings flapped to my right, the sound making me flinch. Pressing my palm against my racing heart, I peered into the darkness stretching behind the garbage cans, almost expecting the irritating crow to stare back at me. But nothing moved.
"Silly," I muttered, feeling even sillier for talking to myself. Nothing a good night's sleep couldn't fix, if only I'd finally get some.
I walked back to the entrance and grabbed the doorknob when my hand froze. Someone was behind me. The smell of musk, candles and herbs invaded my nostrils. I could feel someone's hot breath on my exposed neck. My pulse accelerated, my mind stopped working. For a moment, I just stood there, devoid of any thoughts, before I turned to face him.
"Are you all right?" His voice came low and deep, but he sounded young. Maybe twenty or twenty-five. A dark hood hung over his forehead, and partially obscured his features. I squinted, trying to get a better look at him, but the lamp over the entrance door didn't give enough light.
"You want in?" I nodded and stepped aside to let him into the club, but when I turned my head he disappeared right before my eyes.
I peered to the left and right, wondering where he'd gone, or whether my mind was playing a trick on me. A few sleepless nights and two painkillers could sure enough make one imagine things. Unless he could sprint ten feet to reach the corner in two seconds, the guy couldn't have been there because the alleyway had been empty when I left the club, and it sure was empty now.
No, I couldn’t have seen anyone. My imagination was running wild. It tended to do that a lot lately, particularly after Theo's death. Inhaling the freezing night air, I wrapped my arms around me to stop me from shivering and counted to ten, then left.
When I returned to the tiny room behind the stage, my band mate slash rookie, manager and everything else, Aaron, had packed away my guitar and was now loading our equipment into the van. Most clubs had an amplifier, speakers and microphone for the odd karaoke night, but as semi-professionals we prided ourselves on using our own stuff, even if we could barely afford paying the rental fee on the van.
"Want me to drive you home?" Aaron asked from the driver's seat. I shook my head as I regarded his spiky green hair and the ring piercing his lower lip. He looked more like a punk than a rocker. Then again, Aaron had never been one to fit into a group, stereotype or otherwise.
"Suit yourself," he said and started the engine. I watched him speed off in the distance, then returned to the bar to call myself a taxi. As much as I would've wanted to take him up on the offer because I really couldn't afford another taxi drive home, I knew it was for the best. Better to avoid another jealousy fueled fight with Gael before we even went on our first vacation together.
The taxi ride home to my tiny apartment in Brooklyn took about fifteen minutes, which I spent leaning my head against the cold glass as I watched my distorted face in the car window. The streetlights illuminated my recently dyed jet-black hair and emphasized the dark shadows under my eyes. Gael had said he preferred my ash blonde hair. His superficial statement still enraged me. But even if I wanted to please him, which I didn't, my natural hair color reminded me too much of my sister, so I had to do something about it. As a rock chick, it was either black or burgundy. I figured, black was the more reasonable choice. It made me look as haunted as I felt inside.
The car finally came to a halt outside the building. I paid and thanked the driver, then entered the dilapidated complex and rode the elevator up to the seventh floor. My roommate wasn't here for the week, which suited me just fine. I had been having a hard time explaining the crow perched on my windowsill day in, day out. I took a few steps toward the window to shoo it away, then stopped, changing my mind because I was too tired to bother. Instead, I skimmed quickly through my evening routine and then dropped onto my bed, unable to sleep for a long time because of the cawing outside.
Less than five hours later, after yet another sleepless night, the piercing ring of the bell interrupted my trail of thoughts as I was trying to recall whether I had remembered everything. The noise didn't stop, signaling my visitor was slowly losing his patience, so I tossed my sticky list on the breakfast table and hurried to open.
Gael, dressed in his usual white shirt and brown slacks, stood in the doorway, his mouth curved into a lazy smile, the faintest scent of sandalwood wafting from him. I reached out and he pulled me into a tight embrace, his lips locking with mine in a brief, sloppy kiss.
"Ready?" His dark eyes sparkled with anticipation as he ran a hand through his light brown hair that was a tad too long. I preferred it that way because it softened his square jaw and strong features.
Ready? Not really. Sleep deprived as I was, I felt like crap, and yet I couldn't tell him. Gael didn't like moaning and complaining. "Yep." I pulled him after me into the apartment and closed the door behind us, my nerves flaring up again. The strange feeling in the pit of my stomach hadn't subsided ever since Gael had tossed the flight tickets on the table, but I associated it with the fact that my love life was moving way too fast in a direction I wasn't ready to take just yet. The pain of losing Theo was as strong as on that fateful day when I was informed of her death. The wound in my heart still burned too bright to let me focus on a relationship. In fact, I had been considering breaking off with him. He was hot, no doubt about that, but the spark just wasn't really there.
"Is that all?" Gael pointed at the
We arrived at JFK International Airport with half an hour to spare during which we grabbed a cup of coffee and made our way to the gate. It was still early on a foggy September Monday, but huge crowds of travelers had already gathered at every corner, chatting as though they enjoyed every minute of their journey. Most travelers were well dressed, which was something I adored about NY. Everyone was so fashionable in a casual way, reminding me a bit of Paris and Rome.
I wiped my damp hands on my jean skirt and peered at Gael from the corner of my eye, admiring his strong features and the way he always seemed to look presentable whereas I always looked like a hot mess with my jeans and chipped nail polish.