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Voodoo kiss, p.11
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       Voodoo Kiss, p.11

           Jayde Scott
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  Admittedly, that thought didn't cross my mind. Talking to demons and vampires and what else not was one thing, but to a bird? I smirked. Wasn't happening. Once I started communicating with a crow, I knew my sanity was probably going down the gutter. Maybe one day I'd pluck up the courage and make a fool of myself, but not yet. There were more pressing issues to take care of.

  "Is Cass back?" I asked. "She owes me a one-on-one."

  "She's in the living room," Thrain said, so I got up, prepared to leave. He grabbed my hand and pulled me down on his lap, his hot breath brushing my cheek. "Hey, haven't you forgotten something?"

  A kiss. Grinning, I gave in wholeheartedly, then pulled out of his embrace and left, wishing there would be many more to come. Soon but not soon enough.

  Cass was already waiting for me in the living room. The others were gathered around her, Amber sitting on one side, Clare on the other. Aidan stood by the window, his gaze scanning the darkness. He was expecting someone or something. I would've liked to ask but I bit my tongue to keep quiet. Prying wasn't attractive—it was one of the few virtues my mother had tried to teach me. Unfortunately, this one was the hardest to follow because it completely defied my personality.

  "Look who's decided to join us?" In spite of the glow on her face, Cass seemed bothered.

  I sat down on the couch farthest from her. "Any news?"

  "Me?" She shook her head, her red mane brushed the collar of her baggy top that accompanied her baggy jeans. "Nope, mate. You?"

  "Don't think so." I knew she was talking about my smooching with Thrain and I wondered what gave me away. My gaze moved to Clare—tall and blonde, just like me before I dyed my hair, but with a mysterious elegance I would never possess. Next to her and funky Cass, Amber almost looked normal. But only almost.

  "Do you have any idea how old he is?" Cass asked.

  "Not old." Maybe a few hundred years, thousands tops, but most certainly beyond his mid-creepies. The thought didn't scare me because physical existence comes with a shelf life, but not our soul. I had lived before dying and being reborn. Thrain had just never died.

  Cass clicked her tongue. "You might harbor a different opinion about the 'not old' part if you knew the truth. He could basically be your—" She gestured about with her hand. I noticed her nails were bitten to the point of bleeding. "Anyway, I can't believe you two are dating now. I'm gone an hour and you're already making out."

  "We didn't make out," I said indignantly. We didn't, did we? It was just a kiss. Though a hot one that would soon lead to more but, as things stood, we hadn't done anything naughty yet.

  "Stop wasting time, Cass," Aidan said from the window. "Whatever they do is none of our business. We need to work on our plan, find out how to unleash Sofia's powers so she can finally return Dallas's soul to his body. Which reminds me—" he turned to face me. A glint appeared in his intense blue gaze "—I believe there's something Cass and you wanted to talk about. Mind if we stay?"

  I shook my head. The guy was so friendly and civil, how could I kick him out of his own house? Besides, I figured since Amber had been the one to convey the message during that TV show and she was dating him, he probably knew just as much as she did. He was the one I needed on my side. "I wanted to talk about my sister, Theo. You said you knew where she was and that, if I helped you guys, you would let me see her."

  "Uh-huh." Cass regarded me coolly.

  "I want to know what happened." I raised my brows at her.

  Cass inhaled sharply and I knew I had to prepare myself for bad news. "Theo's in Hell because she killed someone." I opened my mouth to protest, but she raised her finger to stop me. "She killed Gael's brother, Derrick. I don't know why she did it, but apparently she was in danger and he killed her, which doesn't make any sense. If she killed him, how could he kill her, unless they killed each other at the same time?"

  "Cass," Aidan hissed. "Get on with it."

  "That's the problem with vampires, they're always so grumpy." She rolled her eyes at me. "When Aidan killed his crazy ex, Rebecca—"

  "She wasn't my ex. She turned me," Aidan interrupted.

  Cass continued unfazed. "We didn't know we'd end up with a crazy killer in Hell. Distros is the home of our supernatural visitors, but it's also the only unsupervised dimension." I nodded, confused, wondering where she was going with this. Cass moistened her lips. "Before Rebecca died, she put a spell on a very important book to take it with her into the Otherworld. I don't think she knew what to expect on the other side, but she probably hoped she'd get her chance to escape when others came looking for the book. And she did, with this lot's help." Cass pointed at Amber who smirked at her. "Amber descended into the Otherworld to retrieve the book. I took it back home with me for safekeeping, but that didn't turn out so well. Rebecca killed Dallas and fed on Theo's life force. She must've targeted your sister. We suspect she did it with the intention to find out who you are."

  "Life force? How is that possible when she's already dead?" I asked. The thought of my sister's death almost choked me. Clare pushed a glass of water across the table. I thanked her, then turned my attention back to Cass. My trembling hands clasped the glass tight until I feared it might just break.

  "Blood is the essence that keeps the physical shell alive. Life force is the essence of the soul. Without blood, a mortal dies. Without life force, a soul may forever be extinguished," Cass explained.

  "Is Theo—" My voice broke. Forever gone—I couldn't speak out the words.

  "Her soul's alive," Cass said. "The gate keepers saved her, but when life force flows from one person to another, so do the person's memories." She leaned forward, her green eyes focusing on me, her voice dripping with meaning. For the first time, I was awestruck. Although the others had already pointed out that Cass wasn't your usual immortal being, I didn't really consider the magnitude of their implication. But now, staring into her striking eyes and listening to all the knowledge she shared with us, I understood why the others looked up to her even though she was the youngest. Cass was the one who had access to the dead, both to the mortal and the supernatural souls. She had seen Heaven and Hell.

  "Hey, Soph, are you listening?" Cass asked, jolting me out of my thoughts. "It's not just Rebecca we're talking about. Others will come for you so we need to work on a plan to unleash your powers and protect you at the same time because the stronger you get, the more you'll be in danger."

  I still didn't understand. "But what would she want from me?"

  "To bring her back from the dead," Aidan whispered.

  I took another sip of my water. My mind raced a million miles an hour. There were so many unanswered questions I had no idea where to start. I opened my mouth to ask how a vampire, strong enough to cause complete havoc in Hell, depended on someone like me when a faint memory hit me. It was more of a blur, no pictures, not strong enough to make complete sense of it, and yet I knew I had something important here. "I can only return a soul into a body. If there's no body, there's no way to keep the soul in the physical realm."

  Aidan shot me a questioning look. "And you know that how?"

  "Past life regression. She seems to have a lot of that in her dreams," Thrain said from the door. My head turned sharply. I hadn't heard him come in. How long had he been standing there, listening? He smiled and inched closer, slumping down next to me. His arm wandered around my shoulders naturally as though it belonged there. As though we had been dating for months. For a moment I froze because I didn't know how the others would react. What would they think of me, hooking up with a guy I barely knew? Thrain pulled me closer and I gave in because no one's opinion mattered.

  "I don't see anything in my dreams."

  "You have the wrong impression of regression," Thrain said. "Everyone expects it to be like watching a movie in front of your eyes, but in reality the actual focus should be on some of your senses. You need to pay attention to smell, taste and your body's responses rather than to what you see and how you feel because pictures and emotion
s can be deceiving. The actual memories consisting of bits and pieces will always come later. The darkness you see in your dreams is something from your past life, maybe a last thought that's supposed to convey a message. I think that's what keeps triggering the regression."

  A message. Just like the crow. I had figured that much and yet I had no idea what I was supposed to understand. Time to talk to the bird then. I sighed and nodded. "Makes sense."

  "But we still don't know how to tap into those powers of hers," Cass said. "I wish we had someone to ask."

  "Have you tried Google?" Clare winked at me.

  "Of course we have, mate," Cass said, grinning. "That was my first choice." I couldn't tell whether she meant it.

  "Wanna go to bed? You must be tired," Thrain leaned in to whisper in my ear. I didn't fail to register the double meaning. Waiting for my answer, he raised his brows, his expression betraying amusement. I lowered my gaze, lest the others notice my scorching cheeks. Damn, what was it with this guy and me putting words in his mouth? "Of course I wouldn't mind joining you, but I'd rather you got some sleep," Thrain continued.

  There it was again—that innuendo I kept hearing. Did he mean I wouldn't get any sleep if he stayed with me? I groaned inwardly at myself and my brain's inability to stop overanalyzing everything he said.

  "I need to get some fresh air," I said, getting up. Maybe the night air would clear my mind and help me gain a new perspective.

  "Don't let her stray away from the house," Aidan said to Thrain, already assuming Thrain would be playing babysitter.

  I frowned. "Actually, I need to be alone."

  "Five minutes," Aidan said.

  "Control freak," Cass muttered.

  He shot her an irritated look. "Need I remind you Dallas's life depends on—"

  Tuning out, I got up and headed for the back garden, leaving the others behind. It wasn't so much the fresh air I needed but the solitude to do the one thing I should've done already. And for that embarrassing display of human stupidity I didn't need witnesses.

  Chapter 15

  The Scottish air smelled clean and crisp, like after a brief summer shower, but without the earthy scent of soaked wood. I closed the backdoor behind me and hastened my pace to the nearest tree in the distance—a gnarled old thing stretching proudly against the black canvass of the night, battered from years of changing seasons and stormy weather, but not yet beaten. Millions of stars dotted the sky above. The moon built a perfect crescent over my head, its light illuminating the paved path beneath my feet as I left the safety of Aidan's mansion behind me.

  As expected, the crow sat perched on a low hanging tree branch, already waiting for me. I felt silly leaning against the thick trunk, my gaze fixing on the unnaturally large bird, my fingers fidgeting with the hem of my sweater. Even though it was summer, a freezing breeze crept up my naked legs and my skin turned into goose bumps. I crossed my arms over my chest to keep warm.

  Gosh, I had never felt so stupid in my entire life. I took a deep breath to steady the sudden onset of nervousness. Surely I had done harder things than talking to a bird and yet I didn't seem able to utter a word. Eventually, after a few long minutes of staring at each other, I said, "Hi."

  The crow's head bobbed to the side, beak opening as though to speak back to me.

  "You've been following me around a lot." The bird flapped its wings. I smiled, getting into it, even though I still felt silly. "Why don't you just spit out what you're trying to tell me?"

  The crow's loud caw sliced through the silence like a knife, startling me. My heart jumped in my throat as it flew over my head and landed at my feet. I kneeled down and held out my palm, unsure what to expect. Another caw, and the bird inched closer. Its feathers, black as coal, seemed to soak up the light around us. The shiny eyes shimmered like dark puddles in the moonlight. I gazed into them. Something was there—dark and menacing and foreboding. Lurking beneath the surface of my perception was the answer I had waited for, and yet I couldn't grasp its meaning.

  "You want something," I whispered. The crow cawed and spread its wings. "Whatever it is, you'll have to queue up like everyone else because it seems everyone wants something from me."

  The crow let out a shrill, piercing sound. The earth began to quake. I had to grab on to the tree to support myself. In horror, I watched something pitch-black, darker than the night, enveloping the bird. It looked like thick smoke swaying in the wind, inching closer toward me. Uneasiness settled in the pit of my stomach. I knew I should turn around but couldn't. Literally. My legs were frozen to the spot. I willed them to move, but my feet wouldn't obey my brain's command.

  A murmur filled the air, like hundreds of voices that merged into one, making it impossible to tell whether they were male or female. And then the flapping of wings started, louder than ever before, reminded me of a morbid melody. Something wasn't right. I tried to scream, but no sound escaped my throat. When I finally came to my senses and realized what was happening, it was too late. The earth cracked just an inch or two, but the fissure grew in length and width until it built a large gap that reached as far as I could see back to the house. The crow swooped over my head and flew headfirst down into the gap.

  Still unable to move, I frowned as I peered into the impenetrable darkness at my feet. Time seemed to stand still. Even the wind had stopped. The only noise came from my labored breathing. And then the earth began to shake again and the air around me changed from the fresh-smelling scent of trees and leaves to the scent of disease and decaying bodies. I held my breath as I kept staring down. I feared something would creep out, and yet my curiosity wouldn't release her hold on me and kept me glued to the spot. I wanted to know what was down there. My heart hammered like a drum in my ears. In spite of the cold, beads of sweat covered my body and trickled down my back in thin rivulets that soaked my clothes.

  Something was heading for me. I stared ahead but couldn't see a thing, and yet I could tell it rose from the depth of the earth with unnatural speed, heading straight for me.

  Run! Run now! A voice yelled in my head. The flapping of wings grew louder and more ominous. A cold sensation hit my face. The wind had started to blow again, but it was coming from the wrong direction. It blew in from below me, carrying that scent of disease and decay, blood and—burned flesh. My stomach clenched in response. A yelp escaped my throat as I stumbled backward, my back hitting the tree trunk. Grazing my palms on the coarse bark, I steadied myself and then tore through the trees as fast as my muscles would let me.

  The sinister presence followed close behind me. My head jerked back every few seconds, my gaze searching the night even though I knew I wouldn't be able to discern darkness from darkness. And dark they were, both the night and the creature. As I kept running through the bushes, twigs snapped under my feet and scratched my legs. I winced at the searing pain in my thighs and the burning sensation in my lungs.

  Something touched my back. I screamed and turned, kicking and punching against the warm shield.

  Strong arms enveloped me and drew me close, forcing my wrists to keep still. Through the haze in my mind and the fear gripping me, I made out Thrain's voice, "Shush. I'm here, sweetheart. Now, breathe." He began to rock me softly as he cradled my head against his chest. The steady beat of his heart calmed me a little.

  I peered up into his green gaze, shining unnaturally bright in the night. "I saw it." My words sounded muffled and indiscernible.

  "It's okay. Everything's all right. You're safe with me. Come on, breathe with me." His palms started to rub my back, up and down, soothing me. My body relaxed but the shaking didn't go away. "Come on, breathe with me. In and out."

  My chest rose and fell as I tried to get a grip on my nerves. The heat from his body warmed me in the chilly breeze.

  "Better now?" Thrain whispered. I nodded and looked over his shoulder. The strange, fog-like darkness was gone now.

  "Thrain? Did you see it?" I searched his gaze.

  He shook his head. "No. Tell
me what you saw."

  I could feel my body stiffening again as though fighting the memory in my head. "I tried to talk to the bird when the earth cracked and something rose from below."

  "A demon?" His voice betrayed surprise, disbelief.

  "Maybe," I said softly. Looking up, I noticed his smile was gone. I moistened my lips as I tried to make sense of the array of thoughts and pictures in my head.

  "That doesn't make any sense. What would a demon want?"

  Why was it so hard to believe? I didn't usually care what others made of me, but Thrain's opinion mattered, even though I knew it shouldn't. If he didn't believe me who would? "Maybe he wants the same thing as everyone else," I finally added, hoping Thrain would catch the drift.

  He lifted me up in his arms in one fluent motion. I wrapped my arms around his neck, holding tight but keeping a bit of a distance between us. "Let's go back to the house and we'll talk there. If what you say is true, you're not safe out here." He didn't wait for my approval, just took off through the night, moving like a sprinter aiming for gold. I realized I must've been running for a long time because I couldn't see the house. We moved so fast the woods became a blur, yet he didn't even seem to break a sweat. Eventually we reached the house but he only put me down inside the kitchen, then went about pouring me a glass of water, instructing me to finish before recalling the event. I did as he said, still miffed at the idea he might not believe me.

  "I got you something to eat." He pointed at the tray across the oak table and sat down on one of the chairs, motioning me to sit next to him. I lifted the lid to peer at a variety of sandwiches. I was hungry but didn't take him up on the offer. Even though my tiny breakfast barely covered a day worth of meals, eating was the last thing on my mind.

  "I'm a bit tired. I think I'll eat upstairs." Even though a sandwich barely covered a day worth of food, eating was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts to analyze what just happened. But Thrain didn't seem keen on the idea.

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