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Shadow blood, p.11
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       Shadow Blood, p.11

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “So Iain’s looking for people who don’t chicken out when things get tough.”

  “I guess,” Julie said.

  “I think Maya was like you.” I tapped my finger against my lips as I tried to glue together the missing puzzle pieces. “What about Samantha and the other witches?”

  “I don’t know their scores,” Julie said. “They’re not officially published or anything, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t chosen for the Night Guard.” Then after a few moments of silence, she added, “We could break into Darson’s office and check their scores.”

  I had to admit that was a fantastic idea. Once I got hold of their scores, I could compare the findings to discover any similarities.

  “Let’s go.” I jumped up from the bench and waited for her to show me the way.

  “I love working with you. We’re like Bonnie and Clyde.”

  “Bonnie and Clyde were criminals but never mind,” I whispered under my breath as I followed her through the twisting cobbled streets.

  Chapter 20

  Sneaking inside a building’s always easier when you have a ghost as your accomplice. Julie went inside to check that the air was clear and then returned, pressing her back against the wall, straining her ears to listen for any sound, giving me the heads up when she decided the path was free. Somebody was clearly watching too many thrillers. I really appreciated her enthusiasm though. When we finally reached Darson Edwin’s office, Julie disappeared inside and, after a few clicks and low thuds, and an invitation to step inside, the door opened. Given recent events, luck hadn’t been on my side, so for a change I sent out a thank you note to heaven that the door was not one of those requiring a special key or what else not. Darson also seemed to have a day off, so I figured I was on a lucky streak indeed.

  Julie opened her mouth to speak, probably hell bent to give me a tour of the walls adorned with what looked like shelves full of awards and trophies. I raised my hand to stop her.

  “Maybe later.”

  She pouted and turned her back on me. Paying her no attention, I headed straight for the one place I came for: a large cabinet filled with folders that were labeled. It took me all of three minutes to find the one I was looking for. It was marked: Scores.

  Julie had a whole ten pages recording her background, health status, hobbies and preferences such as favorite food, her habits including sneaking into the local theater to borrow free clothes, and her involvement in the community.

  “Julie?” I called to get her attention. As soon as she scurried over, I held up the report with her name. On the last page was a picture of a girl sitting on a bed, staring into the camera. She wore her hair pulled back and her face hadn’t yet lost her baby fat, which really suited her. It would’ve been a nice picture were it not for the white background and the bare iron bed, which suggested this wasn’t the usual teen’s room.

  “Oh, that.” She waved her hand.

  “What is that place? You never told me about it,” I prompted. She heaved an exaggerated sigh and walked over to the window to peer at the park stretching below.

  “It happened a long time ago,” she started. “As a child, I used to snoop around a lot. Right after turning fourteen, I found a file with the names of my parents.”

  “But you said you never met them.”

  She nodded slowly. “Yep, still haven’t. I grew up in an orphanage and all my life they told me my parents gave me away. That no one knew who they were, that I was unwanted, but I never believed their words. The Council was lying, I could feel it so I broke into Darson’s office and searched through his files. I was caught but not before I could catch a glimpse of it. When I kept asking questions and they decided to ignore them, I started to protest. At first it was just a failure to fulfill my chores, then it turned into other things—” her gaze focused on me “—bad things, like setting fire by using my blood. Anyway, my behavior became uncontrollable. The last straw was trying to run away. When they caught me they locked me up so they could brainwash me into thinking the file never existed. But I knew what I saw was real. It was really bad but they said it was for my own good. Six weeks inside that ward taught me Morganefaire isn’t the place it’s cracked up to be. I vowed to join the Night Guard to get the hell away from here. The plan was to venture out on a routine trip and never come back.”

  “I’m sorry, I had no idea.” I whispered.

  “That’s not all.” She turned back to me. The pain in her eyes made me shudder. For the first time I realized whatever Julie portrayed on the outside was nothing but a defense mechanism to protect her from the aftereffects of the emotional and physical harm she once endured. She had become an expert at hiding her true feelings and secrets.

  “I also have a sister. In the original file—the one they burned after I found it—it was stated that I was born as a twin. The whole report was long. They caught me before I could read it but I think they record everything: ancestors, heritage, and much more.” She pointed to the file in my hand, and then lowered her voice to a hush, as though in fear someone might overhear us. “This one doesn’t say much but the original one must be kept somewhere else. All those years I couldn’t stop thinking about finding my sister so I resumed my search.”

  “When did you start looking for it again?” I asked, even though I could guess the answer.

  “A few days before I died.”

  Her words weighed heavy on me. Would the Council go to such lengths just so she wouldn’t find out who her sister was? After what I saw today, I was more than inclined to believe it. I could feel a hidden meaning behind it all. And then, ever so slowly, a light went on in my head:

  The reaper said she had to fulfill a purpose and gave her a few more days before she could leave the physical plane. But why only days? Why not weeks or months, even years? Some ghosts were given centuries. Was it because the truth was closer to being discovered than Julie thought?

  Once we got Aidan’s tracker ring back, we’d locate the file’s whereabouts and discover her sister’s identity, but first we needed to find the ring.

  ***

  Hours passed quickly. By the time we finished up going over details of every witch that died and comparing their scores, it was early evening and my head was spinning from all the information that confirmed my suspicions. All the witches that were killed had high scores in metaphysical strength and powers.

  “This is our connection,” I said. “Finally not a loose end; finally not a day wasted. If only we knew the killer’s motives.” My stomach turned and faintness washed over me. What a pity it wasn’t food my body craved. The first pangs of hunger were always the worst because it stopped me from thinking rationally for hours before turning me into a blood craving and moody lunatic ready to attack anything with a pulse within a mile.

  “Are you okay?” Julie asked for the third time. “You look a little pale.” I groaned when another pang of pain hit me. It had barely been a day since I last fed and already the hunger became all consuming. I had to drink blood and quick, before I lost my marbles.

  “Julie, I need to get back to my bedroom. Can you wait here?”

  “Why?” she asked. I decided being upfront was the best way to get rid of her questions as quickly as possible.

  “Aidan has a briefcase with a bag of donated blood in case I need it. I have to go back to retrieve it,” I said. “It’s a vampire thing.” I tried to infuse humor into my voice…and failed miserably.

  “No probs. Take your time.”

  I nodded and closed my eyes to teleport when she called out my name. I opened my eyes to regard her warily.

  “At the risk of sounding insensitive and maybe even a little off-topic but—” She smiled and in that moment I knew Julie had no idea how badly I needed to get away from here. “Can’t you just do that vampire mind manipulation thing I’ve heard about and force a witch to use her blood to heal Aidan? I mean just in case we’re not getting anywhere.”

  I drew in a sharp breath. “I don’t have that abili
ty.”

  “Why don’t you just give it a try? It’s for a higher good. If persuasion doesn’t work, then you could just—” Julie’s voice trailed off, leaving her unspoken words hanging heavy in the air. She inched closer, her eyes sparkling with something. Anticipation? Fear? Hope to help me? “If someone close to me was dying and needed blood, I’d do whatever it takes, even if others might consider it wrong. I’d just choose someone who wasn’t a good person.”

  “Who, for example?” I asked, even though I didn’t really want to know. Drops of sweat began to trickle down my back. Asking me such a stupid question when I was desperate and ready to do anything to save Aidan wasn’t Julie’s brightest idea, and certainly not if she worried about the wellbeing of her people. I didn’t want to kill anyone. I had told her before when she suggested it, and yet she kept pestering me.

  “Iain. Or Elyssa.” She shrugged and her gaze darkened. “I thought she was a good friend, but now? Yeah, not so much. They’d both deserve a big of a shock.” I wouldn’t call being bitten and possibly killed by a vampire ‘a bit of a shock’, but I certainly saw her point. “You could blame it on the killer,” Julie continued.

  “The Council thinks one of us is the killer.” I groaned at Julie’s defiant expression. Having a mood disorder while being disappointed by a so-called friend was a dangerous if not fatal combination in a ghost. Combine that with the ability of manipulation and the ghost get you to do things you never thought you’d be able to. As another pang of hunger coursed through me and my fingers started to shake, the prospect of killing one of the bad guys was very tempting. Not only would I get to feed from the source, but I could also save a few drops of witch’s blood for Aidan, and all my problems would be solved.

  “I’m not killing anyone,” I said. If Julie pressed the matter I had no doubt my resolution would crumble in no time. “Besides, it would start a war and that’s not what we came for.”

  Julie’s jaw set. Before she could argue some more, I closed my eyes and teleported back to our bedroom. In one swift motion, I opened our cupboard, retrieved the briefcase and looked myself inside the bathroom to drink the red liquid that was the only way to keep my strength and sanity intact.

  Chapter 21

  Julie’s advice had been clear: kill Iain or Elyssa, extract their blood, save Aidan and then blame their death on whoever killed Julie and the other witches. Or just knock Elyssa unconscious and steal a few drops of blood she would never miss. A tempting idea but one I trusted would get me in a bigger mess than I was in. So I hoped I did the right thing by taking the high road, even if it proved to be the more difficult path to follow. On the bright side, I had an unblemished conscience. Being branded a grave or blood robber didn’t exactly suit my name. On the other hand, if I didn’t find the vial soon, Aidan might die.

  As I left the bathroom, I caught a short glimpse of a person dressed in black. Turning my head sharply, I noticed Seth standing near the door, watching me, arms crossed, a bored expression on his face. His hair was wet, as though he had just stepped out of a shower. At least one of us still had time for maintaining a grooming routine.

  “It sure took you a long time.” He smirked as he pointed to his lips. “You missed a spot there.”

  I rubbed my hand over my mouth, irritated, though I couldn’t tell whether with myself for being so primitive or with him for his arrogance.

  “Did you get a chance to think about my offer?” he asked.

  “You mean whether I want to work for you once you secure your birthright?” I snorted. He frowned at my sarcasm but didn’t comment. “No, thanks. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to budge.”

  A hint of anger flashed in his eyes and disappeared just as quickly. “We’ll see about that,” he muttered. “I could get rid of Rebecca for starters. She might’ve been buried for centuries, but her memory’s probably as sharp as ever.”

  He was talking about the vendetta she probably had against Aidan and me. My heart skipped a beat at his implications. “You know she’s back?”

  “Of course.” He smirked again. “I have very reliable and hard working sources.” I couldn’t believe how calm he seemed about the whole situation. It was as if nothing ever worried him. As much as this guy irritated me, Aidan was right by saying we needed him. And he needed us to claim his sister’s throne. It was a win-win situation…according to Aidan. But why wasn’t I convinced?

  “Have you found the vial?” he asked. I shook my head. “You will.”

  “How do you know?” I eyed him curiously while I fought hard to stifle the sudden hope surging through me. His words—as empty as they were—somehow managed to give me something to hold onto. Unfortunately, two empty words was about all I’d get from Seth. He turned around and left without a reply. I stared after him for a minute or two before I decided he was a lost cause and returned to the living room to make myself ready to teleport back to Julie when a handwritten note on the table caught my attention. Tearing the unbroken wax seal, I opened the letter and skimmed it quickly as I hurried out the door.

  Message delivered. The meeting will be today at midnight in front of the Council Building. Kieran and the others will be there. Blake

  Chapter 22

  I barely paid attention to the cold breeze as I tapped my foot on the asphalt impatiently, waiting to see whether the first step of our plan had worked. It had been a half-day since we met with the Council in our task to trick those helping Iain into believing we had the witch they wanted and that we were ready to trade her identity for Aidan’s tracker ring and Elyssa’s vial of blood. The unofficial trading spot was in front of the Council building at midnight. The street was empty so I figured Kieran, Logan and Aidan’s brethren were keeping in the shadows until the traitors turned up.

  Of course we were bluffing. We had nothing to trade. Heck, we didn’t even know whether our theory was right and the traitors were looking for a witch at all. For all we knew, they might just kill girls randomly so they could frame the vampires. But if that was the case, why not drain them all? Why only suck Maya dry? The latter led me to believe we had two murderers on our hands. The first one killed the girls by dragging them inside a portal so he wouldn’t leave any trace on their bodies, like Seth suggested, making those planned attacks. The second one was a killer of opportunity, who killed Maya either because they couldn’t control their bloodlust, or had no more use for her. Since I had every reason to believe Maya had been possessed, Rebecca was more than likely her killer. Or maybe I just wanted to believe it because, since my arrival in Aidan’s world, Rebecca never left me alone. She hated me and would kill me in a second if she got the chance.

  Julie had been surprisingly quiet as she waited patiently beside me, engrossed in her own thoughts. It wasn’t like her at all, but I attributed it to the fact that our nerves were on edge. We all had a lot to lose.

  “I’m so worried about Aidan,” I whispered. “I can’t even think straight.”

  “You need to focus. We can’t mess this up. I can go check on him back at the mansion.” Her gaze remained focused on the empty street.

  “Would you?” I asked.

  She nodded. “Sure. You’ll be okay alone?”

  I smiled. It was funny to see her all grown up and determined to get the job done rather than procrastinate by choosing clothes in Paris. But the sudden good work ethic of a ghost doesn’t last. It was only a matter of time until she got bored. “I think I’ll manage. Thank you.”

  “No probs. Since we’re BGVFF’s now—”

  “What?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Try to keep up. It means, best ghost vampire friends forever. Anyway, maybe you can put in a good word for me with Kieran.”

  I let out a low chuckle. After all we went through, she still couldn’t get Kieran off the brain. Julie waved as she disappeared into the night. Knowing she was going to check on Aidan made me feel so much better. I loved that man with all my heart and if it came down to it, I was going to die fighting for him.

>   Another chilly breeze swept over me, whipping my hair against my cold skin. I heaved an impatient sigh and peered around me for the umpteenth time, unable to shake off the worries slowly creeping up on me, as I scanned the nearby bushes. No sign of anyone. Either they were really good at hiding, or no one bothered to turn up, even though it was already a half hour before midnight. When another ten minutes passed with no sign of anyone’s presence, I knew something was wrong. I decided to wait a bit longer and then return to our guest quarters when movement to my right caught my attention.

  My head snapped toward the night torch down the street as I regarded the flame intently and thought back to one of Julie’s remarks. The flames don’t flicker. She had been right. A strong wind had been blowing ever since I arrived, and yet the fire had barely shifted. It had been strange, but even stranger was the fact that the fire had started to flicker now. And then, ever so slowly, it died out, and pitch black enveloped the street.

  I held my breath to listen but could hear no sound. No footsteps giving away anyone’s presence. No wailing that would suggest the deadly black wind was approaching. But something must have blown out the fire.

  My heightened vision fought to adjust as my body tensed on full alert. A few seconds passed but nothing happened. I almost gasped when all of a sudden the torch flickered back to life; just a tiny flame at first than soon grew into a raging fire that continued to expand and started moving toward me, lapping at the entire width of the street.

  Fear paralyzed me for a second as sweat began to pour down my back and drench my clothes. I prepared to teleport when something sharp tore through my thighs. I tried to pull away but it was too late. The first sparks reached me. I peered down at what held me glued to the spot. It was a thin, burning string with furious flames, sending hot waves of searing pain through my whole body. Like Aidan’s fire whip, only I couldn’t see anyone holding it through the blazing curtain around me. The air was so hot it made inhaling impossible. Coughing, I frantically brushed my hands over my body to extinguish the burning string. It didn’t work.

 
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