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Shadow blood, p.4
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       Shadow Blood, p.4

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “Let’s get him in bed.” I motioned at Kieran to help me.

  “Come on, bro, help me out here. You weigh a ton.” Kieran’s arm squeezed beneath Aidan’s shoulder.

  “I don’t need your help. I’ll find my way upstairs just fine,” Aidan growled, pushing him away. Another whimper escaped his lips as he rose and swayed slightly. He couldn’t even stand on his two feet, and yet he was determined to manage without anyone’s help. Aidan was never ill. I didn’t even think it was possible for a vampire to fall sick so, naturally, I began to worry. My gaze implored Kieran to remain resolute and get him in bed—no matter how.

  “Playing the alpha male again? Yeah, I can win that game.” Kieran grabbed Aidan’s shoulder and closed his eyes. I knew what he was about to do a moment before they disappeared before my eyes.

  “I’m going to Elyssa’s to look for the ring,” Julie said. Nodding thankfully, I clutched Aidan’s sweat-soaked shirt and headed upstairs, knowing I’d find them in the bedroom. And sure there they were: Kieran chuckling as he tried to tuck Aidan in while my boyfriend let out a short, muffled string of curses. In the end, Kieran gained the upper hand.

  “Tell my brother we don’t have time for this crap,” Aidan muttered.

  I tossed Aidan’s shirt on the recliner and sat down on the bed next to him. “Just give it a day or two and you’ll be okay,” I whispered. My hand spread out to touch his chest, relishing the feel of the hard muscles beneath his taunt skin as I leaned forward to lay a kiss on the white sheet where it covered his ribcage. Aidan winced and closed his eyes in pain. I tossed the bed sheet aside and gestured at Kieran to inch closer, then tilted my head.

  The five-inch slash Aidan claimed had healed was back and looked more vicious than any wound I had ever seen. In the daylight leaking through the drawn curtains, I realized the flesh had been cut to the bone where tiny droplets gathered to build a puddle. The puckered edges shimmered purplish red. His once bronze, taunt skin had a grayish hue to it that seemed to spread down his torso.

  Aidan tossed his head back as a jolt of pain rippled his body.

  “What’s happening to him?” I whispered.

  Kieran tensed and his expression darkened. “The blade must’ve been poisoned. There’s only one thing that could ever poison a vampire: Shadow blood.”

  “I can’t stand seeing him in pain,” I said, Kieran’s words slowly sinking in. A burst of anger intermingled with fear flashed through me.

  Kieran looked up at me from the corners of his eyes, a small, cruel smile tugging at his lips. “If anything happens to him, I’m going to kill them all. Heck, I’m going to chop their heads off for even trying to hurt my brother,” he snarled. For once, his words mirrored my own thoughts, but our main priority now was to find a way to counteract the magic.

  “Do you know how to get rid of the poison in his blood?” Kieran shook his head grimly. Not good. I moistened my lips to gather my thoughts. “How long does he have?”

  “Maybe a few days,” Kieran said. “We can’t tell the Council about it or else people might start thinking our position is weakened.”

  “You’re right, we can’t tell them. Not until we know who’s behind it.” I set my jaw as pictures of people I knew and trusted zoomed through my mind. They were so few, I could count them on one hand, and yet one of them might just have the answer. Cass, the devil’s daughter, was one of them. I fished my phone out of my pocket and began to dial, then realized I had no reception. In a brief moment of unbridled frustration, I snapped it shut and tossed it across the room, instantly regretting my outburst.

  “You stay here, I’ll go find Blake,” Kieran said.

  Fighting the gathering moisture in my eyes, I nodded. “Please hurry.”

  “I’ll be back as quickly as I can.” He bent down to place a soft kiss on my cheek, then headed out. I drew in a sharp breath and began to stroke Aidan’s hair away from his damp forehead, my eyes filling with tears. As much as I wanted to believe Aidan would be okay, the fear inside me wouldn’t let me.

  “War.” The word rolled tentatively on my tongue. The prophecy said it would begin with the death of a witch. Could it have been misinterpreted and it was actually the death of another immortal being? Though the thought terrified me, it made sense. The death of one member belonging to one of the three courts was the most likely trigger. My temples throbbing from the pressure gathering inside, I folded my hands before me, and for the first time in months I spoke out a silent prayer, unable to help the dark thoughts slowly creeping up on me.

  Chapter 8

  The morning came and went, giving way to a rainy, mellow midday that turned into a gray afternoon. The gathering clouds promised yet another rainy evening, but I didn’t care. All I could think about was my boyfriend spread on the bed, shivering and mumbling in delirium, suffering. His pain was so intense, he was no longer able to sense my presence. He could no longer feel my tight grip on his hand. My heart felt as though it was ready to shatter at the thought of him dying. I wiped a tear from my eyes and rubbed my face for the umpteenth time, hating the world, hating Morganefaire, hating myself for ever letting him visit this place. When the door finally snapped open, I expected Kieran to be back so I didn’t look up. Footsteps thudded across the thick rug, but it wasn’t Kieran who stopped next to me.

  “What happened?”

  I peered up at Seth’s expressionless face, unsure whether to ignore him or tell him to get the hell away from us. In the end, my good manners won the upper hand.

  “The blade was poisoned with Shadow blood,” I muttered. “Kieran’s getting help.”

  Seth sat down on the bed and peeled the white sheet from Aidan’s chest. The puckered edges had darkened in color; the gray hue had spread beyond his abdomen. Until now, I hadn’t really been able to look at the wound, partly because I kept hoping it’d heal itself. Seeing that it had gotten worse, I inhaled a sharp breath, unable to stop the tears running down my face. Ashamed I averted my gaze. It wasn’t my style to cry in front of strangers, and particularly not in front of my enemies.

  “Shadow blood is deadly to vampires,” Seth said matter-of-factly, his voice betraying no emotion. I couldn’t believe how cold he seemed about the whole situation. Surely, anyone with a heart would at least pretend to feel a bit of compassion. Then again, Seth had no heart. He had proved just that when he watched his own brother, Derrick, die without lifting a finger to help him, then whisked his girlfriend, voodoo priestess Sofia, to Brazil to steal her powers. And when that ploy didn’t turn out as planned, he played the hurt boyfriend card and came after her with a vengeance.

  But as much as I abhorred him, Aidan was right. We needed him more than ever, particularly now that my boyfriend was ill and I could barely trust anyone in Morganefaire. In fact, I couldn’t trust anyone at all. With a few witches dead in only three days, rumors had surely spread. If one person believed Aidan was to blame and decided to take matters into their own hands by killing him, half of the city would stand behind that decision. It sounded far-fetched, yet I knew everything was possible. Maybe that was exactly what happened: a witch of warlock attacked him to get rid of us. The one thing it didn’t explain was the Shadow magic poisoning Aidan’s body. Who carried a blade stained with blood if not a Shadow?

  “He needs something to counteract the magic. I’ll do some research, you know, prove myself useful,” Seth said, as though reading my mind.

  “Thank you,” I whispered. His words gave me hope. Hope that he might not only come up with a solution soon, but also that he wouldn’t keep his findings to himself. I vowed to myself to look past Seth’s mistakes if only he saved my soul mate’s life. Turning to him, I opened my mouth to tell him how much any help would mean to me when I realized he had left already.

  I closed the door behind him, then returned to my place at Aidan’s side and the dark thoughts circling inside my head.

  Chapter 9

  Half an hour later, Kieran returned with the news he couldn’t get hold
of Blake, so he left word with Logan without telling him why Blake was needed.

  “I say we go after the chick, Elyssa,” Kieran said, sitting down on the bed, his gaze locked on Aidan’s motionless shape.

  “You couldn’t enter the shop without an explicit invitation.”

  “Julie could invite me in,” he said.

  “I’m sure she would…if you could only hear her. Besides, we don’t know for sure it was Elyssa,” I said. “Julie’s searching for the ring. Until she finds it, we can’t just barge in there and blame her without raising suspicion or risk half the town turning against us.”

  His gaze darkened. “That might have happened already.”

  “You know what’s really nagging at me?” Ignoring his last comment, I inched closer and continued without waiting for his reply. “Only a Shadow has access to Shadow blood. Morganefaire’s protected by magic. I don’t understand how a Shadow could step through the gate without an invitation.”

  “Someone might’ve opened the doors wide open,” Kieran said. “Or it wasn’t a Shadow at all.”

  I grimaced and smoothed the sheet covering Aidan’s bare arm. “Possibly but not likely. I doubt anyone in Morganefaire would ever stain their reputation by obtaining Shadow blood for such an occasion. Everyone knows if they tried to kill Aidan behind his back without a fair trial, his brethren, or at least some of them, would demand justice and I don’t think anyone’s that stupid.” The answer was here somewhere. If only I could see it. I tapped my finger against my lips as I tried to find the missing piece. And then it just dropped into my lap. My temples began to throb from the pressure building inside. “Seth is half-Shadow,” I whispered. And there I had been thinking he might want to help us. I was such an idiot.

  “He arrived the day Aidan was attacked,” Kieran finished my thought. Realization dawned in his eyes, followed by suspicion.

  “Could he be responsible for the attack?” My words sat in the pit of my stomach like a rock. I never trusted the guy, but he had an agreement with Aidan. He needed us to claim his sister’s throne, and hinder Deidre and Flavius from ever regaining their full powers. He was the one who told us Deidre planned to use my friend Angel’s body as a vessel at Blue Moon. With his help we found out Angel was trapped inside one of the mirror fragments, and now he was opening and closing portals in the hope to find out her whereabouts and save her. Or, better said, hinder the Shadows from winning the war. Had it all been a ruse to get rid of Aidan? If so, why go to such lengths when he could’ve attacked Aidan back in Scotland? It didn’t make any sense, and yet I couldn’t dismiss the idea.

  Kieran’s expression echoed my doubt. “He might’ve found out about the ring and saw his chance to stage a burglary to get his hands on it.” He nodded slightly but his tone remained unconvinced.

  “He’s a demi-god, for crying out loud. He could’ve stolen it any time.” It was all so implausible it made my head ache.

  “Well, thank you for realizing that,” Seth muttered from the door.

  I froze. A string of apologies hurried to my lips, but I closed my mouth shut, deciding to keep them to myself. Seth had yet to prove his worth.

  When no one said anything, he inched closer, unfazed, and regarded us coolly. “I’ve just found a portal.”

  My head snapped in his direction. Seth hadn’t made a secret out of his ability to open portals, but he never mentioned one in particular. That he should mention one now almost had me hoping that maybe he had stumbled upon something useful. Maybe he had found Angel.

  “It only stayed open for a second or two, but it was enough to leave a trail behind,” he continued.

  “What did you see?” Kieran asked.

  Seth grimaced and a flicker of anger appeared in his eyes. It made me realize just how unpredictable he was. “I’m not sure. Something tells me it might just be the one that was used for killing the witch this morning. Maybe even the one in which Angel’s kept hostage.”

  “The witch I know of was killed last night,” I said. He shook his head. “Another murder?” I asked incredulously. He nodded. “You think the killer used a portal? But I thought you were the only one who had this gift.” According to Aidan, opening and closing portals was an ability only a demi-deity possessed. Seth had said so himself.

  “That’s right. I have the ability. But portals can also be opened with the help of spells. They only stay open for a short time and sometimes they’re strong enough to leave a trail of energy behind.”

  Magic again. I raised my brows at Kieran. “So, whoever kidnapped Angel and is killing witches knows how to cast a spell, meaning it could only be someone living here, or a Shadow.”

  “Or a demi-deity. Like Layla,” Kieran said.

  “My precious sister?” Seth spat out the words. “Probably not. She’d never sully her hands. Besides, she believes to be the most powerful one out there and doesn’t think the other courts pose any threat.” I wanted to share his positive outlook, but I wasn’t fully convinced. Layla liked torture and it certainly wasn’t beneath her to kill a being—mortal or not—to get revenge. She certainly proved that when she sent her snakes after me when she found out Aidan and I shared a bond. I added another name to my mental list of possible suspects and moved on to my next question.

  “So, what exactly do you think happened to the witches?”

  He smirked and tilted his head to the side in thought. “The killer opened the portal, pulled them inside, killed them, and then returned them to their sleeping quarters.”

  “How is that possible without leaving a trace on their bodies?” Kieran asked.

  “I don’t know.” Seth hesitated, probably considering whether to say more or not. In the end, he kept quiet.

  “Show us the portal,” I said.

  “Shouldn’t you be looking after him?” Seth motioned at Aidan.

  “Tell him I am and that he’ll be fine,” Julie answered from the door. I shot her a questioning look. She shook her head, signaling she hadn’t found the ring. That could mean one of two things: either Elyssa had moved it by hiding it or passing it along to an accomplice, or it was in Seth’s possession. Both possibilities weren’t exactly in our favor.

  “My ghost friend, Julie, is staying here,” I said.

  “So if someone comes in to finish him off, she’ll yell boo to scare them away?” Seth smirked. “I’ll feel very safe knowing you trust Aidan’s safety into Casper the Ghost’s hands.”

  “What an insufferable idiot,” Julie whispered.

  I couldn’t agree more. “Don’t even pretend like you care about Aidan for one minute,” I hissed.

  “Tell him I know how to use objects to knock out anyone, including him. Or maybe I’ll decide to possess the idiot,” Julie said, shooting Seth a glare. “If Aidan takes a take for the worse, I’ll know how to find you.”

  I relayed Julie’s words. Seth’s brows shot up but he didn’t comment. Julie’s eyes shimmered with pride as we walked past. I smiled and mouthed a ‘thank you’ to her, then headed out warily, hoping Seth wasn’t about to open a portal and screw us over by leaving us stranded in a different dimension.

  ***

  Aidan was in agony.

  The sudden jolt of pain carried over through our bond and sliced through me like a knife as we followed Seth through various side streets. I bowled over, biting my lip to hold back a scream. Another followed, and then one more.

  “Are you all right?” Kieran whispered, helping me up. I pushed him away, lest we raise suspicion. The buildings around us provided a bit of protection from prying eyes, but we couldn’t risk being too loud or drawing unnecessary attention to us. I didn’t need people questioning what we were doing near the wall on a clouded afternoon, inspecting the place where another witch had been found dead, especially when no-one told us the exact position of this spot.

  “I’m fine.” My gaze wandered to Seth who seemed busy concentrating. His eyes were closed, his hands gathered in front of him, as though in prayer. The air began to s
hift around us, and Kieran’s arm draped around my shoulders protectively, ready to push me behind his towering body, if necessary.

  The air trembled beneath our feet, gently at first, then with more vigor. Seth began to mumble something, faster and faster, until he stopped abruptly. He opened his eyes and I realized they were no longer dark brown, but as green as the Irish heath after a heavy rain shower.

  “How long will it stay open?” I asked, pointing at the shimmering patch of air before me. The whole portal business was alien to me. The few tidbits I knew about portals I could count on the fingers of my right hand so, naturally, I didn’t trust him. Getting lost in a different dimension with my boyfriend being ill was the last thing I wanted.

  “As long as I want it to,” Seth answered. “So long nothing comes in between you’re safe.” His smile turned into a self-assured grin. “Please, step into my world.” Even his voice seemed different. Deeper with a dark undertone to it. I shot Kieran a questioning look. He smirked, as though he couldn’t decide what to do. Now it was all a question of whether to trust Seth or not. He was in control, and it pleased him to see it. I didn’t like it but what choice did I have? It was the only trail we had.

  “I’m going in alone,” I said. “You two wait here.”

  “There’s room for all of us,” Seth said.

  I shook my head. “I don’t trust you, so you stay here with Kieran.”

  Seth’s eyes sparkled with annoyance but he didn’t argue. I signaled Kieran to watch him in case he played a trick on us. His eyes shifted from me to Seth, then back to me, and he bobbed his head in response.

  A freezing sensation clutched my chest as I inched forward, hesitating for a moment, before I reached out to feel the invisible portal. My hand moved through the air, testing, probing, until I felt the tiny barrier. I took a deep breath to gather what remained of my courage and stepped into a different dimension.

 
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