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Shadow blood, p.5
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       Shadow Blood, p.5

           Jayde Scott
 
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  Chapter 10

  As the medieval streets of Morganefaire disappeared, the air changed from the usual cold autumn breeze to an icy chill. I spun in a slow circle and scanned my new surroundings. There was absolutely nothing around me, no people, no buildings, not even a sun—just planes of snow and ice, and the entrance shimmering in my line of vision. I tried to fill my lungs, but it was like even the very oxygen disappeared. It was beyond eerie and so cold my breath misted. The frothy ground cracked beneath my boots as I made my way forward, the stark white backdrop almost blinding me. It reminded me of a beautiful desert covered in ice. So pretty, and yet so very deadly.

  Crossing my arms to keep warm, I forced my eyes to adjust to the glaring brightness and took a tentative step forward, then another. The ice-sheathed ground undulated like a rising and falling dune, obstructing my view. I cupped a hand over my eyes and scanned the area, still hopeful that I might find a sign—anything to tell me a breathing human being had been here—but saw none.

  The farther I moved from the entrance, the more I realized why Seth wasn’t sure whether this was the right portal. It looked like the one I had glimpsed when Rebecca tried to imprison me inside the mirror but, with no indication whether I was even going the right way, it might just be a dead end.

  I don’t know how long I walked when I decided it was fruitless. Following the cracked ice below my feet, I found my way back to the portal and was about to step through when the heart-stopping feeling of someone watching me paused me dead in my tracks.

  Holding my breath, I turned slowly. My peripheral vision remained blank, and then I thought I caught movement a little ways back, hiding behind a white dune. My boots sliding ungracefully on the ice, I raced for it and reached it in just a minute, my knees buckling under me.

  “Angel.”

  Icy strings wrapped around her wrists and ribcage kept her dangling a few inches above the ground. Her black hair hung down in thick frozen strands. Her once pink lips had turned purple from days of enduring this cold. My hand moved to the pale face of the girl who made my visit to Shadowland bearable and began to probe her taunt skin to make sure she was still alive. Her blue eyes fluttered open but remained blank.

  “Can you hear me? I asked, reaching out to remove the restraints around her wrists. My fingers pulled a few times. The ice glaze covering them cracked and shattered on the ground, but the knot remained as tight as before. I wrapped my arms around her to pick her up, but she didn’t budge from the spot. It was like the strings somehow kept her bound to the very air.

  The feeling of someone watching me returned. I scanned the dunes of snow and ice to my left and right. No one there as far as I could tell. Focusing back on Angel’s chains, I assured myself it was the chilly air messing with my head.

  A few attempts later, the rope still didn’t rip. I needed a knife, or anything sharp like an ice pick, to cut through the ties. I peered around me, even though I knew I wouldn’t find anything like it here.

  “Hold on. I’m going to get help,” I whispered to Angel. Her eyes remained unresponsive. I reached the portal in no time and stepped through. The balmy air of Morganefaire sent a tingling sensation through my freezing body.

  “Found anything?” Kieran asked.

  I nodded and rubbed my hands together to get rid of the sting in my fingers. “Angel’s in there. I need a knife to cut through the ties.”

  “No knife you own will ever be able to do that,” Seth said coolly. “I’ll take care of it.” His eyes glistened unnaturally bright. I couldn’t leave him alone with her. Seth wanted to hurt the queen of the Shadows so badly, killing her vessel might just not be beneath him.

  “No way. Angel’s my friend.” My eyes challenged him to argue.

  He inclined his head, as though in defeat. “As you wish. We’re a team, right?”

  I peered at him in surprise. Either the guy was the best liar walking the earth, or he was indeed convinced we worked together, meaning completely delusional. I wasn’t ready to bet my life on the latter. “Prove it,” I said.

  “I don’t think I should have to.” Seth stepped through the portal without so much as a glance back. I motioned Kieran to follow me and took off after the demi-god.

  “I seriously hope you’re right and this is worth freezing my backside off,” Kieran said.

  “She’s a Shadow vessel. We need to save her,” I said.

  Kieran stopped to regard me for a second. “Yeah, see, I don’t get that part. Rebecca’s keeping Angel hostage so the Shadows won’t be able to use her at Blue Moon, but that doesn’t sound like Rebecca at all. The woman’s a lunatic killer who’s never been scared of spilling a bit of blood. Why not kill Angel and get it over and done with?”

  “I’ve no idea,” I whispered.

  “Where is she?” Seth asked impatiently, seemingly unfazed by the cold in his thin shirt and jeans.

  My gaze swept over the white dunes around us as I tried to remember directions. “This way.” I pointed to our nine o’clock.

  Seth grabbed my arm to stop me, his dark eyes shimmering. “Stay here and watch the entrance.”

  “So you can kill her?” I snorted. “Do you think my middle name’s stupid?”

  Grinning, he shrugged and walked past me. Well, at least he could’ve pretended he didn’t think I was a ditz. Pouting, I took off after him and we walked in silence for a while, the crunching of ice beneath our feet being the only noise.

  I began to count my steps. My heartbeat spiked the closer I got to two hundred. When we reached the third dune I almost stopped breathing. The snow and ice seemed untouched; no footsteps, no cracked ice, absolutely no sign of anyone ever been here. I blinked in succession, unwilling to accept the tranquil setting before my eyes.

  “Are you sure this is the spot?” Seth asked.

  “Of course I am,” I snapped.

  He spun in a slow circle, speaking out the obvious. “She’s not here.”

  “I can see that much.” Maybe I had walked in the wrong direction. Maybe I had miscounted my steps. My breath frosting before me, I kept on walking for another hundred steps, then returned to the portal and started in a different direction, Kieran following close behind.

  “I don’t understand,” I said, stopping eventually. “She was here only five minutes ago.”

  His brows furrowed, making his blue eyes appear darker. “I believe you.”

  I peered around us. “Where’s Seth?”

  “Probably around here somewhere.”

  “Seth?” I yelled. My voice echoed in the distance. No answer. “Where the heck is he?” I muttered.

  “Let’s go back to the portal and wait for him there,” Kieran said. I nodded and let him grab my upper arm, as though to steady me, but I knew better. It was a McAllister gesture to keep one close in a perilous situation. We reached the spot in under a minute.

  “The portal’s not here,” I said, looking for the shimmering curtain of air that marked the entrance.

  “He must’ve closed it.”

  Shock washed over me in a devastating wave of intuition. My throat constricted and I almost choked on a scream of anger. It was a trap. I knew it all along, and yet the realization hit me hard. How could I have been so stupid to believe the guy who killed innocents to advance his own dubious plans would actually help us?

  “Dammit,” Kieran snarled. “We should’ve known better.”

  “Are you looking for me?” Seth said.

  I turned sharply to regard the most infuriating guy on earth. A twinkle of humor played in his eyes. I clenched my hands into fists so I wouldn’t slap him and forced a casual tone into my voice. “There’s no sign of Angel.”

  “Someone must’ve moved her,” Seth said. “Let’s go back.” He pointed past the plane to our right and I realized he must’ve closed the portal and reopened it in a different spot, probably to mess with our head or assert his authority.

  “Let me check one last time,” Kieran said. “I’ll be with you in a second.


  “Okay.” Holding my head high, I swallowed down my pride and walked past Seth toward the portal, my mind already busy with other matters, like the fact that someone had watched me with Angel, and now she was lost again. We had been looking for days, following clue after clue, just to find Rebecca was always one step ahead.

  As though sensing my thoughts Seth whispered, “I’m not giving up.” For once I was grateful for his determination. Together we walked through the portal and returned to Morganefaire. I took a deep breath and shot a glance down the street to make sure no one had seen us. Everything seemed as deserted as before.

  “When you find her, don’t kill her,” I said. He remained silent, but his looped grin told me he might do just that.

  “Maybe I’ll trade her in,” he said eventually, his gaze probing mine. “What’s your friend worth to you, Amber? Maybe Aidan’s life?”

  I turned away quickly so he wouldn’t catch the sudden dread in my eyes. “I wouldn’t trade my boyfriend’s life for anything in the world.”

  “Good,” he said. “Because if she lives, he dies…along with many more.”

  “What do you mean?”

  He shrugged, the usual irritating smile tugging at his lips. “Time to put your brain to some good use.” He began to tap his foot impatiently, then stopped, hesitating for a few moments, as though he couldn’t decide whether to reveal more or not.

  “Please, if you know something that might help him, just tell me,” I whispered. “I’d do anything to save his life.”

  “One day I’ll be back to take you up on your word.” His smile curled into a cold grin. “Here’s my tip for you. Only magic can counteract magic. You should know that.” I opened my mouth to ask what he meant by that but he closed his eyes as though in meditation, leaving me as confused as before.

  Only magic can counteract magic.

  It seemed so simple. Heck, it probably was…if only I knew where to get that magic.

  An instant later Kieran appeared beside me. The air began to tremble and shift, and the portal closed. Seth opened his eyes and inclined his head. “I’ll see you later.”

  “Wait!” I said, but he had already vanished, probably through one of his portals.

  “What’s wrong?” Kieran asked. “Did he say anything to you?”

  “Only that magic counteracts magic.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  I shook my head to signal I had no idea. “We’ve wasted enough time already. I need to see how Aidan’s doing,” I whispered.

  Kieran squeezed my hand. “I know.”

  Chapter 11

  Once Kieran and I reached the guest quarters, we stopped to check the table in the hall for any messages from Blake or Logan, then headed upstairs, my pulse racing a million miles an hour.

  We were barely gone an hour or two, yet Aidan’s health had already taken another turn for the worse. I could feel it. Maybe it was intuition, or maybe it was the bond binding us for eternity, the tiny silver thread that once drew us together and made us fall in love with absolutely no reasoning behind it that kept telling me we were running out of time. Whatever it was, the pain it left behind felt as though a part of me was about to be ripped out and my heart would shatter in a million pieces.

  Silence built within the room for long, intense seconds as I stared at the bed where Aidan lay beneath the covers, the white sheet wrapped around his feverish body. My chest tightened at the flood of emotions washing over me. He was so strong, even now, as he watched me with uncertainty, his blue eyes brilliant with all the love he usually kept to himself. I couldn’t lose him. Not now. Not like this.

  Where the heck was Blake when we needed him?

  “Aidan.” My fingers caressed his cheek ever so gently. A painful sob escaped my throat. “Don’t leave me.”

  He shook his head and smiled hesitantly. “Never.”

  It was a promise made out of need to make me feel better. A blatant lie. I inhaled the crisp evening air wafting in from the open window. The strong scents of the garden and the last days’ events were about to get the best of me. I couldn’t let it happen so I took another deep breath to still the tremors in my stomach. But my nerves continued to make my hands shake and my heart flutter frantically in my chest. If anything happened to him—

  I had to do something—anything—to keep my mind from waddling into dangerous territory. “I love you. You know that, right?” My voice was a mere whisper brushing his feverish temples where his dark hair stuck to his flawless skin.

  He nodded ever so slowly. “And I love you. Your smile’s like magic.”

  Only magic can counteract magic.

  Seth’s words echoed in my ears. A cold shiver ran down my spine as my brain began to glue together the missing pieces. The blade hurting Aidan had been poisoned with Shadow blood. Shadow blood was deadly to vampires because it was infused with some sort of spell, hence, magic. The gates surrounding Aidan’s property were imbued with witch’s blood so no Shadow could ever trespass, which brought me to the conclusion that a witch’s blood carrying Morganefaire’s magic might just be strong enough to counteract the Shadows’ poison.

  I swallowed hard to get rid of the lump in my throat. “There’s something I need to do. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

  Aidan nodded again. With a last glance back, I forced myself to walk out of the room and close the door behind me, realizing that leaving him was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.

  Chapter 12

  Visiting BELLS, BOOKS & CANDLES on an early evening was a bold move. Waiting until nighttime would’ve been a better move, but time wasn’t on our side right now. I wanted the ring back but, more importantly, I needed the vial containing witch’s blood—the one Elyssa said wasn’t for sale. Of course I could’ve just presented my case before the Council, but Kieran was right: we couldn’t let anyone know about Aidan’s condition.

  My plan was to bargain with Elyssa, threaten her that I knew about the ring and try to trade it for the vial. And if that didn’t do the trick, then—I shook my head, not really wanting to think about that possibly. Let’s just say, I was ready to do whatever it took to save Aidan’s life. Yes, even grabbing it out of her hands and making a run for the nearest exit.

  Peering through the glass, I tried the door. To my surprise, it was locked. I wasn’t familiar with Morganefaire’s retail opening hours, but something told me being closed on a weekday before five p.m. wasn’t usual practice. I waited patiently as Julie unlocked the door from inside, then invited me to step over the threshold.

  From inside, the shop seemed just as deserted as from the outside. My eyes scanned the isles lined with silver drinking goblets, bizarre artifacts, Victorian jewelry, and turn-of-the-century masks. From unique to the plain weird, Elyssa’s oddities stared back at me. I knew she liked morbid things since she kept a dead person alive in the basement, but the knowledge didn’t make being around those things any easier.

  “What are we looking for? The ring’s not here,” Julie said.

  “I know. I’m here to talk to the wicked witch.” I crossed the front shop floor and reached the office in a few long strides.

  “Elyssa? She hasn’t been here all day,” Julie said from behind me.

  I turned to regard her and was surprised to see how mature she seemed, as though the last day’s events had taken their toll on her as well. She was wearing the same jeans and shirt as before, but her long hair was tied back in a strict ponytail and she was bare of any glitter. Her dark eyes seemed to shimmer a tad darker, and a frown creased her forehead. A look at my own clothes told me I forgot to change as well. Suddenly my overstuffed suitcase and little fights with Aidan seemed so trivial compared to what we faced here. I inhaled a sharp breath to get rid of the stinging sensation in my eyes and forced my attention back to the task at hand.

  “Do you know where she could be?” I asked.

  Julie shook her head, wide-eyed. “I’ve checked everywhere. Her home, the
basement, the market place. She’s gone.”

  “Yeah, not surprising since she has the most precious object in her possession and is probably flogging it to the highest bidder this very instant,” I muttered.

  A dark shadow crossed Julie’s features. I wondered whether my comment hit a soft spot, but I didn’t press the issue. Whatever was custom in Morganefaire didn’t interest me one bit; I just wanted the vial and then I’d race home, teleporting faster than a bullet, to cure my boyfriend.

  My back resting against the wall, I slumped down on the floor and buried my hands in my lap. “How am I supposed to strike a deal with Elyssa if we can’t find her?”

  Julie circled around me. The black fog enveloping her feet touched my skin and I realized how icy it was. “Are you cold?” I asked.

  My question seemed to take her by surprise for her eyes shifted to and fro, scanning the ground for an answer, before locking on me. “I don’t actually feel anything. No hunger, no tiredness. Everything’s so—” she gestured with her hand, searching for the right word “—pleasant. The air, the wind, even the clothes on my skin. It’s like my body has no nerve endings any more. Even when I realized a girl I knew was dead, I couldn’t really be as sad as I wanted to be.” Pleasant was the word Cass once used to describe Heaven. That’s were Julie would be going after her task was completed. She was a good girl, which was probably the reason why the reaper gave her a few more days on earth. That and to fulfill a purpose.

  “I’m sorry about Samantha,” I said.

  “Me too. She was such a nice person.” Julie dropped down next to me, hovering a few inches above the ground. “I wonder why the reaper took her but not me.”

  “It’s hard to say.”

  She snorted. “You mean you have absolutely no idea.”

  “I’m sorry,” I said again, lost for words.

  “Don’t be. It’s not your fault. You need the vial to save Aidan,” she said, changing the topic. I nodded. “Then just borrow a drop or two.”

 
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