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Shadow blood, p.6
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       Shadow Blood, p.6

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “I can’t do that.”

  Julie shrugged. “Why not? If Elyssa stole the tracker ring, then she owes you. You wanted to trade the ring for the vial, so take the vial and let her keep the ring.”

  Her words rang true in my ear, maybe because I wanted to see the justification in them. Elyssa stole Aidan’s ring so it was fitting that I should take from her the one thing that could save his life. When I came to bargain with Elyssa, I knew deep down I wouldn’t find her here, meaning the decision had been made long before Julie even suggested it. And hadn’t I told Seth I’d do anything to save Aidan? Heck, I had done worse things in my life.

  A single drop.

  No one would even notice it missing. Elyssa could keep the rest of the vial. I wouldn’t use it to get rid of my bloodlust, just to save Aidan. Before I could change my mind, I jumped to my feet and dashed for the cabinet that hid the vial. My heart drumming against my ribcage, I tore open the door and peered inside.

  The vial was gone.

  Chapter 13

  I stared at the empty shelf, my last hope leaking through my fingers like water through a drain. The clock inside my head ticked faster and faster. It would’ve been so easy: get a drop of witch’s blood, rub Aidan’s wound with it the way Seth told me, and then he’d get better before anyone noticed his condition. Unfortunately, Elyssa had thought of hiding the vial. It was like she knew I’d need it and would be coming to get it. Was it just a coincidence or foul play? I was ready to bet on the latter.

  Aidan was attacked the same night the ring was stolen. The blade was poisoned with Shadow blood. Given that the Shadows were Morganefaire’s enemies and they didn’t sell their magic, their blood was probably just as rare a commodity as had become witch’s blood. If Elyssa owned the last vial of witch’s blood, then she might just as well own its counteracting magic. Aidan was known for being the best bounty hunter in Layla’s court. He found everything and everyone, as long as they weren’t hidden by magic. When Elyssa stole the ring, she must’ve hurt Aidan on purpose so he wouldn’t come after her. Why didn’t I see the connection before? It wasn’t a random burglar attack but a viciously planned assault to get rid of him. They wanted him dead. The revelation almost made my heart shatter from the pain.

  “Maybe there’s something else that could help him,” Julie said.

  “You’re right.” I nodded absentmindedly as one particular thought occurred to me: the one thing that could save the most important person in my life was gone. But I was determined not to give up.

  “Elyssa said it’s the last vial of its kind. We need to find her…now,” I said to Julie.

  “Okay. Let’s start snooping around this place.”

  Julie took over the front shop floor as I rummaged through a few drawers at the back, but found nothing of importance. And that’s when a notepad near the cash register caught my attention. I waved Julie over. “Look at this.”

  “It’s an empty notebook,” she said. “How’s that going to do us any good?”

  I reached for a pencil and pointed at the notepad. “She wrote something down before she left. Best-case scenario, it’s a clue. Worst-case scenario, it’s nothing but a receipt. See the impressions made in the paper?”

  She nodded. “But I can’t make out the words.”

  Pressing the side of the lead against the surface of the paper, I lightly shaded the indents until the words appeared reversed.

  “That’s brilliant,” Julie said, craning her neck to glimpse over my shoulder. “What does it say?”

  I squinted. “No idea. It’s Latin.”

  “That’s why you’re lucky I’m here.” She frowned as she translated. “When ring is obtained, meet at furniture storage.” I cocked a brow. She looked up at me. “What does that mean?”

  “There’s lots of antique furniture in here,” I said. “A better question is who’s Elyssa supposed to meet when she gets her hands on the ring? Maybe there’s a label with an address where the furniture was made.”

  “Let’s split up and start looking,” Julie said.

  I ran my hands over a cherry wood table but didn’t see any markings. After inspecting the store, Julie and I came up clueless.

  “I’m checking her office, you do the basement,” I said.

  “What?” Julie’s eyes widened. “No way! You go down there.”

  “But you’re a spirit. Nothing can hurt you.”

  “You’re immortal so nothing can hurt you,” she retorted. “I’m still having nightmares from that reaper creature thing. My heart can’t handle another shock.” I didn’t want to point out that her heart wasn’t beating any more. She was playing the reaper card again. Ever since I found her ghost inside the Council’s morgue, right after a reaper told her she wasn’t allowed to pass into the Otherworld unless she fulfilled her purpose, she had been clinging onto me, whining how scary the reaper had been, how he had wanted to tear her to shreds and drag her to the deepest pits of Hell. Of course her claims weren’t true, but I understood how scared she must’ve been so I sort of played along and gave in. It was hard enough to be dead, not knowing what happened to you or what would come next, so I figured I might as well show her some empathy.

  I sighed. “Fine. Just don’t miss anything.”

  “As if I would,” she mumbled.

  My pulse raced at the thought of revisiting the creepy dungeon, but I was here on a mission. A badly lit room wouldn’t freak me out. I hesitated, but only for a second or as long as it took to remind myself that Aidan’s fate depended on me. I switched on the lights and ventured downstairs. The narrow hall seemed as deserted as the first time I was here, only now I felt as though I knew what to expect.

  The doors were closed but not locked. I peered inside the first cell. It was completely empty. There was no sign that anyone had been here lately…and then the faint scent of cleaning products wafted past. It might have served as a storage room, or worse, until recently when it was scrubbed clean, probably to get rid of any evidence. The second room was just the same. I shuddered. What the heck were those rooms? Cells?

  The third room looked like a replica of the one in which I had found the seer girl, including the dirty bed, table and bowl of water. I scanned it quickly for any personal belongings and hurried to close the door again. And then I found myself standing in front of the seer girl’s cell. My fingers reached out to pry open the door as my head began to pound with dread.

  The dark aura of death hung heavy in the air. How could I not have noticed before how strong it was? Maybe the adrenaline rushing through my veins had made me oblivious to it, or it was just plain self-preservation. Either way, I had really believed the girl was just ill on the edge of dying. With a deep breath, I swung open the door and entered the dismal cell.

  The lights were on and cast shadows across the disheveled bed and the walls. The water bowl was still here, as though the girl was only gone for a short time and would be back soon. I quickly scanned the walls and the floor, then moved to the old, mahogany table and brushed my hand over the scratched surface. Elyssa must’ve purchased it at some point. The wood looked worn and antique, certainly not something you’d buy in the usual mass-market furniture shop. It could even be hand made. I figured any average retailer with a bit of marketing knowledge had some sort of price or brand tag advertising the name of the shop. Dropping to my knees I scrambled beneath the table. The sticky glue, now dirty, was still there, but the tag had been removed. I wasn’t ready to give up yet so I turned my attention to the chair and turned it over, and promptly found what I was looking for. With some effort I read the strange cursive letters and turned my attention to the bed and the nightstand. They had the same tag with the same cursive fonts. It was just a word, but I figured Julie, being a witch and familiar with Morganefaire’s trading businesses and traditions, might just be able to make sense of it.

  ***

  I carried the chair upstairs and showed Julie the name.

  “Atlas.” Julie rolled the word on her t
ongue, then shook her head, her confusion mirrored on her face. I should’ve known better than to raise my hopes too high. “Are you looking for a book of maps?”

  “Do you know anyone going by that name?” I asked. She shook her head again. “We know it’s a place that creates furniture according to the note, so maybe a wood carver? Shop? Anything at all?”

  “Not that I know of.”

  I groaned. Just another dead end then.

  “Wait,” Julie said, jumping up from her seat on Elyssa’s coffee table. “I think you’re reading it wrong. Turn the chair upside down.”

  I repositioned the piece of furniture. “It spells Salta,” I said. “I know that name.” My brows shot up as I tried to place where I had heard it before.

  “It’s Iain Salta,” Julie said. “He’s head of the Night Guard.”

  I remembered him as the guy who brought in Julie’s body during our very first visit to the court. He was the one who allowed Julie to join the Night Guard before she was killed. “Does he make furniture?” The question was so ridiculous it almost made me laugh, and yet I had to follow every clue.

  Julie hesitated for a moment as she probably accessed the big database of names that was her brain. “He doesn’t have a shop, if that’s what you mean. But I think he’s involved in trading, though I’m not familiar with the specifics.” Was there a hint of displeasure in her voice? I smiled and reached out to touch her arm. My fingers hovered in mid-air an inch away from her, but she seemed to appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

  “Interesting. You’re awesome,” I said. “Now let’s find out more about that trading business of his.”

  Her expression brightened instantly. “The warehouses are on the north side of the city. I know a shortcut.”

  Julie knew a shortcut indeed—through backyards, high fences and rosebushes. By the time we reached the warehouses, burning orange streaks veined the evening sky, and I was covered in thorns, leaves, caked earth, and what else not. Julie, however, seemed her usual glitzy self as she brushed a long strand of golden brown hair behind her ear.

  “Are those diamond studs?” I pointed at the sparkly stones shimmering from her earlobes. “Where did you get those?” I waved my hand. “No, don’t bother answering that one. Let’s just focus on why we came here.”

  “Sure.” Julie floated past me. My gaze swept over the area as I hurried to keep up with her.

  For a medieval town, this part of the wall looked surprisingly modern with huge steel doors and barred, frosted windows to keep out prying eyes. I stopped on the opposite side of the empty road, behind a thick tree with low-hanging branches, and focused my heightened vision to get a detailed picture. The two-story warehouses—about six in total—were a string of gray buildings located on a wide strip of concrete and wouldn’t look out of place in Brooklyn. Before I even closed my eyes to teleport inside I knew the place was protected by magic. But I tried nonetheless, and failed.

  “You’ll have to help me,” I said to Julie.

  “I’m on it.” She floated toward the first warehouse, then stopped in front of the door.

  “Hurry up,” I whispered. As though hearing me, Julie shot me a strange look, then shook her head. Waving my hand, I motioned her back. “What’s wrong?” I asked as soon as she reached me.

  “It’s not working.”

  How was that possible? “But you’re a ghost.”

  She rolled her eyes. “I know, right? Let me try again.” She went back to the warehouse and returned a minute later muttering, “Still not working.”

  The door was protected by a stronger kind of magic than the one guarding Elyssa’s shop. Iain was hiding something important in here, or why else would he go to such trouble? For all I knew it could be a dead end, however it was my only lead so I decided to stick around and solve the mystery. But how?

  “It’s a spell,” Julie said.

  “Are you familiar with it?” I asked.

  She shook her head. “Nope.”

  “Shouldn’t you be since you’re a witch and all?”

  “It’s a long story,” she said.

  My brows shot up. Even though I had been in Morganefaire for a few days, I realized I barely knew anything about Julie, or the witches and warlocks living here. “Tell me about it.”

  “Okay.” She moistened her lips before she continued, her expression darkening. “It happened way before I was born when kids were taught in schools how to tap into their legacy. A boy was caught by a vampire and forced to use his powers against his will. He survived and returned to Morganefaire, even became a member of the Council and changed the rules. Now no witch or warlock can ever sell their blood. And children are only taught how to cast spells once they turn twenty-one, meaning anyone under twenty-one is pretty much left in the dark. Our magic courses through our veins unbridled and we don’t know how to channel it.”

  “Is the boy still alive?”

  She shook her head. “He’s long dead, but his rules have remained in place.”

  The story sounded remotely familiar, minus the teaching part. Aidan had told me something similar about Blake’s life: that he was born in Morganefaire and Rebecca left him for dead when she grew bored of him. Had Aidan not turned him, Blake would’ve died. It was probably a coincidence, and yet I made a mental note to ask my boyfriend about it. I almost choked on my breath when I realized Aidan was so ill, we might never get another chance to snuggle down in our bed while talking the night away. The thought pulled me back to reality.

  “Do you know the boy’s name?” I asked.

  “No one does,” Julie said. “It happened centuries ago.”

  “What a shame.” My attention snapped back to the building. “We need to get inside.”

  “I told you I’ve no idea how.”

  “That’s bad.” I forced my brain to think but my mind remained blank. Usually, I could just teleport to wherever I wanted. Since that wasn’t possible when it came to entering certain buildings in Morganefaire, I realized I had grown used to Julie sorting this tiny problem out for me and never thought of a backup plan in case it might not work for a change.

  As much as I wanted to reveal what Iain’s trading business was all about, darkness was slowly creeping up on us and we had wasted enough time already. Besides, apart from the note, we had no proof that there was a connection between Iain’s business and Elyssa’s whereabouts or the dead girl in her basement.

  “We should go home,” I said eventually. “Let’s hope Blake’s back. He might know what to do. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to inform the Council. “

  Julie nodded. “Yeah.”

  With a last glance at the warehouse, I stood, when something shifted behind the frosted glass. I squinted to get a better look and whispered, “What’s happening?”

  “I think someone’s inside and moving stuff around,” Julie said. “Let me check it out.”

  Before I could tell her to stay with me, she floated across the street and stopped right in front of the window. A moment later, the door was flung open and three people hurried out. I hid behind the thick tree trunk and craned my neck to watch the scene on the other side of the road. I recognized Elyssa’s honey locks and flowery dress before she turned toward me and I could glimpse her features. The shorter of her two companions carried what looked like a rolled up carpet flung over his shoulder. Thanks to his big belly, dark hair and irritating laughter I would’ve recognized him from a mile: Iain. The second guy wore a hood that covered his face.

  “It’s Iain and Elyssa,” Julie said, gliding over. Her cheeks were flushed and she seemed out of breath. “What should we do?”

  “Who’s the third?” I asked, ignoring her question.

  “I don’t know him.”

  I turned to regard her. “But you know everyone.”

  She peered to the guy standing to Iain’s right. “I’ve never seen him before.”

  Another visitor. I wondered who it might be. The second the thought formed in my head, the guy turned his h
ead in my direction and pulled the hood back to sniff the air. My blood froze in my veins.

  Brendan.

  “We’ve got to get the hell away from here,” I whispered, reaching to grab Julie’s hand, forgetting she was a ghost.

  “Why all of a sudden?” she asked.

  I stared into Brendan’s dark eyes and a shiver washed over me. “Because he’s a werewolf.”

  Chapter 14

  Fear and anger washed over me. It was such a shock...a jolt to my soul to see Brendan again. In my mind, I could hear his malicious growl and feel his hot breath on my face as my mind replayed that awful scene when Brendan almost ripped me to shreds. I shuddered. Taking a slow step back, I focused my attention on the werewolf. He had definitely smelled me. I could see that from his flaring nostrils and the way his dark eyes with a strange yellow hue scanned the street up and down. From my calculations, he’d be over here any minute. And even though I should be running, my mind raced furiously trying to glue the missing pieces together. How the heck did Brendan get inside Morganefaire? And, more importantly, where was Rebecca? They worked together so she couldn’t be far away. The last thought burned in my mind like a wildfire.

  “Are you sure he’s a werewolf?” Julie asked. “He looks quite human to me.”

  “Positive.”

  “Crap! We don’t have any crucifixes and holy water!” Julie said. I shot her a look. Seriously? She caught my irritated expression and, as usual, completely misinterpreted it. “Should I grab a stake or something? Wait. That’s for vampires, right?”

  I heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Since you’re at it, what you should be doing is whipping out your silver bullets. Now, go home,” I said. “Rebecca’s a ghost. If she’s around, she’ll be able to see you.”

  “Trust me, after all the stories I’ve heard, that woman’s burning in the deepest pits of Hell.”

  “She was,” I muttered, not divulging the fact that I was the one to help her escape. Obviously, I didn’t mean to. She sort of possessed me and no one noticed. Julie’s eyes widened. I waved my hand. “I’ll explain later. Now go.” My tone left no room for discussion. Julie nodded and then disappeared. I breathed out, relieved that she didn’t argue for a change.

 
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