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Shadow blood, p.7
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       Shadow Blood, p.7

           Jayde Scott
 
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  Closing my eyes, I focused on our guest quarters, when a hand wrapped around my mouth and pulled me back. Freezing cold engulfed me and made me shudder. Struggling against the iron grip, I turned to fight my adversary when my gaze sliced into moss green eyes.

  “What is it with you, crazy woman? That’s your enemy, in case you didn’t notice the last time he tried to kill you,” Seth whispered, pulling his hand away from my mouth. “He caught your scent. You would’ve led him straight to Aidan’s sickbed.”

  Surprised to see him, I peered at the white nothingness around me. He had pulled me inside one of his portals and now we were watching the scene outside through the shimmering curtain that divided the different dimensions. I crossed my arms to stop myself from shaking—if from fear that Aidan was hurt, the blazing fury I felt inside, or the chill around me I couldn’t tell.

  “I would’ve torn him to shreds before he even got near Aidan,” I mumbled.

  “Probably the other way round,” Seth said dryly. “You obviously forgot last time Blake had to save your sorry ass.”

  He was right. My very first encounter with a werewolf ended with me running for my life, but I wasn’t scared any more. Not after Blake showed me that vamps can win the fight. “If Blake can defeat him, then so can I.”

  Seth looked at me like I was mentally challenged, then shook his head. I clenched my hands into fists, irritated that he continued to see me as some inept idiot who couldn’t put left before right. One day I’d show him, I really would.

  “I need to find Blake,” I said.

  He shrugged. “There’s nothing he could possibly do to help you.”

  “Let him be the judge of that,” I said dryly.

  Seth turned to face me, his green gaze meeting mine, unblinking, relentless, proud. “For years I’ve been studying the various supernatural groups. I know their strengths and weaknesses. Heck, I know more about them than they know about themselves.” I had enough of the arrogant demi-god and his constant smartass remarks, and yet I kept quiet. “See, I even know your weakness, Amber. You panic easily, which is why you make so many mistakes. You need help. My help.”

  “Yeah?” I laughed. “What do you want in return? My firstborn?”

  He pointed his finger at me and shook his head, a lazy smile tugging at his lips. “Nah, you can keep it. I’ve never been a fan of dirty diapers. Aidan has pleaded his allegiance but you haven’t yet. What I want is to offer you a place in my court once I’ve secured my birthright. I could use a necromancer.” My brows shot up. A job offer in the paranormal world was never what it seemed.

  “Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

  A hint of anger flashed in his eyes and disappeared just as quickly. “Think about it. Don’t be too hasty. You’ll need me more than I need you.”

  There was something in his tone—a hidden meaning that didn’t go unnoticed, and I wondered whether he knew something I didn’t. “What do you mean?” I asked, unable to shrug off the bad feeling creeping up on me. He smiled but didn’t answer immediately. He was enjoying every moment he could torture me. Knowing that, my anger flared up. “If you want me to work for you, you’ll need to give me a very good reason as to why.”

  He shrugged. “I shouldn’t need to. Or do you really think Blake would really help? Even if he could, he’s never here. Why’s that?”

  “It doesn’t matter.” I was pretty sure Blake was on our side, and yet his questions kind of caught me off guard. I had no reason to believe Blake was blindsiding us. Or did I?

  Even though he attacked me once, afterwards, he also saved my life. He always said how sorry he was for trying to kill me, and I actually believed him, particularly after he confided in me that Aidan’s brethren were waiting in Morganefaire, ready to stand by him in this dark hour. Would he really lie to me to bring us here, then turn against us? For the sake of my sanity, I had to believe he was on our side, even if I couldn’t reach him now when I needed him the most.

  “He was—is,” I started then corrected myself when I realized it might come off the wrong way, “Aidan’s best friend. He told us he’d take the blame for the murders, if need be. You’ve got to admit, he didn’t have to do that.”

  He snorted. “If a bit of theatrical performance is enough to convince you of someone’s loyalty, you’re even more stupid than I thought. Be it as it may, bad things will start to happen and, like I said before, you’ll need me.”

  I straightened my back and raised my chin defiantly, ignoring the pounding fear inside my heart. “You’re not particularly scary, no matter how hard you try to mess with my mind, so you might as well give up now before you bore me to death.”

  “As you wish. Hopefully, it won’t be too late when you change your mind,” Seth said.

  Deciding to let his last comment slip, I turned away. My gaze moved back to the three figures still standing in front of the warehouse, obviously waiting for something or someone. Brendan circled the parameter a few times, even crossed the street at some point, coming dangerously close to the portal, then returned to Elyssa and Iain, who still had the bundle tossed over one shoulder. The air seemed to darken, particularly around Iain. It reminded me of the night we were guarding the wall. Samantha’s aura had also spread around her murderer like a shield.

  “They’re carrying something,” I said through gritted teeth. “It looks like a person. I think she’s dead.”

  “I knew they were hiding something in that rug, I just didn’t know what. A dead person is the last thing I expected,” Seth said. “Though I shouldn’t put anything past them.”

  I shot him an incredulous look when I noticed the surprise on his face. He really had no idea they were carrying a body. “It was my first impression as well, only there’s a dark aura around Iain and the bundle,” I explained. “Rugs don’t usually have an aura.”

  “That’s why I need a necromancer. You can see the signs of death none of us can. It’s truly an amazing gift.”

  “It’s a gift I hate.”

  He regarded me coolly. “You’d be handsomely rewarded for your time.”

  I shook my head. “Sorry, mate. I can’t work for somebody I don’t trust. Now, shouldn’t you be unleashing a zombie plague upon the country or something?”

  “You’re funny. My last necromancer used to preach doom and gloom and always wore black robes with hoods that drooped over his wrinkly face,” Seth said. “He did have a fantastic spell book though. It’s horrible we had to part ways.”

  “Really?” I cocked a brow. “What happened to him? Did he miraculously fall off a wall and break his neck.”

  “What can I say? He was a bore. But you’re the complete opposite.”

  “That’s a relief.” I snorted. Whatever happened to his last necromancer, I sure wasn’t eager to share his fate. Seth’s lips pressed into a grim line. I held up a hand to stop him before he continued his head hunting. “I’m not working for you,” I said. “Now, drop it.”

  He shrugged and peered away. “So back to the topic at hand. Who’s the dead person? Another witch?”

  “Probably. But why kill so many of them in such a short time?”

  “I don’t know,” Seth said matter-of-factly. His tone was monotone, as though he didn’t even care. “Maybe someone wants the visitors to get the blame.” With visitors he meant us. I knew he was right, but I wasn’t willing to admit it.

  “The girl I brought home, you know, the one I thought was alive,” I said to change the topic, “you knew she was a seer.”

  “They’re not real seers. They’re called tracker witches—” Seth waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. I gritted my teeth to keep quiet. I had never met someone so conceited in my life, except for my ex Cameron, who was a total snob and who, like Seth, thought he was better than anyone else. No doubt the two of them would be best friends. “—meaning young witches giving away their lives for a sole purpose: to find objects and people. Because they have no psychic abilities they have to use the magic in their blood to do t
he work for them. Eventually, they die but they can be kept alive by another witch’s will for a few more years.”

  “Tracker witches,” I repeated. For a few long moments, I remained quiet, lost in thought as I watched the three figures in front of the warehouse. They just stood there in silence, barely moving, waiting…but for what? “So,” I finally resumed the conversation, “Elyssa, Iain, Brendan and whoever’s involved were looking for something. When they couldn’t find it, they stole Aidan’s ring, maybe in the hope it might be able to find whatever they were looking for. And most likely hurt him when he surprised them.”

  Seth shook his head. “I don’t think so. They must’ve known he’d come after them, so it must’ve been a plan to kill him all along.” He was right. I had figured that much out already but his brutally honest words sat in the pit of my stomach like a rock. The way he said things, so blunt and inconsiderate of people’s feelings knowing all along that he was pushing the right buttons, really got under my skin. A familiar hot flash flooded my body. Fury. A need for revenge. A volcano of emotions ready to erupt, but for a change they weren’t addressed at him. Since the day of my turning, my emotions had become more and more uncontrollable, just like my bloodlust. As much as I tried to stop my hatred toward whoever tried to kill Aidan, I realized I couldn’t.

  “I’m going to kill every one of them, whether they were directly involved, or not,” I hissed. “I’ll hunt them down and make them pay for everything they did.”

  Seth laughed. “A woman after my own heart. I felt that way, too, when my own flesh and blood, the Shadows, abandoned me. Revenge sounds good to me. Sign me up.”

  The fog of rage inside my head lifted a bit. What was I thinking? Of course I wouldn’t just go on a killing spree. I might have the temper of a raging bull, but surely I had more self-control than that. There was just one person I’d go after, and that person was Aidan’s vicious assailant.

  My gaze remained glued to the three figures on the other side of the road. They were still there, still waiting. “Maybe they’re looking for one witch in particular and they can’t tell which one it is until she’s dead.” I remembered the tiny indentation on the witch’s shoulder, from where the murderer had removed a bit of skin.

  “Could be,” Seth said, not quite convinced. Now was the time to tell him about the freaky skin thing, and yet I hesitated. It was too easy to mistake his false friendliness for friendship. I needed a true friend to share my thoughts with, if possible one that wouldn’t stab me in the back at the next best opportunity.

  “They’re going back inside,” I said. Seth muttered something but I paid him no attention as I focused on Elyssa. She spoke excitedly, upon which Iain dropped the bundle to the ground. My eyes narrowed to read her lips, but she turned her back on me. Her tension reflected in her stance—the way she arched her back to stand up tall, the way her hands moved about, as though to prove her point, the way she kept shaking her head vehemently. I had believed her to be a woman of poise and self-control. That she should behave like this could only mean one thing.

  “Something’s not going according to plan,” I whispered, my gaze still on her. Iain grabbed her upper arm. She pushed him away with such vengeance he stumbled backwards, then marched back to the warehouse and closed the door behind her. For a few moments, Iain just stood there and then he slung the bundle back over his shoulder and took off after Elyssa. The door slammed shut, leaving Brendan alone outside.

  The moon peered from behind the evening clouds, bathing the street in a bluish silver glow. Brendan scanned the area, his gaze frantically looking for something. The way his strong body moved in the moonlight made me realize he would turn from human into beast in a matter of seconds. And then his head shot back, and I knew why Elyssa had been so eager to seek shelter.

  “Someone was supposed to turn up but never came,” I whispered to Seth. “And now Brendan’s about to change.”

  A wolf’s whimper—low and hoarse from pain—carried over from across the street a moment before Brendan’s appearance started to shift. His limbs elongated and dark hair began to sprout from his back, but instead of ripping his clothes off and tossing himself to the ground to let the change take hold of him like last time I saw him, he let out a few angry growls, as though something wasn’t quite right with him. My gaze trailed down his distorted body, only now noticing the big bulge across his chest, hidden beneath the thick material of his cape. Before I could get a better look, he took off down the street toward the north side’s residential area, probably to seek a hiding place for the night and complete the transformation…or maybe to return where he came from. I really hoped it was the latter because the less people were involved the better. I shuddered at the memory of the last time we stood face to face, shortly before he charged at me like a rabies-infected animal. That picture still gave me nightmares. Oh, who was I kidding? Knowing my crappy luck, Brendan was going nowhere. He was probably planning our demise this very instant.

  “Go home. I’m staying here to watch the warehouse. They’ll have to come out eventually,” I said to Seth. His eyes shimmered with something I couldn’t quite pinpoint. He inclined his head but didn’t reply. I stepped out of the portal onto the spot behind the tree. An instant later, the portal closed before my eyes.

  I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart as I focused back on the seemingly deserted warehouse. My senses on full alert, I circled the area once, then again, before reclaiming my place on the opposite side of the road, ready to wait all night if need be. Elyssa had to come out eventually.

  Ten minutes later, the door opened again and she stepped out into the darkness, her gaze moving left and right as she scanned her surroundings, then took off down the empty street. My mind raced to make a decision: follow her or stay behind to see what Iain was up to. If I stayed behind, I might find a way inside the warehouse to see what Iain kept hidden. If I followed Elyssa, I might just get my hands on the ring and the vial. I didn’t really have much choice. Forcing Elyssa to give me the vial was more important than anything else. I could deal with Iain later.

  Part Two

  ProloguePatricia

  I had been trying to escape for hours while the images in my head kept haunting me. Usually, they were nothing but fragments of darkness, pictures of an endless hoop of torture and grief, too hazy to make much sense of them. But today’s visions were different, more vivid, filled with an uncanny understanding of what was going on, leaving me shaken to the core with dread. And no matter how hard I tried to shake them off, they kept coming back, each time more lucid than before.

  The vision began like all the others these days.

  It could only be around midday and yet the sky was as dark as the night. I must’ve been walking through the snow for hours because my legs were numb from the cold and the freezing dampness of the snow no longer bothered me. I don’t know when my lungs began to make a whistling sound whenever I dared to draw in a breath, but at some point I must’ve grown used to the noise, too, for I barely noticed it as I trudged up the winding mountain path that would lead me to the Monastery of Light. Sixty-six disciples were awaiting my arrival, ready to give up their life to free the world from darkness. All but one—a vampire called Rebecca, a cold-blooded killer who’d sneaked inside the monastery to await my arrival and who’d stop at nothing to ensure her maker Flavius’s dominion over the world.

  “Pumpkin.” Kieran’s deep, male voice reached my ears and strong hands shook my arm. It took me a few moments to escape the images inside my mind and return to reality. He was sitting on the sofa, with his coat and shoes still on. He must’ve arrived a few minutes ago for his hair, jeans and shirt were dripping wet, and the room smelled of rain and forest.

  “Kieran. You’re back.” I sat up groggily and peered at my boyfriend’s beautiful face, trying not to pay attention to the worry in his deep blue eyes.

  “You had a bad dream again.” He pulled me in his arms and stroked my hair soothingly. “Tell me about it.”
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  I inhaled a sharp breath as I tried to make sense of the disturbing fragments inside my head. “I saw Rebecca rising from the dead. She was waiting for me at the Monastery while her master was about to conquer the world. It was probably just a dream.” Except that I hadn’t been asleep when the frightening images first snaked their way into my head, blurring my vision. And whatever visions I had, they always came true.

  Kieran didn’t reply. He didn’t have to because we both knew I was lying. The world was about to be bathed in eternal darkness and we could do nothing but wait and see.

  “I’m glad you came back sooner.” My finger trailed down his strong jaw and settled on the soft patch of skin that peered from beneath his shirt where he had left it unbuttoned. A silver ampule, curved like a Smilodon’s tooth, dangled from a black leather cord tied around his neck. A gift from his brother, Kieran once told me, which he had been carrying for centuries. It was the symbol of their brethren.

  “I’m bringing bad news.” He hesitated and his gaze darkened. “Aidan’s been hurt. Someone attacked him with a dagger that was poisoned with Shadow blood.”

  I sat up and inched closer, my feet barely touching the cold floor, as I touched his arm, unsure what to say. I knew next to nothing about Shadow blood, but if it injured an immortal vampire like Aidan and his brother worried, then it must be bad news.

  “We’ve been waiting in the hope the wound would heal, but his condition has worsened,” he said. “We don’t know what to do.”

  Seeing him sitting on my bed with his head lowered, his eyes focused on his clenched hands, it occurred to me why he came back earlier than expected, even though we had decided he wouldn’t before his mission in Morganefaire was fulfilled. Kieran needed to know if Aidan would survive. I decided to give him that answer. Drawing a sharp breath, I stood from my bed and ambled over to the window. My gaze settled on the snow-covered mountains and valleys of Switzerland as my mind focused on my boyfriend’s brother. I thought back to the most recent memory I had of Aidan: trying to talk sense into my niece, Cass, at her birthday party. Cass was furious that Kieran, known to be one of the worst players in the paranormal world, hooked up with me. Of course I understood her objection. No one was going to be happy, Aidan included, about a vampire sharing a bond with the devil’s youngest sister aka me. It wasn’t a match made in heaven, not least because beings of the various houses weren’t supposed to mix. But while Cass roared and spit fire, Aidan barely blinked, showing me just how much of a gentleman he truly was. As I pictured his face, a vision came quickly.

 
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