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       Voodoo Kiss, p.8

           Jayde Scott
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I nodded, turning to regard him. "You said she took longer this time."

  "Yes." A sparkle of worry appeared in his eyes. "She's a reaper now with the kiss of death on her back. Soon, it might claim her forever unless—" He took a deep breath and smiled.

  "Unless I help her," I finished for him. He didn't respond, which was fine by me. He didn't need to say it. "What is it she wants me to do?"

  "I don't know, Sofia. My job was to find out your whereabouts. Everything else is just a huge question mark. I doubt even Cass knows what you're actually supposed to do."

  "It's a huge deal, isn't it? And failure isn't an option," I whispered. His green gaze enveloped me, drawing me closer to him. I wished he would just wrap his arms around me to tell me everything would turn out all right. But he didn't. Instead, his eyes seemed to caress me as they brushed over my face. They seemed to talk to me, tell me of something I didn't know. That we were too different and yet we were meant to meet, meant to experience this adventure of a lifetime together. I shook my head at the strange thoughts in my mind, wondering why I was interpreting so much into beautiful eyes and a warm gaze. Obviously, we liked each other, but I had liked a few guys before him. The only thing out of the ordinary was that he wasn't human.

  A strong breeze scattered the leaves on the ground. I picked one up and held it between my thumb and middle finger, rubbing the frail surface, marveling at how thick it seemed. Ever since moving to New York, I realized I had been growing out of tune with nature. City life wasn't me. This display of untouched nature was what I envisioned for myself, where I wanted to live. Yet I knew I couldn't have it for a few more years, until I made it as a musician and could settle down wherever my heart would take me. I dared a glance toward Thrain, wondering where his heart might be.

  "Yo, ready to go?" Cass yelled from the door, startling me. I nodded and took a step forward, confused. The others seemed to just move to places, something they called 'teleporting.' Cass was something entirely else though. I had yet to see what she could do. For a moment, I pictured huge wings sprouting out of the back of her sweater, then a wink and she'd be motioning Thrain and me to hold on for dear life as she flew us over the Scottish Lowlands, past England and France, toward the Swiss Alps. Grinning at my own stupid thoughts, I pushed the ridiculous image out of my head.

  "You couldn't possibly think any girl in her right mind would ever do that wearing a skirt. I'm not keen on putting my cream pie on display, you know." Cass pulled out her phone. I thought she needed to make a phone call or something, until she started punching on the keys like a maniac and the air began to crackle. My eyes widened, though I wished they wouldn't because I probably made a complete fool of myself.

  Cass pointed at the air, grinning. "Please, step right through."

  "Through where?" I asked.

  "Give me your hand."

  I grabbed her outstretched palm and took a tentative step forward. The air crackled some more as Cass's left side disappeared. She looked as though she had been cut in half, which freaked me out.

  "It's a portal," I muttered, feeling even more stupid because I should have known if people could teleport from one place to another, they sure could open portals to take them to places. Cass walked through and I followed behind, closing my eyes just in case this sort of traveling would trigger the same nausea as teleporting. A freezing wind engulfed my body, making me shiver. After counting to five, I opened my eyes again and squinted against the glaring brightness, and for a brief moment I thought I was back home in Siberia.

  Chapter 10

  The greenery of the Scottish Highlands was gone. Instead, I found myself surrounded by snow. And when I say surrounded, I mean lots of it, as in everywhere. If it wasn't for the bright sun and the rising mountains in the distance, I could have sworn we were back home in Siberia, not least because it was just as cold. Shivering against the thin material, I wrapped Thrain's jacket around me and wondered whether he would follow. A moment later, he stepped through the portal and I breathed out, relieved.

  "Damn. This thing's malfunctioned again," Cass said, shaking her phone about as though that might help.

  Thrain's green eyes gleamed as he shot me an amused look. I smiled back. The way the sun reflected on his tan skin made my heart skip a beat. My fingers itched to touch him. But touching wasn't an option. Not when we both had a mission to fulfill and I had absolutely no excuse for reaching out to him.

  "Need help?" he asked Cass.

  "Why would I?" she snapped. "I designed this thing, remember?"

  He held up a hand, grinning. "Hey, chill. I just thought—"

  "Don't think. Just be a pretty face." She walked away, huffing and scoffing at the phone.

  "She doesn't mean it," Thrain whispered. "Ever since Dallas died, she's been a bit cranky."

  "Who could blame her?" I wanted to tell him that I could emphasize with Cass because I knew what it was like to lose a loved one. I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it again as he grabbed my hand and gave it a light squeeze as though he could somehow sense it.

  "Hold on to me," Thrain said, wrapping his arm around my waist. "We wouldn't want you to slip. Or worse—turn into an ice cube."

  Grateful, I leaned into him to soak up the warmth emitted by his skin. Even though he was wearing short sleeves, he wasn't even shivering while the cold was slowly creeping into my bones. Soon, I wouldn't be able to keep my teeth from clattering. We caught up with Cass. Her head was still bowed over the phone and grim lines had formed around her mouth.

  "Hey, boss, maybe we should call the customer service helpline," Thrain said, winking at me.

  Cass rolled her eyes. "Aren't you hilarious?"

  I didn't get their joke until Thrain explained, "She worked in customer service. We used to crack jokes about her customers, and in particular about those who couldn't figure out how to use a phone." I looked into his eyes, interested. A reaper working in a nine to five job? I never expected that. He pulled me closer until I could feel his warm breath on my temple as he spoke. "Anyway, I wish she could stop being so stubborn and let me have a look. If that thing doesn't work soon, we might end up having to think about sleeping quarters for the night because there's no way she'll give up."

  "I heard that," Cass yelled. Her voice echoed in the distance. The snow crackled beneath our feet. I watched in horror as a huge chunk of snow broke off from one of the mountains and rained down the pit.

  "Not only will we freeze to death, we'll also die buried beneath a huge layer of snow," I whispered.

  Thrain laughed. "I didn't know you were psychic as well. Beauty and talent, now that's quite a catch."

  I found myself laughing with him as his words kept replaying in my mind. Forget the talent remark, he found me beautiful. I had heard that one before, but coming from him it actually meant something. I really hoped he meant it and it wasn't the usual pick up line he told every girl.

  "Are you two courting or what? Come on, we haven't got all eternity," Cass yelled.

  "For a moment I was inclined to believe we did, Cass, because that's how long this is taking," Thrain answered. Cass grinned back and motioned us to hurry up. I peered at them, wondering how long they had been friends that they felt so at ease around one another. A pang of jealousy grabbed hold of me, not because I didn't like them to be friends, but because I wished I had known Thrain for so long. I didn't doubt for a second once this mission was over, he'd return to his world and I'd return to mine. I had known him for all of five minutes and already the thought of never seeing him again was unbearable.

  We reached Cass and walked through another portal. This time I didn't close my eyes. I expected to see something like a tunnel—in fact, anything that might resemble a wormhole or a door surrounded by kaleidoscope colors—but apart from the static in the air that made my hair rise, there was nothing. One moment we were on one side, and the next we were on the other. I scanned the new area, surprised to see yet more snow. I wondered whether Cass's phone had malfunctioned again and t
he portal had spit us out in the same spot as before until I saw smoke rising from a chimney in the distance.

  "Well done, Cass," Thrain said. His praise sounded genuine. Cass beamed and punched some more on her phone until the hip-high snow cleared away, leaving a clear path in front of us that led to the miniature of a medieval mansion with beautiful, little towers and bay windows. I craned my neck to get a better view. The sun reflected in the thick glass, making it impossible to peer inside, but I could make out pink curtains with lace and flower details. The wooden door looked massive; I doubted two men would be able to kick it in. In New York, it would cost a fortune.

  "Wow," Thrain whispered. I thought he was just as impressed as I was until he continued, his words baffling me. "Poor Patricia. This place is a fortress indeed." It didn't look like one to me. More of a nice holiday resort, and an inviting one at that, what with the wooden sign advertising MAGIC CUPCAKES.

  Cass knocked on the huge brass lion doorknocker. A moment later, a girl around my age opened. Her smile froze on her lips as she peered from Cass to Thrain and then back to Cass, paying me no attention at all. I stared at her red hair, milky complexion and the stunning green eyes. If it wasn't for her larger bosom, rounder hips and less freckles, I could have sworn she was Cass's twin.

  "You're kidding me. What do I own the pleasure of yet another visit from you?" the girl asked. Her voice betrayed her surprise, but also wariness. Her eyes sparkled, though I wasn't sure whether with joy or malice.

  "Oh, shut up, Patty. Let us in. We're freezing to death in this forsaken part of the world," Cass said, pushing past her. "It's not even on Google Maps."

  I hesitated, unsure whether to follow, until the girl heaved an exaggerated sigh and motioned us to come in.

  "Thank you," I mumbled.

  "I'm Patricia," she said, closing the door behind us. "And you are?"

  "Oh, for crying out loud. You're a Seer. You should know who she is." Cass rolled her eyes and slipped out of her coat, tossing it toward Patricia. "And since we're talking jobs and skills here, when we last met you could have told me Dallas was about to die. I know I would've done it if the roles were reversed."

  "I'm sorry. The pictures in my head weren't clear enough to interpret the message," Patricia said uncomfortably.

  "Whatever. Water under the bridge, mate. This is Sofia. She's helping out." Cass grabbed my arm and led me into a huge kitchen with walls made of stone and huge hearths. I looked around, sweat starting to pour down my back from the heat. Fires were lapping at wood logs hungrily. On the left side were large trays with pastries, muffins and cakes, their delicious aroma tickling my nose. My stomach rumbled in response, reminding me I hadn't eaten in a long time. I wondered whether it'd be rude to ask whether I could buy something. Thank goodness I didn't need to. Patricia set desert plates on the gigantic oak table to our right and pointed at the chairs. Cass slumped down and I followed suit, albeit shyly. Pushing his chair closer, Thrain sat down next to me, his arm brushing mine.

  "You're still mad, aren't you?" Cass said, eyeing the tray of hot muffins Patricia pulled out of an oversized oven.

  "What do you think?" she said through gritted teeth. "Your boyfriend almost killed me."

  "Get a grip, Patty. It was an accident. I told you, like, a million times it was that curse of yours that made him want to strangle you when you opened to door and stepped out." Cass turned toward me and rolled her eyes as though I knew what she was talking about.

  "Please, help yourself. And whatever you do, don't open the kitchen door. My curse says I mustn't leave this house, or else I'm dead. Last time, Cass forgot that tiny detail. We wouldn't want another accident." Patricia shot Cass a meaningful glare before placing a plate with muffins in front of us, then went about pouring us huge mugs with a clear liquid that looked like water but smelled much sweeter. I took a tentative sip and let it roll over my tongue. It tasted sweet and flowery, and almost as good as the hot blueberry muffins.

  "Elderberry," Thrain said. "I loved it as a kid."

  I forced myself to swallow down the chunk in my mouth before replying. "It's great. Where did you learn to make this?"

  Patricia took the seat opposite from me and shrugged. "I didn't. It's my curse. I'm stuck in this place forever—or until the guy I'm meant to be with turns up."

  "Since you can't even find this place on Google Maps, she'll probably have to go with forever," Cass said.

  Patricia nodded grimly.

  I placed my second, half-eaten muffin aside, though not out of reach since I very much intended to finish it. My cheeks turned hot before I even uttered the thought that bothered me ever since meeting Cass's aunt. "Sorry if I sound rude but you look like you're the same age."

  Patricia grinned, and for the first time I noticed the tiny dimples in her chubby cheeks. I had thought her pretty, but smiling she was downright gorgeous. She ran a hand through her red mane. "Well, it's a complicated story. See, she's Lucifer's daughter." She pointed at Cass, who nodded. I felt my eyes widen but didn't comment. Patricia continued, "Like Lucifer, I'm a fallen angel, which makes him my brother because we share the same creator." She raised her gaze to the sky. I followed her line of vision, almost expecting the ceiling to burst open so we would catch a glimpse at Heaven. Of course, nothing happened.

  "Get on with it, Patty," Cass said, drumming her nails on the table.

  "Don't rush me. When do I ever get to talk to people, who actually know what I'm talking about?" She beamed at me. I didn't want to point out that I had no idea what she was going on about. Instead, I let her continue. "Anyway, I wasn't part of the plan. I mean, Heaven and Hell have two Seers already. But some moron invented the legend of three Seers, so for thousands of years everyone who passed into Heaven kept asking to see the third Seer, which really started to piss off the creator to the point that He decided to make a third eighteen years ago. Cass was born a day later, which makes us the same age. You probably have a million questions now."

  I raised my brows, my mind still churning the details. Yep, I had lots of questions, but they had nothing to do with her. What did God look like? What was He like? Did every deceased soul get to talk to Him?

  "Any questions? Don't be shy," Patricia said.

  I strained my mind to come up with something that involved her and was very proud of myself when it did. "How were you created exactly?"

  Patricia tapped a finger against her chin, thinking. "Uh, can't really remember. Must have slipped my mind. Anything else you wanna know?"

  "What's God like?" I blurted out.

  "Can't tell you," Patricia said.

  I frowned. "Why not?"

  She waved her left hand about. "Because we have rules and I'm not breaking them."

  "Fair enough." I nodded, slightly disappointed. I mean, what was the big deal? She could at least give me a hint or two.

  "You'll meet Him soon enough," Patricia whispered.

  My head shot up. "What?"

  "She's an idiot," Cass said, patting my hand. I regarded Patricia intently, but she turned away, hiding the expression on her face. My heart started to hammer in my chest. A Seer's someone who can foretell the future. I wondered whether she had just made a general remark or whether she saw my imminent death. Now that wasn't a promising outlook.

  "She's actually the second most useless Seer I've ever met," Cass said, pouring herself more elderberry juice.

  "Who's the most useless?" Thrain asked, amused.

  "My aunt Krista. That lot couldn't predict the future if her life depended on it." Cass downed the glass in one big gulp and placed it back on the table. Her face turned dead serious, and I knew she was about to disclose why we came here. "Hey, Patty, what do you know about voodoo?"

  Patricia blinked, taken aback. "What I've seen on TV, like piercing needles into a doll and falling into a trance with your eyes rolling back while talking with a weird voice in an ancient language."

  Whoa, was that what would happen to me? I swallowed past the sudden
lump in my throat. I thought being a witch meant brewing the odd love potion and speaking out a curse or two.

  "That's not voodoo. It's called being possessed," Thrain said, still grinning.

  "Oh." She nodded. "Right. Okay, then it's just the needles and the doll. And I remember something about chicken and blood, but that's gross."

  Cass smirked. "And there I thought you might actually know something useful, like how to help a voodoo priestess get in touch with her powers."

  "Is she one?" Patricia jumped up from her seat and walked around the table, stopping behind me. I felt her smooth hands on my shoulders, then on my cheeks and on my shoulders again. "I can feel her powers. She has been marked."

  I held my breath, waiting for her to reveal more, but she remained quiet.

  "By what? And shouldn't you have seen that the moment she entered your property?" Cass asked, impatiently.

  Patricia's hands remained glued to my shoulders as she whispered, "By something very powerful." I felt Thrain's sudden tension. It passed on to me as though we were the same being. Words unspoken hovered at the back of my mind. I knew they were his, I could almost grasp their meaning and yet they kept slipping my perception.

  "Could you be more specific?" Cass asked, irritated.

  Patricia shook her head. "That's about as far as my powers go. Ask me in a few days when I turn eighteen and I might be able to help more."

  Cass scoffed. "That's awesome news, particularly since we don't have any time to spare. Dallas is dead in less than a week unless we can figure out how to unleash her powers."

  "Give me some credit," Patricia snapped, her eyes sparkling. "At least I can tell you something. What was it again you can do?" Someone definitely had a short temper. She looked so pissed off, I almost expected her to start smashing dishes. I peered at Thrain, my gaze begging him to intervene so disaster wouldn't unfold, but he just leaned back, grinning. Something in his eyes triggered a memory in me—darkness and the presence of something unnatural and scary, a cold sensation, then searing pain.

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