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Shadow blood, p.8
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       Shadow Blood, p.8

           Jayde Scott
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  “What do you see?” Kieran whispered somewhere behind me.

  I shook my head. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I didn’t bother to wipe them away. “Death. A secret that will cost someone’s life.”

  Kieran’s hands wrapped around my shoulders and he forced me to face him. I turned but the visions in my head kept me captive, unable to see him. Pictures of blood, darkness, fire, ice, war, many different faces I knew and didn’t know, some of which I loved, others I hated, continued to scroll before my eyes.

  And then there was just darkness and destruction.

  “Who’s dying?” he asked quietly.

  “All of us.” My knees buckled beneath me as I slumped into his arms, unconscious.

  Chapter 15


  The light of the waxing moon could barely penetrate the pitch-black late evening. Knowing her way around, Elyssa zigzagged through the deserted streets at a hasty speed, turning corners and taking shortcuts, as though to shake off a possible pursuer. Every now and then she peered over her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t being followed. I figured that was enough proof that she had something to hide. I trailed behind her at a good distance, keeping in the shadows so she wouldn’t notice my presence. For some reason I expected her to lead me to the vial’s hiding place or return to the dime store. She stayed off the main road until she reached the marketplace and the booths, which were already closed for the night, and then turned in the opposite direction from her shop.

  “Where’s she going?” I muttered under my breath. And that’s when I saw the large building with the marble pillars. Elyssa walked past the heavy mahogany doors with beautiful reliefs and an inscription marking the Council court. With a last glance over her shoulder, she walked around the building and disappeared inside. Slowly I counted to five, then took off after her.

  To my surprise, the side entrance was locked but not protected by magic. A flick of my wrist was enough to force the lock open. In this instance Morganefaire’s rules seemed quite simple: whoever had something to hide protected an entrance by magic; for everyone else a lock and a key sufficed. Or so I thought. But what was she doing here? Elyssa wasn’t a member of the Council, so why would she have a key? My best guess was that maybe she needed another dead seer from the morgue, now that we had disposed of hers, so she must’ve stolen a key.

  I expected the building to be empty, but I still had to blend in with the darkness, just in case. Thankfully I still wore Julie’s hideous, black outfit. I tied my wavy brown hair into a knot at the back of my nape and entered. The moment the door closed behind me the faint scent of incense and candles hit my nostrils. Why would anyone lit candles in the basement of the Council building at night? I guessed it was a witch thing, one more mystery to solve. Following the scent, I crossed the narrow corridor in a few long strides and climbed down the stairs to the basement, past the morgue. I closed my eyes for a moment. This was the place where I saw Julie’s body when we first visited the Council court, which reminded me I hadn’t seen her in a while. I had grown to like her during my short stay in Morganefaire. She was a lovely girl...a little annoying...but a good friend. I wondered where she was as I made my way past the door. Forcing my brain to focus, I kept walking for a while, then stopped at the crossroads where the corridors branched out.

  The naked stonewalls and long corridors seemed to stretch on forever. With just the odd light bulb, it was as dark and gloomy as a dungeon. Turn left or right? During the night my brother and I met to steal the jewels and he got lost in the woods, I took a few right turns and promptly ended up winning the necromancy prize in a paranormal race. A prize I’d give back in a heartbeat—if only the Lore court would let me. Call me superstitious, but the direction ‘right’ didn’t bring me much luck. The scent seemed to come from both directions, so I turned left. The corridor continued for another fifty feet and then ended in a wide cavern with musky walls and no light.

  Countless bottles of wine—or so I assumed—covered in a thick layer of dust were neatly arranged in a rack. It must be the wine cellar. I had taken the wrong turn and wasted precious seconds. Crap. Irritated by my twisted logic, I re-trod my steps and chose the opposite way. This one twisted and turned a few times, but eventually it led me through another door, down a flight of stairs, into an open space with tall pillars propping a high ceiling. The scent of incense seemed more pronounced here. I could even make out notes of lavender and myrrh, which were about the only two herbs I recognized. Murmurs—too low to make out any words—echoed from nearby. Minding my steps, I tiptoed across the vast space and stopped to listen, my heart hammering in my ears. Whatever was going on, I could only hope it involved prayers for the dead and I wasn’t disrupting some creepy ritual. Unfortunately, my gut feeling told me it was the latter. But marching in there was my only chance to find out what Elyssa was up to and where she hid the vial, so I turned a sharp corner, then hid behind a broad pillar to watch the scene before me.

  The large, cave-like room was lit by flickering candles casting moving shadows across the stonewalls. Several people were gathered around an altar that looked just like the one in the morgue. Their backs were turned away from me, but I recognized Elyssa’s honey locks and confident stance instantly. With the werewolf gone, she was back to her poised self, mistress of any situation. My anger flared. My heart urged me to storm in there and break a few bones until I found the one responsible for Aidan’s pain. But the time hadn’t come yet. Not before I got hold of the witch’s blood.

  My gaze focused on the altar and the frail body of a girl—a low-level seer I assumed—sitting on top of it with bones of all sizes scattered under her feet. Her eyes were white; her mouth hung slightly open. Just like the one I ‘saved’ from Elyssa’s basement, she was dead, kept alive by Elyssa’s will, her head moving awkwardly as if pulled by invisible strings. I shuddered, unable to stifle the feeling of disgust at what they were doing to the dead. My gaze wandered to the girl’s scrawny fingers holding a beautiful white bowl made of what looked like carved ebony that seemed to shimmer in the scant light. Inside, the water twirled in a lazy circle while the girl’s thin, blood-stained lips contorted as she spoke out the same words over and over again in a soundless tone.

  “She’s useless,” a male voice said. My head snapped to the tall guy whose face was obscured by darkness as my brain kicked into motion. The voice seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. “Give her the ring,” he demanded.

  Elyssa nodded and pulled out a box from her pocket, then opened it and held it up to him. The soft glow of the candles caught in the old gold and let the usually emerald green stone sparkle like a black onyx.

  Aidan’s tracker ring.

  I knew all along Elyssa stole it, but having my suspicions confirmed made me blind with anger, not least because the person who stole the ring also hurt my boyfriend. It was time to hurt them back. Before I could stop myself, a low growl escaped my throat. I lowered myself to one knee, ready to lunge at them and get back what was ours, when one of the gathered people turned and sniffed the air, his black and yellow eyes almost swallowing up the light.

  “She’s here,” Brendan said, grinning. He tossed his cape to the ground to reveal the grip of a dagger firmly planted in his chest. I swallowed hard as I stared at the blood staining his shirt. Someone must’ve hurt him. When his face contorted into a sickening, hideous smile and he started to pull out the knife, the thought entered my head that maybe he hurt himself on purpose; maybe he enjoyed pain. The knife landed with a loud clack at his feet. He kicked it across the room with his boot and let out a guttural growl.

  Everyone’s head snapped in my direction. My heart pounded hard. I wasn’t scared of taking on a big, bad werewolf on steroids, or a few witches. But both at the same time—uh, not so much. I was so flipping screwed. Before I could even blink, Brendan charged toward me. The same instant strong arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me into a twirling sense of nothingness. My stomach hurled as Brendan and the
room disappeared from my line of vision.

  Chapter 16

  A moment later, my vision returned and I realized I was standing in the hall of our guest quarters, in front of Aidan’s bedroom. Blake’s arm was still wrapped around my waist, leaving no doubt that he had been the one to save me…yet again.

  “Thanks,” I said, putting some distance between us. “How did you find me?”

  “You’re a smart girl,” Blake said. “The moment I realized you weren’t at Aidan’s bedside, I knew you had to be following a good lead. Given that I’ve been watching each Council member for weeks and knew they’d strike before the Blue Moon, I figured you were out searching for clues. I smelled the werewolf in our midst and followed his scent straight to the Council building. And imagine my surprise when I saw you snooping around.”

  I nodded, thankful. Any doubts I had about him washed away. Of course he wouldn’t betray us. He was one of Aidan’s brethren and, in spite of his and Aidan’s issues, he still cared about his friend. I felt horrible for thinking of him badly, and yet I had to ask one last question to put my mind at ease. “Where have you been? Kieran and Logan have been looking for you everywhere.”

  He grimaced the same way Aidan did when he worried. For someone as composed as Blake, someone who never showed his emotions, this was bad. I braced myself for the worst as I asked, “Okay, what’s wrong? You’re being weird.” Had the Council found out he was a vampire? I figured that was about the worst thing that could happen because, once Morganefaire turned against him, we stood no chance getting their support in the upcoming war.

  He hesitated briefly, as if considering whether to share his thoughts with me, or not. And then his dark eyes focused on me and a glint of fear shimmered in them. “Rebecca’s back, and this time for good.”

  My mouth went dry. An icy shudder ran down my arms and back. “How do you know?”

  “A family was killed in the nearby woods.”

  “That doesn’t mean it was her doing.”

  Blake shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. There’s no doubt it was her. She literally slaughtered them in a way only she could’ve: she ripped the woman’s heart out of her chest. I heard it on the news so I went to investigate and picked up her scent. It was definitely her.”

  “That’s bad news,” I whispered. “I thought she possessed Maya.”

  “She might have,” Blake said. “Right before she killed her.”

  I thought back to the young witch who greeted us at the gates upon our arrival. She might’ve looked weak but, being possessed by Rebecca, her strength had increased considerably. Could she have knocked me over the head inside Bells, Books & Candles, and then teleported me onto the wall to get rid of me? I shuddered at the thought, not least because I knew it was true. Rebecca was our enemy, and she hated my guts, even though she didn’t even know me. Dead or not, she had been hell-bent on messing with my sanity and everything I loved, including my relationship with Aidan. What would she do once she regained her physical body and strength?

  “So she’s back in the land of the living. How’s that even possible?”

  “She’s found the last shard of the mirror,” Blake said gravely.

  The one she stole from us. I swallowed hard. For a few seconds, I remained quiet as my mind fought to grasp the magnitude of his words. Our worst enemy had risen from the dead. Not only was Rebecca Aidan’s crazy master and ex, reminding me she was once in a relationship with him, but she also had every reason to try to destroy us. Him because he killed her. And me, who knows. As a spirit, she haunted me and I could have dealt with that, but having her back, I figured I might be better off packing my bags and running for the nearest hills…not that I’d be safe there. I was the most optimistic person I knew, but with Aidan ill, all shards of the mirror found and Aidan’s tracker ring gone, the Council against us, and Brendan wanting to chew off a few of my limbs, it was getting kind of hard not to feel dragged down a teensy bit. If only Aidan was well again, then at least he would’ve known what to do. I never felt so shattered in my life. That’s when I realized Blake might not even know the full extent of the disaster we were in.

  “Aidan’s not doing so well.” My heart hurt so much, I almost choked on my words.

  “I know.” His burnished dark eyes flickered. “I came as quickly as I could.” He opened the door to the bedroom and let me enter first, then closed it behind us with a silent click.

  My gaze fell on Aidan’s sleeping figure and Kieran’s worried gaze. He stood from his seat near the window to greet Blake then gave me a short hug. From his exhausted and shattered impression I understood that Aidan’s condition had taken a turn for the worse. Tentatively I moved over to Aidan and sat down on his bed next to him, then leaned forward to plant a soft kiss on his damp forehead.

  “Hey,” I whispered. He didn’t react. His cheek burned under my cold touch. His breathing came in raspy heaps. His chest barely moved beneath the thin covers.

  “The poison’s spreading fast,” Kieran said.

  I choked back unshed tears as I turned to Blake. “He needs your blood.”

  “We need to get him to safety,” Blake said. “There’s nothing I can do for him here.”

  I was floored by his words. Aidan could be dead by the time we got him anywhere. We needed to act now. And that’s when it hit me...Blake was stalling. But why? I blinked several times. “But you gave him your blood a long time ago. Why not do it again now that his life depends on it?”

  Blake shook his head. “A war’s about to start. If I break the rules now, the whole city will rise against us. They’ll kill us all before the night’s over.” I understood—or at least tried to understand—his concern, and yet I couldn’t help the sudden disappointment washing over me. No idea what I actually expected. That Blake was more powerful than he let on? That he’d provide a list of possible solutions to all of our problems? Running away sounded so easy, and that’s exactly what he had done so far. My mind recalled Seth’s words. Blake was useless. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that his reasons where nothing but lame excuses.

  “They’ll kill us before the night’s over?” Kieran snorted. “I’d rather die trying than sit here and do nothing!”

  “And that’s your problem,” Blake said. “You’re not calm and collected like Aidan. Luckily for all of us, I am. You’re a wild card and that could cost us our lives so as long as Aidan’s not well, you keep that temper of yours under control before it boils over and brings us nothing but trouble.”

  Blake had a point, but I could see from Kieran’s flared nostrils and the way his hands clenched into fists that he didn’t agree. “That’s my brother we’re talking about...and your best friend. How can you be so cold? So heartless?”

  “I’m not cold. You know I love Aidan as much as you do,” Blake said.

  “Then prove it,” I said, ready to side with Kieran for a change.

  “If Aidan were awake, he’d agree with me and you know it,” Blake said.

  He wasn’t going to budge. Arguing with him was pointless…and yet I had to try one last time. My fingers wrapped around Blake’s hand. “Please.” My voice came low and hoarse, imploring. He was my last chance. I wouldn’t let him go without trying my best to convince him. “Aidan will die without your blood.”

  Blake took a sharp breath, avoiding my desperate gaze. And then something else dawned on me. It wasn’t just about the war. There was something else he didn’t tell me.

  “I can’t,” he whispered.

  “Why?” My voice trembled.

  “Amber.” He hesitated briefly before turning to face me. There was pain in his eyes. Worry. Dread. And then he just said it. “After centuries of feeding, my blood’s diluted and there’s barely any magic left coursing through it. Believe me, I wish I could help, but it’d probably do him more harm than good.”

  I nodded before my mind could wrap around the meaning of his words. I knew that Blake needed to feed regularly, but it never occurred to me that i
t might damage his warlock powers. It was a stupid idea, but part of me wanted to implore him to try nonetheless because maybe it might work after all.

  “Thank you for telling me,” I said. He nodded grimly in response.

  For a few long moments there was uncomfortable silence. Kieran broke it first. “Did you find out anything useful?”

  I nodded. “Yeah, and you’re not going to believe it.”

  “Tell me.” His voice wasn’t commanding as much as it was emotional. I could tell he was terrified at the thought of losing his brother.

  Kieran’s eyes widened as I went on to explain the scene we just watched in the Council dungeon and also filled him in on the happenings in front of the warehouse. I thought nothing could unsettle a McAllister brother but he was obviously thrown for a loop.

  “I’m going to rip her to shreds!” Kieran roared.

  I grabbed his shoulders, ready to shake sense into him if need be, and forced him to meet my gaze. “Listen to me. You’ll do no such thing. Not until we figure this all out. Hurting them all was my first reaction as well but Brendan’s strong and he has too many people on his side.”

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