Spellbound, p.1Part #12 of Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
Table of Contents
about the author
BOOKS BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG
The Otherworld Series
Dime Store Magic
No Humans Involved
Living with the Dead
Waking the Witch
The Nadia Stafford Series
Made to Be Broken
The Darkest Powers Series
The Darkness Rising Series
Men of the Otherworld
Tales of the Otherworld
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.); Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England; Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd); Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd); Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India; Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd); Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, July 2011
Copyright (c) 2011 by KLA Fricke, Inc.
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK--MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
has been applied for
ISBN : 978-1-10153547-9
Set in Sabon
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
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Thanks to my incredible editorial team: Carrie Thornton at Dutton, Anne Collins of Random House Canada, Antonia Hodgson of Orbit, and my agent, Helen Heller.
As always, I'm indebted to my beta readers: Ang Yan Ming, Xaviere Daumarie, Terri Giesbrecht, Raina Toomey, and Danielle Wegner. Thanks again, guys!
He watched the girl stumble from the motel office, room key glinting under the harsh lights of the parking lot. Lightning flashed, illuminating her figure. Tall and slender, barely more than a teen, too young to be out alone in a place like this, on a night like this.
Thunder rumbled and crashed. The parking lot lights flickered and buzzed. Sheets of ice-cold rain battered the girl. She kept walking, oblivious, as her long hair whipped against her face.
She paid no attention to the storm. No attention to the dark. No attention to him, standing across the road, watching.
So young. So confident. So foolish.
The girl stopped at her room and jammed the key into the lock. When it didn't work the first time, she cast an unlock spell. The door swung open. She staggered inside.
So young. So powerful. And, at this moment, so broken.
Perhaps he could use that.
The girl had just solved the murders of three young women in a nearby town. On the surface, the deaths were unremarkable. Humans killed one another all the time. As it turned out, the first two fit the usual pattern--pointless deaths, tragic for a few, meaningless to everyone else. The third was different. She'd been killed by a half-demon spirit, escaped from her hell dimension. A mere shade should not be able to do such a thing. But the half-demon had help, powerful help, and her escape was yet another sign that what he'd foreseen was inevitable.
For years, mortal supernaturals had whispered about signs and portents. The impossible becoming possible. Humans learning magic. New races evolving within a generation. Bitten werewolves passing their genes to their offspring. A clairvoyant of unsurpassed power, born from a dead mother. As one who had observed for millennia, he knew these were not new occurrences. Merely rare. Yet with so many in quick succession, even the demonic and the celestial had taken note. Some believed. Others did not, but saw opportunity in the growing unrest.
Now mortal supernaturals who believed the signs were coalescing under one man. A man with a dream that could change the world. Or destroy it. The demonic and the celestial took note of that, too. They whispered. They conspired. They chose a side.
The girl in the motel room knew nothing of this. She'd sent the half-demon shade back to her hell and considered the matter closed, except for the details that obsessed her now, ones that had nothing to do with the gathering storm.
Before the half-demon shade was banished from the living world, she'd exacted revenge by telling the authorities who'd killed the first two young women--the mother of one. It had been accidental. A struggle, the gun goes off. It concerned him not at all. But it did concern the girl in the motel room. She'd been the one who learned the truth. The half-demon shade simply acted on her findings. Now the girl couldn't stop thinking about the woman she'd inadvertently sent to prison. Couldn't stop thinking about the child, alone now, mother dead, grandmother accused of her murder.
It mattered not a whit in the larger scheme of things. In a few days, the girl in the motel room would be swept into the maelstrom brewing in the supernatural world. She would play a role. A critical role. A dangerous role.
Now inside the
Thank God for my spells, he heard her think.
She paused then and images flickered through her mind. Images of the accused woman and the orphaned child. Of the girl's own mother and father, whose long-ago deaths she felt responsible for. Of a man she'd begun to care for, killed by the half-demon shade.
Guilt. Anguish. Despair.
Then a clear thought. If I could fix even one thing, and give Kayla back her grandmother, I'd gladly give up my powers.
He smiled. Yes, he could definitely use that.
Sitting cross-legged on my motel bed in the dark, I cast my light ball spell for the twentieth time. As I recited the incantation, I waited for the mental click that told me it had worked. When that didn't come, I opened my eyes, still expecting to see the glowing ball floating over my fingers. It didn't matter that I hadn't seen it the first nineteen times. It was a damned light ball spell, so simple I usually didn't even need to finish the incantation before it worked.
The room stayed dark.
On a chair by the bed, Adam mumbled and shifted in his sleep. Adam Vasic, Exustio half-demon, the guy I'd been in love with since I was twelve, now my best friend. He'd followed me when I took off in a tantrum of guilt and grief, snuck into my motel room, and quietly fell asleep.
He was close to waking now, and even my whispered incantations had him fussing. He needed sleep, not more of my angst, so I slid from the room.
I stepped outside. It was a wet spring night, the earlier storm gone, whipping winds and a bone-chilling cold left behind. I walked over to Adam's Jeep, parked beside my vintage Triumph motorcycle. I peered through the back of his vehicle, in case I'd left a sweater there. All I could see was his duffel bag, and I didn't want to break in and go through his stuff, which was proof that I really wasn't myself tonight.
A soda machine glowed across the motel lot. I wasn't thirsty, but I had change in my pocket and it gave me a destination. After sloshing through one puddle in the dark, I didn't bother trying to avoid the rest, just trudged along, icy water soaking my sneakers.
When gravel crackled to my left, I spun and spotted a shape darting behind the motel. Which reminded me . . . besides losing my spells, I was also the target of a witch-hunter. Apparently she'd found me again.
I glanced toward my room. I should get Adam. Without my powers, I was--
Powerless? Hardly. I was six feet tall and in great shape. The witch-hunter was a scrawny mouse of a girl, barely an adult, barely five-foot-five, with no apparent supernatural powers.
I took another step, careful now, and instinctively started whispering a sensing spell under my breath. Then I stopped.
Do it the old-fashioned way. Look and listen.
I did, but couldn't hear anything. Peering around the corner didn't help. Then gravel crunched overhead.
On the roof. A trick she'd pulled before. I should have been prepared.
I looked around. There had to be a fire escape or trash bins I could climb--
A loud noise sent me spinning, back to the wall, hands lifted for a spell. Tires squealed as a car roared past the motel.
I looked down at my fingers, still outstretched, ready to cast. I inhaled sharply and clenched my fists.
What if she did have a gun? Sure, I knew some martial arts, but I was no black belt. I'd learned grudgingly, knowing my spells were better than any roundhouse kick.
I'd love to bring this kid down on my own, but the important thing was to stop her before she targeted another witch. Time to get backup.
I was two doors from my room when a hand clamped on my shoulder. I spun, fingers flying up in a useless knockback spell.
It was a man, a huge guy, at least three hundred pounds and a few inches taller than me. Beard stubble covered his fleshy face. He smelled like he'd showered in Jack Daniel's.
"You got a dollar?" he said. "I'm hungry." He pointed at the vending machine. "I don't got a dollar."
"Neither do I," I said.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me, his other arm going around my waist as he pulled me against him. I froze. Just froze, my brain stuttering through all the spells I couldn't cast, refusing to offer any alternatives.
"Let her go," said a familiar voice.
Adam walked over, hands at his sides, fingers glowing faintly, gaze fixed on the man. I snapped to my senses and elbow-jabbed the guy, who fell back, whining, "I just wanted a dollar."
Adam is my height and well built, but he's no muscle-bound bruiser. Still the guy shrunk, then slithered off to his room.
"Well, that was humiliating," I said. "Tell you what, I'll buy that new top for your Jeep if you promise never to tell anyone you rescued me from a drunk asking for spare change."
He didn't smile. Just studied me, then said, "Let's get inside."
"Can't. My little witch-hunter has returned. She's up on the roof. I was just coming in to get you for backup."
That gave him pause, but he only nodded, then peered up at the dark rooftop. "I'll go around the rear and climb up. You cover the front."
I should have warned him that I was spell-free. I really should have. I didn't.
A few minutes later, gravel crunched on the roof again and I tensed, but it was only Adam. He walked to the front, hunkered down, and motioned me over.
"No sign of her," he whispered. "But I can't see shit. Can you toss up a light ball?"
"Is there a flashlight in the Jeep?" I asked. "That'd be easier."
"Sure." He dropped the keys into my hand. "Glove box."
I retrieved the flashlight, but it didn't help. The girl was gone.
"Lot of ground to cover," Adam said after he'd climbed off the roof. "It's all farm fields behind the motel. My guess is she parked on a nearby road. We'll split up. You've got your light ball and I have the flashlight."
I let him get a few paces away before I said, "I don't have my light ball."
"My spells," I said. "They're . . . gone."
"Shit." He paused. "That damned poison." I'd been having spell problems for a few days, after being poisoned. "Okay, come on."
We'd barely set out when the whine of a car engine sounded to the west. It stopped, then started again.
Adam smiled. "Someone doesn't have a four-by-four. Got herself stuck in the mud."
We broke into a jog, but before we got close the engine roared as the car broke free. A flash of brake lights. Then darkness as the car tore away, headlights off.
"She'll be back," Adam said.
"I don't want to wait. We need to go after her."
"And we will, after you've paid another visit to Dr. Lee to find out why the hell that poison isn't out of your system yet."
I stopped walking. "It's not the poison. My spells were working fine earlier."
"And you've lost them again because you should still be in the hospital, recuperating." He put his arm around my shoulders, propelling me forward. "You're going back to--"
"My spells aren't weak. They're gone. I . . . I gave them up."
"Last night, I said I'd give my powers to undo what happened with Kayla. The Fates must have taken me up on it."
"How? You can't just make a wish and have it come true." He squeezed my shoulder. "Let's go inside and get some rest, then head over to Dr. Lee--"
I pulled from his grip. "Don't patronize me, Adam."
Hints of amber sparked in his brown eyes. He got his temper under control before opening his mouth, and when he did, his tone was low, words measured.
"I'm not patronizing you, Savannah. I'm trying to calm you down and get you inside so you can think rationally."
"Yes, rationally. You had spell blackouts because you were poisoned. Now your spells are gone again, and you insist it's not the poison, but a wish you made because you're feeling shitty about what happened in C
"I know it sounds crazy--"
"You've got an assassin on your trail, Savannah, and if your spells are on the fritz--"
"They aren't on the fritz. They're gone. I can feel it. My powers--" My voice cracked. "They're gone."
He reached out, as if he wanted to hug me, but only gripped my upper arms, thumbs rubbing, comforting me at arm's length. The back of my throat ached. I wanted that hug. Needed that hug. Any other time, I'd have gotten it, one friend comforting another. But it was as if something had changed after Columbus, and this was all he could offer.
I stepped back and his hands fell to his sides. Spots of color touched his cheeks as he awkwardly shoved his hands into his pockets.
"Okay," he said. "Well, I think you're wrong. You're still very upset and you're--"
His gaze met mine. "No, I think you have every reason to be upset. You feel responsible for what happened--even if you aren't--and this is your way of punishing yourself." He lifted his hands against my protest. "But there's an easy way to settle it. You said you offered the bargain to set Paula free. So, let's go back to Columbus and see what's happened."
Columbus, Washington, is about an hour over the border from Portland, the city we call home. My bosses--former guardians--Paige Winterbourne and Lucas Cortez were on vacation in Hawaii, and Adam had been away at a conference, so I'd gone to Columbus alone to investigate the murder of three young women, and had left five dead bodies in my wake. None of them died at my hands, but with the exception of Tiffany Radu--a witch killed by the hunter--all would still be alive if I had never set foot in Columbus.
It had been a setup. Leah O'Donnell, a half-demon from my past, had escaped her hell dimension and convinced a necromancer to zap her into the body of a young PI our firm had worked with before. She'd killed the third victim, Claire Kennedy, and staged it to look like the work of the same person who'd murdered Ginny Thompson and Brandi Degas months earlier. Then she'd added occult overtones to bring me to Columbus to investigate.
Leah hadn't even wanted me. She'd only wanted to get close enough to lower my defenses, and poison me, then call my mother. My dead mother. Who somehow had the power to keep Leah out of hell. I had no idea how, just as I had no idea how Leah managed to escape. It's like Adam said about my "bargain"--even in our supernatural world, stuff like that doesn't happen. But it had.
Spellbound by Kelley Armstrong / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes