Fragile Spirits, p.1Mary Lindsey
ALSO BY MARY LINDSEY:
Ashes on the Waves
Published by The Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
A Penguin Random House Company
Copyright © 2014 by Mary Lindsey.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lindsey, Mary, 1963–
Fragile spirits / Mary Lindsey.
Companion book to: Shattered souls.
Summary: “Paul has been training his whole life to be a Protector. Together he
and his assigned Speaker will help lingering souls move from our world to the next.
But no amount of training has prepared him for Vivienne—a Speaker with hot pink hair, piercings, and a blatant disregard for rules”—Provided by publisher.
[1. Ghosts—Fiction. 2. Future life—Fiction. 3. Supernatural—Fiction. 4. Love—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.L6613Fr 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013012761
TO EMILY LINDSEY
I didn’t take my eyes off you.
Not even for a second.
ALSO BY MARY LINDSEY
He died as he had lived, with unmentionable wickedness on his lips—a sad spectacle of depravity, unwept and unregretted by all!
Thomas North on Nicaragua Smith from Five Years in Texas, 1871
21st-Century Cycle, Journal Entry 1:
I have been instructed to keep a journal of my Speaker’s progress for this cycle in order to track her/his preferences and trends to carry over into our future lifetimes together. I await my assignment with great excitement.
Paul Blackwell—Protector 993
Do you know the answer, Mr. Blackwell?” Ms. Mueller tapped her pencil on the grade book laid open on her podium.
I didn’t know the answer. I hadn’t even heard the question. Ever since Charles had told me I’d meet my Speaker tomorrow, I couldn’t concentrate. I cleared my throat. “I’m sorry. No.”
Lenzi shot me a sympathetic look over her shoulder as Ms. Mueller smirked and marked her grade book. This was the second time this class period she’d caught me not paying attention. I’d always been an exceptional student, but the thought of being paired up at last with my Speaker made it impossible to focus. Charles would be furious if I made a bad grade after he’d fought so hard to get me into this exclusive private school in the middle of the year. More than that, I would be furious if I made a bad grade.
“Mr. Thomas?” Ms. Mueller crooned. She loved Alden. He always knew the answers to her questions about the American Civil War.
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Of course he knew the answers. He’d lived one of his past lives during the Civil War. It hardly seemed fair.
It was strange to see Alden in a regular classroom. Instead of his usual black, he wore a preppy school uniform complete with starched white shirt and navy blue blazer. I was used to seeing him in his role as Protector 438. We’d trained together at Wilkingham Academy since we were ten or so until two years ago, when I turned fifteen and Charles pulled me out to be his apprentice.
Lenzi slumped in her desk while, to Ms. Mueller’s delight, Alden described what events had led to the Battle of Whateverberg with perfect accuracy and in excruciating detail.
As if the air had been charged with electric current, my body came alive, causing the back of my neck to prickle. I gasped as fear crashed through me.
Alden stiffened and turned to face her.
From her podium, Ms. Mueller droned on to the class, unaware of the invisible danger that had entered her room.
Lenzi sat rigid in her chair, giving no physical indication of what was going on, but her emotions were a jumble of terror and confusion. She was under attack. Alden and I couldn’t hear it, but being Protectors, we could feel her reaction as if her emotions were our own.
A spirit was communicating with her, and unable to reveal her special abilities to “normal” people, she was hiding the event as best she could from our classmates.
This wasn’t an ordinary dead person she was dealing with. It was more than just a Hindered seeking her help for resolution. Her level of fear indicated it was a demon—a Malevolent.
She hissed a breath of air through her teeth and gripped the side of her desk like she was in pain. Alden slid sideways in his chair, preparing to rise. She jerked her arm down to her side, and crimson drops of blood splattered the beige linoleum floor. Terror still emanating from her, she grabbed her navy blazer from the back of her chair and slipped it on. She pressed her arm to her body and met Alden’s eyes. He rose.
“Mr. Thomas? Is something wrong?” Ms. Mueller asked.
He shot me a look as Lenzi stood. Her face paled, and she shook all over. Something was terribly wrong. Neither of us would be able to soul-share with her in front of so many people, so all I could do was wait for Alden’s cue. I’d been assigned to shadow the pair in case of an incident like this—in case he needed a second Protector to keep her alive.
“Mr. Thomas?” Ms. Mueller’s voice was shrill, but Alden’s eyes never left Lenzi’s face.
The bell rang, and our classmates scrambled to the door—the last-period-of-the-day-on-Friday excitement drowning out the bell and Ms. Mueller.
“Follow us, Paul,” Alden ordered, grabbing Lenzi’s backpack. He put his hand against the small of her back and guided her to the door, pressing into the mass of students and away from Ms. Mueller’s curious stare. Once clear and in the hallway, he pitched the backpack to me and scooped Lenzi up in his arms as if she weighed nothing. “Is it—”
“Yes,” she answered. “Smith is back.”
Alden buckled Lenzi into the center of the backseat of his car, slid in next to her, and tossed me the keys. “Your place is closest, Paul.”
I ran around the front of Alden’s Audi and started it without hesitation. This was what I’d been trained to do since I was ten: serve and protect the Speaker.
Before I could back out of the parking place, Lenzi’s fear spiked and shot through me, heightening my alertness.
“Is he here now?” Alden asked, shoving Lenzi’s backpack into his little sister’s empty toddler seat, which was on the other side of her.
“No,” Lenzi said, trembling. “I just freaked out because I didn’t expect him to come back so soon. You told me he wouldn’t. You said he couldn’t get this far away from where he died.”
“I didn’t think he could,” Alden replied. “He’s one tough demon.” He met my eyes in the rearview mirror
Foot still on the brake, I held my breath as Alden whispered, “Out.” His body went still, and his eyes glazed over. Lenzi shuddered and grabbed the back of my seat. His soul was in her body now, preventing the demon from possessing her.
Two souls in one body. As accustomed as I was to the concept, it still amazed me. I put the car in gear and backed out. “Are you okay, Lenzi?”
Still clutching the seat, she took a deep breath. “Yeah. I’m good. Alden wants me to tell you to call Race and step on it.”
Once I was away from the school and on the main road, I grabbed my phone from where I’d tossed it on the seat. Race was second on my list of “favorites,” though I couldn’t actually say he was one of my favorite people. He rubbed me the wrong way most of the time.
“What’s up, Junior?” he answered.
“You need to meet us at Charles’s house. Lenzi’s been hurt,” I said.
“How bad?” he asked.
“I don’t know. She’s bleeding from her arm.” I turned right and pulled up to the guard station at the entrance of my neighborhood.
“Sharing the Vessel,” I said, waving at the security guard, who stepped out of his station. He looked to be a billion years old and had never missed a day of work in the two years I’d lived here. I put the phone in my lap and lowered the window several inches, hoping he’d just wave me on once he knew it was me.
“New car, Paul?” he asked, taking off his cap to wipe his forehead with his sleeve.
Dang. He was going to be chatty. “No, sir. Belongs to a friend. And I have a visitor coming in a few minutes. His name is Race McLain. Please let him in.” I forced a smile and raised the window before he noticed Alden’s lifeless body buckled in the backseat. The windows of Alden’s car weren’t as tinted as mine, but at least the guy wouldn’t have a clear view. Part of our charge from the Intercessor Council was to not reveal our mission to people outside our world.
After giving me a thumbs-up, the guard returned to the station and the metal gates drew open.
“Hey, Junior,” Race’s voice called from my lap.
“What?” I shouted, raising the phone to my ear.
“Oooh. So aggressive. What’s the matter?”
“When you call me that, it makes me want to kick your ass.”
He laughed. “Why do you think I do it? See you in a few.”
“Really?” Lenzi said. “You’re worried about me getting blood on the seat?” Obviously, she was having a conversation with Alden who could talk to her when his soul was in her body. “Well, if it was really a joke, it wasn’t funny. And yeah, the bogeyman’s gone, so get out.”
Alden’s body reanimated as I pulled into the circular drive in front of the mansion. “What, no Batcave?” he asked, unbuckling.
“The garage opener is in my car back at the school.” Charles had had a spectacular garage added on to the house with a wall of high-tech surveillance gadgets fit for the king of geeks—or a first-class spy—whichever fit his mood that day. “We’ll have to enter like plebeians. Sorry.”
“Plebeians.” Lenzi snorted as we entered the double-height marble foyer, with its massive chandelier. “Someone’s been studying for the SAT. If I hadn’t just been hacked up by a bogeyman, I’d laugh.”
“Let’s do this in the kitchen,” I suggested, squeamish at the thought of getting blood on the white marble in the bathroom. Blood was not my thing. The kitchen counters were stainless steel and much easier to clean up. I led them out of the foyer into the first room on the left.
“Do you have supplies for stitches?” Alden asked as we passed through the dining room with its highly polished table that seated probably twenty people. I’d never seen this room used in the two years I’d lived here. “Mine are in my locker at school.”
“Stitches?” Lenzi squeaked.
I held the kitchen door open for them. “We’re supposed to use your supplies, since she’s your assigned Speaker.”
Alden guided Lenzi to a stool at the island in the middle of the kitchen. “I’m going to be your assigned nightmare if you start quoting the rule book to me right now, Paul.” He helped Lenzi out of her jacket and laid it on the stool next to her. “Rules are necessary to a point, but then they become impractical. Keep in mind, your supplies are much easier to replace than your teeth.”
I’d never seen Alden this intense. And he’d certainly never threatened me before, even when we were sparring partners at Wilkingham Academy. But his Speaker was hurt—that would explain it.
I nearly threw up when he turned Lenzi’s arm to where the wound was visible. It looked like letters were carved under the smeared blood covering her skin.
“It’s not deep,” Alden said. “But you need a couple of stitches up here.” He indicated the area near the inside of the elbow. Tears pooled in Lenzi’s eyes, and a wave of panic rushed from her and shot through me. I closed my eyes and caught my breath.
“Supplies now, Paul. I don’t care where you get them.” Alden’s eyes never left Lenzi’s arm.
I was just about to break the bad news that my medical kit was in my car back at the school when Race’s voice came from the front of the house: “Hey! Where’s the party?”
“Here,” Alden called.
To my relief, Race had a medical bag in his hand. Wearing faded blue jeans, a plaid flannel shirt with a western yoke, and snakeskin cowboy boots, he looked out of place in the elegant stainless and mahogany kitchen.
“We have to quit meeting like this, Lenzi,” Race said, kissing her on the cheek.
“Yeah, let’s,” she groaned.
Race placed the bag on the kitchen counter and pulled out several sealed containers of instruments and supplies.
Lenzi’s fear skyrocketed, racing like flames through my extremities. Being able to feel her emotions was distracting. For Alden, it would be much worse, because he was her bound Protector and their souls were linked together with a marking the IC called a soul brand.
“Whoa. Take it down a notch there, sugar,” Race said. “A guy’s gotta think if he’s going to do something like this.”
Lenzi covered her face with her free hand. “I hate medical stuff. You know that.”
“We need a pillow and a couple of towels, Paul,” Alden said, looking around the kitchen. “This island is perfect because of those lights above it.” He indicated the halogen pendant lights with chrome accents above his head with a nod.
“Oh, God,” Lenzi groaned.
When I returned with the pillow and towels, Lenzi was seated on the kitchen island. Alden took the pillow, and I set the towels near Race’s supplies on the counter near the door, feeling totally useless. Race wore surgical gloves and had made a makeshift surgical tray on a sterile towel from his kit spread over a cookie sheet.
My mind kept wandering to my own Speaker. I wondered if I would be as calm and controlled as Alden if my Speaker were injured.
Lenzi’s fear spiked again as Alden laid her down on the counter with her head on the pillow. “Bring me a towel, please, Paul,” he said, brushing hair out of her face. He placed his hand on her neck, and her fear subsided. He was transmitting calm to her through his hands, a beneficial power of Protectors for times when the Speaker needed to relax. Alden placed the towel under Lenzi’s arm.
When Race picked up the syringe of local anesthesia, Lenzi panicked. The jolt of fear was so extreme, it took my breath away. She jerked her arm out of Race’s grip and tried to sit up.
Alden held her in place. “It has to be done. There’s no other way. We can’t go to the hospital with a wound like that. They’d ask unanswerable questions. You know this.”
She stared at the needle in Race’s hand, brown eyes huge, fear thrumming from her int
I stared at the hypodermic needle too, t hen braced myself against the surprise assault of uninvited images pounding my brain. I’d never seen them outside of childhood nightmares until now. My own terror blended with Lenzi’s fear in a paralyzing concoction that seemed to stop time. I could envision the whole scene as if it had happened yesterday: The woman’s black hair was a mass of snarls and knots, her head cocked at an unnatural angle, her mouth gaping open like one of the culverts under the highway near the apartment. The tourniquet still bound her emaciated upper arm, the syringe jutting out where she had last jabbed it into her bruised flesh. And I felt . . . nothing. No loss, no sadness, nothing—until the man came in. Then I felt fear.
“Hey, Junior. You okay?” Race asked, syringe still in hand.
I pulled myself back to the present, giving myself an internal shake. “Yeah.”
“You looked strange for a minute,” he said.
I shrugged. “I’m fine.”
“I’ll do the stitches if you prefer, Lenzi,” Alden said, taking her good arm and lacing his fingers through hers, “but Race is much better at it than I am.”
She took a gulp of air.
“Paul could do it too. Tell me what you want.” His gray eyes locked on her face.
Not me, not me, not me, I chanted in my head. I’d never sewn up a real person before, only a practice dummy, but that’s what my mentorship with Alden was for—to get hands-on training. Just not now. Not when I was freaked out, and not on Lenzi when she was so scared.
“Go ahead, Race,” she whispered. I almost collapsed from relief.
“Don’t watch.” Alden turned her face away.
“I can’t help it,” she said, her panic welling and surging through me again.
Race crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. “The bleeding is not stopping, and I’ve got to clean it off again before I numb her.” He gave Alden a pointed look, lifting an eyebrow that matched his red hair. “A distraction maybe?”
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