Haunted moon, p.1
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       Haunted Moon, p.1

         Part #13 of Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon series by Yasmine Galenorn  
Haunted Moon
age 1

  Chapter 1

  “Inhale. Slowly…That’s it. Now…exhale in one, two, three. ” Morio’s voice was low in my ear as he knelt behind me, leaning down, his hands on my shoulders, magic tingling through his fingers, into my body.

  I sat cross-legged on the floor, wearing a filmy black dress, my arms extended to the sides. In my left hand, I balanced an orb of obsidian. In my right, I grasped a yew wand, carved with intricate symbols etched in silver.

  “Focus on the spirit. Keep your gaze on it. ” Again, his soft whispers caressed my ear. We were in tune, my youkai and I, as we sat in a flaming Circle under the night sky, in the hidden shadows of a long-forgotten graveyard. The borders of the Circle were ablaze with magical fire—the purple crackle of death magic—and I was doing my best to control it, struggling to multitask the spells we were working on.

  We were in a small cemetery, one shrouded with disuse and neglect. The smell of earth hung pungent in my nose, and a scuttling of bugs across the ground made me shiver, but I forced myself to ignore them, doing my best to forget they were there as I stared at the spirit hovering in front of me.

  The ghost was luminous in the night, rising above us, spiraling up from the skull that rested on the ground by my feet. I had no idea who the spirit had been, or why it was here. My task was to break through its barriers and destroy it, setting it free to rest, or—if it would not go willingly—sending it into oblivion.

  I gathered the rush of energy Morio was feeding me into a focused beam. The rumbling power twisted through my body, a radiant heat, a purple flame. The tingles sparked, crackling through muscle and sinew as the power grew, buoying me up until I spiraled out of my body.

  Looming large before the spirit, I struggled to keep control—both of the flames forming the Circle and of those bucking through me like a horse unwilling to take a master. Morio was forcing the power through me faster than I’d ever been able to take it before, and I struggled to keep atop of it. I lowered my head, searching for the key. And there…hiding behind a wayward spark, there it was.

  All magic—all energy—had a key, a signature. Control the key, control the force.

  Reaching out, I latched onto the signature and the flames flared up. At first they resisted my control, but I wouldn’t let go. After a struggle, they surrendered and quit fighting me. As they gave in to my will, I shaped them, smoothing them into a sheet of fire, a backwash of flame, ready to surge forth at my command.

  The spirit seemed to sense my intent and shrank back, wailing.

  I raised my palms to it. “Go, go now or I will destroy you. ”

  The spirit refused to move but instead shrieked and aimed for me, its lifeless sockets staring intently.

  I tried once more. “I command you to depart this realm. ”

  Again, nothing, but it was obvious the ghost was planning something nasty. I sucked in a deep breath and flipped my hands up, my palms facing forward.

  “Death took you once; let death take you again. ” And then, I summoned the release word. “Atataq!”

  The sound of the fire roared through me as it poured from my hands, soaring with the pulse of my blood. The flame carried me with it, rising like a purple phoenix to blot out the moon. I swung astride its back, riding it like I might ride a lover, the rush of orgasm building within me as the flame dove and turned, aiming for the spirit. As the fiery arrow barreled down to knife through the ghost, exploding the spirit into vapor, I came hard and sharp, letting out a sharp, short scream.

  The spirit vanished as I struggled to shake out of my sudden passion-filled daze.

  Still astride the phoenix, I realized the magical bird was beginning to turn its head. Oh shit. The gleam in its eye told me I was its next target.

  Slightly rattled, I heard Morio shout, “Control it! Take control or the fire will go after you next!”

  Quickly, I brought my attention back to the key, struggling to regain my hold on it. The phoenix paused.

  “Bring it back now. Damn it, do what I say! Roll the power back now—there…you’ve almost got it. ” Morio’s voice was abrupt, as a good teacher’s should be.

  I shook my head to clear my thoughts and reined in the power, reeling it back. I worked it, coaxing it, stroking it. As it began to submit, I demanded that it retreat. Another brief struggle and the fire finally obeyed, receding like a tide, rolling back to the Elemental plane from which it had come. The phoenix turned to face the silent night and then vanished in a bright flash.

  I felt as if a fine dust of ash coated every nerve. I was vibrating, polished and cleansed from the inside out. As the wave of fiery death magic reached my crown chakra, I let go, and Morio took over, siphoning it back out of me into the sky, releasing it to the night, back to the haunted moon overhead.

  Exhausted, I collapsed. Morio leaned over me, his eyes gleaming. His long black hair hung straight, and I longed to run my hands through it, to feel the silken strands between my fingers. I wanted to pull my Japanese lover, my husband, between my legs, and quench the fire that had built within me.

  “Do you know how much I want you?” he whispered. “Do you know how hungry for you I am? Our magic makes me want to fuck you senseless. ”

  “Bring it on. I’ll take whatever you have to give me, my love. ” I was ready to take him right there inside the Circle of flames. But before we could act, my cell phone rang. It was in my purse, which was sitting on the grass, outside of the magical circle. The ring tone played out “Demon Days” by the Gorillaz, which meant it was Chase. Which meant it was probably important.

  “Fuck. ” I pushed myself up to a sitting position. “Get that, would you?”

  Morio opened the Circle, stepping over the flames as he did so. He grabbed my phone out of the purse and answered. “Hello?…Morio. ” After a moment, he motioned to me, his expression shifting from lusty to solemn. “Here, you need to take this. I’ll start gathering our things. ”

  “Bad?” I didn’t want to hear. I really didn’t.

  He nodded. “Bad. ” And with that, we were out of the Circle, back to a reality I didn’t want to face. But the fact was, reality was growing more and more deadly with each week that passed.

  “Camille?” Chase sounded out of breath. The detective was physically fit, so the fact that he was panting worried me.

  “What’s going down? Where? And how bad?” I didn’t spare any words. Phone calls like this were always terse.

  “Robbery at one of the graveyards. And we have a handful of bone-walkers running around. ”

  “Robbery? What the fuck are they stealing—and are the bone-walkers the ones doing the looting?”

  Chase growled. “No. There’s more to it—I can’t explain now…” He paused and sucked in a lungful of air with a grunt. So not a good sign. Chase was in great shape for an FBH—full-blooded human. Or rather, an FBH with a tiny hint of elf in his long-distance background.

  “Dude, are you okay? Talk to me. ” Collateral damage in this demonic war had hit us hard, and all too often, as of late. I found myself panicking over late-night calls.

  “I’d be fine if I weren’t hiding out from a fucking bone-walker who wants to break my neck. Or anything else it can latch onto. I’m playing hide-and-seek with it in Wyvers Point Cemetery, and unfortunately, I’m not the one doing the chasing. ”

  “Let me guess…the cemetery is in the Greenbelt Park District?” If I never heard of that area of Seattle again, it would still be too soon.

  “Yeah…Fourth and Hyland Streets. Get over here as soon as you can. And can you call the others?” He was whispering now. “I’m worried, Camille. Two of my men are lost somewhere in the graveyard, but I don’t know where. We’re all on the run. Tell you more after you get here and help me get the fuck out of this situation. And Camille…I’m hurt. I can’t run. ”

  “How bad?” I held my breath, waiting.

  “Well, I’m not going to die from the injury, but I might from the bone-walkers because I can’t run away from them. ”

  “We’ll be there as soon as we can. Just hold on, dude. ”

  I punched the End Call button and turned to Morio, who had been gathering our things. “We’ve got another graveyard to pay a call on and we’d better hurry or Chase is going to be on the dinner menu. Bone-walkers on the loose, two of his men are missing, and he’s hurt. ”

  As Morio tossed our ritual gear into the back of my Lexus, I called home. We were closer to Wyvers than my sisters, so we’d get there ahead of time. But we’d also expended a lot of energy tonight on our magical practice, and we couldn’t take on a full force of undead miscreants without help.

  I quickly filled Delilah in on what was going down. “Get over there, now. Chase is hurt, two cops are missing. Gear up for a bone-walker fight. And who knows what the hell else. ”

  “Menolly’s at the Wayfarer. We can call her if we need her once we’re there. I’ll bring Smoky, Shade, and Vanzir. We’re booking it out of here now. ” Delilah punched off and I texted her the location.

  Sliding into the driver’s seat, I clicked my seat belt shut. While I waited for Morio, I grabbed a candy bar out of the glove compartment and scarfed it down. I desperately needed the energy, so I polished off the chocolate caramel and then went for a protein bar. By then, Morio was swinging into the car and I took off as he slammed the door.

  “We couldn’t expect the quiet to last for long. ” Morio pulled his hair back into a ponytail, then yanked off his short kimono. Beneath it, he was wearing a pair of tight black jeans that curved around his butt in an oh-so-flattering way. As he fished a deep blue turtleneck out of a backpack, I managed a glance at his glistening chest.

  Morio was buff—not a muscle man, but definitely buff—and I got wet just looking at him. One of my three husbands, he was Japanese, a youkai-kitsune—or loosely translated, a fox-demon, though he wasn’t the kind of demon that we were fighting. Together with Smoky, my dragon, and Trillian, my alpha lover and Svartan—the dark and charming Fae—we made quite the quartet.

  We’d been in a refreshing lull over the past five weeks, since Menolly and Nerissa got married, and we’d savored every minute. We’d used the time to bone up on our fighting techniques and magical skills, to stockpile weapons, and to hunt down as much information as we could on Gulakah, the Lord of Ghosts. Unfortunately, so far, we’d accumulated a whole lot of nothing in that regard.

  We’d also done our best to keep tabs on what was going down with the impending war in Otherworld. When I thought about it, we actually hadn’t had any downtime, per se. Just a short break from the continual fighting we’d been embroiled in for months now. But even a few days here and there meant the difference between being run ragged and regaining our equilibrium.

  Morio finished changing into the turtleneck and fastened his seat belt as I took a turn a little too sharply.

  “Try to keep at least two wheels on the road, babe. ” His eyes twinkled as he dove into our hoard of candy and protein bars. “We’re probably going to arrive about ten minutes before the others. So let’s take stock of what we’ve got for a fight, other than magic. ”

  “I have a short dagger. I’ve started carrying it with me wherever I go. It’s strapped to my thigh. But that won’t be much help against bone-walkers. ” I felt better carrying a weapon now, even if it was more of a pacifier than anything that would cause some real damage. “I left the Black Unicorn horn at home, of course. ”

  About a year ago, I’d received a gift—the horn of the Black Unicorn—along with a cloak made from his hide.

  The Black Unicorn was the father of the Dahns unicorns, and like the phoenix, he reincarnated every few thousand years, shedding his old body. Eight or nine horns and hides were rumored to exist, and I possessed one set. I was careful to keep that information under wraps, because any number of sorcerers and havoc-mongers would have torn me limb from limb to get them. The artifacts were incredibly powerful, so I was cautious where I took them.

  “Yeah, I don’t think you want to expend the power of it on walking plant food. ” Morio sorted through his pack again. “I can take my demonic form, of course. They can’t do much against me then, unless there are a lot of them ganging up on me all at once. ” He held up a curved dagger that looked wickedly sharp. “How are you on magical energy? Did our practice wear you out?”

  I gauged my energy level. I was tired; we’d been practicing a spell to destroy or dispel spirits. Ghostbusting, if you will, through magical means. I’d never before successfully cast it, and while I still felt amped up from the energy that had poured through my veins, I couldn’t guarantee my accuracy if I had to actually start slinging around energy bolts.

  “I can manage a few things, magically, I think, but seriously—don’t count on my spells. I think ‘backfire’ could easily be my go-to game tonight. ”

  He nodded. “Right. ”

  “Speaking of the night, why the fuck do these things always happen when we’re ready for bed? Why not in the morning, when we’ve gotten some sleep, had breakfast, and are good to go?” I swung the car left, onto Wyvers Avenue NW. The Greenbelt Park District wasn’t all that far from the Belles-Faire area, where we lived. Wyvers Point Cemetery was on the border between the two.

  “I think ghosts prefer the night. Just like vampires. Or maybe there’s just so much activity during the day that they don’t peek out of the woodwork as much. Whatever the case, I suggest we concentrate on physical attack tonight. And you be careful. With only a dagger, you’re set up as the perfect target. ” He picked up my bag. “Are you sure you didn’t swipe anything good from Roz last time you were poking around in his duster? No firebombs or anything?”

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