Almost dying took its toll, which meant before the hour was up, it was time to make food. And not just a little food—sandwiches and Cheetos wasn’t going to cut it—but a butt load of it, including a ton of meat. Dastien grilled some massive steaks that looked like half a cow, but he said it wasn’t even near that much. Still, a family of ten could live for a few days on the food I chowed through. I’d made four boxes of wild rice and a large salad.
It’d taken no time at all for us to devour the entire feast, and now we were sharing a half-gallon of coconut chocolate chip ice cream while we watched The Princess Bride. I couldn’t believe that Dastien had never seen it. For whatever reason, my family watched it every Christmas Eve. Watching it with him was like seeing it for the first time again. All the jokes were a surprise for him, and I got to feel that zing of surprise, too.
But as the credits rolled on the movie, the anxiety started churning again.
Everything is going to be fine.
I just hate waiting. I wish we could’ve left tonight.
I tried. Soonest the boat could come was in the morning.
I gave his hand a squeeze. I know you did. I’m not complaining. Just anxious. A fight’s brewing and I’m a million miles away.
He put down the carton and tucked me in closer to his side. “We’ll be home soon enough. For now, just relax.”
“Doing my best. But if this thing killed Muraco, then are any of us safe?”
I winced. “You didn’t have to be so honest.” I grabbed the ice cream and groaned when I saw it was empty. Only more of the creamy coconutty awesomeness with those little crunchy chips could help me now. It was heaven in a carton.
“We have another one. Want me to get it for you?”
“Kind of. I mean, eating more ice cream won’t fix anything exactly, but it definitely won’t hurt.”
“As you wish.” He tapped my nose as he got up.
A laugh slipped free, and I realized it wasn’t just the ice cream that was helping me feel better. Still, when he came back, I snatched the carton from him. “What should we watch next?”
“Whatever you want?”
I flipped through for a while before settling on a movie I’d never heard of. “What about this?”
“As you wish.”
I snorted. “Dork,” I said, but I was glad he’d enjoyed it so much. I hit play, and as the movie started, I realized I’d never said thank you to him.
He raised a brow. “For the ice cream? De rien.”
“No. For saving my life.” I said with a mouth full of coconut perfection.
“Just don’t make it a habit, okay? My heart can’t take it.”
“I’ll do my best.” I snuggled in and scooped out a giant bite of ice cream. As soon as I ate it, pain hit my head so hard that I dropped my spoon. It clattered to the cement floor, but the sound was far away.
I blinked, trying to figure out what was happening, but time slowed. It took too long to turn to Dastien, and everything started to go dark. When I looked for him, Dastien was gone.
Everything was gone. I was in a black abyss just like my vision on the beach.
Either I was about to have the most fucked up vision or someone was messing with me.
I said a prayer for the vision to kick in. For the black abyss to become something else. But after a few minutes, I had to let go of the hope that this was a vision.
So what was this? A spell? From who? A witch? Had some fey captured me? I couldn’t smell any sulfur, but when I thought about it, I couldn’t smell anything at all. So, ruling out a demon wasn’t smart. At least not yet.
I reached for my bond to Dastien, and suddenly it was too hard to breathe. I could still feel the bond, but it was usually like a thick rope, bigger than my thigh, that tied us together. Here it felt like dental floss—so thin and fragile. So far away I could barely reach it. The only other time this had happened was when I went to live with Claudia on la Aquelarre’s compound. The boundary of the coven’s land had been warded to keep anything from crossing. It’d cut Dastien and me off from each other, nearly driving Dastien mad.
This wasn’t as bad, but it sure as shit wasn’t good either. The bond was too thin for me to tell if he was freaking out or losing his mind or…
My mouth grew dry and I tried not to panic. That wasn’t going to do any good. I had to find a way out. I had to get back to Dastien.
I got up off my ass and walked. If I was in some kind of room or chamber, I’d hit a will eventually. If there was a wall, then there had to be a door. And if there was a door, I could try to break it down either physically or magically. That was a lot of if’s, but it was a theory. My best one so far.
I walked and walked and kept walking for what felt like hours. After a while, I started counting my steps. When I passed up ten thousand, I growled. Fur rippled along my arms and I closed my eyes as I fought for control.
I gritted my teeth as I tried to think through my frustration. I was stubborn enough to keep trying to reach a wall, but if I hadn’t reached any yet, I had to assume that this place didn’t have them. And there were probably no doors either. Which meant that it had to be a magical holding pen of some sort.
If I couldn’t find a way out physically, then maybe I needed to try some magic. Mostly, I needed to see. Something had put me here and that meant that chances were good I wasn’t alone. I just had to be able to see who to kill. At least then I’d have a shot at getting out of here.
I needed a light spell. I tried to remember that it didn’t matter what I said exactly, just my intention and force of will. I had to believe in my spell.
I held a hand out in front of me and pictured a ball of light forming. “Bring me light. Bring me light. Bring me light!”
Light flared for a split-second, but the only good it did was make me see spots.
Damn it. I hadn’t believed in my spell enough. I blew out a slow breath as I tried to center myself. I had to believe in what I was doing.
I lifted my hand again. “Bring me light. Bring me light. Bring me light!” I believed in the words. I knew the spell would work, and it did.
The light flared brighter this time. I did a little happy dance and started to glance around, but beyond a little halo of light around me, there was nothing to see.
I froze as a draft rustled my hair against my face.
A greasy blob of magic plopped against my hand. The light flickered and then it was gone.
“You asshole!” I rubbed my hand on my pants, trying to rid my skin of the feel.
Oh, hell no. This guy wasn’t getting the best of me.
I held my hand in front of me one more time. “Bring me light. Bring me light! Bring me light!” I yelled the spell, putting my willpower in it.
The light bloomed brighter—floating on top of my hand—but blipped out faster. This time the greasy magic spread all the way up to my elbow.
No. No fucking way. I wasn’t going to let this asshole win.
I threw all the will and determination I had into the words. This spell would light the world up. I screamed the words. “Bring me light! Bring me light! Bring me light!”
For a second, the light burned so bright I had to squint. Aside from the little ring of light around me, everything was black. There was no horizon. No ceiling or walls.
Maybe if I ran—
The light was slapped from my hand. The magical blow knocked me on my ass and I was bathed in darkness. Again.
In that moment, I didn’t care that there was no difference between lit blackness and unlighted darkness. All I knew was that someone was fucking with me and I was so frustrated I could’ve spit fire.
“You piece of shit!” I stomped around in a circle. “You’re so fucking scared of me you won’t show yourself and you won’t even let me have any light? You’re pathetic!” Spit flew out of my mouth as I shouted. My breath heaved. Fur rippled on my arms again, but I wasn’t ready to be a wolf. There was nothing to fight, at least not yet. I was going to have to rely on my magic to get myself out of this place.
By the time the last echoing remnants of “pathetic” hit my ears, the wolf was under control.
I had to regroup. I couldn’t walk my way out of here. There was nothing to fight. I couldn’t have any light. But I needed to know who or what I was up against. I couldn’t do anything until I had more information. I didn’t even know why it was doing this. Why drag me here? If it’s ultimate goal was to piss me off, then it was doing a fan-fucking-tastic job of it. There had to be a reason, but I wouldn’t know what it was until I had at least more of a clue as to what or who was messing with me.
Taunting hadn’t worked, but maybe magic could bring the witch or demon to me.
My stomach knotted. Was I really going to do try and confront someone that was strong enough to abduct me? Was that smart? It had taken me from my honeymoon and trapped me here—wherever the hell here was. It had enough power to cancel out my magic, and I was stuck here alone. This thing could very well be much stronger than me.
Even if doing a spell to bring my enemy out in the open was dangerously stupid, I had to do it. I had to act now or else I’d be here for who knew how long.
I wiped sweating palms on my pants as I gathered my courage. I didn’t have any spell books or potion ingredients—only my own mind. My own willpower and strength. So, I’d use that.
I sat cross-legged with my hands on my knees as I tried to come up with the right words and focus my intentions to bring my enemy to me. I closed my eyes, and then I heard a noise. It was faint and so far away that I held my breath until my lungs burned to hear it again.
My heart picked up its pace. It was like a whisper on the wind.
My jaw cracked as I clenched my teeth.
But then I realized something. I didn’t need magic to call out whoever had captured me. They were already here.
I took a steadying breath and tried to mentally ready myself fight whatever was coming.
At least the waiting was over. That was progress.
I licked dry lips as I listened, focusing all my energy on hearing whatever was approaching. At first, the noise was nothing more than a soft hiss, but as it grew louder, I realized it wasn’t a hiss at all. It was a voice. Not just that. It was words. The tiny gap of silence between the sounds meant there were two words.
But I couldn’t decipher them. At least not yet.
The voice grew louder, becoming a dark rumble that made the hair on my arms stand on end.
I still couldn’t make out the words. The voice was too soft, but the low, rumbling growl in the tone made me want to run.
But I wasn’t going to run. I was going to face whatever was messing with me. I was going to get the hell out of here.
I clenched my fists as I waited in the dark for whatever this was to show itself. If I could see it—or at the very least hear it breathe—I could fight it.
“You’re mine!” The voice suddenly yelled so loud my ears rang. The pure evil in it chilled my skin like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over my head.
I didn’t care about not having a direction to run anymore. Screw fighting. I moved—hauling ass as far and as fast as I could.
Its evil magic dripped along my skin and everything in me screamed to run away. I didn’t want to see this thing’s face. I never wanted to see whatever that was. I only wanted to get out. Away. Now.
My breath came in pants as the panic that I’d been holding back ripped free. I hadn’t reached for Dastien yet, but I did now. I grasped the tiny little thread of our bond and screamed, Dastien! Get me out of here! I shoved the words through the bond, hoping that by some miracle he’d be able to hear me and do something about it.
And then there was light. Too much light. I skidded to a stop, closing my eyes, but it burned through my eyelids.
I covered my eyes. “Stop! Stop this!” But the light continued to grow.
Dastien’s power slammed into me—answering my call. My legs gave out, and I fell to my hands and knees. I could smell the scent of pine and dirt and home. I breathed it deep into my lungs and remembered who I was. Where I was.
I’d forgotten that. In my panicked run, I’d forgotten who I was.
Witch. Werewolf. Alpha. Mate.
I was stronger than this. I didn’t need to let myself be trapped. I could find a way out. If I could smell Dastien, then he was near, even if our bond made it feel like we were far away. Which meant I was in my own mind.
I was right. This wasn’t a vision. But I hadn’t been transported anywhere. My body was still physically with Dastien.
I was under mental and spiritual attack. That switch in perspective was enough to shake me free from the panic.
If I was in my own mind, then I wasn’t totally lost. I was home. I just had to kick whoever this was out of my head.
First thing’s first. I started building up my mental barriers one by one. I pictured a brick wall, but that wasn’t enough. I could still feel this thing’s magic slithering up my arms, and I needed that greasy feeling gone.
I replaced it with an igloo made of bricks laid three thick. I made sure to keep my tie to Dastien present in my mind so that I wouldn’t accidentally cut off my lifeline to him.
Slowly, the light started to fade to a normal level, revealing Dastien standing in front of me. He was reaching a hand out to me.
“You okay?” Dastien stared down at me, wearing a pair of green scrubs that I’d never seen before. A little worry line appeared between his brows, but I couldn’t feel his worry. “Need help with that?”
I looked down to find myself on one knee tying the laces of my white canvas shoes. The laminate floor glistened like it’d been just cleaned, but I couldn’t smell any disinfectant.
Couldn’t sense Dastien’s feelings? No smells? White canvas shoes?
This was all wrong.
Dastien squatted in front of me. “Everything okay?” One of his dark curls fell across his forehead, and he brushed it back. A move so familiar that I questioned my gut for a second.
This was my Dastien, but the rest of it… “I don’t know.” I looked around as I stood, but I didn’t recognize the place.
We were in the entryway of a large building. Behind me was a desk with a security guard. Three hallways branched off from where we stood, but everything was white. There were no signs to give me a clue. “Where are we?” The best I could come up with was some kind of office building, but that didn’t explain why Dastien was wearing scrubs.
“You don’t know?”
I licked my lips. “No.” If I was still in my head, then maybe I’d switched into a vision. Was I in a future possibility? No. That didn’t quite fit. I didn’t think Dastien had any desire to be a doctor. Did he?
What the hell was this?
“Are you having one of your episodes?” The way he asked it made my hackles rise.
“Episodes?” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but his condescending tone had me more than a little pissed off.
“Maybe it’s time to get you back to your room.”
My room? Was I supposed to be a patient in a hospital? I didn’t feel sick.
And then I almost laughed. I stood and pushed past Dastien into the courtyard outside. The sun hit my face, but it didn’t have any heat.
Dastien and I had a conversation about this exact fear. I’d woken up one morning in Dastien’s house in France and despite everything that had happened, was so thankful with how my life had turned out so far. Even if I’d almost been killed multiple times, I’d survived and was on the most perfect honeymoon. I’d wondered offhandedly if my life was really just a dream. If maybe I was Freaky Tessa and was having a mental break in a psychiatric facility.
If thing that was attacking me had bothered to look a little deeper in my mind, they’d know this wasn’t a valid fear of mine. We’d laughed about this errant thought once weeks ago. If anything, it was more like a joke Dastien and I had shared once than a fear that I spent any time worrying about.
“Nice try, fucker!” I screamed at the too perfectly blue sky. “Show me something scary, you miserable piece of—”
Everything went black again. The only sound was my breath rushing in and out too fast. “Shit.” I wasn’t in control yet. I was in my head but somehow this asshole had the upper hand. I needed to gain it back. Whatever was attacking, it was going to learn quickly that it had gone after the wrong person. I was stubborn, and I wasn’t going to stop fighting.
In the quiet dark, I reached for my bond to Dastien. This wasn’t one of my normal visions, but it was still my mind. And if I could use some of Dastien’s power, then maybe I’d have enough juice to get back control and kick this motherfucker out of my head.
I started pulling power though the paper-thin bond and—
“You’re mine,” it said right by my ear. Its slimy magic dripped down my neck and onto my shoulder.
I twitched away from the sound, fighting the urge to run. When I blinked, the scene changed again. I stood in front of the hostess booth in a diner.
What the hell was this?
“Table for one?” A girl not much younger than me in poorly fitting khaki pants and a polo shirt stood holding a menu.
What was the jerk trying to accomplish here? Why a diner?
I tried to shake off my frustration. This thing wanted to play games, and for now there was nothing to do but go along with them.
I glanced over my shoulder just to be sure, but no one was behind me. Only a dusty claw crane machine was there. “Me?” I asked, pointing to myself.
“Yes.” She scrunched up her face as if she’d sucked on a lemon. “You’re the only one here.”
The diner wasn’t packed, but there were a few people scattered around. A family with two kids sat at one table. Two elderly men played chess while sipping their coffees at another. There was a salad bar in the back, and a few people were picking through the food. One guy used his fingers to grab a shrimp. He dipped it in a red sauce and made an approving sound before dropping the tail on the floor and reaching for another.
I barely contained the gag.
“You need a table for one or is someone meeting you?” The hostess asked, bringing my focus back to her.
I thought about saying just one. I’d rather get one million shots than meet whoever was messing with me. But there was no point in putting it off. “Two, please.”
“Do you want to wait for them?”
I shook my head. “No.” I was done with waiting. “I’ll sit.”
The hostess led me to a booth, waving me in. I slid into the seat, playing along for now. The green vinyl was ripped and covered in spots with duct tape. I put my hand down as I scooted and touched something sticky. I grabbed a bunch of napkins from the chrome dispenser on the table and tried to wipe my hands off to no avail.
“Server will be with you in a bit.”
“Cool,” I said without looking up. It was rude of me, but she wasn’t real. None of this was real.
I grabbed the menu from the table and scanned the contents. Pizza with shrimp and cream sauce. Hotdog hash with chopped beets. What kind of menu was this? Everything seemed to have either shrimp, beets, chicharones or a combination of all three. I closed the menu with a sigh. Everything I hated. “Nice touch, douchebag.”
I closed my eyes, trying to focus on my bond to Dastien. I wasn’t sure what I needed from him yet, but knowing he was there was comforting.
Tingles ran up my spine. Someone was staring at me, burning a hole in my back.
I twisted in the booth. The family was leaving. The little girl was yammering on and on about some toy that she wanted, and the parents were ignoring her as they each grabbed a mint from the bowl on the hostess’ stand. The little boy—maybe about four years old—stood quietly behind them. He was wearing a blue, puffy ski jacket with the hood pulled up over his head. He was the one staring.
For a second, I thought it was odd that he was wearing a jacket, but it was winter, even if it didn’t feel like it in the Caribbean.
And what the hell was I even thinking about? This place was fake. Not real. Neither was the family. Who cared what kind of jacket the kid was wearing?
I turned back to the menu. Was I supposed to order something? I hadn’t seen any waitstaff, so I was assuming not, but who the hell knew? And what was the point of this? Was this some insane, stalker witch who wanted a date? I understood what it was trying to do with the mental hospital, but a diner? What was the point?
This was so dumb. “Come on. Show your face.” To the right of me, a clock hung on the wall. I watched the seconds tick by. After thirty seconds, I started to get antsy. My knee bounced under the table as I glanced out the windows. In the distance, I could see a city. I knew it wasn’t actually there, but I couldn’t just keep sitting here waiting for whoever—whatever—this was to show up. Maybe I should leave.
If I left, would it get pissed off enough to show itself physically? Possibly. Thirty more seconds and I was going to give it a try.
“Y’all have a nice day,” the hostess told the family behind me.
The dad murmured something, and the door chimed as it opened and closed.
The family was gone, but I still felt like someone was staring at me. I glanced a little to the side, but the hostess [ Not super important, but has she seen a waitress?
—Nah. It’s hell. That means you’re waiting forever w/o service! I’ll have her mention it. BTW: This IS Jeremy’s hell. Cracker Barrel-esque place, with a buffet (which he doesn’t like), and no waitstaff to be found! He’d be LOSING HIS MIND! Hahahahaha!!! ]was wiping down menus. So, it wasn’t her.
The tingling grew, and my stomach churned. I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to turn around. The greasy magic slithered over me.
It was here again.
I spun, but no one was behind me except the little boy.
His family had left him?
He didn’t look too concerned, just stared at me. The mom, dad, and little girl were walking through the parking lot outside.
I glanced back to the menu to buy myself some time. Something wasn’t right with this boy. Maybe it still could’ve been a witch, but my gut was screaming demon. It lined up with its greasy magic and ability to sneakily take over my mind. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a demon take the shape of a child, but it still creeped me out. Something so evil shoved into an innocent body.
Was that it? The demon wanted to creep me out? Was this whole diner thing just for that?
I turned around, and for the first time, really looked at the boy.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about him. His shoes were dirty and one lace untied. His jacket had a few stains but looked warm enough.
Why was I thinking about his jacket when I should’ve been meeting his gaze? Confronting him? But no matter how I tried to look at his face, I couldn’t seem to meet his gaze.
I stopped breathing as it processed.
This was a problem. An Alpha werewolf could meet any gaze. Unless this thing was that much…
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. My captor was more Alpha than me.
My heart hammered in my chest. Other Weres had talked about not being able to meet Mr. Dawson’s gaze or Donovan’s gaze, but I’d never experienced that. Not until now. What was I going to do? I could try to fight it, but if I couldn’t even meet its gaze, I was screwed.
And I was alone.
I rested my forehead on the damp, sticky table. Think, Tessa. Think.
A wave of reassurance came through the bond, and I sat back up. It was faint, but it was there.
I wasn’t alone. I had help.
I grabbed Dastien’s power, pulling as much as I could and hoping I didn’t damage the barely-there rope. A surge of energy hit me, like I’d just downed a million Diet Cokes, and with it came a buttload of confidence.
I twisted in my seat, finally able to meet the little boy’s gaze.
His eyes were a normal brown—not red like other demons—but they were vacant. As sick as it was to think about since he—it—was in the shape of a little boy, looking into its eyes was almost like staring at the glass eyes of a taxidermied animal. They glinted a little too much in the light and were devoid of any emotion.
Then it grinned and a chill went down my spine.
Its mouth opened, lips thinning until they were just lines. The mouth was too big and too wide for its face. More like a jack-o’-lantern than anything human. As it smiled, the black hole of its mouth grew bigger as if it was going to suck me in.
Its laugh boomed in the small diner. Power pressed against my skin, making it feel like I’d been rolled in a layer of black slime.
I started to slide out of the booth, but I hadn’t consciously moved.
I gripped the table, and my fingers squeaked as they slipped down the linoleum.
No. This was bad. This was really bad. The demon was done messing with me, and I had zero illusions that I could fight it and win.
It was drawing me toward it. My gut screamed that I couldn’t let that happen. If I reached the demon, then it would have me. Forever. There was no coming back from that black pit. And I knew what was on the other side. I’d seen that day in the chapel.
Inside the pit a giant demon clawed its way to the top. It looked like it was made of molten lava, scarring the rock with fire as it climbed. It spotted me and roared, moving faster.
“You’re mine,” it said.
I screamed, snapping out of the past.
It was like gravity changed. I was sucked out of the booth, falling horizontally toward the boy—the demon.
My fingers were slowly slipping down the table, no matter how hard I tried to hold on. I needed a better grip.
In a split-second, my wolf rose to the surface, and my fingers stretched and cracked. The nails lengthened, turning into claws. I punched them into the table. It shook and cracks formed around my hands, spreading toward the edges of the table. This wouldn’t last. The table would break in half before long, and I’d be sucked toward the demon.
I needed a way out.
I hung parallel to the floor. The demon was still in the same spot, waiting for me. He was enjoying my panic. I was sure it could smell the sickly-sweet stench of it as well as I could.
The demon didn’t need to move. It knew I was trapped.
I didn’t know why it wanted me—why it thought I belonged to him—but that didn’t matter. All I knew was that I couldn’t give in.
The table jerked as the crack lengthened. I released my grip with one hand and punched through again, moving up the table. Another spider web of cracks formed around my hand, but the table had stopped moaning. For now.
I had nowhere to go. And if I fell toward the demon…
There was only one thing left I could do.
I pulled more power from Dastien. I could feel him weakening and widened my pull, reaching for the spiderweb of pack bonds.
“Let me go!” I pushed power at the demon, trying to break the spell it had me under.
The laugh came again. I didn’t look back. If I did, I might lose my nerve. I had to keep going. I needed more power than Dastien could give. That he and I together weren’t enough to beat the demon scared the shit out of me. But the thing about being a werewolf was that you always had the pack.
I pushed away any doubt. I closed my eyes, shutting out the sounds of the diner and air rushing past my ears as he tried to suck me into hell. All I needed to do was hold on while I found the pack.
It took me a second to feel them. Usually, the pack bonds were thicker—like metal cables that bound us together as a unit. There were weaker links between the packs—tied from alpha to alpha. If I needed to, I could go that route, but for now, I used the St. Ailbe’s ties. They felt like silk strands, thin and fragile.
The power came through. It was just a little trickle at first, and then a huge rush hit me. My arms grew fur, and I was barely able to hold onto my shape. “Let me go!” I screamed, my voice thick with the wolf rising in me. “Now!” I backed the word with power.
“No.” The single word send a chill down my spine. “When I tricked Luciana into stealing your magic, she bartered your soul away. It’s done. You can fight me or you can give in.” He started to grow taller, morphing until his head touched the ceiling. “But you’re mine. There’s no breaking free of me now.”
“Never. I will never give in!”
“But you will. And I will enjoy it.”
His magic slimed all over me and a cry threatened to break free. I held it back only to keep from showing weakness. He couldn’t know how much he’d gotten to me. I didn’t prayed that no one could barter away my soul except for me, but I didn’t know that for sure. If he was saying that to scare me, he’d succeeded.
My arms ached, and the tie to Dastien was on fire. It was too much power for the little thread. I was going to burn it to ashes if I pushed much harder. The pack bonds weren’t doing much better. They were glowing, but I could feel them weakening. It was only a matter of time and I wasn’t getting any closer of breaking free from the demon’s hold.
This was hopeless. He was right. And by using the pack’s power, I was going to drag them down with me.
I started to let go, giving them back what was theirs, but a wave of reassurance crashed through the bond. Not just the bond to Dastien, but to the pack. More power surged through.
Stop! I yelled through the lines of the pack bonds. I wasn’t sure if they’d hear me, but I had to try. I can’t beat him! I don’t want to drain you all! I rested my head on the table. I love you, I sent down my bond to Dastien. I started to relax my grip.
I raised my head. Dastien? I almost cried at the sound of his voice in my head.
Claudia is working on something to help.
A seed of hope sprouted. I took what the pack was offering and held on.
I couldn’t break his grip on me using werewolf mojo alone. I needed magic. I needed Claudia.
Help! I can’t hold on much longer! And then it was like there was too much of everything. Too much air. Too much pressure. My ears burst, and I could feel hot liquid dripping down my face. The copper scent of blood filled the air. Dastien’s blood.
On the count of three, let go of the table. Crash into that thing. Dastien’s voice echoed in my head.
No! I can’t! If I touched the demon, then…
He was quiet for a second. If you don’t let go on the count of three, I’m going to eat the last of the coconut ice cream!
I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t. It was taking every ounce of focus I had not to fall into the vortex of hell.
One of my claws broke, and I screamed.
Don’t let go! Not until I say three.
We’re moving fast!
“You’re not getting away. I own you.” The words slid down my spine like ice.
“Never!” Maybe it thought that it owned me. But no one did. No one but me.
Three! Now, cherie. Let go!
But I couldn’t make my fingers move.
Let go! I promise. You’ll be okay.
If anyone else had said those words, I would’ve told them to fuck off. But I trusted Dastien with every fiber of my being. He wouldn’t tell me to let go if he didn’t know for certain that it would turn out okay.
I closed my eyes, and let go of the table. I had a moment of panic and regret as I tumbled through the air toward the demon. I screamed in terror and grabbed a chair as I flew by, throwing it behind me. Hoping it would hit. There was a crash followed by a laugh—loud cawing sound that made everything in me quiver with fear.
And then I slammed into the demon.
I thought that would be it. That the hitting him would somehow shatter his hold, but that didn’t happen.
Its hands wrapped around my neck and dark magic poured over me, crawling over my skin like one thousand cockroaches. I screamed, pulling at his hands and scratching myself in the process.
Calm, cherie. Claudia said you had to be touching him. Now tell him to let you go.
You can. Do it now!
He shoved more power into me until I was choking on it. The burst of confidence hit me and I looked straight into the demon’s glassy-eyed gaze. “Let me go!” I screamed so loud, the sound echoed in my head.
And then everything stopped. It was black as night, but no hands tightened around my neck. The evil magic was gone, leaving me with a dirty feeling that no shower could fix. But there was no more spinning. No more falling. I was still.
“Breathe for me. Come on, cherie. Take a breath.” Something brushed my face. “I can hear your heart beating. I know you’re there.”
I gasped, and my eyes flew open.
“Shit.” Dastien pressed his forehead against mine.
I licked my lips and tasted blood. “What the hell just happened and why is your blood on my face?”
He started laughing, only it kind of sounded like sobs.
He rolled off to lie next to me. I tried to sit up to look at him, but the room swam. “Are you okay?”
“No.” His fingers brushed mine, and I grabbed hold of them. “Not even a little bit.”
We laid there for a while, just breathing. I wasn’t sure how to process what had happened, but now I knew that a demon had attached itself to me.
I had no idea how to get away. It’d taken the power of hundreds of werewolves to escape whatever nightmare I’d been sucked into. If I had to go head to head with this thing, I’d lose. Big time.
What the hell were we going to do?
Keep reading on July17th!