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Ethereal's Call Prequel Blog Part 1

Updated: May 20, 2022

The phone rings, but I ignore it. I don’t want to wake up. I just finished my last assignment, and I stumbled into my crappy little apartment at 1 a.m. I know who is calling, and I am not interested in hearing them tell me I am the only one who can do this. They always tell me that, and it has gotten old. I just need a day to get some sleep then I can deal with the drama the coven has conjured up for me to conquer.

When the phone stops, I embrace the peaceful sound of silence. I roll over since my muscles feel stiff from being still for so long. I cringe when the phone starts up again. OH MY GOD! I hate that thing. I roll back and pick it up. I hold it and glare as it flashes ‘mom’ across the screen; I sigh. Of course, they have her call me. I press the mute button and toss it aside in an effort to ignore it.

I pull the covers over my head to hide from the sunlight beaming through the window. I curse when I hear a knock at the door. “Kyra!” my mother calls out. I groan, rubbing the stiff sleepiness from my face. “I know you are in there. Let me in! You have another assignment.”

“Coming,” I whine, throwing the covers back in frustration and swinging my legs over the bed, then stumble to the door.

Her obsessive knocking pings my ears and plucks my nerves as I find my way to the door. She is relentless, as if she thinks more repetitions against the door will make me move faster. I grip the knob and fling it open in irritation. I glare at her, and she looks back at me. She appears to be pleased with my willful stare and unsatisfied expression. She smiles, and I lean against the edge of the stile as it swivels back and forth. “Good, you are awake,” she says walking past me. I cut my eyes at her watching.

She pauses in front of the couch and turns her head. “Well,” she says, expectantly. I swing the door shut, and the echo of the slam announces my emotional status. “That is enough,” she states, “come, have a seat. We have much to discuss.” I huff since she is talking like she lives here.

She sits and crosses her legs like this is some kind of business meeting. I go and flop down across from her. I lean back and slump down in protest to her composure. She scoffs, and I look at her unimpressed. “Honestly,” she huffs. “Ever since you have been living on your own, you have become so disrespectful.” She shakes her head. “I will have to speak with the coven mother about adjusting your living arrangements.” I raise an eyebrow in challenge. “Can you at least sit up straight?” she snaps.

I lift my head and rest it on a bent elbow as I look at her. “So, that is how it is going to be then?” she asks. I reply by impertinently blinking at her. I would voice my thoughts on this forced interaction, but past experience has taught me that it is best to sit quietly and nod in situations like this. I don’t want her to encourage her to impose her unwanted opinion. “Fine, have it your way,” she says as she rustles through her oversized tote.

She pulls out a deck of cards, and a folder then places them on the table. “You will need these,” she says.

I don’t lean in since I don’t want to show interest. I am firm in my attitude, and I am liking it right now. “What are those?” I ask.

“She speaks!” she says in exasperation. This response elicits an eye roll from me. She flips open the folder, and there is an image of someone looking like Daniel Craig.

I crease my brow at the image and squint in bewilderment. “What does the coven want with an actor?”

My mother shakes her head. “He is not an actor, dear.” I lean over and pick up the picture taking a closer look. “He is an incubus glamoured to disguise himself as an actor.”

“He certainly is not subtle, is he?” I ask rhetorically.

“No, he is not,” she replies. “You will need to make contact with him.”

“Why is that?” I ask.

“He will be your way into The Exclusive Enchanted Poker Game,” she says.

“The what?” I question.

She grins. “It is a high-stakes gambling event. The top ten winners gain entrance to a private auction. Once you are in attendance, you will need to be the highest bidder for the Desdemona Grimoire.”

I lean back, dropping the picture onto the table. I look at her like she is crazy. “You make it sound so simple,” I say, sarcastically. She is about to reply when I interrupt. “Isn’t there someone more suitable for this little undercover opportunity?”

She looks at me with a flat expression. “No, you have.” She pauses, looking for the correct term. “The unique skill set that will allow you easy entrance.” I cock my head waiting for her to elaborate. When she taps her ear, I roll my eyes since I now understand what she was implying. “This is an important assignment. We will be coordinating with another coven for additional support.”

That statement got my attention, and I sat up. “Excuse me? We will be doing what, now?” I ask in disbelief.

She nods. “Yes, this is highly unusual but necessary. It will be a coordinated effort.”

“A coordinated effort?” I question. “When did the coven start working with others?” I am shocked by this news. The coven has always embraced superiority over others, not cooperation with others.

“Times are changing,” she says. “We must change with them. There is more at stake than our singular goals.”

“What is at stake?” I ask her.

She replies with a condescending smile. “You are not ready,” she tells me.

I narrow my eyes at her. Her patronizing tone and haughty attitude really get under my skin.

“Not ready?” I snap. I shake my head, leaning back against the couch. “Then maybe you should send someone who is,” I gesture air quotes, “ready then.”

My mother pinches the bridge of her nose and shakes her head. “Kyra, this is why you are not ready. You make everything about you. See this as the opportunity it is.”

“Opportunity?” I snap in irritation.

“Yes,” she says. “This is how you show the coven you are ready to take on more. If you are successful with this assignment, it will show the elders what you are capable of.”

I cross my arms in defiance. “And what was everything I was doing before, then?”

“Practice, Kyra. Everything you have been doing has been to prepare you for the next level. No one is just going to move you up without you proving that you can handle it.” I roll my eyes “The attitude is unnecessary. I am trying to help you.”

I shake my head since this all sounds like rhetoric to me. “Yeah, whatever,” I grumble. “Who are we coordinating with, and why does everyone want this grimoire, anyway?”

“The Heritors of Aion,” she says. I look at her unimpressed since they are a much lesser coven. I don’t know why we would associate ourselves with them. “We share a mutual interest with them that we think the grimoire can assist us with.”

“And that would be? Or am I not ready to know that either!” The annoyance in my tone is very noticeable.

“Correcting the mind of the shifting dire wolf,” she says. I think I am more frustrated now since she did not react to my annoyed tone.

“What?” I say in disbelief. “We are assisting other enchanted beings now, too?”

My mother sighs. “Yes, Kyra. For the benefit of the greater good and interested parties.” I can see her frustration with my constant interruptions. I have never been one to follow blindly without question. I don’t know why she thinks this instant would be different from any other. “There is another matter I need to discuss with you. What progress have you made in locating the Amulet of Aro?”

“I found it,” I tell her, casually,

“And,” she says expectantly, waiting for me to elaborate.

“I just need to go and get it,” I tell her.

She sighs. “Just tell me where it is.”

“The Heirs of Pythoness have it,” I say

“Well, that is not that far from here,” she states the obvious.

I shrug. “It is far enough. I just need to go and get it. It’s a piece of junk, though. Why does the coven want it?”

“That is not your concern. It will have to wait, though. The grimoire takes precedence,” she states.

“If you say so.” I am indifferent about what is considered a priority. Many of the items the coven sends me after are of little to no value when it comes to magical attributions. On occasion, I come across a powerful object or relic, but it is very rare. Most of the time, they send me on pointless endeavors and get frustrated when the outcomes do not meet their expectations. Somehow, I end up being the cause for the lackluster results. “What is with the cards?”

“They are spelled,” she says with a prideful grin.

I look at her like she said something foolish. “You think using a spelled deck of cards is going to be an advantage in a high-stakes poker game with the enchanted?” She looks away like she is considering what I am saying but doesn’t want to admit how ridiculous the notion is. I lean over and place my hand on the deck. “Thanks, but I think card counting may be more beneficial. Why don’t you keep the deck?” I grin to celebrate my little victory of mental superiority.

Mother raises an eyebrow and smirks. “Why don’t you hold onto them for practice?”

I roll my eyes and lean back. “Did you spell them yourself?” She gives me a flat expression in reply, and I blink at her. Not wanting this interaction to linger much longer, I change the subject. “Tell me about the hotel.”

“It is in the file,” she says with a curt tone. She starts to gather her belongings then stands. “You have a week to prepare. Money has been moved to your account so that you can book appropriate lodgings. Nothing too extravagant, of course. The coven will be in touch. I will see myself out.”

I watch her walk to the door. She pauses when she swings it open and looks over her shoulder at me. She seems like she is about to say something but then changes her mind. The door clicks close, and I flop my head back.

This is not how I envisioned my day going. All I wanted to do was sleep in and watch reruns. Now, I have to do research and drive to someplace to start reconnaissance. I pick up the folder and fumble through the pages. The information is sparse. The hotel’s name is The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel near Flat Rock, North Caroline. I sit back and do the math in my head. That is about an hour and a half from Little Switzerland. I could be there by tonight if I can find a cheap hotel.


I am driving down Interstate 26 after throwing the bare necessities into a bag. I found a room available at a Budget Inn. When I looked up The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel website, I noticed there was no mention of who owns or manages the establishment. There were plenty of beautiful pictures to sell its luxury and location, but that is all I could see.

I attempted to do a magic hack to push through any enchantments. I was looking for hidden pages or messages, but I found nothing. The website almost appeared to be too legitimate. It was like the designer was going out of their way to make it seem normal. I would have never given it a second thought if it were not for the coven’s assignment.

How are they communicating with Enchanted Society? How does the coven even know of this place or its unsanctioned endeavors? This puzzle piqued my interest, and I could not relax in my apartment. I want to see this place and what goes on there.

I am sure that there is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary that would attract a human’s interest on the surface. I would never tell my mother this, but I think I am happy about this little endeavor.

The traffic is light, and I can navigate it with ease. It is making for a nice drive in my Dodge, Caliber. A thought dawns on me that I had not considered. I may see another Fae. What will that be like? I have never seen any other Fae. I am only half-Fae. My mother is a human witch, and my father had to return to his own realm, leaving us behind.

I don’t know anything about the Fae other than what is in old legends and stories. I have to conceal my ears with a glamour to avoid unwanted attention. I pondered this thought for a moment as I drove. I smirk since I think I am getting a little excited. I unconsciously put my foot on the gas and accelerate. There is more for me to do in Flat Rock than play a poker game. I can learn about the other half of myself. I may meet others that are like me.

Whenever I ask my mother about my father, she becomes defensive and brushes me off. It is quite frustrating. Why can’t she understand that I just want to know something about him? All she ever tells me is that he had to go back. She doesn’t even tell me why. It hurts to think that he didn’t want to stay and be with us. Why couldn’t he stay? Why did he have to go? Why couldn’t I go with him? I am half-Fae. Was he ashamed of me? I sigh, thinking about this since it brings up painful emotions. I try not to think about it, but it always creeps back into my mind and lingers. I have so many questions.

Maybe I will be able to get some of my questions answered. The idea makes me smile. I can’t wait to get there!

I check into the Budget Inn and drop my things in the room. The whole time I was driving, my mind would not stop imagining what it would be like to be around other Fae. Not able to contain enthusiasm, I jumped back into the car and started driving again. The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel is easy to find on the GPS, and it isn’t far away. I take a deep breath and get back on the highway.

I can see the tall tower of glass from the road. There is nothing subtle about this hotel. I turn off the exit, then make the first turn at the light. The parking lot is packed. What the heck? I did not expect this.

Since I assumed that this was a cover, I thought there would only be a handful of cars in the parking lot just to keep up appearances. That is not the case. I have to cruise for ten minutes to find an available parking spot, and it is all the way in the back. What is going on in there for it to be this busy? Are they really this popular? If that is the case, the website undersold this place.

After I park, I pause for a moment. I was so eager to get here that I didn’t plan this out or think it through. I pull down the visor and look at the vanity mirror examining myself. My lips purse while I look and consider. I believe I have a glamour here, somewhere. It isn’t powerful enough to change my whole appearance, but it will disguise my ears.

I open the center console and find the necklace. I clasp it around my neck and inspect my ears. Satisfied that they are now round instead of pointed, I decide it is time to do some initial reconnaissance. Yeah, that’s right! This is initial reconnaissance. At least, that is what I will tell myself to justify rushing over here unprepared and without a plan.

This is so not like me. Usually, I take my time and scope a location out before I even think about approaching. I never just barge in like I am about to do. I sigh; I may be a little too eager.

The heck with it! I am here; I might as well take a stroll. What could go wrong? It is not like I am going to do anything. I open my car door and start walking. Yup, I am just here to check it out and do a little looking around. I am not here for anything else.

Walking through the parking lot, nothing looks out of the ordinary. Families rush back and forth to their cars, making me curious about what is so appealing in this hotel. I continue since there is nothing of significance to note. This is so odd; they do unsanctioned gambling events here for enchanted socialites. How do they make that work with so many humans so close? Where do they gamble? How do they get them past the humans without being noticed? Are they all glamoured to hide their identities? Does it work the same for them as for me? I have so many questions.

There is one question lingering in my mind. Will I be able to notice any Fae or not? Will they notice me? My glamour is so subtle that it only conceals my major Fae features that stand out, which is my ears. What if there are other Fae features that I am not aware of because I have never been around other Fae.

I pause and ponder that thought for a moment. I look up at the building holding the door handle. I see the light of the setting sun reflecting off the glass. Then, I decided. To heck with it! I am going in.

I swing the door open, and someone walks out with their arms full. “Oh, thanks,” the random person says passing by. I shake my head since I wasn’t expecting that. I walk in, and the lobby is packed. This is something else I did not expect. There are people everywhere. I stand there holding the door, looking stunned. What is this place? Disney Land in North Carolina?

I shake the thought. When I hear, “excuse me,” I move inside not to block the entrance. I am ushered out of the way by the flow of foot traffic, and I find a potted plant against the wall to stand by. I am trying to be invisible out of habit, but there is so much commotion, I don’t think it is necessary.

I smirk shaking my head. Guess I don’t need to worry about drawing any attention to myself. I take this time and survey my surroundings. This place is quite impressive. The floor is white marble, and thick pillars help control the flow of commotion. It is definitely high luxury. There is plush furniture strategically placed and a grand set of stairs with massive hallways leading away from the lobby.

I don’t see anyone who resembles Fae anywhere. The staff working behind the counters all appear to be human. I watched them; they are actually very impressive. They all seem to be calm and relaxed. They are navigating the chaos quite skillfully. The sound of children laughing as they run past snaps me out of my observation.

I watch them dodge the grownups while playing some sort of game. I smirk then shift my attention when I notice a shimmer of light out of the corner of my eye. I let my gaze follow it up the ceiling. I have to blink and focus my sight to see it more clearly.

I grin when it reveals itself to me. There are some kind of runes just under the crown molding. They oscillate in the light. Well, I guess there is more to this place than what is apparent on the surface. I look around, and it is evident that I am the only one here who can see them. I am not quite sure what they are saying, but the way they fluctuate makes me think I should walk down that hallway.

I have to maneuver around the crowd as I walk through the lobby. The playing kids almost ran into me, except their mother started fussing at them. Once I am free of the lobby’s madness, I find myself in a wide-open, vacant hallway. It looks like something you would see in The Roosevelt in New York.

I walk slowly to take in the atmosphere. It is a complete contrast to what I just experienced in the lobby. Everything is quiet, and there is almost no foot traffic. It starts to become awkward because the people who do walk through are all well dressed in tuxedos and cocktail dresses. I am not really fitting in with my hoodie, shorts, and sneakers.

I try to play it off, but they all give me the questioning eye as they walk by. When I hear something like a dining room, I become interested. I round the corner then pause at a vacant podium under an archway.

I look past it and there is a bar and tables. It looks like an exclusive restaurant. I look up and the runes lead towards the bar, then I grin. I believe I may have found something.

There is a large painting on the wall, and it catches my attention when the image changes. I look at it with a creased brow. What is that all about? I wave my hand in front of it to see if it will change again. When I hear someone clearing their throat from behind me, I freeze. Crap!

I slowly turn around, and there is a tall rugged-looking man with broad shoulders and a well-trimmed beard. He keeps his long, light brown hair secured in a ponytail and he is rather intimidating looking. He is dressed in black pants and a white shirt with an open collar and rolled sleeves. I blink since I am currently at a loss for words.

He raises an eyebrow and is about to say something when I stumble sideways because someone has casually draped their arm over my shoulders. “Sister!” I look over in shock when I see my younger brother Jeremy. He leans into my ear and whispers, “fix your eyes. They are doing that snake-slit thing again.”

I am so surprised to see him that it takes me a minute to comprehend what he says. I shake my head and blink my eyes then they shift back to normal. “Okay, sis, well, mom is looking for us,” Jeremy says taking my hand.

He looks up and tugs. “Got to go,” he announces pulling me back into the hallway. I look back and see that the tall man with the beard is watching us walk down the hall. He crosses his arms, and I know he is scrutinizing us and the interaction we just had.

Another man just as tall but more clean-cut and with blue eyes steps up next to him. He says something to him as they watch us. “Come on,” Jeremy says impatiently. He tugs on my hand to emphasize the urgency and need for my attention.

I turn to him. “What are you doing here?” I ask him in an irritated tone.

“Hello, I just saved you back there,” he says with a pleased grin.

“No, you didn’t,” I tell him. “I had it under control. Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be in school or something?”

“I took the day off,” he says. I can hear the noise of the lobby as we near the exit of the hallway.

“Besides, I had to check up on you.”

“What are you talking about?’ I snap.

He stops, turning to me just before we step into the chaos of the lobby. “You didn’t answer any of my texts. I have been trying to get a hold of you all day. We were supposed to hang out. Remember?”

I wince since I completely forgot. I take my phone out to check, and there are 25 unread messages; then, I groan. “Mom came over, and she gave me this assignment and,” I say defensively. I look up from my phone. “Sorry, I forgot.” He crosses his arms and cocks his head feeling validated. “How did you find me, anyway?”

“Duh, I pinged your phone,” he says. “I saw you were coming this way, so I thought I would come too.”

“Mom is going to kill you,” I say.

“She has to find out about it first, and I am certainly not going to tell her,” he says.

I shake my head. “I’m not going to say anything.” Jeremy becomes attentive, and I follow his gaze. The man with the beard is leaning against the wall some distance away, watching us.

Jeremy takes my hand. “I think you may have been noticed,” he says. I feel him jerk me to follow, and we rush through the lobby. Once we are halfway through the parking lot, we stop. We look at the door, and it appears that the pursuit ended at the lobby. He looks at me and asks, “Are you hungry?”

“What?” I am too distracted to understand the question.

“When was the last time you ate something? You have to be hungry. Come on, I saw a Chipotle not too far from here.” he points over his shoulder.

“Oh, yeah,” I say dismissively. “Yeah, I can eat.”

“Good,” he pauses in the middle of his sentence, then scowls. I look to see what has his attention. The same man is leaning against the wall near the door, and he is watching us again. “What is up with this guy?” Jeremy sounds annoyed retaking my hand.

“Where are we going?” I ask.


“I parked my bike over here,” he says.

“Well, my car is over there,” I protested.

“We will come back for it after we eat,” he states.

I roll my eyes. “Okay, fine,” I say as I hurry my step to match his.

“Who is that guy?” he asks.

“How should I know,” I tell him. “I just got here. That’s why I was looking around.”

“You are completely exposed,” Jeremy scolds. “You only glamoured your ears. What if that guy is Fae or something?”

I stop and jerk on his hand, so he has to look at me. “What did you just say?” He shifts his eyes around awkwardly. “What do you know?” I ask in a challenging tone.

“I may have overheard mom on the phone with the coven mother.” His voice trails off into a whisper of guilt.

I step into his personal space and crane my neck to look up at him since he is taller than me. I jab my finger into his chest, “you are going to tell me everything!”

He grins in reply. “Of course. Why do you think I came all the way down here?” I roll my eyes at his attempt to be clever.

“Let’s go,” I say to him walking past him. “We have to make sure you are back before bedtime.”

We go to his Kawasaki Cruiser, and he hands me a helmet as we both swing our legs over. I fasten the buckle, and he zips out of the parking space. I glance over and see that the bearded guy is still watching us as we pull out.

I hold on tight to Jeremy since he likes to show off. He is such a showboat when it comes to his bike. I remember when he brought it home. Mom lost her mind. I think that is why he loves this thing so much. Because he knows she hates it, and he likes to get under her skin. It was nice to have him be the star attraction for our family drama instead of me for a change.

Jeremy and I have seven years of difference between us. He is taller than me, now but he is definitely my little brother. The more appropriate term may be ‘my little shadow.’ He has always been right behind me, even if it has gotten him into trouble. I remember when he would come home from school with bruises on his face because he was defending my honor against the other kids. I would always tell him to walk away, but he never would.

Now, he is almost six feet tall with a baby face and curly blond hair that he keeps combed over with a front fringe. His clothes hang off of him since he can’t seem to stop growing long enough to fill them out.

We don’t have to ride for very long before we are at Chipotle. We pull in and park. When we open the door to the dining room, it is almost full, and there is a line at the counter. “I’ll get our order,” he says. “You grab us a table.” I nod as we split up. I find us a table in the corner, away from the mass of commotion.

I sit and see that the line is slow-moving. I take out my phone and search for the hotel on the internet. I rest my head on a bent elbow looking down at the screen. I start to scroll through, but I am unsure what I am looking for. When Jeremy said that guy could be Fae, it made me consider the idea. What if he is Fae? Is that what the Fae look like? I chuckle at myself since I am half-Fae, and the only noticeable difference I have is my ears. If they are glamoured to be concealed, then I look like everyone else.

I sigh at the thoughts. What if I have been around Fae before and didn’t know it? I start to become irritable the more I ponder this idea. Jeremy snaps me out of my introspection when he puts the tray of food on the table. “Here you go,” he says placing the vegan bowl in front of me. “I got us extra chips,” he announces, sitting across from me. “So, you said mom came to your apartment today?”

I roll my eyes as I start to eat. “Yeah, she dropped off a folder with the information on this

assignment. What is it you heard?”

He shrugs shoveling food into his mouth. “It is probably stuff you already know.” I cock my head annoyed at his attempt to deflect. “Well, you know how she is, is all I am saying. The coven mother wants you to be a spy for the coven with the Fae. Mom doesn’t think you are ready.”

I look at him with a flat expression. “Really, after all the assignments I have done for the coven, she still thinks I am not ready?” I shake my head and lean back in my chair. “Unbelievable! What do I have to do to prove myself to her?” I am so frustrated right now.

Jeremy notices my ire. “Don’t sweat it. You know how she is. Anyway, this is how you can prove her wrong. The coven mother said this is the perfect way to find out what you are ready for.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Did she really say that?”

“I am sure she did,” he says with a smirk. “Ow!” he calls out when I kick him under the table. “What the heck?’

“Did you even hear her talking to the coven mother?” I ask.

He shrugs again. “I heard some of it. Hey, you going to eat that because if not.” I snatch up my fork and don’t give him an opportunity to help himself. Jeremy’s stomach is like the bottomless pit. He can eat three meals in a row and still be hungry. I don’t know how he does it. “What’s your next move?”

“Scope out the hotel. Find out about this incubus and where he is staying,” I say.

“What if he is staying there?” he asks. I look at him, confused about what his point is. “Well, they kind of know who you are, now.”

I roll my eyes. “I am not worried about that. That is why we have disguises,” I say sarcastically.

“They are Fae. What if they can see through them? I may not be there next time, so intervene,” he says.

I roll my eyes again. “Security seems pretty loose to me. Besides, it is a hotel. There is supposed to be a lot of foot traffic. I won’t have a hard time getting in or out; I don’t think.”

“Yeah, but what about,” he starts to ask.

I interrupt him. “Jeremy, I don’t know. That is why I have to scope it out. I don’t have a plan yet. I have to make one. I need intel to do that.”

He purses his lips and turns his attention back to his food. “So, how is the home life?” I ask. Now it is his turn to give me a flat expression.

“No changes there. Everyone is their usual, happy selves,” he says flippantly.

“My apartment is available if you need to take a break,” I tell him.

He grins. “Really?” I nod at him. “Sweet!”

“Just don’t go disappearing on, mom. She is likely to mobilize the National Guard to try and find you,” I say.

“I’ll leave a note,” he says, and I chuckle at him.

After we finished our meal, Jeremy brought me back to my car. The parking lot was still full, but there was significantly less traffic. We did our traditional farewell hugs and parted ways. I watched him leave on his bike, then went and leaned against the trunk of my car.

I crossed my arms and looked at the towering glass structure in front of me. What secrets are tucked away deep in the bowels of this monstrosity? Why are the Fae here anyway? That question makes me ponder my own thoughts a little deeper. Why am I here? Why did my father leave us? My mood starts to darken as my mind wanders down this grim path. I wonder if he had anything to do with this place.

I sigh since I will not be able to answer any of these questions tonight. I decide it is time to go and start making plans. I push off the back of my car and go to the driver’s seat. I press the key on the button, and the lights flash, signaling my entrance. I slide in and fire up the engine.

I pull out of the parking spot and start speeding down the highway in the direction of The Budget Inn. The first thing I will have to do is get some more information about this incubus. I will need to learn more about this hotel, as well. The internet does not appear to be a sufficient source, so I will have to do some old-fashioned reconnaissance. I smirk at the idea.

I wonder if I should be so bold as to pose as an employee or maybe even a guest. I could do both, though. I will have to think about that some more. The uniforms were pretty nondescript, and I can conjure a glamour easily enough. Maybe I will be able to sneak a peek at their gaming tables this way.

I pull into the Budget Inn parking lot and park in front of my room. When I open my car door, I see that my hotel door is partially open. After I close my car door, I approach with caution. The door creaks a little when I step in close. “Hello,” I called out. I wait for a response but hear nothing.

I start pushing the door open then stumble when it suddenly falls away from me. I feel someone grab my arm and spin me around. I can see nothing since it is dark. The door slams shut, and I am flung onto the bed. “Illuminabant!” I call out, and the lights flash on.

My eyes need to adjust to the sudden change of light. When they do, I see Constable Easton Fabri standing atop me. What the heck does this guy want?

Easton works for the Crossroads Magistrate, Nolan Godwin. The Crossroads is a place of commerce for the enchanted. It is the equivalent of an underground market or a small city. All that are enchanted can frequent the Crossroads, so the population is very diverse and from many different realms. It is not located on Earth. I am not sure how it works. All I know is that you have to exit where you enter. There are exceptions, of course. The Fae who governs the crossroads can enter and exit from any portal.

Easton is one of those Fae. I do not get along with them. When I first started to frequent the Crossroads, I tried to approach them. They are Fae, like me, sort of. Anyway, they dismissed me and called me an infant.

When they found out, I am a witch that did not buy me any favors with them. At first, they just ignored me, which I found frustrating. When I became more involved with some, other than sanctioned, activities using questionable methods, I began to draw negative attention from them. I don’t care, though. I tried to ask them for help, and they tossed me aside like rubbish.

Now, Easton is standing in my hotel room, glaring at me with his arms crossed. He is not all that impressive looking, so it is difficult for me to take him seriously or find him intimidating. He is only a little taller than me. His dark hair is about shoulder length, and it needs to be combed. His jaw is very square with a cleft chin. There is an old scar over his right eye, and he has this thing about large, dangling earrings. Do the Fae embrace retro fashion? Because he is wearing a leisure suit with an open-collared shirt which is a dramatic contrast to his typical military tunic and pants.

I cock my head at him. “It has been a while since you have been to Earth, huh?” He narrows his eyes at me in response, and I gesture to his fashion statement. “It’s a little out of date.”

“That is not important!” he barks.

I raise an eyebrow at him. “You picked it out yourself, didn’t you?” I smirk.

“This is not what I came here to discuss with you,” he says.

“Oh,” I say with a surprised tone. “There is something you want to discuss with me?” He grunts, noting his annoyance at my flippant tone. “Funny, how when you want to talk, there is time, but when I want to talk, you are just, so busy.”

He narrows his eyes. “You are an infant.”

I roll my eyes. “What do you want? I am actually very busy at the moment.”

“I am aware of your current activities,” he says.

I would ask how and why, but honestly, I don’t care. “And?”

“There is a mutual interest that you may be of some assistant with,” he says.

I furrow my brow at him. He has aroused my interest. “And that would be?”

“The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel,” he says.

I blink at him. “What is your interest?”

“There is reason to suspect that The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel is a part of Alchemic Contraband trafficking in the Crossroads,” he says.

I look at him unimpressed. “What does that have to do with me?”

“It is my understanding that you are pursuing entrance into their unsanctioned gambling events,” he says. My silent response is all the validation he needs, and he smirks. I don’t want to verify any information he may have and put myself in a more compromising position. “We need someone working for us on the inside.”

“And why would I do such a thing?” I ask.

“It is simple. You help us, and we may be more inclined to assist you with learning about your lineage,” he says.

I narrow my eyes at him since this sounds a little too good to be true. They know how desperate I am to learn more about my father, but they have not been forthcoming with any assistance in the past. Why now? “And, if I say no?”

“It is simple,” he smiles, leaning in close. “I let the owners of the hotel know about your little undercover operation. What do you think that will do for your reputation and the coven?”

I scoff. “If you know the owners so well, why not just tell them about your little trafficking issue?”

He sighs, audibly, announcing how ridiculous he thinks my question is. “You are such an

infant. Allow me to enlighten you. We do not know if they are part of the trafficking or not. If they are, we don’t want to tip them off. If they aren’t, then we don’t want to scare off anyone that may be using the hotel as part of their operation.”

I groan since I should have been able to figure that out. “Do you have any leads?” He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small crystal pyramid. He taps it, and a holographic image of a male ghoul appears. “A ghoul!” I snap.

“Yes. Is that a problem?” he asks with a challenging tone.

Is that a problem? Is that a problem? Here is the problem. Ghouls look like people, but there are two significant differences. They can be identified by the black sclera and red irises of their eyes. The other difference is that they eat raw human flesh off the bone. The more they eat, the stronger they become. They are hideous creatures, and he has the nerve to ask what the problem is. This thing is likely to eat me before I can do anything about it. “Of course, there is a problem! That thing is vile! Why would anyone want to interact with that thing?”

Closing his fist, the image disappears. “That is what we are trying to find out.”

“Oh, you need to find someone else to deal with this. I don’t even know what to call it,” I say with an attitude, flipping my wrist back and forth.

“How about I call the hotel managers and….”

“All right, all right,” I interrupt him shaking my head. “What other information do you have?” I ask in defeated annoyance.

“That is better,” he says, and I reply with a stern expression. He opens his first again, and the holographic image reappears. I take a closer look at him. He has a youthful appearance with a fringe hairstyle that covers his eyes. “Now, like I was saying. He goes by the name of Archer Davis. He has been seen entering and exiting the hotel’s portal entrance. We don’t know what his role is in the operation. All we need from you is surveillance. Find him, and whoever else may be working with him.” He closes his fist and puts the crystal back into his pocket. “You will report whatever you learn directly to me.”

“How will I be able to reach you?” I ask.

“I will find you,” he says. His statement elicited an eye roll.

“That is all the information you have?” I ask and he nods. “How do you even know he is connected to the hotel? Maybe he is just using their Crossroads entrance?” He looks at me through narrowed eyes, implying I just asked a stupid question. I nod when I get the unspoken message of his body language. “You don’t. That is what you want me to find out for you.” His slow nod emphasizes his unspoken comment.

I am about to ask another question when he turns and moves to the door. “That is enough for now,” he announces. It is obvious he found my questions to be too juvenile to entertain any longer. He opens the door and declares, “I will be in touch,” just before stepping through. There is a bright flash, and I hurry to investigate. Holding the opened door, I see that he is gone.

I sigh, how the heck did this just happen? Now I am working for the Crossroads Magistrate. What is next? Are vampires going to descend upon me and ask for donations? I shake my head at my own sarcasm. I think I need to go to bed before this day gets any more out of control.


I woke up this morning to the obsessive ringing of my phone. I did not intend to start this day early after all the shenanigans from yesterday. It rang for about fifteen minutes before I answered it. When I did, a very cranky voice was on the other end. She informed me that she is my contact from The Heritors of Aion. I attempted to congratulate her, and I hung up then returned to my blissful slumber. So, of course, she called again.

She informed me that I was late for their meeting. I told her that I knew nothing about a meeting and to please stop bothering me. Then she called my mother. Cheap play, really, you can’t handle your own problems, so you have to call a mommy. Anyway, I received a firm lecture about responsibility and proving myself, and I eventually got out of bed.

I am currently driving to a Starbucks for some very needed coffee and to meet my overly eager contacts. I have glamoured myself to look like Molly Ringwald. I figure she will not be easily recognizable since most of her popular work was in the 80s.

I park my car and walk in. I see the two of them sitting in a corner booth. I don’t rush over since I am not in a hurry. I didn’t think I would actually meet my contacts from the other coven. I thought it would all be figurative and in passing. Now that I know they will be involved with this operation, I will have to adapt my original strategies.

I step up to the counter and place my order for coffee and a muffin. When I go to them, they look at me like I am a crazy person. “Can we help you?” says the skinny blond with blue eyes. She looks like the kind of girl country music songs are written about.

“I don’t know. You called me. Can you help me?” I replied back.

“Oh snap,” says the young man sitting with her. His skin is a shade of Havana. He has long dreads that he keeps secured away from his face and well-kept stubble.

“You are late!” says the blond.

“Nice to meet you too,” I say.

“I’m Sean,” says the young man.

“Kyra,” I reply. I look over my shoulder when I hear that my order is ready. “Be right back,” I tell them, then retrieve my coffee. When I return, Sean moves over to let me sit.

“That’s a cool glamour,” Sean says.

“Thanks,” I tell him as I sip my coffee.

“How long did it take you?’ he asks.

“Not very long. I have seen a lot of her movies, so it is easy for me to hold the impression for the spell,” I tell him.

The blond clears her throat gaining our attention. “If you don’t mind?” she says in a snippy tone. “We have a lot to do today.”

“And you would be?” I ask.

“Aubrey,” she says.

“Of course,” I mutter, and Sean starts to snicker a little since he heard me.

Aubrey rolls her eyes, pulling out a folder from her bag. “We have been tracking the movement of the incubus for over a week,” she opens the folder. “He only goes to two places when he is not in his room. The bar near the lobby and the Crossroads.”

“The Crossroads is more than just one place,” I say, and she glares. “Okay, two places,” I say in mock defense. “Continue, please.”

“He never takes anyone back to his room, and he always leaves at the same time,” she says.

“Isn’t that odd for an Incubus? How is he feeding himself?” I ask.

“If you keep interrupting me, I may never get around to telling you that,” she growls. I nod and sip my coffee. Sean is doing the same, trying to hide his amusement. “There must be more going on in the basement of that hotel than just poker. Maybe he is being supplied sustenance by the Fae, or maybe he has a connection at the Crossroads. It doesn’t matter where you are concerned.”

“Um,” I put my finger up in a contest. “Wouldn’t it be better if he were a little hungry? So that I can appeal to his appetite to get in?”

“He is an incubus. He always has an appetite,” she says curtly.

“Have a lot of experience with an incubus, then?” I ask flippantly.

She scowls. “You know, I heard about you.” I raise an eyebrow at her. “The half-Fae witch that is always screwing up. The only reason you are here is that you are half-Fae, and the covens think you will be able to blend in. I think you are going to screw this up like you have screwed up everything else. You are not the one who should be doing this.”

I glance at Sean, and he is looking a little embarrassed by her outburst. I sigh, I would love to say that I am always welcomed with open arms, but this is a typical interaction from me. “Well, if you are so confident with your recommendations for candidates, why don’t you call the coven mothers and let them know. Then, I can go home and back to bed, which is where I would rather be, anyway.” She leans back crossing her arms. “No?” I ask her. “Not going to make that call?”

“Okay then,” I say standing from the booth. I flip the folder close and slide it off the table. I tuck it under my arm and turn to pick up my coffee. I look at Sean, “it was nice meeting you.” I turned to her. “Good talk, thanks for the information. Don’t call me and I won’t call you. Consider your part in this little extravaganza to be done.”

“We aren’t finished,” she snaps.

“We are for now,” I say walking out and back to my car.

I open the car door and toss the folder onto the passenger seat. I slide into the driver’s seat, and as soon as I start the car, my phone rings. I look down to see who it is, then roll my eyes when I see the screen flash, mom.

Nope! I am not taking another lecture from her today. I mute the phone, dropping it into the center console, so I don’t have to deal with watching it flash at me. I pull out of the parking lot. I start driving in the direction of The Runic Spa Resort and Hotel. My original plan of going undercover as an employee appears to be unnecessary at the moment.

Glancing through the folder on the way to the car, I could see their notes. They were very detailed and thorough. They listed his room number, his usual schedule, and how much time he spends in each location. The need for me to stalk him appears to be less necessary. I still need to see him in action, but I know when he will be at the bar so I can plan accordingly.

In the meantime, I think I will go and stroll the grounds and see if anything catches my eye. Easton mentioned that he saw the ghoul using the hotel’s portal to the Crossroads. I should be able to find it.

I would imagine it would need to be close but inconspicuous. How are they keeping it hidden from the humans? Most portal locations I have seen have been in or near abandoned ruins or bridges. Where would this one be that is close to a hotel?

Would the Fae really be working with a ghoul? Why would they be doing such a thing? I don’t know anything about the Fae, but it seems like it would be counterproductive to be working with a creature that could eat your guests. Then again, there is an incubus in their hotel too. How is that working?

I rest my head against a bent elbow as I drive. The more I think about these things, the less I understand. None of this is making any sense. What if the Fae are not what I want them to be? What if I have built them up in my head to be something other than what they are? What if they are monsters?

I sigh as these ideas bulldoze through my mind. I think the evidence in front of me is clearly telling me what I am dealing with, but I don’t want to believe it. I wonder what I would find if I researched police reports or missing persons in the hotel’s vicinity? I groan at the thought. I don’t want to look because I don’t want to validate the idea.

I was excited about possibly meeting Fae, but now I am having second thoughts. What are they really all about? Maybe the coven has been right this whole time about me. Maybe they should fear me because I am Fae. What do I really know about that part of myself? Nothing, I know nothing.

What will I do if I find out that the Fae are monsters? Will I become a monster, too, or will my human half be strong enough to keep that side of me at bay? Maybe I am not ready for this?

I slide down in my seat and groan. I can see the glass tower of the hotel coming into view as I roll down the highway. I am lacking the enthusiasm that I had yesterday. I pull into the parking lot and find a space far from the entrance. I don’t want to be too conspicuous as I take my tour.

I sit in the car for a bit. I look over my shoulder through the rear-view mirror and watch the foot traffic of pedestrians. Are they monsters? Are those humans really potential victims of the Fae, and they just don’t know it? I want to be wrong, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced. What other creatures could they be working with that could be a danger to this world?

I guess I am not going to find that out just sitting here in this car. I reach into the center console and retrieve my phone. My mother called five times and left three voicemails. She also left me ten text messages. I shake my head. I am not dealing with any of that right now.

I open the car door and slide the phone into my pocket. Yesterday I spent time inside, but today I want to walk around the outside. I decided to investigate the walking path that leads away from the hotel.

I take a leisurely stroll and note how well-maintained and clean the grounds look. The path has minimal foot traffic, and it is primarily for joggers. It appears to be a winding loop through the forest.

I don’t have to walk for very long when I see a huge stone, placed very close to the path. It could easily be mistaken as a nondescript landmark and dismissed by the everyday passerby. The thing is, I am not an ordinary passerby.

The same runes that I saw inside the hotel are on the edge of this stone. I wonder if it is a spell for humans to look past such objects and dismiss them without question. That would explain why no people were straying down that hallway yesterday. It was practically vacant.

I stand in front of this stone a reasonable distance away. I turn when runners approach, but they do not stop and acknowledge me. I watched them disappear and found the experience interesting. They did not even give me a sideways glance or a second look.

Okay, so that just happened. Looking around the stone, there isn’t anything threatening, or that looks questionable. I want to take a closer look and see if this is a doorway to the Crossroads. I figure I don’t have anything to lose, and there is no one around, so why not? I am an enchanted being. I should be able to use this without issue. The worst that can happen is that I walk into a giant stone slab and try to play it off.

I have made my decision, and now I am going in. I start to walk towards it, and an image of the Crossroads begins to form in the smooth face of the stone. I smile since this validates my assumption.

When my feet get stuck to the ground like they have been superglued, I begin to panic. Oh no! Is this a trap?

I cover my eyes from a sudden, blinding flash of light. When it is gone, the bearded man from yesterday is standing in front of me. He looks down at me with a judgmental scowl. He reaches out and snatches the glamour necklace concealing my identity. He narrows his eyes when he recognizes me.

He puts the necklace in his pocket and takes out a crystal. He places a hand on my shoulder. When he snaps the crystal in half, there is another blinding flash of light. When the flash fades away, we are both standing in a small room with a table and two chairs.

I swivel my head around for a potential easy escape. “Why don’t you have a seat?” he says. I look at him like he is crazy. My guard is up, and I am ready for anything to happen. Noting how tense I am, he casually walks over to one of the chairs, pulls it out, and then sits. “Or you can stand. It makes no difference to me.”

My lips purse since I don’t know what to think right now. I step away from the table and chair to lean my back against the wall. “What is your name?” he asks. I respond with silence, and he leans back in his chair. “Okay, I will start then. My name is Gatlin Heinzmann. I am from the Uswain Region.” He removes the ring from his finger, and the glamour on his ears fades away. They are just as pointed as mine. “I am Fae, just like you.”

I narrow my eyes, and he smirks at me. “You are a Feral Fae. It is impressive that you can control your transition. That is not a skill many have.”

I crease my brow in question. “Feral Fae?”

He nods and points to my eyes. “Yes, your eyes. They gave you away yesterday just like they are doing now.” I curse and blink to adjust them back. “It is nothing to be embarrassed about. What is your name?”

I look at him and try to think of a name to stop him from asking me that question. “Sara,” the word fumbles off my tongue. “Sara Davis,” I say to him with more confidence.

He raises an eyebrow at me. “Sara,” he says in an unimpressed tone, and I nod. He shakes his head. He must suspect I made that up. “Okay, Sara, where are you from?”

I wrinkle my nose at him. I am not sure what to tell him. I think I will be vague. “Earth,” I say it like he should have known the answer.

He looks at me with a questioning expression. The chair creaks as he shifts his weight. “So, you want me to believe that you are Sara Davis from Earth?” I blink and let my eyes move around the room since I don’t know what is wrong with believing what I told him. “A Fae female is from Earth with a human name.” I nod at him since I am still at a loss. What is his point?

He shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Okay, Fae female named Sara, from Earth. You want to tell me what you are doing here?”

“Checking out local vacation spots,” I say with a shrug. He smirked a little acknowledging the sarcasm. “Is that wrong?”

“Of course not. The way you are going about it raises some suspicion, though,” he says.

I nod at him, and he nods back at me. “So, now what?”

“Now, we wait,” he says.

“For?” I ask.

“For you to tell me the truth,” he says. “I am in no hurry. You can take as long as you like.”

I sigh in response. Is he really going to wait it out with me? “But that is the truth. What makes you think it's not?”

He raises an eyebrow. “Why should I believe that a Fae female is named Sara and is from Earth?”

“But I am from Earth,” I tell him. “Where else would I be from?”

He looks at me like I am an idiot. “The Fae Realm.”

I narrow my eyes. “Well, I am not from the Fae Realm. I am from Earth.” He gives me a flat stare, and I match his stare with a challenging glare of my own. It annoys me that he thinks he knows more about me than I do about myself. He knows nothing about me, just like I don’t know anything about him. “What now?”

“You keep asking that question like the answer is going to change,” he says.

We both turn when we hear a knock. I become curious since I don’t see anything that looks like a door. When it swings open, I grin. A staff member steps and looks at Gatlin. “Sir, your presence is needed.”

I hear him groan a little and turn back when his chair moves. “I am on my way,” he says standing. The staff member nods then steps out. “We will finish this when I return,” he says closing the door behind him.

After he leaves, I inspect the door. It is impressive. It is spelled to sway the eyes away from it. It has to be revealed. The knob is different from what I am accustomed to. It is flat, but I bet the principles are similar. I wonder if this will work. I place my palm over the knob and say an incantation. When it clicks and swings towards me, I know it worked.

I peek my head around and the hallway is vacant. Eureka! An opportunity to escape. I don’t waste any time and slip out.

Stepping into the hallway, only one option appears available. Natural light shines from one end with the commotion of heavy equipment. This must be the only exit or entrance. Not knowing what to expect, I am tentative while passing several office doors.

Reaching the end, I look around the corner. Casually dressed People rush about with clipboards and scan guns. Forklifts are unloading a trailer and moving pallets of supplies. This appears to be the loading dock for the hotel. I grin since I should be able to move through here without being noticed.

I adjust myself and relax to avoid drawing any unwanted attention. I start moving in the direction of the unloaders. I look for an exit door, but it is so congested it is hard to see. I stop dead in my tracks when Archer Davis is driving a forklift. He is the one Easton from the Crossroads is looking for. Are you serious right now? What is he doing here? “Hey!” I jump a random voice shouts and I turn. “What are you doing? Get out of the way!” one of the drivers barks.

I nod in apology and rush by. Archer is parking his forklift, so I try to be inconspicuous as I follow. I notice something about him when he steps out of the lift. His eyes are human, not ghoulish. Are they glamoured? He gives me a courtesy nod since I am staring at him. I return the gesture with a casual smile and try to hide my interest by rushing off.

After he plugs his forklift to be charged, he starts walking to the breakroom. I should do the smart thing and leave, but I don’t. I follow him, and fortunately, he does not appear to notice. I duck behind a shelf when he walks back out before I can follow him in.

He has a bag in his hand and walks away from the truck dock. Where is he going? I try to keep my distance as I follow, but he doesn’t look like he is walking in any particular direction. The space becomes vacant, and he turns down a wide corridor that declines. What is down here?

I hug the wall behind an exposed pipe when he stops part of the way down. He turns then leans his back against a wall. He reaches into his pocket and takes something out. The way he is holding it keeps it concealed from view

He starts to step backward and disappears into the wall. My jaw drops in surprise. How did he do that? I hurry to investigate. Maybe it is a portal to somewhere like the Crossroads. I press my hands against the space, but it is completely solid. This is a concrete wall, and it is underground. What did I just see?

Magic will allow you to walk through things, but there is a limit. You have to either be able to see the other side or have been to the other side before. If you attempt to walk through something blindly, you risk becoming disoriented and getting stuck or dying.

What was he holding in his hand, and what was in the bag? I have so many questions right now. I step back and examine the space. I cannot see anything unique about this wall. I spin around when a horn beeps. I can’t see any vehicles, but I can hear the quiet hum of a golf cart approaching. Ugh! I don’t have any more time; I have to move.

I start running up the incline, but the hum of the golf cart is getting louder. I grit my teeth and push harder to gain some distance. Once I exit the corridor, I continue to make haste to the safety of the racks. I breathe a sigh of relief as I watch the golf cart fly by while I stand, shielded by tall racking.

Since my withdrawal is still imminent, I decided I will have to figure out what I just witnessed later. I hurry back to the docks. I only hope that Gatlin has not noticed that I am no longer in that room where he left me. I can see the motion of forklifts, and I know I am close.

Reaching the end of the racking, I search for the exit. Since it has cleared some, I can see it next to the truck that is being unloaded. I step out and glance, then curse. Gatlin’s eyes lock in on mine, and I freeze. He shakes his head to deter me from running, but it doesn’t work.

I dash away, flying towards the exit. I can hear people yelling as papers flip through the air and cartons are knocked over. I am outside, and Gatlin is right behind me. I glance back at him and smirk. He is fast, but I am faster. I start to gain distance to the parking lot. All I have to do is get to my car!

An opportunity for distraction presents itself, and I take it. “Explodere!” I call out passing a large, mature tree. It topples over, landing on a parked car. Alarms resound, and Gatlin is no longer pursuing me. When I arrived at my car, I jumped in and spun out of the parking lot. I watch a small crowd has started to form around the flashing lights and disabled vehicles.

Driving back to my hotel, I breathe a sigh of relief. I am glad to be out of there. As I begin to calm down and relax, my mind replays the experience. Their doorway to the portal is spelled so not just anyone can use it. Anyone who does use it has permission.

Does Archer have permission to access that portal? Is that what that means? What about the way he disappeared into that wall? What was that all about? He didn’t look like a ghoul or act like one. Ghouls have insatiable appetites, and they like dark places. They do not have the ability to work alongside humans. Their impulses would overpower them.

The more I ponder, the more questions I have. What role do the Fae have in any of this? I sigh turning into the parking space in front of my hotel room. I pull out my phone to see what time it is. I groan when I see that my mother has called 15 times and left 35 text messages. I tap on one of the messages, and all it says is ‘call me.’ I roll my eyes since I have no intention of listening to another one of her lectures.

Just as I tap my thumb on the screen to close the messages, she dials in. I curse in frustration since I accidentally answered the call. “Kyra!” her tone is sharp.

I flop my head back since there is no avoiding it. Putting the phone to my ear. “Hi, mom,” I reply opening the car door.

“Why did I receive a phone call from Aubrey that you have refused to cooperate with The Heritors of Aion? You were late to the meeting, and you left telling them you would be working on your own? That is not how collaboration works!” she says as I walk into my hotel room.

“Who?” I ask sitting on the bed.

“Kyra! This is serious!” she snaps.

“Who is Aubrey?” I ask.

“Kyra! You met with her this morning!” her patience is at its end, I think.

“This morning,” I muttered trying to remember, then it comes to me. “Oh, you mean the blond girl?” I ask.

She scoffs, but a lot has happened since this morning. I forgot about that whole thing. “Kyra,” she takes a deep breath composing herself. “There is too much at stake for you to flake out and go off on your own. You need to demonstrate to the coven that you have the ability to work with others. This is what we talked about. Demonstrating that you can handle more than just basic missions.”

“You aren’t even going to hear my side of it?” I ask defensively.

“Kyra, it is always the same with you. You felt disrespected and dismissed; your feelings got hurt, you didn’t feel like you were being heard. So, you storm off in some kind of dramatic exit. Again, you have made it all about you. What about the mission? What about their parts and roles in the mission? How do you think they felt when you were late, and then you were disrespectful? Kyra, get it together! No one has time for your childish antics! Now, you will call them, and you are going to apologize. You are going to work with them so that this mission will be a success. Do you understand?” she barks.

I narrow my eyes and scowl through the phone. I want to speak my mind and tell her exactly how I feel, but I know there is no point in it. She won’t listen and will take my apartment and my car away. “Yes,” I reply with a sharp tone of my own.

“When we are finished speaking, you are to call Aubrey immediately! Fix this, Kyra, or there will be consequences,” she hangs up.

I am so frustrated right now. I flop back onto the bed and grab the pillow. I hold it to my face and scream into it. Why does this always happen? Why don’t my feelings matter? I scream long and hard, then lie there to catch my breath.

Once I have calmed down, I toss the pillow aside and reach for my phone. I scoot around so that I am reclined against the headboard. I stare at my phone. I am not ready to call Aubrey yet. I click on the screen and start scrolling through the news app.

There is nothing of great significance, but a headline grabs my attention: Rash of Unexplained Missing Persons. I tap on it, and there is a picture of a crime scene with caution tape. I sit up when Archer’s face is in the picture. He is looking in at the crime scene. What is he doing there?

I scroll down to read. No arrests have been made as a rash of missing persons continues. Police are left baffled. No witnesses have stepped forward, and there are no suspects as the crime spree continues. This makes the tenth person to date to go missing without any indication as to why. No whereabouts or remains have been found. The families of the victims are left grief-stricken with unanswered questions looming….

I scroll up to the picture with him in it. Something has to be done. If he is a ghoul, he cannot be left to roam unchecked. But it still doesn't make sense to me. I shake my head with the memory of the conflicting behavior I witnessed today. Ugh! I have to know more!

I know Easton said he would contact me, but I cannot wait. I am going to find him! He is going to tell me what this is all about!

I stand up from the bed sliding my phone into my pocket. I retrieved the keys that I flung aside when I entered. I hear the phone beep, and I pause. It is my mother asking if I called Aubrey. I narrow my eyes then slide it out of sight. The coven will have to wait. I have my own questions I need to get answered first. I will deal with Aubrey later.

I slip into the driver’s seat, then turn the ignition jetting away. I start driving south to the Poinsett Bridge. It is an abandoned historical landmark, but it is also the closest entrance to the Crossroads, I know of. The phone beeps again, and I groan. I don’t need to look at it to know who is pinging me. Fine, mother, I will call her.

Once I am on the interstate, I pick up the phone scroll through my call history, and find Aubrey’s number. I tap on it, and I listen to the intense volume of ringing from my car’s speakers. She is not quick to answer, and I hope she misses my call. “Hello,” Aubrey says.

I sigh before responding. “Aubrey, this is Kyra.” I don’t mean it to be so direct, but I cannot help myself.

“Yes,” she replies, expecting something.

I am not going to give her the satisfaction of an apology. I cannot bring myself to do it. “Our meeting was cut short this morning. When is a good time for us to reconnect?”

“Oh, so now you want a meeting?” She sounds defensive.

I have to force myself to hold back from biting her head off. I force myself to focus and think about what I should say. “I value your input and think it would be beneficial for us to work together.” The words are like bile on the tip of my tongue.

She scoffs. “You are unbelievable! You know we have spent weeks working on this mission. Our coven needs this, and you act like you don’t even care. You think you are so special, well you’re not. You’re just some half-breed with pointed ears. We aren’t going to let you mess this up like you have with your other assignments!”

I grip the steering wheel hard to restrain myself from unleashing an emotional response. “When do you want to meet?” I struggle to ask.

“Tonight,” she says.

“I can’t tonight. I am busy,” I replied.

“Busy doing what? This is the only thing you should be busy doing!” she snaps.

“Well, I am busy, so I can’t meet tonight. Let’s meet tomorrow in my hotel room,” I tell her. “I will send you the address and time.” I hang up before she has a chance to say anything else. What is her deal? What is she talking about anyway? What does she know about my assignments? I shake my head, speeding down the highway.

My brief interaction with her has me weaving through this traffic to alleviate my frustration. The phone beeps again, but I don’t look at it. I pick it up and mute it. I have had enough phone drama for the day. When I start to calm down, I rest my head on a bent elbow against the door.

My hand brushes over the tips of my ears, and I cringe, then I curse. I forgot that I am not glamoured. Gatlin took the one I was wearing earlier. I meant to grab another when I went back to the room but got distracted. I flop my head back. Hopefully, no one will be at the state park, and I be unnoticed.

I pull into the campgrounds then let my forehead fall onto the steering wheel. The place is packed. Is it some kind of holiday or something? What is everyone doing here? I creep through the grounds looking for suitable parking. There are people everywhere, so I have to drive slowly to accommodate.

I find a vacant location and breathe a sigh of relief. No one appears to be interesting, so I step out of the car. I do my best to conceal my eras with my hair, and I follow the well-worn path to the bridge. There is some foot traffic, but it is starting to get dark, so people appear to be moving back toward the campgrounds.

The sound of the moving water lets me know I am getting closer. I stop at the crossing before stepping in and look to ensure no one is close by. When it appears to be clear, I veer off the path.

I tiptoe the shallow rocks that lead me standing under the gothic archway of the bridge. I tap the stones in the correct sequence, and the entranceway reveals itself. When I step through, it fades away.

I pause and take in the scene. The Crossroads are busy today with pedestrian foot traffic. There are no vehicles here, so there isn’t a need to worry about being run over, but getting swept up into the crowd is easy. This is where all levels of Enchanted Society come to do business and meet with others. The patrons are diverse and from many different realms. I don’t know the origins of this place, but I do know it is ancient and adapts to its residents’ needs. This means that the Crossroads is intuitive and will change, so you have to pay attention, or you get lost. Right now, it looks like a giant, gothic mall with modern shops lining the walkways

I like coming here because I blend in. I don’t have to worry about anyone noticing my ears or being bothered by my abilities. Before I step into the crowd, I need to know where I am going. I am here to find Easton. I ponder, I bet if I find a random constable, I will be able to contact him, or I can just blow something up. I giggle to myself, then join the crowd. If finding a constable takes too long, I will follow through with the other option.

Not picking any particular destination, I step into the pedestrian traffic. I follow the easy flow to see where it takes me. The constables of the Crossroads frequent the walkways regularly, so I am staying attentive to find one.

My head snaps around when I recognize the familiar, sweet smell of baking pastries. I grin at the sign of my favorite bakery. I can take a break and partake in the sinful delight of tasty baked goods.

Walking against the flow of traffic, I stop and look back when a hand is on my shoulder. It is Easton in his customary military tunic uniform. I frown, I guess I didn’t need to look for him, he found me. He says nothing and snaps the crystal he is holding. We flash away and appear in his office.

I have never been in his office, so I stand and take in the room. It is a simple space with a large window and a holographic monitor of pedestrian traffic. Another large monitor appears to be an active diagram of the entrances to the Crossroads.

“Why are you here?” Easton snaps me out of my survey as he walks to his desk. “I remember telling you that I would come to you.”

“I have questions,” I walk to one of the available chairs across from him.

Easton intertwines his fingers and raises an eyebrow. “You had a simple direction. Find Archer that is all. What is there to question?”

I lean back crossing my legs. “I found him,” I say.

“And?” he asks shifting in his chair.

“He is working at the hotel on their truck dock. He didn’t look ghoulish to me. He did something I did not expect,” I say.

“That would be?” he asks resting his temple on a pointer finger with a bent elbow.

“He walked through a wall,” I tell him. “More like he leaned against it then disappeared into it.”

He furrows his brow. “What do you mean he didn’t look ghoulish to you?”

I blink at him since I would have thought that walking through a wall would have been more intriguing. “He looked human, acted human, and was working with humans. A ghoul would not have been capable of such casual interaction.”

“Hmmm,” he says rubbing his chin.

“There is something else.” He fixes his sight on me. “There is no way he would have been able to use the Crossroads entrance at the hotel. It is spelled to restrict traffic. If you saw him using it, there is no way he would have been able to do that without the Fae knowing about it.” Easton takes an audible breath. “Why would the Fae that are running a human hotel have anything to do with a ghoul?”

Easton doesn’t answer me. He just sits there looking perplexed. “I found a news article stating a rash of missing persons. I saw him in the picture. Why would he be at the crime scene of a missing person?”

“Did the image appear to be taken during the day?” he asks.

The question seems odd to me, but I answer. “Yes, and it was fairly recent.”

“Hm, I see,” he hums.

“Well, I don’t. Who is he?” My patience is starting to fade.

The chair creeks as Easton shifts his weight and looks at me, considering something. “I want you to continue to monitor his movements. Report what you find directly to me and me only.”

“What?” I snap. I didn’t come here for this. I came here to get my questions answered. “Only if you tell me who he is. You know where he is; just go and get him.”

“You know everything you need to know at this time,” he says.

I cross my arms and shake my head. “No, I need more information. What am I dealing with? Why am I watching him?”

Easton sighs, and he looks when a pyramid-shaped crystal on his desk starts beeping. He taps it, and it stops. He leans forward bracing his forearms against the edge. “I told you. He is associated with smuggling alchemic contraband in and out of the Crossroads.”

I cock my head and an eyebrow. “You are going to have to do better than that if you want my help.”

“All I have to do is make a call to hotel management,” he says in a cocky tone.

“How does that help you? Then you lose your spy, and Archer gets away. Just tell me what is going on, so I know what I am dealing with,” I say. The crystal beeps again, and he taps it to silence it. “Do you need to take that?” I assume it is some kind of communicator.

He shakes his head, and I sense his need for our meeting to end. “What I am about to tell you is not to leave this room.” I nod in understanding and agreement. “Somehow, Archer has acquired one of our universal keys. We don’t know if he stole it, fashioned one on his own, or purchased it. I need more information.”

My jaw drops since there are huge implications with this. “If he knows how to….”

“Yes,” he interrupts. “We know, and that is why it is imperative that he be found and his method is discovered. Get me more information.”

“Why is he on Earth?” I ask. He makes another audible sigh, and I sense his annoyance at my juvenile question. I nod in agreement. “Yeah, okay, I get it. That is what you want me to find out.”

He nods then stands from, and I watch him as he walks. I have to crane my neck as he stands atop me. “It is time to go,” he says. I stand as well, and he places his hand on my shoulder. We flash away and appear in front of the Poinsett entrance. I am about to say something, but he is gone before I can speak. Okay then, I guess we are done.


After driving back to the hotel, I accidentally left my phone in the car last night. I remembered once I woke up. I plugged it to charge and saw I also forgot about meeting with Aubrey and Sean. My phone pinged nonstop for five minutes before I could send her the address.

They rushed over as soon as they received my response. I don’t know what the hurry is. The game is not for another four days. The door knocked and I answered. When I swing it open, they both look at me as if I am some kind of alien. I look down at myself to see what has them so fascinated. Nothing special here, running shorts and a t-shirt. Oh! That is right. This is the first time they have seen me without a glamour.

I step aside for them to walk in, and it seems to snap them out of their staring state. I swing the door close, and Sean stops in front of me. He is much taller than I am, so I crane my neck to look up at him. “This is what you really look like?” he asks in an awestruck tone.

“Um, yeah,” I say as stepping around him. He follows me to the bed, and we all sit.

Aubrey places a folder down and opens it up. I jerk my head away when I feel someone touching my ears. I glare at Sean, but he doesn’t acknowledge me. He reaches out to touch them again, and I grab his wrist. “I would prefer that you didn’t. They are sensitive.” He replies with a goofy grin, then puts his hand down.

“What’s it like?” he asks.

“What is what like?” I ask.

“Being Fae?” He sounds like a little kid asking a question to a teacher.

“I don’t know. What is it like being human?”

“I mean,” Aubrey interrupts him before he can finish, and I am glad.

She flips her folder open on the bed, showing several printouts of pictures. “We need to get started. We are two days behind and need to get caught up.”

I picked up a picture of two men. “Who are they?”

“Lazlo and Micah, they are the ones who run the hotel. It is not often that they are apart. They appear to be a couple. Micah is usually the one working the bar,” Aubrey says rummaging through papers.

“I think I saw this one the other day,” I point to the shorter man in the picture.

She looks. “That is Micah. We think he is the one who determines who gets to enter.”

“Is he Fae?” I ask.

“They both are,” she replies.

“How do you know?” I ask.

“They both wear similar bracelets that glamour their ears to look human. We saw him take it off once. We have never seen Lazlo at the bar, so we assume he works elsewhere in the hotel. They have only been in public a few times. They don’t appear to leave very often.”

My lips purse and I consider what she is saying. “And Isaac?”

“He has a room in the hotel, but he doesn’t appear to leave very often either. He will pregame at the bar then be admitted to the poker game.”

“What other enchanted beings have you seen being admitted?” I ask.

“We haven’t been focused on the other Enchanted Beings,” Sean says. “We kept our focus on the being that would be most susceptible to female influence. I have seen a leprechaun, an immortal, a dwarf, and an alchemist.”

“Did you say, alchemist?” I ask and he nods in response. “Are they all staying in the hotel, too or do they just come and play then leave?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Aubrey’s response is short as we digress from the relevant subject, and I sigh. “We need to focus. We don’t have much more time to prepare.”

“Are there any pictures of Gatlin?” I ask.

She shakes her head. “Who is Gatlin?”

“Another Fae that works there, I think,” I say.

“No,” she replies. “If he is there, he has little to do with the bar or the poker game.” My lips purse as I consider what she is saying. This is so odd to me. What are these Fae all about? They have an incubus and a ghoul in residence at their human hotel. Why? Does the ghoul participate in the poker game? How does that work? “Are you listening to me?”

Her question snaps me out of my contemplations. “Oh, sorry.”

“Like I was saying. We will go tonight and have dinner at the hotel. That way, you can see how admittance works.”

“Yeah, I think that would be good.” I placed the pictures back into the folder.

“We will leave this folder with you so you can look over its contents. They start admitting patrons around eight o’clock, so we will make dinner plans for seven-thirty.” She stands from the bed, and Sean follows her lead. “Make sure you have a suitable glamour. You need to blend in, not stand out. Everything will fall apart if you show up looking like that.” She starts for the door. “We will meet you there tonight,” she says leaving.

I lean back against the headboard and think about what Easton said last night. Archer has a universal key. Was the alchemic contraband a story he was telling me, or is that partially true? Why is Archer here on Earth? There have to be more suitable places for a ghoul to reside than here. What role do the Fae and their hotel have in all of this? I groan since all I seem to be coming up with are questions and no answers.

It is almost eight o’clock when I arrive at the hotel. Aubrey is blowing up my phone, asking me where I am, and informing me that I am late. I don’t respond since I am on my way.

I have glamoured myself to look like Ashley Doris to blend in. I tried to be casual chic with fitted blue jeans and a strappy camisole top. I round the corner into the dining room, and the hostess greets me.

As I follow her to the back corner booth of the dining room, I see one of the men from Aubrey’s file. I think she said his name is Micah. I unintentionally make eye contact with him, and we hold each other’s gaze. “Mam,” I snap my head around to the hostess. She has her arm out encouraging me to go with her. “Right this way.” I nod and shake off that weird instant. “Here you go,” she says gesturing me to sit.

Sean scoots over to make room, and I slide into the booth. “Your server will be with you shortly,” the hostess says just before stepping away.

“What was that?” Aubrey snaps.

“What?” I reply defensively.

“That, just now.” She points over her shoulder. “Did you think we wouldn’t notice?”

“I don’t know. It was nothing. Don’t worry about it,” I tell her. I don’t even know what that was, so there is nothing to talk about.

“Why are you late?” Aubrey snaps.

“I overslept,” I tell her. “I am here; relax. I didn't miss anything, did I?” Aubrey sighs shaking her head in annoyance. Feeling someone’s eyes on me forces me to look towards the bar. Micah is staring in our direction as he talks to the hostess. “How often have you two been coming here?”

A waitress appears next to the table. “Back again,” she says. I look at both of them like they are amateurs. “Should I get you your usual?”

“Yeah, that would be great,” Sean says.

“What about you?” she asks me.

I glance at the menu. “I will have your veggie tempura over rice,” I say handing her the menu.

“Sounds great. I will put your order right in,” she says twirling away.

“So, you are regulars?” I ask.

“We have been here almost every night,” Sean tells.

“You don’t think they might find that a little odd?” I ask.

“Why? We have a room,” Aubrey says.

“You have a room?” I ask; then I shake my head.

“Where did you think we were staying?” she asks.

“I have no idea,” I say as visions of my Budget Inn hotel room flash through my mind. “So, has our perspective mark walked through yet?” I sip on my water.

“No,” Sean says. “He won’t be here until later. But Micah is at the bar, so they will start allowing admittance.” I nod, and the waitress appears again with dinner rolls and drinks.

“How long does it normally take for his patrons to start arriving?” I ask.

“Not long,” Sean replies. “Some nights there are more than others. It has been pretty consistent this week since the high stakes game is coming up.”

“That makes sense,” I say absentmindedly. “Do you think the grimoire is on the premises?”

“Don’t know,” Sean says. “Why do you ask?”

I shrug tearing apart the dinner roll. “Considering options is all.”

“You think you can steal it?” Aubrey asks.

“Maybe, if I can find it. Just want to have a backup plan in case this one doesn’t work out.”

“You don’t think you can do it?” Aubrey asks.

“That is not what I said. I want to make sure we get what we came for regardless of this poker game. It is just an option to consider if it presents itself,” I tell her and she narrows her eyes. “Relax, I am going to get into the game. All I have to do is seduce an incubus. How hard can that be?”

A well-dressed figure walks in and goes to the bar. “That’s the alchemist,” Sean whispers.

“Really? You are right. I can see his tattoos,” I reply as I focus on their interaction. They don’t appear to be saying or doing anything that would make you question their actions then another figure joins them. It is apparent that this figure is glamoured. “They let a cambion in?”

“How can you tell that is what he is?” Sean asks. I turn and look at him. “Oh,” he replies, and I respond with a curious expression. I turn back again when another figure walks in. “That is a werecat.”

“What is going on with your eyes?” Aubrey asks.

“Oh, crap,” I say blinking to make them look human again.

“Okay,” the waitress arrives with a tray full of food. “Here you go,” she places the plates down in front of us. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No, we are good, thanks,” Sean tells her.

“Does that always happen?” Aubrey asks.

“Only sometimes,” I say trying to get them to change back.

“Well, you need to fix it,” she snaps.

“What is it you think I am trying to do?” I say. “For some reason, they are not adjusting.”

“Um,” Sean says with some apprehension. “You need to hurry. I think the bartender is starting to notice.”

“What?” I say to him turning towards the bar. The occupants are no longer there, and Micah is looking right at us.

“Quick, look away,” Sean says. I turn and look out the window. I can see my reflection, and there is no hiding my eyes right now. They are a blazing contrast to human eyes. What is going on? Why won’t they shift back? “You need to calm down so you can focus.”

He is right. For some reason, I am feeling anxious. I close my eyes and take a few breaths. When I open them again, they are back to normal. I shake off the experience and turn my attention to the food in front of me.

“Do you think anyone noticed?” I asked picking up my fork.

“Yes,” Aubrey snaps turning back to the bar. “He keeps looking over here.”

“Well, you may not want to look at him,” I tell her. “He might think it is an invitation.”

“He is on his way over,” she panics, and I start to laugh. “How can you be laughing right now? This is not funny.”

“You know he can hear you,” I say to her biting down on a vegetable. She looked, confused since she was whispering. “Pointed ears are like antennas. They have more range.” She scoffs, and I grin. “I will distract him.”

“How?” she murmurs.

There is an opportunity with a waitress in his path. “Scandali ac ruinam,” I whisper. They both turn when plates crash and patrons gasp from the waitress tripping and falling with a tray full of food. Micah turns his attention from us to damage control.

“That was awesome,” Sean says and Aubrey sighs in relief.

Micah turns in our direction as he assists in cleaning up the disastrous fall.“I think that will keep him busy for a while,” I say. “Oh, look, the incubus has arrived. Yup, he will be swamped.” Micah starts giving directions to staff to assist in cleaning up as he returns to the bar. “How long does he pregame?”

“He will linger at the bar for about an hour,” Sean says.

I shake my head a little. “Probably scoping out menu options.”

“Disgusting,” Aubrey scoffs, and I nod in agreement.

Using dinner and dessert as a cover, we watch as enchanted beings are allowed to step behind the bar. I didn’t see Archer, though. Maybe he is not a part of the poker game, or perhaps he just didn’t attend tonight. Gatlin isn’t here either. I wonder if I can find the room where they hold this game.

The congestion at the bar has dwindled as we pass by. I share a sideways glance with Micah as he pours a drink. If it were not for my current company, I might have lingered a longer to inquire about his whisky selection. What am I saying? I surprised myself with that thought. I have a purpose. I am on an assignment for the coven and cannot afford any kind of distraction. I shake the idea from my mind and focus.

We all pause when the dismal sound of the emergency alert alarm reverberates from every phone in the room. I reach into my pocket and take out my phone. An Amber Alert flashes across the screen. Flat Rock NC: LIC/568BLM (NC) 2001 Silver Dodge Stratus Sedan, 4 door.

As I stare at the screen, my mind immediately leaps to thoughts of Archer. Could this be him? Is he abducting his next victim? Is he bringing them here?

I was not paying attention to where I was standing when I responded to my phone. Eyes are boring into me, and its Micah’s gaze fixated in my direction. I swivel my head around to see what he is looking at. I curse when I realize I am standing in front of the painting that revealed me to Gatlin. I think it has done the same for Micah.

The invisible runes are oscillating, and I start to panic. I look back at him and he is beginning to move towards me. “Kyra,” Sean is in my ear. “Your eyes.” I blink to focus. Micah is almost to us; then Sean jerks me away.

Unnerved as we exit Aubrey looks past us at Micah, and she mutters, “vitrum praemium.” Patrons gasp and glass shatters forcing him to return his attention to the bar.

We hurry our steps through the lobby and into the parking lot, stopping when we are a reasonable distance away from the entrance. “That was awesome!” Aubrey and I give Sean a curt look in response to his enthusiastic tone.

Aubrey glares. “What just happened?”

I shake my head. “I stopped to look at my phone, and the painting on the wall changed. It must indicate when Enchanted Beings enter the room. Micah noticed, and I panicked.”

Aubrey runs her fingers through her hair shaking her head. “You are a disaster! You practically gave us away twice tonight. This is not going to work.”

I become defensive to her overaction. “What are you talking about? This is going to work fine! No one knows who I am. I am just a random person at dinner.”

“But they know who we are,” Sean interjects, turning to Aubrey, “we will have to check out. They saw her with us. They are going to have questions. We should probably go before they start asking them.” Aubrey curses then takes out her phone.

I reach for her wrist. “Who are you calling?”

“I have to call the coven! They will need to know about this.” She taps a button, and it rings. Not wanting to hear this regardless of how it goes, I turn and walk away. “Where are you going?”

“Nowhere!” I bark. “Make your call. We will see what they have to say.”

“You can’t just leave!” she calls out.

“Yes, I can. I have a phone too.” I wave it over my head. “Someone will call me with an update.” She scoffs just before a voice broadcasts from her cell.

Phone in hand, I look at the screen. I think about that emergency alert. I stall my step letting my eyes linger in the direction of the hotel’s truck dock. I wonder... I inadvertently scan the parking lot and see a silver sedan. Coincidence or…. Hmm… I mean, what are the possibilities. There are lots of silver sedans. Gripped by curiosity, I cannot help myself but inquire.

I walk in the direction of the truck dock. Since it is dark, the only light available is from the streetlamps. There is no one else out here, so it could be possible that he would not have been noticed if it is Archer. It probably isn’t, though. I mean, if he were kidnapping people to eat them, why would he bring them to where he works? What is the logic in that?

I shake my head since this is probably a waste of time. But I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t make absolutely sure. I round the corner and walk up the steps to the locked door. I place my hand over it then say a spell. It clicks, and I pull on it stepping in.

I can see nothing in the pitch darkness. My eyes adjust, and silhouettes of shapes start to form. My vision clears just enough to avoid running into anything, and I can maintain a sense of direction.

I orient myself and remember where I saw Archer disappear into the wall. It is a straight, direct walk to the back. It is a little eerie to hear my own feet shuffle on the floor.

I adjust my gate to accommodate the receding slope on the decline; then I hear something. It sounds like scuffling and people talking. I hurry my pace to get closer. There is a glint of light and I slow down. I tuck in close hiding in the shadows. I can see him, but I cannot see if it is him.

I watch but everything looks obscure. If he would only turn into the light, then I could see his face. Something large appears to be dangling from his shoulder. Another silhouette immerges and I react, attempting to become one with the shadow concealing my presence. There is no way to discern what the silhouettes are doing. They are a mesh of activity.

I need to get closer. They don’t know that I am here. I don’t think they will notice me if I move. Taking the risk, I step out of my protective shade. Exposed, I skip to another shadowy location.

Unable to see their faces, I can see what is flung over his shoulder. It is a large, narrow sack. My mind starts to make connections, only wanting to entertain a singular thought. If this is what I think this is, I cannot let it happen.

I have to do something. I whisper a sleeping spell and wait for them to fall. I grit my teeth when nothing happens. I whisper it again then curse when they do not respond. I whisper another spell, and still nothing. Are you serious? What is going on? They should be unconscious. Are they immune to coven magic? I consider this for a moment. If this is the case, I will have to take a more direct approach.

I pinch my chin and ponder. What are my options? Running would mean sacrificing the victim. I hold my hand out, and sharp talons extend from my fingertips, and I gaze at it. I could confront them with the monstrous Fae ability that the coven forbids me to use.

My eyes shift in their direction, and I hesitate. One of the silhouettes pauses, and the other turns. I blink, but that may have been a mistake. They move towards me and I make my decision.

I lunge at them with my razor-sharp talons exposed. I claw through the air, anticipating the feel of slicing flesh under my fingers. I am disappointed when they dodge, and I miss them.

I am completely exposed and spin in search of them. There is a second of stillness as we all try to orient ourselves. “What are you?” a voice says. That is all I needed to react. I move without thinking and fling myself in their direction. I see a flash of red eyes and that is when I know. One of them is a ghoul.

I focus on those eyes. I follow them in and out of the shadows as we swerve and dodge each other. “You need to stop fooling around,” the voice says. “We will be discovered.”

The red eyes smile. Is he toying with me? “I wonder what she tastes like,” another voice says.

“I am going,” the other voice announces. I glance over and see Archer step into the light. He has the sack over his shoulder. He starts to disappear through the wall. I don’t think I just move. I leap and wrap my arms around him. We topple over and tumble through the wall.

“What the…” he glares while we both lay on the floor. He shakes his head standing to his feet. “You should not have done that.”

I crease my brow at him. and start to comprehend when I hear hissing sounds. My eyes shift around the room. It is dark and musky. The air is foul and smells of rotting flesh. I cover my nose since it is turning my stomach. Menacing red eyes start to appear. “They are very hungry.”

I push myself up to stand. I spin around in a panic. I am surrounded by dark outlines weaving about like a pack of animals about to strike. I look at Archer, and he shrugs. “There is no holding them back.”

I flex my jaw then swipe my hand to cast a spell. Nothing happens, and I am paralyzed in disbelief. My arms become pinned to my side as someone takes hold of me. Fear starts to grip my being. A breath on my neck sends a jarring sensation down my spine. “Why do you smell so sweet?”

His voice jerks me out of my numbed state. Panic turns to anger—the confines of my Fae beast, constantly forced to slumber starts to wane. My control is slipping, and my aggressor is oblivious as he nibbles on my ear. Beast antagonized, I become lost to its impulses.

My talons expand to be longer, and my fangs extend. My feral nature takes hold and will not succumb to the influence of fear. My assailant cries out in pain, and I revel in the pleasure of his flesh under my fingers. His hold loosens, and he falls to the ground gripping his gushing leg.

There is a haze of movement as hissing, red-eyed silhouettes transform into full figures. Their open mouths reveal their sinister oversized teeth and double-jointed jaws. I wheel around, and a burst of power is released. Rocks fly past, and the red eyes disappear.

An opening is in front of me, and I rush towards it. Everything moves past me in a single blink. I am in the darkness of the open warehouse, but I see and feel everything. I can hear the rapid thudding of footsteps.

I whirl about to find an exit. I freeze and crouch down when red eyes scurry about. “Don’t let them escape!” I spin and Gatlin arrives with others. They are armed with weapons that I have never seen before. Another Fae male steps up from behind him, and I believe I know him from a picture.

They both see me, and they appear to be awestruck. The other’s name resonates in my thoughts. Is it Lazlo? He looks like he wants to run to me. Gatlin grabs his shoulder holding him back.

“I will feast on your sweet flesh!” I turn when a voice calls out. I can see the desire in his eyes and the threat of his disfigured sneer.

He hisses and stoops like he is about to charge—my feral rises to the challenge and belts out a deafening roar. The warehouse quakes, blowing the dock doors open.

Red-eyed outlines scramble for freedom but are intersected by Gatlin’s company. My assailant looks at me then at his opportunity. I am rabid for conflict and hungry to slice through his flesh.

I watch in surprise when he snakes past me for the exit I have provided. He stands at the edge of the dock and winks just before he disappears like a phantom.

I twirl, I am at a loss, and insanity has gripped my consciousness. I watch three ghouls escape, and I follow their lead. Voices are calling for me, but I am too lost in my own madness to understand anything.

Seconds pass, and I am free of those confines. I am free of everything as the crisp night atmosphere welcomes me to go exploring. I am lost in the peacefulness of my own lunacy. Moments like these make me love the monster concealed from society.

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