Updated: May 20, 2022
Something feels cool and damp against my skin which is a relief since my head is pounding. I need to open my eyes but lack the desire. I just want to lie here. The aggressive motion of the wind pressing against me raises the question in my mind. Where the heck am I?
My eyes strain to open, and I cringe. The rounded ridges and uneven slopes of the horizon are sideways. I curse and struggle to remember what happened. I groan as images of my other-self flash through my mind. I sigh; yup, that just happened. I believe I had an audience, too. Hopefully, the coven will not find out.
I roll onto my back and stare at the slow-moving puffs of clouds passing overhead. My head feels like it is about to explode. I place a hand over my eyes searching for relief. I know it is useless to hope for respite from the overwhelming ache. It is the spell taking its toll.
When I was younger, I would lose control. Many would suffer and often die as a consequence. The coven was forced to act. They bound my feral Fae beast so that her influence would be short-lived, and her ability to do harm would be limited. She is powerful, though, and her strength continues to grow. The coven’s magic is not as potent as it was when I was a child. I don’t know what to expect should it ever fail me.
I push myself up, taking in my surroundings, and shake my head. Where the heck was, she going? I am on a high peak somewhere. I look down at myself. My glamour has been lost, and my top is in shambles. I am fortunate that my brazier somehow survived the ordeal.
I stand and take in a breath. The air is cool and saturated with the scent of pine. I rub my face and try to push past my throbbing temples. How am I supposed to get out of this one?
I search for options, but this peak is high and secluded. There is nothing but stone and air. I look to the heavens. There is one option I can use. Another Fae ability that the coven has warned me against. For me, though, it is as natural and effortless as walking. I don’t know what choice I have.
My gaze lingers past the horizon. I become still and embrace the warm sensation swelling in my solar plexus. It is calming as it moves over my person. I start to sway, and the words from a language that is lost to me begin to form. “Huomata nin nall- ethereal ùn -o I gwilith. Tul- na nin an ha na- ratsastaa im baur. Im hakea cìn palvelua suì cìn rìs.”
The wispy contour of a bleached apparition cut through the puffy clouds. Its wingspan is 21 feet as it arches in the high winds. The official name of this extinct creature that once roamed these skies is Pelagornis Sandersi. The more modern version of this animal is the albatross.
I smile as it sores towards me. The spirits of ancient creatures have always come when I call them. Sometimes they come even when I don’t call. They were my companions as a child and struck fear into the hearts of coven members. The repercussions were severe, and I still have the scars as reminders.
The ethereal being dives, and that is my cue that it is time to make the leap. I step over the edge and embrace the rush of air as gravity’s anchor pulls for me. The warm, tingling sensation surrounding me lets me know that an ethereal essence has embraced me.
We are one as we ride the draft toward the celestial sphere. The clouds become our playground as we weave and climb. This ethereal is playful, and it distracts my mind’s discomfort. It is short-lived when we approach the closets, clearing to my hotel.
The being swoops down low to the tree line. The high leafy tops whiz by us, and I grit my teeth because this will not be a soft landing. I have to focus, so I time this just right. When I see my opening, I separate myself from my flying companion.
The ground is fast approaching. I reach out my hand, “Prohibere!” I grunt from the jarring motion when I jerk to a stop. Suspended, I glance down and curse. I stopped too soon. I still have 20 feet to fall. The spell’s effect wanes, and I crash to the ground. I lie still recovering from the impact.
I inventory my body parts, and nothing feels broken. I force myself to my feet and start walking. My leg complains slightly, so I have a bit of a limp. I hobble up the small mound and rest against the guard rail.
I watch traffic zip by, waiting for my opportunity to cross. Finally, there is a gap, and I hobble as fast as possible. It is a success and only one car honk. Waves of exhaustion crash into me the closer my steps bring me to the comforting confines of those bedsheets.
I grin in celebration when I arrive at the door. Then, a thought comes. Where are my keys and my phone? I reach in my back pocket and flop my head in defeat when I do not feel the familiar square edge. I don’t want to think about where it could be.
I sigh in relief when I reach for my keys. I pull them from my pocket and open the door. I have never seen a more glorious sight than the bed in front of me. I collapse and grab a corner of the comforter. I cocoon myself and my consciousness takes a break.
A knocking sound interrupts my peaceful slumber. I try to ignore hoping it will stop. I am enveloped in the comforts of a warm blanket and have no interest in changing my state. The knocking stops, and I am grateful. I growl when it starts again. The repetition pings my ears, and my irritation flares.
My eyes snap open, and I unravel myself from my blissful cocoon. I stumble to the door and fling it open. Shock and fright paralyze me when I see Archer. He is standing there expectantly with a sinister expression. “Your flesh is mine!” All I see are his teeth as he lunges for me. I don’t have time to react.
A jarring sensation forces me awake. “Wake up!” My eyes flutter as someone shakes me conscious. My vision strains to focus as my mind dispenses from the disturbing dream. “You are such an infant, female!”
“Easton?” My voice is scratchy and bewildered. I look around. I am in my cheap hotel room. I look back at Easton. “What are you?” I am too confused to finish my question. I brace my arms behind me to sit up.
He stands and looks down with a judgmental glare. “I received a report,” I note his lack of interest in my well-being with his focused and direct tone.
I rub the stiffness from my face. “Good for you,” I quip. I am not in the mood. I just want to go back to sleep.
He snorts. “You look terrible.”
I cut my eyes at him. “Is there something you need?”
“My report indicates that Archer has become a larger threat. What was your role in this?”
He might think I am an infant, but I am not an idiot. That is okay, though. I can play dumb. I flop back onto the bed. “What are you talking about? He is the same threat that he was before. Nothing has changed.”
“What happened?” his arms cross. I don’t know if he is trying to look intimidating or not, but I don’t care. I will tell him what he needs to know so he will leave. I don’t want to entertain him any longer than necessary.
I bend my neck looking at him from my reclined position. “He was not the only ghoul in the hotel. There were more. I followed him and intervened when they were about to eat a human. Things got out of hand. I think the Fae might have known about it.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Why is that?”
“It is just a feeling,” I tell him. “I mean, think about it. Does it make sense for them not to know about them being there? And it was spelled so coven magic would not work. I don’t think it was the ghoul who made that possible.”
“Why did you intervene? That was not what you were directed to do.” He sounds gruff and irritated.
That was his next question after what I just told him? I don’t know that I will ever understand how his mind works. “I wasn’t about to let them feed on a human,” I say.
“Now, he is loose. He is running about unchecked because of you!” Is he seriously blaming me for this? I wasn’t the one harboring ghouls.
I push myself up onto my elbows. I narrowed my eyes on him. His questions are not making any sense. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“What else happened?” he evades. “There are reports of another creature as well.”
I shake my head. My secrets are my own, and I will certainly not divulge them to him. “I don’t know. We wrestled, and they escaped. That is all.” He glowers like he doesn’t believe me. I retort flippantly, “you have so many sources; go ask them.” I lay back down and looked up at the ceiling. “Are we done?”
“No,” he replies. “The means for which he travels has not been resolved.”
“Just set up a trap for him. Catch him the next time he is in the Crossroads.” I don’t care about this anymore. I didn’t care about this to begin with, but now I am tired. I want him to go away and let me recuperate.
“He will be hunting you.” I lift my head and blink. “It will not take him long to find you. It would be in your best interest to find him first.”
I roll my eyes and sigh. “I will just add him to my list of adversaries.”
Easton sneers. “This is not like your other advisories, infant. He will not rest until he has consumed you. He can prolong your life and devour you slowly if he so chooses. It is not a good death. You would be at his mercy while he leisurely rips your flesh from your bones methodically. He will make you watch as he dines on you piece by piece.”
That was vivid. I think he may be trying to make a point. I just don’t know what it is. “I am not that easy to kill. If he is hunting me, that will make it easier to find him since I always know where I am.” Easton shakes his head. I don’t know what it is he wants me to do. Hide under covers and hope he can’t see me. “Are you offering assistance?” He replies with a scowl. “Then what are we talking about? I will deal with this as I have dealt with everything else.”
Easton scoffs then storms out. Finally! The flash through my window lets me know he is gone. I peek outside and curse. My car is still at their hotel. That means I am going to have to go and get it. That motivates me enough to swing my legs over the edge of the bed and sit up.
My hair feels like stiff straw as I attempt to straighten it. I roll my shoulders and stretch the soreness from my arms. Looking around the room, my empty bag is piled in a corner.
I walk over and take out the tablet. I return to the bed and turn it on. I click on settings to ping my phone. I tap enter, then scoff. Of course, it is at the hotel. It must have fallen out of my pocket. I sigh and look out the window. I guess I can Uber over to get my car and see if I can find my phone. Hopefully, it is still near the truck dock.
I huff forcing myself to my feet to make myself appear presentable. I walk into the bathroom peering in the mirror, then I blanch. I look like the Mad Hatter. I shake my head, flipping the water onto the shower.
The Uber drops me off at the main entrance of the hotel. Only my ears are glamoured since I am down to my last one, and I need it for game night. I decided to dress for comfort today and kept my choice of apparel simple: running shorts, a t-shirt, and a hoodie.
The entrance is congested, so it is easy for me to be unnoticed. I have no interest in going inside anyway. I am just here to find my phone. I hope it is in the vicinity of the truck dock.
I maneuver away from the crowded entrance and start to the rear of the building. I wonder if there will be anyone there. Daylight is beginning to fade away tonight, and the streetlights start to blink on. I tuck in close to the wall rounding the corner to the dock.
It does not appear like anyone is there, and the loading door has been left open. I scan the area, and nothing is jumping out. I am hesitant, but I have to get my phone. With forced determination, I go in.
I hope to find it near the entrance, but I know better. Inspecting the warehouse floor as I walk. I suspect it was flung from my pocket when Archer and I fell through the wall.
It is odd, though. Walking through the open warehouse, it is like nothing happened. The only thing that is different is the open dock door. It is strange that no one is patrolling this space. Are the Fae really that arrogant?
The wide hallway with the declining floor comes into view. Since there has been no challenge to my presence, I continue. The light is starting to dim, and my eyes adjust on their own. Truth be told, I am too tired to hide what I am today. All I want to do is tuck myself back under the covers until game day.
My mind wanders while I walk, and flashes of that unnerving dream creep into my thoughts. Easton said Archer is hunting me. I don’t know what to think about that. He is not the first to hunt for me. It is not like a Fae-human hybrid isn’t a rare commodity or anything. I will just have to deal with him when the time comes. Seriously though, why doesn’t Easton just try to trap him the next time he enters the Crossroads? Although he could try to attack me before then, I guess.
One problem at a time. Tonight, I find my phone and go back to bed. Then I do whatever is next. I can see the hole in the wall, and I smell the stench of decaying flesh. I cover my nose and try not to hurl. There does not appear to be any rubble on the floor from the destruction. That may not be a good thing.
There is scattered debris with piles of bones, and it makes me cringe. How many victims were there? Were the Fae helping them? I step inside, beginning my search. It has to be here somewhere.
Someone clears their throat making me stop and turn. “Looking for this?” Gatlin asks with a cocky grin. I narrow my eyes as he holds my phone up. “Kyra, right, not Sara?” My stern expression answers his question. He slides it into his pocket leaning against the hole in the wall. “So, that was you last night?” I reply with silence. He nods and crosses his arms. “You know, we can help you.” That statement surprises me, and he can see it on my face. “We are not your enemy, Kyra. We are Fae, like you. We do not wish you any harm.”
I hear what he says, and I cannot deny that it appeals to me. Holy Crap! What am I thinking? I cannot trust the Fae. I am here on assignment for the coven. I can’t just leave. They are harboring ghouls, and who knows what else. I scold myself for allowing him to influence me. Is he using compulsion? That must be it. He must be using Fae magic to influence my mind.
“I don’t need any help. I just need my phone,” I tell him with firm resolve.
He makes an audible sigh. “Come with me, and I will give it to you.”
I grit my teeth. I am not in the mood for this. “How about I just take it?”
“Think it will be that easy?” He sounds smug, and I am itching to show him exactly what I can do. He puts his hands up defensively. “You look exhausted. Come with me, and you can rest then we can talk. We are allies, not opponents. Let us show you.”
My gaze breaks away from his, I am starting to waver. Maybe they can answer questions for me. The ones that no one seems to be interested in entertaining. Would I be betraying the coven if I had a conversation? The scuffling of his feet makes me look back.
He must have noticed me considering what he has to say. He starts to move closer. He stops and turns when a hand is placed on his shoulder. I growl and crouch when I see those menacing red eyes. Gatlin is stunned and is about to say something, but Archer doesn’t give him any time. He digs his sharp nails into his collarbone and thrusts him backward. Gatlin is knocked unconscious when he impacts the wall, sliding down into a lifeless heap.
“Thought he would never stop talking,” Archer’s hungry gaze fixed on me. “Now we can have some alone time.” His oversized teeth gleam as if proclaiming his unspoken intentions.
I do not wait for him to attack. He won’t get the upper hand this time. I know my coven magic won’t work for whatever reason, but I am more than just a witch.
The air begins to crackle with energy. I have to focus to stay in control. My inner beast is starting to stir in anticipation. She wants to be set free. She pounds against the confines placed on her by the coven’s magic. My heart races as we both struggle for command.
Archer cocks his head in curiosity. “Are you Fae?” He starts to stroll around the darkroom. “I have always wanted to know what Fae tastes like.” He disappears into the inky shadows. “You have the most beautiful eyes,” he whispers into my ear. His breath is on my neck and my hand flexes. I am about to move.
“NO! Brother!” Archer at the entrance, only he looks human. I blink trying to make sense of what I am seeing. Brother? My eyes shift back and forth. I feel my hair being moved from my neck. “Do not do this! You don’t know what she is!” What did he just say? What am I? What does he mean by that? How does he know what I am?
“Bother, I have been denied long enough. I need to embrace this power. She will help me become. To evolve. I must have her. I can no longer live by your rules. I need to embrace this.” Human Archer is about to say something. “No more!” Something sharp digs into my shoulder and hooks into me.
I am being dragged like a slab of meat. We are moving fast, but I won’t be taken by him. I am too tired to be afraid, so I jump right to anger. Heat burns through me. The air is alive with energy. I wave my hand, and we stop.
My eyes glow, and the tips of my fingers transform into talons. I am on my feet levitating the ghoul in front of me. Thunderous footsteps make me turn. Micah and Lazlo emerge from somewhere. They both look at me with awestruck expressions.
I watch them fan out. I cannot take my eyes off of them for some reason. There is something about them that has my undivided attention.
I snap back to Archer when he struggles against my magic. I turn him so that he looks at me. His grin is disturbing with that double-jointed jaw and those teeth. He moves his tongue across like he is savoring a lingering flavor.
“She is injured,” Micah says.
“We should not have left this to Gatlin,” Lazlo replies.
My eyes shift between the two of them as they circle. They are distracting. I blink to focus and to avoid looking at them.
“She is powerful,” Micah’s voice sounds lustful and appeasing. His audible desire is distracting. I am struggling to stay centered. What are they talking about? What are they doing? My mind starts to get fuzzy. Are they doing that?
“Gatlin,” I turn when Lazlo says his name. He holds his hand to his head as he walks up from behind me. “Report.” Lazlo’s tone sounds gruff, but I think I like it.
Gatlin examines the scene. He appears to be struggling with words. “We were interrupted. She was considering.” I narrow my eyes at them. I am such an idiot. They set me up. My head spins to Micah when he starts purring.
His gaze is locked on me. I tilt my head in inquisition since his eyes are like mine. This is the first time; I have ever seen another set of eyes like mine. “Micah,” Lazlo growls.
“Can you…” he struggles to speak.
“Yes,” Lazlo replies. “Keep it together.”
Micah’s purring becomes more audible, and Lazlo rushes to him. He is looking at me like I am prey or something. His purring has a hypnotic affect. My mind starts to slip into a trance. Lazlo places a hand on his shoulder and says something in his ear, but he doesn’t stop.
My breath quickens, and my chest starts to contract. I reach up grasping my shirt. I close my eyes and calm myself. When I open them, I jump.
Flames surround me. Everything is on fire. Where am I? Where is this place? My skin is burning. The roar of destruction is deafening. Black smoke billows. I can’t breathe, my lungs sting with pain. I buckle over to cough then I am back in the warehouse. What the heck?
I spin around. What just happened? I shake my head. I need to get out of here! Archer chuckles, and it snaps me back to the task at hand. I have had enough of him. It is time for him to be done.
I close my fist, and he begins to scream in pain. “NO!” His twin yells, but it has no effect. “Don’t let her do this!” No one responds to him. I don’t know what they are doing or thinking, and I don’t care. I smile when bones snap under my power as I bend and twist him into an unnatural form.
The sound of steel being drug across the floor grabs my attention. I smirk Archer’s twin rushes at me with an oversized beam in hand. I lift my other hand, and he is frozen in motion. I growl in challenge. I can see the fear in his human eyes when he realizes I am not like the Fae he is accustomed to. I am not reasonable and have no desire to be. I can hear Lazlo chuckling, but it doesn’t make me look away. I am fixed on both these brothers.
A hissing sound seizes my attention and I shift my view to its origin. Three sets of red eyes and large teeth surround me. I hear Archer laugh. “We will finish this another time. Release me, or you will see carnage like you cannot imagine.” I sneer at him and consider if I can manage to slay all of them simultaneously.
“Female,” the sound of Lazlo’s voice is calming me. Why is it calming me? I curse to myself. I am feeling overwhelmed with everything happening. I need to go so I can think and figure this out.
“I will revel in sucking the flesh from your bones,” Archer taunts. I can’t deal with this right now. My gaze flicks to all of them. I came for my phone, not for this, whatever this is. I look at Gatlin. It is in his pocket. I decide and nod to myself.
I send Archer flying out of the warehouse, and the other ghouls follow him. Lazlo and Micah topple to the floor when I fling Archer’s brother at them. My phone comes flying towards me when I reach out my hand. Gatlin curses since it forces him to stumble ripping a hole in his pants.
Moving with an unnatural speed, I burst out from the warehouse and appear at my car. No one is fast enough to catch me when I tap into my Fae beast. I open the door, and my step wavers a bit, but I catch myself. I just need to sleep this off. I slide into the seat and put my foot to the floor to get the heck out of here. I turn and three Fae males stand watching me jet away.
Three stunning Fae males stand and watch the black dodge charger peal out of the parking lot. “I can track her down,” Micha says in a guttural tone.
Lazlo places a hand on his shoulder and chuckles. “As you are now, you are likely to scare her into hiding.”
Micah turns to him with an intense stare. “She is Fae. She should not fear us.”
“We need to take this inside,” Gatlin interrupts, watching the mass of humans invading the parking lot.
Lazlo groans. “He is right. Let’s take this to my office.” He looks at Gatlin. “Bring Robert with you. I want to know everything that transpired.” Gatlin nods, and Lazlo takes hold of Micah’s arm. He is transfixed in the direction that he saw her go. “We will find her. Do not lose yourself to this.”
He turns and meets Lazlo’s eyes. “I have never felt anything like this.”
Lazlo nods. “The pull is powerful. I can feel it too. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will. She has no choice but to return. She can’t escape it any more than we can. Come, let us take this inside. You will scare the humans.” Micah cuts his eyes at him, indicating how much he cares about the humans. Lazlo laughs and tugs on him to go.
Needing something to take the edge off so he doesn’t hunt down that female, Micah goes to the small bar in Lazlo’s office. “I don’t know how you are not jumping out of your skin right now.”
Lazlo grins as he watches him from behind his desk. “It is simple. I have been through this before.”
Micah gives him a sideways glance with a flirtatious smile. “This feels different.” He sits across the desk sipping his beverage.
Lazlo nods in agreement. “She is powerful. She was holding back tonight.”
“She looked strained to me. You could see the fatigue on her. Maybe it isn’t that she was holding back, but something was holding her back.” Micah slides down and reclines back in the chair. “We have to find her.”
“We will.” When Gatlin walks in with Archer’s twin, Robert, they both look over. Gatlin goes to the bar and begins to mix a drink for himself.
Robert stands in the middle of the room. “You can’t let her kill him!” They all look at him like the insignificant human that he is.
“Why is that?” Lazlo asks, leaning back in his chair.
“This is not what we agreed to,” he snaps.
“Your right,” Gatlin walks to sit in the chair next to Micah. “We made a trade. We gave you a place to hide, and you gave us a key. I believe we have held up our end.”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Robert declares.
“What exactly was supposed to happen?” Micah looks over the rim of his glass. “This was inevitable. Do you think your people would have allowed you to go on killing to feed them indefinitely?”
“I just needed more time. The alchemist is close to finding a way to curb their need for raw human flesh!” He looks to the three males for sympathy but sees none in their eyes.
“You are naïve, human.” Lazlo leans forward intertwining his fingers. “They are ghoul. There is no changing that. Your brother is lost to you. You need to accept this and move on.”
“You are wrong!” Robert belts. He fights to hold back the tears wanting to burst forth from his eyes. “He is my brother! He is good. He doesn’t want to be like this.”
“He was your brother. He is not anymore. Now, he is a flesh-eating monster, and he is hunting a Fae that is of interest to us. We will end him ourselves should he cross our path or harm that female.” Lazlo speaks with deathly calm.
Robert gasps for breath considering what Lazlo just said. “We should have never come to you.”
Lazlo raises a brow at him. “That is a very true statement. We are Fae and will not go against our nature.”
Robert glares through narrow eyes. “You will regret this,” he growls.
Lazlo slowly rises from his chair, squaring his broad shoulders. Robert fidgets reconsidering his threat as Lazlo dares him. “You should go, human. My good graces for you have been exhausted. Should you ever cross my path again, you will regret it.” Robert’s eyes shift around at their cold expression before he scurries out.
Lazlo watches him then sits back down. They wait for the tension to dissipate before breaking the silence. “That female,” the ice clinks in Gatlin’s glass.
“Yes, what happened?” Lazlo leans back in his chair looking at him. “You were supposed to offer her reprieve. Not make her a target.”
Gatlin sighs. “I was almost through to her. She is skittish and smart. Archer appeared and interrupted us. You were there for the rest.” He looks at Micah. “For a moment there, I thought you might lose control.”
“So did I.” Micah takes another sip. “I should track her down.”
“That would not be wise.” He cuts his eyes at Gatlin. “The humans would not take kindly to seeing you in your feral form. They would most likely shoot without asking any questions. I have no desire to report that to your brother.” He lets his gaze shift between the two of them. He knows he has to be the voice of reason. He can see they are struggling to fight the pull of this female. “If you want to help her. You need to hunt down those ghouls before they find her. Archer has decided to make her his next meal.”
Lazlo and Micah both become pensive, considering what he says, and share a knowing look. “Gather a small team and start tracking them. You are authorized to dispense whatever force is necessary to illuminate this threat.” Gatlin nods at Lazlo as he stands. “Be discreet but do not let any of them live. The female is your top priority. If your paths cross, you are to use whatever means necessary to protect her.”
I am so exhausted, sitting in my car in front of my hotel room. I am relieved to have my phone and car back in my possession. I sigh, I need to get out, but the hotel door feels like a thousand miles away. I know it is right in front of me, but the effort it will take to get there is more than I have available.
When the phone flashes from the center console, I look down. The home screen opens when it recognizes my face. The number of unread messages and calls I have missed makes me groan. I lean forward and rest my forehead on the steering wheel. I don’t want to deal with any of it. I just want to lie down and sleep forever.
It is always like this when I use my Fae powers. It takes so much out of me. I will need days to recover, and I don’t have that kind of time. I sit up and muster up the energy to go inside. I want to fall over as soon as I stand up. I force myself to walk and push the door open into the room.
I plug my phone into the charger since the battery flashes 15% red. I don’t think those Fae were able to hack my phone. I keep it hexed for extra security. It doesn’t look like it has been tampered with. They probably figured out my name by watching the messages that appeared across the screen.
I don’t care right now. I look to the bed and fall into it. I kick off my sneakers and lie there. It feels so wonderful. It is like my own piece of heaven. I grip the pillow, curl up and let my heavy eyes close.
My mind starts to replay the crazy day. I woke up on a mountain. Swan dive back to the hotel. Easton barges in and tells me Archer is hunting me. I go to get my phone, and that is when things get truly weird. Was Gatlin being genuine about what he said? Why would they want to help me? What is in it for them? I am just some random Fae half-breed.
What were those men all about? They were distracting. The thought of them makes me smirk a little bit. They didn’t try to stop me, and they were not the least bit afraid of me either. They acted like everything was perfectly normal. If that had happened at the coven, everyone would have been running around in a panic. It would have been chaos, and I would most likely be the one blamed for it.
I yawn then the vision of the fire gleams through my thoughts. I bury my head into my pillow. What was that? It felt so real. It was like I was there.
Archer’s stupid sinister face was next to move through the mind. Ugh! I am going to have to deal with him. I won’t be able to focus on game night if he is out there, causing me problems. I roll onto my back and sprawl out, and my leg dangles over the edge. What am I going to do about him? I sigh. I wait for an idea to manifest, but I am too tired.
Why did Easton get me involved with this thing? Then it strikes me. Easton! He got me into this mess; he can help me get out of it. I nod as an idea begins to form in my brain. I will need to plan another trip to the Crossroads.
I woke up still feeling tired and drained, but I am not afforded the luxury of sleeping in. I need to get to the Crossroads and find Easton. We have to come up with a plan to catch Archer, and I don’t have much time to do it. Game night is tomorrow, and I think I have an idea that will work. It is just a matter of getting Easton to buy in.
I pick up my phone and the screen looks like connect-the-dots with all of the notifications. Well, I might as well get this over with. I tap on the messages and see that my mother has sent me the most. I am sure a stern lecture is waiting for me. I walk to the bed and tap on her number. Reaching for my sneakers, I listen to it ring.
She picks up right away. “Kyra,” her tone sounds sharp, and immediately I know what to expect. “I have been calling and messaging you. Why have you waited until now to reply?”
“I lost my phone. When I found it, the battery was dead, and I had to charge it before I could call.” I pull on the laces to tie them.
“Aubrey said you lost control. You were noticed, and there was a scene. They were forced to check out. Is that true?”
I cringe. I had forgotten about that. “Uh, well, my eyes shifted, and I got noticed. I was glamoured, though, so they didn’t see my face or know who I was. My name isn’t attached to their room, so it’s not like they can connect us.”
“Kyra, this is important. You sound unfocused.”
“I am just tired. I will be fine. I am all set for game night.” I brace my arms against my knees.
“Tired? Did you use your Fae powers?” She knows my answer when she hears silence. “Kyra!” Oh great, now, she is in full-on mom lecture mode. “You know what that does to you. It drains you. It takes you too long to recover after using those powers. You know what can happen when you lose control.” I stand and start moving around the room. I grab my keys, my lecturing mother, and my money. I go for the door while she continues. “You need to be in your best form tomorrow. There is too much at stake for you to fall flat on your face from exhaustion. This is not the time.” I toss her into the center console as I pull out of the parking spot. “I have been talking with the coven mother.”
That got my attention, and I whipped my head around to stare at the screen, “and?”
“We think it is time for you to return home. She is preparing a room for you in the main house.” I curse under my breath. This is the worse news ever. They want me under lock and key. “You are to present the grimoire to her directly; then, you will be under her care.”
I glare at the phone. “If I say no?”
“It is not open for discussion. You may be able to redeem yourself if you are successful, but Aubrey’s reports have not been favorable. The Coven mother thinks you need mentorship.”
I sigh. The last thing I want is to be in the same house as the coven mother. Mentorship my foot! “Okay, well, I have to go. Big night tomorrow. I’ll talk to you later.” I click the red button before she can say any more inspiring words. I groan; I don’t want to think about what a mentorship would be like. I like my freedom. Coven politics has no appeal, especially when everyone hates me.
I pick up my phone weaving through interstate traffic and tap on Jeremy’s name. He messaged me a lot, too; I wonder what is happening in his world. He picks up the first ring. “Sis, where have you been? I have been trying to get a hold of you?”
“The short version. I lost my phone, and I just found it. What’s up with you?” The conversation with my mother has me pouting.
“What is wrong?” I grin, my little brother doesn’t miss much.
“Nothing, I just had another stellar pep talk from mom. They want me to go into the coven house when I get back.” Saying it out loud makes me cringe.
“That sucks!” I love how Jeremy is always on my side. “What are you going to do? You can’t stay there. You know what that means for you.”
“I don’t know yet. I need to finish this first. Maybe a brilliant idea will come to me before move-in day, and I can avoid it. Right now, I have other things to worry about.” I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to him—one thing at a time.
“How is your assignment going?” His tone sounds like he is implying something.
“Fine, I am clashing with the other coven, of course. Why do you ask? Have you heard something?” He makes an audible sigh. “What is it, Jeremy?”
“I don’t know that it is anything?” He sounds hesitant.
“Just tell me,” I growl at him as older sisters do to younger brothers.
“I overheard mom talking, and it sounds like they want to try some new method for hybrids. If they are making you go to the coven house, then that means they want to do it.” I can hear the regret in his voice. We both know what this means. Unable to hold back my frustration, I curse. “Sorry, sis. Don’t rush home. Drag this out as long as you can.”
I am so emotional right now that I can’t focus. “Thanks, Jeremy.” My tone is sharper than intended, but I trust that he will understand. “We will talk later.” I hang up.
My mind fixates on what he said. I can’t focus. I slam my palm against the steering wheel to try and alleviate my anger and curse again. I close my eyes hoping another option will come.
Images of the Fae males blink through my thoughts. Were they being sincere with their offer? Can I trust them? Ugh, I know better! No one gives free handouts. There is always a catch. I don’t know what their intentions would be. What’s in it for them? I shake my head; I have to get it together. I can’t fall apart right now. I have to hunt down a ghoul that wants to eat me for lunch and seduce an incubus. I don’t have time for a mental breakdown. I sigh passing the Poinsett Park traffic sign. Okay, Crossroads, here I come. Easton better not give me any crap today because I am not in the mood.
I step into the Crossroads with intense focus. My indignant state of mind is advertised all over my face and posture. I hope someone gives me a reason to pick a fight to dispense this pent-up feeling.
I march to the Magistrate’s office. I have never been allowed in, but I don’t care. I am not playing cat and mouse with Easton today. I will blow that place up if I have to. He will meet with me, and he will get me out of this situation with Archer.
The towering building comes into view, and I storm forward. I round the final corner to the entrance then I disappear in a flash of light. “Kyra,” Easton growls with his hand on my shoulder. “What are you doing here?”
“We need to talk!” I bark.
Surprised by my harsh, direct tone. “About?” He moves in the direction of his desk.
“Archer,” I growl. I want him to argue with me. Please, pick a fight. I want nothing more than for you to be difficult right now.
He leans on the edge crossing his arms. His eyes are piercing, noting my tone and delivery. “What about him?”
“I do not have time to clean up your mess! You are going to help me dispatch him!” I am demanding, and I have no desire to be reasonable.
Easton looks, unimpressed with my tone and state of mind. “My mess?” He sounds condescending, and it fuels my emotional state that much more. “If you had followed direction, then there would be no mess, infant.”
I march to him, inches away from his face. “You are the one who came to me!” I point. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with this. I told you that at the beginning. Now, I have a hungry ghoul hunting me because of you. Help me!” I snarl with an implied ultimatum.
“Or what, Kyra?” He is so smug, and I just want to slap him.
“Push me, and you will find out!” I hold a challenging gaze and neither of us looks away. We both know the first one who does will lose.
“Do not threaten me, infant!” The growl in his tone pleases me. It is the reaction I have been hoping for.
“Fix this!” I snarl back.
His eyes narrow. “There is nothing to be done. I cannot help you.” My eyes flash with power. The room vibrates in reaction. Picture frames fall and shatter. Furniture bounces along the floor. “Calm down!”
“Don’t tell me to calm down.” The words are barely audible through my growl.
Easton’s lips purse, considering. “There is nothing I can do for you on Earth. It is outside of my jurisdiction. I can only act in the Crossroads. That is why I sought you out. You are at liberty to move freely without the complication of jurisdiction.”
I ground my teeth listening. It makes sense, but it doesn’t sate my mood or solve my issue. “But there are other Fae on Earth. Why come to me and not them?”
His jaw flexes. “They are another entity that does not answer to me or the office of the magistrate. We are professional acquaintances, and that is all.”
Fae politics, something I cannot even begin to fathom right now. “What if I brought him into the Crossroads? Would you be able to act then?”
“Yes, but he would have to be violating the law for me to detain him.”
“You said he stole a key and was transporting alchemic contraband. Why would you not be able to detain him if you know that is what he has done?” His expression is stern, and he is reluctant to answer.
“Because I cannot prove it, and I have nothing that connects him directly. The intent was for you to provide that proof by observing him. Instead, you became involved.”
I curse and spin, he is infuriating. Everything is black and white with him. There is no middle ground. You either follow the rules or suffer the consequences. Circumstances mean nothing.
“The only thing I can offer you is sanctuary. Stay in the Crossroads and become a resident. Then jurisdiction will apply. As a resident, we will be obligated to provide a certain level of protection, even if it outside these walls.”
I turn, shocked he mentioned this. I never considered being a resident in the Crossroads. I question the sincerity of the suggestion and the offer. “Don’t look at me like that. I am not putting a gun to your head. I am giving you an option. You can take it or continue as you have. I could care less what comes of you. But understand one thing. You are Fae living with humans. No good will come of that. There is going to come a time when you are going to have to decide which world you want to be a part of.”
Ugh! This male infuriates me! “We are done.” He walks and places a hand on my shoulder. We flash away and appear by my exit. “When you are finished being an infant, you know where to go.” He flashes away before I can respond. What is that supposed to mean?
I look, taking in the sight of the busy walkways and small shops. The idea of living here never occurred to me. What would that be like? Why have I never considered it before? What would the coven do? Would this place really protect me? He gave me something to think about. I do have some connections here. I don’t know. It sounds appealing, but it isn’t something I can decide right away. I have to think about it.
I turn for the exit. He surprised me, and now I have something to ponder. An option that I am actually considering. Oh crap! What am I going to do?
I sit in my car and think. My conversation with Easton did not turn out like I thought it would. All he did was give me an option; he didn’t give me any help. The choice he gave me is enticing, but I don’t know if I am ready to walk away from the coven or Earth. Would I be walking away, though?
I pull my phone from my pocket and stare at the blank screen. The conversations from earlier today linger in my thoughts. The coven has an agenda for me. Unpleasant memories of past attempts to create hybrids move through my mind. I grimace and grip the phone in my palm. I drop it into the center console and rip out of the campground’s parking lot.
A sense of resolve starts to generate in my core as I tear down the interstate. I may not know what I am going to do, but I do know what I am not going to do. I will finish what I started then I will deal with the coven. My mind was so focused that I almost missed the offramp to the hotel.
I pull in and park in front of my room. I huff because I still have not figured out what to do about this Archer situation. Maybe I can trap him somehow, or perhaps he won’t find me, and I can deal with this later. I don’t have much time. Game night is tomorrow; then, I will have a whole new set of issues to deal with.
Not wanting to think about it anymore, I make my way to the door. I swing it open and step inside; then everything goes dark.
The scent of something potent and strong overwhelms my senses. My eyes burn, and I blink to ease the sensation. My vision begins to clear, and I start to panic. Archer’s brother is only inches away from my face waving something under my nose.
I try to move but can’t, my wrists and ankles are bound to something. I want to speak, but I am gagged and can’t close my mouth. I look down and I am tied to a chair. A sense of dread starts to come over me as I pull and struggle against the bindings. “Shush…. Shush…. Shush….” He holds my chin in his fingers making me look at him. He shakes his head. “There is no need for all of that. You are powerless as long as you have this around your neck.” He lifts a crystal on a long chain dangling it in front of me.
He drops it, and I cringe when the tips of his finger caress my cheek. “Are all the Fae as pretty as you?” I try to pull away, but it only provokes him. He grins and chuckles a bit. His fingers are in my hair, and I jerk when he touches the tips of my ears. “Oh, are they sensitive?” The gratified expression on his face lets me know I reacted just like he wanted. I begin to pant and flip my head when he messages the edges. “You like that, don’t you?” His maniacal voice sends chills down my spine. “I can see why they are interested in you.”
He lets my ear go and slides his hand down, holding long strands of my hair. He inhales taking in the scent. “I will enjoy seeing their faces when they know I am the one who took you.” I look at him, confused since I don’t know what he is talking about.
He grins then stands, putting his arms out spinning. “This is where it happened.” My eyes shift around. The walls are plywood, and there are four cot-like beds against the walls. The only light is from the window in the door. I think we are in a cabin somewhere. “Rock Creek,” he announces going to one of the cots. “I would come here with my brother.” He sits reclining back. “That was before everything. Everything changed when we started working at that hotel.”
“Archer worked the bar, and I was working in the warehouse. We just needed something to get us through the summer. We both go back to school or,” he scoffs. “Well, not now. Now, he is a monster. If we had known what that place was, we would have never gone there.” He shakes his head. “The types of things they let into that place. If anyone really knew what was going on there.” He sits up looking at me. “I am going to make them know what it feels like. They took my brother from me. They let this happen to us.” His face becomes tense, and his eyes fixate on something in his thoughts.
“This is where we were when that thing came for us. We were sleeping in this cabin, and it attacked us. It went straight for Archer. It was eating him alive. The only reason it stopped was that I stabbed it with one of their knives.” He cuts his eyes. “The Fae think we are stupid. I outsmarted them, though. I know where it is they keep their relics and weapons.” Pleased with himself, he smirks. “What they have isn’t like anything we have here on Earth. But you already knew that. Didn’t you?”
He glares, and I can see he is on an emotional rollercoaster right now. “I was able to kill that thing but not before,” he struggles to finish his statement. “Before Archer had been turned. I took him to them, but they wouldn’t do anything. They wanted to kill him. There was an alchemist that said he might be able to help him. He took him to someplace called the Crossroads. He was gone for weeks, and they wouldn’t take me to him. It didn’t matter, though. He escaped that place, and he came back here.”
His eyes shift up, and he scans the ceiling. “This is where I found him. There was blood everywhere. He was eating someone. He almost attacked me until he recognized who I was.” A tear rolls down his cheek. “He almost didn’t.” He wipes it away biting back the sob. “That is how I knew he could be saved because he stopped and didn’t kill me. I made a deal with the Fae. Help me hide him in exchange for that key.”
He grins. “Like the stupid Fae that they are, they took it.” He sniffles shaking his head. “But then he started turning others to be like him. Then!” He jumps up from the bed and marches to me. He grips my neck and leans in close. I can smell the sandwich he ate on his breath. “You came and ruined everything!”
His grip tightens around my neck. His eyes are filled with rage. He is possessed with revenge, making me his victim. My breath starts to shallow, and I whine against the gag. Watching me struggle his grin is menacing as he clenches. “Robert,” his hold loosens when Archer is behind him. He looks over his shoulder as Archer walks in. “You have something for me.” He smiles with delight when he sees me secured to the chair. Robert stands and goes to him. “How?”
Robert smirks pulling my hotel keycard from his back pocket. “Her phone was not the only thing she dropped that night.”
Archer takes it holding it as he looks at me. “Thank you, brother. I will enjoy this.” Archer steps around him, but Robert grabs his arm. “What are you doing?”
“I want to make them pay,” he says to Archer in a low tone. “I want them to suffer as we have.”
A corner of Archer’s mouth lifts. “How do we do that?”
Robert cocks his head. “Make them watch.” Archer licks his lips in agreement shifting his gaze back to me.
“They are almost here!” They turn when another ghoul appears at the door. Gasping for breath he braces his arms against the doorframe then Archer curses.
“What is it?” Robert asks.
“The Fae are hunting us. We need to feed, but they are relentless,” Archer growls in frustration.
Robert nods. “We will go then. I will take her and meet you later.” He rushes loosening my bindings. The crystal he placed around my neck may restrict my ability to use magic, but it doesn’t keep me from transitioning to my feral form. My talons extend from my fingers. When my hand is free, I swing it through the air. He screams out in pain, cupping his cheek. I cut the chain from my neck and the crystal clanks rolling across the floor.
Archer runs towards me. My power returned; I waved my hand sending him flying into the other ghoul, they crashed down the steps onto the ground. I cut through the gag and other bindings. Robert curses as blood flows down his cheek. He struggles to stand, but I think little of him or his state.
Running to the door, I teeter at the top of the steps since I didn’t know how high up or steep, they were. This cabin is on stilts. I watch Archer and the other ghoul gather around, and I prepare myself to confront them. My feral is itching to be set free, and my ability to hold her back is strained. Crouching down I feel her influence. A guttural rumble emanates from my chest. I grin because I don’t want to keep her locked up anymore.
“We will dine of Fae flesh tonight!” Archer announces. Locked in on him, and I lunge forward. He tries to dodge, but my feral is loose, and he is too slow. I tackle him, holding his middle. He opens his jaw biting into my shoulder. I roar when he bears down.
We fumble to the ground separate. We jump back up to our feet. I glance when the air stings the wound he inflicted. Blood flows as it closes and heals. I look at him when he chuckles. Red runs down his face as he chews and swallows. “Delicious,” he says wiping himself clean with the sleeve of his arm. “You heal instantly. I will be able to savor your flavor that much longer then.”
I spin when I hear hissing, and I am surrounded by the red eyes of the other ghoul. I let my tongue run over the sharp edges of my fangs. The air begins to sizzle with electricity. My feral is eager and welcomes their challenge. I prepare myself for them to pounce. I have a hold of the power within me. Then, I take a step back.
One of them falls to their knees with a sword protruding from its chest. I watch the severed head of another bounce on the ground and roll to my feet. “NO!” Archer screams.
I whirl, and he charges at me with an insane expression. His jaw is open, and I bring my arm back. When he is close enough, I thrust it forward. Lightning streaks across the night sky as I release the energy, pulled from the air into him. He cries out in pain as smoke billows and his body burns from the inside. He reels on the ground squirming and kicking to his end.
“Kyra,” someone calls my name. The red eyes of the ghoul have been replaced with the calm expressions of two males, one female Fae and Gatlin. They have sleek swords in their hands and are dressed in gothic military-style clothing.
A trance comes over me, and they fade away. The image of a glowing tree appears, filling my vision. It is in a massive courtyard, and it appears to be ancient. It feels familiar to me, but I don’t understand why. A sense of longing comes takes me. I want to be here, but I have no idea where or what this is. It feels safe and comforting, and I don’t want to leave. It feels so real, like a forgotten memory. How can that be? I have never been to this place. There is a soft, feminine voice. “Come to me. Your seedling grows. You are the last, and then I will be set free. I will be waiting.”
“Home,” the word lingers on my lips as I whisper. I don’t know where the word came from, but it feels genuine and honest. It is impossible, though. Every memory I have is from Earth.
I am jolted from the trance when l something warm and wet splatters across my face. I blink and watch as Robert’s bloody body falls in front of me.
“Is she a?” a voice says.
“Yes,” Gatlin replies.
“What in all of Danu is she doing here?” another voice says.
“We don’t know. That is what we are trying to find out,” Gatlin replies. My senses start to come back to me. My eyes shift around. What just happened? Gatlin can see my confusion when I put my hand to my head. I am feeling overwhelmed and need time to process all of this. I am about to fly away, and he rushes towards me. “Kyra, wait!” I leap into the air for my wings to take flight. Gatlin curses, and I know he is running after me as I gain altitude. “Kyra!”
I don’t turn or look in the direction he is calling from. I don’t know what I just saw, but I know I felt something change inside me. When the thought enters my mind, I scream out in pain. My leg is on fire. I grip my thigh where the coven branded me. Air rushes past me as I fall. “Kyra!” I can hear the panic in Gatlin’s voice and the other Fae running to me.
I am not going to be caged anymore! Thunder booms and lightning flashes. The crackle in the air surges, and I push past the pain. I am in control! I am Fae, and I will not let the coven take me! I reach out as lighting streaks past. I pull for its energy and drink from its delightful flavor. It feeds me, and the bindings that have been holding me back begin to fade.
A tree cracks and falls from the lightning’s impacts. I spread my wings and catch air. I fly as my feral in my right mind for the first time. I shake my head to focus and look over my shoulder. I see the Fae are watching me. They shrink in size the further away I fly from them. I don’t know what just happened, but I know this feels good and right. I won’t have to wake up on some mountain top because I am in control, and I like it.
I drift across the calm night sky. I close my eyes and embrace this freedom. The dampness on my skin and my hair whipping wildly behind me. It has been so long since I have felt in tune with my feral. She is wild and deadly. She is always there to protect me when I become overwhelmed or in danger. I lose myself to her, and she takes us away until we are safe. She scares the coven, so they have bound her and her powers from me. I can feel it trying to take hold and subdue us, separate us from each other so the humans will be safe.
Something is different; now, something changed. I think I know when it happened. The vision: when I saw the tree, it spoke to me. I don’t know what any of it means, but I have to find out. I will be in good company tomorrow night to investigate this. Archer said there were many artifacts at the hotel. I wonder if they have more than just artifacts stashed there. I will have to make finding out a priority.
Archer and his brother are both dead. Two humans became entangled with the enchanted. Of all of the humans that frequent that hotel, why them? It is too easy just to say two humans became ensnared by the enchanted; there must be more. I may never know the answer to that. I have to focus on why I am here, my next assignment. I smile since I get to sleep all day until game time.
Gatlin approaches the concealed entrance of the hotel. “So, you are not going to give us an explanation?” one of his subordinates asks.
“No,” he says over his shoulder. “You know everything you need to know.”
“Sir, she is Ethereal. Why didn’t we go after her?” another asks her.
“And do what? Force her to come with us. Do you think that would work? She knows where we are. When she is ready, she will find her way here,” he says.
“Enough!” he snaps swinging the door open and looking at them. “Speak of this to no one. We have achieved our mission for tonight. Resume your normal duties, and we will debrief in the morning.” He doesn’t wait for their response. He walks inside and hurries through the narrow hall. His wrist beeps, and he turns it up, then taps on it.
“Report to my office,” Lazlo says.
“On my way,” he replies.
Lazlo and Micah are both waiting when he arrives. “What happened?” Micah asks while leaning against the edge of Lazlo’s desk with his arms crossed.
Gatlin closes the door walking to them. Still, on edge from fighting, he stands and cocks a hip with his arms crossed. “Both the ghoul and his human brother are dead. We have disposed of the bodies.”
“The female?” Lazlo asks.
Gatlin shakes his head. “She was there but then left. She was surrounded when we arrived, and we dispatched the ghoul. She is not like anything I have ever seen.”
Micah becomes intrigued and relaxes his posture. “What happened?”
“She burned Archer from the inside. She commanded lighting. She reached out for it, and it came to her.” Micah and Lazlo share a look. “There is something else.” Gatlin reaches into his pocket and takes out a keycard. “This was in Archer’s pocket.” He slides it onto Lazlo’s desk.
“Is this where she is?” Micah asks picking it up.
Gatlin shakes his head. “I don’t know, but it is worth looking into.” Micah nods in agreement.
“What of the others?” Lazlo asks.
“They have questions, but I have ordered them to stay silent.”
Lazlo nods, “Good. It will give us time to decide what to do next.”
I arrived an hour ago. I found the furthest corner of the hotel bar to hide in. Luckily, I am seated next to the window. I am doing everything I can not to be noticed….