Black Spring Page 31

He covered his eyes with his hands, his whole body shaking. I hated to press him, but I needed to know more. I needed to know how such a thing could have been done.

“But how did the shifter get in the house?” I said. “He shouldn’t have been able to cross the threshold to bring you and Chloe inside.”

Jack looked up, his face confused. “Shifter? What are you talking about?”

“How did I get inside?” I asked impatiently. “How did I kill Chloe in front of you?”

“How in the hell should I know?” Jack said, his face taut and angry. “I don’t know anything about magic. Like I said, somehow I was here and she was there and she was getting ripped up, and she was screaming . . .”

“Was I in the room?” I asked. “This is important, Jack.”

“No!” he shouted. “I don’t know why you’re asking me all these questions. I don’t know how you did it, but you were still outside and we were here and somehow she was being torn to pieces.”

Jude, Nathaniel and I shared a horrified glance.

“It doesn’t need to come in the house,” I said. I was cold all over, and I covered my belly with my hands. “It doesn’t need to see us or touch us to do its magic. We’re not safe here. We’re not safe anywhere.”

I glanced around at the walls of my house, feeling betrayed. This was my childhood home. It had always been a refuge against the madness outside. I should have been safe there. It had always sheltered me and mine.

All magical creatures were bound by the same basic laws. The sacredness of the domicile was paramount. You could not enter without an invitation. You were bound by the host’s terms of hospitality. These were basic things that all magical beings knew to be true.

Even the most powerful creatures in the universe were forced to submit, which was the reason why I had never invited Lucifer into my home. But this shifter had overcome the protection of the house, something I had never seen or heard of before.

It had obviously been forced to follow the letter of the law. Its physical body had remained outside. But its magic had somehow found a way through our defenses, lured my dogs outside and killed one of them, then dropped Jack and Chloe inside and killed Chloe by remote. If it could do all those things, then it didn’t matter if its body stayed outside. It could slaughter all of us in our sleep.

“We can’t fight it,” I said. “We can’t fight something that can look like any of us, smell like any of us. It can kill from a distance, and the rules of magic don’t appear to apply. How can I protect my baby against something like that?”

Nathaniel came to me then, put his arms around me, held me close. “We will find a way. We will increase the protection on the house. Daharan is more than powerful enough to plug the holes, so to speak. And if he is not, then we will go to Alerian again. It was he who created this creature. He should know how to stop it.”

I laughed bitterly. “The last encounter didn’t go so well. Did you already forget the giant sea creature that trashed the street? I don’t think Alerian is going to be volunteering to help us anytime in the near future.”

“I will not allow you to be terrorized in your own home. There must be something we can do, and I will discover it,” Nathaniel said.

We all heard the sound of footsteps descending the stairs. Jude immediately rushed out of the room to intercept.

I gave Nathaniel a panicked look. “I don’t want Samiel to see Chloe that way.”

“We will take him upstairs,” Nathaniel said, pulling away from me. “Should I tell him?”

“As gently as you can,” I said. “But don’t let him come downstairs, even if you have to knock him out.”

Nathaniel hurried out after Jude.

“Shit,” I said, leaning against the wall and rubbing my eyes. “It really should be me. I should be the one to tell him. I owe him that much.”

Jack Dabrowski had been observing all this rather avidly for someone who had just witnessed a traumatic event. Now he cocked his head to one side like a curious dog and spoke.

“So, am I to gather from all of this that you actually didn’t kill that girl and tie me up down here?”

“Of course I didn’t, you moron,” I said tiredly. “I told you I didn’t.”

“Excuse me,” Jack said stiffly. “I just witnessed something horrible and it may have confused me for a few moments.”

“You shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” I said. “I told you that—jeez, was it only this morning? This is turning into one of the longest days ever.”

“And there’s some kind of shapeshifter running around that duplicates anyone’s appearance?” he asked. “And that’s what actually murdered the girl and tied me up down here?”

“Yes,” I said. “And if that ends up on your blog, I will personally come to your house and take a sledgehammer to your computer.”

“Don’t you think people have a right to know that there is a creature running around that can copy the appearance of their loved ones, and then kill them while under the guise of that person?” he asked.

“No. All that will do is make everyone doubt those close to them, to create more fear and paranoia in a city that’s already seen plenty,” I said. “And anyway, it’s not a threat to the average individual. It’s only interested in me.”

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