Magic Graves Page 8

Auburn Hair flashed his fangs at me in another of his scary smiles. "I think we can manage that, if you deliver what you say you can."

I smiled back with nothing close to humor. "Oh, I can deliver, all right."

Then I glanced at the light socket behind him. And that's not all I can do. The horrible accident that had forever altered my life had left me with one more ability, and if I was lucky, that ability would save me.

*** *** ***

Auburn-Haired's name was Jackal, according to what his friends called him. Their names sounded equally made up, so I mentally referred to them as Pervert, Psycho, and Twitchy since the latter couldn't seem to stay still. Twitchy and Pervert went out over an hour ago to get some things for me to touch. I'd spent that time sitting on the edge of the hotel's lumpy mattress, listening to Jackal talk on his cell phone in a language I didn't recognize. I was getting chilly in my leotard, but I didn't pull the covers over me. All my instincts were urging me to stay still and not attract any attention to myself, as if that mattered. The predators in this room were very aware of me even if they didn't glance in my direction.

When Pervert and Twitchy came back, I looked at the duffel bag they carried with a mixture of dread and optimism. What was inside might lead to more grisly images blasting across my mind, but it would also ensure my safety. Until I proved I could psychically spy on whoever it was they wanted to find, I was as good as dead.

"Put the objects in a row on the bed," I directed Twitchy, ignoring the startled look he gave me. If I acted like a pitiful damsel in distress, then that's how they'd treat me. But if I acted like a vital tool in their search for whomever they wanted these objects to lead them to, I upped my chances for survival.

At least, I hoped I did.

"Do it," Jackal said, folding his arms across his chest. His stare felt like weights dropping onto me, but I took in several deep breaths and tried to ignore him. Seeing what Twitchy took out of the duffel bag helped with that.

A charred piece of fabric, a partially-melted watch, a ring, something that looked like a belt, and a knife that shone with a distinct silvery gleam.

That last item made my heart skip a beat, something I hoped the others chalked up to nervousness instead of what it was. Excitement. The movies had it all wrong when it came to vampires. Wooden stakes wouldn't harm them, nor would sunlight, crosses, or holy water. But silver through the heart meant the party was over, and now I had a silver knife within grabbing distance.

Not yet , I warned myself. I'd wait until they were so convinced I was helpless that they wouldn't think twice about leaving a silver knife within easy reach. Or until at least two of them left again, whichever came first.

"All right," Jackal said, snapping my gaze back to him. He nodded at the objects. "Do your thing."

I mentally braced myself and then picked up the charred piece of fabric first.

Smoke was everywhere. Twin beams of light cut through it, landing on the vampire half concealed by the forklift. Terror flooded him as he realized he'd been spotted. Tied into his emotions, I shuddered as well, feeling his horror as his attempt to run was stopped short and rough hands hauled him back.

At first the smoke was so thick I couldn't see past the bright gaze lasered on me. Then I saw dark hair framing a lean face that had the shadow of stubble around the jaw and mouth. That mouth stretched into a smile that wasn't cruel, as I'd expected, but looked surprisingly good-humored.

"Raziel," the dark-haired stranger said in a chiding tone. "You shouldn't have."

I'd heard parents scold their children more harshly, so I didn't expect the torrent of fear that flooded over Raziel.

"Please," he gasped.

"Please?" The stranger laughed, revealing white teeth with two distinct upper fangs. "How unoriginal."

Then he let Raziel go, turning around and waving farewell in a friendly manner. I felt relief overwhelm me to the point that my knees trembled, but Raziel didn't let that stop him. He lunged toward the warehouse door.

That's when the fire swarmed him, forming out of nowhere. It climbed up his legs in coiling, merciless bands, making me scream from the sudden blast of agony. Raziel tried to run faster, but that only made the fire climb higher. He flung himself onto the floor next, rolling, every nerve ending howling with anguish, but the fire still didn't extinguish. It kept growing, covering him with ruthless, hungry waves, until a roaring blackness rushed up and consumed him. The last thing Raziel saw as he floated above his lifeless body was the dark-haired vampire still walking away, his hands now lit up by flames that somehow didn't scorch his skin.

I blinked in disbelief. When my eyes opened, I was back in the hotel room curled into the fetal position, much like Raziel had been when he died. I must have instinctively mimicked his actions with the memory of those phantom flames.

"Well?" Jackal's demanding voice was a relief because it centered me in reality instead of the nightmare I'd been forced to relive. "What did you see?"

I righted myself on the bed and threw the charred piece of fabric at him.

"I saw someone named Raziel get Krispy Kremed by a vampire who apparently can control fire," I said, still trying to shake off the echoes of that gruesome death.

The four of them exchanged a look that could only be described as delighted. "Jackpot!" Psycho exclaimed, pumping his fists into the air.

From how happy they were, I guessed that either Raziel hadn't been a friend or they already knew what had happened to him and this had been a test.

"Let's be a hundred percent sure," Jackal said, his grin fading. "Touch the ring next."

I picked it up, tensing in grim expectation, but a scattershot of images I'd already seen filled my mind. They were still revolting enough to make me want to vomit, but in addition to being in the grayish colors of the past, they felt fainter, like I was watching a movie instead of experiencing them firsthand. With a shake of my head to clear it, I set the ring back down by Jackal.

"Maybe you made a mistake. The only impressions I'm picking up off this are yours, and they don't tell me anything new."

His hazel eyes gleamed emerald for a second, and then he let out a loud whoop that made me flinch.

"It's not a fluke, she's for fucking real!"

Anything that thrilled a sadistic child murderer freaked me out, but I tried not to let it show. Don't panic, Marty had said. Prey panics, and then prey gets eaten.

"On to the next one?" I asked, trying to sound as cool as I could under the circumstances.

They stopped their high-fiving to look at me. "Yeah," Jackal said, pushing the knife toward me. His excitement was almost palpable. "Only this time, I want you to concentrate on the firestarter. Try to see where the bastard is now, not just what happened when he butchered Neddy."

That told me the knife would make me relive another murder, but that wasn't what made me pause before reaching for it.

"The firestarter?" I repeated. "He's who you want me to find through these objects?"

Are you out of your minds? I almost added, but didn't because even if they were, I wasn't.

"You can do it, right?" Jackal asked, all mirth wiping from his expression.

Sure I could, but I didn't want to. I doubted the firestarter was a friend; Jackal calling him a bastard in that contemptuous tone plus wanting me to find where he was smacked of nefarious intentions. Anyone smart would avoid being on the same continent as that creature if they were at odds, yet Jackal and the others must be trying to ambush him. The memory of the firestarter's charming smile right before he burned Raziel to a heap of smoldering ruins was something I wanted to forget. But if I refused to look for him, I wouldn't live long enough to worry about forgetting anything.

Any way you cut it, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or, more accurately, between a fang and a sharp place.

I reached for the silver knife without another word. With that single touch, the grayish images from Neddy's death invaded my consciousness. No surprise that the firestarter was the one who killed him, using the knife after some preliminary toasting. Also no shock was that he did it with the same sort of detached geniality he'd shown Raziel. I pushed past the searing pain I felt, past the feeling of Neddy floating into whatever awaited people after death, and focused on the firestarter, trying to see him now instead of only then.

This part was harder. In highly emotional situations, everyone left a piece of their essence onto objects, but the firestarter hadn't been worked up over killing Neddy so only a smidgeon of his remained on the knife. Still, detached or not, nothing tied two people closer together than death. Something about the door to the other world cracking open made essences merge and imprint more strongly, so once I pushed past the seething remains of Neddy's rage and fear, I felt the firestarter's distinct essence. It was only as big as a thread, but I wrapped all my concentration around it and pulled.

Black and white images were replaced with full color clarity. Instead of the grimy riverfront setting where Neddy had met his end, I saw opulent drapes surrounding me. At first I thought I was in a small room, but then I realized the midnight green drapes hung around a large bed, cocooning it. The firestarter lay in the center of it, fully clothed, his eyes closed as though he were asleep.

Gotcha , I thought, torn between relief and dismay at finding him in what I knew was the present.

I'd only seen him before through the grayish tones of past memories, so I took my time studying him now. At first, he looked like a normal, well-built man in his thirties, but then hints of his uniqueness showed. His espresso-colored hair was past his shoulders - longer than most men dared, but on him it somehow looked supremely masculine. Black pants and an indigo shirt draped over muscles that appeared far harder than a gym membership usually accounted for, and though no flames clung to his hands, they were crisscrossed with scars that looked like former battle wounds. His high cheekbones were accented by stubble somewhere between five o'clock shadow and a beard, yet instead of coming across as unkempt, it was rugged and enticing. I hadn't seen a man pull off that look so well since Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, and his eyes...

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies