Magic Graves Page 9

Were no longer closed. They opened, not an indistinct gray from the colorless lens of the past, but a rich copper shade encircled by rings of evergreen. I would have thought they were beautiful, but at the moment, they looked as though they were staring right into mine.

It unnerved me, but I reminded myself it was only coincidence. No one ever knew it when I used my abilities to establish a link. I could be the world's biggest voyeur if I wanted, but my most fervent wish was to know less about people, not more -

"Who are you?"

I jumped as though stung. If I hadn't seen his finely shaped lips move, I would've thought I'd imagined the words. Coincidence, I reminded myself again. Any second someone would come into my line of vision and I'd see who he was really talking to -

"I'll ask a second time," his deep, slightly accented voice said. "Who are you, and how the hell are you inside my head?"

That scared me into dropping the link at once, forcing all of my focus back to the hotel room with my four kidnappers. The ornate bed with its encircling drapes disappeared, replaced by ass-ugly wallpaper and a bed that would probably result in my getting bug bites. I let go of the silver knife as though it burned me, still reeling over what just happened.

"Well?" Jackal asked. "Did you find him?"

"Oh yeah." My voice was nearly a croak from shock.

"And?" he prodded.

No way was I going to tell him the firestarter had somehow realized he was being been spied on. If Jackal knew that, he'd kill me on the spot so the firestarter couldn't follow the link back through me to find him. It was possible. If he could feel me in his head, the firestarter could probably hear me, too...

With a flash of inspiration that was more reckless than smart, I knew what I had to do.

*** *** ***

Twitchy, Pervert, and Psycho had already left the room, but Jackal stayed by the tiny desk. From his expression, he had no intention of moving.

I let out a sigh. "You think I'm going to escape out the window if you leave me alone? Come on, the others would hear it and stop me. Can't call 911 and say, "Help, a bunch of vampires kidnapped me!" either. Even if they didn't think it was a crank call, you'd just mesmerize any cops into leaving. Or eat them. Either way, I'm not going anywhere and I know it."

"You're up to something," Jackal stated.

It took all my willpower not to flinch, but I schooled myself to stay absolutely still. Don't panic, don't panic...

"I don't know what, but I can smell that you're plotting something," he went on.

I cleared my throat. "What you smell is someone whose been breaking out in cold sweats ever since she was kidnapped by vampires. If you want more information on your fire guy aside from how nice his drapes are, then leave. How am I supposed to concentrate when I'm being stared at by a pack of creatures that keep looking at my neck and licking their lips?"

He was suddenly in front of me, his hand gripping my chin. "What are you really trying to do?" he asked, forcing me to look into his now-glowing eyes.

Their effect was immediate. I felt drowsy, unconcerned, and talkative even as a part of me screeched in alarm.

"Can't link to him with all of you watching," I mumbled. "Can't get deep enough in his mind for it to work."

His eyes brightened until it almost hurt to look into them. "That's all?"

The words "he sees me, too" hovered on my lips, about to fall and seal my fate. But though I felt like I'd just smoked a pound of weed, I found the strength to say something else.

"Too scared...with you here."

That was the truth, but the reasons why remained unspoken. Jackal released me, his gaze still lit up. "You won't call anyone or try to leave this room."

His words resonated through my mind. I nodded without thinking. He shoved me and I fell back onto the bed, but to my relief, Jackal then headed to the door.

"You have an hour. Find him again, and more importantly, find where he will be in the future."

He opened the door, and then paused. Before my next blink, Jackal had ripped the phone cord in two.

"That's for insurance," he muttered, and finally left.

I waited a few seconds and then let out the breath I'd been holding. Holy shit, that was close! I had no idea how I'd managed not to spill everything when Jackal turned his Lite-Brite's on me, but I'd count my blessings later.

They say the devil you know is better than the one you don't. Maybe that was true, but considering what Jackal and the others had planned for me, I was going with Option B. It gave me better odds than trying to fight off four vampires with one puny knife - which Jackal had taken with him, I noticed. Must not want to risk me attempting suicide, although what I was about to do might turn out to be the equivalent of that.

There wasn't time for me to second guess my decision, so I picked up the charred piece of fabric and Raziel's death washed over me again. As usual, the impressions were fainter, the first touch always producing the most intense experience.

I pushed past Raziel's tortuous last moments to latch onto the firestarter's essence. What had been a thread before now felt like a rope because of my previous connection, so I grabbed it and pulled with all my might. My dingy surroundings fell away, replaced by a huge room with soaring ceilings, elegant furniture, and tapestries on every wall. It wasn't empty; two men stood in front of a fireplace that was big enough to fit both of them. I saw with relief that one of them was the firestarter, and the other a brawny African American who was shaking his head.

"Of course I don't think you're joking, but it still doesn't seem possible -"

"Shhh!" the firestarter hissed. Very slowly, his head turned. When those burnished copper eyes seemed to land on me, I fought my instinct to drop the link and run like hell.

"Oh, it's too late for you to run," he said coldly.

The words slammed into me, shocking me. I'd hoped with a little time - and a lot of luck - I could send him specific messages. It never occurred to me that the firestarter could read my mind as soon as I established a link. What kind of creature was he?

"A dangerous one you shouldn't have trifled with," was his response. "Whoever you are, rest assured that I will find you."

Fear paralyzed my mind. He was pissed, and I'd seen what he did to people when he looked to be in a good mood.

His friend glanced around. "Who are you -?"

"Quiet," the firestarter said. "Leave."

The brawny man walked out of my sight without another word. The firestarter stayed in front of the enormous hearth, those orange and yellow flames growing as if they longed to reach him through the screen.

"Quit calling me firestarter, it's insulting. You're spying on me, so you know who I am."

"I don't," I said aloud, then cursed myself. If Jackal heard me and came to investigate, I might not be able to resist a second dose of his gaze before I spilled the truth.

Look, you've got me all wrong , I thought rapidly, hoping his antennae into my head hadn't lost its signal. I have no idea who you are, but four vampires kidnapped me and they're forcing me to locate you for them.

"Oh?" Amusement replaced the former harshness in his expression. "If that's true, I'll make it easy on you. I'm at my home. Tell the others to drop by anytime."

Flames coated his hands with the words, a warning I didn't need because I was terrified of him already. That fear combined with the death Jackal had planned for me made my reply snappy.

That's great, but I'm not only supposed to find out where you are now. I'm supposed to find out where you'll be in the future, and I'm guessing you won't be as flip about that.

His brows drew together at once, making those coppery green eyes all the more riveting - and frightening.

"You can see the future?" All traces of humor left his expression.

I heaved a mental sigh. How to explain an ability I didn't fully understand?

If I touch someone - or an object with a strong emotional essence on it - I catch glimpses of things. If the glimpses are in black and white, they're from the past. If they're in color but hazy, they're from the future. And if I concentrate, I can trace someone's essence from an object to find that person in the present, which looks clear and normal to me. That's how I found you. Jackal gave me pieces of things from people you killed.

He continued to stare at me until I squirmed. Aside from it being unbelievable that he could hear me, he seemed able to see me, too! How? I wasn't there, after all.

"I don't see you like you're thinking," he answered, a tight smile playing about his lips. "You're a voice in my head, but when I concentrate, it's though you're here yet you're invisible."

That sounded creepy. I didn't have time to ponder it, because he went on.

"Someone named Jackal is after me? I don't recognize the name, but it's likely an alias. He kidnapped you, you say?"

He and three of his buddies snatched me right off my trampoline this morning , I answered, scowling at the memory.

"Do you know where they're holding you?"

I knew exactly where I was. Even if I couldn't tell by touching items in the room, the phone had the hotel's full address printed on it. Still, I wasn't about to tell Mr. Inferno where that was until we agreed on some terms.

He grunted in amusement. "Terms? You want a reward for turning them in to me?"

I want to live , I thought at him grimly.I saw what you did to Neddy and Raziel, so I want your word that if I tell you where Jackal and the others are, you'll kill them , not me.

"Depends," he said, voice crisp as though this were a business transaction. "If you truly were forced into this as you claim, then I vow you'll come to no harm since you were truthful with me about their intentions. But if you're lying in an attempt to lead me into a trap..."

He flashed me one of those charming smiles that had been the last thing Neddy and Raziel had seen. I shuddered.

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