Sisters of Blood and Spirit Page 17

“There’s a rope ladder on one of the branches,” Mace explained. “We climbed the tree, then went down the ladder.”

“Awesome,” I muttered, looking down at my cute shoes that were so not made for climbing trees. Neither was my dress. I felt completely ridiculous.

“Want me to go first?” he asked.

“Unless you want to be scarred for life by the sight of my granny panties, you’d better.” They were boy panties, but who could tell the difference in the dark.

He gave me an odd look, then scampered up the tree like he’d been born to do it. I followed a lot less gracefully. My shoes had smooth soles, so they couldn’t grip the homemade ladder. I still had the salt, too, so I was only holding on with one hand.

“Ow!” Damn splinter in my palm.

Mace’s hand appeared before me. “Your hand or the salt—give me one.”

I gave him the salt. I didn’t want him to get the idea that he was my freaking knight in shining armor or something.

Once I made it to the branch he was on—a limb thick enough to hold both of us—he held on to another branch for support and walked out over the wall. I inched along behind him. It would be just my luck to fall and break my fool neck on the asylum side. By the time I got to the rope ladder, Mace was already on the ground, holding the rope steady for me. There wasn’t any graceful way to descend a ladder that swayed and diped with every movement. I swore the entire time down—under my breath, of course.

“You’ve got a mouth like a sailor,” Mace commented when I joined him. The grass was brown and flattened by dozens of feet. That was good.

I opened the salt and began pouring it. “Met many sailors, have you? Is there something Sarah should know about you, Mace?”

“I love me a man in uniform,” he quipped. “What are you doing?”

“Making a salt circle around you.”


I didn’t look up. “Because this thing has had a taste of you and will be able to sense you’re here, and I don’t want to have to explain to Sarah that it took you on my watch.”

“Your concern is touching, Lark. Really.”

It wasn’t his sarcasm that made me look up, though I appreciated his skill at it. “I owe you. That means I’m going to do everything I can to keep you alive. You okay with that?”

“Yeah, I think I am.” His gaze locked with mine. We stood there, staring at each other. Awkward.

A cold breeze brushed my bare legs. I turned my head in its direction. “Feel that?”

“Yeah.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw his hand go to his chest as if it hurt. The ghost was coming.

I checked the ring I’d poured around him—it was a good, thick mound of salt that could withstand a spectral wind. Good.

I took a deep breath as my hair began to stir. In Bell Hill I’d faced several malevolent spirits, and I’d done it stoned on antidepressants and antipsychotic and antianxiety meds. I could deal with one in a field.

Even if it was the one who had sent me a vision of my sister eating eyeballs.

The chill cranked, raising goose bumps on my arms. My hair rose at the roots. This thing was hungry and pissed. It wasn’t even trying to be stealthy as it came at us. It had sniffed out Mace and was eager for another taste.

Honestly, I couldn’t say that I blamed it—aggravating as he was.

There was no one way to describe encountering a ghost. Yeah, there was the cold, but that was about the only thing they had in common. Every ghost—in my experience—had their own energy and their own weaknesses. I guess I knew this stuff because of Wren, or because of our situation, or maybe because of my brush with the other side. So maybe I didn’t know why I knew these things, but I did know when there was a ghost around, and I could usually tell how strong they were.

This one was strong. Old and strong. And angry. I could feel its rage in my bones, in the pressure of my teeth grinding together. It swirled around me like a snarling dog trying to catch my scent. It hadn’t bothered to take form, and it looked like nothing more than a swarm of flies circling me. If those flies had frozen razor blades for wings, that was.

“Lark?” Mace looked concerned.

“I’m good,” I shouted over the noise of the ghost. He probably couldn’t even hear it. My heart hammered in my chest.What are you? Its voice was like screeching brakes in my ears.

I ignored it. Holding my hands out to my sides, I sifted the ghost through my fingers, inviting it to reveal its personality. It was like a thousand paper cuts as its angry energy flicked over my skin. I’d felt ones that were like sandpaper, an itch, even feathers, but not this. I would be left bleeding afterward—no invisible wounds for me. Fortunately, I didn’t wound like normal people. Scratches like Mace’s hurt me, but didn’t last—I assumed because I was connected to the dead. That didn’t mean I was willing to go through it again.

Come on. Show yourself. Images began to swim in my head—flashes of blood. Screams. It was what I’d seen when I touched Mace but sped up and fragmented. This was the right ghost, all right. Now I just needed to hold on a little longer so that it could show me something useful. Something personal.

The ghost withdrew from me, as though it could read my intent. Crap.

I watched as the buzzing black vortex of dark energy leaped at Mace. It smacked against the protection of the salt like bugs on a windshield. Its roar of rage shook the ground beneath my feet. I could tell that Mace felt it, too. It was a warm September night and his breath came in puffs better suited to late November. The ghost charged again. This time, the line of salt quivered beneath the assault.

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