Sisters of Blood and Spirit Page 42

Once we were inside, the door slammed shut. Everyone jumped. Gage swore. I hadn’t done either, but my heart thumped so hard against my ribs I thought something was going to break.

I heard locks clack back into place.

“Now they’re just showing off,” I said as I fished a small flashlight out of my bag. I switched it on, keeping it pointed down so it didn’t flash in the windows. Behind me, two more clicked on, as well.

The inside of Haven Crest was exactly what I expected—chessboard floor, garbage strewn around. Old furniture, peeling paint. What I hadn’t expected was the smell. It was a smell that struck something deep inside me and awakened a terror I thought I’d buried deep enough to never haunt me again. It wasn’t the smell of insanity, or even death. It was the smell of hopelessness.

I’d smelled that same smell at Bell Hill, breathed it in until it coated my lungs like cigarette tar, compressing my chest like phantom tumors. It had held me tight until it had completely taken over. Only Wren had been able to pull me free.

“Oh, shit,” I whispered. My heart was in full-on panic mode now. What had I been thinking? How could I have ever thought I could walk through that door and be okay? This place was never going to let me leave. Never going to let me go. The scars on my wrists began to itch, and the cuts on my hands—which had already healed—began to sting. The ghost that had inflicted them was nearby.

My gaze darted around the darkness, made all the more bleak by the flashlight beams. The floor beneath my feet hummed with barely restrained malevolence. Screams echoed down long-forgotten corridors. The sobs were worse.

God, this place was alive. No, it was undead.

Blood ran down the walls. Hands thrust from the shadows, black and strong, fingers clutching, longing to grab me and pull me in. One brushed my leg.

Someone grabbed my hand. I almost screamed.

It was Ben.

My first instinct was to pull away, shake it off and pretend to be a hard-ass. I wrapped my fingers tight around his. A crowbar couldn’t have gotten our hands apart.

There was no blood. There were no hands. Maybe there had been, or maybe they’d just been in my head. There was just that smell, seeped into every molecule of this place that looked like it had only ever been half-left, because no one who had ever been in a place like this, as an employee or patient, ever really got away. If it weren’t for the dust and decay, you might expect someone to walk behind that front desk and answer the ringing phone.

The phone was ringing.

Someone gasped. It sounded like Roxi. It might have been Gage. So they heard it, too. Okay, this one wasn’t just for me. I took a deep breath. This wasn’t in my head, this was ghosts. Ghosts I could handle. I walked over to the desk—Ben still attached. I handed him my flashlight and picked up the handset. It wasn’t even connected to the phone base. The phone wasn’t plugged into the wall...

“Yes?” I said, holding the receiver away from my ear.

The sound that came through was like the scream of ten thousand tortured souls wrapped in static and buried in a well. It wasn’t loud, but I knew every one of us felt it in our heads and in our bones.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“You’re mine,” growled a voice.

I hung up. “I don’t know if that was Bent or not.”

I heard a sob and looked up. Roxi was crying, and Gage had his arm around her.

“Don’t,” I told her. “That’s what he wants.” Just knowing it was a guy gave me courage to push on. “We’re being messed with. Tested. It wants to scare you. You taste better when you’re scared.”

She nodded and wiped at her eyes. I had to give her credit for pulling herself together. I gestured down the hall, and Ben shone the light in that direction. “We need to find the stairs.”

We moved quickly. None of us wanted to be there any longer than we needed to be. “Anyone feeling anything?” I asked. “Did something touch you?”

“I think so,” Roxi whispered.

“That was me,” Gage answered with a sheepish grin.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Just a little release of anxiety.

That was when I heard the snarl—it came rushing at me like a hot gasp of decay, hitting me hard in the chest. It was angry and vicious—twisted. Visions of blood and gore danced behind my eyes. I saw those bodies again, strewn on the floor of this place, and Wren perched like a bizarre bird, a clutch of eyeballs in her sticky, crimson fingers.

And I felt pain—hot pokers deep behind my retinas.

“Stop laughing,” I commanded. “It’s making him angry.”

I straightened, and took a look around in the dark. Our flashlights were the only break in the shadows before casting their own. “You know what I don’t like?” I called out. “Cowards. Why don’t you come on out, coward? Give me back my sister.”

“Lark,” Kevin warned. “Something’s coming.”

I kept going. “Come on, don’t you want us? Don’t you want us to see your big scary self? I’ve been told I taste really good. Don’t you want a little taste of me? I’m fresh meat.”

In a movie there would have been a loud noise, or maybe a ghost would appear. That didn’t happen. Instead, Kevin turned to me, and I realized too late that he should have stayed behind.

Because he wasn’t Kevin anymore.


“Hello, child.” His voice was like sandpaper.

I looked at the man who had grabbed and pulled me away from Lark, transporting me to his domain without much effort at all. He was medium height and lean. He had short hair and a handsome face. Ghosts usually looked in death as they had in life—unless they went the horrific route. Ghosts like this were more frightening, I thought. He looked perfectly normal, except that his eyes were black mirrors reflecting every horror he’d ever inflicted. He was the kind of thing mortals went insane after seeing.

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