Sisters of Blood and Spirit Page 43

I was impressed. Not afraid, but impressed.

“Where are we?” I asked.

He smiled at me—he had good teeth, too. I couldn’t identify his time period from the way he was dressed. Lark probably could have, but she knew fashion better than I did. Not like it mattered—ghosts could dress however they wished. “Now that would make it too easy for your little breather friends to find me, and I do so enjoy a good game.”

I committed every inch of him to memory. “So long as you’re the hunter, I think.”

“Clever girl.” He stepped close enough to touch my hair. “I do so love me a clever little girl.”

“I’m not new-dead,” I informed him. “Your practiced charm doesn’t influence me.” Because he wasn’t charming, or sweet, or even nice, and I was insulted that he thought I’d be so easily fooled.

That sugary-sweet smile faded from his lips, leaving me staring into that soulless abyss that was his face. “That’s better,” I said. “Why hide your true nature?”

I thought he sniffed me then—something leftover from when he could actually breathe? We went through the motions of these things at times, but obviously they weren’t necessary. I didn’t understand how I was even able to conjure such experiences, when I hadn’t been alive long enough to have any of them. When I felt like my heart was pounding, I knew my heart wasn’t really pounding, though I was sure I had one.


He smiled. “Dead Born. Yes, I realized it the first time I saw you.”

Lark hated that title, but it held some prestige among the dead. Think of it as class snobbery. The higher your death-to-life ratio, the more pure you were. I was a rarity because most babies didn’t linger between worlds, but moved on to whatever came next.

“Dead Born and naive as a new foal. Aren’t you an interesting one? Why have you forsaken your kind, child? Why wallow with the breathers when you could be something truly special?”

I gave him a bored look, even though his words struck something inside me. I clung to Lark like she was some kind of safety net, watching her live her life while I had nothing. But I knew that wasn’t really true. She was what kept me from becoming like the once-a-man standing before me—a creature that trembled with the effort it took to appear to me in an even remotely human guise. Did he think I’d be afraid of what he really looked like?

Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

“You’re wasted on them,” he continued. “You and your sister could be truly powerful in our world.”

“My sister?”

He nodded. “Just think of what the two of you could achieve if she were to join you in the Shadow Lands. No more watching—the two of you could actually be together.”

He spoke like he knew me, like he understood, but he didn’t. He was just guessing, trying to sweeten me up. Trying to seduce me. “She’d never go for it. She likes breathing.”

He made a face, as though the idea disgusted him. “The living.” He made a spatting noise. “So afraid of dying, when they ought to embrace it.” No, he didn’t really know anything about me or about Lark if he thought she was afraid of death.

I humored him. “Foolish creatures.”

“Exactly!” He had completely missed my sarcasm. “You should just join us and leave her to rot and wither.”


I should have known better, but I was trying to uncover his secrets. As soon as I asked, I regretted it. And when the ghosts started sifting through the walls, filling the hall where we stood, I knew I was in deep trouble. Their compulsion wrapped around me, drew me close. These were my people, my kind. They called to me—needed me. To be needed was a powerful thing in my world. They whispered to me, promises of knowledge and power, a gentle stroke of my ego, a compliment to my vanity. I didn’t know how else to describe it, even though there were no words involved. It was as simple as the fact that they wanted me, and I wanted to be wanted. Maybe because I was Dead Born and they were drawn to that.

It felt amazing. Powerful. Terrible.

It had happened before, this test of my strength. In the asylum where Lark had been kept, the ghosts there had almost convinced me to join them. They had started to turn me into something I didn’t want to be, a creature of fear and hate. Most ghosts are little more than whispers in the living world, and those ghosts tempted me with promises of screams.

We liked strong emotions—those were the ones we were actually able to feel. Passion. Loss. Anger. Fear. Love was lost to destruction, but I was lucky. I had Lark as my tether. She made it possible for me to feel. She kept some small part of me mortal.

I grabbed the man by the front of his shirt and hauled him close. I looked into those black, black eyes of his and saw the terrible things he’d done there. All those delicious moments of suffering he’d caused. I loved it and hated it, and I despised myself for being able to hold on as long as I did. I tore through his memories until I hit upon the thing I needed to see.

The place where he felt most powerful. The place he considered his own. It wasn’t where we stood at this moment. This place was his as well, but the other place, that was where he’d lived while here, the place he still considered his.

The place where my sister could do him the most harm.

I shoved him backward, knocking him into several other ghosts. They kept calling to me. I needed to make them stop or I’d soon give in. I wanted to give in.

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