Unraveled, p.53

Unraveled, page 53

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 53

 

  Riley’s severe head shake cut him off. “Not always. ”

  Still he persisted. “The girls—”

  “Will turn their backs. Stop stalling. You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before, you big baby. ”

  Aden glanced over at the girls, and sure enough, they’d turned their backs. So, with a sigh and flushed skin, Aden stripped. Riley looked him over. Frowned again. Growled low in his throat.

  “Damn,” he said as Aden hastily dressed. “No wards. ”

  “Did you check everywhere?” Victoria asked.

  Meaning his family jewels? Aden’s cheeks flamed.

  “Yeah, I checked there. There are a few more places I need to look, though. ” Riley checked behind his ears, in his hairline, under his arms. Still nothing.

  With a push to his shoulders, Aden flopped back into the seat. Riley sat and lifted one of his feet, then the other. Bingo, Aden thought, because Riley was shaking his head and studying both as if they held the secrets of the universe.

  “How?” Aden demanded. “I would have known afterward, even if I wasn’t aware during. ” Wouldn’t he? “Walking would have hurt. ”

  “No. You were warded twice, and one of them prevents foot pain. After you woke up, you never would have felt a thing. ”

  Dear God. There really was a ward for everything. “You mentioned foot pain. What’s the other ward for?”

  “Preventing you from being warded against mind manipulation. Which means whoever warded you wanted your mind malleable. Wanted to control you. Probably has controlled you. And if you’re having memory issues related to your doctor, chances are good that he’s the one who did the warding. ”

  Shock swept through him. Shock and fury. How would Hennessy have known to ward him? What’s more… “Why would he do such a thing? What would he have wanted me to do?”

  “We’ll pay him a visit tomorrow and find out. ”

  If they were still alive, he didn’t add, but they were all thinking it.

  “As for now, I’m going to negate the mind manipulation ward by smearing the words. Then I’ll give you another antimanipulation ward. Then I’ll give you a ward protecting your wards. That way, he can’t negate ours like we’re doing to his. Warning, though. Not many people want the ward protecting ward because it makes any wards you get now, as well as any you get later, permanent. And if another ward is ever added without your consent… Anyway, with you, with our circumstances, it’s worth the risk. ”

  “Thank you. ” Aden was still numb with that shock, still on fire from the fury. The dual sensations created havoc inside his head, the souls now equally numb and upset, demanding answers. “Will there still be time for the death-prevention ward?”

  “We’ll make time. Anyway, I’ll leave the anti-foot-pain ward alone. You’re gonna need it. ” With that, Riley got back to work.

  TWENTY-FOUR

  TUCKER HAD NEWS TO SHARE. News he knew Vlad would hate, but share he would. He had to. His blood vibrated with a need he couldn’t fight.

  Why are you doing this? Stop, his mind screamed.

  Truly, he couldn’t. The need was too strong. He flew across the manicured vampire lawn, bypassing bonsai trees, skirting around black rose bushes. In the center of the property was a wide ring of cement poured in swirls to create an intricate design. Almost like a crop circle he’d once seen on the news. A strange electrical pulse rose from it, and birds and insects stayed as far away as possible. Like I want to do.

  As he had done a thousand times before, he stood in the center of the ring, unnoticed by the few vampires working around him, pulling weeds and digging in the dirt. They saw only the golden sunshine around him because that’s the image he projected at them.

  Perhaps they smelled him, though, because every single one of them straightened and sniffed the air.

  Hurry. Tucker planted his feet inside two grooves of cement. When his heels hit the back of those grooves, the swirls around him began to move. Whirling, inter-locking, separating, twisting. He continued to project sunlight, glaring bright…brighter…until the vampires looked away.

  The center he stood upon began to descend, slowly, slowly, lowering him into the earth, into the darkness. No one would see the opening he left behind; he made sure of it. For a moment, as the sunlight illuminated the yawning pit below, he saw what awaited him.

  Dead bodies littered the hard ground. In fact, when the metal finished lowering, one of those bodies was crunched, bones snapping. The smell…metallic, as if blood had sprayed. Rotten, as if the bodies were already decomposing.

  He wanted to vomit. Was this the fate that awaited him?

  Probably. That didn’t stop him from stepping inside. Without his weight, the platform rose, higher and higher, finally closing the circle above. Darkness swathed him. Such darkness. He reminded himself that when he was ready to return, he had only to flatten his palms in the grooves on the wall, and the ring would open again. Until then…

  “Who are these people?” he whispered.

  Vlad, always awake, never sleeping, heard him. “They were unimportant slaves who outlived their usefulness, and you will dispose of them. ” His voice was stronger, far less raspy than it had been during their other meetings. “The sight of them offends me. ”

  “Of course. ” Tucker didn’t even think about refusing.

  “And you will bring me more. ”

  “Yes. ” How was he supposed to do that? You’ll find a way. You want to please this man. You have to please this man.

  “Now why are you here? I didn’t summon you yet. ”

  Don’t do this. There was his other side, fighting, wanting to live a better, sweeter life, thinking things could be different, pretending he hadn’t used his power of illusion to terrify an innocent family last night, letting them think they were covered in spiders and grinning while they screamed.

  That had always been his favorite trick.

  “Well?”

  “I—I have news. ” He told Vlad what he’d seen when he’d used his illusions to sneak inside the mansion. Vampires attacking Aden. Horrible monsters rising from those vampires, protecting Aden. Aden, petting those monsters, cooing to them. Asking them to return to their hosts, watching them obey.

  “How did he not die before the beasts showed themselves?” Vlad asked, and as usual, his mild tone was somehow mind-numbingly frightening.

  Tucker gulped. “He sprayed some kind of liquid on their faces. ”

  There was a rustle of clothing. “Liquid? From a ring?”

  No longer pretending at calm, Vlad had sounded furious. “Y-yes. ”

  “And how did he win the loyalty of the beasts?”

  “I don’t know. No one knew. ”

  Before the last word left Tucker’s mouth, Vlad was screaming. He must have been stomping around, ripping up stones and tossing them into the walls, because Tucker heard the grind of rock against rock, felt the rumble of the earth as everything around him shook and cracked.

  He clutched at his ears, but it was too late. Warm blood leaked, that high-pitched scream having busted his eardrums. Sharp pain exploded through his head before lancing through the rest of him.

  For once, the desire to flee outweighed his desire to please and he stumbled to the wall, feeling for the grooves. But a strong hand clamped on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks.

  THIS MIGHT JUST BE her last day on earth, Mary Ann thought, then chided herself for such a morbid outlook. Now that she’d fed from the witch, she felt better, stronger than ever before. No way she’d simply drop dead. She hoped. But she felt guilty, too, as she remembered how the witch had cursed and screamed at her, then wilted, silent.

  How could I have done that to her?

  And how could she return to the cabin? But she was returning, as soon as Riley finished tattooing her. Aden planned to possess the girl’s body and try to time-travel into her past. Maybe…
maybe Mary Ann would remain outside during the attempt. That way, she wouldn’t take anything else from the poor girl.

  Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what she’d do, she decided. Victoria would simply assume Mary Ann was a coward, afraid to face so powerful a creature even though she had been warded.

  The wards. Ugh. Mary Ann frowned. Unlike Aden, she hadn’t wanted her tattoos on her chest. She hadn’t wanted to see them every day, to know they were permanent, a part of her forever.

  So, she’d removed her shirt—blushing like crazy and thankful she’d worn a pretty bra, even if Riley had seen it the night before—and given Riley her back. And dear God, getting them hurt. Like having fire poured straight into her bloodstream.

  “All done,” Riley finally said. He sounded pleased.

  She pushed to her feet, grabbed her shirt and strode to the full-length mirror in the corner. Twisting, she saw two beautifully elaborate tattoos. One would protect her from mind manipulation, just as Aden had chosen, and one would protect her from mortal wounds. At least physical ones.

  That second one wouldn’t help if, say, her heart suddenly stopped because of the death spell, but Riley had insisted on that one, so that one she had picked. And it hadn’t sizzled and disappeared, so obviously physical harm—like a stabbing—wasn’t the way the death spell would kill her.

  Apparently, for wards of that magnitude, the tattoo had to be bigger, so the second ward stretched from one shoulder blade to the other. God, her dad was going to die. After he murdered her, of course.

  She pulled the tee over her head, wincing against the sharp sting as the material rubbed her sensitive skin.

  “Ready?” Victoria held out one delicate hand.

  She nodded and twined their fingers. A second later, the vampire had her teleported to the outside of the cabin. Victoria disappeared without a word, returned a few seconds later with Aden, disappeared again, then returned a few seconds later with Riley. She was getting better at the teleporting thing.

  “Let’s do this,” Aden said, his urgency catching like a virus. Everyone but Mary Ann pounded up the stairs.
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