Unraveled, page 55part #2 of Intertwined Series
ADEN STOOD IN FRONT OF THE witch. She was sitting in the same chair as before, only she’d scooted herself across the room as she’d screamed about a drainer. She wore a blindfold, but this one was a different color than the one she’d worn before. Had she managed to destroy the other one? Why else would someone switch them?
Her ties were different, too. Had she tried to escape? Almost succeeded?
She was paler than before, her skin almost…yellow. Her cheeks were more hollowed. There was a brittle quality to her hair now, as though the strands had lost their shine and had dried into hay. Before she’d hummed with power. Now…not so much. She could have been a human.
The wolves had been caring for her, feeding her, that kind of thing. But she had to be uncomfortable. Miserable, actually. And he felt bad about that. He really did. He didn’t like that she was suffering, bored, stiff, uncertain, scared, but more than that, he didn’t like that his friends could die because of her and her kind.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he told her gently. “I’m not going to drain you of anything. ”
Her panting breaths echoed between them. “You’re the Summoner. ” Even her voice was different. Weaker. Raspier.
“Yes. ” If only he could tame witches with the same ease he tamed flesh-hungry beasts, none of this would have been necessary. “What are you so afraid of being drained of?”
Don’t engage her, Elijah instructed. Just do your job.
“Your blood?” he found himself adding.
Good going. Dryly uttered.
“As if you don’t know someone among you can and has—”
Riley entered the small room and propped himself against the closed door, snarling, “Quiet, witch. We gave you a chance to share. You refused. Now, you can deal with whatever’s done to you. ”
Caleb, highly agitated since seeing the witch in such a weakened condition, prowled through Aden’s head, huffing, puffing, and now growling at the wolf. She can talk if she wants to talk! Aden, man, you can’t leave her like that. You have to save her.
What’s with you? Julian asked. Save her?
Look at her. She’s sick. She needs help. I know I helped come up with our current plan, but that was before I saw her like this.
“We’ll save her,” Aden muttered. “After. ” So let’s get this done. He glanced up. Victoria stood across from him, behind the witch. “Ready?” he mouthed.
She nodded, expression tight with nerves.
“Save who?” the witch demanded. “Me? Well, that’s not going to save you. Not after everything you’ve done. ”
Aden! You wouldn’t tolerate this kind of thing if your vampire girlfriend was the one tied up, Caleb said, unwilling to give up. Let the witch go. Now. Please.
Why do you care so much about this witch? Elijah asked. And really, even the others. From the time they approached us and cast their death spell, you’ve been as drawn to them as they are to Aden.
I don’t know, was the agonized reply. I just know I don’t want her hurting.
Aden suspected the witches were part of Caleb’s past. Plus, this witch had stiffened when he’d mentioned a guy who could possess other bodies. “Maybe we can find out,” he said. After all, he kinda needed Caleb’s cooperation for this. And he had promised to discover who the souls had been when they’d lived. He’d promised to help them with their final wish, to send them on, even if he would miss them terribly, even if he now wanted to keep them. “When we’re inside, we’ll search for information about you. ”
“Inside?” the witch asked, struggling against her bonds. “What are you planning? What the hell are you planning? If you hurt me, my sisters will hunt you down and curse you with pain, such terrible pain. They’ll curse your family, too! Do you hear me?” Her chair rattled, bouncing up and down with her motions.
“I already told you, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. But really, she’d already threatened to punish him no matter what happened, so her newest threat missed its mark.
I don’t know about this, Caleb said. What if we change her past? What if that change destroys her?
“We’ll be careful, but we have to do this. Tick-tock on the deadline, you know? There’s no other way. ”
A pause, then, Fine. Do it. But don’t injure her in any way.
Aden took offense to that. “As if I would. ” Not purposely. “You know me better than that. ”
“Know you better than what?” the witch snapped.
Time to act. Reaching out, he removed her blindfold. She blinked against the bright light of the room, eyes watering, nose wrinkling, lips pursing. Aden cupped her chin and forced her attention on his face.
“Relax. ” The moment their gazes met, Caleb took over, Aden’s body dissolving and slipping into the witch’s. He expected pain, had braced himself against it, but there wasn’t even a flicker of discomfort. Maybe, after everything that had happened to him, his pain threshold had increased. Or maybe Caleb was getting better at this. Maybe Caleb had done everything in his power to keep Aden from feeling pain because, if Aden had felt it, the witch also would have felt it the moment they linked to her, whether she was aware of the link or not.
Now seeing through her eyes, Aden took stock. His wrists and ankles were bruised and cut from tugging at the rope. His muscles were stiff. “Free me,” he told Riley. The oddity of speaking with someone else’s voice always startled him.
A frowning Riley strode to him, claws sharpening, and slashed at the ties. Aden pulled his hands into his lap and massaged his wrists. When his feet were freed, he stood. His legs were so weak they almost collapsed, but he managed to walk around the room, increasing blood flow.
She wouldn’t know he’d done this for her, but she would feel better.
“Thank you. ” As he walked, he let his mind wander through hers, the world around him fading away. Unlike with Dr. Hennessy, he didn’t see static. He saw—wait. There was that thought again. Static. He must have entered Dr. Hennessy’s mind. Otherwise, he wouldn’t keep thinking about what had happened there. How long had he stayed? Why couldn’t he recall?
Don’t think about that now.
Aden returned his attention to the witch. But unlike when he’d been in Shannon’s mind, he didn’t see scenes from her life. He saw…boxes? There were thousands of them, scattered across a sea of white, each boasting a thick silver lock.
He frowned as he clamped one of the locks between his fingers, and an electric shock tore through him, burning. “What would cause such a reaction?”
Wards, Caleb said, and he’d never sounded more confident. She has wards of her own. Her memories are in the boxes, and the boxes are warded against invaders.
“How do you know?” Aden asked.
Don’t know. Just do.
Well, Aden needed inside them. Each ward could do only one thing, so what—or which—wards did she have and how, exactly, did they protect her mind? There was only one way to find out.
He searched the room until he found Riley, who was once again leaning against the door. “I need you to leave,” he said.
The wolf shook his head. “That would be—”
“The right thing to do,” he interrupted. “She’s warded, so I can’t reach her memories. Therefore we have to see what wards she has, and I don’t think she’d want a guy looking. ”
Oh, no, Caleb said. You’re not stripping her down.
Usually, Caleb was the one begging for a peep show. “We’ll work around her clothes, okay?”
“If I’m gone,” Riley said, “I won’t be able to protect you. ”
“Don’t care. Go. ” He pointed to the exit.
“Fine. But if she somehow realizes what you’re doing and rips at your mind, I can’t be blamed. ” The shifter threw open the door, stomped out and kicked it shut behind him.
“If that happened, you wouldn’t be able to help me anyway,” Aden calle
“Yes. ” She glided to him, as graceful as a ballet dancer.
Aden closed his eyes. One piece at a time, she moved the witch’s clothing out of the way, searching. At first, her motions were quick and efficient. Then she slowed…slowed…lingered.
“I’ve never studied a witch this intently,” she said, voice heavy. “Usually I avoid them. I don’t know why. Your scent…”
“No. ” She’d finished her search, but her grip tightened on his arms, holding him in place. “Good. Soooo good. ”
He recognized that tone. It was the same one the councilmen had used just before flying at him and chomping at his veins.
Red alert, Elijah suddenly announced.
“I know. ” Aden opened his eyes and tugged from her. He rushed to the far end of the empty room. When she attempted to follow, he shook his head. “Stay there. ”
Her eyes were glazed, her fangs longer than ever before. “Just one taste,” she pleaded. “I’ll make it feel good. You’ll like it. ”
“Riley,” he called.
The wolf entered the room a second later. Clearly, he hadn’t gone far. “Decide you needed me, after all?”
“We have a slight…problem. ” Victoria had crouched, ready to leap.
“What—” Riley noticed and grabbed her by the waist, holding her in place. “Oh, no, you don’t. ” She struggled against him. “There are bags of blood in the other room. She’ll feed and she’ll be fine. We’ll be back,” he said, and hefted her out the door.
Several minutes passed. Aden waited, wishing he could be the one to feed her, the one who calmed her. But he wasn’t ready to leave the witch’s body, and Victoria couldn’t be allowed to drink from the witch. He remembered what she’d said about the allure of the witches, how addicting their blood was, and he didn’t like the thought of her strung out like a drug user.
by Gena Showalter / Romance / Paranormal / Young Adult have rating 5.4 out of 5 / Based on38 votes