Unraveled, p.56

Unraveled, page 56

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 56

 

  When the pair finally returned, a subdued Victoria walked by Riley’s side. He shut the door and stayed there, but she kept moving, careful to give Aden a wide berth. She perched against the far wall, her cheeks rosy with color.

  “Sorry about that,” she muttered.

  “Don’t worry about it,” Aden said, just glad to see her clearheaded again. “Can you tell me what wards she possesses?”

  Victoria nodded. “Her wards are tiny. Actually, I’ve never seen wards so small. I would think them ineffective, yet when you run your finger over them, you can feel their intense power. ”

  “How many does she have?”

  “Nine. Two are purely cosmetic, preventing anyone from cursing her with ugliness. One is for the protection of her wards, so that no one can tattoo over them and ruin or change them. ”

  Smart witch. Though Riley had told him not many people chose to have that particular ward.

  “One is to protect her from mortal injury, one to protect her from mental injury, which is probably what’s hindering your progress. One to anchor her to this world, I guess so that she cannot be taken into another dimension by a fairy. One against goblin poison, one to protect her against a lying male’s seduction and one to prevent her from speaking secrets. Which means she couldn’t have told us what we wanted to know, even if she’d wanted to. ”

  Riley fisted a handful of his hair, released the strands, then fisted them again. “We should have thought to look for wards before. ”

  True. “In our defense, we’ve had a lot to think about. ”

  “And we normally avoid witches,” Victoria said. “We’ve never willingly spent time with one. Why would we have known what to do?”

  Good point. “Okay, so. She can’t speak secrets, and her mind is protected from injury. I don’t mean to harm her, but she can’t know that. Even if she doesn’t know I’m here, inside her, her mind probably recognizes me as foreign and therefore views me as a threat. ”

  “Can you hide yourself from her?” Riley asked.

  “I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. ” Maybe if she were conscious, unaware of his presence, her mind would relax. Maybe those boxes would open up on their own. “Here, tie me back up. ”

  I don’t like this, Caleb said.

  Aden didn’t either, but there was no other way.

  He plopped into the chair, stretching his arms behind his back and pressing his wrists together. In less than a minute, Riley had him bound back up. Yep. Uncomfortable. Poor girl.

  You swear you’ll set her free after this? Caleb asked on a trembling breath.

  “Yes. ” After this, they’d have no more need of her.

  “Yes what?” Riley asked, then shook his head. “Never mind. You weren’t talking to me. ”

  The wolf was learning. “Put the blindfold on me. And yes, this time I’m talking to you. ”

  Riley did as instructed, and suddenly darkness surrounded him.

  “I’m going to try and fade to the back of her mind. Hopefully, she won’t know I’m there. Try to keep her talking, distracted. And if she won’t talk to you, you talk to her. Try to say things that prod her memories of the death curse. ” She couldn’t speak her secrets, but he would soon find out whether or not she could think them while someone listened.

  “I need you to be quiet now,” he said, “and no, I’m not talking to you or Victoria. ” He didn’t want the witch to hear the souls. “Please. ”

  Fine, Elijah said on a sigh.

  Sure, Julian said.

  All right, Caleb grumbled, but only because I want her released.

  Aden breathed in, held…held, then slowly released every bit of air. As he did, he threw himself into a shadowed corner of the witch’s mind. He could have eased to the back, but then she would have become gradually aware of her surroundings, might have had time to notice something was amiss. This way, it was like ripping a Band-Aid. He was there, front and center, and then he wasn’t.

  “Well?” the witch demanded as if their conversation had never ended. “Know you better than what?”

  Good. She didn’t recall Aden removing her blindfold, looking into her eyes and disappearing.

  “Enough,” Riley said. “Tell us your name. ”

  Contrary wolf, she thought, and Aden almost whooped. He could hear her, and she didn’t seem aware of him. “I thought you didn’t want me to talk. ”

  Riley kept up a steady chatter, but Aden tuned him out, concentrating on the witch. Blah, blah, blah, she was thinking now. Where’d the Summoner go? I can’t feel the pull of him anymore. If he left… Argh! I’ve got to get out of here and take him with me. The girls are going to be so pissed. I can’t believe I got caught. Stupid vampires. I’m going to be teased about this forever. I may not be able to die by physical means, but I’ll probably die of embarrassment.

  Nothing useful there.

  He turned his attention to the vast sea in front of him. The boxes had disappeared, the memories that had been inside them now floating freely. There were so many, each like a tiny TV screen. He didn’t know which to focus on. If he picked the wrong one, he was afraid he’d waste hours, lost, and learn nothing. That was better than waiting, doing nothing, he supposed.

  He scanned the images before him until he caught a glimpse of the blond witch who had spoken to him in the forest a week ago, the one Caleb had reacted to so strongly. The one who had spoken the curse that could kill his friends.

  When he saw her, Aden automatically reached out. The moment his fingers touched the screen, dizziness flooded his mind, catching him in a surprising whirlpool, spinning him out of control, tossing him like a ragdoll. And just when he thought he could take it no more, he stilled. Or rather, his body did.

  He closed his eyes, shook his head.

  “Hey, are you okay?” a female voice asked him. A familiar voice.

  In the back of his mind, Caleb whimpered.

  “Quiet. ” Slowly he cracked open his eyes. The blond witch stood in front of him in all her pale glory. Her hair hung to her waist, curling slightly. Her skin was flawless, her eyes a dark, navy blue and her lips like a frosted plum. She looked to be about twenty years old.

  She wore the same red robe she’d worn that day in the forest. For that matter, so did Aden. They stood outside a chapel-like building comprised of white brick, with a pointed roof that seemed to stretch to the sky. Rose bushes covered the front, hugging the sides of steps that lead to a wraparound porch. The air was hot and humid, fragrant with the scents of summer.

  “Well?”

  Aden waited a moment, trying to decide how best to answer. He didn’t want to change the past, and thereby alter the future, but he couldn’t remain silent as he’d done while inside Shannon’s head. Shannon was ashamed of his stutter and often ignored those around him; Aden had a feeling this smart-mouthed witch never had.

  “What were we discussing?” he asked in that female voice.

  The blonde rolled her eyes. “Look. I know you’re scared about punishment. You told the human about your powers, and now we have to move before the witch hunt begins. But…”

  She continued speaking, but Aden tuned her out. This wasn’t the right memory. He closed his eyes and imagined himself back inside the witch’s head. He didn’t know if it would work and he—there was another whirlpool, more tossing about, but suddenly he was there, back in that shadowed corner, little TVs floating in front of him.

  Thank God.

  He must be getting good at this.

  This guy going to shut up? she was thinking.

  Riley continued babbling about right and wrong, life and death, how all he wanted to do was protect his friends and to do that, he had to get Aden to that meeting, yet he couldn’t do that if he didn’t know where the meeting was. His voice was hoarse and Aden wondered how much time had passed.

  Again, Aden tuned him out. He watched those TV scre
ens until he again spied the blonde. Once again, he reached out.

  TWENTY-SIX

  THE SCENE ADEN NEXT FOUND himself in was vastly different than the first. Night had fallen, and he stood in a circle, surrounded by witches draped in red robes. There was a drizzle of rain, soaking him. The moon was high, the air so cold mist bloomed in front of his nose every time he breathed. Yet he wasn’t cold. A fire crackled in the center of the circle, wafting heat at him.

  His skin tingled, the fine hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He looked around.

  The blonde was across from him. She said something in a language he didn’t understand, and the women at his sides reached for his hands. That startled him, but he didn’t allow himself to jerk away.

  Everyone but him began muttering something under their breath. He listened. Now they were all speaking in that strange language. This must be a spell-casting, he thought, but for what?

  Caleb repeated the words. I think…I think they’re asking for protection from dark forces.

  If Aden had ever doubted that Caleb had an affinity with the witches, those doubts faded.

  “Someone is impeding our power,” the blonde suddenly snapped. Her gaze scanned the circle, then backtracked to Aden, locking down. “Jennifer,” she said. “Why aren’t you chanting?”

  Finally, the witch’s name. Jennifer. So very…human.

  Rather than reply, Aden pulled back from the memory and settled inside Jennifer’s mind with only the slightest unease, once again watching those TVs. They moved back and forth.

  Had his blunder changed anything in the future?

  He looked around. Riley was currently draining a glass of water and Victoria was talking about her desire to save the humans. Thank God. Nothing had changed, really. There was no window inside the room, so Aden couldn’t peer outside and determine what time it was. He’d try one or two more times, and then leave the witch, informed or not.

  Choose carefully, Elijah said. Did he sense something? Dread had layered his voice, and he wouldn’t have spoken, fearful of alerting Jennifer, without reason.
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