Make me, p.15

Make Me, page 15

 

Make Me
 


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  “The words are gone,” Austin said in wonder.

  Sure enough, they were no longer on the page.

  “So, you don’t need me to bring—go to San Antonio,” David said, sounding relieved.

  “Sorry, David, you still have to go.”

  “Why?”

  “Because I don’t know how this power works exactly, and I’d rather use something I know and save this one for backup.” Besides, two aces in the hole were better than one. “Please, David, help me save my friends. Save Micah. Isn’t that why you came to me, to protect us? Micah’s one of us.”

  He scowled, but said nothing. Did that mean he agreed?

  HE DOESN’T WANT TO, BUT HE’LL GO, Fang told me as David pulled out his phone to text something.

  Austin nodded at the books. “That spell. What if you don’t use it? Can you give it back?”

  “I don’t know. Jack never—” I stopped and swallowed hard, fighting back tears. “Jack never told me how to get rid of one.” But he’d done it, somehow, when I became the keeper.

  David backed away, looking frightened. “Then whatever you do, don’t say that three times.”

  “Can it be as simple as that?” Austin asked.

  “I don’t know,” David said, “but I don’t want to test it.”

  Neither did I.

  JACK TOLD US SPELLS LIKE THIS REQUIRE NOT ONLY THE WORDS, BUT A FOCUSED WILL ON THE SUBJECT IN QUESTION, Fang reminded us.

  Yeah. I’m sure that made us all feel better. Except for one thing. I could feel the spell deep inside, lying there like a dark blot on my soul, waiting to be invoked.

  And oh so willing.

  Chapter Seventeen

  Micah groaned and woke with another pounding headache. This time, it wasn’t Perdo. Asmodeus had caught him off guard and whacked him in the back of the head. Just after Gwen—

  He winced from the memory.

  SHE IS NOT GWEN ANYMORE, Princess said sadly, curled up beside him.

  “I know,” Micah said, glad of the spaniel’s presence. “She’s now…” What was it? Oh, yeah. “Lilith.”

  Why did it have to be Gwen, of all people? She was the poster child for good human-demon relations, proof that they could coexist, that he’d been right not to use the Memory Eater when he learned she knew of the Underground. And, on a more personal level, she was a good person. Kind, warm, funny—a real sweetheart. How could he get her back?

  SHE CAME BACK AND LEFT YOU SOMETHING, Princess said and dropped a small object in his lap.

  Aspirin. Thank God. He picked up the bottle and noticed that Asmodeus had fastened Gwen’s cuff on his other wrist, still linked to the chain. He looked up. And it was still looped over the pipe in the ceiling, damn it. It was dark, too, the room lit only by the light above the sink.

  He staggered over to the sink, and with chains clinking against the porcelain, took great gulps of water, as well as some aspirin. Gwen was a nurse, a caretaker. Did that mean she was still in control part of the time? Or did they share the body?

  NO. SHE SAID SHE NEEDS YOU WELL, Princess explained.

  Well, that was ominous. He plopped back down on the mattress. What did they plan for him? And Princess?

  I CAN’T READ HER, BUT I KNOW THE BAD MAN WANTS MY PUPPIES. Princess sighed and nosed a bag near the bed. SHE BROUGHT FOOD. I SAVED YOU SOME.

  He needed it so the aspirin wouldn’t burn holes in his stomach. “Thanks.” He peered inside. Burgers again. And cold fries. Well, it was fuel. He couldn’t be picky and needed to keep up his strength, so he ate the fast food.

  After a little while, his headache began to recede, so Micah wondered how he could get out of this. What would his father do? Disgusted with himself, Micah shook his head. No, he had to stop using his father as his benchmark and think for himself. He had good instincts—he just needed to trust them.

  So, what were his options? As he saw it, there were only two: lie here like a slug and wait for things to happen, or escape and save Gwen and Princess. Or the hellhound, at least. He didn’t know what to do about Gwen and her predicament.

  ESCAPE? Princess said, sounding hopeful.

  It was worth a shot anyway. Micah glanced around the room, looking for options. Maybe the windows. He hadn’t considered them an option before, because neither he nor Gwen could fit through the narrow space. But maybe Princess could.

  He checked them out. Nope. They were boarded up tight on the outside. Even if he could break the glass and the boards, it would be noisy. “Are they still upstairs?” he asked the hellhound.

  YES. I HEAR THEM WALKING.

  All right. He’d save that for later, then. For now he’d consider every other option available. What could he do? Knock out the bulb and use the glass to slash the demon’s carotid? Tear out a stud and use protruding nails to bash in Asmodeus’s head? He liked that idea, but admitted it wasn’t realistic. Asmodeus would probably send Lilith down again, knowing Micah wouldn’t dare hurt Gwen’s body.

  He daydreamed about several other fantastic scenarios, but all of them depended on a miracle occurring and none of them were feasible. So, what could he use to his advantage? His incubus power wouldn’t work on Asmodeus or on Lilith. And there weren’t any other women around—or were there?

  He sat bolt upright. Wait a minute. He didn’t actually have to see a woman to control her. “Do you know where we are?” he asked the hellhound.

  NO.

  “You had to see something as he brought us into the house. Are we out in the country in an isolated house, or in a city neighborhood?”

  CITY, Princess said.

  Good. Then maybe he could do something.

  YOU WILL SAVE US? the spaniel asked plaintively.

  “I’m sure gonna try.” He laid back down and shut his eyes. “But please be quiet.” This was going to take some concentration.

  Micah hadn’t gone this long before without feeding on female energy, and he needed to take the edge off. With luck, that hunger should make it easier to find what he needed. He centered himself, then sent out thin, questing tendrils, seeking a woman, any woman. The tendrils brushed against Gwen/Lilith upstairs, but bounced off. Asmodeus still had her firmly under his control.

  Concentrating harder, Micah wafted them out farther, hoping they would go beyond the bounds of the house. This was farther than he’d ever tried to go before, but it seemed to be working.

  There. He found a woman. He reached for her energy, but she moved too fast and the energy was torn from his grasp. Damn. She must have been in a car.

  So, if that was the street, there should be houses on the other two sides. He reached in both directions with his hands and mind, willing the strands to find someone who could help. Up on the right, he felt something. A woman asleep?

  He jumped up and ran to the wall, flattening his hands against it, and concentrating all his effort on that one spark of life. Could he wake her? Hell, he couldn’t get a hook in her. Work, damn it.

  No use. He paused to gather more of his strength.

  STOP, Princess said.

  “Why?” he bit out, his concentration broken.

  SHE IS COMING.

  Sure enough, he heard footsteps on the stairs. Quickly, he moved back over to the mattress and laid down on it.

  Gwen peeked around the door. No, it was Lilith, Micah reminded himself. That must make Asmodeus the serpent, though this was no Garden of Eden. Or was it Lilith? She raised a finger to her lips and walked over on tiptoe toward him. She’d changed out of the scrubs and was now in a low-cut green dress.

  “Gwen?” he whispered. “Did you break free of their control?”

  She hurried over. “Shh. He’ll hear you. Yes, it’s me.” She hugged him. “Are you all right?”

  His hopes rose. “I’m fine. Can you release me?”

  She lifted her lips to his. “If you kiss me first.”

  Lilith.

  He jerked away from her. “I don’t think so.” He should have known—she didn’t feel like Gwen.<
br />
  “Sucker,” she taunted as Princess scrambled for the corner. Lilith laughed and said, “You really believed I’d give up this body after making it back to this world? Not a chance in hell.” She ran her hands down Gwen’s sides. “You like?”

  “What do you want?” he asked tightly.

  “Oh, not much,” she said, giving him a seductive look. “You know, in my previous life, I was a real grind. For what? It got me nowhere. This time around, I plan to have fun. Lots and lots of fun.” She shook her head. “Asmodeus is a drag. But I bet you know how to have a good time.”

  “I’m not in the mood.”

  “And after I left you that aspirin so you’d feel all better?” she cooed.

  He wanted to choke her. He made an abortive move in that direction.

  Lilith backed away and shook her finger at him playfully. “No, no, no. You wouldn’t want to hurt your friend’s body, would you?”

  “Why not?” he snapped. “You said you weren’t going to give it back.”

  She pouted. “You wouldn’t hurt me, would you?” She pretended to think. “I know. I’ll make sure you can’t.” Her smile turned hard and brittle. She moved toward the doorway and cast a glance over her shoulder. “Guess. What’s fast, heals quickly, and is immortal?”

  “You wouldn’t,” Micah said, desperately hoping she was joking.

  “Oh, I would,” Lilith said. “In fact, I’m leaving now to find myself a willing sire.”

  “No.” Micah rushed toward her.

  But Lilith had anticipated him and ran just out of his reach. “So sorry,” she said and blew him a kiss. “The next time you see me, I’ll be good and undead.”

  With that, she slammed the door in his face.

  Micah sagged to the floor, desperately hoping she was lying. She wouldn’t do that to herself. Would she?

  Chapter Eighteen

  The demon exorcism spell in my gut made me uneasy, but I tamped it down and looked speculatively at the books. They’d given me a way to help defeat the demon, but I still needed to locate him and my friends first.

  I closed the second volume and laid all three books in front of me and stared down at them. “Okay, now show me a way to find my friends.”

  Nothing. Maybe politeness was in order. “Please?”

  No glow, not even a tiny wink of light.

  “Is there a limit on how many spells you can take on in one day?” Austin asked.

  “Maybe. Jack would know—” But I could no longer ask him. “I don’t know.”

  David’s phone chirped and he glanced at it. “Pia’s waiting for me downstairs. We’ll go to San Antonio for you.” Pocketing his phone, he added, “I’ll ask Tessa to arrange Jack’s funeral.”

  I winced. I hadn’t thought of that. “Thanks.” Tessa would know how to do right by him.

  David left and I stood there, indecisive, trying to figure out what to do next. My options seemed nonexistent at this point. “Help me think of something,” I begged Austin and Fang.

  “Maybe you could—” Austin started to say, but stopped when Thriller went off on my phone.

  I checked it quickly—a number I didn’t know. “I don’t know who this is,” I told Austin and answered quickly, hoping it was the kidnapper getting back to me.

  “Hello?” The female voice sounded familiar.

  Ohmigod. “Gwen?”

  “Yes, it’s me.” Her voice was harsh with fear or uncertainty. I couldn’t tell which.

  ASK ABOUT PRINCESS, Fang said, jumping to his feet.

  “Where are you?”

  “I don’t know, but he hasn’t hurt us yet.”

  Yet? That sounded ominous, but at least it meant Micah and Princess were okay, too. Gwen sounded a little odd, like she wasn’t sure how much she could say. “Is he standing next to you?” I asked her.

  “Yes.”

  “Do you remember anything about where you are now, how you got there? Give me a hint.”

  “I don’t know,” she said, sounding impatient. “Why didn’t you show up to the meeting?”

  Gwen sounded angry, and she had a right to be. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t get the message until the meeting time had come and gone. I called back and left a message. Didn’t he get it?”

  “I guess not.”

  “Why did he kidnap you?”

  “He thought I was you, and that I had the books. The other two were just there, so he took them, too. Val, he wants to trade us for the books. Can you do that?”

  “Don’t worry. I’ll do everything in my power to free you,” I promised her.

  “No,” she ordered, then added, “Don’t attempt a rescue. Please, just bring the encyclopedia.”

  She had to say that, with him standing next to her. “Just tell me this. Is he a mage demon?” Mage demon and encyclopedia… an explosive combination.

  “No. Please, come soon. I’m afraid he’ll burn us if you don’t.”

  Smart girl, she was able to tell us he was a fire demon like Andrew. Probably some idiot who’d heard how strong the books had made Andrew, but thought he could remain free of the books’ control. “Okay, but tell him it’ll take me some time to get the books.”

  “Is that true?”

  Just in case he was listening, I lied. “Yes. When and where does he want to exchange them?”

  “Just a minute. I’ll ask.” All I could hear were muffled voices until she came back on the line a couple of minutes later. “He’ll call you later with the details. How long will it take you to get them?”

  It was at least an hour to San Antonio, and I wanted him to assume I’d left them somewhere near there. Give me more time to think and plan. “About three hours.”

  “All right, I’ll tell him. Don’t turn off the phone this time, okay?”

  “Okay. I—”

  But she had hung up. Or, more likely, the fire demon had hung up for her. “He’ll call back later to arrange the time and place,” I told Fang and Austin.

  WE’RE NOT JUST GONNA SIT ON OUR BUTTS AND WAIT, ARE WE? Fang asked belligerently.

  “What do you want me to do?”

  FIND THEM. TAKE THEM AWAY FROM THAT DEMON BEFORE HE CAN HURT THEM OR GET HIS HANDS ON THE BOOKS.

  Exasperated and frustrated, I shot back, “How? You got any bright ideas on how to find them? ’Cause I’m fresh out.”

  Austin settled back in his chair, one booted leg resting on top of his knee. “Think, Val. What did you hear in the background on the call? Was it silent like they were inside a house, or did it sound like they were on a road in a car?”

  Good question. I thought for a moment. Neither one. “I heard voices in the background,” I said. “And music.” I thought harder. “Christmas music. I know—it was Feliz Navidad.”

  “Maybe it’s a Mexican restaurant,” Austin said, musing.

  THAT NARROWS IT DOWN TO ABOUT A THOUSAND BETWEEN HERE AND SAN ANTONIO, Fang said, sounding disgusted. OR NOT. IT’S PLAYED EVERYWHERE THIS TIME OF YEAR.

  “What’s your phone show?” Austin asked. “Does it say who it’s from?”

  “No. It just gave the number—the area code is five-one-two, in Austin.”

  “Maybe we can do a reverse lookup,” Austin said, rising to head toward the computer. “What’s the rest of the number?”

  I glanced at my phone. “Wait. While I was talking to Gwen, her brother called and left a voice mail.”

  I listened to the voice mail. Short and sweet. “Call me immediately,” Dan growled and hung up.

  Dang. I’d hoped we could rescue Gwen and get her home safe and sound before Dan realized she was missing. But his cop skills could come in handy right now.

  I called him and he didn’t even say hello. He just bulldozed right over me. “Do you know where Gwen is? She didn’t show up for work, she’s not home, there’s a scorched spot on her rug and she doesn’t answer her cell. Is she with you?”

  “No. Dan, I’m sorry, but Gwen’s been kidnapped.”

  “What?” he bellowed, nearly b
ursting my eardrum. “By who?”

  “Some fire demon we don’t know. He has Micah and Princess, too.”

  “Lay it out for me. Where are they? What does he want with them? Is there a ransom demand? What are you doing about it?” The questions came rapid-fire.

  When he finally paused for a moment, I said, “Yes, we have a ransom demand. He wants the books.”

  “You’re going to give them up, aren’t you?”

  “As soon as he gives us the time and place. Unless we can find Gwen and Micah before then. Can you help?” San Antonio wasn’t that far away.

  “I’ll do my damnedest.” Dan paused, then asked more hesitantly, “Did he—Did he give you proof of life?”

  Such a cop thing to say. “Yes, he made Gwen call me. I just hung up from talking to her.”

  He sighed, and I heard a lot of relief in that sound. “What’s the number?”

  I gave him the number, told him what I knew, and explained he’d used Micah’s phone to call me earlier. “I bought us three hours—he thinks it’ll take me that long to get the books.”

  “Good. I’ll track the numbers down. Get with the Underground,” Dan ordered. “Find out who the fire demons are in San Antonio and Austin. And send me the picture he took of Gwen and Micah, too.”

  “Of course.” I wanted to find them just as much as he did.

  “Let me know immediately what you find out.”

  “I will, but you have to do the same.”

  “You got it.”

  He hung up on me, but I didn’t mind. He was good at his job and now I had a little sliver of hope that we’d be able to find Micah and Gwen without having to give up the books.

  “Dan’s on it,” I told the other two. “And he wants me to find out what fire demons live near here.” I should have thought of that, but I was too emotionally involved. It clouded my thinking. So did Lola. She hadn’t fed in a while and was getting a little edgy and a lot hungry.

  GOOD, CALL TESSA, Fang said. SHE’LL KNOW.

  Austin typed something on the computer. “What if it isn’t a local fire demon? What if it’s someone from out of state?”

 
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