Authors: Vicki Keire
Darkness in the Blood
Book II of the Gifted Blood Trilogy
by Vicki Keire
Copyright © 2011 Vicki Keire
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
I used to break out in a cold sweat when I was terrified.
These days, I break out in Shadows.
I squared my back against one of the sturdy trees of Blind Springs Park and stared up through its branches at the moon. Almost full and only slightly lighter than my quicksilver eyes, it cast just enough light to show the cold darkness snaking between my fingers and creeping up my arms. I closed my eyes and focused on calming my breathing. Dark electric fire crackled across my hands, racing up my arms and arcing across my neck. It felt like a combination of freezing water, marching ants, and someone slithering over my grave.
Once they appeared, only two things got rid of the Shadows: attacking someone or something, or calming down enough that they went away on their own. There was no one in the park but the crickets and I, so the attacking option was out. Lately, it took longer and longer periods of calm to make them go away. I was afraid the day would come when nothing I could do would banish them.
Asheroth had warned me. When Ethan was gone and Logan lay dying, he came to the hospital to warn me. “He taught you just enough to get you killed,” the mad Nephilim raged at me, furious with Ethan for unlocking such a dangerous gift. I hadn’t believed my insane self-appointed guardian then.
I did now.
I forced myself to focus on my goal: find Asheroth, get help. Breathe, calm, focus. Find Asheroth and get help for Ethan. Ethan needed help much worse than I did. And Asheroth was the only Nephilim I knew. He had to have answers. There was no one else.
I silently pleaded with the Shadows to stay gone as I stepped carefully away from my tree trunk. I’d been wandering Blind Springs Park for the third night in a row. Each night had been as unsuccessful as the night before. And yet, I couldn’t quit hoping that tonight would be the night I’d find him. “Caspia Chastain,” I hissed as I walked, “when will you learn to be careful what you wish for? The only thing worse than not finding Asheroth might be actually finding him.”
I sealed my lips together against the chilly night air and crept closer towards the most deserted part of the park. The nearly full moon overhead cast ragged patches of light through the winter bare trees. I was deeply in, now; branches snagged my long tangled hair and snapped against the leather of Ethan’s jacket. I could imagine what he’d say if he knew what I was doing.
“Are you crazy, sneaking through Blind Springs Park in the middle of the night? Alone? The same park where Dark Nephilim attacked us just a few months ago? When you know there’s still a demon after you? Are you trying to get yourself killed?” my imaginary Ethan raged at me.
Amazing how much Ethan and Logan could sound alike when my welfare was the topic of conversation.
“I’m not trying to get myself killed,” I whispered, but I didn’t sound convincing, even to myself. I was well aware that what I was doing was far from sane. I knew both Ethan and Logan would do everything they could to stop me. Why else had I snuck out in the middle of the night? “I’ve tried every other way I can think of to summon him, and nothing’s worked.” I drew a deep, shaky breath and rocked back on my heels, looking for landmarks. “I need him. We need him. Asheroth. He promised he’d help.”
I needed Asheroth because the man I loved had sacrificed immortality to keep my brother alive. By Ethan’s reckoning, his sacrifice had been more than worth it. He got to live a mortal life with me, and Logan was recovering with a kind of speed and strength that amazed his doctors. So much so, in fact, that we’d checked him out against medical advice because we were afraid the doctors might decide to keep him for experiments.
But for Ethan, becoming mortal was turning out to be a painful, ongoing sacrifice. Even now, he slept restlessly, tormented by fever, headaches, and nightmares. His waking hours were a nightmare of sensory assault as his body tried to process hundreds of new needs, sensations, and information all at once. His mortal body was strong but completely alien to him. He had bruises from walking into things, and we had quickly learned not to trust him with anything sharp or breakable. After Ethan’s second set of stitches, Logan and I had silently replaced all the dishes with hard plastic and wood.
Worst of all, he could feel the empty space where he’d once carried throbbing, pulsing Light. Like an amputee with phantom limb pains, the emptiness hurt him. He never spoke of it. He thought I didn’t know. But I could see the pain in his eyes, and when he slept his drugged sleep, he cried out for the lost Light that had served as wings. I watched him in the night, hating myself as I massaged his knotted muscles. Three nights ago, I’d finally had enough. I started sneaking out, looking for my mad, self-appointed guardian. I was desperate.
I needed Asheroth to tell me how to help Ethan.
I hoped Asheroth could tell me a way to change him back.
Ethan. Love. I’m so sorry.
It hadn’t seemed like such a crazy plan when I’d dreamed it up in the warmth and safety of my apartment. I visualized the small clearing where I’d first met Asheroth months ago. He and two other Dark Nephilim had attacked Ethan and I. They’d tried to kill each other, and I’d learned about my own Nephilim blood when Asheroth kidnapped me. But none of that mattered now, because Ethan was mortal, and Asheroth had sworn to protect me from an even greater threat, a demon that hunted me.
“Asheroth,” I called softly, as I had the night before, and the night before that. “Are you there?” The wind picked up momentarily, as if in answer, snapping bare branches against each other and stirring the dead leaves at my feet.
“Hello?” I turned in a slow, tight circle, watching the trees for a flash of red leather. “It’s Caspia. If you’re there, I need you.” A sudden blast of wind hit me from behind, whipping my hair around my face in all kinds of crazy directions. Momentarily blinded, I hugged myself against the chill. “I need help.”
Underneath the curtain of my hair, I felt tears forming. My world was falling apart. I was being consumed by Shadows, Ethan’s mortal life was pain-filled and confusing, and I had come to a deserted park for three nights in a row to beg a mad fallen angel for help. I didn’t bother to wipe at the tears. At least Logan had found some peace; his recovery was going well, Amberlyn adored him, and he had his old job back.
“Flowers will grow there, in the spring. Silver ones, like your eyes.”
The voice was hesitant, even shy; it came from behind me. I would have recognized it anywhere. I froze, prey sensing a predator. It was my automatic reaction to him.
“What do you mean?” I finally asked when he didn’t elaborate.
“Your tears,” he said in the same soft tone, as if he’d explained himself fully. Then, with an edge: “Why are you crying?”
There it was. A hint of the unpredictable anger that made him so dangerous. I wrapped my arms around myself and hoped I didn’t erupt into Shadows. “I’ve been looking for you. For three days.”
Before I finished speaking, I found myself staring straight into a pair of burning diamond eyes. Rough stone hands gripped me on either side of my ribcage, lifting me so that my feet dangled several inches from the ground and my arms flailed in the night air. He stared at me like a fisherman who’d caught a water-breathing mammal. I stared right back: soot black hair, ghost-white skin, and a mad, cutting beauty that would haunt me until I died.
“What has happened, that you would seek me so, Caspia?” he demanded, the pressure on my ribs increasing with his agitation. His bright eyes narrowed to slits although his voice stayed soft as mist. “You do not appear injured. Are you endangered in some other way?”
“It’s… Ethan,” I gasped out. My ribs were screaming at me. “Please put me down.”
“No,” he suddenly snarled. “Tell me what he has done.”
“Nothing,” I growled back. As I struggled against his bruising hold, I felt cold electric darkness pooling in my palms. My fingers flexed automatically. “You’re hurting me,” I warned.
“You play dangerous games,” he said, and dropped me, disgusted.
“I don’t mean to. I only want your help.” But the Shadows were out now, racing across my fingers. Asheroth saw them, and his look of disgust grew more severe.
“I warned you,” he said. The space behind his back, where planes of Darkness served as wings, began to shimmer.
“Yes. You did.”
“I could teach you. Someone must teach you, before they consume you.”
I ignored the electric cold creeping across my hands as best I could. “Yes, but not today. I need help with Ethan. He’s hurting. Being mortal… it’s agony, Asheroth. I didn’t know. I don’t think he knew, either.” I felt the tears forming as Asheroth stood watching me, still and unreadable. “Watching him… I can’t bear knowing he’s in that much pain because of me. I came to ask if there was anything to be done, either to make mortality easier on him, or...” I closed the distance until I stood almost nose-to-nose with the Dark Nephilim. “Or turn him back.”