A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One (10 page)

BOOK: A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One
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Chapter 19

S
tanding outside Graham’s apartment
, I stared up at the drab grey exterior. It looked more like a den for drug addicts or rogue preternaturals, and yet it was the address the Elite had on file for him.

Starting across the street, I climbed the front steps that led up to the porch and peered at the grid of apartment numbers with tiny buzzer buttons next to them.

Picking out number fifty-seven took longer than I’d wanted, but when I found it, I sat my thumb across the button.

“What!” Graham’s gruff voice pierced through on the speaker and I released the buzzer.

“Graham, it’s Amber. Can I come up?”

“I thought you wanted nothing to do with me?” His voice was filled with suspicion and I could practically see him pushing his hand back through his hair.

“I changed my mind. Let me in, all right?”

There was silence and for a second I considered the possibility that he’d walked away. What if he didn’t want anything to do with me?

He was a desperate man; he wanted his daughter home but that didn’t mean he would choose to work with me after the way I’d treated him. I’d been unnecessarily cruel, I hadn’t listened to what he had to say, and….

The sound of the door clicking open made me jump.

Pushing the door open, I paused in the entryway and stared around. The light was broken and, as the door swung shut behind me, the darkness crowded in around me once more.

It was the perfect spot for something nasty to launch an attack, but as I tensed up, nothing moved in the dark. The elevator stood at the opposite end of the hall, but from the way its steel door was bent and half-shredded open, I figured it probably wasn’t working.

“Stairs it is, then.”

I took them two at a time; Graham’s apartment was on the fifth floor and the sooner I got up there, the sooner I would be out of the encroaching darkness.

As I climbed the stairs, it reminded me of the darkness surrounding Madeline, the way it had crowded around her as though waiting for her to do something interesting.

But wherever Madeline had built Sanctuary, the laws of magic were different from what could be achieved here. In the mortal realm, shadows didn’t have substance and they sure as hell didn’t have form. They were nothing but shadows and, by themselves, there was nothing to fear.

A doubt niggled at the back of my mind and I picked up my pace, gripping the railing as I swung around the banister onto the fifth floor.

Fifty-seven was at the end of the hall and right on the corner of the building. Graham’s door already stood open and I pushed through into the warm yellow light that had half-spilled out into the hall.

Graham stood in the centre of the room, his gun drawn and aimed squarely at my chest for the second time that day.

“Graham, seriously, put the gun away!” I said, raising my arms above my head, the irritation in my voice unmistakable.

He lowered it slowly and eyed me carefully. “Just needed to be sure it was really you,” he said, his voice heavy with suspicion.

“It’s definitely me, who the hell did you think it was?” I asked, kicking the door shut behind me.

He shrugged and put the gun back in the weapon’s holster hanging from the back of a high-backed kitchen stool.

“In this neighbourhood, it could have been anything. I’ve had mimics at the door before.”

There was so much I didn’t know about him, so much I wanted to find out about him, but if I allowed myself, I’d ask him so many questions there wouldn’t be much time for anything else.

“Mimics. That’s a new one….” I said instead, trying to keep a lid on my curiosity.

“Demons,” he said, dropping down onto the couch.

Glancing around the apartment, surprise had me suck in an audible breath. Graham glanced up at me and smiled but it was a weary one. And not at all like the man I’d come to know at work.

“Not quite what you expected, eh?”

There were pictures everywhere, many of them family photographs, happy memories of times gone by. But others were of places, almost like surveillance pictures.

“How long have you been doing this?” I asked, moving slowly around the room, drinking in the details in the pictures.

There was an entire wall dedicated to me and my gut twisted in response to some of the images. This was how he knew what I was…. He’d been following me, snapping pictures and keeping a record.

“A few months. It was entirely by chance. I was taking an extra course at the Elite training grounds when I saw you. You’d lost your temper over something. I don’t know what, but I saw it…. The spark of your magic, along the edges of your fingers…. You fought so hard to control it. You’ve gotten better.”

“Why would you do this? If anyone sees this….” I cut off, the hurt and anger in my voice wrapping around each of my words.

I wanted to hit something, to let go of the careful control I’d developed over my power, but I didn’t.

Swallowing it back down, I turned to face him once more and all of the anger I’d felt washed away.

Graham sat on one of the kitchen stools, his face buried in his hands, and I could see his shoulders as they heaved up and down.

He was crying, actually crying….

“I thought you could help me. I thought if I couldn’t convince you to help me find her, then I could blackmail you, but….” He trailed off, his voice lost beneath the emotion that swamped him.

He was a broken man. The loss of his daughter had very obviously ripped his life apart. How could I hold this against him? All he wanted was my help and, well, I knew I wasn’t particularly easy to convince of anything.

“Graham, I….” What was I supposed to say to him?

My secret was important to me; my life depended on it, but I couldn’t blame him for what he had done. Desperate people went to desperate lengths to get what they wanted.

What wasn’t I willing to do to catch the one who had murdered my father?

“I know, and you’re right. I’ll burn everything, I promise you….”

“I’ll help you,” I said, the words slipping out before I could stop them.

The vision I’d gotten from Jessica’s silver cross was still fresh in my mind. There was no denying what I’d seen, what I’d felt, and I wasn’t altogether convinced that she was still alive anymore.

The way the cross had burned my hand….

It was normally an indication. The connection I forged with the victim was a powerful one, and the connection with Jessica had been a fleeting one. Disjointed and filled with fragments….

What I was supposed to make out of it, well, I had no clue. But it didn’t mean I couldn’t help Graham get some closure over his daughter and what had happened to her.

“What?” he said, spinning around on the stool to face me. There was a look of pure shock and disbelief on his face. “You mean it? You’ll help me?”

“I can’t promise anything. The vision I had….” I trailed off and Graham swallowed hard, but it didn’t dampen the look of happiness that flooded into his gaze. “I’ll help you find closure; we’ll find out what happened to her.”

“Why are you doing this?”

His question caught me off guard. Why was I doing it? I could just as easily have stormed out of there, cut him off from the case, and refused to have anything to do with him.

But unlike Jon, Graham was one of the good guys. Granted, his actions didn’t paint him in that light, but I was willing to overlook them as the actions of a father who would do anything to protect his child. There was no way I could hold that against him.

“Because I want something in return,” I said, folding my arms across my chest.

“Right….” The suspicion I’d heard in his voice earlier was back.

“I want you to help me with something. I want you to help me find something.”

“What is it?”

“Well it’s more of an ‘it’, really. It murdered my father and I want to find it.”

Graham had the good grace to look shocked before his expression clouded over with sympathy. “I didn’t know that,” he said.

“No, it’s not something that would come up in your surveillance of me. I’m not exactly from around here.”

“Where are you from?”

“Ireland.”

Graham’s mouth dropped open and I couldn’t help but smile. He knew the implications of what I was saying. As a member of the Elite, he knew what it meant to be from that country, and the suspicion it would have raised had I admitted to the truth.

“How did you hide that one?” he asked, the shock registering in his voice.

“My mother had some good friends who swapped over my passports, sorted out my necessary papers…. Plus, I moved over here when I was thirteen, cultivated my accent.”

He nodded as though everything I was saying made perfect sense. “And no one ever suspected you were Irish?”

“Not until you, and, well, now I know just how careless I’ve been. It’s something I’m going to have to work on,” I said with a smile.

“Right, so where do we get started?”

I knew how uncomfortable he was. And if we were going to work together, it wasn’t something that could exist between us.

“Graham, what is it?”

“It’s nothing,” he said defensively.

“It’s not nothing, so spill it. We can’t have this awkwardness between us. Everything has to be normal.”

“Well you’re a witch and you’re an Irish one….”

“Yeah….”

It dawned on me then. He’d been fine with the thought of me just being a witch; the only real gift I’d displayed any ability for was visions. But now that he knew I was an Irish witch, it changed everything.

There was a reason the Elite treated us as though we were boogeymen. It was the Irish witches that had brought about the birth of the Shadow Sorcerers, powerful beings capable of mass death and destruction with their magic.

They’d been hunted to extinction because of what they had done, and it had created a distrust between any Irish witch and the rest of the world. How could we guarantee we weren’t one of the Shadow Sorcerers?

We couldn’t. It was that simple.

Places like King City, on the other hand, had taken it to a new level of extremism. Witches were not welcome citizens. It was an odd predicament, in a world where vampires, fae, and werewolves had citizenship, but to be born a witch was something no one could tolerate.

“You’ve seen the spark of my power right?”

Graham nodded and I could see the wariness that lurked in his eyes.

“That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. I can do visions but only of the past.” I failed to mention the power Madeline had tried to suck out of me earlier in the night.

I didn’t understand it myself; the last thing I needed to do was confuse an already nervous Graham. If he thought I was dangerous, then I knew what he would do.

“But you’re an Irish born witch, how is that possible?”

I shrugged and did my best to school my features into a completely neutral expression.

“I’m a disappointment to my family. They’re all white witches and pretty powerful in their own right…. For some reason, it skipped me; maybe it’s karmic payback for something I did in a past life.”

“Can that even happen?”

I smiled then, a wide, genuine grin, “Graham, there’s an Irish-born witch standing in the middle of your living room in the centre of King City and she’s a member of the Elite…. Aren’t you starting to realise anything and everything is possible?”

“Even finding Jess?” There was an ache in his voice and it hurt my heart to hear it.

“Maybe even that…” I said. “So are you in, or….”

“I’m in, but what are we going to do with everything that happened? We were kicked off the case and—”

I cut him off. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got that covered.”

Chapter 20

S
itting
in the passenger seat of Graham’s car once more, I stared out the window at the passing car headlights.

This was the last thing I wanted to do, but we needed somewhere to start. I would help him find his daughter, but I needed to find Joanna’s daughter first. There was something niggling in the back of my mind that told me it was important.

She was just a kid, one that needed protection, and if I could, I would give her mine.

The car came to a halt outside the large dark house and a shiver raced down my spine. Was this the same scene the vampire had witnessed the night he came for Joanna and her children? Had he felt a tingle of excitement at the thought of what he was about to do?

I didn’t wait for Graham to kill the engine. I pushed open the car door and stepped out onto the drive.

The crime scene tape fluttered in the soft breeze and there was a chill in the air that raised goosebumps along my arms. I didn’t want to be here; the thought of hopping back into the car and having Graham drive me home seemed like the best idea I’d ever had.

I could be home before midnight, curl up beneath my soft duvet, and close my eyes.

But the things I would dream about…. Well, I already knew what awaited me, and it wasn’t a peaceful night’s sleep. This was where I needed to be, doing the things only I could do….

Climbing the steps up to the front porch I paused and waited for Graham to catch up to me.

“Explain to me again how you made Jon change his mind?” Graham asked. He was beginning to sound like a broken record. It had been the same question over and over from the moment I’d told him about Jon’s sudden and fortunate change of heart.

I’d left out the bit where I’d nearly broken the boss’s arm. Graham didn’t need that kind of pressure or guilt. And I definitely left out the part where Jon had come on to me and insinuated that every woman on the force had had to put up with his creeping.

“Graham, it really doesn’t matter. We’ve got the case back and we have a job to do. No point in questioning the boss, now is there?”

“That ass,” Graham said. “I question everything he does.”

I smiled and gestured to the door. “Care to do the honours?”

Graham moved past me and slipped his pick into the lock. It was the one skill I hadn’t yet managed to master and, despite being eager to get started on it, I wasn’t in the mood to experiment with it considering what was hanging over my head.

It took Graham a couple of seconds before he let out a satisfied sigh and pushed the door inwards.

There wasn’t a sound as it opened, the house itself as silent and dark as the grave. I’d obviously lost my mind; this was the last place I should be. What I was about to do, well, it wasn’t going to do anything for my ability to sleep, and that was for certain.

Stepping into the hall, I paused and tried to gather my courage. Right at that moment part of me wished I was stepping into a vampire’s nest. It would have been easier to deal with the physical violence of their presence.

Rather than this….

“What are we looking for?” Graham said, the closeness of his voice in the stillness of the house making me jump.

“I need to go to the little girl’s room….”

I didn’t elaborate; there was no point, he wouldn’t have understood it anyway. Trying to explain magic to someone who had none was a bit like trying to explain astrophysics to a baby. The comprehension level just wasn’t there.

I moved for the stairs and a sudden vision of the man who had murdered Joanna shook me to my very foundation. My hand closed around the banister and I froze.

Why hadn’t I seen any of this earlier? I’d been here, touched all the same things, what was so different this time to make me see more than before?

“He wasn’t alone,” I said, more to the silence around me than to Graham.

“He had a partner? Why didn’t you know any of this earlier?”

“I could ask myself the same question. I don’t really know. But I’m saying it now….”

Graham didn’t press me further, and for that, I was grateful. I’d missed something important; I didn’t need anyone else to make me feel guilty over it, I was more than capable of doing it myself.

I took the first step on the stairs and a vision of the vampire filled my head. He was young, an immature creature, still far too attached to everything that had made him human.

Her hand slipped into mine; the feel of her fingers, icy to the touch as they clasped mine tight, sent a thrill through me.

“Baby, this is all ours…” I said as she moved up beside me, her heart-shaped face coming into view.

The feel of Graham’s hand on my shoulder snapped me out of the vision and my body trembled. Shit, there was something about being here at night that amplified everything.

Maybe it was the fact that this was the time it had all occurred at? Was it possible that the closer we got to the hour the atrocities had been committed, the more pronounced the vibrations became, strengthening the visions to the point where I was getting it harder to separate myself from the vampire?

There had been something so familiar about the woman, a niggling thought in the back of my head that told me I knew her. But it wasn’t possible; I didn’t know any vampires in King City, and this was my first case.

Had I seen her face in the file of another case? Was she involved in more than one crime? It would make sense, but I couldn’t place her.

“Are you all right? Are you fit to continue?” There was a level of concern in Graham’s voice that I honestly hadn’t ever expected to hear from him.

He knew what I was and, whether he admitted it or not, it frightened him. And yet, he was concerned about me—It didn’t add up.

“I’m fine, Graham. Let’s just get this over with.”

Picking up my pace, I climbed the stairs and paused on the landing. My legs didn’t want to cooperate. I could just claim I wasn’t capable of doing it, I could always come back in the morning. Of course it wasn’t going to work as well then.

If I was going to do it all, then this was my opportunity.

Suck it up, buttercup!
One of my favourite phrases and one I tried to always take to heart.

It had been one of the only things that had gotten through to me after my father’s murder. It had been one of the only things that had actually meant something.

I wasn’t weak, I wasn’t incapable. I could do this, no matter what my mother or the rest of the coven had thought of me.

Squaring my shoulders, I strode down the hall and ducked beneath the crime scene tape. My steps faltered the second my eyes adjusted to the room.

I picked out the pale pink, pony-covered duvet cover, stained in blood. The drawings across the walls of happy times…. The scribblings of children who were well loved.

But what had happened to ensure Joanna and her family was murdered, all of them, bar one?

What made Christina special?

What made her chosen, spared her the fate of her brother? He hadn’t suffered at the hands of the vampire, but he’d still met his demise at the bottom of the well.

From everything I’d seen of the report, the coroner hadn’t been able to tell what had caused the broken neck. Was it the vamp, or was it the fall?

Graham moved into the room behind me and paused. I could practically feel the tension humming through his body as he stared around at the scene.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked eventually, breaking the silence in the room.

“Honestly, there’s nothing you can do,” I said, pulling the small bag of premixed ingredients from the inside of my jacket pocket.

If I couldn’t do the big spells the way my mother or the rest of her coven could, then I was just going to have to stick to the basics.

Eyeing each of the stuffed animals on the built-in window seat, I dismissed each one of them out of hand. They all had that untouched, unloved vibe about them that suggested they were more for show than anything else.

Christina certainly hadn’t spent any time with them and I needed something she had loved.

Dropping onto my hands and knees, I crawled towards the small pink covered bed in the corner of the room and peered beneath the frame. Shoe boxes and other items normally hidden from view greeted me, a few broken crayons that had rolled into the darkness. She’d probably been too afraid to go after them. And then I saw it.

Up against the wall, as though it had simply fallen down the side of the bed while she was sleeping, the teddy bear lay discarded. Even from my position on the other side of the bed, I could see he was a well-loved bear, his stuffing poking out the sides of the restitched seams and both eyes missing.

Sliding underneath the bed, I grabbed its soft arm and dragged it out into the open.

“What are you going to do with that?” Graham asked, but I was only half listening to him.

The bear hummed with an energy all of its own; it wasn’t going to take much for it to spill its secrets to me.

Laying the bear out in the centre of the floor, I carefully positioned him away from the blood stains. This in itself was nearly impossible, the vast majority of the floor was made up of blood stains. The last thing I needed was Joanna’s blood interfering with what I was about to do.

Having her jump me once was certainly enough. I didn’t need her ghost following me home.

Opening the pouch, I lifted it over the bear, but Graham’s hand clamping down on my shoulder made me pause.

“What are you doing?” he repeated; this time there was no denying the uncertainty in his voice.

“I need to know why they wanted Christina. I need to know what it was particularly about her that had them take her instead of tossing her in the well after her brother.”

Graham studied my face for a second, his eyes darting from my face and then back down to the bear. He didn’t trust me. Perhaps he never would, and how could I blame him? Everything he’d heard about my kind told him to be wary, to turn us in, that we were dangerous and unpredictable.

“Graham, if you don’t want to be a part of this, you don’t have to. I won’t think any less of you if you want to go and wait outside.”

He shook his head and released his grip on me before taking a small step backwards.

“No, you do what you gotta do. I’ll be right here in case you need me.”

With a smile, I returned my attention back to the teddy. There was no point in questioning his insistence on remaining in the room. If that was what made him happy and comfortable, then so be it.

I poured the contents of the pouch out onto my hand and sprinkled it down over the bear. The powdered herbs glittered as they poured through my fingers and into the moonlight.

Sucking in a deep breath, I closed my eyes and let my head clear. I focused everything I had on the bear; everything that made me who I was, I poured it into the tiny body of the bear until there was no space left within it.

Opening my eyes once more, I stared down at the well-worn toy. What exactly I was expecting to see there, well, that I wasn’t too sure about. All I knew for certain was that the powder, when used properly, would reveal the true nature of a situation.

Nothing happened. The powder had settled onto the stomach of the bear and the air was still.

“Isn’t something supposed happen?” Graham asked, leaning in over my shoulder.

“Like what?” I asked, keeping my gaze glued to the bear.

“I don’t know, like the bear should go poof, or maybe talk?” he volunteered helpfully.

I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t shake the disappointment I felt. Graham was right about one thing: something was supposed to happen, and yet there was nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

How was I supposed to help Christina, how was I supposed to stand a chance of saving her, when I couldn’t even perform the most basic of magic?

Reaching down, I scooped the bear up from the floor, the powder falling from its fur down onto the carpet.

The powder began to glow once more, but this time it was obvious. The glow increased and I took a shuffling step backwards on my knees as the powder seemed to multiply on the floor, spreading out from where it had landed on the carpet.

The distinctive smell of burning fabric tickled my nose and I vaguely heard Graham swear somewhere behind me.

But none of that mattered. My gaze was trained on the floor and the pattern that was beginning to emerge from beneath the carpet. There was something etched into the floorboards, something I couldn’t quite make out.

The powder died, leaving behind a small hole the size of a fist exposing the floorboards beneath. Gripping the edges of the carpet, I pulled it upwards, ripping it away to reveal the pentagram hidden beneath. Nothing like the ones I’d seen my mother use in some of her rituals; there was something about this one that was dangerous, something so terribly dark that it made the air harder to breathe.

“What the hell is that?” Graham said. I turned and stared up at him, a small portable fire extinguisher in his grip.

“This,” I said, gesturing to the markings on the floor, “this is really bad news.”

BOOK: A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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