A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One (3 page)

BOOK: A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One
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Chapter 5

S
hrugging out of his grip
, I turned back to the steps. In the corner of my vision, I could still see the two bikes on their sides, the training wheels still attached.

Gripping the edge of the porch railing, I dug my fingers into the rough wood surface and started up.

Stepping in through the front door was like stepping into an oven. The heat from the energy that radiated through the house flowed through me and my T-shirt stuck to my skin as beads of sweat trickled down my spine.

Sucking the hot air in only increased the feeling of suffocation.

“Are you all right?” Graham asked, stepping up beside me.

He seemed utterly unaffected by the atmosphere that pervaded every pore of the house.

“You don’t feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“This place is alive with energy; the walls are practically bleeding,” I said, leaning in close to him to whisper.

The last thing I wanted to have happen was one of the cops overhear just how disturbed I was by the entire situation. The Elite weren’t supposed to be moved by the scenes they visited. Indifference was part of the training—an integral part of the training.

A tall, thin man stepped out into the hall from the one of the doors leading off the main entrance hall.

“Who the hell are you?” he barked; he was angry, probably not directly at us, but we were the ones standing in the hall of his crime scene.

“We’re here from Elite. We got a call to come down here and walk a scene,” Graham said. He sounded so sure of himself, so calm and in control.

I would have given anything in that moment to have just a little of the calm exterior he was fit to portray to the world.

“Great, the freak squad. I don’t want you in here trampling all over my scene, contaminating evidence and then stealing all the glory.”

“You do realise if this is a preternatural kill we have jurisdiction. It’ll be up to us if you’re invited in or not.”

The tall man spluttered, his complexion turning red beneath the glow of his tan. The colour spread up to his salt and pepper roots making him look almost cartoonish in his anger, and I felt some of the tension I’d been feeling dissipate as I tried not to crack a smile.

“Don’t give me your bullshit, Lance; you and I both know this isn’t a preternatural kill. Up until last year you and I didn’t even believe in this bullshit, and then that thing with your daughter happens and the next thing the guys down at the station know is you’ve pulled the plug on being a detective and are going to work for those bastards down at the Elite.”

“Don’t bring my daughter into this. The only thing that changed is that I realised I couldn’t make a difference in this world as a cop. How can I protect the people of King if the department are blind to what’s going on around them?”

I coughed politely into my hand and shuffled in place. There was obviously history between the two men, but my standing next to them as they did their little grandstand seemed completely pointless.

The only interesting thing I’d heard was the mention of Graham’s daughter. I had a sneaking suspicion that everything that was going on somehow came back to her, but until he decided to share with me, there was no point in me wasting my energy on it.

“Who the hell is this child? She’s barely out of high school, Lance, and you brought her here?”

Anger had me curling my fists by my sides. Who the hell did he think he was? I’d thought Graham was bad; the presumptions were a pain in the ass, but at least I knew Graham.

This asshole was nothing to me and yet he’d decided he could pass judgement on me without so much as a by-your-leave.

“This
child
,
as you so eloquently put it, is the one who’s going to walk that crime scene of yours and put down the monster that caused all this,” I said, my voice dripping with acid.

“Like hell you are. Having the Elite here at all is bad enough, but I’m no fool. I’m not going to let a slip of a girl go running in there and screw all of this up. Lance, she’s not stepping foot across the….”

I didn’t wait for Detective Asshole to continue. If he wanted to stand there and argue the toss with Graham, they were welcome to each other, but I had work to do.

This house wasn’t something I wanted to hang around in; the sooner I could do my job and get the hell out of dodge, the better.

A strong hand wrapped around my upper arm, jerking me back off the stairs.

Turning, I stared up into the fuming gaze of Detective Asshole. It was his hand burning through the fabric of my jacket.

“Get your hand off me if you plan on keeping it,” I warned, my voice dropping several octaves as my hand inched towards the dagger in my weapons belt.

I focussed in on him, my gaze holding his.

“You’re not going up those stairs. I’m in charge here and I say…” he cut off, his voice suddenly choked; his pupils dilated and his eyes widened suddenly.

He stumbled away, his back slamming into the wall as he clutched at his throat, small gasping sounds leaving his wide open mouth.

I could still feel the sting of his hand on my arm and I knew what I would find branded onto my skin if I slipped out of my jacket. But I didn’t have time for that now. He wasn’t going to remain distracted for very long.

Graham watched me carefully, his expression closed as he helped prop the detective up against the doorframe.

I couldn’t meet his gaze, I didn’t want to meet it; the last thing I needed to see reflected in his eyes was fear.

Even though he’d brought me here under false pretences and I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth about why he was even doing this in the first place, I still liked him.

It didn’t mean I could trust him, though, but then, that was just the story of my life. There weren’t that many people in this world I could trust and I wasn’t about to just forget how I had learned that lesson to begin with.

Chapter 6

T
aking
the stairs two at a time, I left Graham behind to deal with the fallout of what had happened.

He was either going to blow my cover or not, but I had a sinking feeling that he wasn’t done with me and would keep what I was a secret.

Reaching the gallery at the top of the steps, I stared around at my surroundings. My skin felt clammy and the shiver that ran down my spine certainly didn’t help matters.

Instinct took over and I let it; I wasn’t particularly powerful, at least not by the standards of the family came from, but my mother had ensured I learned at least a few tricks to keep me safe.

Tricks like the one I’d pulled on Detective Asshole downstairs. When he finally managed to cough up the hairball lodged down the back of his throat, I was hoping to be long-finished with what I needed to do.

I allowed myself a small smile. It was a pretty neat trick—disgusting, but neat, nonetheless.

I crept along the landing as it curved around on itself, the crime scene tape blocking the doors was a dead giveaway about the direction I was supposed to take. And yet, something else drew me forward.

I could practically feel the curl of power, like a thread connecting my heart to whatever had happened here.

Reaching the first door, the bloody hand print on the frame flipped my stomach.

Slipping beneath the tape, I stepped inside, careful to keep to the elevated pads the forensic investigators had set down on the floor.

And for good reason. I’d been right to think there would be a lot of blood.

The carpet was painted with the stuff, a small corner of beige on the other side of the room telling me what colour it was supposed to be.

“Shit,” I muttered under my breath, catching sight of the first body.

He was draped across the bed, his hand outstretched towards me. Another cold shiver raced down my spine as I stared into his eyes; his glassy and clouded eyes.

Death had taken his focus from him—whatever it was he’d been reaching out to wasn’t here anymore, but I could feel it as though it still was.

I felt his terror, the urgency still in his body.

What little I could do with barriers wasn’t enough to hold back the threatening flood of emotion. But I couldn’t waste my power on what had happened in this room, this wasn’t the main focus….

Retracing my steps back to the door, the sound of raised voices floated upstairs to me.

Crossing the hall, I paused outside the next door, the planes and butterflies painted across the white wood churning my stomach.

I really didn’t want to go inside.

There was another bloody handprint on this door, the same one from the master bedroom. Stepping beneath the tape, I kept my eyes down as I took my place on the first elevated disk on the floor.

The room still vibrated with the energy of what had occurred within. Biting down on my lip, I dug my nails into my palms as I balled my hands into fists, and lifted my gaze.

My brain refused to make sense of what it was seeing. It looked like someone had taken a few cans of paint and sprayed them around the room.

There was a body draped across one of the tiny beds in the corner of the room. Her body far too big to fit into it.

It was her handprint on the door frames, she’d come to protect them….

I knew it instinctively, without ever having to use my power.

The love of a mother was a power not to be messed with, and this mother had loved her children.

Small drawings covered the walls, childish depictions of happy times, and my heart hammered in my chest as the energy of the room washed over me.

Her screams flooded my mind and I slammed my hands over my ears, but it wasn’t something I could block out; she was in my head and there was no escaping it.

She was on her knees, her children crying at her back as she pleaded with the man in front of her.…

I pushed an edge of power into the vision and the scene flared to life, colour and smell making me feel as though I was the one on my knees.

My chest ached, and I knew it had happened as I’d tried to escape from the vampire. He’d slammed my body so hard into the wall; my ribs were broken and my breathing was shallow and noisy.

“Mommy, please, Mommy!” The little blonde girl behind me clutched at my neck, holding onto me as though her life depended on it, and it did.

“Don’t hurt them, they’re innocent—please, not my children….” she pleaded with the creature in front of her, and I suddenly wasn’t sure if the words had left my mouth or hers.

I watched as he tilted his head to the side, cold and calculating, the movement of an animal. A predator.

“Joanna, you brought this on yourself. You knew the rules…” He reached out and she jerked away from him.

But one look into his eyes and she was lost.

I felt her limbs go limp, her body no longer protecting her children. He’d rolled her—a vampire’s gaze was something humans were incapable of protecting themselves against.

But he’d known her name and I’d felt the recognition within her.

What the hell was going on? Why was a suburban housewife palling around with a vampire? None of it made any sense.

“Mommy!” the little dark-haired boy shouted, his voice hoarse from crying, and the sound seemed to snap the woman out of her trance for a second.

“Joshy, take your sister and hide….” she said, and the vampire growled in frustration.

He was new, too new to have complete control of everything that was going on.

The little boy grabbed the little girl and dragged her away as the woman launched herself against the vampire.

He caught her easily, and a wave of familiarity washed over me once more. It was something I couldn’t quite put a finger on, but there was no mistaking it. He snarled, ripping into her neck, and still she fought against him.

The sound of him feeding on her was too much to bear and I fought to pull out of the vision. I didn’t need to see any more to know what had happened.

The magic binding me to the vision tightened around me, and still I fought it, but it refused to budge and I was forced to watch on as he fed from her; the sounds of her bones breaking and the wet sounds of his mouth on her body made me sick to my stomach.

He flung her down on the bed, his eyes lost to the darkness of what he was as he crouched over her. I slammed my eyes shut as soon as I realised he was playing in the wound he’d gouged into her abdomen.

When had that happened? Was the shock of seeing everything so clearly making me slow, causing me to miss things I should have seen?

I was so used to working from a case file and photographs that actually being in the same room as Joanna’s body had completely overwhelmed me.

I fought to unravel the magic. A cold shudder rolled through me as the ghost of the vampire strode from the room, straight through the place I was standing.

I stared at the scene in front of me; the magic connecting me to the scene still coated the air, but the vision was done at least.

A long breath escaped me, my shoulders slumping down as I stared at what he had done to her.

My heart ached for her. She was just protecting her children….

The body on the bed moved.

And I blinked, scrubbing my hands across my vision. I was seeing things.

Bodies didn’t move….

It moved again, awkwardly at first, the limbs jerked at angles that wasn’t humanly possible. I watched as it lifted its head, the ragged, chewed skin around its neck glistened as the light from the windows hit the blood.

Her eyes were open but unfocussed, the greyness of the colour telling me she was still very much dead. This wasn’t a newborn vampire rising; if it was, her wounds would have healed, and the sunlight would have burned them like a son of a bitch—often not enough to kill, but certainly enough to cause them to think twice about coming out in daylight.

What was left of Joanna dropped onto the floor and out of sight behind the bed in the middle of the room.

I strained to see her, to see what she was doing, but I knew it was going to require me stepping around the bed, and the voice in my head told me that wasn’t something I wanted to do.

Wet slurping sounds met my ears and my stomach churned, the urge to vomit washing over me in an overpowering wave.

Pulling my gun from its clip. I stepped around the bed, pushing the voice that was now screaming inside my head aside.

This was my job. I was a member of the Elite and I didn’t run away from the monsters, even when those monsters had been the victim of a horrible crime just moments before.

I stepped across the elevated platforms carefully, my boots making no sound as I kept my gaze trained on the floor and where I knew Joanna was supposed to be.

“What the hell is going on in here and what have you done to my crime scene?”

I jumped, my gaze swinging from the floor to the crime scene technician that had appeared in the doorway.

The wet slurping sounds had stopped and the silence in the room had the hairs across the back of my neck standing to attention.

“The monster is gone, Miss—or is this your first crime scene and the sight of so much blood has you—” He spoke as he strode past me, his steps purposeful as he moved around the bed.

I grabbed his arm when he came level with me, the movement forcing me to take a one-handed grip on my Glock 19.

“Get your hands off me, I don’t need.…” He trailed off as Joanna launched herself out from behind the bed and latched onto his neck.

His words were lost in the scream that tore from his throat as she dug her bloodied fingers into his shoulders and rode his body to the ground.

“Shit,” I said, grabbing the gun properly and aiming the barrel squarely at her head.

She glanced up at me, her blue eyes still grey with death, but there was something intelligent lurking in the depths and I knew she saw me. Somehow, she was staring directly at me, despite the fact that I knew Joanna was dead.

I pulled the trigger and she ducked to the side, the bullet grazing her shoulder as she scuttled across the floor back behind the bed, taking the still-screaming crime scene technician with her.

Dead bodies didn’t scuttle, and they sure as hell didn’t duck incoming bullets. Zombies didn’t have that ability, they were simply dead, a primal magic driving them to feed an urge they had no control over.

The technician screamed again, the guttural noise ripping through the air, the sound of his bones crunching spurred me into action.

I dived around the side of the bed, raising my gun, the woman who had been Joanna raised her face and stared at me once more. There was a confusion in her dead eyes, as though she didn’t understand why I was still coming for her.

She dug her fingers into the thigh of the tech once again and he howled in agony as he tried to kick and fight his way free.

“Joanna, let him go,” I said putting as much authority into my voice as was humanly possible.

She cocked her head to the side. Still she wore a confused expression.

Could she hear me? Could she understand me?

They said the last thing to go with a dying person was their hearing, but I’d never thought to question what would happen to their senses if they came back.

She lifted her hand to her mouth, sucking the technician’s blood from her fingertips as she continued to watch me with her empty, dead eyes.

Someone stepped into the room alongside me, but I didn’t want to take my eyes off Joanna; I wasn’t going to make that mistake a second time.

“What’s going on, Morgan?” Graham’s voice was hushed and I could feel his tension as it hummed along the edges of his body, telling me where he stood in the room.

“It’s the mother—she’s back,” I gritted out from between my teeth, keeping the gun trained on Joanna.

“A zombie?” Graham asked, covering the small distance between us and coming to a dead stop beside me. “Shit, that’s not a zombie…” he said. His voice held a slight tremor.

“Nope, but I don’t know what the hell she is…” I said, taking a small step forward.

Joanna continued to watch me, licking each finger until it was clean and glistening.

“Joanna, you need to let that man go,” I said, keeping my voice soft as I addressed her.

I didn’t want to startle her—who knew what she would do if I did, and it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

One thing was for certain: the Elite’s training squad didn’t prepare you for shit like this.…

Joanna rolled her head to the side as though all the muscles and bones in her neck weren’t connected anymore, and as I stared at the gaping hole where the front of her throat should have been, I knew they weren’t.

What was animating her?

She rolled her gaze down to the man sobbing in front of her. He was bleeding heavily from the wounds she’d given him.

This entire situation was nothing but a giant shit storm and the paperwork that would come after something like this would make life unbearable.

But if she killed him….

I shuddered—how could someone go from protector to killer in just a few hours?

I watched the hunger roll into her gaze as she stared down at the rich blood bubbling up out of the wound on the technician’s leg.

“Joanna, don’t do this—you let him go,” I said again, raising my gun and aiming it squarely at her chest.

She had the ability to duck a bullet to the head but the chest was a much wider area; even she, with her speed, would find it difficult to escape that.

She snarled, the sound ripping from her throat rather than her mouth and I watched as her exposed vocal chords vibrated.

The second she moved, I opened fire once more, my first bullet tearing through her chest as she launched herself at my face. But it didn’t stop her and she kept coming, her body colliding with mine as she drove me to the ground.

A shock ricocheted through my body as she landed on my chest, the skin on skin contact of our bodies causing my power to spike.

I sucked in a deep breath as power coursed in my veins. Whatever was animating her was strong and powerful, far more powerful than I’d ever felt before, and I was drowning in it.

BOOK: A Grave Magic: The Shadow Sorceress Book One
10.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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