Authors: Ednah Walters
The humming came from my right, but I couldn’t see the person doing it. Instead, I saw an opening, probably leading to a side tunnel. I was so desperate for warmth I stopped caring. Let them kill me. I rushed forward and stuck my hands toward the fire, tears of relief filling my eyes.
I wasn’t sure how long I sat there before I noticed the silence. Whoever had been humming had stopped. Sure the person would enter the cave any second and chase me away, I scooted so the fire was between the opening and me. It was so dark all I saw were the rocks outlining the entrance. The darkness beyond it swallowed the light. It had magic written all over it. Dark masses without shape or form often meant bad news in the magical world, so I wasn’t too thrilled to see this one.
When the humming resumed, it came from deep inside the darkness, and it was faint. I began to relax. I even sat down on the ground and turned away from the dark entrance to warm my back. But the fear of what might crawl from the lightless void kept me glancing over my shoulder every few seconds. The fact that the thing had lit a fire and let me use it might be a good sign, though.
The singing continued, but the sound remained faint. When my back was completely toasty, I faced the fire and took a thorough inventory of the rest of the cave.
There were no signs that someone lived in it. No clothes, cooking pots, or food. Even though large chunks of wood fed the fire, the flames didn’t appear to consume them. It was magical.
“Thanks for letting me warm myself,” I called out, and the singing stopped. “Now I need to go home and get help for someone who desperately needs it.” I was probably crazy for thinking this person would give a damn. “Could you tell me how to get out of here?”
“Please. He is going to starve or freeze to death if I don’t help him.” The singer started again. It wasn’t coming closer, which meant no help was coming from her. Great. “That’s okay. I guess you’ve done enough for me.”
Refusing to give up, I closed my eyes and went back to trying to astral project. There was a difference this time. I couldn’t put a finger on it.
Then I heard, “She’s coming around.”
It was Hayden.
I lifted my eyelids, but everything was out of focus. It was like seeing through foggy glasses. The faces grew clearer until I was staring at Hayden and Tammy. I started to sit up.
“Not so fast, dear.” Tammy firmly pressed on my chest and secured my back to the bed. “Let your inner self settle.” She closed her eyes and swept the air above my body with her hands. She was checking my aura.
I looked around at the familiar yellow curtains and green walls and sighed with relief. I was in my bedroom, and from the lights, it was nighttime. Piles of blankets were on top of me, and I was sweating. I pushed them aside. Tammy touched my forehead.
“She’s no longer cold,” she said.
“You scared the crap out of us,” Hayden said.
Me too. “What time is it?” I asked.
“Eight-thirty,” Dad said, entering the room with Aunt Genevieve, Zack’s mother. They didn’t look happy. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
Five hours had passed since I’d gone into a trance? I sure hadn’t spent it in that man’s dungeon. The cave must have warped time, but how? No, it didn’t matter now. I was home.
“I’m okay. Really,” I said. Tammy was still checking my aura.
“Not after being out for hours,” Dad said. “Where did you go?”
“Not yet, Richard,” Aunt Genevieve said firmly. “I’m checking her vitals first. Excuse me,” she added, concern mixed with annoyance in her voice. She looked pointedly at Tammy. “You can finish when I’m done.” Tammy didn’t argue. My aunt pressed her fingers to my wrist and checked her watch.
Aunt Genevieve was Mom’s younger sister. She had grown up surrounded by magic, but the Witch gene had completely skipped her. She didn’t fully understand the power of magic, but she respected it. I always thought her attitude had influenced Zack and made him reluctant to embrace his gift. I never discussed magic with her and we rarely talked about Mom, but she was the one Dad had called when there was a medical emergency or whenever I had women issues, including the talk when I hit puberty.
“I’m okay, Aunt Genevieve,” I reassured her.
“Hmm-mm.” She inserted the thermometer in my ear. “You, my foolhardy niece, were not here when your temperature dropped.” She checked the reading, threw away the tip, and pocketed the thermometer, then pulled out a flashlight. “Your skin grew icy and your lips turned blue. Look at me.” She moved her hand and flashed the light into my eye. After a few repeats, she moved to the other eye. She glanced at Tammy. “I don’t know where she went, but next time you see signs of hypothermia, call an ambulance.” She stood and gave them a sweeping glance. “Okay?”
No one spoke, but they nodded.
“Good. I’m late for my shift. Richard, we’ll talk later. Tammy? A word, please?” She marched out of the room, and Hayden’s mother followed her.
I sat up and blew out air. “She’s ticked off.”
“You can’t blame her. I don’t get your ways,” Dad whispered. “I’ve seen people go into a trance, but I don’t recall anyone going under for hours and turning blue.” His voice broke.
Dad was a heavyset man with a full head of brown hair sprinkled with gray at the temples and blue eyes, which I’d inherited. His dimples were long slashes on his cheeks, while mine were rounder. I’d inherited a lot from him, except the shape of my face, my nose, and my lips. Those had come from Mom. He was pretty cool for a dad. And despite his words, he’d accepted that magic existed long before I was born. He was raised in the bayou, fell in love with a practicing Witch, and married her.
I squeezed his hands. “I’m fine, Daddy. Really. I made it back okay, didn’t I?”
“You were shivering and your teeth were chattering. Then it just stopped. Even Genevieve said she’d never seen anyone recover that quickly. Where did you go?”
“I don’t know. There was a man.”
“Man? What man?” Dad barked. He was so overprotective and saw red flags whenever I mentioned guys.
“Richard,” Tammy warned. She’d come into the room without me noticing.
“The guy I’m talking about, his mother is keeping him a prisoner in a dungeon. He’s young, like he could be in college. He’s scared and alone.” Anger crept in, but I pushed it down. I needed to focus on the vision before I lost it.
Dad picked up the notebook and pen. He knew the drill because this was the story of our lives. I got visions, called him, and gave him information, which his department investigated. Sometimes, the cops arrived in the nick of time and saved a life, but other times, when I saw what had already happened, I helped them solve a crime instead. Dad liked to say he would not have made chief without my help. I might have added to his stellar performance as a detective, but his relationship with the people of our town, magical or normal, had put him in the chief’s chair.
“Okay, kiddo,” he said. “When you’re ready.” He tapped the pen on the notebook. “Location, familiar features, anything I could use when we do a grid by grid city search.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think he lives in Windfall or anywhere near here, Dad. The dungeon was cold and old with no electricity. They used torches. His bed was a slab of rock with a thin mattress and blanket.” He scowled. “If someone would ask me, I’d say he’s being kept in an old castle in the coldest part of the world. Somewhere with mountains and mists.” Dad continued to scribble. “His mother visited him, and she was so mean. She plans to starve him. Slowly. She even told him how she plans to do it. No food, no water, and no light. I mean, who does that?”
I couldn’t tell him what happened to me afterward. I was still trying to process it. The prisoner had claimed that magic was iffy in the place, but I never imagined it could affect my abilities like that. It was as though the magic there had neutralized mine or blocked it, until I reached the inner cave.
The place didn’t make sense. Sure, I tended to imagine the ground I stepped on whenever I projected my spirit, but I never touched physical things. Grams had taught me to imagine everything solid. Once you convinced your mind something was real, then it became real to you. Still, it didn’t explain the guy’s ability to see me or connect with me physically.
“Tell me more about this woman. Uh, his mother,” Dad said.
I focused on him and found my balance.
“She had guards with her and some outside his room. He called them her toy soldiers. When I left, they’d locked him inside the dungeon again.” My anger rose as I remembered the flash of torture in his eyes when he’d talked about living and loving without his mother’s evil presence. He might have been cocky, but he was hurting and scared, like an animal cornered by its owner. “How do you stop someone who’s supposed to love you from hurting you?” My voice shook. I hadn’t cried over a vision in years, yet this guy’s situation tugged at my heart.
Dad moved to the bed and put his arms around me. “It’s okay, kiddo. You’re home now.”
I hugged him. “Thank you for being such a wonderful father. If I had someone like her as a parent…” I did have one, but she’d stopped being important eons ago. I planted a kiss on Dad’s cheek, sat back, and took a long breath. “I’m okay now.”
Silence followed as though everyone expected me to start crying. I wasn’t going to. I knew how to control my tears. I’d had enough practice after Mom left and during my elementary school years. Dad frowned while Hayden and Tammy wore sympathetic expressions. I doubted they’d ever seen me this affected by a vision.
“She’s also torturing someone else,” I continued. “His name is Viggo. The prisoner was worried about him.”
“Can you describe her?”
“I didn’t see her face. She spoke with an American accent like the guy, but he called home
a resting place
. I’ve never heard that.” I chuckled. “He could have come from some non-English speaking place, and he swore a lot. He also said something that made me conclude he didn’t grow up with his mother and she wasn’t too thrilled about it or how he turned out.”
She’d called him a sniveling idiot. She couldn’t have been more wrong. He’d come across cocky, like he wouldn’t break or bow down to anyone. I felt bad for calling him an idiot three times and a jackass. I’d been blindsided by my reaction when he’d pressed his body so close to mine. I hated things I didn’t understand. And he’d touched my ass and called me Kewpie. What an insult. I looked nothing like a Kewpie doll, and my ass was off-limits to anyone who called me a scaredy-cat Witch. Gorgeous Witch, maybe. Badass Witch, he could cop a feel.
Focus, Celestia. You have to plan something.
He wasn’t going to last long without food or water.
“That narrows it down somewhat,” Dad murmured while checking what he’d written. “American teens between ages nineteen and twenty-five. One is named Viggo. Sounds Scandinavian. Maybe they were traveling abroad when his mother snatched them. Can you describe him?”
I closed my eyes and images of the prisoner filled my head. He was a contradiction, mean and rude one second then sweet and caring the next. He didn’t know me from jack and had been pissed by my presence, yet he’d protected me from his mother. And now he was going to be starved because of me. I had to do something.
“Where’s my sketchbook?” I asked.
Dad placed it in my hand and retrieved a pencil from my drawer. Hayden and her mom were quiet, but from their expressions, they weren’t missing a thing. As long as they didn’t see my confusion I was okay. And I was confused about many things.
“He’s tall and built like a swimmer or basketball player,” I said, starting an outline. “His hair is blond mixed with some brown. Brown near the base and blonder at the tips, short on the sides and longer on the top. It seemed natural and wavy. His outfit seemed expensive, and from the way the clothes fit him, they must have been tailor-made for him. His boots were pretty unique, too. Probably custom-made. The place was freezing, yet he seemed warm.” Hot, actually.
I added details to his face—the strong jawline and high cheekbones. The way his eyebrows slanted downward at the corners and the arch of his lips. Other things I hadn’t recalled, yet I did now as I sketched. The rebellious speck in his amber eyes and the unusual long lashes framing them.
It seemed like forever before I handed Dad the sketch. He studied it. “Amber eyes with rebellious specks?” he asked and heat crept up my face.
“Did I say…?” My voice trailed off when he laughed. I tended to talk when sketching details. It was a habit I picked up to help sharpen my vision. It worked up to a point. This vision was different. Everything was sharp and clear.
“You did good, kiddo. It is the most detailed picture you’ve ever drawn.” He planted a kiss on my forehead and stood. “If you remember anything else about the room and the surroundings, however small, text me or sketch it.” He left the room and Tammy followed him.
“I think the surroundings didn’t even register because he had all your attention,” Hayden teased. “The arch of his lips. The way his hair curled at the top.”
Hayden stopped smiling. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“I scared the crap out of myself. I didn’t tell Dad this, but I tried to project out of that place several times just before his mother arrived, and I couldn’t. The magic there is strong, Hayden. Probably the strongest I’ve ever felt and we’ve been around some powerful magic in the Quarter. It was working against mine.” I wanted to tell her about the cave, but something held back my tongue. “There’s something else. I don’t know what it means, but maybe your mother might know.”
She sat up. “Do you want me to get her?”
“No. There was no aura with this vision. I mean, one second I was sitting there watching you and Zack going through your mating ritual”—she rolled her eyes—“and the next second I was in the dungeon.”
“I know, right? So I don’t know if what I saw already happened, is happening right now, or will happen in the future. I wish I had asked him for his name and where he was, but he was so pissed. He just wanted me out of there.” I stood and stretched, and pain shot up my arm. I looked and saw a large Band-Aid on my right elbow. The right side of my skirt was filthy. “What happened?”
“Zack and I were
when we heard a thud,” Hayden said. “When we turned to look, you were on the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Zack so scared. We reached here and you were still out, so I called Mom, who rushed over. She monitored you until your father came home. He wanted you taken to the hospital, but Zack said no.” She chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him act or talk with such confidence. He said we shouldn’t take you to the hospital where they’d stick you with needles you didn’t need. To calm your father, he called his mother. When she suggested the hospital too, he was equally firm with her. As long as you were in a trance, no one was moving you, and definitely not to a hospital. I think he shocked your dad and his mother. He hung around until you stopped shivering, then left. I promised to call him when you woke up.”
My cousin might be a womanizing jock, but he had his sensitive side, which he hid from most people. “I’ll call him, too, after I shower.”
“I think he’s embraced his gift more than we thought. Your aunt and Mom took turns making sure your vitals were okay and your aura was perfectly balanced, and he kept asking Mom questions about auras instead of asking his mother. And for a while there, you were physically, emotionally, and spiritually okay.”