Hungry Earth (Elemental Book 2)

BOOK: Hungry Earth (Elemental Book 2)
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Hungry Earth

 

Elemental Book 2

 

 

 

Rain Oxford

Chapter 1

It was pitch black and I
could sense a malevolent presence all around me. This wasn’t a living enemy
that could be killed. I felt the firm handle of a torch in my grasp, so I drew
on the power inside me, focused on the heat of a flame, and directed it into
the tip of the torch. As fire engulfed the top of the torch, shadows were
chased back. There was something unnatural about it, like the shadows were
moving away instead of being penetrated by light.

My instincts were never wrong. I was being watched—
hunted even.

I was in a dry cave and the floor sloped upward
pretty steeply. Behind me was a wall, so there was only one way to go. I
carefully trekked through passageways that were as wide as trains and gaps that
I could barely squeeze through. The further I traveled, the colder and dryer
the air became.

Finally, after what felt like hours, I came upon an
enormous cavern with a stone tower in the center. The tower was about fifteen
feet in diameter and forty feet in height. Spaced evenly around it were massive
wooden doors, each carved with peculiar symbols and designs. While none of the
doors had any obvious locking mechanisms, they also had no doorknobs. I pushed
against one, but it wouldn’t budge even a hair’s breadth to my best attempts.

I studied the symbols on the doors more carefully.
When I approached the last door, my palm started to sting, so I held my hand
out a little towards the light to see it. There was nothing on my skin, but I
felt like something was burned into it. It only took me a moment to realize
that the lines I could feel burning in my hand were the same as on the fourth
door.

I was a cautious man by nature, so it was a surprise
to myself that I turned my palm out to face the door.

A hand pulled my arm down and another closed over my
mouth to stop my startled shout. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. The second
you give them what they want, they will no longer need you.”

Although the voice was familiar, the English accent
wasn’t and prevented me from identifying the man. As if it were overcome by
darkness, the flame of my torch died with a sudden, violent flicker.

 

*          *          *

 

Something patted me softly on the mouth. It was odd,
but light and non-threatening, so I ignored it. It nudged against my check more
insistently.
Fluffy…?

Then I heard a shrill hiss only a second before sharp
teeth burrowed into my ear. I cursed and swiped at the demon cat, but he
managed to avoid my half-conscious, flaying arms. “Damn you, Ghost! I told you
not to do that!”

I got an irritated growl in response.

“I’m not getting up until my alarm–” I was
interrupted as my alarm started chirping. With a sigh, I reached over for it
blindly and ended up smacking the cat instead of the clock.

He bit me.

I smacked him harder.

He pounced on my chest, causing me to groan in pain.
The demon cat was heavy and his claws were extended. He was a mischievous and
hideous beast, but he had technically saved my life… by giving me chalk.

I finally opened my eyes in time to see him vanish.
In his place was a letter, which I knew I needed to read immediately. The only
letters Ghost brought me were from his master; my uncle, Vincent. The letter
was wordy, as always, and written in a spidery script with dark green ink.

 

 

 

Dear Devon,

 

The time has come for your second circle at
Quintessence. I hope you have adequately prepared yourself to work alongside
your new vampire classmates. As you know, a number of students at Quintessence,
primarily fae, have decided to drop out rather than to continue their education
amongst vampires. Because this is the exact intolerance we have been trying to
rid the paranormal community of, Logan and I hope that you will act as an
emissary.

I regret to inform you that the wizard council has
decided to grace Quintessence with their presence. They believe their
involvement is vital to the successful integration of vampires into the rest of
the paranormal community. I suspect they have ulterior motives and would like
you to investigate.

Currently, I am unavailable to deal with the
council myself. Ghost can assist you instead. Although I understand your
personal conflict with vampires, I believe you are the best person for the job
and would not ask anyone else.

As you know, your second semester begins on the twenty-sixth
of January. However, due to recent events, Logan and I decided that certain
safety precautions are called for. Therefore, Logan will reach you at your
residence and you should not leave your apartment until his arrival.

 

Best Wishes,

Your Uncle

 

 

 

I sighed.
Personal conflict…
That was an
understatement. I had learned the way of water, according to Remy. I could
trust people… but I couldn’t trust vampires. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t
forgive Astrid for what she did. Every time I even thought of trusting a
vampire, I saw my mother bleeding out on the floor.

A grouchy
meow
let me know Ghost had returned.
Absentmindedly, I stroked the cat’s head as he approached me on the bed. He
purred and flopped down on his side. I retracted my hand just in time to avoid
his sharp claws. “I hate you, cat,” I said.

He glared and purred harder.

“Damn temperamental weirdo. Tell Vincent I’ll be the
vampire diplomat as long as they keep their fangs to themselves.”

He vanished… and left behind a note.

 

 

 

Dear Devon,

 

Also, Ghost says you have a visitor coming. You
should hide.

 

Best Wishes,

Your Uncle

 

 

 

“A visitor?” I stared at the letter until it began to
crumple in my fingers. “Like a paranormal visitor, or what?”

My cell phone rang, startling me. I started to reach
for it and caught myself. I had to be careful. My clients thought I was
trashing my phone on purpose, but one unfortunate side effect of my new power
was that energy sometimes sparked from me like electricity. Similar to
electrical surges, it took out small or intricate electronics, including my
cell phone.

These sparks had also killed my office computer,
which I hadn’t bothered to replace because I figured it would get fried as
well.

I waited a moment and then carefully picked the phone
up from my nightstand. My little Moto was barely more than a throwaway. I
checked the caller ID, not surprised to see that it was private. I pressed the
screen to answer it. “Hello?”

“Hey, man, I thought you’d be gone by now.”

I sighed. “Then why are you calling me?”

“Well, you told me to watch over your mother while
you were gone. I thought I should let you know Regina was getting her worked up
the other day. The nurse said Regina was talking about babies and how you two
were working things out. This might not be the best time for you to go on your
trip.”

Shit.

“You know, if you moved to Chicago, Regina would
follow you… I figure it would be a matter of days before she pissed off the
mafia… I mean… it’s just a suggestion.”

“I’m not moving to Chicago. Now, I’m hanging up.
Remind my mother’s nurse that Regina is not allowed around my mother. Tell her
she will be fired if Regina gets within fifty feet of my mother again.”

I hung up. It wasn’t rude; we had a three minute
rule. Marcus and I never spoke on the phone for more than three minutes and
were extremely careful not to give away his true identity. Whereas I recently
killed my own father and was practically praised for it, Marcus watched his
father murder his mother and he was nearly assassinated for telling the police.

A knock sounded on my door and every instinct
screamed of danger. Some vicious creature of malice was waiting outside. So, of
course, I opened the door.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked the bane
of my existence.

Regina rolled her eyes and walked past me into my
apartment. “Is that any way to talk to your wife? How long are you going to
play this stupid game? You’re being so ridiculous.” She wrinkled up her nose in
disgust as she swept her gaze over my humble little apartment.

Regina was five-three, slim, with fluffy white-blond
hair and big hazel eyes. She was exceptionally beautiful on the outside. She
wore a light gray, open-necked, fitted, thin shirt that went nearly to her
knees with black shorts just barely peeking out under it. Her shirt was thin
enough that I could see her black satin bra through it. Knowing Regina, I bet
the shirt cost more than a month’s rent.

Between her looks and her innocent smile, a man could
think he found a real catch with the woman. I had.

Unfortunately, Regina was a snake in many ways. She
was a master of manipulation in that she could act so naïve and selfless, when
she was actually about as friendly as a rattlesnake on the inside. She only
ever heard what she wanted to, which was why she believed our divorce was just
a phase I was going through.

“I don’t see why you have to work through your issues
in a dump like this. Seriously, our neighbors are starting to talk.”

She would know; she spent ninety percent of the time
that she was at home spying on the neighbors. Of course, the majority of the
time she was out playing bingo, gambling, or shopping. I sighed. “What are you
doing here?” I asked, resigned.

“Don’t you take that tone of voice with me, Devon
Sanders. I don’t care what this is all about,” she said, waving her hand in a
gesture of my apartment. “You have bills to pay at home. Now, I was just
talking to your mother and she agrees with me on this. We decided that you
should see a therapist. I mean, I know it’ll be expensive, but it’s worth it.
Obviously, this is all brought on because you were working too hard, and so I
found a very good therapist to help you get past this.”

“Regina, I left you because you were cheating on me,
not because I was working too much to pay for your gambling.” I went into the kitchen,
wishing I could slam a door between us. Since it was an open floor plan, I
grabbed a soda out of the fridge and slammed the fridge closed too hard
instead. An amusing image came to mind of stuffing her in one of those deep
freezers. Alas, I didn’t have one.

Her face suddenly morphed into the very essence of
hurt. “How could you bring that up? You know I forgave you for never being home
and you know it was your own fault for not giving me the attention I deserved.
I didn’t cheat on you; I simply found someone else to give me what I needed.”

She paused and waited for me to agree with her.

When I said nothing, her eyes narrowed with anger.
“I’m sick of your selfish behavior. I know you’re up to something because you
haven’t been to see your mother in over six months. You will come home tonight.
Even your mother is ashamed of how you’re treating me. Your appointment with
the therapist is at nine tomorrow morning. I told our neighbors we’re starting
yoga classes, so that explains why you’ll be leaving every morning.”

I poured half my soda down the drain in the sink and
rested my elbows on the metal rim. This was when things went wrong; heat was
rising in my chest. I tried to think of sitting by the lake and feeding the
kappa or sitting at my table with a cup of coffee in the morning… but Regina
wouldn’t shut up. Every thought I could find of serenity was sucked away by her
relentless complaining, criticizing, and demanding.

I tried to think of the good times with her… any good
time… yet nothing came to mind.
There had to be good times, right? Our first
date maybe or when we met
… I remembered the diner I met her waitressing at.
Sitting alone with my head in the case I was working on, I didn’t look twice at
my waitress until she brought me the check.

She was gorgeous and her smile was so sweet. She
spoke softly and respectfully, shyly even. She left her number on the receipt
and I assumed the fact that my skin was crawling had all to do with the case.

“… Obviously they think you’ve been away at work. I
mean, they could never know that you’ve been goofing off in some midlife
crises. Oh, and about that car. The newest model comes in that metallic blue I
like, so I made the order, but there was something wrong with your credit card.
I was so embarrassed, you have no idea. I had to call them and explain to them
that I am your wife and that–”

“Regina!” My control snapped, my power lashed out,
and the lights flickered violently. “Get out!” I looked at her in time to see
her face change to shock before she turned and started for the door. Guilt
overcame me for using my power on her. “Wait! Stop.”
Shit
, I thought
when she froze. I didn’t really want her to stop.

Before my mind could actually start to read her
thoughts and memories, I forced myself to let go. It was easier when she wasn’t
talking. She stumbled and had to steady herself by grabbing the coffee table.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

She sat carefully on the table, clearly shaken, and
wouldn’t look at me. “You’ve never yelled at me before. You really don’t love
me anymore?”

I wanted to tell her that I never loved her, but I
stopped myself. Although she needed to move on, I didn’t want to emotionally
scar her. “No, I don’t.”

“You met someone else, right?” Flawless crocodile
tears welled in her eyes.

“Is there a problem here?”

We both turned to see Clara Yocum standing right
outside my open door, which I thought I had closed. Clara was on the list of
the top ten most gorgeous women I had ever seen, as well as the list of the top
five people I never wanted to see again.

BOOK: Hungry Earth (Elemental Book 2)
2.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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