Authors: Calista Taylor
She held onto that thought. Held onto it as proof against the crimes of which he was accused. Held onto it as a shield against the images of brutality.
“What now?” There was a pang in her voice for what she’d had with Jack, and she cared not that Mason heard it. He should know it cost her dearly to be doing this.
But it mattered not. She was not dealing with the sweet and tender man, but rather
. Any emotions he may have had were hidden behind a cold hard mask.
“I need you to replay that moment in your mind while capturing the feel of Jack—his touch, his emotions, his words. Once you feel like you have him, I need you to turn to the scene and find Jack’s essence.”
“I don’t understand what this will accomplish. It’s—”
“Just do as you’ve been asked, Lilly. You’ll see soon enough.”
Her jaw clenched in frustration, but she did as she was told. The sooner they completed their task, the sooner she could leave this horrible place.
Closing her eyes to get a better hold of the memory, she played it over in her head—the movements of their bodies, the warmth of his skin, his soft kisses. When it felt as if she were there in the moment, she slowly opened her eyes upon the scene of the murder.
“I’m going to help you now.” Mason squeezed her hand and she felt a tingle travel up her arm. “Do you feel it?” She nodded and he continued. “Find Jack’s energy. You should be able to not only feel it, but also see it.”
He was right. It was like a thin thread of white light, woven and tangled across the street before her. Her entire body went taut with tension. “I can see it.”
“Good. Now I want you to picture Jack’s form, and then visualize it attached to his energy.”
She did as he asked, concentrating on Jack’s image, but could not manage it. “Nothing’s changed.”
“Give it time, love. Stay focused and it will come. Let me help.” She felt another tingle make its way up her arms radiating from their linked hands. “There. Is that better?”
She nodded, for indeed, Jack’s form started to materialize out of the thread of energy. “Now what? I do not think I can keep this going for long.”
“Think about the body of the woman you just saw.”
When she did as he asked, the scene before her started to play out. The woman already lay in the road, dead, her throat cut. Lilly then saw Jack bend down and hover over the woman. It all faded in and out of her vision as she tried to hold onto the image. He held something in his hand, and her heart shattered to see it was a knife. He plunged it into the woman’s gut.
She squeezed her eyes and then opened them again, hoping the image would have changed, but there it was, the same as before, her heart breaking.
Mason sent another tingle up her arm. “Hold onto the image, Lilly. Let it play out to the end.” She nodded, though it was the last thing she wanted to do.
Jack sliced the woman open, the image making her stomach roil. And then her concentration was shattered by a man staring at her—when no one should be able to see her. She recognized him immediately as the man who had approached her on the street. “Mason. There. The man looking at us. That’s him—the one who recognized me as a reaper.”
But already he’d vanished into the crowd.
Mason looked around but did not see the man Lilly referred to. The entire road was thronged with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the murder scene, but no single person stood out. “Where is he?”
“He’s gone. He went that way through the crowds.” Lilly pointed to an area teeming with onlookers, but busy as it was, Mason knew luck would not be with them.
“Did you finish here?” When she nodded, he said, “Come.”
Mason kept a tight grip on her hand as he pulled her into the mass of people. With their forms ethereal, and the crowd jostling for a glimpse, no one noticed as they squeezed past. They were nothing more than a chill in the air as they straddled the world of the living and the dead.
When they broke through the mob into the open, Lilly looked around and then shook her head. “I don’t see him.”
Mason pulled her to the end of the alley, but it spilled out onto a main thoroughfare, busy with peddlers selling their wares as customers moved from one to the other. “He could be anywhere by now. Damn!”
Lilly moved towards Mason, as if to protect herself from a hidden threat. “Should we tell the Elders?”
“I’ll take care of the matter, but first I want to finish what we came here for.”
Mason moved through the crowds with Lilly following him, but his mind was already running through the implications of the stranger’s appearance. They’d need to find him, though it’d probably be best if the Elders dealt with it. Jack took precedence.
They wandered back through the crowds. “Are you sure you saw the murder through to the end?”
She nodded, but her eyes did not meet for a moment—just long enough to make him wonder. As if realizing his scrutiny, she pulled herself upright and held his gaze. “I did. I saw it through to its conclusion.”
“What happened, Lilly? What did you see?”
“I had not the chance to see anything of importance.”
Though she tried to hide it, he knew her well enough. She was upset, and it had more to do than that woman being murdered or recalling intimate memories of Jack.
“Lilly, be thankful I didn’t go through your head to witness it while the scene played out—not at all a pleasant sensation. And in return, I’d appreciate some honesty, aye?” He was sure she’d seen something, and he now regretted not seeing it firsthand.
“Not here. Please, Mason.”
Her face looked drawn and haunted, and Mason knew she was at her wit’s end. It would do no good to push her when he needed to keep her cooperative—and it did not help that he hated to see her looking so pained.
“Come then. We’ll head to my home for a drink to settle your nerves, and in the meantime, I’ll send word to the Elders about that stranger.”
Something would need to be done. The man shouldn’t have been able to see either himself or Lilly, and yet he had. Of greater concern was why he kept showing up when Lilly was around, and what were his intentions? Indeed, if the man was clairvoyant, he could likely predict Lilly’s whereabouts. A cold shiver crawled down his spine at the thought, especially when he remembered that she’d been unable to glamour him.
“I cannot go to your home, Mason. I have reaps to take care of.”
The bitter sorrow in her voice made him want nothing more than to take her into his arms and comfort her. Instead, he let her turn away and walk to where they’d left his carriage.
When he caught up to her, he took her hand in his. “Let’s go see the Elders. Perhaps they’ll be willing to reassign your souls while you help us find Jack. It’ll give you a feel for what your life will be like if you help us. Think of it, love. No more reaps.” He had to keep reminding her of what was at stake, for this mess with Jack was trying. It’d be too easy for her to dig her heels in and refuse to help.
She was clearly torn, and he could see her mind churning over the possibilities and consequences. “You make it sound as if I have not helped you, when I’ve done all you’ve asked.”
“Reluctantly, and not to your full ability. You’ve been holding back, love, and though I understand your reasons for it, there are two murders now pointing to Jack.”
She let out a ragged breath, and he knew she’d need more time before she could tell him of the reenacted murder. He linked his fingers with hers, surprised when she let him. “Let’s get you that drink, and maybe a bit of rest. What you did back there can take it out of you. I’m sure your head must be swimming.”
When she nodded, he led her to the carriage and had his driver take them to his home. Like most reapers, Lilly lived in Aelyri, the land of the living. However Mason, as chancellor, made his home in Ilymnia, a world no human could cross over into.
The energy shifted around them as they passed through to a world the living would never know, the carriage itself charmed so no one took notice of it. Unlike the polished and grandiose feel of the richer London neighborhoods, Ilymnia had an older feel to it. The homes were made of stone, stucco and rough hewn timbers weathered by the elements, and reminiscent of a quaint Bavarian village.
When they got to Mason’s home, one look at his footman told him there would be no need to send word to the Elders, for they were already there. Mason gave Lilly’s hand a squeeze in warning, and then led her to the sitting room, keeping her behind him to avoid scrutiny.
“Another murder and again Jack Torrington is involved. Why has he not been caught, Lord Archer?” Amara turned a cold hard gaze upon him. Her eyes flicked to Lilly, but only for a moment before dismissing her as being of no consequence or importance.
“I’m sorry I have no answers for you.” He looked from Amara to Damon, thankful it was just the two of them, though that was bad enough. Visits like this were rare, and it took all he had to not let his nerves show. Even as chancellor, he was not safe. “He’s gained the ability to mask his location so that I cannot trace him. He still leaves his essence, but it’s faint and he’s been careful to confuse his tracks so they’re unreadable. I need more time, but hope this latest death will give us new clues.”
“This is getting out of hand, Mason. Another woman is dead when it’s not her time to die, the consequences of her death unknown.” Damon shook his head. “It is unacceptable. The first murder is already having an effect on the future.”
“I take it you went to see the body?” Amara started to pace, but her eyes never strayed far from Mason and Lilly. “I do hope you have some information.”
“We do.” He glanced at Lilly, but had yet to find out what she’d seen, once again cursing himself for not witnessing the crime first hand to try and spare her the pain. He knew there was more to it than she’d let on, but had opted to give her more time to come around. Now, that could prove to be a costly mistake.
As if reading his mind, Lilly stepped forward from behind him, making him curse. “Jack was there and is indeed involved.” Mason could hear the tension in her voice, though she did a reasonable job of masking it, given the circumstances.
Amara’s eyebrows perked in mock surprise. “Is that so? I’d have never of guessed.”
Lilly continued, uncertainty tainting the words she spoke. “It was not clear that he’d murdered the woman though. When the reenactment started, she was already dead.”
Damon took Lilly by the hand and pulled her towards him, making Mason’s gut clench. “Are you sure that is all you saw? Perhaps there are details you’ve overlooked? Maybe with a little help…”
Lilly glanced at Mason, the fear clear in her eyes, but there was little he could do except shift Damon’s attention elsewhere. “Jack is but one of our problems. The man capable of seeing our true nature appeared once more. We gave chase, but lost him in the crowds. The first meeting could have been by chance, but this second is no coincidence.”
“He’ll be dealt with before long, but for now I want to know what our dearest Lilly saw.” Turning his attention to Lilly, he said, “You were Jack’s lover, were you not?”
“I was, but I swear, I did not see him murder the woman.” Mason could hear the panic in her voice. His pulse hammered as he desperately tried to think of a way out of this for her.
“I hope you’ll not mind if I see for myself?” Damon grasped her arm so she could not get free. Then to Amara and Mason, he added, “If we could have some privacy, it’d be greatly appreciated.”
” Lilly pleaded with him to save her, and his own fears for her sparked deep within. She grabbed at him, but already Damon was pulling her away.
“I’m not leaving.” He couldn’t. She’d be helpless, the pain excruciating.
Damon’s lips curled in a smirk as he looked Lilly over. Not even when he addressed Mason, did his gaze turn away from her form. “Don’t be a fool, man. You make it sound as if you have a choice. Amara—if you would.”
Lilly screamed as the pain of a million pin pricks shot through her brain, Damon’s grip on her head the only thing keeping her upright. He tore through her memories, shredding her sanity, her most intimate moments displayed and discarded as he searched for what he was looking for. She tried to close him out, but it only made the pain worse, her efforts futile.
She could hear Mason pounding on the door of the sitting room, but with the doors locked by Damon’s powers, there was little hope of Lilly escaping her torture or anyone coming to her aid.
“Ah… and here we have it.” Damon pulled forth her memory from earlier that morning. Jack stood with a bloody knife in his hand, hovering over the woman. “You forgot to mention all these little details. It’s nice to know we’re looking for the right man.”
However, even with the information he needed, he did not let her go. He continued to rifle through her memories, when he stumbled across her and Mason in their most recent coupling. With another anguished scream, she continued her struggles until he’d had enough. With a laugh, Damon let her go, the door unlocking to admit Mason.