Authors: Melissa Wright
The Descendants Series
Reign of Shadows
4 by Melissa Wright
Amazon Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Heat pulsed through the warehouse, liquid fire pushed by some unseen force. Metal screamed and block crumbled, tearing away every protection she had from the
gale. But it was not the light of fire that accompanied the wind, nor the brightness of a flame. It was dark beneath the haze of fog.
It was a shadow.
Brianna jolted awake, sitting up to find the darkness of her room. It was there again, that urge to fight and the impulse to run, but she forced it down, not allowing herself to be afraid. Not even conceding to the desire to click on the bedside lamp. She took two deep breaths, committing the details to memory: the tang of metal in her mouth, the sulfur that hung on the too-hot wind, and the sound beneath the screeching, that steady beat of footsteps heading toward her.
aughter floated in from the front room and she closed her eyes, willing the calm back before pulling her feet over the edge of the mattress and onto the plush carpeting of her council bedroom floor. It would be her sister outside. And her Logan.
She ran a hand over her face.
They didn’t understand. As far as anyone knew, it was all over. The terror they’d faced with Morgan, with the prophecy, all of it gone. But less than a day since waking from that affair, the aftermath not even cleared away, she’d begun having the new visions.
The real ones.
She shuffled across the floor in darkness, hand out to catch the edge of the dresser, purposely not thinking about why her mind had labeled them that way, not allowing herself to panic at the ideas that had flooded her in the last hours. She would work through them, but one thing at a time. Brianna reached up, blindly feeling for the switch that would illuminate the washroom, and flinched at her reflection, the glimpse of something as it flashed in the too-green eyes staring back at her.
One thing at a time
, she reminded herself, feeling the heat pulse through her fingertips, the skin prickle the length of her arm. Brianna pulled her hair back into a ponytail to splash her face with water, barely sparing another glance at her reflection before sliding into a pair of borrowed jeans and leaving the darkness of the bedroom to join the others.
The front room was large, holding a sitting area, several tables, and a workspace.
Emily glanced up from where she perched on the edge of a sofa, always appearing ready to stand or bolt from the room, her dark blonde hair in loose waves, her casual smile still out of the ordinary. “Sorry, Bri,” she said. “Did we wake you?”
Brianna shook her head, forcing a smile as her eyes c
aught Logan, sending a sharp pang through her chest. His arms were crossed as he leaned against the side of a large padded chair, that same state of constant readiness in his form as in Emily’s.
“Where’s Aern?” Brianna asked
, aware and more than a little guilty that they didn’t suspect her of keeping something from them.
, and Brianna kept her eyes on her sister, knowing he was doing his best to give her space until she recovered. Emily pointed toward the floor, or rather the level below where Council business was being conducted at an alarming rate. “He’s downstairs, still working out details for the new board and the other properties.”
Brianna’s face paled,
her thoughts going to Brendan and the others who had been lost in the fighting. Nothing was left of Westlake; the entire property had been reduced to ash.
A look passed between Logan and Emily and she stood, pat
ting a hand on her knee as she said, “I’ll go grab us some lunch.” She left the room to Brianna’s vague nod, and Logan moved, squeezing her shoulder as he asked, “Sleep well, Brianna?”
searched his eyes and found the same concern she thought she’d heard in his voice. If anyone would have suspected her, had realized she was keeping secrets, it would have been Logan, wouldn’t it?
She said, “I’m sorry,” the apology for more than just those secrets, and he slid closer, wrappi
ng an arm around her as he pressed his lips to her forehead. He smelled clean, too familiar, and she breathed it in as his fingers trailed down her back.
“Brianna,” he said, “none of us would be here without you. Don’t apologize. For anything.”
“No,” she whispered. “I’m sorry for what’s about to happen.” She tilted her head, drawing it from beneath his chin to look again at the amber of his eyes, the glow that was within them before suddenly stronger than she’d ever seen it. “I’m sorry for what I’ve set into motion.”
Logan’s brow drew
down, and the stab in her chest redoubled. She was going to have to tell them. They had thought they were finally free, finally able to find genuine happiness, and she was going to have to tear it away from all of them. Because her powers had been restored, and they were showing something she couldn’t face alone, something that none of them had expected. She knew the four of them didn’t stand much of a chance of fighting this future, but she felt the difference in herself. In their situation.
he shadows hadn’t died with the prophecy. They were still out there, trying to shift the fate of the world.
But now, Brianna Drake could see them.
“I’m ready,” the dark-haired man said, hands fisted at his side
s. He was a complete contradiction to his audience, but he didn’t care. He wanted her. He would take her
. “Let me at her before she has the chance to get any stronger.”
“Don’t be a fool,” the other man said. He waved a hand
as he reached for a glass of aged Scotch. “You have no idea what she’s capable of.”
Two chairs sat at the center of the room, a small table on either side, the fireplace a
deceptively serene backdrop in the dim light. The man in the second chair didn’t speak, merely rolled the edge of an empty glass in its place on the table. He didn’t drink. And he didn’t waste his time on the likes of this weak-blooded man currently pleading his case before them.
The dark-haired man straightened, coming to his full height, and said, “Then what shall be my next step?” He didn’t say
. He knew better than to assume so much. This was their game. He was no more than an underling. A pawn.
But he would do anything to play.
“Keep an eye on things for now,” the first man answered, still not bringing the glass to his lips. “And see what else you can get out of that Samuels boy.”
dark-haired man glanced at the edge of the hand-woven rug inches in front of his feet, then back at his audience. It was a boundary, a line that was not to be crossed. “I’ll see what we can do. There’s not much hope of his recovery after the last time.”
The other man ti
lted his head, a small shift that served as a warning, and the dark-haired man dropped into a nod, nearly a bow, and walked from the room.
could still feel their presence behind him.
A team of men stood waiting
in the vestibule, a uniform of black-clad soldiers awaiting the dark-haired man’s instruction. He held in a sigh. Torturing Brendan and the blonde was the last thing he wanted to do today.
wanted was Brianna.
“What do you mean?” Emily asked again. “That’s not—” She stopped, shaking her head. “Brianna, that’s not possible. There can’t be
Aern’s weight shifted
toward her. He’d known the battle with Morgan was not the end. He’d seen it in Brianna’s eyes, felt it in her apology. They’d set some new chain of events into motion, brought some new fate down upon them all.
“How long do we have?” he asked.
Brianna shook her head. “They’re waiting on something.” Her eyes went briefly out of focus and the skin of Aern’s arms tingled. An instant later she was back. “I can’t quite find it. But I feel like once I have full control, I’ll be able to see.”
He understood without her having to explain in detail. Brianna had broken something free in all of them, given them powers that were long ago taken away, and they were hard to grasp. It was taking
time to regain their control, to relearn the motions of it. Like a muscle after years of disuse. After a terrible, crippling accident.
“There’s something different about the visions now,” Brianna said. Her gaze skimmed the surface of
the table. She didn’t want to admit what she was about to say. What she
to say. “It’s not like the prophecy, this is something else. And it’s not what’s to come.” She locked eyes with Aern. “It’s
He sat, suddenly intent on having this conversation at eye level, and
braced his elbows on his knees to lean toward her. “So you’ve seen these other shadows?” He was careful with the word, unsure of what it would mean to them, to Emily.
“No,” Brianna said. “They aren’t c
lear. There’s something fuzzy”—she paused, finding the right term—“foggy about them. Blocking them. But I know they’re there.” She pulled her lip beneath her tooth, then purposefully freed it. “What I’m seeing now, though, I’m not sure what he is.”
“He?” Emily asked, pacing behind Aern’s chair, arms wrapped around herself. It wasn’t a look
of fear, it was agitation. Readiness.
“There was a man,”
Brianna answered with a nervous glance at Logan. “I hadn’t had a chance to tell anyone, but I didn’t realize …” She shook her head, started again, “He was there, in the warehouse where Morgan held me.”
nched at the reminder, but Brianna couldn’t see where he stood at her shoulder. Only Aern and Emily saw.
“Who?” Aern asked.
Brianna shrugged. “I’d never seen him before. Dark hair, sharp features, and a strong jaw. Maybe six two. But there was something about him, something that made me want to tear free and fight.”
The man’s words echoed through
Aern’s mind, a warning they’d not understood at all.
Maybe Morgan isn’t the only
one you should be worried about.
Aern’s gaze flick
ed to Logan, and Brianna glanced up at him over her shoulder. “That’s not all.” She swallowed hard, eyes coming back to Aern. “I saw him again, after I’d repaired some of the connections in me and Emily.”
The room went still, Emily and Logan finally understanding. “And you saw him as he was, not as a prophecy,” Aern said.
Brianna nodded. “I didn’t realize that was what was happening. But he was there, with Morgan, and it was as if he
me to see him.”
It seemed s
he did notice Logan then, the absolute stillness of him, not a breath, not even the tightening of his fist, and her eyes pleaded with Aern to follow her conclusion without making her say it. Without explaining to Logan and her sister that someone might have that power over her, might be able to push thoughts into her mind.
“Okay,” Aern said, “then we find him.” He reached across the space between them, taking Brianna’s hand in his. It was a promise. They’d let her down before, and he’d not let it happen again. “Whatever it takes, Brianna. We’ll do it.”
Brianna nodded, her expression hinting that there might have been more, but he wouldn’t push her. Whatever she needed to do, he would have to trust in. “Make me a list,” Aern said, sliding a notepad across the table toward her. “Every single detail you can remember about him, the things he said, the background to your visions. Especially the backgrounds, anything that will help identify where you’ve seen him.” He would send a team out. This man had worked for Morgan and not all of those men were recovered.
tood beside him, watching as Brianna took the pen. She wanted to say something, wanted to ask. Brianna knew her sister as well as Aern did; she glanced up at her, waiting.
“Bri,” Emily said levelly
. “How many?”
hey understood from two words the full scope of what she was asking. Brianna and Emily had thought they were alone. After the death of their mother, they’d been convinced they were the last of their kind, even when they’d not known exactly what that had entailed. But mere days ago, they’d discovered that they were something no one had expected, no one would have believed. They’d discovered they were something the Seven Lines—something everyone—had good reason to fear.
And now Brianna was telling her there were more of them.
here was the more Aern had thought he’d seen in Brianna’s expression. Because she’d known, once she’d found the connections to free herself and Emily, that they had not been still in place from centuries ago. Those bonds, the ones that had kept their powers hidden, were put in place after they’d been born. And the only thing strong enough to do so would have been another shadow.
Brianna’s fingers tightened on the pen, twisting as she answered. “I don’t know for certain. But there’s more than one, more than just a few.
I think”—she swallowed, momentarily reluctant to voice her fears, and the pen came to rest on paper—“I think they’re behind all of this, Emily. I think they’re trying to control the outcome of the war.”
There was a moment of
collective silence, and then Logan, from behind her shoulder, said, “What war?”
“The war,” she
answered, “they’re planning on inciting between us.”
“Us?” Aern asked
She nodded. “The shadows. And the Seven.”
She’d said it. She’d marked them as an enemy, separated the
by blood, not by their bonds. But it hurt her. Brianna was on their team.
She had to be.
Aern straightened, feeling the not-so-subtle tug in his chest that connected him to Emily.
“It’s not that,” Brianna started, seeing whatever response he’d missed on her sister’s face. “Emily
, it isn’t like that. It’s just—” She stopped again, squeezing her eyes shut tight for a moment before continuing in a more earnest tone, “It’s just that someone had to do this to us. And they did it
our mother was alive.” Their mother had allowed it, or at least kept the truth from them.
Emily stepped forward,
leaning over Aern’s shoulder where he sat. “That doesn’t mean she wanted it. That doesn’t mean she wanted this.” She gestured toward the table, and Aern couldn’t be sure whether she’d meant Brianna’s guessing at the prophecy, or her decision to sort them with the shadows.
“It doesn’t mean she didn’t,” Brianna said. “And how else do you explain her clues? The training?” She thrust her
own hands forward, tattooed wrists exposed for her sister to see. “What else could she have wanted, Emily?”
Brianna’s hands dropped, her tone changed. Resigned. “Do you think she didn’t do everything she could to pick this outcome, to bring us right here? Do you think she didn’t see this?”
“You didn’t,” Emily said evenly.
Brianna’s answer was just as flat. “Because my powers were bound.”
It was all she had to say, and some unspoken message passed between them, some bit of knowledge they’d withheld from him and Logan. Aern’s gaze fell to Logan, but he was watching Brianna. Watching as she steeled herself for sharing one more secret she wasn’t quite ready to give.
“The thing is,” Brianna
began, shifting just enough that her admission was directed to both of them, “the thing that doesn’t make sense is that she permitted us to be bound, chose this path for us, brought us to you.” She hesitated, eyes falling first to Aern and then lingering a heartbeat too long on Logan. “Because the shadows are the reason”—she wet her lips—“the ones who took the power from the Seven Lines to begin with.”
Aern stared at her
, everything that he’d learned in his youth rolling through his mind. The Seven Lines had once been powerful, able to do much more than simply use sway. Something had happened, something they’d called a thinning of the blood, that had slowly weakened their powers until no more than this remained. He wanted to not believe her. He wanted to keep thinking the stories they’d been told were true.
But the shadows were part of their legend. A horrible, dark part of the Seven Lines
And Brianna was one of them.
His chest ached for a moment at the thought of Emily, but he pushed it away to deal with the problem at hand. He trusted Brianna, and she had given him this power, given him the ability to sway his own kind. This was the story that made sense. This was the only thing that had felt of truth for a long time.
“So you think she placed you here for them?” He corrected himself, purposefully separating Brianna and Emily from the others. “For the shadows?”
To spy, to destroy them from within, to gain some benefit from their position among the Seven.
shook her head, clearly not certain about any of it. “What else, Aern?
was a shadow.”
“Maybe not,” Emily said. “Maybe
”—she twisted her hands, paced two steps away only to come right back—“maybe she wanted us away from the shadows. Against them.” She glanced at Aern. “Maybe that’s what she saw. Just like the prophecy, Bri, maybe she wanted you to
It was there again, that doubt in Brianna’s eyes
, and Aern remembered words that had once been spoken softly among the ancient documents of Council. That she’d had her doubts about the prophecy, that she’d wondered if it was not some long-dead magic pushed to her from a place unknown. Until Brianna had seen the actual document, she’d not been certain the prophecies were real. And now that these visions were popping into her mind, she didn’t trust that any of it was her own.
Except for her power,
and this new talent for seeing the now that she’d had only days. Because even Aern knew there was no questioning that. The repaired connections brought something to them that was undeniably theirs, a tangible link. It was an indisputable fit. It didn’t just exist, it
“If they did this,” Brianna said, “if they put all of this into place, it doesn’t matter what we want. Things will happen their way. We’ll have no choice but to let fate push us to whatever they’ve seen.”
Logan shifted, eyes not landing on any of them when he said, “No, Brianna. You always have a choice.”