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Authors: Erin Kellison

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal

Shadow Touched (10 page)

BOOK: Shadow Touched
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Ms. Parson teared up and shook her head no. “I didn’t think of that.
Damn it
.”
“Anything else that just you and he would know?” Ellie put in. She liked Cam’s line of thought. This could actually help. “Something he knows is safe. Something that might bring him around if he’s scared.”
Ms. Parson was already nodding. She got it too. “Right. I just bought him some spy gizmo for completing his reading challenge. He has a turtle named Speedo. Thinks the name’s hilarious.”
Ellie saw Ms. Parson’s eyes grow damp again.
“I call him my knight in shining armor. It’s our thing.”
Ellie could work with that. Knights were valiant, strong, brave. If he could be a knight, he might be able to get out.
Cam looked at her over his shoulder, his expression filled with concern and his previous exhaustive arguments against her going.
Ms. Parson grabbed Ellie’s hand. “But how do you get inside? How do you know where to look? I heard that place is supposed to be lethal.”
Ellie didn’t doubt her shadow could cross. And now she had something to use—
knight
—if she found him. But yes, the actual finding was a big problem. Lethal, even bigger.
Chapter 2
C
am shook his head at Ellie. “It won’t be today. The stress of our arrival has had you fighting your shadow since we boarded the airplane this morning.”
They’d convened in a lab dedicated to the samples Dr. Grant hadn’t been able to obtain from the fae or from Twilight. Chests designed for transport and on-site utility were stacked in the corner, filled with tools and equipment. Stainless steel tables had been erected along one wall. This was unused space that smelled like plastic.
“JT has been gone for over forty-eight hours,” Ellie said, gesturing in the direction of the falls. “He doesn’t have any more time.”
She was pretty convincing, her stance all energy. Chin level, blue eyes direct. Almost anyone would believe she was ready to go. Anyone, that is, who hadn’t been up close and personal, to hear and feel how irregular her breath got when she was in conflict with the interests and passions of her darker, deeper self.
In fact, she’d been doing that subtle, shallow hitch ever since the call had come in from Adam Thorne, Segue’s founder, asking if she was up to this. “Ask” was a mellow word for Thorne’s phrasing.
Cam ranged closer, careful not to alarm. Even with him, Ellie could get jumpy. And when her shadow split from her flesh, he wanted the overriding, primal instinct to be less defensive and more . . . welcoming. God knew her shadow had reason to fear him.
“One minute was too long for JT in Twilight,” he pointed out to counter Ellie’s haste. “We won’t waste time, but neither will I allow you to rush headlong into that realm unless you are rested and strong, or your shadow will get the better of you.”
Cam stepped within reach, a slow advance, but one that made Ellie aware of him. She lowered her outstretched arm and retreated, only to back into the counter, her expression wary.
“Cam.” One word conveyed a world of worries. She spoke into his eyes, a plea not to push her, when push her was exactly what he was going to do.
He reached to stroke that soft skin at her neck. A light nudge to angle her head.
Her lids lowered a fraction, her breath suspended.
And then he kissed her, his favorite pastime, bar none. If they could get past this stage, he’d bet he’d discover another favorite—and he’d make absolutely certain it was also hers—but for now this had to satisfy.
His mouth brushed over hers, settled in to seek and taste. Honey sweet. And she answered, her body rising to meet him, her hands feathering at his shoulders. He permitted no space between them, relishing the curve of her breast, the skim of her stomach, her legs trapped between his parted stand. She kissed him back, seeking too, and the rush of the waterfall filled his mind, its scent heating his blood.
So he had to increase the pressure,
had
to, take more, damn it, turn carnal, when he would have held back and waited for that sense of gathering in her body that signaled controlled pleasure.
Too soon. Damn, so fast. Accelerated by the proximity of magic.
One drop of heat begat a wave of drowning want, him pulling her close, tight, diving into a sensory storm of denied and delayed craving. He’d tried too long to be careful, but now careful was dangerous, too.
She gripped his shirt, arched to press her breasts against him, angled her hips into contact with his groin. All of which made his nerves buzz, his vision swim with stars. It felt so good and greedy, but the exchange was dominated by shadow.
With a cry, Ellie pushed him away.
He stumbled back, hard, ready, but raising a hand to stop the nude, dark woman who stepped out of Ellie and prowled after him, lust turning her skin from insubstantial transparency to solid, opaque presence.
“Hello there,” Cam said, panting. It was taking too long to shut down his arousal and use his brain. Flesh and blood Ellie, the one now trembling with exhaustion, had cast her shadow out rather than let it take over and dominate the intimacy. It happened nearly every time they tried to make love. The rest of the time, the shadow split on her own out of impatience.
But his point was well made. It had taken all of one minute for him to force Ellie’s two selves apart. She needed to be in control when she attempted Twilight and a rescue. The brevity of their kiss showed just how close to the edge she’d been. Or how much the waterfall, and therefore Twilight, could influence her. Influence both parts of her.
The shadow wrapped an arm around his neck, her mouth grazing the bare skin at his collar, and she slid a satiny dark palm down his pants to clasp him. No blood was going where it was most needed. Nope, not one little bit.
Steps away, the other Ellie looked at him, shame all over her face. They both knew that the desire of the shadow belonged to Ellie, but it wasn’t tempered by control, shyness, or inexperience. Her shadow didn’t hide what she wanted, didn’t lie about it, didn’t remotely acknowledge the standards of normal behavior. Didn’t feel shame.
“I need you.” The shadow stroked him to make her point.
Cam wouldn’t reject her (dangerous), but he wouldn’t go along either.
“Stop it,” Ellie commanded her shadow.
It ignored her. Cuddled closer. Good God. How did someone with zero sexual history know to work him just that way?
Years ago, when he was a science geek in high school, or hell, even any time during his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, he’d have been embarrassing himself right about now.
“Stop!” Ellie said, yanking her shadow away without taking it back into herself.
He blinked hard to clear his mind. Blinked again.
Interest her in something else.
“There’s a boy missing,” Cam said, which helped to focus him as well. A life at stake.
Flesh and blood Ellie gave the slightest nod, though the tension on her face didn’t go away. She knew she could trust him with herself, that he wouldn’t screw one willing part when the higher reason wasn’t present.
He didn’t admit that his honor was sorely tested
every single time.
Ellie depended on him to hold back while she learned mastery. Sometimes her shadow required drastic action like sedation or, that one time, firing a gun at her flesh and blood self to prevent the shadow from committing murder. The shadow could be unstoppable, its only weakness the woman to whom it belonged.
“JT,” Cam said, to make the reason they were here all the more personal. “He’s lost in darkness.”
“My baby,” the shadow said, drawing back. Ellie must have identified with Ms. Parson, felt her anguish. She must have taken on some of that maternal instinct.
Good. This could help.
“We have to find JT and bring him home,” Cam said. Simple concepts, primal ones, resonated best with the shadow.
The shadow drew back, sex momentarily forgotten, and spoke in a series of incomprehensible syllables, foreign words, an alien language.
Cam lifted his gaze to Ellie, who was clearly surprised as well.
He smiled, trying to ease away the last of her previous discomfort. “You speak faerie now?”
In a weird way, it made sense—elemental communicating with elemental. Segue would have a field day with this.
“Sounds like gibberish to me,” Ellie said. “I wish I could understand.”
“Ummm . . .” Cam shook his head in wonder. “I think it’s pretty clear that on some level you do.”
 
Ellie exited the lab unit at Cam’s all-clear nod, drawing her shadow after her. The sound of the waterfall got louder, a sense and smell of spray suspended in the air, even with the research units between them. Her shadow tugged to get away, her interest as changeable as a cat’s, but Ellie asserted her mind, her heart, and kept her shadow tethered to its mistress.
A leash like this was much easier to manage than maintaining the full merge of shadow and flesh. Ellie was tired, yes, but now that the internal strain was relieved, she could think clearly again without feeling so much, so acutely. Cam had been right to separate them before tomorrow. She could get her bearings again, remember who she was without her personal tormentor coloring each thought.
Another interview with the fae, this time in his native language, and then she would rest, assisted by a sedative to quiet both parts of her. Tomorrow her shadow would walk into magic. Now that the course had been determined, Ellie’s panic had eased, a kind of calm-before-doom slowing her blood.
They made their way back down a short pitch of trail to the next bit of flat earth, where the fae’s cell was located. The sun had lowered, muting the vivid red of the landscape. Above, the sunset washed the sky white all around, except where the light hit Cathedral Rock and the atmosphere exploded into fireworks of hot color. Huge floodlights had been erected, but they’d yet to be turned on for the evening.
Soldiers guarded the cell unit, four by Ellie’s count, others stationed at the falls and the perimeter of the camp.
Ahead of her, Cam paused. Ellie had already ceased moving, waiting for him to order the men away from the entry to allow her two selves to pass within unseen.
Managing her shadow this way wasn’t without risks, the first being that her nude, jiggly-breasted dark self attracted attention. And her shadow loved it. At least the dimming light would partially cloak their advance.
Her shadow came up close behind her, put her mouth to Ellie’s ear. “Look. Boys. Big ones.”
Four months ago, Ellie wouldn’t have been able to stop the spectacle her shadow would have put on to get the armed men staring. She didn’t want to think too much about what that said about her. Exhibitionist for starters. The names got worse from there.
“JT,” Ellie reminded herself.
And her shadow spoke again in those smoothly running syllables. The language was a windfall they hadn’t expected, and Cam intended to make the most of it.
But Ellie was frustrated. “English, please.”
The indecipherable words continued . . . then cut off, midstream.
“Danger,” her shadow said.
Ellie felt a lurch, a rip, a yank as her dark self tried to tear away. So strong, like a big dog, teeth bared, straining against its tether to run down an intruder.
“Someone
bad
here.”
Her shadow’s instincts were always dead on. Always. But this was not the time, not the place, for her to be loose.
“No,” Ellie told her shadow. She pulled with all her strength, seeking the rubber band snap of union.
Inside.
Her shadow had to be inside her right now. The last time they’d encountered a “bad” person, her shadow had had a box cutter in her hand, ready to slit the man’s throat. The last time, Cam had been armed. Last time, he’d shot the vulnerable part of her, flesh and blood, to stop the violence.
Her shadow half-merged into Ellie’s body, yet half-flailed, still separate, for freedom. “Danger. There’s a bad man. I feel a bad man. Death.”
Joined, Ellie could feel the wrongness now, too. “Cam!”
Her shout brought the soldiers’ rifles out, but they didn’t signify that they could see anything unusual in the darkness.
“Stand down!” Cam commanded the soldiers, then turned, his body shielding her, “What—?”
Her shadow, like a demon, leaned out from Ellie’s waist. “Someone’s with JT.”
 
“Stay behind me,” Cam said.
Ellie nodded, flushed, lightly panting, but whole again.
He knew it wouldn’t last. “JT” had to be the fae look-alike, since that’s where her shadow was determined to go. The “bad man” could be anyone. “Danger” was just as vague. “Death” was the least promising. But at least they had the warning, rather than walking in blind.
They approached the soldier at the doorway, where Cam stopped. “Has anyone been in to see the fae since we left?”
“No, sir. Quiet here.” A formal delivery.
But Col. Langer would be coming momentarily. Cam had seen the quick message the soldier had delivered into a throat mic. Segue’s soldiers had those, too. They made everything run very fast, very coordinated.
And left him very little time.
He signaled for a soldier to buzz him into the unit. He’d intended to order them to briefly face away while Ellie and her shadow entered. They knew of the paranormal, but none were cleared to know about Ellie. Good thing she had managed a rough union again.
Cam went inside first. Dr. Velez was standing to the side of a counter. No one else was present. No sign of disturbance.
So he stepped out of the doorway to allow Ellie inside as well. Three strides to the observation window. A fast glance. The cell was empty. But it smelled a little funny. Metallic.
The doctor still hadn’t spoken.
“Where was the fae taken?” Cam demanded. Something was definitely wrong here, probably triggered by his and Ellie’s arrival a couple of hours ago. Was this an attempt by Grant to protect his work? Colonel Langer could have moved the fae as well. He’d been very suspicious of Ellie after her demonstration at the waterfall.
Cam felt Ellie come up beside him. She was visibly shaking, her breath broken with gasps.
Damn it. Every second she seemed worse. Any moment, her shadow would be exposed. She was clearly nowhere near ready for this mission. Rest would only do her so much good. Segue would probably have to emergency extract her from the site tonight.
He put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed to comfort. A small setback, that’s all. He’d deal with the fae issue first, then pull out. He would not risk her life for JT, who was probably already lost to the mortal world. Grant and Langer could have their waterfall.
Ellie sobbed, groaned. “I’m sorry I can’t hold . . .” She threw her head back, as the shadow lunged partially out of her again, grabbing the doctor’s neck and slamming her up against the back wall. “Fae!”
The doctor whimpered, but even that sounded weird. Not human.
BOOK: Shadow Touched
13.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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