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Authors: Erin Kellison

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal

Shadow Touched (4 page)

BOOK: Shadow Touched
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He sighed audibly. “All I know is that you’re here for the night.”
One night? She felt cold.
“Please don’t worry. Obviously we’ve deemed you safe enough to move into the main building. That’s got to mean something.”
Not much if she had only one night. Why couldn’t she breathe right?
Dr. Kalamos’s green eyes grew serious, and he lost the insincere smile. “I’ll be there with you. I won’t let anything bad happen. You came to the right place.”
Ellie wasn’t sure of anything anymore, but she wanted very much to believe him. And he sounded as if he were making a promise, albeit one she couldn’t trust.
“Now get some rest, if you can.” Dr. Kalamos walked to the open door and nodded to the soldiers. Were they here to protect her, or protect others from her? The latter. She was sealed inside.
Ellie stood helpless in the middle of the room. Couch, chair, TV. All very nice, and useless. She was imprisoned again. She’d wanted to be alone, but now it just seemed to emphasize how different she was from everyone else, how powerless.
She looked to her dark half for company, the very being she’d hoped to cast away on this venture.
But she was shifting through the impediment of a wall. Before she disappeared entirely into Segue, she looked back to smirk, a wicked gleam alight in her black eyes. And then she was gone.
 
Cam waited in the hallway outside Ms. Russo’s door for the shadow, guilt gnawing at his guts. He was an asshole, leaving Eleanor like that. She’d come to him for help, and he was going to turn her over to the mysterious aide, who could do whatever the hell he wanted with her. It felt wrong. He’d like to see her at ease. Put her at ease, if he could. She’d been through so much and hadn’t received the reception or assistance she’d hoped for.
Aide. What the hell was that? He had half a mind to call Adam Thorne and demand some answers.
The Order
sounded medieval, like The Inquisition.
Two soldiers guarded her door. A third operator, Jose, the one who’d given him the mouse under his eye during martial arts training, was assigned to Cam personally. Training at Segue was mandatory for everyone. Jose took position opposite the door. The three appeared unafraid. But then, so had the soldier who had fired on the shadow.
Ms. Russo’s shadow wasn’t scary. She was cool. Very cool. And not dangerous. No
aide
or
Order
necessary.
In fact, Cam was certain she’d follow him out of the apartment, considering her recent attachment. She’d probably try to seduce him again, which he would ignore as professionalism required. He wasn’t interested in sexual congress with the shadow. He was interested in the shadow herself—how her mind worked, what motivated her, her essence, how she came to be. It was a fascinating phenomenon.
One night, then tomorrow . . . what? He guessed he’d be back in the lab, jockeying for research hours with Shadow, capital S.
“Shadow is on the move,” a soldier said suddenly.
Cam startled, looking right and left, down the lengths of hallway outside Ms. Russo’s room. “Where?” The minx had to have gone another way. Why use a door when you don’t have to?
Excitement thrummed in his blood. Eleanor’s shadow, one more proof that the laws of nature were defunct, was on the move. Aside from the sudden sinister aide of the creepy Order, this was a great place to work.
Jose was listening to his earpiece. “Level two. West side. Still moving.”
It would be foolish to wait here. Cam and Jose jogged down the hallway. They skipped the wait for the elevator and took the stairs two at a time to get to the security center. Once there, Cam hoped to have a view of the major open areas within Segue. None of the offices or apartments was monitored, except for Ms. Russo’s, a necessary precaution.
“She’s totally random,” Marshall said when Cam joined him at the extended console manned by security. “We spotted her in the West atrium, then she vanished into the unfinished apartments. Scared the shit out of Dr. Marea on four, then ended up in the kitchen ogling a cheesecake.”
A wall of monitors showed the rooms and corridors of Segue. Soldiers were stationed throughout. Sightings were to be reported immediately. Most of the rooms were empty, though awash in light so that security could better view the shadow’s movements. The lab levels showed more activity—it was almost evening, but work was life here. Interesting that Wiley Scott was hanging out at Carol Witter’s office. At the edge of one of the lower rear balconies, a couple of staffers sat chatting while having a smoke. No shadow.
A flat screen to Cam’s left listed the shadow’s reported appearances. They had only six. Not enough to look for patterns. Cam didn’t really expect there to be any. Whims and impulses, Eleanor had said.
The view into Ms. Russo’s apartment showed the flesh and blood version idling at a window, looking out. After a while, to Cam’s amusement, she did sit down on the couch and turn on the television, but only to flip through the channels restlessly. Food was brought up to her. Cam went hungry. Ms. Russo rinsed her dishes in the apartment sink. She paced.
The hours wore on.
“Contact,” another soldier said, his voice coming through the monitor. This time on the third floor again, moving more slowly. Cam watched on the monitor. The shadow walked to the center of the room, and then stalled as something to her right caught her attention. Whatever it was took her through the wall.
“What happened?” Marshall asked the soldier.
“A sound got her attention,” came the soldier’s voice over the console speaker.
On a monitor, Barbie Hinkle, a systems tech, ran toward the soldier, pointing in the direction of her apartment. Her hair was dripping, a robe belted at her waist. Cam could make out few words. Most of them were foul.
Similar scenarios played out over the next two hours. The list on the flat screen grew. Ten. Fourteen. Nineteen. The shadow responded to noises and people and light. She wandered into the ghost hunters’ elaborate setup of apparatus, then left right away again. He liked her more and more. The ghost hunters were full of crap.
Flesh and blood Eleanor Russo did not sleep. She’d curled up on the sofa staring at the TV. At one point, she swiped at her face, so he knew she’d started crying. And he felt like an asshole all over again, wishing he could help. She was a nice girl. Strong, brave, smart, and way too serious.
“Ten minutes, no sign of the shadow,” Marshall noted.
But Cam continued watching Eleanor. He’d known her all of twelve hours, and even when the soldier had fired a few feet from her position, she’d kept her steely composure.
Then again, maybe she felt like she could cry now that she was alone. Maybe the tears were a girl thing. Tough under pressure, bawl in private. Could be. Yeah.
Still didn’t feel right. Cam shook his head, no. If Eleanor was going to cry, it would have been when they threw her in the wraith cell. Cam would have been bawling himself to be imprisoned in the facility. Bad things were going to happen to the wraiths down there. He’d have felt no shame whatsoever pleading for mercy to get out.
No, something was upsetting Eleanor deeply.
“I think we need to find her shadow,” Cam said. “And now.”
“I thought that’s what we were doing,” Marshall said.
Eleanor was weeping, her face in her hands. What had happened? Something had to have happened.
Twenty minutes staring at the screen. Nothing.
“I’m going to check on Ms. Russo,” Cam said to no one in particular. “See if she’s okay.”
His last glance at the monitor showed Eleanor pacing again, wringing her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks. She grabbed the fob at her neck and pressed her panic button. The alarm sounded at his back as he darted from the security center.
The three minutes it took to pelt back to her room were too long. The soldiers who had been on guard were already inside, a couple more besides. One was reporting an “all clear” to his commander.
Cam could hear Eleanor arguing as he approached the door. “You get Dr. Kalamos back here right now—”
He waved the soldiers aside as he entered.
Eleanor whipped around, eyes blazing with anger on top of some other deep, wrenching emotion. “What have you done to her?”
“Nothing, I swear,” Cam answered. “We’ve been tracking her, but—”
“I don’t believe you. I can
feel
her.” Fresh tears streaked down Eleanor’s flushed cheeks. Her eyes had gone aquamarine with her distress. “What have you done?”
“Eleanor, we haven’t harmed her,” he said. “We’ve only been tracking her. We have our orders to wait until the morning and turn you both over. I’ve been completely truthful from the beginning.”
Had the aide arrived early? Now he was really worried.
“I don’t believe you.” She obviously held him responsible. And damn it all, he kind of held himself responsible, too, though just where he’d gone wrong, he didn’t know.
“Can you find her?” Cam asked. “I’ll follow. You’ll see she’s just hiding in someone’s apartment or something.”
The alternative made him very uncomfortable; he hated the idea of someone here getting their hands on her. Who the hell was he working for? Maybe Segue was too much of a good thing. Working here was so good, there had to be a catch; maybe he was finding it now. Shadow, the fae . . . maybe the opportunity to research them came at too high a cost.
“No, I can’t find her,” Eleanor said, voice raw. “She’s the one who finds
me
.”
“Fine,” Cam said, taking her by the arm and pulling her out the apartment door. “We’ll find her together. Search the whole goddamn place, over and over if necessary. Just you and me.”
And the soldiers dogging their steps.
They were on the main floor, in the hotel’s renovated grand entrance when Eleanor went still. She frowned, her gaze sharpening toward a wall.
“She’s that way.” Eleanor lifted an arm and pointed. “She’s hurting.
I’m hurting.”
Cam took her raised hand and squeezed it in his. “Then we go that way.”
All the way to the middle of the labyrinth, if need be. He had to know for whom he worked. He had to know if he was with the good guys or the bad.
Eleanor took him from doorway to corridor, through rooms Cam had yet to visit, most empty and in a delayed state of repair. These had to be part of the phase two renovation he’d heard about. None of them was secured, much less monitored. Plastic hung like ghosts over doorways and walls that were framed out, some with insulation, others wavering heavily with their swift passage.
What could have possibly interested Eleanor’s shadow here? No light, no noise, no people to entice.
They came to a heavy metal door with a keypad, which Cam’s passcode opened, to his surprise. He’d figured that sooner or later he’d reach the limit of his security clearance, but the shadow was obviously not lurking in a high security zone.
Beyond was a wide hallway, white and scuffed, with another set of sealed double doors at its end. An exit, probably off the west side of the building. A ladder lay on its side near the wall, splattered with paint.
And farther down, kneeling on the floor in profile, arms reaching toward a long, narrow panel—
drywall?
—was Eleanor’s shadow.
“See?—” Cam began to Eleanor.
But Eleanor was already rushing down the hallway. Cam and the soldiers ran behind, though no danger was apparent. The passage had been quiet; no sinister Segue procedure was being enacted on the dark form, for which he was very relieved. They all came to a halt when the front of the panel was visible; it was not drywall, but a painting.
Eleanor’s shadow was on her knees. Cam almost dropped to his own.
He looked upon the Shadowlands.
He’d hoped one day to see this place with his own eyes. He’d worked hard to earn the right, and even got the coveted job that would offer the possibility. For this, he would’ve given and would give everything. Maybe,
oh God
, even allow innocent Eleanor Russo to be taken away by an aide of The Order.
Magic.
The panel was a window to another world, one alive with lush wonders. Ancient trees filled the view, with leaves of deep, raging color—indigo, magenta, midnight purple. And they moved as if alive, as if the trees were aware he gazed on them with all the longing in his heart. Shadow, his Shadow, that new and oh-so-old element he sought to study, fell thick in every hollow and copse. He sensed that if he reached, he might scoop a handful and drink it like river water. And within the darkest patches, movement. The fae.
It was the between world—the place where the mortal world met the Hereafter. On every level of his being, he desired this place.
He gave a soft, breathless groan of want, but no . . . the sound his heart made came from a female throat. At his side, composed and controlled Eleanor was weeping again. She wept for Shadow. Fierce longing pulled at her features, as she too, looked on forever. She seemed in the midst of both devastation and epiphany. He knew exactly how she felt.
And below him, kneeling, her shadow’s arms tried to embrace magic. The slight break and stress of her wrists emphasized how empty her hands were. She reached toward the forest, the stretch of her body anguished with need.
Eleanor had been weeping for at least a half hour before they’d found her shadow. She must have been feeling this—he knew she had. But how?
We are the same,
Eleanor had said.
I am her and she is me.
Something clicked in his mind.
He was an idiot. Worse, she knew he was an idiot. Her shadow was not a reflection or ghost twin or doppelganger.
Her shadow was herself. Therefore, only one woman was in the hallway with him. One woman, split into two, elemental and reasoning, in respective bodies, but
one.
BOOK: Shadow Touched
9.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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