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Authors: Erin Kellison

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal

Shadow Touched (6 page)

BOOK: Shadow Touched
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Naked Ellie arched before him, one hand gliding up her belly, smooth and tight, between her perfect breasts, over her slender neck, her cheek, and into her hair. The other skated lower, to the inside of her thigh. Her lips parted, head tilting back to look at him.
Cam’s mouth went dry, while another unprofessional reaction overcame his body and threatened to embarrass him.
I’ll never live it down if Jose busts the door open.
“Please,” her shadow begged.
Laughingstock for sure.
“I can’t give you what you want,” Cam said. “You know that.” She had to know that.
“But I
want
so much, so bad to . . .” The fingers at her thigh pressed into her flesh.
The pressure at his groin turned painful.
Think about Jose. Ugly Jose.
“In time there will be someone . . .” he tried.
“You.”
She drew closer, putting a hand to his chest. His damn brain was playing tricks on him because he could almost feel the light pressure stroking up to circle his neck. “I want
you
.”
He looked away, gritting his teeth to get his body back under control. “I like you, too, Ellie, God knows I do, but . . .”
The sweet dark body drew closer. “Yesss.”
Cam swallowed. “. . . and maybe someday we can pursue this, but—”
“Now.” Ellie’s shadow pulled herself up. Her face eased closer, dark eyes trained on his mouth. When her lips brushed his, again he had that feather light sensation of touch. Phantom sensations, that’s what this was, his mind filling in the blanks in the absence of true stimuli.
And then her mouth pressed, silky soft, against his. Real. An erotic fantasy girl suddenly come to life.
He angled his head to get the kiss just right, and took it to the place where there was no air, just the
whomp whomp whomp
of his heart and the feel of her body against his. He touched her tongue and rasped for friction.
A naked leg went around him. The band at his waist released, startling him.
The shadow could be touched.
An internal red flag waved, but his arms went around her anyway—so smooth on the curve of her hip. She slid a hand up his back under his shirt.
The thing was . . . he’d thought Ellie had said that her shadow couldn’t do anything. He’d asked her specifically, and this was definitely something. If her shadow could touch him,
touch him
, then what else could she do? With her ability to walk through walls, she was unstoppable.
Cam’s blood cooled and redirected at last. He shifted to grip the shadow at her shoulders and push her away. She whimpered in protest, her skin tone dissipating. She lost that strange sense of solidity so that he was suddenly, abruptly, left holding nothing. Just looking at a wicked smile and black eyes that should have been blue.
And here he’d been willing to give up his job for her.
Eleanor Russo had lied.
 
“I’m telling you the truth.” Ellie stood behind a chair, gripping the top of its back like a shield. Her gaze shifted from Cam to the soldiers in her room and back to Cam. Her shadow had to have done something really bad this time. Ellie was so sick and tired of this. It had to end. It would end, no matter what; she’d make it end.
Her shadow sulked in a corner of the living room, but Ellie ignored her.
“And I am telling you that she touched me.” Cam’s voice was back to cold and clipped. He ignored her shadow too. “
Physically
touched me.”
“I want you,” her shadow said. More like whined.
Ellie closed her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten so close to him. Liked him. Gran would be making that
tsk, tsk
sound with her teeth. Ellie had done this to herself. She never should have come here. This was all a big mistake. On every level, hers.
“Maybe you imagined it,” Ellie said, trying to divert him. Her shadow had only been able to touch something once. Most likely he’d imagined it.
Either that or Ellie had sought help too late; her shadow had grown too strong for her.
“He touched me, too,” her shadow said, and
she
never lied. Her dark half stroked her breasts, chest, neck, so Ellie got an idea what had happened. Her shadow had made what Gran would have called
a pass.
“I admit that I’ve been slow to understand the dynamics of your situation,” Cam said, “but I am absolutely certain that for a time she had a physical form.” His nostrils flared with his anger. “It’s already tomorrow, so very soon you won’t be my problem anymore”—Ellie shivered—“but I’d like to understand what happened before I take action.”
“I want to go home,” Ellie said, more to herself than him.
Her shadow hissed disapproval.
“Too late,” Cam said. “Are you going to cooperate?” He gave a humorless smile. “Or am I wasting my time?”
Ellie’s eyes still burned from the tears she’d shed earlier. She scraped her bottom lip with her teeth, considering, then decided she had nothing to lose. She’d come with the intent to tell everything, but had flinched in that first interrogation. Was the delay worth it? Was it worth that electrifying moment she’d had in the doorway with Cam? She didn’t know.
“Worth it,” her shadow said.
Ellie stepped around the chair and dropped her weight into it. She leaned forward to hold her head in her hands, elbows on knees. She was so damn tired, but yeah, she’d tell. She’d even reveal that last lie, which wasn’t fair, because from what she knew of people, everyone lied. Big and small, they got to hide behind all sorts of distortions of the truth. But not her.
“Yeah, okay.” She shook her head slightly, unable to believe she was going to utter the words. “My shadow
has
once before, and only once, been able to touch something. Me, actually.” Ellie lifted her gaze to Cam. Tears pricked, which she blamed on her shadow, but Ellie didn’t let them fall. “It was when I tried to kill myself.”
The edge in Cam’s eyes dulled somewhat. The frown remained.
“My Gran had died,” she explained simply. She didn’t have the heart to go into how much Gran had meant to her, how she’d kept her sane and made life easy. How good she’d made the house smell—lavender scent everywhere. Ellie couldn’t relate how Gran had welcomed her miserable dark half and had ridiculous conversations with her. Why Erik Estrada was cuter than David Hasselhoff. Why shoulder pads made women look like men. Ellie almost laughed at the memory. “When she died I was so miserable, completely alone. Or not, depending on how you look at it.”
Ellie sat back up, but crossed her arms for warmth. “Living seemed pretty hopeless, so I weighed the advantages and disadvantages of existing like that, and decided that I couldn’t.”
Cam’s frown deepened.
Gran would have been so disappointed. Likewise, her shadow whimpered again behind her. Gran had worked so hard to make them happy and help them understand how each self worked, and why. But understanding was not
living
.
“I went for quick. Tied the rope right.” Ellie’s heart beat hard at the memory, costing her air.
A flash of memory hit her: The high ceiling over the stairs in the farmhouse. The logistics of climbing over the banister at that steep angle.
She licked her lips to keep going, but backtracked to make the telling easier. Talking about this made her body feel so strange. “My shadow had been unbearable. She’d taken to standing in the middle of the road, and she was getting more and more attention. It had to stop.”
Cam’s brow furrowed. “In our crosscheck of your background, we received a local newspaper report about a ghost on your street. A young, naked woman.”
“That was her, but it happened all the time. Seemed like, anyway.” Ellie smiled bitterly, then choked on her next words, but got them out anyway. “So I jumped.”
“I want to live,” her shadow said, circling her arms around Ellie’s shoulders. “I
will
live.”
Ellie locked her gaze on Cam’s. He wanted to know what kind of a nightmare her shadow could be? Well, here was the truth. “Her skin went all black, utterly opaque, and she held me up, mid-air, without anything to support her.” Did that scare him enough? To this day it still scared her. “She fought me. I tried a knife. She broke the blade in half. Stopped my car from smashing into the house. Forced food and water down my throat. She’s so damn strong.” Ellie glanced at the soldiers, the terror of those days alive in her mind. “She is stronger than all of them put together. I don’t recommend attempting to harm me.”
“You know I don’t want to hurt you,” Cam said.
“He
likes
me,” the shadow confirmed in Ellie’s ear.
“What would your grandmother have said about all that?” He drew something from his pocket. A syringe.
Brave man. Stupid, but brave.
Both Ellie and her shadow looked at the long, clear implement. But her dark half didn’t darken, didn’t move to intercept.
“Gran would’ve said that I didn’t really want to die.”
Cam started forward. Was he actually going to test her shadow after all Ellie had told him?
“I don’t think you did either.” Cam took off the cap of the needle. He gave her a sorry look, then flicked the plastic.
Her shadow watched, her arms still clasped around Ellie.
Ellie started to shake. “What are you going to do?”
And why didn’t her shadow stop him?
“I have to take precautions, Ellie.” His jaw flexed as he lifted her arm. “We’ve had enough excitement for the night, I think. I’m going to sedate you.”
He was going to shut them both down. Almost like killing her, but not.
He didn’t trust her.
A prick, a burn as he dispensed the fluid. Ellie went warm. At the edge of her vision, she saw her shadow’s arms dim—that was new—and then there was nothing.
Chapter 3
C
am was standing at Segue’s front doors when the sleek, black Audi with deep tinted windows came to a stop. Looked like an A8. Nice ride. No soldiers were present; they had in fact been ordered away from this part of the building. In addition, Marshall had informed him that security cameras would be disabled for the duration of the visit, per the aide’s requirements. Cam was to make a report directly to Adam Thorne after the visit was over. Marshall didn’t want to know anything.
So it was him against the Audi. Right.
Cam pushed his way out of the building as the driver’s side opened. The
aide
had white hair and was wearing a dark grey suit. When he stood fully and turned his face toward the building, the nerves in Cam’s body buzzed. But it wasn’t until the man came closer that Cam became truly afraid.
The man, the aide, was perfect. He had blue eyes, crystalline in their intensity. His skin tone was even. No visible scars, wrinkles, even pores, though he seemed old. His features were regular, the mouth perhaps a little wide. But none of that mattered: He was beautiful beyond the very meaning of the word. He gleamed with his beauty.
Not human.
The man came to a stop in front of him. “But I was once,” he said. His voice had the timbre of youth, his tone the sense of time.
Cam clenched his teeth with the knowledge that he faced someone far, far beyond himself. Beyond his understanding, his years of study. And who could crush him like a bug. Jose’s Segue boot camp was nothing against this man.
What are you now?
Cam asked mentally, to show he was at least a little intelligent.
The aide cut him an enigmatic smile in answer, then asked, “Where is she?”
No good.
I won’t let you have her until I’m satisfied.
He hoped the aide didn’t hear the gulp. And then he waited to die.
The aide tilted his head in interest. Menacing interest. “Are you throwing in with her then?”
Cam hesitated, wavered. He’d only known her a day. Sure he liked her and sympathized with her plight, her sad history, but it wasn’t like she was family. She was intriguing, or more like . . . captivating, but she didn’t
mean
anything.
“Then, no?” the aide asked, amused.
But he wouldn’t stand by and let her be harmed either. He wouldn’t be able to look himself in the mirror if he did nothing and left her to this creature’s mercy.

Creature
is a little strong,” the aide said, and pressed his lips together in distaste, but with humor, as well.
“So what are you?” Cam sure wasn’t laughing. “And what do you intend to do with her?”
“Then you
are
making her your business.”
For Ellie, yes, he guessed he was. So be it.
The aide turned, opening the door to Segue. “I am an angel,” he said, “and I’m going to give her a choice.”
 
Ellie’s mind went suddenly, acutely awake and alert, though just moments before she’d been in a sickening, groggy sleep, stuck in a dream in which she’d been running, but too slow and too clumsy to escape her shadowy pursuer.
A man sat at her bedside. The intensity of his appearance, the sharp blue of his eyes, had her scrambling backward off the other side and backing to the wall. No one normal looked like that.
“What do you want?” she demanded. She didn’t bother to cover herself. She knew instinctively that he could see right through her if he wanted. Where was her shadow?
Oh God, her shadow.
“I’m here to help you,” he said. He stayed in the chair, legs crossed, his body at ease. But something told her he was very strong and very quick when he needed to be.
The aide. Had to be. No wonder Cam had been cagey about him.
“Laurence, actually,” the man said. “And you’re Ellie Russo. You’ve got quite the hero in that young man out there.” He smiled warmly. “He was ready to take me on. Or try, at least.”
“Cam.”
What did you do to him?
“He’s fine,” Laurence said. “In fact, I like him. I believe I’ll be seeing more of him in the future.”
That didn’t sound good. Poor Cam. And she’d gotten him into this.
Shadow?
Ellie called.
“I understand you’ve come to Segue for help with a problem,” Laurence continued, his tone mild. “I’m here to help. Why don’t we begin with you telling me about it?”
Ellie didn’t want to.
Shadow!
“I can’t help if you won’t try.”
What would he do to her if she did? What had he done to Cam?
Laurence waited, exuding a weird patience in the face of her alarm. It seemed as if he was willing to wait forever. As if she had no way out of the conversation but to answer him.
Ellie wished she’d never come to Segue. She choked on air, but spoke anyway. “My shadow is separate from me.” There.
He smiled sadly, but without surprise. He’d clearly known that much before coming. “That must be difficult,” he said, his calm unperturbed. “How long have you lived with this condition?”
All my life.
“Since I was born. We came out that way.”
“Very difficult,” he amended. “You’ve been strong to endure it and brave to ask for help.”
Not so strong. Not so brave. Just ask Cam.
“With your permission, I’d like to call her.” His gaze intensified slightly.
“What?” Her shadow would be close, watching her, but she’d stay in hiding, ignoring Ellie’s calls, until he tried something. In case he tried to hurt her. Ellie couldn’t imagine what would happen then.
“I can command her presence,” Laurence said, “but I won’t without your consent.”
Impossible.
He tilted his head. “May I call her?”
Ellie gave a bitter laugh. “You can try. She won’t come for me.”
He grew very serious, lifting a hand before him. “Ellie,” he said softly, then harder, “join us.”
A bump of shadow appeared at the wall, halted for a second, then thrashing and bucking, straining for freedom, her shadow was pulled through the barrier. She fought as if invisible bands restrained her core, limbs clawing the air in an attempt to flee. “Let me go!” she shrieked. “Stop! Let me go! Help!”
Flesh and blood Ellie slid to the floor, her legs suddenly unable to hold her weight. Before she touched down, the bedroom door burst open, and Cam appeared, face red, hands fisted.
Laurence sent him an exasperated look. “Really?”
“Let her go,” Ellie begged on her shadow’s behalf. “Please. She doesn’t like it . . .”
Cam was at Ellie’s side, lifting her back to her feet, a strong arm around her waist. He addressed Laurence. “She said, stop.”
“Ellie can speak for herself, thank you,” Laurence returned.
Cam’s support at her side helped to quiet the screams of protest in her bones. Her shadow did not like force, had resisted all attempts at control. Who was this man who could so effortlessly bind the dark, deep half of herself?
“I asked your consent,” Laurence said, that piercing gaze settling back on Ellie, “because I know she is part of you. The deepest part of you. It would be unconscionable of me to restrain her without your permission.”
“I’ll kill you!” her shadow shrieked. But still she was caught in an invisible web, flailing for escape.
Ellie tamped down on the panic in her heart. Consent. That’s right. He’d asked first. And if he could hold her shadow, then maybe . . .
“Can you help me?” Ellie asked Laurence.
“Again, it is your choice,” Laurence answered. “If you are willing, I can merge the shadow with the flesh, as was meant to be.”
Merge?
Ellie shook her head no, and fast. No way. Not merge. That was not what she wanted.
“Set me free!” her shadow screamed.
“How did it happen in the first place?” Cam asked.
Laurence shifted his gaze away from Ellie again, a small relief while she piled together all the ways that she could say no. In this, she and her shadow were in agreement.
“In recent years many strange things have been occurring. The world is changing in so many ways. Some magic—”
“You mean
Shadow,
” Cam said.
Her dark half bucked like a wild animal, making incoherent sounds of protest.
Ellie would never take that feral, lewd, childish thing inside herself. It was obscene. She’d wanted to be rid of it. Not,
oh God,
absorb it.
Laurence smiled at Cam. “Yes. Shadow probably had something to do with what happened. An errant lash might have pulled her apart during gestation, or something similar. That Ellie lives is remarkable. Makes me think she was meant to live.” He shifted his ice blue gaze back to Ellie. “What say you?”
Ellie didn’t care how much power Laurence had. “No. I’m sorry, I can’t. I won’t. Can’t you just . . . separate us for good instead?”
Please?
“That is impossible. I can only merge your two halves. Please consider carefully before you refuse. Think about what your shadow may be capable of if she goes unchecked by your higher reason. Ultimately,
her
actions are
your
actions. You need to learn to mind her. I know it will be an adjustment.”
“Adjustment” didn’t begin to cover it.
Cam tightened his hold. “It’s how it should be, Ellie. Both of you together.”
She pulled away. She didn’t need anyone to hold her up. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Everyone has a shadow,” Cam explained, as if
she
were the stupid one. As if she didn’t know that already. “Deep down,” he continued, “I’m exactly like your shadow is, but a guy version, which is probably worse.”
Gran had done a better job explaining when Ellie was four.
Laurence shook his head at Cam. “Please don’t help.”
Ellie ignored them both, moving beyond Cam to the door. They didn’t understand. Well, maybe the freakish one with the crystal eyes did. “I said, no. Now let her go.”
Laurence dropped his hand, and her shadow fled the room, a dart of smoke. Ellie, too, ran as far as she could. Soldiers barred her apartment door, so she huddled in the kitchen.
She’d wanted to be severed from her shadow, not merged. Severed.
Because the truth was that her shadow had grown way too strong for her to control. If they were joined, her shadow would take over. Recent events proved it.
And then what would become of her?
 
Cam was dumbfounded. He looked at the bedroom door, still ajar from Ellie’s flight, and then back to the angel. “Isn’t that what she came for? To live a normal life?”
“Her normal is different from your normal. She knows the risks.” The angel stood and adjusted his cuffs. “It may take a little while for her to consider her options. I expected as much.”
“And you can’t force her?” Not that Cam liked the idea. He just wanted to know how things stood.
The angel smiled. “Oh, I can, but it is against the credo of The Order to hamper the free will of humankind.” His eyes lit. “Though on occasion some nudging is necessary.”
“You don’t interfere?” Cam was relieved to hear it.
“We rarely interfere,” the angel answered. “And almost never between humans. Otherwise, we might as well govern the world ourselves. Govern individual independence, too. But what is self-determination, if someone else manages it?”
“Then what are you good for?” Cam asked to goad him.
The angel didn’t look irritated. “Somehow we keep busy. And in these momentous days, even more so. Ellie’s case may be unique, but the need for our intervention is not. If it hadn’t been Adam Thorne requesting our aid, she would’ve had to wait.” His eyelids lowered, as if he were deep in thought. “And I don’t think she could’ve waited much longer. In fact, I think Ellie Russo is just in time. Both her selves know she is at the brink.”
Cam was afraid of that. The shadow was unmanageable. And if that hungry-for-life part of Ellie could
touch
at will, if she were as strong as Ellie claimed last night, as unruly as her behavior demonstrated, then yes, this was a very big problem. “And if she refuses your help?”
The angel met Cam at the door. “If she refuses, then nothing. I’ll leave her be. Eventually, though, and especially if the shadow proves dangerous, someone will have to take matters into their own hands.”
Cam flashed cold.
“Someone will have to take responsibility,” Laurence repeated, heavy with meaning.
Someone, huh? Why didn’t he just say
you?
Because Cam knew he was the only human who understood Ellie. And he was the one who’d agreed just an hour ago to stand by her, no matter what.
The angel was one tricky son of a bitch.
“And you will stop her, since you know how.” The angel leaned in, his blue gaze boring into Cam’s. “And
how
will you stop her? How will you end the shadow’s threat and Ellie’s torment?”
Cam looked away. This felt like one of Laurence’s aforementioned nudges.
“Say it, please,” said the angel, “so that I know we have a perfect understanding.”
“I have free will, too,” Cam bit out. Seemed like the angel needed reminding.
“And is it your will to allow her shadow to act with impunity?”
It didn’t have to be like that. Maybe they could reach the shadow somehow, like with the painting and even with the connection growing between Ellie and himself. Maybe they could find some way to really communicate with her.
The angel sighed. “You’re making a conscious effort to muddle your own mind, when the course is clear. Say it.”
Oh God, poor Ellie. She had to make the right choice, or he’d eventually have to make a worse one. He felt like shit. He was a shit, to agree to betray her.
BOOK: Shadow Touched
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