“What? I can’t do that. You have no idea what you’re asking me to do.” My surprise slowed my pace, and my legs groaned miserably as I pushed them harder, forcing us to keep up.
“They’ll want something in return, right?” She huffed, continuing without waiting for an answer. Her voice cracked, desperation bleeding through.
“Don’t use them to k**l them, just to get us away a distraction or something that’ll help us get a head start. I assume you’ve got somewhere safe to go?”
I nodded, “there’s no way they’ll mess with us once we’re back in pack territory.”
“Good, because you’re taking me with you. I was safe and sound until you two busted into my dressing room–for the most part, anyway.
What matters is I was out, and you two dragged me right back in.” I had no clue what she meant, and neither did Brandon from the confusion that creased his eyebrows and made his pace slow. “You have to use them to get us out of here, or we’re not going to live past tonight.”
Frustration crackled and spread throughout my chest like a sparkler, and even though I was sure it was my imagination, I swore I could feel the shadows waiting-eager to hear me ask for their help after months of ignoring their presence.
I skidded to a stop, spotting a couple dumpsters surrounded by a wooden privacy fence. It was meant to keep the rats and racoons away but judging from the scraps of trash piling up in the drainage ditches, it wasn’t working. Brandon grimaced from the smell but followed Clara and I into the small area without complaint.
I no longer had to try; the darkness was apart of me as much as my Vampire side. The ability to control the shadows would never be a good one it would never be one of pure intention or without temptation. There was always that knowledge that anything–anything I wanted was within arm’s reach. All I had to do was pay the price.
I felt their cold wash over me first but gave them no reaction. Clara shuddered, and the shadows hidden within every corner of the alley and trash area we stood in writhed.
A thousand voices, a thousand razor blades slashing across the gritty surface of a chalkboard, all coalescing together into one ear-piercing voice.
‘…now you call on us…’ ‘…to free you from danger…’
‘…to vanquish the puppets that hunt you down…’
I paused, “puppets…why would you call them that?”
Brandon gave me an odd look, and Clara began to before she looked down. Anyone could see the shadows. It was something I realized a long time ago, back when Mason’s mate had lost her life to a deal I’d made.
Only the Vampire monarch could use them–haggle with them, but anyone could see them. Tristan had claimed that working with my father, always being in such close proximity to them, over time he found himself able to see them. The same had happened for Breyona and Asher, even though I hadn’t called on them since.
‘…the puppet master pulls the strings…’ ‘…meddles with fate…’
‘…hides from us…’
I shuddered; I couldn’t help it. Whoever-whatever was behind this, they were hiding from the shadows. Immortal, ancient, all knowing and the mastermind behind all of this was somehow avoiding their gaze.
“What’s your price for concealing us from the elemental witches long enough to get a car, and get the h**l out of here?” I asked, knowing anymore information given on their part would come at a price.
They would give those little slivers of information to tempt, to entice me into making another deal. It was what they thrived on, the sacrifices made in the name of shadow and darkness.
‘…our price is blood…blood from the alpha’s second-born son…’
‘…enough to temporarily sate our thirst…’
I looked up at Brandon, “they want your blood.”
“No way, not happening…they’re not getting my blood.” He shook his head; his voice left no room for argument.
Three minutes later, the pavement surrounding the dumpsters glittered from a coating of fresh blood. Since there was no direct lighting on it, the thick metallic substance almost looked black.
“Uh, I’m gonna be honest with you…I’m getting a little woozy here.” Brandon grumbled, holding his arms out so that the blood trickled down his hands and onto the ground.
He dipped his head and instantly jerked back. It was more than refreshing seeing something other than cockiness on his face, even if it was fear. “…those things, they’re taking my blood.”
I glanced down at the tendrils of shadow, each taking their turn as they slithered through the puddle of blood on the pavement, taking more and more with each pass.
“Alright, that’s enough for you all. Now it’s time to hold up your end of the deal.”‘ I told them, knowing Brandon had given more than enough.
He stood there, only partially green in the face as I left wound after wound on his wrists. Thanks to our advanced healing, I had to reopen the slashes every few seconds.
They devoured the rest of his blood, leaving the pavement cleaner than it had been before. They were bloated as they circled our feet, fulfilling their end of the bargain with whatever ancient magic they possessed.
“It’s like ice water, but worse.” Clara’s teeth chattered, wrapping her arms around the robe she wore.
This time the cold pierced deep, past flesh and muscle until my head ached with a pain similar to brain freeze. Suddenly, the colors around us faded, becoming muted and washed out. The green of the dumpster now looked like muddy water, but the shadows behind it- I could see every one of them. Not only that, but they clung to the three of us like an aura void of all color.
We emerged from our hiding place; onto the alley we had been running down. As we reached the end of the alley, Brandon flung his arm up at the last minute. I realized why as I ran into it, stumbling backwards and out of the way of the elemental witches as they turned the corner.
There was no seeing their faces beneath those hoods. All I could make out was the curve of their chins, and how their physiques appeared thin beneath the layers of blacked out clothing.
Clara gasped and slapped a hand to her lips, pulled out of the way by Brandon.
“I thought she said they came this way.” One of the witches spoke in a soft soprano, which felt completely out of place given both had tried to k**l us.
The second’s voice was raspier, but still noticeably feminine.
“Clearly they’re hiding.” The second replied sourly, ‘…she said this would be easy.”
The witch with the attitude held her hand out, making a tiny flame sprout from her palm. It flickered and crackled in the night, casting a little golden halo that drifted farther and farther as they walked down the alley.
I took a step forward and the feeling hit me like a freight train. There was no stopping myself, even if I wanted to.
I looked back at Brandon and Clara, “find us a car and meet me back here.”
Clara looked more than worried, but instead of trying to convince her kidnapper turned savior, she looked up at Brandon.
“If you’re taken or k****d, you know you’re signing my d***h certificate, right?” He said dryly, not an inkling of humor on his face.
“Then you better find a car and get here before I come back.” I replied.
He glanced at the witches down the alley and nodded, “don’t be an idiot, Lola.”
“Don’t plan on it.”
As I watched them turn and walk down the street, I realized that might’ve been the first semi-decent thing Brandon’s said to me so far.
It didn’t take me long to catch up with the witches, but during that short amount of time their entire demeanor had changed. The one with the soft soprano had a cellphone placed against her ear and was pacing along the sidewalk as she spoke in a hushed voice.
The second witch stood a few feet away, trembling and snarling like a newly turned werewolf. There was a scent clinging to them, but it was odd to say the least. The one on the phone smelled like fresh soil, and the one ready to combust reminded me of a campfire.
“She’s lost connection to her. It’s like they vanished into thin air.” The first witch said softly.
She sighed when her companion let out an angry screech, hurling a ball of flame towards a decrepit shed that looked to be standing on its last legs.
The entire structure was engulfed in flame, which inched closer to the drooping tree branches hanging feet above.
“I mean, come on. We’re constantly told how special our magic is, but we’re the ones locked away! We never get to see any action!” She hissed. “Instead she sends out these witches that posses a shadow of our power. We could infiltrate that stupid pack ourselves.”
The aura of darkness that surrounded me pulsed, sending a rush of cold down my spine that let me know I had no more time left to spare.
I began to back down the street, closer to the alley I emerged from when the soft-spoken witch replied to her companion.
It was her reply that made me stop in my tracks, invoking fear that felt a thousand times colder than the shadows that hid my presence.
“You know why she sent them instead of us. ‘They blend in better, and they’ll have everything set up when she’s ready to slip past the boarders. By the time the tribrid realizes she’s there, it’ll be too late to fight bark.”