The ground is broken up in a rectangle, and the oranges have toppled off and into the large crevices the exploding vials have made.
“Last step, love,” he coaches as he absently reaches over like he’s patting my arm.
I wrap up my hand in the gauze I brought, hiding the fresh satin stitches, before pulling out the last vial.
“You’re sure that’s the most potent acid you could create?” he asks me, eyes moving back to mine.
“Well, I may be terrible at some things, but creating destructive potions by mistake when trying to create something else happens to my specialty.”
His lips twitch. “Very well.”
“Here’s to hoping for a miracle,” I say under my breath as I toss the vial into the deepest spot I can find.
The second I hear the glass break, I pull my head back, because I also feel my nose hair melting. I think. My nose is on fire because that shit burns.
Coughing, I push to my feet, grab the satchel, and take off running back to the gate to get away.
I glance back, not spotting Ace, but I don’t have the luxury of slowing down when I see the green fog climbing its way out of the newly made hole.
It slithers across the ground, melting every bit of snow and blackening each inch of the earth it touches.
My gaze swings forward just before I collide with the wall, and I scramble back over it with even less finesse than I entered.
Landing on the ground hard, I grunt as I peer through the archway gates what little bit I can, seeing a huge, blackened spot of death and decay.
But I have no idea if it actually worked.
The green fog hovers but doesn’t continue spreading, as the ground around the main concentration of the potion begins to collapse in on itself.
I pull out the last orange from my satchel and put it down on the ground, just like I’m supposed to. Stepping back, eyes on the gate in front of me, I wait to feel any cosmic sign that I’ve somehow broken the curse.
What happens instead leads to me screaming and stumbling back as true horror seizes my lungs and almost freezes my muscles.
A gnarled, sizzling, mummified hand shoots from the earth.
I almost fall as I watch in horror.
Sharp claws stab into the ground as a second hand joins it, and the creature’s sickly arms start flexing as it heaves itself up. Its back is to me, and a dark cloak shrouds the rest of its body as it continues to rise, and I remain trembling in place as my eyes only grow wider.
A hissing, clicking noise permeates the otherwise silent air as snow sizzles on all the charred pieces of ground it tries to land on.
My breaths fog so quickly in front of my face that it almost obstructs the visibility of whatever catastrophe I’ve just created.
I catch a flash of red eyes under the dark hood as the figure turns its gaze toward me, and my stomach plummets to the ground when it just stares, the face hidden from view inside the cloak’s shadows.
My trembling hands fumble, and my gaze drops to my bra as I start pulling out vials from my arsenal, searching for anything that could stop it.
“Ace! What’s going on?” I shout, but hear no answer as I continue to search.
Just as I pull up one possibly nasty little emergency potion, my eyes snap back, and the cloaked figure is gone.
I whirl around, constantly feeling a tickle at my back, but nothing, a little more nothing, and even more nothingness is all that surrounds me.
A noise startles me, and I spin back around to see the orange by the gate rolling to a stop near me. Quickly breaking away from the distraction, I whirl around again when I feel a cold breath blow against my neck. With my heart jack-hammering against my chest, I spin again, but once more there’s…nothing.
The drones pass over the area, pausing over the blackened earth, and when I glance back, the orange has gone missing.
“What the hell have I done?” I whisper under my breath as a sick feeling of betrayal inches up my spine.
Where the hell is Ace, and what did he just trick me into doing?
An angry tear rolls down my face as I fight the tremble in my jaw, and I turn to start racing away from the cemetery.
The only thing I can do now is tell the man who kills monsters that I’ve just unleashed something unnaturally fast with sharp claws and red glowing eyes.
Because I’m a stupid, gullible girl.
Only trust me or your father, Violet. Never anyone else. Never.
I should have listened to my mother.
“But where is he?” I ask Margie after she informs me Mr. Valhinseng is gone.
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss that,” she says sweetly before simply shutting the door in my face.
I huff out a breath, and with hands that haven’t stopped shaking yet, I pick up my phone and call him, but it goes straight to voicemail.
Cursing, I jog to my van and hurriedly pull up my business phone contacts, finding Emit’s number.
“Hello?” a woman asks in a bored drawl.
“I really need to speak to Mr. Morrigan, please,” I tell her, trying to keep the panic from my tone.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible. Mr. Morrigan is currently busy with some of his…girls.”
“As in daughters?”
I didn’t know he had kids—
The abrupt, almost hysterical laughter over the phone lets me know that is a stupid question to ask. But…Ohhh. Gotcha.
Not sure why I’m bothered by the fact he’s a man slaking his needs. A wolf man. A monster. A very unimportant factor at the moment.
“It’s incredibly important that I speak to him,” I tell her a little angrily when she just continues to laugh.
“I’m sure it is. Don’t worry. He’s on a mission, as of this morning, so I’m sure you’ll get your turn, dearest. What’d you say your name was?”
I hang up, and angrily dial Damien’s number instead.
Every time it would come in handy to have a monster or monster hunter, I find myself on my own. The rest of the time they’re stalking me.
After ringing forever, it goes to voicemail, and I groan as I talk, “When you get this, please call me back. I’ve very likely done something impossibly stupid, and—” My voice cuts out when the mortifying reality of just how sickeningly gullible I really am sinks in bone-deep, and I exhale harshly. “Just call me. We’ll consider it the trade for the mirror. I’m sorry about your balls. I really hope you’re just angry and ignoring me.”
Hanging up, I quickly dial Vance again, and when voicemail starts talking, I leave another message. “I really want to be found by a Van Helsing right now. We can consider it an even trade for the pocket watch.”
“Anna, where are you?” I shout, wondering why she’s been missing most of the damn day as I hang up.
She pops into the passenger seat as if prompted, grinning at me. “Did you just scream my name or was I dreaming things?”
“I need you to find Damien and hurl his phone at his head.”
“That’d be using my ghostly powers.”
“I’m aware,” I bite out. “But just this once, I really need—”
Her scream erupts as my words cut out, because the brake pedal of the van randomly slam on as if there’s a phantom foot on it. My heart flutters in my chest as the van’s back end skitters sideways in a stomach-churning sensation. With all my strength, I use my foot and try to pry the brake up from the floor, but it’s no use.
Anna does that ridiculous thing where she flies out the window for no reason at all.
My eyes feel like they can’t get any wider, and I have no idea if I’m clenching my teeth or if my jaw is slack. However, I definitely know my ass is clenched, as the van completely slings around twice, miraculously not flipping.
Everything is rocked hard as the van comes up off its wheels for an eternity of a second, before slamming back down to a quiet rattle of a halt. Shera Ward is standing in front of me, red lips curved in an ominously dark grin, and her arms crossed in front of her chest.
I’m so confused about what just happened that I don’t even realize the door is being yanked open until someone is dragging me out by my hair. A hiss of a pained breath is all that escapes my lips as I remind myself not to struggle.
I barely manage to get my feet under me in time to keep from slamming into the hard man’s body as he roughly yanks me again.
Shera struts forward in skin tight clothing that looks like she’s a comic book nerd’s wet dream on her way to cut down zombies. Weapons are hanging from her belt, jingling as her high-heeled boots click against the pavement.
“Smart girl. Don’t struggle,” she says as the man holding my hair starts dragging me backwards.
Struggling leads to unnecessary pain, and my survival doesn’t start until they think they’ve killed me.
I doubt it’s a coincidence that I unleashed something less than twenty-five minutes ago, and now vampires are attacking me at twilight.
“He said not to hurt her,” Shera says in a singsong voice.
“She just needs to know the tone of this meeting,” the man still dragging me by my hair says as I stumble and fall to the ground.
A cry is dragged from my throat when he yanks harder, pulling me across the ground with his hold. It feels like he’s trying to rip my scalp away from my skull, and I try to crawl, roll, stand…anything to lift my head up just a little more.
I’m finally heaved up to my feet and shoved into a dark car so hard that my cheek slams into something hard.
“For fuck’s sake, he said not to hurt her,” Shera says, making the last part louder.
I scramble to curl into the corner when she steps into the back of the car with me. She grabs my chin, and I don’t fight her as she turns my head to get a better look at it.
“You’ll live,” she says as she releases me and shuts the door. “He, however, probably won’t,” she adds on a sigh that sounds as though she’s been terribly inconvenienced by that.
Swallowing thickly, I calmly buckle up, and she watches me with an amused smile as the car we’re in drives us slowly toward a destination that probably doesn’t end well for me.
“I’m guessing this elaborate kidnapping isn’t to force me into that tea I rudely turned down a while back, is it?” I ask, my shaky tone betraying my will to sound calm and composed.
She flashes me a fanged smile, but the fangs recede so quickly that I almost worry I simply imagined it.
“You’re awfully calm for a girl being abducted. This sort of thing happen to you very often?”
“It’s usually the start of a bad day. In this case, it’s just the exclamation mark to punctuate the bad day,” I state evenly, getting my voice under control.
She moves, and I startle a little. I see her grinning from her profile like my fear is pleasing to her. I knew she was crazy.
She pulls two glasses from a compartment, and then she pulls out liquor of some sort. Gin, I decide, when she removes the cap.