“What’s going on?” Vi asked.
“I’ll fill you in later,” Grayson said to her.
I caught the flash of annoyance on her face at his dismissive tone.
I shot her an apologetic look. “I’ll go change.”
“I’m coming with you,” Grayson said. “I’m responsible for you while you’re on bail. I’ll drive you to… Where is it we’re going?”
“What?” Vi looked horrified. “Grayson, no. You cannot go there. It’s dangerous.”
He frowned. “Vi, please, this is pack business.”
“Is it?” Vi asked. She looked coolly at me. “Or is it reaper business?”
“It’s Fee business, which makes it my business because she’s…She’s part of my pack.” Grayson growled in exasperation. “If you want to help, then you’re free to come with us.”
“Like hell. Coven witches do not go to Rue Mort. That place is for the rogue witches and warlocks. It isn’t safe.” This time she looked to me, and there was no disguising the fear in her eyes.
“I can handle myself.” I softened my words with a smile. “It’s not my first trip.”
But Grayson looked worried now. Vi’s warnings were penetrating. He looked like he was about to side with her, put his foot down or whatever.
I touched his bicep lightly. “Please do not don your alphahole cape. I have to do this, and you can’t stop me, so let’s not waste time arguing.”
“You’re a stubborn woman, Fee.” But there was a hint of a smile in his eyes.
“Only when it counts.”
“I’ll bring the car around.”
“I’ll be down in ten.”
“For God’s sake,” Vi said. “Make it twenty. If you’re going in, you’ll need protection.”
She was coming? “I was fine the last time.”
“You got lucky,” she said.
No. I’d known Azazel was there. I could have used his name, but I wasn’t about to tell her that, just like I wasn’t about to turn my nose up at the offer of protection.
“Thank you, Vi.”
She pursed her lips and nodded sharply. “Right. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
Cora followed me back to Grayson’s alpha quarters. “How dangerous is this spirit, Fee?”
“Dangerous enough to have to be bound to an amulet. Dangerous enough to have killed one of the most powerful blood witches in Necro.”
“If he doesn’t kill us on sight, then he’ll want something in return for helping us,” she said.
“I know. I fucking know.”
And whatever it was, I’d give it gladly.
Rue Mort was just as I recalled. Misty, foggy, and creepy.
“Talk about chills up the spine,” Cora said as we walked down the slick street toward the blood witch’s house. The dead blood witch, the blood witch that the evil spirit I’d freed killed.
That blood witch.
“Fee, are you all right?” Cor asked.
“We have eyes on us,” Grayson said.
Crap. “Don’t look at them.”
“She’s right,” Vi said. “Head down, don’t engage.”
I could feel power crackling off her. She was ready to use it if need be, but it was obviously best to have that as a last resort.
It was busier tonight with too many shadows on the opposite side of the street watching us. Cora was right about the chill up the spine. It was accompanied by goosebumps and tingling nape hairs.
“We’re almost there.”
The light from the gothic lamps cast wavy lines through the mist, a mist that swirled around our thighs and made me wonder what it was hiding. The busted iron gate came into view, and the dark, dead house beyond glared at us, daring us to enter.
“Yep, suitably creepy,” Cora said.
We slipped through the partially open gates and crunched up the gravel path, but I stopped Grayson at the porch steps. “You should stay outside the house.”
“In case things go wrong.”
“You want me to allow you into potential danger by yourself?”
“It’s not your job to protect me. I’ll be fighting in the culling solo, too, remember?”
His jaw ticked. “And you think I’m happy about that?”
There was no time to argue. “You have a pack relying on you. If we’re not out in fifteen minutes, then leave and get help. Trust me, you’re more useful out here than in there. If he sees you, he might not be willing to hear us out.”
I had no idea if that was true, but my gut was adamant that Grayson should not go in the house.
“She’s right, Grayson,” Vi said. “If they’re not out in fifteen, I’ll go in.”
“No!” both Grayson and I said in unison.
Vi stared at us in shock. “Um…Okay.”
“We’ll get help,” Grayson said finally. But his tight expression told me he wasn’t happy with the plan.
Cora was already at the front door. I joined her, and together we stepped into the dusty, cobwebby foyer. The house was silent. Dead. What if he wasn’t here? What if he’d fled to pastures greener? I mean, I’d freed him.
“Jasper?” I walked toward the lounge. “Jasper, I need your help.”
Silence greeted us.
Cora shrugged and shook her head. “The place feels empty.”
A pit of disappointment and despair opened inside me. “It was a long shot.”
“What do we—”
The fire in the hearth blazed to life with a whoosh.
My heart leaped into my throat.
“Okay, not so empty,” Cora said.
He was here. He was watching us. “Jasper. I need your help. Please, show yourself.”
“I owe you nothing.” The words were a whisper in my ear. I spun around, but there was no one there aside from Cora. “But I’ll make a deal if you’re willing.”
The shadows clinging to the outer edge of the room, farthest from the light of the fire, shifted, and then Jasper stepped out. He was no longer ethereal, no longer gray. He looked solid, dark-haired, and pale-skinned. He was slender and sharp, his mouth cruel and unforgiving. His clothes were from a different era, but I didn’t know enough to be able to pinpoint which one.
“You want something from me,” he stated.
“I need your help saving two of my friends from the Eye. It’s a place only malignant souls can get into or out of. I need you to take me there and help me get my friends out.”
“Malignant?” His eyes narrowed, shards of ice in a ruthless face. “I’m not malignant. I’m malevolent.”
“Even better,” Cora said.
His gaze flicked to her and flared as if noticing her for the first time.
Cora stood at the entrance to the lounge, arms crossed under her breasts, looking completely at ease.
“You…” He took a step closer to her. “What are you?”
“Bored,” Cora said. “Impatient. Look, will you help us or not?”
His eyes narrowed. “You’re mighty cocky for someone who requires assistance.”
“And you’re mighty haughty for someone who’s trapped in a building.” She wiggled her brows. “How are the bricks and mortar treating you, buddy?”
His expression smoothed out.
“Oh, don’t even try and deny it. I felt the binding as soon as you materialized.”
She had? He was trapped. Talk about a bargaining chip. The tension inside me eased a little.
“So, Jasper…” I walked up to him and looked up at his face. “You want to be free?”
He exhaled through his nostrils. “No, I’d prefer to stay here and rot,” he drawled sarcastically.
“You give me your word that you’ll help us, and I’ll do whatever it takes to free you from this place.”
“It’s not that simple.” He arched a brow. “To free me from this place, you’ll need to bind me to yourself.” He leaned in, and that cruel mouth of his curled in a wicked smile. “Permanently.”
Oh, fuck. A malevolent spirit, bound to me forever? Like I didn’t have enough shit to deal with.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t be sticking around. You’ll only see me when I need to feed.”
Feed? “What kind of feeding?”
He licked his bottom lip. “I’d have to show you.”
I looked into his eyes and saw an abyss, endless and devastating, eager to swallow me whole. What had I done releasing him from the blood witch’s grasp? She’d kept him bound to the house and to herself for a reason. It was obvious at the time he hadn’t realized he was bound to a building as well as a person. And he needed to feed. Feed on what? Was he hungry right now? He looked hungry…My skin crawled, and I took an involuntary step away from him.
His laughter rang out, echoing throughout the room. Jasper wasn’t a person, he was something else, something that my mind couldn’t quite comprehend, and the thought of being bound to him made my stomach revolt.
“I’ll do it,” Cora said.
Jasper’s attention flew to her, and he pressed his lips together.
Like hell. “No.”
“Fuck you, Fee. You’re not the boss of me.” There was no real reproach in her tone, but there was a slight edge. An edge that spoke of her need for autonomy.
I softened my tone. “Cora, we don’t know what he is.”
“He is standing right here,” Jasper said.
“Let me do this, Fee,” Cora said. “I want to help. You have enough to deal with, and what if being bound to him fucks up your connection with the scythe?”
Shit. She had a point.
“We have to save the guys, and this is our only shot,” she added.