I didn’t want to see the indifference in my soulmate’s eyes. I didn’t want to be hurt. No. I wanted to do some hurting.
“Why are you trying to kill me?” I took another step toward the cage. “What did I ever do to you?”
He opened his eyes, and I found myself staring into blue irises, a shade darker than mine, fringed with thick, long lashes. He stared blankly at me like the lights were on but no one was home. And then he spoke.
“You have done nothing to me. You are an innocent. Your death will be unfortunate but necessary.” He sounded like an automaton.
“Who are you?”
“We are no one.”
Cora sucked in a sharp breath and moved to stand next to me. “Fee…He feels familiar.”
“What do you mean?”
Cora walked up to the cage and crouched in front of the man. “What are you?”
The man’s gaze settled on Cora, and he blinked slowly. A frown marred his features, and then his empty eyes filled with life as if he was finally seeing.
He looked from Cora to me and then back again. “No,” he said softly. “This won’t work. Not at all.”
He moved so fast he was a blur, and then his arm came through one of the grid squares and his hand was around Cora’s throat.
“Get off her!” I brought my hand down on his wrist in a chopping motion while Cora clawed at his fingers around her neck.
“I got this,” Mal said.
The etchings blazed bright red. Mal had activated the torture runes. The man’s skin began to blister, but he held on, his eyes wide and saturated with intention.
“It’s not working, Mal.”
I hammered at the man’s wrist, clawed and tugged to free Cora. Why hadn’t I brought my dagger with me?
Cora’s face was red. Could my tulpa die?
Something in the air shifted, and then a shadow loomed over us. I looked up to see Jasper’s incensed face. He shoved me away and grabbed hold of the man’s wrist. Silver smoke rose up into the air. The man screamed and released Cora. I saw his eyes go blank just before he fell onto his back.
Cora sucked in a huge lungful of air while our captive convulsed on the ground, his body thrashing like a fish out of water for long seconds before he went still.
“What the fuck, Mal?” I looked to the demon who was standing across the room by the panel that activated the torture runes. “What was that?”
“Look,” Cora croaked, her hand still at her throat.
The man in the cage seemed to swell, and then his body sank into itself, leaving nothing but ash and the clothes he’d been wearing.
“Shit, Cor, are you okay?” I pulled her hand from her neck to examine the wound.
“She will live,” Jasper said. “No thanks to you.”
His lips curled in a snarl, and he loomed over us like a malevolent presence, which he totally was, except he’d just saved my best friend’s life, and I was all shades of confused.
“I’ll be coming to feed tonight,” he said to Cora.
And then he vanished.
Cora slumped against me. “Fee…fuck…”
“You’re okay.” I wrapped my arms around her.
She looked up at me. “No, babe. That thing in the cage. I know what it was.”
“It was like me. It was a tulpa.”
I piled more rice onto my plate and then shoveled food into my mouth, chewing with gusto. Fuck, I was hungry.
Conah placed a tureen topped up with curry onto the kitchen table. I glanced up at him to find him watching me in awe.
My cheeks heated.
“It’s her Loup metabolism,” Cora explained. “Dean said she might need to eat more now that her Loup side was active.”
I looked up from my plate. “Can you guys please not talk about me as if I’m not here. In fact, how about we not talk about me at all.”
I wanted to eat and sleep. This shit could wait one night.
“Not possible.” Conah took the seat opposite me and leaned his muscular forearms on the table. “A tulpa tried to kill you and then tried to kill Cora.”
He had nice forearms. Sexy forearms. I wanted to reach out and run my fingers over the golden hairs that peppered them.
“What if they’re all tulpas?” Cora said.
“You mean six people controlling six tulpas?” Mal sat back in his seat, fingers drumming on the table. “Figuring out one person who might want to kill Fee is hard enough, but six?”
He had a point. “The only person I know who might want me dead is Lilith.”
“No,” Conah said. “If Lilith knew who you were, you’d already be dead. She’d have sent her blade, Keon, to end you, or she’d come do it herself.”
“Good to know.”
“But this tulpa was different,” Cora said. “He wasn’t free like me.”
I nodded. “I know what you mean. His eyes were blank, and then it was like someone was looking at us through his eyes.”
“Exactly,” Cora said. She pressed her lips together. “I did some research on tulpas when I found out what I was, and it is possible for someone to create more than one. They’d have to have a huge amount of mental energy to do it, and they’d need power to make them come to life like you did for me. Whatever that power was…”
She gnawed on her lip in thought, but I knew what the power was now. “My mother was a witch.” I blurted out the words. “Eldrick told me. I think…I think that’s how I managed to create you. I must have subconsciously accessed this miasma stuff the witches use.”
There was silence as everyone absorbed this piece of information.
“But you don’t have access to it now?” Conah asked.
“No. I don’t. I’m not a witch. I just…I’m the daughter of one.”
“A daughter of a witch is always a witch,” Azazel said, striding into the kitchen.
My heart leaped at the sight of him, and I sat up straighter. He nodded in my direction almost absently before pulling out a seat at the table.
“Did you know she was a witch?” Conah asked him.
“No. I sensed no magic in that bloodline.”
The bloodline he’d eradicated for centuries. I didn’t have the energy to be mad at him.
“I have a theory,” he said.
“Let’s hear it,” Conah replied.
“Fee’s mother was hiding her ability.”
I nodded. “Yes, Eldrick said she wanted to lead a normal life.”
“The enchantment I placed on you not only muted your Loup and demon abilities but also disabled your ability to connect with miasma. In your grief at the loss of your foster mother, you somehow accessed that power and created a tulpa.”
It was a viable theory. “But the enchantment is gone, and I can’t do magic.”
“No,” Azazel said. He looked to Cora. “But your tulpa can.”
“What?” Cora shook her head. “I can’t do magic.”
“You can move from place to place without having been there before,” Azazel said. “The witches call it foreshadowing. A rare ability.” His smile was wry. “I should have figured it out sooner. Witches usually have an affinity to an element, and you have an affinity to spirit.”
“What are you talking about?” Cora asked.
“Spirit. Like the dead and other stuff. You coerced those nightmare creatures into helping us when the dread caught us, and you know what ghosts are feeling and thinking…” I stared at my best friend. “Cor, you’re a witch.”
Cora stared at me unblinkingly.
Conah plucked at his bottom lip in thought. “It makes sense. Loup, demon, witch…impossible to contain so much in one earthly shell. Your psyche chose to separate. To create a new body to house your witch genes.”
Cora finally blinked. “I’m a witch?”
Azazel poured curry over his rice. “Yes.”
Cora’s eyes widened. “Shitting hell. Do you think a witch created that other tulpa? Maybe that’s why she tried to kill me? She saw me as a threat to her plan.”
“It’s a possibility,” Azazel said. “But why would a witch want Fee dead?”
I thought back to the tulpa’s words. “He said that I was an innocent and that my death was necessary.”
“A sacrifice?” Mal looked confused. “Fuck, we need to catch the rest of those bastards and stick them in the cage.”
Cora’s hand went to her neck. “Well, that explains why Jasper picked me.” She looked across the table at me. “It explains why I feel so at home in the outlier world.”
We locked gazes, and my heart squeezed painfully in my chest because in that moment I knew, that maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon she would leave me. She would need to find her place in the world, just like I was finding mine.
She smiled and nodded as if reading my thoughts. “Not yet, babe. Not until you’re safe.”
But there was no way I’d hold her to that because as long as I lived, my life would be in danger from Lilith. Still, I smiled back and took her hand under the table.
“I’ll speak to my Necro contacts,” Azazel said. “See if any new witches have entered the city recently.”
“I can speak to Vi about tulpas,” Cora said. “Maybe we can figure out how much power it would take to control more than one. They might have a way to trace the use of miasma.”
Fuck, I loved these guys. “Thank you. In the meantime, I’ll try not to get my ass killed while getting on with my duties and—” Pain ripped through my abdomen, slicing down to the juncture of my thighs.
“Fee?” Cora squeezed my hand. “You okay?”
The pain was gone. “Yeah. Weird. Just a cramp.”
Conah cleared his throat. “Well, we should eat and get some sleep. I have a feeling we won’t be getting much rest over the next few days.”