Holy Moly…

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I finally finished the rough draft of Chapter 35, and it’s going to be a long one. Normally, each chapter document is about 6 pages long, which averages out to around 3000 words. This one is over 18 pages long, and is sitting at 7400 words, as is. I still have a lot of editing to do, but this means two things.

1: Chapter 35 is going to take a while. Sorry 😦

2: Chapter 35 is going to be divided into 3 parts.

I will say, though, that I am stoked to have gotten to this part of the book. Not to give too much away, but I’ve been waiting to write this section since the story was still in the outline phase.

To celebrate, the first ten people to create fanart for this series will receive a free, autographed hard-copy of Imprisoned when it’s finally published. To be clear, I mean honest to goodness paintings, comics, pencil drawings, etc. Two stick figures having a fencing match will not be counted as fan art. I can’t give a set date when Imprisoned will be finished, but I’m two-thirds of the way there.

 So stoked. Srsly.

WitD3: Chapter 34

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the Beginning

Chapter 34

 

Relief swept over me when Karen finally barged through the heavy oak doors. It had only been a few minutes since I’d seen her, but too much could’ve happened in that time. It was like she’d covered herself in chicken blood then swam through a lake of crocodiles. I guess, deep down, I didn’t expect her to make it out.

She hurried passed me without a glance, rushing down the steep flight of stairs to the sidewalk.

“Hey,” I called after her. “Karen, wait up.”

Karen lifted her hand to hail a cab as though I hadn’t spoken.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, really?” I jogged to her side. “Are we really going to do this?”

Karen fished her cell phone out of her purse. “Toby, no offense, but I don’t have the time to deal with you right now.” She dialed Trevor’s number then brought the device to her ear, mouthing, “Pick up, pick up, pick up.”

I watched, my hands in the pockets of my hoodie, as the phone rang five times. There was a click, then the generic-voicemail woman began to speak. Karen hung up, muttering curses under her breath.

“Damn it.” She waved her hand as yet another yellow cab approached. “Taxi!” The car didn’t slow. “Seriously? You’re an asshole!”

“Karen, you’re panicking.”

“Oh, you think?” she said, her tone as sharp as a samurai sword. “Why isn’t Trevor answering his phone?”

“He’s not answering because it’s one o’clock on a Wednesday. He’s at school.”

Karen made a face. “Yeah, condescend to me, Toby, because that’s super helpful.”

I hadn’t been talking down to her, but whatever. “Okay, let’s say you do get ahold of him. What are you going to say? That you’re the real Karen? How do you think that conversation is going to play out, because it’s a safe bet that he’s with her right now. Actually, you know what? I’m kind of curious to see how this goes. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Karen shoved the phone back into her purse, the line of her body tense. “Will you please just go away? No one is going to stop for me with you standing there. You’ve got the guy equivalent of resting bitch face.”

I knew this. I looked mad even when I wasn’t. “It’s my face, Karen. What do you want me to do about it? You know, I could carry you there in less than ten minutes.”

Karen gave me a cynical look, as though to say, Nice try. It was a genuine offer, but, again, whatever.

“Fine. Why are you calling Trevor, anyway? Bad Karen works for you. I assume that means you have a method of getting a hold her. Call her, since your problem is with her, for whatever reason.”

Karen reeled. “For ‘whatever’ reason?”

I shrugged then said, “Okay, she violated her contract. I get that. Fire her. Do you really need to trap her in a statue?

“Yes,” Karen said without a beat of hesitation.

“To be fair, what did you expect?” Karen’s jaw tightened, her cheeks flushed in anger, and her hands balled into fists. I reminded myself that this girl had the power to face-plant me into the concrete. Still, I never know when to shut up. “And it’s not like you have the right to be jealous anymore.”

Karen took a step back. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re all pissed off like Trevor’s been cheating on you, when twenty minutes ago you were making out with a pimp.”

Karen rolled her eyes. “Knock it off, Toby,” she said as though I exhausted her.

“Knock what off? I literally just saw you kissing him. Do you have any idea where his mouth has been?” I did, and I couldn’t help but gag at the thought.

“I did not ‘just make out with him.’ Lord Ahriman kissed me, and it’s not like that’s a normal thing. That was actually…really, really weird.”

I could tell by the troubled shadow in her eyes that Karen was telling the truth. “Okay then,” I said as I pulled back my hood. I let my face relax, uncrossed my arms, then let out a piercing whistle. The approaching taxi pulled up to the curb. When Karen just stood there, staring at me in disbelief, I opened the door for her.

She got into the cab with obvious displeasure. To the driver, she said, “St. Josephine’s Catholic School on the corner of Old Magnolia and Third Street, please.” She scooted over as I got in, but said, “You really don’t need to come with me.”

“Too late,” I said as I put on my seat belt. “Already in the car. Let’s roll. We’ll go take care of your thing, then we’ll handle mine.”

Karen tried to glare me down, but it did no good. She was adorable when she was angry. “I didn’t agree to that.”

“You will.”

“You’re killing me.”

“But I’m fun.”

“Whatever.”

The driver pulled into traffic, then we rode in silence for a bit. My mind raced as I tried to narrow down where to begin our hunt for Justine. There was her feeding den, not to mention the rest of the tunnels that ran under the vampire cemetery. I didn’t feel safe taking Karen down there, though; too many places for Justine to lay in wait.

I could wait for Justine to come to us, but there was no way of knowing when or where that would happen. She was probably holed up somewhere nursing her chest wound. Justine wasn’t some mindless ghoul that would keep coming on two broken legs. She’d take the time to get her strength back before she came at me again.

Which meant, she would have to feed, and soon. She’d choose a victim that wouldn’t draw too much attention, like a homeless person or cheap hooker. Someone that wouldn’t be missed.

Too bad that didn’t narrow down a potential feeding ground in this city.

Karen sniffled, and my mind went blank. She did it again a few seconds later, and it was like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water over my head. “Are you crying?” I said. It came out a little harsher that I’d meant it to.

Karen wouldn’t look at me. “No,” she said, her voice small and watery.

 “Stop crying!” When it comes from me, being horrified sounds a lot like being pissed off.

“Oh, okay, because that’s how it works,” Karen said as she pulled a wad of tissues from her purse.

I dug deep, to the part of me that can be a halfway-decent person now and then. “Fine. I’m sorry I yelled at you.” I couldn’t sound more insincere if I tried.

Karen laughed through her tears. “I’m not crying because you yelled at me, you jerk. You yell all the time. It’s the only way you know how to talk. I’m crying because you’re right. I did this to Trevor. I brought that thing into his life.”

 Good god, I’m a dick. “Karen, I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to. It’s true.” Karen’s mouth quivered. “Trevor is such a great guy. He’s sweet, and loyal, and kind, and patient, and funny.” Basically, everything I wasn’t. “He’s always treated me with nothing but love and respect, and I’ve only ever lied to him.”

She’d lost me. “What do you mean?”

“About who I really am, and how I was born. I’m a danger to everyone I care about, just for being close to them. I never wanted to keep this secret from him. He could handle it. Trevor would stay with me forever, but I wanted something better for him.”

Better than Karen? Yeah, good luck with that, Trevor.

“I want him to go to school. I want him to meet the love of his life. I want him to have a career, and a house in the suburbs, and that big family he’s always wanted. I knew that I wouldn’t be strong enough to break his heart, so she was supposed to break up with him for me. He’d have been miserable for a while, but he’d be ready to move on by the time he left for college.” Karen bared her teeth as her eyes overflowed again. “And that bitch ruined everything. She fucking raped my boyfriend and I am going to murder her ass.”

I caught the driver’s eye when he glanced into the rearview mirror. “Okay, settle down, Killer.”

Karen shook her head. “Over the last few months, I’ve missed him so much. I’ve been so lonely, and I’ve needed to be close to him so bad. I’ve almost called him a thousand times. I didn’t, because I told myself it didn’t matter how much I suffered, as long as he was free. But he wasn’t freed, so now I have to be the one to hurt him. He should’ve had three months of healing behind him, but after I break his heart, we’ll be starting at square one. How am I going to do this?”

“Easy.” My voice was like ice. “Just pretend he’s me.”

Karen blinked, her train of thought derailed. “Excuse me?”

My tone didn’t change. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Karen. You’re good at dumping people. You’ve been trying to get rid of me ever since I got out of prison.”

Karen’s confusion drained away, revealing something much, much darker.

“I do know the real you. I know what you’re capable of. I know what you are. But that didn’t stop you from telling me to get lost. So, when you come face to face with Trevor, just act like he’s me. That’ll make dumping him easy.”

Karen leaned close, and the look on her face made my balls crawl up inside my body. “Are you kidding? You dumped me months ago.”

I shook my head. “That ridicu—”

“It’s not ridiculous!” Karen’s sudden volume made the driver swerve a little. “Did you forget what happened in the hospital? Do you remember the way Justine used me?” The blood drained from Karen’s face at the memory. “I saw everything she saw. I felt everything she felt, like it was happening to me. It was a violation, but the worst part was having her speak through me when she said the only way she could find peace would be if you died too. And you fucking agreed!” She punched me in the arm. It hurt more than I would’ve given her little hand credit for. “You were going to let her kill you, right there in front of me. I saved your life, but then you turned yourself in. You want them to put you away until I’m old enough to collect social security, but I dumped you? Fuck you, Toby.” Hitting me must’ve felt pretty good, because she did it again. Then again, and again.

I gave her words the thought they deserved, then said, “Are you stupid?” Karen made a disgusted sound as she turned away. “Do you think I want to die?”

She met my gaze in challenge. “Don’t you?”

“No, I don’t. Well, not anymore, and I definitely don’t want to go back to prison. But it’s not about what I want. It’s about justice. It’s about paying for what I did to her. Justine needs for me to be punished.”

“Justine wants revenge, and for something that’s not your fault. Who gives a shit what Justine wants?”

“I do, because there’s no other way to make things right.”

“You won’t be making things right, Toby, because you aren’t the one that needs to be punished. If someone shoots a person, you don’t arrest the gun. If anyone needs to die or go to jail, it’s Nicholai Santos. And if you really want to make things right, go do something good. Use the powers you were born with to help people. That’s how you honor Justine.”

There was no denying the wisdom of Karen’s words, but I already had a solid course of action. I didn’t need options clouding the issue. “So you’re saying the fact that I actually killed Justine doesn’t count, because Santos used me like a tool?”

“Yes, Toby. I’m saying you’re a giant, hairy tool.”

Well, damn. I’d walked right into that one. I fought a smile as I looked her over, then said, “On a scale of one to ten, how mad are you?”

Karen raised an eyebrow. “On a scale of one to ten? Fifty.” Her voice told the truth; she was sitting at about a four.

“Okay. I can work with that. So, we track down your soon to be ex-boyfriend, you do your thing, then we’ll be on our way. How long do you think you’ll need? Fifteen? Twenty minutes?”

Karen wasn’t amused. “Don’t be cute, Toby.”

“I can’t help it.”

 “I already told you, I can’t do anything about Justine. I’d like to, but Lord Ahriman is convinced my powers won’t even work against her.”

I groaned. “Sweet, juicy Jesus, will you stop quoting that fucking demon?” My pinky finger dropped between us. It rolled toward Karen, who made a high-pitched sound as she arched her back off the seat.

“Oh, my god, Toby! What the hell?”

“Oh. That. The short answer is, I’ve been cursed.” I could tell by the look on Karen’s face that she needed the long answer. “Fine. Every time I say…that word, I lose a body part. It hasn’t been an easy habit to break.”

“What word?” The answer clicked then she whispered, “The D Word? Then don’t say that word, Toby. You shouldn’t say that word, anyway.” Karen made a face as I picked up the finger. “That is so gross.”

“I’ll be fine. My hair and claws are already growing back.”

“So, that’s why you shaved your head? I thought it was a prison thing. Toby, how many body parts do you need to lose before you get it? Does your cock really need to rot off?”

“Holy shit, are you kidding me?”

“No, I’m not kidding. And you would deserve it, too, for being a bigot.”

“That’s not it. Since when do you talk like that?”

Karen could only stare at me. “Do you really have the brazen audacity to lecture me about my language?”

“That’s different. We all know I have no class. You were raised better than me.”

She sat up straighter. “Maybe I wasn’t.”

“Again, you’re talking, but all I hear is that fuck Khalid. You’re changing, and not for the better. I saw it all the time when I was in prison. No matter how good or clean a person was when they went in, that place kind of seeped into them. When you’re bombarded by that kind of evil every day, you find yourself being okay with really fucked up shit.”

Karen shook her head. “We can’t compare our situations, Toby. There is no comparison.”

“Oh, really? A couple of weeks after they transferred me to the Winter unit, the dude in the cell next to mine was raped by his cell mate.”

Karen blinked. “Well, that’s a lovely story.”

“Oh, it gets better. I think he ate some of the other dude’s cereal, or something. Anyway, his cellie told him, ‘if you gonna act like a bitch, I’m gonna treat you like a bitch.’ The guy, the victim, screamed for like twenty minutes before the guards came to check on him. The whole time, everyone else on the block was cheering. When the guards finally got there and saw what was happening, they started to laugh. They asked him how he liked it, if it made him a faggot now.”

My words were having the desired effect. Karen shook her head as she said, “Well, that’s terrible, but those guards—”

“They weren’t bad people, Karen. They weren’t sadists or bullies. They were just normal guys. They had wives, children, and they went home at the end of the day. The problem was that the guards and inmates didn’t see each other as people; just enemies. Rumor on the block was that the victim hung himself in PHD.”

Karen closed her eyes. “Okay, I get it. Prison sucks, and what happened to that guy is awful. But it’s not like there’s anything you could’ve done about it, Toby.”

I didn’t want to correct her. “That’s just it. There was a lot I could’ve done. I could’ve made all the difference in the world. Those cell doors weren’t designed to hold people like me. I didn’t help because I didn’t care.”

Karen’s eyes swept over me, troubled. “Shepherd?”

I laughed once in the back of my throat. “I wish. That was all on me. Prison will turn a Sunday school teacher into a contract killer, and I wasn’t exactly a nice guy to begin with.”

Karen leaned back in her seat, putting as much distance between us as she could. “There’s a huge difference here, Toby. I’m not in prison.”

“You’re just as imprisoned as I was. You’ve got nice clothes, but someone tells you what to wear. You have a beautiful room, but you need permission to leave it. You have a good job, but it was assigned to you. You have no freedom, and when it comes to evil energy, that ‘cathedral’ is a hundred times worse than the Winter Unit.”

Before Karen could respond, there was a sharp knock on the door. I realized at last that the cab hadn’t moved in a minute, because we’d somehow teleported inside of a cloud. I’d been so focused on our conversation that I hadn’t noticed the pea-soup fog rolling in off the ocean. Mixed with the evaporating rain, visibility had dropped to zero. Traffic was in complete gridlock.

Then, I noticed that the dark figure standing outside held an automatic rifle. The man bent over to look into the cab, his face pinched with stress. Middle-aged and stocky, he wore thick, black body armor and a helmet. SWAT was emblazoned across his chest in bright letters.  “Where are you headed?” he said.

“St. Josephine’s?” I could hear the frown in Karen’s voice. “We’re just now coming back from lunch.” I was impressed. Karen had become a smooth liar in the months I’d been gone.

“Then you lucked out. School is cancelled for the rest of the day. You and your boyfriend need to turn around and go back the way you came.” His tone of voice made it clear that this wasn’t optional.

“What’s happening?” I said.

“This entire block is locked down. Vampires attacked the school.”

<<<Chapter 33

Chapter 35>>>

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WitD3-Chapter 33

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 33

 

Sunlight peeked through the clouds, but the rain had covered everything in a slick film. It was pure terror that kept me surefooted as I leapt from rooftop, to fire escape, to busy sidewalk. Even taking the most direct route to Kingdom Come, I couldn’t seem to move fast enough. Not only that, it felt like the distance had tripled.

I had no hope of arriving in time.

Finding Karen’s window on the massive cathedral turned out to be easy. Even from the sidewalk, a neon waterfall of jasmine flowed from the broken glass. I leapt onto the second story ledge, then climbed the rest of the way. Soon, I was sitting in the exact same spot Justine had occupied not fifteen minutes earlier.

I expected to find Karen’s body, and maybe Justine still feeding from it. What I saw was Khalid sprawled out on Karen’s bed, with Karen draped over him like a blanket. Dressed in a pair of silky black pajama bottoms and nothing else, he ran his fingers through her hair. I wanted to punch the look of contentment off his face.

But…Karen was alive. Relief turned my limbs to jelly, right before my mouth went on autopilot. “What the Infernal fuck?”

Karen jumped, startled, then turned her face into Khalid’s chest. Khalid had no shame whatsoever as he said, “Here to break more of my windows? I expect compensation for that.”

The sight of them together was like tiny spiders on the back of my neck. Who knows what I would’ve walked into if I’d been even five minutes later. Worse, there was no way in hell Khalid could’ve boiled himself in holy water and bleach since fucking Aliese the Whore. I watched, helpless, as the taint of that woman soaked into Karen’s skin.

When I could speak without throwing up in my mouth, I said, “Karen, are you okay?”

Karen slid off of Khalid to lay on the bed next to him. “I’m fine, Toby. What are you doing here?”

Khalid sat up. “Welcome back, Tobias. By all means, come in out of the rain.”

I gave him a deadpan look. He didn’t need to know I’d almost accepted his invitation out of habit. “You’re hilarious. Where’s Justine?”

“I honestly can’t say. Silly us, we assumed you were here to see Karen.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? “If there’s nothing else, we’re kind of the middle of something.”

“I can see that. Karen, come on. We need to go.”

Karen didn’t move. Her voice was soft, and she couldn’t look me in the eye as she said, “I’m not going with you, Toby.”

“Ever,” Khalid finished. “She’s not going with you, ever. You need to go away and leave her alone.”

I jerked my chin toward Karen. “Let me hear that from her.”

“You need to go, Toby,” Karen said. I know I didn’t imagine the waver in her voice. “I can’t help you. There’s nothing I can do against a revenant.”

I mulled over her words. “Is that so? Neat trick. How did you get your voice to come out of her mouth like that? Is that an Infernal thing, or can you possess more than one person at a time?”

Karen rolled out of the bed then took a few steps in my direction. The look on her face was heartbreaking, but she was smart enough to stay out of arm’s reach. “Toby, that’s enough. Lord Ahriman is right. The primal energies needed to form a revenant are like the ones that cause tornadoes in the middle of hurricanes. What am I supposed to do against something like that? How do I know she won’t try to take back my soul if I get too close to her?”

Khalid put his hands on Karen’s shoulders; therefore, she didn’t see the smug look on his face. “Are you kidding?” I said. “The real question here is who else can do anything? No one. Only you stand a chance against Justine.”

Karen’s expression was pained. “Toby—”

“People are dying. More people are going to die if we don’t do something. Don’t you care about that?”

Khalid took a step forward to stand between us. “Don’t let him back into your head, my dearest. Do not take on this burden, just because he insists you must. Has he not caused you enough pain?”

“Why the fuck do you keep saying shit like that? Besides, the one she needs to keep out of her head is you, you pussy-peddling, syphilis-farmer.”

Karen let my words hang in the air for a moment. “Toby, that’s enough. Just leave. Please.”

“I’m not leaving here without you. You promised you’d help!”

Her voice rose to match mine. “Well, I can’t!”

“Why? Because that pimp-donkey-cock convinced you that you’re helpless?” I was getting the hang of this curse. “You, the most powerful necromancer anywhere can’t do anything against an undead? I can’t even begin to take that seriously.”

Khalid must have sensed that my words were having an impact. “Karen, listen to me. Don’t let him confuse you all over again.”

“I’m confusing her? Karen, don’t tell me you’re buying into his Infernal bullshit.”

Karen closed her eyes then pressed her fingertips to her temples.

“Remember,” Khalid said, and I could hear the hypnotic resonance in his voice. “Remember what he’s done to you. How he’s made you feel. Remember what he did to Justine.”

Karen shook her head as she took a step back. “That’s not fair. Toby had no control over himself when Justine died. He was feral when that happened.”

Khalid nodded in agreement. “Yes, he had no control over himself. He was feral. Because he’s a vampire.”

I raised my finger. “Actually, I’m only half.”

Khalid gave me a scathing look. “And that was more than enough. If you’re starving, if you’re injured, you could easily turn feral again because it is biologically encoded into you. It is always the humans closest to vampires that suffer the most. Next time, it could be my sweet Karen that has her throat torn open. Remember…” Khalid stroked Karen’s brow with the tip of his finger, and her eyes glazed over. “Remember how it felt when his fangs sank in.”

I knew he was trying to goad me into the room, but damn if that shit wasn’t about to work. “Karen, no,” I said. “Don’t let him put that memory back in your head. That happened to Justine, not you.”

Karen gave me a sideways look. “Except that it did happen to me, remember?”

Oh, shit. That’s right. The night we met. Well, fuck. “Okay, fine. I’ve attacked you. I killed Justine. I can’t change any of that, just like I can’t change what she became. I do have the chance to make things right, but I can’t do it alone. Please, Karen, help me.”

Khalid sneered. “Don’t trust him, Karen. Gwen has bound the Dagger of Danu to him.” Karen shook her head, not understanding. “It’s a powerful weapon, as Toby learned the last time he battled that revenant. He doesn’t need you. He only wants to keep you close so he can regain control.”

My mind reeled. “Hypocritical much?” How was Karen not seeing this? “Is it only okay when you do it? Shove it up your ass, whoremonger.”

“You are completely unworthy of her. You look at Karen and all you see is the necromancer that can turn you into a Pure vampire. Oh, and she just so happens to be a dead ringer for the woman you love.”

Okay, both of those things were technically true, but… “Dude, fuck you.”

Khalid turned his full attention to Karen then drew his shoulders back. “I look at her, and I see so much more. Immense power untapped. Behold.” Khalid took Karen’s hands in his. He nodded once, then they began to speak in unison. “Light in the darkness, beyond all we perceive. Primal gods, heed and harken. As I will, it must be.”

The lights started to flicker as all the energy was pulled to the center of the room. Being human, Karen didn’t see Khalid’s true form detach from his human host. It began to flow around her, circling like a shark. His vessel stood rigid, eyes rolled back as though having a seizure. Khalid himself was thick, rolling smoke. His eyes blazed like the mouth of a volcano, and lightning flashed deep in the core of his being. If he had a scent, it would be brimstone and sulfur. When he spoke, it was in some guttural perversion of Arabic, I think.

Karen echoed what I assumed was the translation. “Font of eternity…primordial stew…building blocks of life…lend your power…work through me…push through death’s ward and render creation.”

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Khalid’s voice grew even more inhuman. The air above Karen’s hands began to pop and sparkle. It was like witnessing the birth and death of a thousand microscopic galaxies.

“Essence of macrocosm…clay in my hands…Flow through this vessel and bend to my will. I command it to be so. Coalesce. Solidify. Become!”

A flock of white butterflies erupted from Karen’s open palms. Hundreds, then thousands filled the air, fluttering around the room as Karen laughed in delight.

Khalid settled back into his skin, then smiled with genuine affection. “Butterflies again?” he said.

Karen cooed at the bugs still perched on her fingers. “Yeah. The bigger stuff always wipes me out.”

Khalid waved away her concerns. “No, by all means. Whatever you see fit to create. They are lovely.”

 The swarm turned then began to pour through the window, moving more like birds than insects. I caught one as it flitted past my face. The body was scarlet, like an artery, and pink vessels pulsed through its delicate wings. When I squeezed it between my fingers, bright red juice splattered my claws. One sniff confirmed it was human blood.

Karen spun around, drunk on herself. “That’s the most I’ve ever made at one time. They’re so beautiful.” She looked at me, eager, and I knew she wanted me to share her excitement. I should’ve been in awe, or at least impressed. Trouble was, this was the kind of shit they burned witches for in the middle ages. “Toby, I can’t leave,” she said, determined at last. “I’m more than just a necromancer here. I can deal with more than just death. I can create life.”

I held out my hand. “Karen, I need you to come with me. Now.”

Khalid made an aggravated noise. “Forget him, Karen. Such wonders are lost on his kind. He will never recognize your true potential, as I do. He will never see your worth.”

“Bullshit, buddy. People need her help, and you’ve got her here making butterflies.”

Khalid turned his back on me. “Enough of this. Between you and the incessant demands of her family, this poor girl will never know a moment’s peace. Karen, my love, if you wish, I can make you blind and deaf to this fool.”

Khalid didn’t know it, but he’d just handed me the answer to my problems. In fact, I felt like an idiot for not playing this card sooner. “Awesome trick,” I said, “Before that, though, her fiancée is being raped to death by the doppelgänger you hired.”

And, bingo. Karen stared at me, her eyes wide. “Wait, she…what?”

Before Khalid could react, Karen crossed the room then threw open the door of her walk-in closet. Khalid glared at me as we listened to her tear clothes from hangers, but I responded with a smile. A smile, and a single-digit salute. Karen came out, snatched underwear from her dresser, then stormed into the adjoining bathroom.

His hands balled into fists, Khalid said, “Well played, bloodsucker, but tell me something. Why do you insist upon Karen’s help with this endeavor of yours?”

“Eat a dick, Infernal. You know why.”

Khalid took my vulgarity in stride. “How is it you haven’t managed to track this revenant down on your own? It should require almost no effort on your part. How has such a monstrous creature managed to evade you? Not only that, how has she consistently gotten the drop on you? Could it be that you don’t want to find her?”

“I haven’t found her because this is a big city, and Justine is clever.”

Khalid nodded. “Indeed. As is my Karen. As were all her incarnations, all the way back to Serkani. A quick wit seems to come part and parcel with that soul, along with a trusting nature that borders on self-destructive.”

“So, you knew Serkani now?” I said.

“I did, as I have known every incarnation of her that has come since.” He gave me a wink.

I wasn’t falling for his mind games, but my remaining claws dug into my hands. “Justine never would’ve fall for your shit. Ugly truth, remember?”

Khalid nodded once. “Justine was found, recognized, and taken in by her first husband at a very young age. You may not be aware of this, having known only two of Serkani’s reincarnations, but every time she is reborn, she adopts a new scent. Her essence remains the same, but she chooses an aroma with which she must surround herself. For Serkani, it was the lotus blossom. Sometimes the only way she could quiet the voices in her head was to fill a hot bath with the flowers. One could smell her from another room. For Karen, it is jasmine, as with Charlotte it was wild verbena. For Justine, it was the rose, was it not?”

The band of muscles along my brow tightened. “Your point?”

“When Justine’s ghoul rested in her crypt after you so brutally took her life, the smell of roses grew even stronger. That was what tricked the sheeple into believing she was a saint. So, I ask again, seeing as how she has attacked you twice, why have you failed to track that olfactory cloud back to wherever she makes her den?”

I didn’t answer, because Khalid wasn’t asking. He was trying to make a point.

“Could it be that your beloved no longer bears a scent?”

“She’s not one of you,” I said.

Khalid cocked his head. “Djinn? No, of course not. Immortal, yes. Infernal, absolutely.”

Nothing I had called him, or even Aliese the Whore, was half as offensive. “Justine was a flesh and blood human.”

Khalid smirked at my stupidity. “Humanity is not but the larval form of something greater. Do you have any idea how many of my kind began their existence as humans?”

“Justine is a revenant. Revenants are undead.” Why was I still talking to this asshole?

“Revenants are rare. Being rare, they are unstudied. Who’s to say what they are?”

“Just…shut the fuck up. I’m so sick of the sound of your voice. Oh, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting Karen come back here.”

“You say that as though you have the power to stop her.”

Karen came out of the bathroom before I could respond. She was dressed in a pair of designer jeans, leather boots, and a flowing lace top; clothes I knew she’d always admired but could never afford. When she snatched her purse from the dresser, I caught a peek of the black tattoo on her forearm.

Khalid took her in his arms. “Karen, my love, I am exceedingly sorry.”

Karen was stiff but returned his embrace. “I don’t blame you, Lord Ahriman, but this wasn’t part of the deal. Toby’s right; Trevor’s been raped, and it’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” Khalid said with clear-cut sorrow, though, for the record, I hadn’t blamed Karen, either.

“I brought that thing into his life. Trevor never would’ve been with her if he’d known that wasn’t me. I have to go make it right.”

“I understand completely. What she’s done is unconscionable and, frankly, unprofessional. She was hired to be your placeholder, nothing more. Her actions make all of us look bad. If you would, bring her back to me.” Khalid placed a small statuette he’d pulled out of thin air into Karen’s hands. “Do you remember the incantation you used to exorcise your dimwitted friend over there?”

Karen shoved the statue into her purse as she said, “Caught and trapped, locked and snapped—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Khalid said with a chuckle. “Careful, my love. You barely said a word, and I already have goosebumps.”

Karen’s cheeks turned bright pink. “I’m sorry.”

Khalid traced the line of her jaw. I began to wonder if they remembered I was still there. “Return to me soon?”

“I’ll be back before sundown, I promise.”

Karen turned to leave but Khalid held her elbow. “If I may, what to you plan on telling your family?”

Karen took a deep breath, then let it out as a sigh. “The truth. That I’m not coming back.”

“Are you sure that you’re ready for that?”

“Yes. It needs to be done. I should’ve listened to you from the start.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What, when he wanted you to let everyone think you were dead?”

Khalid gave me a narrow look as he turned Karen’s face up to his. To her, he said, “You are young. Wisdom comes with time.” I looked away as he pressed his lips to hers, but it was too late. That image was branded in my memory for eternity.

Karen walked out of the room, then Khalid gave me a look that promised a painful death. “Later,” I said as I dropped to the sidewalk.

<<<Chapter 32

Chapter 34>>>

WitD3: Chapter 32

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 32

 

The steady downpour muffled the jingle of the shop door as it opened, then Gwen poked her head outside. Her eyes widened when she saw me, and her mouth formed a perfect oval. “Holy Light, you look horrible,” she said as she waved me inside. “Hurry up and get in here.”

I glared as I walked by, though my eyes were just about swollen closed. “You’re the Princess of the Mists.”

Gwen shut the door behind me. “I beg your pardon?”

“I heard an old legend today that I know it was about you and that fuck, Khalid. Seventh daughter of a great demon?” And there went my other ear. “Being enslaved to a human? That huge ass obsidian statue in his office. You’re the Princess of the Mists.”

“Oh, I’m not denying that,” Gwen said as she split in two. “It’s just been so long since anyone’s called me by my royal title. Not to mention, I’m purely amazed that you made the connection.” Gwen One went back to the register as Gwen Two picked up my arm. “Follow me before you scare away all of my customers.”

I allowed her to pull me toward the back of the shop. “What customers?”

“I have customers,” she said, as though implying otherwise had been an insult.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a disembodied shadow scuttle toward one of the wall hangings. The tapestry waved like a flag as the thing vanished.

Gwen led me through the beaded curtain, down the hall to the kitchen. There, she sat me at the table, then began to pass her hands over my face. Water hissed out of my pores, and I blinked several times as my vision cleared.

“I need your help.”

“Of course, you need my help,” Gwen said as she worked her way down my body. “You won’t be satisfied until you’re indebted to me for the next century.”

“Your ex-fiancée has Karen trapped in his fancy fucking whorehouse and I need your help getting her out.”

“Are you certain she’s trapped?”

“No.” I flexed my fingers. My skin was covered in flakey white scales, but it was dry. Movement no longer caused my joints to split open.

“I’m assuming then that you have no concept of how breaking and entering works?”

“I know how those fucking wards around the place work, and so do you. If I go in, I won’t be able to come back out.”

“Well, then, the two of you could die together. Have you no romance in your soul?”

My face screwed up is disbelief. “What?”

Gwen tilted her head, as though confused by my confusion. “What?”

Goddamn demons and their goddamn riddle-speak. I refused to let her suck me in. “Look, you have magic. Powerful magic, right?”

She nodded. “Most definitely.”

“So, use it to help me get past those wards.”

“I could.” The vapor she pulled from my flesh disappeared into her fingertips. I felt a spark of paranoia as I wondered what else she was taking out of me, but I stomped it down. “However, I won’t.”

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Of course, she wouldn’t. Bitch.

“Just as Khalid is forbidden from interfering in my contract with you, so too am I forbidden from interfering with his contracts. Among my kind, there are things that are simply not done. You don’t share your true name with anyone, and you never interfere with another’s oath. Overtly.” Gwen’s long dress twirled around her as she turned to open the refrigerator.

I watched as she removed the jug of cold blood. It was kind of weird that she kept it stocked. Or had she been expecting me? “But it does happen?”

“Constantly,” Gwen said as she dumped the contents into a large, plastic glass. The stuff was chunky, and thick like syrup. “However, if said interference is ever proven, the punishment is the stuff of legends.” She handed me the glass. “Drink up.”

I frowned as I brought the rim to my nose. It smelled like a blood smoothie, with a strong tinge of copper. “What is this? Bone marrow?

Gwen folded her hands in front of her. “Mostly.”

“‘Mostly’?” The blood was ice cold, it smelled weird, and I wasn’t even that hungry. Therefore, I can’t explain why I started to drink. The bigger chunks triggered my gag reflex on the way down. I swallowed hard then said, “What’s in this?”

Gwen placed her fingertips on the bottom of the glass to tilt it up. “You don’t want to know.”

Every voice in my head screamed, but I couldn’t stop myself from gulping it down. It was as though the vampire side of me had taken over. My monster half wasn’t satisfied until every last drop sludged down my throat. When the blood mixture was finally gone, I struggled to catch my breath. “Where did it come from?”

Gwen’s nose wrinkled as she took the cup from me. “Don’t ask. The good news is, soon you’ll stop looking like a George Romero reject.”

My stomach felt heavy, like it was full of mud, and a strange fever pulsed through my limbs. “Well, I guess it’s the least you could do, seeing as how it’s your fault I look like this in the first place.”

Gwen smiled without humor. “Yes, because nothing is ever your fault, is it? You should have your hair and claws back within the hour, but I urge you; make a concerted effort to watch your language. This hex could end up costing you your fangs, or an actual limb.”

“Fine. Look, I know what you’re going to say, but could you get the president, or king of the fairies, or whatever, to help you with this whole plague thing?”

“You seem to be under the impression that my fellow Immortals would intervene on the behalf of humans. There are many who bear no love for mortals, and few who harbor great affection for them. The majority are, at best, apathetic toward humanity’s fate. This ordeal is our burden, Toby, and you’re wasting time.”

“I’m doing the best I can, you…” Don’t call her a demon. Don’t call her a demon. “You stick-figure, ginger cunt.”

Gwen’s eyes narrowed, but her smile remained. “Well, isn’t that lovely.”

“I’ve already told you that I can’t help you without Karen, but I don’t even know if she’s okay. Maybe Khalid got pissed off that she came to me, and locked her up. Maybe she’s hurt. Maybe she’s sick again. She could be dead, for all I know.”

Gwen’s head fell back as she groaned. “Fine. Come with me. Honestly, you’re such a…” She muttered the rest under her breath, not that I gave a shit.

I followed a step behind her as Gwen led me to the creepy picture room. She removed the sheet that covered the mirror then passed her hand in front of the glass. When our reflections began to shimmer, she said, “Let’s see what’s happening with your little necromancer friend. Has she been detained, or has she finally come to her senses and cut you out of her life for good? Just so you know, if that’s the case, you’re on your own.”

The mirror’s surface settled, becoming a window into a strange room. Sunlight gleamed off the satiny gold wallpaper, while it disappeared into the black fur rug. The room was dominated by a four-poster bed, upon which Aliese the Whore rode Khalid like a rodeo bull. The sounds she made were somewhere between human and rutting pig.

“Oh dear.” Gwen’s cheeks turned bright red as she swiped her hand over the mirror, then the pornographic scene went fuzzy. “Let me just…see if I can find her,” she said with a forced smile.

I watched as Gwen scrolled through the various rooms. “That didn’t bother you?” I said.

“Oh, no. Well, not really. Aliese is disgusting, but she’s good for a fuck. Her specialty is tearing apart marriages. She finds men she likes, worms her way into their confidence, then seduces them. When their wives find out, she harvests the pain. Ah, here we go.”

The mirror surface solidified again, and I found myself staring into a red cavern. Every part of the room was the color of blood. The walls, the carpet, even the light. It was as though Khalid kept Karen locked inside of a giant heart.

Karen was slumped to the side on the small day bed, her feet on the floor as her hands dangled over the edge. A surge of terror almost exploded my chest before I heard her take a deep, steady breath. She was still dressed in the heavy furs that concealed her shape. Sweat glistened on her skin, and the dark hairline that peeked out from under her blonde wig was damp.

I pressed my hand against the cold, hard surface of the mirror. “Open the portal, like you did earlier. I can be in and out of there in ten seconds.”

Gwen made no move to obey. “Your kind can’t travel through the Abyss unaccompanied.” Her tone made it clear she found me so stupid that it was exhausting. “But I understand why she wasn’t able to meet you. Look at her bedside table.”

I did. I saw a dim lamp covered by a frilly shade. A leather-bound book lay open beside it, its pages bookmarked with a black ribbon. A shiny elephant statue watched over Karen as she slept, wisps of smoke curling from its golden trunk.

Whatever Gwen had fed me turned over in my stomach. “What is that?”

“My guess is that it’s opium. Congratulations, though. She didn’t blow you off.”

My heart hammered in my chest. “She’s going to end up addicted to that shit. Please, will you just go in there and get her?”

Gwen shook her head. “I can’t, not without Khalid becoming aware of my presence.”

“Go now, while he’s busy fucking that rancid skank!”

Gwen gave me a dry look.

I pressed my hands against the glass, as though I could will myself through it. “I’m going to get Karen away from him, even if I have to kill him to do it. Especially if I get to kill him. Fuck it, I’m going to kill him.”

“You can’t kill him, Toby,” Gwen said in a flat tone. “He is Djinn. You could destroy the physical body he currently inhabits, but he would just migrate to another. Besides, disincorporating him won’t be as simple as deciding to do so. He has powerful magic, too, and he is clever. So much more so than I ever—” Gwen was interrupted by Aliese the Whore’s howling orgasm, then her entire being darkened.

I hid my surge of satisfaction. Regardless of the species, love is love, and jealous women are not to be fucked with.

Gwen’s tone became sweet as she said, “Karen? Karen, honey, where are you?”

I frowned. Her voice was different, and her hoity-toity British accent was gone. I couldn’t place where I knew that voice, until Karen muttered in her sleep, “Mom?”

“My precious girl,” Gwen said with an emotional crack. “I’ve looked everywhere for you. Please, I miss you so much. Come back to me.”

A tear glimmered as it dropped from the corner of Karen’s eye. “Mom…”

“We need your help. Come home. We need you, Karen. Where are you?”

Karen turned over in her sleep. “I can’t.”

Gwen’s tone dripped with love once again. “My poor baby. You needn’t be afraid. Tell me where you are, and I will come for you.”

“No. No, Mom, please don’t come here. It’s not safe.”

“Why isn’t it safe?” I realized what Gwen was doing, and I nodded in encouragement. She was trying to tear down the veil, to make Karen see how evil the place was for herself. “Are you in danger? Please, Karen, just tell me how to help you.”

Karen was quiet for a second. When she spoke again, her voice was a deep, savage growl. “Bastard.”

Gwen blinked, as surprised as I was by Karen’s sudden viciousness. We exchanged looks as Karen writhed on the bed.

“Traitor. Murdering fuck.” That sort of language on Karen’s lips sounded about as natural as a shark singing opera. “Why is he still alive? Killed me. Killed my baby. Why does he get to be free? Why does he get to be alive, when I don’t?

I could only watch. “What’s happening?”

The look on Gwen’s face was grim. “Your revenant and your necromancer share a soul. It goes without saying that they have a psychic connection. It appears as though Justine’s thoughts echo in Karen’s mind whenever Karen experiences REM sleep. Interesting.”

“That can’t be good for her.” If it was possible to die of shame, I would be worm food.

“I daresay not. It likely won’t be long before Karen is as crazy as the Mad Witch Serkani.”

“Hungry…,” Karen said. “So…hungry…”

I bowed my head as my eyes begin to sting. “Forget it. Never mind, just leave Karen out of this. I’ll take care of Justine on my own. With any luck, we’ll kill each other.” In fact, if I tried really, really hard, I could arrange just that.

“I doubt that’s possible now.” Gwen turned the mirror so that the view shifted from Karen’s bed to her window. The stained glass shrouded the dark figure perched on the ledge like a gargoyle, but a lily-white hand pressed against the glass. My worst fear was confirmed when the creature’s eyes began to glow like embers.

Justine.

On the bed, Karen sobbed. “Why does she get to live? Why does she get to have him, and I don’t?”

The thick glass shattered as Justine punched through the window. Broken shards rained down on the carpet like falling diamonds. It was the last thing I saw before I raced out of the room.

<<<Chapter 31

Chapter 33>>>

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