*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.
Vampires don’t have souls. Humans lose theirs when they get Turned, and the Pure are born without them. When a vampire dies, there’s no eternal reward or punishment. We just blip out of existence. Therefore, good and evil are just words to us.
I never believed in God; I just take his name in vain a lot. I’ve never believed in anything. Humans invented religion. Anything to make the short pointlessness of their lives more bearable. The majority of them will never admit to themselves that they’re floating on a speck of dust through a brutal and uncaring universe. If they did, most would swan-dive into the nearest active volcano.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened my eyes to find myself surrounded by light.
There was no tunnel. I didn’t feel myself being drawn. My head hit the wall, my neck crunched down into my shoulders, then I was floating in a sea of white. The light was brighter than the sun, but not at all painful. It took me a second to figure out that I’d died, and then another to realize I wasn’t alone.
A woman lay on top of me, almost nose to nose. Even that close, the light made the details of her face soft and fuzzy. It didn’t matter, though; I knew her. I would’ve known her anywhere.
“Karen?” My voice didn’t want to work, and I’d never been so tired in my entire life. Oblivion seemed so inviting that I wanted to sink down into it forever.
I sensed rather than saw her affectionate smile. “No,” she said, and it was like her voice spoke directly into my brain.
I think, if I wasn’t numb from the neck down, I would’ve felt my heart skip a beat. I couldn’t hide the dread in my voice as I said, “Justine?” The idea of running into the woman I’d murdered in the afterlife never occurred to me. Talk about awkward.
I saw the blurry pink corner of her mouth turn up. “No.”
My eyes began to adjust, like those of a newborn. “Are you telling me you’re Serkani?”
Her smile became sad as she traced my bottom lip with the tip of her finger. “I’ve had dozens of names. I will have dozens more, before we are finally finished.”
Why do all women speak in riddles? Why wouldn’t she just let me sleep? “So, what do I call you?”
Her elbows on my chest, she propped herself up to give me a long look. Her black hair fell over her shoulder, tickling my cheek. “Call me Fetch.”
Weird name for a chick, but whatever. “Where are we?” Overhead, I could almost make out tree branches with radiant green leaves. I caught a sparkle out of the corner of my eye, like the surface of water. I even thought I could hear the soft babbling of a brook.
Fetch’s eyes drifted closed as she rubbed her nose against mine. “We are together.”
She knew what I’d meant, but I couldn’t be too aggravated with her. Not in that place. “And where is that?”
Fetch pressed her cheek against my chest, as though listening to my heart. The top of her head smelled like musky incense and strange flowers. “The in-between.”
“How did I get here?” I tried to make out more details of my surroundings. A deep ache was beginning to grow in my neck and the back of my head. It didn’t seem right, to experience pain in heaven.
“I brought you here,” she said. I sensed there was more to it than that. She was holding me there, keeping me from drifting away on that nearby stream.
“Why?” I sounded like an angry child. “Why can’t I just go?”
“Not yet.” Her voice was gentle but determined. “She needs you now.”
I frowned. “Who? Karen?”
Fetch’s lips brushed my cheek like the wings of a butterfly. “Yes, her too.”
I didn’t want to ask, as though saying it would make it true. “Justine?”
Fetch pulled away to give me a meaningful look.
My throat tightened. I knew my heart would ache if I could still feel it. I couldn’t look at her as I said, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
Fetch shushed me. “I know, my love. She knows, too.”
“But she still hates me. I couldn’t…”
Fetch’s smile was warmer than the light. “You couldn’t help yourself. Fret not, my sweet. Love and hate aren’t so different. You can feel both at the same time.”
She wasn’t the first woman with that face to say the exact same thing to me. Those words brought me into focus. “Karen. How can I help Karen?”
Fetch let out a long breath as she pondered the answer to that question. “Karen is lost and afraid, yet believes herself safe. She has to want to be freed.”
I shook my head, and sharp pain rippled through my neck and shoulders. “What can I do? Khalid has this hold on her that I can’t—”
Fetch placed a cool finger against my lips. “His hold over her merely overlaps your own. Shrug it away, vampire.”
She made it sound so easy. “How?”
Fetch pushed herself up to straddle me. Turns out, she was naked, so of course I couldn’t feel anything. She pressed her hand to her left breast, then turned it toward me. Her palm was stained dark with red blood, the color so intense that it shouldn’t have existed in that place.
“It still bleeds,” she said.
I didn’t see a mark on her. Besides, how do you hurt a guardian angel? “I don’t understand.”
Fetch placed her left hand behind my head, and the dull ache in my neck graduated to full-blown agony. Pins and needles began to radiate through my limbs. “You will,” she said, her voice already a fading echo.
My neck popped, then I was thrust out of the light into complete darkness. The ability to feel came crashing down on me like a mountain of jagged boulders. From the crown of my skull to the middle of my back, it felt as though someone had taken a sledgehammer to me. Beyond that tight core of pain, my surroundings were damp and very cold.
The scent of musty roses and graveyard dirt leaked through my senses, then I knew where I was. Somehow, I’d been brought home, to the vampire cemetery. However, I’d been placed in Justine’s glass coffin. My head laid on her white satin pillow, my hands folded on my chest. Faint torchlight danced on the walls.
I would’ve preferred hell.
Justine stood over me, glaring down as though she wanted nothing more than to twist my head off my neck. She held my skull between her icy hands, her claws gouged into my flesh. Before I could react, Justine gave a hard yank.
I couldn’t help but cry out as my spinal cord snapped back into alignment. Warmth flooded throughout my neck and skull, then the pain shrank to a minor twinge. Justine sneered as she took a step back, allowing me to sit up.
I was as thirsty as a drunk in the Sahara Desert, but I could move. Coming back from death had taken almost every drop of blood in my system. I’d need to feed, and very soon. I swung my legs out of the coffin to see if I could still walk, then realized Justine was leaving.
I didn’t want her to stay. I didn’t want to talk to her, or even see her. However, my voice doesn’t work for me. “Justine, wait.”
She stopped then looked back over her shoulder with cold disdain. Her eyes weren’t glowing, though, so I guess that was a good sign.
“You saved me? Why?”
Justine growled deep in her throat.
“I’ll find him for you,” I said before she could walk away. Night had fallen, and the fog made it pitch black beyond the open door of the tomb. How long had I been out?
Justine stood with her back to me, the line of her body rigid. I got the feeling that it was painful for her to be so close to me. I could relate. The feeling was mutual.
“Nicholai Santos. I’ll find that son of a bitch, then I’ll make him pay for what he did to you. To the both of us. I promise. I’ll kill him, so you don’t have to.”
A tiny bit of resentment drained from Justine’s face.
“Can that be enough to bring you peace?”
Justine pressed her hand against the wound in her chest, the most recent injury I’d given her. She turned her palm toward me, and her fingers were black with undead blood.
I nodded as I looked down in shame. “It still bleeds. Yeah. Me, too.”
Justine stepped out of the tomb, vanishing at once into the mist. I took a deep breath, then let it out slowly as I rolled my aching shoulders. Karen had been back in Khalid’s hands for hours. I didn’t want to think about what he’d done to her in the meantime.
I closed my eyes. “Okay,” I said to no one in particular. “Name it, and it will come when I call. Fine. How about…Mata Diablo?”
If there’s one thing I’d learned from years of hunting in the barrio, it’s how to speak unbelievably bad Spanish. It worked, though. Gwen’s dagger appeared in my hand. I held it out then released the handle, and the weapon dropped. I waited, but didn’t hear metal hit the stone floor.
The dagger reappeared in my hand as though it had been there all along.
I nodded in satisfaction. Okay, then. The process seemed simple enough. Time to go kill Gwen.
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