We have liftoff!

Okay, Lady and Gentleman. Watcher in the Darkness: Book 3 is up and running. It took a little longer than I expected because they sent the proof copy to my old address (my bad), but my new book baby looks beautiful. You can buy the paperback and ebook version on Amazon. Or, if you prefer, there is a Nook ebook version available on Barnes and Noble.

Don’t forget, if you followed the story as it was being written here on the website, there is an epilogue-ish final chapter that sets up the next book that is exclusive to the ebook and printed copies. Just…thought I’d throw that out there.

Wow. Over a month, already?

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I updated the website. It feels like much, much longer.

Hi, everybody. I missed you. I just thought I’d poke my head in for a minute to give anyone that might be interested a status report.

So, what have I been up to? I’ve done three editing passes through the finished novel. Pathetic, I know, but such is life when you have a full time job, a full time family, and precious little time to work on anything else. I’m still not quite satisfied with the end product, but that’s nothing new. I don’t know if I speak for any other writer out there, but after I finish a book or story, I can barely stand to look at it again. Not necessarily because I hate it. It’s just that I’ll never stop trying to “fix” it, then I’d never get anything new written.

When will Imprisoned be released? I’m shooting for around the beginning of March. Luckily, I already bought my cover art, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.

What are my plans for the future? I have two more short stories rattling around my brain that I want to add to Haunted, Etc. I’ve also got a lot of cool ideas for the next Watcher book, so I need to get started on its outline.

In a nutshell, work, work, work, work, work. It never finishes. And until I simultaneously win the lottery and science comes up with the cure for sleep, my progress will be slow.

Ah. It appears that Createspace has finally finished uploading my interior file. Back to the grindstone. I hope all of you are having a blessed day.

So, now what?

I know what your wondering.

That’s it? That’s how the story ends?

Short answer; yes and no. There is an epilogue, but it will be exclusive to the ebook and print copies. It sets up the next book, of which there will definitely be a next book, but as far as this story is concerned, that’s all folks.

I want to thank everyone that’s made it this far. I want to thank everyone that took the time out of their busy lives to read my story. Words can’t express how much I appreciate the simple act of you being here. For me, even one like, post click, or share validates the countless hours I spent obsessing over this book. If I did it for money, I’d never write anything at all.

Ha-ha, just kidding! Or, am I?

Now, I begin the last few sweeps to prepare this bad boy for publication. I will definitely keep you all up to date on what’s happening on that front.  My head is buzzing with ideas for the next book, but I haven’t even started the outline for it yet.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, whatever your preference, I hope your day rocks! Don’t forget to click on the like and share buttons below.

Or, if you’re here by accident, go back to the beginning and give this story a shot.

WitD3: Chapter 46 (The Final Chapter)

*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 46

 

Thick clumps of blood shot into my lungs. I crawled forward, blind and choking, as I listened to Karen run down the stairs.

An invisible force lifted me then set me back on my feet. I flinched away from the cool, slender fingers that touched my cheeks, but the pain vanished. My vision cleared, and I saw the look of determination on Gwen’s face.

“I grow so tired of his games,” she said as she pulled the veil out of her hair. She let it drop to the floor, her dress brightening from black to fiery red. “After him.”

I didn’t need to be told to go after Karen. We ran toward the spiral staircase as I said, “Are you telling me this was part of Khalid’s plan?”

Close on my heels, Gwen fluttered like a flock of birds. “Perhaps not this exactly, but trust me. With Khalid, there is always a Plan B.”

The dirt on the floor was so thick that Karen may as well have been walking in the snow. Her footprints turned away from the broken window, toward the maze of metal racks. Gwen and I followed her into the shadows, my senses opening as the desperate need to catch up to her faded. There was no way in hell this wasn’t a trap.

As expected, Gwen and I reached a dead end, where the tracks stopped. I didn’t see so much as a scuff in the dirt in any direction. The cardboard boxes crammed onto the shelves left no place to hide. Yet, I stood in a cloud of musky jasmine. Had Khalid turned Karen invisible, or…

A disturbing thought occurred to me. “If he’s inside Karen, can he use her powers?” I said in a low voice.

Before Gwen could reply, my body locked. My jaw clamped shut, my joints and muscles seized, and I wondered to myself why I was such an idiot.

I heard laughter above, then a whoosh. Fire, bright and blinding in the darkness, swept across the boxes. Scorching heat raked down my throat as my skin bubbled. The vampire in me thrashed and screamed, but I couldn’t even blink as I roasted alive.

Without a word, Gwen exploded into a column of thick mist, gushing outward like a tidal wave. Karen’s influence faded as the wave sucked back in, solidifying into Gwen once again. I flexed my healed fingers, and the blackened cardboard wasn’t even smoking.

Gwen scowled upward, her hands fisted at her sides. I followed the path of her gaze, to find Karen standing on a steel rafter above us. “Your magic is stronger than mine, but my magic will always be stronger than hers,” Gwen said. “Enough of your theatrics, Khalid. Release the girl.”

Khalid glared at us through Karen’s eyes, then turned to sprint along the beam. She leapt onto one of the empty racks like a parkour master, then jumped again to the ground. In the blink of an eye, Karen vanished into the maze.

I shrugged off the last tugs of Karen’s domination as I started after her. “You have to get him out of her,” I said.

“If I could do that, I would’ve already.”

“You know, I’m beginning to think having a fairy godmother is a fucking scam.”

An unseen force yanked me into the air. The tips of my shoes scraped along the ground as the nothingness dragged me forward. Almost too late, I saw the pile of broken concrete and rebar. Pushed face-first toward the jagged spikes, I somehow managed to catch myself. I could sense Khalid’s irritation as the force holding me doubled in strength. The muscles in my arms screamed as my elbows began to shake.

Gwen passed her hand in front of the steel bars, and they curled inward like burning hair. I dropped to the ground then heard, “Why do you protect him?” There was nothing more offensive to me than hearing Khalid speak with Karen’s voice.

 “Thwarting you is the only motivation I will ever need,” Gwen said.

“Everything I have done—everything I have ever done—has been for you.”

Gwen laughed. “Selflessness is as foreign to your nature as is compassion, Khalid.”

The metal shelves made a deafening racket as they scraped toward us. Gwen pushed her arms out, then the racks toppled like dominoes. When the echoes of their crash faded, Khalid said, “So you shield a vampire just to spite me?” Clearly, this was the pettiest thing he’d ever heard. “You will never be free as long as he lives. My love, let me end this.”

“I have never been free, Khalid. Never once in my entire life. Since the day of my birth, I have existed only to serve others. My one true freedom has been to choose my master, and even this mule-blooded, half-breed vampire spawn is better than you.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. “Thanks?”

Karen stepped out of the shadows. Khalid’s cruelty made her eyes hard and alien. When I took a step in her direction, Karen held up her hand. My body dropped to my knees, then bowed my head.

“I will not allow you to kill my master, Khalid,” Gwen said. “Before you argue, remember that you are the one that put me in this position.”

Khalid groaned, as though tired of having the same conversation. “A means to an end, dearest, nothing more. When he is dead, all will be as it was. Besides, do you believe your family will allow you to remain in thrall to a vampire?”

“You underestimate how much Xi hates you.”

I couldn’t move, but I could speak. “It’s too late anyway, demon.” The word felt awkward on my tongue. “You gave me her name, and now it’s mine. You can kill me, Khalid, but I’ve already made sure her name will pass on to my grandmother when I’m gone. I know Hlin will be able to think of a thousand uses for a fairy slave.”

I hoped Gwen sensed my bluff as she lifted her chin then drew her shoulders back.

Khalid glared, then Karen’s face went pale. Tears filled her eyes as she screamed, “Toby, just get out of here!”

Her terror and pain cut me to the core, as it always did. “Karen?”

“Please,” she said, sobbing. “He’ll kill you if you stay.”

Gwen laid her hand between my shoulders. “He won’t. Not again. I promise.”

My claws dug into my palms. “I won’t leave here without you.”

Karen cried out as her arm was wrenched behind her back. I heard the snap of straining tendons as she dropped to her knees. Karen’s free hand reached out to snatch up a shard of broken glass. Her head yanked back, then she pressed the makeshift weapon to her throat.

Khalid’s intense hatred returned to Karen’s face and voice. “Finish the ritual.”

Gwen held out her hand before I could respond. “Tobias, you don’t have to.”

The glass gouged into Karen’s soft skin. I watched as a rivulet of blood ran along the sharp edge to her hand. “I beg to differ,” Khalid said. “I have waited too long and have sacrificed too much for it all to have been in vain. I have given up everything to have your freedom, and I will have it. Now, half-breed, do this or I swear to every god in the multiverse that I will personally kill this incarnation, and every incarnation that is to follow. In their infancy, until the end of time. Slowly. Painfully, and I will make sure that this soul knows every time she dies that you are the reason why.”

I held up my hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay, you win. We’ll do this, but after it’s done, you have to swear to me that you will leave Karen alone forever.”

“Agreed.” Karen got to her feet, her arm still twisted between her shoulder blades. The glass remained at her throat as Khalid said, “Now march your worthless hide into that circle, and don’t you dare say a fucking word until it’s over.”

I kept my hands up. “Fine. I’ll do whatever you want. Just…don’t hurt her. Please.”

Khalid turned Karen’s body then marched it forward. Gwen and I fell into step behind them. The racks and debris moved aside, clearing a path for us.

I looked at Gwen out of the corner of my eye. Her head was bowed in sorrow. “I’m sorry,” I said. I don’t think I’ve ever meant an apology more than this one. “I’m so, so sorry. For everything.”

Gwen nodded, her dress darkening in despair. “I understand, Tobias. I forgive you.”

“He’ll never let you go. Not ever.”

“It appears not,” Gwen said with a sigh.

“If I could save you both, I would,” I said as we reached the spiral staircase.

We climbed, then Gwen looked at me at last. “Is that truly your wish?”

“Yes,” I said with a nod. “I’d give anything.”

Gwen rolled her eyes. “Finally.”

We stepped into the ritual area just in time to see Justine climbing through the hole in the roof. She looked back at us, cold and aloof, the chalice flashing in her hand.

Khalid stepped forward, rage breaking Karen’s voice as he screamed, “No!”

In that same instant, Gwen make a sweeping motion with her arms. The last thing I heard before time ground to a halt was Gwen’s voice. “Don’t waste this.”

Then…what I heard, what I saw…it’s very hard to describe. It was like I stood in the center of a photograph. I couldn’t move, but I could take in every detail. Every frozen flicker of the candleflames. Every ripple in Gwen’s dress. Every spark of light on the hovering dust, and the constant hum of Khalid’s fury.

The logical part of my brain reminded me that we were on a mission, damn it. “Karen?” I said. Well, sort of. I said it in my mind, but the voice in my head was so loud that it was like I’d spoken the words. “Karen, can you hear me?”

“Toby?” Karen’s voice came from the back of her head. Was this honest-to god-telepathy?

Again, I didn’t have time to marvel. “Thank the dear, sweet baby Jesus. Are you okay?” What the fuck, really? Of course, she wasn’t okay. “Where’s Khalid?

I sensed rather than heard Karen struggle. It was kind of like the rattle of chains without the clinking sound. “He’s still here. He still has me locked up inside myself, but it’s like… he’s stone? Toby, this hurts so much. He’s burning me from the inside out.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I’d been there. “I know it hurts. That’s why we have to get him out of you.”

“I can’t. He’s too strong.”

I ‘spoke’ louder to be heard above her rippling panic. “You’re strong. Yes, you can.”

“He’s in too deep. I won’t be able to get rid of him without turning myself inside out.”

“I know how you feel, Karen. Exorcism sucks, but we have to do everything we can.”

“He’ll just slip back in. When I’m weak, or when I’m asleep. Fuck, I’m so stupid!”

“Enough!” This was a dangerous spiral, one that would strip her of her power. “Use the exorcism incantation to put him into that statue.”

Karen was incredulous. “That won’t work.”

“You’ve done it before.”

“Against a pathetic, weak little piece of nothing. Khalid is… Besides, I can’t remember the incantation.”

“Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.” I got the feeling I’d surprised her. “Yeah, I remember. I remember everything you’ve ever said to me. You saved me, Karen. You’ve done nothing but save me since the day we met. Now, I need you to save yourself.” I heard a weird, jingling-grinding noise as the world began to speed back up. “I’m with you. Let’s do this.”

Time snapped back like elastic, then Gwen collapsed in a heap. Khalid turned Karen’s head to look back, then her eyes widened. He released the arm twisted behind her back as he lowered the blade of glass.

I lunged forward, tackling Karen around the waist. I push-carried her across the room, wincing when I slammed her against the black statue. I held her hands behind her back, my forearm pressed across her shoulders. Her lips peeled back as I forced her cheek against the hard obsidian.

 With Khalid preoccupied, Karen managed to fire off an incantation. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell! My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

Even as she spoke, Karen struggled in my grasp. “Keep going, Karen,” I said above Khalid’s furious growls. “Come on, together! Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

Khalid clenched Karen’s jaw, but she managed to force out about half the words. “I will stop her heart, half-breed,” he said with a snarl.

I didn’t know why he hadn’t already, so I had to act fast. My lips brushed Karen’s ear as I said, “Gwen never loved you.”

Khalid’s rage caught in his throat, then Karen blurted, “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.” She cried out in pain when Khalid jerked within her.

I guess I’d struck a nerve, so I decided to dig my claws in. “Her family gave her to a grunt soldier like she didn’t even matter. Yeah, she’s sweet enough to try to make the best of a bad situation, but she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life under your thumb. Think about it. What has she done since she met you, except run away?”

The words began to come easier. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

As she chanted, I said, “Gwen knew that you would bring her nothing but misery. She would rather be a slave than your wife. Hell, she prefers me to you.”

Karen became heavier in my arms, as though her legs were giving out. Even so, her voice grew stronger. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

“Let Gwen go,” I said. “If you really love her, you’ll give her the only thing she obviously wants.”

Karen dragged in the breath to speak another incantation, but Khalid cut her off. “Enough.” His voice was sharp as Karen’s eyes turned toward Gwen.

Gwen laid where she had fallen. Her dress had faded to the same pale white as her skin. Wisps of her true form curled into the air.

A grim look swept over Karen’s face. “Tell her—” Khalid said, then Karen’s eyes squeezed shut. She twitched in my arms as oily black smoke began to billow out of her mouth and nose. The foul essence flowed into the statue, tiny cracks forming in the polished surface.

I eased Karen to the ground, patting her back as she coughed up the last of Khalid’s presence. Gwen began to stir, but I couldn’t go to her. My body was too weak with relief to leave Karen’s side.

Gwen’s green eyes cracked open, but took a moment to focus on us. “Is it done?” she said, her voice a whisper.

I hugged Karen close, then she wrapped her arms around my chest. Her face pressed into my neck, and I could smell tears. “Yes,” I said, without a trace of satisfaction. For some reason, this didn’t feel like victory.

Gwen breathed a heavy sigh as yet more mist drifted from her body. It was like she was evaporating. Was she dying? “I am glad that your friend is safe.”

“Thank you.” My voice thickened. “Thank you, so much. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

The corner of Gwen’s mouth turned up. “No. Not at all.” After a moment, she said, “Where is Khalid?”

I opened my mouth to tell her, but hesitated. “He imprisoned himself in the statue he made for you.”

Gwen’s eyes began to shine. Her body took on a soft glow that pulsed like a heartbeat. “Good. He would like that. I guess…I am yours now?”

I shook my head as I pulled Karen closer. “There’s nothing you can give me that I don’t already have. I don’t want you, Gwen. You’re free.”

Gwen’s tears sparkled like diamonds as they rolled into her hair. “To go where? And do what?”

“Anything. Anything you want.”

Gwen stared at me for a long moment. At last, she said, “Very well.”

I watched as Gwen dissolved. Her shimmering mist floated past us, soaking into the angel side of the statue. The cracks fused with a pale gleam then I heard a rumble. The stone shifted as the angel’s cold, hard lips pressed against those of the demon.

<<<Chapter 45, pt. 3

So, now what?>>>

WitD3: Chapter 45, pt. 2

*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 45, part 2

 

Every muscle in my body tensed as I turned to face him.

“I do not need Karen beyond that for which I have already used her. She is an accessory, a bauble, and just as easily discarded.”

I came to stand in front of him. “I promise, before this is over, you’re a dead man.” To Karen, I said, “Come on, Karen, open your ears. Hear what this sick fuck is actually saying.”

Karen continued to trace chalk runes around the circle as though I hadn’t spoken.

“Yes, Karen, by all means, hear that if this half-breed fails to uphold his end of the bargain, I will rape you to death, then rape your blood-soaked corpse right in front of him, just for fun. Also, the black flu golems you’ve made are still plentiful. Just think, by the time this disease is contained, you may very well be responsible for killing thousands.” Karen looked up from what she was doing with a warm smile, then Khalid chuckled. “Ah, who knows what she heard?”

I shut my eyes tight as I struggled to contain my temper. Through clenched teeth, I said, “Tenanye, I need you. Now.”

“Yes?” Gwen said, curt and impatient, as though she’d been standing next to me the entire time. The deep black dress she wore made her skin look like white marble. Her eyes behind the lacy black veil were full of contempt. She crossed her arms over her chest, and I realized just how much weight she’d lost.

“Stop this,” I said. “Make Karen hear what’s really being said.”

Gwen gave me a disdainful look. “What part of ‘his magic is stronger than mine’ was unclear for you?”

“My dearest Gwen,” Khalid said when he realized she had joined us. “I’m so glad that you are here. I have something for you.” He pulled the tarp from the statue of the demon and angel. “This was not seized along with the rest of my assets, because it has always belonged to you.”

“Indeed,” Gwen said, unmoved. “I accept your generous offer, djinn. I shall enjoy smashing it to sand for little more than my amusement.”

Khalid nodded. “Don’t forget spite, my dear,” he said as he turned his back on us.

I shook my head. “I don’t buy that. There has to be something…” It was then that I finally noticed the skylight. Several panels of sheet metal had been removed from the roof above the circle. Through the gaping hole, I watched clouds roll across the sky. There would be no protection from the coming rain. Or the sun.

I looked at Karen again as she referred to the book in her hands and tweaked the runes. She didn’t notice the ones she’d already drawn shifting behind her. Then again, if Khalid controlled what she heard, logically he could also control what she saw. Her reality was in his hands.

“I wondered when you were going to notice that,” Gwen said.

“What am I about to become?” I said with dull horror.

“A Pure vampire. Except, after your transformation, the circle will contain you.”

Ah. Of course. “So, when the sun rises, I’ll be dead. I guess I shouldn’t count on your help here, huh?”

“Judging by your tone, I think you know the answer to that. You know my True Name, Toby. I will never be safe for as long as you are alive.”

I nodded. I wasn’t even offended. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing to say, then, except Mata Diablo.” The dagger appeared in my hand as I turned toward Khalid. Gwen said nothing as I walked in his direction, but Karen happened to glance up.

Her eyes widened in alarm. “Toby!”

Every muscle in my body seized and I froze in place. Khalid looked over his shoulder, curious, saw the dagger, then scowled. I would’ve cursed if my mouth still worked, but all I could do was growl.

Karen held out her hand. “Come here. Come to me. It’s almost time to begin.”

My body turned, then my feet marched into the circle. I felt the wards slam closed behind me like the clang of a prison door. My legs bent then I dropped to my knees in front of Karen. My head bowed and my body relaxed, but I still couldn’t move. It was like my spirit was trapped in a heavy meat shell. I couldn’t even glare at Karen as she took Mata Diablo from me. She placed the weapon on the floor between us then took my hands in hers.

In that moment, I was achingly aware of just how unbalanced our relationship would always be. I was a vampire, half or otherwise, and that wasn’t going to change. Karen was human. At the end of the day, she would always be my primary food source.

Worse, she was an untrained necromancer. Her power over me would become absolute when this ritual was finished. Without intending to, without even realizing it, she had condemned me to death. Neither of us would ever be safe around the other. When this ritual was finished, so were we.

That hurt so much more than the knowledge I was about to die.

Karen’s fingers tightened until the blood blanched from her knuckles. She took a breath through her nose then said, “The time has come, the powers that be, almighty universe, work now through me.”

The candle flames tripled in size then began to jump and flicker. The ugly music of the city faded to silence as the hair on my body stood on end. Even the dust held still, suspended in the air by thick magic.

“Behold, wondrous nature. Death-bringer and life-giving mother.” The echo enhanced the resonance in Karen’s voice. “Pray, heed your modest servant, and bestow upon me a small portion of your power. I kneel, humble and unworthy, as I impose upon your vast generosity.”

I soaked up the warmth of her fingers and took a deep breath of her scent. If I survived, I hoped the memory of both could carry me through the centuries.

Karen released my hands to place a large mason jar in front of me. Thick red sludge swirled around the bottom. I could smell metallic blood despite the jar’s tight lid. Inside, a crude clay sculpture rattled against the glass. I recognized it at once as the same vessel Karen had used to trap Alex Shepherd. A green caterpillar crawled along the misshapen torso, on a blind quest for food.

As Karen’s focus shifted to the ritual, her domination over me began to subside. Control of my body returned, and I looked up at the skylight again. I had until about noon the next day before I was barbequed alive. I wished I could warn Karen, but there was no telling what Khalid would let her hear. I had to find some way to snap her out of his control, but…

Then it hit me. I knew what to say. Shit, I’d been told what to say, the key phrase to wake her up. I just hadn’t realized it at the time. I had no reason to believe it would work, but a shot in the dark still has a chance to hit.

To Gwen, I said, “When this is over, you have to forgive him.”

Khalid blinked in surprise as Gwen’s entire being darkened. “You can’t be serious,” she said.

“I am, and I’m not Pure yet. When this is over, you will give him a chance to make this right.” The way Karen looked at me, she seemed to be able to hear my words as they are spoken. Mentally, I crossed my fingers.

Gwen made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. “Forgetting for the moment that such a thing a beyond the realm of possibility, your influence over me ends when you are a Pure vampire. I am under no obligation to promise you anything.”

“Then listen to reason. He loves you. I mean, he really, really loves you.”

Khalid’s eyes narrowed, as though trying to figure out my game, but he said nothing.

“People throw that word around and most have no idea what it means. But I do.” I looked at Karen. “I do.”

Karen’s brow furrowed. I could tell that my words were registering, and that she knew I wasn’t talking about her.

“I loved Justine,” I said. “More than I thought it was possible to love someone. The worst part about laying in that cold grave was knowing that she put me there. Compared to that, the stake in my heart was nothing. That’s the wound that won’t heal. I’d almost convinced myself that I hated her, but you were right. Love and hate aren’t so different. You really can feel both at the same time.”

Karen bowed her head with a wounded smile.

I wasn’t done. “With love and hate, you find yourself thinking about the other person all the time. That feeling wraps itself around your heart and squeezes. It always hurts. Everything reminds you of the other person. Every sight, every smell, every sound, somehow leads back to them. The memories poke you in that sore place over and over.” I put my hand on the side of her face, and Karen grabbed my wrist. “Over the last couple of years, being around you, I’ve been able to shove Justine to the back of my mind. But she’s always there. She’s always close.”

Karen’s bottom lip quivered as she nodded in sad understanding. I felt like shit for hurting her.

“They say time heals all wounds, but not love. Time and distance don’t change love. That scar is always ready to break open again. It still hurts. It still bleeds.”

Karen jerked as though I’d slapped her. She stared at me, the blood draining from her face, as the magic around us began to dissolve.

Khalid sensed the change and took a step forward. “Karen, my love? Is everything alright?’

Karen blinked several times. She looked around, as though having no idea how she’d come to be there.

It was almost too much to hope for. “Karen?” I said.

Karen looked at me again, then cleared her throat. “I’m fine,” she said as she picked up the jar of sludge. “Let’s do this before it’s too late.”

I couldn’t contain my disappointment. I bowed my head as I whispered, “Fuck.”

Karen’s voice hardened. “Transformation. Sacred magic that has existed since the beginning of time. Holy transformation, that which births entire worlds from dust.” She removed the lid from the jar, then dropped in a sparkling pebble. “Transformation, that which forms diamonds from coal.”

Inside the jar, the caterpillar twitched. Its body darkened then bulged out, hardening to an instant cocoon.

“Sacred transformation, that which molds the beautiful butterfly from the creeping caterpillar.”

The cocoon split, then shimmering purple wings unfurled from the crack.

The reverberation in Karen’s voice grew stronger. “Transformation, push back death and decay. Transform and transcend, pure and beautiful, the price of metamorphosis paid forward.”

The butterfly twitched, then curled in on itself. Its wings shriveled and turned black.

“Transform, a debt to be repaid with the blood of thousands.”

The butterfly continued to shrink, then delicate tendrils of red rose from the sludge. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. Our hair slid over our shoulders, drifting toward the jar as cracks formed in the glass.

Karen spoke louder and with greater authority. “Transformation. Light and energy. As water becomes ice. As gas become stars.”

The butterfly exploded in white flames as the jar shattered. The fire compressed into a pinprick of light. It pulled in every shard of glass and drop of red muck. I felt Shepherd’s scream echo deep in my soul as his figurine dissolved into the tiny cosmic void. The spark hovered between us, singeing the skin on my face.

Karen picked up the Tepes chalice. She scooped the cup under the newborn star, then placed it on the ground again. The brilliant ember remained cradled within, its gleam blinding against the polished gold interior of the cup.

“Fire, crucible of creation and destruction. Purest fire, unmake then remake, ageless and purified. Beacon through the ages. Chosen creator. Bestow your sacred power upon this, the essence of life.”

Karen held her wrist over the chalice as she picked up Mata Diablo with her other hand. She pressed the blade against her dark veins, then hesitated.

“I can’t,” she said after a second. “I’m sorry, my hands are shaking too hard. I’m afraid I’ll go too deep.” She looked at Khalid. “My lord, will you please help me?”

“Of course, my treasure,” he said with infinite patience. He stepped into the circle, placing his hand on her shoulder as he crouched beside her. He reached forward to take Mata Diablo from her hand.

The look on Karen’s face shifted to cold fury as she buried Mata Diablo to the hilt in Khalid’s throat. She yanked the blade free, then Khalid’s blood spurted over her like a red fountain.

“What did you make me do?” she screamed, broken and hysterical. I watched in disbelief as she tackled him to the ground. He flailed at her, but didn’t have the strength to keep her from stabbing him over and over.

I finally overcame my shock then scrambled to my feet. Khalid’s blood pooled over the runes, releasing me from his trap. I lifted Karen off Khalid’s soon-to-be corpse, and she wailed in demented grief. She was heavy in my arms as I pulled her back.

Choking for breath, Khalid stretched a trembling hand toward Gwen. Without any obvious emotion, Gwen watched him drown in his own blood. Khalid’s eyes rolled back in his head as he gave a final sputter, then went limp. It might’ve been my imagination, but the human vessel’s skin seemed to brighten when the dark essence left it.

Gwen shook her head. “Fools.”

Before I could respond, Karen said, “My, my, what big strong arms you have, half-breed.”

It was Karen’s voice, but I’d know that fucking accent anywhere. Her sharp elbow crunched against my still-tender nose, then she ran.

<<<Chapter 45, pt. 1

Chapter 46 (The End!!!)>>>

That’s right, just one more chapter to go! So very excited. If you’re swept up in the holiday spirit and feel like doing something absolutely awesome for a complete stranger, like and share my story using the buttons below. I’ll never be able to repay you for your kindness, but I hope the good karma you earn translates into a new boat, or car, or puppy.

 

WitD3: Chapter 45, pt. 1

*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 45, Part 1

 

I have no idea how Michael kept going. By day three with less than an hour’s sleep, his skin looked like bread dough. His hair stuck up at weird angles, and he jumped at every loud noise. His eyes were so bloodshot, he looked stoned. Or maybe feral.

I tried to help him as best I could, but I’m not a caregiver. “Suck it up” wouldn’t keep the others from puking and shitting themselves feral. The best I could do was donate my room and stay out of Michael’s way. I didn’t mind. I had my own stuff to deal with. Any day, I expected a visit from Sebastian about respecting territory. Hell, if I didn’t have a warrant out, it’d be a miracle.

It wouldn’t have killed the High Council to send someone to help. They gave the Sanctuary enough cold blood to keep the others sane, but that’s it. I wished I had the authority to make the established vampires do the right thing. Maybe, after I was Pure…I don’t know.

My hand drifted to the leather bag Khalid had given me. It was still there, still tied shut. It still held my change of clothes, which was still wrapped around the chalice. The strap never left my shoulders, even when I slept. Not that I slept much.

I’d fed. I’d packed. I’d settled my affairs, such as they were. There was nothing left to do but kill time, and it wasn’t going down easy.

I sat in one of the folding chairs in the common room, bent over my sketchbook. My hand flew across the paper so fast that the card table shook. Michael sat across from me, staring straight ahead without blinking.

“Are you sure it’s going to happen tonight?” It surprised me that he’d spoken. I didn’t think he was awake.

“It’s the new moon,” I said without looking up from my drawing. It had started as a self-portrait, but my hand had other ideas.

“Did that unholy spirit…Khalid. Did Khalid tell you the ritual would take place on this particular new moon? Did Karen?”

What the hell, did he think I wasn’t anxious enough? “Not in so many words, no.”

Michael winced when one of the vampires on the couch began to throw up into a plastic bucket. After what felt like forever, the horrible retching stopped. “It could be that Karen needs more time to prepare her side of the ritual.”

I felt my eyebrows draw into a tight knot. “Maybe,” I said, concentrating on shading. Turns out, the drawing was of Michael, exactly as he looked in that moment.

“What’s one more year to someone like him? What’s one more year to you?”

I shrugged. “That’s cool. Until Khalid upholds his side of the bargain, Gwen is mine. I can think of a hundred uses for a fairy slave. Today.”

Michael shook his head as his scowl deepened. “There are some forces that shouldn’t be tampered with, Toby. Infernals and fairies top that list. Don’t you remember the fairy tales you heard as a kid?”

I gave him a deadpan look.

“Oh. Right. Sorry. Anyway, trying to manipulate a fairy always backfires. They are the personification of chaos. There is no gain without sacrifice. That is the first law of nature. Those creatures are nature, terrible and beautiful, all at the same time.”

“I’ll take my chances. There are things that I’ll need when I’m Pure. I should get it all while I still have that twink under my thumb.”

“What sort of things?” Michael said, as though he didn’t know.

“Territory. A herd. Money. A home. Unless you want me to live here forever.”

“You are always welcome here.”

I rolled my eyes. “Could you sound more like a robot when you say that?”

“I’m just tired. My point is, do you think using fairy magic to get that stuff will come with no strings attached? Especially when said fairy hates you?”

“She can just deal,” I said, too loud. “She belongs to me until I’m turned, so I’m going to get all my ducks in a row now. As a matter of fact, I hope they don’t do the ritual tonight.”

Michael stared at me, as though wondering who I was. “Are you okay?”

I met his gaze for several seconds, then his eyes widened with understanding. We both knew, wherever Khalid was, he was listening. If not him, then some other fairy was keeping tabs. I wanted to remind everyone what was at stake here.

“So,” Michael said, after an awkward silence. “Have you told your family yet?”

My face screwed up in confusion. “My what? Oh, you mean Hlin and Sebastian? No.” Honestly, it hadn’t even occurred to me.

“Don’t you think they’ll want to know?”

“I dunno. Probably. I’ll give them a heads up when it’s over.” I pushed the drawing across the table then leaned back in my chair. I wasn’t crazy about how his face had turned out, but I was kind of proud of the folds in his clothes.

Michael seemed impressed as he picked up the notebook. After a moment, he said, “Shit, do I really look like that?”

“Sorry, dude. You know, I’ve given Gwen long enough to get over the babies. It’s time to go back to work. I think I’ll shrink her down to about the size of a parrot. She can sit on my shoulder and grant my wishes all day long.” I waited, but nothing happened. “Naked.”

“Toby…” Karen’s voice was so clear, it was as though she stood right next to me. Michael raised an eyebrow at the smile that spread across my face. “It’s time. Come to me.”

I got up without a word, turned, then walked out of the room. Behind me, Michael said, “Okay. Bye, I guess.”

The instant I stepped outside, the night wind twisted my hair into knots. I could smell rain in the distance, wet earth, traffic, and, as always, piss. There wasn’t a trace of jasmine.

“This way.”

I jogged down the cobblestone pathway to the sidewalk. There, I turned right for no other reason than I knew this was the way I needed to go. At the corner, the urge to climb onto the roof of the warehouse across the street swept over me.

“Just a little further.” Karen’s voice was a spur in my side, and I broke into a dead sprint.

‘Just a little further’ turned out to be over a mile. It bothered me to find out Karen could compel me from that far. Even so, I could no more turn around than I could pluck off my own legs. When I finally dropped into an empty alleyway, every nerve in my body was on fire.

I turned in a complete circle, but there was nowhere Karen could’ve been hiding. “Karen?” I sounded angrier than I felt, because even my voice has resting bitch face. “Where are you?”

“Behind you.” I spun around to find nothing but a wall of clouded glass. “You can come in, Toby.”

I smashed out a large panel with my bare fist, then crawled in through the gap. Like Kingdom Come, nothing of value remained in the wide, open space. I saw a maze of rusted metal racks and gritty cardboard boxes. Dust mote clouds floated in the shafts of light from the street. The air reeked of mold and rotting garbage, but still no jasmine.

“Karen?” The ache in my chest began to burn. “Karen, where are you?”

“I’m here.”

I turned around, then let out a huge breath. A spiral staircase near the smashed window led to a second story landing. Above, I saw the flickering light of several candles. Karen stood on the bottom step, looking gorgeous in plain jeans and a vee-neck tee shirt. Her hair hung loose on her shoulders. Her big doe eyes were wide and a little worried. She opened her mouth, as though to speak, then closed it again. Anxiety sparkled in her blood.

I closed the distance between us in two strides then pulled her into a tight hug. I buried my face in her neck, and her hair was like silk against my cheek. Before she could say a word, my mouth was over hers.

For a second or two, Karen was too shocked to react. Hell, I’d surprised myself. I guess I thought, if I never got another opportunity…who am I kidding? I just wanted to kiss her. I’d missed her like a bird with a broken wing misses the sky.

Karen’s arms tightened around my shoulders as her mouth moved against mine. She might’ve had the softest lips in the world. I know she had the sweetest breath. Her body fit against mine as though she’d been made for me. My heart slammed against my ribcage, and I could feel hers beating just as hard. The tip of my tongue darted out to sneak a taste of her, and she sucked in a sharp breath. My stomach dropped as my mind cracked open to let in all the light of the universe. I’d never had a kiss feel like that before, not even with Justine. At the same time, it was like I’d kissed Karen a hundred times; very safe and familiar.

I wanted to stay there, right there in that perfect moment, for the rest of my life. I wanted to forget the world and all the bullshit hassle that went along with it. I wanted to deepen the kiss and see where it led.

But that was impossible. Trevor, and Justine, stood between us like a canyon. One was dead, and the other would die if we dared to cross that gap. Karen wouldn’t be able to live with that, so this was as close as we’d ever get.

Karen pulled away first. “Are you okay?” she said, an emotional crack in her voice.

I let out a short laugh as I set her back on her feet. “That’s what I should be asking you. I’ve been dying. Where have you been?”

Karen gave a nervous shrug. “I’ve been around.”

“Where? Have you been safe? Is Khalid taking care of you?”

Karen blinked, as though caught off guard. “Yes, of course. How did…?” She stopped then shook her head. “I would’ve reached out, but I thought you’d still be pissed about your arraignment.”

I made a face. “My arraignment?” My arraignment felt as though it had happened in another life. “No, I’m way over that.” I began to understand just how much of Karen’s memory Khalid had wiped.

Karen took a step back. “Lord Ahriman said that your case got dismissed. Look, I know you thought you needed to be punished, but you already spent thirty years in the ground. That was enough punishment over something you couldn’t control. I couldn’t let you go to jail, too.”

The truth hit me like a sledgehammer to the face. “It was you. It was you all along. Hlin had nothing to do with my case getting thrown out. Your deal with Khalid was never about the money. You gave thirty years so I wouldn’t have to.” The look on Karen’s face confirmed it. “You really, really, really shouldn’t have done that.”

“I had to. You would’ve died in there.”

“Better me than you.”

Karen took my hands in hers. “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” She looked at me at last then forced a smile. “So, are we ready to do this?”

With that, our moment was over. Reality had been waiting, right around the corner, ready to pounce and drag us down. Defeat took away my ability to speak, so I just nodded.

Karen took a deep breath as she started to tremble. “Do you have it with you?” she said, then winced. “Shit, what am I saying, of course you have it with you. I’m sorry. That was so dumb.”

I waved away her embarrassment as I dug the chalice out of the pouch. I placed it in her hands, then Karen’s eyes widened.

“Are you fucking kidding me with this? The Impaler spared no expense, did he?” Karen bowed her head then swallowed hard. “Okay. Let’s do this. Everything is almost ready.”

Karen turned, then I followed her up the steep metal stairs. I hate spiral staircases. I always feel like I’m going to hit my head. Halfway up, I just stopped. It was like there was a wall of thick gel I couldn’t push through. I fought the urge to turn around, but couldn’t make myself go any further.

Karen turned with a frown when she realized I was no longer behind her. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a pretty O as she understood. “Are you sure you want to be a vampire?” she said. “I can make you human. You know, if you want. You never know, you might be better off. You won’t have to worry about the sun or getting wet. You won’t have to hunt for blood anymore, or worry about whose territory you’re on. You can finally have a normal life. Please, Toby. Please?”

It was easier to let go of my lifelong dream than I ever would’ve thought possible. “Okay.” Karen’s eyes filled with tears as she took a shuddering breath. “Let’s do it. Make me human.”

Karen blinked, then she turned to walk up the stairs. “Fine,” she said, her voice growing empty. “Pure vampire, it is.”

I felt as though I’d been hit by a taser. “What? Wait, no. I said to make me human.” I rushed to catch up with her. “Karen, can you hear me?”

Khalid waited for us on the second floor, his hands folded in front of him. This level was cleaner than the one below, having been emptied of shelves and garbage. A magic circle drawn in white chalk dominated the center of the room. Black candles burned in the four cardinal directions. In the shadows, I saw something tall covered in a cheap tarp. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what it was.

“That wasn’t part of the deal, half-breed,” Khalid said as he gave Karen a consoling hug. “The terms of our agreement were that Karen would turn you into a Pure vampire, upon which you would relinquish all control over Gwen. You’re not backing out now, not when we’re all so close.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Karen, you don’t have to do what this asshole says. He made you help him kill hundreds of people. You don’t owe him anything, and he only has as much power over you as you give him. Goddamn it, Karen, answer me!”

“She cannot hear you speak ill, and she cannot hear you ask to become anything except a Pure vampire.” Khalid sounded annoyed at having to explain it.

“What the hell does that mean, ‘she cannot hear me speak ill’?” I decided to test that theory. “Hey, Karen. Your tits are popping out of that shirt.”

Karen lifted her head from Khalid’s chest then gave me a long, hard look. “Punch yourself in the face,” she said.

My hard fist shattered the cartilage in my nose and a white flash of pain brought me to my knees.

Khalid couldn’t hide his amusement. “Perhaps I should have clarified; she cannot hear you speak ill against me. Dreadfully sorry.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” I said through bloodied fingers. I breathed through my mouth as Karen walked to the ritual circle. I braced myself then yanked down hard on my broken nose before it could heal at a weird angle. I bit back a growl of agony as the bones ground back into place.

“As I was saying, that was the letter of our agreement reached in the presence of the Elder council. They will allow nothing else, therefore neither will I.”

“Well, then, I have no reason to be here,” I said as I got to my feet.

I turned to walk down the stairs, then Khalid’s voice became merciless. “If you take Gwen from me, then Karen’s life is forfeit.”

<<<Chapter 44

Chapter 45, pt. 2>>>

WitD3: Chapter 44

*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

 

 

Spinning Wheels

 

I’ve been banned from Blogzilla for acting like a racist dickbag, so I made a LifeJournal account. Why, you ask? Because this has been the longest fucking three days of my life, and if I don’t distract myself, I’m going to lose my shit.

Does that make me sound like a pussy? What do I care? No one will ever read this. Thank god for privacy settings.

The thing is, I’m not anxious about becoming a Pure vampire. Mostly, I just think about Karen.

The first thing I did when I got back from fairy world was go to Kingdom Come. It was empty. I’d expected that, but it was like no one had ever been there. The whole building was marked for demolition. Inside, all the fancy decorations were gone. The light fixtures had been ripped down, and the walls gutted for copper wire. There wasn’t even a trace of Karen’s scent in her room.

I have no idea where to begin looking for her, or if she’s safe. I keep reminding myself that Khalid needs her, so he’s going to do everything in his power to keep her happy. If I let myself believe anything else…

I hate this feeling. I’m pissed at myself, and not just for the obvious reasons. I’m getting the only thing I thought I ever wanted. I should be excited, but I’m not. I’m dreading it.

I guess I could focus on the great things about being a Pure vampire, but I can’t remember what they are. Right now, staying out of direct sunlight is annoying. When I’m Pure, it’ll be a matter of life and death. Right now, if I get caught in the rain, or splashed by a puddle, I get wet and chapped. After I’m Pure, my skin will fall off.

I’m already strong. I’m already fast. I don’t need to fly.

Maybe my thirst won’t be as bad without this stupid human metabolism, but that’s the best I can come up with. Centuries of youth and beauty only appeal to humans because they lose theirs so fast. Being attractive has never mattered to vampires.

Speaking of which, I’ve been staring at my reflection a lot lately. I’ve always avoided that before. I’m trying to memorize my face, not that it’ll make a difference. Fairies control the mirror world. Before long, I’ll forget what I look like, just like every other vampire.

When I sleep, I keep the chalice under my mattress, but I wake up every fifteen minutes to make sure it’s still there. When I’m hunting, it’s in a pouch under my hoodie, right next to my skin.

Khalid said the ritual is going to burn a lot of energy. I need to make sure my nutrition is way up, so I don’t go feral halfway through. I don’t want to risk hurting Karen the same way I hurt Justine. Making sure my system is bursting with fresh blood has become my full-time, stress-filled job.

On the flip side, I get struck by flashes of panic that I need to get rid of the chalice. Like, throw it as hard as I can into the ocean. It won’t work. The chalice will be waiting for me wherever I go. The fairies will make sure of that.

I guess there’s one more advantage to being Pure. My emotions won’t kick my ass anymore. Hlin says being a vampire is like having a mind as tranquil as a mountain lake. But that’s coming from Hlin. I don’t think she’s ever had emotions, even when she was human.

People glamorize what it is to be a vampire. That’s a throwback to the days when vampires raised humans the same way humans raise cattle. We kept them safe and healthy in exchange for the occasional sacrifice, and they worshipped us like gods. Even now, so many vampires are treated like celebrities that are famous for being famous. Not that I wouldn’t take a piece of that, but that’s not what’s waiting for me. I have no reason to believe my life will get any easier after I’m Pure.

But I still want it. Or maybe I don’t. But I do. Then again, I don’t. I’m pretty sure I’m bipolar now.

Once upon a time, I didn’t feel anything except anger. It felt good to fight. It felt good to fuck and never look back. If I’d known that caring about someone else would hurt so much, I would’ve stayed far away from people.

Karen, wherever you are, please be okay.

<<<Chapter 43

Chapter 45, pt. 1>>>

We are getting very close to the end. We have one or two more official chapters, then some epilogue stuff that will be exclusive to the final Kindle/printed versions. Before you think me a monster, trust me. The last chapters will be long, and it will wrap the  main story up. 

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