Beautiful Darkness

Page 14


Abraham needed to feed, and even through the smoke, he could smell the desperation and fear of a Mortal nearby. Fear would make him strong. It provided more power and sustenance than memories or dreams.
Abraham Traveled toward the scent. But when he materialized in the woods beyond Greenbrier, he knew he was too late. The scent was faint. In the distance, he could see Genevieve Duchannes hunched over a body in the mud.
Ivy, Greenbrier's cook, was standing behind Genevieve, clutching something against her chest.
The old woman saw Abraham and rushed toward him. "Mr. Ravenwood, thank the Lord." She lowered her voice. "You have to take this. Put it somewhere safe till I can come for it." Pulling a heavy black book from the folds of her apron, she thrust it into Abraham's hands. As soon as he touched it, Abraham could feel its power.
The book was alive, pulsating against his palms as if it had a heartbeat. He could almost hear it whispering to him, beckoning him to take it -- to open it and release whatever was hiding inside. There were no words on its cover, only a single crescent moon. Abraham ran his fingers over the edges.
Ivy was still talking, mistaking Abraham's silence for hesitation. "Please, Mr. Ravenwood. I got no one else to give it to. And I can't leave it with Miss Genevieve. Not now." Genevieve raised her head as if she could hear them through the rain and the roar of the flames.
The moment Genevieve turned toward them, Abraham understood. He could see her yellow eyes glowing in the darkness. The eyes of a Dark Caster. In that moment, he also understood what he was holding.
The Book of Moons.
He had seen the Book before, in the dreams of Genevieve's mother, Marguerite. It was a book of infinite power, a book Marguerite feared and revered in equal measure. One she hid from her husband and her daughters, and would never have allowed into the hands of a Dark Caster or an Incubus. A book that could save Ravenwood.
Ivy scooped something from inside the folds of her skirt and rubbed it across the face of the Book. The white crystals rolled down over the edges. Salt. The weapon of superstitious island women, who brought their own brand of power with them from the Sugar Islands, where their ancestors were born. They believed it warded off Demons, a belief that had always amused Abraham. "I'll come for it, soon as I can. I swear."
"I will keep it safe. You have my word." Abraham brushed some of the salt from the Book's cover so he could feel its heat against his skin. He turned back toward the woods. He would walk a few yards, for Ivy's benefit. It always scared the Gullah women to see him Travel, to be reminded of what he was.
"Put it away, Mr. Ravenwood. Whatever you do, don't open it. That book brings nothin' but misery to anyone who messes with it. Don't listen to it when it calls you. I'll come for it." But Ivy's warning had come too late.
Abraham was already listening.
When I came to, I was lying on my back on the floor, staring at my ceiling. It was painted sky blue, like al the ceilings in our house, to fool the carpenter bees that nested there.
I sat up, dizzy. The box was beside me, the lid shut. I opened it, and the pages were inside. This time I didn't touch them.
None of this made sense. Why was I having visions again? Why was I seeing Abraham Ravenwood, a man who folks in town had been suspicious of for generations because Ravenwood was the only plantation to survive the Great Burning? Not that I believed much of anything the folks in town had to say.
But when Genevieve's locket triggered the visions, there had been a reason. Something Lena and I needed to figure out. What did Abraham Ravenwood have to do with us? The common thread was The Book of Moons. It was in the locket visions and in this one. But the Book was gone. The last time anyone had seen it was the night of Lena's birthday, when it was lying on the table in the crypt, surrounded by fire. Like so many things, it was nothing but ashes now.
All That Remains
When I went to school the next day, I sat alone with Link and his four sloppy joes at the lunch table. While I ate my pizza, al I could think about was what Link said about Lena. He was right. She had changed, a little bit at a time, until I almost couldn't remember how things used to be. If I had anyone to talk to about it, I knew they would say to give her time. I also knew that was just something people said when there was nothing left to say and nothing you could do.
Lena wasn't coming out of it. She wasn't coming back to herself or to me. If anything, she was drifting farther away from me than anyone else. More and more, I couldn't reach her, not on the inside, not with Kelting or kissing or any of the other complicated or uncomplicated ways we used to touch. Now when I took her hand, al I could feel was the chil .
And when Emily Asher looked at me from across the lunchroom, there wasn't anything left but pity in her eyes. Once again, I was someone to feel sorry for. I wasn't Ethan Wate Whose Mamma Died Just Last Year. Now I was Ethan Wate Whose Girlfriend Went Psycho When Her Uncle Died. People knew there were complications, and they knew they hadn't seen Lena in school with me.
Even if they didn't like Lena, the miserable love to watch someone else's misery. I had just about cornered the market on miserable. I was worse than miserable, lower than a flattened sloppy joe left behind on a lunchroom tray. I was alone.
One morning about a week later, I kept hearing a strange sound, like a grating or a record scratching or a page tearing, in the back of my mind. I was in history class, and we were talking about the Reconstruction, which was the even more boring time after the Civil War when the United States had to put itself back together. In a Gatlin classroom, this chapter was even more embarrassing than it was depressing -- a reminder South Carolina had been a slave state and that we had been on the wrong side of right. We al knew it, but our ancestors had left us with a permanent F on the nation's moral report card. Cuts that run that deep leave scars, no matter what you try to do to heal them. Mr. Lee was stil droning on, punctuating each sentence with a dramatic sigh.