Red Blooded

Page 4


“I don’t have to worry about a pissed-off werewolf,” I countered. “I wouldn’t let you in this circle anyway—” The blast from Tally’s staff struck me so hard, my breath lodged in my chest and I collapsed to my knees. I grabbed onto my neck and gasped like a fish out of water, but I’d managed to capture the magic this time, so that was a win.
Tally’s element of surprise might’ve been the ticket, but the only problem was I actually couldn’t breathe. I pounded on my chest and clawed my neck trying to force oxygen into my windpipe, but nothing was working.
“That’s it.” Tally’s voice sounded tinny and far away. “Take control of it. Mold it how you want it so you can force it back out.”
It was clear she’d never been on the receiving end of her wicked staff from Hell.
I managed to draw in a single breath through a very closed airway, right as a soft tremor rippled through the dirt beneath me.
The movement was just enough to catch my attention.
Did you feel that? My wolf ignored me in favor of snapping and ripping at the magic consuming us. The hybrid demon magic had manifested as a thick, dark mass in my mind, and as it cascaded over my eyes I was launched into total darkness.
I’d indeed captured the magic, but I couldn’t mold it. I couldn’t do anything with it. And it was taking over as fast as it could.
My wolf managed to tear a small patch of clarity open in my mind and I sucked in another gulp of air as quickly as I could. I was still on my knees, but surprisingly, my body had started to shake in rhythm with the ground tremors.
The vibration running through my body hummed like a musical note.
I wrenched my head up, but I still couldn’t see anything through the dark magic covering my eyes. Do you hear that? My wolf stopped what she was doing, her ears up and alert.
Someone was yelling and the only thing I could make out was my name.
Then two more words.
“Don’t go!”
Don’t go where? Where do they think we’re going? My wolf didn’t respond. Instead she cocked her head to the side, listening. The ground beneath us began to quake faster. Words were trying to force their way into my mind, but I couldn’t make them out.
Someone screamed.
I shook my head, trying to clear the cloud of demon essence, but it was useless. It was too thick and concentrated. Focus on the sound, I told my wolf. I pushed outward, trying to break through whatever had encapsulated me.
With a resounding pop he came through in a rush.
Jessica, JESSICA! Listen to me. Don’t go yet, you’re not ready. Please. Throw the magic back out. Tally said you have to eject it. Dammit, listen to me! You have to get rid of it and get the hell out of that circle!
Rourke? How did you get in here? I must’ve been out of it longer than I’d thought. What’s going on?
I felt your power shift so I kicked the door in, but it doesn’t matter! The circle is activating and taking you on its own. Tally thinks your magic, combined with the demon essence she threw at you, has triggered something. You have to rid yourself of the demon magic. Eject it before it’s too late!
I’m trying, believe me. I staggered to my feet, my arms flung wide to the sides for balance. Ray had just been doing this very same thing, and now I knew exactly how he’d felt. This stuff was vicious. I still couldn’t see.
With a start, I realized I was breathing again and the magic wasn’t trying to choke the life out of me anymore. It was there, swirling around inside me, but it had settled like a thick fog around my senses, almost like it was waiting for something. Rourke, I don’t understand what’s happening. Can’t I just walk out of the circle? Once I’m out, Tally can suck this stuff out of me with her staff. I took a few steps forward and abruptly smacked into something solid. It buzzed with the same magic that was now in my head. Rourke, can you hear me? What’s going on?
Jessica, you closed the circle. There was anguish in his voice and he sounded very far away. The magic you’re emitting is mimicking demon magic. You fully absorbed whatever Tally threw at you and the circle now thinks you’re some kind of powerful demon. It’s about to give you a one-way ticket to the Underworld. You have to try to eject it.
I stopped moving.
I had no idea how to get rid of it. We have to harness it like Tally told us before, I said to my wolf. She growled at me, giving me a look.
She was right. There was nothing to harness. The demon essence had begun to sink into me, mingling with my own magic.
Jessica, can you hear me? Rourke’s voice shook as he pounded on the edge of the circle.
I can, but I can’t see anything. The magic has completely settled over me. It feels strange. And there’s a weird buzzing in my head. I can’t find anything to grab on to. It’s not threatening me—just the opposite. It’s beginning to feel like my own.
I could hear him explaining it out loud to others, but his voice was muffled. Then he shouted, “I don’t care! You have to help her. You have the fucking staff. Break the circle open and yank her out of there.”
The Kitty was indeed mad.
Tally’s voice was calm. She was nearer or her voice projected better, either way I could hear her. “I can’t do that. She’s more powerful than this staff right now. She just has no idea how to wield the magic inside her.”
No shit. Okay, we have to figure this out on our own, I told my wolf. We have to dump this magic. I raised my arms and pressed my palms against the inside of the circle, the same circle I had inadvertently activated. It felt hot and sticky, but totally solid. It curved slightly upward. I cleared my voice and yelled, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes!” Marcy answered first. “Jess, you have to get out of there. I don’t care how you do it, but you need to get it done.” Her voice was just short of frantic, which was a lot of emotion for her. “You can’t go to the Underworld without any protection. Come on! There’s no need to show any of us up and be all powerful and scary. Just dump the magic into the ground and the barrier will drop. Easy as pie.”
My body began to shake like a tuning fork in tandem with the ground. The magic inside me grew stronger by the second. There was no pie here. It swirled through me in a massive current, a big haze of golden darkness, leaving nothing for me to hold on to.
I think we’re feeding the circle, I told my wolf. It’s coming up from the ground and through us and back like a transformer. We’re going to have to break the circuit the same way we did with Vlad’s sword.