High Voltage

Page 53

I’d gotten his not-so-subtle message: we have more than one red thread.

And those threads aren’t gender or even species specific, at least not in my case. Some of them are romantic, some of them aren’t.

Mac’s one of my threads, our lives inextricably intertwined. I think Mac and Christian also have a red thread, their interactions not always easy but definitely transformative.

Shazam is one of my threads, too. I think Kat may be as well. We have things to learn from each other; she with her enormous empathy and me with my formidable walls.

Rowena was a great big nasty thread but not a red one. I think people can invade your life and tangle themselves around you, a black rope, and if you create too much bad Karma together, maybe they become one of your red threads in a next life, and ever after, until you get whatever you’re supposed to learn from your involvement with them—these people who force their way in and wreck your world. Perhaps it’s a lesson in some kind of cosmic forgiveness.

I haven’t learned it yet. I don’t forgive her. She was one crazy bitch and I still don’t know everything she did to me.

Ryodan is one of my red threads, too. He might be a massive red rope, ten times as thick as a normal thread. I’m afraid Dancer saw that.

Love is funny. Even though you don’t have that person anymore, you still have the feeling. You didn’t lose your love. You lost the tangible, tactile, sensesational ability to experience the person or animal you lost.

Grief is all about not being able to touch anymore. Not being able to use your senses to experience them on a physical level. They’ve moved beyond an impenetrable veil, beyond your hands and mouth and eyes.

And…of course…that led me to another thought I tried to box and failed.

I was losing my ability to touch everything.

I recognize rabbit holes when I see them. That was a long, bottomless one.

I pushed myself up briskly, refusing to tumble over that edge. It was what it was. Period. Patterns, meaning, not my forte. Action, swift and sure, I get that.

I glanced at my phone for the time, grabbed my sword, shoved it over my shoulder into the sheath, and turned to the bedroom to freshen up and head for Chester’s. If I didn’t hustle he’d be hammering on my door.

The one who’d been willing to make Dancer one of the Nine for me. I had a brief flash of the two of them sitting together, talking about me, Ryodan offering to save Dancer, Dancer knowing I wanted them both. Holy hell. Complicated relationships. My life is full of them.

As I entered my dark bedroom and moved for the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face, I felt it.

There was a living presence in my room. Lurking, seething, oozing darkly in the corner behind me.

Not Fae.

Enormous malevolence, terrifying.

I pivoted sharply. It hulked in the corner to the right of my bed, filling it up, cramming it with darkness heaped upon darkness.

No, it crouched, making itself much smaller than it actually was, voracious, and suffocatingly evil.

My sword was in my right hand instantly, my left bare, upraised.

“Show yourself,” I snarled.

It glided forward from the dense inky shadow it had woven around itself and, as its human-seeming form appeared bit by bit, head last, I realized it was removing a mask from its face.

I have a theory about people I suspect is universal: when someone conceals something from you, it makes you want to see it. The moment the mask cleared that side of its face, I stared, and was instantly ensnared by its terrible gaze.

There are rules in this world that you only learn by violating them. Some things you can never talk to, like the Fear Dorcha, who can steal a piece of your body if you’re that kind of fool. The bastard took my mouth once, left me unable to tell the world the many brilliant things I had to say. Mac saved me from him.

And now, in addition to Unseelie princes, I learned there are other things you can never lock gazes with.

The moment my eyes met the bottomless, wet, suffocating, mist-filled gaze of the single enormous eye this creature had been concealing behind its mask, I was rooted to the ground, unable to move. No possibility of kicking up into the slipstream. That evil, consuming eye speared a piece of me and locked onto it with savage barbs that wouldn’t let go.

I felt it enter my mind then, not like Ryodan, with a subtle dip, but a ruthless javelin with a shiny fishhook on the end that had multiple prongs, as it ripped into the very meat of me, yanking, pulling, wrenching something from my body.

And I knew in that moment, bloody hell I knew for a fact, that I had a soul because that’s what it was taking from me.

The very essence of Dani O’Malley was caught on its lethal barb. The building blocks of all that I am, my strength and power, my truths and lies, my heart and brain and fabric and energy. My subconscious, my conscious, my id and ego, my entire personality was being extracted on the hooked end of its javelin. I was losing everything that was me. It was scraping me like a mussel from a shell, to devour me, absorb my strengths and abilities, and once it had me, I would never exist again. It was death so final it was beyond my comprehension. This thing, whatever it was, trafficked in obliteration of the human soul.

End of all adventures permanently. End of all red threads.

There is no greater abomination in my universe. I don’t fear death. I resent the fuck out of it. I don’t like commercial breaks in my programming. But I don’t fear it because I know I’m a permanent, indelible, massive, fat-tipped Sharpie, I can’t be scrubbed out of the Cosmos.

But this thing defied all the rules. It could erase me forever.

As it continued to rip me from my body, dragging me into its wet, suffocating mist, swallowing me whole, I caught a glimpse of the horror of it, the horror of what it contained.

Tens of thousands of souls like mine, becoming more powerful with each it stole. Tens of thousands—maybe a hundred thousand souls—screaming with panic and madness, existing in a formless half-life, as fuel for something that was erasing every shred of their individuality, molding them into a formless lump of its own will, blotting them out of existence bit by torturous bit and they were aware of being destroyed.

I caught a vision then, within its dark mind, of bodies shambling like zombies, controlled by it. It despised them, barely kept them alive, made them fight like dogs for scraps of food. Tormented them endlessly, laughing as they mindlessly did its bidding. It not only grew ever more powerful with each soul but was amassing…

An army.

Of humans.

Slaves. Countless human souls destroyed.

This thing had been taking my adults! This was the “him” on the other side of those narrow black mirrors, reeking of wood smoke and blood. But more, so much more. All over Western Europe it had been culling humans, growing in power, pursuing its dark agenda, which was…oh, holy hell—the obliteration of the entire human race!

It wanted us dead. Gone. Forever eradicated, never to return. It hated us beyond reason. It planned to turn its army of humans against us, then against the Fae, and with my sword it had a damned good chance at wiping both races out. Even more horrifying, it believed once it acquired a certain number of souls, it would be so powerful its demonic eye would no longer be necessary. It would only have to stroll through a city and inhale every human soul in it, its deadly reach expanding wider with each new acquisition.

I was right about you, it purred. You are worth a hundred of them.

I scowled. Surely more than that.

Its mocking laughter echoed inside my soul. It found me arrogant. It hungered to eat me, become me, assimilate me, steal everything I’d worked so hard to become.

With enormous effort, I made a box, and deposited myself within it. I ended up with less than half of me inside, it had the other half.

Battle is futile. I existed long before your puny race came along and will exist long after you are gone.

It yanked savagely.

I stretched long and painfully thin, dug mental feet beneath the rim of my box. I needed a name, damn it. I wasn’t leaving without one and I would be leaving.

Who are you?

God, Death. Soulstealer.

But I caught a name beneath it, deep beneath. It was proud, far more arrogant than me. It wanted its name said, over and over, it commanded its soulless army to repeat an endless chant, worshipping it. That was the indecipherable chant I’d heard through those dark mirrors.


It was a place to start. I instantly embraced the Hunter’s darkness within, encouraged it to explode inside me, slam into my brain, back down to my heart, then raised both hands and flung them at it.

How are you moving? Balor screamed.

I released bolt after bolt of pale blue—

Holy hell, where was I?

Rocketing through a wormhole, achieving superluminal velocity, faster than I’d ever managed in my slipstream, exploding into open space, drawing to a sudden complete halt in the middle of a circle of Hunters.

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