High Voltage

Page 54

She comes, they gonged. It’s time.

I hovered there, feeling as if I stood in a doorway, one land behind me, one land ahead; both fascinating, both real, and all I had to do was lift my foot and take a step either way.

And for a split second I hungered to go forward not back, to feel great, black Hunter wings churning ice as I soared, exploring the mysteries of the universe, no door barred to me, to be so bloody powerful and untamed and wild and free, the biggest bad in the universe, owning the skies, tasting of stardust and eternity, and it felt oddly as if I belonged there, as if my destiny was writ in these very stars—


My people.

NO, IT’S NOT TIME, I roared, resisting with every ounce of my will. MY WORLD NEEDS ME!

Then I was rocketing back through that wormhole at a dizzying speed and I was in the room with Balor, and my beautiful pale blue lightning was exploding, not only from my hands but my body, crackling out in powerful bursts, jolting the god, again and again, and Balor was roaring inside my head, screaming with pain, then he was buckling in the corner, doubling over, clutching his leg, and he whipped his head back and roared at me, as if insulted beyond enduring, You wounded my fucking leg!

I gathered myself to hurl a bolt straight into his face.

Balor dropped his mask over his eye and exploded into a cloud of misty, damp black dust that smelled of coffin linings and the sterile chemicals of autopsy rooms and morgues, so cloying and suffocating that I couldn’t breathe.

Abruptly, he was gone.

I tried to whirl and scan the room, in case he’d circled back for another attack, but I had no sense of space, couldn’t comprehend myself in relationship to it.

My strength was decimated, both from the tug of war over my soul and the staggering high voltage still sparking beneath my skin.

I drew a ragged breath then another, trying desperately to center myself.

I raised a foot to take a step but when I brought it down, it didn’t feel solid. I stumbled and went crashing to the floor, cracking my head on the corner of the bed frame.

Everything went black.

Rowena was in my life long before I met her at eight.

After the rejection of Seamus, a man my mother deeply loved, a man who might have been our savior, she fell apart. Her heart had taken too many blows.

While my mother was defeated by grief, and out of work thanks to Seamus’s spineless, vindictive way of erasing her from his life, Rowena dispatched the man who would become her pimp. Feigning love, the bastard began his endless manipulations, treating her at first better then finally worse than anyone ever had. By then pain and despair had become Emma O’Malley’s normal. She expected to be abused by life.

Rowena sent the next boyfriend, too, an aficionado of drugs, to introduce her to the only escape she would ever know, besides death.

Her sadistic plan: to subject me to even more pain and suffering, to burn my world down around me as I watched, helpless, to char me beyond repair.

To see what rose from the ashes.

To step in as my savior and rescue me from my cage, hoping for a broken, malleable weapon. One that would despise herself for the darkness within, one so deeply fractured she would grovel for crumbs of kindness, despite the many superpowers that made her infinitely more powerful than Rowena herself.

Her plan worked.

I broke.

But I scarred stronger.

When she found me, wandering Dublin at eight, and realized things hadn’t unfolded according to her careful plan, she used black arts to tamper with my mind, burying the real one beneath a false memory of her discovering me, rescuing me from my cage as I lay waiting to die. Like any good liar, she salted her lie with grains of truth; let me continue to believe I killed my mother by strangling her through the bars. She wanted me tormented by the blade of matricide.

Silverside, I meticulously ferreted out her spells and compulsions. I didn’t get rid of my demons, I don’t think that’s possible for me. But I know them by name now. And they obey me, not the other way around.

After I moved into the abbey, even before I knew the extent of Rowena’s involvement in our lives, I had a dream that I killed her.

Later, when I discovered all she’d done to us, I had that dream again.

I’d hungered to kill her.

I told myself the only reason I didn’t was because the other sidhe-seers would have ostracized me, and I’d wanted desperately to belong. I wouldn’t have felt an ounce of regret; rabid animals need to be put down. My anger would definitely have ebbed.

But there was a deeper reason that gave me pause.

Both times, as she lay dying in my dreams, I’d seen a flash of pure, evil triumph glittering in that sadistic blue gaze.

Glee. Gloating. Jubilation.

Her eyes had said: You are an animal, you are a monster, you are damaged beyond repair. I did that to you and I may be dying but I took you down with me. I may go to Hell but you’ll live in it every day for the rest of your life. I shattered you and you will never be anything but a creature of impulsive reactions, a killer of innocents. You are as ugly and corrupt as me.

I’m glad Mac killed her.

I never wanted to give her the opportunity to look at me that way or feel she had a single reason to gloat.

Because I know a priceless truth: when someone has done everything in their power to mangle your wings beyond recognition, to slice them to shreds so that they can never be used, there is only one way to win.



What the caterpillar calls the end of the world

The master calls a butterfly.


Live without your sunlight, love without your heartbeat

I WOKE IN THAT RARE, smooth, focused mood that told me I was either under attack or Ryodan had spelled me into a healing slumber again. Given my fragmented memories, it was the latter.

I sat up, glancing around in the dim light. The room was huge, with high transomed ceilings of ornate, dark tiles, the walls wainscoted black. To my right was an enormous fire in a hearth that filled half the wall, a black leather sofa and chairs, a dark coffee table, above which hung a single shimmering cut-crystal chandelier, reflecting hundreds of tiny flames.

I was alone, in a high-backed, black-velvet bed, tangled in black silk sheets.

I could smell him on the sheets. Picture him too easily here, naked, powerful, savage yet controlled, those cool silvery eyes glittering hot, bloodred with beast. I knew how he fucked, like a man on fire. Uninhibited, raw, one hundred percent focused. I’d watched him when I was far too young to have seen it, yet old enough to have shivered with awareness. Clutching a fistful of silk to my nose, I inhaled. It was a violent turn-on, slamming lust painfully awake and alive. I’d never once gotten to have the kind of sex I wanted to have, the way I lived my life, at a headlong, all-out run, wild, unrestrained.


I thrust the sheet away and began sorting through disjointed memories.

Ryodan finding me on the floor at Sanctuary, rolling me in a blanket, tossing me over his shoulder, carrying me. A brief flash of Chester’s nightclub, then darkness.

Ryodan demanding I wake, drink a protein shake, wake, drink more. Fighting with him, wanting only to sleep. A gloved hand behind my head. Liquid poured down my throat, being threatened with a feeding tube again.

No matter how far off the deep end I went, he always brought me back.

Balor. The memory slammed into my mind laced with pure adrenaline and I tensed.

Holy soul-sucking fiends, I needed to talk to Ryodan, to the Shedon! We had to find Balor but more importantly we had to figure out how to kill him, since even my staggering power had proven ineffectual against the god. My first blast alone would have blown any Fae to bits. Yet all I’d managed to do to the deadly, rapacious Balor was wound his leg.

Exhaling gustily, I scraped my long tangled hair from my face. And blinked, staring down at my hands. Both were coal black. In one of my fists was a tangle of raven curls. In the other was a tangle of red. I shoved up one sleeve, then the next. Thorns on both arms.

I surged from the bed and tried to decide which of five doors led to the bathroom. I opened the nearest and blinked, staring. It looked familiar but it was hard to tell with every piece of furniture shattered. Even the walls and floors had deep gashes slashed into them, as if massive, lethal talons had been turned against them in fury.

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