Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(18)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(18)
Author: H.M. Ward

I scolded myself to pay attention. My bare feet treaded across the carpet to the wall with the bookshelf and the hollowed out space hidden behind it. I didn't know how Eric had opened the hidden space. That was the only problem, and it wasn't like I could knock on it to listen for a hollow place in the bookcase to make sure I had the right spot. Sliding my fingers over the wooden shelf, I pressed it as hard as I could near the place Eric had extracted the book, but nothing happened. My fingers ran up and down the wood looking for any sign of an opening, but there was nothing. Shouldering my weight against the thing, I frantically pushed, but it didn't give. Maybe the Martis were already here, took the book, and filled it in? The bookcase was part of the wall, and it wasn't revealing any secret doors.

A creak drew my attention away from the wall. The sound came from the bedroom. I turned sharply and watched the door. With my heart pounding in my ears, I stood frozen, watching a light inside the room flick on. The desire to run overwhelmed me. The muscles in my legs were flinching, ready to take off. But I forced them to remain still, and wrapped my fingers around Apryl's necklace, gripping it as if my life depended on it. For a few short seconds, it felt like my heart would explode. All I could do was stand there and wait as the woman moved around in her room. When the light finally turned off, I realized I'd been holding my breath and released it. I unclamped the death grip on my necklace and noticed the peonies bit into my palm. The sharp edge of the white flower cut the padding on my index finger. The drop of blood blemished the tiny white flower and ran down into its petals. I tried to rub it off with my thumb, but I just smeared it over both flowers. Annoyed, I realized that I'd have to rinse it off later before the blood dried in the crevices.

I stopped fiddling with the necklace and ran my fingers along the bookcase, wanting nothing more than to be done with this and leave. But, the built-in wasn't showing any signs of being tampered with. There were no depressions, no sagging boards, nothing that appeared to be hollow - nothing. Pressing my eyes closed, I leaned back against the wall and looked up at the ceiling. With every ounce of my being, I longed to find the opening. If I could find the niche in the bookcase, I could get the book and figure out how to get the poison out of my chest. There would be another option to heal me and no reason for me to give Collin a demon kiss. It would never come to that. Hysteria was building up inside of me. I locked my jaw to keep from crying out in frustration, and turned back to the middle shelf and pressed on it. Just when I was about to give up, my pinky fell into the tiniest depression and caressed the spot just right.

Sudden elation washed over me, only to be replaced with horror. I'd found the hidden niche, but as the wood panel behind the bookcase slid opened, it screeched an ear-piercingly high shrill. The sound filled the apartment, flooding it with noise. Sliding my fingers into the slowly growing crack in the wall, I tried to grab the book as soon as the panel opened, but there wasn't enough room to shove my hand in and pull the book out. My nails scraped against the side and top of the hole in the wall, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't wedge my fingers in and pull out the fat book. Heart pounding, I wanted the panel to move faster, but it continued sliding at its leisurely pace unaware of the situation its loudness had created.

Within seconds of the screechy noise starting, I heard Tahlia's quick footfalls. The lights flicked on in her room, and the sound of feet walking toward me grew louder. I stared at the opening in the wall, now nearly all the way open. A brown aged leather binding was sitting in the niche snugly. Shoving my fingers around the panel, I pulled and tried to make it move faster, but it didn't affect it. It continued to slide slowly. Panic shot through me, and started pooling like ice in my stomach. My gaze shifted frantically between the book and Tahlia's door. A scream was building up inside of me, but I swallowed it back down.

I wouldn't get caught. I'd grab the book and effonate out of there. Collin would heal me. I just had to get my fingers around the book!

The familiar scrape of metal on metal came from her door, as the knob turned slowly. Tahlia's bedroom door opened slowly, as I pressed myself against the wall trying to shrink into it so she couldn't see me. I didn't want to hurt her, but she couldn't know we were here. There was nowhere to hide. As soon as her eyes adjusted, she'd see me!

The raven-haired woman scanned the room, looking for the source of the noise. When her eyes darted towards the wall, she was visibly startled and looked up at me in disbelief. Her mouth opened, as panic lit her eyes with fear and her voice came out in a scream. But the scream was cut short and muffled immediately after it started.

Collin clasped his hand over her mouth, and spoke softly in her ear, pulling her back into her room. He focused solely on Tahlia, not looking up at me. Tahlia didn't take her eyes off of me. The brown globes were wide with fear. Her skin glistened and she was shaking as Collin gently pulled her back through the door. Her gaze didn't falter from mine, and her eyes never stopped pleading. Guilt swam in my stomach, making me feel like I was going to vomit.

Suddenly, the shrill screech of the niche's panel sliding opening was gone. Swiveling my head, I looked at the hiding place and snatched the huge brown book. My fingers found the same spot on the panel and I closed the opening. When I looked back up, Collin and Tahlia were gone. I pressed Eric's book to my chest. It was so valuable. I needed it, and we had to get the book without anyone seeing us. My life depended on it. Collin explained that if the Martis didn't get the book yet, that they would come at me that much harder when they found out I had it. Neither of us thought that was a good idea. The plan was to sneak in and take it before anyone realized what we'd done. Collin and I had both agreed that if we woke Tahlia up, that we couldn't let her go. But now that it actually happened, now that I screwed up and woke her, I couldn't do. Collin came with me to take care of anything that went wrong. And this was wrong. Heart racing, I ran back to her bedroom. I was surprised to see him speaking softly in her ear.

Tahlia was in a trance. She sat rigid on the edge of her bed with a vacant expression on her face. The terror on her face was gone. The pleading on her eyes was nonexistent.

Collin's voice was low as he whispered in her ear. "You're dreaming Tahlia. No one came into your house. No one was really here. It was all a dream. Sleep now. Sleep." The woman closed her eyes, leaned back into her pillows, and drifted off into sleep. Surprised, I wanted to ask how he did that, but he pulled at me to leave with him. Looking back over my shoulder, I noticed it - a small drop of scarlet on the corner of her mouth.



"I thought you were going to kill her," I said. My voice sounded funny - like I'd been running and was completely out of breath.

Collin looked over at me and arched an eyebrow, "How would that not draw attention to us?" He laughed, "Mortals pay attention to death. Smart Valefar don't leave trails." I looked away from him and at the wooden walls. We were sitting on the floor of an old boathouse down by the docks, not far from Tahlia's house. Collin said he had come here frequently before he met me. This was his sanctuary. He led us into the old building that stank of salty sea air and mildew. There wasn't much going on at this time of night. It was quiet except for the sound of the water splashing into the dock.

Holding the book squarely on my lap, I looked up at him almost afraid to ask, "Then what'd you do to her?" He looked at me like that was a silly question, but I pressed, "I saw blood on the corner of her mouth. I know it was yours, Collin. Tell me what you did." The last sentence was more of a plea than a command. Valefar powers that involved blood scared me. They seemed to be the most heinous of their kind. I had no idea how true that thought was at the time.

Collin's eyes cut to me as if considering whether or not he should tell me. He finally let out a sigh and leaned back against the wall, and folded his hands behind his head. "I told you that I'd take care of it, and I did. Why does it matter?" He dropped his hands to his knees and looked straight at me, making my heart flutter under his intense gaze. "Why do you have to know?" He stared at me, and I felt that it was a warning. He wanted to hide this from me as much as I wanted to know.

Frustrated, I folded my legs and set the book down beside me. "Martis don't use their blood for anything, so this part makes no sense to me. I want to know what you did because...well, I expected you to kill her. I thought, maybe, you didn't...because of me. But then I saw the blood and knew that you still did do something bad, it was just something else." I paused for a moment and then looked away from him and up into the cobweb filled rafters overhead. "I just want to know what damage I caused by waking her up. I'm responsible for whatever happened to her." My gaze cut back toward Collin. "I have to know."

There was no sparkle in his eyes, no lightness on his lips shown by the smile he usually wore. He looked at me and nodded, as if agreeing that I should know. "Valefar blood is powerful. It's used in making another Valefar, as well as forcing things to take an unnatural turn. We're the living dead - a body with no soul. I'm the only one, as far as I know, that has any remnant of a soul, but even that wasn't enough to overcome what I am. But you, your blood is diluted and mixed with Martis blood. Maybe your mixture of good and evil blood cancels itself out. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know."

The look on his face became troubled, but the bond told me he was scared - very scared. I sensed his hesitation. "But," he continued, "the point is that Valefar blood is toxic to mortals. It either changes them to Valefar or it can be used to manipulate the natural order of things." He paused, not wanting to tell me what he did. Something brushed against the bond, and I felt him slam it back down, trying to hide it from me. I stared at him, horror growing within me, wondering what he'd done. "The blood made her sleep, and forget. I used it to erase us from her mind. But, Valefar blood is intrusive. The process will continue, routing backwards from today, until she forgets everything she knows. It will corrupt her body from the inside, destroying it in the process."

Eyes wide, I stared at him. My mouth was dry, and I couldn't swallow the knot that had grown to an enormous size in my throat. "So, you did kill her." My voice was a whisper. The fate Collin bestowed upon her was worse than I thought. He killed her anyway, but slowly. Oh my God! That was so much worse!

Collin didn't walk over and throw his arms around me and tell me it was okay. I would have punched him if he tried. Irate, I jumped up and walked outside to the dock. The salty sea air blew across my skin and sent my hair flying. Was this what my life came to? Murder? I killed that woman. If we'd snuck in when she wasn't home, our lives wouldn't have collided and she wouldn't be dying - forgetting everything and everyone she loved - while I was... While I was what? Anger surged through me as I smashed my fist into the dock. The wood cracked under my hand and splintered, sending shards flying in every direction. Some of the fragments scraped my cheek as they flew by, while other pieces of wood lodged themselves in my hand.

I sat down hard on the dock and began to pick the splinters out of my fist.  Unable to use my left hand as well as my right, I couldn't get all the bits of wood out of my skin. The wind blew softly, and long strands of my hair lifted and gently balanced on the breeze. I stared. The tips of my hair glowed purple like dying embers of a once raging fire. Pushing the loose curls back, I thought that my eyes were probably ringed in violet, too.

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