Page 79

It will have to be enough.

She’s on me in seconds, and I wait for the kill shot, for new waves of agony to roll over me. But instead of ripping me to pieces as I expect, she lifts me into her arms. Throws me back onto the altar.

“Do you think I need that book?” she demands, dragging me to the center of the stone slab. “I’ve spent months preparing for this. Months!” she screeches as she reaches down and tears a long strip of cotton from the shift I’m wearing. “I know every word, every syllable of what’s on that page.”

She throws herself down on top of me and grabs my left arm. It’s my turn to scream as she wrenches it above my head.

She just laughs as she ties me to the metal ring I was tied to before and sneers. “Payback’s a bitch.”

She rips another strip from my gown, and though I kick at her, we both know it’s not going to do any good. She doesn’t even bother to slap me back. Just shifts her weight so she can tie my right arm up as well.

“I spent months searching for you,” she tells me as she climbs to her feet. “And then after I found you, I spent weeks planning your parents’ accident and planting the seeds with Finn that would get you here. Then more weeks making sure Jaxon was ready for you. And now you think you can ruin everything by burning a little spell? You have no idea.”

She staggers back toward the lectern, grabs the book from where it fell onto the floor. “You have no idea!” she screams again, brandishing the book like a weapon. “This is my one chance, my one chance, to bring him back, and you think I’m going to let you ruin it? You? You pathetic, miserable excuse for a…”

“Human?” I interject, even as my mind runs wild at what she’s suggesting. Bring him back? Who? Hudson?

“Is that what you think you are? Human?” She laughs. “God, you’re even more pathetic than I thought. You think I would do all this to get my hands on a human? One trip to town and I could have a hundred of them without even trying.”

I have no idea what she means, or even if she’s telling me the truth. And still her words go through me like lightning. Still they wake up something inside me that I don’t recognize but somehow feels the slightest bit familiar. Am I a witch after all, despite what Uncle Finn said? Is that what this voice I keep hearing inside me means?

And if I am, so what? There are more than a hundred witches at this school alone. What makes me so special? The fact that she thinks I’m Jaxon’s mate? Or something else? Something more?

There’s no time to dwell on the whole mess right now, not if she’s being honest about knowing the spell. And not while the clock is ticking inexorably toward twelve seventeen. “Are you seriously trying to bring Hudson back?” I ask, and though I know Lia’s crazy and that she plans to kill me, there’s still a tiny piece of me that might actually feel sorry for her…or it would, if she hadn’t also been responsible for the murder of my parents.

The fact that it’s Hudson’s death that did this to her, that made her so lost and broken that she came up with this ridiculous, convoluted scheme to bring him back…it’s pathetic and heart-wrenching all at the same time.

But still, there’s no way Lia can be allowed to bring Hudson back. Not if one-tenth of what Jaxon told me about him was true—and I know that it was. No wonder Flint and the other shifters were so adamant about doing whatever they had to to stop Lia, even if it meant killing me. But they were insane to think Jaxon would ever play a part in this. There’s no way he would ever try to bring his brother back. No freaking way.

Knowing this makes me feel horrible for doubting him.

“You can’t do this, Lia.”

“I’m going to do it. I’m going to bring Hudson back,” she answers. “And you’re going to help me.”

“It’s impossible, Lia. You can kill as many people as you want, find as many spells as you think necessary. But you can’t bring the boy you love back from the dead. It doesn’t work that way.”

“Don’t talk to me about what I can or can’t do,” she snarls, even as she pulls out her phone and holds it out to me so I can see the time. “In five minutes, you’ll know the truth. Everyone will.”

I really hope that isn’t true. I read Frankenstein last year—I can only imagine what abomination she’ll bring back from the dead if her little plan actually works.

Before I can say anything, though, the main doors to the room rattle on their hinges. Seconds later, the whole wall shakes, but the stones stay in place. As do the doors.

“He’s getting close,” Lia says, crawling to the edge of the altar and pushing to her feet.

“Who? Hudson?” I ask, shivers of horror sliding down my spine at the thought of a resurrected vampire breaking through those doors—and then doing God only knows what? Feeding from me because of whatever Lia thinks I am?

“Jaxon,” she answers me. “He’s been out there for a while, trying to find a way to get to you.”

Jaxon. Jaxon is out there. For the first time since I woke up strapped to this damn altar, I feel like there might be a chance to stop Lia. And to save my life. “How do you know?” The question escapes before I even know I’m going to ask it.

“Because I can feel him. He’s desperate to get to you. But no vampire can enter a room he isn’t invited into—even the most powerful vampire in existence. If he wants in here, he’ll have to use more power than he even knows he has.” She laughs, and this time there’s no hiding the crazy in it.

“I hope he’s suffering. I hope he knows what’s happening to you in here and that it’s killing him that he can’t get to you. I can’t wait for you to serve your purpose so you can die and finally, he’ll know just how excruciating it feels to lose a mate.”

It turns out that even in the middle of all this, I can still be shocked. “You’re wrong, Lia. I’m not—I’m not Jaxon’s mate. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m sure if it were a thing Jaxon or Macy would have told me.”

“It’s cute that you believe that. But it doesn’t matter what you think. What matters right now is that it’s true. And that he believes it.” She shrugs. “Then again, he also believes he can get around thousands of years of safeguards and break down these doors to get to you. So he could very well be delusional. Who knows?” She shrugs. “And who cares? As long as he suffers when you die, I don’t care what he believes.”

As if on cue, the door rattles, its hinges screaming at the pressure brought to bear on them by Jaxon’s powers. “Jaxon!” I scream his name, desperate for him to hear me.

The rattling of the doors stops for just a second. “Grace! Hold on! I’m almost in!” The door shakes so much that the rocks around it start to crumble.

“Come in! You’re invited in! Please! Come in, come in, come in!” I shout the words loud enough for him to hear them.

Lia just laughs. “Not your room, Grace. Not your invitation to issue. Sorry to burst your bubble.”

The alarm on her phone goes off before I can respond, and suddenly she’s all business. “It’s time.” Raising her arms above her head, she begins to chant, her voice low and rhythmic and strong, so strong.

She doesn’t falter at all, doesn’t stumble over words even though the written spell is long gone. Looks like she wasn’t lying when she said she’d been practicing for months. Which means I really did throw myself off this altar for nothing.

My shoulder is not impressed.

I mean, logically, I know this isn’t going to work. There’s no way she’s going to be able to bring Hudson back from the dead—life just doesn’t work like that. Believe me, I know.

But I’m not going to lie, when a breeze sweeps over me out of nowhere, ruffling my hair and brushing against my skin, it chills me to the bone. As does the sudden electricity in the air that follows it.

Every hair on my body stands straight up in response. Combined with Lia’s odd chanting that’s only getting odder, it’s more than enough to have me screaming for Jaxon like the hounds of hell are after us.

He bellows in response, a primal sound from deep inside him that has me yanking on the ties around my wrists as hard as I can. It hurts—ohmygod does it hurt—but the pain doesn’t matter. Nothing matters right now but stopping Lia and getting to Jaxon.

This time the whole wall shudders under the force of Jaxon’s power. I’m facing away from the door, but I can hear the grinding of stones being pulled loose and the crash of them as they hit the floor. He’s close now, so close, and everything inside me strains toward him and away from Lia’s madness.

I can’t believe I let Flint get inside my head, can’t believe I thought even for a second that Lia and Jaxon were working together. And I definitely can’t believe I ran from the only boy I’ve ever loved. Jaxon would never be involved in something like this. Especially if that something aimed to hurt me. I know that now.

Plus, how could I forget just how much Lia hates Jaxon? No way would she bring him in to her own personal Project Lazarus.

I really am a fool. And it’s going to be the death of me.

Lia’s chant grows louder, echoing throughout the cavernous room as she grabs a long, ceremonial knife from inside the lectern. I watch in horror as she slices open her wrist and lets her blood drip onto the altar.

It sizzles as it hits the stone, where it turns into a noxious black smoke. The wind picks up, starts churning the smoke into a kind of mini-tornado that has me pulling against my bindings as hard as I can even as I scream for Jaxon.

I’m beginning to think there just might be something to this raising Hudson from the dead thing. And if there is, I want absolutely no freaking part of it. I sure as hell don’t want to be the catalyst that brings everything together.

Lia obviously has other plans, though, because she walks toward me with the knife. Her blood is still gleaming on the blade and I have an oh God, please let her clean it off before she touches me with it moment. Which seems absurd considering: One, shouldn’t I be praying that she doesn’t come near me with it at all? And two, what does it matter when I’m already covered in her blood, my blood, and some stranger’s blood? What’s a little more at this point?