Someone got a spell off. It flashed out toward Penny.
Emery called up a defense spell, but he didn’t have the time to lash out. A pure shield of white rose in front of Penny before blasting out, eating through the coming spell and then continuing on to the attacker. Just like he’d witnessed that first night, it acted as a homing device, locating the caster and contorting her body until a loud crack cut off her scream.
“Gross,” he heard. Then, “Darius’s fault.”
Shapes darted in from the sides, lightning fast and incredibly lethal. Vampires snatched up anyone left standing and broke them in some way, their strength unparalleled. The mages’ bodies were tossed away, and the predators drifted to the sides, giving Emery and Penny room.
Silence descended over the scene like a smothering blanket.
“I do not want a vampire for an enemy,” Penny whispered out of the side of her mouth.
Not any of the vampires under Darius’s leadership, at any rate. They were organized and exceptional, just like their maker.
Emery looked at the spell covering the door. “Okay, let’s break this spell open and get what we need before the cavalry shows up.”
Emery stared at the front of the door before wrapping his fingers around my wrist. The harried energy around us slowly smoothed out. We both took a deep breath at the same time, analyzing the spells draping the entrance.
“Help where you can,” he said, before removing his hand and starting his weave, a complex spell spinning into existence between his hands.
I closed my eyes and lowered my head, feeling the intent of the spell he was creating, then that of the spell standing in our way. A key and a barrier.
Those two didn’t fit together.
I held out my hand, eyes still closed, letting it drift until I could feel Emery’s creation right beneath my fingertips. Peeling open a lid, I glanced at him. He looked confused, but he didn’t stop, and he didn’t tell me to move away. He trusted what an untrained mage with more power than sense planned to do. It was a miracle he was still alive.
Ignoring my inner naysayer, I closed my eye again, feeling the energy in the bubble around us pulse and play. I imagined the barrier in front of us, and immediately thought of a great oak, with its strong roots and sturdy branches. Such a tree could bust the barrier down, but it would take too long.
Tilting my head, I envisioned a jackhammer to go with the tree. After fusing the two, nature and steel, together in my mind, I connected them with the key Emery was building. Heat warmed the air between us. Fire burned my palm, followed by an icy sensation, mixing and meshing with the spell below. Changing it.
The new energy sang in my blood. Whispered to me of freshly plowed fields and lightning storms. Magic flowed through me, the tug on my ribs resulting in heat dripping down my middle. That meant I was onto something.
I sincerely hoped that something didn’t go boom.
I yanked my hand away at Emery’s command and opened my eyes. He spread his hands, revealing a thick weave made up of many smaller weaves, all twisting and interconnecting at irregular intervals. But while it looked like a hot mess at first glance, upon closer inspection, it held a chaotic beauty, the patterns and shapes organized even if the layout was not.
“Incredible,” Emery said in not much more than a whisper. “I wish we could train together. You’d teach me as much as I would teach you.”
I ignored the twist in my gut at his comment about not training together. “I don’t even know what I’m doing most of the time. How could I teach it?”
“By doing, and letting me be a part of it.” He pushed his hands away.
The spell released and spread out in front of us before sending tendrils down into the ground—the roots I had imagined.
“Simply incredible,” Emery said, watching. “I have so many ideas.”
“And I have all the resources you’ll need to create them,” Darius said, standing directly behind us with his hands behind his back.
Emery’s brow furrowed and his gaze returned to the front door. Light flashed in the lines that now ran the length of the building. It flared in front of us.
I grabbed Emery’s arm. “How do we know it won’t explode?”
“Right.” I stared at the changing colors, the spell growing more furious as it ate through the ward. “And how do you know?”
“By the look of it.”
“Uh-huh.” He’d just acted as though he’d never seen anything like it, so I found his confidence a little tough to believe.
A large black line opened up in the spell, right over the doorway. Like an egg breaking, it ran down to the ground. The lines along the sides became wider. Red flashed.
I took a step back, ready to hide behind the vampires. They could heal. I could not.
One final soundless flash, and the spell protecting the building disappeared into nothing, sending me a laughing farewell as it did so.
“Uh-oh,” I said, realizing what that meant. “It’s going to tell on us.”
“Yeah. I just saw that.”
“What is this?” Darius asked.
“There was a spell hidden in the depths of the ward. One I didn’t know was there.” Emery rushed toward the door.
“A tattletale spell.” I followed quickly.
“It will alert the spell casters of a breach.” Emery yanked at the locked door. “We don’t have much time.” He turned, moving me to the side.
Darius flicked his fingers. The click of a lock sounded.
“Giving their species that power is just plain cruel,” I said.
The spacious interior of the records building spread out before us, an extremely organized collection of boxes and containers housed in rows upon rows of numbered and labeled shelves. Magic hugged the walls, and I realized it was to keep the atmosphere climate-controlled in order to preserve the various documents stored inside.
“This is helpful,” Darius said, strolling in. He looked behind him, and vampires filed in faster than thought.
Emery was off like a shot, looking at the white labels on the front of each row. Darius came to a stop beside me, his gaze constantly moving before turning back toward the door.
“You might join Miss Beauchene outside,” he said. “She’ll show you what to do.”
“You mean, kill anyone close enough to see what’s going on?” I asked.
“Fabulous. You already know what’s needed.” He nodded at the doorway and then took off, heading toward Emery. Even in a highly pressurized situation, he was as cultivated and smooth as silk.
I about-faced and hurried outside, not loving the detail I’d been given, but knowing it would help Emery. He needed closure, and hopefully this would do it for him.
Miss Beauchene, the ferocious killer with a face that would make angels sing, stood at the front door with a relaxed posture. She looked out at the dark and quiet grounds, the calm before the storm.
I stood on the other side of the door, feeling my surroundings. The moon sprinkled light onto the ground, creating shadows by the walls and under the bushes. I analyzed those, growing familiar with their shapes in case someone tried to use them for cover.
“You are new to this life?” Miss Beauchene asked. Her lovely voice, heavily accented, barely reached my ears.
“You do not have to speak so loud. I have excellent hearing.”
I nodded—couldn’t get much quieter than that.
“You seem to be adjusting well.” Her head snapped to the left. Her whole body stilled and she shifted silently, facing that direction. “Your name is Penelope, is that correct?”
“Technically, but I go by Penny.”
“A poor choice. Penelope is fitting.” A tad opinionated, this vampire. “I am Marie. Now stay here.” And with that, she was off, zooming away.
A rustle and a grunt broke the silence. Something slid across the cement, ending in a heavy object slapping the ground. In rushed the dense, murky silence.
Marie strode around the corner, her eyes back to scanning.
I gulped and tried desperately to stuff all of this on the “ignore list.” That became increasingly more difficult when she said, “I left a line of blood on the footpath. Sloppy.”
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