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I stared at his lifeless face, not thinking anything. Not feeling anything. I knew I should be horrified. I knew emotions should be crashing violently through my body, but there was nothing. Only silence. When my fists opened, Eric leaned down next to me. I didn’t move. I couldn’t speak.

“Take his power. Finish this before she comes.” Eric was looking at the glass still expecting Locoicia to come forth, but I knew she wouldn’t. “She needed someone to pay the pain price that she couldn’t. Hurry.” His hand was on my shoulder, his grip under my arms, pulling me up onto his lap. His fingers pressed into my cheeks as he tried to move my lifeless body. “You don’t die today, do you hear me?” My lashes slowly lowered and reopened. Eric’s face was overflowing with emotion. He felt everything. I felt nothing. We were so fucked up. “Kiss him, Ivy. Take your power and heal yourself. I can’t mend these wounds. You have to.”

He pushed me forward, as if I could walk. But, my body protested and wouldn’t support my weight. I slumped to the ground. My arms moved quick enough to break my fall, but they were too weak to hold me up. The muscles trembled, and my arms bent suddenly launching me face-first into the ground. Dirt scratched into the blood and stuck to my skin.

Eric sighed and his arms were gripping me again, pulling me toward Collin’s body. “I’d take his power myself, if I could, but only the one who killed him can claim it—and we sure as hell want it. Locoicia will come, Ivy. There is no way she won’t. And right now, she’s powerful enough to kill us both. I used the power I stole from you. You have to do this.” He dragged me toward Collin as he spoke. My throat tightened and I didn’t think I was breathing anymore. My eyelids wanted to close. They felt so heavy. Eric’s hand met my cheek in a hard swipe. “Wake up,” he said as he dropped me next to Collin’s body. “Finish this.”

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

There was no power left within me. The venom was snaking through my veins making me weaker by moment. My arm felt like lead, but I lifted it, turning Collin’s face toward me. His body was still warm. Lifeless. I couldn’t believe he was Kreturus. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t understand. Eric’s foot was on my back, pushing me on top of Collin’s chest. I pressed my hand to Collin’s cheek, waiting to feel something. Remorse. Anger. Something. But there was emotion. No bond. Only Eric’s shoe in my back. I pressed my forehead to his lips, and looked at his face one last time. I didn’t want the power within him. I would have died there, laying on top of him. But I heard them. The sounds grew louder and louder. Screams. People. The demons were returning for their master, and I’d killed him. There would be a power vacuum if I didn’t take it. I had to. There was no choice.

I lowered my face, and pressed my lips to his. The stirring sensation that craved Collin came awake within me. As it slid down his throat, eyes of ice and fire flicked opened. Collin sucked in a ragged breath, throwing me off of him. He clawed at the dirt behind him, moving away from me. He glared at me with utter hatred. Eric’s hand was on my shoulder, trying to pull me to my feet. I stared, unable to shut my mouth—utterly shocked.

He was alive.

The spell didn’t work.

The emotions that were held back suddenly came to me in a rush. My heart shattered into a million pieces. Every breath felt like a knife in my gut. I wanted to scream. I wanted to claw his face off with my bare hands, but I remained silent… Perfectly still, staring at him. My voice was a rush of air. It was barely audible, but he heard me, “You’re Kreturus.”

A weak smile snaked across his lips as the pressure on my shoulder from Eric increased. Eric was trying to pull me away, but my feet wouldn’t move. I didn’t turn. For some reason, my shoulders shook him off as I stepped toward the liar. The deceiver. I couldn’t stop looking into his eyes. Collin said nothing. There was a voice screaming inside my mind, so blaringly loud that I couldn’t stand it for another second. I repressed the emotions the feelings that were telling me that I would die. I could barely hear my words, “You used me.”

He leaned in close to my face. Close enough to touch me. I tensed, ready to attack. Collin lifted his hands, palms up showing me he wouldn’t come closer. “I didn’t mean to—I… didn’t want to. I’m not Kreturus. Not right now. But when you pulled me through the mirror,” he looked back at, “we were the same person. What Kreturus does isn’t like possession. It’s more horrifying. It’s like we fuse. I’m subject to his whims, but I can still think, act, and feel. Your spell tore us apart. And since he can’t be up here without me, I assume he was sucked back down into Hell. But there’s no way to know for certain. I don’t know what other effects your incantation had. It didn’t work the way it should have, and I think we both know why.” He paused for a moment, watching me. There could only be one reason why Collin was still alive. Something altered the spell. Something protected him. Something powerful. His fingers flexed once and then straightened at his sides, “The last time I saw you he was with me, making me tear everything apart to find you. He thinks you’ll submit to him. He thinks you’ll willingly be his queen.”

I stared at him, not believing a word he said. My eyes slid over his face. The bond was destroyed. There was no way to know if he was lying. “You’re two different beings? But sometimes you’re not?” I didn’t believe him. He could hear it in my voice.

Collin swallowed, “It’s difficult to explain. When I was younger—a new Valefar—I wanted my soul back. I was rash. I didn’t think. I thought I’d win… ” He searched my face, but no emotions swam across it. His eyes shifted away from mine, ashamed, “I found Kreturus and made a blood bargain. It can’t be broken. He got use of me and my body to find the Prophecy One and free him from his prison. In exchange, when he finally had you—I’d get my soul back. But the bargain didn’t go the way I thought… And I didn’t know it would be you.” He pressed his lips together, waiting for me to speak, but I remained silent. “Ivy, when I realized you were the one I was supposed to hand over—I couldn’t do it. I defaulted. I lost. He’s been using me to lure you to him. He wants you and will do anything to have you.”

Collin’s voice was pleading, begging me to understand, “I didn’t want this. I didn’t want the prophecy. I did everything I could think of to derail it, and prevent it from happening. But it didn’t matter what I did. Prophecies happen.” He looked down at me, pushing the hair out of his eyes as he looked to the ground, “I wanted to warn you, but I couldn’t tell you about the bargain. But, just now, something changed when you cast your spell, and the magic that was gagging me from speaking—it faded. I still can’t tell you everything, but I can acknowledge what’s already happened. Ivy, I can’t control him. Kreturus is part of me, and has no reason to release me. The things around you—the death and destruction—it was all by my hands.”

I was silent. His words swam in my mind like distant islands that I couldn’t reach. The words tumbled out of my mouth with a chilled sharpness to them that I didn’t hear when I thought it in my mind. “Did you love me at all? Or was that Kreturus playing me?”

The corner of his lips pulled into a sad smile. Collin pushed his hands into his pockets and hung his head. “It hardly matters now. But…” blue eyes pierced me as he looked up, locking his eyes with mine, “I’ve dreamt of being with you, falling asleep in your arms. It’s your lips I wanted on my body. It’s your hands I wanted tangled in my hair. It’s your voice I wanted to hear speak my name in ecstasy… ” His eyes burned as they slid over me.

Collin reached for me. I didn’t move. My body felt like it was made of stone, cold and unfeeling. His hand slipped around my neck, as he pushed back my hair. He whispered to me as his warm breath moved across my lips, “I love you. I always have. I always will.”

A million pieces of me screamed from within, wanting to fall to the cold ground and fade from existence. I was so numb that his caress meant nothing. His words meant nothing. There was no response, no relief, no regret. Nothing. Nothing as his sapphire eyes gazed at me and his fingers swirled around a curl at the nape of my neck. I swallowed. My mouth felt like it was full of sand. “That’s why the prophecy says you die—because Kreturus is killed. And you are with him when it happens.”

Collin nodded. “I wish I could change it. I wish…” but he never got to say it. The sky above him began to move, swirling like ink and blood. Kreturus was coming.

“I still want you. I can’t let him take you again,” Eric’s grip nearly slid off my shoulder, but I grabbed it with my hand. I started the effonation the moment the sky changed. It had started within me already, and I shrouded it with shadows so no one would feel its heat. Not Eric. And not Collin. It was draining every last bit of power I had left.

The smile on Collin’s face faded, making something deep within me stir. Collin said, “The bargain I made killed me. Never think it was you…” Collin’s spine stiffened as he looked up. “You need to go. Go before he calls me back, or worse.”

I nodded once. Then, the flames shot through my stomach and the shadows slipped away, revealing the coursing heat that enveloped us. Eric’s grip on me tightened as I pulled him away with me. The night was swallowed up around us in tongues of flames as the Demon King returned to Collin.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

We landed hard on the floor of the Lorren. I screamed, clutching my chest as the poison burned within. Eric got to his knees and leaned over me. A hand reached down and pulled him away, and then swept under me. I managed to utter, “Don’t kill him,” to Eric before I passed out.

Voices penetrated my ears before I slid my eyes open. Eric was speaking, “She won’t do it. It doesn’t matter.”

Lorren answered, annoyed, “You can’t expect me to believe that she’ll kill him when the time comes if she didn’t do it already.”

“You can’t expect anything from her… ” Eric retorted.

“I said the spell,” I answered sitting up. The poison was still in my chest. I could feel it. A metallic blue flower twisted between Lorren’s fingers. He drew out more of the venom, pulling it away from my heart. My weakness had faded with sleep. I was shocked that neither one of them killed me. Their heads turned in my direction. “I meant to kill him, but something went wrong. It was like the last word only stunned him. And split him from Kreturus. I didn’t default on my end of the bargain. The spell didn’t work.” I punched the solid gold bench I was laying on and it dented beneath my fist with a loud thud.

Eric asked, “He said you knew why it didn’t work.”

I glared at him, “I didn’t know if that was the reason or not. And it wasn’t a good time to discuss it…”

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