“So, you think that he did this to Liam when he drained my magic?” Saraid questioned Damon, her voice giving away her concern.
Damon gently placed his palm against Saraid’s cheek as if he were speaking to a younger child, “That is the only thing I can think of to explain how this all came about. It fits. He chains Liam to a tree, kidnaps you, tries to take advantage of you, steals your magic and then Liam wakes up and can’t remember who he is. It’s more than mere coincidence, I think.”
It was hard to dispute Damon’s logic, especially when he laid it all out like that. She wants desperately to believe that Graten had nothing to do with it, but the evidence was damning. She was going to have to go back to Purgatory, she just couldn’t do it alone this time. The way she loses control of herself around Graten was too dangerous for her to face alone.
“Well, there’s only one way to know for sure. I need to go back to Purgatory and Grady I’m going to need you to come along. If you don’t mind that is.”
Grady dipped his upper body into a deep bow, never taking his eyes from Saraid’s, “It would be my honor to accompany you, my Queen.”
Damon looked to Saraid again, his brows furrowed, showing off the lines of worry on his forehead. Saraid had never seen any signs of aging in Damon until now. Maybe there was some stock in the old tales of children giving their parents grey hair.
“Please do take care of her Grady. There is still so much I have to learn about my only child and I’m afraid I will be heartbroken should anyone rob me of that.”
“I’ll be ok, Dad. I promise. Graten won’t hurt me.”
“Your father has a right to be concerned, my Queen. Reaper has been known to leave a trail of bodies I his wake,” Grady stated in a tone that was matter of fact.
“I’m not saying that I trust him. I barely know him, but I really do not believe that his intentions are to harm me. I also agree that the timing of events has me believing that he is the cause of this mess with Liam and for that I can promise you, I am going to make him pay.”
Damon and Grady nodded their heads in agreement. Graten was going to have to answer for what he did to Liam. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Saraid had vowed to protect those closest to her and Liam was about as close as close could get. He’s the man who stole her heart and next to Treasa, he was the most important person in her life. The others came in as a close second.
“Okay. I guess we should get on with this then. Grady, are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Good. Take my hand.”
Grady did as she instructed and rested each of his hands in the much smaller palms of hers. She wrapped her fingers around his and closed her eyes. Her magic had been laying just below the surface and now came boiling to the top and washed over the two of them, sending fragments of light across the room. That had never happened before. She and Liam had experienced something similar the night that they were bound, but now was not the time to decipher it. Saraid closed her eyes and thought about the empty hallway where she had first met Graten. She concentrated on the image as it grew larger and larger, until at last she opened her eyes to see herself and Grady standing within the grey and bleak world that they knew to be Purgatory.
The sound of a man yelling followed by a loud explosion sent Saraid and Grady chasing after the noise. They rounded the first corner and Saraid immediately halted her chase. She couldn’t believe who she saw. She and her men spent years chasing this very man and came up empty handed every time. Now here he stands, in a one on one battle with Graten and she isn’t sure who she wants to win.
The sound of his name drew his attention to Saraid. He hadn’t expected to see her there. His eyes grew wide with shock and he threw a spell her way. She and Grady ducked out of the way just in time and watched the spell incinerate the wall behind them. Without thinking, Saraid threw a spell of her own at James and watched as he vanished before the spell could make contact.
“What did you do that for? I almost had him this time,” Graten rounded on Saraid, making Grady instinctively step between them.
“That’s close enough,” Grady threatened.
Graten smirked, showing off his ego. Saraid couldn’t help but notice how sure of himself he seems to be. She had no doubt that in the mortal plane, Grady could wipe the floor with Graten, but here behind the veil she wasn’t so sure. This is Graten’s turf and she refuses to take any chances with Grady’s life, so she placed her hand on Grady’s shoulder and gently nudged him to the side.
“It’s ok, Grady.”
He reluctantly stepped to the side, giving Graten full view of Saraid. His smirk faltered at the look on her face.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
She took a step closer, her eyes never leaving his, and he took a step mirroring hers. Grady watched the exchange from a distance, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Saraid reached her hand out to Graten and smiled sweetly when he accepted.
“I knew you’d miss me,” Graten teased as he leaned in to kiss her lips.
Her right fist landed hard across his cheek, followed quickly by her left foot landing hard against his sternum. His gut reaction was to fight back, and she could she him struggling against it. Just as she thought, he didn’t want to hurt her. Normally that would make her back off, but he hurt Liam and for that he had to pay.
“What did you do to him?” she screamed.
“To who? What did I do to who?” Graten responded, confusion in his tone.
Another hard kick to the side of is face sent him flying across the hall until he landed against the wall.
“Liam! What did you do to Liam?”
He struggled to get to his feet and concluded that it was best to just stay down, “Saraid, I didn’t do anything to Liam. I gave you the key to the chain. That was the last I saw of Liam.”
“Is that when you took his memory away? Why’d you do it?”
He couldn’t stand to have her look at him that way, so full of rage and disappointment, especially when he did nothing to deserve it.
“Saraid, I promise you that I had nothing to do with that. When I left Liam, he was in the same condition that he was when he woke up. I have no desire to harm him.”
“So, we are supposed to believe that it was just coincidence that he just so happened to lose his memory right after you chained him to a tree and kidnapped me and tried to steal my powers?”
“It’s the truth so, yea.”
She wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but there was something about the tone in his voice and his decision to not fight back that made her believe him. What would he have to gain by taking Liam out of the picture? She was sure that by now, everyone knew that she had multiple partners in her life so just taking one out of the picture wouldn’t make any difference.
“So, if you didn’t attack the King, then who did?” Grady asked pointedly. He still wasn’t convinced of Graten’s innocence.
“Beats the hell out of me.”
“I think I know.”
Saraid caught the attention of both men. They looked to her eagerly for an explanation.
“James. I think it was James’ attempt to get Liam off the throne. Afterall, if Liam can’t remember me or our marriage, he can’t really rule the kingdom, can he?”
“I suppose you could be right, my Queen. It does make sense,” Grady replied after a moment of consideration.
Graten climbed to his feet and sauntered over to Saraid and Grady, looking mostly to Saraid. His once cocky demeanor replaced with a look of self-pity.
“Oh, I’m sorry Graten for falsely accusing you and assaulting you. Please accept my apology,” Graten commented sarcastically, raising the tone of his voice to a high soprano to mimic her voice.
“I do apologize for thinking it was you, Graten, but I will not apologize for acting on it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
He looked taken aback at her admission. She had been blunt, and he can respect that. If he had been blessed with a soulmate, he would probably have done the same thing.
“Apology accepted,” he nodded at her, “but you should know that I have not tried to steal your powers. I am not capable of such a thing.”
“Then how do you explain your eyes glowing and snuffing out my powers?”
Graten shook his head and clucked his tongue as if she were speaking non-sense.It irritated Saraid that he felt the need to laugh at her expense.
“As the Keeper of Souls, I am also the Guardian of this plane. My ability to snuff out your powers, as you call it, stems from my title. It is my job to control the residents within and to keep it peaceful. When your powers flare up out of anger, it calls to mine to put a damper on it.”
“Oh,” was all she could get out.
“Everything else is a result of your Succubus and my Incubus drawing each other out. Surely you know that our kind are drawn to others of our kind. It’s just the way it is.”
“Yea well, don’t put too much stock in that theory.”
Graten brushed her defensiveness off even though it stung, just a little. He couldn’t help that he was attracted to her or that he was having all kinds of crazy fantasies about claiming her body. He was coming to terms with the fact that she would never feel the same about him. It sucked, but he would survive.
“What brought you back here anyway?” he asked a bit harsh.
“We came back to talk to you. We didn’t expect to have an enemy in common.”
“You know him?”
Saraid looked Graten dead in the eyes, “He tried to kill me.”
The thought of anyone trying to hurt her enraged him. He’s not used to this kind of reaction. Her life was none of his concern so why was he feeling like he should track down the one who tried to kill her and return the favor. She doesn’t even want him. Mine! Just like that, he was damned to live a life of loneliness and misery because his Incubus laid claim to someone he could never have.
“Sorry for interrupting, but if you are able to snuff out Saraid’s magic then why are you unable to snuff out his?”
“I’m not sure. There’s something or someone protecting him and magnifying his powers. I’m not strong enough to cancel his out.”
“If that’s true than you are either very weak or James has a friend. In our world, Saraid is as strong as it gets,” Grady boasted on Saraid’s behalf.
“I don’t know if I would go that far, but it is true that he must have help,” she replied and then turned her attention back to Graten, “Do you know what he wants?”
“He wants the girl. I have been trying to keep him from her, but he always comes back to find her. When I realized that I couldn’t help her alone, I used a spell to send a letter of warning to her closest relative.”
Her back went rigid and her breathing stopped, “What did it say?”
“He’s going to kill her.”
Saraid and Grady shared a glance and a nod. That was one mystery solved.
“Those letters came to me. You mean to tell me that you didn’t know the letters were coming to me?”
“The first one, no. The second one I did because I traced the first. That’s how I found you at the cabin and left the second. He had almost got her that time.”
“So, you have seen Wendy? Do you know where she is now?”
His shoulders slumped over just slightly as he shook his head from left to right.
“Sadly, no. I’m afraid that this James’ constant attacks has left her too scared to come out when I call. I can protect her if she would come into my home. It’s protected from view. She would never be found there.”
“I have been trying to find a way to rescue her from this plane. If I can convince her to go with you, will you promise to keep her safe?”
“Of course. I would do anything for you.”
She chose to ignore his last declaration. He agreed to keep Wendy safe and that was what she needed to hear. She’s one step closer to getting to see Wendy again. Her whole world was falling apart, and Wendy is the one person who could boost her spirits and quite frankly, she just missed her.