Dreams that Mask the Shadows

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Chapter Thirteen: Expect the Unexpected and Everything Will Be Fine

Kylie

Waylan had left when Elizabeth had come and told him that Melody was ready to speak with him. I tried reading some of the journal. The first entry made little sense to me. Sure, it was translating to English in my head, but the words didn’t make any sense together. Maybe my dad had been writing in demon, and in code. Wow, demon code. What are you hiding, Dad?

Well, I couldn’t sleep now. Not after that. I still got the chills whenever I thought about it. I can read in another language. Because I’m part demon. I wondered if I was finally going into shock. Isn’t that something that happened to people in my situation? Were there people who were in my situation?

Slipping on my jacket, I tiptoed into the hallway before I carefully made my way to the living room. Voices drifted towards me and I pushed them away. I didn’t need anymore bashing of Kylie-being-unsafe accusations today, especially behind my back.

“What are you doing?” A deep voice snapped.

“What the—!” I yelped, spinning to the side. “Hermie! What are you doing here?” He had taken off his coat and had hung it up as he stood in the foyer. I had been stupid enough to not notice him standing there. Man, people didn’t even have to try to kill me did they?

“I came to check up on Melody…and the group.” His eyes took in my jacket and my pajama pants. I looked down and then back up and didn’t know what else to do so I just stood there, dumbly.

“That’s nice.”

“Were you planning on running?”

“What? No!” I frowned. “In my pajamas?”

Hermie shrugged. “What’s with the jacket?”

“What’s with the third degree?” I snapped. “I’ve been nothing but…decent with you and you keep questioning me like I’m some sort of criminal. Even if I was a criminal, you have no right. What are you? The law now? I have a lot going on and this is all new for me. Okay? I’m not here to infiltrate your little association and turn all your contacts over to the government or the demons or whoever you think I would betray you to. I’m here to protect my family.” I stopped and sighed. “Okay, well, to find them first, since apparently they all went AWOL on my sorry little ass. But then you better believe that I’ll be protecting there sorry little lying—.”

“Kylie.” Hermie took a step forward and I jerked my head up, stepping away from him.

“What?”

“I’m sorry, I did actually come to apologize as well.”

“Then why is accusing me of wearing a jacket with my pajamas the first thing you do when you see me?” I muttered.

Hermie sighed and rubbed at his neck. “I’m not used to…outsiders. The organization has always been rather secretive. It’s not in my nature to trust people who I haven’t worked with before, or who aren’t already cleared by the higher-ups. It’s just who I am, and I’m sorry for how I’ve been treating you. I did want to say that I would try to be better…but that obviously didn’t go as planned.”

I shifted uncomfortably. “That’s okay. I understand. I wouldn’t trust me either if I were in your shoes.” He raised his eyebrow slightly and I hurried to add, “That came out very wrong. What I mean is, you should totally trust me. Besides, I couldn’t sleep…so you weren’t too far off, I figured I’d put my jacket on in case I went for a walk—.”

“You can’t go for a walk alone, Kylie. It’s not safe now. We don’t know who might see you or who is after you.” The sudden sharpness in Hermie’s voice made me suck in a quick breath.

I clasped my hands behind my neck. “I’m under house arrest now, aren’t I?”

Hermie’s sympathetic glance did little to calm my frustration. “I’m afraid, for now, you are.”

“Wonderful.”

“I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a house either if I were in your shoes,” Hermie said, a small glint in his eye.

Was that a smile? Did I just see Hermie smile? At me? Surely the world had been declared flat. Or it had ended and Hell had frozen over.

“Since I can’t go outside, I think I’ll settle for travelling to the magical land of the kitchen-ware,” I said, already walking away as I proceeded to wave my arm about in the direction of the hallway. “I think Melody and Waylan are in the living room.”

Not waiting to hear if Hermie would approve of my plan, I walked through the foyer and had turned the corner into the kitchen, moving past the swinging doors. I was surprised to find Elizabeth sitting at the counter on one of the stools there, munching on a cookie, glass of milk at her side. She was looking at a magazine.

She looked up when I walked in, “Hey!”

“Hi,” I said, lips quirked up into a sort of smile.

“Cookie jar, cabinet above fridge, right side,” Elizabeth said before adding, “If you want one. That’s where Melody keeps the good cookie stash.”

I moved to the fridge and reached up to open the cabinet door.

“Ooh, just bring the jar here. Who am I kidding? I’m not going to just have one.”

I grinned and took down the jar that was shaped like a duck, moving to the counter as I placed it in front of us. “Interesting jar.”

“It’s rather gruesome too. Taking the head off to get a cookie? I mean, wow.”

She held the top open for me and I took out two cookies, biting into one as I sat down at the corner, adjacent to her. My eyes lit up and I almost laughed. “It’s a sacrifice I’m certainly willing to make. What is in these?”

“Besides Melody’s usual does of crack? Not sure.” At my confused look, Elizabeth laughed and said, “Kidding! Melody would never do that.” She swallowed a gulp of milk before continuing, “To my knowledge, I believe we are eating a cookie with oatmeal in it, and instead of raisins, there are chocolate chips and peanut butter chips and butterscotch chips. The little white spots are white chocolate and some of them are marshmallow. It’s a mix of s’mores, chocolate and more chocolate. Melody really has a soft spot for chocolate and anything sweet.”

“Melody?” I grinned and let out a small chuckle. “I wouldn’t have pegged her for the sweet tooth type.”

“What type would you have pegged her for?” Elizabeth asked after laughing loudly. She tilted her head as if thinking up an answer to her own question.

“More the, marinates the limbs of her foes in the blood of her enemies with a side of wheat grass and kale smoothies.”

Elizabeth let out a snort, almost spraying cookie everywhere if she hadn’t put up a hand to cover her mouth. Coughing, she brought a napkin to her mouth. “That is the most accurate description of Melody I have ever heard!”

I shrugged. “I also saw her shopping list on the fridge.”

With another laugh, Elizabeth got up, walking to the fridge. As she got out the milk, I glanced at the magazine she was looking at. She had closed it when we had started talking and I saw that the cover had an image of a woman in a flowing white bridal gown, bouquet in hand as she looked over her shoulder, laughing. “Who’s getting married?”

Elizabeth came back and poured herself some milk. “Oh, did you want some milk?”

“No, thanks.”

Moving back to the fridge, she said, “Certainly not me. I think if I told my mom that I was getting married she’d have me enlisted in the army or sent off to an all girl’s boarding school. Or Waylan would strangle me or lock me in my room.” She sat down, staring at her filled glass as though she didn’t know what to do with it now.

“Protective?”

“Yeah, but I love them. I’m probably exaggerating. No, I know I’m exaggerating, I’m a teenager. I exaggerate about everything.” She laughed to herself. “Anyway, I just like looking through things like this. Let’s me know there’s something besides Dreamcatchers out there, you know? I just read all kinds of magazines that might seem dumb and silly.” She grew softer and sighed. “It helps take my mind off of things.”

“I completely understand.” I paused. “Do you mind if I bring your mind back to the Dreamcatchers’ topic?”

She smiled. “Sure. What can I do for you?”

“Is your whole family…are they all Dreamcatchers?”

“Waylan and my father are the only official Dreamcatchers. Brody, my younger brother, is dying to be a Dreamcatcher and he’ll probably be the next to follow after my father. My youngest brother, Ripley, though doesn’t even know how to multiply yet, so…not sure about that kid.”

“What about you?”

She shook her head slowly. “No. I’m not. I don’t really…I didn’t want to be.”

I nibbled at my second cookie, thinking before I said softly, “What made you want to help Waylan now? Or stay here with Melody? Being here, obviously gets you involved and caught up with all of this.” I gestured around the room, even though ‘all of this’ wasn’t even in the kitchen right now. Except for, maybe, me, and I supposed that I was the real problem here. “I mean, you don’t seem very excited about Dreamcatcher business.”

“I want to help. I do, but the thought of being a part of the organization scares me.” She glanced up and added, “I haven’t told Waylan how I feel, but I’m scared of what I can do too.”

“You have other abilities?”

“I can tell the future. In glimpses, but it’s never clear cut.”

I smirked. “Wow. That’s…um—.”

“It’s crazy.” Elizabeth laughed, shaking her head. “I used to think I could just ignore them, and live a normal life, whatever that means.” She looked at me then and added, “But that is never going to happen. I think I was just scared of knowing the future. I’ve put it off for far too long.”

“How are you going to learn more about...your powers? I doubt that Dreamcatchers hold classes on this sort of thing.” I paused. “Then again, I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.”

Elizabeth smiled. “They are usually mentored by someone that is experienced in that ability or area of expertise.”

“Huh.”

“You know,” she said, humming. “You’re a Dreamcatcher now too.”

“I, well…It still doesn’t feel real, and it’s definitely not official. I had to sneak into my own Dreamcatcher office today. If I were officialized, then I wouldn’t have had to sign in as ‘Lucy Anne’, Gadge’s sweet lil’ ole cousin.”

Elizabeth guffawed, covering her mouth with both hands. She gasped, “No.”

I nodded. “Yup. Also, I had to pretend to be his girlfriend since we almost got caught by—.” I paused, realizing that I was talking to Waylan’s sister.

“Who?” Her eyes widened. “It was my dad was it?”

“No, no. They would’ve shot me on site probably.” I grinned, wincing when I realized I wasn’t sure how true my statement had been. “We ran into Skylynn.”

Immediately, Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. Shaking her head quickly, she said, “That must have stunk. Skylynn is the devil’s spawn, in the form of an angel.” She looked at me, eyebrow raised as she regarded me, “You know…Skylynn used to be Waylan’s girlfriend.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“No one thought they were a perfect couple except for Skylynn, her parents, and my father.”

“Why?” I wondered. “I mean, she seems like a lovely person, but…”

“She’s horrendous!” Elizabeth laughed. “The only reason we put up with her is because we thought Waylan was happy. Skylynn’s parents are very powerful Dreamcatchers. Her dad knew my dad when they were in high school. Her parents would love to get in on the Parker family name—could you imagine having to be Skylynn’s sister-in-law? I’m so glad that relationship ended. Anyway, my father just wants Waylan to be with a perfect poster child of Dreamcatchers who follows the rules and listens to orders. Basically a dud.”

“A dud?”

She nodded. “A mindless buffoon.”

My lips quirked up. “So you’re saying that Skylynn is a mindless buffoon?”

“That—” Elizabeth snapped her fingers at me. “—is exactly what I am saying.”


Waylan

Melody was drinking tea from a mug that read DREAM ON across the side; there were playfully drawn stars dotting the majority of the cup. I had almost laughed when I saw it. Almost.

My first impression of Melody had been that she was intimidating. That was three years ago, and I still saw her as just that. At twenty-seven, she looked wiser beyond her years, and capable of anything. I had to keep reminding myself that she was only in her twenties and that heck, she was only two years Hermie’s senior. As the years passed, I was able to learn more about her through the missions we were both assigned to. Now, I saw that she was caring, loyal, strong-willed, and tougher than any Dreamcatcher out there—hell, she might even be able to give that gorilla Thatcher a run for his money. And I knew that she hated Skylynn’s guts for reasons I wish I had only seen sooner.

Leaning back, I placed my socked feet on the low coffee table and crossed my arms. A smirk played across my lips as I thought how that encounter would go. I certainly hoped to see Thatcher’s ass get handed to him by a girl.

“Waylan, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Melody was saying.

Pausing, I stared at her as she set down her mug. “What?”

She frowned, raising her eyebrow at me. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea to let Kylie back into Headquarters again. They’ll have doubling the security as we speak. If you pull a stupid stunt like that again, Kylie is going to get caught.”

“By who, my Dad?” I rolled my eyes. “I think I can handle him.”

“Pulling the Daddy card this soon, Waylan? That’s not like you.”

I sighed, sliding further down into the lush couch. “What can I say? I’m desperate.”

“For what exactly?” Melody said slowly. “Now, hear me out here. I’ve known you for a while now…and I’ve known your relationship…was a long one. I don’t know if holding on to Kylie is such a good move for you. Or for us. Once we are found out, we’ll be charged for hiding a demon, and sneaking one in to Headquarters. Is she worth all this trouble? She seems like a nice girl, but we hardly know anything about her. All I know is that she’s half-demon.”

“That’s all you let yourself see,” I muttered before sitting up. “Are you saying I shouldn’t help her because I recently broke up with Skylynn? Because if you think I would help Kylie just because I think she has a pretty face…well, that’s bullshit! Besides, Kylie would be a great asset to the team. With a little training, she’ll be able to reach our level within months.”

“Why the sudden interest in demons? You’ve never broken into Headquarters before.”

“As far as you know,” I pointed out. “If you know me so well, you’d know that I want to protect my family and those I care about. I also want to uncover my father’s secrets and the lies and deceits behind the Dreamcatchers organization. I want to know what I’m involved in. I don’t want to be fighting on the wrong side.”

Melody’s facial expression didn’t change, besides the small twitch at the corner of her lip. “I think you just proved yourself to be a very important person to have on the winning side, Waylan.”

“What?”

“There is a lot of unrest among the Dreamcatchers all across the world, mostly in the U.S. as far as we know since our group doesn’t have a lot of contact outside this country. However, that is our next step—.”

“Whoa, hold on. Your group? What does that even mean? I thought Dreamcatchers were your group.”

Melody sighed, placing her hands on her crossed knees. “I am. They are, but there is a group of us who have been digging under the foundation of the organization to figure out what the authorities have truly been hiding.”

“Literally…or figuratively?” I said, cautiously. I knew I was stepping onto thin ice now and that any second I’d find myself too far out to safely retreat.

“Figuratively.” Melody smirked. “Although literally might not be such a bad idea. Who knows what they hide in their basements.”

I shook my head, bouncing my leg. Suddenly my body was coursing with adrenaline and pent up energy. “So you’re telling me, that I’m not crazy for believing that there are things that they aren’t telling us?”

“Sure. Why would you think you’re crazy?”

I threw up my hands, standing. “I don’t know! Everyone there seems to think that it’s the Dreamcatchers way or the high way and the law is law. Some people you can’t even talk to without them reporting you to the authorities.”

“What did you do?” Melody said softly.

Rubbing my neck, I winced. “I had been spying on conversations that my father was having with leaders of the other divisions. I was caught when I saw him talking with Augustus.”

“Did Augustus see you?” Melody asked quickly.

“No,” I said, pausing. “Do you know something about him?”

She leaned back. “He’s not to be trusted.”

Fine, she doesn’t want to spill all her secrets yet, then I won’t either. “I figured as much.”

“Sethar found you spying on him, and he didn’t do anything about it?”

“I’m his son, unfortunately. It’s not like he is ever around to actually punish me. And there’s no way my Mom is ever going to find out.” I had to protect at least one person in my family. If she was away on a trip, then she would bring Ripley and Jamie. They would be safe. All I had to do was protect Elizabeth. And, Kylie.

“Waylan, I can not ask you to join our cause quite yet. You are the son of the Spies’ Unit Captain, and I can not risk Sethar finding out.”

“Then why tell me so much in the first place?”

“I trust you.”

“That’s a lot of trust in one person.”

Melody nodded, smiling sagely. “I trust you.”

Sighing, I ran my hand over my head. “This is a lot of…information to take in.”

“Now, I trust you with information. A day will come where I might need your assistance in a mission that Headquarters can not know about. Given your relations to a Captain of a unit, we can’t ask you to be gone for long periods of time. Should the moment arise, will you accept?”

“You know me, Mel,” I said with a thin smile. “I won’t accept anything until I know what I’m selling my soul for.”


Kylie

My phone suddenly buzzed in my pocket.

Elizabeth gulped down the rest of her milk in two swallows before saying, “I’d better get going. Hey, Kylie, it was nice talking with you.” Elizabeth smiled at me as she stood, sticking the glass in the sink, she said, “See you tomorrow.”

“Good night!”

My phone buzzed again and I looked down, palming the small device. Scrolling through, I found my messages and saw that I had three new messages from Rhiannon.

Crap.

Opening the first one, I saw that it was short and that made me nervous. Rhiannon’s texts were rarely short.

It’s almost four am & you still haven’t replied to any of my txts or v-mails!

I hit the slider, moving to the next message.

There’s something bizarre going on, Kylie.

Closing my eyes briefly—I hated lying to her!—I clicked to the next message.

im coming over. u can’t keep avoiding me! im ur BFF 4 Pete’s sake. Gosh, Kylie. You make me so mad sometimes! Just talk 2 me! Then wouldn’t hav 2 walk over & freeze my ass off…

My heart began to speed up and my fingers couldn’t work the buttons fast enough.

Kylie, ur mom is acting weird. She keeps asking all these questions…WHERE R U?

Holy crap this wasn’t good. My legs carried me into the next room before I could fully process where I was going. I burst through the doors to the living room.

“Waylan!” I said, my eyes roaming the room before I found him seated on the couch as Melody sat in the rocking chair.

He sat up, quickly moving to his feet. He was standing in front of me the next time I blinked my eyes. “What is it?” Panic painted his voice, making my panic spike—which was silly because he didn’t know what I was panicked about yet.

“Rhiannon’s went to my house. She’s in my house with that…that…monster. I can’t…” I gasped, suddenly realizing what I had to do. “I have to go over there. Now. I can’t let anything happen to her!”

“Kylie, whoa, I get it. Okay. I’ll send Hermie or Gadge to—.”

“I need to go, now.

“You shouldn’t leave here yet. There might still be demons close by hunting you.”

My gaze hardened, focusing my crazy. “I’m a demon too. Maybe I can do the hunting for a change.”

I saw Waylan’s shoulders tense and I remembered that he had probably been in here trying to convince Melody to trust me. I didn’t have time for this.

“Melody, I promise I’m a good guy. I just need to save my friend,” I said, peering around Waylan’s body. I saw her nod slightly, regarding me with a look I couldn’t read as Waylan quickly ushered me out into the hall.

“Hermie! Gadge!” Waylan shouted. “Suit up!”

“Suit up? I need something too!”

He shook his head. “There is no way we are giving you a weapon in your current state of mind.”

Current state of mind?” I huffed before blinking. “Okay. I see what you mean.” Moving to the door, I shoved my feet into my sneakers. “Well I’m coming either way.” I can be a weapon, right? This can be like training, except…I’ll just be thrown right into the action. Pressure is the best way to get my powers to bloom right? That’s what happens in all the books I read!

“What’s going on?” Gadge yelled as he clambered down the hall that led from the back rooms. When he came into view, he had his jacket on one arm and a backpack hanging off of the other. His hair was wet and drying in all different directions.

A smirk painted my lips and for a second I forgot about demons and Dreamcatchers. “Gadge.”

“What?”

I pointed to my head.

Gadge grumbled, “I know. I better get a huge thank you when this is all over. If this wasn’t against like a gazillion Dreamcatcher laws, maybe I’d even get a raise.” He frowned and ran his hand through his unruly hair, making it spike up in a different direction before dropping back into a disarray of strands. “It’s going to take forever to gel it back tomorrow without the proper grooming procedures happening tonight.”

Waylan smirked back at me as Gadge stuffed his feet into his boots. Leaning over to whisper into my ear, Waylan murmured, “I’m surprised he hasn’t named his hair already.”

“Maybe it could be known as ‘The One with the Special Grooming Procedure’,” I murmured.

“Or ‘The One that Gels’.”

“How about ‘Gelly’?”

“What is happening here?” Hermie asked, moving into the room like the giant force he was. It wasn’t the first time that I was relieved he was on my side. Or, at least on Waylan and Gadge’s side. I still couldn’t tell if he really meant his sorry and that he would try to trust me.

“Kylie’s friend may be in danger. She went looking for Kylie at her house.”

“How did you get this message?” Hermie asked. He was all business now, the hint of a smile that ever was there long gone.

“Texting.” I held up my phone.

Hermie’s eyes narrowed, glancing to Waylan. “She shouldn’t have that.”

“It’s my phone,” I protested.

“And it’s your life, but look at us, here—protecting it.” Hermie sighed. “I apologize, but this could very well be a trap. Have you replied to her yet?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know she didn’t just go back to her house, safe and sound?”

“Because that’s not how Rhiannon texts. This had to be urgent.”

“Or it might not even by Rhiannon texting.”

My phone buzzed again, playing my ringtone now along with it. My pulse jumped and I looked at the caller ID, before snapping the phone to my ear and answering it without a second thought.

“Rhi! Where are you?”

“Kylie? Your mom. Ohmygosh. I’m so sorry. There are these…thugs…or things? They just broke in and—and…oh gosh. There’s so much blood. I can’t save her, Kylie. I’m so s-sorry! Your mom! She…She…”

“Hey, Rhiannon, calm down, okay? I’m coming. Where are you? Are you still at my house?”

“Yes. I’m in your closet. No, you can’t come now. I’ve called the police. It’s so not safe. They…they aren’t human.”

“What?”

“They…oh no, what if I’ve gone crazy from the shock? I’m going to be admitted into the closest mental hospital and tested for craziness and hallucinations and…and craziness. I—.”

“Rhi, hey. It’s going to be alright. I’m coming.”

There was a moment of silence. “Be careful.”

“I will.” Bringing the phone down, I looked at Hermie. While I was talking, all three guys had put their shoes on and put on whatever was in their emergency backpack demon-hunting kit because suddenly they were clad in more black than I thought possible and they were armed to the teeth. At least Hermie was. Gadge had a belt with gadgets clipped to it around his waist and Waylan had the least number of weapons I could see. He had a sword strapped to his back and a dagger attached to his arm.

“That was Rhiannon. Based on what she said, it sound like some demons attacked my house. They killed my—or seriously injured my fake mom.”

Gadge whistled. “Oh, that’s bad.”

“Do you believe me now?” I snapped at Hermie.

He shook his head. “Yes, but I still don’t trust that this isn’t a trap.” Seeing my face darken he added with another grunt, “But, I know that you will forever regret not at least trying to save your friend.”

“Here,” Waylan said, handing me a dagger. In the other hand, he held a small band like the one strapped to his arm. He took my left arm and tightened the band around my upper arm. “This dagger is specially made. It won’t break unless serious damage is done to it.”

“Thanks,” I said softly, tucking it into the holder. It gave a little click. In order to get it, all I had to do was grab at my shoulder and pull up. Hopefully I wouldn’t need to use it.

“Okay, the portals are clear, I just checked,” Gadge said. “We can go through there. I’ll take Hermie and we can scout out the situation. Then Waylan, you can take Kylie.”

“Rhiannon said she’s hiding in my closet.”

“Are you sure they haven’t found her?” Waylan said.

“We’ll just have to go check.”

“Okay, Waylan will take Kylie to her closet. Hermie and I will check her room first then.”

As Gadge turned to the front door, placing his hands, palm forward in the air, I murmured, “Thanks, guys.”

Hermie put his hand on my shoulder, giving it a squeeze as he moved to Gadge’s side. Waylan took my elbow and pulled me back as the portal grew out of nothing. It was amazing. The white and blue lines of the portal looked like electricity ran through its center and the ends were running along the edges, trying to escape. Gadge and Hermie clasped arms, as if they were going to give each other a bro shake before they Gadge stepped in backwards and they disappeared.

“If they find that your room is not safe, we’ll know and have to land somewhere else. Are you ready?”

When I nodded he took my hand and said, “Hold on” before we fell into the portal. The sensation still caught me off guard. I couldn’t tell which way was up and which way was down. My feet didn’t touch anything but I knew I could walk and move around if I wanted to. There was a pull on my hand and I moved in that direction, thinking about my bedroom and my closet and Rhiannon.

“Kylie,” a voice whispered into my ear. My eyes opened and quickly readjusted. Waylan stood, propping me up against the wall with his body. “Your room is clear, but Rhiannon’s not—.”

A scream from downstairs jolted me upright. “Rhiannon.”

“Wait, Kylie!” Waylan whispered. “Hermie and Gadge are here, they’ll take care of the demons. All we need to do is get Rhiannon out of here.”

I nodded, moving to my bedroom door. My room had been ransacked and the closet doors had been torn from its hinges. They had obviously found Rhiannon. My throat constricted at the thought of Rhiannon fighting demons. Or being hurt by demons.

I slowly moved down the stairs, behind Waylan. He suddenly stopped, pressing himself back against the wall. When I heard a crash and another screech, I realized that the scream I had heard before had come from a demon. One that had probably been mid-change. That was why it sounded so human—so I told myself.

“Damn you to Hell, demon spawn of the devil!” I heard Gadge yell. “Hey! That’s not very nice!” There was a little snake of light and I recognized that to be a telltale sign that a demon had just been sucked into a Dreamcatcher necklace. A smile painted my lips upon hearing Gadge’s war cry and Waylan glanced at me, giving me a sign I didn’t understand.

What? My eyebrows dipped together.

He turned his frustrated gaze back forward before suddenly leaping down the stairs, hopping the handrail. I heard a thump and a screech as he knocked into a demon thing. My eyes were glued to the opposite wall as I took several slow deep breaths. I was readying my body to spring around the corner and over the railing when a deep voice growled words that rang through my head.

“We are not the enemy, Dreamcatcher.”

Another voice snapped, “What are you doing?”

“Shut it, Ricky, they might be able to help us.”

The voice muttered, “Stupid, stupid.”

“A demon never has good intentions,” Hermie’s voice rumbled through the stillness. I could just imagine them grouping up, surrounding the demons, weapons drawn and Crystal Carriers at the ready. Something made me weary about that image.

“Where is the girl?”

I frowned. Rhiannon? Why are they so adamant on capturing Rhiannon?

“Tell us where she is, and we will let you go.”

Let us go?” Gadge scoffed, laughing. “We’ll kick your sorry asses to Timbuktu. Why are you hiding behind your human guises? We all know what you are.”

“And we all know what Dreamcatchers are. A bunch of wusses.” The voice had to belong to the demon the leader called Ricky.

“We didn’t come here to fight. We only need the girl.” The leader growled.

“You’ll have you to go through me first,” Waylan’s voice said evenly. The hairs on the back of neck bristled. They weren’t talking about Rhiannon. My stomach clenched as I heard the demons begin to whisper to each other. It sounded as though they were right behind me and I had to keep from flinching at the sound.

“Boss Man wants the girl. What are we going to do?” The voice—Ricky—hissed.

“We’ll have to handle this and move on.” The voice of the obvious leader of the duo didn’t sound happy. He also sounded way too relaxed.

“You sure she’s here? Her smell is growing fainter.” Ricky.

“She’s here.”

Hermie growled, “Do not speak in your tongue in front of us, demons. We may not know your language, but we know how to capture you.”

“Ooh, scary,” Ricky snickered.

“If you wish…” The other voice said softly.

With those words, I knew something bad was going to happen. Before I could stop myself, I darted down the steps a little and leaped over the railing, landing with a loud thump behind Waylan and Gadge who were facing the two demons. Hermie was more to the right, blocking the doorway.

“Stop!” I shouted. My voice came out all garbled and uneven and I coughed, clearing my voice. Blood boiled under my skin and suddenly it was too hot. What’s happening to me? Panic overtook me and all I could see was white. It was like trying to look through a blinding light.

“Keith, it’s her!” A voice said in a hushed whisper. Must be that snarky Ricky demon.

“Don’t…hurt them,” I managed.

“Already giving orders,” Ricky chuckled. Even with my eyes closed, I saw him shake his head. In fact, I saw the whole scene from the ceiling. It was like I was able to float above them. They weren’t looking up there though. Waylan had immediately crouched down to check my pulse. I wanted to scream at them that I was right here, that I was fine, just get us out of there when I remembered Rhiannon.

“What did you do to the other girl?” I demanded. My body sat up suddenly. My voice was coming from it, down on the floor, but I was still up here. What the hell?

“What?”

“The red-head!” I shouted, before growling, “What did you do to her?”

“Keith…” Ricky’s voice was low, a warning that only they understood. He held out an arm to Keith who stepped forward. My eyes found him and stepped down from the ceiling, hovering next to him.

In my spirit state, I studied him freely. I wanted to remember every detail of these punks if they so much as hurt one hair on Rhiannon’s head. The leader, Keith, had black hair and sharp gray eyes. They were surprisingly pale as I peered at them. His jaw was clenched and everything about him screamed fighter and destroyer. He was surprisingly tall, and up close, I could see the muscles tensed beneath his tight t-shirt. I didn’t get a strong ‘demon’ vibe off of him, like from the other two from before, but I had to remind myself that demons could look like humans—and that they certainly weren’t.

“Put away your catchers,” Keith said in a low voice. “Or else she will get hurt.”

“Is that a threat, demon-boy?” Gadge said, bristling. He stood protectively beside Hermie, guarding Waylan as he held my body in his arms, still crumbled on the ground.

“No, idiot.” Keith sucked in a breath. “If you open that, you’ll capture her spirit. It’s a hell of a lot of pain trying to get out of one of those. Listen to me: she’s not in there!” He jabbed a finger at my prone body.

Well, yeah, I could’ve told you all that.

“Kylie? Please come back.” Waylan’s voice sounded so far away.

My lips moved, but no sound came out. I started walking back to my body but something held me back. Panicked, I spun around. Keith was staring holes into my head. He wasn’t touching me, but I felt an inhuman pull.

“Kylie, you need to remember this feeling. This is what it’s like to be a demon. This is it.” He opened his hand to me, eyes hovering on my forehead. Slowly, cautiously, I moved forward.

“Kylie, no!” Waylan cried out as my hand dropped into Keith’s.

Everything burst in an explosion of white light and suddenly, I was lost to the blinding pain.

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