“There must be another reason why he is so drawn to me. I mean, come on, Mr. Takamori, a piece of his heart. Not just any heart, but dragon heart? Do you hear how crazy that sounds?”
Mr. Takamori raised his brows. “Crazy? You just found out that every monster, from every fairytale you ever heard, is real. That a Shadow world exists outside of this world, that dragons are real, and the part that has you doubting is that a heart saved your life. It is done in medicine daily.”
Sarah let out a breath, feeling defeated, and lacking a response to his logic.
“Miss Weller.” He got her attention.
“If this is true,” He placed a hand on the image of the woman in a white dress, “Then you have the power to change the lives of many people. My kind, the linked that know what they are, live in fear every day. Always worried that today will be the day the warden comes to get them. You can change all of that.”
“I can’t. I only met Axin yesterday. I don’t know anything about this. I don’t even know if he did… give me a piece of his heart. He just healed me that night, like he did with my feet last night.”
“Your feet?” Mr. Takamori asked, and the confusion on his face was almost comical.
“Yeah. I was attacked last night outside a club. I got glass in my feet. That was when Axin came to help me and took me back to his world.”
Mr. Takamori shifted closer. “What is it like?”
“The shadow world?”
Sarah thought back to the night before, the field and the cottage flashed in her mind.
“I didn’t see much of it. He took me to a field, then to a cottage he has in the middle of nowhere. That’s all I saw of it.”
He nodded, his eyes drifting off into his thoughts.
Sarah glanced at her watch. “I better get going. It’s getting late.”
She stood to leave but was stopped by a gentle hand on her arm. “Take these books. Learn everything you can about the Shadow people. If Axin has come for you now, then he means to keep you safe from a coming battle. I cannot think of another reason why he would wait so long to seek you out. If that is the case, then it is best you know what you are getting pulled into.”
Again, the nerves crawled up Sarah’s spine, leaving her mouth dry and her hands sweating. “Thank you,” she said, reaching for the books in his hands. He led her to the front door and paused before opening it.
“If I am no longer here tomorrow, I will ask one selfish thing of you.”
“Use whatever sway you have with Axin and Nilu to grant me rest in the Shadow world. They will listen to you. I can be of great service to the Father of Magic. I know many things. I have spent a lifetime learning about what I am and the world I belong to.”
Sarah shifted the books into one arm, and placed her free hand onto Mr. Takamori’s arm, “I swear to you, I will do everything I can to make sure that happens. Not just for you. If I have any power over Axin, I’m going to try and make Purgatory a better place for everyone.”
He nodded his thanks and swung the heavy door open for her.
As she made her way back to the car, she wondered if she had just bitten off more than she could ever chew with that promise. What the hell makes you think Axin or anyone else in the Shadow world is going to give a damn about what you say?
The drive back to her apartment seemed shorter than normal, her mind working off autopilot as her thoughts flashed with images of Axin eating people alive. She stopped at a red light one street away from the entrance to her apartment buildings basement parking when her phone pinged with a text. She reached for it off the passenger seat and saw a video message from her grandmother.
“Since when do you know how to send a video message,” she asked the empty car, frowning at the screen.
She hit play and waited. As the video began, her heart almost fell out of her chest with panic and anger boiling inside her. Her grandmother sat on a dining table chair, her hands tied behind her back and a thick strip of silver tape over her mouth. A small drop of blood ran down her forehead, and her eyes stained with tears.
The video moved around her, the cameraman taking slow steps to ensure Sarah saw every inch of her grandmother helpless and scared.
Finally, it stopped on her face again, and a familiar voice that left Sarah’s hands shaking said, “Come alone or she dies.”
The video ended, but Sarah stared at the screen as cars behind her hooted. She clicked on the video again, watching it one more time, in case her mind had played tricks on her.
Her jaw clenched and her hands tight around the wheel, Sarah spun the car around, nearly slamming into an SUV on the other side of the road, and floored it towards the Eastside.
The sun had started to set, turning the sky into a bright orange and purple color, as Sarah weave between cars.
She wanted to call the police but the simple command on the video had her pause. She was tempted to call Axin, but with everything she had learned about him, she didn’t know how to feel about his help. Not only that, but the fact that this happened now, and to her grandmother didn’t feel like a coincidence to Sarah. It has to have something to do with Axin.
She skidded to a stop outside her childhood home, and ran for the front door, not bothering to lock Lexi’s car. She swung the front door open, scanning her eyes for the one who hurt the only family she had left. When she didn’t see any sign of movement, she called out for him.