Twilight sent rays of golden orange scattered across the concrete jungle, warehouses shedding shadows over the cracked pavement.
They parked as close as they could and made the rest of the way on foot. Paige couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched, her fingers brushing against her thigh where they had strapped a small iron knife to her thigh over her cropped leggings and just under her long tunic. Her wandering mind wondered if Davin had this in mind when he chose her outfit this morning. Thoughts like that helped keep away the abject terror of what they’re about to do.
There, the designated address. They were five minutes early but that meant little. Her body trembled as she stared at the door until Davin squeezed her other hand. He said nothing but the intensity of the look he gave her took her breath away. There had been more and more of those.
“Shade, if something happens…” Her mind was a jumbled mess.
“I don’t want to hear it,” he cut her off. “You still have to keep your end of the deal and one does not escape a bargain with a demon that easily.”
She fell back to silence.
The warehouse Anna chose sat abandoned in a derelict state. Broken glass scattered across the floor and her Doc Martens made a crunch with each step, the sound echoing despite her best efforts. Of course, it was just her. Davin made no sound in his feline grace.
And there was Lillian, half-conscious, tied to a single wooden chair. She bled from a cut on her forehead, pale from blood loss. Or something else?
“Her tank’s low,” Davin whispered though the sound still bounced in the cavernous open floor. At Paige’s puzzled expression, he continued. “Some spells let witches drain power from others.”
God. What else had she done to her friend?
“Davin.” His name was a breathless sigh as Anna emerged from the shadow. An unreasonable pang of envy stabbed at Paige. Raven hair with skin white as snow, Anna parted her ruby lips. She reminded Paige of Snow White, not the evil witch that was the Queen.
“That’s enough, Anna. Let that witch go.”
“Not even a hello after so long, Davin?” Anna’s cheeks flushed, and she bared her teeth with a hiss but it took a moment for Paige to put a finger on what’s wrong. It was her eyes. The only black orbs were dead as if no emotion ever reached there. “You come here, dragging this slut you’ve been fucking and you still expect me to obey every command and wish of yours.” She shook her head with a bitter laugh. “I don’t think so, Davin. I’m not that silly naive girl you seduced all those decades ago.”
“What do you want?” Paige called out.
Anna ignored her. Instead, she strolled over to the chair and trailed her fingertips from Lillian’s chin up along her face. Before Paige could protest, Anna’s fingers entwined in Lillian’s silver hair and wrenched her head back. “You drove me to this Davin. Everything that happens is on your head.”
“No!” Paige’s voice rang out as she took a step in front of Davin as if she could shield him from the cruelty she levelled at him. “Your actions, your choices are your own.”
A harsh laugh rang through the air. “Oh little girl, you’ll understand soon enough what lengths the lust, the thirst for this demon drives you to. Then you won’t be so lofty anymore, judging me.”
A chill coursed down Paige’s spine. The whisper of doubt roared now in her mind. Was she staring at her future?
“What do you want Anna?” Davin’s expression had hardened, sharpening into predatory features.
“I tried to stay away Davin, to give you the freedom you wanted. But then you had to go shack up with that whore.” Anna sneered in contempt. “If you wanted to be with someone, then it should be me. I gave up everything for you.” She took a breath to steady herself. “So I’ll tell you what. You come willingly and let me bind you to me and I’ll let these two go.”
“Over my dead body!” Paige’s fingers wrapped around the hilt of the iron long dagger strapped to her waist. Their plan was unravelling. They were all idiots for thinking Anna just wanted her dead. When Davin took her under his protection, making it much harder to kill her, Anna must have switched her target to him instead.
“That can be arranged.” Anna took a step forward.
“I’ll do it.” Davin stepped out from behind, his hand letting go of hers to place on her shoulder.
“What?” Paige’s head jerked towards him. They could fight her for Lillian. Two against one and Davin had fed. Why did he agree to this?
He gave her a gentle squeeze. “You said it yourself, Paige. I have to right this wrong. Perhaps this is the way, not only for Anna but for you, Lillian and Ainsley, too. It’s time I stop running.”
“Davin, no,” she whispered.
He smiled, the sadness echoing in his great golden eyes. His fingertips caressed her cheek as he leaned in, his lips brushing by her temple. “I love you, Paige.”
This was goodbye. Paige let out a strangled sob.
Without waiting for a reply, he stepped away from her towards Anna, who in turn stepped towards him, lips parted in eagerness, her entire face alighted with new anticipation.
“Let Lillian go.”
With a snap of Anna’s fingers, the ropes around Lillian uncoiled themselves. With nothing holding her to the chair, only semi-conscious, Lillian began to slip and fall sideways.
Paige rushed past both of them, reaching Lillian just in time to catch her. With more strength than she thought she had, she hoisted Lillian up before casting a glance back towards Davin.
They both stood in the middle now. Anna raised a hand towards Davin, palm up and when Davin took it, a runic circle, hidden by spell before, flared with unnatural green light around them.
“No!” Paige screamed out even as Anna began a chant in a lilting voice. Beside her, Lillian moaned in pain. Torn between getting her friend to safety and the desire to save her lover, Paige watched in helplessness as a tendril of the green light rose to curl around their joint hands, then grew to wind around Davin.
Another circle flared up, black in outline, just touching the green one such that one triggered the other. Except this time, Paige found herself and Lillian at the centre. With her shaky free hand, she pulled out the iron dagger, even as from below, a multitude of small hands emerged, black as shadows. The full duplicity of Anna’s plans hit her. She never meant to let them go. Was this the entity that Anna made a deal with to extend her life? Were they meant to be her sacrifice to power the binding spell?
When one hand came near to grab her ankle, she sliced at it with her blade. It worked and a bloodcurdling inhuman scream came from somewhere below the concrete. A glimmer of hope sparked in Paige until other hands surged forward, too many to count. The ground below their feet began to liquefy like quicksand At this rate, even if the hands didn’t get them, the circle would suck them right in. Paige threw a desperate glance towards Davin but his eyes glazed over with the lack of awareness, the gold she so loved, dulled against the encircling green.
“No,” Paige screamed, her heart hammering in her chest so hard it felt as if something would burst from her. Her hair rose, standing on ends as energy welled up within her, burning from the inside. She screamed again, this time in pain as she glowed. Whatever it was, it was coming, her body on fire as energy threatened to explode. The black hands began to retreat.
Out of nowhere, a blinding light struck against the circle, cutting a line through half the circle. A last howl of rage and agony reverberated through the warehouse as the shadowed hands dissipated and the ground solidified once more with their feet above.
When the light reached her, whatever it was inside her fell to silence, calm and sleepy once more. Paige blinked away tears as her eyes tried to adjust. She could make out the outline of an Amazonian woman holding a sword blazing with light. “Come. We must away before the witch recovers.”
Struggling to keep up with everything happening around her, Paige stared at the woman’s offered hand, dumbfounded. With a groan of frustration, the woman came to her side and took hold of Lillian, slinging the woman over her shoulder easily. “Hurry.”
A scream tore through the air as Anna whipped around, fury glittering in her eyes. What do you know? Her eyes were not entirely dead after all. A split second. That was all it took for Paige to decide. With a battle cry, she ran headlong into the fading green circle, equal parts desperation and love driving her every step. As Anna made a grab for her, she ducked and aimed her blade up, the tactile feeling of it parting flesh combined the smell of burning flesh flooding her senses causing bile to rise in the back of her throat. Later on, she would never forget that sickening feeling.
But for now, running on pure adrenaline, she grabbed Davin by his arm and yanked him towards her. He followed, stumbling like a ragged doll.
Paige dared a glance back to see the woman holding the blazing sword up, approaching Anna who cringed from the light in fear while clutching her arm. That must have been where the iron dagger had caught her. Paige raised the blade once more and in return, Anna threw Paige a glare of pure hatred before turning and fleeing.
With that, the battle was over.
The woman sheathed the sword in a scabbard strapped across her back and the light fades. Paige blinked once more and turned to behold the woman, inside still if she was a saviour or a more powerful foe. Whoever she was, she was gorgeous, with ebony skin and hair, dark as midnight held in a multitude of tiny braids. Every line of her body spoke of grace and strength.
“We shouldn’t stay here,” the woman spoke, nodding towards the door. “This human and the incubus of yours are both going to need help.”
Paige glanced at Davin and shivered when she realized he had stood there, silent all the time, his eyes still glazed with no sign of recognition or awareness of what transpired. What had Anna done to him?
And who was this woman?
“Formal introductions can wait later, Princess. Please.”
Princess? “You must be mistaken.”
“Please, I will explain everything.” The woman began to head towards the door. Left with little choice, Paige scrambled to follow, dragging Davin along who seemed content to follow.
“At least give me a name to call you.”
“You may call me Maeve for now.”
Somehow, they made it back to Dante’s place in one piece, sort of.
Paige had to guide Davin out of the rental jeep Maeve had arrived in. His zombie state terrified her even more than when he was near death and she struggled for calm. Maeve followed from behind, carrying Lillian with much more care than before.
“Paige.” Dante opened the door and ushered them inside, surprise lifting his brows at Maeve’s appearance.
Efficient as always, Dante busied himself checking on Lillian, cleaning and bandaging her wounds. Maeve stood to one corner, seeming to prefer to be as unobtrusive as possible. Paige sat Davin down, holding his hand as if he would respond with some recognition, any second now.
“Oh, thank god.” Ainsley wheeled herself into the living room and opened her arms for Paige.
She left Davin to fall into them and struggled to hold back the tears now that the adrenaline of the fight was leaving her. They got Lillian back but Davin…
“Ssshh, it’s okay. It’s okay,” Ainsley stroked her hair, murmuring words of comfort.
When Ainsley shifted in her wheelchair, Paige leaned back to see Dante towering over them. Never did she expect to see such a mix of horror and fear on that stoic face.
“Paige. What happened to Davin?”