“If you can’t calm her through her connection, it stands to reason that Vincent is probably doing something to heighten her fear. He did that with Jenn and Avery to raise their adrenalin.” I didn’t say the rest of what I was thinking. There was no reason in pointing out that he’d be drinking from one–or both–of them. He’s able to draw his own conclusion.
“If he’s doing that then he means to drink from her.” Curry hits the back of his head against the seat several times. “He’ll figure out that Chansey’s a blood jewel if he hasn’t already.”
“Did you tell her?”
He sighs. “No. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want her living in fear of something I didn’t understand and couldn’t explain. I had every intention of telling her but I wanted to find out what it meant first.”
She was going to freak when she found out. “She’ll inevitably know now.”
Curry closes his eyes. “Yeah and she’s gonna be pissed at me for not telling her when she figures out that I knew.” I didn’t envy Curry that conversation.
I’m relieved to sense the change in my agápe. “I feel Avery calming down so she’s either meditating to lower her heart rate and adrenaline or the coven is finished with them.”
“Chansey is naive when it comes to vampires. She saw how Sully was before our reconciliation but it was brief. He played cat and mouse games with her to taunt me.” He’s restless in his seat. “I’m sure it’s nothing compared to what Vincent is doing to her right now.”
“It’s best to not think about it. It’ll consume you and distract your mind from what we need to do but take comfort in knowing that being a blood jewel is what will keep her alive. If for no other reason, Vincent will protect her because of that.” Those are the only reassuring words I have.
“Ironically, that’s the only thing encouraging me at this point.”
I look at the horizon. “The sun is coming up. Another three or four minutes tops.”
He laughs. “I hope you don’t turn into a crisp french fry.”
“Me too. That would suck.” I can’t even consider what would happen to me if my body isn’t ready for the sun. Avery is the only thing I can think about.
We remain silent for the next few minutes as we wait for the verdict. I stretch my hand outward into the sun’s rays and feel nothing but its warmth. Almost.
“No smoke. That’s encouraging.” Curry watches my hand as I form a fist and then flex it open. “I still feel a little sting when the sun initially hits my skin but it goes away after a minute or two.”
There’s definitely a slight burning sensation. “It feels like a blistering tingle.”
“I like it.” Curry puts his hand into the sun. “It’s a good reminder of what I really am when I let it slip my mind.”
He sometimes forgets? “I can’t imagine feeling so human that I don’t remember I’m a vampire.”
“Just wait, buddy. It’ll happen to you too,” he says.
I’m so lucky to have a best friend that has experienced this. “I’m glad I have you to advise me.”
“I’m grateful I have Sebastian.”
Sebastian had no one to guide him. He was left to interpret it all on his own based solely on legends. “Can you imagine the things that must have gone through his mind?” All he knew in the beginning was that he was a vampire and he loved a human. I remember how confused I was when I realized I felt affection for Avery.
“He had to be terrified of the things he was feeling.” Curry taps his temple a few times. “Or think he was losing his mind.”
“And to lose Ella the way he did. Such a senseless death. I don’t know how he didn’t go mad.” I don’t think I’d be strong enough to bear it because I’m about to lose my mind now.
“He told me he still feels her–even in death.”
That would be torture. “That’s gotta hurt.”
“He seems comforted by it.”
I don’t know how there would be contentment in that. “I’d rather die than live without Avery.”
“I feel the same about Chansey,” Curry agrees. “He’s thought of ending it all but says he lives for Ella because it’s what she wants for him.”
This isn’t the kind of thing we should be discussing when we’re about to burst into a nest of crazy vampires to take back our mates. “Sun’s up and shining. Time to roll.”
We get out of the car and quietly approach the house where I saw Avery for the first time. It’s bittersweet memories being in this place again.
Curry tries the front door and it’s unlocked so we immediately suspect a trap. I motion toward the back of the house and he follows closely on my heels. I push the lever of the handle and the door opens–a definite trap. He points toward the upper level balcony above us and I nod. We climb up and over the railing and land on the second story porch. The french doors are open–another invitation for us to enter.
I’m growing uneasy as we enter the house but it’s of no consequence. Trap or no trap, we’re going inside.
Something is noticeably off once we’re within the house. No. Make that everything is off. Curry and I look at one another–disappointment and anger apparent on his face. Avery and Chansey aren’t here. No one is. The house is abandoned.
“Damn that bastard to hell!” I never considered them being anywhere but this place. “They haven’t been gone for long. I still smell his putrid odor.”
It’s obvious we’re in Vincent’s quarters because we’re surrounded by grandeur furnishings. “There’s a clue somewhere in this house so we’ll start here in the king’s quarters.” Curry streaks over to the bed and begins shredding the mattress. “Tear everything apart. We’ll strip this house room by room until we find something that will lead us to them.”
I’m fiercely ripping wood from the floor when I hear Curry. “Chansey …” He’s wearing a blank stare.
I walk to him and snap my fingers in front of his face. “What is it?”
“She’s safe because she’s channeling me.” I don’t know what that means. “She’s letting me know she’s okay.”
I’m immediately alarmed because my agápe isn’t channeling me also–not that I would know what it felt like if she did. “I can’t feel Avery doing anything. Does that mean something’s wrong?”
“No. You and Avery haven’t figured out how to control your bond yet. It’ll come with time.”
I hope I get the chance to learn more about our bond. “I swear he won’t come out of this alive. I won’t stop until he’s dead.”
“You can’t fixate on him if you want to reach her,” he says. “Close your eyes. Try to revisit that place where only you and Avery reside when your bond is at its strongest. Remember the feel of your connection and feed it with your love. ”
I do as Curry instructs and I get nothing. Not a single thing. And I feel like an epic fail for my agápe.
“Keep yourself receptive. Think of her while we work to tear this place apart. I’m sure my wife is instructing her on how to do it and if she’s anything like Chansey, she won’t stop until she’s able to connect with you.”
I return to ripping up the floor. “There’s no way I’d be thinking of anything but her.”
We work for hours tearing the house apart, leaving nothing unturned. The once grand home now resembles a demolition site and it’s a shame. It was so beautiful. “We’ve shredded every piece of furniture, every floor, every wall covering. I know there’s a clue here somewhere. There has to be. All of this can’t be for naught.”
I’m studying the only untouched piece remaining in the room when I hear Avery’s voice behind me. “Your clue to finding her is in the mantle.”
I spin around at the startle of her voice and she’s standing across the room. Her face is oddly void of emotion. “Thank the gods you escaped from Vincent. Where is Chansey?”
Curry comes into the parlor where Avery and I are. “Who are you talking to?”
Is he blind? She’s standing right there in plain sight. “Avery.” I get up to go to her and she disappears. I reach out and pass my hand through the space she just occupied. “Where did she go?”
I turn to look at Curry for help with an explanation. “You saw Avery’s fylgia. It’s weird, right?”
Weird doesn’t begin to cover it. “Yeah. It was bizarre. And disappointing. I thought she had safely escaped and was here.”
“I’m guessing Avery had a twin that died at birth?” he asks.
I have no idea. It’s in this moment that I realize I know far too little about my agápe. “I don’t know. We never discussed it.”
“You will. There’ll be plenty of time for learning everything about her.” He’s nonchalant as he digs through the piles of plaster and wood tossed around the room. “What did the fylgia say?”
“She told me my clue to finding Avery is in the mantle.” I walk over to the only intact piece still in the room and begin studying it. “Look.” I point to an inconsistency in the design of the painted wood.
Curry leaves the heap of debris he’s ciphering through for a better look at the woodwork around the fireplace. “This is an old house. What do you want to bet there’s a trip for a hidden compartment? Those were pretty common in houses like this. I incorporated one into the mantle at the house I built in Pascagoula.”
I peck on the mantle hoping to hear a hollow sound but everything seems solid.
“Maybe you should try pulling instead of pushing.”
I slide my finger along the underside of the dentil molding until I feel a slight give. I push upward as I pull and a narrow drawer no wider than two inches slides out. I look at Curry as I remove it from the mantle and then I turn it upside down over my palm.