That night Kylie sat in her bed watching the clock and twisting the charm bracelet her mom had given her around her wrist. Almost midnight. Lucas would be shifting soon. She'd spoken with him today twice.

He'd called the last time just to hear her say it again. She knew what he was talking about, so she obliged him.

I love you.

He hadn't said he'd come by tonight, but she still hoped.

Kylie's gaze shifted to the bright light on the other side of the room. The sword hadn't stopped glowing all day and she wasn't even touching it. It was as if it was trying to tell her something. Obviously, Kylie didn't speak swordese.

Not that she hadn't tried. After dinner, she'd actually sat down and had a conversation with the thing.

Asked if there was something she needed to know. Told it her concerns about staying alive.

It didn't talk back. Not that she expected it to, but seriously, she wouldn't have been too shocked if it had. Face it, crazy shit happened at Shadow Falls.

Seeing it was almost twelve, Kylie got up. Della walked out of her bedroom the moment Kylie stepped out of hers.

"Where are you going?" Della asked.

"I just want to sit on the porch. Alone."

"You're hoping he'll come, aren't you?"

Kylie nodded.

"Fine," Della said. "But if tomorrow you have doggy breath..."

Kylie giggled and went outside. She gazed at the moon and wondered if shifting would help Lucas deal with his grief. She hoped so.

The memory of him as a wolf when he'd stopped Fredericka from charging her still teased her memory, and she ached to see him in that form again. There were so many things she wanted to know about him.

What he looked like when he first woke up in the morning. What side of the bed did he normally sleep on?

Did he snore?

Pulling out her phone, she checked her e-mail to see if maybe he'd sent her something earlier. She had only one, from Derek. He had forwarded her all the links he'd found in connection to Lucinda Esparza.

Since the spirit hadn't actually passed, Kylie suspected she wouldn't leave until after the confrontation with Mario. Or maybe she just wasn't eager to head off to hell.

The thought sent a shiver down Kylie's spine. She went to cut off her phone, but she accidentally hit one of the links. She read it, not really learning anything new. Then she read the last one on the list, an old newspaper clipping announcing the wedding of John Anthony Esparza and Lucinda Edwards.

Kylie pulled up the link. She saw a picture of Lucinda in her wedding gown. She was pretty, young,and innocent all dressed in white. The next picture was the couple cutting the cake.

Kylie looked at the picture. Her heart stopped. Completely stopped. She blinked, praying her eyes were playing tricks on her, but no, it was him.

No wonder she didn't like him. John, her mom's John, was John Anthony, Mario's son.

Thrown instantly into protective mode, her blood buzzed, as adrenaline spread from limb to limb. The sword appeared beside Kylie-glowing, beckoning her to action. With clarity, Kylie remembered Mario's threat. You will come to me, Kylie Galen, come to me willing to die, to suffer at my hands for my pleasure, because the price will be too great! Your weakness will take you down.

He'd had this plan all along.

Kylie considered calling for Della, or going after Burnett, but something inside her knew this was her fight.

Hers to win.

Or hers to lose.

She didn't have an exact address for John's beach house, but her mom had said it was on the same street as one of the old plantation homes they had visited a while back. The sword flickered and Kylie sensed it might know exactly where they were going.

Picking up the weapon, Kylie could swear she heard something stir in the woods. She looked back, didn't see anything, then willed herself invisible and took off.

She flew over the gate knowing the alarm would go off, but never looked back. Burnett would be livid.

Yet everything in her said this was right. Living or dying wasn't even important. Saving her mom was.

Right then she knew exactly what Mario had meant by her weakness. Love.

Weakness or not, it was the only thing worth dying for.

She followed the coast past Galveston, to the next little island. The moon hung in the dark sky, round and bright. The sound of ocean moved with the wind and carried Kylie closer. She found the street where John's beach house should be, and as she moved lower to the ground the sword grew brighter. When she came up to a large yellow house on stilts with an eight-foot-high block gate around the property, she instinctively knew she'd found it. She noted the house backed up the beach, but they only had a small gate opening up to the sand and ocean. Who bought a house on the beach and then closed it off? Someone afraid of intruders.

The sword seemed to pull her even closer to the property. Hell, maybe she and the sword did speak the same language after all.

Kylie almost landed inside the block fence, but she realized John might have an alarm system that rivaled the one at Shadow Falls.

Heart racing, blood fizzing in her veins, she told herself to slow down and think before taking some action that could get her, or her mom, killed.

Remaining in one spot, she checked out her surroundings. Vegetation was sparse compared to Houston and the hill country area. Palm trees and some large oleander bushes with salmon-colored flowers lined the block fence. She heard voices in the distance. She darted to the black shadow lining the gate, away from the moon's glow, and followed the tall block gate around the property, closer to the voices.Instantly, the sword's light faded as if to keep her from being seen. But her hand holding the sword still felt the weapon's power, its energy.

Around a slight bend, she spotted a side driveway and an iron gate. She moved in quietly until she got to another large oleander bush. Peering through the limbs and leaves she saw two men behind the thick gate sharing a conversation. Guards.

What kind?

She needed to know what she dealt with. Tightening her eyes, she focused on their foreheads- chameleons. But their patterns were murky, almost black.


Her breath caught for one second, knowing and accepting just what she was up against.

The humming sound of a motor caught her attention. The silver Cadillac they stood beside had the engine running. Another motorized sound filled the moonlit night. The gate clinked and started to open.

She watched from the shadows as one of the guards got into the white car.

This was her chance. Maybe her only chance. She had to get inside that gate. She had to save her mother.

The thought hit her that she might be too late. She pushed it away, unable to accept it.

Willing herself invisible, aware that she dealt with other chameleons, she listened to hear if anyone else was in the invisible realm. The sounds made by another invisible always seemed almost closer.


Only silence echoed in this unique world, but like her, they might be standing silent.


Aware her footsteps might be heard, she waited for the gate's motor to grow a bit louder, offering the tiniest advantage. When the gate opened a few more inches she could slip inside.

Breath held, trying to make herself as light on her feet as possible, she moved in. She got just inside the gate when she heard another sound-a footstep. She wasn't the only one invisible.

Another guard appeared a few feet from the other. He cut his eyes around.

"Do we have company?" the first guard standing by the gate asked.

"Maybe? Get the damn gate shut off so I can know for sure."

Knowing now, before he faded again, was her only chance, she took off at a dead run. Crouching behind a prickly bush, realizing her odds of being seen in the visible realm might be less than being heard in the invisible sphere, she willed herself to appear.

The buzz in her protective mode still ran high and she found herself needing more oxygen. Still gripping the sword, she closed her eyes one second, and that's when she heard it-a deep angry growl.

Shit. They had guard dogs.

Opening her eyes, she stared at a snout with snarling teeth exposed and glowing yellow eyes. The black spiked collar told Kylie she was right, it was a guard dog, but the wild look in his eyes told her the animal was at least part wolf.

Kylie swallowed her fear and smelled the animal's breath. It jerked its snout up, showing more teeth.

His growl became lower, more intense. The tags hanging from its collar clinked and seemed too loud.

Looking the animal right in the eyes, she tightened her hold on the sword. Don't make me kill you. My fight is not with you. I even kind of love wolves.

Instantly the animal backed up. His yellow eyes never blinked. He crouched down on his haunches, hisgaze shifting away from her eyes. Kylie remembered the wolf she'd run across at Shadow Falls and how it had shown submissiveness.

She didn't understand it, but she'd take whatever advantage she had right now. Because face it, she had a feeling she was going to need it.

She glanced back where the men stood by the gate. Only one remained. The other had gone back into the invisible realm. He could be anywhere.

Willing herself invisible again, she listened. Heard the footsteps moving in front of the bush. They slowed down. Her heart pounded so loud, she was certain he could hear it.

The dog/wolf turned and bolted out of the bush.

"Damn it, you mongrel," the guard's voice rang out. "I thought I had something."

Through the leaves, Kylie saw the man appear. He stomped over to the animal and kicked his back leg.

Hard. The dog yelped, and Kylie's blood raged for the defenseless animal. When the man drew his leg back again, Kylie reached down and picked up a stone and tossed it to the bushes to her right.

The man swerved around and went to look in the bush beside her. The closer he came the harder it was to breathe.

"Got anything?" the man from the gate yelled out.

"I don't think so," he muttered, and started toward the gate. "Just that damn ugly-ass dog."

That ugly-ass dog just saved my butt, Kylie thought, her heart still bouncing off her breastbone with the need to protect.

When the man remained visible and started chatting with the other guard, she knew this was her opportunity to move away, maybe find a place to actually get inside.

Becoming invisible again, she quietly moved around the house looking for an entrance. The wolf/dog came limping toward her, confirming her suspicion that it could see her.

Willing herself visible, she reached down and touched the dog's back leg. She felt her hand grow warm. Get me inside the house, friend, she told the animal with her mind, unsure if it would work, or if she was simply hoping. Then again, Derek could communicate with animals. Maybe she'd changed herself into fae.

The canine turned and started moving beneath the stilts holding up the beach house. She started to continue on her own way, but the dog stopped and looked back at her almost as if to say, This way.

Chancing it, she followed the dog. After moving in and around multiple beams, she questioned her decision, but then the dog stopped at what appeared to be a ramp that led up to a doggy door. Still invisible, she tried to move in rhythm with her canine friend. Not an easy feat carrying a sword.

She accidentally hit the sword on the edge of the door. If anyone lurked inside this dimension, they would have heard her.

Inside, she stopped and listened. Not a sound echoed in the darkness. She saw a couple of sleeping bags and empty dog bowls. Bet they don't feed you regularly, either, do they, buddy? But if they were fed here, that meant there had to be a door into the house. Whether it would be locked was another matter.

Scanning the dark room, she saw the door. She petted the animal again. Thank you. She stood up and reached for the doorknob. It turned in her hand. An almost silent twist of the wrist. She inhaled, feeling successful so far. But she didn't kid herself, the hardest part was finding her mom and getting them out of here.Getting them out alive.

The sword seemed to vibrate in her hand, as if reminding her that escaping tonight wasn't that simple.

Tonight she would use the weapon, only this time it wouldn't be practice. It would for be real.

At first she thought everyone in the house was asleep. She moved her way through a big kitchen, then she came into a large living room with a big rock fireplace. This room seemed to be the center of the house. A door led off from both sides. She spotted a light at the end of one hallway. She heard voices. Moving with baby steps down the hall, she listened to see if she could hear her mom.

One voice was clear: John. A second voice spoke and chills ran down her spine. She swallowed the taste of fear down her throat: Mario.

No female voices entered the conversation. Debating what to do, she decided to search for her mom. At this time of night, her mom would be asleep. She turned down the other hall, where it looked like bedrooms would be.

The first room appeared to be a guest room. With hopes her mom might be sleeping there, she opened the door. The room stood eerily silent and empty.

She saw a room at the end of the hall and figured it was the master bedroom. Right then, she somehow knew that's where her mom slept.

She'd been sleeping with John.

Sleeping with the enemy.

But Kylie was here to fix that. She held tight to her sword as she quietly turned the knob.

In the bed was a familiar shape. A nightlight cast a glow onto her mom. Kylie recalled all the nights as a kid that she'd walked into her mom's bedroom with nightmares, or a stuffy nose. Not once had her mom gotten angry. She might not have been the biggest on offering affection, but she had always been there. The anger Kylie felt over the whole Brighten situation suddenly seemed irrelevant.

Moving in, she got to the side of the bed. "Mom?" she whispered.

Her mom didn't budge, and for one second Kylie panicked, then she saw her side shift with an intake of air.

Looking at the dresser, she saw a wineglass. The nightlight shined on the glass and showed tiny flecks of something filming the bottom. Picking it up, she held it to the spray of light, and sure enough, it appeared something other than wine had been in her mom's drink-like crushed pills. John had drugged her mom?

Putting the glass down, feeling another surge of protectiveness moving through her veins, she gripped the sword and leaned down. "Mom," Kylie said.

Her mom stirred a bit, but barely.

Reaching for her shoulder, she gave her a slight shake. "Mom, I need you to wake up."

Her mom's eyes popped open. "Kylie? What are you...?" She looked around as if she couldn't concentrate. Was it because she was she still asleep or the drugs? "Where's..."

"John?" Kylie finished for her mom.

Taking a deep breath, Kylie realized she hadn't taken the time to figure out exactly what she was going to tell her mom. With no time to come up with something clever, she knew it would have to be the truth.Was it time to spill everything? Could her mom handle the truth? Or maybe just part of it?

"John?" her mom called out.

Kylie pushed two fingers over her lips, praying she hadn't been loud enough for him to hear. "No, you can't..."

"My God, what is that?" Her mom lurched back, looking at the sword, which was now gleaming, it was so bright. Her mom made a face. "This is a dream, right?"

"Mom." Kylie tried to speak calmly. "John is not what you think. He's not a good guy and we need to leave."

Her mom looked away from the sword back to Kylie. "You need to stop thinking that. I know it hurts that your dad and I-"

"Mom, I really need you to be quiet and just do what I say, okay?"

Her mom's brow wrinkled and Kylie felt certain she was partially drugged. "How did you get in here?" Her mom gave her head a little shake as if trying to wake herself up. Then she glanced at the sword again. "It has to be a dream."

"Come on." Kylie pulled her mom up.

Her mom rose to her feet, but then fell back to the bed. Kylie pulled her up again and this time noticed she wore a sexy nightgown. But she didn't have time to worry about that. She had to get her out of here.

She took her hand and started walking her to the door. Right before they got there, it swung open.

John stood staring at Kylie. Then, as if out of an evil dream, Mario appeared beside him.

Kylie pushed her mom behind her and held out her sword. "Get out of our way."

Mario's answer was a devilish smile that spoke of evilness. "I told you that you would come to me."

"Who are you?" her mom asked, and tried to move in front of Kylie.

Kylie caught her mom by the arm and held her back.

"And look what you brought." Mario motioned to her sword. "A toy for us to play with." Copyright 2016 - 2023