Chapter Four (cont’d)
Heading down a side hallway, Savannah made her way to the large wooden stairwell that led to the bowels of the building, where the morgue, employee locker rooms, and evidence lockers were located. The morgue was straight ahead once you descended the stairwell. Two double swinging double doors that lead in to Land of the Dead, as Dr. Sylvester Drummond, the ME liked to call it.
Sylvester was an older man with a wicked sense of humor. He always claimed he done more and seen more then all the local necromancers put together, which Savannah wouldn’t put past him. When he was younger, his was a military medic. The things he must have seen on the battle field must have been horrendous. He once told her that he saw of army of undead soldier slaughter a village of natives. Their own people.
Using the corpses of your dead in battle was illegal and amoral. The necromancers put things down like that very quickly, after all it had started a whole fear of zombie apocalypse that still carried on today. It made necromancers look bad and was very bad for business. If any rumor of the dead being raised illegally reached the ears of the Necromancer Guild, a special guard unit was sent out immediately to investigate and eradicate if necessary.
Savannah was actually surprised she was being called in for a second opinion. For a man who had not a drop of magic in his blood, Sly was very adapt at picking up any trace of magic on the body. She had seem in at crime scenes notice things that not even the assigned guild necromancer noticed, and it was their job to notice.
Sly had no ego when it came to his job. He welcomed the opinion of others. So he usually didn’t mind having something sticking their noses in his business, as long as they were respectful. He couldn’t stand arrogance in his work space. If you dared to insult or irritate the ME, good luck getting any information from him. He had been known to ban people from his morgue. Luckily for Savannah, Sly loved her.
Savannah knew best of all that she was lucky to even be considered as a consultant for the local police department. She had no official capacity with the Necromancer Guild and no classification which she should have received from Woodrose had she been able to complete her last year. She had nothing to recommend her but Abby’s word. Even her skills wouldn’t have gotten her through the door without Abby’s recommendation.
She had basically been a nobody with no past. Most people hadn’t taken her seriously. Even the Captain had only accepted the recommendation becasue Abby was a good cop and because she hated dealing with the local representatives.
It had been a small job. Detective Santos was stuck. He knew the victim had been murdered although the scene had been set to look like a suicide. But nothing he learned about the victim made him believe the young man would suddenly decide to kill himself. He had just landed a job with one of the largest architecture firms in the city. He was marrying his high school sweet heart in a month. Everything was bought and paid for. He had no real debts, his had gone through college on a scholarship and graduated top of his class. He’s career was just beginning. Suicide just didn’t make sense.
Detective Santos had spoken to the man’s fiancee, family, friends and co-workers. They all agreed that he would have never done it. All of them except the man’s best friend who said there was another side to the man that his family and fiancee didn’t know about. He was a heavy drinker and partied a lot. One night the man’s friend caught him in bed with a woman tha wasn’t his fiancee. The victim begged his friend to keep the truth, but the friend kept telling him he should be truthful with his fiancee. Walking in to a new marriage with something like this would only lead to divorce.
Detective Santos didn’t believe a word that man said. He believe the man had murdered his friend, but he needed proof. That is where Savannah came in. He needed her to raise the man’s spirit so that he could question him.
They had contacted the Necromancer Guild Liason for assistance. But the man wasn’t available for another week. The family was already pressuring the police department to release the body and they didn’t have time to wait for a week. Besides that, the victims friend had started acting squirrely and Santos was sure it was only a matter of time before the man ran. He needed answers and he needed them as soon as possible.
That’s where Savannah came in. She wasn’t actually looking for a side job. She enjoyed working for Abby’s parents at the bakery. She learned that she loved the science and creativity that baking involved. She was also learning a lot from Rachel about the magical properties of herbs and spices. Savannah would never be able to work magic like Rachel but it was interesting to learn about another form of magic. Usually witches would never discuss their magic was another supernatural not of their race. But Rachel was different and open minded. It was the reason she hired a twenty-one year old high school drop out with no baking experience in the first place.
Abby had stopped by the bakery after finishing a graveyard shift and was telling them abot the case and how she knew the guy was going to get away. Savannah didn’t even think before she opened her mouth and offered to do the job. She was even going to do it for free as as favor for a friend.
Abby jumped on the offer and spoke to Detective Santos about it. He wasn’t overly eager to accept the assistance but he needed a necromancer now and he didn’t have time to wait the Guild Liason to be available. He cleared it with the Captain and Savannah found herself at the Morgue that afternoon.
Sly was the only one there when she arrived. Detective Santos was running late but that was okay. By that time Savannah was having second thoughts about her impulsive offer. She had been under the radar until then. The Necromancer Guild knew there was an unregistered Necromancer in town, but they paid her no attention as they probably figured she was unregistered because she didn’t have enough power to be classified.
She really didn’t want to draw the attention of the Guild but she also wanted to help out Abby. She figured this could be a quick thing. Get in and get out, do what she needed to do, get the information and that would be it. A one time favor. She kept telling herself that over and over again so she wouldn’t run out of the place like a coward and make her friend look bad.
Sly must have sensed her nervousness as she stepped through the double-doors. He offered her a cup of coffee and a seat in his office while she waited for Santos to arrive. Even form the very beginning, Sly never doubted in her ability. He treated her as respectfully as he would any other professional. He had to know she was unregistered, but he never treated with the arrogance and impatience she had received from others once they learned she was an unregistered necromancer.
Sly talked her ear off while they waited. He told her about his wife and how they had been married for forty-five years. The woman drove him absolutely crazy but he was still mad in love wtih her. He told her about his daughter and her husband who was a lazy bum. He told her about his precocious granddaughter and rascal of a grandson. By the time Santos arrived thirty minutes later, Savannah knew Sly family so well it was as if she had known them her whole life.
Sly had even remained with with her while she did the raising. He assisted her with arranging the body, and clearing the space around it so that she could draw her protective circle. The raising was as easy as she expected and the Detective got the information he needed.
It had been the best friend who killed the victim. It has been an accident. It had been the victim to catch his best friend cheating on his wife. The best friend begged the victim not to say a word and the man agreed but he kept telling the friend he should tell him wife before she found out another way. After all, they had just had a child a month ago. This wasn’t the way to start this new part of his life. The best friend though was scared. He and the victim were drinking on the man’s balcony when the victim brought it up again. The friend was drunk and got angry. He pushed his friend too hard and the man went over the railing. Panicking, the man had left the apartment, taking with him an evidence he had been there that night. Even his wife hadn’t known he was going to stop by after work. There was no proof he was there, except the word of the dead man.’
When it was done, Santos thanked her and took the recording he had made with him to the Captain. They would need to hurry and get a warrant for the best friend’s arrest. Savannah was just sending the spirit back when the man asked him for a single favor. He had bought his fiancee a gift the day of his death. He had invited his best friend over to show him. He asked Savannah to retrieve the gift and give it to his fiancee.
Savannah could have sent the spirit back without answering his plea. She could have ignored him, but instead she agreed. It was against everything she had been taught at Woodrose, but she just listened to how this man had lost his life and his entire future because of a drunken mistake. He had bought something for the woman he loved. The least Savannah could do is make sure she got it. She knew she couldn’t walk in to the crime scene and just take a piece of evidence, but Santos owed her a favor for this. She know knew what she would ask for.
After agreeing to the spirits request, Savannah sent him back, and set about cleaning up. Sly got down on the concrete floor besides her and helped her clean the chaulk dust off the floor, washing away the protective circle.
When they were done, Savannah thanked the older man for his help. He shook his head and thanked her. He told her that not all necromancers treated the spirits like people. What she had done for that man, had given him peace. She didn’t see the spirits as a job, she saw them as people. Just like Sly who saw the bodies as more then victim, but as people who had lost their lives too early.
He did what he did for the people they could have been and the people they left behind. If he could provide some kind of peace for the people left behind, he would do everything in her power. He didn’t chase the killers, but he did provide the detectives with all the clues he could find to help catch the killers.
Savannah had never thought about what she did that way until then. At Woodrose, they had taught her that raising the dead was business and nothing more. They were hired to do a job and they would do it as professionally as possible. They were not to get emotionally engaged, it was their job to be a neutral witness and nothing more.
As Savannah neared the swinging doors she could hear Sly swearing at the annoucer on the television. It was Sunday which meant he was watching some football game. Savannah didn’t know sports. She had tried once to have him explain it to her, but she just didn’t see the purpose of sitting in a room watching men battle it out over a ball, be it football, basketball or soccer, Sly’s three favorite sports.
Savannah usually spent her one full day off running around town doing errands in the morning, stopping at Kira’s family pub O’Briens for lunch with Abby and Kira and then heading home. To spend her one full day off stuck in her apartment in front of the television just seemed so pointless. Of course she had learned after the first time she mentioned it never to say so infront of Sly. He had crossed him and refused to speak to her for a full week before she apologized for saying watching sports on television was pointless.
Savannah pushed open the double doors and found Sly decked out in his green scrubs standing beside a sheet covered body. His eyes though weren’t about his newest patient but on the television set up in the corner of the examination room.
“Morning Sly,” Savannah greeted as she set her heavy backpack down on the wooden sign-in desk by the door.
“Morning Sav,” Sly called over his shoulder, not bother to turn around as groaned at something he saw on the television. Savannah just shook her head as she opened the bag and began to pull out all the necessary tools. She wasn’t sure what she was going to need, but she grabbed a couple of sticks of white chalk just in case. She doubted she would need blood for anything but she pulled out the ceremonial dagger she used for these kind of raising. In truth, it didn’t matter what kind of blade she used to draw blood, she had used a pocket knife the night before, but people who didn’t know magic were impressed by fancy exotic looking daggers. It was just for show, but they didn’t know it.
Leaving the chalk and dagger on the table next to her bag, she wandered off to see what Sly was doing. She couldn’t help by notice that he had prepared the room for a raising. The metal gurneys were pushed against the far right wall. The floor around the metal table where the body lay had been cleared and recently moped. The cement shone under the harsh fluorescent lights. “So what have you got for me today?” Savannah asked softly more to herself than anyone else, as she gazed down at the heavy white sheet that lay over the body.
“We’ve got ourselves a mystery with this one,” Sly told her, finally turning away from his football game to look at the sheet covered body as well. He lifted the edge of blanket with his gloved hands to expose a man’s large hand.
Savannah frowned, not sure what Sly was trying to show her. It wasn’t like she saw a lot of corpses, but the hand looked like every other hand she had ever seen. She was just about to say something when something caught her eye. Her frown deepened as she tilted her head slightly to the right and saw what Sly had seen. Glyphs, necromancer glyphs covered the back of the man’s hand. By they were done in some kind of clear iridescent paint that could only be viewed at just right the angle.
“Is it just on his hands?” Savannah asked as she took one of the latex gloves that Sly pulled from his chest pocket and offered to her. Slipping the glove over her hand she picked up the man’s cold hand and tilted it so that she could see the glyphs better.
“No, they’re all over his body,” a new voice informed her. Savannah lifted her head and turned to find Detective Moreno standing in the morgue entrance. She was a middled aged hispanic woman still in her prime. Her chestnut hair was pulled back in to a messy bun that Savannah would have bet hadn’t started off that way.
Savannah had worked with Detective Moreno a couple of times and had known the woman to always keep her appearance neat. Her hair pulled back up and away from her face. Her clothes always perfectly pressed and in spotless. But today, her gray slacks were wrinkled and her lavender blouse has seen better days. She looked like she hadn’t changed, much less left the station in the last couple of days, which wouldn’t have surprised her. Detective Moreno was a bull dog once she got something between her teeth.
So whatever this was, it had the detective’s full attention.
Grabbing a pair of gloves from pants pockets. Detective Moreno slid them on before joining Sly and Savannah at the table.
“Doctor, please,” She gestured to the sheet. Sly pulled the sheet off so that Savannah could see the body in full.
The first thing Savannah realized was that man was young, younger than she was. Probably just out of school. She felt a pang deep in her chest. He had so much of his life ahead of him and now that was all gone.
“Who is he?” Savannah asked.
“The ID in his wallet says his name is Gerard Montclair. We haven’t been able to contact his family yet, since it seems his family is in France. We contacted the French Consulate but they haven’t been able to provide us with any information yet but they are checking.”
“Montclair is a Necromancer Family name,” Savannah turned away from the body and to Detective Moreno.
“We were informed of that fact when representatives from Guild arrived to retrieve his body,” Detective Moreno informed her dryly.
“So they are aware of his death which means that whatever happened to him, the Guild is at least aware of the circumstances.”
“And they’re not telling us shit,” the other woman practically growled, “I’ve been informed by the Chief that I have twenty-four hours before we’re required to release the body to the Guild. They went above our heads to the commissioner and informed him that we’ve interfered with their investigation in to the death of one of their own. As the man in a supernatural, his death is outside the bounds of local police department. His death will be dealt which by the Necromancer Guild.”
The spat out each word, “The Captain was able to stall the Guild but we are to return the body as we found it, so no autopsy can be done. And seeing as how this is a necromancer matter, none of the local guild will assist us before we are required to handover the body.”
Savannah nodded her head in understanding, “So you needed someone outside of the guild to assist you.”
“That was one of the reasons I asked for your help,” Detective Moreno admitted, “But you also know what you’re doing. More so than the jackasses the Guild sends our way. You don’t play games and you give straight answers. I want to make sure this young man receives justice for his death, not just a cover up and for that I need your help.”
“Okay,” Savannah cheeks warmed at the praise. Something she was never comfortable with. She quickly turned back to the body. They needed answers and she wouldn’t have a second time to get them.
“I don’t want to try raising his spirit yet, not until I know what the glyphs are for. Were you able to get pictures of them?”
“We tried,” Sly informed her, “but no matter what we do, the glyphs don’t show up in the photos. We even had our tech guys down here trying everything they could. It’s as if the marks can only be seen by the human eye.”
Savannah stopped her examination to look at Sly, “Could you get a sketch artist to make a sketch of the body. I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out each glyph in the twenty-four hour period. If there is some way we can record, I can review it later.”
Sly just shook he head, “Tried that as well. The artist was here yesterday. She was able to do a sketch of Mr. Montclair with no problem. But when she tried to copy the glyphs she couldn’t remember what the marks looked like. She could see the mark just as we do, but when she tried to sketch them, it was as if they were wiped from her mind. The poor woman tried for three hours before she gave up and left in tears. Nothing we tried works. We can see them clearly, but whenever we try to record them, it just doesn’t work.
Savannah looked down at the translucent glyphs covering the young man’s body. She had assumed they had been painted on, but what if she was wrong. Leaning over, she rubbed a gloved finger over one of the marks. No smudges or smears, the sigil was perfectly intact, which could only mean one thing.
Swearing under her breath, Savannah walked back to her bag and grabbed the entire box of chalk along with the two pieces she had brought out earlier.
“This is going to take me some time to prepare, but I’m going to need a second opinion. I know you don’t trust necromancers affiliated with the Guild but there is only one person I know who might understand the purpose of the glyphs. Luckily, he also had connections to one of the most powerful French Necromancer families.”
“Who is he?” Detective Moreno questioned as Savannah knelt on the floor beside the body and began to work on the first circle of protection.
“The heir of the Stavros Family, CEO of the American branch of Acheron?” Detective’s Moreno’s dark brows rose, “Santos said he had a run in with the man the other night. What makes you think Stavros will help? He’s not exactly known for the cooperating with the local law enforcement.”
That made Savannah pause. Was Lukas always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong? So Friday night hadn’t been something new? Well, it didn’t matter at this point. She needed his help right now. He owed her, she was calling in her favor.
“He’ll come. He owes me,” Savannah said simply as she started on the first circle once more.
“Well, why not?” Detective Moreno said with a shrug as she turned towards the door.
“Could you also contact Officer Courtland?” Savannah called out as Detective Moreno neared the swinging doors.
“Sure, what did you need me to tell her?”
“Tell her I’m going to need my cat. She’ll understand.”
Detective Moreno just stared at Savannah for a long moment, but then shook her head and muttered something about better off not knowing and then she was out the door leaving Savannah to her work.
Savannah gave Detective Moreno credit. She worked fast. Savannah was just putting the last touch on the tenth circle of protection when Abby came rushing in, cat carrier swinging from her arms. She came to an immediate stop when she saw the chalks circles that took up nearly the entire floor of the morgue. Sly had found himself a stool in the corner of the room and watched as Savannah worked. It had taken over an hour of work and her knees and palms felt bruised but she had finally finished. Sitting back on her heels, she took a look at her work. It might have been overkill but seeing as this was something she had never seen before, she figured better to be safe than sorry.
“What the hell?” Abby muttered when she took in Savannah’s hard work.
Abby had seen Savannah at work before. She knew what a protection circle was. But the most Savannah had ever used before was three. Since the circles were more for show then anything else, Savannah never bothered to use more than three, which is the most circles normal Necromancers used for raisings. She was sure Abby might have seen more if she worked with the Guild, but ten circles were unheard of. Mostly because it took a shit load of power to power up ten circles. More power then your average necromancer had. Luckily for Savannah, she wasn’t your average necromancer.
“What are you planning on raising? A god?” Abby shook her head as she set the carrier down. Abby may not have any real magic of her own, but she had seen Savannah do it often enough to know how it worked. Also being the daughter of a witch and mage, she had been around magic often enough to pick up a lot even if she couldn’t make use of the knowledge she had.
“It doesn’t hurt to be safe,” Savannah said simply as she she reached her arms above her head to stretch out her back. She had been on her hands as knees for the last hour and it felt like it. She hadn’t done anything this complex since she was in school and they were learning how to create protective circles.
Charlie crawled out of the carrier and gave her a work a look. He just sniffed before sitting down and cleaning his paws. It wasn’t like they were dirty or anything, but it seemed to be a cat thing that he had picked up over the years.
“I’ve seen a lot of raising in my time, but never one that required this many protection circles,” Sly said, his heavy brows crinkled down, “This is going to take a lot of juice. Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“He’s right Sav,” Abby frowned. Savannah just waved off their worries. This would be nothing.
“Doing this will be like waving a flag at the Necromancer Guild screaming Here I am,” Charlie warned, his bright yellow eyes watching her, “They’re wary of you already. You might have been able to fly under their radar until now, but this will definitely put you in their sights.”
Savannah scowled, knowing what he said was true. But this, whatever it was, had her worried. She had never seen anything like this before. Had never even heard of anything like this. But there was something about it, something that tickled a part of her brain, that said this was something she should know. But why? Was it worth exposing herself to find out? She didn’t know, all she knew was that this was something she had to do.
Besides, she wasn’t completely stupid. There was a reason she had asked for Lukas’ presence. He knew who she was. There was nothing she could do that he didn’t already know or suspect. The necromancers in town weren’t familiar with Lukas power. She was hoping that when they senses the explosion of power she was about to set off, they would mistake it for Lukas’ and not her own.
“It doesn’t matter what we say or do, she’s going to do it anyway,” Charlie said with a sigh, having recognized the determination on Savannah’s face.
“This is something I have to do. I can’t explain it, but it’s something I have to do,” Savannah shook her head frustratedly, unable to explain herself in words.
Charlie got to his feet and he prowled around the circle, his nose twitching, “He smells of Death.”
“He is dead,” Abby reminded him, which earned her a glare.
“I didn’t say he smells dead,” Charlie snipped, “I said he smells of Death.”
“And there is a difference?” Savannah asked, truly puzzled. She couldn’t smell either so it was interesting that there was a difference. But what he was telling her was what she had already expected, just not to hear so from him.
“There is dead, and then there is Death.” He emphasized the last word. Death with a capital D then.
Savannah’s brows furrowed, “Are you saying he’s a Reaper?”
“Possibly,” Charlie said simply as he continued around the circle.
“What’s a reaper?” Abby asked.
“A reaper is a Death Dealer, a necromancer who brings death rather than breaches the barrier between it and the living world,” A deep voice answered before Savannah had a chance to speak.
“What does that even mean?” Abby looked from Lukas to Savannah.
“It means it he might be a necromancer who has been trained to use his powers to take a life,” Savannah said simply. “He’s a kid,” Abby argued, “He can hardly be out of his teens. How can he be a trained killer.”
“Reapers are trained from the moment they enter the Academy,” Lukas informed her.
“They train children to kill?” Abby practically screamed, her eyes darting from Lukas to Savannah.
“It’s nothing something that is talked about often. But it was a persistent rumor among the students. Reapers are born with a certain talent, if this talent is discovered when the student is tested in to the Academy, they are immediately pulled from the normal curriculum and instead are taught to harness their unique talent. Reapers are rare and highly prized,” Lukas stated.
“That’s disgusting,” Abby spat out.
“Now, now, it’s not a sin that is unique to just the necromancers. I have heard of similar things going on in among the witches and mages, not to mention us non-supes as well. There is a dark side to every race, it is not limited to necromancers,” Sly said before turning to Lukas, “I have heard of Reapers before, but like most, I believed they were rumor and nothing more. What makes you think that Reapers are real?”
“I have seen with my own eyes that there are individuals whose powers are not limited to bridging the worlds of the living and the death. I have seen them shatter that barrier. Reapers are not born killers, nor are their powers just limited to killing. There is another side to their powers, they can also bring people back from the dead.”
“You’re talking about that vampire urban legend that went around about ten years or so ago,” Sly nodded.
Lukas nodded, Savannah frowned. She hadn’t heard of a vampire urban legend. Sure she knew what vampires were, everyone did. But they also knew that vampires weren’t real. Zombies were to a point. Powerful necromancers could raise the death and control their bodies like dolls. But the zombies were mindless dolls that followed ordered. They didn’t eat humans or infect them with some zombie virus, but they could be used to kill.
Vampires were something else entirely. Vampires were supposed to be souls of people returned to their bodies with their minds intact. They had limited free will. They could think on their own and were in charge of their own actions, the limitation came in because they were also bound to their creators. They creators gave them life and they could take it away.
Savannah had learned all this, but she had been told that it was a myth and nothing more. Vampires weren’t real.
“What urban legend?” Abby asked before Savannah was given a chance.
“About ten years ago there were rumors going around about a man being brought back from the dead. I have seen no actual proof but rumors circulated in the medical world and among necromancers. I heard different versions from multiple sources but basically the stories are all the same. A hooded man walks in to a morgue and walks back out with a dead man who is now alive.”
“How were they sure the man wasn’t a reanimated corpse?” Savannah questioned.
“They say the man spoke,” Sly informed her.
Savannah frowned. Reanimated corpses didn’t speak. They didn’t have the capability. They were basically dolls, and nothing more. They didn’t eat, sleep, or speak. They followed commands given by their animators and that was it.
“It doesn’t sound like enough to create an urban legend,” Savannah said, “There could be so many ways to explain it away. What would make people think that it was a vampire.”
“The second man was covered in necromatic sigils drawn in blood,” Lukas replied dryly.
“Still not enough for my first thought to be, look it’s a vampire,” Savannah shook her head.
“It was enough to draw the necromancer guild to investigate,” Lukas informed her.
“Because of one questionable siting?”
“No, because of twelve questionable sitings. Always the same hooded man, but each time a different dead person in twelve different locations across the country. All of the dead people supposedly had necromancer blood, but none of them strong enough to attend the academies or register with the guild.”
“Was there any proof ever found if the incidents really occurred?” Abby directed her question as Lukas.
“If there was, they have never said. The investigation was closed just as quickly as it was opened. No report was ever made to the public. Most assumed it was nothing more that an urban legend and the guild wanted to sweep the entire embarrassment under the rug as soon as possible. Other’s believed that the story was rule, and the Guild wanted to secret to vampirism hidden immediately and that was why the public investigation was closed.”
“And you think this man is a reaper? That he can bring people back to life?”
“We won’t know until you raised the spirit, since that’s what I’m assuming you plan on doing, why you asked for my presence,” Lukas gestured to the body.
“It’s not quite a raising,” Savannah nibbled on her bottom lip.
“What do you mean this isn’t quite a raising?” Lukas enunciated each word and his lips drew down in a scowl.
“Well it’s like Charlie said, our necromancer here smells of Death, but he doesn’t smell dead, which was something I had already begun to suspect what I saw the nearly transparent glyphs painted all over his body. I had mistaken assumed that they they had used a translucent ink to mark him, but when I touched his body and try to rub the mark off, it didn’t smudge. So it means that the marks could have only been made one way-”
“Blood magic,” Lukas scowl grew deeper as he turned his eyes to look at the protective circles Savannah had spent the last hour drawing. He had taken a cursory glance when he had first arrived, but now he really looked at them.
“What magic?” Savannah turned to see Detective Moreno walking through the swinging doors. She came to a stop almost immediately when she saw the circles of protection, “Holy Shit.”
“Welcome back detective,” Sly offered the woman a smile, “You got back just in time. Things are just starting to get interesting.”
“Interesting how? Just what the hell are you planning are doing in here? I thought this was going to be a simple raising. I didn’t expect to come back to this.” She waved her hand at the chalk covered floor.
“I think there is a very important reason why the necromancer guild is demanding the body of their guard back untouched,” Savannah explained quickly before the woman had time to explode, “I don’t think he’s dead.”
“He sure looks dead to me,” Detective Moreno replied, her mouth tightening around the edges.
“There is a reason your cameras and sketch artist can’t copy the glyphs although we can see them. Its because the glyphs aren’t really there, at least not there on this side of the barrier. What we are seeing is a reflection. This man’s body is here, but his spirit, or his soul whatever you want to call it is on the other side of the wall. The glyphs you see are basically the ties between the man’s body and his soul.”
“Ok,” Detective Moreno nodded. Savannah couldn’t help but notice how the woman’s left eyes had begun to twitch.
“Have you ever heard of a Reaper?” Savannah decided to try another route, before she broke the detective. The detective shook her head. Her movements stiff and jerky.
“Reapers are necromancer were a very rare skill. While normal necromancer are only capable of reaching across the barrier that separates the living from the dead, Reapers are able to break through that barrier. For Reapers, there is no wall between the living world and the world of the dead. If I am correct, while Mr. Montclair’s body is here, his soul is across the barrier in the world of the dead.”
Detective Moreno had begun to shake her head around the same time Savannah had started speaking. Her lips were pressed firmly together as she shook her head slowly back and forth. Savannah wasn’t sure if that was because she didn’t believe a word Savannah said, or if it was because she did.
“Where exactly was this body found?” Savannah asked, hoping redirecting the conversation might help the poor woman.
“Outside the wall,” Sly informed her when the detective did not reply, but instead stared intently at the body in the middle of the room. Savannah had asked Sly to drape something over the man’s midsection. She had no desire to stare at a naked man for the rest of the day. She didn’t mind the nakedness when she was doing a raising, but it some how felt different in this case.
It took a second for Sly’s words to register, “Outside the wall?”
“Probably a hundred yards from the first body,” Sly nodded his head.
“Was he by himself?” Savannah sort of remembered hearing that Abby had been called in because of something big. Was this that something big?
“No, there were four other bodies,” Sly nodded his head towards the wall with the other body lockers.
“Four? Did they have similar marks?”
“No,” Sly shook his head.
“Any markings on the ground around them?” Savannah asked as she absently tapped the bit of chalk still in her hand on the concrete floor.
“None that were visible,” Abby reported.
“Interesting,”Savannah said more to herself than anyone else in the room.
“You think they were sacrifices,” Lukas stated rather then questioned.
“Sacrifices?” Detective Moreno practically shouted.
“Even a powerful Reaper couldn’t do something like this alone. Their souls don’t leave their body when they travel to the world of the dead, their physical body travels as well,” Savannah informed her absently before quickly adding, “Or so I’ve been informed.”
She didn’t miss the way Lukas’ lips twisted in a smirk at her slip.
“But why so close to the Wall?” Savannah murmured, “What do they know that we don’t?”
“You believe this has something to do with the Wall?” Detective Moreno’s head snapped in her direction. Savannah turned to the Detective and studied her for a long moment before answering her question, “None of us know what the Wall is, where is came from, or why its here. But we have all been able to sense a great power within it. World changing power.”
Detective Moreno’s mouth dropped open as she stared at Savannah before whirling on Lukas who was scowling darkly at Savannah, “Is this true?”
When Lukas didn’t answer, the Detective turned to Abby who didn’t look any happier with Savannah announcement, “Is this true?”
“I cannot personally attest to the matter, but I have heard from other supernaturals that they do sense a presence in the mist,” Abby answered with a sigh.
“A presence? I thought you said it was a great power,” the Detective snapped, her brown eyes blazing. Abby groaned softly when she realized her mistake.
“No one is exactly sure what it is,” Savannah shrugged off the woman’s ire, “In truth, at this point in time it doesn’t matter what it is. No one can get to the source of the power. Anyone that tries either ends up dead or with amnesia. So far, it hasn’t been worth the risk to discover what the source of the power is.”
“But you believe things have changed on that matter now?” The detective asked.
Savannah turned back to the body, “Only a fool would try to breach the Wall. The mist doesn’t just take away your memories, it steals away a part of your soul.”
* * * * *
“Is the camera rolling?” Savannah asked as she stood at the edge of the circle, her ceremonial dagger held loosely in right hand.
“Rolling,” Sly confirmed as he adjusted the monitor he had been using earlier to watch the game to show her the camera feed. She could see herself standing at the edge of the protective circle wearing just her jeans and loose tee. Her feet were bare against the cold concrete, but she needed the anchor to this world.
Charlie sat primly at her feet, his tail swaying back and forth as he stared at the man’s body. He would be her guide, when the real magic started, her connection between the real world and the world of the dead would become tenuous. Charlie would be there to focus her and guide her back in necessary.
Savannah took one last glance at Abby, Lukas and Detective Moreno who stood against the back wall, out of the way but with clear view of the proceedings. Abby leaned against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest as she watched Savannah with wary interest. Lukas though, stood stiff and straight beside her. He had gone back to his car for a change of clothes and now stood barefoot like Savannah in a pair of loose black linen slacks and a loose black cotton button down shirt. HIs work clothes. He either didn’t trust Savannah skill or her realized what a craphole this mess could turn in to. Either way, he seemed prepared.
Detective Moreno stood near the swinging doors, her face a blank mask. Whatever she was thinking was hidden behind her cop face. Savannah wished she could do that. Unfortunately for her, whatever she felt showed on her face. Abby once told her never to play poker, she would lose. Savannah bet that Detective Moreno never lost.
Turning back to the body in the middle of the room, Savannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath to center herself. It had been a very long time since she had done anything half as complicated at this. One slip up and she could bring a whole lot of shit down on their heads and that would not be good.
Deep breath in, long exhale and eyes open. Savannah focused on the body in front of her. Without looking down. she lifted her hands, bringing the edge of the blade to her palm, she bit down and quickly ran the blade against her flesh.
A sharp bite of pain hit her as blood welled up where her flesh parted. The magic of the circle awoke immediately. The chalk lines at her feet began to glow as the circle fed off the power in her blood. Holding her hand over the chalk lines, she let the blood pool in her palm before it dripped over the sides, the drops landing with a hiss where they met the white lines.
The magic in the circles swelled as it consumed every last drop of power in her blood. The glyphs went from a soft glow to blinding bright. Savannah was nearly knocked off her feet by the wave of power that hit her.
“Careful,” Charlie warned as one of her feet slipped.
Savannah readjusted her footing as she braced her body to take the power.
“This is too much power even for a Class 1 Level A necromancer,” Lukas called from behind her.
“She’s fine. She’s got it,” Charlie said, not taking his eyes off Savannah. He was right, it took her a moment to adjust to the power coming off the circle, but she didn’t fight it. Instead she embraced it, gathering it within her and then weaving it back in to the circle like a circuit.
“Good,” Charlie nodded. His words were no longer as clear as they had been a moment before. They were muffled and seemed like they were coming from far away rather than from beside her.
Savannah was no longer aware of the room around her. Her entire focus was on stablizing the circles, adjusting her power to match that of the circles so that they were no longer separate but one. A pleasant hum filled her body as the two magics aligned.
With the circles now under her control, Savannah reached out to the other source of magic in the room, the body in the middle of her circles. This magic was different, it tasted bitter in her mouth, there was a wrongness to it. It was not right.
Reaching out she drew the magic from the body. She pulled on the tether that bound the man and the magic. She watched as slowly, the glyphs on the man’s body began to light up. What she had not been able to see when the magic was inert she was able to see clearly now.
She had been wrong. The man’s soul had not separated from his body. The reason she hadn’t been able to sense his soul was because there was so little of it left. Savannah swore viciously.
“What’s wrong?” Charlie asked, his voice still distant but she could still hear him.
“We were wrong,” Savannah informed him, “The other men were not the sacrifice, he is.”
“Sacrifice? For what?” Charlie spoke, but the words were not his.
“We were right, he is a Reaper,” Savannah continued on, getting the words out while she could, “Whoever bound him is using his body as a gateway. They are using the power of his soul to open a gate between the living world and the world of the dead. The spell on his soul will last only as long as his soul does. What remains is so thin that I can barely see it.”
“Savannah,” Charlie’s voice was even softer now, but she could still hear the edge in his voice, “Don’t do anything. Lukas is calling in his people now. Close the circles and come back. You’ve done all you can.”
Savannah shook her head, “The gate has to be closed.”
“No!” Charlie’s voice was a mere whisper now, “You are pushing your body too far. Using that much magic will leave you open. Let it go for now. Lukas’ people are on the way.”
Savannah knew she was right. The gate had to be closed now. They didn’t have time for Lukas’ men to arrive. There would be nothing of Gerard left if they waited. Savannah had seen too many souls lost already, she would not stand around and watch another soul vanish when she had the power to stop it.
Losing Gerard was not an option. Opening a path between the circles, Savannah made her way to the body. Charlie called her name again, but she ignored him. Savannah reached the stainless steel table in the middle of the circles, the glyphs scribed on the body glowed over every inch of skin. What she hadn’t been able to make out earlier was clear now.
They had marked him, used him and planned to sacrifice him. He was nothing more than a tool to them. A toy to be played with then destroyed when they were done with it. Every soul was a gift from the gods, a precious treasure that should never be thrown away so callously. A life was one thing, but a soul was something else completely. Once a soul was lost, there was no coming back. They vanished completely. You couldn’t save something that no longer existed. How could they not understand this. How could they so willingly sacrifice something so precious?
Savannah’s fury powered her as she reached out with her bloody hand, placing her bleeding palm on the man’s bare abdomen she let her blood soak into the sigils covering the man.
Power slammed in to her pushing her back as spell on the man fought back against her magic. Too bad for the creator they spell was designed for a Reaper. She was sure Gerard must have fought against the spell that was draining his soul. He must have fought with everything he was yet he had been able to do nothing but lie there as the spell drained him to the point that he could no longer fight anymore. As powerful as the magic of the spell was, Savannah was stronger. Grabbing the edges of the magic Savannah pulled. A high pitch screech filled her head as the magic fought. But where Gerard had been a Reaper, Savannah was more. She had stood at Death’s Door and she shattered it. For Charlie’s soul she had fought death itself and she had won.
Gathering the full strength of her power, Savannah sent a burst of magic at glyphs that bound the man. The spell held out for a full five seconds before shattering under the force of her magic. There was a bright brust of light and the world around her faded.
When she opened her eyes again, she was no longer standing by the body, instead she lay on the ground clear of the circle. She knew this because she could see her jean clad legs laid out on the bare concrete. She knew she should feel the cold hard concrete beneath her, but instead it felt like she was floating on air. Her limbs felt so light as loose.
Turning her head too way more effort then it should have. Glancing up she saw a group of people standing around the body on the table. One man was hooking up an IV, while another seemed to be taking the dead man’s blood pressure. The spoke softly, their voices too far away from Savannah to make out a single word. But she assumed the dead man was no longer dead.
“You have a bad habit of not listening,” A voice said from above her. Savannah tried to tilt her head back, but it took way too much effort. She gave up after too many unsuccessful tries. She figured she really didn’t need to look at the person who lecturing her since she quite sure who it was. Her muscles might not be working, but her ears were. She had recognized the voice, Lukas Stavros.
“You nearly killed yourself trying to save a man that probably wasn’t worth it.”
“All souls are worth it,” Savannah said, her words sounded a little slurred even to herself.
Lukas sighed as he squatted down next to her so that she could see him without having to look up since her neck no longer seemed to be working.
“My people were finally able to get in contact with Celine. She informed them that she did indeed know of the man. Gerard Montclair was hardly a saint. He didn’t need to be trained to be a killer, he was a killer before the Guild came along and gave him license to kill. He used his powers to wreck havoc and instill fear in his own family. They were glad to see him go,” Lukas told her matter of factly.
“You saving him didn’t do him any favors. From what they were able to gather, the police are prepared to arrest the man and persecute him for the crimes they are aware of. They believe he was the one to kill the four man found with him. You saving him now might have only prolonged his life for a short period of time.”
“If he deserves to die, then the courts will decide that. But it is not our duty to decide whether a soul has the right to exist. Death is one thing, being erased from existence in another. No one desires to have their soul sacrificed, no one.”
Lukas was silent for a long moment before he finally replied, “We shall have to wait to see on that.”
With that said he got up and walked over to the group of paramedics and spoke softly to them. Savannah watched him for a second before a furry black body sat down right in front of her face.
“He saved your ass you know,” Charlie informed her as he watched the paramedic load Gerard on to a gurney, “Not once but twice.”
“What happened?” Savannah asked warily, trying to lift her head to see beyond the black body, but her body stilled seemed to be boneless as she couldn’t seem to get her neck to cooperate.
“You forgot yourself again,” Charlie turned to look at her over his shoulder, “Even ten circles were not enough to contain your powers. He saw what he was happening in time to add two more circles to absorb your magic. Circles he used his own blood to power to contain your magic.”
Savannah froze as Charlie’s words set in. Charlie wasn’t lying. Lukas had saved her life. Savannah wasn’t a Reaper. She may have been born a Reaper, but she hadn’t been one for the last eight years. What happened that night all those years ago had changed both of them. What Savannah had done had marked her. Where necromancers were bound by the barrier, and Reapers could pass through the barrier, for Savannah, there was no barrier.
She had been broken and remade that night. The young woman who had gone in, did not come out. She had died and been reborn. She had literally shattered Death’s Door and been marked by it. There was no name for someone like her. There had never been another like her. She wasn’t even truly sure what she was capable of. She learned new thing about her powers almost every time she used them.
But the one thing she had learned quickly on was that when she lost control of her powers, people got hurt. Lukas, with his quick thinking had saved her friends and the detective. With the amount of magic she was weilding, the others in the room would have done more than just get hurt, they could haved died.
While Savannah was still reeling from the implications Charlie had filled her head with, he hit her with one last thing.
“You also have to thank him for masking your magic. Because he used his blood in the last two circles, the Guild could only sense his magic and not yours. As far as he and everyone outside of this room are concerned, you are just a bystander that was unfortunately injured.”
With a groan she closed her eyes and lay back. Shit, now she owed him. Something she was sure he was not going to let her forget.
“So I hear you started the party without me,” Kira teased as she set down a mug of root beer in front of Savannah and a mug of diet coke in front of Abby.
“Can’t help it if you decided to go on a trip with the latest lover and left us all alone. We had to find something to keep our attention,” Savannah countered as her friend set down a platter of mac n’cheese and streaming brown bread on the table.
Kira’s family owned a Irish pub a few blocks down from Courtlands. When Abby and Savannah were living together and were too damn lazy to cook they headed to O’Briens. That’s how they met Kira, the owner’s daughter who was part-time hostess, part-time bartender and full-time night manager. Her older brother was supposed to be taking care of the place but his wife just had a baby and he had left running the place to his younger sister. Kira had not been thrilled with all the responsibility suddenly thrown on her shoulders, but instead of collapsing under the pressure she had thrived.
So when their father retired a couple of years ago, the managing of the place was handed to Kira and her brother, Jimmy. Jimmy took care of the kitchen while Kira took care of the front.
O’Briens had started off as a traditional Irish pub but, but over the years they started to incorporated local favorites in to their menu to draw in a bigger crowd. Now that place was always busy. If they didn’t know the manager, it might have been hard to get a seat on a busy night. Luckily they were well known to all the O’Briens so finding a seat was never hard.
“Please tell me the rumors are not true and you did not nearly blow up the morgue,” Kira placed her hands on her hips as she stared down at Savannah. Savannah scowled, remembered that O’Briens was also popular with off duty cops as they gave a fifteen percent discount between five p.m. and nine p.m.
“How the hell did that rumor get started? I did not nearly blow up the morgue.”
Abby just snorted as she grabbed a piece of freshly baked bread and began to slather it with butter.
“I did not blow up the morgue,” Savannah repeated as she glared at her friend.
“You were completely unaware of your surroundings so you do not feel the building shake when you broke that last spell,” Abby informed her before she took a big bite out of her buttered bread, “From what I hear, anyone one the top floor of the station swore the floor swayed below their feet.”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Savannah waved it off as she reached for her own piece of bread, “I can’t argue against that. But why does everyone assume it was me? I was not the only supernatural there.”
“Because the other supe there was Lukas Stavros,” Kira shook her head as if it was obvious.
“What the heck does that mean?” Savannah turned to her friend, butter knife in hand.
“Hello, have you seen the man? No one that perfect could possibly be the cause for such a near disaster,” Kira shook her head, her maple colors curls bounced against her shoulders, drawing the attention of a group of young men across from them. Savannah couldn’t help but notice how appreciative the men were of her friend’s looks. Kira had that affect on men. She was very popular with the clients, especially those of the masculine gender.
Savannah would have been jealous if she actually wanted attention from men. But her life was complicated enough without adding a man to it. She had realized long ago that having a man in her life would be near impossible. She had too many secrets to make a relationship plausible. Not to mention a moody roommate who was barely tolerable on good days. A regular cat would have been bad enough, but a talking cat with no filter was a nightmare.
Besides, being popular with the opposite sex was not always a good thing. Kira basically spend her entire day being hit on. She had heard every pick up line in the book and swore one day she was write a book of every lame line that had been thrown in her direction.
But getting back to the matter, how the hell did Lukas’ perfectness get him out of trouble. She had seen the man, hell, she had seen too much of the man recently. It was like he was everywhere she was recently. He would show up at work in the mornings for coffee and a pastry. Rachel had begun to dote on him, giving him extra honey buns and even allowing him to sit in the kitchen while he drank his coffee and ate his treats.
He stopped by most afternoons as they closed up the bakery with a piece of fish for Charlie and a basket of fresh fruits for Rachel and Thomas. They were practically ready to adopt him. It was disgusting.
He never asked any questions or even really said anything. Just drop off the treats and hopped back in to his car with a wave and a smile. He had actually not stopped by this afternoon which had given Savannah some hope that his visits would stop soon. After all, he did run one of the biggest necromancer firms in the country. He did have a job he had to get back to. He had already been in town for a week. He couldn’t possible stay away from his office for any longer. At least that was what she told herself.
She had just taken a huge bite out of her warm bread when she nearly choked on it. Kira slapped her on the back while Abby pushed her drink in her direction. Savannah grabbed the mug and gulped down the bubbly liquid, trying to choke down the piece of bread that got stuck in her throat. Kira was still pounding her back when a large body appeared at her side, the cause of her near asphyxiation. She kepting chugging the root beer as she glared at the man.
Kira may have see the man, but obviously not up close. Savannah watched as the woman turned to look at the man next to her and froze. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened as she just stared before whipping her head to look at Abby and Savannah.
“I know right,” Abby said dreamily as she looked the man over appreciatively.
“Seriously?” Savannah choked out as she slammed her empty glass on the scarred wooden table.
“Good Evening Ladies,” Lukas greeted the women with a charming smile.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Savannah demanded to know.
“I dropped off a wreath at the bakery and Rachel asked if I could stop by and drop something off with you,” Lukas informed her as he lifted up a bag of cookies tied with a silk pink ribbon. Savannah stared at the clear cellophane bag wordless for a long moment as she looked at the heart-shaped pink cookies, “She said you forgot to take them when you left.”
Abby and Kira roared with laughter when they recognized the small bag. Savannah cheeks flamed as she recognized the small bag of Heartdrops Rachel had pressed into her hands this morning with a wink.
Familiar faces around the room turned in their direction as they looked to see what was going on. Savannah’s cheeks grew even brighter as a couple of Abby’s co-workers pointed at the little bag in Lukas’ hand and snickered.
Savannah reached and ripped the bag from his fingers before she stuffed it in to her purse on the seat besides her.
“Oh gods,” Kira was laughing so hard she needed to lean on the table to stay upright, “I absolutely love your mother Abs. She is the fricking best.”
Lukas looked between the two men then to Savannah who was sure her face perfectly matched the color of her hair, “Did I miss something?”
“Heart Drops,” Abby got out between laughs as if that was explanation enough. But from the confused look on Lukas’ face it was obvious that he had never heart of Courtlands’ Heart Drops, which would have been a blessing in any other case, but not in this occasion. Abby’s eyes lit up as she happily explained to Lukas just was the Heart Drops were.
“My parents created Heart Drops for Valentines about fifteen years ago as a gimmick to draw in customers but it did so well and they had so many requests for a repeat that my mother prepares a batch every Friday. It never fails to sell out,” Abby told him.
Lukas nodded politely as Abby explained, still not getting the point, which Abby did on purpose, the witch.
“Heart Drops are basically butter cookies that she adds cinnamon, vanilla, and dried pink rose petals to.”
Lukas’ brows furrowed as he thought over the ingredients. Savannah wasn’t sure how much he knew about witchcraft, but with her luck he would know enough.
“My mother swears there is no witchcraft involved, but her clients swear they work,” Abby said with a smile in Savannah’s direction, “Heart Drops now have a reputation for helping people find their true loves.”
Lukas’ lips turned down in a frown as Abby’s words hit.
“It’s not Friday,” Lukas said dryly as his eyes slid to Savannah who swore she could not get any redder but her face sure was working hard to proof her wrong.
“No, it’s not which means Rachel made them special,” Kira agreed as she gave Savannah a cheeky smile and a wink.
“Shut it,” Savannah growled, which just sent Kira off again.
“I wonder who she had in mind when she baked them especially for you,” Kira teased.
Savannah ignored turned in Lukas’s direction, unable to meet his eyes she kept her face down, “Thank you for going out of your way to drop off the cookies. You really didn’t have to take time out of your busy schedule to do so. I could have grabbed them tomorrow, but thank you.”
She hoped he heard the dismissal in her voice but it would seem not as he shoved his large form in to the sapce beside her, forcing her to move over to make space for him or have half of her body pressed up against her.
“It was nothing,” Lukas said, the cheerfulness back in his voice as he glanced at Abby and Kira, “I needed to grab a bite to eat before heading to the airport and Rachel swears this is one of the best places in town to eat.”
“Are you leaving town already?” Abby asked as she offered Lukas the bread and butter, which he quickly took, with a thank you.
“I’m sure Rachel will be sad to see you go,” Savannah politely offered as she watched the man butter his bread.
“Will she be the only one sad to see me go?” Lukas teased, while Kira snickered.
“I’m sure the female population of Newport will be sad to see you go as well,” Savannah scowled.
“Well they are in luck then, since I’m not leaving. I’m going to the airport to pick up Celine,” He informed her before taking a bite of bread.
“Celine?” Savannah frowned, “Why is your wife flying in?”
“Wife? Your married?” Kira interrupted before Lukas could reply. Her tone was almost petulant. Savannah couldn’t keep the smug smile from her lips. Ha! Didn’t realize the man you were drooling after was married did you? Even Abby looked a little crestfallen.
“Ex-wife,” Lukas corrected as he watched Savannah as if waiting for her reaction. Unfortunately Savannah couldn’t keep her mouth from dropping open. Necromancers didn’t get divorced. Marriages were business deals, divorces were more than just the end of a marriage, they were the end of whatever deal had been brokered when they marriage contracts were signed.
The words were out before she could stop them, “Why on earth would you get a divorce? You were married to Cecile Devereaux.”
Abby and Kira just looked back and forth between the two of them with confused looks on their faces, so Savannah explained, “In France, the Devereauxs are the equivalents of the Stavros here. They run the biggest necromancer firm in all of France. His marriage was the biggest thing to happen to the necromancer world. They were uniting two of the more powerful families in the Necromancer world.”
“Wow,” was all Kira could say as she turned to Lukas.
“Things didn’t work out,” Lukas said simply before he took another bite of his bread.
“When things don’t work out for normal families, they get divorced. But marriages almost never work out for our families and yet they still remained married. There’s too much at stake to just up and get a divorce. People head in to marriage knowing it will not be a love match, yet they still stick it out,” Savannah shook her head.
“I was tired of being married to a woman that hated me and she was tired of being married to me so we got divorced,” Lukas said it as if they were talking about the weather. There was no anger, no passion, just a statement of fact.
Savannah had so many more questions but she could tell by the way that Abby was fidgeting across the table as she looked everywhere but at the two of them that this probably wasn’t the best conversation to be having at the moment, but Savannah still wanted to know how he was even allowed to get a divorce. Savannah had met his father, Antonis Stavros was a hard man who made it very clear that you followed his order or you were out. He had been kind enough to her when she was to marry his youngest son, but she had seen the ice in his eyes when he informed her that his son would not take the blame for that awful event that ended in two deaths. She would accept the fault or he would bury her and her family.
Woodrose had been prepared to throw her under the bus at Antonis’ threat, why should her family be any different. What was the lose of one child when your entire fortune and legacy were at stake. It was all too easy for her family to disown her and turn their back on her. Even her own parents hadn’t even tried to put up a fight against her grandfather. They had agreed and told her to pack up with their lawyers drew up the paperwork separating Anaelise Greystone from the family.
Something must have shown on her face, because one moment she was lost in her dark thoughts, and the next she felt a large hand cup the side of her face. She blinked and found herself staring in to Lukas’ bright gray eyes.
“There are prices we must all pay for the prestige of our families, but your price was far too harsh. I will never forget that and I will make sure that you are repaid for everything that you lost,” His voice was earnest and the determination in his eyes frightened her.
Savannah blinked as she looked back at him. He meant every word he said. If it was in his power, his would give her back everything that she lost, but he didn’t understand that to her, it wasn’t as great of a loss at he thought. Yes, it had heard to have her family turn on her like that. But not because she had believed in them, but because it forced her to realize that she meant even less to them that she had thought. She knew she was the weak link in the family. They had never understood her or her powers. They hadn’t even tried. She had learned early on that their love was conditional. You only received praise and affection if you pleased them. Savannah had never done that. She had always found her previous life stifling. She hated trying to be the person they wanted her to be just for a kind word, so she had given up and just been herself. In a way, being disowned had freed her. It has freed her from all the restrictions they had placed on her, freed her from their expectations and biting words when she failed to meet them, and more importantly it freed her from a world that would sacrifice her to keep a truth hidden all to keep up an image.
No, Savannah did not miss her old life. She didn’t need Lukas to repay her for what was lost, because in the end, it was Savannah who had won. She had won her freedom, a freedom to live a life on her own terms, something that not even Lukas had as powerful as he was. He may have his freedom at the moment, but it would only be a matter of time before his father forced him to marry again. Supes lived longer than normal humans. Lukas was still young and many more years in front of him. Antonis would not allow his heir to remain unmarried for long. So they had lost the French heiress, there were many more countries that he could turn to.
Savannah knew full well why Rachel had given her those Heart Drops. What she had hoped for. She just hadn’t had the heart to tell Rachel that it wouldn’t make a difference. That even if by some miracle a man like Lukas Stavros was her True Love, she could never have him. Necromancer families, especially families like his were not allowed the freedom to love. The best they could hope for was a reconciliation between husband and wife, but rarely ever love. The most she could ever have with Lukas would be a dalliance and nothing more. Men like Lukas Stavros did not marry women like her. Even if he did love her back, he could never marry her. There was no point in hoping for something that couldn’t be. So when she got home, she would toss the cookies in the trash and thank Rachel for them tomorrow morning. But there was no love in her future, especially not with the man in front of her who’s very touch made her blood sizzle.
Savannah loved to cook. She loved to bake. But most of all, she loved to eat. Sitting on her couch Friday night after a long day of work, she literally had a fork in one hand and a mixing bowl filled with freshly made pasta salad on her lap. With the tv controller in hand and a roast cooking in the oven, she was ready for some rest and relaxation.
Thanksgiving was still weeks away, yet the Hallmark channel had already begun their marathon of Christmas movies. Savannah already had a bunch of them saved on her DVR just for nights like this. She had probably already seem all the movies last year, but she loved to rewatch them. They were so simple and happy and the worst thing that happened to the heroine was that she was going to lose the family business or she was forced to work with some arrogant a-hole who she usually ended up falling in love with. Simple easy romances. Picking up the remote she scanned through the movies saved to her DVR until she found one that sounded interesting. Hitting play she sat back and dug in to her pasta salad.
She was five minutes in to the show when there was a knock on the door.
“It’s open,” she called over her shoulder, not taking her eyes off the screen.
“I thought you would have learned your lesson after the last time,” Lukas groused as he walked through the open door.
“Rachel’s wards are much better than the witch I used to use. I get a warning the moment Ryker enters the building and Rachel even took care of that. She warded the entrance so that he can’t even enter the building,” She informed him before shoving another forkful of pasta in to her mouth, not entirely surprised to see him. He hadn’t stopped by after work so she figured it was only a matter of time before he stopped by. He hadn’t missed a day so far.
“So because of Rachel’s ward, you now thinks it’s safe to leave your door unlock,” He shook his head as he moved to stand beside the couch.
She darted a quick glance at him to find him still in his work suit with his heavy jacket hanging on his arm. His shoulder length locks were loose right now, falling around his face perfectly.
“Kira was supposed to stop by before heading in to work to grab a jacket she left the other day. She has a hot date tomorrow and wants to make sure she grabs it before then,” Savannah shrugged.
“Is this what you do when you’re not stealing jobs from the guild?” He gestured to her and the television in front of her. Savannah looked down at herself, loose gray sweats, old t-shirt, thick socks, and hair pulled in to a messy bun. She was relaxing. She had no one to impress at home. Charlie could careless what she wore. They had lived together for so long that appearances no longer mattered.
“Am I supposed to be doing something else?” She looked back up at him but he just shook his head muttering something under his breath.
“You could have at least offered me something to eat or drink,” He said louder so she could hear. Sticking the fork in the mixing bowl she held it out to him.
He stared at her for a long moment before seting his jacket on the back of the recliner and grabbed the bowl from her. He picked up the fork and hesitantly took a bite. She could understand the hesitation. Savannah had a thing for colors when she cooked. The local butcher sold fresh all-natural colored pasta made be his wife. Everything was organic and naturally colored, no artificial coloring at all. Savannah absolutely loved them and bought some every time she stopped in to buy meat. Today’s purchase was rainbow colored bowties.
Lukas chewed slowly on the purple and blue pasta before he stopped and looked at Savannah in surprise, “This is actually really good.”
“I can cook,” Savannah scowld at him as Lukas dug in to the pasta salad as if he hadn’t eaten all day. It was a good thing she had eaten some already or there was a good chance she wouldn’t be getting any.
“I have a roast and some potatoes in the oven if you want to stay for dinner,” She hadn’t been planning on offering but the words were out of her mouth before she had time to think about it. She knew she shouldn’t encourage him to stop by more often, but she figured he had saved her butt on Sunday. The least she could do was feed him. It was just gratitude, nothing more.
She told herself she wasn’t disappointed when Lukas shook his head while he finished the forkful he had stuffed in his mouth.
“I have to go back to the office after this. I’m meeting Celine to go over some last minute details regarding the transportation of Gerard Montclair. That’s actually what I’m here for. Celine is in town on the behest of his family. They want to ensure that he is not released from police custody until his trial. He has recovered enough that he can be moved from the hospital to the county jail but they wanted us to ensure all measures are met for his transfer.”
She had been wondering why his ex-wife was in town but hadn’t had the nerve to ask after that night. It made sense that she would be here on behalf of the Montclair family. If she remembered her family histories, Celine’s mother’s cousin married in to the Montclair line. They were family by marriage.
“What do you want from me? I never transport a prisoner before. I couldn’t offer you any information,” Savannah frowned.
“I want you to come and talk to Celine about the sigils placed on Montclair,” He said as he set the bowl down on the coffee table, “Celine can be an arrogant bitch, but she knows sigils. Her father forced her to study them since she was a child. I want you to show her the sigils that were on Montclair’s body. I want to see if she recognizes them and if she had any idea who might have placed them there.”
Savannah’s frown deepened, “I don’t remember all the sigils and I’m not even sure if I could recreate them if I tried.”
“But you were able to understand them.”
“I can’t explain how it works. The sigils just come to me. Either I know what I need to do and they just come to mind or I see sigils and I know their meaning. I don’t know how it works, but it just does.”
“Was it always this way for you?” Lukas asked.
Savannah shook her head.
“So it started after that night?”
She nodded. He was silent as he thought it over, a frown creasing his brow. Part of her wanted to reach up and smooth the lines. His face was far nicer to look at when it wasn’t clouded with worry. Though she really shouldn’t be thinking about just how nice he looked.
This was getting stupid. He was definitely the one man she should not be attracted to. He was probably the one man in the entire world she had the least chance with. It didn’t matter how either of them felt, his father would forbid him from having anything to do wtih her. She bet that if his father knew exactly where he was at the moment, he would drag his ass back to New York and the life he had there. His pent house, his driver, and the beautiful women that were probably falling all over themselves to get in to his bed. The thought of over women vying for his attention brought a scowl to her lips. The man was literally a Greek god. Women threw themselve at him wherever he went. One of the waitresses and O’Briens had walked up to their table and handed him her number in front of Abby and Savannah while the three of them were eating. The woman had the gaul to wink and him and tell him she be happy to keep him warm on such a cold night.
Savannah had wanted to slap that woman silly. Seriously, what if either she or Abby had been on a date with him. It would have been an insult to them and to him. The waitress had been so lucky Kira had to go to the back to take care of some kind of emergency or she would have heard it from her.
Lukas, ever the gentleman, had been kind to the woman but made it clear he wasn’t looking for company. The hussy had just shrugged and told him to keep the number for when he was.
Seriously, being in a relationship with that man must be pure torture. How did Celine put up with all those women throwing themselves at her husband. Sure, she might have hated, but the fact was still that he was her husband. To have them so blantantly make advances in front of her must have been infuriating.
Savannah didn’t even realize she was growling until she heard Lukas’ deep throaty chuckle. She looked up in surprise to find him watching her with an amused smile on those perfect lips.
“I think it’s best that I don’t ask what has you in such a mood,” He commented. Her only reply was a growl.
“Don’t get her started,” Charlie jumped up on the couch besides Savannah and took at a seat on the far side as he cleaned his face.
“Where you do get yourself to?” Savannah asked as she turned to the cat, “I had some fresh salmon for you but you didn’t come when I called.”
“I was napping,” Charlie informed her as he let out a long yawn. Savannah didn’t say anything to that. Charlie hadn’t been sleeping well. The couple of times she had woken up in the middlle of the night recently, it was too find him out in the living room in front of the television. When she asked if it was the nightmares, just got a cold stare before he wandered off down the hallway disppeared in to one of the many hidey holes he had around the apartment.
“Lukas needs me to go and speak to Celine. Do you want to come?” She asked. Normally she wouldn’t have bothered to ask and just left him home, but she worried about him. All the things that had gone one recently were affecting him worse than it was affecting her. But then again she had finally given in recently and begun to drink Rachel’s magical dreamless sleep tea. She was able to sleep at night without being troubled by the memories that came back to her in her dreams. She had offered some to Charlie but he had always refused. Maybe she should have snuck some in to his water, but he would never forgive her if she tricked him like that and took away his free will.
Charlie ignored her question as just sat there cleaning himself. She frowned but didn’t ask again, instead she turned to Lukas, “When did you need to get back. I have to wait for Kira to stop by and for my roast to finish. It should only take another thirty minutes or so. I put it in as soon as I got home.”
Lukas glanced down at his watch, “That should be fine. That will give me enough time to go back to the hotel and change. I’ll come back for you at six.”
Savannah glanced at the clock above the televsion. That gave her closer to forty minutes, which would give her enough time to get ready as well. As much as she would have enjoyed walked around with Lukas in her current attire, she didn’t want to his beautiful ex-wife to see her as she was. She had met Celine a couple of times. There was no way the woman wouldn’t remember who she was, after all they would have been sisters-in-laws. Even if her family had thrown her out, she still had some pride left.
Grabbing one last bite of pasta salad to go, Lukas handed her back the bowl.
“You’ll have to cook for me again some time,” he told her with a smile before he turned and left. Savannah watched him go.
“That way only leads to trouble,” Charlie reminded her.
“I’m not stupid. I do remember him father’s threats quite clearly,” She replied as she turned back to the cat, “But there’s no harm in looking. You can’t tell me you would completely ignore Eleni if she walked in to room right now.”
The cat just gave her a dark look as he concentrated on cleaning himself. When Charlie had a human form he had very much has a crush on his best friend’s kid sister. Something that was obvious to them all except for the Stavros siblings.
Eleni was a year younger then Alexandros and the complete opposite of him. She was so sweet and kind that Savannah could never figure out where she got it from. Her older brother was an asshole, her eldest brother was never around, and her parents were as cold as Savannah’s. Where had all the cheer come from?
When Eleni started attending Woodrose, she made it known from the beginning that she thought of Savannah like a sister. She was going to marry her older brother so therefore they were family. She always invited Savannah to hang out with her and her friends, but Alexandros never allowed Savannah out of sight. He didn’t care for her, but she was his and she was his to do with what he wanted. It was a sick relationship that they had. There was no love of respect. He saw her as his property and she didn’t have the power to fight back. She was so glad that physically, he was not attracted to her, so she never had to worry about any advances he made. But she had always dreaded that part of her future marriage. She knew from the beginning she would find no joy in their marriage bed, only pain and humiliation.
Eleni had not been there when her father had threatened to make Savannah’s life a living hell if she did not take the blame for what had happened. She wondered if the girl had ever learned what truly happened, or has she been shoveled the same horseshit everyone else had. And if she had, had she believed her father’s lies? Savannah hated to think she did, but Eleni was so trusting and she truly did love her parents which always boggled her mind.
Savannah couldn’t say that she ever truly loved her parents. She respected them and honored them as was her duty, but love? They had never been around enough to love. Since birth she and her sisters were raised by nannies. Once they were old enough there were send to Woodrose and remained there year round except for holidays and summers when their parents would pretty them up and parade them around to show the other families how beautiful and obedient their daughters were.
If she ever doubted if she loved her parents, the lack of any real pain when she left them behind was a clear indication of that fact. She had felt hurt by how easily they had betrayed her. She had believed that parents should protect their children no matter what. She had been wrong. To save their fortune and their name, they had no problem through out their middle child, after all, they still had two others, what was the loss of one?
Savannah forced herself from going down that road again. She needed to stop and just get over it. Taking a deep calming breath and forced her thoughts away from the past and instead turned to Charlie.
“You should come with us even if its just to get out of the house. You haven’t left in the last five days. Staying here and hiding in dark corners isn’t good for you.”
“I’ll be fine,” He brushed off her comments. She noted his words. He’ll be fine, not he was fine.
“Come with us,” Savannah repeated, “I’ll have Lukas stop off at O’Briens on the way back and I’ll get you those chicken poppers you like so much.”
Charlie’s nose twitched but he didn’t say anything. Instead he turned to the television and made a face when he saw what was on the television. A smile came to her lips as she realized she had another card to play.
“If you don’t come I’ll stay home all weekend and we’ll have a marathon of Hallmark Christmas movies. We can drink cocoa and eat cookies all day. Just the two of us,” She gave Charlie her brightest smile.
Charlie’s head whipped back at her, his eyes mere slits, and a hiss on his lips. She met his eyes, keeping the sugary sweet smile on her face.
“We’ll have the best time ever.”
Charlie hissed one last time before hopping off the couch and disappearing down the shadowed hallway.
“Be ready by six,” She called after him. He didn’t even bother to turn around.
Savannah was just finishing the last touches of her make up when there was a knock on the door. Sticking her head out of the bathroom door she called out, “Come in.”
“Sorry! I know I’m late,” Kira hurried in, her heels tapping against the wooden floors.
“No problem,” Savannah said as she ducked back in to the bathroom to check her hard work, “I left your jacket on the kitchen counter.”
Turning to the left, she checked her hair to make sure it was still in the neat chignon she had painstakingly worked on. Her hair’s normal state was frizz ball. To get any order of it, she needed it up and out of her face. She usually just did a messy bun. It was fast and easy and no one saw her anyway. But a messy bun just would not do tonight. She had been on the other end of Celine’s haughty sneer one too many times. She refused to have the woman look down her nose at her now.
Kira ducked her hair in to the bathroom just as Savannah was layering another coat of hair spray on just to make sure everything stayed in place. Her eyes nearly bulged out of her head when she saw her friend.
“Got a hot date?” She teased as she leaned against the doorframe, her leather jacket hanging over her arm.
“Not even close,” Savannah answered as she twisted and turned, contorting her body to get a bed look at herself in the small bathroom mirror, “Lukas is picking me up to meet with his ex-wife.”
“So things have progressed that far already?” Kira joked, Savannah just rolled her eyes.
“It’s not like that and you know it,” Savannah said as she slipped one last gold bobby pin in to place, “Celine is the epitome of elegance. She is always perfectly put together, the best clothes, the perfect makeup, never a hair out of place. It’s so fricking annoying. Every time I’ve seen her I’ve been a total mess. She always had this look on her face, this haughty better than thou look that I always pissed me off.”
“So this is,” Kira gestured to her make up, hair and stylish clothes, “is all for her and has nothing to do with the man candy that can’t seem to keep away from you.”
“Please,” Savannah snorted, “That man could care less how I look and I could care less what he thinks. You should have been here earlier when I was in my home clothes. He was less than impressed. I highly doubt he will even notice all of this.”
Kira looked Savannah over from head to foot. Savannah glanced down at herself as well. She had to dig deep in to her closet to find something to wear. She had work clothes and party clothes, but she so rarely had a need to dress up. She had found a decent pair of black slacks and a loose cream colored button down blouse she had worn once before. She paired it with a pearl necklace and earring set she had inherited from her grandmother and she was set. The clothes weren’t name brand, but they were the best she could come up with in the limited time that she had.
“I doubt he won’t notice,” Kira countered, “Hell, woman, I didn’t even know you could clean up so well.”
“Well take a picture because this is probably the only time you’ll see me like this,” Savannah said, quickly regretting her words when Kira pulled her phone from her back pocket and snapped not one but ten pictures.
“Like you said, got to get it while I can,” She snickered, “Abby is never going to believe this. She is going to be so pissed that she missed it.”
“I’m sure you’ll be all too happy to send her a picture.”
“Already did,” Kira grinned from ear to ear, “Made sure to send one to Rachel as well.”
Slipping past Kira, Savannah headed back to the living room where she had left her coat and clutch. She had found a white wool long coat at the back of her closet when she was looking for clothes to wear. She didn’t remember buying it so she figured it was probably a hand me down from Abby when she moved out. Her friend was a good six inches taller than Savannah was so the coat fell to mid-calf which was fine by her. Her clothing may have made her look stylish, but they sure didn’t keep her warm. Although she didn’t plan to stay out in the open air for long, the temperature had down to a nippy thirty degrees. “Charlie, hurry up and get your butt out here. Lukas will be here soon,” Savannah called down the hallway. When she got no reply she added, “Remember, hot cocoa, marshmallows and Hallmark movie marathon.”
“I’m afraid to ask,” Kira joined her as Savannah did one last minute check to make sure she had everything she needed in her clutch. Phone, house keys, and a couple of credit cards. She thought about adding some cash just in case, but now days, everyone took credit.
“Charlie’s been mopping around the house for the last week so I thought he needed to get out. I promised him we stopped by after our business with Lukas to grab some chicken poppers,” Savannah explained as she glanced at the clock.
“Text me on your way down and I’ll have them ready to go,” Kira offered. Amazingly, she actually liked Charlie. Abby tolerated him and Rachel doted on him, but Kira actually liked the sour puss to the amazement of them all.
Kira wasn’t a pet person. She had never had a pet and never planned on having a pet. She was tolerant enough of her parent’s Pekingese, but she avoided the dog as much as possible. For some strange reason, she actually liked Charlie. When they would have movie nights, she would have Charlie sit next to her, scratching his ears and dropping popcorn on the couch for him.
Savannah had never told her friends the truth about Charlie. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, it was the fact that if the truth ever good, it was pretty much a death sentence for both she and Charlie. They had mutually agreed at the beginning that they would never tell anyone the truth. They hadn’t yet discussed the fact that Lukas had discovered the truth. Strangely neither of them feared that Lukas would rat on them. It had never even been a thought.
They had both known Lukas in their past life. They had never hung out with him or anything, but when you were around Alexandros as much as the two of them were, you were bound to run in to his family. Lukas was so much older than the two of them that it was a hero worship thing more than anything else. He was so different from Alexandros. He was so honorable and kind compared to Alexandros’ petty jealousies. Alexandros hated his brother and wasn’t shy about admitting in. He never understood why Lukas was respected and admired by everyone. Alexandros was feared not respected as he knew it. But instead of trying to abate people’s fear, he fanned it. He used people, played with them and then threw them away. Anyone who dared to fight against him quickly learned why he was feared. Even Savannah was not immune to his temper tantrums.
“Charlie,” Savannah called out, “Hurry up!”
Reluctantly, the cat slinked out from the extra bedroom he had claimed as his own. His head was down, his tail low. He mewed pathetically as he moved to stand as Kira’s side, rubbing his head against her leg.
“Oh, poor baby,” Kira cooed as she leaned down and rubbed Charlie’s head with her thumb. He leaned into her touch and purred deep in his throat.
Savannah rolled her eyes, playing the sympathy card. She bet Kira wouldn’t be so sympathetic if she knew the cat she let cuddle up to her was actually a man stuck in a cat’s body.
Walking in to the living room, she left the two of them alone as she picked up Charlie’s cat carrier. He didn’t like being picked up and being carried like the cat he was, so Savannah had bought him the carrier. He had hated it instantly. Considered a hit to his pride to be carried around in the black carrier. She offered to carry him in one of her large hand bags instead, he had refused to talk to her for days for that comment.
Savannah was just standing up when there was a knock on the door. She glanced at the clock not at all surprised to see it was six on the dot. Kira stood up with one last pat on Charlie’s head.
“I guess it’s time for all of us to go,” Kira opened the door to let in Lukas who had changed out of his business suit in to a more comfortable pair of black jeans and leather jacket. Kira didn’t bother to hide the fact as she boldly looked the man up and down before turning back to Savannah with a wicked grin on her lips.
“Try not to have too much fun,” She teased before turning back to Lukas, “Make sure not to keep her out too late. She turns in to a pumpkin at midnight.”
Lukas nodded at her comment but Savannah highly doubted he heard a word she saw. His eyes had not left her since Kira had opened the door. His gaze was so intense that her cheeks had begun to flame.
“Text me on your way over,” Kira snickered as she ducked out the door with one last wave.
“Are we ready?” Savannah asked as she placed the carrier in front of Charlie and moved to grab her coat and clutch.
Lukas seemed to come back to himself as Savannah was sliding her coat on. He walked over and helped her slip the other sleeve on while she transferred her clutch from one hand to the other.
“Am I interrupting something? Did you have plans?” Lukas asked as he took a step back.
Savannah snorted, “Did you see the way I was dressed when you stopped by? Did I look like I was headed out?”
Lukas frowned as he looked her over again.
“This is armor,” She informed him as she picked up cat and carrier, “Your ex-wife has a sharp tongue and isn’t afraid to hit low. I just want to go in to this prepared.”
A smile came to Lukas lips as he grabbed the carrier from her hand and led her out the door, shutting it firmly behind them.
“You shouldn’t worry about what Celine says or does,” He offered her an arm as they reached the stairwell.
“Oh, I don’t. I just didn’t want to provide her with anymore ammo then she already has,” Savannah replied as she took his arm gratefully and carefully made her way down the concrete steps, her two inch heels clicking with each step, “Oh, and we need to stop by O’Briens on the way back. I promised Charlie Chicken Poppers for coming.”
“Is he your back up?” Lukas asked as he carefully balanced the carrier so he didn’t force Charlie to sway anymore then necessary.
“She’s blackmailing me,” Charlie informed him from the safety of the cat carrier.
Lukas raised an eyebrow as he turned to Savannah as they descended the last step.
“He needed to get out of the apartment,” Savannah shrugged as she reluctantly let go of Lukas’ arm as they reached the glass door leading out to the parking lot behind the bakery.
Lukas led the way to a large black SUV parked a few yards away from the door. Savannah thanks the gods she didn’t have to go far. Lukas unlocked the rental as they drew near. He opened the front passenger door, helping Savannah in. He waited for her to buckle herself in before handing her the cat carrier. She placed it in her lap as he closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side.
“You’re playing with fire,” Charlie muttered.
“I know what I doing,” Savannah hissed back just as Lukas opened the driver’s side door.
“Ready to go?” He asked as he turned to the two of them. Savannah smiled and nodded while Charlie remained quiet. He started the SUV and slowly pulled out of the parking lot.
Savannah hadn’t asked where his office was. She knew Acheron kept offices in most big cities. But she hadn’t thought Newport was big enough. The city had been much large five years ago, but after the incident that had created the wall, a lot of people had left and the town had shrunk by half. The main source of income now days was tourism. Humans and supes alike were intrigued by the wall of mist that had taken over a quarter of the town. There was even talk on the local news about setting up tour areas were people could observe the wall safely from enclosed stations. Savannah had that was the stupidest idea she had ever heard. She must not have been the only one because talk has stopped shortly after it had begun.
But even without these sanctioned tour outings, people from around the world still flocked to Newport just to lay eyes on the Wall. Most were smart enough to stay away from it, but not all of the tourists were smart. You would think people would learn after five years that the Wall was dangerous. It wasn’t some supernatural attraction created to draw tourists. It stole people’s memories. Savannah never understood what the draw of the Wall was. She could see it from her bedroom window but usually avoided looking at it as much as possible. The thing gave her the creeps. Even without knowing about all the lives the Wall had taken, she still would have avoided it at all costs.
A shiver ran down her spine just thinking about the damn thing. She hated it.
“Are you cold?” Lukas asked as he glanced at her.
“No, sorry, I’m fine. I was just thinking about something else.”
“If meeting with Celine bothers you that much, you don’t have to. We can just swing by O’Briens, grab your Chicken Poppers and I can take you back home,” He offered.
“No. It’s not that,” Savannah assured as she turned to look out the passenger window.
“I know this is hard on the two of you. After everything you’ve been through. If it ever gets to be too much for either of you, just let me know and we’ll stop,” Lukas promised as he reached over and squeezed Savannah’s knee once before returning his hand to the steering wheel.
Lukas didn’t see her shiver that time but Charlie felt it.
“You’re going to go down in flames.” Charlie sniffed. Savannah wanted to argue but she knew that anything she said at this point would just be a lie. She was playing with fire. Every moment she spent with Lukas brought her closer and closer to that end. Antonis had threatened to take away everything from her. She had no doubt that he would try the moment he heard of her association with his precious heir. But he would learn that she was not the frightened scarred eighteen year old girl he had dealt with all those years ago. She had been through hell and back. His threats were nothing compared to what she had seen and done. If he wanted to come against her now, he better be prepared for what he would find.
* * * * *
Acheron didn’t just have an office in Newport, they owned an entire building. As the pulled in to the parking lot of the blue glass building, Savannah could hardly keep her mouth closed. How did she not know about this. Sure she stayed mostly on her side of town, very rarely venturing in to the glass jungle that was the downtown of Newport, but still, how the hell did she miss this.
She just started at the large black letters out on the front lawn spelling out Acheron is six foot high letters as they pulled in to the parking structure.
“Was this always here?”
Lukas glanced at her real quick as they pulled up the security gate. He rolled down the window and flashed his badge. The security guard saluted him before hitting the bottom to raise the security gate.
“Have a good evening Mr. Stavros,” The guard said as they drove past. Lukas just nodded completely unaware of the stars in the young man’s eyes as they drove past him. She could understand the look. Lukas was a fricking legend. She had probably looked that way when she was eight years old. She and Charlie both.
“We’ve had a base here since the Wall first appeared,” Lukas informed her as they drove up the ramp. The garage was sparsely filled. There were cars here and there, but the place was mostly empty, so she was curious why they kept going up when they could have just taken the first empty stall they came to.
She was just about to ask when they came to another security gate. Lukas grabbed his badge again as waved it in front a pad against the wall. The gate slowly crawled up and they drove through. What Savannah had mistakenly assumed was a rental turned out to be one of the company cars. The passed row after row of black SUVs before finally pulling in a space at the end of the row. Lukas put the SUV in to park and shut off the car. Before she had time to say anything he was out the door and around the car to open her door before she had time to release her seat belt. He lifted the carrier off her lap and helped her out.
“Ever the gentlemen I see.”
He flashed her a pearly white grin, “My mother would have never allowed anything else.”
“Well she failed miserably with her second son,” Savannah said absently as she adjusted her clothing, “Alexandros couldn’t even open a door for himself.”
“Alexandros is the son of my father’s second wife,” Lukas said cooly.
Savannah’s head shot up as she stared in to his chilly gray eyes, “I didn’t know.”
“You wouldn’t have,” He said simply as he led the way down the row of parked cars, “You were too young when it happened.”
Savannah followed him wanting to ask for more information but not wanting to push him. His mood had turned frosty at the mere mention of her brother. She didn’t want to make it any worse, not at this very moment. She was just trying to figure out how to lighten the mood when he spoke again.
“My parents’ marriage was not a love match but they were at least companionable with each other. They had many of the same goals and got along well enough. My father was usually discreet about his affairs in respect for my mother, but when I was seven one of his lovers came to our house demanding his take responsibility. He had gotten her with child and she demanded he take care of it.”
“My father offered her money to take care of the child, but the woman refused. She wanted to child to have his name. She wanted him to be raised with all the honors that the Stavros name came with. She wanted him to be recognized as the son of Antonis Stavros and she as the child’s mother. She didn’t care what it would do to my mother or her reputation. She didn’t care for anything but herself and the riches and power she would gain.”
Savannah nearly tripped over her feet at his words, he easily reached to catch her before she could fall. He caught her around the waist and helped steady her on her feet. Once she was steady, he let her go, but kept a hand on the small of her back.
Necromancer marriages among the elite families were messed up. Marriages were rarely happy and affairs were common. As sad as it was to say, bastards were a common thing. But most women were happy to take the monthly stipend and raise the children on their own. But there were a few women like this. Most of them learned quickly that it wasn’t worth the effort. The Elite of the Necromancer world did not play nice. They were ruthless to the point of being cruel. Savannah had been on the receiving end of the wraith of one such man.
Yet this woman had dared to challenge Antonis Stavros and obviously got away with it since Alexandros had most certainly been recognized at Antonis’ son. And Lukas has said his father’s second wife. So the woman had definitely gotten what she wanted.
Savannah had never met Alexandros’ mother. She had seen the woman around but the woman had always made it obvious that Savannah was beneath her. They had passed each other in Alexandros’ home but she never deigned to speak to her.
She would have never guessed that she was Antonis’ second wife. I mean the woman looked liked Alexandros and Lukas. The same dark hair and gray eyes. Even the facial features were similar. How could Lukas look so much like a woman who he was not even related to.
She gnawed on her bottom lip to keep the questions back. Lukas’ body beside her was tense and his movements stiff. They came to an elevator and he jabbed the button to take them up.
His face was a blank mask, one she was starting to dislike. She hadn’t realized just how much she had gotten use to being able to read the emotions on his face. She wanted to reach out and touch him, just to let him know that she understood, but she didn’t dare. As much as she would like to forget the fact, this man was still the Stavros family heir. Winning his friendship was one thing, hoping for more was emotional suicide. She wasn’t afraid of what Antonis would do if he found out, she was afraid of what caring for Lukas could do to her heart.
As sad as his childhood might have been, he was still a product of the system. He had married a woman his father had chosen for him although he felt nothing for her. He may be single now but it would only be a matter of time before his father found him another woman. No matter what he felt for her, he would marry that woman. He was the heir to the Stavros family. He would have no choice but to do his father’s biding. For his family’s honor he would have to marry another woman he cared nothing for and have children with her to keep his line going.
It sickened Savannah to even think that she had been just like him. That she was prepared to marry a man she detested because it was her duty. She was ready to bind herself to man she couldn’t stand because her family dictated it. She had been prepared to bear that man’s children because she had never realized that there was another option. Lukas would be the same way. His mother might have taught him to be a gentleman, but she didn’t teach him to break free of the mold he had been cast in.
The elevator arrived with a ding. The doors opened soundlessly. Lukas stepped in and Savannah followed. Once she was in, he hit the button for the top floor. Savannah knew the elevator was moving because the numbers on the display said so, but that was the only sign that the car was moving at all the ride was so smooth.
The numbers came to a stop at seventeen and the doors opened once more. This time the door led to a long brightly light hallway. She could see a wall of glass at the very end. Just outside the windows she could make out the lights of the city around them. Lukas stepped off the elevator and headed down the long hall. Savannah watched him for a moment before following. It didn’t matter what he wore, a perfectly tailored business suit or jeans and leather jacket, he was at home in the world of glass towers while Savannah felt sorely out of place even in her elegant armor.
Her heels clicked on the tiled floor as she followed Lukas down the hall. She glanced in to the open offices doors as she past them. Some were dark, but others were will lit. People sat at their desk, head bent over their monitors hard a work. They barely noticed Savannah as she walked past. Some looked up in her direction but quickly turned back to their work. She was a nobody in this world no matter how well dressed she was.
Lukas stopped at the last open doorway. He turned and waited for her to catch up. His face was still a blank mask, but his hand drifted back to her back once more. His warm palm offering the reassurance she needed. She hadn’t even realized he noticed her discomfort until he offered her a soft smile before he turned and led her in to the large office.
The office large sat at the corner of the building. Two sides of the room were made of glass. Outside the floor to ceiling windows shone the city. Acheron seemed like an Oasis in the middle of a forest made up of office buildings and condos. The large lush grounded surrounding the high glass building offered a respite from all the concrete and glass. From up here Savannah could see the sandstone walkways that snaked through the gardens surround the building. It was too dark for her to make out what kind of trees and flowers filled them, but she bet they would be beyond perfect in the daylight as that was how the Stavros did everything.
Savannah was so taken by the view that she nearly missed the large slate circle on the far right of the room. The stone circle had to be twelve feet in radius. It took up most of the floor. They had similar circles in the classroom at Woodrose, but this was far more impressive.
“Do you practice much here?” She asked as she wandered over to take a look. Lukas set the cat carrier down beside his desk as looked over to where Savannah was heading.
“It’s used for our higher paying clientele that prefer privacy. Rather than use our public audience chambers, they come in through the garage and up here,” He explained.
She stopped at the edge of the slate circle and eyed it enviously. Before everything happened, Savannah had been expected to join Acheron upon graduation. She would have trained with Alexandros and eventually be given a branch to manage, maybe one like this one.
As much as Savannah enjoyed this new life, she missed being able to use her magic. It had been so much a part of her life, she had trained for this since the moment her tiny hands were steady enough to hold a piece of chalk. Her magic was so much a part of her that not being able to use it felt like she was denying a piece of herself.
She didn’t agree with the way the necromancer society was ruled, but she a part of her hated the fact that she had been banished from it. Not because she missed her old life. She had always hated the rules and restrictions placed on her, she hated that she had become a pariah to her own people.
Living as an unregistered necromancer was a hard life if you wished to making a living by using your magic. She had been extremely lucky that the police would even hire her. But until recently the jobs were rare and far between. Without a registration from the Guild, you were basically a nobody no matter how powerful you were. Most people wouldn’t work with unregistered necromancers for fear of the what the Guild would do to them.
As if sensing her thoughts, Lukas joined her at the circle’s edge, “If you want, I can find you a place in Acheron. We pay for all guild registration and testing fees for all of our employees.”
Savannah couldn’t have held back the snort even if she wanted to. She could never get tested by the Guild. Even if she were a normal necromancer, Antonis would never allow it. He had ensured she would never be welcome in their world again. Even with Lukas’ backing, she would never make it through the registration process, even as Savannah Gray.
“Sometimes we are not destined for the world we are born into,” Savannah said simply as she turned her back on the circle and any future she had once believed was her. That dream was long dead, it was time to let it go.
Heading back to the ebony desk that sat in front of the large wall of windows, she set down her clutch and pulled off the heavy wool coat. This room was too warm for wool.
Savannah turned back to find Lukas watching her. A steely look in his dark gray eyes not liking what she saw there she asked, “So how long will you be staying in town? Thanksgiving is only a couple weeks away, don’t you have to go home and play the prodigal son at some family gathering.”
Lukas didn’t answer her at first but just studied her with that all-seeing gaze. When he finally spoke she had almost given up on receiving an answer.
“My family doesn’t celebrate holidays together. The large Christmas parties you might have remembered ended the year that everything happened. Although the blame had been laid at your feet, there were families who suspected where the true fault lay. My father didn’t appreciate the speculation and retaliated by closing the doors of the family manor to the public.”
“After I got married and was handed the reigns of the American branch of Acheron I didn’t have time to celebrate with my family. Instead I was trying to drag Acheron out of the mess that Alexandros had thrown it into. Upon graduation from Woodrose, my father made Alexandros the VP of Operations. He had no training, no background in how Acheron worked, yet my father handed the position to him as if it were nothing. Not a surprise when he made a mess of it all and stock in our company fell. I spent years dragged Acheron out of the mud and making it what it is today. I didn’t have time for family gathering and truthfully I had no desire to be in the same room with either my father or my brother after the mess they made.”
“Now days my father spends most of his time in Europe, getting our European branch up and running. Eleni is there working with him as she will eventually be handed the reins once she is married to Simon Abernathy, or so my father’s says. My stepmother is with whatever young stud who has drawn her attention at the moment. And who knows where my good for nothing brother is. He likes to wander and my father could care less. They aren’t are speaking terms after the mess he made.”
Savannah wasn’t sure how she felt about hearing that no one knew where Alexandros was. That man drew trouble to him like flies to trash, was leaving him to his own devices a good thing? She wanted to ask but from the tension coiled in Lukas’ body she thought better of it. She had asked an innocent question, or so she thought, instead she seemed to have made things worse.
Charlie chose that moment to stick his head out of the carrier. He gazed around the room, taking in every detail before he finally climbed out. He strolled to the floor to ceiling windows and gazed out.
“Is this going to take long?” He asked petulantly as he turned to look back Savannah.
“Celine should be here shortly,” Lukas said, some of then tension sliding off of him as he focused on the business at hand.
“Do you have a piece of chalk?” Savannah asked glad for the change of subject. She knew she had Charlie to thank for it. As snarky as the cat could be he always had her back.
“In the desk drawer,” Lukas nodded to the desk where Savannah stood. She wasn’t sure how he felt about Lukas trusting her enough to go digging through his desk. Even though he was standing in the room, she still might see something she probably shouldn’t. Lukas didn’t notice her hesitation as he had already turned his back to her. She looked to Charlie who seemed to unconcerned as she now lay in front of the large windows staring out at the night.
With no other choice, Savannah walked around the desk and pulled up the middle drawer where she assumed the chalk would be kept. She thanks the gods that she had chosen the right drawer and that all that was in the drawer was a box of chalk and some pens. No trade secrets or hidden passwords, just a box of chalk and some black pens.
Grabbing the box, she pulled out a new stick and placed the box on the desk next to her clutch. She walked over to the slate circle and kicked off her heels. Walking out on to the cool stone floor she carefully made her way to the middle. The stone was chilly under her bare feet, but like at the morgue, she needed a link to the world around her.
The magic began to sizzle in her blood the moment her foot touch the the cold stone. Her fingers itched and her heart raced, as the hand that held the chalk shook as she knelt down on the hard floor. The moment the chalk touched the slate, her hand began to move. Glyphs began to fill her head as she needed to get them down as fast as they came or they were lost. She was lost to the magic and she let it consume her. She was no longer aware of her surrounding as all that mattered was the magic.
Her hand shook and her head ached as she got down the last sigil. Sitting back she stared wide-eyed at the line of glyphs she had created that started at the middle of the circle and curled around like a nautilus shell only to end at the spot where she had entered.
She looked at the glyphs, only recognizing a few of them, but knowing that these were the sigils that marked every inch of Gerard Montclair’s skin.
“How did you do this?” Savannah was so startled she nearly jumped as she turned around to find a beautiful woman she barely recognized. Only the slightly accented words confirmed her suspicions.
The last time she had seen the woman, had to be close ten years ago. Back then she would have been Savannah’s age. She had been attractive then, but it was more a beauty created by the clothes she wore and the way she styled herself. She had been beautiful even then but she had relied too much on cosmetics and fashion. The woman before her now self-assured and confident. Savannah could see it in the way she carried herself, the way she had scaled back on the cosmetics to show more of the woman who had been hiding beneath. As Savannah looked down at her dust covered slacks and hands, she realized that even in pristine condition, her armor would have never been enough against this woman.
Savannah watched as Celine Devereaux began to walked around the slate circle. Her eyes so intent on the glyphs that she nearly stepped on Charlie. The cat luckily was fast enough to dart around her feet and to safety.
“I don’t recognize half of these sigils,” Celine admitted as she turned to Savannah, “What is this?”
“I don’t know,” Savannah shook her head as she pulled herself to her feet, “These were the markings that covered Gerard’s body when he was brought in to the morgue.”
Celine frowned as she turned back to the circle, “These are old, older than anything I’ve ever seen. Some of them are glyphs we use in our protection circles, but they are written different. The glyphs are moved curved and slanted then the ones we use today, but I do recognize them.”
“So whoever is using the sigils has a far more advance knowledge of the glyphs then what is commonly known,” Lukas stated, her turned to Celine, “Would any of the men who you studied with, be able to trace when the glyphs originated and about how long ago they might have been used. It might give us a lead on who placed this spell on Montclair.”
“I had heard that Gerard was a Reaper for the Guild. You do not believe that was the work of the Guild then?”
“I believe this knowledge is beyond the capability of the Guild. It doesn’t mean that he is not working with him, just that the Guild may be working with someone who has knowledge on ancient glyphs. I want to know what they did to Montclair and what was their ultimate goal. What was their goal in creating a gate to the to the world of the dead? What were they trying to bring threw?”
“You are playing a very dangerous game if you follow this path. You are obviously up against someone with far more knowledge of glyphs and their purposes. I have never seen anything like this before and I have studied glyphs for nearly thirty years. The style and pairing of the glyphs are completely wrong. They shouldn’t be able to work when put together, yet somehow they do. Not only that but the level of magic required to activate these glyphs is insanely high. No one person is capable of doing such, which means that whoever created this has to working together with some one else.”
Lukas turned to Savannah inquiringly. He didn’t have to speak the words, she could read the question in his eyes. Was she capable of activating the circle? Savannah frowned. Celine was right. It would take a lot of magic to power up this circle. Savannah wasn’t even sure if she was capable of doing it alone. Which was probably why four men have been found dead next to Montclair’s body. One person was capable of activating the circle as long as they had batteries from which they could draw power.
“Four bodies were found with Gerard’s,” Savannah offered, “One person may have been capable of activating the glyphs if they used the four young men as sacrifices to power their magic.”
Celine nodded her head in agreement, “It is possible if the person was powerful to start off with. But the list of Class 1 Level A Necromancers barely tops a hundred and only twenty of those are currently in the US. And as far as I know, you are the only one currently in the city.”
Lukas scowled as his ex-wife, which she just waved off.
“I’m not accusing you of anything,” She sneered at him, “You are bound by your misplaced honor. You would never do something so ambitious.”
Savannah couldn’t help but feel like she had walked into an ongoing argument. There was a level of intimacy between the two of them that made it uncomfortable being in the room. Even if they hadn’t loved or even cared for each other, they had been married for nearly a decade and there were things they knew about each other that probably no one else knew. They had lived together a life together.
Savannah looked away, unable to watch them any longer. She found Charlie had no more a desire to watch them then she did. He strolled back to his carrier and hopped in. Savanah wished she could do the same.
“This is ridiculous. You are not the police. It is not your job to solve crimes. I suggest you take a picture of this,” She waved to the chalk glyphs, “and hand it over to the police if you do not trust the Guild. Whoever did this is not playing around. They were willing to kill four men and sacrifice the soul of another. You do not have the power to fight this no matter what your father has filled your mind with.”
Savannah had to try really hard not to snicker. So she was not the only one who had felt the bite of Antonis tongue. It must have been hell to have that man as a father-in-law. It must have been even worse when he became her ex-father-in-law.
“The police do not have the resources to fight this,” Lukas argued.
“They have her,” Celine waved to Savannah who really wished she hadn’t. The confused look Lukas cast in her direction made her realize he had actually forget her presence for a moment. She felt her cheeks warm and being forced back in a conversation she had been trying to get out of.
“From what I heard at the police station, she broke the spell. She obviously have power. She can work with the police to catch this killer,” Celine declared.
“She also died breaking that spell,” Lukas roared. Savannah frowned as she looked at the man. What was he talking about? “Her heart stopped. It took two of us to break the protection circles she put up to get to her. It took ten whole minutes before we were able to get to her. The ME was able to get her heart started again, but we were extremely lucky.”
Savannah’s mouth dropped open as she whirled on the cat carrier. Charlie curled in a ball in the shadows. His head tucked in further. Is this why Charlie had been moping all week? Is this why he was in his avoiding her? Honestly, did he not knew her better. She wanted to tell him off but now was not the time, but the moment they got back to the apartment he would hear it.
Seriously, ten minutes? She had been dead for ten minutes and no one had said anything. Not even Abby. She had a lot of phone calls to make when she got back.
She froze as another thought hit her, is that Lukas was stopping by everyday? Because he was checking up on her? Seriously? Knowing what she knew about him, it was probably misplaced guilt.
Celine was right, the man had way too much honor. He kept trying to fix things that he had no responsibility for. It wasn’t his fault that she had killed herself. It was her fault and no one else’s. She had let her pride get the better of her and she assumed she would be able to handle the power. She was wrong. He may have been there, but that was only because she had asked for his presence and nothing else. The guilt was all hers.
Was happened eight years ago was also not his fault. He wasn’t even in the country at the time. He was not responsible for what his brother or father did. Yes, what happened was awful, but he had nothing to do with it.
If he was hanging around because of some misplaced sense of guilt, then she wanted nothing to do with him. She wasn’t his responsibility. She wasn’t some charity case. Just because his father was the reason she had been expelled from Woodrose and her family had disowned her, it didn’t mean it was his responsibility to take care of her. She didn’t miss the things Antonis had taken away. She had created a whole new life here, one she was happy with.
Sure she missed being able to use her magic, but it wasn’t the end of her world. She could have had a career in the necromancer world. She may have been unregistered, but her level and skill and magic would have opened doors. It wasn’t that couldn’t have moved in the same world that he did, it was that she chose not to.
Her magic would have made her stand out as it was doing now. She hadn’t wanted to draw attention to her for this very reason. She wasn’t a normal necromancer. She might have been eight years ago, but she wasn’t not. If anyone watched her too closely they would see that and she couldn’t have that.
What happened Sunday was an example of that. If she had known what had happened, if anyone had bothered to tell her that she had been dead for ten whole minutes she could have explained things. She could have fixed things before it got any bigger like it was now.
As it was Celine was staring at her like she was freak, which in truth she was. If she had truly been dead for ten minutes, it would have been a fricking miracle that she was standing here talking to them when she should have been brained damaged at the very least.
Savannah watched as Celine’s eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together before she whirled on Lukas.
“You have honestly lost your mind. Your father would disown you if he knew what you were up to. Your father told you to stay away from her.”
Savannah turned to Lukas in surprise. He didn’t meet her eyes, instead he stared at his ex-wife, his mouth tight. Celine turned to look at Savannah again.
“What has his promised you? A job? A branch of your own? How he’ll get you registered with the Guild and bring you back to the world Antonis threw you out of?”
It was Savannah’s turn to whirl on Lukas who still avoided her gaze.
“Did he also tell you that his father strictly forbid him from contacting you? That he would lose everything if he interfered in your life at all. If his father knew you were here, Lukas would lose control of Acheron.”
“I don’t understand,” Savanah shook her head, “I only ran in to Lukas a couple of weeks ago. Why would Antonis threaten to taken away his birthright when the chance of us running in to each other was so slim? I had nothing to do with him. I was no threat to him.”
Celine turned to Lukas, “Tell her.”
“Tell me what?” Savannah asked as she looked between Celine and Lukas.
Lukas still refused to say a thing. Celine let out a frustrated growl before stalking over to Savannah, her blue eyes sparking.
“He created this place for you,” Celine waved her arm to the building, “He felt so guilty about what his father did that he created this place for you. He told his father what they did to you was wrong and that they owed you for everything they took away. His father said that to do so would be admitting guilt and they would never do that. His father nearly disowned him before I convinced Antonis that it would be a mistake.”
Savannah turned back to Lukas again but he refused to look at her.
“I don’t want this,” Savannah said to both of them, “I don’t want any of this. I don’t need your pity or your guilt. To accept either would mean that I lost something and I lost nothing, nothing that mattered.”
Celine snorted at that.
“I don’t need your money and I don’t need your help. I’ve done fine on my own. I made a life I’m happy with and to me that is all that matters. It a better life then having to cater to a family that sees you as nothing more than a bargaining chip. I am free. I don’t have to marry a man I detest. I don’t have to live and life that I have no choice in. I am my own person. My choices are all my own. If I make a bad decision, then the fault is mine alone. I am the only one that suffers.”
“This isn’t about the money or even your family,” Lukas snapped, finally acknowledging her, “This is about what you lost.”
“I have lost nothing,” Savannah corrected.
“You lost yourself,” Lukas said through gritted teeth, “I saw you that night when they brought you in to the hospital. I saw how close to death your were. How that night was killing you slowly. You may have survived that night, but you were stuck reliving it over and over again and it was killing you.”
Savannah frowned. Lukas was out of the country when that night happened. She knew because Alexandros had told her. It was the only reason he would try something so stupid was because his brother was out of the country. So what was Lukas talking about. She was about to ask but he must have read the question on her face.
“The night you were found unconscious outside the door of the apartment you were renting in New York. The doctor who treated you called me. He had tried to call your parents but was informed that you were no longer a member of their family. He tried to Alexandros remembering that the two of you were engaged but he was unable to contact him and his call was forwarded to me instead. I saw you lying in that hospital bed, how thin you were, how even breathing seemed to take too much out of you. We did that you. So yes, my family does owe you, but I can’t give you back what you lost, this is all that I can do for you.”