Soul Guard (Elemental Book 5)

Soul Guard

 

Elemental Book 5

 

 

 

Rain Oxford

Prologue

I ignored the oppressive sense of death. The warm
tingle in my palm reminded me that I had all the power I needed to free myself.
At this point, I actually wanted to be purified by the fire elementals again so
that the creatures of the black abyss couldn’t touch me. Or… at least they
wouldn’t be able to touch me until I entered the shadow pass again.

Yeah, I didn’t think that one through
.

I sensed them moving all around me, remembered the
horror of their eye-less faces, and was glad there was no light. Hunt insisted
I learned to use the shadow pass on my own and, unfortunately, he was a “sink
or swim” person. With the wisdom of “feel where you want to go,” he dropped me
into the darkness and vanished.

Although I knew I didn’t actually have to travel in
the shadow pass to reach my destination, it made me feel more accomplished to
walk. Well, stumble. It wasn’t easy to walk on soft, uneven ground in absolute
darkness with extra gravity.

I focused on my uncle’s mind. Although it was usually
blocked, I had been in his mind before, so I could do it again.

Or not.

I sensed it an instant before I hit the ground hard
and light returned to the world. I dusted dirt off my jeans as I stood, then
groaned. “What the hell am I doing here?” I asked aloud. I was standing before
the tower. Light came from four torches surrounding the tower, which were
always lit if I was correct.

And I was alone.

Why would I arrive here when I’m trying to find my
uncle
? A harsh yowl made me look down, where Ghost was glaring at me. “What
the hell are you doing here?”

Instead of answering, he turned and vanished.

Chapter 1

“You don’t have to hit him right between the eyes.
You don’t even have to make a kill shot. Almost every time, you can
incapacitate your opponent without endangering anyone’s life, but if it comes
down to you or him, do what you have to do.”

“How am I supposed to know whether to kill or maim
him?”

“Use your instincts and don’t second guess yourself.”
Not trusting my instincts was how I ended up falling into John’s trap in the
first place. Of course, I never would have gotten involved with the paranormal
world if it hadn’t been for him, either.

“I heard you should never aim a gun at someone unless
you’re willing to shoot them.”

“That’s no6t always the case. Bluffing does wonders
in this job. After three back-to-back cases, I stopped five armed bank robbers
from a heist that took them a week to plan with not a single bullet on me.”

“You get hired to stop bank robbers?”

“Actually, no. I just happened to be there. Bluffing
isn’t always about threatening; you have to know whether the person is the
fight or flight type. Some people will back down if you appear tougher, while
others will attack. I have prevented fights by being pretending to be harmless
and clueless.”

“Well, you have your instincts to guide you.”

“Yes, and they saved my life numerous times before I knew
I was a paranormal. The truth is, a gun can save your life or the life of
someone else, but you can’t take back a bullet. This gun has slapped more
people than it shot.”

“That explains the dents in it.”

“Actually, that’s because bashing the gun against
padlocks is really effective.” It was my backup gun, so it wasn’t very beat-up.
My preferred gun had vanished into thin air on Dothra in an impressive display
of magic. The next time I saw Langril, I was going to make him teach me how to
do it. “Now, don’t forget about the kickback. Focus.”

“I am focused,” he said. I stepped back and let him
do it himself. Henry pulled the trigger and lowered the gun to examine his
shot. “I missed.”

“By less than half an inch. For your first time using
a gun, that’s pretty---”

He cut me off by raising the gun and firing again.
This time, the bullet hit the dummy right between the eyes. He set the gun down
and turned to me. “I understand how this is more efficient than shifting when
humans are involved, but I would prefer not to use silver bullets.”

I nodded. “I only keep them on hand for vampires.”
Besides, human witnesses were not my biggest concern in a situation that
required silver bullets. “Let’s go pick up Scott.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait until after your
mother paints his nails pink and puts extensions in his hair?”

“Oh, she’s already done that by now. And it’s a wig.”

Henry sighed. “You do realize your mother wanted a
daughter, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “No shit. She screamed when Joseph
got me a haircut. I’ll pay for Scott’s therapy when the time comes.”

“I think he just enjoys the attention.”

We had just gotten out into the parking lot of the
firing range when I felt a prickling sensation in the back of my mind, like I
had forgotten something important. “Did we lock up the office? Go ahead and
pick up Scott and some lunch while I go back to the office.” I checked my phone
to see if I had missed any calls, but it didn’t show any notifications.

“Do you normally get work on your first work day back
from Quintessence?” he asked.

“Normally, yes.” It was the first Monday after my
fourth semester at Quintessence ended and I was ready to get back to my regular
job, but I hadn’t informed anyone that I was back at work yet because I wanted
to give Henry a chance to settle in. “I’m sure it’s fine.” I wasn’t sure it was
fine. “I bet no one even knows I’m back.” I had a hunch that someone knew I was
back and was waiting at the office.

 

*          *          *

 

I used to be a regular private investigator. I did my
job discreetly and, although my number was hard to come by, I had plenty of
business. Most of my work consisted of things like uncovering embezzlement in
large corporations or spying on husbands of wealthy, spoiled wives. The clients
who came to me did so because they wanted answers fast and quietly.

When I was eleven years old, I found out my best
friend, Astrid, was a vampire who was being tormented by her grandfather.
Instead of going to my parents and vampire-proofing my house, I invited her in
and helped her. I woke up to find my father dead, my mother bleeding out, and
Astrid sitting on the floor, covered in their blood, so I shunned the
paranormal community altogether.

Then I took a case at a paranormal university called
Quintessence, and I discovered that I would never live a normal life. I
discovered that I was a wizard. As much as I wanted to get as far away from the
paranormal world as I could, my two roommates, Henry and Darwin, taught me that
they weren’t all killers.

Henry was a jaguar shifter, but not like any other.
Although he was born here, his mother was from another world, where shifters
ruled. Other than the fact that he could turn invisible, choose between being
normal sized or the size of a horse, and regulate his own blood, Henry was a
normal jaguar. He was also a trained thief, thanks to Luana and Matheus Lycosa,
who kidnapped Henry from his real mother as an infant, exploited Henry his
entire life, and kidnapped Henry’s son. Henry recently got his son back and cut
Luana and Matheus out of his life.

Darwin was half fae, half wolf shifter, and all
mouth. He was a genius, but he was nearly ten years younger than me and I
couldn’t take more than a few hours of him at a time. His jokes were older than
me, he was messy and forgetful, he took his pranks way too far, and his
cheekiness was going to get him eaten. There was also the fact that if anyone
touched his skin, it would hurt him and he would see the person’s death.

Soon after I learned that I was a wizard, I
discovered that Joseph Sanders wasn’t my father. Instead, my father was an evil
wizard named John Cross, who killed his own daughter because she wasn’t
powerful enough for her to be useful to him. John had the ability to control
minds, while his brother had the ability to see visions. To protect my friends,
I killed him.

Except, nothing is that damn simple in the paranormal
world.

Because John used his power to steal my mother away
from his brother, Vincent might be my father instead. I had both John’s ability
to control minds and Vincent’s ability to see visions, since they got the power
from their father, Arthur. Fortunately, I inherited the one power of Arthur’s
that they didn’t; instinct. Furthermore, the girl John killed wasn’t actually
his daughter, but he had two twin boys he never knew about, and I knew at least
one of the boys had mind control.

I also ended up with a mortal enemy, who was a wizard
from another world. There was a tower far below the university that had four
doors to four different worlds. Each of these worlds contained the pure
ancestors of our paranormal factions: wizards, vampires, shifters, and fae.

These “pure” versions were also about a hundred times
more dangerous than our “diluted” versions. Because the paranormals are so
powerful, the doors need to be opened with a key. Logan Hunt, the headmaster of
Quintessence, Vincent, and Keigan Langril, each had a key when I first learned
about it. Langril was a quirky professor who happened to be a “pure” wizard
from Dothra. He also trapped Astrid in Dothra and then told me she might not
have been the one to kill Joseph and hurt my mother.

In fact, Astrid’s grandfather wasn’t related to her
at all; he was the familiar of another wizard of Dothra, named Krechea.
According to Langril, Krechea was as evil as they came. While Krechea hadn’t
done anything to me personally, he did try to kill Langril’s daughter, and he
had tried to train Astrid to be one of his warriors.

I recently attained the fourth key which, other than
allowing me access to the shadow pass, didn’t seem to do a whole lot. I had
been warned I would have to sacrifice what was most precious to me in order to
get the key, but the alternative was letting Krechea have it or letting the
boundaries between the worlds come undone. I still wasn’t entirely sure what I
sacrificed.

Right after I got the fourth key, Krechea escaped to
Earth, along with a number of his followers. While I wasn’t sure how many of
them were here, I knew they were eager for more power and willing to kill
anyone to get it. I had one of the four keys, so I was one of their targets.
Because the keys fused into our magic as soon as we accepted them, the only way
to get it from us was to kill us.

 

*          *          *

 

As I pulled into my normal spot, I saw a thin, tall
woman with bleach-blond hair and dark brown roots. She was wearing a dark blue
sundress and flip-flops. I got out, and looked around. Something was very off
about this. Not dangerous, but definitely not right.

The woman was waiting for me outside, shaking in the
warm summer weather, and studying the closed sign on my door. I was just glad I
had a door. Not long before I started my fourth semester at the paranormal
university, my office had been destroyed by a drug dealer who was trying to
kill his own son. After Henry got the insurance worked out, I hired a crew to
clean the place up and replace the windows and door. I didn’t see it again
until I returned from Quintessence, but it looked just like it had before it
was destroyed.

“Can I help you?” I asked. She was wearing a dark
blue, fashionable sweater, jeans, and tan moccasins.

She turned to me. Her cheeks were pink and her blue
eyes were puffy from crying, but they were dry. “I really hope so. Are you Mr.
Sanders?”

“I am.” I unlocked the door and held it open for her.
“Are you cold?”

She went inside, shaking her head furiously, and sat
down. “My husband is missing,” she said frantically.

“Okay. Have you contacted the police and how long has
he been missing?”

“They won’t even talk to me. And I don’t know that
he’s missing. Maybe I’m the one who’s missing.” She lowered her gaze a little,
not willing to look me in the eyes. It was most likely that she subconsciously
sensed my power.

“Tell me what happened.”

“He was working late at the office and I called him.
We argued. I wanted him to come home and I accused him of something. I don’t
remember what. I got in the car and drove to see him, but it was raining really
hard. I was apparently in an accident because I woke up in the hospital four
days ago with no memory of what happened. The doctor said I should recover
completely. The problem is, I can’t remember my name, my husband’s name, or my
address. I snuck out of the hospital when I remembered my husband and he’s got
to be so worried about me.”

“Hang on, the doctor told you that you would be fine,
but he didn’t tell you your name or notify your next of kin?”

She frowned as if it hurt her to think. “I think he
was distracted or something.”

“What was the doctor’s name?”

She shook her head. “I don’t remember. Everything is
still blurry.”

“Maybe you should go back to the---”

“No! I need to find my husband! Please just help me
find him.”

“I can help you, but I need something to go on. You
can recall the night before the accident, right?”

“A little bit.”

“Okay. Close your eyes and go as far back as you can
remember. Tell me every detail you can remember. Every color, street name,
anything you might have passed.”

She nodded and closed her eyes. As she did, I
released my magic to seep into her mind. I wasn’t trying to control her; I just
wanted to see what she could remember. It felt extremely foggy.

As her memories unfolded, I saw her getting into a
blue Cadillac. It was night and heavy rain prevented me from seeing any street
signs. She was driving through a four-way when movement caught her eye. A large
black car sped towards her, gaining speed instead of losing it. The woman tried
to turn out of the way, which was when I saw a street sign.

She opened her eyes and I released her mind. “I don’t
remember anything. Not even what color my car is.”

“I don’t think it was your car,” I said.

She frowned. “How do you know? And why would I get in
someone else’s car?”

“It was the only car in your driveway and you had a
key, which is the why. There was a crumpled cigarette in the ashtray and you
have no stains on your teeth, so I’m betting it wasn’t yours.” I pulled my
phone from the clip on my belt and called Darwin.

The ringing went on for more than a minute before it
was finally picked up. “Yo. Hang on. The alarm is gonna go off as soon as you
open it, so do that last. You remember the code? Great. You don’t know me, I
don’t know you. Sorry, bro, I’m back.”

“What the hell are you getting up to?”

“Oh… um… I’m just running a quest in a RPG. D’you
need something?”

“I need you to get hospital records of an accident
that happened at the intersection of Laura Street and Hamilton Street in the
last week. It was a blue Cadillac. The only passenger was a woman, about
mid-thirties, blond, blue eyes, thin, with memory loss.”

“Give me a minute.”

“Can you get to them on your computer?”

“I’m not at my computer. Like I said, give me a
minute.” I was put on hold. A few minutes later, he picked it back up. “Okay,
so not a minute. There’s been no accident on either street involving any
vehicle in the last week.”

“Okay, maybe she was in there for a while. Go back
about a---”

“Yeah, did that, too. There was nothing matching that
description in the last month. However… there was a car crash two years ago
involving thirty-four-year-old Julia Emerson in a car matching your
description. She was the victim of a hit-and-run on that intersection, but…”

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