A Darkness Strange and Lovely (10 page)

“Actually, you did.” He lunged to his feet. “Don’t be mad—but you said it. You said the command.”

I stood. “That’s all it takes? I just say those words and the magic comes?”

“Not normally.” He backed up several steps. “It’s just that you were thinking about relief and I was
also
thinking about relief, and then you said the words, so . . .” He snapped his fingers.

I advanced on him, my mind a jumble of terror and desire. “If it’s so easy to use your magic, Oliver, then am I always at risk?”

“Not all spells are a risk. This one was good, right? Your face is healed too.”

“What?” I roared. Other passengers turned to stare, but I didn’t care. I frantically patted my face—it was smooth. Perfect.
Unnatural
.

My breath came in gasps. I had to get out of here!

I tried to march by Oliver, but he grabbed my elbow. “Where’re you going?”

“Away!” I wrenched my arm free. “This . . . it’s all too easy, Oliver!”

“But not normally. This was just circumstance.”

“Then let’s not put ‘circumstance’ to the test anymore today.” I massaged my forehead, willing my heart to settle. “I’ll be in my room if you need me—though I’d prefer you
not
need me.” Then I dropped my hands and stalked away from him.

“I really am sorry,” he called after me. But nothing in his voice sounded sorry to me. I was shaking with nervous energy—with fear.

I couldn’t deny that magic felt
good
.

Worse—and what truly scared me—was that for all my proclamations of not casting more spells, I desperately wanted more.

 

We reached Le Havre five days later on a bright Tuesday morning. I still refused to learn necromancy, and Oliver still refused to meet the Spirit-Hunters—though, it was not so hard to understand why. They
had
been Elijah’s enemies, and they
did
hunt creatures such as him.

The closer we got to France, the more a strange panic seemed to boil in my chest.

One would think that the safety of the Spirit-Hunters would
soothe
my anxiety. Certainly Joseph’s solid reliability was welcome—as was Jie’s friendship.

But Daniel? Our awkward final moments had been bad enough. Add in my constant waffling from indignant hate to pathetic longing, and I was a veritable typhoon of contradictory emotion. Half of me was desperate to see him; half of me hoped never to lay eyes on him again.

“Shakespeare had no blasted idea what he was talking about,” I growled, leaning against the promenade deck’s rail. I had given up my pride and let Laure convince me to sneak up with the first-class passengers so we could watch our arrival in Le Havre.


Pardon
?” she asked. “What about Shakespeare?” She pronounced the name “Shock-eh-spear.”

“I said, he had no idea about love or anything.”

“You’re in a fine mood,” Oliver said, coming to the rail beside me. “Something the matter?”

“No,” I growled, swatting a bonnet ribbon from my face. Laure and Oliver exchanged mocking glances, and with a groan, I marched away from them. They’d become the best of friends ever since discovering their mutual interest in flirting. And, while I’d been grateful to have the demon occupied elsewhere, I had begun to find their tendency to gang up on me thoroughly insufferable.

I moved to another empty spot on the handrail and focused on the approaching city. The climate was perfect, thanks to the sea—sunny, yet cool—and the view was absolutely picturesque. Le Havre was a city of white buildings that hugged the shore while great, black ships paced the harbor in front. Sunny quays with shady streets gave it the look of an old watercolor Mama had once hung in our parlor.

Less than an hour later, I found myself handing over as much as I could spare in tip to the stewardess and disembarking onto French soil—into a world unlike anything I had ever seen. Truly, no amount of reading or daydreaming could have prepared me for the city.

For one, Le Havre was
old
. I’d always fancied Philadelphia a historical city, but in comparison to Le Havre—and the rest of Europe, I supposed—Philadelphia was just a newborn babe.

Every building looked as if it had defied the test of time for centuries. Every steep-roofed house seemed to have a story, with the colorful gables and shutters and the flowerpots draping from each window.

As Laure, Oliver, and I stood at the end of the pier, local women in their white caps and fishermen with nets draped over their shoulders streamed around us. On the cobblestone street before us, travelers and coaches clattered by.

And it was all so lovely, I felt compelled to wander the city slack-jawed. Fortunately, Oliver and Laure were completely unimpressed. The demon took my carpetbag on his arm, and Laure motioned to a road leading straight into the city.

“The train station is that way,” she told us, “but the Paris train will not leave for many hours. You must join me for lunch—I know the perfect place, and I will even go so far as to pay.”

At the word “lunch,” my stomach gave a stormy bellow. “Food
would
be nice,” I said.
Free food even more so
.


Très bien
. Then it is decided.”

“Are we going to walk?” Oliver asked, looking longingly at a passing cab.


Bien sûr
. Of course.” She poked him playfully with her parasol. “You ’ave been in America too long. Over here, everyone walks. It is said to be a way of life. Now”—she popped open her parasol and hooked her arm in Oliver’s—“follow me.”

The pair set off down the wide street, and I followed. I let them continue in front of me the entire time, thereby allowing me to keep my right hand out in the open. I even drew off my glove so I could enjoy the sheer pleasure of sunshine and breeze on my fingers.

By the time we reached our destination, sweat trickled down my spine, and I had decided the French had drastically different ideas of time and distance than Americans.

“Only two steps away!” Laure had insisted over and over, yet it still took us at least twenty minutes to get to a tiny inn, called Le Cupidon Belle, that was set apart from the main bustle and blessedly well shaded.

The restaurant was actually situated inside an open-air courtyard around which the inn stood. Bubbling happily amid rickety wooden tables was a fat, stucco fountain shaped liked Cupid. A little white-capped boy seated us directly under Cupid’s gaze, and then a round-faced, wide-hipped landlady took charge of serving us the day’s meal, beginning with a platter of fruit.

When the first grape exploded in my mouth, I almost wept, enraptured by the tart sweetness of the fruit.

Then came the bread—a simple baguette—and my eyes really did fill with tears. Such a flaky, crisp crust around the fluffiest, saltiest bread I had ever tasted. I closed my eyes and simply breathed in the scent of it.

“Eleanor,” Oliver said, sounding alarmed, “are you all right?”

I nodded, almost frantically. “It’s just so amazing.”

Laure laughed happily, and when I opened my eyes, I found her cheeks pink with pleasure. “France ’as the best food in the world,
non
?”

“I believe you’re right.” I moaned, ripping off another bite of baguette.

She gave Oliver and me a pretty pout. “I will be so lonely traveling to Marseille by myself.” She then told us about an inn her family ran outside the city and a fishing boat her uncle had. As we worked our way through six courses of food—mussels and fish and apples and more bread—she forced us to promise multiple times that we would come visit.

The remainder of our meal—cheese and wine—passed amiably, though I was sad when the last plate was cleared away and Laure wrote out her address. It was all so final.

The walk to the train station was shorter than our journey to the inn. Before I knew it, we had reached the Le Havre depot, a long, modern building that was disappointingly identical to the stations back home. Enormous, multipaned windows stretched from floor to roof, and running beside the station were the tracks. Oliver and I quickly navigated the crowds, exchanged the rest of my money for francs, and purchased two second-class tickets to Paris. The train didn’t leave for another hour, so I used the time to mail my letters to Mama, Mary, and Allison and to telegram Jie my intended arrival time in Paris. I didn’t expect her to meet me at the station, but I also didn’t want to arrive at the Spirit-Hunters’ hotel with no warning.

When Oliver vanished for a time, I took the opportunity to relax and digest on a shady depot bench. Oddly enough, hunger still writhed in my stomach. I
knew
I was full, yet somehow I wasn’t.

So I decided to distract myself. I closed my eyes and focused on my heartbeat. Its rhythmic thump was pleasant, like the gentle rock of the ship. I inhaled, filling my lungs until they pressed against my ribs. My chest buzzed with air—

No!
I snapped my eyelids open. That wasn’t only air. I had drawn in spiritual energy! I dropped my head, and sure enough, I could see a dull glow in my chest where I’d accidentally gathered my magic into a well. For several moments it just sat there, pulsing.

I jumped up. I had to find some private place to chant the only spell I knew: the dream ward.

I darted toward the nearest porter, folding my arms over my shining chest. “Excuse me,” I squeaked, “wh-where is a water closet?”

But he shook his head. “
Je ne parle pas l’anglais.

“Toilet?” I squeaked, grasping for some other word. “
Les toilettes
?”

He grimaced and pointed across the room to a white door. I scurried over and pushed inside, grateful to find the beige-tile room empty. After locking the door behind me, I looked down at my chest and flinched. It was very,
very
bright, but worse, it was starting to burn like a breath held too long.

When I tried to inhale more, the pain only grew—as if someone had my heart clamped between two bricks.

I squeezed my skirts in my fingers and rasped, “
Hac nocte non somniabo.
” A tiny, familiar trickle buzzed through me, but it wasn’t enough—not even close.

I tried inhaling again, but my chest was so full, I could barely wedge in more air. The well of power in my chest hadn’t shrunk enough.


Hac nocte non somniabo
,” I repeated. Nothing happened. I tried again, panic rising in my throat. But still nothing happened.

I frantically scanned the room for something—anything—to inspire me, but my vision was turning spotty. I couldn’t breathe!

I slumped onto the ground as the room spun around me.
Oliver, help! Someone, please, help! Elijah . . .

And with that thought, power burst from my hands. Blue light was everywhere. It seared into my eyes and into my brain. I squinted, watching as the dingy bathroom transformed into . . .

It can’t be.

I gulped in a ragged breath and dug the heels of my hands to my eyes. I couldn’t be seeing right—except when I lowered my hands, the velvet sparkle was still there.

I was staring at the curtain between realms, and I could just make out the dock on the other side. Someone was on it—someone walking toward me.

“Elijah?” I threw out my hands, reaching for the starry world. “Elijah, is that you?” But I knew it was. I had just called him, hadn’t I? Now all I had to do was cross, and then we could talk.

“Eleanor! Are you in there?” Oliver banged at the bathroom door. I blinked rapidly as the world around me dissolved back into the water closet.

“Please let me in!” His voice sounded panicked. “I can feel something isn’t right.”

I lurched to the door, but my body was like pudding. I fumbled over and over with the lock. Finally, I managed to get the door open, only to find Oliver with his arms up, ready to pummel it.

He froze. “Blessed Eternity,” he swore. “What have you done?” He slid an arm behind me. “Come on—everyone’s staring.”

I glanced into his young face. He was wearing a new brown top hat. “That is a
lovely
hat. Wherever did you get it?”

His forehead wrinkled. “You’re drunk.”

“No, I’m not.” I rolled my eyes skyward . . . though I
was
feeling oddly fuzzy. And good—very good. “I can’t be drunk. I haven’t been drinking.”

“Off magic, I mean.” He glared at me accusingly. “What did you do?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but I found the curtain, Ollie! And the dock.”

His eyes grew huge. “Oh no. Oh
no
. Come on.” He tugged me toward the nearest window and patch of sunlight.

“Stand here,” he muttered, “and maybe no one will notice how much you’re
shining
. Foolish girl!”

“I’m shining?” I asked, glancing at my body. My sleeves seemed to twinkle, and my skin was as luminous as starlight. “Why?”

“It’s an effect from whatever spell you just cast. What spell
was
that, by the way?”

“None. It was all an accident. I was simply breathing, and somehow I made a well of power. Then . . .” I waved vaguely in the air.


Then
,” he said, “you realized you can’t collect your body’s power like that without expelling it. Foolish, foolish girl!”

“Stop saying that. You should have warned me.” I sighed and rubbed at my eyes. “Can we sit?”

“No—not until this spell wears off. And I would have warned you had I known you’d be stupid enough to try necromancy by yourself. Next time you decide to do it without me,
don’t.

“And I told you, I wasn’t trying. It simply happened.”

“Meaning you’re a lit fuse, El. Don’t you see? You’re too bloody powerful. Now that you’ve started learning necromancy, your body is using its magic on its own.” He gave a low moan. “You’re
sure
you saw the curtain?”

“And the dock—and Elijah was standing on it. I called for help from you
and
Elijah.” I grinned, utterly pleased with myself. “You both came.”

“Or else Marcus has some other finding spell on you. He could’ve been trying to lure you over. You were this close”—he held his thumb and pointer finger to his eye—“to walking over and right into the Hell Hounds’ maws.”

Other books

Movie Star Mystery by Charles Tang
Remembrance by Danielle Steel
Hammers in the Wind by Christian Warren Freed
The Sheikh's Offer by Brooke, Ella, Brooke, Jessica


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2021