Authors: Phaedra Weldon
DANCE BY MIDNIGHT
Copyright © 2013 by Phaedra Weldon
All rights reserved.
Published by Caldwell Press
Cover Design Copyright © 2013 Design by Trap Door
Cover Image Copyright ©
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely fictional. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
THE GIRL iN THE BOOTS
I read in a book somewhere, that if you dwell on something long enough, you'll make it happen. Well I'm here to tell you—it's true. All day I'd tried to brush away the feeling something was watching me, which of course, just made me think about it more.
So when I snuck into the Laurel Grove Cemetery a little after midnight I'd moved beyond paranoid to jumping at every sound or imagined footfall. After twenty minutes or so I started relaxing a little, thinking maybe it was just all in my head.
Ten seconds later I found myself trying to breathe as an Angel strangled the 'effing shit out of me.
She didn't look like any Angel found in a book or a movie or on TV. She wasn't all gracious and golden and glowing love and light either. Gabriel was tall, lithe, and scary as hell. She reminded me of Switch from
, wearing white boots, white vinyl pants, white crop top and a long, white leather trench coat. The entire scary picture was topped off by a head full of spiky white hair. She had me off the ground. My feet dangled beneath me and the ice cold from the marble mausoleum wall bled through my denim jacket. I had my best death-grip on her wrists and tried with much enthusiasm, but little success, to pull her off of me.
She didn't start her attack with the strangle dance. In fact she surprised me with a right cross as she materialized out of the tombstone I was examining. I saw stars, kicked at her as she dove at me again and tried to run. That's when something very solid and very painful nailed the back of my legs. I literally flipped in the air as I ran and landed on my ass. That's when she grabbed my neck, dragged me to this mausoleum and pushed me up the side of it and started yelling.
—what are you looking for in a graveyard at midnight? Dust perhaps? Or maybe even a bone or two? Did something whisper to you from that damned book in your soul?"
Yeah…about that. She's not kidding…I have a book fused to my soul. Long story. Stay tuned.
That is, if I survive.
I suspected Gabriel wasn't going to kill me. The Seraphim, her boss and ruler of the Ethereal Plane, didn't want me dead because if I died then the book inside of me, simply called the
by everyone I'd ever met, would be free and up for grabs. And that would just make a mess of everything and apparently no one wanted that.
I closed my eyes and focused on the
. I had a teacher tell me once that my best defense was in learning to use the book. I'd been in Savannah nearly a month and still wasn't sure how to do that. That teacher always said that desperate times usually drove us toward desperate measures. Well—her exact words were '
when the student is ready, the teacher will come
.' I was pretty sure Gabriel wasn't the teacher no matter how desperately I wanted to learn. I needed some way to use the magic inside the book to get this Angel off my ass and I was sure that way was in this graveyard.
Yeah…and monkeys will fly out of my butt any minute.
My name's Dags McConnell. First name's Darren. I have no idea where the nickname Dags came from. I'm around 5'7", with dark brown hair and grey eyes. I love long walks on the beach and apparently having my ass kicked. And as you just learned, I have a magic book tucked inside my soul. The kicker there was that I seriously had no idea how to access any of the power everyone said was in this book. They told me I'd used it before—too bad I couldn't remember it. I didn't know if there was a key, or a spell, or a chant, or a word that would open it all up to me so I could yell—or squeak out—a spell for protection.
As demonstrated with the Angel choking me…I needed all the protection I could get from anything out of the Ethereal.
I tried to answer her, I
did. My face grew warm and spots did a hula in front of my eyes. I lost feeling in my hands and feet and not because of the temperature. I could see my breath in the cold…that is…if I could breathe.
"I can't kill you, which you probably already know. But by the terms of our contract, Guardian, you're not permitted within a hundred yards of anything remotely Planar, remember? That's why you had to leave Atlanta and all those people you care for so much."
I had confirmation. She
kill me. But that only scared me more when I thought of all the things she could do to me that didn't include death.
space nearby. I think it's best if I just put you in it until you're needed for the end—"
I heard the dog about a beat after she did, barking and growling nearby. Gabriel turned her frighteningly beautiful face away and peered into the darkness. "It…it
A light appeared about eye level with me in the distance. It started out as a pinpoint but quickly grew in size and I realized about the same time she did that it was coming right at us.
Gabriel released me just before whatever it was struck the mausoleum. Luckily, gravity brought me under it and I collapsed on all fours, hacking and coughing as I struggled to bring air into my lungs. My neck hurt but my head hurt worse. When I looked up and back at the mausoleum's side in the moonlight, I saw scorch marks in the shape of a large pentagram.
That's when a dog—no, a
—stepped out of the surrounding darkness and padded up beside me. It nudged my shoulder and gently pushed me to the left of the mausoleum wall. I could have sworn it was trying to herd me away from the mausoleum. I kept my cool—
—since I'd never been nose to nose with a large gray wolf before.
Gabriel's white clothing made her a moving target in the twilight. The nearly full moon illuminated everything about her, screaming
Pick me! Pick me!
She practically glowed. "Come out. I can sense your power, Witch."
Oh fuck no.
No no no no…not another Witch.
A Witch put the
inside of me—allegedly to save my life. And the same which apparently manipulated me into loving her. Since then I had no love for witches and no patience with them.
With that knowledge it was time to exit stage left. I ventured forth slowly—because I was in some serious physical pain—and turned in the direction Gabriel wasn't facing with the visualization of getting to my car and getting the hell out of there.
Only…the wolf was in my way. If I tried to move to either side of it, it growled and showed teeth. So I remained on my ass, hidden in the shadow of the mausoleum, guarded by a gray wolf. I didn't think my life could get any weirder.
"You gotta be kiddin' me." The voice had a slight southern lilt and belonged to a young woman. "What in the hell brings an Angel into a cemetery at midnight?"
She appeared out of the darkness and stood several feet away from Gabriel. "You know you're not supposed to be here, Cherubim. And you of all of the Ethereals know this is a serious breech of protocol. So, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
I gave her points for spunk. Her outfit added to that spunk. Big black vinyl boots with shit-kicking heels and big silver buckles hugged her calves to her knees. A short black skirt hung about mid-thigh, exposing skin between the knee and thigh. A short-sleeved white button down hung untucked beneath an oversized black vest that would probably look more at home in a men's three-piece suit.
Dark hair hung long over her shoulders. What I could see of her face in the twilight was beautiful.
Gabriel scowled. "Who the fuck are you?"
The girl in the boots laughed. "I'm your worst nightmare." Her expression remained serious for about two beats before she erupted in laughter and waved her hand dismissively. "I've always wanted to say that!"
"This is not a game, little Witch. You are no match for me. Now if you care to survive and not become a Power just to entertain me, then I suggest you leave.
I knew a Power was an Ethereal's slave, a host for Angelic essence created and controlled by a Virtue. Powers inhabited dead bodies and did their maker's bidding. I guess Cherubims, as well as Virtues, could make them? I didn't like the idea of her doing that to the girl in the boots. But how was I going to help when I had such limited resources? Not to mention I was starting to feel a
, but I'm not in the mood. See I've got business out here myself, and I don't need an Ethereal tainting the place or torturing poor little kids."
"What the hell are you? Just stupid?" Gabriel sounded as confused as she did angry. This girl interrupted her playtime with me.
The girl in the boots put her hands on her hips. "I'm a child of Eurynome, Ethereal bitch. God Mother's chosen. And it's my job to keep your kind out of where it doesn't belong."
Gabriel spat at her. "Your kind no longer exists. You were all destroyed in the Bulwark."
"Yeah…we were. But you see…." The girl in the boots held out her hands, palms up. "Our lineage comes from a place much more powerful than yours. Eurynome is more than just Creatrix. She's mother, isn't she? She's Iahu."
Iahu…I knew that word. It was Sumerian and meant "exalted dove." It was also the name given to Mother Earth, or the equivalent. Mother Nature, Gaia. All the same.
"You are a Witch, nothing more. A human who just happens to have access to the Mental Plane."
"Wow…." The girl in the boots lowered her hands. "You really are delusional if you think that's it. Now…I really can't stand here and chit-chat. It's time for you to go back to where you came." She raised her arms again; only this time she moved them in opposite directions, the right arm making a right-handed arc, the left making a left-handed arc. The movement created bright lines in the air in front of her, forming a symbol that remained suspended in brilliant blue and white. "I am a Child of the Wandering Wide. I call upon the gates of future and past and cast you back into the world you hold so dear." She held out her hands. "
So mote it be!
I didn't really expect anything to happen. I mean—Gabriel was a Cherubim and they're like the upper crust of the First Choir, or we can call it the
. Hell I'd seen several people go up against Ethereals and get their asses handed to them in seconds. Including mine. So I was a bit upset this girl in the boots was about to have her nice little butt treated in the same way.
Only…that's not what happened.
Gabriel looked confused, especially as the girl in the boots started her incantation (which she said
fast). I thought the Cherubim would counter the spell or block it. But even after Boots released it, which I figured the
So mote it be!
was for, I didn't see anything. No light show, no blinding auras, no sparks.
It took a few seconds before I realized Gabriel was gone. Not even a pop sound. Just…there one minute, gone the next.
I relaxed back against the mausoleum wall. The cold replaced the air around me and I shivered. My toes were already goners 'cause I couldn't feel them.
She smacked her hands together as if getting the dirt off and then came toward me. I held up my hand as the wolf bounded to her and to my shock and horror, pounced on her. Only it wasn't in a
grrrr I'm gonna eat you
way. It was more in a fun, loving,
I wanna be your bed buddy
Apparently they knew each other.
She snapped her fingers and a light appeared over her hand. It hovered for a second before ascending above us to stop a few feet over our heads. The light was pretty bright, but the height diffused the glow—like having a private sun. She squatted with her knees against her chest and leaned in close. "Wow…she did a number on you. You're going to have a black eye….and a black cheek. Oh, and your jaw is looking a bit bad too. Can you walk?"
I nodded to her, mesmerized by her face. She was prettier up close, or was it the twilight that did it? Dark eyes clothed in darker makeup. She was almost goth but not quite. More like…schoolgirl goth. Which was kinda hot. Her left eye had a small heart beneath it. I wasn't sure if it was drawn on or a tattoo.
To prove to her I could move and not be the helpless dude, I started to get up. Only the stars that filled my vision robbed me of my dignity as I fell back against the side of the mausoleum, nauseated. Oh God…I was going to lose my cookies in front of a good looking woman.