Read Out of the Shadows Online

Authors: L.K. Below

Out of the Shadows

 

 

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

The Order, Book Two

 

By L.K. Below

 

 

 

 

 

LYRICAL PRESS

http://lyricalpress.com/

 

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/

 

 

To the Spenta Michos, around whom this series is based. To the members of the Char-Lan writer’s club, for indulging my desire to write a shared world. To Mom, Dad, Sam, and Travis, for encouraging me to keep going. To Gina Gordon, for telling me this one was even better than the last.

And a huge thank-you to Maeghan Etherington, for the loan of her character, Heaven.

 

 

Acknowledgements
 

 

ACKNOWLEDGES GOE HERE

 

 

Chapter 1

Watched by Heaven

 

A shadow flitted across Heaven’s peripheral vision. Pretending to flick her blond hair out of her eyes, she canted her head. The rough pavement, lit by streetlights and the headlights of passing cars, was deserted. Still, she knew someone followed her. She might act like a ditz, but she’d learned from an early age how to remain quiet and unseen.

She’d also learned to spot danger from a distance. And the shadow trailing her had latched onto her heels from the moment she’d left the diner parking lot.

Who followed her? Without marking how close they dogged her, she didn’t know whether she could outrun them. But should she? Curling her fingers around the little gold notebook sitting heavily in her pocket, she tried to keep her pace even. Maybe her pursuer had a hand in kidnapping the man she searched for.

But even then, what could be solved by allowing herself to be caught?

Shaking her head, she continued to stroll down the street as if all alone. If the person tailing her knew where she worked, they knew where she lived, too. Best to reach the safety of her run-down apartment and barricade the door.

Her legs protested every mechanical movement. As her breath sawed in and out of her lungs, Heaven strained her ears for the sound of footsteps. She heard none. The mundane sounds of the city, of cars passing, drowned them out. Instead of breaking into a run as her pounding heart demanded, Heaven started to hum her favorite song under her breath.

There– Was that the sound of a rock skittering away from someone’s shoe? How close behind her
? Don’t turn your head. Just keep walking
. Somehow, she managed to overcome her clamoring instincts and continue.

A horn blared by her ear. Heaven nearly tripped over her feet. Only a car alarm. But the sound gave her the opportunity to sneak a glance behind her. She saw no one. Had she been wrong?

As she continued walking, she couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. If whoever followed her had hidden themselves, they couldn’t harbor benign intentions. The muscles in her legs tensed. She still didn’t start to run, but she picked up her pace into a speed walk.

A shadow caught her eye in the alley next to her. Frowning, she paused. She saw no one, but a moment before, she could have sworn a figure dashed past the entrance. Maybe she was letting her imagination run away with her. Exhaling, she forced herself to relax as she continued walking.

The street in front of her was empty of pedestrians. Then a pair of broad shoulders blocked the light of the street lamp.

Heaven stumbled backward, a scream lodged in her throat. Cars zoomed past, lending the illusion of safety. At this time of night, no one would stop to help her if she was caught in a bad situation. The best she could hope for would be if someone called the cops. But as she tilted her head to view the stranger’s face, her heart calmed. She was in no danger from him…she thought.

“You’re Lori’s uh…friend, right?”

“Yes.”

The man’s voice was deep and smooth, like the swipe of a hot knife through butter. The streetlight cast shadows over his rigid face. His eyes glittered like stars, reflecting the light.

Had he been so tall last time they’d met? Somehow he seemed more dangerous without his slim, angry, Goth girlfriend glued to his side. She couldn’t remember his name.

“Terrence. And I have something I want you to do for me.”

She suppressed a shudder as he spoke. The light glinted off the tips of his sharp fangs. Heaven would never understand freaks like him. Why glue fake fangs to your teeth? He had to know he wasn’t a real vampire, so why pretend? His fangs blended so seamlessly with his teeth, he must have had them surgically installed.

Abruptly, she realized he’d said something more than only his name. “You want me to d-do something for you?” Damn it! Why was there a quaver in her voice? She was safe with Terrence, even if she’d never felt less safe in her life.

As if he sensed her fear, he shifted closer. His face masked his every emotion, but somehow that seemed even more intimidating than if he’d shown her open hostility. His low, velvet voice penetrated the white noise of the city. Then every sound but his voice seemed to drop away, leaving a ringing in her ears.

“Yes, Heaven. I hear you’re a master at observing people, and I need someone watched.”

Heaven swallowed against the bitter reminder of her failure. If she’d really been so keen, the Order’s leader would never have been kidnapped on her watch. She didn’t have time to gallivant on some random mission. She needed to find the Spenta Michos or the Order would fall apart.

Not that it hadn’t already.

 
As she moved to brush Terrence off, he wrapped his icy fingers around her forearm. Although she didn’t fight him, she tentatively flexed her arm. His hold was stiff, and likely too strong for her to break. He had her trapped. Meeting her gaze, he spread his lips, giving her an even better view of his lethal fangs. From his forbidding expression, he wasn’t afraid to use them.

“You will do this for me.” His tone was absolute, final.

Yeah, I guess I will.
What other choice did she have? Once upon a time, she might have been naive enough to think any friend-of-a-friend would never harm her. Not that she and Lori were friends. No, as fellow Order members, they were more like acquaintances. Though come to think of it, Terrence was an Order member too, if one only inducted after their leader had gone missing. They didn’t have the same bond of trust as she and Lori did. To be honest, Heaven didn’t even know how far that bond stretched anymore. Too many Order members had died recently under suspicious circumstances.

“I’ll need a name,” she spat, trying to hide her unease toward this man. If anything, the stretch of a smile which bared his fangs ratcheted her anxiety a knot higher.

“Lori Skein. I want to know where she goes, what she does, who she talks to, and what she says. And she isn’t to know I’m alive.”

Why would Terrence want her to stalk his girlfriend? And why was he faking his death? Heaven didn’t move. Terrence wasn’t telling her something, and she didn’t dare ask. Instead, she said, “For how long?”

“Until I tell you to stop.”

His eyes bored into her. They were so intense, she knew if she even had a stray inclination to swindle him, he would be able to read it. She didn’t have time for this. The Spenta Michos was out there, somewhere, but she would be forced to babysit an Order member rather than look for him. The chances of Lori actually being hot on his trail were slim. After all, Lori was no tracker like Heaven.

Actually, Heaven had no idea where Lori’s talents might lie.

Returning to the present, she spat, “Fine. But I have other responsibilities too, you know. I’ve got school and stuff.”

Terrence’s fingers tightened around her arm. “Then it’s fortunate Lori keeps to a nocturnal schedule.”

“You can’t expect me to stay awake twenty-four seven!”

He shook her. Her fingers started to tingle from lack of feeling. That couldn’t be good.

“I expect you to do your job, starting now.”

He released her and the blood rushed back into her hand in a hot flood. Pins and needles broke out over her skin. She tried to keep her discomfort hidden while she discreetly flexed her hand.

Now? Did he really expect her to start this insane new assignment at the drop of a hat? After school and a six-hour shift at the diner, Heaven didn’t have the energy. She closed her eyes, rubbing the throb beginning to build at her temples. Terrence didn’t seem to care about her state of fatigue.

“I’ll be in contact.” His harsh voice ripped through her, doubling the pain in her head.

When she glanced up, he had disappeared. An eerie shiver passed over her skin. Did he still watch her? She glanced in the direction she had been traveling. Five minutes’ more and she would reach the relative safety of the apartment she shared with her father. She could barricade herself in her room. Sleep, and forget her encounter with Terrence had ever happened.

But if she did, what would be the consequences? When she’d first met Terrence, she’d thought him an eager puppy, willing to do anything to catch Lori’s attention. But now… Now she was starting to revise her opinion of him entirely. Terrence had secrets. As dangerous as it might be, she wanted to find out what those secrets were.

Since she didn’t seem to have much of a choice, why shouldn’t she play obedient, just this once? She could piece together Terrence’s mystery at the same time she spied on his girlfriend.

* * * *

Heaven found Lori in the campus library of her university. Truthfully, it was the last place she would have looked, but she’d called in a favor from a friend and tracked Lori’s cellphone. The woman she found bent over a textbook was not the version of Lori to which Heaven had grown accustomed.

Lori wore no makeup. Her skin was naturally pale. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles instead of heavy eyeliner. She wore form-fitting black clothes without the netted gloves, spiked bracelets, or chains she usually donned. Her gray-tipped black hair was pulled back into a ponytail.

Heaven perused the perimeter of the library for half an hour. During that time, Lori stared at the same exact page. Every now and again, she would pass her hand over her eyes or inspect her black fake nails. She stuffed her iPod earphones into her ears, but yanked them out again after a few minutes. She closed her book and glanced at the round library clock, then opened the book again.

Not exactly the spine-tingling sort of information Heaven could report. How long was she supposed to attend to this farce? Keeping one eye on Lori, she pulled the little gold book out of her pocket and flipped through it. The Spenta Michos’s thoughts, jotted down in mostly illegible script. She’d already poured over the book enough times to have it nearly memorized. Lunch dates, abbreviated ideas for fictional stories, thoughts on books and how to reach students. Nothing out of the ordinary. If it was a code, she hadn’t figured out the key. She was reluctant to pass such an object onto someone else. Holding the Spenta Michos’s journal made her feel as if she would find him just around the next corner.

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