Katherine leaned against Atian’s truck, her fingers tapped anxiously against her stomach; she’d press her hand flat but the tapping would start again. She grasped a vial in the other hand. She hoped it was enough to destroy Alex. She’d waited for so long already and now she finally had the strength. At first having Ysabel’s spirit trapped within her hadn’t seemed like a blessing, but Ysabel needed her to be strong; a simple agreement allowed Katherine access to her power. She finally had a grasp on how to shape energy to her will. But she would not be used again and she kept the barriers between them strong. Now with her magic fully awakened she could fight back. Something she could tell did not please Ysabel. But that didn’t matter to Katherine. It was time to tie up loose ends. A door slammed behind her and she forced her attention to Atian.
His concern was evident. Taking her hand, he asked, “Are you sure you want to do this…now?”
That’s precious. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be fine, promise.”
She tried to walk away but Atian pulled her back.
“Are you sure? Maybe we should call your sister?” His voice shook and he got quiet, like he always did when he was stressed.
Katherine bit back a sharp remark. He’d seen what she could do. She didn’t need Samiyah to take down some bottom-of-the-barrel demon, especially not when her sister would rather bury her head in the sand as often as possible. Katherine’s newfound love for her sister was severely tested. “She’s two days away. I need to do this now.” She gently pushed him back around the truck. “We’ll be home before you know it.”
Atian reluctantly let himself be guided back to the driver’s side, but he crushed her in a long hug and didn’t let her go without a kiss.
Katherine cast a circle in the air with her fingers, leaving a dull orange glow. She pulled out the spell she’d written from her skirt pocket. Katherine took a deep breath but still hesitated. Alex would be sealed in. But so was she.
Finding her courage she pulled energy from everything around her; the ground, every blade of grass and every leaf, from the tree bark to the sap beneath, the moisture gathering in the air that would soon be dew, and even the breeze. Finally she drew on her passion and focused it all into her spell. “Shadows lurking in the night. I summon you, Alex, come to me tonight.” Her voice thundered out, breaking through the chains that bind; that said a lady was quiet. It carried all her frustration. At her goal being so close only for it to crumble, for her to see what had always lain beneath the pretty lies. And Alex was going to pay for them all. She repeated the spell twice more. Her anger grew with each second.
The last word left her lips and a burst of warmth flooded her chest. Then the feeling exploded outward, knocking her against the barrier. She looked up to see Alex crouched, eyeing her with a mix of disdain and expectancy.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
He laughed. “Sorry princess. Is this better?” His expression changed to one of infatuation and he gave her a mock bow. “What an honor to be before someone who looks so…young.” His lips twitched as he fought to suppress another laugh.
Katherine slowly moved to a standing position. Her anger flared but she was in control here. He would not force her hand before she was ready. And then he said,
“Does he know? What you were willing to sacrifice for youth?” He tapped his chin. “I think your white knight would like to know.”
Katherine watched him walk past her. She’d stood eerily still. Her hatred seeped into the barrier like venom. Alex touched it and the orange glow consumed him. “You do not get to hold anything over me.” She felt a sudden disconnection as she approached him. Before panic could set in she made sure Ysabel was safely tucked away.
Alex folded in slow-motion, hitting the ground with a thud. He glared. His eyes lost all semblance of humanity. Black orbs with pin pricks of red stared back at her. “You aren’t a victim. You’re a brat and just as guilty as either me, or Nathaniel.”
Katherine summoned a gust of wind that slammed into him with the force of a truck. She heard a dull snap but she knew it must’ve been louder. “I would’ve done anything for him. And he would’ve killed me. I didn’t care what his plans were, why is what I wanted so much to ask for?”
“You meant nothing, your loyalty meant nothing.” Alex flung her away and pushed himself up. The right side of his ribcage hung loosely; bones pushing against his skin as they grinded together. He tried to summon something, Katherine felt him gathering energy, but he couldn’t.
“You’re trapped in my circle.”
He snarled, lunging for her with claws extended. She swatted him aside and let out a bored sigh. Confidence rushed through her, threatening to overflow, and left her feeling giddy. Katherine let her power slam into Alex. She wanted him to know exactly who he was dealing with. He eyed her wearily now. His movements became more measured, testing her out.
But Katherine had thought about this so much the reality seemed almost anticlimactic. And she knew of his fight with Samiyah, though getting that information from her sister had been a pain. Alex was just a brawler not a strategic fighter. He proved this by jumping at her again, only from a slightly different angle. This man used to be menacing. Now he was scrambling for the upper hand. Katherine laughed aloud at her naivety as she surrounded him in a column of flame.
Sauntering towards him, confident of her upper hand, Katherine wasn’t prepared for Alex to grab at her throat. She let out a yelp and threw herself backwards.
“Still a child. Your power means nothing.”
Katherine levitated him, still on fire, with one hand. With the other she struck him in the back with a lightning strike. His howl of agony made her shiver. Whether from joy or fear, Katherine didn’t know. She didn’t give herself time to think about it; and not just because the former disturbed her. Katherine saw the vial lying on the ground. Too close to the fire. She started to pull it towards herself when the fire exploded outward. Only reflexively summoning a shield saved her. Alex shed his human form and lunged at her. His claws were longer than anything Katherine had ever seen before and filed to a point. Sparks flew as they connected with her shield. Muscles in his thick hind legs bunched as he pushed against it. Katherine felt her panic rising when her shield moved back. She took a shaky step backwards; realizing distantly that one of her heels sank into the ground and broke when she did. Suddenly Katherine’s barrier clouded over. A man stood casually on the opposite side as if he’d simply stepped through. A shock of ginger hair fell into his eyes. Alex looked between them and jumped towards the man. In a movement faster than Katherine could follow he landed a punch that sent Alex flying back. His body crashed next to her. Katherine’s stomach churned when she saw a gaping hole in Alex’s chest.
“Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt you.” The man was next to her and Katherine realized he wasn’t that tall. She was only five six, four inches taller than Samiyah, and she looked him right in the eye. He grinned and she felt like running far away. “At least not this time.”
“Then why?” Katherine’s voice came out in a forced whisper.
“We don’t like demons in our territory.” His expression hardened, grey eyes turned cold. And then, in an instant, he was cheery again.
Katherine steadied herself and put on a calm front. “I had him.”
“Indeed you did. Interesting.” He gently took her hand and bought it to his lips. “I think we’ll have a lot to talk about in the future.”
His voice made her tense in anticipation. All her instincts screamed she’d be walking into danger but she…wanted that? She asked, before she could stop herself, “Is that so? In how near a future?”
He laughed. “Just keep me in mind.” He straightened the brown leather jacket he wore before turning away.
Before he could leave Katherine blurted out, “What’s your name?”
He stopped and listened to something, looking her over as he did so. Instead of feeling attracted, Katherine felt as if she were being judged and wondered what he saw. Finally he said, “Think of me as Jules.”
“Is that your real name?”
“Jules” threw back his head in laughter. “Of course not,” he said before disappearing.
As Katherine stood gathering her wits her barrier returned to its original orange color. She made herself move, finding the vial and coming to stand over Alex again. She felt nothing as the potion dissolved him. It would go beyond his physical body and destroy Alex’s energy so no one could ever resurrect him. Not that he was high enough anyone would care. Katherine wanted his suffering to be absolute; she’d never gone halfway on anything and she wasn’t going to start now. Once that task was done she let down her barrier to see Atian pacing by his truck.
Katherine walked over to him and threw her arms around Atian’s neck, a reassuring smile plastered on her face. “I told you. Nothing to worry about.”
He pursed his lips and his brows furrowed. He didn’t ask any questions, right now, just helped her back into the jeep. “I’m glad I was wrong.” Atian squeezed Katherine’s hand as he wrapped his other arm around her waist. They stayed like that a long time before Atian made a move to leave.