“Unless you want to carry the two of us the entire way, I’m going to need some blood.” I gr0aned.
The second Ember removed the cuffs, my body slumped forward like a sack of bricks.
My flesh had become a dead weight that refused to cooperate with my exhausted brain. Concrete bit into the palms of my hands as I struggled to stand to my feet. Ember huffed and released her hold on Brandon, letting him crash to the floor as she knelt at my side.
Agh! Fvck, Ember. Could you have been any rougher?” Brandon gr0aned, cradling his bloody wrists against his ch3st.
She side-eyed him and said, “Yes, actually. I could’ve. “
Well, thanks for being gentle.” Brandon shot back sarcastically.
Ember thrust out her arm, her wrist inches from my face. She stared down at me with a scowl on her face. It deepened when I stared at her through cloudy, disoriented eyes.
“I don’t care if you’re on your death bed, this is a one-time offer. Bite me and take some blood before I change my mind.”
My vision doubled as I reached out and wrapped my hand around her arm, feeling for a soft, fleshy spot to sink my teeth into.
“Don’t have to tell me twice.” I muttered, bringing her arm to my mouth.
A faint hiss slid past her l!ps as my teeth sliced through the layers of skin covering her muscle, carving a path to the blood-filled veins below. If I wasn’t losing strength with every passing second, I might’ve found it strange that I was biting Ember of all people, drinking her blood like it was the nectar of the gods.
Come to think of it, the flavor was a bit different.
Much like her scent, Ember’s blood had a kick of spice to it, like it had been infused with cinnamon, clove, and hints of a crackling bonfire. The warmth of her blood”updated by jobnib.com” spread throughout my body, increasing in heat until it was almost painful. Just as I felt the l!ck of actual flames against the inside of my veins, it vanished. In its stead came strength and a weightlessness that made my limbs tingle.
The wounds around my wrists, ankles, and neck began to fade, the skin stitching itself back together with the help of my magic.
“Don’t drink me dry, now. Thirsty b!tch…”
Ember grunted; her voice laced with pain.
I pulled away and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. Ember sat back on her haunches before losing her balance. Her bvtt hit the cement floor with a light thud. She blinked a few times in rapid succession, shaking her head as though she were trying to clear away the cobwebs.
Brandon was slumped against the wall, watching the two of us with an expression I recognized all too well.
That was kind of hot.”
“Shut up.” Ember and I snapped in unison.
I locked eyes with her. Mine narrowed on their own accord and hers quickly followed suit. Just like Tessa, there was no way I’d trust this girl, but I’d take whatever risks necessary to get out of this place.
Getting to my feet was all too easy now that I was healed and my strength slowly on the mend. I made my way to Brandon holding out a hand that he didn’t hesitate to accept. As I helped him to his feet, I reached out with my magic and imagined it washing over his skin, carrying away the wounds he endured.
They were much worse than what I endured since he couldn’t help but thrash against the cuffs. I could only heal them about three quarters of the way before I felt my energy wane.
There were still bands of red skin where the metal had touched him, but they were no longer festering. That had to be good enough.
Your magic feels tingly.” Brandon commented, shaking his hands out.
That’s lovely. Can we get going before Freya comes back and murders us? Ember said pointedly.
Curiosity had me asking before I could think otherwise. “If Freya isn’t here, then where is she?”
She’s out running an errand. Don’t ask me what it is because I don’t have a clue. What I do know is that we need to be long gone before she comes back, or we’re all screwed.” Ember replied, scaling the three concrete steps that sat before the heavy wooden door blocking us in.
She raised her fist and knocked three times before a lock clicked and the door swung open.
Beyond it was a set of stairs cloaked in heavy darkness. The only source of light came from a small sliver beneath a door up ahead.
“Follow my lead and say nothing.” She commanded, hitting Brandon and I with a stern look.
We took the stairs one by one, drawing closer to that small sliver of light with ever step we took.
On the fourth step, a faint sound hit my ears. By the sixth, I recognized it as laughter. The laughter didn’t belong to one person, but dozens. There was a robotic quality to it that came off as odd, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was until we reached the top and Ember opened the door.
It was a television, an old one with a build in DVD player. The screen was oversaturated with color, though that could’ve been due to the kids show that was playing. As we stepped into the kitchen, a cheesy laugh track sounded.
What followed next was a giggle, one too real to have come from the television’s crappy speakers.
We stepped into a kitchen that looked like it had been plucked from the early 2000’s. The tile floors had a checker pattern that stood out against the pale-yellow cabinets. There was a white kitchen table at the center and sitting in one of the wooden chairs was a little girl.
Her hair was the same pale yellow as the cabinets, pulled into two pigtails that rested on either side of her head. The little white bows attached faced outward, their tails swinging every time she giggled at the TV.
Ember approached the little girl slowly. I couldn’t help but notice how her movements were slow and almost cautious. It set me on edge, Brandon too from the looks of it. What kind of magic did this little girl have that would make a witch like Ember nervous?
Angelica, I need your help.” Ember’s voice was unnaturally soft. The tone sounded strange with her slightly raspy voice.
I could only see the side of her face, but upon noticing Ember, the little girl smiled. That smile was wiped away when she turned her head further to the right and spotted Brandon and I hovering by the door.
Her pink l!ps popped into an ‘o and stayed that way.
Now that I could see the girl’s entire face, I realized she couldn’t have been older than six or seven. Looking closer, I noticed a sparkly sheen over the girl’s eyelids and her eyelashes appeared longer than normal. Wait, was she wearing make-up?
She was, I realized. The child had a full face of make-up on, foundation and all, but it was applied in a way that was meant to look natural.
Even her clothes were odd, nothing like what you’d see a child in today’ s time wearing. She had on a baby-pink dress with white lace and frills that circled her neck, arms, and the skirt of the dress.
She looked like a baby doll.
Ember’s eyes slid up to my face. There was something some kind of emotion shining in them that made my stomach twist into knots.
Could she see that I was noticing these strange things about the little girl? Did she notice them herself?
The subtle nod she gave me was answer enough.
She noticed, alright.
“O000oh, Ember. You’re going to be in trouble.”
Angelica, the little girl, gasped. She lifted her finger, which was painted pink with a strip of white at the top and waggled it at Ember like a disappointed mother.
Ember crouched low, her hands on her knees as she smirked at Angelica and whispered, “Aw, come on, Angelica. You were just saying how bored you are sitting here all day. I brought these two up so we could play a game. You do want to play with us, don’t you?”
Angelica perked up immediately, her baby-blue eyes sparkling as she squealed and flashed ember a set of little white teeth. She craned her head towards Brandon and I, her curled pigtails bouncing.
You’re here to play with us?” She chirped, her eyes flitting between Brandon and me.
I’d never been the best with children, but considering our lives were on the line, it was high time I learned. I mimicked Ember’s stance, sinking down to Angelica’s level.
“Of course we are. It’s pretty boring down there.
My friend and I love games.” I said sweetly.
I narrowed my eyes at Brandon, who had been standing there with his mouth open, gawking at the entire situation.
Oh, yeah. We love games. Poker, blackjack, you name it. ” He sputtered.
What’s blackjack?” Angelica inquired in her wispy soprano.
I’ll teach you that one later. Ember promised, shooting a glare at Brandon. “Right now, I thought we’d play a game using our magic.”
Angelica jumped out of the chair so quickly that she almost knocked it over. She bounced up and down on her feet.
Yes! Let’s play a game with magic!” She squealed, clapping her little hands together.
Alright, then. Here’s what we need to do, Angelica. Think of it like hide-and-seek.
Mistress Freya is going to come looking for us.
We need to make sure she can’t find us, which is where you come in. You think you’re up for the job?” Ember asked the chíld.
“Does Mistress Freya know we’re playing this game?” Angelica inquired, a curious tilt to her head.
Ember nodded. She sure does.”
“Okay, then. When do we start?” Angelica replied.
We start now. Go on and grab your coat.
Ember ushered Angelica out of the kitchen and beckoned us to follow.
The living room was fully furnished and cluttered in a way that made the place look lived in. Framed photos decorated the fireplace mantle, while embroidered curtains covered the windows.
Before I could truly search the place, Angelica appeared. She had on a little white peacoat that matched her dress and showed just a hint of ruffle down at the bottom.
Ready to go, Emmy.” Angelina sang brightly.
Brandon hit Ember with a look. Before I could jab my elbow into his ribcage, he snorted and muttered, “Emmy, huh?”
“Quiet.” Ember hissed, marching over to the front door where she gripped the knob hard enough to dent the metal.
My heart skipped a beat as she yanked it open, growing faster as we stepped outside and into the open air. It wasn’t the full moon that hung front and center that ripped the breath from my lungs, but rather the fact that I recognized the neighborhood we stood in.
I’d been to this neighborhood more times than I could count to train with Rowena and Cordelia.
This entire time, we hadn’t even left the pack.