“They…were…twins.” Tonya acted as if she were having to push each word through a too-thin pipe. “Daniel worked at the hospital morgue…Robert was a good-for-nothing con artist. Yes. That’s right.” Flowing more easily now. “My Daniel was not jealous of his brother.”
And yet, the words seemed so rehearsed, as if she were repeating something she’d been told over and over. Maybe she was. Those spell books…the shadows in her eyes…the faded black aura Riley had mentioned.
Perhaps Tonya’s emotions and her unwavering loyalty were magic-driven.
Yes. That was it, Victoria realized with shock.
In unison, she and Aden sat up straighter. “I think I know what happened,” they said.
MEMORIES FLOODED ADEN. None of them his own, all of them Julian’s, and all of them devastating. His name was Robert Smart. Yes, he’d had thinning hair and had worn glasses. Daniel had been the good-looking one, the strong one, the smart one, but he’d never been the beloved one, and so he’d always been jealous of Robert’s talent for the supernatural.
So Daniel had turned to spell books. Black magic, deeper and deeper into the occult, until finally delving into human sacrifice.
Normal people would not have known to go that route, but Daniel hadn’t been normal. His human parents had loved all things mystical, believing whole heartedly in psychics, Ouija boards and enchantment of any kind.
Maybe that’s why they had loved Robert so much more. Maybe that’s why Daniel had finally struck at him—fatally.
On the night of December twelfth, Daniel had called Robert and asked him to come to the hospital. Robert had gone because he’d wanted to talk some sense into his twin. But there had been no talking. Daniel had stabbed him over and over, trying to draw Robert’s ability into his own body as Robert lay dying.
Only, Robert had been absorbed by Aden—his past buried, his mind reborn—before his twin could succeed.
Something else Robert had done to defeat his brother during those final minutes alive? Over the years he’d learned to control his ability to raise the dead, and he’d raised the corpses in the morgue. Several had disposed of Robert, eating him completely, and the rest had killed Daniel before help arrived.
Before all of that, however, Daniel had cast a spell over Tonya to gain her eternal devotion.
“Uh, Aden,” Victoria said at the same time Julian said, I loved her, his tone sad, so sad and heavy with his memories, but she never loved me back. She loved him, and she paid for it. Too late she realized Daniel’s craziness and tried to leave him. That’s when he cursed her to love him always. All I wanted, there at the end, was to set her free. And I could have done it, if my own brother hadn’t betrayed me.
“Then we’ll set her free now,” Aden said. A wave of sadness moved through him. Doing this would set Julian free, as well. Smart-mouthed, fun-loving Julian, whom he adored. Whom he wanted to keep forever. Losing Eve had devastated him. Losing Julian would be even worse. Julian was like his brother, closer than blood.
How, though? Julian asked. I need to know what spell Danny used, and I don’t know. I wasn’t there. That’s the real reason I went to the hospital. To see if I could trick him into telling me.
What if you traveled back through her life? We could listen to the spell he cast.
Wait, wait, wait, Elijah said before Aden could turn his attention to Victoria. He travels back, he looks through Tonya’s eyes, hears through her ears, and HE—WE—could become bespelled to love Daniel, too. I don’t think any of us want that.
And he, we, could not become bespelled. It’s worth the risk, Julian replied with a huff and a puff.
They always thought the risks Aden took on their behalves were worth it. For them, they were. For everyone else, no.
He didn’t go back for my witches, he’s not going back for your human, Caleb said.
He told us he’d do anything to help us, Julian snapped. Correct me if I’m wrong, but time traveling falls into the category of anything.
“Guys, please. There’s gotta be another way. How many times do I have to say this—traveling through the past is dangerous.”
Aden forced the room back into focus. “Victoria, I—” The words died in his throat.
His father was sitting next to a too calm Tonya, a gun resting on his thigh, the barrel pointed at Aden. Immediately Aden jumped to his feet, in front of Victoria, acting as her shield. Junior belted out a snarl, responding to the spike of aggression in Aden’s veins.
The ward to control the beast suddenly seemed like a brilliant idea, damn the consequences.
Aden did a little deep breathing, keeping his blood pressure down and his head clear. Emotions were not going to engulf him. Not this time.
“Do you really think I’d ward you and not make one of them a tracker?”
Joe had always known where he was, he realized. His father had simply chosen not to seek him, until now. Don’t react. That’s what he wants.
“Now, if I was going to hurt your girl, I would have hurt her already.” Joe tapped at the trigger, light but threatening all the same. “Sit down.”
Aden sat, angling his body so that he remained Victoria’s shield. She trembled against him, her chilled breath shuddering over his neck.
“He snuck in, and…” Another shudder raked her.
He reached back and squeezed her knee.
“I’d be still if I were you,” Joe said. “The slightest move makes me twitchy.”
Tonya hadn’t moved or spoken during the entire exchange. She wasn’t dead, but she wasn’t all there, either.
“I drugged her,” Joe explained, having noticed Aden’s attention on the woman. “One injection, and she’s out but still functioning. Guy learns to use what weapons he can when he’s always running for his life.”
The first wave of danger had passed. Clearly conversation was up next on the chopping board. “You sound bitter. As old as you are, you should get over yourself already. Some people have had harder lives.”
Junior kicked up a bit of a fuss, drowning out the arguing souls.
One sandy-colored brow arched. “Meaning you? You think you had a harder life than me, boy?”
Don’t you dare react. “Meaning you’re a baby. By the way, you should see what happened to the last guy who held a weapon on me. Oh, wait. You can’t. He’s dead.”
Joe placed his free hand over his heart. “My son, the killer. I’m so proud.”
First time Joe had ever willingly acknowledged their link. And to do it that way, full of piss and vinegar, well, that was a far more deadly weapon than the gun. “So you’ve never killed in self-defense, you—”
In and out he breathed.
Victoria linked their hands. Her trembling had intensified, though her expression was serene. Junior gave another roar. Much as Aden despised his…this man—no way he’d refer to the guy as his dad again—he didn’t want Joe to become a Happy Meal for his beast.
“By the way, your conversations with yourself are more interesting now than they were when you were three.” Joe’s gaze shifted to Victoria. “Do you know what his first word was? Lijah. His second was Ebb. His third, Jew-els. His forth, Kayb. Yes, he had a slight pronunciation problem.”
I was last? Caleb said. Thanks for the love, Hay-den.
Rather than getting caught up in a distracting conversation with the soul, Aden ignored him. There had been no affection to Joe’s words. Just straight-up facts. No question, Joe was determined to flay him alive and leave him bleeding to death internally.
Murder with words. Smart. You couldn’t be convicted for that.
Victoria tsked under her tongue. “You know, Joe—may I call you Joe?—Aden probably said the names of the souls first because they were better parents and friends to him than you had ever been or would ever be. Food for thought, don’t you think?”
Joe popped his jaw, and Aden squeezed Victoria’s knee, in warning this time, hoping to stop her from lashing out again. However sweetly she lashed out. Do not poke at the armed bear. Aden could, because well—fine, that wasn’t such a good idea, either. Not while Victoria was so vulnerable.
“Enough of that. Let’s get down to business, shall we?” Joe said. “Why do you want to travel back through this woman’s life?”
“I don’t.” But why not tell him the rest? Wasn’t like Aden had been doing anything wrong. “However, she was bespelled, and I need to break that spell. To break it, I need to know what spell was used.”
“You can’t tell?” Asked with the same intonation Joe might have used speaking to a special needs kid.
At least he hadn’t called Aden a liar. “You can?”
“Wait. You can time travel into people’s pasts, you’re apparently king of the vampires and wolves, and you can’t hear the echo of the spell cast? Can’t feel the vibe of its magic?”
Again with the special needs voice. “You can?” he repeated. “Wait. Don’t tell me. You have a ward for that, too.”
A shake of his blond head. “Practice.” Then, “Why do you care about this woman anyway? She’s nothing to you.”
“I don’t,” he went on, “but one of the souls inside my head does.”
Okay, then. I can respect that.
“The souls. Of course. You always did love them best.” Joe turned to Tonya. “Be a dear and fetch me a pen and paper, darlin’. All right?”