Numbness seeped into my bones. I had no immediate reaction to Dean's scary confession. His words felt heavy, like a building was breaking apart and rubble was piling on top of me, crushing me.
"Do you understand now?"
Understand? Which past should I wrap my head around first? The fact that I'd killed a man with a single thought or the fact that my Mom was in imminent danger? Or—wait for it—that my father hadn't been an ordinary man, but the leader of a Coven of dark Witches? And I was the unwilling candidate to take his place.
"It's a little hard to know which part you're talking about." I stood there numbed by all.
Dean gave a solid nod, his face a mask devoid of emotion all of a sudden.
"We need to leave this town. Now. You're not safe. Your Magic is running wild. I can teach you how to control it, but we need to survive."
Throwing a furtive glare with equally chilly blues, I stood my ground, the ever-growing worry for the people I loved festering inside me like an ugly rash.
"We're not leaving," I stated, breathing harshly. "Not until I see my Mom and Spencer."
Dean's jaw was taut as he spoke, "Did you listen to a word I said? These people want you for a leader. They want you to give into power, to become like them. Cruel killers who think they're above any law. They who won't stop at nothing to get what they want. Does that sound appealing to you?" I stepped closer to him, the swell of my chest brushing the sturdiness of his. I wouldn't look away first, I wouldn't let him win. "You have no idea what they're capable of, Camille. What you saw at the party? That was child's play. So, you have two options. You either come with me or you stay and wait for them to come back and hurt everyone in this little town. Because they're hunting you."
My eyes flinched once his face tilted lower and our nose tips brushed. When I opened them again, a mirthless smirk greeted me.
"It's your call, Red."
I'd spent less than twenty minutes with Dean and I got a feeling that… He already knew my weak spots. If I felt this guilty about murdering an evil Warlock, how would I feel if hundreds of people died because of me? People like Spencer, Kevin, teachers like Mr. Lewis who I'd known since I was a little kid because they were friends of Mom's. Dean was a clever, confident guy. I could read it in the way he held himself or the way he voiced his thoughts. We did need to leave, but I wouldn't leave without checking on Mom. There was no way in hell Dean would agree to a detour from wherever we were going to Mom's café; my best plan was to make him think I was playing his game, then, when he least expected it, I could find an opening and make a run for it. Familiars couldn't hurt their Witches, that much I knew. Mind made up, I gave a subtle nod, forcing my features into a sad, but compliant facade.
"Okay," I hushed out to solidify the act. One eyebrow arched, taken aback. I huffed out a breath, hugging my elbows. "What? You've made it clear I can't stay. My own Mother wants me to listen to you. I don't have a choice, do I?"
Dean said nothing.
"Alright then," I filled up my lungs. "Let's go."
For a minute, I thought he'd call my bluff. Dean shook wavy strands aside, jerking his chin forward; the breath I'd been holding emptied out of me. We walked stepped deep into the darkness of the forest; oak trees surrounded us, their thick branches and heavy foliage allowing for scarce moonlight to shine through. Dean was guiding us through the dark maze; I wondered if he could see in the dark, thanks to his status as a Familiar. As we walked, I forced myself not to linger on bad thoughts. Mom was a Witch; she didn't practice Witchcraft, not since I could remember, but the capacity for channeling Essence didn't fade. If she needed to use Magic, she could. Shutting out the bad case scenarios, I focused on what she'd said on the phone. I snuck a side-glance at my... Familiar. She'd met him days ago; this was so weird. Just this morning, I'd been a mediocre Witch. Now, I was some kind of Super-Witch.
If my parents were both Witches and I was supposed to have a larger sum of Essence in me and be able to channel massive quantities of it, why hadn't my Magic manifested itself on large scale before tonight?
I let out an involuntarily squeal as a strong arm snuck around my waist, hauling me against what felt like a solid brick wall. The wall wasn't a wall at all, since it was heaving up and down. The fact that Dean and I were pressed so tightly together, with my butt brushing places I definitely shouldn't be thinking about right now, was lost to me as twigs snapped. Dean moved us behind a thick oak, clapping a hand over my mouth.
"Don't make a sound." He whispered, lips brushing my left earlobe.
My heart hammered for what felt like countless hours, growing louder in my ears with each heavy thump. A rush of dizziness ran me through. Dean kept us pressed tightly as he snuck a peek at who was coming our way from up ahead.
He bit a loud curse as I forcefully detached myself from his grip, peering around the trunk. Terror hit me in a tidal wave. Although it was pitch black, I could make out the nearly white hair, smeared with dark splotches. Sick relief flourished as I watched the male wobble, putting one foot in front of another slowly. Like a mindless zombie or Mom without her caffeine fix. It was the man I killed! How was he…? Hadn't I killed him? As he came closer, I saw blood on him. He was so pale it made for a stark contrat; my stomach spasmed. A hand flew to it; this wasn't a good moment to be skin. The Warlock's eyes were gone; in their place, were dark, gaping holes. Like a skull with skin. His arms hung limply at the sides, swishing from side to side as she came closer.
Dean released the last of his grip on my arms, stepping ahead of me, obscuring some part of the Warlock. The man stopped, facing dead ahead. A soft growl came from the young man in front of me. The puppet-like Warlock straightened its back. I thought it might attack Dean, but instead, the Warlock's mouth fell open, revealing reddened teeth.
"Camille Deveraux, your mother is now with our people. If you want her to live, surrender yourself to us. You have until the next full moon. The Blood Oath that was promised must be met."
A Blood Oath? What in God's name was that?
As soon as the words faded, the man fell. I jerked back, watching as the Warlock decayed quickly before our eyes; its skin rotted away, muscles darkened and started to dissolve as if someone splashed him with sulfuric acid and the bone cracked and splintered, leaving nothing more than dust and bloodied clothes. Stumbling again, I landed on my back with an 'oomph'; my left hip slammed into a thick tree root. The sound of rustling leaves told me Dean was crouching close to the dusty leftovers.
"Was that… the guy I killed?" my voice trembled.
He nodded solemnly, "Yeah. It's called Necromancy. It's a form of powerful Magic." Dark magic? "Someone was channeling him, speaking and acting through the body." My shoulders sagged as a heaving breath left me. I pushed myself onto my elbows, grimacing at the empty dark clothes.
A lump built in my throat. I had never heard of anything like that. I knew Magic could be dangerous, but I… I had never witnessed it firsthand. Until tonight. You didn't just see it, you used it, a little voice whispered, serving as a cautious reminder for the horror I'd committed.
"They've left." Dean commented quietly. Still, he surveyed our surroundings carefully.
"I don't get it," I said, turning to Dean. "If they want me, why go after Mom?" he opened his mouth but before any words came out, I yelled, eyes bulging. "Wait—what do you mean they left?" how was I supposed to find them? "They—they said I had until the next full moon, but I… I don't know where to find them!"
He offered his free hand to me. I took it and was surprised by how easily he pulled me to my feet, although I shouldn't have been. One look at him told you he worked out.
"I don't know the inner workings of the Dunstan Coven." I frowned. Dean sighed. "It's what they call themselves. I don't know why they took your mother instead of coming straight for you," he nodded at the pile of clothes. "Maybe they saw what you did to Joshua and decided trying their luck at capturing a Pure Blooded Witch on the fritz wouldn't be a good idea."
My muscles became rigid. Joshua. That was—had been—the Warlock's name. I tried not to dwell on pity, since these people had just taken my mother hostage.
"I know where their Coven gathers, Cami. Well, one of the locations."
"Where?" I'd practically leaped at Dean.
"New Orleans." That was so far from Virginia. "I know this seems really bad, but you're not in this alone, okay?" this was really bad, I wanted to scream at him. But… I just felt tuckered out. Hopeless. I was being thrown into a world I knew little about, my mother had been kidnapped by a murderous Coven…
Too lost in my own thoughts, I simply followed Dean throughout the forest feeling disgust well up. The weight on my right shoulder startled me; I looked up. Dean's eyes glinted with worry I didn't understand. I mean, it wasn't like he knew me. So why so much empathy? Maybe he was just a good person. I was too exhausted to come up with a fair excuse.
"I'm swinging by your place. Pack only the essentials. Do it fast." Dean turned me slightly aside. I saw a black car parked on the road's edge. It looked vintage, with so little light I couldn't see its brand. Approaching the car, I snuck a glance through the back windows, spying a spacious backseat. Dean unlocked the car on his end, wasting no time getting inside and buckling up. I copied him; I laced my hands in my lap, guessing there was no more need to escape. The lump in my throat grew bigger. Mom was gone, taken by crazy Witches who were hunting me.
I prayed Spencer was alright. At least her.
Dean drove fast. It didn't bother me; everything I felt was a strange sense of emptiness as I watched houses flash by, traveling down the roads I grew up in. Maplewynne was all I knew. It was my home. Dean parked us in front of my house; my hand slowly reached for the doorhandle, just for Dean to stop me.
I looked over at him. He was staring intently into my house, like one analyzed a complex puzzle. The committed look fell through as he blinked, giving me a glance.
"I was making sure the flux of Essence was normal inside your house." If someone was inside, he meant. Someone like me. "You can't hide Essence from a Familiar. It's all clear, though. Go on, I'll stand watch."
The thought of leaving hadn't hit me until now. Trudging up the porch stairs, I fished for my house keys, unlocking the front door. It was quiet inside, the only light shining inside came from the streetlamps. I turned around, about to put my hand on the front door, to close it, when it simply inched back. Slowly. Without me touching it.
The door had just closed of its own accord. I'd just thought about doing it and it... it happened. I whirled, twitching my nose; I walked towards the stairs. Before, I couldn't turn my nails orange. Now, I was able to shut a door without a lingering thought. Great. What could be dangerous about me thinking about something and it happening? Nothing, so long as I didn't think of something bad, like, say: a flower-pot falling on a person's head, or a piano.
I rubbed my head feeling completely out of place in my own skin. Part of me still couldn't believe any of what was going down. Tonight, all I'd wanted to do was go and have fun with my best friend, maybe get lucky and hide my glamor-hair from Mom. Instead, I got my life turned upside down. Things I'd always believed, like my father being a regular Joe, were false. He'd been alive and kicking all these years, off doing dark Magic.
My brain was too mushy once I tried to think about packing anything aside from clothes, a couple of hygiene products and my laptop. I longed to shut down and hibernate for the next ten years. And that's what happened after I made the mistake of slipping into Mom's bedroom. I flicked on the bedside lamp, tossing my backpack onto the bed. I grabbed a framed photograph and sat on the edge of bed. I tipped back against the throw pillows. Ever since I was little, I'd loved animals; so, on my ninth birthday, Mom brought home a surprise gift from the pet shop. A white furry kitten. I named her Snowball. This picture was taken that day: me, a short skinny nine-year-old—still missing a front tooth—with a long dark braid, smiling, holding up Snowball.
My finger slid over the glass where Snowball was. Small and adorable. The small smile eased off as a horrible memory from three years ago hurled itself at me. Snowball never left the house—I mean, sometimes she would sit on the porch swing with me or Mom, but she never left our property. Until, one day, I left the backdoor open while taking out the trash... The driver said he never saw her cross the street. She'd died on the spot. Just like that, something I had held close had been ripped away. In a matter of seconds. Suddenly, Snowball wasn't there to sleep at my feet or scratch at my legs for attention.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I suppressed a sob, gripping the frame harder. I held it close, thinking of Mom and all the good times we'd had. When exhaustion finally won out, my thoughts were haunted by the small whispering voice that seemed to be making itself at home, whispering sweet words about the power I possessed
Many thanks to the guest who reviewed the last chapter! It makes me so happy to know someone out there likes my story :) I plan on updating as often as possible, but my updates may be inconsistent since I need to juggle college and a part time.