Shadowlight


Page 44



He had to find her before she was seen.


When Matthias emerged topside, he calmed himself, cleared his mind, and breathed in. Jessa had left a trail of her scent through the little kitchen garden Rowan had planted that led out to the street. He followed it, but once outside the property the scent thinned, telling him that she had broken into a run to the east.


He should have told her where she was before this. How frightened and confused she must have felt to step out into the night and see Sapphire House. To know that she had been held beneath the home in which she had been raised all this time.


He walked east, grateful only that it was still some hours until dawn. He still had a chance to track her and catch her before she exposed her presence in the city. He would explain how he had come to purchase Sapphire House at auction solely for the purpose of using its vast underground labyrinth of old smuggler’s tunnels as a safe haven for Kyndred on the run.


He stopped in every place that she had, and with each step felt his skin tingle and his chest tighten. Emotion roiled inside him, snarling need mingling with fear, empathy with anger. He had become so attuned to her that he imagined he could feel her, body and soul. From the sensations he felt he guessed she was nearer to him, and she was afraid. He lost the scent for a moment, and looked around before he realized that she had descended the stairwell leading to the riverfront. He took the steps three at a time as he hurried down and ran out onto the river walk.


Concentrating on the frighteningly acute sense of her, Matthias turned north and moved silently along the storefronts, keeping to the shadows as he looked ahead. He would not charge at her or grab her. He would call her to him. He would find the words to regain her trust. He had to.


Clouds thickened across the sky, and then he heard her scream. His muscles bunched and he broke into a flat run.


Jessa stumbled backward out of an alleyway, almost into his arms. She turned and shoved at him, but not to thrust him away.


“He’s coming,” she said, her eyes filled with terror. “Run. We have to run.”


“Don’t go, Jessa,” Matthias heard a man’s voice croon. “We have so much to do tonight. And tomorrow. And next week. And next month.”


He saw a man coming toward them, and while he seemed normal enough, something about him made Matthias thrust Jessa behind him. “She is not for you.”


“I know you.” The man shuffled forward and then straightened as he studied Matthias. “You’re the man she hired to cut me.”


He peered at Lawson’s face. “She did not hire me. I came to her aid.”


“I know what she had you do. She told you to cripple me.” The thing cocked its head. “Do you know they were going to put me down? Kill me, just because I’d been injured on the job. That wasn’t covered in the employee benefits package. I never saw a single paragraph on reasons employees will be terminated permanently.”


Matthias knew then that Lawson was crazy. His training also told him he was no match for him, not unarmed and trying to protect his woman.


“Stay close to me,” he said to Jessa before he looked up to the sky and drew on the power inside him.


Lightning flashed, illuminating for a few seconds the face of the thing. Matthias recognized the features as Lawson’s, but when he looked into its solid black eyes, all he saw were the depths of hell.


The clouds swelled full and ugly, and tiny drops of water and larger pellets of ice began to fall all around them. Lawson skewed his head to one side and yowled as a chunk of hail bounced off his head. Nothing touched Matthias or Jessa.


“Why isn’t it hitting you?” Lawson demanded, covering his head with his hands.


“The rain belongs to me. So does the woman.” Matthias lifted his eyes once more and sent out his power. An instant later a torrential flood of water came crashing down around them.


Matthias seized Jessa’s hand and pulled her with him as he ran from the thing in the alley and into the blinding rain. Only his sense of the ground beneath his feet led him back to the stairwell to the upper street level. He could feel the thing coming up fast behind them, and stopped only long enough to scoop Jessa into his arms before he mounted the stairs.


She slung an arm around his neck and curled her other hand into his sleeve before she looked back over his shoulder. “He’s coming up the stairs.”


Matthias thought quickly, and when he reached the top of the stairs he abruptly changed direction, across the narrow street and into the long park. He headed for the small, roped-off area where the city was repairing damage done to one of the old statues in front of the Cotton Exchange.


The old lion statue, which had been struck by a driver who had lost control of her car, had been demolished in the accident, leaving behind only a paw. Debate had raged back and forth for some time, but eventually the people of the various historical societies had agreed to replace the lion with a more modern work of art that embraced both the history of Savannah as well as its future.


Matthias had seen the replacement installed over a series of months. The ten-foot-high sculpture, made entirely of old wrought iron recovered from the factory down by the river, formed an enormous, open sphere. The long rods of iron had been stretched out into elongated strips and twisted into shapes representing the different continents of the world. On the shape representing America, the artist had welded a brass replica of a magnolia bloom.


The vanity of the past, the artist claimed, had been shaped by his hammers into a vision of Savannah as part of the global community of cities leading the way into the future.


Matthias was simply glad the sculptor had weakened the wrought-iron rods by stretching them, and had made the interior large enough for two people to stand inside. He stopped beside it and put Jessa down on her feet. Gripping two of the rods, he strained, pulling them apart.


Once he had made a space large enough for both of them to pass through, he turned to her. “Get inside.”


She shook her head. “He’s too strong. It won’t protect us.”


“It won’t.” He looked into her eyes. “I will.”


She hesitated a moment longer, and then squeezed through the gap to step inside the sculpture. Matthias followed, turning to press the bars back in place. By the time he moved Jessa to the very center of the sphere, Lawson had reached them.


“I don’t want to die again,” she whispered, staring at the madman on the other side of the bars. “But you heard him. He isn’t planning to kill me right away.” She brought his hand up to her neck. “If it looks like he’s going to take me … can you?”


“If I must, I will.” He watched Lawson as the other man circled around the sculpture. “Only wait, Jessa.”


“This is very helpful of you.” Lawson bared his fangs as Matthias wrapped his arms around her. “Like monkeys in a barrel. Or was it turkeys, or fish?”


“Did you tell Genaro where we are?” Matthias asked him.


“I tell Jonah all sorts of things,” the madman said. “Her name, for example—it’s Minerva, not Jessa. Did you know that? Funny that she’s named after a Roman goddess. When I made the final transition, I became a god myself.” He stopped and peered in at them. “I don’t like the way you male mortals taste. Come out of there, give her to me, and I’ll let you run away again. Maybe I’ll be so busy with her I even won’t bother to look for you right away.”


“You will have to kill me,” Matthias told him. “to take her.”


“I can do that.” Lawson wrapped his huge fists around the iron bars and began to pull.


“Matthias.”


“Close your eyes,” he said softly, and waited until she did. He held her close as he did the same and lifted his face.


He sent every ounce of his power flying up into the sky directly above them, making himself the conduit and the storm the vessel. The air crackled and all the hair on his body and Jessa’s rose up, drawn along with the power. A low, deep sound reverberated overhead as the storm gathered in on itself, and small white lines sizzled through the dark mass.


Power filled the sphere as a thick bolt of lightning struck the sculpture, electrifying it. Matthias looked as Bradford Lawson screamed, and millions of volts of power streamed from the iron through his hands and into his body.


Jessa kept her eyes closed, at one point burying her face against Matthias’s chest, but he watched Lawson as the primeval power rammed through Lawson’s limbs and arched between him and the sculpture. The jittery shaking of Lawson’s body made it seem as if he were performing some grotesque sort of dance. The bolt lasted another three seconds before it vanished, and Lawson fell against the smoldering iron bars, his face a blackened, smoking ruin.


Matthias released Jessa only long enough to pry apart the bars again, and put his arm around her shoulders as he eased her out. As the pounding rain tapered to a softer shower, he glanced back at the dead man clinging to the sculpture.


“This is your ability,” she said, the rain streaming down her face like a thousand tears. “You created the storm. You controlled the lightning. The same way you did the day we met, at the restaurant.”


“I can bring the rain.” He smoothed the drenched hair back away from her face. “Lightning is drawn to me wherever I am in the storm. If I think very hard, I can summon it.”


She looked over her shoulder, stared at Lawson’s body, and then turned back to him. “We can’t leave him here like that.”


“The authorities will find him in the morning and take him away. Whatever was done to him will be discovered. Then GenHance will come for him.” He put his hand to her cheek. “We cannot know how much he told them. We must leave the city before they arrive.”


“Where can we go?” she asked.


“Rowan and Drew are coming back from Atlanta. I will contact them and have them meet us at a safe place in the country. Then we will decide together where we will go.” He stroked his thumb beneath her eye, catching the tear that spilled from it to mingle with the rain on her face. “There is no more time for me to chase you or talk to you. You have seen for yourself what GenHance can do. We must fight this battle together, or what was done to Lawson will be only the first of countless horrors.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Will you give your trust now? Will you stay with me?”



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