A six-inch blade gleamed in the trick of
light, the hilt carved in the shape of two snakes wrapped around each other so
that their heads formed an S on either side of the serrated steel.
A deadly weapon for more reasons than one.
First—this blade wasn’t just any blade.
This was the very dagger Josephine had plunged into her chest back in 1905. The
very blade that had ripped her delicate flesh apart and taken the life that
Braden—I—hadn’t been able to save.
The very dagger Josephine had wielded in order to seal the curse that would
resurrect us. Save us.
Second—this blade was no longer where it
should be. It wasn’t in the depths of an underground tunnel like it had been
this morning. It was no longer lodged inside Josephine’s chest like it had been
for the past century. The dagger was free—to be wielded, to be taken, to be
used against her, but worst of all, to destroy her. Josephine would never
forgive herself. She was giving the dagger too much power. Power to strip away
the woman Braden had only just begun to reignite. If she did this, he would
lose whatever remnants of her fragile spirit he’d managed to stitch back
together again. And yet, for all she had sacrificed, he was still powerless to
save her. He’d tried. I’d tried. But
it hadn’t been enough. Whatever Braden had done to rescue Josephine from that
tunnel had still led to their separation. And now here she was, faced with the
only option at her disposal.
I felt it in my fingertips, in the
uncontrollable sweep of my hand as I swept the paintbrush over the papered wall
of my bedroom. The viper within shivered and undulated, my skin expanding,
stretching over my forearm. It sensed everything Josephine was feeling and
pushed those thoughts straight to my fingertips where my only choices were to
resist—and suffer immense pain as a result—or surrender to the creature within
and become one with Josephine’s mind, heart, and soul. Even separated by a
lifetime, I felt her inner turmoil like a knife to the gut. She was hurting.
She was scared. She was desperate. But as the image before me unraveled, I
could see that she was icing over. Becoming numb. Fuck, Josephine, don’t do this.
Sweat dribbled down my forehead, stinging
My blood was hot, my body trembling with
the effort to stay upright. The viper released me, collapsing me to my knees. I
hung my head. I didn’t want to see what I already knew she was thinking.
Breathing hard, I lifted my gaze to the wall—to the painting of Josephine.
She sat on the window ledge of her
bedroom, her long, wavy hair wild around her shoulders. She was still in her
wedding dress. Soaked. Tattered. Her eyes stared straight ahead, which I knew
from this angle meant she was either staring at a closed door or at someone
standing in it. One knee was drawn to her chest, the dagger’s tip poised upon
it, the hilt held loosely between her thumb and forefinger. A calculated
movement that promised bloodshed. She was the definition of fierce. The epitome
of destruction. She would harm anyone who stood between her and saving Braden.
The man she loved. The man I used to be.
Black paint ran in swerving rivulets to
the floor. I clenched my fists, breathing hard, my shirt drenched against my
feverish skin. It was my fault. If I hadn’t hesitated, if I hadn’t second-guessed—I
released a sharp breath, furious with myself. Had I listened, none of this
would’ve happened. Josephine wouldn’t be in this position now, and Braden
wouldn’t be imprisoned.
Again. I had to fix this.
The rickety drone of the floor fan filled
the empty silence that threatened to consume me. It blew the papers at my
knees, making me look down. Charcoaled eyes stared up at me. Sad. Volatile.
Beautiful as hell. My body shook with the urge to find Elizabeth—Josephine’s
current incarnation—here, now, in 2014. If Josephine planned to do what I
suspected, what I sensed, then
Elizabeth would be prone to do the same. But maybe that wasn’t true anymore.
Elizabeth wasn’t as susceptible to Josephine as she’d once been. Not after
today. Not after what she’d done to save us. She was stronger now. But was she
stronger than Josephine?
I glanced out the window, at the rippling
creek that led to Elizabeth’s home only five doors down. I took an involuntary
step toward the door.
I believed in her, goddamn it.
If anyone could stop Josephine, it was
Book One in the Series (click on image for Goodreads link):