Home > Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(2)

Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(2)
Author: Linsey Hall

The tall tower loomed against the steel gray sky, the black stone ominous in the hazy light. Two massive shifter guards stood outside the doors. Depending on how you looked at it, they were bouncers for his club or bodyguards for the most powerful criminal kingpin in Guild City.

Also known as my Cursed Mate.

How my life had taken this turn so quickly, I’d never know. One day I was a poor wannabe detective living in a shitty flat in a bad part of London, no friends and no prospects besides the raccoon who lived in the alley outside my place.

Now, I was a magical sleuth living in an enchanted, medieval city—full of the modern conveniences, of course—with friends and a man who was going to break my heart if we didn’t fix this Cursed Mate tragedy.

The only thing that had remained the same was the raccoon, and even she was vastly different than I’d expected.

Without hesitating, I strode up to the large double doors. The bouncers inclined their heads, recognizing me, and opened the doors.

“Thanks, guys.” I hurried in, spotting Miranda standing at the tall podium in the foyer. It was the only piece of furniture in the room, and she the only person.

Miranda guarded Grey’s kingdom from this room, funneling people to his club or to his office, depending. As usual, she was dressed in a trim pencil skirt and buttoned up blouse, her hair in a severe knot. She was beautiful and competent, as cold and sharp as a knife.

Usually, anyway. At the moment, she looked worried. I’d never seen her with a creased brow and shadowed eyes, but right now, she vibrated with concern. Her gaze landed on me. “He’s in his flat.”

I nodded and turned down the appropriate hall. Normally she would escort me, but she stayed where she was. It took a minute to navigate my way to the back of the tower and, as I went, my heart began to pound louder and louder.

Finally, I reached his doors and knocked.

Please be okay.

2

Carrow

The door swung open, revealing Grey, pale and skinnier than I’d last seen him, with shadows under his eyes and sharper cheekbones that made his full lips look even more sinful.

Worry twisted in my chest. “You look like hell.”

“And you look like heaven.” A worried frown flashed in his eyes. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I like it.” I entered, reaching up to cup his cheek.

He moved back before I could make contact and hurt flickered inside me. “You don’t want me to touch you?”

“It’s not wise.”

I nodded, knowing he was probably right. Last week, we’d had the best night of my life. But we couldn’t do that again. Not with the way our future was shaping up.

Worry twisted my heart as I entered his beautiful flat. Austere, yet gorgeous, the space had a high ceiling and an enormous wall of windows that looked out on a tormented, wave-capped beach. It was magic, of course, but I couldn’t help but think that the tumultuous beach represented the state of Grey’s soul or . . . whatever.

He was a desperate mess, like I was.

I turned to him, taking in the broad shoulders that were still capped with heavy muscle despite the weight loss. His suit still fit perfectly, of course. It should be impossible. “Where have you been?”

“Worried?”

“Yes.”

The corner of his mouth tugged up in the smallest smile. “Don’t be. I’ve found a solution to our problem.”

“Is that why you look like hell?”

“It wasn’t easy, true. But it’s also just the nature of the curse. Hell is calling my name.”

I couldn’t believe it. He was a good person. True, he had a terrible past and was involved in some seriously shady dealings, but he was fundamentally good. But even if heaven called his name, that still wasn’t a place I could go. Not yet.

If ever.

I shook the thought away. “What is the solution? Will it save you?”

“I believe so. I’ve found a spell and a sorceress in town who can break our Cursed Mate bond.”

Hope flared. “So we won’t be cursed anymore?”

“We won’t be mates.”

Disappointment surged, but I tamped it down. If this was the only way, then . . . of course I’d do it. I wasn’t even sure I believed in fated mates anyway. It wasn’t like I’d been born to this world and grown up with it.

“If we’re not mates, then we can’t be cursed,” I said. “That’s how it works?”

“Precisely.”

“Who is it? Can they do it now?” As much as I didn’t want to break the bond, Grey looked like hell. He needed all the help we could get, and he needed it soon.

“They can. Immediately. It won’t take long.”

Mac was on the trail of the kidnappings. I had to take the time for this. “Let’s go.”

He nodded, his gaze lingering on me for a moment. His lips parted, as if he wanted to say something, but no words came out. I swallowed hard and moved toward the door. “Come on. No time to waste.”

“Of course.” He followed me out of his flat, and I couldn’t believe we were already on our way. How was this happening so damned fast?

I looked back at him, catching sight of the exhaustion in his eyes.

This only feels fast to me.

“You’ve been going nonstop since we parted, haven’t you?” I asked. “Looking for a cure.”

He nodded.

I reached for his hand and squeezed. “I’m glad you found one.”

He squeezed back, just briefly, then dropped the small embrace. Hurt pierced me, and I tried to shove it away. He was clearly ready to be rid of me and this bond. After the night we’d spent together, though…

It was hard to believe.

Well, believe it, cookie. Life is full of disappointments.

“Where are we going?” I asked, wanting to get my mind off the miserable train of thought.

“To Hellebore Alley, not far from my tower. There’s a blood sorceress called Cyrenthia who can help us.”

“Blood sorceress?”

“A magic that teeters on the edge of dark. The key ingredient to her magic is blood. Taken willingly, her magic falls on the right side of the law. Taken unwillingly . . .”

“Dark magic.”

“Precisely.” He nodded at Miranda as we passed, and she watched him with steely eyes. The worry that I’d seen on her face earlier was gone, hidden no doubt when he was around.

Grey led me out into the square in front of his tower. The sky had grown even more ominous, dropping lower in the sky, and taking on the shade of gunmetal. It was almost as if the weather agreed that sad shit was about to happen.

Of course I wanted to fix Grey. I’d cut open my vein right away and let the blood sorceress take whatever she wanted. But breaking our bond . . .

It felt like breaking the thing that was growing between us, and I was definitely conflicted about that. I shouldn’t fall for the tortured, ancient vampire, but I was beginning to teeter at the edge. And I was liking it.

“How is your guild tower coming along?” he asked.

His words dragged me to the present, and I looked up at him. “Fine. We’re getting there, but its slow.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear it’s working out.” He approached an alley that smelled vaguely foul. Nothing overtly terrible—more like a swamp than a dumpster—but it wasn’t pleasant.

He turned down the alley, and I followed, spotting the sign on the brick wall at the corner. Hellebore Alley.

The air felt thicker, as if it were coated with smog. It was darker as well, the clouds hovering around the roofs of the buildings. The alley was so narrow that Grey and I had to walk shoulder to shoulder. On either side of the little road, the buildings rose three stories high.

In the style of Tudor buildings, the upper floors jutted out over the lower ones, the overhang creating a tunnel effect. The dark wooden beams surrounded gunmetal gray plaster. It had once been white, the usual color, but soot appeared to have coated the surface.

Grey caught me looking. “That’s the stain of dark magic. The top floors are flats. Rent is cheap in this part of town.”

No surprise. The letting advert would say something like Charming hovel in a perpetually gloomy part of town. Sun never seen.

The windows of the upper floors were all shuttered, either by wood or curtains, as if the inhabitants were constantly walking around in their knickers and couldn’t risk being spotted by the people in the windows across the road.

Given the dark magic stink in the air, however, I had a feeling that it wasn’t nakedness that kept the windows covered.

The contents of the shops were nothing like those on the other streets. Sure, they had the same magical aura that made the contents of the windows move around, but the contents . . .

I shuddered.

One window was full of weapons. Normally, I’d be entranced. I loved a good blade. But these were different. They were the sharpest, evilest looking daggers I’d ever seen. Serrated teeth and double pronged. In the window, they stabbed at the air, darting around with an aggression that was so different from the elegant, fanciful movements of weapons in the shop windows in the rest of Guild City.

Worse, the blades were speckled with a rusty brownish-red.

“Is that blood on the blades?” I asked.

“I would think so, yes.”

I shivered and looked toward the next shop. Hundreds of potion vials sat on the shelves, vibrating with a low hum that radiated through the glass, making a shudder run through me. My stomach turned, and I pressed a hand to it.

“Breathe through your mouth,” Grey said. “It helps.”

“Why does it feel like that?” I shot the vials another look, not liking the way the neon contents made my eyes burn just from looking at them.

“The nature of the potions. They’re all exceedingly unpleasant.”

My gaze riveted to the next shop window, which made the ‘unpleasant’ potions look like a sunny day in the park. It was by far the worst display I’d ever seen. Possibly the worst thing I’d ever seen.

   
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