Staring straight down into the open book, Isobel let her eyes shift to the text that filled the opposite page, right below the title, which read “LILITH” in swirling capital letters.

She shook her head as she sank to her knees, closer still to the book, and stared hard at the writing, waiting for her brain to remember how to read.

She could see the words, identify them as being words, but for some reason, she couldn’t seem to concentrate enough to decode their message. She was too distracted, too swept up in a nebulous world of flashing images and floating memories.

Only one word swam into her focus long enough for her to register its meaning.


“Now you know why I left,” Gwen said softly.

Even through her confusion, Isobel could still detect the residue of guilt in Gwen’s words. If their roles had been reversed, if she had known these things that Gwen had, that she was involved with something beyond a vengeful spirit or malevolent ghost, Isobel had to wonder if she would have acted any differently.

Against her will, her eyes insisted on shifting back to the engraving.

“What does it mean?” Isobel asked.

There was a pause, and then a quiet shifting of fabric as Gwen lowered herself into a kneeling position next to Isobel. As she settled, bracelets tinkling, she began to read aloud from the book. Isobel tuned her ears to the sound of Gwen’s voice, though her eyes remained fixed on the etching.

“‘Lilith, also known as Li-li, Lila, or Lilitu, is one of the oldest recorded demons in existence,’” Gwen read, the tone in her voice suggesting that she wasn’t relating anything she didn’t already know. “‘References to Lilith date as far back as antiquity, and she makes her appearance in a multitude of cultures, eras, and regions, including ancient Egypt, Greece, Babylonia, and Europe during the Middle Ages. In modern times, she is revered by some occult circles as a goddess. Translated literally, her name means “night.”’”


Fine threads of ink curled upward and chased one another downward, spreading their way across the page like veins infused with black poison. They connected and layered with one another, intertwining and weaving in and out to depict the curve of a delicate wrist, or to convey the motion of wind through the swells of gossamer veils.

“‘She is the harbinger of nightmares as well as death, destruction, and insanity. Said to reign in an alternate dimension, a bleak and desertlike twilight version of reality, Lilith has long been hailed as the queen of mental darkness.’”

With the utterance of these words, Isobel’s thoughts flashed to Varen. Sorrow crept over her fear as she remembered the way he had stared at her with eyes devoid of both light and hope. When she had finally found him, he hadn’t even believed she was real. In that moment, he had seemed so hollow, so utterly lost. Consumed.

“‘In some traditions, Lilith is considered to be a succubus, who enters the dreams of young men, seducing or otherwise influencing them.’”

Drawing in a shaking breath, Isobel forced her eyes shut. But the image from the book remained, drifting forward in lines of glowing white, highlighted against the black backdrop of her eyelids.

Doing her best to ignore the image of Lilith, she attempted to call to her memory the exact words Varen had used to describe “Bess” in his sketchbook.

Despite her efforts, only one sure word surfaced through the jumble. Need.

Isobel’s expression hardened. She opened her eyes, realizing for the first time just how well this demon had chosen her target.

“‘Lilith can take many forms, such as a bright, starlike light or a white owl,’” Gwen continued. “‘Most often, however, she assumes the figure of a snow-skinned woman cloaked in white with large onyx eyes. Those who have seen her describe her as possessing a strange and unearthly beauty, characterized in particular by masses of thick ebony hair.’”

As Gwen read on, Isobel soaked up each new bit of information and began to piece them together with all the events that had led to this moment. Varen’s writing. His repeated disappearances. What he’d meant when he’d told her that when he didn’t want to go home, he went “somewhere else.” Like jolts of electric current, her thoughts raced ahead of her to make one connection after another until her mind became a live switchboard of linking sequences.

This creature had stalked Varen before entering his dreams. She had watched him and waited for just the right moment. And then she had lured him into her world, making him an offer he could not refuse—an escape hatch into a realm that, to him, must have seemed all too beautiful.

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