With an even deeper scowl, Kyrian shook his head. “No. Believe me. Before any Dark-Hunter moves into a new location, it is thoroughly checked for any and all ghosts.”

There was another thing Nick hadn’t been told. How much were they holding back? “Really? Why?”

“We’re soulless creatures, Nick. So those who have souls and no bodies tend to want to take up residence inside us. It’s actually not hard for them to take over. That’s why Dark-Hunters don’t go into cemeteries. It’s too dangerous for us, and no one wants a possessed Dark-Hunter on the loose.”

That added another chill to him. “Can demons possess Dark-Hunters?”

“No. They’re not the same thing as a human ghost. Whenever they use those powers against us, it conflicts with ours and backfires on them. It was a safeguard Artemis put in place to keep the living Daimons from taking us over and controlling us.”

“Ah … okay.”

Kyrian returned to punching his heavy weighted bag. “Did you get my RAM installed?”

“No, not yet. I’ll … uh … I’ll go do it.” But Nick didn’t want to leave the safety of Kyrian’s presence.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have any choice. Not without looking even more ridiculous to his boss. And a total weenie, to boot.

Sighing, he forced himself to leave and head back down the hall, to Kyrian’s office. As soon as he was inside, he locked the door … Just in case. Then rethought the action, since Kyrian would think him nuts if he found it that way. Nick unlocked it. And still the feeling of being watched stayed with him.

Whatever it is, it’s still here.

Aggravated at himself for being chicken, Nick pulled the case off Kyrian’s PC. He set the RAM on the desk, then reached into his back pocket to pull out his grimoire. The size of a small paperback novel, it’d been a gift from Ambrose to help him understand some of the madness that surrounded him, and to answer some of the “other” questions that came up.

“All right, Nashira,” Nick said in a low tone. “Talk to me. What the heck is watching me?”

He slid his knife out of his pocket, opened the book, and pricked his finger, allowing three drops of blood to touch a blank page. “Dredanya eire coulet,” he whispered, waking the female spirit who lived inside the enchanted pages. The moment he finished speaking, his blood began swirling until it formed words:

Do not fear that which cannot be seen.

For they are lost in between.

’Tis the ones who come alive

That your blood will allow to thrive.

Nick snorted at the cryptic stanzas. “Not really useful, Nashira. Doesn’t answer my question.”

His blood crawled over to the next page.

Answer, answer, you always say,

But it doesn’t work that way.

In time, the truth you shall find.

And then you will understand my rhyme.

“I’m such a masochist to even try talking to you.”

Underneath the words, a picture of an obscene gesture formed.

“Oh very nice, Nashira. Very nice. Wherever did you learn that?”

In your pocket I reside.

Ever privy to your deride.

But more than that, I can see.

And that includes bathroom stall graffiti.

Nick screwed his face up in distaste. “Oh my God, no. Tell me you haven’t been spying on me in the rest room. You perv!”

Calm yourself, you evil troll.

My job is not to console.

But if it is privacy you seek,

Leave me in your backpack so I can’t peek.

Now he understood why other people got so aggravated with his attitude disorder. He wanted to strangle his book.

Or burn it. Where were Bradbury’s firemen when you needed them?

“Thanks for the comfort, hon. ’Preciate it.” Nick returned the grimoire to his pocket and finished sliding the RAM into Kyrian’s PC.

But as he did so, he mulled over Nashira’s words. Do not fear that which cannot be seen … they are lost in between. What did that mean?

Was the entity just messing with his head?

Kyrian had told him it couldn’t be a ghost in the house. Which left a lot of other possibilities. None of which were good for his health.

Or sanity.

Stop dwelling on it. You’re safe.

Determined to ignore the weird, icky feeling in his gut, Nick started for the door. Just as he reached the center of the room, he heard something snap. Pausing, he looked around for the source of the sound.

An instant later, the huge chandelier over his head fell down on him.

CHAPTER 5

Nick jumped back, narrowly escaping the chandelier arms. But his foot caught in the fringe of the Persian carpet, sending him to the ground as it crashed down beside him. Shards of crystal and glass showered his body and hair. He barely had time to turn his head away and shield his eyes.

The door burst open.

“Nick?”

Lowering the arm he had over his face to protect it, he opened his eyes to find a sweating Kyrian towering over him, pulling off his boxing gloves. Nick shook his head to loosen shards from his hair. “I’m all right.”

With an expression that said he wasn’t buying it, Kyrian knelt down to investigate Nick’s condition. Gently, he took Nick’s chin in his hand and examined him. “What happened?”

“No idea. I heard something snap and the next thing I know … your light fixture tried to kill me. I saw my whole life flash before my eyes, boss. It was horrific. I haven’t done anything to regret yet and it’s been way too brief. I at least want a license before I check out, you know?”

Kyrian rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you’re all right. Thank the gods. I’d hate to have your mother coming after me again because I let you get hurt on my watch.” He helped Nick to his feet.

Then he went to study the chandelier remains. Nick paused at the sight of it … all over the room. He’d never seen anything splinter into so many pieces.

He was still dusting fragments off his clothes and hair. “I hope that wasn’t expensive.”

“Probably around sixty to eighty thousand dollars.”

Nick sucked his breath in sharply. “I hope you mean Jamaican dollars and not U.S. Dude, seriously? It’s a light fixture, not a supercar … or a house.”

Kyrian picked through some of the broken pieces with the toe of his boot. “Quit hyperventilating. It came with the house, but it is an antique Waterford crystal chandelier. Back in the day, this room was a formal ballroom, and this was its showpiece.”

“Oh.” Still … who paid that for a light?

Kyrian looked up at the ceiling where the silk cord hung from the ornate medallion like a jungle snake. “I guess the chain wore out. I should have had it checked.” He met Nick’s wide-eyed stare. “Call for an electrician to look into it and see if any of the wiring poses a shock or fire hazard, and make an appointment for him to install another one as soon as he can, and to check the rest of the fixtures in the house.”

He said that like they grew on trees. “Where do I get a chandelier?”

Kyrian gave him a dry stare. “We live in New Orleans, Einstein. You can’t blow your nose on Royal Street that your germs won’t land on a crystal chandelier in an antique store. Just pick one that’s roughly the same size and design.”

Nick returned Kyrian’s stare with one equally insulting. “You know, boss, while I realize it wouldn’t pose a problem for you, the cost of one of these definitely exceeds my card limit. How you want me to pay for it? ’Cause no offense, I ain’t that good-looking.”

Oh yeah, that was an awesomely vicious look. “I’ll have you added to my AmEx account, and they’ll overnight a card for you.”

“Limit?”

“Not one. But don’t go hog-wild. While your mother scares me, I do know how to bury bodies in places where they’ll never be found.”

Rosa rushed into the room and gaped at the mess. “Madre de Dios! What happened?”

Nick pointed at the chandelier remains. “It tried to turn me into a pancake.”

She grabbed him into a fierce hug. “M’ijo! Are you hurt? It didn’t hit you, did it?”

“It just assaulted my ego. Physically, I’m good.”

“No,” she snapped. “You’re bleeding.”

Nick’s eyes widened. “Bleeding? Where?”

“You cut your cheek,” Kyrian answered. “It’s not bad, though.”

Nick gaped at him. “Since when is bleeding ever a good thing?”

Kyrian made a sound of disgust.

Rosa ignored him as she draped her arm over Nick’s shoulders. “Come downstairs, Nick, and let me tend you.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And don’t bleed on my floors,” Kyrian called after him.

Nick couldn’t let that pass. He stuck his head back in the door. “Don’t worry, boss. It’s the counters and rugs I’m going for.”

Dodging out of the room before Kyrian forgot about his fear of his mother, Nick followed Rosa to the stairs, but he couldn’t shake the bad feeling inside him that the source of the disembodied voice had a lot of power.

Enough to almost drop a chandelier on me.

Yeah, that’d been a little too close. He’d report it to Caleb later. Maybe C might have some insight as to what could have done that to him.

Maybe I shouldn’t walk home.…

If the harvester could get to him here, where Kyrian had all kinds of protection against supernatural beings, it’d be a thousand times easier to assault him on the street where there was nothing.

Rosa led him into the kitchen and sat him on a raised stool at the breakfast bar while she went to the cabinet that held Kyrian’s first-aid supplies. She came back with an alcohol wipe, Neosporin, and Band-Aids.

As she tended him, his thoughts spun with possibilities about who would be after him with such viciousness. And no matter how he looked at it, he kept coming back to one name.

Nekoda.

Who else would have access to Kyrian’s house when it was kept guarded and shielded? For all he knew, she was the harvester, and was using that just to screw with his head.

His mother had always warned him that there was nothing more lethal on the planet than a woman with a broken heart. Or one who thought a guy had done her wrong. They would use a guy’s faults to justify any action they took against him.

Even handing the husband who adored them over to his worst enemies.…

And look at Mark. His last girlfriend had piled everything of his on the front lawn and torched it. Then she’d keyed his car and posted vicious things about him online.

Yeah. Who else would want to drop a two-hundred-pound crystal chandelier on him for no good reason?

That had crazy ex-girlfriend written all over it.

The more he thought about it, the more it made complete sense. This was how she was going to kill him, after all. Torture him until he was dead. Make him think he was crazy.

Figures. I would get the nutty girlfriend with the epic psychic powers.…

And he was sure she would make him pay dearly before she finished him off. This is going to be so bad.

Over the next few hours while he went about his job, Nick was extremely skittish. Any noise made him jump like a three-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory. Kyrian had a lot of chandeliers in his house. And the one in the foyer was truly frightening in size. Given how much the one that had almost squashed him weighed, he didn’t even want to contemplate the weight of that sucker.

Insult to injury, he’d cut his hand while cleaning the mess of it up, too. Now he looked like a mummy reject with the bandage on his cheek and the gauze wrapped around his hand and fingers.

Thanks, Kody.

Paybacks sucked. And she was the queen of doling them out.

As Nick gathered his schoolbooks to head home, Rosa joined him in their shared office.

“M’ijo, there is a girl I do not know at the front door. She say she come to pick you up and drive you home.”

Nick scowled. It wasn’t Kody. To his knowledge, she didn’t have a license. Or a car. Could it be Brynna? Was she old enough to drive yet?

Unsure of who was waiting for him, he slung his backpack over his shoulder. “Thanks, Rosa. Have a good night.”

“You, too. See you tomorrow.”

“Hasta mañana.” Reluctantly, Nick headed for the front door. He opened it slowly, dreading what might be standing on the other side.

To his complete shock, it was Casey.

She gasped as soon as she saw him. “Oh my God, Nick. What happened to you? Were you in a wreck or something?”

“Um, hi, Casey. Not a wreck. Just real clumsy today.” Yeah, so no one would ever accuse him of being suave and articulate, especially not around the female species. It seemed Kody wasn’t the only one who could render him incoherent. Apparently it was all females of his age group.



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