The Secret Life of a Witch 3, Page 2Jessica Sorensen
I’m not sure what he means about anything, but before I can ask him, darkness funnels around me and drags me under.
I hate that this is happening. I hate that everything feels out of control. I hate that everyone has lied to me.
“Eva,” Ryleigh’s voice graces my ears. “Can you hear me?”
Usually when she speaks to me, I feel calm. But right now, all I feel is anger. So, instead of opening my eyes, I lie motionless.
“Eva, please,” she begs. “I know you’re mad at me, but this is important.”
I don’t want to listen to her, but the plea in her voice makes me feel bad.
Dammit! I hate having a conscience!
Sighing, I blink my eyes open to wispy clouds lazily floating across a glittering purple sky. I’ve been here before, when Hunter put a sleeping curse on me. And like before, the place makes me instantly feel calm and at peace. Then, again like before, the clouds shift and begin to run like wet paint.
I jump up and shield my head with my arms as drops of clouds splatter across my skin.
“Again? What the hell?”
“It’s just how this place works,” Ryleigh says apologetically.
I turn in a circle, trying to spot her across the field lined with trees. “Okay, but what is this place? It sounds like you know, and honestly, every time I come here, I get a weird sense of déjà vu.”
“That’s because you’ve been here before.” Ryleigh’s shadow appears in front of me. “When you were younger, I used to bring you here.”
I inch through the grass toward her. “Why?”
“To calm you down,” she whispers, sounding remorseful. “When you were first taken from the demon lair, you had nightmares every night. So, I finally slipped into your dreams and brought you here. After about a month of this place, you stopped having nightmares … It’s something I can do—travel into peoples’ dreams.”
Yet another thing I didn’t know about her.
Slowly, the shadow starts to shift into her. Well, the dead version of her, with long, blonde lily white hair; big, blue, bloodshot eyes; and pale skin. The sight of her brings me zero comfort, only anger.
“You lied to be,” I bite out, stopping in my tracks. “All my life, you and our parents—your parents—lied to me. Even Hunter and Opal, my only real friends. I guess nothing was real, was it?”
“That’s not true,” she insists. “How we feel about you, that is real. We all care about you, Eva. And you and I might not be blood-related, but you’re still my sister … Always will be.”
I shake my head, fighting back tears. “If that were true—if you really cared about me—you would’ve told me the truth a long time ago.” I swallow hard. “Honestly, I don’t even think I believe you. After lying to me for all those years, who’s to say you’re not lying to me now?”
Tears flood her eyes. “Eva, I’m so sorry we did this to you,” she whispers. “I really am. There were so many times I wanted to tell you … But the society wouldn’t let me—wouldn’t let any of us.” She stares down at her hands. “I wasn’t the only one who wanted to tell you the truth. Hunter did, too.” She looks up at me. “He really cares about you.”
I grit my teeth. “Did he tell you to say that?” I ask, and she nods. “How? Can he, like, communicate with the dead, too, or something?”
She shakes her head. “No. But he knew if he talked to me, I’d hear him. Just like he knew that I’d eventually come here and pass along the message.”
“Sounds like you know each other well.” I mentally curse the jealousy that creeps into my tone.
“It’s not like that, Eva. Hunter and I are just friends.”
“Yeah, I thought we were, too.” Pressure builds in my chest as I realize that maybe we never were anything. That perhaps I was just Hunter’s job, and that all those years of being in love with him was wasted time.
“You two are more than friends, and I think you know that.” Her voice is soft and cautious.
I shake my head, staring down at the ground. “I don’t know anything anymore.” I really don’t.
Everything I thought I knew was a lie. All lies. Every single day.
Sucking in an uneven breath, I raise my head and meet her gaze. “Why are you here?”
“To see you. To make sure you’re okay.” She gives an elongated pause. “And to see if you can help us figure out where you are.”
“I’m fine,” I tell her. “As for where I am, I can’t help you.”
She frowns. “You don’t have any idea?”
I shake my head. “All I know is that Max took me to some demon lair, but I don’t know where it is.”
“Max?” she questions with a raise of her brows. “Is that the demon who kidnapped you?”
I nod. “Or, well, it’s what he told me to call him. I’m not sure if it’s his real name or not.” I hug my arms around myself as the wind picks up. “He’s also the one who rescued you from the tunnels.”
She tenses. “The one you made the deal with to free me?”
I nod again. “But taking me wasn’t part of the deal.”
“Then why did he take you?”
“I have no idea. He did say he was going to bring me back.”
That doesn’t seem to relax her the slightest bit. “Eva, you can’t trust demons.”
“Well, I don’t really have a choice, do I?” I pause, trying to bite back the cruel words wanting to fall from my tongue. They slip out, anyway. “Besides, Max has been more honest with me than any of you have.” When she winces, I sigh. “Sorry, but it’s the truth.”
Her mouth curves into a broken-hearted frown. “I know. And I’m so sorry for that.” She exhales loudly. “I’m going to make it up to you. From now on, I’ll tell you the truth, no matter what. But first, we need to save you, and in order to do that, I need you to try to help us figure out where you are.”
“I already told you I have no idea. I just know I’m in a demon lair.”
“How did you get to the demon lair?”
“On a path.”
“Eva, please,” she pleads, her body starting to fade. “I need you to think harder. Did you see anything that perhaps stood out? Like a sign, or a marker, or a mountain?”
“I was blacked out for most of the journey,” I admit, picking at the hole in the hem of my shorts. “When I woke up, I was in a bed, in a cave, and there were a bunch of burns in my clothing.”
“Burns in your clothes?” She pauses, deliberating. Then her eyes light up. “Oh, my God, you’re probably at Fire Mountain.”
“Fire Mountain? What the hell is that? And why have I never heard of it?”
“Because it’s demon territory, and people in Mystic Willow Bay rarely talk about demons.”
“Unless they’re in that society, right?” My tone carries bitterness. When she winces, I feel sort of bad. “Sorry.”
She shakes her head, her hair blowing into her eyes. “You have every right to be angry with us. I just hope, after some time, you can forgive us.”
I remain quiet, unsure of what to say, mostly because part of me is still skeptical she’s telling the truth now. Perhaps she’s pretending to care about me so I’ll help her figure out where I am.
What I really want to know is why they want to rescue me so badly? Is it because they care about me? Or is there more to it? And why did they go through all the trouble to protect me from the demons for all these years? Was it even about protecting me?
So many unanswered questions.
“I know you have questions,” Ryleigh says, as if reading my mind. “I promise we’ll talk more when I see you.”
Her words remind me that I still need to save her once I get back to Mystic Willow Bay, which I plan on doing. Mad at her or not, I’m not going to let her stay dead.
va, I need you to do something for me, okay?” she asks in desperation.
“Okay,” I answer with wariness. “What?”
“I need you not to use your magic at all. Even if the demon tries to force you to, pretend you don’t know how.”
“That’s not going to be a problem,” I assure her. “I don’t have my wand.”
“Not your witch’s power,” she says in a rush as her body flickers in and out of focus. “Your demon power.”
“Demon power? I don’t have demon power.” My brows dip together. “Do I?”
“We don’t know for sure what you can do,” she explains. “But now that you’re around a demon, he could get your demon powers to manifest. And since we’re not positive what you are … Well, we don’t want the demons finding out first.”
“You think I can do something bad?” I massage my aching chest.
Oh, my God. What am I?
“We don’t really know,” she says quietly. “All we know is that the demons have been trying to get ahold of you for years, ever since the society took you from that lair. And now that one of them has you …” She gulps. “You need to be careful, okay?”
“Okay, I can do that.” At least, I think I can.
The truth is, I’ve never had much control over my powers. And honestly, whether it makes me evil or not, part of me is curious to find out what I can do.
No, I can’t do it. Whether I want to find out or not is beside the point. The point is, demons are evil and any power of theirs that I harbor has to be evil as well.
Wait, does that make me evil?
“I have to go,” Ryleigh whispers as her body fades back into a shadow. “I’ll try to visit you again when you’re asleep, but my powers are weak now that I’m dead, and I don’t know if I can get back—”
The wind picks up and gusts her body away like pieces of dirt and sand, leaving me standing alone in the field.
Part of me wishes I could stay here forever. That I will never have to return to Max; will never have to return to Ryleigh, Hunter, and my family; will never have to deal with the truth.
A second later, though, I feel myself jerked away from empty land and back to reality.
My eyelids slowly lift open, and I’m immediately blinded by light. I squint in pain. Dammit, I’m with a demon for … Well, however long I’ve been gone, and I’ve already woken up this way twice.
“Let’s breathe fire on her?” a low voice with a lisp purrs.
I go super rigid, blinking my eyes fiercely and trying to get them to adjust to the light. What the hell was that?
“It looks like one of us already did,” another voice hisses. “Look at her clothes.”
I think about the burn holes in my clothing. What are these things?
“Ooooh … that sounds lovely.” Spit hits my cheek as they speak.
Ew! Yuck! Gross!
“Burn all her clothes off and some of her hair,” the other instructs, sounding pleased. “But don’t get her face. I kind of like it.”
“Should we wake her up before we do it?”
“Wakey, wakey, wakey, little rainbow trout,” one says before giggling. “You think master will get upset with us?”
“Maybe,” the other hisses out. “He was upset the first time we burned her clothes.”
“Hmmmm … Good thing we like getting into trouble.”
They both giggle mischievously.
My vision smears back into focus, and I realize I’m back in the room I first woke up in. But I’m not alone.
My gaze snaps to the right, and I instantly cringe.
“Ew, dragon fire snake babies,” I say, pulling a disgusted face at the winged dragons with large nostrils and snake-like bodies hovering beside the bed.
They both turn their beady eyes on me, and the longer, silver-ish black one hisses, its snake-like tongue slipping out of its mouth.
“What do you mean, ew?” it says, sounding offended. “You’re the one who’s half-witch.”
I rub my throbbing forehead. “Yeah, so what? There’s nothing wrong with witches.”
“Other than they’re boring, dull, and stupid.” The shorter, reddish-blue dragon fire snake puffs a cloud of smoke in my face. “See? Stupid.”
“I don’t know how that proves that witches are stupid,” I reply, fanning my hand in front of my face. “And FYI, you’re the ones who are stupid. I mean, your main purpose in life is to be a pet to demons. That’s so not very smart.” I know I’m pushing my luck since they could easily breathe fire on me, but they just called all witches stupid. I feel a bit offended.
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be. Witches were the ones who betrayed me.
I think about meeting Ryleigh in my dream and wonder if anyone will be able to find me in real life. If they do, should I go with them? It seems like the answer should be a definite yes, considering where I am. Yet, residing deep inside me is a hint of hesitation, either from the betrayal or from the demon blood coursing through my veins.
“I don’t like her very much,” one of the demon fire snake babies scoffs.
Fluttering their wings, they hover in the air while trading a look with each other.
“What do you think?” the reddish one asks. “Should we teach her a lesson?”
The other bobs its head up and down eagerly. “Let’s do it!”
I don’t know what they’re about to do, but I’m not about to lie here and find out.
“I don’t think so.” I bolt upright and scramble out of bed.
I move too quickly, though, and the room whirls and twirls like an out-of-control merry-go-round on witches’ mushrooms.
“Whoa, head rush.” I press my hand against the side of my head, struggling to keep my balance.
The demon fire snakes laugh hysterically.
“Stupid witch, stupid witch,” they chant, wiggling their tails as they fly around my head.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been called a stupid witch before, but it’s definitely the first time two evil demon fire snakes have. Normally, I ignore rude remarks thrown at me, but right now, I feel like I’m about to snap.
I reach up and swat the red one, and it sails through the air, landing on the bed.
The silver one’s eyes flare, smoke funneling out of its nostrils. “That wasn’t very nice.”
“Neither is calling someone stupid,” I tell him, slowly backing away before the smoke coming out of its nose turns into fire.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Its paper-thin wings flutter like a hummingbird as it flies toward me. “You’re not going anywhere. Not until you pay for that by letting me burn all your hair off.”
“That’s never going to happen.” I pause for a beat, then spin on my heels and run toward the exit.
I know when I step out of the room, I’ll probably cross paths with Max or another demon, but I’m not about to let some mutant dragon singe my hair!
“Come back here!” it shouts after me, hot on my heels.
“No way!” I throw over my shoulder. “I’m so—”
It grabs a handful of my hair, and my body is whipped backward. My eyes water as I fight to keep my feet under me.
“Let me go!” I shout, flinging my fists behind me.
It only grabs on tighter, dragging me toward the bed.
I dig my heels into the floor, ignoring the fiery burn as the rocks tear open my flesh.
“You’re going to be toast.” The dragon fire snake snickers as it throws me down on the bed.
I land with a bounce on my back and immediately scurry to get back to my feet with my fists positioned, ready to fight. Deep down, I laugh at myself.
Fight, Eva? Yeah, this is going to end with you getting hurt.
But I have to try.
As the dragon fire snake opens its mouth, I see its tongue flicker with a golden-orange flame. Before it can breathe fire into my face, though, I take a swing—
“Enough!” Max’s voice b
ooms throughout the room.
He startles me so badly I end up missing the dragon fire snake and punching the bedpost.
“Mother of all crazy witches,” I growl out in pain as I cradle my injured hand to my chest. “That hurts so bad.” I grit breaths through my teeth until the pain starts to subside.
“You two can leave now,” Max says to the dragon fire snakes as he makes his way across the room and toward the bed. “And as a punishment for disobeying, you can go straight to the fire pit.”
“Why?” the reddish dragon fire snake whines as it pushes its body off the bed. “She’s the one who hit me.”
Max stops beside the foot of the bed and arches a brow at me. “Is that true?”
I shrug, still hugging my hand to my chest. “Only because they said they were going to burn off my clothes and hair.”
Max gives the silver dragon fire snake a firm look. “I thought I made myself perfectly clear that you two weren’t supposed to touch her. Your only job was to watch her until she woke up, and then come inform me.”
The silver dragon fire snake pulls a guilty face. “Sorry, master, but we couldn’t resist.” His eyes skate to mine. “She just looked so tempting.”
Max observes me with a drop of amusement, but hurriedly squashes the look as he redirects his attention to his pet. “Tempting or not, you deliberately disobeyed me, and for the second time since I brought her here.” His gaze fleetingly drops to the burn holes in my shorts. “She’s not a toy.” His lips quirk as his eyes rise to me, then return to the silver dragon fire snake. “At least, not yours.”
“Hey, I’m no one’s pet,” I protest, standing up straighter.
Max rolls his eyes then points a finger at the doorway. “You two, go to the fire pit and wait for me to come and hand out your full punishment.”
“Ah, man,” one of them grumbles. Then they flutter off with their heads tucked down and shoulders slumped.
I smooth my uninjured hand over my hair, making sure all the locks are still there.
Max watches me fuss with a glimmer in his eyes. “Relax, you look perfectly, weirdly beautiful.”
I crinkle my nose at him. “I’m just trying to make sure your little pets didn’t pull out or burn any of my hair off.”