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Authors: Aileen Erin

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Dark Fantasy, #Romance, #New Adult, #Paranormal, #Coming of Age

Bruja

BOOK: Bruja
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First Published by Ink Monster, LLC in 2015

Ink Monster, LLC

34 Chandler Place

Newton, MA 02464

www.inkmonster.net

ISBN 9780990635215

Copyright © 2015 by Ink Monster LLC

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Also by Aileen Erin

The Alpha Girl Series

Becoming Alpha

Avoiding Alpha

Alpha Divided

Bruja

The Shadow Ravens Series

Cipher

For Annabelle Sunshine Latcham.

Mama misses you every day.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Chapter One

“Cloud. Wake up!”

My brother’s voice called from beyond the haze, yanking me from my dreams.

“Cloud! You’re having a nightmare. Wake up. Now.” He shook my shoulder.

A sharp inhale rang out. I didn’t realize it was me until a second gasp wracked my chest.
This has to stop.
I swallowed down the fear and panic that were drowning me.

“Claudia?” He finally used my real name, worry thick in his voice.

I blinked as the dream faded and reality set in. “I’m fine.” I didn’t dare tell him that my body felt like lead, and I was more than a little nauseated. I swallowed and took a deep, steadying breath. It was dark and the floor was cold under my feet. “Where am I?”

“The hallway. I was up reading and heard you crying.”

I wiped my face and felt the tears wetting my cheeks.
I’d been crying?

“Come on. This way.”

He turned me around, and I followed clumsily. My body wasn’t reacting right.

Luciana
. Just thinking her name caused goose bumps to break out over my skin. The oath I’d taken still bound us together. The other members of the coven had each taken one too, but Luciana had threatened my family—my mother—until I agreed to a more invasive one. It allowed her to draw on my ability to strengthen others’ magic. Any time she wanted, she could suck me dry for a power boost. Even though I’d left, the oath was still there, and I had to focus—and be awake—in order to stop her from using it.

I stumbled into my temporary room—one of the guest rooms reserved for visiting wolves on the floor above St. Ailbe’s infirmary. My vision blurred as I tried to imagine what Luciana had been doing with my power just then. How tainted was my soul now?

I sank down on my bed before I could faint. Since I left the coven three days ago, Luciana took control of me every time I fell asleep. She no longer cared about getting my consent before using me for her black magic—not that I’d given much consent to begin with. But now…

I’d been trying to stay awake by reading spell books from the wolves’ library, but I’d obviously failed. The dim bedside lamp was still on, but I needed it to be brighter in here. “Do me a favor and turn on the overhead light?” I asked Raphael.

Light filled the room, revealing the tiny, twin-sized mattress with clean, white sheets. There wasn’t anything to complain about, but still, the room felt utilitarian. The house we grew up in was a bit more…colorful. Filled with different scents and textures. At the very least, Mom was always burning sage for protection. I’d kept that going after she left. Without the scent, I found it hard to settle down at night.

St. Ailbe’s was only a few miles from home, but it felt infinitely farther. The werewolves didn’t like scents. I could understand that with their sensitive noses, but some accent pillows or art on the walls wouldn’t kill anyone.

It wasn’t just the lack of decor in the guest rooms. The differences between the wolves and the coven seemed vast. Although there were times I really felt connected to my cousin, Teresa. Sure, she was only half witch now, but she seemed to understand me, too. I was glad I’d gotten to know her better these last few weeks, even if it had happened under the worst of circumstances. The wolves and witches were going to war, and I’d turned my back on my coven—on everything I knew—to stop Luciana, the evil woman who’d changed our
Aquelarre
into something so dark that remembering the role I’d played in her rise to power made my chest ache.

I wanted to make amends, but now I was in Teresa’s territory and everything seemed a little out of my control. Even my own body. I ached for something familiar. Something more than just my twin brother.

I brushed my sweat-soaked hair back from my face as I tried to regain some sense of composure.

Raphael settled down beside me, and I scooted over to make room for him. “This is the third night she’s drained you,” he said. His deep voice was a contrast to my higher one. Just like everything else, we were the yin to each other’s yang. The balance. It made sense. We were twins. Although he liked to make it known that he was older. By minutes. But that was what counted to him—specifics. He was an exacting kind of guy.

And he was right.

A few of us had turned against Luciana and she’d never let go of that betrayal. Especially not mine. Luciana wanted me back. She didn’t care as much about the others, even though they’d taken their own oaths. As far as I knew, they weren’t getting the nightmares. Luciana wasn’t using them for their abilities. But she was haunting me. Draining me. I feared that no matter how far I ran, no matter how fast, she’d never stop.

Every time she did a spell, she drew on my power to make it stronger. To make her stronger. My leaving had left her in a power deficit. The second I was asleep, my consciousness relaxed, and she could use my powers to boost her own. It was causing nightmares, making me sleepwalk and cry out into the night as she siphoned away my energy, but I wasn’t about to go back to the coven. Not even to put an end to this.

I’d find a way to break the link. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t matter anyway. Because I’d be dead. Either way, Luciana wouldn’t be getting what she wanted.

The stiff sheets crinkled as I lay back against my single pillow. “I’ll be okay. It’s just a few bad dreams.” We didn’t have total ESP, but we knew each other well. Ridiculously well. We finished each other’s sentences, knew when the other was hurt, and definitely couldn’t lie to each other. It never worked.

“Whatever she made you say in your oath, it’s obviously much stronger than what’s standard. We’re working on breaking ours—hell, Shane’s is already broken just by the force of his counter-oath—but yours… It isn’t normal. She shouldn’t be able to do this to you, and it’s scaring me.” He paused. “You have to break this oath before it kills you.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to act as exasperated as possible. “I’m not going to die.” I tried to make it sound like a ridiculous idea, but my brother was always too smart for his own good.

Raphael shifted just enough to look down at me. His black hair was sticking up at odd angles, which meant he’d been asleep. He always knew when I was having a bad dream. Our twindar was strong, no matter what else was going on.

“Your skin is pale and the bags under your eyes have gotten darker every day. You’re losing weight. She’s sucking you dry. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

I suppressed another eye roll. “I wouldn’t dare call you anything but observant.”

“Don’t get sarcastic with me. This is serious.”

“I know.” If anything, I was more aware of that fact than he was.

“She’s using your oath for more than she should. The bitch will bleed you dry if we don’t stop her.”

Please, Raphael, tell me something I’m not fully aware of.

I looked into his eyes. They were the same dark brown, almost black, as mine and nearly the same shape. Mine were a little more round, giving me an innocent look. The kind of look that no longer fit me. “I know better than you what Luciana is capable of doing.” I’d even betrayed my own cousin’s trust trying to stop her.

“I think you should consider this trip to Peru. Putting some distance between you could weaken her hold.”

I shrugged. “I’m not convinced that distance will help.”

“It can’t hurt, that’s for sure.”

“Raphael…”

“Cloud…”

I couldn’t help the little smile that came out at his nickname for me. He used to make fun of mom with it. She
hated
when people called me Claw-dia. She’d say, “Cloud-ia. Like a
cloud
.” I didn’t really care how people pronounced my name. There were bigger things in life to worry about.

“And what about Mathieu?”

I groaned. “What about Matt?” He hated being called Matt. It was petty, but I refused to call him anything else.

“He’s been calling my cell.”

The guy was such a jerk.

“He’s a jerk,” Raphael said, and I snorted.
Twindar alert.
“But if he knew what Luciana was doing to you, he might help. As far as he knows, you’re going to marry him.”

The thought of asking him for help made me want to throw up. Besides being too young for marriage at only twenty years old and not loving—or liking—him at all, he was the kind of guy who truly thought that a woman’s place was barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I wouldn’t survive a marriage like that.

Or maybe he wouldn’t survive it.

Either way, it was another thing I’d given up to keep my family safe from Luciana, and another thing I had to free myself from. “I think you’re forgetting that I’m trying to get out of marrying him. Asking him a favor would be a horrible idea. He’d take it as confirmation of our engagement.”

“I know you don’t want to marry him, and I don’t want you to. Just tell him you need help, and I bet he’ll come through.”

Nope. Not going to happen. The situation with Matt was complicated enough already. I’d been an idiot and agreed to the match that Luciana wanted. But, in my defense, I’d met him four years ago, when I was young and naive. I’d been unhappy with my situation, and he knew it. He swept in like he was going to save me. He was going to take me away from the Wicked Witch and bring me to live with his coven just outside of Windham, New York, when he became their leader. For all of about five minutes, everything seemed perfect. We even had the same interests.

Then I found out Matt was full of lies. He didn’t like classical music. He didn’t like classic literature. He wasn’t saving me from anything. I’d been set up. And when I tried to get out of the agreement, he’d really shown his true colors. Douche extraordinaire.

But hate was too tame a word to explain how Raphael felt about Matt. When he found out about the engagement, he just about lost his mind. That he was telling me to go to Matt now was a true sign of how worried he was.

“If you’re not leaving and you’re not going to ask Matt for help, what are you going to do?” Raphael paused, but not long enough for me to answer. “Because you can’t go on like this. You won’t survive it.”

“I’ll figure something out. You know me. I always do.”

Raphael pinched the bridge of his nose as he squeezed his eyes shut. He only did that when he was so frustrated he wanted to strangle me.

“Look. They have different books here. And Tia Rosa will help, too. I bet she knows how to get away from Luciana. I’ll find a way. Don’t doubt me now. I can’t do this without you.”

After a moment he dropped his hand. “You’re probably right.”

BOOK: Bruja
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