Authors: Apryl Baker
A sigh of relief escapes when I shut the door. I love Mary to death, but
she’s a chatterbox. Normally, it doesn’t bother me but today I don’t have the patience. Between the airport fight, ghost attack, police station, and
meeting my dad, I’m wrecked. I need a few minutes alone to think. Is that really too much to ask?
“Ah, my darling girl, I didn’t think they’d ever leave,” a man’s soft voice
Silas. My head snaps up. Silas sits on my bed, twirling a purple pillow between his hands.
I guess a few minutes alone really
too much to ask.
How am I going to explain a demon in my bedroom?
Silas looks completely at home sitting on my purple comforter surrounded by the little lavender throw pillows Mary piled on my bed. He isn’t what I imagined a demon to be. For one thing, he’s gorgeous—I mean, he has fall-to-your-knees, salivate at the mouth hotness. Think Johnny Depp at around twenty-five. Not that Johnny Depp looks like he’s aged very much over the years. Secretly I think he’s some kind of supernatural creature. I mean, really, who could look thirty for twenty years?
Back on track, Mattie
, I remind myself. Then Silas just smiles wider. That’s what does it to me—those black eyes burning with delight. His dark coloring blends beautifully with the lighter shades of purple and lavender bathing my room. Today, he’s wearing faded jeans that look softer than even my oldest and most-worn pair. His cream-colored button-down only enhances his dark good looks. I can certainly see why so many have fallen for
over the centuries. He is an absolute hottie with a wicked smile. The only thing it inspires in me at the moment, however, is a healthy dose of fear.
“What are you doing in here, Silas?” I hiss, going on the offensive. Best not to let him know how much he scares the bejeezus out of me.
“My darling girl, you don’t sound happy to see me.” He tosses the pillow back on the bed and then gets up to prowl the room. “I didn’t peg you for a purple girl.”
I’m not,” I answer shortly. His arm sweeps the room in question and I wince in response. “My foster sister decorated it.”
“You haven’t changed it?”
“As if I’ve had time?” I shake my head. Before I went to New Orleans, I’d told Mary she could keep it purple if she kept Dan and Meg away from me until I left. She’d held up her end of the deal
, so I can live with purple. For a while.
“Already making deals.” He beams at me. “Though we’ll have to work on you getting the better end of it.”
get the better end of it…” Then I pause and gape. What does he mean? ‘Already making deals?’ How did Silas get into my thoughts?
“Don’t look so shocked, Emma Rose.” Silas sits down in the too-short chair in front of the vanity mirror. “You’re only doing what comes naturally to you.”
“I don’t know what your game is,” I snarl, fear making me lash out, “but I’m not playing.”
“Ah, but you were a player the moment you were born,” he says and examines the nail polishes lined
up against the mirror. “This is a very girly room. Not your style at all.”
My mind is racing, balking at what he’s implying. He’s really in my head? There is no way…
“What do you want?” I demand.
“I am here to offer my services.” He
abandons the vanity and goes over to the open trunk at the foot of my bed I’d stashed sketch pads in. His eyes light up at the discovery. After leafing through the first one, he pulls more out and settles back onto the bed. “No need to have those boys attempt to get the rune right when
can do it for you. Nasty business having to feel everything a ghost went through as they died.”
I don’t want
from you,” I reply, hoping I sound sharp enough. No way am I making deals with a demon. Not in a thousand lifetimes.
“Beautiful,” he murmurs. His fingers caress the images in my sketchpad. “Your work is haunting. You have so much talent, Emma. I can make you the most famous artist of this age if you’d like.”
“No, I wouldn’t like,” I answer, my insides trembling. “If my work is good, then it’ll stand on its own merit.” Upsetting Silas might be a bad idea.
“That’s what Rem
brandt and Picasso thought, too,” Silas chuckles. “Remi used to always make me laugh. He’s not having a good time anymore. Though to be fair, one’s flesh being stripped away every minute of every day for an eternity can definitely kill your sense of humor.”
My mouth drops open. Rembrandt made a deal with him? And he’s paying for it now? No way. Silas is just exaggerating. Isn’t he?
“The boy is a complication, though,” Silas says thoughtfully. “I didn’t see that.”
“The boy?” I ask. Is he talking about Dan or Eli?
“Never you mind, my darling girl,” he answers with a grin. “It’ll sort itself out. What did you think of your father?”
I blink. He keeps throwing these curveballs at me. It’s disconcerting. “I only just met him,” I hedge.
“You can’t trust Ezekiel Crane.” He puts my sketchpads back, except for one. “There
a reason your mother took you away from him.”
Wait, what? My mother…
does he mean Claire or my real mother? Did she
me to Claire? Or Amanda, rather. It’s still hard to think of my mom, Claire Hathaway, as Amanda Sterling. Why would my mother do that? It’s very confusing.
“So, who should I trust?” I ask, frustrated.
“Me, of course, you silly girl.”
“You’re a demon,” I point out. “A demon who makes deals in exchange for God knows what. Why should I trust
“My services are in high demand,” he tells me proudly. “Especially in today’s market. There is creativity everywhere and I
the arts. I am paid in a variety of methods, Emma. You’ll become familiar with them soon enough. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do for you?”
“Why do you keep saying that?” I demand. “You’re acting like…like I’m a…” I couldn’t say it.
“A demon?” he queries softly.
I glare in answer.
Silas only smiles. “If you trust no one else, trust
, Emma Rose. I’ve put too much time and effort into your…development only to lose you now. I’ll only inflict harm upon you if the situation forces me to.”
“Don’t threaten me,” I whisper. “I don’t do threats.”
Before I can blink, he’s standing in front of me and I can’t move, totally frozen just like the first time I’d ever met him in that dream. “Sweet girl, I
admire the bravado, but listen and listen well.
don’t do threats, either. I was simply stating facts. Now, I have no intention of causing you physical pain unless you make me. For the present, I am content to help because I like you. Start giving me reasons
to like you and I guarantee you won’t appreciate the results.”
His voice is whisper-soft, but each syllable feels like the blade of a knife slashing me. I despise knives. They are one of the few things in this world that scare me and right now, I’m trapped, unable to defend myself against them. Silas obviously knows this and that’s more frightening than the knives.
“There, that’s better,” he says in a soothing tone and the slashing feeling stops. “Do we understand each other, Emma Rose?”
“Very good, my darling girl. Now, let me show you something.” He flips through my sketchpad until he comes across a drawing I’d done of a daisy that had wilted. It’s one I’d done during my darker stages when I had been all about death. Drove any foster home I was in nuts. “Let me see your hand.”
“Why?” I ask suspiciously.
“Emma Rose, don’t argue.” He sighs wearily. I hold out my hand, prepared for the worst. He pricks my index finger with one of his fingernails, which I only now realize are sharpened like claws. A few drops of my blood hit the flower and…I gasp. The image of the plant straightens and blooms before my eyes. The once-dead daisy burst
s off the page in full vibrant color. I have this insane urge to reach out and touch it.
“Your art is a reflection of you, of your soul, my little Emma Rose,” he says quietly. “Your blood gives your work life, makes it breathe, pulse, and grow. You must be careful of this gift, though. It is not something to be taken lightly. There are many, including your father, who would kill to possess it, to possess
. Do not, under any circumstances, let him know you can do this. Do you understand?”
I stare blankly.
He shakes me hard. “This is important. Never let Crane know you can do this. Tell me you understand, Emma!”
“I understand,” I whisper. Why is it so important that my father not know?
Silas visibly relaxes. “Good girl.” He kisses my forehead. “You
please me, Emma Rose. You please me very much and so I will grant you another boon.”
“A what?” I ask shakily.
He chuckles. “I forget how easily the language changes. In the words of your teenage dictionary, a freebie. I will give you a free favor, no charge.”
“Why?” And should I accept it?
“I give because I can.” He shrugs. “Come now, what do you want?”
“I don’t want anything from you,” I tell him in a voice stronger than I
He sighs. “Your one freebie stands, child. Call me when you need to use it. Just say my name and I shall come. I may not pop in exactly when you call, but
I will show up. After all, I might be having tea with a client.”
I cringe, thinking of some poor fellow signing his soul away for whatever reason.
“I won’t need to use it,” I say with a half-hearted conviction. Would Silas buy it? I wouldn’t.
“Have a care, Mattie Hathaway,” Silas whispers. “You may be my Emma Rose, but even
can lose patience.” He snaps his fingers and I fall down, free from whatever hold he has on me. “Oh, one more thing before I depart. Those ghosts that are haunting you?”
“Yeah?” I ask cautiously.
“You’re right about Lake Norman. If I were you, I’d spend time in the sun and look around. Never know what you might find.”
With that he’s gone, simply popped out of my room like he’d never been there. I let out a shaky breath and attempt to stand. Not working. My legs are too wobbly. Instead, I crawl to the bed and drag myself up.
First ghosts invade the privacy of my room and now demons. I have
to find a way to put a stop to this. No way am I ever gonna sleep again, knowing Silas can just pop in and out whenever he wants to. I pick up my phone and call Dan. It goes straight to voicemail. I leave him a message to call as soon as he can. I know he’s busy with his mom. Hopefully, he’ll slip out and call. I need to hear his calm, steady voice. He makes me feel safe and I’m so far from that right now.
It’s not just me taking care of myself anymore. I have Mary and her mom to think about. What’s to stop Silas from maneuvering either of them into making some kind of deal? Or possibly using them to hurt me or force me to do something I don’t want to do? Can I keep him out of the house or away from Mary and her mother? I can’t let them be hurt because they made the mistake of caring about me.
Twenty minutes later, I check my phone for the gazillionth time. Why hasn’t Dan called? I need to talk to him in a bad way. I’m flipping out! Silas all but said I’m some kind of demon. That can’t be right, can it? I mean, how can I be a demon? I’m a Reaper. He’s just messing with my head, isn’t he? God, I
he’s messing with my head.
God. There is a God. If I’m a demon, there’s no way God would let me into a church and I’ve been in and out of them my whole life. Granted, I only ev
er went to church regularly when I was a kid, but it stuck with me and sometimes I sneak in churches just to feel safe. They make me feel as safe as Dan does, honestly. If I was a demon, churches and I would be a no-go. Maybe.
Dang it, Dan, call me!
goes my phone.
Finally! I don’t even bother checking to see who it is, just burst out, “What took you so long? I’m in full freak-out mode over here!”
“Well, hello to you, too, Hilda,” Eli’s voice purrs in my ear.
The nerve, but Eli’s calling me Hilda only because he’s safely on the other end of a phone. “How did you get this number? I didn’t give it to you!”
“While you were unconscious, I put my number in your phone then called myself so I’d have it.’
“That sounds so very stalker-ish, Eli.”
“I suppose,” he says. “Why are you in full freak-out mode, sweetheart?”