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Authors: Mary Lindsey

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Horror, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Love & Romance, #Fantasy & Magic, #Paranormal

Fragile Spirits (22 page)

BOOK: Fragile Spirits
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21st-Century Cycle, Journal Entry 7:

The resolution and exorcism of a Malevolent was executed without incident, resulting in a positive conclusion including no fatalities.
The Speaker is assuming her role effectively. The working relationship between Speaker and Protector is satisfactory.
The Speaker kicks ass, and the relationship between Speaker and Protector is mind-blowing.

Paul Blackwell—Protector 993

ecause of records and the probability of exposure, the IC didn’t use regular hospitals. They housed patients in luxury hotels owned by the IC under the care of its own physicians, most of whom were Protectors and Speakers themselves.

Sunlight streamed into the huge hotel suite, making the gold silk brocade on the chairs and bedcovers shimmer. Lenzi’s head was wrapped in bandages. A tall neck brace came up to her chin, and what flesh I could see on her face was swollen and bruised. I wouldn’t have been able to identify her, were it not for the fact Alden was sleeping in a chair next to the bed and the nurse confirmed I had the right room when I knocked.

“At least Alden’s getting some sleep now,” Maddi whispered from a chair in the corner of the bedroom.

“His neck’s gonna hurt like blazes if he stays like that,” Race said.

Maddi glared at Race over the top of her magazine. “Well, if you weren’t hogging the spare bed, maybe he could get in it.”

Race sat up. “Hey. He wasn’t using it.”

“Shhhhh!” the nurse hissed from the sitting room behind me. “Do not raise your voices above a whisper, please. The patients need to rest.”

Maddi flipped a page with a flourish. “So are you two going to just stand there in the doorway, or what?”

Vivienne plopped in a chair next to Maddi, and I took the one closest to Race, who had his muddy cowboy boots on the bedcovers.

Race cocked an eyebrow at me. “So, where have you guys been, Junior? Cinda said you didn’t come home last night.”

“Charles interviewed us about the resolution,” I answered.

Race smirked. “All night long?”

“Shut up, Race,” Maddi scolded.

I glanced over at Vivienne, and she blushed.

The nurse bustled in, checked on one of the pieces of medical equipment, gave us all warning glares, and then went back into the adjoining sitting room.

Maddi put her magazine on the table next to her. “How’s your grandmother, Vivienne?”

“She’s good. She was eating breakfast in front of the TV, watching a
Spirit Seekers
episode when we left.”

Alden groaned and shifted in his chair. The nurse came back in and touched his arm. “Do you need some painkillers?”

Alden opened his eyes and squinted at her, then looked around the room. He straightened his leg and winced. “Uh, yeah. That’d be great.”

Maddi stood and stretched. “How’s the leg?” She walked to a bureau near Alden and poured a glass of water from a pitcher.

“Hurts like hell.” He touched Lenzi’s hand. “Could be worse, though.”

Race scooted up in the bed and leaned against the headboard. “Charles told us that Lenzi is going to be fine.”

“Yeah,” Alden said. “Thanks to Vivienne and Paul.”

Maddi held up the glass of water in salute.

“How did you do it?” Alden asked. “I didn’t really think it was possible to resolve Smith.”

Race snorted. “She came up with a strategy all her own—she talked him to death.”

Vivienne smiled. “No, actually, I figured out what to do because of something Paul said the first day we met.”

My mind filed through the conversations we had had that first day, but I couldn’t think of anything that would’ve given her a strategy for taking Smith down.

The nurse returned with a tiny paper cup and a glass of water. Alden took the cup, tilted the pills into his mouth, then swallowed them down while she watched. She took the paper cup and left.

Vivienne continued. “See, I figured out right away Smith was making his grand finale. He went to a lot of trouble to impress us, which I doubt he usually did.”

“No, he just killed people,” Alden said.

“And then he was offended when I didn’t pay enough attention. So he kept trying to get noticed by being flashy. Showy.” She looked right at me. “Toxic.”

I lowered my eyes and studied the swirl pattern in the hotel carpet. Being her inspiration may not have been a good thing.

“At dinner that first night, Paul told me that he thought I was like a beautiful, toxic flower. I lashed out and dressed in an unconventional way to hide my vulnerability. He was right.”

Maddi sat back in her chair.

“I believed that Smith was doing the same thing,” Vivienne said. “He was using flash to cover his desires and vulnerability. Paul had also told me that revenge wasn’t a primary desire. It was a byproduct. Kind of a symptom, I guess. I just had to figure out what Smith really wanted.”

“What was it?” Alden asked.

“I think he’d been demonic so long, he didn’t know anymore. He just needed to be reminded of why he wanted revenge so badly.”

Race threw his legs over the side of the bed. “Well, that clears it right up, Dr. Viv.”

Vivienne laughed. “Smith longed for what Rose had denied him in the 1860s. A human connection—a personal relationship. Sounds stupid, I know, but that was it. The card thing is the perfect example. The minute I started talking to him like he wasn’t a demon, he responded. He almost forgot what he was supposed to be. What he
to be: evil.”

evil,” Alden said.

“Yes, he was,” Vivienne agreed. “Through and through.”

I knew that for a fact. My soul still felt scorched from dealing with him.

Vivienne leaned forward in her chair. “But he wanted to interact and be heard so badly he was willing to lose power to achieve it. I knew if I could keep him engaged enough, he would weaken enough for Paul to force him out, and he’d be too used up to stay.”

“And it worked,” Maddi said.

“It did. It also helped that Cinda came along, because possessing her and then me took a ton of his energy.”

Race rolled his eyes.

Cinda?” I asked.

“Charles decided she needs to serve out this cycle at the administration office instead of in the field,” Race said. “Some folks just aren’t cut out for this, regardless of their gifts. Cinda is smart enough to know she’s not ready.”

“Does that mean she won’t ever be your Speaker?” Vivienne asked.

Race offered Maddi his hand and helped her to her feet. “We’ll see how she feels next cycle,” he said.

Maddi grinned.

The nurse came into the room and put a blanket over Alden, who had drifted off to sleep in the chair again. “All of you should leave now so that they can rest.”

Maddi tugged Race toward the door. “You owe me breakfast.”

“You guys wanna join us?” Race asked over his shoulder as Maddi pulled him down the hallway by the hand.

“Nah. We’re good,” Vivienne said.

And we were.

We stepped out into the long hotel hallway, and the nurse closed the door behind us. “What do you want to do now?” I asked.

She struck out toward the elevators and paused outside a door with a brass plaque that said
. She opened the door, peeked in, then turned to me and arched an eyebrow. With both hands, she pulled me into the closet full of clean, folded towels and bedsheets and pushed the door closed with her foot. “How about some physical therapy?”

“Game on,” I said.


Thank you to all the great folks at Philomel for making it possible for me to go back into the world of the Intercessor Council one more time.

As always, Jill Santopolo, your guidance was spot-on. Thanks to Brian Geffen, Ana Deboo, Cindy Howle, Linda McCarthy, Amy Wu, Tony Sahara, and the whole gang at Penguin for making my work shine.

Ammi-Joan Paquette, agent extraordinaire—you rock. That is all.

Big hugs to Leah Clifford and Kari Olson for emergency reads and input.

I love you, Laine, Hannah, Robert, and Emily. I am nothing without my amazing husband and kids, who endure dirty dishes, plot discussions, and incoherent mumblings.

Special gratitude to my little Emily-Bee-Bug, who decided Paul needed his own book. I’m glad I agreed. He’s pretty cool.

Most of all, thank you to my fantastic, supportive readers. You are what it’s all about.

BOOK: Fragile Spirits
4.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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