Authors: Melissa Giorgio
THE SHADOW STEALER
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.
Cover by Rue Volley
Edited by Elizabeth A. Lance
Text Copyright © 2015 Melissa Giorgio
All rights reserved.
To Kim, who asked, “When is the next book coming out?” every time I saw her. This one is for you.
“I think Silver Moon killed your parents.”
Those were the words Rafe woke up to, after I’d promised Charles I would break the news gently. I’d been talking, rambling, really, filling the air with my voice to block out the hospital noises that crowded Rafe’s room. If I’d known he’d been on the verge of waking up, my voice somehow getting through to him, I never would have said that.
I watched as the fire burning in his eyes faded away, replaced by a blank nothingness. His gaze focused on me, running over my snow-white hair and the various bumps and bruises that covered my body and his grip tightened, squeezing the life out of my fingers. I didn’t complain, though. I could barely breathe or move as I watched him and waited.
Waited for him to lash out. To scream. To vow revenge on Silver Moon.
Or, at the very least, to ask me what I meant.
But nothing happened. Letting out a deep sigh, Rafe shifted in bed until he was comfortable. Resting his head against his pillow, he stared up at the ceiling, his face expressionless.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. “Rafe?”
What have I done?
My eyes, already red and raw from crying, began burning with unshed tears.
What did I do to him?
I’d never seen him look so broken.
And it was my fault.
My words died in my throat as the shadows in the room began writhing like snakes, reaching over the bed and wrapping around Rafe’s throat, arms, and legs. I toppled out of my chair, my heart hammering as I realized
was happening again.
The dream—no, the nightmare, was back.
Not again. Not again, not again, not again. The words chanted in my brain as I reached for the shadows in desperation. They were ice-cold, but I refused to give up, even as my body froze and my teeth began chattering.
I wouldn’t let the shadows take him. Not tonight. Not this time.
But they kept coming, wrapping themselves around Rafe until only his face was free. The entire time, his gaze remained on the ceiling, his eyes open and unblinking. As the shadows crept up over his chin, his nose, I opened my mouth to scream
And that’s when the shadows came for me.
“You will never win,” a voice, the same voice I heard night after night since I’d healed Alexandra, whispered in my ears. “You will never win against me.”
The shadows swarmed around me, locking me in place as they tightened around my body, suffocating me. The last thing I saw before I fell to the darkness was the blank expression on Rafe’s face.
When you’re sixteen years old, spending your Friday night working at a Texan-themed convenience store while wearing a store-issued lime-green t-shirt could be considered the equivalent to spending eternity in one of the nine circles of Hell. If you were a
teenage girl, you would be out partying or spending quality time with your adorable boyfriend that involved lots of kissing. But if you’re me, Gabi Harkins, the girl with the Sight who’s also possibly a Soul Healer, there’s no such thing as normalcy.
Take tonight, for example. I was working a five-hour shift with Denise Whitmore, a fellow Corral-sufferer, and Bernard the drill sergeant. The boss man was up in his office, playing solitaire on his computer and occasionally barking orders at us over the loudspeaker. Denise was watching the register while I patrolled the aisles, straightening bottles and removing items that didn’t belong. In other words,
Normally I’d be sneaking glances at my phone, counting down the hours until I got off, but like I said, tonight was different.
Tonight, I had a handy helper.
“You don’t have to help, you know,” I pointed out to Philip Adler as he pulled a row of shampoo bottles to the front of the shelf, a look of deep concentration on his face. I grabbed a warm soda from the top shelf and tossed it into my blue basket with the other items that needed to be returned to their proper spots. “It’s bad enough that I’m stuck here, but at least I’m getting paid. You know Bernard isn’t going to pay you, right? But he’s not going to tell you to stop, either. Cheap bastard would pay me below minimum wage if it wasn’t illegal.”
Philip chuckled, picking up a fallen bottle of conditioner and setting it right. “I don’t mind helping.”
“Phil, you really need to get out more.”
He nudged me with his shoulder. “What, coming out to the sticks isn’t considered ‘getting out’ to you?”
“Excuse me, this isn’t the sticks,” I said. “How many pigs or sheep have you seen, huh? I’m sorry this isn’t your shiny, big city, but admit it, it’s a lot more urban than you expected!”
“Gabi.” Philip could barely contain his laughter as he caught my eye. “You work in a store with a door buzzer that
. Maybe you think you live in an urban place, but you’re wrong. Very, very wrong.”
“Shut up,” I grumbled, picking up my basket and stalking to the next aisle. Philip followed obediently, tossing a candy bar and a hair brush into my basket. If I didn’t know better, I would say he was actually enjoying this “working for free” thing. I shook my head. I shouldn’t be too surprised. Philip had lived a sheltered life as a member of Silver Moon, an organization that battled demons. With his father the director of the New York HQ and his mother dying when he was a baby, Philip had grown up mostly alone, something Charles, his dad, hadn’t done anything to prevent. These trips to upstate New York to see me were Philip’s first steps at breaking free from his father’s hold on him. Then again, Charles actually encouraged the trips, so it wasn’t like Philip was defying him or anything awesome like that.
The official reason Philip was here? To keep an eye on me, the potential Soul Healer. Two months later, we still didn’t know what, exactly, that was. There were two possibilities, neither of which thrilled me.
Possibility number one: I was a freak with an expiration date. Each time I used my bizarre, rare ability to heal someone, I was one step closer to dying. We didn’t know how many times I could heal (I was up to three), but we weren’t about to test it. But that was kind of hard when your friends battled demons for a living and made a habit of emerging from said battles with all sorts of nasty wounds.
Possibility number two was just as much fun. According to Nina, a hunter who had turned completely crazy and tried to kill me and my friends, I had demon blood running inside of my veins, which explained both my Sight and the healing. Considering both my parents were human, I’d scoffed at the idea. Loudly. Charles shared my opinion, which made me feel a tiny bit better. (I know, Charles and I agreed on something. The world was going to end!) But Nina had believed it, enough to throw her own life away to take mine, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t wake up in the middle of night, sweaty and panicked that I was about to grow a pair of horns and munch on my sister for a late night snack.
And on the nights I didn’t wake up from that gruesome nightmare, I instead had these wonderful, creeptastic recurring dreams that involved scary, homicidal shadows, but that was a whole other story. Right now I was chalking it up to stress. And possibly an outcome of getting slammed into the wall by Evan, which had resulted in a concussion. My brain had been knocked around—surely that explained my weird dreams, right?
Oh, and the best part about all of this? If possibility number two was true, then my friends, who all happened to be hunters, would be required to kill me thanks to some messed up Silver Moon edict that dictated they killed first and asked questions later.
You could see why I didn’t like either choice. I was hoping there was an option number three, like I was a fairy that had been switched at birth with a human baby, but Rafe kept pointing out fairies weren’t real, killing that dream.
My heart squeezed painfully at the thought of Rafe, but I pushed it aside, focusing on Philip. Working in silence, we moved on to the aisle adjacent to the registers. There were no customers, so Denise was leaning against the counter, showing off a generous amount of cleavage to Kain Wentworth. From where I stood, I could see the appreciative look on Kain’s face as he didn’t even bother hiding the fact that he was staring down her shirt. He said something that made Denise laugh, and she ran a hand do
se laughtng down her shirt.n Kain'ount of adjacent to the registers. There were no customers, so Denise w
wn his arm, keeping it there, right above his wrist.
“Um,” I said to Philip. “Do you see what’s going on?”
He looked up from sorting through bags of candy and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I see.”
Denise was really pretty, with curly black hair, dark eyes, and coffee-colored skin that somehow looked good next to the lime-green t-shirt. When she laughed, it filled the store and made everyone smile, even snarky, grumpy me. I actually
working with her—when she wasn’t shamelessly flirting with Kain, that is.
“It’s fine. Watch.” Philip put the bag of candy down and walked to the register. “Hey, Kain?”
Kain glanced to his right (finally looking away from Denise’s chest) and his whole face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Philip!” he cried, as if he hadn’t seen him in weeks instead of minutes. “Are you having fun cleaning with Gabiella?”
“Not as much fun as you the two of seem to be having,” Philip said, indicating Denise with a nod of his head.
“Denise was telling me the funniest stories about her customers,” Kain said. “I’m rather jealous, you know. If my family weren’t so rich, I would be forced to get a job like this and have charming stories to share with everyone.”
“Right, being rich is
horrible,” Philip said sarcastically, which Kain ignored. Or maybe it went over his head; he was pretty clueless when it came to certain things, which was why I didn’t mind—
much—when he casually mentioned things like his wealth or good looks. It wasn’t his fault; he just didn’t know any better.
“Did you want anything for the hotel room? Soda? Chips?”
“Oh, do they still have those smoke-flavored crisps?” Kain asked.
“God, no,” Denise said with a shudder. “They finally expired and we threw them out.”
Kain frowned, crestfallen. “Oh. I
“You were the only one,” Denise said. “Maybe it’s a British thing?”
“I’m English,” Kain corrected cheerfully.
Denise looked confused. “Isn’t that the same thing?”
“It is to everyone in the world but Kain,” Philip told her. “You’re better off just ignoring him. It’ll save you from getting a headache.”
Kain bumped Philip with his shoulder. “I’m from London, which is in
. Therefore I am
Philip pushed him back. “We are
having this argument again. Seriously, Denise, ignore him.”
“England, Britain… Hon, it doesn’t matter where that boy is from.” Denise grabbed a magazine and fanned herself with it. “It’s one hell of a sexy accent. I swear if Gabi wasn’t standing there, I would totally rip my top off.”
Kain grinned. “I do seem to have that effect on women.” He gave Philip a sly look. “
,” Philip growled warningly, turning red.
“Wait, what?” Denise glanced from Kain to Philip and back again. “Am I missing something here?”
,” Kain declared loudly just as a pair of shoppers walked by. They gave Kain a strange look and darted down an aisle as Denise started squealing. I wondered how long we had until Bernard came charging downstairs and yelled at us for slacking off.
“Are you for real?” she shouted. “Gabi, why didn’t you tell me your friends were gay?”
I leaned against one of the shelves in my aisle and shook my head. “Why? Are you embarrassed because you told Kain you wanted to take your shirt off?”
Denise laughed. “Of course not! Even gay men can appreciate what’s going on over here!” As if to prove her point, she did a little shimmy for the boys.
Kain nodded his approval. “I’m bi, so I
. Philip, we need to visit Gabi whenever she’s working— Philip?”
Philip had rejoined me in the candy aisle, his face the color of the cinnamon drops he was currently punching as he cursed under his breath.
I lifted my eyebrows. “Things didn’t go the way you planned?”
“I hate him.”
“You do not. Remember, he’s your
,” I said, doing a poor job of imitating Kain’s accent. When Philip glared at me, I started cracking up.
“This is your fault, you know. Telling me to go over there to stop something that wasn’t even happening!”
you go?” I asked. “Were you trying to show off and it completely backfired? Are you horribly humiliated now?”
“Shut up,” Philip said, speaking to the candy and proving me right. “Just shut up.”
“Aww, you guys are so cute,” I said, poking him in the back. “And who was the one who told you back in December that Kain was interested? Hmm?” I poked him a few more times when he didn’t answer. “Maybe you should have listened to me, huh? Huh, Phil?”
He stomped away, going down an aisle we’d already cleaned. Laughing to myself, I went back to straightening up as the cursed buzzer mooed, indicating another customer had entered the store. Spotting a ripped bag of chocolate, I crouched down to clean up the mess. (What a waste of chocolate!) I was so engrossed in my task that I didn’t even hear someone walking up to me until he said, “Busy?”
Hearing that familiar voice, I dropped my fistful of chocolate and looked up. “Rafe!”