Home > Cursed Mate (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #5)

Cursed Mate (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #5)
Author: Linsey Hall

1

Grey

Lightning cracked over the castle on the hill, a stark reminder of the violence that had shrouded the building for centuries.

I tucked myself deeper under the eaves of the ramshackle shop, leaning against the wall as the rain poured from the roof. It created a shield of water, separating me from the city that I’d once called home.

A soft huff of wry laughter escaped me, lost to the howling wind. “Home” was too strong a word. I’d been here for only a decade, immediately after I’d been turned into a vampire. I’d been so enraptured by blood lust that I’d hardly had a sane thought the entire time. Certainly not any about “home.”

Through the pouring rain, I could see the ancient buildings that crowded along the cobblestone street. The town of Siaora was entirely inhabited by supernaturals, but the population was down to a tenth of what it had once been. No one wanted to live in such a dark and dreary place. It was the Transylvania of sensationalized films, the myth that had created the legends.

In short, it was dark and dreary and downright creepy, to use a word that Carrow favored. The truth of Transylvania was brighter and lovelier, but not here, not in the city that Silviu had created.

My maker had been a miserable bastard, and I had no idea if he was still alive. I’d intentionally lost touch centuries ago, but I needed him now—which led me to this rainy night in this miserable town, waiting to learn whether he still crouched in that tower like the gargoyle I’d known him to be.

A pain sliced through my heart, a visceral reminder of my need for Carrow. I rubbed my chest, wincing. This damned Cursed Mate bond was hitting me hard. The work that I’d done with the blood sorceress Cyrenthia had barely lasted a few days. We’d tried to break the bond between Carrow and me, but it was too strong.

As a result, I felt my mortality creeping in on me. There was a heaviness to my footsteps now, and aches and pains that were otherwise foreign. And wounds…

I didn’t heal as quickly or as easily.

My time was running out.

I thumped my head back against the stone wall, staring blindly out into the rain.

The worst part was…I missed her.

The mate bond would be there whether or not I cared for Carrow. Unfortunately for me, I had grown to care for her. I’d barely felt emotion in the five hundred years since I’d been turned, and then she’d appeared, and bam.

Feelings.

Disgusted with myself, I dragged a hand over my face.

The slightest change in the air made me stiffen. I lowered my hand and searched the night, my enhanced vision catching sight of a small figure approaching me through the rain. The streets were empty at this hour, save for her.

Finally.

The woman hurried forward, her small form clothed in simple black trousers and a jacket—the kind of clothing worn by people used to sneaking around in the shadows. Her dark hair was soaked to her skull, and her eyes blazed a brilliant silver as she stepped out of the rain about ten feet down from me.

“Devil.” She inclined her head.

“Veronica. What did you find?”

“He’s still there.” She hiked a thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the castle. “Moldy and miserable as ever.”

It was as I’d expected. He was far older than me, and immortality didn’t sit well the longer one lived with it.

“He’s still in his right mind?” I asked.

She nodded. “For the most part. Keeps himself entertained with books and some really terrible paintings. A couple of women who don’t like him much.”

I grimaced. Would that be my fate if I managed to break this bond with Carrow? Eternity alone, growing more and more disenchanted with the world as each year slipped by? Worse, I’d have to watch Carrow grow old and die.

The idea sent a shudder of misery through me, but I shook it away.

“Will he meet me?” I asked.

She nodded. “Tomorrow night. Although you’ll have to pass the gauntlet to get there.”

“Truly?” The gauntlet was a series of protections that guarded the ascent to the castle at the top of the hill. It was what had kept Silviu protected all these years, and the reason I’d hired Veronica to check on him. She had a shortcut specially provided by him, though she used it infrequently.

“He wants to make sure you still have what it takes,” she said.

“Of course I do.”

She shrugged. “You look different.”

I could feel my lips turn down at the corners, and she stepped back, eyes flashing. “Good still, of course. Kind of tortured poet-like, with the shadows under your eyes.”

I could hear the truth in her voice but didn’t care. It was the mere idea of changing after so many years—of not being in control of my body and mind—that bothered me.

“Thank you, Veronica.” I reached into my pocket, withdrew a crisp set of notes, and passed them to her.

She took them and stuffed them in her pocket without looking. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

I nodded, and she disappeared into the shadows, slipping back out into the rain. I turned away, thinking of Carrow.

I needed to find her.

Carrow

Dreams flashed through my mind, hazy and unclear. Grey, of course, always at the periphery of my thoughts. And Beatrix, my friend. She’d died over a year ago, murdered by the man who’d worked for the necromancer. That mystery had drawn me into Guild City, and in a terrible way, I supposed I had her to thank for it.

Poor Beatrix.

A tapping sound dragged me from sleep, and I rolled over, my body weighing a million pounds. Sunlight streamed through the small window set into the white plaster wall. Bright and brilliant, it slanted across the sheets, nearly blinding me when it passed over my eyes.

I blinked, the dark rafters in the sloping ceiling helping me focus my vision.

The tapping sounded again.

I turned toward the window, squinting against the light. A dark shape was silhouetted against the sun—a bird.

As I blinked and climbed out of bed, the bird coming into focus.

Eve’s raven.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

The bird didn’t speak—not to me, at least—but it tilted its head like it understood.

I walked toward the window and forced the rickety thing open. The bird hopped to the side of the sill but didn’t take flight. I looked past it, down onto the street.

“Eve?” I called.

My Fae friend was nowhere to be seen. The street bustled with early morning foot traffic. Supernaturals carried steaming cups of magical coffee that billowed rainbows of steam, the color depending on the enchantment on the dark brew. Energy, charm, luck, or a bit of extra intelligence—all were yours for the taking if you ordered from the right shop.

I looked up into the sky, expecting to see her hovering on her Fae wings. All I saw were fluffy white clouds against a brilliant blue sky.

I looked back down at the raven. “Where’s Eve?”

The bird just tilted its head, staring at me. Something pulled in my chest. Recognition, almost. Familiarity or connection. The dream of Beatrix flashed in my mind. She stood next to me, smiling and laughing like she used to.

Pain sliced through my chest, and my hand instinctively went to my heart. I’d done a good job of banishing the sadness from my mind, but lately, it insisted on coming back.

So strange.

The bird took flight, launching itself into the gentle wind. It whirled on the breeze, then flew off toward the Shadow Guild tower.

I watched the dark, glossy wings glint in the sun, feeling like the creature was calling to me, drawing me along.

It had never done that before.

I rubbed a hand over my face as I walked toward the bedside table and grabbed my phone, then typed a quick text to Eve:

Saw your raven. Did you need me for something?

I set the phone back down and hopped in the shower, making quick work of getting cleaned up for the job ahead. It had only been two days since the fight at the Temple of Anat—and two days since I had seen Grey.

The Cursed Mate bond between us was as strong as ever, and I could feel it pulling on me. Like it had grown, leaving an imprint on my soul. A sensory memory of Grey.

I knew he was away, trying to find a solution to our terrible problem, and I was doing the same. My gift told me that there were answers in the Shadow Guild tower. I knew it. I was drawn to that place like we were two enormous magnets, and there was no fighting the pull.

More than that, there were answers there that could possibly save Grey and me. It was like my power had been building toward this moment, growing stronger and stronger. And now it told me that there were answers in the many boxes that filled the long-abandoned rooms.

I hopped out of the shower and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, both appropriately ragged for the dirty job to come. Today was the day. I could feel it. I was going to find something. And damn it, I would use it to figure out how to save us.

Eve never responded to my text. She claimed she couldn’t see the bird, but I swore that I occasionally caught her looking at it. Especially lately.

I shoved the phone into my pocket and pulled on my boots, then headed out into the living room. Cordelia, my raccoon familiar, lay on the sofa, passed out next to an empty bag of crisps. Her little paw was still shoved into the bag, and her fluffy belly faced the ceiling. I left her sleeping and stepped out on the landing outside my apartment.

The narrow stairs disappeared down toward street level. I lived on the top floor, with Mac on the one below me. She stepped out of her flat and looked up at me, grinning. “Perfect timing.”

“You coming to the tower?”

She nodded. “I don’t start at the Hound until later tonight, so I thought I’d help you out this morning.”

We still didn’t know whether we would live in our guild tower like some of the other guilds did, but we needed it cleaned out, no matter what. And she knew I hoped to find answers there.

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Cordelia still sleeping?”

“Yeah. With an entire bag of crisps next to her.” I shook my head. “I swear, I have to work on her diet, or she’ll have a heart attack.”

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