A sharp gasp ripped from Cat's lips as she sat up in the chalk outline on the dirty, bloody floor where her twin's body laid for days before being found. Had she fallen asleep? Her head was pounding, though in the dark she could just barely make out that she wasn't alone. There were whispers and creaking floor boards.
"Hello?" She called, though there was no answer. Though the house was empty her voice didn't echo, the sound was dull, muted, and swallowed up by the darkness. As she pulled herself to standing those whispers intensified until she could finally make them out, but they weren't quite whispers at all. It was like a hushed conversation took place inches away from her and she could just barely hear it. She strained to listen and by the time she felt she could just make them out they all stopped like someone hit the mute button.
At the same time the voices stopped Dorian appeared in the doorway, or it could have been Dominic it was so dark. In the moonlight their skin was so pale it practically glowed.
"Dorian?" She furrowed her brows.
He smirked, and his eyes went wide with glee. "Try again."
"Why are you here, where's Dorian?"
"That's a very good question to ask yourself."
Bitter and stale, the earthy scent of burnt sage filled her nostrils as she blinked into consciousness and took in the room around her. The clutter and decorations were eclectic and somehow managed to have the clean lines of modernity combined with the flowery flourishes of an era gone by. Warm yellow light lit the room giving it an odd sort of timeless feel. Surprisingly she was alone in this weird foreign place.
She slipped from bed finding her phone on the night stand. For what seemed like eternity she stared at the time.
The last thing she wanted to do was worry Pete and being out past ten without so much as a check-in text was going to make him worry. She sighed.
I could be in an axe murderer's house and I'm worried about upsetting Pete. You know you're too responsible for your own good when.
The door opened, and Dorian walked in looking grim as she marveled at the lack of texts and calls from Pete. She thought for sure he'd have tried to get in touch with her.
"Where am I?" She spun around and crossed her arms turning her attention, and the disappointment of being more or less forgotten about, on Dorian.
"My room. You passed out from the pain and I brought you back here." He took a tentative step inside the room and looked her over.
"Why didn't you take me to the hospital? I mean, I passed out. Shouldn't you have done something about that?" Cat gestured with her phone as her skin grew hot and prickled with frustration.
"My father had a friend come over and make sure everything was okay." He leaned against a dresser, keeping his distance from her. "Apparently, you had a migraine."
"Aren't those supposed to be caused by light and sound?"
He looked up and sighed, his eyes meeting hers. She felt like she was being pulled into waves of icy, freezing, blue. "You had a migraine." His voice was soft as always but there was something almost tangible behind it, a push of power that she felt like she could reach out and touch.
"Did I?" Her quick and immediate retort won her a cautious look from Dorian.
"You should probably go since you're feeling better."
"Kicking me out?" She pursed her lips and nodded a little. "Fine."
As she approached him, he stiffened as she neared. Instead of passing him, she paused in front of him. He didn't even look at her, his eyes focused elsewhere in the room—anywhere but on her. The obvious shun made her feel cold. In truth Dorian had been the first guy who'd ever really showed any interest in her and suddenly he seemed to not want anything to do with her.
"I…guess I'll see you in school tomorrow." Everything was awkward and Cat couldn't help but wonder what happened while she was passed out to cause Dorian to act so strangely. He kept his distance from her even as she stepped into the hall. Waiting just outside of the room was Dominic, grinning wide and happy like the cat who ate the canary and didn't care about what sort of repercussions would come from it.
"I'll walk her to her car," Dominic declared with a bit of a laugh, one that seemed to be at Dorian's expense—though Cat didn't know how or why.
"Be safe, Cat," Dorian spoke softly before closing his bedroom door.
At the click of the lock, Cat spun around and lulled her head to the side staring at the dark stained oak. Dorian's sigh from the other side reached her and Dominic snickered again, almost giddy.
"What happened?" She turned and faced Dominic who only smirked in answer. Why she expected him to say anything of use she wasn't entirely sure. Dominic started down the hall and motioned for her to follow. The hallway and everything else about the house was nothing like Dorian's bedroom. It was like a museum filled with oil paintings, vases, and leather-bound books. Even the furniture was carefully carved and looked like things she'd only seen in museums and movies before. "Fine. Don't say anything." Cat rolled her eyes as they neared the front door.
"There's nothing really to say." Dominic shrugged.
"No, don't do that."
"Shut me out and hide behind that stupid cocky grin."
He huffed and crossed his arms, making them both quite the tableaux of teenage angst. "I don't owe you anything, and that whole determined stubborn little pout might work with everyone else in your life, but darlin' it doesn't do a damn thing for me."
"Well at least I know something did happen." She shouldered into him as she passed and he grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him as they stood in the foyer.
"Yes, something did happen. And if you were half as smart as you think you are you'd steer clear of me and my brother." Of all the things he could have said, that wasn't what she expected. Those pastel green eyes of his were wild as he gazed down at her, and she would have given anything to know what caused the sudden surge of what seemed to be genuine emotion.
"Well, that tells me nothing."
"It tells you that being around us is dangerous for you."
"Sorry, I've used up my 'give-a-shit' quota for the day, try again tomorrow." He tensed his jaw.
"Whatever." She stepped passed him. "It's not like you really give a damn."
"That's where you're wrong. I have a vested interest in your survival, as does my brother. Which is why I'll say it again. Stay away from us." They left the house out into the wild wind of the storm. The rain stung Cat's face as she walked down the slick brick steps.
"Then tell me why I should stay away, and why you suddenly care about what happens to me?" She glanced over her shoulder at him.
"It'll be more fun for me to watch you slowly put all the pieces together."
"Have any odd dreams lately?" The question stopped Cat in her tracks.
"Depends on what you mean by odd."
"I'll take that as a yes."
"You're just doing this because you're…" Her lips twisted, and she sighed.
He laughed, the sound sharp and bitter. "I've been called worse."
The door closed, and Dorian let out a soft sigh. He'd lit the fire place and been staring into the flames since shortly after Dominic left with Cat. Dorian didn't even look up as Dominic crossed the room behind him to grab a glass of that red hued liquor that was thicker than most alcohol.
"What did you tell her?" Dorian spoke as his brother stepped beside him and held a crystal tumbler out. He took it and stared down at the blood laced scotch.
"I didn't tell her much. Just to stay away." Dominic shrugged and took a swig from his glass.
"She's not going to listen to you."
"You're a real bastard did you know that?"
"Mhm. Your powers didn't work on her, mine didn't either which means that little episode was her awakening. Cat's not Rosabel. That whole cold shoulder act isn't going to work on her. It's a pity she's going to end up dead."
"Can't fool me, Dominic. After two hundred some-odd years I know you too well. You care, it might just be because she reminds you of Esme, or Anna Maria but you care."
Dominic scoffed and finished his glass before shooting his brother a glare. Gone was the cocky smile, replaced only by a cold stare. "And what if I do?"
"Then for now we focus on finding out who killed Esme. Because it's best if we find them first. We'll deal with deciding which of us will have her after."
Dominic laughed and shook his head. "You're forgetting something. The choice is more hers than ours."
"Oh, I didn't forget. I just know you're shitty at taking no for an answer and I'd rather not have to kill you until after she's safe."
"Good luck with that. When was the last time you drew blood from the vein? Let alone witch blood. You had problems being around her unconscious and not bleeding. What are you going to do when she finds out what you are? Or worse yet, if she gets a paper cut in English on one of those crappy books?"
"Screw you, Dominic. I'll be fine."
"If you say." Dominic turned the glass upside down and set it on the silver tray before pausing for a moment. "Good night, Brother," he added before heading up stairs.
Dorian swirled the glass entranced by the way the viscous red fluid coated the sides of the glass. The sweet metallic scent of blood hit his nostrils and it was almost enough to make him moan. The blood wasn't just any old blood though, it was witch blood—that all too rare delicacy. For Dorian to be able to smell the magic it wasn't merely Dominic curating his victims for someone with scant remnants of power generations back.
Raising the glass to take a sip he paused at the last moment and lowered it. It would only take a sip for the craving to set it and, as it stood, watching Cat's carotid throb with its tantalizing dance was already enough to leave his control thread bare. He shuddered to think what would happen if he tasted witch blood—the faint memory of its flavor was enough to worry him.
Maybe just a taste?
He raised the glass again and tested the delectable liquid with his tongue. The moment the warmth and euphoria broke over his body he instantly wished he could take it all back as he downed the glass in one quick sip. For a moment he lost track of himself and when he came to his senses he was licking the sides of the fine crystal tumbler… with Dominic's laughter coming from behind him.
He spun to meet his brother's mocking smile.
"Sure, you want to go to the party with her? God forbid some harm comes to the girl and instead of getting help you latch yourself on to the wound like a leech and drain her dry."
"I'll be fine." With trembling hands, he turned the glass upside down on the silver tray and started for the stairs.
"No, you won't. Say what you will about me, but you're the one putting her in danger. This is what you get for not feeding on living things. A blood bag and bottle will only go so far; you know as well as I that fresher is better. See, I could take a sip of our lovely Cat and be fine, you'd drain the poor girl."
"Go away, Dominic." Dorian stepped past his twin and started up the steps, Dominic followed behind him like a washed-out shadow.
"Why? Don't want to hear the truth?"
"No, that's not it. I didn't want you here in the first place. You were the one who decided that you needed to be here."
"Because someone needs to protect dear sweet innocent Catalina. And we both know it's not going to be you."
Dorian wet his lips. "Remember where Esme's body was found?"
"Mhm, in the old house. Why?"
"Do you recall anything special about that spot?"
Dominic pursed his lips for a moment and let out a slow breath. "Not particularly. It was my room."
"Remember what you did to Rosabel?"
Dominic grinned. "Yes."
"Do you remember where you did it?" Dorian opened the door to his bedroom.
It took a moment, but the realization showed plain on Dominic's handsome features. "I completely forgot."
"Given your proclivity for not giving half of a damn I didn't expect you to actually remember."
"That I remember. Rosabel was special to me."
"Of course, you killed her in your bed after all."
Dominic sighed. "It's more than that."
"I wanted you to see the truth."
"No, you wanted to hurt me. And you succeeded."
"That I did." Dominic cackled, "And I plan to again."
Dorian slammed his bedroom door and walked over to his dresser. Opening the top drawer, he took out the box of the letters sent between him and Rosabel. And that was how he spent the rest of the night, laying in bed reading the two-hundred-year-old letters from his long since dead beloved Rosabel.
After school Cat went to the cemetery. It was the anniversary of Esme's supposed death. According to the letter and the grimoire Cat should have inherited her sister's powers but she didn't feel any different. It took a while, but she eventually managed to get upset over what Esme did to her—stealing not only her life but also her magic. All her rage quickly subsided over the simple realization that Esme was dead. And that was why Cat found herself standing in front of the pretty carved angel marking the family plot.
Taking the prepared forgiveness speech out of her pocket she gazed down at the perfectly etched date and name. ESMERALDA ROBIN CARO "THERE'S ONE MORE ANGEL IN HEAVEN". Cat rolled her eyes.
Angel? Heaven? More like one more demon in hell. Chances are she's probably running the place.
With a slow breath she unfolded the piece of notebook paper.
"Esme. When I first read your letter I didn't completely believe it, and then I was angry. So angry. Now, however, I'm not angry anymore. I just wish you had told me about our gifts before. That you felt you could talk to me. That's all I feel now, regret. Regret that we won't get to make up, that we won't raise our kids together…that you felt you needed—" Lightning crackled across the sky and hit near enough to white out Cat's vision and make her scream. It was bright out, far too bright for the storm that rolled in and poured down without even darkening the sky. "Damnit." Cat folded up the piece of paper and tucked it away. "I forgive you, Esme." Cat pressed her hand to the angel before darting to the nearest place that offered refuge from the storm, a mausoleum in the older part of the cemetery.
Cat didn't even catch the name as she pushed the already unlocked gate open and stepped in. It was dark and lit by a handful of old stain glass windows in an old crest she half recognized. Cobwebs covered the corners, but that wasn't the most interesting thing.
She wasn't alone.
Dominic stood in front of one of the stone coffins he turned and faced her, narrowing his eyes.
"What are you doing here?" He snapped.
"Hiding from the rain and trying not to get struck by lightning. Trust me, this isn't how I planned to spend my afternoon."
"But you did aim to spend it in a cemetery?"
"And so did you. Though I didn't come here to vandalize a centuries old crypt."
"Wow, you must think the absolute worst of me."
"It's not like you haven't given me a reason not to."
"I'm visiting family."
"Oh." Cat's eyes shot down to name on the side of the coffin Dominic stood in front of, ELIZABETH MIDWINTER was carved in clear script but there wasn't a date. "Your mom?"
"You can pester me all you like but I'm not going to tell you anything. I'm not Dorian, you can't bat your lashes at me and get what you want."
"Now who's being the bitch." Cat crossed her arms.
Dominic's mouth soured for a moment and he sighed. "I'm sorry."
Cat blinked. Surely, she misheard him. In the short amount of time she'd known Dominic she'd ascertained that apologies were few and far between.
"I know all too well what it's like to lose people you love. Supposedly a year ago today my twin died and I didn't know. Aren't we supposed to know those things?"
Dominic nodded a little. "You should have felt it."
"But I didn't, and then I found out a bunch of stuff that might make sense of why I didn't know but… I wanted to forgive her. How screwed up is that? I should hate her. Shouldn't I?"
"It's hard to hate the dead."
"That's a good point, and I guess you're right."
"Looking forward to Jen Bennett's party?"
"Kind of." Cat shook her head. "Dorian supposed to go with me but…" She shrugged. "He barely said two words to me today so I don't know if he still wants to."
"How can be you so sure?"
"Because he's an idiot."
"Right, because I should stay away from the two of you?"
"Why do you care?"
"I don't, not about you at least."
"Thank you. I care about my brother and I know what's going to happen. You're going to fall for him first. Then you'll get tired of him and slowly worm your way into my life and break his heart in the process."
"Yes, because you're just so incredibly irresistible." Cat rolled her eyes.
"It's happened before."
"You're delusional if you think I'd ever be interested in you." Cat started out of the crypt.
"It's still raining."
"I'd rather risk the lightning than spend another moment in here with your suffocating ego," Cat grumbled as she slammed the door shut behind her.