“Cloud. Wake up!”
My brother’s voice called from beyond the haze, yanking me from my dreams.
“Cloud! You’re having a nightmare. Wake up. Now.” He shook my shoulder.
A sharp inhale rang out. I didn’t realize it was me until a second gasp wracked my chest. This has to stop. I swallowed down the fear and panic that were drowning me.
“Claudia?” He finally used my real name, worry thick in his voice.
I blinked as the dream faded and reality set in. “I’m fine.” I didn’t dare tell him that my body felt like lead, and I was more than a little nauseated. I swallowed and took a deep, steadying breath. It was dark and the floor was cold under my feet. “Where am I?”
“The hallway. I was up reading and heard you crying.”
I wiped my face and felt the tears wetting my cheeks. I’d been crying?
“Come on. This way.”
He turned me around, and I followed clumsily. My body wasn’t reacting right.
Luciana. Just thinking her name caused goose bumps to break out over my skin. The oath I’d taken still bound us together. The other members of the coven had each taken one too, but Luciana had threatened my family—my mother—until I agreed to a more invasive one. It allowed her to draw on my ability to strengthen others’ magic. Any time she wanted, she could suck me dry for a power boost. Even though I’d left, the oath was still there, and I had to focus—and be awake—in order to stop her from using it.
I stumbled into my temporary room—one of the guest rooms reserved for visiting wolves on the floor above St. Ailbe’s infirmary. My vision blurred as I tried to imagine what Luciana had been doing with my power just then. How tainted was my soul now?
I sank down on my bed before I could faint. Since I left the coven three days ago, Luciana took control of me every time I fell asleep. She no longer cared about getting my consent before using me for her black magic—not that I’d given much consent to begin with. But now…
I’d been trying to stay awake by reading spell books from the wolves’ library, but I’d obviously failed. The dim bedside lamp was still on, but I needed it to be brighter in here. “Do me a favor and turn on the overhead light?” I asked Raphael.
Light filled the room, revealing the tiny, twin-sized mattress with clean, white sheets. There wasn’t anything to complain about, but still, the room felt utilitarian. The house we grew up in was a bit more…colorful. Filled with different scents and textures. At the very least, Mom was always burning sage for protection. I’d kept that going after she left. Without the scent, I found it hard to settle down at night.
St. Ailbe’s was only a few miles from home, but it felt infinitely farther. The werewolves didn’t like scents. I could understand that with their sensitive noses, but some accent pillows or art on the walls wouldn’t kill anyone.
It wasn’t just the lack of decor in the guest rooms. The differences between the wolves and the coven seemed vast. Although there were times I really felt connected to my cousin, Teresa. Sure, she was only half witch now, but she seemed to understand me, too. I was glad I’d gotten to know her better these last few weeks, even if it had happened under the worst of circumstances. The wolves and witches were going to war, and I’d turned my back on my coven—on everything I knew—to stop Luciana, the evil woman who’d changed our Aquelarre into something so dark that remembering the role I’d played in her rise to power made my chest ache.
I wanted to make amends, but now I was in Teresa’s territory and everything seemed a little out of my control. Even my own body. I ached for something familiar. Something more than just my twin brother.
I brushed my sweat-soaked hair back from my face as I tried to regain some sense of composure.
Raphael settled down beside me, and I scooted over to make room for him. “This is the third night she’s drained you,” he said. His deep voice was a contrast to my higher one. Just like everything else, we were the yin to each other’s yang. The balance. It made sense. We were twins. Although he liked to make it known that he was older. By minutes. But that was what counted to him—specifics. He was an exacting kind of guy.
And he was right.
A few of us had turned against Luciana and she’d never let go of that betrayal. Especially not mine. Luciana wanted me back. She didn’t care as much about the others, even though they’d taken their own oaths. As far as I knew, they weren’t getting the nightmares. Luciana wasn’t using them for their abilities. But she was haunting me. Draining me. I feared that no matter how far I ran, no matter how fast, she’d never stop.
Every time she did a spell, she drew on my power to make it stronger. To make her stronger. My leaving had left her in a power deficit. The second I was asleep, my consciousness relaxed, and she could use my powers to boost her own. It was causing nightmares, making me sleepwalk and cry out into the night as she siphoned away my energy, but I wasn’t about to go back to the coven. Not even to put an end to this.
I’d find a way to break the link. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t matter anyway. Because I’d be dead. Either way, Luciana wouldn’t be getting what she wanted.
The stiff sheets crinkled as I lay back against my single pillow. “I’ll be okay. It’s just a few bad dreams.” We didn’t have total ESP, but we knew each other well. Ridiculously well. We finished each other’s sentences, knew when the other was hurt, and definitely couldn’t lie to each other. It never worked.