Home > Year of the Chameleon, Book 2

Year of the Chameleon, Book 2
Author: Shannon Mayer

 

1

 

 

Wild

 

 

I would have preferred it if he’d knocked me out. Instead, the Shadowkiller’s spell had frozen me, making it so I could see, and hear, and think but not act. So I couldn’t do a damn thing about him slinging me over his shoulder like I was a bag of feed. My friends were under attack as he hauled me away, and I could do nothing to help them. I couldn’t so much as twitch a muscle or blink my eyes. All I could do was watch what was unfolding in front of me.

Yeah, it would have been kinder if he’d made me truly oblivious to what was happening.

Kindness, though, did not appear to be in the Shadowkiller’s repertoire.

“The SUV is waiting,” the gargoyle Ash said, his wings blocking my vision for a moment. He’d been my professor for about 3.2 seconds, and it turned out he was working with the Shadowkiller, my uncle (gah, that still galled), all along. Helping Uncle Nicholas get close to me through him, making me believe that he was my friend.

In the distance, my real friends called out to me. One voice was missing, though. Colt. My guts twisted and a groan slipped out of me. He’d been killed because I’d let him into my crew. Killed trying to protect me. A shudder rippled and I struggled to breathe, not because of the spell, but because of my damn emotions.

I had to get myself under control. I had to lock all that up . . . I’m sorry, Colt. I have to put you aside. For now. I’d hurt later for my friend. But not now, not in the middle of a fight for our lives.

Wally’s voice rose over the others as she demanded that the Shadowkiller put me down.

 

“Don’t you dare take her!” she yelled, and my heart swelled a little. She was a good friend, more loyal than most. No, that wasn’t true. All my friends here were like her. Good. Loyal. Stronger than they realized.

Despite that, they were no match for the Shadowkiller, any more than I was apparently.

Explosions rocketed around us, filling the air with dust and debris, rumbling against my chest, but I couldn’t move no matter how hard I tried, and I was trying. My breath came in ragged gulps as my adrenaline soared and my internal warning system went off the rails, screaming at me to run, to fight, to do something.

“Stop struggling, Maribel,” Nicholas said, his voice calm and as smooth as butter on a hot Texas day. He adjusted his hold on me, and a wave of darkness threatened at the edge of my vision.

“Not. My. Name.” It was all I could do to say those three words and stay conscious. Sweat broke out across my face and dripped down my cheeks to the floor below. Three words and I was exhausted, wrung out from the effort.

I blinked and behind us stood Tommy. My brother’s ghost was shaking his head, one hand in his hair as he stared at me. How could I see him? I wasn’t touching Wally. That was the connection I needed in order to see ghosts.

There was movement off to my left, drawing my eyes as that was all I could move. The pebbled skin of Ash blocked my view as Nicholas strode toward the front doors of the House of Wonder. He almost had me out.

“Fight!” Tommy yelled at me. I wanted to yell back that I was trying. A groan was all I managed.

“Ethan, stop him!” Wally screamed, and a spell slammed the doors shut. My uncle—God, I did not want to think of being related to this monster—just flicked his wand and the doors ripped open, snapping at the hinges as they spun away.

As if Ethan’s magic was nothing to him.

Another explosion ripped out behind us, and the ground shook as the building was rocked from the inside.

They—Ash and the Shadowkiller—had set bombs off in the House of Wonder. Just like they’d done to the other houses.

“That should slow them down,” Ash said with more than a little satisfaction. I wouldn’t have pegged him for bloodthirsty, but here it was—the truth. He’d fooled me. Damn it, where had my internal warning system been when I’d met the gargoyle? Maybe it had still been dampened by the spell the mages had set on all of us upon our arrival. A spell to keep us slow and compliant while we were in the House of Wonder.

The honk of vehicles blitzed through the booms behind us from the explosives that had gone off. There was a screech of tires, and then the world turned upside down and I was staring at the night sky for a split second as I was flipped into the back seat of what looked like a black SUV or maybe a truck. Hard to say from that angle.

“Original.” I bit out the word, face down on the leather seats, my jaw cramping as if I’d been kicked in the face by a donkey. The spell the Shadowkiller had wrapped around me tightened, reminding me of the python that had attacked us the morning after Ruby’s assault on me. Even as I thought it, there was a shimmer of scales around me.

“Snake.” I bit that word out too, putting the pieces together.

“Yes, that was me,” Nicholas said slowly. “I can see the questions in your mind, Maribel. That’s the power of a family connection in our world when we are close in proximity, if you know how to use it, of course. And, yes, I sent that snake to wrap you up and bring you back to me. Separating you from your friends was the key. That older student, the Shade, didn’t realize the python was out of the ordinary—mind you, it is something the House of Wonder uses for training.” He sighed. “Truly, this is not how I wanted things to go. But such is life, rarely bending to your will the way you’d like it to. We have to hurry, Ash. I’ve only got so much time before . . .” He rubbed his temple.

Before what? He didn’t finish his sentence, leaving me to wonder.

Before he drained my life?

Before another bomb exploded?

“The spell will cover us for another few hours at best,” Ash said.

Nicholas settled into his seat next to me and put on a seat belt with a click. Like . . . a normal person. Not a damn crazy killer of so many of the people in our world. “Ash, let’s go,” he said. “There is nothing here. Except for Maribel, this night is a complete bust.”

“Could it be hidden better than we thought?” Ash asked.

Nicholas sighed. “I don’t know. I was certain . . . and yet there was nothing.” My eyes couldn’t physically see him, but I saw him clearly in my mind’s eye. He was again rubbing at his face, looking out the window. What the freaking damn hell was this? That family connection he was talking about?

“Five of them, all missing,” Ash said as he drove us through the city. “You’d think in all these years, there would be at least one found. But only whispers.”

“I believe one was,” Nicholas said. “And then lost again. Lexi was close . . .”

What the hell were they talking about? What were they searching for and why was my mother’s name involved? I had to get out of here, no matter that they were giving me information that sounded interesting, and possibly useful.

I’d take freedom over knowledge at that point, a thousand times over.

But every second I struggled against the spell, it strangled me until I could see the patterns of the snake wrapped around me, constricting me tighter and tighter until my vision spotted with stars and I gasped for breath.

“You’re going to pass out soon if you keep that up,” Professor Ash said from the front of the SUV. I couldn’t see him, either, but I could hear him clearly.

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