Home > Midnight Truth (Shifter Island #4)

Midnight Truth (Shifter Island #4)
Author: Leia Stone

 

Chapter One

 

 

I trailed behind Reyna and my grandfather as we slipped from the portal in the library at Alpha Academy to the library on High Mage Island. The clicking of my shoes against the stone floor shattered the heavy silence, and I paused to slip out of them before resuming my sluggish pace with Honor close to my side. I stared around the shelves loaded with leather tomes in fascination, their golden scripts barely visible in the pale moonlight. Tables lay bare and unoccupied interspersed between the shelves. As we approached a large rotunda, I gaped at the golden statue of a female mage in the center. Like a water fountain, the shimmery blue liquid in the basin at her feet was somehow pumped up and into her hands—where it transformed into flames that licked upward in a magical heatless fire.

Wow.

My gaze followed the magical fire several feet into the air and continued toward the ceiling. My jaw dropped. With high arches in dark-stained wood and hundreds of panels of intricately stained glass, the luster and richness of this library were ten steps above the one on Alpha Island.

Only Honor’s occasional herding kept me moving.

“Come on,” Reyna grunted, drawing my attention away from the atrium’s architecture as she stepped away from the domed area and into a wide aisle. “Let’s get you hidden.”

She jerked her head to the side, and I lurched toward her, worried she might drop Grandpa Geoff. He leaned into her so much that she practically dragged him along. Was he even conscious? Honor was close on my heels, not even letting a full foot of distance come between us.

Reyna and Grandpa made their way toward a side door on the far wall of the library that was marked with the symbol for spirit. Gramps groaned in her arms, and Reyna slowed even more.

“Do you want help?” I asked my grandfather’s shield.

“No. I’ve got this,” she growled under Grandpa’s weight.

Stubborn ass.

I took a moment and glanced down the other aisles to the surrounding walls of the library and noticed four other doors, each marked with the symbol representative of the element—just like the ones on my body. Water, fire, earth, and air.

Cool.

“Today would be nice,” Reyna called back to me.

Yikes. I lifted my skirt so I wouldn’t trip over it and ran after her.

“Why are we hiding me again?” I whispered.

After throwing open the door to spirit, Reyna dragged Gramps across the threshold and into a dim foyer. Her breathing had grown hard and labored, and she leaned against a wall and sucked in a ragged breath.

I stepped inside after her, taking note of the two accent chairs and end table between them, but Reyna didn’t bother to set my grandfather down. Instead, she waited for Honor to come in, and then, after he nudged the door closed with his snout, she heaved Gramps upright once more.

“Because,” she grunted, resuming the effort to move my grandfather—this time down a hallway of dark wood shiplap—“he’ll have to claim you as his heir properly first or you could be attacked.”

Attacked? That didn’t sound fun.

“Here, let me help you.” I stepped forward, but she pinned me with a glare.

“It’s my honor and duty to care for him,” she snapped, baring her teeth.

I backed off with wide eyes, and my grandfather lifted his chin and grinned at me. “She’s all prickly tooth and nails on the outside,” he whispered weakly. “But inside, she’s warm and squishy.”

Seeing him conscious, I sighed with relief, totally disregarding his playful banter.

“I am not,” Reyna growled. “Take it back.”

He merely wheezed with laughter.

We walked halfway down the heavily lacquered hallway before entering a cluttered study that I assumed belonged to my grandfather. It was filled with books—although many of them were scattered about the floor—two tables, and several wooden chairs. Just as colorful as the books, dozens of crystal clusters and points in a variety of colors were strewn about the space as well as glass bottles in all shapes and sizes.

The place looked like it had been robbed.

I watched as Reyna maneuvered through the chaos, which was the only reason I saw the mostly clear “paths” through the disarray.

His shield pushed a thick leather-bound book from a silver crushed-velvet sofa with her foot, and then she deposited my grandfather onto it before plopping next to him. “You need … to consider … the cane … I bought you,” she said, panting. “It will only get worse.”

Just inside the room, I leaned against the wall, dismayed at how quickly my grandfather’s illness was weakening him. Merely half an hour ago, he was begging for my help at Rage’s coronation, and now he looked on death’s door. Honor sat on my right, pressed against my leg, and I absently ran my fingers through his fur.

I thought Grandpa Geoff would huff about not needing a cane, but he simply raised his chin to her with a look of sad resignation and nodded once. “Fine.”

Okay…

I needed more info. The last few hours had been a whirlwind of activity with little time to think or process or just be. I was beyond exhausted after Rage and Clive’s fight to the death—and while I definitely knew I didn’t want asshat Kian or the other high mages of the council getting Grandpa’s power … I needed to sit down and figure crap out.

Rotating slowly, I did a 360, looking for an empty seat while taking in the giant study. Behind a large desk, a door stood slightly ajar, and with its light on, I identified it as an attached bathroom. On the other side of the bathroom door, closer to where Grandpa and Reyna sat, there was a little kitchenette with a sink, hot plate, microwave, and refrigerator.

“Is this where you live?” I asked.

It was small but cute. Maybe it was all a single guy needed, though I would’ve thought a legit bed might’ve made the list…

He chuckled, and Reyna burst into laughter.

“Mother Mage, no!” she snickered. “The master of spirit has the nicest castle on the island. This is his, and soon to be your, secret study. It’s spelled to not allow any of the other master mages inside.”

He pointed to Reyna. “What she said,” he rasped.

He shuddered and then reached for something on the desk, his arm falling to his side as Reyna stood. She plucked a small crystal bottle filled with what appeared to be black syrup. “Not much left,” she told him, her brow furrowing as she held it out to him.

He waved off her concern and then popped the cork, downing a small swig.

Color flooded his cheeks; his ragged breathing evened out. He recorked the bottle and sat up, looking younger than he had since Rage and I returned from the Realm of the Dead.

Whatever that black stuff was, I needed some. Or sleep. Maybe both. My adrenaline was definitely waning, and the stress of the last few days was catching up.

Speaking of stress … how long had I been gone? Probably at least twenty minutes or so, enough that Rage would start to worry. I’d only wanted him to not stop me from going, but now that I was here…

‘Rage, I need to tell you something,’ I sent through our mental link, suddenly desperate to talk with him. Guilt bubbled up while I waited for him to respond. He was probably pissed—and could I blame him? If he’d left me…

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