Shadow Fall (Shadow, #2)
For Mom and Dad with love.
The Faerie have no concept of time, breath of life, or gift of death. They are Other, neither good nor evil, and therefore capable of both extremes. They inhabit the twilight Shadowlands, a between space that buffers mortality from the hereafter, where magic is thick, influencing human dreams and nightmares.
The greatest of the Fae, Shadowman, also known as Death, guarded the veil and couriered souls across the divide for millennia upon millennia.
One day, Death fell in love and abandoned his post. As a direct consequence of his actions, the boundary between mortality and the Shadowlands thinned and is now…permeable to beings on both sides.
—from The Shadowlands Treatise,
by Talia Kathleen Thorne,
The Segue Institute
A fist to his jaw snapped Custo’s head to the side. His ear roared as a storm of broad heat spread across his cheek and behind his left eye. He shuddered with the swell of ache that followed, each beat of his heart searing a lightning strike of pain through his skull as dark clouds gathered in his mind.
He flexed his hands against the bonds that cut into his wrists—not to escape, that was impossible—but to control the wicked-slick fear that might wheeze out of him in a weak moment.
He was going to die. The trick now was to die well. No sniveling allowed.
Spencer’s face loomed into Custo’s blurred view. His brown hair was close-cropped, just shy of a buzz. A black earbud connected him to the rest of his team, the covert government agency that investigated paranormal activity. They were supposed to be the good guys, but something had gone terribly wrong. Spencer had always been a bastard, but colluding with the wraiths made him a traitor.
“Just tell me where Adam is, and I’ll let you go. There’s really no need for this—we’re going to find him anyway. He doesn’t need to know it was you,” Spencer said.
A wet, warm trickle found the channel beneath Custo’s nose. The coppery smell filled his head.
Adam would know, and worse, Adam would forgive.
A rough scrape—metal on the floor. A coin of light pressure on his foot.
Custo cracked his eyes. What now—?
Spencer had positioned one of Adam’s sleek chairs directly in front of his own and levered himself into the seat, close enough to bump knees. With Spencer’s weight in the chair, the pressure on Custo’s foot increased. A bone ached, burned, then snapped with a sizzle of white-hot sparks that shot up his calf. Reality slipped out of focus for a fraction of a moment.
Spencer sat back in the chair, a friendly smile on his face. “Really, I’ll let you walk right out of here. Just tell me where Adam is.”
Spencer loved games, loved winning. The only way to thwart him was to beat him into the ground, or not to play. There was no winning today. It was better to think of something else.
Custo focused beyond Spencer, scanning the bedroom for a distraction. The New York City loft was typical Adam Thorne—clean lines of modern, uncluttered wealth in industrial grays and blacks, accented by bold colors—a strong red in the case of the bedroom, which detailed the side table and the low Asian bed centered on the opposite wall. In the abstract painting above, the red deepened to a sangre splatter.
Sangre. Blood. Custo dropped his gaze to the wide-planked wood floor.
“You must know where he is.” Spencer gripped Custo’s hand, his urgency overriding his previous levity.
I thought he was here. We were supposed to meet here. Adam had brought Talia to the loft for safekeeping. Custo was to rendezvous with them, and together they would strategize an offensive strike on the wraiths’ locus of power. Adam had even checked in with Custo several times over the course of the evening to monitor his progress.
Something must have happened, and Adam and Talia bolted.
“He tells you everything.” Spencer found Custo’s index finger. Lifted it away from the arm of the chair.
Draw this out, and maybe they can escape.
Custo’s breath caught in his chest as his finger came to a burning right angle with the back of his hand. He gritted his teeth—a molar had loosened—and waited for the—
Pop. Custo shivered under the break of his cold sweat, then surged against the bonds that held him to the chair. Too fucking tight.
He just had to hold out a little longer. Long enough for Adam and Talia to get to safety.
“So sorry,” Spencer said, pulling the finger back into alignment. He twisted it this way and that. The little bones screamed. “I think it’s broken.”
Very funny. Only nine more to go.
“What about that freak Talia?” Spencer lifted the middle finger. Custo tried to pull his hand back, but the damn ropes held him firmly to the chair.