Last Kiss Goodnight (Page 23)

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin #1)(23)
Author: Gena Showalter

How dare he! “What have you said?” she demanded.

He waved the question away. “I want you, Vika, and I will have you.”

Actually, he was second-in-command of the circus and he wanted to be first. He didn’t yet understand that would never happen. Jecis would never abdicate power, and Matas would never be strong enough to take it from him.

Before becoming ringmaster, Jecis had performed the magic act. After becoming ringmaster, he taught Matas the secrets of the dark arts, the two spending countless hours poring through books, practicing what they read, and even testing their powers on some of the patrons of the circus.

In comparison, the two men weren’t even in the same league.

“You’ll never have me,” she said with a shake of her head. “You repulse me.”

“Is that so?” Suddenly his shadow moved—while his body remained still—expanding over his shoulders . . . splitting apart, slithering in different directions, each gloomy limb inching closer to her.

Heart pounding, Vika squared her shoulders. She knew what those shadows were, recognized them from that other realm. They were evil. Evil so real, so vile it had taken some kind of living form.

Her father carried the same essence. In fact, that was where Matas had picked it up. She’d noticed it a few days after they had begun training together.

“That’s so. Now leave,” she snapped.

He grinned, all pearly whites and menace. “Make me.”

The cramping started up again. “You didn’t used to be this way, you know.” Like her father, he had changed over the years—from a somewhat affable young man who enjoyed sharing cotton candy with her after every show to this, demanding and depraved, capable of any despicable deed.

“I know,” he said, and he didn’t sound as if he cared. “Now I’m better.”

“Not to me.”

“That’s because you haven’t yet evolved. But I could make you powerful, Vika. Think of it. I could make you powerful enough to kill your father and rule this circus by my side. I—”

“Turned Rasa into a freak.” He’d used his magic to transform her beard hair into hundreds of little snakes.

He shrugged, unconcerned. “She was heard laughing about my act, and needed to be taught a lesson.”

“And Audra?” He’d shared his “power” with her, too.

“I never cursed her. She came to your father and asked for the same gift I’m now offering you. He told me to work with her, and I did. Every day she begs for more of what I have.”

His sneering tone made her think he gave Audra more than lessons about black magic.

“I want nothing to do with you or your magic.”

She would never allow herself to slide into the cesspool Jecis and Matas shared. A hunger and thirst for money and the power he’d mentioned had ruined them both, rotted their souls. And yes, she’d always heard that the greedy bred the greedier and the beaters bred even crueler beaters—but she was breaking the cycle.

Long ago, Vika had decided not to be like the men in her life. She always told the truth. She refused to bemoan her situation (very often). She refused to hate the people around her. She forced herself to be kind. That didn’t mean she had to like, accept, or support what people did to her. She knew it was possible to love someone and not support their actions. She knew she could fight against what was done to her, and always did, to the best of her ability, without being cruel.

And, like anything else of worth, such a decision required work. It was hard to be truthful when she knew a lie would temporarily save her. It was hard to walk in love when anger demanded she run in hate. It was hard work to be nice when she was hurting, and even harder to hang on to hope when she was feeling abandoned by, well, everyone. But really, at the end of the day, when she rested her head on her pillow, she knew she’d chosen the better road. They had to wade through the mud. She remained clean.

“Now,” she said, “if you’ll excuse me, I’d like a little alone time to replay this conversation through my mind and laugh at you. Actually, even if you won’t, I’d like a little alone time. Enjoy your day. Or not. Mostly not.” Okay, so she wasn’t ever nice to Matas. But then, even nice girls weren’t to play with evil.

She opened the door and waited.

He slowly unfolded from the couch and stuffed the diamond necklace he’d been fondling into his pocket.

She almost protested. Almost.

She might despise what the jewelry represented, but every piece was going to a great cause. In a year, she would have enough money in trinkets and charms to buy a new identity and a home hidden high in the mountains of New Colorado. A place she’d dreamed of owning for the last four years. A place no one would be able to take away from her.

Without the identity, Jecis would be able to find her. Without the home, she would have to get a job to pay rent, which would put her under someone else’s control, as well as on the grid.

Plus, the time gave her a chance to look for the key to the cuffs the otherworlders wore. Cuffs that had to be removed, or the captives could be tracked to the ends of the earth—and maybe even other planets.

“If Jecis catches you with that,” she said as if she was happy at the prospect, “you’ll be in trouble.”

“He won’t catch me. It’ll be gone within the hour.” Matas swept out of the trailer, making sure to brush against her.

Shuddering as the bugs once again seemed to jump on her, she slammed the door.

Ten

No weapon formed against you will prevail.

—ISAIAH 54:17

VIKA HAD TOSSED HIM a bag of food. The knowledge held Solo immobile. She’d tossed him a bag of food, and she’d done it even with fear in her eyes.

Why fear?

What—or who—was she afraid of?

Just as before, when the two otherworlders had harmed her, Solo experienced an almost overwhelming urge to chew through the bars of his cage. Not that such an action would work, he now knew. But just then, the urge had nothing to do with earning his freedom and everything to do with slaying whatever dragons plagued her.

Desperate to avenge your keeper?

Maybe. He’d done the vengeance thing countless times before and had never felt better afterward, only worse. He wondered if he would feel different on behalf of a female. His female.

No, not his.

“Jecis is gonna beat her but good for running through the zoo,” the tobacco-spitting male from yesterday said gleefully from the distance. “He’s on his way right now. Do you know how badly I want to watch?”