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A Night Tracker Novel

A Night Tracker Novel (Volume 4)

Cheyenne McCray

St. Martin's Paperbacks

ONE
 

Sunday, December 19

Icy wind and water surged around me as my hair slapped my cheeks. Wind spun so fast, fierce, and cold that a growing storm roared with power.
Hail stung my face and arms. Rain splattered me and rolled down my cheeks and skin. Water blurred my eyesight.
Thumps on hard surfaces. Loud crashes. The sound of smashing.
An object glanced off my forehead as it spun in the storm.
Hurricane. I was trapped in a hurricane.
So hard to breathe. Water in my nose. In my mouth.
No sound came out as I tried to scream.
The storm wasn’t natural.
Not natural at all.
It wasn’t supposed to be happening.
The storm wasn’t natural …
Because it was caused by … me.
My elemental magic. Air and water.
“Nyx!” I shouted over the shrieking storm. I clenched my fists and dug my nails into my palms. Fought to gain control over my magic. “Stop!”
My control over the elements had never been so fragile.
Again I screamed into the wind. Tightened my muscles.
With all I had I grasped the reins of my magic.
The storm ended like a car slamming into a concrete barrier. Things that had been spinning in the storm crashed to a hard surface, as they hit my wood flooring.
Shock immobilized me. I blinked water out of my eyes, and my surroundings came into focus. I was in my bedroom in my apartment in Manhattan.
For several moments I sat on my sodden mattress and stared at the devastation around me.
How had I lost control in my sleep? I wasn’t a child. Only younglings would do something like this without near the destruction I had just caused.
Without realizing I was doing it, I reached up and touched the collar around my neck that signified my Drow station in life. No, I was nowhere near being a youngling. I was of age by Drow standards. By Earth Otherworld standards I was fully an adult.
I looked around me. Almost everything in my room was smashed and broken. Trinkets I had purchased since I had moved from the Drow realm to New York City were cracked, broken, torn, shredded.
As a well-paid Tracker and PI, and thanks to my wealthy Drow heritage, I could replace everything that had been ruined. But I couldn’t replace the memories that accompanied a good many of the objects.
I let my hand fall away from my collar and it splashed in the water pooled around me on my mattress. I inhaled and exhaled with long, slow, deliberate breaths.
Even though Dark Elves don’t get cold easily, the storm had chilled me enough that goose bumps broke out along my skin. I shivered.
A nightmare.
The same one I’d had countless times since I was young. The worst part of the nightmare was seeing an elder, a man with long, graying red hair in a world with lavender-streaked skies. The vision of the man made me sick.
Unlike every other time I’d had this nightmare, this time my entire being had reacted to the nightmare. It had never happened before. I’d never woken in the middle of a storm I had caused to happen.
My heartbeat slowed while my mind started to clear.
A sick sensation like thick, black sludge weighted my insides. It reminded me of just weeks ago, when I’d been sentenced to death by a Vampire. The thought had bile rising in my throat. I didn’t want to think about that. Not at all.
I moved my palms to my belly, over my soaked lingerie. I lowered my head and closed my eyes.
It had been a long time since I’d had such intense nightmares—nightmares that I barely remembered when I woke.
During most of my adolescence I’d woken up screaming, wind whipping around my room from my elemental magic. Sometimes the room would be filled with mist. Sometimes a slow, drizzling rain.
Never a storm.
Mother would come in, rock me until I stopped crying and the rain ceased or mist cleared or wind subsided.
When I got older the nightmares came less frequently. I gained control over my elements and woke with nothing more than a sore throat from screaming.
Even though I never remembered the dreams, somehow I knew they had all been the same.
Once I came of age at twenty-five, they stopped.
I frowned and opened my eyes, blinked more wetness away as I raised my head. The nightmares started again two weeks ago. Over two years since they had stopped.
“Why now?” I said, the sound of my voice loud in my bedroom that was still, save for the sound of water dripping from the doorframes.
The sludge in my insides only worsened.
Winter sunlight slashed through the French doors and into my bedroom. I stared at the fractured pattern reflected in the sheen of water on my hardwood floor.
Light.
Light here, in the Earth Otherworld, often means renewal, rebirth.
In the lives of the Dark Elves, light means death. Death to any Drow who dared to go aboveground during the day.
To all Drow but me.
The mattress made squishing sounds as I shoved the comforter off my legs. I found a place on the floor where nothing was splintered or broken, slid out of bed, and got to my feet. Water ran down my body in rivulets, joining the puddles on my floor.
Had Kali gotten caught in the storm? I hoped not. My blue Persian would never forgive me.
I stepped through the water and felt melting bits of hail beneath my feet. My floor would be ruined if I didn’t take care of it. Other than my elemental magic, I knew little Elvin magic, but I did know the word for “clean.”
“Avanna,” I said and the room dried, including my hair, skin, and the lingerie I wore. My things still lay broken on the floor and I wished I knew an Elvin word for “repair.”
I stepped over a broken crystal clock, grabbed a shortie robe, and slipped it on.
A frame with a photograph caught my attention and I stooped to pick it up. The glass had shattered but it didn’t look as if the picture of Adam and me in Belize was ruined.
I smiled and traced my human lover’s image with my fingertip as my heart skipped. Love for him flowed through my veins warm and sweet as I took in his boyish grin and that dimple I loved. In the sunshine of Belize he looked sexy, adorable, and intensely masculine all at the same time.
I set the picture with its broken frame on my nightstand where my lamp should have been. It, too, was on the floor in shambles.
Avoiding everything sharp and pointy, I walked toward the window next to the French doors leading to the balcony from my bedroom.
Ice-laced sunlight touched my face and body as I peered out the window and the cold made me shiver again.
By day I look a lot like my human mother with my fair skin and sapphire-blue eyes. The exception is that my hair is black with blue highlights and hers a pale shade of blond.
When the sun sets, my skin turns a pale, pale shade of amethyst and my hair a deep cobalt blue. When it’s dark I look more like my father with my pointed ears, small fangs, and Drow pigmented skin and hair.
I am not human then and have no choice but to avoid humans who know nothing about the paranormal world. Which is just about everyone.
My mind filled with the fragmented emotions both the nightmare and the storm had left me with. A storm in my house. How had I lost control like that?
I pushed aside the sheer curtain and the glass felt cool against my nose as I stared out at the street from my apartment.
It had snowed last night. From the corner of my apartment at 104th and Central Park West, I had clear views of Central Park from the terrace. No one from Otherworld is used to snow because there is no change of seasons there.
I loved Manhattan. I loved all the seasons. They were each beautiful and unique in their own way.
The Earth Otherworld holiday season had been pleasant so far and Christmas was just days away. The city was locked in winter’s grasp and everything was white and beautiful.
Sometimes I tugged on a jacket and boots, and waded through the new powder while throwing snowballs at statues, taunting the Gargoyles hidden inside them.
Today the weight in my belly grew heavier as imprints of the nightmare pressed against my soul. Dread, terror, anger, pain … the kind of pain that makes a person’s heart hurt as if someone close to them has died.
I tried to swallow but my throat was too dry.
For the first time the image of a face with blurred features shimmered at the edge of my consciousness. Somehow I knew it was the face of someone I cared for.
I brought my hands to my chest. The contours of the image seemed so familiar.
And then the ghostly face was gone, as if it hadn’t been there at all.

 
Copyright © 2011 by Cheyenne McCray