|Coverf By Meredith Russell|
The Case of the Guilty Ghost (End Street 6)
Bob is lost in grief, Sam is fighting for his life, and there is no middle ground. Can their love survive?
Bob is grieving over his brother’s sacrifice. Guilt-ridden and devastated, he buries himself in vampire mourning and pulls away from Sam.
Magic tears Sam from the vampire castle and he has to face new adversaries alone, when all he wants is Bob at his side.
Ettore is in the Aset Ka waiting room, next in line for the ceremony for his soul to be torn from his body. Aset Ka has other plans, and Ettore finds himself reunited with a lost love and fighting alongside his brother.
A forgotten past binds Theodore ‘Teddy’ McCurray Constantine III to Ettore, and with the curse tied to Ettore broken by his death, Teddy’s past returns to him with a vengeance.
A royal family in denial, a battle between gods, and long forgotten love leaves no time for Sam and Bob to take a breath. Is it too late to save the supernatural world?
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Volume 1 – Books 1 & 2
Volume 2 – Books 3 & 4
Book 5 – The Case of the Purple Pearl
Book 6 – The Case of The Guilty Ghost
Sam took the stairs two at a time, all one hundred and sixty of them, to the top of the tower, leaving him gasping for oxygen. He’d seen Bob heading that way, or dreamed it, or half woke and imagined it. He didn’t know what exactly, only that somehow, he knew he would find Bob at the top of the black tower. He ducked the low lintel, slid to an ungainly halt on the stone floor, unbalanced and grabbed at the wall to hold himself upright.
“Bob?” he called into the dark corners of the tower, but there was no reply. His vampire lover didn’t step from the shadows with a smile or words of love. The place was empty, and the only presence Sam sensed was spiders. Knowing his luck, they were man-eating spiders.
Sam winced at the shout up the stairs, and then heard huffing and cursing as the owner of the deep voice appeared in the doorway. Jin, who had never quite gone home, citing that he was responsible for Sam, was way past pissed. At least Jin, being a dragon shifter, could light up the room. Then Sam recalled he could light up the room just by thinking about it.
“I want there to be light,” he murmured, and then held up his hand to block his eyes as a pure white light exploded in the center of the room, filling every corner before receding back to a steady glowing orb.
He blinked, the light burning his retina. He closed his eyes tight, willing the spotted vision to go.
“What are you doing up here?” Jin asked. He sounded wary, like everyone else tiptoeing around Sam these past two weeks.
“Bob,” Sam said. When he opened his eyes again, he could see the entire room. An elaborate altar took up the far side of the circular chamber, built into the wall and covered in years of dusty cobwebs, likely from the imagined killer spiders. He stepped toward it, a low humming drawing his attention. Jin moved to block his way.
“Leave it, Sam,” Jin said. His hard tone left no room for discussion.
The noise of more footsteps stomping up the stairs, then Lambert, Sam’s vampire liaison, appeared at the top. Lambert, a tall stretched-skinny vampire with eerily cloudy eyes, had a propensity to follow Sam everywhere, spouting fear at everything and anything.
“Sire, you can’t be in here,” Lambert said, waving his hands ineffectively.
Sam spun back around to face the altar. “Stop calling me sire,” he muttered under his breath. He was getting pretty sick of how people treated him in the damn castle. Half the vampires lauded him as a ruler of supernaturals, the other half wanted him either locked up or gone. The first group assigned Lambert to him. They felt Sam needed an escort in the vampire kingdom because he was, in their words, special. Lambert was the kind of paranormal stuck firmly in the past. The historian kept talking about the old days like they were better times.
Sam wasn’t sure why Lambert had been so accepting of him given he was A, human, and B, with Bob.
Jin held up a hand, glowing with the remnants of dragon fire magic and placed it flat on Sam’s chest. It didn’t burn, only fizzled, and popped sending a small shock through his body.
“Sam, talk to me,” Jin demanded.
The humming from the altar intensified, and a voice in Sam’s head was saying the same things over and over, Sam, I am here, and I need your help.
“I can hear Bob in my head, he called me up here,” Sam repeated.
“No, you can’t have heard him,” Lambert corrected. “The mate link is blocked in times of mourning. You are hearing something else, dark magic maybe. You need to come back down to your chamber where you are safe.”
A mixture of exasperation and fear crossed Lambert’s face when Sam stepped back toward the altar.
“I want to see him.” He’d been too long without Bob. Their separation was causing cracks in his sanity.
“It’s not much longer until he’s done,” Jin reassured.
“Please come away, Sam,” Lambert pleaded. That was new. Lambert never called him Sam.
“Just take my hand,” Jin said, holding out his hand.
Sam stepped backward, more toward the altar, and he heard Lambert let out a small curse.
“Take my hand, Sam,” Jin said. “This is stupid and dangerous.”
Sam turned on Jin, sparks flying from his fingers. Jin stepped back from him, narrowly avoiding the biting magic. “Stay away from me.”
He shook his fingers, electricity passing up his arm. Usually when that happened, Bob was there to hold his hands, settle him and take away the pinpricks of pain.
“Come away, Sam,” Jin said.
“Listen to the dragon,” Lambert added, his voice thick with fear.
“You and Jin do what I say,” Sam snapped, not knowing where the superiority in his voice was coming from.
Sam fought his loss of control. So much for me being a higher supernatural. Every day without Bob felt like torture, and Sam was lost without his vampire lover next to him. The headaches, the sparks of energy from his fingers, and the pain in his chest grew more intense with each hour that passed. He knew Bob was in mourning. Hell, Sam respected the traditions, but right then, all he wanted was his lover by his side.
Hurry up, the voice in his head said. I need your help.
He shook off the words and concentrated on Lambert. “Take me to the Sanctum, let me see Bob, convince me he isn’t calling for my help, and I will come with you.” He wasn’t being unreasonable, they were.
“This is an ancient rite.” Lambert seemed stunned that Sam was asking this. “No humans.”
“Something is wrong.” With me? With him? Something is terribly wrong, but no one is listening.
“What is wrong? Is it your head?” Jin asked, his voice low, and his expression concerned.
Yes. No. Hell, I don’t know. I know Bob loves me, and I love him. I just need to kiss him.
Instead, he said, “I have to help Bob with his grieving. We can’t be apart like this.”
Sam didn’t know what made him say it that way; he wasn’t needy, it wasn’t a normal need for lovers to be together. His instincts had been screaming at him that he and Bob shouldn’t be apart.
Lambert gasped as he did every time Sam suggested he should be part of any ancient vampire rite. “A non-pureblood cannot help with the rituals of grieving.”
Sam knew Lambert was winding himself up to that whole vampire purity speech and he sighed. Jin must have sensed his irritability because he rounded on Lambert and roared, fire sparking around him. Lambert stumbled back in shock.
“Wait for us outside,” Jin ordered.
Lambert looked torn between staying to keep an eye on Sam, his job, or evading the dragon fire that Jin was breathing all around the room.
Lambert’s eyes narrowed. His calculating gaze flashed from Jin to Sam and back again a few times before he sketched a small bow and left the chamber. “I will go down exactly the seven steps of Aset Ka,” he announced over his shoulder. He was kind of stuck on numbers and more than a little obsessive about the freaking vampire god.
The same god who had made a bargain with Bob’s brother Ettore before returning Bob to Sam, and taking Ettore to some kind of hell, or heaven, or whatever.
“Bob needs me,” Sam said, firmly. “I was asleep and heard him calling me. He must be out of mourning.”
“Sam, you have to stop, he isn’t up here.”
“He must be, he called me.” Maybe if Sam said it enough times one of them would listen.
Jin shook his head. “You heard that through your mate link? In your mind. You can’t have because the link is muted when Bob is mourning.”
Sam shook his head, confused. “No, it was like an image of the stairs, and this room, and there was an altar, only it wasn’t this old. It had gold all over it, a chalice in the center, and Bob was examining it, and he called me over, and there was magic….” Sam pressed his hands against his temples, attempting to ease the tension building from that incessant humming. “He needs me.”
“Sam, it was just a dream. You’re tired. Let’s go get some sleep, and we’ll re-examine this in the morning.” Jin took his arm, encouraged him back to the doorway, but Sam wrenched away and shoved Jin to the side, and with a flick of his hand there was a thick wall of ice between them. Sam stood on the side of the altar, and Jin beat on the ice trying to get through.
Bob needed him, and nothing or no one was stopping him. He’d felt Bob’s grief, through their bond, for four long days and then without warning; the bond was severed. He’d been told that had to happen as part of the rituals of mourning.
Sam was lost. Not even his daughter Mal arriving had helped. At that moment, it didn’t matter that she was the light of his life, he wasn’t whole without Bob. There was no family without Bob.
“Watch Mal,” Sam spoke clearly through the ice, which wasn’t giving way, and Jin snarled at him. “Please.”
“Don’t do anything stupid, Sam! We’ll go down and find Bob.”
But Sam wasn’t doing anything stupid. He was doing what he should have been doing all along, finding Bob and making sure he was okay. Something had happened, someone had come into the castle, stolen Bob from his mourning and only Sam could help. He turned his back on Jin to face the altar. Something there was calling him. Help me, help me.
Bob’s voice? Or was it softer the closer that Sam got to the altar? A whisper of a voice?
He stepped closer, the hum louder, and then another step, and as he neared the low resonating noise stopped, and for a moment he was motionless.
He reached a hand toward the altar, expecting a barrier, or magic, or some booby-trap that would whisk him to killer spider land or some other awful, horrible place.
A crash behind him had him looking back. Jin was nearly through the barrier, melting the ice as fast as he could with his dragon fire; in seconds he would be through. Sam flicked his hand to create another level of ice, but nothing happened.
“Just when I need magic, it isn’t there,” he murmured.
Something inside him began to hurt, an insistent tug at the base of his neck that ran down his spine then back again. The sensation was weird, moving his feet, guiding him, and he had no control over his own body. He was a marionette, and someone else was pulling the strings.
Fear began to spread in the pit of his stomach, Jin screamed his name and the heat of dragon fire warmed his back, but none of it mattered.
Because his hand touched the altar.
And everything went to hell.