Home > Soulbound (Darkest London #6)(5)

Soulbound (Darkest London #6)(5)
Kristen Callihan

Always running. Since the age of fourteen when her grandfather Aidan died, she’d been running from things. Some nights, it felt as though she were running towards something. But she’d never found it. Only death and entrapment. Oh, but she knew death.

She had died once. Years ago. Of that she was certain. She’d felt the sting of the knife as it pulled through her flesh. And seen her life’s blood spread in a crimson pool about her still body, and known with cold certainty that she’d suffered a mortal wound. It hadn’t been a dream. It had been real. And yet she now lived. Because he had given her life anew. “Him, he,” that is how she thought of the demon who’d held her captive for a time, linking her wrist to his by an enchanted golden chain. Never think his name, much less utter it. To give voice to a name, even in one’s secret thoughts, was to give it power. Eliza May had enough sense to know this.

Yet, try as she might, the memory of the demon, that darkly handsome fiend who oozed sensual heat and temptation, never left her. Not for a moment. Such a strange demon, the one who created an entire race of supernatural beings. He’d called them Ghosts in the Machine, the GIM. Humans who, like her, had been struck down before their time yet refused to go gently into that cold night. The demon had given them immortality, the ability to roam free in spirit form, and a clockwork heart to bind them to him for a period of time. It seemed a fair bargain. Yet she’d received no such heart. He’d wanted something else from her. Her very soul. Her capitulation. Just like the other man she’d run from.

The demon’s roar of rage and pain, the one she’d heard the moment their connection had been broken, still rang in her ears. Her cousin St. John had whisked her away so quickly that she’d only been treated to a mere second of that sound. Yet it haunted her all the same. Because it was not the shout of a man who’d easily give up.

Why did he want her? They’d gotten along like tar and sand, stuck together because of circumstance, an irritant to both each other and those who had the misfortune to be around them. And still he’d been determined to keep her.

How strange it all seemed now. Like a nightmare. She was no longer chained. She was safe. Aunt Mab assured her that the demon would never come for her. That once the chain had been broken, he could never find her again. Cold comfort.

Eliza’s fingers dug into her skirt, and the fabric made a hushed rustle. He had given her gowns too. In a rainbow of colors, a buffet of textures. And she’d turned away from every one of them, too fearful that she’d be drawn by his enticements.

You wouldn’t even be here were it not for me. No, you’d be rotting in an unmarked grave, forgotten and unavenged. Because the GIM did that for you as well, didn’t they? Striking down those who hurt you. And what thanks do I receive? Silence. You agreed to be mine. Mine!

The worst of it was, she had agreed. She simply hadn’t realized how much it would chafe to lose her freedom. From the moment he had her, he’d kept her chained by his side, his mood always angry, always looking at her as though she ought to be giving him something more. Yet he’d refused to tell her what. He’d grown more sullen, and she’d stopped speaking altogether. And then two men had come for her. Friends of her aunt. They’d saved her.

And she’d escaped him. Her stomach clenched. Guilt was a terrible thing. No, she would not think of it. Or of his guinea-gold eyes framed by thick, black lashes. Accusing eyes, filled with rage and pain.

As if beckoned by her wayward thoughts, a lone, mournful howl rent the night. Every hair upon Eliza’s body stood on end as she straightened. Heart pounding, she glanced toward the back at the windowed doors, where everything was warmth and light. Had it come from within the house or from outside?

Past the grand hall that ran along the back of the house, she could see a small slice of the dining room. Mab’s party was still in full swing. Not a flinch or concerned face in the room. Had she imagined the sound?

A mystery solved, as another wailing howl rang out. Such pain and misery in that cry. It wasn’t human, that howl, but sounded as if made by a dog. And it had come from the direction of the kitchen wing. Had a dog found its way inside and been hurt? She couldn’t fathom how, but nor could she remain here and ignore the plea for help.

Slipping back inside, Eliza crept past the dining room and into the main hall. Once outside the kitchen doors, she stilled. Where now? The echoing quality of the sound made it difficult to discern its origins. With only the light of a few sconces lit along the walls, the hall was filled with shadows. Silence was a weight against her skin, warring with the sound of her blood rushing through her veins. The tall case clock by the salon door tick away.

Eliza’s shoulders slumped, and she let out a slow breath. Perhaps she had… A yelp, high and aggravated. Most definitely that had come from the kitchens.

She hadn’t taken two steps when she heard someone coming. If there was one good talent Eliza possessed, it was to trust her instincts, and now they cried out for her to hide. Ducking behind one of the decorative Doric columns that graced the main floor, she held still as someone passed. Who, she could not discern, and she was in too great a risk of discovery to peek out and look. The footsteps were heavy; however, the beat between them far enough to suggest a long stride. One of the footmen? Yet she’d never felt a prickle of warning when they were near.

Eliza waited a full minute after the steps had faded and then headed for the kitchens. Once there, Eliza could do nothing more than hope for another sound from the dog to help guide her. Yet nothing stirred. Standing in the center of the room, she turned full circle, her gaze scanning the area. Had her senses not been on full alert, she might have missed the thin but delineated cracks that ran along the wall by the root pantry. A hidden door, not fully shut.

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