The Wicked In Me
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'This wonderfully wicked lady never fails to deliver the absolute best always . . . I'm equal parts envious and in awe of her mind' Netgalley review
'Please Suzanne don't ever stop writing' Netgalley review
No one really knows what they are. Only that they're the first civilization. Aeons, they call themselves. They're immortal. Powerful. Secretive.
And they'll come for her.
Witch Wynter Dellavale knows that for certain. Because in unfairly trying to execute her, they started a chain of events they're struggling to stop. Needing safety, she flees to Devil's Cradle, the home of monsters. A place for the outcasts, the fugitives, the crazies. A place ruled by the Ancients, seven beings who were once banished by the Aeons. Among the Ancients is the infamous Cain, brother of Abel and embodiment of jealousy - who, on another note, wants her in his bed.
There's a heavy price for the safety the Ancients offer, but Wynter will have to pay it. She can't take on the Aeons alone. And she has no intention of dying - been there, done that.
Not that she'll be the easy prey the Aeons are expecting. They have no knowledge of the ... thing that lives inside her. You see, when witches are brought back from the afterlife, they don't always come back the same.
And they don't always come back alone.
What readers are saying about Suzanne Wright:
'The chemistry sizzles off the page' Netgalley review
'Hot as hell . . . explosive' Netgalley review
'It's been two minutes since my last fix and I need Suzanne Wright to give me more' Edgy Reviews
'No words to describe how much I ADORE this extraordinary and magical read!!!' Gi's Spot Reviews on Burn
'Sarcastic banter, a sexy alpha demon and his smart-mouthed heroine, an intense, highly passionate romance . . . I devoured this book from start to finish!' The Escapist Book Blog on Burn
'Unique, original and very entertaining' Ramblings from this Chick
Release date: January 12, 2023
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Print pages: 397
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The Wicked In Me
Adopting a stone-cold poker face, Wynter Dellavale struggled to process the disbelief that crawled over her skin. When she’d opened the door to find her Priestess on the doorstep while their coven lingered at the front gate, she’d thought maybe Esther was calling on her to join them all for a late-night ritual or something. But this … no, it couldn’t actually be happening. Nu-uh.
Planting her feet, Wynter folded her arms. “This is some kind of messed-up joke, right? Like, you know, humor but sort of … not?”
“This isn’t something I would ever joke about.” Esther clasped her hands in front of her, the image of elegance. “We have no choice. A new coven will be selected by one of the ruling Aeons in three days’ time. There is no chance of it being us if we have a weak link. For us, you are that.”
Anger bubbled up, hot and sharp. Wynter felt a cold smile slowly curve one side of her mouth.
The Priestess tensed. Well, Wynter wasn’t exactly known for being a placid, sweet, touchy-feely person. More of a bitey-scratchy girl, really. Her mother used to joke that Wynter came out of the womb flipping the finger and snarling at anyone who dared cuddle her.
“I can be described as a lot of things, but not weak,” said Wynter.
“In terms of power, no. But having a witch whose magick has been tainted … that is a weakness in the coven.”
Tainted. She hated that word. People had been tossing it at her for most of her life. “Wasn’t it you who always told me to rise above my limitations and make them work for me? That they’d only be an obstacle if I allowed it?” The woman’s advice had often carried a condescending note, but still.
“Yes, I believe in not permitting obstacles to block our path. And that is what you are, Wynter. An obstacle to this coven’s future prospects. You would have been forced to leave when you turned sixteen if our prior Priestess had not been your grandmother. Agnes could never bring herself to cast you out, but I must. When we moved to this town eighteen years ago, we did it for one reason only—we hoped to eventually serve the Aeons directly. If that means snipping off any weaknesses, so be it.”
The pitiless words were as sharp and cutting as any scalpel. Personally, Wynter didn’t see what would be so amazing about living among the primordial beings in the underground utopia beneath the picturesque town of Aeon. Oh sure, you’d be privy to their secrets and, given they were the first civilization—yeah, as in Adam and Eve—they no doubt had a whole lot of interesting knowledge to pass on. It was considered an honor to serve them, just as it was considered an honor to be chosen to descend to their subterranean city.
There were a few things Wynter wasn’t so comfortable with, though. Like how only the residents of said city were able to go down there and weren’t allowed to speak of it to those who lived in the town. Like how the Aeons demanded the respect and devotion that was worthy of deities.
Though they possessed a godly arrogance, they weren’t deities at all. They also weren’t human. Referred to as Aeons merely due to being long-term natives of this place, they were incredibly secretive immortals who wielded impressive power.
“This is not merely my wish,” Esther added. “I speak for the majority.”
Wynter scanned the swarm of coven members near the gate. Rafe, the mentor she had to thank for all the training she’d received over the years, was notably absent. As for the others … many averted their eyes or shifted uncomfortably. Others raised their chin or sniffed. And it was clear that none were going to speak up for her.
Hurt sliced her gut like a jagged blade. She hadn’t done a single thing to deserve them turning their backs on her. Not. One.
The coven wasn’t alone. A few mages were among them, and said mages glared daggers at her. They’d pestered Agnes to cast her out after ‘the incident’ when Wynter was ten. It didn’t matter that Wynter had been the true victim. Two teenage mages had died that night, and that was all they cared about.
Her coven had protected her from the angry families of those teenage boys over the years, but only because her grandmother had ordered it. With the exception of Agnes and Rafe, no one had comforted her after her ordeal, because they’d been too freaked out by the aftermath. They’d emotionally pulled away from her little by little over the years. And now they apparently wanted the Aeons to banish her just as they’d once banished her mother.
Wynter barely resisted snarling. “My magick might not be as ‘wholesome’ as yours, Esther, but I’ve proven my worth over and over.” She’d trained harder than anyone else, she’d mastered every skill necessary, she’d done everything expected of her.
Esther flicked her eyes upward in exasperation. “Wynter—”
“There isn’t one person more dedicated to this coven’s welfare than me.” Purely because it had been her mother’s greatest wish for the Moonstar coven to descend to the underground city; a dream Davina had given up in order to protect Wynter. In return, Wynter had vowed to herself that she would repay her mother by making that dream a reality.
It seemed like she might just have to break that vow.
Esther sighed. “Let us not drag this out. There is no point. My decision is final, I won’t change it. Once the banishment has been made official, Wagner will drive you to the border.” Her eyes briefly slid to the were-jackal who stepped out of the crowd—one of the town’s keepers.
He always looked so dignified. Always flashed gracious smiles. Always addressed people so politely. But there was a darkness in those pale-blue eyes. It made that thing inside Wynter stir. A thing that had been her constant companion since she was just ten. A thing she’d kept secret purely to survive.
Wagner had come for Davina all those years ago when she’d been exiled. Back then, as he’d lingered on the sidelines, he’d made Wynter think of a hyena waiting to pounce on whatever scraps were left by other predators. He had that same look about him now.
Wynter flexed her fingers. “You get that this isn’t a small thing, Esther, right? It’s not just that I’ll have nowhere to go—that I’ll be out there alone with no family, or protection, or coven—I’ll also have no memories. I won’t even know who I am.”
That was the thing about Aeon. If you ever left, your memories were taken from you—it was one of the prices to pay for the privilege of living in such a place of power and safety, though Wynter suspected that the Aeons simply didn’t want outsiders to know much about the town. If it hadn’t been for this ‘price,’ she’d have left years ago to reunite herself with her mother.
Wynter had begged Davina to take her with her when she was exiled, but her mother had insisted she stay—probably because she knew that Wagner was a big enough asshole to dump them in separate places so they’d each be alone, even if only to punish Davina for always rejecting his advances.
“Taking your memories would be a kindness,” said Esther. “Surely you would wish to forget some of the things that happened to you here.”
“A kindness would be for you to not make me suffer for something I have no control over.” It wasn’t like she’d wanted her magick to turn dark. Death always left a mark. And so her magick could no longer heal, calm, create or comfort. But it could all too easily kill, burn, infect, and destroy.
Esther let out a weary ‘you’re being dramatic’ sigh. “This is not about making you suffer. It’s not about you at all. I am Priestess; I have to do what is best for this coven.”
Recalling something her grandmother had said to her on her deathbed, Wynter couldn’t help wondering if Agnes had seen this coming …
Home isn’t really a house, you know, Wynter. It is a place where we feel safe and accepted and content—it could be a building, a piece of land, a group of people, or at a particular person’s side. You’ll find your home eventually, I promise.
Wynter understood why her grandmother wouldn’t have forewarned her that the coven might pull this shit. Agnes had liked to see the best in people, liked to hope that they would make the right decision in the end—even her bitchy successor.
Wynter shook her head at Esther. “You’re making a huge mistake.”
The Priestess blinked. “Is that a threat?”
“It’s a fact.” There were things that Esther didn’t know. Things that only Wynter and Davina had known. Things that Agnes had guessed at but hadn’t shared with others.
Esther rolled her eyes. “If you say so. Now have some dignity and endure this without causing a scene. Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be.”
What, like Wynter was overreacting by not being breezy about having her memory wiped? It wouldn’t be so bad if she was only being forced to leave, but she’d essentially also have her identity taken from her, because she wouldn’t even remember her own damn name.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky and find your mother,” Wagner chipped in. “Of course … you won’t know she’s your mother, just
as she would not recognize you. Very sad, really.” He sounded so sincere, but she heard the subtle taunt there.
Wynter sniffed at him. “Try to be quiet, Wagner; the adults are talking right now.”
There was a snort of laughter from someone in the crowd.
His face went red, and his eyes glittered with a promise of retribution. “You won’t be feeling so cocky when Lailah arrives. She’s on her way.”
Wynter’s insides seized. If an Aeon was ready to make the banishment official, it meant that the decision had already been okayed by that oh-so mysterious race. As such, appealing to them to overturn the Moonstar coven’s decision would get her nowhere.
The crowd stirred as a familiar male witch shoved his way to the front. “What the hell is going on here?” Rafe took in the scene, and realization dawned on him fast. He cast Esther a hard look. “Tell me you’re not—”
“Do not interfere,” she ordered, her tone clipped. “This has to be done.”
His mouth set into a flat line. “You said you wouldn’t do this. You assured Agnes that you wouldn’t do this.”
“I told a dying woman what she needed to hear in order to pass peacefully,” said Esther. “That is all.”
As the two witches began to argue, Wagner leaned into Wynter and said, “Such a shame that you will have to leave. The mages don’t think so. In fact, they have promised me many things in return for sending a … message to you once we’ve left the boundaries of Aeon. They want you to pay for what you did to those boys. Understandable, I suppose.”
Wynter’s eyes slammed on him, her stomach twisting at the cruel intent there. She didn’t fear him. No, she could handle this motherfucker in her sleep. But after Lailah was done with her, there’d be a short period of time in which Wynter would be utterly vulnerable. Maybe he’d take advantage of that, or maybe he only meant to scare her. Hopefully it was the latter, because he wouldn’t hesitate to oblige the mages.
A sudden silence fell, and Wynter looked to see none other than Lailah elegantly strolling toward the house. There were five generations of Aeons. They’d mysteriously ceased procreating after that, and they’d never shared why … just as they hadn’t shared why they rarely left their city during daytime hours, or how they could put themselves in a state of Rest that could last centuries.
Lailah was part of the second generation. The tall, beautiful brunette also ruled Aeon alongside Adam, her consort Abel—yeah, it turned out that he hadn’t been killed by Cain after all—and her brother Saul. They were a council of sorts.
She was very powerful. Very detached. Very other.
All of the Aeons who Wynter had come across were like that, really. They weren’t old-fashioned as one might expect, but nor were they in the now. As if, having seen so many eras come and go, they’d somehow become removed from the flow of time.
Lailah lifted a brow at Esther. “Has it been done?”
“I have cast her out of the coven, yes,” the bitch replied.
Rafe turned to Lailah. “Please don’t do this—”
“Quiet.” The Aeon’s voice lashed him like a whip … just as Abel’s had lashed Wynter when she’d begged him not to exile her mother. Lailah turned to her, a cool smile touching her mouth. “Hello, Whitney.”
Jesus Christ. “It’s Wynter.” But the Aeons … it was as if they didn’t really see people. They might glance at you. Might even glare at you. But, to them, you were no more unremarkable than any other mortal.
Wynter supposed it was a little like if a wasp got into your house. You might curse at it, you might want it gone, you might even be wary of it, but you wouldn’t look at it as an individual with its own wants, needs, and motivations—it was just a wasp, the same as any other wasp.
“Wynter, then,” said Lailah, not looking even a little sheepish. “It matters not. You will need to choose a new name soon, since you will not remember your own. Trust me, this won’t hurt. I will simply take your memories, place you into a peaceful sleep, and then Wagner will drive you to the border.”
Wynter felt her breathing begin to pick up. “I haven’t done anything wrong. It isn’t my fault that my magick is different.”
“No,” agreed Lailah, “it was your mother who shamed the coven.”
“She didn’t shame anyone.”
Lailah’s face hardened. “She used forbidden magick to bring you back from the dead, knowing it was unnatural and that one should not interfere with fate; knowing it would twist and warp your magick.”
Wynter was about to spit out that, no, actually, Davina had done no such thing and that something else had brought Wynter back. But then a familiar otherworldly breeze ruffled over her, one that carried a gentle warning.
Lailah frowned and glanced around, her extraordinary golden eyes narrowing. After a few moments, she seemed to shrug off the slight disturbance in the air. “As I was saying, what your mother did was shameful, whether you wish to face it or not. It was a selfish decision on her part. You have paid for it most of your life. Where was the point in what she did?”
“Where was justice when two teenage boys killed me?” Wynter shot back.
Lailah’s smile was brittle. “You took care of that yourself, did you not?”
Sort of. Wynter hadn’t been behind the wheel at the time. She had no clue what exactly went down; she only knew of the aftermath.
Lailah laid her hand on Wynter’s head. “Do not think of this as an ending. Think of it as an opportunity to have a fresh start.”
The thing inside Wynter stirred, uneasy. Well, at least it was paying attention. It didn’t always seem present. As if it slept a lot or just saw no need to concern itself with anything unless the circumstances warranted its attention or intervention.
She thought about unleashing it on these people here, but that unnatural breeze returned, carrying that same warning—one that
the entity within Wynter automatically heeded.
Squinting, Lailah again looked around, taking a more thorough scan of their surroundings this time. She exchanged a look with Wagner, who merely shrugged. Turning back to Wynter, she elegantly flapped her hand. There was some sort of weird suction from the ground. A suction that locked Wynter’s feet in place with such force she swayed.
There’d be no running. Not that she’d have gotten far. Instinct almost had her calling to the sword she’d bound to her magick, which enabled her to conjure it whenever necessary. But she was massively outnumbered right now, and she didn’t doubt that the blade would be easily wrestled from her grip. It might even then be turned on her. She’d rather have her memories scrambled than be impaled on a sword.
Staring at Lailah, Wynter lifted her chin slightly and said, “If you do this, there’ll be consequences.” It seemed only fair to warn her.
Lailah looked the height of amused. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t have to take my word for it. But you should.”
Wagner snickered. “Strange little thing, isn’t she?”
“Strange indeed.” Lailah looked at Esther. “What is her full name?”
Well, of course she’d forgotten it.
“Wynter Dellavale,” Esther replied, her expression one of pure resolve.
Lailah nodded. “Wynter Dellavale, you are officially banished from Aeon. May your new life be plentiful.”
May your new life be plentiful? Like the woman gave a damn? What a load of absolute shit.
Wynter opened her mouth to call the Aeon on her crap, but then an unnatural lethargy snaked through her. It was thick. Heavy. Drugging. It sucked every bit of energy and enthusiasm from her body like a goddamn hoover.
Her vision blurred. Her senses dulled. Her face went slack. She felt both light as a feather and heavy as dead weight at the same time.
She tried fighting the exhaustion. Tried digging deep for the strength to move. But her eyelids drifted shut and her body slumped. Strong arms caught her. Wagner. The suction beneath her feet faded away.
“I got her.” He unceremoniously tossed Wynter over his shoulder and then strode away.
She was braced for sleep to pull her under … but it didn’t. She was wide a-damn-wake, lethargic but not at all sleepy. More, her memories weren’t fading or fracturing. No, they were still clear and intact. Hope blossomed in her belly—
She inwardly flinched as blobs of wetness hit her when Wagner shrugged through the crowd. People were spitting on her. No doubt the mages. She heard “good riddance” and “should be dead” and something like “finally some justice.”
Rafe yelled out protests, pleading with Lailah to undo what she’d done.
The backs of Wynter’s eyes burned. He was the only father figure she’d ever known. He wasn’t aware of all her secrets, but he’d known she was … different, somehow, from other witches. Still, he’d said nothing of it to others.
No quitter, Wynter fought to open her eyes as Wagner carried her further away. But there was no lifting her eyelids. They didn’t even flutter. She tried moving her fingers instead, but they didn’t so much as twitch.
She was, essentially, a prisoner inside her own body. And this wasn’t even the first time it had happened. She’d been this helpless once before, paralyzed by magick as two thirteen-year-old boys had some “fun.”
Her heart pounded as the awful memories crowded her. Feet slamming into her ribs. The taste of mud as it was shoved into her mouth. The feel of pebbles jammed up her nose. The smell of urine as it splattered over her head like a warm stream. A scorching, blazing heat against the soles of her feet. Lances of pain as a blade sank deep into her flesh over and over. And then, finally, the feel of a knife slicing across her neck.
The lethal move hadn’t killed her quickly—that seemed to only happen in movies. The boys had watched while she’d faded away. Until they got bored and thrust the blade into the side of her throat.
Rafe, seeming to sense how important it was to her that she never be that powerless to protect herself again, had taught her everything from fencing to magickal combat. Sadly, none of that helped her now.
Still, Wynter had no intention of accepting defeat. No, she went back to battling the exhaustion. She’d get out of this situation somehow. She would. Really. She had managed to stay awake and keep her memories—those had to be good signs.
Hinges creaked, and then she was flung on a cushioned surface. The good ole musty car smell hit her hard. He’d dumped her on the rear seat of his vehicle, she realized … just as he had Davina back when she’d been exiled.
It wasn’t long before hinges again creaked. Moments later, the car shook as his weight settled into it. The engine sputtered to life, and light-hearted whistling filled the air as he drove off.
Inside her head, Wynter growled in frustration as she battled to fight off the paralysis that had overtaken her. Those battles never came to anything, never—
“I know you’re awake, Wynter,” he said, making her pulse spike. “I know you still have all your memories, too. You’re probably marveling over that. You may feel it’s some sort of victory.”
Yes, actually, she did. Or she had until that familiar taunting note entered his voice.
“I’ll tell you the truth of what’s coming. You see … none of the exiled are ever really put to sleep. None ever lose their memories. And none are ever driven to the border.”
She paused her internal battle. Wait, what?
“No one ever really leaves this town alive, Wynter. An Aeon only seeks to daze and immobilize the outcasts, nothing more. Keepers such as me then drive to the falls and toss the exiled over the cliff. That’s what happened to your mother. Yes, she’s dead. Has been for a long time.”
Her heart sank. She wanted to tell herself he was lying, wanted to believe he was just trying to mess with her head, but the ring of truth in his voice couldn’t be ignored. Grief was like a jagged knife in her chest, sawing deep. It felt as if said chest slumped in on itself as she silently screamed with rage and devastation.
Her mother had done nothing to deserve being cast out. Not one thing. But she’d pled guilty to the accusation that she’d used forbidden magick, because she’d known that the truth would condemn Wynter. Davina had, in sum, given her life to save Wynter’s … only she hadn’t known that would be the real price. Not until this motherfucker killed her.
Wynter was pretty sure she’d never hated anyone as much as she did him in that very moment—not even the teenager boys who’d once taken her life as if it were their right.
“Drowning is a harsh sentence, if you ask me,” said Wagner. “Especially when a person’s immobilized. You can’t do a damn thing while water floods your nostrils, pours down your throat, and enters your lungs. But the Aeons, well, they have their traditions, and they like them.”
Panic thudding through her, she dug deep for the strength to shake off the power holding her in place, but its grip wasn’t weakening under her struggles. Calling for her sword didn’t work either. Nothing worked.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
“You know, the mages would like me to rape you,” he said ever so casually.
Wynter inwardly froze.
“I won’t, of course. I’m not an animal. But I have nothing against their second request. They want me to kill you before I throw you over the cliff. Want me to dismember you, in fact, just as you dismembered those boys with your magick when you took their lives. Hey, you might get a laugh out of this—they also want a … souvenir, shall we say. An eyeball, to be precise. Seems a little morbid to me, but I’m not one to judge. I’ve never actually gouged out an eye before. It could be fun.” He chuckled. “Scared yet?”
A little, which was why her heart was slamming frantically against her ribcage like it was trying to find a way out. She could wipe the floor with Wagner in an instant, but not if she couldn’t move. It was hard to concentrate on fighting the restrictive power when more and more flashbacks slapped her hard.
She’d been far more afraid as a child after those boys had lured her to the woods. As she’d lay there powerless, swamped by fear and pain and rage, she’d inwardly cried for her mother. She’d told herself that Davina would find her … but she hadn’t. So Wynter had reached out to Nyx, the deity her coven worshipped, begging Her for help. But it wasn’t Nyx who came. It was
another deity, and She hadn’t been entirely clear on what granting Wynter help would fully entail when She made an offer.
Wynter snapped out of her thoughts as the car slowed to a stop. The engine shut off, and then Wagner was out of the vehicle. She didn’t think it was possible for her heart to gallop any faster, but it actually picked up speed.
Hands soon roughly grabbed her and snatched her out of the car. “I’ll bet you’ve been trying your hardest to move, haven’t you? I’m pretty sure they all do. They never succeed.” He threw her over his shoulder once more. “Really, Wynter, you had to know this day would come. You were living on borrowed time. You should have died years ago, when fate intended it. You shouldn’t have returned.”
No, she shouldn’t have. More, after coming back, she shouldn’t have stayed alive for as long as she had. That wasn’t how it worked. But fuck if she cared what he thought.
As he walked further and further while her body remained limp and useless, she screamed in her head. Screamed and screamed and screamed with fury.
She could hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance. That roaring got closer and closer until it was almost deafening. She again fought the power holding her captive, and she again failed to free herself. Goddammit, she was not going to die at this bastard’s hands.
Finally, Wagner halted and then dumped her on the hard ground. “There we are. Better. Now … do I take the eye before or after I kill you?” He hummed, rolling her onto her back. “Before, I think.”
Her eyes still closed, Wynter silently hissed as she sensed him kneel over her … just as one of the boys once had. Right then, she screamed at Wagner to get the fuck away from her, but of course those words never escaped her mouth.
“Hmm, I’d rather have you looking at me while we do this. It’s not as gratifying when I don’t get to witness a person’s pain in their eyes.” He pried open her eyelids and smiled down at her. “Well, hello there.” He held up his knife. “Like it?”
A breeze whispered over her in a gentle, encouraging caress. The entity inside her shoved closer to the surface until it stared out at him through one of her eyes. Black inky ribbons partially obstructed her vision as they slithered over said eye.
He stilled, his brows snapping together. “What the …”
Silently praying to the deity for strength, she again struggled to move, move, move. Her heartbeat stuttered as two of her fingers jerked. That was all she needed.
Wynter dug those fingers into the ground and thrust her rage and magick deep into the earth. Pure silence fell, as if nature itself had sucked in a breath, and then the ground began to quiver.
Wagner’s eyes widened as the immediate landscape altered. Trees began to crack and blacken. Leaves started to wither. Flowers slowly dried up or wilted while bushes began to thin and decay.
He looked down at her. “What’s happening? What are you doing?”
One side of her face began to burn, and his gaze dropped to where she knew a metallic blue mark would now glisten. A distinctive mark that very rarely showed itself. A mark that would tell him she was Favored by a particular deity.
Realization dawning on him, he paled and scrambled to get away from her.
Now that she could move her fingers, her other muscles began to unlock. Her hands were soon free of the paralytic power. Then her arms, neck, head, upper body, legs.
It was like moving through sludge, but Wynter finally managed to sit upright. She cricked her neck, exhaling a long sigh.
Wagner stared at her, shaking his head, his lips trembling. “I … I don’t understand. This isn’t possible. You don’t …”
“Drink blood or eat flesh to survive? No, no, I don’t. Never needed to, thankfully. That would have sucked. Or I’d have sucked, if blood had been involved. Whichever.”
He shook his head wildly. “That’s … no, no, it’s not possible. Your heart beats, I can hear it. Nothing that She brings back is really alive. And it never exists for long.”
“I really can’t clear up the confusion for you. I don’t have all the answers. The deity doesn’t tell me much, and She can be kind of cryptic. When She offered to send a monster after those boys, She didn’t specify that I’d be its host.”
Wynter was no longer merely a witch. She was more. A vessel for something not of this world. And, as such, she’d become a monster in her own right.
She’d only seen her entity once. When Wynter’s soul had landed in the netherworld—the realm that was effectively purgatory for the souls of preternatural beings—the deity and the monster had been waiting there for her. The deity had sent them out of the netherworld together and into Wynter’s then-dead body, reviving it that easily. The entity had taken control in an instant, torn the boys apart, and then just as quickly retreated.
The monster was … well, monstrous. Neither male nor female, it was as hideous and horrifying as any nightmare. What she remembered most of all were its bottomless black eyes. There was no being that she could compare it to, because it was simply too foreign. And as black tendrils began to creep over her second eyeball, she knew it was about to take her over.
Wagner must have sensed it too, because he tensed as if to flee.
“You can run if you want,” said Wynter, “but it will find you. It’ll catch you. Shred you. It’ll feast on your fear, drink in your screams, and relish your pain. That’s kind of what it does. What it craves, even. After all, it exists only to wreak vengeance. And me? I’m more than happy to let it go wreak.”
The monster lunged to the surface, and her vision went black.
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