“I think you’re getting your wires crossed. Stripping witches? Conjuring demons? Black magic? It seems a little crazy…”
He yammered on, but I tuned him out. This was useless.
Good thing I didn’t need him to do anything but get me on the brujos’ land. Which he was doing. Once I was there, I’d get the magic I needed and leave.
I closed my eyes. It had been stupid to think that he’d want to be allies. Most witches hated the wolves. But those prejudices wouldn’t get us anywhere. Just in the short time I’d been at St. Ailbe’s I’d understood the truth. While we hid from the world behind our barriers, learning cleansing rituals and brewing potions, the wolves started training to fight from childhood. Their hunters had been clearing the world of evil for years, giving us the freedom to thrive.
If it got back to Luciana that I was trying to make allies, then so be it. She’d lost her leverage over me and I wasn’t letting her or anyone else push me around anymore.
I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. I hadn’t meant to get so riled up. I had to think clearly. Calmly.
Picture what you want and believe it will be so.
I was going to find a cure for my brother. I wasn’t leaving this evil sect’s lands until I had what I was looking for.
It felt like ages before we stopped, but it only took an hour. The closer we got, the more I had the urge to turn around. My gut was sending me all kinds of warning signals. The black aura ahead of us that grew bigger with every passing second only made that feeling worse.
Had I really seen that bright white aura in all this darkness?
The sect’s compound was small, with only one tiny, dead-end dirt road that ran between a cluster of old stone buildings. The only thing that identified it was the sign on the side of the road. It was a tiny rectangle, almost completely covered by moss and dirt, but I could just make out the name. Not that it helped me identify the place. The word was long and unpronounceable, with way too many consonants.
From what I could see, there were four bigger structures, although the word “big” was a bit much for what was there. They were small, one story, and probably one room inside. The two smaller buildings looked like little more than huts.
Matt got out of the car, and I followed suit. As soon as I did, chills ran down my arms. This place had a deadened feeling, and I didn’t think I was sensing that because the compound was warded. Peru was so vibrant. So full of life. It was like there was magic in every piece of grass. But not here. The quiet felt empty.
An old man stepped from one of the bigger buildings. He took careful steps toward us, his back hunched over from his age. But his aura…
Black as pitch, shot through with blood-red ribbons.
The sight of it had my legs tensing, urging me to run the other direction. I fought my instincts, hoping that Lucas hadn’t changed his mind. That he really was out there somewhere. Listening in case I needed him.
Because I had a feeling I might need him very soon.
Another man came out of the building wearing the same outfit—black pants with a long black tunic. Coordinated clothes seemed normal for a secluded sect like this, but not coordinated auras.
The evil was there like Lucas has warned me. I’d expected that. But identical auras?
Auras were usually unique. Even the wolves, who had lots of similarities within their pack, varied in gold tones from white to orange to amber. Lucas’ was a very light yellow, almost white, while Dastien’s was a dark amber color. I couldn’t read my own aura, but I doubted mine was that close to Raphael’s and these two men weren’t twins by any means.
Matt stepped forward and talked quietly with the older man for a minute. The man nodded and turned to me, waving me over.
Swallowing my apprehension, I forced my feet to move. I had to do this. It was the only option. I repeated that in my head as a drop of sweat rolled between my shoulder blades.
“Hello, I’m Father Valentine. This is Father Alfred,” the old man said as I stood there, studying him. His tone was friendly enough, but I could see so much more. No matter how nice he pretended to be, this man wasn’t someone I should trust. “Don’t be shy. Come this way.”
I pushed all my fear aside, and gave him by best grin. “I’m Claudia de Santos.” My plan was to kill them with kindness, as my father always said. People usually underestimated what a kind person could do. “I’m sorry to come without calling first. I hope we’re not intruding on your day too much.”
He scoffed at that. “Not to worry, my dear. There’s no way to reach us without stopping by. We lack many of the amenities of the modern world—like running water and electricity. It’s nice to get an unexpected visitor or two.” He turned back toward the building. “Come to my house. We’ll have tea and see why you’ve traveled all this way.”