Chapter 16 - Talking to the Dead

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I rummaged through Pagan's closet since she wasn't around to protest, and hit pay dirt. I shimmied into a tight black dress that flared out around my knees and threw on a dark gray-and-black striped sweater over the top of it for warmth. A pair of black tights and black lace-up chunky boots finished the ensemble.

In the bathroom, I helped myself to a drawer full of makeup. I normally didn't bother with the stuff, but today was a day for something different. I lined my eyes with thick black eyeliner and opened one lipstick, and then another, until I came across a deep purple. I took my finger and ran it over the surface of the lipstick, then leaned forward and carefully smeared the purple over my lips. My hand reached up and touched the hair hanging in gentle waves to my shoulders. In another drawer, I found a straightener. I took my time taming my wavy hair until it was straight and sleek. Finally satisfied, I took a step back for a closer look at my image in the mirror.

Gone was the middle-class girl who'd stepped into the magic shop days ago. In her place stood someone who now looked more dark and dangerous. I stared at my reflection for a long time. I had always been an optimistic person. I had always been surrounded by happy people.

But that part of me—the part that considered the glass half full—now seemed very, very far away.

When I was done I made my way into the kitchen. Luke was pouring himself a glass of orange juice.

He slowly took in my appearance. There was an appreciative gleam in his eyes. "New look?"

I shrugged my shoulders and tried not to feel self-conscious. "I guess." I opened a loaf of bread sitting on the counter and slid two pieces into the toaster.

"How are you feeling this morning?" he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders again. He looked at me, waiting for an answer. When I realized he was not going to let it go, I finally admitted out loud, "I don't feel like myself. It's hard to explain."

His expression changed and turned more serious. "It happens after the rituals."

Here was someone who had gone through the exact same thing I did. If anyone knew how I felt at the moment, it was Luke. "Did you feel different afterward?"

He nodded. "I did."

"In what way?"

"I became..." He turned and stared out the window for a few seconds before answering. "Stronger. Harder."

Last night, after I broke free of the possession, I no longer felt the panic or fear that had been constantly swirling inside me. That fear had been my steady companion since watching my parents' murders. I now felt a new sense of... It was hard to put into words. Violence? Hatred? Whatever it was, it seemed to be coursing through my veins and warming my blood.

When I first met Luke, I had sensed an overwhelming violence radiating from his whole being. Was that a product of the rituals? As I continued forward in the process, would I keep changing? Morphing into someone different? Before I could voice my questions, I found that I suddenly felt very odd.

A tingling at the base of my neck slowly spread and radiated down my spine. The room turned cold. We weren't alone. I tilted my head and looked over to the far corner of the kitchen. Something was there.

Something not of this world.

I looked over at Luke and realized he was staring at the same spot.

"There's a spirit. I can feel it."

Here was the power I had begged to learn. The Death Arts—magic at the upmost top of the food chain. I could now feel spirits. At that realization, I felt shaken to my very core.

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