When we returned to Pagan's place, Luke announced that he had some research to do before the next ritual. He grabbed a half-dozen books off various shelves scattered around the room and piled them onto the dining room table.

He met my offer of assistance with a half smile and a "No thanks, I've got this."

Left to my own devices, I paced around the living room. Waiting for my family's spirits to appear meant that I was more than a bit on edge. Every noise had me jumping. When I grew tired of pacing, I spent a long time flipping through magazines I found on the coffee table. An hour passed...then another.

Nothing happened.

I wondered what Luke was doing and why he didn't want my help. He'd been pretty distant since we left the hospital. I guessed that maybe he was just lost in thought, but now, as I sat alone in the living room and time ticked by, I had to wonder what was running through his mind. I knew he was worried about the last ritual, and he wasn't the only one. Another ritual. I sighed. Another chance of losing myself even more to the darkness.

Thunder rumbled overhead. A storm had been brewing outside, and it was finally making its appearance. The dark clouds opened up, and rain slid against the windows. I sat watching the trees blow back and forth in the wind. The temperature in the room dropped, but this time the chill was nature's doing. It was getting quite cold outside.

It was also chilly inside. I rubbed my hands together and looked over at the dying fire. A stack of wood leaned against the wall, so I got up and threw a couple of logs on. I spent quite a bit of time squatting in front of the flames, stabbing at them with a long, black fire iron.

More time passed. How long will I have to sit here? I wondered impatiently. I was bored and extremely hungry. I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch, and when my stomach growled for the second time, I dropped the fire iron and headed into the kitchen. It was time to make myself something to eat.

I passed Luke sitting at the table bent over a book. Whatever he was reading had captured his full attention.

I stopped and sat down in the chair next to him. "How's it going?"

He didn't look up. "Fine. Everything's fine. Any contact from your family yet?"

"No, no spirits," I admitted. All he cared about was my family coming to me. He didn't ask me how I was feeling or what I'd been up to. I watched his eyes scan the pages of the book in front of him. I knew he was trying to do whatever preparation he had to for the next ritual. Deep down, I knew he wasn't ignoring me on purpose—or at least I hoped he wasn't.

Another book lay open on the table in front of me. I took a closer look. It was big and covered in brown leather, the pages yellow with age. Intricate drawings done in black ink covered the pages. I leaned closer and studied a picture of a man standing before a big block of stone, a dozen faces floating around him. Those must be banshees. Other things surrounded the banshees—bigger, darker things. I wondered what they were.

"How's your research going?" I reached out to tug the book closer.

Luke grabbed my hand and pulled it back. "Don't touch the books."

"I just want to take a look. I'll be careful."

His expression was serious. "I'm not worried about the books. I'm worried about you." He held up the book he'd been reading. "These have power. You're still untrained and wide open. There's no telling what could happen."

I yanked my hand away and pushed my chair back. Talking to the dead was more than enough for me to handle at the moment. The last thing I wanted or needed was more freaky and scary in my life.

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