Forever Night:A Hidden Novella

By: Colleen Vanderlinden

Chapter One

The nightmare started the same way it always did. Shanti stood in the abandoned car plant, flanked by Levitt and Stone, Ada on Stone’s other side. Shifter packs, the Detroit police chief, Molly’s imps arrayed, waiting to destroy anything that came through the gateway.

The reappearance of Brennan had done it. No one knew he was missing, and then there was Eunomia, dragging him into the loft, both of them beaten, bloody.

Everyone had moved fast after that. Brennan had managed to give them an idea of what was coming before he’d passed out, and there was no doubt in Shanti’s mind that she’d join the team, that she’d do what Molly would have done; that she would stand against whatever came through.

So there everyone was: ready to defend their own realm from nightmares. Likely, about to die. They’d go out fighting. The plant was silent, eerie, as they stared at what looked like nothing at all, waiting for the world to end.

And then Molly came through the gateway, followed by a man Shanti had only ever seen in photographs; a man who should have been a ghost, but wasn’t. And behind them, a couple dozen huge demons, in their true forms. It had almost come to blows, but Molly jumped between the two groups, stopped the chaos with a word.

In Shanti’s recurring nightmare, in her memories, she watched as the Fates talked to Molly, as Molly and Nain argued, asked questions. And she saw something she’d never seen on her hero’s face, no matter how bad things had gotten: fear.

And that was when Shanti had realized that whatever was coming through was worse than any nightmare she could have imagined.

Molly shouted, told everyone to leave. Everyone. Shanti stared back at the woman who had saved her life, not once, but twice, not wanting to leave, not wanting her to face whatever was coming alone. The look on Molly’s face had said everything: she was scared to death, but this was something she was determined to do.

They’d all gone outside; demons, shifters, vampires. And they’d waited. Shanti could still feel, even in her dreams, the insane amount of power surging from within the plant, making the hair on the back of her neck stand on end, making her teeth clench and her ears pop. And then it broke, and the largest of the demons, the demon who had been bonded to Molly, let out the worst, most inhuman, most tortured sound Shanti had ever heard, and then he started running and Shanti was on his heels.

And when they got there, her hero was gone, nothing remaining but a patch of dust, and even that was blowing away in the breeze that blew through the broken-out windows of the factory. The demon fell to his knees, let loose another inhuman wail, and that was when Shanti started praying.

Shanti jerked awake, felt her heart give two quick thumps in response to her fear, the terror of that night. She rubbed her hands over her face, trying to calm her nerves. Nearly two years of the same nightmare, several times a week. She felt like she should be used to it by now, but there was no way to get used to seeing the one permanent thing in your life taken away. There was no way to remember Nain’s tortured howl, and be okay with it.

She sat up, glanced at the clock on the bedside table. Just after ten. She picked up her phone. There was already a text waiting. Levitt.

Text me when ur up. Lead from imps. Vamps this time.

She texted him, and he responded immediately. He’d meet her in the lot across the street.

She got up out of bed, tossing the covers to the side. Then she quickly made the bed, prayed her thanks for another night and asked for strength to save the innocent. Then she stepped into the shower, quickly washed, dressed in jeans and a gray sweater. She sheathed the silver dagger Levitt had bought her to her thigh, then pulled her curly hair up, pinning it haphazardly at the back of her head. No sense in giving whoever they faced something easy to grab.

She left the room she lived in at the loft, the one on the second floor, center of the building. The rooms on each end had huge windows looking out over the city and Cultural Center. Hers was generally known as the “vampire room.” Whenever there had been a vampire on the team, they’d lived in that room. It was windowless, had a door that could only be opened from the inside unless Molly (or, now, Nain) let themselves in with the key. As she walked down the stairs, she could easily hear what was going on with her team mates. Nain was in his office, ripping someone a new one. Brennan was staring listlessly out the living room windows. Stone was probably out on patrol with the Chief, and she could smell the herbal, exotic scent that told her Ada was likely working on a potion in her room. She called a hello to Brennan, who answered distractedly, then she grabbed some blood from the fridge, heated it up, and poured it into a travel mug.