Home > Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)(6)

Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)(6)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

“We have a new client with a serious problem. Have you ever heard of the Whatcom Devil?” Tad’s voice deepened, which I recognized as a stress reaction.

“No, actually, I haven’t. The only thing that brings to mind is the Jersey Devil, and I’m not too conversant with that, either.” I worried my lip. “So, what makes it so urgent that you need me?”

Tad hesitated, then said, “I think she’s in danger from whatever this is. I want us to keep a close eye on her while we go through the investigation. Let’s face it, you’re good at picking up on things. And with Wren’s husband sick, she’s preoccupied.”

I let out a sigh. That alone was enough to make me say yes. Wren, one of our team, was an excellent empath, but her husband had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and they were in that initial shock phase, still trying to figure out how to manage their new normal. Tad had told Wren to take as much time as she needed—and she was taking him up on his offer.

“I’ll be there,” I said. “I’m unpacking today. The contractors did a great job.” But even as I said it, my thoughts went to the bathroom the night before. Even after sleeping on it, I could have sworn I had set the box firmly on the counter. I could be wrong—I wasn’t 100 percent certain, but I’d bet on it. And the laugh I’d heard and the pinch? Last night I’d done my best to write them off to being tired, but this morning, I once again was positive they were real.

“Are you okay?” Tad asked.

I startled out of my thoughts. “Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t know. There’s just something about your voice.” Tad paused, then said, “Are you sure you can come in? If you can’t, take the time. Everything will be fine.”

“No,” I said, shaking away my gloom. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” After hanging up, I turned back to my boxes but my enthusiasm had waned. I decided the last four could wait. Trying to shake myself out of the sudden funk I’d dropped into, I headed downstairs to fix myself some lunch.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

After lunch, I called Florist On the Go and ordered a bouquet and a sympathy card to be sent to Ida, in honor of Jacktaw. Then I made myself another mocha and stepped out on the back porch. As I settled in at the table overlooking the yard, cupping my drink, I ticked off to-do’s in my head. High on the never-ending list, this week I was set to turn over the entire garden for the season. It was time to mulch it under and let it rest until spring. I still wasn’t sure that I fully enjoyed gardening. It had been an experiment, but I was contemplating turning the patch into an herb-and-flower garden and just growing tomatoes, which I loved.

A flash from the Mystic Wood caught my attention. There were any number of mysterious creatures in those woodlands, including the Woodlings—a race of sentient and mobile plant Fae. And I knew of one other thing hidden in the woods. Somewhere out there, buried in a trunk, was the body of a murderer who had killed my great-grandmother’s daughter, Lara. Somewhere, deep beneath decades of mulch and debris, were his remains.

I watched the trailhead at the entrance to the forest and then, after a moment, I caught sight of a familiar face. Rebecca was standing on the edge of my lawn. I knew the imp couldn’t leave the woodland—for some reason she had been bound there. She had tried to capture me when I was young, and even now, she seemed fixated on me.

I slowly stood, keeping an eye on her as I moved to the stairs and descended into the backyard. Quietly, feeling oddly confident, I made my way across the lawn, past the vegetable garden, until I was standing about five yards from the imp.

She had always looked like a charming little girl with golden hair and a wide smile. But behind that smile she hid jagged teeth, and behind the affected innocence, she was a dangerous predator. Luckily, I was equipped to deal with her now, but I still didn’t discount her powers or the repressed anger that hid behind that shell of a child.

To my surprise, today the sneer wasn’t there, nor the hunger in her eyes. Today, I noticed an air of concern—almost fear—which put me on edge. When an imp who liked to eat flesh was afraid, there was usually something to be afraid of.

What’s going on, Esmara? I asked, feeling my great-aunt nearby.

Rebecca’s afraid—there’s something new come into the Mystic Wood.

How do you know?

I asked her. She will talk to you, if you ask her nicely.

I grunted. I wasn’t given to being nice to demons who tried to kill me, even if it had been during my childhood. But if there was something dangerous nearby, I needed to know. I grunted again, and turned to Rebecca.

“So, there’s something new in the Mystic Wood?”

She hesitated, then nodded. “Yes, there is.”

“Care to tell me what it is? I might be able to help send it packing.” I was trying to be polite, but I didn’t have the most success in that area.

Esmara cleared her throat, right in my ear, making me jump. You might try being more diplomatic.

I snorted. I’m Rowan Firesong’s granddaughter. What do you expect out of me? But she was right. I tried to dial it back a notch.

“All right,” I said, turning to Rebecca. “I’m not trying to be argumentative. But the more I know, the better I can help shore up the Mystic Wood.”

“Why would you care? You’re witchblood, not one of the Fae.”

“I care because I make my home next to the woodland. I care because the forest is beautiful and I don’t want to see anything destroy it or its magic. How many more reasons do you want?” I began counting off on my fingers. “The forest helps make oxygen. The forest is magical. The forest’s beautiful. I love coming out on my porch every morning and seeing it’s still standing.” I wasn’t sure what else to say. It wasn’t every day that I made conversation with an imp.

Rebecca sullenly scuffed the ground. Then, after a moment, she shrugged. “All right. I’ll tell you. Something’s come to the Mystic Wood that frightens even the most daring of spirits. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s some demon or devil of a creature.”

“Not an imp, like you?”

I must have hit a nerve because Rebecca glared at me. “No, not a demon like me. A demon far stronger than I am, so you’d best watch yourself. I almost got you when you were young, but your guardian saved you. Now, I couldn’t go up against you and expect to come out the winner. But this? This creature? It could mow you down and chop you up for dinner.”

I swallowed a sudden lump that rose in my throat. “What does it look like?”

“Like a hound that’s born deformed. Like a lion without the mane. Like Cerberus but not a god. One head only, but it walks like a man and yet looks like a beast. It’s fast and strong, and though I don’t know what kind it wields, it has magic in its blood.” She stopped, glancing over her shoulder as if she heard something. “That’s all I can tell you. Go now, and do what you can to stop it. The Mystic Wood doesn’t need a tyrant king, who would not even be king.”

“What do you mean—” I stopped as she turned and darted back beneath the shelter of the trees, vanishing without another word.

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