Dante Anderson should have been the Shadow Pope of the Inquisition, but at age five, he'd developed a rare form of Earth sight, a power unique to witches. As the first in his bloodline to be cursed as a witch, he was disowned. Embracing the name of Emmett Jackson, he was more than happy to make his escape, leaving his twin brother to carry the unfortunate mantle of Pope.
Unfortunately, the Inquisition doesn't let anyone go easily, and Jackson isn't an exception…
Please enjoy this sneak peek of the story.
The world was full of corpses, and I, Emmett Jackson, knew them by name. Unfortunately for me, my brother knew I knew.
That’d teach me to tell my twin any of my secrets.
When he had asked for my help, waiting on my doorstep when I had gotten home from work, I hadn’t expected him to call me in to be the getaway driver of an Inquisition field operation—let alone one dangerous enough to warrant my brother’s armored truck. He’d been spinning the keys around his finger with a smug smile, knowing he had me dead to rights when he told me I’d be driving. I doubted the red-painted, tempting seductress of a monstrosity could be eliminated by anything short of a missile or a tank. Even if someone wanted to blast their way in, they’d need a ladder to reach the door. I wasn’t small, not at six foot three, and I had needed the step rail and the roll bar to climb in. The rest of the team had needed me to give them a hand.
Maybe my brother hadn’t wanted me to play getaway driver, but as a way to make certain the Inquisitors could get into the Red Beast without needing a ladder.
I drew a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. I should have refused him and the lure of driving his absurd, stupid truck. I should have told him I’d do a stint in the Inquisition headquarters shuffling papers and naming dead people instead of pretending I was trained for field operations.
Drumming my hands against the leather wheel—probably the only normal thing in the truck—I waited. The manila envelope on the dashboard mocked me, reflecting in the windshield as I watched the darkening forest for any signs of the team’s return. Once I opened it, I’d know more about the operation and its Inquisitors than I wanted. I’d know the names and faces of the dead, and if my bad luck held, I’d get a glimpse of their last moments.
The remnants of spirits were vindictive like that.
I leaned forward, resting my forehead against the top of the wheel. My brother had been in enough of a hurry to get me into his truck and onto the road that I hadn’t had time to change out of my suit. Combat boots, fatigues, and Kevlar protected them. I wore a silk dress shirt and an equally thin jacket that a bullet would ignore before tearing a hole through me.
Clenching my teeth, I bumped my brow against the wheel a few times as I muttered curses at my idiocy.
A smart man would’ve put the idling engine into gear and left. If I did that, I’d be the target of my very own Inquisition field operation, and I doubted even the Red Beast could withstand a pack of angry Fenerec armed with more firepower than the military. They had missiles—I had supplied all six of them to them. If they launched one at the truck, they’d smash the vehicle into teeny tiny bits.
I turned my head to check the clock. In ten minutes, it’d be time to rip open the envelope and find out how the operation was going. If things went well, the photographs would tell a story where the Inquisition’s victims would be dead and my team would still be nameless faces. My brother had been adamant about the next part of my directions: if half of my team was dead by sunset, I was to take the Red Beast and get out of the area as fast as the big diesel engine could go.
I’d clocked it at a hair over one hundred miles per hour over the rabbit trail of a road leading into the forest, much to the dismay of the nine passengers crammed into the cab.
In a way, I felt sorry for my brother. He thought he knew me. He thought he could guess what I’d do, like he was so good at doing as the Inquisition’s youngest Shadow Pope. Unfortunately for him, while I had nodded my acknowledgment of his orders, I had no intention of abandoning the Inquisitions—and the team knew it. They’d stared at me like I’d grown a second head for daring to disobey orders within five minutes of receiving them, but I wasn’t about to have a pack of Fenerec haunting me for getting them killed unnecessarily.
If everything went well, I’d do as my brother wished, staying in the Red Beast, clearing away a year of obligation to the Inquisition as reward for my efforts.
If things didn’t go well, I wasn’t the only one armed. The world was full of corpses, but if any of the Inquisitors numbered among the dead, it wouldn’t be because I had abandoned them. If I were to add to the numbers, it’d be because I’d tapped a bullet between someone’s eyes.
I checked the time again.
Five minutes was long enough to double check my gun, a vanilla Beretta M9 I had snatched on my way out the door, right along with my brother’s keys. I preferred something heavier—at least an M16 could slow a Fenerec down without silver shot—but the M9 would suffice. It was loaded with silver, and that’d stop a Fenerec for a bit—or kill it, if my aim was good enough.
If I needed the Beretta, it was because the team was in trouble, and I had left the Red Beast in favor of stupid heroics without the benefit of body armor and heavy munitions.
If I didn’t get myself killed, my brother was going to finish me off when I made it home.
I took my time checking the magazine before chambering a round, turning the safety on before holstering the weapon. Drawing a deep breath, I held it to the count of thirty before letting out it. The manila envelope didn’t weigh much; photographs and a few sheets of paper didn’t. Dumping the contents onto the Red Beast’s dash, I flicked on the overhead light and used the reflections in the windshield to flip the twenty-three photographs and the stapled papers face down.
So long as I didn’t directly look at the faces of the men and women the Inquisition meant to kill, my magic wouldn’t trigger. The photographs belonged to the wild Fenerec pack living too close to civilization. The papers belonged to the eight men and one woman on my team. If they died, I’d learn their True names instead of the code names they favored during a field operation.
I sighed, watching as the vestiges of the sunset faded from the sky. In the dark of night, I would begin my own hunt—one my brother wouldn’t approve of.
If he had wanted obedience, he wouldn’t have turned to me. He should’ve known better than to think I would turn my back on those entrusted to my care.
I lifted my chin and began my grim tasks of flipping over photographs so I might learn the names of the dead. Of the twenty-three, one still lived, and all I could see in her solemn expression and her jade eyes was accusation.