God help me, I could have stopped them. I'm sure of that. My only defense is that I honestly thought I was doing the right thing, but my best intentions are black pavement now.
All I can do now is tell you my story, and let you decide for yourself whether I'm a heroine or a villain or just another tool. I've had some time to gather my thoughts, and other peoples' thoughts for that matter; it's amazing what magic can coax from the dead. So if I start telling you about events I wasn't around to see, know that my memories are solid even if the original owners are dust. I'll be happy to give you the eyewitness tour if you bring good beer.
Begin at the beginning, right? I still can't find memories from the ancients who planted this disaster, so let's start with the night my own life went off the rails ....
Cooper woke me up before the nightmare did. He caught me square in the shin with a jerking kick and I bolted up, my heart hammering like a small demon trying to break through my ribcage. Already the dream had slipped from my mind, leaving nothing behind but my wrecked nerves. Cooper twitched and ground his teeth. Sweat plastered his curly black hair against his forehead, and his tattooed arms shook as he crushed the pillow against his chest.
I wanted to hold him close, wake him up. I hated seeing the man I loved in that kind of pain. It didn't matter that he was the teacher and I his apprentice. But I knew he'd lash out at anyone near him when he came out of the dream. So I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and scooted away from him on the bed.
"Cooper," I called. My throat felt like it was lined with steel wool, and I could taste pennies where I'd bitten the inside of my lip. "Wake up."
My heart was slowing, finally, but my hands still shook as I wiped my eyes again. I'd never had nightmares before I started sleeping with Cooper. The first couple of times we'd both gotten bad dreams the same night, I dismissed it as coincidence. But after a dozen nights? It was pretty clear that the terror I saw in his fractured sleep mirrored the terror fading inside my own head.
We were having the same damn nightmare ... and lately I was having it whether I was sleeping beside him or not.
He writhed and groaned.
Cooper's white fox terrier, Smoky, was cowering under my computer desk, whining. The dog was giving me a scared look: Wake him up before something bad happens. I'd seen the dog take on creatures ten times his seventeen pounds when he thought his master was in danger; the dog had once torn the ear off an ogrish no-neck who was preparing to brain Cooper with a tire iron in a bar parking lot. But when the nightmare came on, fierce little Smoky was helpless.
I could hear the rustling of my 6-month-old ferret racing around in his cage in the corner.
What's going on inside your head? I wondered, staring down at Cooper.
I slid off the bed, took a deep breath and let loose a shout that shook the floor: "Cooper!"
>> Go on to Spellbent: Chapter One, Part 2