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The Dark One: Chapter 2

KAS

The leaves of the Never Tree shudder as the shadow darts around the branches. The pixie bugs wink out and go dark.

‘You got eyes on it?” Bash asks.

“Over here,” I answer.

The shadow is hunched at a split in the tree.

If I had my wings, I’d fly up to snatch it.

Everything is harder without wings. Sometimes the ache in my back, the space where they once were, aches like they are there, like I’ve just returned from a long afternoon flying among the clouds.

Bash comes around the tree trunk, his gaze trained on the canopy above us. “How do you want to do this?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“Which shadow do you think it is?”

“My guess? The dark one. Pan will be pulled to his shadow, probably without even thinking about it.”

Bash shifts to our fae language because no one but us can understand it.

If we catch it, he says and lets the thought trail off.

I know, I answer.

You think Pan will want one of us to have the death shadow?

Hard to say what he wants. What do you want?

My twin gives me a pointed look.

If Bash or I were to claim the dark shadow, our little sister Tilly would hate us for having more power. But she made her decisions. And to see her face when one of us walks in as Neverland’s Dark One….

I smile to myself as my twin’s voice echoes in my head.

Let’s nab it first. Then we can plot our revenge.

We close in.

“How about if one of us goes up?” I suggest. “Force it down.”

“Rock-paper-scissor you for it. Whoever loses goes up.”

We’re still watching the branches as the leaves rattle again and the shadow shifts.

“Hurry up,” I tell him.

“I’m ready. I’m waiting for you.”

I snort and put my fist in the cup of my opposite hand.

Rock-Paper-Scissor-Shoot,” we say in unison and look away from the tree just long enough to see who has won.

“Rock? Really, Bash?” I say with a laugh. I went with paper. Bash always goes with the rock because he’s predictable. “Looks like you’re going up,” I tell him.

“Yes, I know how the game works, asshole.” He repositions himself beneath one of the lower hanging branches, then slowly wraps his hands around it, poised to leverage himself up. As children, we spent hours in the craggy, twisty trees of the fae forest. We’d climb up, then fly down, then climb up again.

“Be ready to catch it,” Bash whispers.

I have my knees bent, hands out. “Of course, I’m ready. I’m always ready.”

He hoists himself up. The branch dips with his weight. The shadow grows long in the tree.

“Slowly,” I tell him and follow his movements.

“I know what I’m doing.”

The shadow jitters and the branch shakes. Above us in the ceiling rafters, the parakeets are chirping loudly, sending out a shrill warning.

Bash gets his footing and crouches low on the branch to keep his balance as he inches forward, the bark scraping loudly beneath his boots. The shadow constricts, growls.

“Careful!”

“I am careful!” he hisses.

The shadow leaps to the next branch. Bash readjusts and I dart beneath the new branch.

If my twin or I possess the Death Shadow, everything will change. When our sister banished us from court, we lost almost everything we were.

To be powerful again…

Bash has the shadow backed against a V in the branches. The shadow vibrates. Is it afraid? Or maybe it’s—

The shadow lunges. There’s a deep, guttural roar from the thing and the pixie bugs fly out from the tree in a bright, neon swarm. The parakeets go eerily silent as Bash makes a wet, choked sound.

Then I smell the blood.

The shadow flies from the tree just as Bash tips over backwards.

“Bash!” I try to catch him but I’m not quick enough and he hits the floor on his back, a strangled breath rasping from his throat.

There is blood everywhere.

Fucking everywhere.

“Where are you hurt?” I say and scramble over him. His hand is clutched at his neck, blood gurgling between his fingers as he struggles for air.

“Darling!” I scream. “Winnie!”

She races into the room and stops when she sees the spreading veil of blood.

“Get a towel,” I tell her. “Hurry!”

Bash’s eyes are wide, blood staining his lips. He’s trying to tell me something, but he can’t get the words out.

“We are fae princes,” I tell him. “Fae never die. Do you hear me?”

Tears are purged from the corners of his eyes as he gasps for air.

He is half of me.

If he dies, I will die with him.

If I am sure of nothing else, it’s that.


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