Shawn appeared in my living room, blocking the view of the television, which resulted in me throwing a pillow at him.
“Get the fuck out of the way,” I yelled.
He jumped to the side and turned to look at the screen. “Jesus, Trent, how long you been playing that one?” I must have looked a mess for him to ask that. He moved toward the sofa and sat next to me.
“Lost track,” I said as my fingers flew over the controller. “I texted you when I took a short break. Where you been anyway?”
“Had a job to do,” Shawn replied. “Got shot. Had to visit Nico.”
I stopped playing and turned to my twin. “Shut up. How’d she take that?”
Shawn grinned. “Quite well, actually, after she drilled me about not paying her and not saying I lo… those fucking words to her.” He nodded at the screen. “Your ass is about to die.”
“Huh?” I turned back to the television. “Shit!” My hands went ballistic over the controller in a series of combinations and moves.
“Why are you playing this?” Shawn asked as he leaned back.
“In Seth’s memory, since he created the damn thing.” My body jerked to the right while my character moved the same direction in the game.
“You’re not playing it on the computer, with the visor and shit,” Shawn commented.
I shook my head. “Don’t need the visor for this one. It’s not a first-person shooter.”
“Is that a … vampyre?” Shawn asked and leaned forward.
“Yeah, you’d like this one,” I said. “Get to kill slayers in it.”
“Seriously? Is Fang in there? Please tell me yes!”
I laughed. “Yeah, and near the end, Seth put that fucker Moroc in it,” I said. “He’s the final level.”
“Dude, that was like two weeks ago,” Shawn stated.
I nodded. “I know. The man was a fucking genius.”
“I don’t care how intelligent he was, no one can write code that fast,” Shawn said.
I shrugged. “He started working on it a while back, before you reappeared. Then he added this shit right after we returned home from Ireland. Worked on for like five days straight or something.”
Shawn’s brow creased. “When did he disappear?”
“Right after that.” I twitched as my character stumbled upon a lesser demon rising from the earth.
Shawn jerked. “Holy shit, that’s Balam.”
“The one Grant killed, yes.” I leaned to the left and hit one of the buttons repeatedly. “C’mon, damn it!”
“Phase out, idiot!” Shawn yelled as Balam’s jaws closed over my character. I wasn’t really listening. “Dude, that happened to me! Fucking port out of there.”
“I’m trying to, it’s not working,” I snapped.
“Give me that,” Shawn said and snatched the controller from my hand. His fingers moved frantically over the buttons, working a number of combinations he didn’t know, and finally, the character vanished from Balam’s mouth and appeared next to a gnarled black tree.
“How the fuck did you do that?”
Shawn blew out a breath. “Hell if I know.” He handed the controller back to me. “Got any whiskey?”
“Yeah, in the kitchen,” I replied and continued playing. “You talk to anyone else yet?”
“No,” he yelled from the kitchen. “They’re not going to call me after what I did.”
I cleared my throat. “How’s he doing anyway?”
Shawn reappeared and sat down next to me, twisted the cap off the bottle of Jameson, and took a swig. “He’s … different.”
My right brow went up. “Different how?”
“He looks different,” Shawn replied.
“What’s he look like now?”
“Not like Cianán,” he said while staring at the screen. “Do you remember the old tales about vampyres and how they were described as looking like monsters?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Yeah,” Shawn said and sighed. He nodded at the screen. “Imagine your worst nightmare. That’s what he looks like now.”
“Exactly,” Shawn said and tipped the bottle up once more. “I don’t know why he looks like that, Trent.”
“It can’t be something you did,” I said. “You’ve turned people before.”
“I know, but it’s eating away at me, brother.”
“Maybe it’s just temporary,” I suggested.
“I hope so, man, because it’s real difficult to look at him,” Shawn replied. “What are the others doing about Seth?”
“Not sure yet. I’m waiting for Grant to call me, but I think Danny and Dana are doing some research, trying to find out where they’ve got him.” I shook my head. “One of us should’ve checked on him. We would’ve known he’d gone missing much sooner.”
Shawn drew in a deep breath and let it go. “Don’t beat yourself up. He shouldn’t have locked himself up for days at a time, and the fucker got caught because he was craving mint chocolate chip ice cream. I mean, c’mon, really?” He sat up and leaned forward. “When those two get some info on the Cabale’s whereabouts, I want in.”
My eyes narrowed on him. “What the fuck are you going to do?”
Shawn grinned. “What I do best.”
I stared at him a moment. “I’m going with you.”
“The hell you are,” Shawn said. “I work best alone.”
“Excuse me, but weren’t you the one who suggested we go on a fucking James’ brothers killing spree a while back?”
Shawn cleared his throat. “You may be a vampyre, but you’re not a killer, Trent. Leave that shit to me. Then I don’t have to worry about you.”
“Like you worry about anyone but yourself,” I remarked.
Shawn leaned closer to me. “There are only two people in this world I concern myself with … well, three counting your girl. All the rest can fall away.”
My brow cocked up in surprise. “Who’s the other one?”
“Never mind,” Shawn replied.
“It’s Nico, isn’t it?” I grinned.
Shawn glared at me. “Yeah, and I need to get back to her, but first I have to check on something. Can I use your computer?”
My grin widened. “Sure.” Shawn stood up and headed for the office. “Good to know a woman’s finally gotten to that black heart of yours.”
“Fuck you,” Shawn said and stepped through the doorway.
I shook my head and continued with my game, but the whole time my mind zeroed in on Nico and what she’d done to my brother. It wasn’t every day a woman became that important to Shawn—important enough to protect at the same level he would me or Thalia. “Holy shit.”
I stopped playing the game while one character attacked Balam, and I stared at one of the other characters that stood in the dead black forest. Not surprisingly, the character I’d chosen to play looked like me. Most likely it was Shawn. One of the other characters—the one with really long black hair and not quite so pale anymore, who was doing a number on the demon—was unmistakably Grant. Just like in real life, he was one powerfully big mother fucker. Another character near mine was my other brother in code, Danny, once a slayer turned vamp by Cianán just to piss off his twin sister Dana.
And the last character standing in the gloom—that was Seth, with his long black braids and goatee. He kind of looked like Dave Navarro. I sighed and closed my eyes briefly. The controller slipped from my hand and hit the floor, causing the game to halt. I opened my eyes again and bent forward to retrieve it, and when I looked up at the screen, I saw Seth pointing at something. I frowned and switched characters, taking over Seth’s role, and I rotated the joystick to get a better view of what he was trying to show me. It was a puddle of water, but beneath its glossy surface, I could see something that looked like a book. I made the character reach down and pull it out. The game updated the codex and Grant continued to work on the demon. I switched characters again, cracked the final blow to the demon, and jumped right into my inventory.
The book was there, but only under Seth’s inventory, which was odd. I stared at it—a journal of some sort with a name embossed across the front of the ancient leather—Siobhán Brigit O’Ruairc. “Who the hell is Sigh-oh-bon?”
“Sha-vohn, you idiot, and you’re kidding, right?” Shawn said as he came out of the bedroom that substituted as mine and Thalia’s office. “You don’t remember hearing that name when we lived in Ireland?”
I shook my head. “No. Who is she?”
“Grant’s ex. Cianán says Grant killed her back in the fourteenth century or something, but Grant thinks Cianán did it. They’ve been arguing about it for years. Truth is, no one really remembers what happened. She’s like Kylie’s great-great-great-multiple-great aunt or something,” Shawn replied and dropped onto the sofa next to me. He looked at the screen. “What’s that?”
“I think it’s her journal,” I said and relayed how I found it.
Shawn’s right brow arched. “Really? Hmm, you know how Seth liked that cloak and dagger shit. Maybe he put it in the game just for you to find.”
“But why?” I asked.
Shawn shrugged. “Why don’t you open it and find out?”
I pushed the button and the journal opened—a flutter of a page along with the sound it made. It wasn’t a journal. It was a message from Seth.
Find this journal IRL and you’ll find the key.
“The key to what?” Shawn asked as he leaned forward.
I turned the page, only to find it blank. “Shit. Maybe he didn’t get a chance to finish before those assholes took him.
“Maybe you need to do a combo move or something to make the print appear,” Shawn said. “You know how Seth was.”
“Shit, you’re right.” I threw a couple of combos out and words seeped onto the two yellow-tainted pages on my screen.
If your brother is with you, he’s probably asking what the key is for. I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered, my friends. The fucking key … to everlasting life, and I’m not talking about our immortality and that damn ritual. I’m talking about something beyond what Mahlon was before he changed. THIS is what Cianán was looking for, not the women themselves.
“Oh my—” I started.
“—fuck,” my dear twin finished for me.
Find the journal. Find the key. Keep it hidden. Keep the key from Cianán. If it comes into his possession, everything you know will end. You might start by looking at the characters most recently on your screen.
Shawn and I looked at one another. “Grant,” we said in unison, and jumped off the couch to phase the hell out of there.
Thank you, Seth, you fucking genius. I hope you’re with Hailee now.