THE MEDUSA FILES: CASE 9

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CASE #9
Shattered Stone

Time is running out…

Another bomb has exploded and more Kin are infected, including Lachlin’s sister. If they don’t stop the bomber, more Kin will become human and go insane, or die. Every instinct Morgan has screams the madman toying with her, Ander, is behind the attacks, but she can’t prove it. All she knows is that he wants her dead and he wants control of the Kin High Council. Except Gage doesn’t believe her and proving herself right could get her infected—or worse, killed.

CHAPTER 1

Morgan fought to bring her powers to her eyes. Her heart pounded, and her ears still rang from the explosion in the rotunda of the High Council’s high rise. Heat tickled over her cheeks but didn’t manifest. It was still wrapped up with the sultry desire of Lachlin’s charm racing through her and the panic clenching tight in her chest.

Beyond the double glass doors and Gage’s writhing smoke keeping the magical cloud of Caalin back, people screamed. They were being infected with the contagion. It destroyed whatever was in them that made them Kin, and if she didn’t turn Gage’s smoke to stone and seal the Caalin out of their section of the hall, they’d become human, too, and wouldn’t be able to stop whoever was behind these attacks.

Debris littered the floor of the rotunda. The massive glass windows at the front of the high rise were cracked but not shattered — she had no idea how they’d survived the blast. People were covered in blood and soot, their faces white, their expressions stunned or filled with fear.

The cloud of Caalin shimmered, its magic-destroying power breathtakingly beautiful and terrifying. A Kin who turned human went insane. Gage and the team were the only ones willing, perhaps even capable, of figuring out who was behind this and stopping him or her — although Morgan already had strong suspicions it was Ander. She just didn’t have proof.

“Turn it to stone, Morgan,” Gage gasped. He trembled with the strain of keeping his smoke pressed against the cracks around the glass doors as well as filling the entire hall behind them. It was the only thing preventing the Caalin, which seeped through the air vent at the ceiling a few feet down, from infecting them.

She couldn’t become human and lose everything. A few days ago, she might have thrown herself into the cloud and embraced returning to the life she’d had before all this insanity started, but not now. A part of her knew there was no going back. Her gorgon nature had been influencing her life before it had manifested. Without the predatory drive, the hint of monster within her, she wouldn’t be as effective a U.S. Marshal — if she could even get her old job back — and she’d lose her new friendship with Rika and Bearnas, and her relationship — whatever it really was — with Gage.

Her powers flickered over her cheeks again, but were still too weak to manifest in full. Her pulse raced and she fought to steady her breathing. Just some heat in the eyes. That was all she needed. But nothing. Only gut-clenching panic, Lachlin’s charm, and the tease that she could do something if only she was God-damned stronger than all of that.

“I need to stay Kin,” Lachlin said, his voice sharp. He grabbed for her, and a hint of his charm shot through her.

She yanked away. “No.” He was going to make it worse, and he didn’t even know it. She wasn’t fully into her powers yet so the full force of his charm could still chill her gorgon’s gaze.

“I’ll make you do it,” he growled.

“Lachlin, no,” Gage said.

Lachlin’s charm surged, and he lunged at her.

“I said don’t touch me!” She twisted away.

Gage snapped out a third thread of smoke, seized Lachlin, and slammed him against the wall. He screamed and clawed at it. Gage’s legs buckled, and he dropped to his knees.

“Morgan,” he gasped.

“I don’t know how.” Her body trembled and she couldn’t make it stop.

Lachlin wrenched against Gage’s smoke and howled. His charm slid through her, slick and sensual, and drew a moan. The hint of fire in her face vanished, and a chill swept through her and clenched hard in her gut.

Gage bowed his head. “I can’t hold it back much longer.”

More charm billowed within her, and she lurched to Lachlin.

“Stop it! Just stop it!”

He tensed, and the swell of his charm vanished, leaving her cold. Her heart stuttered, as if her body couldn’t understand what had happened, as if she needed Lachlin’s charm to exist. Then brilliant blue light flashed from his eyes and fire swept over her face.

Relief flooded her. Thank God.

But the fire surged and exploded into a sudden inferno. Lachlin’s eyes flashed wide, and her relief shattered in terror. This was her power at its most deadly.

She yanked her gaze to the smoke-wall behind them and her powers blasted into it. Gray swept through the smoke and it hardened. She slammed her palms over her eyes before the wall cracked or exploded into dust, and jerked around to the glass doors. Her heart pounded. Don’t kill anyone. Please, God, let her save them from the Caalin without killing anyone.

“Now the other,” Gage said, his voice gruff.

“Yeah, easy. Nothing to it.” God, she was going to kill them.

“You can do this,” Gage said.

She opened her fingers, focused on the smoke sealing the glass doors, and let out a blast. Gage’s smoke flash-froze into granite, and she snapped her fingers shut. Her powers beat against her hands. Uncontrolled fiery tears dripped down her cheeks and exploded into granite dust on the tiles at her feet.

Shit.

Another pop, like gunfire, and a shard of granite — once marble floor — bit her leg.

Pull it back. Focus.

Fire roared through her, searing over her face, down her neck, and into her chest. Keeping her hands on her eyes forced her powers within her. It was burning her up, but if she released the pressure and let her powers go she could kill them or expose them to the Caalin.

Beyond the doors, the screams continued to cut through the ringing in her ears and twisted her insides. She’d been too late and hadn’t stopped this. They were dying, they were losing their Kin nature, and there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it.

“Let it go, Jacobs,” Gage said, his voice strained.

The rage at herself for failing all those people in the rotunda?

More drops of power exploded at her feet.

No. Her powers. She had to let that go.

“Let it go,” Gage said, again.

Her hands dripped with it and soon even her palms in front of her eyes wouldn’t stop it. It would rush free and kill everyone.

“Jacobs.”

“I’m trying.” And God, she was, but too much was happening, and she couldn’t focus. Her ears still rang, heart still pounded, the fire roared through her, and all the suffering beyond the glass… Her powers just wouldn’t relax.

“Knock her out,” Lachlin said, panic edging his voice.

“I’m not knocking her out,” Gage growled. “She can control it.”

Her knees trembled, and she sagged to the floor. Gage brushed her arm, and her desire for him — heightened by Lachlin’s charm — raced through her. Her powers flared, and fire sliced at her hands. More drops splattered down her cheeks and exploded against the floor.

“Just let it go.” His tone softened and while she knew there was nothing sexual about Gage’s intention, she couldn’t stop her mind from going there. Her body craved him like nothing she’d ever experienced before.

She needed distance from him, but she had nowhere to go. They were trapped in a section of hall smaller than an elevator.

He shifted, didn’t even touch her, and her powers flared again.

“Now that’s fucked up,” Lachlin said.

“Not helping.” She shuddered and ground her teeth, fighting the blaze.

“You think of him and your powers go out of control,” Lachlin said.

“Stop reading her emotions,” Gage barked. He was too close. Even through the fire in her face and Lachlin’s charm, she could sense the heat from his body. She was too physically and emotionally sensitive to be this close to him. He reached for her again.

“Don’t,” she gasped. More tears exploded, sending granite shrapnel biting her knees and thighs. “Lachlin, charm me.”

“Excuse me?” Lachlin’s voice jumped in pitch.

“Morgan, don’t,” Gage said. “You can get this under control.”

“We don’t have time for me to figure this out. And has anyone called Rika to hack the building’s HVAC?”

“It’s too late,” Gage said. “If the Caalin came through that duct, it’s everywhere.”

Her throat tightened, and the fire of her power seared her palms. “That means everyone in the building is infected.” All the doctors and nurses in the hospital on the ninth floor, all those injured but not infected in the first explosion, all the family in the rotunda waiting for word about their loved ones — now injured as well — and any members of the High Council in the building. “We don’t have time to wait for me to get my shit together. Lachlin, please, just charm me.”

“I don’t think just giving you the compulsion to contain your powers will work,” he said.

“It’s not the compulsion, it’s the strength of your full charm itself,” Gage said, his tone filled with resignation. “It blocks her ability to call on her power.”

“And you were going to tell me this when?” Lachlin asked.

Gage sighed. “Never. It wasn’t something Chava wanted to be made public.”

“Telling me isn’t public,” Lachlin said. Hands seized her wrists, and his charm surged through her. It rushed sudden, aching desire to every nerve in her body and froze the fire in her face between one breath and the next. She sagged forward, her forehead hitting his shoulder, and moaned, unable to keep it back. God, this was so embarrassing. Now every inch of her was turned on. Her insides squirmed with the need for satisfaction. Just thinking about it drew her closer to climax, but she knew, without actual satisfaction, she wouldn’t go over the edge, just teeter there, aching, unfulfilled.

She pushed away from Lachlin and leaned against the wall. “I hate that.”

His lips curled back in a wicked, sensual sneer. “Sure you do, Kitten.”

God damn empath, able to sense her emotions. “Just because my body reacts one way doesn’t mean I like it.”

“Whatever.” His sneer deepened, and he sat on the floor opposite her.

She turned to Gage. Behind him, through the glass doors, the cloud of Caalin still flickered with magical light. “What now?”

“First we hope the Caalin doesn’t stick around much longer, since we’re sealed in and there’s only so much air in here.” Lachlin narrowed his eyes at her. “I’d work on controlling that panting.”

A shudder swept through her at his look, and her pulse and breath sped up even faster. Controlling herself was easier said than done while under Lachlin’s influence and trapped in a too-tight area with the two sexiest men she’d ever laid eyes on.

She glared at him, but that only heightened her desire, making her think of hot, angry sex. Just great.

Gage’s phone rang, and Lachlin slid his attention from her to Gage, but light still radiated from his eyes, indicating he had heightened emotions as well — she just doubted it was from sexual attraction.

“Gage,” he said and set the phone to speaker.

“Oh, my God, you’re all right,” Rika said over the line. “The chat room lit up with conversation about another bomb going off in the Council’s building.”

“We’re all right.” Gage perched the phone on his knee so they could all hear.

“Barely,” Lachlin said, his voice low.

Gage shot him a dark look. “Did Shadow570 post again?”

“Yeah, but just once,” she said. “He said that was five times the dosage as before, and there was more on the way. He logged on and off fast. The IP address came from an internet cafe on the other side of town from his house.”

“I doubt he’s there any more,” Gage said.

“Perhaps the cafe has video surveillance,” Morgan said, her insides twitching with the churning need for satisfaction as well as taking action. She had to get out of this space. The guys were too close, and her gorgon nature demanded she pace to relieve the building emotions. “We could get eyes on this guy.”

“To what? Prove what we already know? That it’s Gary Harper?” Lachlin asked. “We need a cure. We need to go to his house, rip the place apart, and find one. And we’re stuck in here.”

“You think he has the cure?” Rika asked.

Lachlin pressed his hand to the glass and stared out. “He has to. No one is stupid enough to use a bio weapon without a cure.”

“You only say that because—” Gage’s attention followed Lachlin’s out the door, and Morgan glanced beyond the glass as well.

A hint of shimmering magic flickered in the air, but not nearly as much as when the bomb had first exploded. Paramedics, orderlies, and security guards picked through the chaos on the other side of the rotunda near the elevators. The dented doors slid open, and two nurses with a stretcher rushed out.

Darkness swelled around Gage, and he sucked in a quick breath. It vanished, and he jerked his attention to the ceiling. “We have to hope Gary Harper is our guy and that he’s smart enough to have the cure.”

“Or that whichever Council member is involved has it,” Rika said.

“There has to be a cure.” Lachlin leaned his forehead against the glass, the light from his eyes billowing.

Morgan caught a hint of blond hair by one of the pillars, and Lachlin tensed. Bearnas staggered into sight, covered in dust, her suit and hair disheveled. She knelt by someone on the floor. Just in the rotunda alone there had been a couple hundred Kin waiting for word about their loved ones from the previous explosion. If they didn’t find a cure, all of them were going to go insane, including Lachlin’s sister.

The urge to move swept through Morgan again. She shot to her feet, paced — two strides — to the other side of the hall, jerked around, and paced back.

“Stop moving. You’ll use up our air faster,” Lachlin said without turning from the glass door.

She ground her teeth. “There has to be something we can do.”

“Yeah, catch this guy,” Gage said.

“And what? How will that help anyone out there?” She wrenched back to the other side of the hall. Rentz had said Ander was immune to the Caalin and that antigens in his blood could make a cure, but the last time she’d brought it up no one had believed her. No, the best bet was to pray Gary Harper had an antidote.

They just had to get out of there. She had to get out of there. She couldn’t stay cooped up like this, not when people were dying, not when—

“Morgan!” Gage snapped.

She jerked to face him and realized she was still pacing. Desire and frustration churned through her, and she hugged herself, fighting the itching, burning need to take action.

“We need a plan,” he said, his gaze locking on hers, drawing her into his dark abyss and stealing her breath. Her body throbbed for him, yearned for him, for satisfaction.

“Not helping,” Lachlin said. “You’re making her worse.”

Embarrassment flooded her. She was out of control when she needed, more than ever, to be in control. “Stop reading my emotions.”

Lachlin lurched at her and shoved her against the hall wall, his body pressed tight against hers, sending shivers of need through her. “You’re a screaming emotional mess. If I could get you out of my head, Kitten, I would. Lord and Lady, I would. Your emotions just never shut up.”

Gage grabbed Lachlin, wrenched him back, and shot Morgan a hard glare that didn’t last long enough to capture her soul again. “Now who’s not helping? Look—” He jerked his thumb at the glass doors. “I think the Caalin has dissipated.”

Lachlin pressed his hands to the glass and squinted. “Looks clear to me.”

“Jacobs, do you see anything?” Gage asked.

She clenched her jaw against her seething emotions and focused on the air in the rotunda, in the space just above the heads of the emergency responders. “I don’t see anything.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?” Rika asked over the phone.

“Any word from Council security?” Gage asked.

“Give me a sec,” Rika said.

A muscle in Lachlin’s jaw twitched. “If we’re wrong, we risk getting infected and not being able to stop this, not…”

Not being able to find a cure for Bearnas. The only person Morgan knew Lachlin loved, even though he didn’t have a heart.

“Word on the security channels is that Vikram says it’s clear,” Rika said. “He and Dr. Tarr had stepped out to grab something to eat. They were outside when the bomb exploded.”

“I see them,” Lachlin said. “They’re coming in.”

A woman with skin that had a golden glow and a young man with a mop of shaggy brown hair rushed into the chaos and started helping people.

“Good. Let’s check on Bearnas and get the memory seal. If Harper is our guy, then we’ll need the seal to find out if he’s working with any of the Council members.” Gage groaned and a blast of darkness and fire slammed into one of the glass doors, shattering it. Lachlin rushed out and headed straight for Bearnas. Morgan started to follow, but Gage grabbed her wrist.

“You shouldn’t have told Lachlin his charm negates your powers.”

She jerked free from his grip. “It was that or have him break my nose and knock me out again.”

“You have to learn to control your powers.”

“You honestly think we have the time for me to figure that out right now?” A shiver of Lachlin’s charm swept through her. “Trust me. If I thought there’d been a way to control myself without killing you, I’d have tried it.”

“He’ll use this against you,” Gage said, his voice dark.

Another shiver raced over her. She knew Lachlin would but she hadn’t seen much choice. “Let’s focus on the immediate threat and hope Gary Harper is our guy and he has a cure.” Because if he didn’t, their only other chances for a cure weren’t good: the possible Council member they had yet to identify, or Ander, the unbound djinn trying to kill Morgan. And neither might even be involved with the Caalin at all.

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