Library, Guild City
There was that smell again.
Brimstone and fire.
It woke me abruptly, and I nearly fell off the couch, the blankets tangled around me.
“Crap, crap, crap.” Heart pounding a mile a minute, I scrambled upright, shoving my messy dark hair out of my face.
Early morning sun streamed through the mullioned glass windows, the beams lighting up the ancient room in which I’d been camping out. It wasn’t my home—I hadn’t slept there in weeks—but it looked like it, with clothes strewn over the table and shoes scattered about.
I glanced at the clock over the old wooden door.
Damn it, I was late.
Librarians should never be late to open the doors.
Yet I was. Increasingly often.
The ghost that haunted me had driven me out of my own home. It wasn’t normal to sleep in an ancient library, but then, I wasn’t normal. But it was my best option if I wanted to avoid the shadowy specter that had been stealing more and more hours of my sleep.
Frankly, I was reaching a breaking point.
The scent of fire surged, filling the air until I almost couldn’t breathe. My throat tightened, fear fisting it tight.
It was him.
The ghost. The shadow. It had to be.
I still didn’t know who he was. My nana had warned me about him, though. Don’t use your magic. Don’t draw attention. Keep to yourself. Or he will come for you.
She’d died before she could tell me any more, which sucked on multiple levels. But he was the bogeyman at the corner of my vision, the monster under the bed.
My skin prickled as I crept across the room, slipping my feet into the wellies I’d left by the door. The tall rain boots looked ridiculous with my unicorn sleep shorts and oversized ’80s band T-shirt—Madonna today—but it didn’t matter. I just needed footwear so I could get the hell out of there.
Shame burned at the back of my neck as I slipped down the stairs. The ancient library in Guild City was enormous—several stories tall with a domed ceiling and gorgeous stone and wood architecture. One of the small upstairs rooms had been my refuge these last weeks, and now I was abandoning even that?
What kind of coward was I?
The kind that’s used to hiding.
I stiffened my spine and sucked in a breath. I didn’t have to be a coward. I didn’t have to leave the library. No matter how much I wanted to.
This was my home. My responsibility.
The last stair creaked underfoot as it always did, and I stepped onto the ground floor. The tiny anteroom was dark, but I didn’t bother with a light. Didn’t want to blind myself.
Or draw attention.
Trembling, I pushed open the oak door to the main library, peering out into the hallowed space. Guild City was an ancient town hidden deep in London—built during the time of Elizabeth I, when there were still knights on horses—and this building was a testament to that. With its soaring, intricately carved ceiling and millions of books stacked on gleaming wooden shelves, it awed me every day. Light streamed through the mullioned glass windows, an almost holy thing to witness. It was more cathedral than library, and it amazed me that I was one of the librarians.
I eased into the room and between the stacks, grateful that the door led to this part of the library. The stacks gave me a bit of cover.
My footsteps were silent as I walked toward the center of the library, following the scent of ash and fire.
Please don’t be alight.
The library had never gone up in flames before. The ghost just smelled like an inferno—smokey and hot—it didn’t create one.
I felt almost lightheaded as I moved toward the back of the library, passing underneath the soaring domed ceiling at the center of the space. Dark mist crept over the gorgeous stone floor, concealing some of the intricate design work that was the library’s hallmark.
I swallowed hard, my gaze riveted to the back where the mist was thickest.
Fates, how I wanted to run.
But I’d brought my ghost here. The library was innocent. The books were innocent.
Hell, the whole of Guild City was innocent.
The shadowy ghost had already driven me from my cute little flat, fear sending me to the library to hide until I solved the mystery of my spectral menace.
I didn’t know what haunted me, but I knew it was deadly. My dreams and the words of my old nana—a powerful seer—made that clear.
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