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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“Sunny, why isn’t he tied up?” Magnus demands in a tight voice, giving Jayden a suspicious once-over. “I told you, new vampires can be—”
“Dangerous, unpredictable, I know, I know,” I finish for him. “But Jayden’s learned self-control. He’s fine. He doesn’t need to be treated like animal.”
But even as I say the words, I see Jayden putting out his hands to the vampires in surrender. “Cuff me,” he says to Magnus. “I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore.”
I turn to him, shocked. “But, Jayden!”
He gives me an apologetic smile. “Sunny, it’s for my own good. And you know it.”
And so I give in, allowing them to slide a pair of handcuffs on his wrists, rendering him immobile. I avert my eyes—the slight smoke rising from his flesh as the silver burns is too painful to watch.
“Let’s just get this over with,” I growl.
Jareth leads Jayden over to a futon mat and the two of them sit down across from each other. In a low voice, I hear him explaining how the hypnosis will work and what we’ll be able to do with it.
“Are you ready?” Jareth asks Jayden. My friend nods. “Okay, close your eyes and count backward from ten.”
“Ten... nine...” By the time Jayden reaches three, his eyes dull and facial muscles slack. He’s under Jareth’s control.
“Now, Jayden, I need you to search through your mind for me,” Jareth instructs. “Look for something out of place. Some kind of dark hole you’ve never seen before. Maybe a cut in the fabric of reality. Some kind of wound. Do you see anything like that?”
Jayden moans. “Sunny...”
“I’m right here,” I cry, dropping to my knees. “Are you okay?”
“Sunny, don’t hate me.”
I swallow hard. “I don’t hate you, Jayden. I could never hate you.”
Silence, then, “But you’re sorry you kissed me.” Damn. I can feel Magnus’s eyes burning a hole in my backside. Maybe I can tell him Jayden meant that old kiss back in Vegas. That he’s still holding on to some residual guilt from that.
But no. If I expect Magnus to tell me the truth, I need to give him the same respect. I will tell him what happened. I have to give him that much.
But not now. We can’t afford to be distracted by petty jealousy. So instead, I turn to Jareth. “Can we get him to focus here?” I ask. “We don’t have much time.”
Jareth makes a face but nods, taking Jayden’s hands into his own. “Jayden,” he whispers. “I need you to focus on that hole. The one Corbin climbs through at night to read your thoughts. Do you see it?”
Jayden squeezes his eyes shut, then blinks a few times. Finally, he nods excitedly. “There’s a small burn,” he announces. “Near the back of my brain. It looks new. And... well, infected, I guess. Kind of juicy.”
My stomach roils. TMI big-time, Jayden. But Jareth gives us a thumbs-up. “Now, Jayden,” he continues, “I want you to crawl down that hole. Down the dark tunnel until you see the light on the other side. Can you do that for me?”
Jayden nods, blinking furiously now. “It’s so dark,” he moans. “So black. So full of hate.”
“Yup, that sounds like Corbin’s brain, all right,” I can’t help but interject. The two vampires shoot me warning looks.
“Look through his eyes, Jayden. What do you see?”
“A... temple,” Jayden replies, after giving it some thought. “I think it’s some kind of ancient temple.”
“Good boy,” Jareth encourages, even though we knew that part already. “But I need more details.
Things about the temple Corbin knows. Search his brain. What do you see?”
“It’s large, painted red and gold. There are paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling,” he explains slowly. “There are many people wandering about. Tourists. Worshipers. They write down prayers and burn them in the fire in hopes they will be answered. They think the temple is a place of good. They don’t know its inner secrets. Corbin longs for their innocence.”
“Yeah, I bet he does,” I mutter.
Jareth squeezes Jayden’s hands. “A name, Jayden, I need a name. Or a neighborhood, at least. Where is this temple Corbin is looking at? What’s its name?”
My friend moans loudly, shaking his head from side to side. “It’s there,” he says, “but it’s hidden. He doesn’t want me to see. He doesn’t want anyone to see his plan.” He cries out in horror. “What is he going to do? No! I can’t look anymore. His mind is too black!”
“Jayden, come on!” I plead. “Please! My sister’s life is at stake here!”
“He can’t hear you, Sunny,” Magnus whispers. Jayden rocks back and forth, his forehead etched with distress, his eyes squeezed shut. “The temple…” he tries. “The temple... the temple is called...” We all three lean forward in anticipation.
“Sensô-ji,” he murmurs in scarcely a whisper. Then he falls back onto the mat in a deep faint.
Fortunately for us, the Sensô-ji temple is right in the ryokan’s neighborhood of Asakusa and we’re able to get there in about ten minutes on foot, dashing through neon-lit streets, past karaoke bars and loud, clanging pachinko parlors until we reach the compound. We enter through a massive red “thunder gate” flanked by statues and adorned with a gigantic red paper lantern, as Jayden had described, and enter a different era of Japan. The neon lights fade away, replaced by a narrow gauntlet of tiny shops that probably haven’t changed much since ancient pilgrims used to traverse them, on their way to pray to Buddha for their hearts’ desires. (Though their wares, back in the old days, may not have included so many Hello Kittys or cell phone cases.) Of course, at three in the morning, everything’s closed and even the most dedicated of tourists have long since gone to bed.