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Toxic #25: The Midas Touch

Jul 2, 2014

“We should be safe here until whoever it is goes back upstairs.” Even at a whisper, Damian’s voice was too loud. I could see nothing, not even a darker or lighter shade of black.

With my eyes useless, all my other senses were heightened. Which might not be a good thing when standing in God-knew-where with a Dhampir I wanted to play tonsil hockey with. “Do you have a light, or are we going to hang out in the dark until we can bail?”

“No light. Sorry.” His hands came out of nowhere and wrapped around my waist.

My breathing only hitched for a second, but with my luck he heard it. I backed out of his reach, a potentially stupid thing to do when for all I knew, the floor dropped into a bottomless chasm right next to me. The darkness certainly felt endless. “You hang out here a lot?”

“Sometimes.” This time his voice was behind me. He was moving around, and even in the silence I didn’t hear him. Not good.

Dhampir. In the dark. And the only person who knew where I was, was a crabby gargoyle.

I took another step, feeling with my toes before I committed my entire shoe. “If you’re trying to creep me out, you’re doing a good job.”

“Relax. I said I’d show you some fun, not murder you or anything.”

“My only frame of reference for what you think is fun is you giving me a mental roofie, remember?” I breathed in the sweet smell of cherries and rain. And something else. Something… metal? Like liquid bronze. “And your dad. Who, quite frankly, scares the crap out of me.”

“He scares the crap out of most people. And he’s pretty much the opposite of fun.” He was in front of me again. A slight shift in the air was the only hint he’d moved. “I’m not my father. Even if I die and come back, I won’t be him.”

My pulse was going way too fast, pushing the griffin tears through my body like a fuse on fire. “Comforting. Assuming you’re not lying.”

“Two things. One, if I wanted to hurt you I could have done it at the club or in the wine cellar. Two? I don’t lie.”

As the weird scent of bronze wrapped around me, the warmth of the griffin tears exploded out of my veins and into my skin. It was like getting sucker-punched by an electric blanket with a short, not painful but not pleasant, and definitely bad for my health. I had the distinct impression that had there been light, my vision would have gone wonky at the same time.

I was drunk. My brain and my body gave up trying to figure out where they were and started fighting over what they thought about that instead. Was it good? Bad? Was the floor tipping or was I? And was the burn in the back of my throat an unfortunate burp or a warning that what I’d drunk was about to come up and out?

Puking I could do without. I focused on two blurry spots of gold, trying to anchor myself and stop the tilting spins. But they were wavering around like synchronized will-o-the-wisps, making the spinning worse. Plus whatever they were, they looked a little too close. Especially since they hadn’t been there a few seconds ago. “Damian?”


“Do we need to be worried about…” I waved a floppy hand. “Those?”

He laughed silently, somehow close enough that his breath warmed my right ear. “That depends. Do you trust me?”

“I thought we covered this. No.”

A rumble of thunder rolled toward me, the sound of an immense—an impossibly large—creature laughing. Wherever we were, it was a hell of a lot larger than Fir’s wine cellar because whatever was laughing was bigger than the cellar, too.

I hadn’t covered whatever this was in my studying. There was nothing this size, or this loud, in the A’s or B’s.

Light flared up, blinding me with spots as effectively as if I’d stared at the sun. Around the spots, I could make out an enormous cave, its ceiling covered with stalactites that glittered like opaque ice. Stalagmites on the ground, taller than me and half as wide, surrounded a mound of coins. Gold coins.

Moving coins.

The pile had eyes. And as the mass of what I’d stupidly thought was Fir’s pot of gold started to rise, uncoiling like a snake statue come to life, my breath squeaked out of me. “A dragon?”

“A dragon.” Damian sauntered forward, his hands shoved in the front pocket of his jeans. “Meet Arabus. Fir’s boss, the owner of the Laughing Dragon, and a secret Vincent would probably have liked to keep. Do you trust me now?”


© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.



Toxic: Installments