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Chaos (The Four Horsemen #5)
Author:L.J. Swallow

Chaos (The Four Horsemen #5)

L.J. Swallow





1





VEE



“Joss?” My voice sounds distant as if I’m somebody else trapped in a dream.

He doesn’t respond.

I grasp Joss's hand and place my head on his chest, desperate to hear a heartbeat. Instead of the solid muscle I've rested my face on in the past, with his arms around me in comfort, I feel Joss's ribs against my cheek.

No sound.

My heart thuds in my ears as I pull away and look into his gaunt features.

Can I resurrect him with Heath's powers? Do I possess that energy? The adrenaline rushing through when I wanted to attack the creature has switched to panic, but however hard I concentrate, nothing is conjured in my mind and body apart from sheer terror.

I look between my hands and Joss, willing something to happen, but there’s no spark or light. Nothing.

My breath shortens and I focus on staying calm. I can’t panic; I need strength here. But how when the person lying on the bed is an unrecognisable version of the man who held and loved me?

Has he died?

No.

This is temporary. Ewan's death was.

But how long until it becomes permanent?

Uselessly, I copy what Heath did to Ewan and place my palms on Joss's chest. I close my eyes and picture the afternoon in the car park basement, summoning to mind the light I saw in Heath's hands. My powers have triggered before, in self-defence, surely they will when needed to help one of the guys.

Bile rises in my throat when nothing happens. I push against Joss’s chest, again and again, fooling myself if I press hard enough a miracle might happen.

Joss doesn't move. His chest remains still, and he doesn't breathe. Joss’s heart doesn’t beat beneath my palms.

Why? I have a close connection with Heath, and with Joss, but now I need the power from that connection and I'm failing. My determination to stay strong falls away and I gasp in a sob as my eyes blur with tears.

I'm wasting time.

My phone is downstairs so I search Joss's room for his. It rests on top of discarded clothes. A lump sticks in my throat as I remember him picking clothes from the floor the first night I stayed here. Joss, the guy who welcomed me and calmed me when my life disintegrated into the chaos now surrounding us all. The man who held me when I need his gentle comfort.

Joss can't leave. He's part of me.

My throat tightens further when I see the picture on his lock screen. Us, the day we drank coffee and walked in the quiet countryside. I'm dressed against the cold, cheeks red, with Joss's arm wrapped around my shoulder. Relaxed. Happy.

Fingers trembling, I call Heath, almost misdialling, and he answers on speaker, the hum from a car engine drowning out his voice. "What's up, Joss?"

"Heath. Where are you?" I manage to keep my tone even, but my voice wavers at the end of the sentence.

"Vee? Are you okay? What's happening?" His question comes staccato, and I hear Xander's voice, fainter, asking the same.

"Something happened. Joss, he...”

“Joss, what? Vee?”

I stare at Joss’s prone figure. “I don’t know... A demon, I think... He died, Heath." The words spill, adding a finality to the scene in front of me. "He died.”

The pause lasts a lifetime, and I’m terrified what they’ll say to me.

Xander's voice interrupts us, his tone sharp. "Where are you?"

"In the house. What do I do?" My voice is small again, as useless as I am right now.

"What the hell happened?" Xander asks.

"I don't know! Please, tell me what I can do."

"Heath?" asks Xander.

"I don't know. Shit.” My stomach knots as he pauses. “Have you touched him? Can you focus your energy on conjuring a light?"

"I tried, and I can't feel anything!" My anxiety peaks when he doesn't respond with anything apart from swearing. Is that it? Does this mean Joss has gone? "How long can he die for?" I rub my face at the crazy question. "Where are you?"

"On the way home. We'll be fifteen minutes," says Heath.

"Ten." Xander pauses. "What the fuck happened? How did a demon get in?"

"I don't know." I can't stop my garbled words as I stare down at a prone Joss. "Joss was upstairs, and I was downstairs with Ewan and—"

"You were distracted?” Xander’s voice hardens. “Where's Ewan now? Tell him to put his clothes back on and help."

Wow. Just wow. I bite back an angry retort. "Ewan left the house. He wanted space."

"For fuck's sake!" For a moment I think Xander hung up, but the engine hums again as the dropped out reception returns.

Heath speaks. "Sit with him, Vee. Place your hands over his heart and picture it beating again."

I stare at my free hand. "I tried already! I tried to conjure your light, but it won't come."

"Try again,” Heath says. “If you can't bring him back him, he'll be fine. I'm not far."

"He won't stay dead?" I whisper.

"No. It might take him longer to recover, that's all."

A sob escapes, relief matching the anguish.

Heath's gentle voice crackles over the phone. "Vee, it's okay. We've got this."

"It's not bloody okay," growls Xander. "How did a fucking demon get into the house?"



I'm unaware whether the guys take ten minutes or fifteen because now I know how eternity feels. I do as Heath said, staring at my hands and concentrating with frustrated tears pricking my eyes when nothing happens.

I can't sense the demonic creature around anymore, but what if the apparition is hidden somewhere in the house?

I can barely look at Joss because he doesn't look like the man I saw an hour ago; he's a shadow of the man I love. Joss resembles images I've seen on TV news reports of starved people battling for life in third world countries. His ashen face is skeletal, cheeks hollowed, and closed eyes sunken into their sockets. Instead, I look at the window holding his cold hand and willing the guys to hurry. The grey day descends into a dark evening, and my tears fall.

I hear the sound of a car skidding across the gravel driveway. A car door slams while the engine continues to run, then thundering footsteps sound on the stairs.

Heath careens into the room and over to Joss. "Move, Vee."

I'd be offended, but the sheer panic on his face is like nothing I've seen before, on his or anybody's, and panic stabs my chest too. A second set of footsteps run up the stairs, and a third set walk slowly.

Heath sits on the edge of the bed and holds out his palms, eyes closed, and the vivid light I saw him conjure the day Ewan died sparks in his hands. He performs the same action, drawing the light upwards with his long fingers, as if pulling the energy from his hands, and shapes the magic into an iridescent ball.

"Shit, he looks bad." Xander strides over and stares down, arms crossed. "Is he injured, Vee?"

"There's no blood," I say hoarsely and look up. Xander's eyes are fixed on Joss, and his wild-eyed expression terrifies me more than anything else today.

Xander's scared.