Written by Addie Barnett
Smoke hung so thick in the library’s rafters, she could read words in it.
She pressed her hand into the floating words and smiled when they burst like soap bubbles. The enchantment wasn’t nearly as strong as it looked, and she should be done in a matter of moments. Then, she could finally return to her couch, open a bottle, and snooze in front of her favorite series. If only it would be that easy—the last job had left her with bruises covering the entirety of her legs, and that asshole who had commissioned her was still nowhere to be found.
She had learned her lesson—half of the money was already in her bank account and the last half would be delivered after she would finish.
Her studded boots clinked awkwardly on the library’s wooden floorboards, scraping the reddish planks as her fingers drifted on the book covers. The void in her stomach only grew more taut, hungry for magic, like a baby wailing for milk. It would be a small meal, but it will have to do. That’s the thing about being a vampire—once you started eating, you could never stop. Some said that preying on her own kind was cannibalism, but she didn’t really eat them. She just… took their magic.
Farah rolled her eyes as if someone was actually watching her. Because, she had learned, someone was usually watching her and the more confused they were, the better.
The magic grew stronger and stronger as she approached the back of the library, only making her hunger grow dimmer. Something was wrong–her senses frayed as she tried the lock of the cherry door leading into the office where the librarian spent most of his days. The library hadn’t had visitors in a year, probably because a ghoul was haunting it and scaring everyone away.
The door was locked, but that never stopped Farah. She pulled a pin out of her hair and jammed it in the lock. Zheran. She had learned a long time ago that magic made everything easier. What was the point of fighting something that improved the quality of life?
The door squealed open, making her wince even though she was the only one inside the library. When it opened fully, her brain shied back like a scared horse, unwilling to show her what had happened. But Farah had seen bodies before, so she walked closer until her eyes sprang back into focus and her brain decided it couldn’t fight its way out.
Ezra had been his name. Farah knew him well. The son of a leprechaun, Ezra had made his life’s goal filling the pot at the end of the rainbow, not with gold, but with books. Illegal books, talking about the secret lives of magical beings. Someone, definitely not the ghoul because ghouls never killed, had finally found out and had killed the little red beard—not even bothering to clean up after themselves.
But even a human could sense something was off. They would see blood, but no corpse–magical beings were invisible to those without magic–and they would call the cops.
The bell at the entrance jingled and Farah exited quickly, plastering on her purple lips the most beautiful smile she could muster. A tiny boy, no older than twelve, was staring at her and at her fangs shooting out of her gums.
She cursed under her breath and made sure the door behind her was closed.
“What’s your name, little boy?” She approached slowly, dropping to her knees so she could stare into his brown eyes.
He was cute; she had to admit at least that. Freckles dotted his umber skin and his hair fell in waves around his round face, all the way to a hellenic nose. But a nasty bruise was beginning to flower under his left eye, and his rosy lips were split in two. A fighter. Just like her.
“Mom said I shouldn’t talk to strangers.”
“Mhm,” Farah stood back up, petting the boy’s raven head, wondering what she was supposed to do. “Where are your parents?”
“A ghoul killed them.”
Impossible. Farah smiled sweetly, her certainty flailing. Ezra was dead. Could the ghoul have… no. Ghouls couldn’t kill. And how did this kid know about ghouls, anyway?
“A ghoul, huh?” She pretended to laugh, which brought tears to his eyes.
“You think I’m crazy? Just like the man in blue?”
“Man in blue?”
The child nodded. “He had a badge and everything.”
Police. Shit. Shit. Triple shit. She grabbed him by the shoulders. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Dhevan, how about we find that ghoul, huh?”
She was sure she was going to regret it, but what else could she do? There was no enchantment that could make him forget. Besides, his parents had been killed. And it was her fault—she should have dispatched the ghoul a week ago, but she had postponed it, thinking it wasn’t that big of a problem.
Dhevan’s eyes glimmered with a hunger she knew too well and, for the first time in her life, she finally understood where magic came from.