Castle Coven Book 5
Nightmares become real as the past threatens to blot out the future.
In the hellish world of the Shadow Walk Prison, novice witch Hailey Deveraux is running out of time. As her body languishes in the real world, her spirit searches a bizarre and changing landscape. Though she’d dearly like to leave, she won’t without her two lovers.
The dark and brooding Kieran McCallen and coven master Piers Dayton are missing. Cursed by a demon, they have been banished to endlessly wander the horrible realm. Using only her feelings to guide her, Hailey navigates the Shadow Walk Prison to find them. But what she discovers are two men caught up in terrors of the past.
As Hailey is swept into their nightmares, her only fixed point is the love she feels for them. But as fears and demons assault them, the trio comes together and fractures apart. As time slips away, Hailey must ask herself one question: Is her love strong enough to bring them home?
What Readers Are Saying
This story is getting more exciting as the series progresses. So if you have thought of jumping any of the other books in this series, to get to the ending, don't because you won't really understand what is happening and why. Enjoy this book ; I know I have and I plan on finishing the series.
Our favorite guys are trapped in Shadow Walk, and it's up to Hailey to bring them back.
This one gives us considerable history and information about the guys and sets the stage for the last book. I have already recommended this series to several friends and I recommend it to anyone reading this review.
Those evil demonic dream worlds can be creepy. It seems those trapped make their own hell. Hailey is more than up to the task, and boy is her therapy hot.
Hailey opened her eyes, aware of a dull throbbing cloud of pain in her head. For a long moment, it distracted her from thinking about anything else beyond getting out of bed and getting some water. The light in her apartment was faint, telling her that it was just past dawn.
Dressed only in her nightgown, she padded the short distance to the tiny kitchen where last night’s take-out was still sitting on the edge of the counter. A drink of water helped the headache ease a little bit, but she could tell that it was already going to be a bad day.
Her waitress uniform was draped over a chair. She regarded it with animosity. Some day soon, she was going to get another job, one that actually suited her, but for now, she guessed it was fine. It was too late for her to go back to bed so she supposed that she might as well get ready for work. A peek out the window showed a dull gray alley where rain was spitting down.
She felt a bone-deep dissatisfaction that slowly faded away to resignation. It was fine. It was life. It was as it always had been. Maybe she could look into going to school or moving out of the city for a while.
Even those thoughts were normal. What wasn’t normal was the man in the Roman centurion costume who opened the door to her apartment. For a long moment, Hailey just stared at him. Things like this didn’t happen in her dull, uninteresting world. Who the hell was he?
“Hailey? Where are you?”
“How the hell do you know my name?” she asked, unnerved. “How did you unlock my door?”
He stared at her. He was handsome enough, she supposed, with dark curly hair and a muscular frame. However, he would have been a lot more attractive if he hadn’t been wearing what looked like a very real sword and invading her personal space.
“It’s not important. I can’t stay long. You need to get a move on–”
“Damn straight you can’t stay long,” she said loudly, trying to forget the fact that she was only wearing a long flannel nightgown. “You’re leaving right the hell now, before I call the cops.”
Not sure how I can do that on a disconnected land-line, but whatever.
“Hailey, stop this. This place isn’t real. You’re not really wherever this is.”
Hailey snorted. Great, not only did she have to wake up and go to work, she had to deal with a costumed druggie who had wandered into her home.
“Yeah, right, I’ll bet it’s all Alice in Wonderland for you, Centurion. Now get the hell out of here. I mean it, I don’t want to hurt you but I will.”
The man sighed with anger, something that Hailey found quite unkind for someone who had definitely not been invited to her home.
“Stop this at once. You have a task to do, and this illusion does not become you.”
“Become this,” she snapped.
The closest thing to hand was an old lamp that she had never liked anyway. It flew through the air in a perfect arc. If he hadn’t dodged so nimbly, it would have smashed him right in the face.
“Gods below, Hailey!”
“There’s more where that came from, asshole. I can do this all day!”
The man looked like he was going to say something else, but then he shrugged.
“As you will then, Hailey. Defend yourself.”
She knew that she must have fallen into some terrible nightmare world because the man blurred. When she could focus on him again, she didn’t see a costumed Roman, but instead an enormous black wolf.
It snarled at her, stalking towards her stiff-legged and bristling.
“Nice doggy,” she said, and its growl only grew louder.
There was nothing close to hand. She started backing away, wondering if she could get on the fire escape, and if the fire escape would even support her weight.
She saw the wolf tensed to spring on her. She tried to step out of the way, but the next thing she knew it was on top of her, the blunt nails digging into her thigh as those enormous teeth snapped just inches away from her face.
Her hands flailed on the ground, desperate to find something, anything that was going to help her. Instead, there was nothing, but something pinged in her mind when her hand brushed the wolf’s sturdy body. Somehow, she could feel an endless source of heat and light, like lava flowing under the earth. Somehow, she could tell that it represented the wolf’s power, his life force.
Fire. Wolves are afraid of fire, right?
Suddenly, her hands were full of fire. She shoved the flames into the wolf’s face, making it leap backwards off her with a loud yelp. She climbed to her feet, wary of another attack. Then she realized that she held fire in her hands, and everything went a little funny. Her mind seemed like it was trying to hold two realities. In one, she was a graduate of the foster kid program, sent out into the world and making her way as a waitress in some gray little town. In the other, she was a witch, a woman who held power, who had two lovers, who triumphed over the evil that had been set in her path.
The two realities fought with one another, bringing back her headache with a vengeance. She shouted with the pain. In the edge of her vision, the wolf turned into the Roman again. It had finally happened. She was going crazy.
She looked at her hands, which were still burning without hurting her at all. She could remember other things, ice as well as fire, the power of flight, how amazing it was to fly on wings with an eagle’s vision.
The images were coming faster and faster now, drowning out the images of her little apartment, of the quiet gray life she had been living for years. There was a real version of her, and it didn’t live alone. Finally, the names Piers and Kieran rang in her mind like a bell. She could remember everything, and she raised her eyes to Lucius.
“I remember who I am,” she whispered. “I know what I am, and what I must do.”
He nodded, and just as he did so, the walls started melting around them. She yelped with fear, but Lucius only made a face. He turned around, opening the oozing door to her apartment.
“Come along. This place can’t feed on your fear any longer, and so it is falling to nothing.”
She hurried after him, casting a nervous glance behind her. Just as the door closed, she could see an image of a slender, red-haired woman in the melting mass. The idea that there was still a version of herself trapped in those fears made her shudder.
Outside the door was a dark and twisted wasteland. The sky above was an ugly, bruised color, occasionally lit with green. The ground beneath was brown and crackling as if it had been dead for quite some time. Here and there were twisted black trees. When she passed close to one, she heard a deep groan that nearly modulated itself into words.
“Where are we?” she whispered, hurrying to catch up with Lucius.
She remembered him now. He had been a legatus in the days of ancient Rome. With Liona di Orsini, he had started the organization that would turn into the Magus Corps, a group of officers who were sworn to protect Wiccans at all costs. He had been lost for hundreds of years, tortured and broken by Templars. Now that she was looking at him closely, she could see that he looked far healthier than when she last saw him. He was fully fleshed and well muscled, with no hint of hesitation in his stride.
“You look well,” she said cautiously. He turned to throw a sharp smile her way.
“This is a strange place, Hailey, and what you feel and what you believe help shape it. Do you remember what brought you here?”
Hailey’s memories were coming back to her. She nodded slowly.
“In the battle against the Templar’s demons, Piers and Kieran were hurt. They were affected by a demon’s death curse. It brought them here. You helped me come and find them.”
“Where we are right now is a place called the Shadow Walk Prison. Some Wiccans have made it their life work to understand it, and most of those were lost or driven mad by it. Liona did some research into it, but the more she learned, the less she wanted to do with it.”
Hailey looked around, shivering.
“This place feels wrong.”
“It is a wrong place. Humans, even Wiccans like us, can only access it while we are unconscious. However, though we can enter easily enough, we cannot so easily leave. If you, Piers and Kieran stay too long, your bodies will suffer and eventually die.”
“I have been here before,” Hailey said slowly. “I remember… I remember endless hallways and closed doors, one after another. Liona came to find me.”
Lucius’s smile was brief.
“She’d always had more guts than sense. It’s dangerous, even for a witch like her, and I think that where you are going, it will be more dangerous still.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is where demons come from, or at least, that’s what many people think. They come from this place, and they feed on humans. They especially love people of power, and when your two lovers were thrust into this place, well, I can only imagine that it was something that drew many of those monsters.”
“How will I free them?”
“I cannot tell you, and to my sorrow, I don’t believe that I can help you any longer either.”
To Hailey’s dismay, Lucius was already fading, his form becoming less substantial and his voice flat and tinny, as if it was being relayed over an old-fashioned telephone.
“I could only stay for a little while to ensure that you went on your way. I cannot send myself into a deeper sleep to guide you without the use of a drug, not and keep your bodies safe as well. Good luck, Hailey. Be wary, and be strong. Will is everything in this world, and you have more of it than most.”
By the end he was completely transparent, a ghost in all but name. Hailey reached for him, but he slipped through her fingers. In a split second, it was like he had never been there at all. He was lost entirely.
She was alone.
For a moment, she wanted to curl in on herself. The landscape that she was in was disturbingly alien. She knew she was not up to the task of facing demons, of finding Kieran and Piers. The despair swept through her, numbing her from the toes up. She felt frozen in place, wooden.
The final thought snapped something in her, making her look down. To her shock, her toes were disappearing into the ground beneath her, small dark rootlets burrowing into the soil. She instinctively leaped away, shaking her bare feet hard. The roots disappeared, but she could still see the disturbed place in the dirt.
She looked around at the twisted trees scattered across the plain. Suddenly the noises that they made took on a fresh horror.
Lucius said this place was all about will, but I think it’s more than that.
Hailey wondered if the place fed off of fear. She made a face. She had never felt like a very brave woman. She did what she had to do, but most of the time, she did it while she was terrified out of her wits. It did give her hope for Kieran and Piers, however, for they were two of the bravest men that she had ever seen. She knew that she wouldn’t find them as trees.
She shook her head. Regardless of how well she could cope with the alien landscape, she needed to learn to navigate it. She was a witch who other Wiccans called a vampire, someone would drain power from others and use it herself. This place only seemed limited by her imagination and her fears.
To test out the theory, she looked down at her clothes. She was still wearing the flannel gown from her dreary apartment vision. A moment of concentration changed that. Now she was wearing her normal jeans and hoodie. On her feet were a sturdy pair of boots. She paused to tie back her wavy red hair. She figured that she was as ready as she ever would be.
She had no idea how to find them, but if the place responded to desire, she thought that it would be easy enough. First she thought of Kieran.
With black hair and the most blue eyes she had ever seen, Kieran was the man that she would always consider her first love. He was the one who had encouraged her to use her powers to their full extent, to stretch herself and to prove herself. He had never flinched from her, not even when her home coven had told him how dangerous she was. It was he, if anyone, who had given her the life she lived now. She was still stung from when he abandoned her in Wyoming, but then he had returned. The love that he shared with her and with Piers would steer her where otherwise she was blind.
Resolute, Hailey started to walk.
As she did, the landscape changed to become something a great deal more rocky and bare. The sky remained the same, but the ground beneath her feet became stony and rough. She almost tripped over something. When she looked down, she was shocked.
It was a broken doll, but it was not just any destroyed toy. It was a rag doll that her mother had made her, something that had been lost when she entered the foster care system.
For a moment, she held it, marveling at seeing it again, but then she felt the emotions that had gone with it. Instead of remembering her mother’s love, she remembered the night she had been told her parents were dead. Instead of remembering her peaceful early childhood, she remembered what had come after. It was nothing but fear and pain and tears. She shook with the emotions that consumed her, but she didn’t want to let go of the doll. It was all she had left of her mother, it was so important.
With a muffled groan, she forced herself to open her hands and to let the doll drop to the ground. To her disgust, the moment it hit the floor, it turned into a gleaming red scorpion. She watched as it scuttled away.
Out of nowhere a weasel-like creature sprang up from a rocky outcropping, pouncing on the scorpion and crunching it between its sharp teeth. It devoured the scorpion with every evidence of enjoyment before turning its beady eyes to Hailey.
“Well, then,” it said with a faint British accent. “What are you all about?”
“I don’t even know how surprised I should be that you can talk,” Hailey said, shaking her head.
The small animal shrugged its bony shoulders.
“You’d be surprised how many things do talk out here. I figure that they’re too afraid that they won’t remember how if they stop.”
Hailey shivered. She could well believe that that might be a risk in this barren place.
“My name’s Hailey, and thank you for killing that… whatever it was.”
“That…that was a baby demon?”
“I dunno. It was small, and basically it does what the big ones do. Maybe it’ll grow up to be big enough to haunt cities, and maybe it’ll just stay tiny, hoping to trap single souls that step wrong. I don’t really trouble myself about the difference.”
“You seem to know a lot about this place for a weasel.”
“Hey now, I’m not a weasel. I’m a ferret, and I’ll thank you not to use the W word around me.”
He looked so puffed up and fierce that Hailey had to hide a smile.
“Well all right then, mister ferret, do you have a name?”
“Just Ferret will do until we find another one. Names are only good if you need to tell people apart, anyway. What are you doing out here, Miss Hailey? This is hardly a place for politely spoken folk such as yourself.”
“I’m looking for two men, powerful warlocks. They were sent here by a dying demon’s curse, and I’ve come to win them free.”
If Ferret had been a human, she guessed that he would have whistled through his teeth. Instead, he chittered, a sound not unlike the clacking of small wooden marbles.
“Now that’s a tall order and no mistake. Maybe I could convince you to come to my place instead, it’s a nice little nook. It’s a good place for new friends to get to know each other.”
“Sorry, but I need to be on my way. Thank you for the offer though.”
The ferret shook his head firmly. The more she looked at him, though, the more she thought he really was just a rather fluffy weasel. It amused her that a creature such as this would be so vain in such a place.
“Out of the question. I’m not about to let you go unescorted into the wilds of the Shadow Walk Prison, and that is that. I’ll tag along, and then I’m sure we’ll have better luck finding your men.”
“Look, just because you ate a baby demon in front of me doesn’t mean I know you, okay? No offense, but this place is creepy, and in my regular life, I’m not used to being around ferrets who talk. I mean, who are you really?”
To her surprise, he nearly flattened himself to the ground. She was no pro at reading ferret body language, but he looked heartbroken.
“That’s a good question, isn’t it?” he said, his formerly stentorian voice withered down to a squeak. “I don’t remember who I used to be, but I get flashes sometimes, terrible flashes. There was a man and a woman, and they betrayed each other, and then I betrayed them. We were all here, and it was all terrible for us, but some fates are better than others, I guess.”
Ferret turned liquid black eyes to her.
“It has been so long, and we’ve been punished enough, don’t you think? Don’t you think we’ve been punished enough?”
Hailey felt her heart go out to the animal.
“I couldn’t say,” she said honestly. “I’ve known very little of betrayal in my life and even less of demons. If you swear that you won’t lead me astray, I’ll let you come with me.”
Ferret puffed up as if he had been re-inflated, sitting up tall on his hind legs
“On my honor and by my troth, I do so swear, Hailey my girl. I am your humble servant.”
She grinned at what a martial picture he made.
“All right, that sounds splendid. Let’s get going, the last thing that I want to do here is to put down roots.”
She bent, offering him her hand. To her surprise, he took hold of her hoodie sleeve and scuttled up her sleeve with impressive speed. She squirmed, ticklish for a moment as he explored her hair and her hood. Finally, he curled around the back of her neck, his pert head poking out right beneath her left earlobe.
“All right, cry mercy for the good of St. George, let us off to find your warlocks!”
Hailey wished that she could feel as confident as Ferret did. Still, there was nothing to do but to walk forward, and so she did.