Black Heart Page 61

I summoned my magic and my will, and then I did something I’d never done before. I went deeper. Ever since I’d come into my legacy from Lucifer, I had deliberately avoided exploring the full dimensions of my powers. I suspected that there were things I was capable of doing that I didn’t want to know about.

I was right. As I sank further into the well of magic inside me, I saw powers almost incomprehensible in their scope, powers that could destroy the world and remake it in the image I chose. There were dark things buried there, cruel impulses, death without reason or mercy.

This was what it felt like to be Lucifer, to have the energy of all the galaxies at your fingertips, to feel that those around you are small and mewling things, things that could be swept away in an instant, without thought, like clearing a chessboard with a swipe of the hand.

I was afraid of that darkness, and part of me wanted to leave it there. But the other part of me, the part that grew stronger every day, embraced it. This was what I was born for. This was who I was meant to be.

And I knew what to do.

I walked forward, almost in a trance. Beezle flew from my shoulder. Nathaniel reached for me, but I ignored him. I touched my hand to the lock on the door and it melted to the floor. J.B. gasped behind me.

The door opened without my touching the handle. I entered the space until I was surrounded by the Cimice eggs. Slime dripped on my face and hair, but I hardly noticed.

I found the egg at the center of the room and placed my hand upon it. My power spread outward until I could feel every creature in the web. I could sense the pulse of life in all of them, the tiny throbbing hearts. They were all there, beneath my fingertips.

Far away from me, Lucifer rested on his throne, his head in his hands. He lifted his head slowly, and he smiled.

And nearer, the dragon inside Daharan woke up. As it did, something inside me responded, something lit with flame.

I pushed death through my hands, and into the first egg. I knew the moment its heart stopped. The spell continued without my guidance, seeking the next heart, smothering it beneath a cloak of darkness. The vein that connected all of the eggs together shriveled and blackened, and any dead membrane shriveled as well, so we could see the course of the spell moving through the creatures, killing them one by one.

I could feel them dying, but it did not grieve me. The Cimice were nothing to me. This was just a diversion for someone as powerful as I.

“Madeline,” Nathaniel said behind me.

I turned and met his eyes. He had approached to within a few inches, watching me cautiously. J.B. and Beezle were wide-eyed in the corridor.

“Madeline, you are on fire,” Nathaniel said.

I looked down at my body, slowly, in wonder. I was engulfed in flame. It danced over me, covered me in its flickering warmth, but my skin did not burn. My T-shirt and underpants were gone, but I didn’t feel vulnerable. I felt powerful. I was powerful, and here before me stood my equal. I could sense the strength inside Nathaniel, more than enough to match my own.

I walked toward him, the Cimice forgotten. His eyes blazed, jewel-bright in the firelight.

“Nathaniel,” I said, and it was like he was in a trance, hypnotized by me.

I reached up, put my arms around his neck, and covered his mouth. As soon as our lips touched the darkness inside me roared up, engulfing Nathaniel and me. Only our lips touched, but we were joined in blood and bone and essence, the magic that pulsed inside us twining together.

Together we could do anything. We could lay waste to Lucifer’s dominion. We could take over the world.

“Maddy!”

J.B.’s voice. Beezle’s voice. Far away. They didn’t matter. All that mattered was Nathaniel and the power inside me that hungered to be used.

“Maddy! You’re burning him!” J.B., more insistent.

I thought about making him disappear. I could do that. He was like a fly buzzing around, annoying me.

Deep inside my consciousness, I could feel Lucifer nodding in approval.

Then I was suddenly shocked by wet and cold, and Nathaniel was pulled away from me.

I wiped my hair out of my eyes. Beezle hovered nearby, holding a bucket still half-full of water. J.B. held Nathaniel under the arms. There was a ring of burned flesh on Nathaniel’s chest that circled up to his neck. Parts of his face were scorched, too, where my mouth had touched him. His lips were blistered.

“Gods above and below. Nathaniel, I am so sorry.”

Every trace of darkness and magic had been smothered by the shock of having water thrown on me. I shivered, abruptly conscious of my nakedness. I tried to cover myself with my hands. J.B. politely averted his eyes.

“Do not worry, Madeline,” Nathaniel said softly, his gaze on mine. “I can be healed.”

“But what if J.B. and Beezle weren’t here?” I asked. “What if I’d burned you to death and you never even realized what was happening?”

My body was covered in goose bumps, but it wasn’t just from the cold. I was feeling the aftereffects of the magic, like shock running through my system. And I was scared. I’d touched the darkness inside me before, but I had never embraced it so thoroughly.

I didn’t ever want to do that again. But now that it had been awakened, it was like the power was a living creature inside me. It hummed just under the surface of my skin, waiting to be called again.

Even worse, I could still feel Lucifer’s approval.

I definitely was not interested in doing anything of which Lucifer would approve.

“Well, it looks like you managed to take care of the Cimice problem,” Beezle said. “In a typically overboard fashion, that is.”

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