The Trouble with Twelfth Grave Page 2

And then Reyes walked out of it, the billowing smoke falling from his wide shoulders and settling at his feet.

Elation shot through me as I scrambled to my feet and started toward him. But I stopped short almost immediately. Something was wrong. The man before me was not my husband. Not entirely.

Smoke and lightning curled around him. It caressed him like a lover. Obeyed him like a slave. If he shifted, it shifted. If he breathed, it breathed. It flowed and ebbed at his will, the lightning flitting over his skin.

He wasn’t in the storm. He was the storm.

I stood astounded as he walked toward me, taking five ground-eating steps.

I stumbled back, then caught myself before whispering his name.


He narrowed his eyes as though he didn’t recognize me.

I reached up to touch his face. It was the wrong thing to do.

He shoved me against the wall and held me there as his gaze ran down the length of my body. His hand curled around my throat, then my jaw, his fingers cruel.

I wrapped my hands around his and pushed, but he didn’t budge. If anything, he squeezed tighter, so I relaxed. Or tried to.

When he spoke, his voice was low and husky and resolved. “Elle-Ryn-Ahleethia.”

That was my celestial name. My godly one. Why would he use it here? Now?

He seemed surprised to find me there. Astonished. Then he gave me another once-over. His expression filled with a disturbing mix of lust and contempt.

It sparked a memory. Kuur, an evil supernatural assassin I’d banished into the very same hell dimension, told me that when Reyes had been a deity himself, he’d had only contempt for humans. The same humans his godly Brother—yes, that godly Brother—loved so much.

And I was human. At least a part of me was.

I studied Reyes as he studied me, wondering what came out of the god glass. It may have looked like my husband. It may have smelled like him and felt like him and sounded like him, but the sentient being standing in a pool of billowing black smoke in front of me was not the man I married.

Was I meeting the god Rey’azikeen at last?

And, more important, had I just unleashed hell on earth?

“Will he ever be your husband again?” Charisma asked, snapping me back to the present.

I released the air from my lungs slowly. “I wish I knew.”

She sucked on the straw again, siphoning every last drop.

I did the same, upending my coffee cup and letting the last precious molecules slide onto my tongue.

Then I returned to her. “He’s very powerful, and I don’t know what that hell dimension did to him. How much of him is still my husband and how much is ‘angry god guy.’ I mean, he could destroy the world if he put his mind to it. That would suck.”

The girl’s gaze slid past me, her mind clearly pondering everything I’d just told her. Good and evil. Dark and light. It was a lot to take in.

“I’m not allowed to say hell.”

Or not.

“That’s probably best. Stay as far away from that place as you can. Don’t even think about it.”

“Or damn.”

A part of me did wonder if I should be telling such a young child about hell dimensions and demons and world-destroying gods. At least I didn’t tell her about the little girl who was killed by one such god just the other day. Surely my omitting that part of the story would warrant a checkmark in the “pro” column.

“Or butt crack.”

“I think I hear something,” Mrs. Blomme said.

“So, anyway,” I continued, “that was three days ago, and I haven’t seen my husband since.”

“He just disappeared?”


And he had. He’d kept one powerful hand locked around my throat and jaw, his other hand braced on the wall behind me, and the fire that perpetually consumed him licked over his skin when he stepped closer. When he pressed into me.

I lowered a hand to his rib cage, encouraging him to close the distance between us. Praying he’d remember.

“Reyes?” I whispered, testing.

Then he did close the distance. He bent his head, buried his face in my hair, and brushed his sensual mouth across my ear. When he spoke, his voice was thick and breathy. “Reyes has left the building,” he said, a microsecond before shoving off me and vanishing into a sea of roiling smoke and crackling lightning.

And he was gone. Just like that.

I’d stood there for what seemed like hours until the sun came up, watching the smoke slowly clear from my apartment. And for the first time in a long time, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Until I did. Until I’d been given a new case.

Before receiving the summons from the frazzled Mrs. Blomme, I’d been hunting.

Charisma jumped to her feet. “I have to pee.”

“Okay, have fun,” I said to her back as she rushed out of the room.

I still wondered why Mrs. Blomme couldn’t see her. Not for long. Maybe, like, seven seconds. I had too many other things on my plate to wonder overly long, but it did tickle the back of my brain.

“I told you,” Mrs. Blomme said. She was still using my shoulder as a protective shield. “My house is haunted. You saw them, right? The woman and the boy?”

“I did. But, Mrs. Blomme—”

Before I could continue with the bad news, my phone dinged. I dug it out of my back pocket. My uncle Bob, a detective for the Albuquerque Police Department, had texted me about a case we were working together. I sometimes consulted for APD, mostly because my uncle knew what I could do, and solving cases was a thousand times easier when the murdered victim could tell the police whodunit. This case, however, was far more disturbing than I’d led my uncle to believe.

Two bodies had been found mutilated and burned. But mutilated in a very unusual way and scorched in random spots. The burns didn’t kill them. Internal damage and blood loss from the mutilations did them in. It was as though they’d been beaten and clawed to death, but the ME said the attacks were not from an animal. He said they were human.

Or, I had to wonder in the back of my mind, perhaps they were made by a god inhabiting a human body. An angry god made of lightning and fire and all things combustible. His temper, for example.

A pang of anxiety caused my stomach to clench and my cheeks to warm.

Uncle Bob’s text asked simply, “Any luck?”

I texted back. “Not yet.”

It would not be the answer he wanted, but it was the only one I had to give. I’d been using all my resources on the case, and no one, dead or alive, knew anything about the murders.

I turned back to Mrs. Blomme. One of her curlers had worked loose and hung lackadaisically over an ear. “Mrs. Blomme,” I said, softening my voice.

She glanced up at me from behind my shoulder.

“I’m so sorry to tell you this, but you’re right. Your house is haunted.”

She swallowed hard and nodded, taking the news well.

“But, hon, it’s haunted by you.”

Straightening a little, she leveled a curious stare on me. “I don’t understand.”

“You died thirty-eight years ago.”

She blinked, and I gave her a moment before continuing. To absorb. To process.

After another couple of minutes where she stared at the floor, trying to remember, I said, “It took me a while to find your death certificate. Your husband found you unresponsive on the floor in your kitchen. Massive stroke. He was devastated. He died a year later, almost to the day.”

“No. That’s not right. I live here.”

“You did, yes. I’m sorry.”

She leaned back against the wall, sorrow consuming her.

My chest squeezed tight. I took her hand into mine. “But the mother and son you’ve been seeing?”

Without looking up, she nodded.

“That’s your granddaughter and your great-grandson. See?” I pointed to a wall where Mrs. Blomme’s picture hung, a faded color photo of her and her husband.

She stood slowly and walked to the massive mantel that displayed generations of Blommes and, now, Newells. They’d kept the house in the family. Updated it over the years. And allowed one branch of the Blommes’ children’s children to grow up here.

She turned back to me, her eyes wet with emotion. “I had no idea.”

“I know.” I stood and walked to her. “It happens more often than you think.”

A soft laugh accompanied a melancholy smile.

“You can cross through me. I’m sure you have tons of family waiting for you, including your husband.”

“He didn’t remarry, did he? He was always threatening to marry Sally Danforth if I died first. He knew I detested that woman. She stole my pickle recipe and won a blue ribbon at the state fair with it.”

“She didn’t,” I whispered, scandalized.

“I wouldn’t lie about pickles, Miss Davidson. Serious business, that.”

I grinned. “No, he didn’t marry anyone else, Mrs. Blomme. He died miserable and alone.”

“Oh, well, good. He deserved it. Man was horrible.” She turned when emotion slipped through her lashes and slid down a weathered cheek.

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