Shadow Games

By Heather Griffith All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Blurb

Madness is defined as extremely foolish behavior, a state of chaotic activity or simply being severely mentally ill. For Serina all of the above applied. It had been three years since her world was torn apart and it didn't look like it was going to get better any time soon. Her rage fueled massacres notoriously labeled her 'The Mad Princess' and she was avoided at all costs. This didn't faze her, she preferred her solitude. But with the disappearance of those close to her and the arrival of a new dark stranger, Serina finds herself starting to change. Finding that she's finally able to end the chapter on her past, Serina starts the next one with an uncertain future.

Prologue

The night flew by as Serina drove, but she was only half paying attention. The stench of the sticky blood coating her boots was filling the car and for once actually making her sick. Again she pushed the clutch in hard and bumped the car up another gear taking the turn too sharp, barely missing the startled driver of an oncoming truck. A grin turned the corner of her mouth up into a smirk. In the back of her mind she was enjoying the thrill of almost totaling another of James’ cars. Not that she wantonly did it, she just didn’t care, about much of anything. Of course her family, her real family, had been understanding and supportive through all her issues, but they thought it was a phase. And maybe it was but Serina didn’t see it ending any time soon. She had spent the last three years in total disregard for her life and the innocent ones around her. If anything drove her it was finding Ruavia. When that wasn’t her main goal it was living like there was no tomorrow, because in her mind it didn’t matter if there was or not.

She watched the buildings fly by, barely paying attention to what was in front of her. James’ estate wasn’t too far from where she was. Just the maze of city streets and the occasional car between her and home. She’d driven these streets so many times that by now it had become instinct. Another sharp turn showed her a glimpse of the graying sky. It was close to sunrise and the city was beginning to wake, making it all the more exhilarating. Downshifting at the last possible moment she made the sharp turn into the underground garage entrance. She huffed out a sigh as she thought about the lecture she’d surely get from at least one of her brothers. Cranking the wheel hard as she spotted Patrick waiting for her, she felt the car tilt up on two wheels as she skid to a stop bare inches from him. He simply raised his eyebrows as he rocked back on his heels. With a growl she slammed the parking break down and wrenched the keys from the ignition as she flung the door open.

“What the hell!?” Serina barked as she slammed the door, effectively cracking the window. Patrick took a moment to compose himself and smiled genuinely as if unaffected by nearly being run over.

“I was just getting in myself and heard you tearing through the streets. Thought I’d be nice and accompany you into the house.” He murmured as he lazily brushed a bit of non-existent dust from his sleeve. Serina huffed as she crossed her arms, the fire going out of her retort.

“Fantastic, I would have had to clean up the garage and try to explain why you were a pancake. I didn’t feel like doing that this morning.”

“I like pancakes.” Patrick blurted as he turned on his heel and glanced sideways at her, waiting for her to follow. She narrowed her eyes and shook her head. Sometimes she felt she was on constant suicide watch, it was subtle but it was there. She hadn’t tried anything in over a year, and the last time was a failed attempt to appear out of the shadow realm and accidentally walked onto a tropical beach. She had meant to pop up in her own bedroom but got turned around, the shadows could be confusing if you weren’t paying attention.

“Sometimes I think there is something wrong with you… like somehow I got all the brains and you all the patience.” She muttered as she scuffed her boot, watching the drying blood flake from it and smiled grimly. Indifferent or not Serina still had it in her to find a little humor in life, as hard as it was to come by.

“I’m not the one that went off the deep end. Then again, I never was in the shallow. You’re just getting used to swimming with the experts. We know how to let the waves just roll.” He grinned as he glided up to the elevator and tapped the button with a flick of his finger and looked up at the dial waiting for it to reach the ground floor.

“Yeah so just roll with the madness, gotcha.” She said softly as she leaned a hip against the wall and looked up at her brother. “It’s hard to do that when everyone thinks I’m going to kill myself… or everyone else.” The thought made her thoughts drift again to that numb oblivion where she’d spent most of her waking hours.

Patrick dismissed her comment with a noncommittal sound, not realizing his sister’s mind had wandered. “Please, it’s just part of being in a family. We have to care about your well-being… and of those around you. I mean, it wouldn’t look good if you slaughtered everyone at a party because you decided to have a meltdown. It’s bad for appearances.” He smiled as he looked down at her but there was a bit of seriousness lurking in the depths of his eyes that had Serina rolling hers. The elevator dinged softly as it reached them. They waited in silence as the doors slid open smoothly. Patrick waved his sister forward, letting her go first. She turned cocking her hip as he followed.

“Yeah, I’m sure I’m really going to go that far. I’d only take a few people out in my final blaze of glory. Besides if I were going to take anyone out it wouldn’t be anyone in our family.” She huffed as she leaned a hip against the rail that ran around the inside of the elevator cab. “At least no one yet.” She snapped then smiled as Patrick mirrored her stance.

“I’m just saying, you’ve been awfully busy lately with, ya know, your on going hunt for elusive people.” He murmured as he lowered his head and let his shaggy hair slip down over his eyes. Serina watched him then shrugged a shoulder. In the silence the sound of the motor was deafening. She averted her eyes from her brother and let her mind drift. Briefly flashes of her busy night flitted across her mind but the little satisfaction she’d gotten was gone. The memories were as flat as if she’d been watching a movie. If she remained in the world much longer, memories she’d rather not come up would flood back and she’d collapse under the weight of her misery, again. It was better if she walled herself off as quickly as possible. The numbness was better than the soul wrenching agony. So that’s what she did, she repaired the chink in the wall, inviting the cold unfeeling back into her.

Patrick watched as his sister’s eyes deadened and she stared into empty space. They stayed in silence the rest of the way to the house’s ground floor where she knew there would be at least some people up and about. The house was rarely empty and it was extremely rare that there wasn’t some kind of business going on. This meant that at all times some part of the family or staff would be bustling around the halls. Serina let Patrick step from the cab first then absently followed in his wake. She looked down at her clothes and sighed softly, trying to brush more of the dried blood from them. She decided that it didn’t matter and left it.

No matter how much she’d wanted to end it all, or how much she’d forgotten to care about anything, sometimes she wanted to at least make a little effort to make her family proud of her. Being the ‘broken’ one in the family was taxing at times. Before her life crashed down around her she had developed a reputation. She was supposed to be the smart, logical and prepared one. She was an adviser and now she was a mess, both emotionally and physically. At first no one said anything, but with time they thought she needed to get her act together. Three years seemed like a lifetime sometimes and others it was only yesterday she was kneeling in the gravel, slowly losing her mind. Serina angrily pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind for later consideration. When she looked up again the figure standing there took her breath away. The boy was tall and lean with a shock of long shaggy black hair. As he looked up Serina let out a sigh part disappointment and part because she’d realized she gasped. The mismatched eyes that met hers were just slightly off from his father’s, one silver and the other lavender, but shaped like his mother’s. Vincent let a crooked smile curl his lips briefly but it fell as quickly as it appeared. He, just like most people, felt uncomfortable around the crazy princess. Serina looked away feeling just as uncomfortable and crossed her arms. Memories of his father flooded her and a snippet of their last conversation floated to the forefront.

I’m only taking you so far; I just wanted to check on you before I left.” He muttered as they started walking slowly. Serina sighed as she stopped and turned to him.

You’re leaving? Why?” She muttered, on the verge of tears again.

There’s an issue with my son that I have to take care of. His mother is in deep with a few demons and I think I can help.” He tried to smile but again the attempt fell short. Serina nodded and took his arm again accepting, as gracefully as she could, losing her close friend for a while.

How old is little Vincent now?” She asked trying to act casual as they started down the hall again. Vin smiled to himself and dipped his head.

Fourteen and every bit as troublesome as his father, unfortunately.”

Do you have to leave so soon?” Serina asked without looking at him and he nodded.

Yeah… I just got word that they’re in a bad way, I need to do it.” He muttered as he tried as hard as he could to sound nonchalant but Serina could hear the urgency in his voice and even feel it in the way he walked. He was worried but still stopped to see her before he left, to let her know he’d be gone instead of disappearing without a trace. For that she was grateful, but she understood his need to leave as soon as possible.

You should go to them.” She murmured decisively as she glanced over at him. A weight lifted from his shoulders as he looked back with a nod. Without a word he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close. Serina automatically hugged him back and closed her eyes. She wondered if she’d be able to make it the rest of the way downstairs on her own.

I’ll be back as soon as possible… don’t go on any hunts without me.” He laughed as he backed up and gave her a wink. She tried to smile but it was forced and he nodded.

I can’t make any promises.” Serina mumbled and looked away. Vin reached out and gave her hand a light squeeze, not needing to say another word then melted with the shadows again

Serina pushed that thought back too and gave the boy, now 17, a smile that she thought might be pleasant. She didn’t need to see herself to know that the attempt failed miserably. Vincent had the good grace to not try and make it more awkward by forcing a smile back. Neither seemed to mind each others poor attempts at social norms.

“Vincent.” She muttered more in question than greeting as she raised an eyebrow.

“Princess Serina...” Vincent started formally then hesitated at the grimace she gave at her proper title.

“Seri...” He started again as tension started to bunch his shoulders. Serina found it hard to look directly at him so she examined his clothes. They were ill fitted for his body and then she noticed they weren’t his. The canvass jacket he had on was tattered upon closer inspection but she recognized it as the one she’d bought for Vintgar so long ago that she couldn’t remember what it was for. Vintgar had loved the jacket so much that he refused to replace it. She could recall the reason for every patch it had needed. A lump started to form in her throat as she waited for the boy to speak, her emotional wall starting to crumble. She hadn’t wanted to think of all the people she’d lost in such a short time. Vin had disappeared, Micah was trying to find out if Lilly really was murdered, then Adamar he’d gone home to marry and was now expecting twins with Enira. Everyone had moved on in one form or another, two of which she couldn’t even force herself to think about. On top of the lump that formed, now a deep sucking black hole of guilt started opening up in her chest and she fought against a building sob. Vincent was getting more and more uncomfortable but forged ahead to finish his conversation.

“I just wanted to know if I could get some help finding some… hard to get items.” He blurted and Serina raised an eyebrow.

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MariaHalo: This book is amazing I would totally suggest it to other people I cried I screamed I felt happiness and I know I'm late but I love this book and would pay anything for this book to be published in a hard copy and a library.

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