Dylan was dreaming again. It was like so many of the dreams she’d had lately. She was alone again, watching Kara from the other side of a room as Kara laughed with friends. Sometimes the friends were people they both knew, but not always. Tonight it was strangers, men and women who crowded around her, distracting her and keeping all her attention from Dylan.
“Kara,” Dylan said, reaching a hand through the crush of people surrounding Kara and gripping her arm. Kara turned to glance at her, but there was no recognition in her eyes.
“Who are you?” Kara asked.
“It’s me, Dylan.” Panic tightened Dylan’s chest.
“Kara,” someone else in the crowd said her name, and Kara turned to him. “We’re going. Lose the dead weight.” The man looked right at Dylan when he said it.
“Sorry.” Kara shook free of Dylan. “I don’t know you.”
Kara pushed open the door to the room, not surprised to find Dylan already fast asleep. Her eyes snapped open as soon as Kara opened the door, but it was still an unnerving habit that she’d formed in the last couple weeks. Almost as soon as she was alone Dylan would quickly fall asleep. At first Kara had chalked it up to exhaustion, but now she wasn’t so sure.
“How are you feeling?” Kara asked as she sat on the bed beside Dylan. She reached down and brushed the loose hairs away from Dylan’s eyes. They were dark; there was a storm brewing inside her.
“Crappy,” Dylan answered after a moment. “Same as always.”
“Sorry.” Kara always apologized for how Dylan was feeling, even though she knew it had nothing to do with her.
“I’m just so sick of this. Sometimes I’m fine, and then other times I just want to start clawing my own face off or something.” Dylan sighed. “Like downstairs, why the hell was I so bitchy? I know that we have to stop Alster, that’s always been the plan. I came up here almost crying, it’s like I’m friggin’ bipolar or going through menopause.”
“You know it’s being in the human world that’s doing this to you.” It was maybe the hundredth time Kara had said it. “Once we get to Inbetween, it’ll be better.”
“Yeah, I hope so.” Dylan didn’t look like she believed it. “Are you coming to bed now?” There was a strange pleading in her voice, like she expected Kara to say no.
“Of course.” Kara smiled and slid into bed beside Dylan, hugging her close.
“I always sleep better with you around,” Dylan muttered, already sounding drowsy again. “I don’t know what I would do without you here.”
“It won’t ever be an issue.” Kara kissed the top of Dylan’s head and shut her eyes.
Soon enough, Dylan was breathing deeply and Kara knew she was asleep. She envied her for that. Thinking over her conversation with Baron, Kara knew sleep would be a long time coming.
Alster let the piece of fabric drop from his hands. It fluttered slowly to the table in front of him as his eyes opened. The room around him was only softly lit and despite its size, empty aside from the table he sat at. As he came fully out of his trance, Alster stared down the table; there were enough seats for thirty other people. It was in the board room of Demitar’s ‘castle’, and any Fortune 500 company would salivate at the idea of having a room so grand. The ceilings arched gracefully overhead and the light fixtures were cleverly hidden so as not to be seen.
Since moving into the building Alster had taken to using the room for any spells he wished to perform. Like his room in the apartment he had shared with Baron, it was completely private and impenetrable by those he wished to keep out. The solid oak of the table made a strong base for spells, and Alster could still smell the faintly oily and sulfurous scent of the evil deeds Demitar had performed in the room. That energy lent extra strength to his spells.
Alster smiled absently as he ran a finger over the small bit of fabric. It was only a few square inches, but it was enough. It had taken him weeks before he could get back into the apartment and snatch the shirt Morning had worn. He paused to correct his own thoughts. The shirt Dylan had worn. She wasn’t worthy of her true name anymore. It was a piece of the shirt Dylan had worn when that brat Kara rescued her. He knew she had worn it for days after arriving in Inbetween. It had lain tight against her skin and absorbed more than enough of her essence for his spell.
It had taken longer to collect the correct ingredients for a spell of such a severe nature. Few could dream-walk even with this spell, but Alster had always been special. He smiled to think how both Demitar and Dylan had underestimated him. Rinus would never do the same. Rinus had seen the power Alster held and was rightfully fearful. Even better, Rinus had no real lust for power himself; he only wanted to be adored. As long as Alster could provide him with that, he was easy to control.
It wasn’t hard; the people of Inbetween worshipped their new leader, seeing him as both kinder and stronger than Demitar thanks to Rinus’ ability to impress upon them whatever he saw fit. Demitar’s rule had left his people either frightened or corrupt; those who had been frightened were pleased with Rinus. He was handsome and seemed kind and easy-going to them. Only a few knew it was really Alster’s power behind Rinus, but those were the most corrupt. Most were content to simply worship Rinus for his good looks and question little else. In the time since they had taken over Demitar’s home, Rinus hadn’t spent a night alone, and Alster was almost certain the girls sneaking home each morning had been different ones every time.
There was a knock on the door, solid sound which let Alster know that it was Rinus. The man had impeccable timing, and Alster was sure a nose for spells because he always seemed to show just as Alster finished. Reluctantly, Alster waved his hand and a door appeared where a moment ago there had only been a wall. The handle turned, and Rinus stepped inside. He smiled broadly at Alster.
The fact that Rinus had a parade of women through his room was not thanks to his new position entirely. At just under six feet tall with a clean shaven face housing his quick smile and bright green eyes. He never had trouble finding a woman. His dirty blond hair was tousled in a way fashion magazines would never get quite right. Anyone who saw him with his shirt off would be hard pressed to believe that he’d never worked out a day in his life.
“Did it go well then?” Rinus asked. He sat across from Alster. His splayed out relaxed form was the complete opposite of Alster’s proper posture and general aura of up-tightness. Much like Alster’s useless nephew Baron, Rinus wore loose human style jeans and a tight green t-shirt. Alster still favored three piece tweed or wool suits.
“Yes. She was only alone for a few moments, but I was able to connect.”
“Fascinating.” Rinus smiled. “And where are they now?”
“I’m not sure, I can’t tell that much.” Alster hated to admit there were limits to his power. “They’ll return to Inbetween though. The girl is growing unstable quickly.” The time he spent in her dreams was hastening the process.
“Is that so?” Rinus leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “I’d like to meet her, I hear she is beautiful.” He raised an eyebrow.
“And still a child by our years,” Alster reminded him, though he doubted it mattered to Rinus.
“And a lady by looks, which is what I worry about.” Rinus laughed. “You’d rather I kill her than bed her though, wouldn’t you?”
“I doubt I will need you to do either.” Alster sneered and added, “or that you are capable of either.” Although that wasn’t exactly true, Rinus could bed any woman he wanted.
“Oh, now that hurts,” Rinus said, never losing his smile. “I didn’t sacrifice my soul for nothing you know.”
“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to insult you.” Alster almost smiled. They both knew this was a lie; it was a very calculated insult. “I only meant that Dylan is mine to deal with, and things are going well. When she arrives here it will be even easier for me to plant thoughts in her head, and I shall soon have her under my power.”
“Right then.” Rinus nodded and stood. “Carry on. I’ll be out for a bit.” He winked at Alster and swaggered out of the room.
Alster sighed as the door shut. Within a moment it had disappeared again. Rinus could be trying, but Alster would deal with him as long as required. Whether or not he cared for the power, his ability to influence those around him still made him the most powerful being in Inbetween. At least until Dylan arrived.