Sam, a half-fae Void, is ostracized by her own people, much less the humans who control her home—the Illinois Mystical Reservation. Packed into the Reservation with vampires, werewolves, faes, and mages alike, Sam does her best to travel below the radar, but when her only friend asks for her help she can’t say no. Her work to solve a fae’s murder brings her to the forefront of vampire politics, and changes her life forever.
Sam slowly opened her bedroom door, pausing to listen for any signs of life within her family’s tiny apartment. By mostly-mutual consent, the family avoided contact with her, and she them. They left for their work in the Reservation before she left her room, and any time they had to be in the apartment with her she stayed to her room.
As a Void, Sam couldn’t expect any better.
Voids were a rare nuisance to the fae community, even now that they were forced to live within the tall walls of the Reservations dotted throughout the United States, like all the other mystical entities. While other fae had a certain power or gifting, a Void had nothing but the ability to drain another mystic of their power and therefore, no one, even her family, want to be near her.
Sam scratched at her tattoo. It always itched when she thought about her gift. The tattoo, along with the power of the mage who had crafted it, helped Sam control her powers. She had gotten the tattoo at the young age of thirteen, but it was too little and too late. The work of her gift had already ostracized her with the mystical community. She was alone—except for her two friends, the only people to look past what she could not always control.
Trying hard not to think about her life, Sam scarfed down a bowl of stale cereal, washed her dishes, and left the apartment.
The Gollet family lived in what had originally been built as a parking garage. When it became illegal for mystics to live outside the Reservations in the year 2000, the population sky rocketed, and the garage had been retrofitted to house the increasing population. Even now, thirty-one years later, Sam could smell the leaked oil which still stained the concrete. Each floor was designed with a central courtyard surrounded by tiny apartments.
Sam shut the door to her family’s home and turned, stopping in her tracks. Lee Rose stood in the courtyard, his brown eyes trained on her. Sam took a deep breath, willing her heart to slow down.
Though the population of the Illinois Reservation was too large for Sam to know everyone, everyone knew Lee Rose, the top enforcer for the leader of the vampire community.
While most vampires appeared somewhat stuck in the era they had been turned, Lee was pure American emo-band guitarist. His layered hair was streaked with highlights and his slim figure was clad in a tight-fitting black button-up shirt, the collar stylishly popped.
Despite his chosen style of dress, Sam knew he was one of the most dangerous mystics in the Res.
Sam chose to ignore him, hoping he would do the same. She had no idea what he was doing in a housing complex that was not his own while the sun streamed down outside. If she could just make it to spiral driveways attached to the corners of the parking garage, she would be safe.
“Sa-am,” Lee called before she could take more than a few steps, drawing her name out into two syllables.
She stopped and turned to look at him. It didn’t surprise her that he knew her name. As the only Void in the Res even the toddlers knew who she was. Of course, her looks didn’t help her quest for anonymity. Unlike most fae, Sam didn’t look entirely human. Her hair was white, not blonde but white, and her eyes—while slightly shaped liked the human Asian population—were nearly as devoid of color as her hair. The effect had always unnerved the humans she met through her touring duties.
“Yes, Lee,” she said softly, not wanting the other fae on her level to overhear her talking with a vampire—an action that would only further ostracize her from her people.
“You’re a Void, right?” he asked, matching her pitch as he crossed the courtyard, dodging the various children’s toys left out.
Sam rolled her eyes in an effort to hide her fear. She didn’t like his proximity.
“Everyone knows that,” she said when she realized he was still waiting for a response.
“And you can take power from others?”
Tired of being afraid, Sam decided to be angry instead.
“Would you like a demonstration?” she asked as her power rose to the surface.
Her tattoo itched again and Sam fought to keep her powers in check. If she wasn’t in constant control she could drain Lee until he passed out. While tempting, it wouldn’t do any good in restoring her in the eyes of her family or her people.
Lee’s smiled, his eyes remaining dark and threatening. The combination brought Sam’s heartbeat back into triple digits. In an effort to hide her fear, she leaned toward the vampire, allowing her powers to taste his strength.
Taking a vampire’s mystical speed and strength always left her hungry and angry. Each type of mystic had a different affect on her. Werewolves left her edgy and hyperactive. A fae’s power, while giving her their gift, left her feeling sick, as though her body fought against the idea of her attacking one of her own. A mage… well that was a whole different story. Beyond the differences between each species of mystics, each individual had their own taste. While she might forget someone’s face or name, she never forgot their power-flavor.
Lee’s power seemed to feed her anger, as though he was angry now as he confronted her in her own home.
She watched with satisfaction as his shoulders drooped and he eyes fluttered shut for a second. He was feeling the effects of her theft and, to her disgust, she enjoyed his weakness.
Lee opened his eyes, his smile vanishing as he realized what was happening to him.
“Point taken,” he replied. “And here I thought you had to touch the victim.”
Sam cringed inwardly. She didn’t like to hear the word “victim” in association to what she had done, not that she could argue with it. It was accurate.
“Touching them allows me to take more faster. Why are you asking?”
Lee’s smile reappeared, his eyes glowing. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
Sam rolled her eyes. Like she would be doing the vampires any favors. “I don’t have time for this. I have to get to work.”
“Oh, yes. You give tours for the executives and rich tourists that come barging into our homes.”
Sam wasn’t stupid. She heard the threat in his voice. Most of the mystics didn’t like to see humans prowling around their home, such as it was. Sam argued they would get a tour whether she did it or not. At least this way she brought in a few extra tokens to help support her family. Tokens were how the U.S. government controlled the economy within the Res. Of course, they had no control over the free trading taking place between the families.
“I do as I’m told,” she replied. “Now, if you will excuse me.”
Sam turned to slip past him when she felt his hand grasp her arm. She looked down at his hand, which squeezed into the leather of her jacket.
Again she worked to control her powers. The contact between them only made her want more. Power and strength were addictive, and if she wasn’t careful she would become what all the mystics feared—an out of control Void.
Still, she needed to show him she wasn’t willing to be pushed around. Sam carefully released her hold over her gift, allowing Lee’s power to leak into her, coating her skin and making the hair on the back of her neck stand to attention.
Lee’s grip loosened.
Sam jerked her arm free and marched away. As she reached the spiral driveway that led down to the lower levels of the parking garage she glanced back, happy to see Lee leaning against the wall.
“Don’t think it’s that easy.”