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Harley Merlin and the Cult of Eris (Harley Merlin, #6)
Author:Bella Forrest

Harley Merlin and the Cult of Eris (Harley Merlin, #6)

Bella Forrest



I wanted to make Wade cry. A searing heat burned in the pit of my belly, my very being buzzing with the vibrations of Chaos.

“You okay?” He sat across from me on a tall stool inside the Luis Paoletti Room. This place was filled with so many good and terrible memories that we should’ve learned by now that only extreme things happened here: kisses and explosions and brushes with death and destruction.

I nodded. “Stop worrying about me and focus on what happened to the president. Think about it clearly and hold it in your mind, or this is never going to work.”

“Whatever you say, boss.” He smiled and closed his eyes. I pushed my newly honed reverse Empathy into Wade. Using my powers like this was dangerous—I felt like I might rip myself apart by accident if I took one wrong step. Go bold or go home, right? I’d been living by that mantra ever since my Light and Dark sides had decided not to tear each other to shreds.

Wade’s smile fell away, his eyebrows knitting together in a somber expression. He opened his eyes slowly, the glitter of tears sparkling in their deep-green depths. A tear fell down the side of his face and stopped at the curve of his kissable lips. Not now, Merlin. I was trying to make him feel sad, not turned on.

“That’s crazy,” O’Halloran whispered from the other side of the room. I’d gotten scarier since my meeting with Echidna and the terrible debacle with the president, and even the likes of O’Halloran had become warier around me. I didn’t like that so much, but I supposed it came with the territory of being way more powerful than my peers.

It had been weeks since the president of the United Covens of America had volunteered his life so we could escape Katherine, thus allowing her to complete the second ritual in her quest to challenge a Child of Chaos. A collective despair had spread across the nation, but magical society as we knew it hadn’t fallen into the disarray we’d expected. There’d been initial riots and public outcry, but that had faded away once the first, knee-jerk shock subsided. In the wake of that, a new leader had stepped up to the plate and brought the nation back from the brink of collapse.

As with any situation like this, the vice president had taken over the running of the UCA—in this case, a woman named Helena Caldwell, who seemed to be as well-loved as President Price had been. She was the hero we’d all needed in the aftermath, even though she was just doing her job. We’d worried that people would join Katherine’s cause out of fear of what she might do, but Vice President Caldwell had rallied everyone back to sanity with her no-nonsense attitude and obvious adoration for the nation she served. She’d reminded everyone of what President Price had wanted for America and what his vision had been, and that did not include bowing to terrorists and psychopaths. Heck, even I’d sat and watched a couple of her speeches over breakfast, and I wasn’t usually a news girl.

“We will not bend to threats of terrorism, and we will not break. We will not tolerate this regime of fear and discord. Utilizing every military force we have, we will ensure that Katherine Shipton does not succeed, not only for our own peace but for the memory of President Price. I assure you that we are working day and night to prevent her from waging her war upon innocent people, and we will triumph over evil.” That had been her last speech to the public, from this morning’s newsreel. She had a way with words, I had to give her that. I just hoped she had the ability to put real action behind them.

Still, even with her guidance, this new terror of Katherine Shipton remained. It was all anyone could talk about. Katherine had instilled a sense of dread amongst the magical community, and it felt like everyone was holding their breath, waiting for her to pop up again and kill someone else. To many people, it was no longer a question of “if” Katherine succeeded in her mission, but more like “when.” I shared that mentality.

Personally, this newly felt terror wasn’t the worst part of the second ritual’s aftermath. After everything that had happened, all eyes in the magical world were firmly on me. I could feel the heat of thousands of glares and whispers, stinging me every day since my Suppressor broke. I’d become notorious, and not in the oh-so-cool superstar kind of way. There’d already been countless letters to the SDC asking that I be put away in a high-security facility until it could be proven that I was safe to be amongst “good people.” Levi had relished telling me about them, letting me know that he happened to agree. At the moment, we were existing in a fragile peace—as long as I did as he asked and didn’t step over the line, I could remain. But those letters were his backup, a threat, to highlight just how serious he was about getting my abilities in order.

“How are you doing that?” O’Halloran’s voice brought me back into the room. Right now, he served as a constant reminder of Levi’s doubt in me, as Levi had assigned O’Halloran to watch over me during any and all training sessions. It was supposedly part of his new role as preceptor, with him having taken over Nomura’s duties until a replacement could be found. Meanwhile, Nomura himself was rotting away in a basement prison cell, inconsolable over losing the chance to save his son. I really did feel bad for him, but remembering what he’d done to me took some of the sting out of my pity. Being forced into astral projection will do that to a girl.

“It’s just Empathy reversed,” I replied, as if it was that simple. Empathy came as naturally as breathing to me, but the reverse version required a lot of mental focus and a bucketload of Chaos energy.

Tears were streaming down Wade’s face now, his shoulders heaving as he sobbed. I was turning the sadness right up to eleven, just to make sure I was doing it right. But it wasn’t easy to watch the man I loved in pieces, sobbing his heart out in front of me… because of me. If nothing else, this newfound balance had made me understand the subtext in what Marie Laveau and Papa Legba had continuously told me: Nothing comes for free. Now, I was realizing that it meant something far simpler than I’d first understood; it simply meant that everything in this world had consequences. Right now, me using my souped-up skills meant my boyfriend was in tears. Cause and effect, action and consequence.

Feeling slightly guilty about leaving Wade in this state, I slowly drew my reverse Empathy away from him to give him the chance to recover. The sadness faded from his eyes, his body relaxing as the misery I’d caused ebbed out.

“Man, I hope they hurry up and find someone else for this job. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around all this new stuff.” O’Halloran folded his arms across his chest and heaved out a sigh. “And, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of being a glorified babysitter. No offense.”

I chuckled. “None taken.”