Rise of the Phoenix, страница 1
Rise of the Phoenix
Book Three in The Memory Collector Series
This edition published by
Post Office Box 57914
Los Angeles, California 91413
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Copyright © 2017 by Jamie McLachlan
eISBN 13: 978-1-944179-53-3
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.
Cover Designer: Christa Holland, Paper & Sage Designs
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Mind of the Phoenix
Pawn of the Phoenix
To my two little lions;
may they have the strength
to love, forgive,
2034 Stanton Drive, Ward Twenty
Mr. Hayes’s estate
November 5, 1899
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Mr. Icarus Hayes, a figure of imposing solitude, stood by the window looking out into the evening. Beyond the spider webs of frost clinging to the windowpane, thousands of snowflakes twinkled beneath the gas lamp’s glow. Mr. Hayes’s keen interest diverted away from the weather. The motor vehicle moved up the street toward his home, the wheels rolling along the grooves imprinted in the snow. He had marked this day on his calendar several months ago, awaiting the moment when he would finally meet her. Anticipation built inside him, but he reined in his excitement. No one had the power to affect him, not even a woman.
Despite his efforts, he failed to quell his curiosity. Six months ago, he had ordered Daniel, his personal blocker, to investigate the concubines at the Pleasure House to determine if any possessed potential. After several visits, Daniel had informed him of one concubine who had caught his attention. Icarus had wondered if Daniel’s attraction toward the young empath had blinded him, but the blocker had insisted the woman’s mental capabilities exceeded those around her.
He squinted out the window, recalling Daniel’s distinct words.
Her mind is stronger than what they believe, and she has enough fire in her to burn the city.
Icarus hoped the girl’s strength could withstand their mission, or else he would have to erase her memory of tonight—something he would rather not do. Whether or not he wanted to admit it, he needed more allies—trustworthy empaths capable of performing certain acts. He intended to spread his influence throughout the Pleasure House, the Dream House, and the Memory House, only recruiting those strong enough to help him with his cause.
The motor vehicle halted in front of his home, and the door swung open. In the faint light, a shadow stirred within the carriage. A foot emerged out of the darkness. Icarus lifted his gaze from the studded shoe, up the crimson length of the dress, to the young woman’s face. The majority of her features remained hidden beneath a layer of black lace. A frown settled on his lips. He retreated from the window and resumed sitting in the leather chair.
He stared across the room at the door and waited, counting the seconds ticking by while his guest strode through the front door. As far as she knew, he was merely the son of an Elite member—another rich man paying for her services. Both assumptions held truth. But he had additional plans, ones that involved a different kind of seduction, the luring of the mind.
A knock resounded on his door, pulling him away from his thoughts. A spark of exhilaration shot through him. He straightened in his seat and beckoned his butler to enter. The door opened, and the familiar face of his father’s butler appeared. Exhaustion weighed on William’s mind, mimicking the deep crevices on his face. Every time Icarus grazed the elder’s mental landscape, he retreated with the unsettling sensation of cobwebs clinging to his mind. He had kept William employed, even after his father’s death. A younger man’s curiosity would only embolden him to invade Icarus’s privacy, and his mind would resist any attempts at persuasion.
William nodded in greeting and cleared his throat, yet his voice still carried a hard rasp. “Your guest has arrived, sir. She awaits you in the parlour room.”
“Thank you, William. Has everything been set up as I asked?”
Icarus’s mouth twitched with the beginnings of a smile before he smoothed his lips into a tight line. He rose to his feet and ran his hands down the front of his suit. Despite the rush of anticipation flooding him, he kept a firm hand on his emotions, never letting one slip through his mental barrier. Like all empaths, the concubine would bear the mark that prohibited her kind from entering other people’s minds. But his emotions would trickle into her the moment they touched. He needed her to only sense the thoughts he permitted, while everything else in his mind remained hidden.
He took in a deep breath and strengthened the barrier in his mind—an exercise perfected during his childhood. As soon as the walls were secured in place, Icarus wove his way around his desk and exited his study. Once he was in the hallway, his guest’s scent drifted up to greet him, reminding him of the sweet blossoms in Foxglove Park. The only way a concubine could own perfume was if it were given as a gift from a client. With that knowledge, he crinkled his nose as the aroma morphed into a horrid bouquet. If she agreed to work with him, he vowed to purchase a different balm for her.
When he entered the room, he nearly stumbled. Her hunger filled the space and clawed at his mind. He wavered at the entrance, struggling to compose himself. Most empaths craved contact, their minds starving for interaction. But instead of an insistent pull drawing him closer, her hunger leeched onto him and threatened to suck him dry. Her desperation for answers prodded at his mind. He slackened his control and allowed one emotion to slip through, hoping the small allowance would make her agreeable.
The concubine turned away from the hearth and lowered into a curtsy. Red fabric pooled around her legs. He lifted his gaze to the twin mounds of flesh peeking above the frills at her chest. The colour of her gown complemented her olive complexion and the richness of her dark hair. She was a ripe apple for his taking.
She rose and remained silent, but her curiosity lingered on his tongue. He followed the length of her neck to the face partly hidden beneath a layer of black lace which connected to a sm
“What is your name?” he asked.
Her sultry voice wove in the space between them. “What would you like to call me, sir?”
“You enjoy games.” He smiled, but his lips tightened around the corners. “Is that what you want, Moira? To play a game? I have so many in mind, some you may or may not like.”
Her stillness caused him to scrutinize the features hidden beneath the lace, to see if hatred stirred in her eyes. He manoeuvred to her side and circled around her. Her perfume coalesced with her emotions, creating an intoxicating combination that simultaneously repelled and attracted him. A vein in her neck pulsed as she resisted following his progress.
When he came full circle, he raised the thin barrier concealing her face. “Shall we see what lies beneath?”
Daniel had warned him of her beauty. But, unlike the blocker, Icarus rarely gave in to his lust. He had disapproved of Daniel’s tests, knowing they involved sexual acts, but interference would have only created a rift between them. Though she clashed with the woman of his imagination, he found the one staring back at him more than attractive. Each eye differed in colour, one blue and the other hazel, and a fierce wildness lurked in their depths—a spark of defiance that intrigued him. He savoured the bitterness of her hatred. With her youth and rawness, she lacked the control needed of a strong empath. Despite that, she possessed potential. Her advantage lay in the primal intensity of her emotions. Control was powerful, but chaos held the promise for even more destruction.
“Shall we play a game?” He skimmed his fingertips over the peaks of her breasts. “What if I said my intentions for bringing you here weren’t wholly of a sexual nature?”
Moira’s eyes blazed with unbridled fury. “I would remind you my services need only pertain to sex.”
“Is that so?” Amusement leaked from him in a brief chuckle, and he plunged his forefinger into her cleavage. “And I would like to remind you my money pays for whatever I want.”
Curving his finger, he pulled her close, so her mouth hovered an inch away from his. “Whether it’s sex or something else. Is that understood?”
Her breath shortened to sharp bursts. “Yes, sir.”
“Please, call me Icarus.” He released her and approached the table. “Care for a drink?”
Without a word as her answer, he poured two glasses of wine, the rich aroma of the red liquid momentarily erasing her fragrance. She sauntered toward the sofa and sat down, her back stiff with disdain. Even if she refused to join him, he would enjoy her services that evening. She accepted the wine and took a hesitant sip, eyeing him over the rim of her glass.
“I assure you it’s of the finest quality.” He gestured to the tray filled with pastries. “Care for a little indulgence?”
He sat down and watched her struggle with indecision. Moira eyed the treats, flicking her tongue out to wet her lips. Finally, she selected one of the chocolate-glazed pastries. She peeked up at him as she raised the dessert and swirled her tongue around the edges.
He tore his gaze away from her mouth. “Do you enjoy being a concubine, Moira?”
She paused, the pastry hovering before her. Seconds ticked by before she slammed her glass onto the table and placed the food back on the tray. Without answering, she slid her hand up his thigh and pressed her body into him. Her fragrance wrapped around him, seducing him with its pleasant aroma. He positioned his face in the crook of her neck. In the wake of her touch, warmth crept up the inside of his leg and travelled to his groin. He relaxed fully against the furniture and welcomed her assertiveness. She stroked the length of his arousal, causing his member to swell and strain against the fabric of his trousers.
“Do you prefer blondes, sir? Or do you enjoy the rarity of a redhead?”
He bit the supple flesh exposed to him. “I told you to call me Icarus.”
“Alright, Icarus. What do you like?”
He planted his thumb on her lips. “This.”
Moira twirled her tongue around his fingertip. Blood pooled below his waist. He widened the space between his legs as his trousers grew tighter. With one suck, she drew his finger into her mouth. Delicious heat encompassed his thumb. He groaned and allowed his lust to trickle out of the touch, letting her know his thoughts.
He removed his thumb from her mouth and cupped one of her breasts. “This, too.”
He dipped his head and left a tantalizing trail of kisses across her chest while flicking his tongue out to taste her. She moaned, but he was no fool. The soft sounds escaping her lips were only a ruse, part of her routine with her clients to make them feel desired. Instead of sex, her mind wandered to thoughts of returning to the Pleasure House. A challenge rose within him, one he knew he would win.
His fingers travelled down the front of her dress, brushing over the silk fabric. “I had planned on discussing an important matter with you. But I see I must persuade you to stay first.”
A newfound curiosity sparked within her eyes, and she brought her lips close to his. “Is this how you treat the other girls?”
“Are you jealous?”
“Not at all, sir.” She bit her lip, and her lashes fluttered against her cheek. “I only meant most clients don’t expect us to stay, nor do they wish to discuss important subjects with us.”
He paused, and a deep laugh disrupted the tension building between them. “I’m nothing like your other clients. Remember that, Moira.”
Her eyes flew open, and she examined him with wariness. Icarus rose to his feet and held a hand out to her. Suspicion narrowed her brows and slithered through the cloud of lust surrounding her, a thick line of black piercing through a crimson haze. He had succeeded in sparking her interest and desire, but she still mistrusted him. Trust would have to wait, and, in time, it would come. A sliver of possibility hung in the air between them, even if she regarded him with scepticism.
Moira would be his. Soon.
First, he fully intended on satisfying his carnal desires.
“Come,” he said. “There are many things I wish to do with you before the night is over.”
2034 Stanton Drive, Ward Twenty
Mr. Hayes’s estate
May 7, 1903
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The memory rushes through me, leaving my body weak and forcing my mind back into the past. The vision unwinds, resisting my attempts to stop it, and, along with the scene, forgotten feelings crash in. Anger swells in my belly before regret guts it like a knife. The emotions whirl around my landscape, restless and wanting, and remind me of a part of myself Icarus had forced me to forget. In a sense, she has always lurked in the dark corners of my mind. Forgotten, but an integral part of me. And though some memories remain unseen, the knowledge I’ve done something permanent and unforgiveable sinks like dead weight to the pit of my stomach.
Icarus tightens his grip, digging his fingers into my gunshot wound. Pain radiates down my arm, and the look on the Chief of Police’s face before he shot me flashes in my mind. Of course, he’d never intended to hurt me. The Phoenix had persuaded him to shoot Detective Keenan Edwards. I narrow my eyes at Icarus, wondering what had compelled him to murder the detective. Jealousy? Or because Keenan had gotten too close and was ruining his plans?
I blink away the image and ignore the fresh blood soiling the new bandage. The sensation occurs in a distant reality, second to the warmth of Icarus’s body so close to mine. I take in a deep inhalation, gathering inside me a scent so achingly familiar. In the past, his aroma, fresh soap with a hint of leather, had elicited pleasant emotions, but now only produces agony and regret. And that voice—his voice—makes my blood boil with rage. Betrayal sinks in deep. But the part of me desperate to survive reminds me that he can read my thoughts and has always had the power.
“You’re mine, Moira.” He caresses my face and whispers i
The endearment makes every inch of me rise with defiance, and his words drag me back into the shadowy corridor of my mind. The humid air clings to my skin, and the walls glisten with moisture, wet streaks staining the dark, ragged stone. A pungent odour, like rotten leaves, rises from the damp earth. My hand jumps to cover my nose, but the stench seeps through my fingers and permeates my mind. The door Icarus had unlocked remains halfway open, the unfamiliar insignia marking the wood’s surface. The sign, an intertwining of knots, smolders, its scarlet embers consuming the wood, leaving behind a thick layer of ash. I avoid touching the mark and peek through the open crack. A frail glow shines deep inside, summoning me. Instinct demands that I slam the door shut and never look back. Instead, my feet move of their own accord.
I yank the door open with both hands and scan the wide expanse, expecting to drown beneath the undertow of memories. A lone figure sits in the centre of the cavern. Light pools around the woman, illuminating her features. I squint and absorb every detail. She rests on a bulky rock, her crimson dress flowing down the length of her body in seductive waves that accentuate her curves. Dark, wavy hair cascades over her shoulders and touches her waist. With her head cast downward, her face lies in shadows. But I recognize the silhouette, know it deep in my bones. My breath catches in my throat as her gaze rises to meet mine. I stare at the younger version of myself, the part of me Icarus had locked away when he had blocked my memories.