Rachel Miller brought the sharpened tip of the Italian
rapier's blade to rest in front of Kit's Adam's apple just
as Jon Bon Jovi began hollering the first line of "You Give
Love a Bad Name." Her heart beginning to beat a little
faster, she held her position and stared at him, waiting
for him to make a move.
Kit dove backward, snickering like a schoolboy.
Rachel sighed, lowering the sword slightly. "How old are
"I'm sorry." He tried to stifle his glee, his "aw
shucks, ma'am" good looks in full effect. "I just can't
take you seriously with that thing."
"How is it you can't take me seriously when I'm wielding
a live weapon?"
"I don't know." He rubbed the back of his head and
shrugged. "I mean, I guess it's a bit of a girlie sword. If
you had something with a significant blade on it, like a
long sword, I might feel threatened. But then you'd look
Rachel spun around and speared the punching bag hanging
from the ceiling in one elegant lunge. She recovered
immediately and turned on Kit before he had time to fully
comprehend that the blade had pushed clean through the bag
as though it had been made of tissue paper.
"What the––?" He stepped back.
She lunged at him, aiming for his head.
Kit ducked with millimeters to spare. Rachel didn't
hesitate, going after him again and again, using the music
to maintain an aggressive tempo. Years of competitive
swordplay and dodging violent entities for a living allowed
her to anticipate and counteract his movements with little
It wasn't enough.
Opening her heightened sense of empathy, she could pick
up that Kit was perturbed but not afraid. They both knew
he "wraithed–out" when he was mad. Mention his
back–stabbing sister who'd tried to have him killed
while he was stuck in his wraith form, and Kit just about
transformed on the spot. Rachel had a solid hunch that he
would shape shift in reaction to other strong primal
emotions, such as fear. If they could nail down the range
of emotions that caused uncontrolled shifts, they'd know
what frames of mind to tap for controlled changes.
First things first.
"Rachel––what the hell?"
She feigned a strike one way and then sliced from the
other. This time she made no effort to miss him. The blade
tip nipped across the flesh of his cheek. Blood immediately
beaded along the wound.
"Holy shit! Stop it!"
He tried to dive for a nearby dumbbell. She blocked him,
her blade seeking out and opening up the softer flesh on
top of his reaching hand.
Confusion finally gave way to fear.
The room temperature dipped dramatically.
One more push.
Kit's back slammed against the wall, his hands raised in
a surrender position on either side of his head. A small,
red smear bloomed on the wall as the back of his wounded
hand swiped across the dusty wallpaper. At the last moment
he made an attempt to escape.
Rachel brought the sword to within millimeters of his
face in what to her was a very controlled lunge. Kit,
though, must have seen his life pass before his eyes.
Human–Kit literally poofed into wraith–Kit.
Or at least he came close. Rachel could have sworn she
saw him transform, his body elongating, darkening, edges
blurring as he replaced his human body with the
otherworldly, cowl–like visage of the wraith. But
just as quickly as it started, the transformation reversed,
leaving a panting, sweating, wide–eyed
human–Kit glaring at her.