In chapter 8 'Black Widow Curse & the Coven'
This is a big chapter and a lot happens. Here Meridian and Tallulah get off the plane and the spirit guides all get to see her for the first time since she has went through the change. Relic is the only one who has seen her. To add Meridian goes into a restaurant that I have actually eaten in when I was in Salem. The Howling Wolf Taqueria. We had a great time, the bar tender was fun and she made a great margarita for me while I waited for my food. So I had to write it into the story. Here Meridian meets new friends and her behavior upsets Tallulah.
A new character comes in, Lahash. I can't help it, after writing him in this book and the last two, he has become my favorite. I can't decide which book I like him in the most, but he makes his introduction here. Last but not least, Meridian's curse strikes again. Read to find out!
Chapter 8 Black Widow Curse & The Coven (#2)
The group waited at the airport gate where Tallulah and Meridian would be coming from. They were able to get a read on Tallulah’s mind before she boarded the plane.
“Are you sure this is the gate, Relic?” Luna pushed her way through the bustling group of guides walking through all the humans at the busy airport.
“Well, yes; I heard Tallulah’s thoughts,” Relic answered
“Will you quit, please. The agent that checked her in told her that,” Ridge popped off.
Relic just stood and grinned at Luna as he listened to Ridge bust him and give him a hard time. Slaten and Pramlee were standing a way off from the trio as they stood talking. Relic took notice of the familiar face he missed so much as she exited the terminal. It was hard for Luna to watch her husband stare at the one person he just could not quite let go of, even as hard as he tried. Once everyone saw that Meridian had made it off the plane, they all just stopped and stared at the girl they didn’t recognize at all.
“I told you all,” Relic stated.
“Man, you weren’t kidding around. It doesn’t even really look like Meridian,” Slaten said in awe, and he watched Meridian trot through the airport alongside Tallulah who was shuffling her luggage and digging through her large bucket style purse.
“Pramlee, look your best friend isn’t so pretty anymore is she?” Luna let out a rare snarky remark.
“Luna, she is just as beautiful as she ever was. She just has black hair, and she dresses a little different, and um…a little revealing and…” Pramlee stopped talking.
“Yes, she is still beautiful, she just looks human is all,” Relic said as he managed to keep up with the pair as they whirled through the airport.
The one person who was the most in shock was Kieren. “I barely recognize her. Why does she look so different? Her hair? I mean she still looks like Meridian, but she doesn’t at the same time,” Kieren asked.
No one regarded Kieren. Instead, they were all ears when Relic was spilling the details he knew of Warrick’s curse. Tallulah and Meridian made it to luggage claim, and everyone trailed behind Relic as he explained, “When Warrick banished her from Etheria he meant it to be a banishing like Talon’s.” Relic looked back to the fallen friend. “She didn’t turn out like Talon completely. She looks more human, and she isn’t evil at all - which is strange. I believe it is because she was born of the realm and she has gifts she never had the chance to discover before the curse. She is darker physically, and her personality is darker and maybe not so innocent as we are starting to see,” Relic said.
“What is he talking about?” Kieren asked impatiently to the other guides.
“Any man she sleeps with will die, if it is not true love.” Relic was reluctant and held a longer pause than usual.
“What? I thought she was looking for Aiden.” Kieren asked.
“She is looking for Aiden. She just doesn’t know why yet. In the meantime, she is now a human girl, and she has needs.” Relic grinned as he made that statement.
“Well, that is just great. Don’t tell me anymore; I just want to get her back before she realizes why she is looking for Aiden.” Kieren shoved Relic out of his way so he could stand next to Meridian. Once at her side, he glared at Relic. Kieren held his arms crossed tightly across his chest and shook his head in disgust at Relic for his not well-received commentary.
Talon stood next to Relic as the pair watched Kieren and Meridian standing at baggage claim. “I don’t want her to find Aiden either. I don’t want my son to die. Furthermore, we are headed back to a place that draws more demons, and this will be difficult for me.” Talon grew tired of listening to the two suitors verbally spar at one another over the very girl he had grown protective over. The girl he watched connect to his only son.
“We will make sure everything will be okay. Maybe Luna can use some of her mad fairy skills and keep you out of trouble?” Ridge winked at the quiet fairy as he made his coy statement.
The human pair dashed out of the airport and sported a car rental to get them around for the duration of their trip. They had a bit to drive to make it to the quaint town of Salem, leaving time for a small chit chat.
“Tallulah, when do we get to go and see your friends?” Meridian questioned as she looked outside the window of the car.
“I’ll answer that shortly. But first I want to say a few things about your episode. I don’t like you taking off like that with strange men. We have had our discussions about this in the past. It seems that I do not do any good. I can’t tell you what to do, but I wish you would pay more mind to the fact that I have been a human all my life, and I know how men can be.” Tallulah stopped talking to see if Meridian was paying any attention.
“I know, I know. But when I am with men, I feel alive. Like something that has been missing is brought to me, even for a small time. I have freedom to do things. I can’t really remember much about my parents or who they were, but it may be that I was not allowed this same kind of freedom. I don’t know.”
Tallulah gave pause to Meridian’s short and ridiculous explanation. She continued to drive without a response. Meridian had not come to understand that what she was truly feeling while in the company of these random men was a temporary suspension of loneliness. A familiar feeling to Tallulah who felt alone all her life.
“Well, we will arrive shortly and head out on the town. I wanted to go out and shop a little before it gets too crazy out there. As you can see, we can barely park. Halloween in this town is not just an event; it is a lifestyle and an art form. People come from all around,” Tallulah explained as she pointed to the hundreds of people who were waiting at the crosswalk for their turn to cross the street.
“Well this town certainly has an appeal to it, and I am so excited to be here. The town feels familiar to me,” Meridian said with zeal, and she seemed to have forgotten the morning’s events.
Meridian and Tallulah left the hotel and went walking the main streets of Salem, checking out the happenings that included hundreds of vendors who had set up for the days leading up to Halloween. The air was crisp with the smell of apple cider, beer, and incense. Tourists filled the streets making it difficult to walk. “This place is nuts! I love it! I am getting wore out and could use something to eat, though,” Meridian’s pace had slowed down even more than the sluggish movements of the tourists.
They soon found themselves at The Howling Wolf Taqueria. The place was packed with tourists, and it was very loud with all the laughing, talking, and silverware clanging the plates. With nowhere to sit, they decided to go and stand at the bar and wait for an available table.
Meridian was getting admiring glances from a couple of men at the bar. Meridian’s attire, as usual, all black and barely there. They couldn’t jump out of their seats fast enough to offer her their seat. As they walked over toward Meridian, Relic and Kieren could be counted on to be right there worrying for her - even though they knew they couldn’t do much about it. Before the suitors could get to the two women, Tallulah quickly commented to Meridian under her breath as she stared at the two guys coming over to her. “With the way you are dressed, no wonder they are headed over here.”
“Look, guys, for me, please. I can’t be around anger, or any of that or I will lose it. In case you haven’t noticed where we are.” Talon was reminding them of the possibilities. “I just hope she doesn’t do anything else to get me in that state.” He looked around at everyone.
“Relax. I don’t think this is the place you should be worried about. It’s the real nightlife that will get you.” Ridge rolled his eyes, and Relic stood smiling at Talon, who didn’t appreciate Relic taking pleasure in what Talon considered the worst part of himself - turning into the angered and uncontrolled demon.
“Come on, man! I know you hate it, but you don’t have our point of view. It is hard not to appreciate it,” Relic laughed. Talon did not reply. Instead, he chose to turn his back and take a walk around the restaurant.
As Meridian and Tallulah conversed with the two men that had offered them their seats, Meridian wasn’t thinking about the tragedy from earlier, and she found she was growing fond of the men that were entertaining her. Tallulah kept a watchful eye on Meridian, and every once in a while, Tallulah would raise her eyebrow at Meridian as a reminder of their prior conversation.
Kieren had a very similar viewpoint to Tallulah. However, his nerves were frazzled with knowing he couldn’t just step in and get Meridian’s attention. “Relic, why are you so seemingly okay with what is happening?” he asked.
Relic rolled his eyes at the newer guide who still struggled with the aspects of his new existence. “Look, if you are going to get upset about Meridian being with other guys, then I hope you enjoy disappointment. This is Warrick’s work. If you want to be mad, be mad at him. You are not a human anymore. I really thought you would be letting go of human male jealousy. We can’t interfere according to our own laws. Remember, Caius was cast out for stopping the human boy from his own suicide. Do you want to end up like Caius? Have you not learned a thing since you came to be in Etheria? I do worry, but I also know that right now with the lunatic running our realm, we are very limited in what we can do.” Relic’s patience with Kieren grew short, right along with his ability to control his own emotions over Meridian and continue to hide it with a cloak of sarcasm.
Ridge always enjoyed putting Relic in his place, but this was one of the rare occasions when he backed up his friend. “He is right. Warrick is the reason for all the trouble we have, and Meridian is like a child in the sense that she doesn’t realize that her behavior to some humans is observed as being inappropriate. Not all humans would see it this way. However, if one human were seeking true love, Meridian’s behavior more than likely would not lead her to finding real love. Remember she has never been human; she isn’t putting these things together.”
As the spirit guides hashed out the whys of trying to help Kieren, Talon kept watch at the restaurant. Slaten had slipped outside to peek in the shops in Salem in an attempt to get his mind off the problems they were dealing with. Slaten was missing Janus and the relationship that they were growing before his father locked her up for helping Arianna and Caius break out of Etheria’s prison. Pramlee had taken an interest in all the people who were coming in and out of the restaurant. There was still hardly a seat open in the house for any new patrons to come in and sit.
“Having a good time, are you?” Luna asked Pramlee.
“Oh yes! This place is awesome! If I had ever been a human, I would have lived here. This is my kind of crowd!” Pramlee exclaimed giving a lightness to a heavy situation with her beaming smile and big eyes. Pramlee’s blue eyes were bright under the lights of the restaurant, and when the overhead lights hit her blue locks, she was bright as the sun. Sill having her old habits of pretending to pick at her black nail polish as she spoke, she carried a mild disconnect to her surroundings.
“How are you doing? I know things must be difficult with Relic, right?” Luna did not appreciate the inquiry, being she was Meridian’s best friend.
Luna was not quick to answer; she looked away at Relic who was chatting with Ridge and laughing. Luna smiled as she watched the guide she had been so in love with. “I guess. Yes, it is hard. I know that he is still in love with Meridian. I want to hate her, but I can’t. All I feel is sadness for me and pity for her,” Luna stared at Meridian who was laughing. Before Pramlee could say another word, Luna took advantage of the situation for a change in the subject.
“Look, they are leaving,” Luna pointed out to the group.
Meridian and Tallulah got up from the table to leave with the men who let them take their seats. The guides, Luna and Talon, followed the women out and right into a night club right around the corner from the restaurant.
As everyone filed into the crowded club, the music thumped and could be felt as it vibrated through the human bodies dancing away. It was hard for the human eye to see much but Talon and the rest had no problem keeping up with the women. One of the guys Meridian was getting cozy with took her hand, and they went out on the dance floor and disappeared into the crowd seamlessly. Tallulah went to the bar and struck up a conversation with the bartender while trying to maintain a careful watch on Meridian.
“Always the social butterfly.” Relic laughed as he watched Tallulah make friends,
“You should know,” Luna smarted off.
Kieren disappeared onto the floor, careful to not lose sight of Meridian. The guy she was getting cozy with left her standing on the dance floor and went to the bar to get her a drink.
“Like she needs anymore,” Relic pointed out for everyone to notice.
Kieren was getting nervous as the stranger came back to Meridian with a shot. He stood close to Relic sharing his view and his frustration.
Before the stranger could return to Meridian with a drink, Tallulah took notice that Meridian was momentarily alone. She walked over to her. “Meridian, I am only allowing your social indulgences because we are supposed to be having a good time. Do not make me regret bringing you in here.” Tallulah walked off and went back and sat down at the bar. She continued to chat with the bartender that she knew from a previous visit to Salem. As the night progressed, the bar became livelier with more people filing in. Tallulah’s view of Meridian, already a challenge, became obstructed no matter what position she took to see how her friend was doing.
The stranger Meridian had gone to the dance floor with made his way back with a shot. “Here drink this!” he urged as he placed a shot right under her nose.
Meridian jerked her head back and put up her hand. “I don’t even know your name.”
“It’s John.” He put his arm around Meridian and swayed her to the music, holding her close as he pressed his hips into hers.
Meridian continued to dance with John. “I am not old enough to drink, and besides, I am already in the hot seat with Tallulah.”
John did not give much thought to what Meridian said. “She isn’t your mother, is she?”
Meridian looked over to where she had last seen Tallulah, and she could no longer see her through the crowd on the dance floor. It was packed with little room for anyone to move let alone dance.
Barely having the room to bring the shot to her lips, Meridian grinned as she brought the shot glass up, quickly sucked the drink back, and continued to dance very close to John. After a couple of songs played through, the pair left the dance floor and went and sat at a table. Meridian now having had a few shots, could barely hold herself up, and John was taking full advantage as he kissed on her neck.
Tallulah shook her head in disappointment, knowing that her prior rounds of talks with Meridian had not accomplished much as she had spotted Meridian making her way over to the table. “Meridian, we are leaving soon. I am giving you five minutes to say your goodbyes and then we are going.” Tallulah huffed in a fluster and stomped off back to the bartender to tell her old friend goodbye.
The demons swarmed around the table where Meridian and John were seated, drawing their power from the intrigue as to what was on the horizon. One demon who seemed to set himself apart from the others strode away from the group and made his way to Talon. Commanding and effortless, his swagger was elegant. Careful and deliberate.
“Talon, back in Salem, are you? I see the allure. However, the company you keep is ironic, to say the least. The demon continued to move closer to Talon, his face shown through the dancing lights of the bar. No matter how close the demon positioned himself, his voice remained from within Talon’s ears. As though the demon had set up residence within his mind, making any noise he fancied.
Pulsating with every beat of the techno music, he came closer with every blink until, in plain sight, he stood in front of Talon. Toe to toe, the demon insisted on hearing more of his own banter and locked eyes with Talon.
“I see you are with some strange company. Why do you travel with spirit guides?” The demon was not as hot-headed as the other demons Talon had encountered in the past. It seemed to Talon that this demon was more curious than interested in harm. His voice was as smooth as the soft notes of a violin - hypnotic and sleek. He dressed as though he was from another time. Exquisite suiting, the finest leather shoes found in Paris, equipped with a reversible tie, black being his color choice of the moment. With every move, Talon could see hints of red from the underside of his tie as the lights flashed.
“Why do you care?” Talon was defensive, caught off guard. His composure was tight, his arms stiff at his sides, and his face not giving anything away. The only hints toward Talon’s demeanor was the heat coming off his skin and his jaw setting tight.
“I know who you are, fallen. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lahash,” the demon said ignoring Talon’s defense and maintaining his agenda without waiver.
“Lahash, you are considered a fallen angel?” Talon’s question was more of a statement, and it intrigued him as he smiled with every syllable that left Talon’s lips.
“I am, or that is what humans believe?” Lahash smiled as he stood with his hands clasped behind his back. His face turned away back to the dance floor watching the humans, with only his profile exposing the slight upturn of his lips.
“Why are you here?” Talon was quick to the point, growing tired of Lahash’s slow build and game.
As the two continued to exchange words, the guides and Luna watched on with confusion. Meanwhile, Meridian was experiencing her own confusion driven from too much alcohol. As John continued to push himself onto Meridian, she couldn’t help but notice a floating being hovering above their heads, circling around watching. Meridian continued to watch the ghostly apparition. She was beautiful and would not leave Meridian.
“Look! That is a ghost!” Luna gasped as she pointed and put her hand over her mouth with the other as in disbelief of what she saw.
Ridge overheard the comment and looked up to the ceiling. “Isn’t that your specialty?” Ridge questioned Luna, unsure of her reaction to seeing the ghost.
“It is, but we can only help if they are open to going on. Not all ghosts realize they are dead or they need to move on,” Luna explained. “She must be hanging on for some reason.”
Meridian couldn’t help but keep looking at the ghost. John took her by the hand and helped her walk to the back where the bathrooms were. John was kissing Meridian all over, and it was obvious that he wanted more. Relic and the rest of the guides, along with Luna, walked to the bathrooms and watched. Meridian and John had gone into a bathroom stall, and he began to pull her underwear down from underneath her skirt. As the pair continued to get to know each other in the stall, the ghosts hovered above and watched with a look of concern.
Back around the dance floor, Talon and the demon were still exchanging words.
“If you are not a fallen angel, then what are you?” Talon asked.
Talon followed Lahash as he walked to a recently vacated table with half-filled glasses of human tonic with traces of spillages leaving a sticky residue. Lahash ran his long fingers through a small puddle of a spillage. He brought his index finger up to his face and studied the tip of his finger drenched in a dark brown liquor. Lahash took his finger and ran it across his tongue and closed his eyes. He stood for a moment with his eyes still closed and smiled. “Ahh, the tastes of Italy. I always loved Disaronno.” He opened his eyes and began to open his coat jacket, so he could pull out a black handkerchief that matched his tie and wipe his finger. As he was putting away his handkerchief, he looked to Talon. “Quid pro quo, fallen. Why do you remain in company with the guides?”
Talon’s defensive look was turning into one of disgust. He stared at Lahash as though he was still seeing him in his very first moment, taken back with a demon of this caliber. “My reasons shouldn’t be of your concern. However, I was asked by one for my help.”
Now that Lahash was satisfied with a morsel of information, he decided to indulge Talon a bit, by finally answering the fallen’s first question. “I forget humans turned spirit guides are still stifled by an obtuse mind. There are no such things as angels. The spirit guides are what exist to watch over humans. Humans just call them angels. You are a fallen… You were never one of us and never can be. I am a demon, but demons never fell. I am like the girl you are watching over. I, like she, was born of my realm. The only demons that are a fallen, so to speak, are you, Talon, and the others like you.” Lahash was not short of cutting insults.
“Why are you here?” Talon asked again.
“Well Etheria’s leader, Warrick, had deals put in place with my own realm’s leader, and that deal was that we maintain more of the balance here on Earth, and we allow him to cast out his own as fallen in exchange for that power here on Earth. I understand that the fairies are becoming involved, and that is a problem.” Lahash stated.
“Why would that be a problem for you? The fairies keep to themselves and they don’t get involved much, not even to keep their word,” Talon sarcastically explained.
“Yes, we know that, but now that your Meridian escaped the realm with the fairy book, and with the aid of a coven, the fairies are now more powerful than you realize. They hold the power to help ghosts move onto the next stage - like another life – or to fall as a demon or go on as a spirit guide. The fairies not helping the ghosts out as much has been a benefit to our kind. In addition to that, Warrick casting out your kind has served us well too. However, Warrick has stopped casting out guides - if you haven’t already noticed - and there is a reason for that. The fairies can turn all fallen back to spirit guides; yes, I know you know all of that. If the fairies take that action, then the balance will fall back toward the good, and all our agreements will be off the table. I was sent here to find out why all these things have changed. If the dark one finds out what we perceive to be the truth, we will take action against humankind, and all the tales of possession will be made a reality.” Lahash spoke words to Talon that he only imagined or heard stories of.
John and Meridian were still in the bathroom stall ‘enjoying’ one another. Meridian’s giggles of pleasure and stupor lingered in the room. She was momentarily distracted though by the ghost still swimming up over their heads. “Stop! Look up there. Is something floating above? It looks like a ghost,” Meridian said.
“What? You really are drunk. Even better.” John continued to kiss Meridian ignoring what she had been pointing at.
Unexpectedly, the ghost became angry and flew straight down into John without him even noticing. In anger, the ghost shot right through John and then disappeared from Meridian’s sight.
Talon became distracted from Lahash as he felt the negative energy of the demons that were hovering around the bathroom. One had sensed John’s vile thoughts and ill intentions with Meridian. Despite Meridian seemed to be enjoying herself, for the time being, Talon was in full demon mode with rage as he tore off the door to the stall and threw John into the wall like a rag doll. With the blunt force of hitting the wall, John was instantly knocked out. Meridian could not see what it was that picked John up with ease and tossed him away like trash. She was sitting on the back of the toilet with her hand over her mouth trying to put together what had just happened. The commotion may not have been visible, but it was heard by Tallulah who was making her way to the restroom. She walked in and saw John laying in the floor passed out, with Meridian staggering out of the stall drunk. Her words did not make sense to Tallulah. She quickly grabbed Meridian by the arm and pulled her out of the bathroom before anyone else took notice of what was happening. Disoriented and disheveled, Meridian struggled to keep pace with Tallulah who was marching out of the bar leaving the guides behind.
Luna found the ghost and was watching her, deciding to see if there was anything she could do to help. The ghost did not speak directly, but Luna understood what she was communicating to her when no one else did.
“She was trying to help Meridian. She is telling me that the reason she has passed on is that John hurt her and left her for dead. She is not ready to move on and won’t until she has her reckoning,” Luna explained to the group.
“Why is it we can’t hear her, but you can?” Slaten asked.
“That is a part of what fairies do for humans…sorry, ghosts,” Ridge interrupted.
The group quickly left the bar and were relieved to find Meridian and Tallulah soon back at the hotel. Tallulah leashed out another round of lectures to Meridian who was too drunk to care about her reckless behavior. Relic did not stay around as his curiosity of Warrick’s curse led him back to the bar where he found John disoriented and looking for Meridian. It came to Relic through John’s thoughts that he knew where Meridian was staying, and chances were that he would want to finish what he started. Relic followed him, and his suspicions were right as he headed back toward Meridian’s hotel.
The streets were getting quieter with the evening getting close to dawn. John couldn’t make it any further and fell down and passed out. A couple passing by noticed and stopped to help him. After several times of trying to wake him, they discovered he was not breathing and called for an ambulance. John was dead, and it appeared that it was alcohol poisoning.
Relic returned to the hotel where the pair were staying. He found Talon and the rest of his group ready to let them know what he discovered.
“This curse is very strong; we don’t have to worry about John ever again, and the ghost got what she wanted. I followed him after the women left the club, and he just fell down, passed out, and then died. I thought it was from being too drunk. This curse is cryptic indeed. The last guy was struck in the middle of the road, and now this one just collapsed. How do we stop this?” Relic questioned himself as much as Meridian’s supporters without any real answers.
Talon and the rest of the group sat in silence trying to put together all the things that were happening at such a fast pace. Fear struck into them as they pondered how this would affect Meridian if she ever did run into Aiden. All eyes fell on Talon as he stood in the main lobby of the hotel staring out the window.
“I know what you all are thinking,” Talon said.
No one replied. They all just watched the fallen in turmoil over his son and the fallen guide he wished to save.