Home > Tragic Bonds (The Bonds That Tie #5)

Tragic Bonds (The Bonds That Tie #5)
Author: J Bree





North - Sixteen Years Old


The house looks haunted.

I’m too old to believe in ghosts, guys my age don’t have time for such things, and having the ability to manipulate shadows into savage beasts in any form does nothing to change that fact. Looking up at the house my mother was raised in, the one she grew up in with her sister and family, it’s as close as I’ll ever get to believing that spirits and ghosts that might still wander this plane of existence after their body has gone back to the earth.

If anywhere is haunted, it’s this place.

“This is no place for a boy to grow up. I can’t believe Emmaline has been living here with Nox. What is she thinking? What was Nolan thinking?” William mutters under his breath, sounding sedate as always, even with the accusation in his words.

William was raised to be a peacekeeper.

He was the calm and civil opposite of my fiery and passionate father, the younger and far more cultured figure in the Draven family. I used to think he was soft and too weak to lead the family, but after my father’s death, he’s proved me wrong time and time again.

There are many ways to be a strong man, and I hope that William can teach me to control my anger, to stop myself from lashing out the way my father did, to stop me from hurting those I love the most.

To stop me from becoming a monster.

“Leave Emmaline to me, North. I don’t want you to lose your cool with her today, even if it is… challenging. We need to tread carefully if we want to see Nox more often. Think of your brother.”

We’re only here because it was my father’s dying wish.

I had spent years trying to convince my parents to let me see my brother, with no success. But on the day that my father lost control and the council had come to make sure he paid the ultimate price for that deadly slip, it had been the last thing he’d said to William. His last living words to his family before he was put to death for his crimes.

Find Nox and bring him home. Whatever it takes, brother.

I nod at my uncle, because I have no other choice, and then we walk up the crumbling and dilapidated steps together. There are vines growing up the side of the railing, covered in thorns and spindly twigs that catch on the legs of our trousers as we walk past them, and that feels like an ominous warning.

I know better than to look past something like that.

I don’t need the voice of my bond in my head to confirm it, the thing in there that shouldn’t exist, and yet it does. A god of my own making.

The inside of the house is just as decrepit and horrifying as the outside, and I glance back to find our footsteps clearly visible in the thick dust on the ground of the entryway.

Clearly, my aunt hasn’t been seeing many guests.

William follows my eyeline and cringes at the sight, murmuring to me, “North, I see it too. Just, please, leave it to me.”

The idea of William begging me to hold myself in grates on me, and I can’t keep my temper, no matter how hard I try. I snap back, “I’m going to! I’m not an idiot.”

William stops us both, turning into me slightly and shielding me from the rest of the room, even though we’re alone. “Take a breath, your eyes have shifted and the shadows are crawling up your arms. You need to get a hold of yourself, and quickly. I’m not doubting you right now. I’m seeing the same dire situation you are, and I’m trying to make sure neither of us make it any worse. This is about much more than just fulfilling your father’s wishes; there’s a child living in all of this who we need to think about.”


I hadn’t even noticed but, sure enough, I looked down at my arms to find the inky black stains creeping up from my hands to my forearms. Usually I can feel it, the amount of anger that I need to be filled with isn’t exactly subtle, but this time I’m too distracted by the uneasiness in my gut to focus on what my bond is doing.

It’s furious at everything, that murderous rage of it spilling over into my mind as it sees something amongst the dust that William and I are missing.

I shut my eyes and work through the breathing exercises that have been drummed into me from the moment I was old enough to follow instructions. My father had been sure to teach me this type of control long before my eyes ever turned black, somehow sensing that I would need it.

It’s been years since I needed to focus on it like this.

“Emmaline! Lovely to see you, my dear. You look striking in that dress; it’s the perfect shade of gray for your complexion.”

I have to fight the smile that tugs at the edge of my lips. There’s nothing about William’s tone that would give him away, but he’d spent the whole car ride over telling me all about his theories of my aunt being a ghoulish witch of a woman. It’s clear he’s teasing her, without her ever being able to call him on it.

He’s a disgustingly apt politician, and I’m sure under his guidance, I will be too.

“William. I was wondering how long it would take you to come here, snooping. There’s nothing here for you; not me, and certainly not my son. We’re happy being left alone.”

I open my eyes just in time to see William step towards her, shifting slightly as though he’s covering me even more, as though he knows the very sound of her voice is eating away at my control.

Instead of watching the two of them spar, I take the opportunity to slip away.

I’ve never been in this house before, but I’d spent the last few days practicing with my Gift as much as I could to prepare for this. I usually avoid the shadow creatures as much as possible, even more so after my mother’s death, but I knew that my time here would be limited.

I need to use every tool in my arsenal here.

I wait until I’m out in the hallway, and then I let out one of my shadow creatures, the nightmares of my community appearing beside me as a dog with a wide, snarling jaw of razor-sharp teeth and empty void eyes that somehow see right through you.

I would do anything to carve these things out of myself.

The creature stares up at me for a second, as though it’s judging my commitment and my ability to call it back into myself, like it’s trying to figure out if it can run through this house and kill everyone on sight without me being able to stop it.

It’s hard to lie to something that is a part of you.

Impossible really, but whatever it sees in me when I direct it to find my brother, whatever strength and limitations, it only hesitates for a second before it moves at my command. It moves so quickly that the edges of the form blur, looking more like smoke than beast, and I tuck myself into one of the nooks in the hallway to shut my eyes and see through the shadow creature’s eyes instead.

The house is just as dark and forbidding on the inside as it seems on the outside. The curtains are shut in all of the rooms on the first floor. There’s rotting food in the kitchen, plates and cups piled up in the sink, untouched, that have clearly been there for weeks, if not months. While I can’t smell anything through the connection with the shadow creature, the flies and maggots everywhere are both disgusting and telling.

Something is terribly wrong here.

I move the shadow creature out of the kitchen and up the stairs to work through the rooms until finally, it ends up in the large, dusty attic space.

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