Jenna and I stood there, staring at the passageway. "We could go back,"I suggested weakly. "Tel them their magical road thingie didn't work for us."
But Jenna shook her head. "It can't be that bad,"she muttered.
"We could try to go together,"I said. "I think we'd both fit, and that way, if we end up transported to another dimension or morphed into a wal , at least we'd have company."
Jenna laughed. "Al right, then. Let's do this."
Hand in hand, we walked toward the opening.
The second we stepped into the alcove, I felt Jenna's hand slip from mine. Then everything went dark, and I cried out as a vicious pounding started in my temple. It felt like a migraine, only about a hundred times more intense. Dimly, some part of my brain registered that I should stop being surprised when magic stuff sucked way harder than I thought it was going to. God knows I ought to be used to it by now.
But I wasn't prepared for the awful twisting in my skul , or the overwhelming darkness. There wasn't even the sensation of flying, another thing I'd kind of expected from magical travel. Instead, everything was very stil as the blackness pressed down on me.
And then I was standing outside. Wel , kneeling outside, actual y, taking big gasping breaths while someone patted my back.
It was Daisy. "The first time is always the worst,"she said soothingly.
"Yeah, Daisy puked al over my shoes after her first 'road trip.'"Nick laughed, earning him a swat from Daisy.
"That's because you took me too far, you tosser! Spain. Idiotic. Anything more than a hundred miles is insane for a first trip."
Jenna staggered to my side. She looked paler than normal, which was saying something. "I had no idea maaaaaagic would be that intense,"she tried to joke, but her voice was high and slightly breathless.
I tried to ask her if she was okay, but talking was stil beyond me, so I tried to smile. That hurt too, so in the end, I just slumped against the nearest wal until the pain eased a little.
As the headache subsided, I took in my surroundings. We were in an al ey, surrounded by several nondescript brick buildings. Overhead, low-hanging clouds reflected the orange glow of streetlights. There was also a strange smel in the air, a mix of exhaust fumes, old stone, and, I thought, water somewhere nearby.
When I felt like I could speak again, I asked Daisy, "So what exactly was that? A portal or something?"
She fished in her purse and pul ed out another cigarette. "Basical y. But portals can only go from one specific place to another specific place. An Itineris can go...wel , anywhere. You just create the entrance and then tel it where you want to go. That's why Nick went first, so he could tel it we were going to Shel ey's."
"If it only goes one way, how are we getting back?"I asked.
"There's another road opening about a block from here,"Daisy said, pointing to her left.
"So, wait, we could go in that opening and tel it anywhere we wanted to go?"Jenna asked.
"Anywhere,"Nick answered with a shrug. "But like Daisy said, the farther you go, the harder it is. So while I could get in there and say I wanted to go to, like, Madagascar, the trip would probably kil me."
Next to me, Jenna shuddered. "I can't imagine being in that thing for any longer than we were."
"Itineris travel can be especial y tough on vamps,"Nick replied.
Then maybe you should have told her that before you dragged us on this little outing, jackass, I thought irritably.
Suddenly I wished Cal were here, and not just because he could have cured my headache in about two seconds.
"They can only be created by very powerful witches,"Daisy continued while I tried to keep my skul from exploding. She flicked open her lighter, her face briefly il uminated in the glow. "Or demons, obviously."
"So who made the one at Thorne?"Jenna asked.
Nick answered her. "We don't know."He grinned. "But since it's so kickass, I'm gonna say it was a demon."
I wondered if Alice had made it, but before I could ask any more questions, Daisy broke in. "Okay, as fascinating as this conversation is, we only have a few hours, and I'd like to spend them in Shel ey's, not in an al ey. Can we go inside now, please?"I did my best not to gape at her, but seriously. What had happened to the introverted, delicate girl from this morning?
We trailed out of the al ey and around to the front of the building. From the outside it looked like a regular, if kind of seedy, nightclub. There was a smal awning over the entrance that read shel ey's in white cursive, and people had scratched their initials and insults on the black door.
I looked around for a scary monster bouncer, but there was no one. There wasn't even one of those cool panels that slides open so you can whisper a password. Then I realized the door was wavering slightly.
Daisy saw me studying it, and smiled. "It's glamoured,"she said. "Only Prodigium can find it. To humans, it just looks like a particularly drunk and fragrant homeless guy leaning against the wal ."
Wel , that was lovely. But she was right. If I squinted just right, I could make out a ghostly figure slumping where the door was.
Then Daisy stepped in front of me, and the door was just a door again. Daisy knocked and it swung open almost immediately. I was assaulted by the smel of smoke and a nearly deafening wave of techno. The light pouring from the entrance was blue and pulsed slightly.
I'd only gone to a club once, back in ninth grade. That had been when Mom and I were living in Chicago, and I'd had a brief flirtation with rebel iousness. I'd gone to some gross black hole of a room with a girl named Cindy Lewis, who'd worn way too much eyeliner and smoked clove cigarettes. My main memories of that night included music that was so loud I was sure I'd done some permanent damage to my eardrums, and some guy who smel ed like a brewery grabbing my leg and attempting to slobber al over my face. So yeah, clubs were not exactly my favorite places.
But then, Shel ey's was nothing like that smoky pit in Chicago.
Okay, so there was smoke. And real y, real y loud music. But other than that, the two places could not have been more different. For one thing, the interior of Shel ey's was huge, much bigger than it had appeared from the outside. There were two levels, the bottom one made up almost entirely of a glossy black dance floor. It was crowded with bodies, and the magic coming off of them was so strong that my skin crawled. I saw lots of Prodigium our age, but there were just as many older people here too. In fact, there was an ancient bearded guy in the corner who looked like he'd probably pal ed around with Mary Shel ey. I saw a werewolf dancing with what I assumed was a witch, his claws making smal tears at the waist of her dress. Above the crowd, several faeries floated in the air, their wings beating in time with music, their shiny, pale hair reflecting the colored lights.
In the very middle of the dance floor, a guy wearing a purple velvet smoking jacket was dancing, surrounded by several witches. He looked familiar, and when he turned around, I realized it was Lord Byron.
Yeah, the Lord Byron. He'd been our English teacher at Hecate before al the attacks started. Since he was a vampire, people had been suspicious of him. Even after he was cleared, he stil hadn't wanted to come back to Hex Hal . Not like I could blame him.
I thought about going over to say hi, but then he spotted us. I'm not sure, but I think he flipped us off before limping away.
Neither Jenna nor I had been exactly stel ar students.
Nick jerked his head toward the back. "Let's go grab a seat."
We moved away from the dance floor, to where it was dimmer and less crowded. The music also seemed a good deal softer, so my brain no longer felt like it was leaking out of my ears. Daisy led us to a booth in the back and flopped down on a velvet banquette. Nick sat next to her, leaving Jenna and I to scoot into the seat opposite them.
Daisy pul ed out yet another cigarette, this time offering the pack around. Nick took one, but I shook my head when he held the box out to me. "No thanks. Don't smoke."
"Fair enough,"Nick replied.
A tal woman with auburn hair came up to the table. She was wearing a bright purple dress that was so short, I thought it might have started its life as a shirt. She would've been pretty if her face hadn't looked like she'd just taken a big swig of sour milk. "You two again,"she said.
Daisy rol ed her eyes, but Nick looked total y unruffled. "Ah, Linda, my sweet. I was hoping you'd be our waitress tonight. I've missed that sunny smile of yours."
Linda folded her arms across her chest. "Bite me, freak."
Nick grinned, and for just a second, he looked so much like Archer that I clenched my teeth.
"Who's to say I won't, Linda?"Nick asked, raising his eyebrows. Daisy elbowed him in the side. Linda just glared until Nick waved his hands. "Truce, truce,"he said. "Al right then, Daisy and I wil have our usual."
I wondered what that might be. Evil Juice? Some kind of demonic energy drink?
Linda's surly gaze flicked to Jenna, who uncharacteristical y blushed.
"They have any kind of blood you could want on tap,"Daisy offered.
I real y didn't want to think about what that meant.
Jenna gave a nervous smile. "Then a, uh, glass or whatever of O-negative."
"Fine,"Linda said. "And you?"
"Uh, water is fine,"I said.
"Oh, come on,"Nick said, draping his arm across the back of the banquette. "At least let me buy you a drink."He flashed that unsettling grin again. I scooted a little closer to Jenna.
"I don't drink."
As Linda stalked off, Nick laughed. "Oh my God, a straight-edge demon! I freaking love it!"
"Yeah, I figure occasional y ripping people's internal organs out is vice enough for me,"I quipped.
It was the wrong thing to say.
Nick's laugh abruptly ended, and even Daisy bristled.
"Sorry,"I said quickly. "I didn't mean-"I blew out a breath. "Self-deprecation is like my second language. It was nothing against you guys."
Daisy seemed placated by that, but Nick was stil watching me with an unreadable look.
"We've never hurt anyone, Sophie,"he said. "Neither has James, neither have you."
"Yeah, but we could,"I replied. "Mrs. Casnoff said that demons can be fine for years, and then suddenly monster out."
Nick's gaze flicked away from mine. "Isn't that what they're hoping we'l do?"he muttered darkly.
"What does that mean?"Jenna asked, but Daisy leaned forward, cupping her hand around Nick's knee.
"Let's not get into al of this tonight,"she said. "We have the whole summer to teach Sophie about demon-hood."
Nick grumbled, but Daisy caught his chin and gently pul ed his face to hers. He kissed her with surprising tenderness, and I felt my face grow hot. I hadn't realized they were together, at least not like that.
Daisy and Nick final y pul ed apart. "Okay."Nick slouched against the wal , his fingers flirting with the hem of Daisy's skirt. "If we're not going to talk about demon stuff, what are we going to talk about?"Even though his tone was friendly, his eyes were hard when he said, "After al , isn't that why you're here, Sophie? To get a crash course in al things demon?"