White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
Edden opened the door, and the noise of the open offices hit me like a slap, jerking me back to reality. I wiped my eyes and tugged my bag higher up on my shoulder. I held Edden’s glove carefully. Ivy and I would map out Mia’s network, starting with the day cares. Then move on to see if she worked at elderly day care centers or volunteered at the hospital. This could get really ugly.
There was a soft pull on my elbow as I rocked into motion, and I paused. Edden had his eyes on the tile, and I waited until he brought them to mine.
“Tell me when Jenks needs someone to talk to,” he said, and my throat closed. Recalling what Ford had told me about Edden’s wife dying in a stab-and-grab, I mustered a smile and nodded. My boots clicked fast on the tile as I made for the door, head high and eyes unseeing.
I wondered if Edden would talk to me next year when we went through the same ordeal with Jenks.
The airport was noisy, and I leaned against a support beam and tried not to fidget as I waited. Jenks and I had been here for nearly an hour, but I was glad I’d gotten here early when security stopped me at the spell-checker gate. It had either been my truth amulet or my lethal-spell detector interfering with theirs, because they were about the only invoked charms I had on me. Dumping out my bag for three uniformed stiffs to paw through was not my idea of how to meet guys. Jenks had thought it was hilarious. No one else was getting searched.
The pixy was currently down the hall at the flower cart, not a single indication that he had been honey drunk earlier. He was working a deal with the owner for some fern seed if he could entice a few people to buy roses for their departing loved ones. He had still been out cold when we passed the charm shop, and I hadn’t stopped either there or the library. But if he could get the fern seed, he’d be a happy pixy.
It was cool in the drafty terminal, but vastly warmer than the blue, white, and gray world outside the huge plate-glass windows. Plows kept the runways clear, and the mounds of snow at the outskirts just begged to be played on. The people around me were a mix of hurried harassment, bored irritation, and anxious expectation. I fell into the last, and as I waited for Robbie’s plane to clear checks and disembark, I felt a shiver of anticipation—though some of that might have been lingering anxiety from having been stopped at the heavy-magic detector.
Witches had always worked in aviation, both on the ground and in the air, but during the Turn they’d taken it over and hadn’t given it back, changing the laws until there had to be at least one highly qualified witch on duty at each security checkpoint. Even before the Turn, witches had been using heavy-magic detectors right along with the mundane metal detectors. What had looked like a random check on a harmless-looking man or woman had often been a covert search for contraband magic. Why I’d been stopped I didn’t know. Bothered, I tried to smooth out my brow and relax. Unless Robbie was in first class, it would be a while.
A cloying, too-sweet scent of cinnamon and the rich aroma of coffee gave a glimmer of contentment to the rising excitement. The conversations grew loud when the door opened and the first yawning person pushed through, intent on reaching the rent-a-car stand, his eyes glazed and his pace fast. A few feet from me was a mom with three toddlers, like stair steps, probably waiting for their dad. The eldest wiggled from his mom and ran for the huge windows, and I jumped when the mom set a circle to stop the toddler dead in his tracks.
A smile curved over my face when the little boy screamed in frustration, pounding at the faintly shimmering barrier glowing a thin blue. That had been something I’d never had to worry about when I was little. Mom sucked dishwater at making circles. I hadn’t been able to walk until I was three anyway, too sick to do much more than survive before then. It was a miracle I’d made it past my second birthday—an illegal medical miracle that worried me every time I went through something like the heavy-magic detection field. There was no way to detect the tampering done to my mitochondria, but I worried anyway.
Anxious, I shifted my weight to my other foot. I was eager to see Robbie, but tonight’s dinner wasn’t going to be fun. At least I’d have Marshal to take some of the heat off me.
The toddler’s screaming shifted from frustration to recognition, and I turned when his mother dropped her circle. She was beaming, looking absolutely beautiful despite the weariness of keeping three energetic children within society’s norms. I followed the toddler with my eyes as he ran to an attractive young woman in a smart-looking suit. The woman bent to pick him up, and the five of them came together in a wash of happiness. They all began to move in a confused tangle, and after a heartfelt kiss between the two women, the one in the suit exchanged a trendy bag for a gurgling infant. It looked noisy, messy, and utterly comforting.
My smile slowly faded as they moved away, and my thoughts went to Ivy. We’d never have such a recognizable relationship, where we somehow fell into normal roles that could function within society’s parameters. Not that I was looking for something so traditionally nontraditional. Ivy and I did have a relationship, but if we tried to make it fit her ideas or go past my limits, it would blow everything to hell.
Something older than the spoken word tickled my instinct, and I pulled my eyes from the couple’s vanishing backs. My gaze landed on my brother, and I smiled. He was still in the tunnel, obvious over the shorter people ahead of him. His red hair stood out like a flag, and he had a sparse beard. Sunglasses almost made him look cool, but the freckles ruined it. Seeing his smile widen as our eyes met, I pushed from the piling and waited, anticipation tingling my toes. God, I’d missed him.
People finally moved out from between us, and I could see his narrow-shouldered frame. He had on a light jacket and was carrying a shiny leather satchel and his guitar. At the head of the tunnel he stopped and thanked a short, awkward-looking salesman-type guy who handed him a piece of luggage and vanished into the crowd, carrying it for him so he wouldn’t have to check it, I suppose.
“Robbie!” I called, unable to stop myself, and his smile grew. His long legs ate up the distance, and he was before me, dropping his things and giving me a squeeze.
“Hi, sis,” he said, his hug growing fierce before he let go and stepped back. The crowd flowed around us, but no one minded. Little pockets of reunion were going on all over the terminal. “You look good,” he said, tousling my hair and earning a slug on his shoulder. He caught my fist, but not until after I’d connected, and he looked at my hand, smiling at the little wooden pinkie ring. “Still not liking your freckles, eh?” he said, and I shrugged. Like I was going to tell him I didn’t have freckles as the side effect of a demon curse?
Instead, I gave him another hug, noticing that we were almost the same height with me in heels and him in…loafers? Laughing, I looked him up and down. “You are going to freeze your butt off outside.”
“Yeah, I love you, too,” he said, grinning as he removed his sunglasses and tucked them away. “Cut me some slack. It was seven in the morning and seventy-two degrees when I left. I haven’t had any sleep but for four hours on the plane, and I’m going to crash if I don’t get some coffee in me.” He leaned to pick up his guitar. “Mom still making that nasty excuse for road paste?”
Smiling as if I would never stop, I picked up the larger bag, remembering the last time I’d carried his luggage. “We’d better stop and get some now. Besides, I’m waiting for Jenks to finish up with something, and I want to talk to you about Mom.”
Robbie straightened from trying to grip his satchel and guitar in the same hand, his green eyes looking worried. “Is she okay?”
I stared for a moment, then realized what my last words must have sounded like. “Mom’s happier than a troll under a toll bridge. What happened out there with you, anyway? She came back tan and humming show tunes. What’s up with that?”
Robbie took the bag from me, and we angled to the nearest coffee stand. “It wasn’t me,” he said. “It was her, ah, traveling companion.”
My brow furrowed and my pulse quickened. Takata. I’d thought as much. She’d gone out to the West Coast to spend time with her college sweetheart, and I wasn’t sure what I thought about him. I mean, I knew who he was, but I didn’t know him.
Silently we got in line, and as I stood shoulder to shoulder with Robbie, I suddenly felt tall. Takata was birth father to both of us, a college sweetheart who gave our mom the children her human husband—and Takata’s best friend, incidentally—couldn’t, while Takata ran off and traded his life for fortune and fame, down to dying his hair and changing his name. I couldn’t think of him as Dad. My real dad had died when I was thirteen, and nothing would change that.
But standing beside Robbie now, I snuck sidelong glances at him, seeing the older rocker in him. Hell, I could look in the mirror and see Takata in me. My feet, Robbie’s hands, my nose, and both our heights. Definitely my hair. Takata’s might be blond where mine was red, but it curled the same way.
Robbie turned from the overhead menu and gave me a sideways hug. “Don’t be mad at him,” he said, instinctively knowing where my thoughts were. He’d always been able to do that, even as kids, which had been really frustrating when I was trying to get away with something. “He’s good for her,” he added, shoving his luggage farther along the line. “She’s moving past the guilt of Dad dying. I, uh, spent some time with them,” he said, nervousness making his words soft. “He loves her. And she feels special with him.”
“I’m not mad at him,” I said, then smacked his shoulder just hard enough to make him notice. “I’m mad at you. Why didn’t you tell me Takata was our dad?”
The businessman in front of us turned around briefly, and I made a face at him.
Robbie moved forward another foot. “Right,” he murmured. “Like I’m going to call you up and tell you our mom was a groupie.”
I made a scoffing noise. “That’s not what happened.”
He looked at me and made his eyes wide. “It makes more sense than what did happen. For Christ’s sake, you would have laughed your ass off if I had told you our real dad was a rock star. Then you would have asked Mom, and then she would have…cried.”
Cried, I thought. Nice of him to not say “go off her rocker,” because that’s what she would have done. It had been bad enough when the truth came out. A sigh shifted my shoulders, and I scooted forward to the counter when the guy ahead of us ordered his tall latte something or other and moved off.
“I’ll have a grande latte, double espresso, Italian blend,” Robbie said, his eyes on the menu. “Light on the froth, heavy on the cinnamon. Can you make that with whole milk?”
The barista nodded as he wrote on the paper cup. “This together?” he asked, looking up.
“Yeah. Um, just give me a medium-size cup of the house blend,” I said, suddenly disconcerted. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought that Robbie’s order had sounded exactly like how Minias took his coffee.
“You want a shot of something in it?” the barista persisted, and I shook my head as I ran my card through the machine before Robbie could.
Robbie was struggling with his stuff, so I grabbed both cups when they came up and followed him to a table too small and sticky to encourage anything but the shortest of stays. “I can carry stuff now,” I said as I watched him stagger under it.
He gave me a sideways smile. “Not while I’m around. Sit.”
So I sat, and it felt good as he bustled about, arranging his things and asking an old couple if he could have one of their chairs. I had a moment of panic when I realized the abandoned paper on the table was folded to show that shot of the Tilsons’ house. Snatching it up, I jammed it in my bag just as Robbie joined me.
Landing heavy in his chair, he took the lid off his coffee and inhaled his first deep sniff, followed by a deep draft. “That’s good,” he said around a sigh, and I followed suit. For a moment he was silent, and then he eyed me expectantly over his paper rim. “So, how’s Mom?”
The businessman who had been ahead of us had foam on his nose as he stood and looked at the departure screens. “Fine.”
Robbie silently cracked his knuckles. “Do you have anything to say to me?” he asked so smugly that I turned to look at him.
There’s a cop car outside Mom’s house, and you’ll want to know why. I’m doing a murder investigation, and it might spill over into my home life. The university won’t let me attend classes. I have a date every Saturday in the ever-after with Big Al the demon. And thanks to Trent Kalamack’s dad, I’m the source of the next demon generation.
“Uh, no?” I said, and he laughed, scooting his guitar closer.
“You bailed on the I.S.,” he said, green eyes showing his amusement. “I told you joining them was a bad idea, but no-o-o-o-o! My little sister has to do things her way, then work twice as hard to get out of them. I’m proud of you for realizing it was a mistake, by the way.”
Oh, that. Relieved, I took the lid off my coffee and blew across the top of the rich blackness, giving him a sideways look. “Bailed” wouldn’t quite be the word I would use. “Stupidly quit” might be more appropriate. Or “attempted suicide.” “Thanks,” I managed, though what I wanted to do was start a tirade about how it hadn’t been a mistake in the first place. See, I can learn.
“They aren’t still after you, are they?” he asked, glancing to the side and shifting uncomfortably. I shook my head, and his long face became relieved—apart from a remaining hint of caution. “Good.” He took a deep breath. “Working for them was too dangerous. Anything could have happened.”