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White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse

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White Witch, Black Curse

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018
Добавлена: 27.12.2018
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“Almost four dozen,” he said, justifiably proud that he could keep that many children alive. “Let’s get out of here before cookie-farts over there starts to have delusions of grandeur and tries to search your underwear again.”

Lips parted, I glanced at the security cop standing thirty feet back—smiling at me. What in hell was going on? “You want to see if anything is gone?” I asked.

“No.” He frowned at the busted lock. “Jenks is right. There’s nothing in there but clothes and a half ream of music.”

“I know,” Jenks said. “I was listening to the radio chatter at the flower cart. I should have guessed it was you they were talking about, Rache.”

“Did you hear why they’re watching us?” I asked, heart pounding. “Is it the I.S.?”

Jenks shook his head. “They didn’t say. If you go for another coffee, I can find out.”

I looked at Robbie in a question, but he was shifting uneasily from foot to foot. I glanced at the security guy, now standing with his arms crossed over his chest, as if begging me to complain. “No,” Robbie said as he started gathering his things. “It’s not worth it. Where are you parked?”

“Idaho,” I quipped, but inside I was getting upset. Why did they search my brother’s bag if I’m the one they’re watching? “So…tell me about Cindy,” I asked as we neared the big glass doors. Jenks dove for my scarf as they slid open, and we went out into the bright but cold afternoon.

Robbie’s face lost its uneasy expression, beaming as he launched into a stream of happy conversation, as I’d hoped he would. I made the right sounds at the right times, almost having to force my interest in his girlfriend as Robbie and I found our way to my car.

All the way to the lot I scanned faces, watched the horizon, checked behind me, and breathed deep for the distinctive scent of Were, vampire, or witch while trying to pretend everything was normal and keeping up my end of the conversation about new bands and what I’d been listening to. Though still uptight, I breathed easier when we got to my car and found that Denon wasn’t waiting for me. It helped that my bad-mojo amulet on my key ring stayed a nice bright green.

Clearly glad to be going home, Robbie continued to chat while we loaded his bags in the back and bundled into the front seat. I cranked the heater on full for Jenks, who immediately started cussing about perfume and left me to settle on Robbie’s shoulder. I think it was more because my vastly underdressed brother had angled all the vents toward himself than my perfume. The conversation bobbled when Robbie noticed the lethal-magic detection charm hanging from my keys. He knew what it was—he’d watched our dad prep for work, too—and though his face creased in concern because his little sister had to have an amulet to warn her of car bombs, he didn’t say anything.

It wasn’t until we hit the expressway and started for home that I began to relax, but all the while I was checking my rearview mirror for the flashing of I.S. lights, and thinking, Am I coming too close again to one of their cover-ups? And if I am, am I going to back off or bust it open once more?

Eyes squinting because of the bright sun as much as my sour mood, I recalled the look of anger on Robbie’s face when he saw that his stuff had been pawed through, and I decided that yup, I was going to crack it open and let the sun shine in.

Eight (#ulink_e7319af8-9d44-543d-bf96-167ac1738275)

The draft from the heater made my curls tickle my neck as I sat at Ivy’s antique table and looked through one of my dad’s old demon texts for a recipe for twisting a locator amulet. A curse, to be excruciatingly honest. Jenks was reading over my shoulder, hovering an irritating two feet up. I don’t think he was pleased that even though I’d found a locator-amulet recipe in my safely mundane earth-magic books, I was still looking. Most detecting charms, be they earth or ley line magic, were sympathetic magic—using something you have to detect whatever it is you’re interested in: car bombs, shoplifters, listening devices, whatever. Earth-magic locator charms, however, worked by finding auras over long distances. It was very sophisticated magic, and I was hoping that the demons had an easier version. Chances were good they did.

I’d escaped my mom’s about an hour before, claiming I had work to do and promising that I’d be back at midnight. Robbie hadn’t said anything to Mom about the airport cops, but I was still peeved his stuff had been searched. Worried, really, but I handled anger better than fear.

The sun was going down now, and a dark gloom had taken the kitchen. Past the blue curtains, the sky was a dull gray, and, wanting to get Jenks off my shoulder, I stood, open book tingling in my hand as I went to thunk on the rocker switch by the archway. Jenks’s wings hummed as bright fluorescent light flickered into existence, and I shuffled to the center counter. The curse book thumped down and, still not looking up from the pages, I crossed my ankles and leaned over the book, using the end of a pencil to turn the page. I’d like to say that the book was cold from having been in the unheated belfry, but I knew better.

Jenks buzzed closer, his wings managing to sound disapproving. Rex watched from the threshold, her ears pricked and the little bell Jenks had put on her last fall gleaming. I’d try to coax her in, but I knew better. The only reason she was here was Jenks. Hovering an inch above the yellow pages, Jenks put his hands on his hips and looked at me. I couldn’t help but notice that the dust he was letting slip was making the hand-penned words glow. Interesting…

“Ra-a-a-ache,” Jenks drawled in warning.

“I’m just looking,” I said, waving him off before turning another page. Demon books didn’t have indexes. Most didn’t have titles. I was reduced to browsing. It made for slow going. Especially since I was one to linger, curious as to how bad a bad curse could be or how neutral some of them were. Some were easy to tell by just the ingredients, but others seemed to be a curse only because of the mixing of earth and ley line magic that all demon curses contained. They were black only because they threw nature’s book so far out of balance. I was hoping the demon equivalent of a locator charm was one of these.

I had decided last year that I wasn’t going to avoid twisting a demon curse solely on the basis of the smut. I’d been given a brain, and I was going to use it. Unfortunately, the rest of society might not agree with me. Jenks, apparently, wanted to play the part of Jiminy Cricket, and he was reading the pages as carefully as I.

“That’s an excellent one,” he said, sounding almost reluctant to admit it as he dusted the curse that detailed out how to twist a broomstick-size rod of redwood into flight. There was an earth charm to do the same thing, but it was twice as complicated. I’d priced it out last year, deciding the only flying this little witch was going to do would be in the seat of an airplane.

“Mmmm,” I said, turning the page, “I could pay my rent for a year for just what the stick costs.” The next page was a curse to turn human flesh into wood. Yuck. Jenks shivered, and I turned the page, sending his blue sparkles sifting to the floor. Like I said, some of these were really easy to tell they were black.

“Rachel…,” Jenks coaxed, clearly thrown.

“I’m not doing that one, so relax.”

His wings buzzed fitfully, and he sank an inch in height, preventing me from easily turning the page. Exhaling, I stared at him to get him to move by my will alone. Crossing his arms over his chest, he stared right back. He wasn’t going to give an inch, but when two of his kids, in front of the dark kitchen window, started arguing over a seed they’d found in a crack in the floor, the distraction lifted him up enough so that I could turn the page.

My fingertips resting on the faded yellow pages were going numb, and I curled them into a fist. But my heart started beating faster when I thought I recognized what was a locator charm under them. If I was reading it right, the demon curse used sympathetic magic, like a detection spell, not auras, like regular locator charms. Though a curse, the magic before me looked a hell of a lot easier than the aura-based one in the earth-magic book. All the better to tempt you with, my dear.

“Hey, look at this,” I said softly as Jenks gave a warning chirp to his offspring to settle their argument. Together we read through the ingredients. “The attunement object has to be stolen?” I questioned, not liking that, so it was no surprise that I jumped when the front doorbell rang.

Hands on his hips, Jenks alternated his stern gaze between me and his two children, their faces red and wings dusting a black haze into the sink. “I’ll get it,” he said before I could move. “And you two better have this decided before I get back, or I’ll decide it for you,” he added to his kids before he darted out.

Their volume dropped, and I smiled. It was almost six, which meant human or witch. Possibly Were or a living vampire. “If it’s a client, I’ll see them in the sanctuary,” I called after him, not wanting to have to hide my books if they should peek into my kitchen on the way to the back living room.

“Gotcha,” Jenks shouted faintly. Rex had run off under him, her tail up, ears pricked, and little bell jingling. The two pixies at the window started right back up again, their hushed, high voices almost worse than their loud ones.

I gave a last look at the curse before I marked the page and closed the book. I had everything I needed, but the identifying object, in this case the crystal tear, had to be stolen. That was kind of nasty, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that made it a black curse. Earth magic had a few ingredients like that. Rue, for example, worked best when it was sown while cursing, and it didn’t work in a charm unless you stole it. Which was why mine was planted by the gate for easy pilfering. Jenks stole mine for me. I didn’t ask from where. The charms made from stolen rue were not considered black, so would this one be?

Standing, I crossed the room to my coat for the tear Edden had given me. He had stolen it from evidence. Wondering if that was enough, I pulled the tear out, shocked to see that it had lost its clarity, and had turned black. “Whoa,” I whispered, and I looked up as Ford’s voice became obvious in the hall. Immediately I looked at the clock. Six? Crap, I’d forgotten he was coming over today. I was in no mood for his mumbo jumbo, especially if it worked.

Ford came in with a tired smile, his dull dress shoes making wet spots as they lost the last of their snow. Rex trailed behind with feline interest, sniffing at the salt-and-water mix. A mess of Jenks’s kids were with him, all talking in a swirl of silk and pixy dust. Ford’s brow was creased in pain, and they were clearly sending him into overload.

“Hi, Rachel,” he said, taking off his coat in such a way that it made half the pixies retreat, but they came right back. “What’s this about you being followed at the airport?”

I gave Jenks a dark look, and he shrugged. Gesturing for Ford to sit, I dropped the demon book on the stack I’d brought down from the belfry and wiped my hands on my jeans. “They were just harassing me,” I said, not knowing how my brother fit into it, but sure it was me they were after, not him. “Hey, what do you think about this? It was clear this morning when Edden gave it to me.”

Ford sat at Ivy’s spot and held out his hand, shaking his head when a trio of pixy girls asked him if they could braid his hair. I shooed them away when I came around the counter to give the tear to him, and the girls flitted to the windowsill to take sides in the seed issue.

“Tink’s tampons!” Jenks yelped when he saw the tear on Ford’s palm. “What did you do to it, Rache?”

“Nothing.” At least it hadn’t felt furry or wiggled when I touched it. Ford squinted as he held it to the artificial light. The argument at the sink was starting to spill into the rest of the room, and I gave Jenks a pointed look. The pixy, though, was with Ford, fascinated by the black swirls running through the gray crystal.

“Edden gave it to me to make a locator charm,” I said. “But it didn’t look like that. It must have picked up the emotions at the airport when they were following us.”

Ford looked at me over the tear. “You got angry?”

“Well, a little. I was more peeved than anything else.”

Jenks darted to the window as the argument reached an eyeball-hurting intensity. “Peeved, nothing. She was like a pimple on a fairy princess’s ass, red and ready to pop,” he said, then started speaking to his kids too fast for me to follow. Instant pixy silence ensued.

“Jeez, Jenks!” I exclaimed, warming. “I wasn’t that upset.”

Ford shifted the tear back and forth between his fingers. “It must have absorbed the emotions from not only you, but everyone there.” He hesitated, then added, “Did the tear…take your emotions away?”

Seeing his hope, I shook my head. He thought it might be a way to help him muffle emotions, perhaps. “No,” I said. “Sorry.”

Leaning across the corner of the table, Ford handed the tear back, doing a pretty good job of hiding his disappointment. “Well,” he said, settling into Ivy’s chair and pulling Rex onto his lap. “I’m on the clock. Where would you be most comfortable?”

“Can’t we just have coffee instead?” I suggested as I tucked the tear back in my coat pocket for lack of anywhere better. “I’m not in the mood to try to remember Kisten’s killer.” Stupid cat won’t let me touch her, but a perfect stranger gets head butts and kitty kisses.

His dark eyes went to the silent coffeemaker. “Like anyone ever is?” he said softly.

“Ford…,” I whined, and then one of the pixy kids shrieked. Ford shuddered and turned a shade whiter. Irritated, I looked at Jenks. “Jenks, can you get your kids out of here? They’re giving me a headache.”
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