White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
I shivered as I crossed the threshold, but the cold brightness of late afternoon beckoned, and I lurched for the door. “Lying is easy,” I said bitterly. “Just make something up and pretend it’s real. I do it all the time.”
Ford reached out and drew me to a surprised stop in the cockpit. He was wearing winter gloves and had only touched my coat, but it proved how upset he was. The sun glinted on his black hair and his eyes were squinting from the glare. The cold wind shifted his bangs, and I searched his expression, wanting to find a reason to tell him what I remembered, to let go of the them-versus-us attitude between human and Inderlander and just let him help me. Behind him Cincinnati spread in all her mixed-up, comfortable messiness, the roads too tight and the hills too steep, and I could sense the security that so many lives entangled together engendered.
My eyes fell to my feet and the crushed remains of a leaf the wind had dropped here. Ford’s shoulders eased as he felt my resolve weaken. “I remembered bits and pieces,” I said, and his feet shifted against the polished wood. “Kisten’s killer took my hair out of my braid before I kicked the door off the frame. I’m the one who made the scratches by the closet, but I only remember making them, not who I was trying to…get away from.” My hand fisted, and I shoved it in a pocket, leaving the shirt box tucked under an arm.
“The splat ball is mine. I remember shooting it,” I said, throat tight as I flicked my eyes to his and saw his sympathy. “I was aiming at the other vampire, not Kisten. He has…big hands.” A new pulse of fear zinged through me and I nearly lost it when I remembered the soft feel of thick fingers on my jawline.
“I want you to come in tomorrow,” Ford said, his brow pinched in worry. “Now that you have something to work with, I think hypnosis might bring it all together.”
Bring it all together? Does he have any idea what in hell he is asking? The blood drained from my face, and I pulled out of his reach. “No.” If Ford put me under, I had no idea what might come out.
Fleeing, I dipped under the railing and swung my weight out and onto the ladder. Marshal waited in his big-ass SUV below, and I wanted to be in it with the heater going to try to drive away the chill Ford’s words had started. I hesitated, wondering if I should drop the shirt box or keep it tucked under an arm.
There was the rattle of the lock being replaced, and leaving the box under my arm, I started down, watching the side of the boat as I descended. I toyed with the idea of taking the ladder away to leave him stranded, but he would probably put it in his report. Besides, he did have his cell phone.
Finally I reached the ground. Head down, I placed my boots carefully in the slush, aiming for Marshal’s car, parked behind Ford’s in the maze of impounded boats. Marshal had offered to bring me out after I’d complained during a hockey game that my little red car would get stuck in the ruts and ice out here, and since my car wasn’t made for the snow, I’d said yes.
Guilt tugged at me for avoiding Ford’s help. I wanted to find out who’d killed Kisten and tried to make me their shadow, but there were other things I wanted to keep to myself, like why I’d survived a common but lethal blood disease that was also responsible for my being able to kindle demon magic, or what my dad had done in his spare time, or why my mother had nearly gone off her rocker to keep me from knowing my birth father wasn’t the man who’d raised me.
Marshal’s eyes showed his concern when I got in his SUV and slammed the door. Two months ago, the man had shown up on my doorstep, back in Cincinnati after the Mackinaw Weres had burned his garage down. Fortunately he’d saved both the house and the boat that had been his livelihood—now sold to pay for getting his master’s at Cincy’s university. We’d met last spring when I was up north rescuing Jenks’s eldest son and Nick, my old boyfriend.
Despite my better judgment, we’d been out more than a few times, realizing we had enough in common to probably make a good go of it—if it weren’t for my habit of getting everyone close to me killed. Not to mention that he was coming off a psycho girlfriend and wasn’t looking for anything serious. The problem was, we both liked to relax doing athletic stuff, ranging from running at the zoo to ice-skating at Fountain Square. We’d kept it friendly but platonic for two months now, shocking the hell out of my roommates. The lack of stress from not wondering will-we, won’t-we was a blessing. Curbing my natural tendencies and instead keeping our relationship casual had been easy. I couldn’t bear it if he got hurt. Kisten had cured me of foolish dreams. Dreams could kill people. At least, mine could. And did.
“You okay?” Marshal asked, his low voice with his up north accent heavy with worry.
“Peachy,” I muttered as I tossed the box with the teddy onto the backseat and wiped a cold finger against the underside of my eye. When I didn’t say anything more, he sighed, rolling his window down to talk to Ford. The FIB officer was making his way to us. I had half a mind to accuse Ford of asking Marshal to drive me here and back, knowing I’d probably need a shoulder to cry on, and though he wasn’t my boyfriend, Marshal was a hundred percent better than taking my raw turmoil back to Ivy.
Ford looked up as he angled to my door, not Marshal’s, and the tall man behind the wheel silently pressed a button to roll my window down. I tried to roll it back up, but he locked the controls and I gave him a dirty look.
“Rachel,” Ford said as soon as he closed the distance between us. “You won’t be out of control for even an instant. That’s how it works.”
Damn it, he had guessed why I was afraid, and embarrassed that he was bringing this up in front of Marshal, I frowned. “We don’t have to do it at my office if you’re uncomfortable,” he added, squinting from the bright December sun. “No one needs to know.”
I didn’t care if the FIB knew I was seeing their psychiatrist. Hell, if anyone needed counseling, it was me. But still…“I’m not crazy,” I muttered as I angled the blowing vents to me and my hair flew up from under my hat.
Ford put a hand on the open window in a show of support. “You’re probably the sanest person I know. You only look crazy because you’ve got a lot of weird stuff to deal with. If you want, while you’re relaxed, I can give you a way to keep your mouth shut about anything you want under just about any circumstance. Completely confidential, between you and your subconscious.” Surprised, I stared at him, and he finished, “I don’t even have to know what you’re keeping to yourself.”
“I’m not afraid of you,” I said, but my knees felt funny. What has he figured out about me that he isn’t saying?
Shifting his feet in the slush, Ford shrugged. “Yes, you are. I think it’s cute.” He glanced at Marshal and smiled. “Big bad runner who can take down black witches and vampires afraid of little helpless me.”
“I am not afraid of you. And you’re not helpless!” I exclaimed as Marshal chuckled.
“Then you’ll do it,” Ford said confidently, and I made a noise of frustration.
“Yeah, whatever,” I muttered, then fiddled with the vent again. I wanted to get out of here before he really figured out what was going on in my head—and then told me.
“I have to tell Edden about the sticky silk,” Ford said, “but I’ll wait until tomorrow.”
My eyes flicked to the ladder, still propped against the boat’s side. “Thanks,” I said, and he nodded, responding to the heavy emotion of gratitude I knew I must be throwing off. My roommate would have time to come out with the Jr. Detective Kit she probably had stashed in her label strewn closet and take whatever prints she wanted. Not to mention sniffing the carpet.
Ford smiled at a private thought. “Since you won’t come in, how about me coming over tonight about…six? Somewhere after my dinner and before your lunch?”
I stared at him for his brazenness. “I’m busy. How about next month?”
He ducked his head as if embarrassed, but he was still smiling when he met my gaze. “I want to talk to you before I talk to Edden. Tomorrow. Three o’clock.”
“I’m picking my brother up at the airport at three,” I said quickly. “I’ll be with him and my mother the rest of the day. Sorry.”
“I’ll see you at six,” he said firmly. “By then, you’ll be home trying to get away from your brother and your mom, ready for some relaxation. I can teach you a trick for that, too.”
“God! I hate it when you do that!” I said, messing with my seat belt so he would take the hint and go away. I was more embarrassed than angry that he’d caught me trying to evade him. “Hey!” I leaned out the window as he turned to go. “Don’t tell anyone I had my face on the floor, okay?”
From beside me, Marshal made a wondering sound, and I turned to him. “You either.”
“No problem,” he said, thunking the SUV into gear and moving forward a few feet. My window went up, and I loosened my scarf as the vehicle warmed. Ford slowly managed the slushy ruts back to his car, pulling his phone from his pocket as he went. Remembering my own phone, on vibrate, I dug my cell out of my bag. Scrolling through the menu to put it on ring, I wondered how I was going to tell Ivy what I remembered without both of us flaking out.
With a small noise of concern, Marshal put his SUV back into park, and my head came up. Ford was standing beside his open door with his phone stuck to his ear. A bad feeling began to trickle through me when he started back to us. It grew worse when Marshal put his window down and Ford stopped beside it. The psychiatrist’s eyes carried a heavy worry.
“That was Edden,” Ford said as he closed his phone and returned it to his belt case. “Glenn’s been hurt.”
“Glenn!” I leaned over the center console toward him, getting a good whiff of the scent of redwood coming off Marshal. The FIB detective was Edden’s son and one of my favorite people. And now he was hurt. Because of me? “Is he okay?”
Marshal stiffened, and I leaned back. Ford was shaking his head and looking at the nearby river. “He was off duty investigating something he probably shouldn’t have. They found him unconscious. I’m going to the hospital to see how much damage he’s suffered to his head.”
His head. Ford meant his brain. Someone had beat him up. “I’m coming, too,” I said, reaching for my seat belt.
“I can drive you out,” Marshal offered, but I was winding my scarf back up and grabbing my bag.
“No, but thanks, Marshal,” I said, my pulse fast as I gave his shoulder a quick touch. “Ford’s going out there. I’ll, ah, call you later, okay?”
Marshal’s brown eyes were worried, and his black hair, tight to his skull, hardly shifted as he nodded. It had been growing in for only a few months, but at least he had eyebrows now. “Okay,” he echoed, not giving me any grief for ditching him. “Take care of yourself.”
I exhaled, glancing once at Ford, waiting impatiently for me, then back to Marshal. “Thanks,” I said softly, and gave him an impulsive kiss on the cheek. “You’re a great guy.”
I got out, and, pace fast, followed Ford to his car, my thoughts and stomach churning at what we might find at the hospital. Someone had hurt Glenn. Sure, he was a FIB officer and ran the risk of injury all the time, but I had a feeling this involved me. It had to. I was an albatross.
Just ask Kisten.
We’ll take the next elevator,” the tidy woman said with an overly bright smile as she pulled her confused friend back into the hall and the silver doors slid shut before Ford and me.
Wondering, I glanced at the huge lift. The thing was big enough for a gurney. Ford and I were the only two people in here. But then the woman’s harsh whisper of “Black witch” came in just before the doors met, telling me all I needed to know.