White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
“The Turn take it,” I muttered, tugging my bag back up on my shoulder.
Beside me, Ford edged away, not enjoying my angry emotions as I fumed. I wasn’t a black witch. Okay, so my aura was covered with demon smut. And yeah, I’d been filmed last year being dragged down the street on my ass by a demon. It probably didn’t help that the entire universe knew I’d summoned one into an I.S. courtroom to testify against Piscary, Cincinnati’s top vampire and my roommate’s former master. But I was a white witch. Wasn’t I?
Depressed, I stared at the dull silver panels of the hospital elevator. Ford was a dark blur beside me, his head bowed as I stewed. I wasn’t a demon to be pulled back to the ever-after when the sun rose, but my children would be—thanks to the illegal genetic tinkering of the now-dead Senior Kalamack. He had unknowingly broken the checks and balances that elves magicked into the demon’s genome thousands of years ago, effectively allowing only magically stunted demon children to survive. The elves named the new species witches, telling us lies and convincing us to fight demons in their war. When we found out the truth, we abandoned the elves and demons both, migrating out of the ever-after and doing our best to forget our origins. Which we did admirably, to the point where I was the only witch to know the truth.
Ceri had filled in the gaps of Mr. Haston’s sixth-grade history class, having been a demon’s familiar before I rescued her. She’d read up on it between twisting curses and planning orgies.
No one knew the truth but me and my partners. And Al, the demon I had a standing teaching date with every Saturday. And Newt, the ever-after’s most powerful demon. There was Al’s parole officer, Dali. Mustn’t forget Trent and whoever he’d told, but that was likely going to be no one, seeing that his dad’s breaking of the genetic roadblock had been a stupid thing to do. No wonder they’d killed all the geneticists at the Turn. Too bad they’d missed Trent’s dad.
Ford jiggled on his feet, then, looking embarrassed, he pulled a black metal flask from a coat pocket, twisted off the top, tilted his head to the ceiling, and took a swig.
Watching his Adam’s apple move, I gave him a questioning look.
“It’s medicinal,” he said, a charming shade of red as he fumbled recapping it.
“Well, we are in a hospital,” I said dryly, then snatched it. Ford protested as I took a sniff, then touched it to my lips. My eyes widened. “Vodka?”
Looking even more embarrassed, the slight man took it from my unresisting fingers, capped it, and tucked it away. The elevator chimed and the panels slid apart. Before us was a hallway like any other in the building, with its low-mat carpet, white walls, and banister.
My worry for Glenn came rushing back, and I lurched forward. Ford and I bumped as we got out, and I felt a wash of chagrin. I knew he didn’t like to touch anyone. “Can I steady myself on your elbow?” he asked, and I glanced at the pocket he had dropped the flask into.
“Lightweight,” I said, reaching out for him, careful to touch him only through his coat.
“I’m not drunk,” he said sourly, linking his arm in mine in a motion that held absolutely no romance, but rather, desperation. “The emotions are sharp in here. The alcohol helps. I’m in overload, and I’d rather feel your emotions than everyone else’s.”
“Oh.” Feeling honored, I strode forward with him and past the two orderlies pushing a hamper. My good mood soured when one of them whispered, “Should we call security?”
Ford’s grip tightened when I spun to give them my opinion, and the two skittered away like I was the boogeyman. “They’re just afraid,” Ford said, his fingers tightening on me.
We continued down the hall, and I wondered if they could kick me out. The beginnings of a headache pulsed. “I’m a white witch, damn it,” I said to no one, and the guy in a lab coat coming toward us gave us a cursory glance.
Ford was looking pale, and I tried to calm myself before they admitted him. I should step up my efforts to find a muffler for him—other than alcohol, that is.
“Thanks,” he whispered as he picked up on my concern, then, voice stronger, he added, “Rachel, you summon demons. You’re good at it. Get over it, then find a way to make it work for you. It’s not going to go away.”
I huffed, ready to tell him he had no right to sound so high and mighty, but turning a liability into an asset was exactly what he had done with his “gift.” I gave his arm a squeeze, then started when I saw Ivy, my roommate, bending over the nurses’ desk, not caring that a male orderly had just walked into a wall watching her. Her black jeans were low and tight, but she had the body of a model and could get away with it. The matching cotton pullover was cut high to give a glimpse of her lower back as she craned to see what was on the computer. In deference to the cold, her long leather coat was draped over the counter. Ivy was a living vampire, and she looked it: svelte, dark, and broody. It made it hard to live with her, but I was no picnic either, and we knew each other’s quirks.
“Ivy!” I called, and her head turned, her short, enviably straight hair with the gold tips swinging as she came up. “How did you find out about Glenn?”
Ford’s shoulders slumped, all his tension slipping from him as he held my arm. He looked happy. But he would, seeing that he was picking up my emotions and I was happy to see Ivy. Perhaps I might invest in a little talk time about Ivy when Ford and I got together again. I could use his insight into our uneasy relationship.
I wasn’t Ivy’s blood shadow, but her friend. That a vampire could be friends with anyone without sharing blood was unusual, but we had an additional complication. Ivy liked both boys and girls, mixing blood and sex into one and the same. She’d been clear that she wanted me, too, in any capacity, but I was straight, apart from a confusing year of trying to separate blood lust from gender preference. That she’d bitten me more than once hadn’t helped. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The rush from a vampire bite was too close to sexual ecstasy to dismiss, and it had taken me thinking I’d been bound to Kisten’s killer to wake me up. The risk of becoming a shadow was too great. I trusted Ivy. It was her blood lust I was worried about.
So we lived together in the church that was also our runner business, sleeping across the hall from each other and doing our best to not push each other’s buttons. One might think Ivy would be ticked off after wasting a year chasing me, but she had a blissful happiness that vampires didn’t often find. Apparently my telling her I wasn’t ever going to let her sink her teeth into me again was the only way she’d believe I liked her for her and not the way she could make me feel. I just admired the hell out of anyone who could be that hard on herself and still be so incredibly strong. And I loved her. I didn’t want to sleep with her, but I did love her.
Ivy came to meet us, her small lips closed and her slim boots silent on the carpet. She moved with a memorable grace, and there was a slight grimace on her usually placid face. Her features held a slight Asian cast, having an oval face, a small nose, and a heart-shaped mouth. It was seldom she smiled, afraid the emotion would break her self-control. I think that was one of the reasons we were friends—I laughed enough for both of us. That, and the fact that she thought I could find a way to save her soul when she died and became an undead. Right now, I was just looking to find the rent money. I’d get to my roommate’s soul later.
“Edden called the church first,” she said by way of greeting, her thin eyebrows high as she spotted Ford’s arm linked in mine. “Hi, Ford.”
The man reddened at the lilt she’d put in her last words, but I wouldn’t let him take his arm back. I liked being needed. “He’s having trouble with the background emotion,” I said.
“And he’d rather be abused by yours?”
Nice. “Do you know what room Glenn is in?” I said as Ford’s arm slipped away.
She nodded, her dark eyes not missing a thing. “This way. He’s still not conscious.” Ivy headed down the hallway with us in tow, but when we passed the desk, one of the nurses stood, determination on her no-nonsense face. “I’m sorry. No visitors except family.”
A pang of fear went through me, not because I might not see Glenn, but that his condition was so serious they wouldn’t let anyone in. Ivy didn’t slow down, though, and neither did I.
The nurse started after us. My pulse quickened, but another waved us on, then turned to the first nurse. “It’s Ivy,” the second nurse said, as if that meant something.
“You mean the vampire who’s—” the first nurse said, but she was pulled back to the desk before I heard the rest. I turned to Ivy, seeing that her pale complexion had shifted to pink.
“The vampire who’s what?” I asked, remembering her stint here as a candy striper.
Ivy’s jaw tightened. “Glenn’s room is down here,” she said, avoiding my question. Whatever.
An unexpected sense of panic hit me when Ivy made a sharp left into a room and vanished behind the oversize door. I stared at it, hearing the soft sounds of delicate machinery. Memories of sitting with my dad as he took his last, struggling breaths swam up, then more recent, of watching Quen fight for his life. I froze, unable to move. Behind me, Ford stumbled, as if I had slapped him.
Crap. I flushed, embarrassed that he was feeling my misery. “I’m sorry,” I gushed as he stood in the hallway and held up a hand to tell me he was all right. I thanked God Ivy had already gone in and wasn’t seeing what I’d done to him.
“It’s okay.” His eyes were weary as he came close again, hesitant until he knew I had the old pain safely tucked away. “Can I ask who?”
I swallowed hard. “My dad.”
Eyes down, he guided me to the door. “You were about twelve?”
“Thirteen.” And then we were inside, and I could see that it wasn’t the same room at all.
Slowly my shoulders eased. My dad had died with nothing to save him. As a law enforcer, Glenn was getting the best of everything. His father was in the rocker pulled up to his bedside, ramrod straight. Glenn was being taken care of. Edden was the one in pain.
The small, stocky man tried to smile, but he couldn’t do it. In the few hours since learning about his son’s attack, his pale face had acquired wrinkles I’d only seen hints of before. In his grip was a winter hat, his short fingers working the rim around and around. He stood, and my heart went out to him when he exhaled, the sound carrying all his fear and worry.
Edden was the captain of the FIB’s Cincinnati division, the ex-military man bringing to the office the hard, succeed-against-all-odds determination he’d gained in the service. Seeing him down to the bare bones of himself was hard. The fingering questions in the FIB as to my “convenient” amnesia concerning Kisten’s death had never occurred to Edden. He trusted me, and because of that, he was one of the few humans I absolutely trusted in return. His son, unconscious on the bed, was another.
“Thank you for coming,” he said automatically, his gravelly voice cracking, and I worked to keep from crying when he ran a blunt hand over his short-cropped, graying hair in a recognizable sign of stress. I came close to give him a hug, and the familiar scent of old coffee hit me.
“You know we wouldn’t let you do this alone,” Ivy said from her corner where she’d folded herself stiffly into a padded chair, quietly giving support the only way she could.
“How is he?” I asked as I turned to Glenn.
“They won’t give me a straight answer,” he said, his voice higher than usual. “He’s been beaten up pretty bad. Head trauma—” His voice broke, and he went silent.
I looked at Glenn on the bed, his very dark skin standing out starkly against the sheets. There was a white bandage around his head, and they had shaved a swath of his tightly curling black hair. Bruises marked his face, and he had a split lip. A nasty swath of bruised skin ran from his shoulder to under the sheets, and his fingers resting on the blanket were swollen.
Edden sank into his chair and looked at his son’s damaged hand. “They wouldn’t let me in,” he said softly. “They didn’t believe I was his father. Bigoted bastards.” Slowly his hand went out, and he cradled Glenn’s hand as if it were a baby bird.
I swallowed hard at the love. Edden had adopted Glenn when he married his mother—must have been at least twenty years ago—and though they looked nothing like each other, they were exactly alike where it counted, both strong in their convictions and consistently putting their lives in danger to fight injustice. “I’m sorry,” I almost croaked, feeling his pain.