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A Fistful of Charms
A Fistful of Charms

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A Fistful of Charms

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2019
Добавлена: 29.06.2019
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Kisten slowly tucked his shirttails in and sipped his coffee. His eyes went everywhere, and he breathed deeply, absorbing the scents of the room and using them to read the situation.

“Jenks,” I protested, then made a sound of defeat when he flew to the last of the potion and drank it, his throat moving as he gulped it down. Matalina dropped to the table, her wings unmoving. She was a small spot of brightness, looking more alone than I’d ever seen her while she watched her husband put his life in jeopardy for my safety and that of their son.

The kitchen was silent but for the sound of his kids in the garden when he belligerently dropped his pixy-sized cup into the spell pot with a dull clang.

“I guess that’s it, then,” I said, gathering myself and leaning so I could glimpse the clock above the sink. I didn’t like this. Not at all.

Looking as if she was desperately trying not to cry, Matalina rubbed her wings together to make a piercing whistle, which gave us all of three seconds before what looked like Jenks’s entire family flowed into the kitchen from the hallway. The sharp scent of ashes came in with them, and I realized they had come in down the chimney. “Out!” Jenks shouted. “I said you could watch from the door!”

In a swirl of Disney nightmare, his brood settled on the top of the door frame. Shrieks scraped the inside of my skull as they shoved each other, vying for the best vantage point. Ivy and Kisten cringed visibly, and Jenks made another whistle of admonishment. They obediently settled, whispering at my threshold of hearing. Ivy swore under her breath, her face taking on a dark cast. His tall stature graceful, Kisten crossed the kitchen to stand beside her, pouring half his coffee into her mug to try to pacify her. She wasn’t at her best until at least sundown.

“Okay, Jenks,” I said, thinking that willfully twisting a demon curse was spectacularly stupid and that I’d never hear the end of it if it killed me. What would my mother say? “Ready?”

The pixies lining the door frame squealed, and Matalina flitted to him, her pretty face pale. “Be careful, love,” she whispered, and I looked away when they exchanged a last embrace, the two of them rising slowly in a cloud of gold sparkles before they parted. She went to the sill, wings moving fitfully to make glittering flashes of light. This was all but killing her, and I felt guilty even though it was probably the best way to ensure his safety.

Standing beside Matalina in the sun, Ceri nodded confidently. Kisten put a supportive hand atop Ivy’s shoulder. Taking a breath, I went to the table, nervously settling myself at my usual spot and pulling the demon book of spells onto my lap. It was heavy, and my blood hummed in my legs, almost as if it was trying to reach the pages. Oh, there’s a nice thought.

“What’s going to happen?” Jenks asked, fidgeting as he landed on the center counter, and I turned sideways in the chair so I could see him.

I licked my lips and looked at the print. It was in Latin, but Ceri and I had gone over it while eating pizza before I fell asleep.

“The Demon Magic for Idiots version, please,” he added, and a thin smile crossed me.

“I tap a line and say the words of invocation,” I said. “To shift you back, I say it again. Same as with the Wereing charm.”

“That’s it?”

His eyes were wide, and Ceri sniffed. “You did want the short version,” she said, moving everything off the island counter and to the sink. “I did a horrendous amount of prep work to make it that easy, Master Pixy.”

His wings drooped. “Sorry.”

Ivy held her arms close to her and frowned, her aggression clearly misplaced worry. “Can we get on with this?” she asked, and I dropped my head to the print again.

Exhaling, I stretched my awareness past the clapboard walls of the kitchen, past the flower beds already feeling the light presence of pixies, to the small underused ley line running through the graveyard. Touching it with a finger of thought, I stifled a tremor at the jolt of connection. It used to be that the flow of force into me had been slow and sedate. Not anymore.

The surge of energy coursed through me, backwashing through me in an uncomfortable sensation. It settled into my chi with the warmth and satisfaction of hot chocolate. I could pull out more and spindle it in my head to use later, but I didn’t need it, so I let the heavy, resonating wash of energy find its way out of me and back into the line. I was a net through which the ley line ran, flowing free but for what I pulled out.

It all happened in the time between one heartbeat and the next, and I lifted my head, my eyes closed. My hair was moving in the wind that always seemed to be blowing in the ever-after, and I ran a hand over my loose curls to tame them. I thanked God that it was daylight and I couldn’t see even a shadow of the ever-after unless I stood right in a line. Which I wasn’t.

“I hate it when she taps a line,” Ivy whispered to Kisten in the corner. “You ever see anything freakier than that?”

“You should see the face she makes when she—”

“Shut up, Kist!” I exclaimed, my eyes flashing open to find him grinning at me.

Standing with her teacup perched in her fingers and the sun streaming in around her, Ceri was trying to keep a scholarly air about her, but the snicker on her face ruined it.

“Is it going to hurt?” Jenks asked, gold pixy dust sifting from him in a steady stream.

I thought back to the gut-wrenching pain when I had turned into a mink and cringed. “Close your eyes and count down from ten,” I said. “I’ll hit you with it when you get to zero.”

He took a breath, dark lashes fluttering against his cheeks. His wings slowly stilled until he came to a rest on top of the cleared island counter. “Ten…nine…” he said, his voice steady.

Setting the book on the table, I stood. Light and unreal from the line running through me, I reached out and put a hand over him. My knees were shaking, and I hoped that no one saw it. Demon magic. God save me. I took another breath. “Non sum qualis eram,” I said.


Ivy gasped, and I staggered when Jenks was encased in the swirl of gold ever-after that had dropped from my hand to encompass him.

“Jenks!” Matalina cried, flying up into the utensils.

My breath was crushed out of me. Stumbling, I put a hand behind me, searching for support. I gasped when a torrent of line energy slammed into me, and I shoved the helping hands away. My head seemed to expand, and I cried out when the line exploded out of me and hit Jenks with a crack that had to be audible.

I fell, finding myself on the kitchen floor with Ivy’s arms under my shoulders as she eased me down. I couldn’t breathe. As I struggled to remember how to make my lungs work, I heard a crash in the hanging utensils, followed by a groan and a thump.

“Sweet mother of Tink,” a new, lightly masculine voice said. “I’m dying. I’m dying. Matalina! My heart isn’t beating!”

I took a clean breath, then another, propped up in Ivy’s grip. I was hot, then cold. And I couldn’t see clearly. Looking up past the edge of the counter, I found Kisten beside Ceri, frozen as if unable to decide what to do. I pushed Ivy’s hand off me and sat up when I realized what had laid me out. It wasn’t the force of the line I had channeled but the shitload of intent-to-pay-back that I had just laid on my soul. I had it, not Jenks, and it was going to stay that way.

Heart pounding, I got to my feet, my mouth dropping open when I saw Jenks on the counter. “Oh—my—God…” I whispered.

Jenks turned to me, his eyes wide and frightened. Angular face pinched, he looked at the ceiling, chest heaving as he hyperventilated. Ceri was at the sink, beaming. Beside me, Ivy stared, shocked. Kisten wasn’t much better. Matalina was in tears, and pixy children were flying around. Someone got tangled in my hair, pulling me back to reality.

“Anyone younger than fifteen—out of the kitchen!” I shouted. “Someone get me a paper bag. Ivy, go get a towel for Jenks. You think you’d never seen a naked man before.”

Ivy jerked into motion. “Not one sitting on my counter,” she muttered, walking out.

Jenks’s eyes were wide in panic as I snatched the bag Kisten handed me. Shaking it open, I puffed into it. “Here,” I said. “Breath into this.”

“Rache?” he gasped, his face pale and his shoulder cold when I touched him. He flinched, then let me hold the bag to his face. “My heart,” he said, his words muffled around the bag. “Something’s wrong! Rache, turn me back! I’m dying!”

Smiling, I held the bag to him as he sat on my counter, stark naked and hyperventilating. “That’s how slow it beats,” I said. “And you don’t have to breathe so fast. Slow down,” I soothed. “Close your eyes. Take a breath. Count to three. Let it out. Count to four.”

“Shove it up your ass,” he said, hunching into himself and starting to shake. “The last time you told me to close my eyes and count from ten, look what happened to me.”

Ivy returned, draping the first towel over his lap and the second over his shoulders. He was calming down, his eyes roving over the kitchen, darting from the ceiling to the open archway. His breath caught when he saw the garden through the window. “Holy crap,” he whispered, and I pulled the bag away. He might not look like Jenks, but he sounded like him.

“Better?” I said, taking a step back.

His head bobbed, and as he sat on the counter and concentrated on breathing, we stood with our mouths hanging open, taking in a six-foot pixy. In a word, he was…damn!

Jenks had said he was eighteen, and he looked it. A very athletic eighteen, with wide innocent eyes, a smooth young face, and a blond shock of curly hair all tousled and needing to be arranged. His wings were gone, leaving only wide shoulders and the lean muscles that had once supported them. He had a trim waist, and his feet dangling to the floor were long and narrow. They were perfectly shaped, and my eyebrows rose; I’d seen his feet before, and one had been terribly misshapen.

I silently cataloged the rest of him, realizing all his scars were gone, even the one he’d gotten from fairy steel. His incredibly defined abs were smooth and perfect, making him utterly lanky with the clean smoothness of late adolescence. Every part of him was lean with a long strength. There wasn’t a fleck of hair on him anywhere but for his eyebrows and atop his head. I knew. I had looked.

His gaze met mine from under his mussed bangs, and I blinked, taken by them. Ceri had green eyes, but Jenks’s were shockingly green, like new leaves. They were narrowed with anxiety, but even the fading fear couldn’t hide his youth. Sure, he had a wife and fifty-four kids, but he looked like a college freshman. A yummy college freshman majoring in oh-my-God-I-gotta-get-me-some-of-that.

Jenks rubbed his head where he had hit the overhanging rack. “Matalina?” he said, the cadence of his voice familiar but the sound of it odd. “Oh, Matalina,” he breathed when she dropped to land on his shaking hand, “you’re beautiful…”
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