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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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“I can carry that,” he said softly, and I handed the bag of demon texts to him. His balance bobbled, but his head didn’t hit the wall like last time. He headed down the dark hall, limping.

Breath fast, I walked into Ivy’s room, kneeling on the floor by her bed and pulling her sword out from where I’d seen her tuck it once. “Rachel,” she protested from the hallway as I straightened up, gripping the wickedly sharp katana safe in its sheath.

“Can I take this?” I asked shortly, and she nodded. “Thanks.” Jenks needed a sword. So he couldn’t walk without running into things. He’d get better, and then he’d need a sword.

Kisten and Ivy trailed behind me as I slung the sword over my shoulder to hang with my bag and stomped down the hall. I had to be angry. If I wasn’t angry, I was going to fall apart. My soul was black. I was doing demon magic. I was turning into everything I feared and hated, and I was doing it to save someone who had lied and left me to make my partner’s son a thief.

Leaning into my bathroom in passing, I snapped my vanity case shut. Jenks was going to need a toothbrush. Hell, he was going to need a wardrobe, but I had to get out of there. If I didn’t keep moving, I was going to realize just how deep into the shit I had fallen.

“Rachel, wait,” Ivy said after I reached the foyer, snatched my leather jacket from its hook, and opened the door. “Rachel, stop!”

I halted on the stoop, the spring breeze lifting my hair and the birds chirping, my bag and Ivy’s sword hanging from my shoulder, my vanity case in one hand and my coat over an arm. At the curb, Jenks was fiddling with the van’s sliding door, opening and closing it like a new toy. The sun glistened in his hair, and his kids flitted about his head. Heart pounding, I turned.

Framed in the open door, Ivy looked haunted, her usually placid face severe, with panic in her dilated eyes. “I bought a laptop for you,” she said, her eyes dropping as she extended it.

Oh God, she had given me a piece of her security. “Thank you,” I whispered, unable to breathe as I accepted it. It was in a leather case, and probably weighed all of three pounds.

“It’s registered to you,” she said, looking at it as I slung it over my free shoulder. “And I already added you onto my system, so all you have to do is plug in and click. I wrote down a list of local numbers for the cities you’re going to be passing through to dial up with.”

“Thank you,” I whispered. She had given me a piece of what made her life sane. “Ivy, I’ll be back.” It was what Nick had said to me. But I’d come back. It wasn’t a lie for me.

Impulsively I set my case on the stoop and leaned forward to give her a hug. She froze, and then hugged me back. The dusky scent of her filled my senses, and I stepped away.

Kisten waited quietly behind her. Only now, seeing Ivy standing there with one arm hanging down and the other clasped around her middle, did I understand what he’d been trying to tell me. She wasn’t afraid for me, she was afraid for herself, that she might slip into old patterns without me there to remind her who she wanted to be. Just how bad had it been?

Ire flashed through me. Damn it, this wasn’t fair. Yeah, I was her friend, but she could take care of herself! “Ivy,” I said, “I don’t want to go, but I have to.”

“Then go!” she exploded, her perfect face creasing in anger and her eyes flashing to black. “I never asked you to stay!”

Motions stiff, she spun with a vamp quickness and yanked open the door to the church. It boomed shut behind her, and left me blinking. I looked at it, thinking that this wasn’t good. No, she hadn’t asked me, but Kisten had.

Kisten picked up my case, and together we went down the stairs, my laces flapping. Nearing the van, I awkwardly dug in my shoulder bag for the keys, then hesitated by the driver’s side door when I remembered Kisten hadn’t yet given them to me. They jingled as he held them out. From inside the van came the excited shrieks of pixies. “You’ll keep an eye on her?” I asked him.

“Scout’s honor.” His blue eyes were pinched from more than the sun. “I’m taking some time off.”

Jenks came from around the front of the van, silently taking my coat, vanity bag, and the sword—the last bringing a growl of anticipation from him. I waited until I heard the sliding door shut, then slumped at the sound of Jenks’s passenger-side door closing.

“Kisten,” I said, feeling a twinge of guilt. “She’s a grown woman. Why are we treating her like an invalid?”

He reached out and took my shoulders. “Because she is. Because Piscary can drop into her mind and force her to do just about anything, and it kills a piece of her every time he does. Because he has filled her with his own blood lust, making her do things she doesn’t want to do. Because she is trying to run his illegal businesses out of a sense of duty and maintain her share of your runner firm out of a sense of love.”

“Yeah. That’s what I thought.” My lips pressed together and I straightened. “I never said I would stay in the church, much less Cincinnati. Keeping her together is not my job!”

“You’re right,” he said calmly, “but it happened.”

“But it shouldn’t have. Damn it, Kisten, all I wanted to do was help her!”

“You have,” he said, kissing my forehead. “She’ll be fine. But Ivy making you her lodestone wouldn’t have evolved if you hadn’t let it, and you know it.”

My shoulders slumped. Swell, just what I needed: guilt. The breeze shifted his bangs, and I hesitated, looking at the oak door between Ivy and me. “How bad was it?” I whispered.

Kisten’s face lost all emotion. “Piscary…” He exhaled. “Piscary worked her over so well those first few years that her parents sent her away for her last two years of high school, hoping he would lose interest. She came back even more confused, thanks to Skimmer.” His eyes narrowed in an old anger, still potent. “That woman could have saved Ivy with her love, but she was so driven by the urge for better blood, hotter sex, that she sent Ivy deeper.”

I felt cold, the breeze shifting my curls. I’d known this, but there was obviously more.

Seeing my unease, Kisten frowned. “When she returned, Piscary played on her new vulnerabilities, lapping up her misery when he rewarded her for behavior that went contrary to what she wanted to believe. Eventually she abandoned everything to keep from going insane, turning herself off and letting Piscary make her into whatever he wanted. She started hurting people she loved when they were at their most vulnerable, and when they abandoned her, she started enticing innocents.”

Dropping his eyes, Kisten looked to his bare feet. I knew he was one of the people she had hurt, and I could tell he felt guilty for leaving her. “You couldn’t do anything,” I said, and his head jerked up, anger in his eyes.

“It was bad, Rachel,” he said. “I should have done something. Instead, I turned my back on her and walked away. She won’t tell me, but I think she killed people to satisfy her blood lust. God, I hope it was by accident.”

I swallowed hard, but he wasn’t done yet. “For years she ran rampant,” he said, staring at the van but his eyes unfocused, as if looking into the past. “She was a living vampire functioning as an undead, walking under the sun as beautiful and seductive as death. Piscary made her that way, and her crimes were given amnesty. The favored child.”

He said the last with bitterness, and his gaze dropped to me. “I don’t know what happened, but one day I found her on my kitchen floor, covered in blood and crying. I hadn’t seen her in years, but I took her in. Piscary gave her some peace, and after a while she got better. I think it was so she wouldn’t kill herself too soon for his liking. All I know is she found a way to deal with the blood lust, chaining it somehow by mixing it with love. And then she met you and found the strength to say no to it all.”

Kisten looked at me, his hand touching my hair. “She likes herself now. You’re right that she isn’t going to throw it all away just because you aren’t here. It’s just…” He squinted, his gaze going distant again. “It was bad, Rachel. It got better. And when she met you, she found a core of strength that Piscary hadn’t been able to warp. I just don’t want to see it break.”

I was shaking inside, and somehow my hands found his. “I’ll be back.”

He nodded, looking at my fingers within his. “I know.”

I felt the need to move. I didn’t care that it now came from the need to run from what I had just learned. My eyes dropped to the keys. “Thanks for letting me use your van.”

“No biggie,” he said, forcing a smile, but his eyes were worried, so terribly worried. “Just return it with a full tank of gas.” He reached forward, and I leaned against him, breathing in his scent one last time. My head tilted and our lips met, but it was an empty kiss, my worry having pushed any passion out. This was for Jenks, not Nick. I didn’t owe Nick anything.

“I slipped something in your suitcase for you,” Kisten said, and I pulled away.

“What is it?” I asked, but he didn’t answer, giving me a smile before he reluctantly stepped back. His hand trailed down my arm and slipped away.

“Good-bye, Kist,” I whispered. “It’s only for a few days.”

He nodded. “ ‘Bye, love. Take care of yourself.”

“You too.”

Bare feet soundless, he turned and went back into the church. The door creaked shut, and he was gone.

Feeling numb, I turned and yanked open my door. Jenks’s kids flowed out of his open window, and I got in, slamming the door behind me. The laptop slipped under the seat with my bag, and I jammed the keys into the ignition. The big engine turned over and settled into a slow, even rumble. Only now did I look across to Jenks, surprised again at seeing him there, sitting beside me in Kisten’s sweats and his shockingly yellow hair. This was really weird.

His seat belt was on, and his hands dropped from where he’d been fiddling with the visor. “You look small,” he finally said, looking both innocent and wise.

A smile quirked the corner of my lips. Shifting into gear, I accelerated down the street.

Eight (#ulink_be0b5c17-f0ac-5c54-8df1-91c6546eed60)

“For the love of Tink,” Jenks muttered, angling another one of the Cheetos into his mouth. He meticulously chewed and swallowed, adding, “Her hair looks like a dandelion. You think someone would have told her. There’s enough there to make a quilt out of.”

My gaze was fixed on the car ahead of us, going an aggravating fifty-six miles an hour on the two-lane, double-yellow-lined road. The woman in question had white hair frizzed out worse than mine. He was right. “Jenks,” I said, “you’re getting crumbs all over Kisten’s van.”
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