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I was going to live. Its aura alone couldn't kill me. I could do this. I could. Shaking, I looked up while the shock lessened to something I could deal with. The cauldron was gone, and Ceri was huddled almost behind the huge grave marker beside Algaliarept.
I took a breath, unable to taste the air through the demon's aura. I moved, unable to feel the rough concrete scraping my fingertips. Everything was numb. Everything was muted, as if through cotton. Everything except the power of the nearby ley line. I could feel it humming thirty yards away as if it were a high-tension power line.
Panting, I staggered to my feet, shocked to realize I could see it. I could see everything as if I was using my second sight - which I wasn't.
My stomach roiled as I saw that my circle, once tinged with a shading of cheerful gold from my aura, was now coated in black. I turned to the demon, seeing the thick black aura surrounding it and knowing a good portion of it coated mine.
Then I looked at Ceri, hardly able to see her features, so strong was Algaliarept's aura on her. She didn't have an aura to combat the demon's, having lost her soul to it. And that was what I had pinned everything on. If I retained my soul, I still had my aura, smothered as it was under Algaliarept's. And with my soul came free will. Unlike Ceri, I could say no. Slowly I was remembering how.
Free her now. You can thank Rachel for that. I had always been Rachel Mariana Morgan before. Apparently as a familiar, I wasn't worth my full name anymore.
That ticked me off. She made a small sound, staggering. I watched with my new vision as Algaliarept's bond fell from her. The barest, faintest glimmer of purest blue rimmed her - her returned soul already trying to bathe her in protection - then vanished under the thousand years of darkness the demon had fostered on her soul while it had been in his keeping.
Her mouth worked, but she couldn't speak. Her eyes glazed as she panted, hyperventilating, and I leapt forward to catch her as she fell.
Struggling, I dragged her back to my end of the circle. Algaliarept reached after her. Adrenaline surged. I dropped Ceri. Straightening, I drew on the line. With a force that sent me lurching, my new circle exploded into existence, sealing Ceri and me in a second, smaller circle inside the first.
My circle had lacked a physical object to focus on, so the excess energy went everywhere instead of back in the ley line where it was supposed to. The demon swore, blown backward until it slammed against the inside of my original circle, still up and running. With a ping that reverberated through me, my first circle broke and Algaliarept hit the ground.
Breathing heavily, I hunched with my hands on my knees. Algaliarept blinked at me from the concrete, then a wicked smile came over it. Oh, God. If my first circle didn't hold it now, neither would my second.
I had thought that might happen. We have to move. My muscles tensed. The demon leapt. Shrieking, I jerked Ceri and myself backward. The surge of ever-after flowing into me from breaking the circle was almost unnoticed. My breath was knocked from me as we hit the ground, Ceri on top of me. Still not breathing, I sent my heels scrabbling against the snow and pushed us farther away. The gold-colored trim on Ceri's ball gown was rough under my fingers, and I yanked her to me until I was sure we were both on holy ground.
I got up, shaking. My breath caught, and I stared at the frustrated demon. Or I'll blacken your soul so badly that your precious god won't let you in no matter how you beg it! My face grew tight from anger.
This would have been me. This still could be me. You can't make me. You're my bloody familiar. I gave you my aura. Your will is mine! It was working. God save me, it was working. My eyes warmed, and I realized I was almost crying from relief. It couldn't take me. I might be its familiar, but it didn't have my soul.
I could say no. I said I'd be your familiar and I am, but I'm not going into the ever-after with you, and you can't make me!
It stepped back, and I stiffened as its anger chilled. I knew it would come to this. If you think there's been a breach in contract, then you get someone out here to judge what happened before the sun comes up. And take one of these damned demon marks off me! My arm shook, and Algaliarept made an ugly noise, deep in its throat.
The long exhalation set my insides to quiver, and Ceri ventured to peek at the demon. It laced its white-gloved hands behind its back, its gaze dropping to Ceri. The deep fury in its eyes scared the crap out of me. You stole my familiar and left me with nothing. You tricked me into letting you slip payment for a service.
If I can't drag you in, I'll find a way to use you through the lines. And I will never let you die. Ask her. Ask her of her never-ending hell. It's waiting for you, Rachel. And I'm not a patient demon. You can't hide on holy ground forever.
Now I'm telling you to leave. Take one of these marks off me and leave. It exhaled slowly, and I thought the ground moved.
Its eyes went black. Black, black, then blacker still. Oh, shit. You walk this side of the lines on borrowed time. Use it. And take one of these marks off of me or you forfeit everything. I outsmarted a demon. The knowledge was heady, but I was too frightened for it to mean much. Algaliarept gave me a chilling look. Its gaze dropped to Ceri, then it vanished. I cried out as my wrist flamed, but I welcomed the pain, hunched as I held my demon-marked wrist with my other hand.
It hurt - it hurt as if the dogs of hell were chewing on it - but when my blurred vision cleared, there was one scared line crossing the welted circle, not two.
Panting through the last of the pain, I slumped, my entire body collapsing in on itself. I pulled my head up and took a clean breath, trying to unknot my stomach. It couldn't use me if we were on opposite sides of the ley lines. I was still myself, though I was coated with Algaliarept's aura. Slowly my second sight faded and the red smear of the ley line vanished. Algaliarept's aura was getting easier to bear, slipping almost into an unnoticed sensation now that the demon was gone.
Ceri let go of me. Reminded of her, I bent to offer her a hand up. She looked at it in wonder, watching herself as she put a thin pale hand in mine. Still at my feet, she kissed the top of it in a formal gesture of thanks. Still hates the elves with passion, today. Trapped an elf princess Ceridwen Merriam Dulciate for 1, years as his personal familiar and sex slave.
Clever, resourceful, conniving, yet honorable enough in his own peculiar twisted way. Like all the surviving demons, has shape-shifted through spells for so many thousand years that he no longer remembers his original form. Takes particular pleasure in adopting whichever persona his current target fears most — whether male, female, or not even humanoid — pulled from that target's deepest subconscious. But his own personally preferred persona of self-representation is a ruddy skinned 18th-Century British nobleman, tall and powerfully built, with green crushed velvet tailcoat and white gloves.
The one aspect he finds difficult to hide are his horizontally goat-slitted red demon eyes, so he frequently wears round blue-tinted glasses to disguise them. Had been married in ancient times, to a demoness named Celffnah.
Background[ edit ] The series is set in an alternate history where supernatural beings live side-by-side with normal humans. Watson , Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin , genetic manipulation becomes a possibility, changing several events in the history of this alternate universe. A virus nicknamed the T4 Angel virus attached itself to a flaw in the genome of a genetically manipulated tomato its lab identification being T4 Angel tomato , and quickly spread around the world.
As a result of the plague, all biogenetic research, including reverse engineering and genetic splicing, has been outlawed. Additionally, the human race has developed a cultural fear of tomatoes and tomato-based food products such as pizza sauce and tomato ketchup. The Turn[ edit ] The T4 Angel virus killed a quarter of the human population. Upon noticing the combined number of their various species now neared that of humanity, the supernatural species quickly seized the opportunity to make themselves known.
The fact the structure of the civilization remained somewhat intact during "The Turn" is attributed to the fact many of the supernatural beings being in or seizing positions of power, including a vampire named Rynn Cormel acting as the president of the USA but never sworn in. The supernatural beings are known as "Inderlanders". As laws and societies are dramatically changed by factors relating to these new sentient species, all levels of law enforcement in the United States break down.
Two new organizations, the Inderlander Security service consisting entirely of non-humans and the Federal Inderlander Bureau consisting entirely of normal humans , replace the former law enforcement agencies at all levels. The convention that allows both agencies to operate forbids Inderlanders from being on the F. The Ever-after[ edit ] The Ever-after is a magical plane that existed outside the ken of normal humans until the Turn. The main pixy character, Jenks, describes it as " The only race that currently dwells in the Ever-after is that of the demons, having driven out the elves nearly two thousand years ago.
Witches also formerly dwelt in the Ever-after but fled to the mundane plane approximately five thousand years ago. The Ever-after presented in the novels is referred to as the basis for the 'happily ever after' that often occurs at the end of modern fairy tales; due to mistranslation and omission, the factual "in the Ever-after" referring to a place became the figurative "happily ever after" referring to time.
The Ever-after, once a beautiful land filled with fog and forest, was destroyed by the imbalance of the Elf-Demon war, leaving a desert-like wasteland stinking of burnt amber. This led to them being bound there in yet another war, until the Elves migrated to reality.
Supernatural Races[ edit ] The novels use Inderlander to refer to all of the supernatural beings that revealed themselves during the Turn. They are divided into two groups: those that are derived from humans and those that are non-human in origin. Inderlander non-human races[ edit ] Witches : An Inderlander species and the primary practitioners of magic in reality who are a distinct species from humans, although almost phenotypically indistinguishable, and due to a different number of chromosomal pairs , hybrids with humans are impossible.
Witches possess a life expectancy of years and a preferred circadian rhythm in which they arise at noon. They are demographically the largest four major Inderlander species, although the least political. Most of the population is unaware that the race of witches is the result of a curse cast on demons by elves; they fled the Ever-After 5, years prior to the Turn, abandoning the realm to the demons and elves.
Rosewood Syndrome is a consequence the curse that created the witches which affects certain children who would otherwise be capable of kindling demon-magic, and the disease, with only two exceptions resulting from illegal genetic medicine, invariably leads to an early death.
Witches of low magic ability, generally due to a lack of education, are called warlocks. Witch and warlock have no gender connotation. Demons : A highly aggressive race that dwells only in the Ever-After, although capable of traveling through the ley lines to reality, they are incapable of being in reality during the day or being on consecrated ground.
They are portrayed as particularly litigious and avaricious. However, the strength of contracts relies almost solely on power and leverage, as demons have no respect for the rule of law. Furthermore, their economy is primarily based on favors and knowledge as currency.
Their natural life expectancy is years, but through biological renewal inherent in their magic they are virtually immortal. Their magic is a unique combination of earth magic and ley line magic, giving their curses the strength and permanence of the former and the quickness and adaptability of the latter. In an attempt to rid reality of Elves, past demons created the Ever-After but instead of jailing the Elves, the creation forged a link to it trapping themselves.
Less than demons are still alive, though this number is not readily known or revealed till the final book. The only known female demon alive is Newt, who is incredibly powerful and feared but suffers from insanity.
Attempts of other demons to reproduce with Newt have been unsuccessful. In "Ever After" the demons' original appearance is described as slight, dark as midnight, with bat-like wings and cat-like features.
Surface Demons: These creatures are not truly demons, but are thought to be since they live on the surface in the everafter and are dangerous. It is eventually revealed that these are actually the souls of the undead vampires.
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After a vampires first death, their soul leaves them and joins the other so-called surface demons in the ever After. Elves : A race that migrated from the ever-after nearly 2, years ago after engaging in several wars with the demons.
The life expectancy of a full-blooded elf is given to be similar to a witch. However, few such elves remain as the elves, trying to preserve and restore their heritage, closely mingled and interbred with humans, which led to a massive die-off during the Turn as they fell susceptible to the Angel virus. They are widely believed to be extinct for most of the series, though there are around several ten thousand purebred Elves alive.
Due to the demons magically manipulating and corrupting their DNA, elves have only been able to produce magically stunted children or children that die as toddlers, which is cured around mid series. They practice a unique form of magic often called "wild magic" as it is less easily controllable than witch-magic Pixies : A small, humanoid race with a lifespan of 18—20 years that lives in gardens and has an intense rivalry with the Fairies due to a competition for resources.
They have dragonfly-like wings and stand 4 inches tall. Their culture is traditionally centered around a nuclear family, scattering once a parent dies. They traditionally hibernate during the winter. Pixies have no legal standing, which they sometimes use to their advantage especially where laws are concerned. They rely mostly on the pollen from plants to survive.
Pixies are extremely territorial, and will attack fairies or even other pixies who invade their territories. A dash of red indicates peace and allows pixies to travel unharmed through another pixie's territory. Fairies : A small race that lives in gardens and has an intense rivalry with the pixies. Their physical appearance includes butterfly-like wings, a height of six inches, and insectoid features. Fairies tend to eat insects and work as mercenaries if and when they interact with humans and the larger Inderlanders.
Fairies likewise have no legal standing in society, which is also to their preference. They are a migratory species, traveling to Mexico during the winter. Leprechauns : A small race approximately the size of humans with dwarfism that often grant wishes when captured though they usually offer no more than the minimum of three required by law. They have the ability to fabricate rainbows but are required to pay taxes for any gold at the rainbow's end.
It is impossible to steal from a Leprechaun due to their ability to manipulate reality normally used to grant wishes. Trolls : A vaguely humanoid race that lives under bridges and can be a public nuisance as they eat the mortar that holds bridges together.
Although most trolls cannot speak English, some have learned it. They are known for their sensitive senses and can draw water into themselves to increase their mass. They are willing to work with friendly humanoids. Banshees : A long-lived female species, they prey upon the emotions of others, using the energy to feed. Then there was the insurance and gas. A big chunk went to Ivy for my back rent.
A third chunk to get insurance. And the rest. I swallowed hard. There was money still in there, but I had enjoyed myself down from twenty thousand to high four figures in only three months. You want me to have him set up an IRA for you? My desk. My beautiful solid-oak desk with nooks and crannies and a secret cubby at the bottom of the left-hand drawer.
My desk that I had used for only three weeks before Jenks and his brood moved into it. My desk, which was now so thickly covered in potted plants that it looked like a prop for a horror movie about killer plants taking over the world. But it was either that or have them set up housekeeping in the kitchen cupboards.
Not my kitchen. Having them stage daily mock battles among the hanging pots and utensils was bad enough. Distracted, I tugged my coat closer and squinted at the bright light reflecting off the snow as the sliding doors opened. Still swearing, he dropped down to hide inside. He hated it, but there was no alternative. A sustained temp lower than forty-five degrees would throw him into a hibernation that would be unsafe to break until spring, but he should be all right in my bag. A Were dressed in a thick wool coat that went to his boot tops edged from me with an uncomfortable look.
When I tried to make eye contact, he pulled his cowboy hat down and turned away. He enjoyed being the only adult male pixy in Cincinnati not in a stupor. In his eyes, the entire city was probably his garden, as cold and snowy as it was.
I took a moment to dig my zebra-striped car key out from the front pocket. The couple that had been behind me in line passed me on their way out, flirting comfortably and looking like sex in leather. He had bought her a Bite-me-Betty doll, too, and they were laughing. My thoughts went to Nick again, and a warm stir of anticipation took me.
Contact with the Dead, Religion, and Death Anxiety Among Older Mexican Americans
Putting my shades on against the glare, I went out to the sidewalk, keys jingling and bag held tight to me. Even making the trip in my bag, Jenks was going to get cold. I told myself I should make cookies so he could bask in the heat of the cooling oven. I was sure I had seen some flour-smeared cookie cutters in a nasty zippy bag at the back of a cupboard somewhere. All I needed was the colored sugar to do it right.
Yeah, it was as expensive as a vampire princess to maintain, but it was mine and I looked really good sitting behind the wheel with the top down and the wind pulling my long hair back. It chirped happily at me as I unlocked it and dropped my bags in the unusable backseat. I folded myself into the front, setting Jenks carefully on my lap, where he might stay a little warmer. The heat went on full-bore as soon as I got the engine started.
I tunked it into gear and was ready to pull out when a long white car slid up alongside in a slow hush of sound. Affronted, I glared as it double-parked to block me in. Ticked, I jammed it into neutral, got out of my car and jerked my bag farther up my shoulder. But my protests choked to nothing when the side door opened and an older man wearing scads of gold necklaces stuck his head out.
His frizzed blond hair went out in all directions. Blue eyes glinting in suppressed excitement, he beckoned to me. The older rocker winced, his face sliding into faint wrinkles as he glanced over the few pedestrians. They had noticed the limo, and with my outburst, the jig, as they say, was up. Eyes pinched in exasperation, Takata stretched out a long skinny hand, jerking me off my feet and into the limo. My door was open and my keys were in the ignition.
He slipped past me in a tang of blood that pegged him as a vamp. There was a flush of cold air as he got out, quickly thumping the door shut behind him. I watched through the tinted window as he slipped into my leather seats to look predatory with his shaved head and dark shades.
I only hoped I looked half that good. The muffled sound of my engine revved twice, then we jerked into motion as the first of the groupies started patting the windows. Heart pounding, I spun to look out the back window while we pulled away. My car was edging carefully past the people standing in the road shouting at us to come back. It worked its way into the clear, quickly catching up and running a red light to stay with us. Stunned at how fast it had been, I turned.
The aging pop star was wearing outlandish orange slacks. He had a matching vest over a soothing earth-toned shirt. Everything was silk, which I thought was his only saving grace.
God help him, even his shoes were orange. And socks. I winced. It kind of went with the gold chains and blond hair, which had been teased out until it was so big it could frighten small children. His complexion was whiter than mine, and I dearly wanted to pull out the wood-framed glasses that I had spelled to see through earth charms to know if he had hidden freckles.
Actually, the innovated artist had done just that, his garage band making the jump to stardom during the Turn, capitalizing on the opportunity to be the first openly Inderland band. It was particularly important this year, as a series of arson fires had decimated many of the homeless shelters and orphanages. His attention went over my shoulder and out the back window.
I was a sucker for beautiful voices. Your hair looks. We had met five years ago and had coffee over a conversation centering on the trials of curly hair. That he not only remembered me but also wanted to talk was flattering. I smiled. My breath caught in alarm.
Jenks came boiling out. I nearly snapped my wing falling onto your phone.
A burst of pixy dust exploded, lighting the car for an instant and making me jump. I thought Rachel was pissing on my daisies about knowing you. Sweet mother of Tink! Wait until I tell Matalina!
Do you want an autograph? Takata tugged a picture of him and his band standing before the Great Wall of China from a dog-eared folder. I shot my hand out to catch him, and his featherlight weight hit my palm. I returned my gaze to Takata, taken aback at the empty look on his face. Immediately he straightened. I trust them over the I.
Not that I was complaining. We were on the expressway, looping about the city, my convertible trailing three car lengths behind. I loosened the tie on my coat. It was starting to get warm in there. My eyes widened. Nick had bought them. But now I had a feeling we would be spending our solstice together.
Ripley likes the darker one, but Arron says the other fits better. Ripley was his Were drummer, the only band member to have been with Takata for most of his career. It was said she was the reason everyone else only lasted a year or two before striking out on their own.
The vibration filled the car. My shoulders slumped, and Jenks made a choking gurgle. Takata looked up, his eyes wide in question. My own personal concert?
Yeah, I could go for that. Jenks made that choking gurgle again. Eyes vacant, he modified the chord he had been playing. His thin fingers shifted elegantly, and with his head bent over his music, he sang. Wipe your tears in my thoughts, no amends for the past. He flashed me a smile, throwing off his stage presence that quickly. A shudder rippled its way up my spine, and I stifled it.
The vibrating strings seemed to echo through me, and I sank back into the leather seats, the humming of the engine carrying the music right to my core. By way of your will, by way of your will, by way of your will. The man was more flighty than a drawer full of geckos. God help me, I must look like a fool. He probably knew I roomed with a vampire. He looked almost shaky as he put his guitar aside. I wondered if he would recover enough to make more than that ugly sound. Takata snapped the latches on his instrument case, and I knew the chitchat was over.
Felps said he has worked with you before and that you had the utmost discretion. The man was twice my age. Making him call me Ms. Morgan was ridiculous. Takata gave me an uncertain smile, and I returned it, not sure what was going on. It sounded like he had a run for me. Something that required the anonymity that the I.
As Jenks gurgled and pinched the rim of my ear, I straightened, crossed my knees, and pulled my little datebook out of my bag to try to look professional.
Ivy had bought it for me two months ago in one of her attempts to bring order to my chaotic life. I only carried it to appease her, but setting up a run for a nationally renowned pop star might be the time to start using it.
He seemed quite enamored, actually. Blond hair. He grinned. The older warlock straightened, tugging the soft orange of his slacks straight. Vamps had to cap their teeth, and no one got in with more than a makeup spell. He nodded. Long musician hands laced, he eyed the floor.
I got it. Thank God. Saladan to get them to stop blackmailing you? My concern is with Mr. Yeah, I used blackmail, but it was to keep myself alive, not make money. There was a difference. He went solemn. It guaranteed that there was security in place to prevent bloodletting on the premises, a necessity when Inderlanders and humans mixed.
If too many vampires gathered and one succumbed to his or her blood lust, the rest were hard-pressed to not follow suit. We had just passed the bridge to cross the Ohio River. Piscary puts the word out that anyone causing trouble will answer to him. Everyone wins.
Felps was very impressed. But Saladan? My eyes tracked the Jim Beam bottler just off the expressway while I took that in. Murders that I staked to him. I tilted my head in a vain attempt to see Jenks on my shoulder. Me, a living vamp, and a human. Me too. No way. He smiled as he looked at it, and tucked it away in a front shirt pocket. Turning with that same soft look, he tapped a thick knuckle on the glass between the driver and us. I clutched my bag to me when we swerved to the shoulder. Cold air blew in, and I squinted in the afternoon glare.
Behind us was my car. He was going to leave me right here? I mean it. I took, giving it a firm shake. His grip was tight, feeling thin and bony in mine. You look great. The vamp driving my car slipped past me and vanished into the darkest corner of the limo as I tightened the tie of my coat and draped my scarf about my neck again. The small, tidy man nodded to me before turning around. I stood with my feet in the snow as the limo eased into the fast traffic and disappeared. Bag in hand, I timed the traffic and slipped into my car.
The heater was on full, and I breathed the scent of the vamp who had been driving it, pulling it deep into me. My head hummed with the music Takata had shared with me. I was going to be working security at his solstice concert. The starstruck pixy had parked himself on his usual spot atop the rearview mirror, watching the encroaching snow clouds turn the bright afternoon dark and depressive.
It was embarrassment. He could have taken advantage of me; used me like a tissue and thrown me away. He made me feel interesting and important, even though I was working peon runs at the I. A real person. The salt-stained bumper sticker read, some of my best friends are humans. Only in the Hollows. My eyes went to Jenks.
We lurched through the intersection, slipping on the slush when I gunned it. And I want to show him the backstage passes. I mean, that was a big scare when you pulled that ley line through him. Give him some space.
There was a suitcase in the passenger seat. Lips parted, I glanced at Jenks, and he shrugged, looking unhappy. A cold feeling slipped into me. My thoughts flitted over our conversation at the zoo. We were going to the movies tonight. And he was packed? He was going somewhere?
And now his phone was disconnected and there was a packed bag in his truck? Had I misread him? If tonight was supposed to be a dump date, I was going to just die. He looked worried despite his hands being on his hips. My throat tightened as I nodded, and he dropped down with a reluctant slowness. I carefully snugged the ties shut on my bag and got out, but a swelling feeling of hurt made me slam the door, and my little red car shook.
Glancing into the bed of the truck, I realized it was dry and empty of snow. Thoughts spinning, I paced up the slippery walk to the common door, yanking it open and taking the stairs, to leave successively smaller chunks of snow on the gray carpet.
I remembered to let Jenks out at the top of the third-floor landing, and he hovered silently as he took in my anger. The hurried phone calls, the trips out of town without telling me, the lack of any intimate contact for God knows how long.
But it hurt. Damn it, it still hurt. There was nowhere for Jenks to land in the barren hallway, and he reluctantly lighted on my shoulder. My arm dropped and I stared at Nick, my surprise mirrored on his long face. His coat was unzipped and a homemade hat of soft blue yarn was pulled tight to his ears. He took it off as I watched, shifting it and the keys in his grip to his other hand, which held a slick-looking briefcase at odds with his otherwise ragtag attire.
His hair was tousled, and he smoothed it with a deft hand while he regained his composure. There was snow on his boots. Unlike his truck. Keys jingling, he set the briefcase down. He took a breath, then let it slowly out. The guilt in his eyes told me I was right. Four inches or six-foot-four, they were all in the same club. His eyes widened. I can take it. He shifted, looking frustrated.
He reached out, stopping just shy of my shoulder. His hand fell. I really did. Why did we have to do this in the freaking hallway? How many times had I heard that?
His foot shoved the expensive briefcase into the hall, and my eyes flew open at the scraping sound.
Motions stiff, he locked his door from the outside, turning to hold the key up between us. He glanced at Jenks. He did a good job last time. How had this turned around so fast? My stomach clenched and I felt lightheaded. My first real boyfriend in five years, and finally when things were starting to get back to normal, here I was, scaring him off.
Just like all the others. Jenks made an embarrassed sound. Long face tight in unhappiness, Nick pushed the key into my hand. His fingers were cold. I waited, frightened at what he was going to say. I tried. Maybe for the rest of my life.
I need to be away for a while. He never told me I had made him seize. Jenks had been with him. His smile was pained. I want you to practice. Ley line magic is going to save your life someday, and I want you to become the best damned ley line witch Cincinnati has.
Just for a while. And I have some business of out of state. It has nothing to do with you. The key was cold in my hand, cutting into my palm.
Breathe, I reminded myself. Just go. They flashed open when he leaned closer and the scent of musty books and new electronics filled me. I heard him hesitate, then the soft thumps of his boots on the stairs. My head started to hurt as the muted rumble of his truck vibrated the window at the end of the hall. Seven I pulled my car carefully into the tiny garage, turning off the lights and then the engine.
Depressed, I stared at the spackled wall two feet in front of the grille. Silence soaked in, broken by the ticking of the engine cooling off. It was going to be dark soon. I knew I should get Jenks inside, but it was hard to find the will to unbuckle my belt and get out of the car. Jenks dropped to the steering wheel with an attentiongetting hum.
My hands fell into my lap, shoulders slumping. My frustration flared, then died, overwhelmed by a wave of apathy. Jenks wrapped his arms about himself, dragonfly wings still. He looked positively chilled, his wings almost black as he hunched, shivering.
He might not wake up until spring. Worried, I debated if I should tuck my bag inside my coat. I settled on putting it in the department store bag and rolling the edges down as far as I could. Only now did I open the door, being careful not to hit the edge of the garage. Bag in hand, I made my way on the shoveled path to the front door.
A sleek black Corvette was parked at the curb, looking out of place and unsafe in the snowy streets. The wind bit at my exposed skin, and I glanced up at the steeple, sharp against the graying clouds. There was no conventional lock, though there was an oak crossbar inside which I set every sunrise before I went to bed.
I pushed open the door, my hair drifting in the warm draft that billowed out. Soft jazz came with it, and I slipped inside to latch it softly behind me. It was dark in the small foyer, the glow of dusk slipping in from the sanctuary beyond doing little to light it.
The air smelled like coffee and growing things, sort of a mix between a plant nursery and coffeehouse. Are you complaining? He was right, though. It was really quiet. Too quiet. Usually there were head-splitting shrills of pixy children playing tag, an occasional crash from a hanging utensil hitting the kitchen floor, or the snarls of Ivy chasing them out of the living room.
The only peace we got were the four hours they slept at noon, and four hours again after midnight. The warmth of the church was soaking into Jenks, and already his wings were translucent and moving well. My shoulders eased as I took in the subdued lighting coming in through the knee-to-ceiling-high stained-glass windows. My plant-strewn, rolltop desk was kitty-corner to it, way up in the front on the ankle-high stage where the altar once sat.
The huge image of a cross still shadowed the wall above it, soothing and protective. The pews had been removed long before I moved in, leaving an echoing wooden and glass space redolent of peace, solitude, grace, and security.
I was safe here. Jenks stiffened, sending my instincts flaming.
Jenks shot straight up, leaving a cloud of pixy dust hanging where he had been like an octopus inking. Heart pounding, I hit the hardwood floor, rolling. Sharp patters of impacts hit the planks beside me. Fear kept me spinning until I found a corner. Gagging, I choked on the word to invoke my circle, yanking back the cresting power.
It crashed into me, and I groaned as twofold the ley line energy suddenly took up the same space. Staggering, I fell to a knee and struggled to breathe until the excess found its way back to the line. It felt like I was on fire. I should have just made the circle. Get to the desk. All of you! Jax, I am really disappointed.
That really hurt. Mental note: Even Jenks was gone. The flaming tingle in my skin had subsided, and pulse hammering, I let go of the line completely, feeling the remaining energy flow out of my chi to leave me shaking. With the sound of an angry bee, Jenks flew in from the back rooms.
They found the snow that Kist brought in on his shoes, and he told them about snowball fights when he was a kid. Oh, look. They got you all wet. Giving me an apologetic wince, she slipped under the crack in my rolltop desk. My head started to hurt and my eyes watered. My heart slowed, and I snatched up my bag from the floor. Kids will be kids. At least no one had seen me rolling on the floor evading pixy snowballs, I thought.
Besides, they had probably smelled the flush of fresh air when I opened the door. The latter was mine. The kitchen was next, and I made a left turn into it, hoping to grab some coffee and go hide in my room to avoid Kisten entirely.
I had made the mistake of kissing him in an elevator, and he never missed an opportunity to remind me of it. Even worse? Kisten knew he had tipped me over the edge and that I had been a breath away from saying yes. Exhausted, I elbowed the light switch and dropped my shoulder bag on the counter.
Fluorescent lights flickered on, sending Mr. Fish into a frenzy of motion. Soft jazz and the rise and fall of conversation filtered in from the unseen living room.
Trying to be quiet, I started a new batch. An hour, maybe. In and out. They had already tried the cohabitation route, and while neither would say what happened, their relationship had cooled until all that was left was more of a warped sibling fondness. Three pixy girls darted out, shrieking. I bit back my yelp, heart pounding as they vanished down the dark hallway. Motions quick from adrenaline, I poked around to find the scoop missing.
I finally spotted it in the sink. Kisten must have made the coffee. If it had been Ivy, her asinine need for order would have had it washed, dried, and put away. Why would I let him see through my eyes?
Feel my thoughts? He loves me fighting him. The power? The carafe overflowed, and I jumped as water hit my hand. Grimacing, I shut the tap off and tipped the excess out. There was a creak of wood from the living room. My stomach clenched.The circle would be a good fifteen feet across, a rather large enclosure which generally took at least three witches to make and hold, but I was good enough to channel that much ley line force alone.
I dropped Ceri. I wanted to set my circle quickly. Jenks made a sharp noise, and his daughter slowly drooped to land upon the microwave. Across the cauldron, Algaliarept was grinning. She needed help. Switching to a system that is truly interactive resolves the previously mentioned PDF-related issues and makes filling out insurance forms a lot more pleasant for your customers.
Whomever it was had died in at the age of twenty-four. The quick and simple nature makes Publish Online a great tool for client and internal review. That had been directed at me.
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