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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 106

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"I don't have a statue for you, but I've got a pocketful of silence," I said. "How about it? I drop my claim of corruption in the coven, and you drop me completely. Shunning. Death threats. Everything." God, if I ever get Nick alone, I swear I'm going to give him to Al before whatever demon he's been summoning takes him.

Oliver snickered, thinking that my being stupid gave him the advantage. "Don't think so. You're a black witch." Chin high, he crossed his arms over his chest. "I'd rather kill you."

I couldn't stop my sigh. Trent shifted, clearly wanting to end this so he could start looking for Nick, maybe.

"Oliver," Trent said, and my eyebrows rose in surprise. "What do you hope to gain here? It's not good business anymore."

He turned to Trent, indignation thick on him. "Good business?" he blustered. "I'm trying to keep the world from knowing witches come from demons, and you're worried about your career being ruined by a pornographic statue. Why do you even have that?"

"It's an object of ancient art, and it was in my vault, not my bedroom," Trent said dryly. "If you're so concerned about your secret, perhaps you should give Ms. Morgan what she wants? Being in favor with someone who can go into the ever-after with impunity might be good."

Do tell? I thought in amazement, using one of Pierce's favorites. Maybe he's more ticked at Nick than I thought.

"Blackmail!" Oliver stated, pushing back from the table and standing up.

Trent was searching his pockets. "Business. Morgan has a commodity. Silence." Finding a pen, he looked up. "You're going to have to buy it from her or kill her. Take it from someone who's tried, even if she is dead, the truth will come out and she'll bring you down from the grave."

He's helping me convince Oliver? Are frogs coming from the sun in spaceships, too?

Unable to sit still any longer, I said, "I'm not a bad person, Ollie. I have a cat and a fish, and I don't kick stray dogs." I do burn the wings from fairies, but damn it, they attacked me first. "I don't want the world to know that I'm a stepping-stone to demons or that our beliefs are based on ancient elf propaganda. But I don't want to live in Alcatraz or the ever-after either. I just want to make a living doing what I do best."

The coven leader turned from the curtained one-way mirror, shaking his head. "Destroying society? I've seen what you've done to the Weres and the elves."

Trent, who was clearly looking for something to write on, silently gestured at the little slip from the fortune cookie, and I pushed it to him. "I prefer calling it restructuring," I said. "I don't hear them complaining, but what I meant was, I want to operate my runner business and rescue familiars out of trees. It's you guys coming at me that makes me do all this weird stuff that gets you in a tizzy."

Clicking his pen closed, Trent tucked it away. "Oliver, she's a little backward in her methods, but her heart is in the right place. You saw what she did at the square. She could have killed you, but she didn't. Let this go. I'll watch her until she gains some finesse."

I turned to Trent. "Excuse me?"

Once more the suave, confident city son, Trent smiled. "If you want to play with the big boys, you'll need a chaperone. I could've spared you a bloody nose on the playground at least."

He was talking metaphorically, but I still didn't like it. "No," I said, looking at the folded strip of paper in his hand, then back at him. "You're not my frigging mentor. I've already got a demon for a teacher in the ever-after. I don't need another one here. I just want to be left alone."

A strangled cough came from Oliver, and I turned. "You got a problem?" I snapped.

His head was going back and forth as he stood before us. "A demon teacher," he said softly. "It's just... you're so casual about it."

"Casual keeps me sane. If I think about it too hard, I'll go nuts." I set my palm on the table, fingers spread. "Are we doing this, or does Jenks come in here and things get ugly?"

Oliver's expression was unsure. He eyed Trent, who made a "we're waiting" gesture. The witch shifted his feet, and I held my breath as he reluctantly sat back down. "How?" he stated, not looking up from his hands resting on the table. "You've already implicated us, saying that we're corrupt. The press isn't going to forget that."

My heart pounded and my stomach seemed to unknot. It was all I could do to not jump up and scream, "Yes!" I had them. At least I think I had them. "Got it covered," I said.

From across the table, Trent exhaled, tired. "Why am I not surprised?"

I glanced at him, then turned my good mood on Oliver. "We're going to tell the press that this was a double-blind test of Trent's security system."

Trent cleared his throat, and my attention shifted to him. "Knowing witches were the biggest security threat, you went to the coven and asked them to send a witch to try to break into your vault and steal a fake statue.
If your witch failed, he'd know he was secure, but if your witch succeeded, Trent would give the coven... a million dollars."

The last bit was a sudden inspiration on my part as I tried to find a way to get Oliver interested. As expected, the man's eyebrows rose, whereas Trent just frowned at Oliver's greed. A million dollars was nothing to Trent.

"You, being smart," I said to Oliver, fluffing his ego, "knew that black witches were the bigger threat. Going all out, you decided to drum up a false charge and get me shunned in order to encourage me to use the strongest means available to see if I could break in. Black magic. And now that I've proved I can, you can rescind the shunning."

Both men were silent. A pang of worry lifted through me. Maybe I'd misjudged Oliver's greed. "Uh, maybe the reward was two million," I added, and Trent blinked.

Beside him, Oliver said, "You want us to lie for you."

I had a brief memory of asking Minias the same thing, and I shoved it away. "Yeah," I said with forced casualness. "But it's not hurting anyone's reputation, property, or business. It's a big, freaking white lie, the same one we've been telling ourselves for the last five thousand years. Is that okay with you, or do you tell your wife she looks fat in her favorite dress, too?"

The man made a soft noise of negation, but Trent's nod was even more positive. "What about Brooke?" Oliver asked, and my mood was tarnished.

Eyes down, I said, "I can't get her back. She was sold three seconds after hitting the ever-after. I'm sorry. I really did try, but she did summon him."

"I can't do this!" Oliver said, unable to let it go, and Trent seemed to collapse in on himself in exasperation. "I can't allow it! Reverse her shunning? Let her run around capable of twisting curses and setting demons loose on the world? It's insane!"

"Oliver!" I shouted, seeing Jenks's wings silhouetted against the thick glass in the door. He was hearing all of this, I was sure. "I'm not a black witch. I just twist curses instead of stirring spells. There are a hundred mundane ways to kill a person, and you dont put people in jail just because they could do a crime." He was listening, and I gestured, pleading, "You're going to have to trust me. But if you think I'm bad now, just keep this crap up. I don't have to stay here. If you make me leave, you can bet I'll be back, and I'll still be pissed."

Oliver leaned over the table, not cowed at all. "We can find you anywhere."

"Yeah, but you can't follow me everywhere," I said, and a flicker of doubt crossed his mind.

"Find a way to work the deal, Oliver," Trent said. "You're letting pride get in your way. She keeps her word. I doubt that Ms. Morgan will have children anyway. If she does, they will be kidnapped by demons. Not your problem anymore."

It was sad but true. Watching Oliver, I held my breath and scooted to the back of my chair, waiting as thoughts flitted across his face. I thought he was almost going to say yes, but what came out of his mouth was a flat "I can't."

Trent sighed, and Oliver turned to him. "I can't!" he said louder. "I am one of six, and I'm not going to sit here and tell you I can grant you a pardon when I can't. You're going to have to stand before the coven and beg for leniency."

"What?" I yelped, sitting up fast.

"On your knees," he said, finding his courage as mine evaporated. "Even if I go out and give the press that cock-and-bull story, the coven will know the truth, and the fact remains that you performed black magic and you consort with demons."

"That's not fair!" I said, infuriated.

"If you want your shunning removed, that's what you're going to have to do. You don't think we can simply let you admit you did black magic, then let you walk because we say it was a test? No. You re going to have to beg for our pardon."

I inhaled deeply to let him have it, then hesitated. Slowly my breath slipped out. "Fine," I said sullenly. "I'll come to the next witches' meeting, but I'm not going to get on my knees.

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