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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 11

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Lee seemed the most likely candidate for playing let's make a deal with the coven, trading information about me to erase his own questionable dealings in black magic - if he cared to risk their finding out he was just like me. It had to be Trent.

Ivy's expression became pensive. Having born the brunt of a master vampire's attentions, she knew how easy it was to control someone through their emotions. She was still trapped in her own personal hell even though the lock had been broken and the door was wide open.

Behind his desk, Glenn looked unsure. "They can't do this. Even the coven of moral and ethical standards has to work within the law. Can't you file an appeal or something?"

At that, I smiled and Ivy slumped against the door frame. "Sure, but if I disappear, who's to say different? Ever wonder why witches generally don't make much trouble? We police ourselves, just like Weres and vamps. We have a long history of hiding, Glenn. The I.S. just picks up the ones who are stupid enough to be caught." Caught committing benign crimes like theft, larceny, murder - stuff humans were conditioned to deal with. It seemed ironic that bringing in the stupid ones was what I used to do for a living.

I was totally depressed now, and Jenks rose, his dragonflylike wings clattering for attention. "Rache, we've done kidnap prevention before. The weather is warm enough to string pixy lines in the garden, and we've got Bis now. They want you alive, right?"

"To start with, yeah," I said, not feeling any better. Ever since quitting the I.S., it seemed as if all I'd done was run. I was tired of it. But Jenks was right. We'd find a way around this. We always did.

Looking up, I met Glenn's eyes, then Ivy's. Taking a slow breath, I stood. "I'll call David when I get home," I said, dropping another bit of strawberry off me and into Glenn's trash. "He's great with paperwork. If you can't overpower them, you drown them in red tape." I managed a smile. "Thanks, guys. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Die, probably," Jenks said with a laugh as we headed out.

But the thing was, he was right.

Traffic among Cincy's tight buildings was clogged, the night gloom making the oncoming car lights all the brighter. It was going to be stop-and-go all the way to the interstate, and I almost wished I'd taken the longer way through Old Newport, but the FIB building was right in downtown Cincy, and the Hollows were just over the bridge. Once I got on the expressway, I'd be home in ten minutes.

"Accident?" I guessed, glancing across the narrow front seat of my convertible to Ivy, chilling as she watched nothing, her expression blank as she dwelled on who knew what. Her long fingers spun a world-weary, holed coin laced on a faded purple ribbon around her neck like it was a rosary. She kept it as a reminder that she couldn't love without hurt, and it worried me.

Jenks buzzed his wings to warm himself as he sat on the rearview mirror and looked backward. "You want me to go look?"

I flicked my attention to the heater controls, cranked to warm the already hot car. If he'd offered, it wasn't too cold for him outside, but for him to risk his core temp dropping to satisfy my curiosity was not what our partnership was about. "Nahh. It's probably nightwalkers."

Jenks's heels drummed against the mirror. "Sun's been down for over two hours."

I nodded, inching forward another three car lengths and just missing the light. Sighing, I cracked the window. It smelled like hot strawberries in here.

It had been forty years since the Turn and all the various Inderland species had come out of hiding to save humanity from extinction. Night and graveyard shifts had taken on entirely new meanings. What I was stuck in now was the dark-loving parts of Inderland trying to get to work and the late-working humans trying to get home. Rush hour shifted with the sun, two hours before sunrise and two hours after sunset being the worst. We were at the tail end of it.

My elbow went onto the tiny lip of the closed window and my fist propped up my head. Between Trent's offer and the coven wanting my head, I wasn't in the best of moods. A sigh slipped from me as I counted the people passing with cell phones against their ears.

"I told you not to worry about it, Rache," Jenks said, mistaking my worry. "I owe you lots more than lousy bail money."

"Thanks, Jenks," I said, accelerating when the light changed. "I appreciate it. I'll pay you back when I can." I'm so sick of not being able to make it on my own.

Ivy reached for the chicken strap when I took the corner tight, only to stop short at another light. "It's a slump," she said, her gray voice seeming to ease out of the dark corner of my car. "We all have them. It's part of being an independent."

"Yeah." Jenks dropped to the steering wheel, grapevining on it as the light changed and I turned. "Did I ever tell you about the time I was working for the I.S. to help feed my family? Matalina had just had another set of quads and things were looking ugly. I had to take a job for hazard pay to babysit this witch no one else would touch."

I couldn't stop my smile. "Best backup I ever had, or ever will have."

The pixy's wings moved faster as I accelerated. "Thanks."

A soft, happy sound came from Ivy, and he turned at the unfamiliar noise. The living vamp wasn't always gloomy, but she was never obvious about her good moods. The pixy took flight, buzzing an irritating circle around her. "I love you, too, Ivy," he said with just the right amount of sarcasm to keep things light.

Her long fingers waved him away, slowly so there was no chance of hitting him. Two years ago, if anyone had told me that I'd abandon my I.S. job to go independent with a living vampire and a pixy, I would've said they were crazy. It wasn't that we didn't do well together. We did. We did fantastically together. But my decisions, which always seemed sound at the time, had a tendency to backfire - badly. And the coven trying to kidnap me was really bad. Signing that paper of Trent's to get out of it was even worse.

I inched forward, eyes on the red taillights of the cars stopped on the interstate/parking lot. I wasn't going to let Kalamack's offer get to me. "So, Ivy," I said, trying to shift my thoughts. "What's going on with you and Glenn?"

The living vampire's eyes glinted as she flicked her attention to Jenks. "You told her!" she exclaimed, and my lips parted. Told me? Jenks knew? Knew what?

Jenks's wings clattered, and he flitted to the far side of the car, well out of her reach. "I didn't tell her nothing!" he shouted, laughing. "Tink's contractual hell, Ivy, I didn't tell her! She must have figured it out. She's not stupid!"

The car jerked as I hit the brakes before I needed to, but I wanted to look at Jenks. "Something is going on. I knew it!"

"There's no anything," Ivy protested, her face red in the light from the oncoming traffic. "Nothing is going on. Nothing!"

"Nothing?" Jenks blurted out, unable to keep quiet anymore. "You think - "

"Shut up, Jenks," Ivy snarled.

His wings humming, he hung in the middle of the car as if nailed to the air. He was holding his breath, and silver sparkles were drifting from him to make a light bright enough to read by. The pitch from his wings was starting to make my eyeballs hurt. Grinning, I looked across to Ivy. "You'd better tell me or he's going to explode."

"They've been on three dates," Jenks said, and Ivy snatched for him.

My smile widened as Jenks frantically darted about the car. "I can't!" he shouted. "Ivy, I can't! I can't not say anything!"

Sullen, Ivy slumped in her seat, giving up. "I can't believe you told her. You promised."

The pixy landed on the wheel as I put the car in motion and merged into "traffic" when a big SUV made some space. "He didn't tell me," I said as I waved thanks to the guy. "Glenn's coat smells like you." I made a face. "And honey. I don't want to know why. Really."

Jenks's wings halted. "Honey? Honey and gold?" he asked, and Ivy seemed to cringe.

"Yes," I said, able to identify the hot-metal smell now. "Sun-warmed gold. And honey."

Hands on his hips, Jenks turned to Ivy. "You told me Daryl was leaving."

Daryl? Who in hell is Daryl?

Ivy's expression became bothered. "She is. Soon as she finds a place." She?

"Like that's ever gonna happen!" Jenks exclaimed. "The woman is sex in sandals!"

"Glenn isn't going to kick her out!" Ivy said loudly. "She's not well. "

"No wonder with Glenn keeping her up all night doing the nasty! "

"Hey!" Ivy exclaimed, eyes going black. "That's uncalled for! He hasn't touched her."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I said, sneaking glances at them both. "Who is Daryl?" And why haven't I heard about her before?

Jenks's wings stopped moving, and I thought I saw a flash of panic in him as Ivy forced her expression to neutral. Both of them seemed to pull three steps back in their thinking, and after a moment, Ivy said, "Just a woman we met on a run when you were in the ever-after.

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