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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 20

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"It gives us permission to remove your ability to reproduce and chemically take away your ability to do ley-line magic."

Somehow I managed a snort of amusement I didn't feel. "As opposed to you doing so behind prison doors and with saturated fats?"

She hesitated, and then as if having made a decision, she leaned close enough for me to smell the linen her suit was cut from, clean and light. Her eyes were bright, almost feverish, and a chill spilled through me. This didn't look good.

"I don't mind your being able to invoke demon magic," she whispered, scaring me. "I don't care that you are the beginning of demons on earth. I do have a problem with most of the coven unable to see past their shortsighted noses, so entrenched in old fear that they can't see what you are. They would vote against me, and the majority rules, even if the majority is blind."

My mouth went dry. "And what am I?"

"You are what we all should be!" she exclaimed, then lowered her voice as she leaned back. "The power you have? We're stunted. Half of what we could be. We can be whole, and you're the way. You are the future. I can protect you. Sign that paper, and I promise you'll come out of the anesthesia completely yourself, with your magic intact. This is a sham to get you off the coven's radar and away from Trent Kalamack."

Whoa. Schism? Try the freaking Grand Canyon. "So I'd be your personal monster, not the coven's?" I said, more than a little afraid. "I don't deal with demons."

"You do," Brooke insisted, and the soft murmur from the cells ceased. "It's on the record. You survive every time. The power you can give back to us - "

"I meant," I said, disgusted, "I won't deal with you, and I'm not signing that paper."

Brooke's expression soured. "You're being foolish. If you can't see the future, then at least look at your present. You want to go back to that hole? Fine. Or you can be moved into the warden's apartments. Low security, real food. A view." Her gaze went to the inmates watching. "Privacy. Sign the paper. You have my word you will remain as you are now."

I looked at the paper on the table between us. Remain as I was? Cold, miserable, and a continent away from home? "Let's just say I took a stupid pill this morning, and I sign your paper. What will I be? Soldier? Brood-mare?

The woman smiled. "Motherhood is a noble profession."

My chin went up, and I nodded. "I never said it wasn't, but anything that comes from me will be baby-snatched by demons, Brooke sweetie."

"Way ahead of you," she said, the pen she took from her purse clicking onto the table. "You will become an egg donor," the woman said, unable to hide her eager look. "The demons would never know. You could even adopt one of your own kids. I'm going to."

She wanted one of my unborn children? Parcel my progeny out to the highest bidder? "You are disgusting," I said, but all I got from her was a bemused expression. She took a breath, and I raised my cuffed hands to stop her next words. "What time is it?" I asked, and her expression became annoyed.

"Three fifteen," she said, wiry arm shifting so she could glance at her watch.

Sighing, I sank back into the rank cushions. Almost time. "Brooke, I'm already gone. The only reason I tried to get away from you boneheads earlier was because I wanted a couple of hours to see the sights before I headed home. Crooked Street maybe. Or Treasure Island. That sweet little bridge you're all so fond of. I can't say I like the Alcatraz tour, though. It's a little too realistic."

Brooke snorted to show her disbelief. "We are surrounded by salt water. There are no ley lines on the island. A very expensive ward keeps witches from jumping in for a rescue. Even if you could tap a line through a familiar, which I know you don't have, you wear charmed silver."

"This?" I held up my hands to show the link on my pulped wrist. It had my name on it, and a freaking serial number. "This is really pretty," I said, dropping my arm. "But, Brooke, sweetheart, you can't hold me." Any time, Ivy.

"I think we can." Confidence showed as she leaned back in the tatty chair.

I shook my head, smiling. "No, you can't. It's almost sunrise in Cincinnati. You know what happens when the sun rises? The lines close to summoning traffic. Oh, you can still get around with them, but a summons won't work. And you know what's going to happen just before then?" Brooke's expression was empty, but then she got it.

"You can't jump by line," she said, voice loud. "You're cut off."

I leaned forward, the beating, the humiliation, and the indignity of being locked in a metal closet all day falling from me to leave only a bitter satisfaction. "I'm not a demon," I said softly. "But I'm in their system."

A sneeze shook me, and a quiver grew in my middle. I was going home. "You should have come to talk to me," I said, wishing I could cross my knees and look smug. "I really am a nice person most times, but you just pissed me off."

I sneezed again, and a gut-cramping feeling rose, threatening worse. "I'm going home to take a hot bath and get some sleep. Tell you what," I said, gripping the arms of the chair - as if it could keep me here a moment longer - "I understand how easy it is to underestimate me. Let's start fresh. You can either instigate a war with me or come and talk. Your choice."

Eyes wide, Brooke stood, reaching across the table to grab me. A gray blur dropped between us, hissing.

My heart beat once, hard, and I forced myself to remain seated when Bis spread his wings, tufts of fur puffed and tail switching like a cat's. One clawed foot gripped her unsigned contract, and his head was lowered, red eyes promising violence.

"Shit, it's a gargoyle!" Mary shouted, her words taken up and passed along. "Rachel has a gargoyle!"

"Security!" Brooke shouted as she stood. She was going to lose me, and she knew it.

My head spun when Bis spread his wings and hopped to my shoulder. The unfamiliar pattern of West Coast ley lines exploded in my thoughts, harsh and jagged, tasting of broken rock. Bis could feel them all the time, and when we touched, I felt them too. The young gargoyle wrapped his tail around my neck, and tears threatened. I was going home.

I wanted to stand, but I couldn't. The pull of the summons had become painful, so I made the vampire kiss-kiss gesture to Brooke as I relaxed my grip on reality and felt the lines pull me in. The smut for this, I would willingly take.

Damn, I had good friends.

There was no pain as my body dissolved into a thought and that thought was yanked across the continent. I wanted to go, and I'd already accepted the smut on my soul for the imbalance I was causing. Actually, by taking the smut on freely, the feeling of disconnection seemed to be muffled. Or perhaps if you break the rules too many times, you start to build up scar tissue. Or maybe it was because I'd slipped from the fractured West Coast lines to the solid, warm ley lines of my birthplace. It could have been simply that the memory of Bis and his tail wrapped around my neck helped to create a feeling of comfort. But whatever it was, the usual tearing apart of soul and mind almost felt good. Like stretching. Which kind of worried me.

The faint outlines of my kitchen echoed in my memory before they became real, and the woody scent of herbs and copper cleaner tickled my nose. It was more than a little relief - it would be just my luck that a third party summoned me and I ended up in someone else's circle dressed in this hideous orange outfit with fashionable white canvas pull-on shoes.

My will seemed to stretch forward and yank me into existence. With a jolt, everything happened at once, and my aura - which had been holding me together while I existed only as a thought in the ley lines - rose through the memory of myself to build a body. My clothes, bruises, cuffs, everything, down to the egg in my hair, would come through intact. You couldn't fool the demon archive and show up clean, rested, and in a pair of designer boots. I'd tried. The charmed silver, though, would be gone. Small favors.

I took a breath, and I suddenly had lungs. Stumbling, I stayed upright as I popped into existence between the center counter and the sink. The kitchen was dim with early sunlight, shocking since it was dark where I'd been seconds ago. Ivy and Jenks were waiting, worried and tense. Jenks was flying, and all I could see wrong with Ivy was a welt on her forehead.

Immediately the shimmer of smut-covered ever-after around me dropped. It was Ceri, then, who had summoned me. "Thank God," I said, leaning back against the center counter, my head bowed as I mumbled, "Thank you, Ceri. I owe you big." Bis wasn't here, swimming back to Pierce for the jump home, I guess.

Ivy's face was pale as she came close, taking in my tired, filthy state.
"What did they do to you?" she said as she fumbled at her key chain for one of her handcuff keys.

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