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Black Magic Sanction


Black Magic Sanction: Page 28


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"Rache, you're not calling him, are you?"

"Watch me." My fingers trembled as I punched in the numbers. I was so pissed. How dare he. How dare he give me a charm and try to kill me with it. Was this his backhanded way of threatening me? Do what he wanted or else? He hadn't changed at all from the brat of a boy demanding I hold his horse's head when there was a post only two feet away.

"Don't call him! He'll know it didn't work!" Jenks shouted, and I waved him back. The pixy's wings clattered noisily, but then went quiet. "You know his number by heart?"

Yes, I had Trent Kalamack's number memorized. Sort of like when you remember the name of the kid who beat you up in the third grade. Some things you don't forget.

"Quiet. I want to hear," Ivy demanded as the phone rang, and my anger tightened when Jenks landed on my shoulder. Together we listened to the line click open.

"Kalamack Industries," the woman said, but I couldn't tell if it was Sara Jane or if she'd gotten smart and run away. "How may I help you?"

A thousand smart-ass answers went through my head, but my eyes on Ivy's, I managed, "This is Rachel Morgan - "

"Yes, Ms. Morgan," she interrupted. "Mr. Kalamack has been waiting for your call."

"I'll bet," I said, but she'd already put me on hold. If there was elevator music, I was going to scream.

"Rachel!" Trent's voice came clear and clean, a hint of warmth to it that slid out of the professional into genuine pleasure.

"You son of a bastard!" I exclaimed, and Jenks snorted.

There was a slight hesitation, then, "I take it this isn't a social call?" Trent said dryly, his entire mood shifting.

How could he sit there like nothing had happened? "It didn't work, you bastard. I'm still alive, and you'd better start watching your back. I should have let you rot in the ever-after, you son of a bitch!"

"Still alive?"

I'd give him one thing. He hid his smugness well. "The Pandora charm?" I supplied to jiggle his conveniently faulty memory. "It was us riding your horse at camp. You're scum, Trent!"

"I didn't try to kill you. You fell off!" he said indignantly.

He thought I was talking about the memory? "Not the horse!" I said, suddenly unsure. "Your spell! It almost killed me. The memory ended with me lying on the ground with the breath knocked out of me, and it froze everything. I couldn't breathe when the charm ended. I could have died! If you can't have me, no one will, huh? What in hell is wrong with you!"

"Be reasonable, Rachel," Trent said coldly. "If I wanted you dead, I wouldn't do it with a charm I helped craft that could be traced back to me."

"I think you would!" I exclaimed. "You want me dead!"

"There are at least five people I can think of off the top of my head who want you dead."

"Wanting me dead is not the same as having the resources to do it" I reminded him.

I heard him take a breath to say something, then pause as if in sudden thought. "I have to go," he said abruptly. "You're okay? Right?" he asked, and I looked at Ivy, knowing she could hear both ends of the conversation as well as Jenks, on my shoulder.

He cared if I was all right? And he hadnt called Lee hack either when he knew I was afraid of him. "Don't you hang up on me, Trent," I said. "Don't you do it!"

"Good, you're okay. I'll talk to you later. I have to check on something. Ah, sorry about the charm."

My breath came in fast, and I sat up. "Trent!" I shouted, but the phone went dead. "He hung up on me," I said sourly, then flipped the phone closed and handed it to Ivy.

Jenks took off from my shoulder, and a shiver coursed through me. "That sounded like real surprise to me," he said, hovering before the tight-lipped vampire.

"Me, too," she said, looking worried as she leaned back against the dresser.

"Even so, I wouldn't trust him," Pierce said. "His father was a devious sort, and I've seen nothing to convince me he's any different."

"Yeah. I know." Exhaling, I pressed my knees together so no one would see them shake. Do I believe him, or not? God! Why can't it be simple just once? I had invoked the charm to figure out why my gut kept telling me there was something good about this guy, and I was more confused than before. I'd give anything to know Trent's thoughts just before he'd hung up. "That was a complete waste of time," I said softly.

"I don't care if Rynn complains," Ivy said dryly. "I'm going to kill Trent. Slowly."

Pierce was nodding his agreement, but my damned intuition had me clenching my jaw in doubt. Trent had killed people before, one right in front of me. And once he had pulled out a gun and shot me with a subjugation spell, the decision made and acted on in a second. It wasn't that Trent couldn't kill me, but if he was going to do it, it would be over and done within an hour of his decision. Not like this. This smacked of cowardice. It wasn't his style.

I rubbed my wrist where he had grabbed me, feeling it as if it had just been today. He'd violated my person to see if I was as dangerous as his father had warned him - and I had thrown him into a tree the next day, proving it. He was good and bad all at the same time. God, I hated Trent. Or maybe I just hated that I didn't know if I could trust him or not.

"I opine it wasn't a curse," Pierce said as I fingered the smooth rope. "It was a spell crafted to not cleanly break. Death by something designed as innocent so as not to invoke your lethal-charm amulet. Powerful tricky. But you didn't make a die of it, and that's what matters."

My eyes went to his, and Pierce dropped his attention to the hat in his hands, his ears going a faint red. "Thanks, Pierce," I said softly. "I owe you. Big."

Jenks snorted and Ivy sighed, making motions to try to leave. Sheesh, Pierce had pulled a line through me to burn the malfunctioning charm to nothing. No wonder he was embarrassed.

His eyes met mine. "It was what any decent man would do. You owe me nothing," he said, and Jenks groaned from the overdone drama. But Pierce had probably saved my life.

Orange dust falling from him, Jenks dropped to my knee. "Well, what did you remember?" he asked, wings going full tilt. "Hope it was worth dying for."

Ivy crossed her arms over her middle to look both aggressive and pensive. "This was my fault. I convinced her to try the charm, thinking it might tell her if she didn't trust Trent because of a grade-school tiff or because he's a bastard."

"I think we can safely answer that now," Pierce muttered, but I wasn't sure, and it made me angry.

"It was just something from the Make-a-Wish Camp," I said, and Jenks buzzed his wings for more, but I wasn't talking. I was remembering all sorts of things now. Stuff like Lee being trapped in the cistern for three days shortly afterward. He was half dead when they found him, suffering badly - apparently Trent had taken my advice with an overly aggressive vengeance.
And Jasmine finding flowers on her pillow every morning in contrast to the fox scat I kept finding in my shoes. I'd thought it was cabin razzing, but now I wondered if it had been Trent trying to get his hoof pick back. My stuff kept going missing that year, invariably showing up a few days later in the cabin toilet. Uncomfortable, I swung my feet to the floor, and Jenks took off. "Yes, he's a bastard all right," I said softly, not meeting anyone's eyes.

"Tink's contractual hell, you still think he's telling the truth about the coven?" Jenks exclaimed at the whisper of doubt in my voice. "He just tried to kill you!"

"I know!" I shouted, and Jenks flew backward in surprise to Ivy. "Don't you think I know that? But I can't figure him out!"

"What's to figure out?" Nick said dryly. "He's a liar. He's always been a liar, and he will always be a liar."

Frustrated, I opened up the box and took out the hoof pick, looking at it like it was a puzzle box. "Trent was that same mix of ruthless bastard and sympathetic best friend at camp that he is now. And I think I helped make him that way. Apparently I won the bet, though."

I lifted the exquisite hoof pick and handed it to Pierce, figuring he'd be interested in it. I wondered if Trent sneaking in to take my ring last year was because I had stolen his pick. Maybe he wanted it back? He had given me my ring back - and not in my toilet.

Nick shook his head in warning and I gave him a mirthless smile as I rubbed my aching arms. It was as if my childhood fatigue had soaked back in and wasn't leaving. I was so messed up. And what was it with Trent's pattern of taking my stuff only to give it back?

Ivy picked up the empty plate and moved to the door. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, you were blue, Rache," Jenks chimed in.

Flexing my fingers, I felt the lack of strength. Cripes, she'd almost broken them.

Without warning, a high-pitched barrage of near-ultrasonic pixy voices rose, shrill at the front of the church. In a flash of silver dust, Jenks darted out.

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