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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 34

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Eyes wide, I pulled Pierce down into his chair. What is Nick doing here?

"Put them on," Vivian said as she stood over us, and I fingered the zip strip. I was really tired of these things. I could do something stupid and try to get it on Vivian instead of me, but I threaded my hand through the circle and ratcheted it closed. Ley lines weren't my forte, anyway. Lucky for me, my amulets still worked, and I retained the old lady look and the pain relief.

Pierce glared up at Vivian. I could feel him tensing, feel his chi beside mine glowing with ley-line power. If he put the strip on, he would be magically helpless. If he didn't, Vivian would shoot me. "Put it on," I said softly, and Pierce's eyes pinched at the corners.

"Rachel - ," he almost growled.

"Listen to her, Tom," Vivian said, and my breath caught. She thought Pierce was Tom?

Pierce, too, realized the power behind the understandable mistake. His motions rough, he put the loop over his wrist and tightened it.

The tension visibly left Vivian. "Better," she said. "I'll get a bonus for bringing you in, Bansen. Where have you been the last couple of months?"

Dead, I thought, eyes on my bag as my mind went first to the money, then my splat gun, and finally the scrying mirror I'd brought so I could talk Al into giving me my summoning name back. Might be hard to explain that last one.

"I'm surprised to see you with her," she continued, almost cocky now that she was the only one who could tap a ley line. "Politics makes strange bedfellows, huh?"

Pierce stayed silent, knowing his speech would give him away, but the leprechaun was eying him as if she knew. Vivian assessed Pierce's silence, then glanced around the coffeehouse before pulling out the last chair and sitting down.

Behind her, the leprechaun huffed for being ignored. "How about a wee coffee?" she said, standing with my bag tantalizingly close. The charms in my splat gun's hopper wouldn't care if I couldn't tap a line or not.

"I'm not your date," Vivian said, noting where my eyes were. "Get your own coffee."

"I dunna carry cash," she said, her small features bunched up, and she gracefully clambered up onto the nearest chair with a little hop, setting my bag well out of my reach.

"You just love digging holes, don't you," Vivian said to me as she leaned back, her hand finally coming out of her pocket to scratch at the welts on her neck. "The first sign of trouble, and you go to another shunned demon summoner. Smart, Rachel. Really smart. You're lucky he didn't turn you in himself. Word is, Tom knows your summoning name, too."

Pierce's expression didn't shift as he sat like a stone across from Vivian. "It would be wise for you to walk away, witch," he said, his words slow as he chose them carefully to try to sound like everyone else. "You will be beaten soundly."

Vivian looked at him curiously, but seemed utterly unworried. "Not even a circle stops a bullet at this range," she said confidently as she tugged a slim phone from an inner pocket and flipped it open. God, the thing was as thin as a credit card. "Come quietly, or you'll be in Alcatraz for so long that you won't be able to craft a love charm by the time you get out."

My face burned at what they were doing. They had no right.

Nick was at the counter ordering and flirting with one of the clerks. He was here to help, wasn't he? The leprechaun was watching me when my eyes came back, and I dropped my gaze, resolving to not look at Nick again.

"Give me my coin," she said to Vivian, still eying me. "I need it to get paid."

I made a sour face and said, "You bought a wish to find me? I'm flattered."

"I'll give you the coin when I'm done," Vivian said, rubbing her welts.

"I want a coffee, then," she demanded.

Vivian's face darkened. "Can it wait a moment?" she snapped. "I'm on the phone."

The leprechaun sneered at her, then turned to smile at me. "I be liking your hair the other way," she said, clearly recognizing me. "Hey, isn't this the same place - "

"Yeah," I interrupted her, then shouted, "Mark, when you have a chance, can we have a tall latte over here?" Mark raised his hand in acknowledgment, and I smiled. "There's some money in the bottom of the bag. Help yourself. My treat."

Vivian stretched between the tables to snatch the bag from the leprechaun even as she continued to talk to someone in soft tones. Her eyes widened at the stash, and I wasn't surprised when both the cash and my splat gun went into her pocket. Son of a bitch.

The leprechaun frowned as she fingered the five Vivian had left her. "So how did the wishes go?" she asked me as we waited.

I lifted a shoulder and let it fall. "I gave two away. I'm still digging myself out of the one I used."

She snorted. "Aye, it's a good thing you didn't spend them all. People have been known to die from too many wishes."

"You know one of the wee folk?" Pierce said, the awe in his voice making her beam.

"I let her go for the wish I used to get out of my I.S. contract," I admitted.

Pierce stared at me, aghast. "You accepted a wish from a felon leprechaun?" he asked, making my face warm and the leprechaun frown.

"It isn't like she's an ax murderer," I said. "Besides, the I.S. wanted me to leave." Jeez, look who was talking, Mr. Black Magic.

Pierce lapsed into a pensive silence, and Mark came forward, handing the leprechaun her coffee and looking at me as if trying to figure out how I knew his name. She needed to use two hands to manage it, but her smile was honest enough as she took it, giving him the five and telling him to keep the change.

"Did she really use a wish to find me?" I asked her, thinking how I could use a wish right about now.

"Aye." She took a large draft of her drink as if it were cold milk, not steaming coffee. "The wish is from the West Coast, but we'll honor it. Bitch of a loss on the exchange, though." She glanced at Pierce. "Do I know you?"

His eyes wide, Pierce shook his head violently. "No."

Vivian straightened, smiling as she confidently said, "I'll see you at baggage claim," and snapped her phone closed.

"You're not getting me through security," I said. "Shunned witches can't fly."

"Then it's a good thing it's a private jet."

I sighed, and the leprechaun put her cup down with a tap. "Me coin? I do have a life. I found Rachel Morgan for you. That's all you be wishing for. You want me to help you get her to the airport, that be another wish. And you don't have one."

Eyes fixed on me and Pierce, Vivian stood, drew a coin with a hole in it from her pocket, and handed it to the leprechaun. It looked exactly like Ivy's. The small woman slid from the oversize chair and took it. "You're welcome, chump," she said loudly, then walked to the front with her coffee, smiling beautifully up at the man who held the door for her as he came in.

Nick was sitting at his table. My heart beat faster. Adrenaline washed into me like a drug, and I felt the tingle of anticipation. Pierce eyed me, waiting for direction.

"Go," Vivian said as she gestured to the door, my bag tight in her grip and faded strawberry smears marring the once-perfection of her coat. Her neck was swollen and red, and there were circles under her eyes, making her a far cry from the self-assured, posh, professional coven member I'd first seen in the grocery store. Now she was dirty, tired, and determined. Nice to know I wasn't the only one having a bad week.

"You can't hold me, Vivian," I said with deceptive calm as my foot jiggled out of sight under the table. "You just can't. Soon as I get a good nap in, I'm gone. I don't care what you do to Tom here. He's not my favorite person."

A sifting of pixy dust landed on the table, and I wiped it away. Pierce noticed, and his expression changed as his eyes slowly went from the ceiling to the front of the shop. His breathing became paced and regular. Lovely, lovely adrenaline poured into me. When it wore off, I was going to hurt, but if I was lucky, Vivian would be hurting more.

"I said, get up," Vivian repeated, her hand again in the front pocket of her coat, and together Pierce and I stood. "There's a white van in the lot. Get into it. Leave your coffee here," she added, and Pierce bumped me as he set his down.

"Do you trust him?" Pierce whispered, his breath soft against my ear.

Nick? "No. But look at my choices." I swallowed hard. "Be prepared. He's inventive."

"He is a thief," Pierce said indignantly.

"Yep. He's a slimy little thief who knows how to survive."

I stumbled when Vivian gave me a shove. "Stop talking," she muttered. "Tom, you first through the door. Then her." But true to his nature, Pierce held the door for me when we reached it, glaring stiffly at Vivian from under the brim of his hat, daring her to protest.

"Bug! In my coffee!" exploded a high-pitched, disgusted voice.

I smiled, stopping in the threshold and turning in time to see Nick trip on nothing in his rush to show the clerk his coffee.

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