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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 40

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Eying him, I carefully took the knife off his hands. The tarnished metal was warm, feeling almost like putty, but the sensation quickly faded until it was just cold silver. "This is nasty," I said as I tried to piece together the words engraved around the handle. "What does it say?" Pierce hesitated, and my eyes narrowed. "Don't expect me to believe you can't read it."

With an odd expression, the man shifted uncomfortably as I caught him thinking about lying to me. "It's a delicate matter," he finally said, and I put one hand on my hip, the other carelessly holding the knife askew. "I won't say the words," he said, gaze following the knife as I shifted it about. "I'm not skeerylike, but it's arcane, black magic. I'm not of a mind to... know for sure what it does. The charm is long spent."

I squinted at him, weighing his words against his body language. I mean, he knew I knew he worked black magic. Did he think I couldn't take it? Whatever it was? "What were you doing with it, then," I asked, waving the knife around just to irritate him, "if the spell is gone?"

Frowning, he gently grasped my wrist and took the knife. "Ley-line magic in good silver will leave a whisper of the spell after it is spent," he said, eyes on the dagger, not me. "If one is powerful delicate, applying a breath of ley-line potency into the charm can sometimes fill the channels again and bring it back to full stamina. Too much will destroy it, but if enough fills the spell before it overflows, one can make a fist of it. I've a fine enough touch, but I'm not eager to try lest I leave Nick with such an ugly thing."

Curious, I took the knife back, holding it with the right amount of respect. "You just direct a trickle of energy into it? You don't even need to know how to do the original charm?"

"That's the whole pie of it, yes." Pierce took the knife from me again and set it where Nick had left it, out of my easy reach. "It's enough to worry a man that Nick, a mere wizard, has it."

I frowned. If I wanted to look at the knife, I would. "Yeah, well, Nick has a lot of stuff he shouldn't, doesn't he?" I said, and Pierce glanced at the broken trunk. "My dad never told me that," I said to distract him. "About the imprint left on an object."

Pierce nodded. "It's not known to many, and your father was human."

I started, not having told him about that chunk of drama in my life, but then I remembered he'd been there in spirit. There probably wasn't much that had happened in the church in the past year that he didn't know about. And yet... he was here, standing in front of me, his shirt open to show pale skin, stubble on his face, and hair all over and tousled.

Damn it.

"Are you hungry?" Pierce asked, and I turned to the dimly lit kitchen. "Nick won't be back until long after candle lighting."

Candle lighting. I remembered that one. He meant dusk. "Famished." I flicked on the kitchen light and looked for the bathroom. "Can you hold that thought?"

Leaving Pierce to figure out what I meant, I shut the bathroom door behind me and hoped he couldn't hear as I took care of business. God, why did I even care if he might know I'd flushed the toilet, but I slumped when I caught sight of myself in the age-spotted mirror above the tiny white sink.

There were circles under my eyes, and I looked tired despite the sleep. My hair was a mess, and when I used Nick's brush, it only made it frizz out all the more. I contemplated taking my pain amulet off but decided I might need it if I was summoned out and had to fight, so I let it stay tucked under my shirt. The black camisole had been fresh this morning, and the jeans were probably good for another day. Eventually, though, I'd have to risk going home for a change of clothes and a toothbrush or spend a couple of hours at the mall.

How had I gotten here? Shunned and on the run from the coven, unable to go home for a change of undies. What scared me the most was that the coven didn't have to work within the law, or at least they felt they didn't. Maybe I should call Glenn and see if there was a warrant out for my arrest? That would be good news, because if there was, then they couldn't just pack me quietly away in a closet. Okay, so my kids being demons was a problem, but shouldn't the entire witch community have a say in whether I should be shoved in a hole or just castrated?

"Thanks, Trent," I whispered as I cleaned Nick's brush. Dropping the fistful of his and my hair into the sink, I set it alight with a word of Latin. None of this would have happened if Trent hadn't told the council what his dad's tinkering with my mitochondria had done.

I'd been born with a common genetic "defect" that should've killed me before I was two. Thousands of witches were. The truth was that Rosewood syndrome was really an ancient elven biological-warfare device that kicked in when a witch able to invoke demon magic was born.

Turns out the elves had cursed the demons first, causing their children to be born stunted in their ability to do magic. Abandoned by demons as inferior, ancient elves called us witches and told us lies, recruiting us for what magic we retained to help them in their war. They couldn't get rid of the gene that enabled us to invoke demon magic without removing all our ability to do magic, and occasionally it recombined to full strength; hence the little genetic bomb they hooked into our DNA to kill us when the demon enzyme showed.

When Trent's dad tinkered enough, such that I could survive having the demon enzyme, he'd unknowingly fixed what his species had broken. Trent's claim that he hadn't told the coven was crap, especially when the lie that he could control and destroy me followed it.

"Rachel?" came a worried call from the door, and I looked up from the bit of ash that was left of my hair. That and a really nasty stench.

"I'm fine!" I called back. "Just getting rid of potential focusing objects."

I heard his pleased mmmm, then his steps retreated. I ran the water a long time, cleaning the basin until there was not even a hint of ash. Forcing a smile, I came out to find Pierce at the stove. "Nick said there were eggs," he said, making an odd picture of domesticity as he turned with a spatula in his hand, "but I was of the mind you'd prefer hotcakes."

A splatter of batter marked his shirt, and my smile became real. Eggs gave me migraines, but there wasn't enough of them in pancakes to matter. "Fabulous," I said as I took one of the cups of coffee waiting on the faded table. "Is this mine?" I asked, and he nodded, expertly flipping the pancake to land back in the pan.

Three pancakes were already waiting in the oven, their scent covering up the reek of burning hair. "I've never made coffee before," he said, repositioning the pancake in the pan. "Not in that fashion. But I've seen you do it enough. Is it... okay?"

I took a sip, grinning as I remembered his drinking my mom's too-strong coffee in an effort to impress me the night we'd met. "It's good. Thanks. You've got batter on your shirt."

Pierce looked down, dropping everything with a mild oath and dabbing at it with the damp corner of a dish towel. There was no maple syrup in the microwave, but a bottle of corn syrup was warming in a pan on the stove. The table, too, was set, so as Pierce fussed over his shirt, I went to Nick's dresser, wondering what he'd shoved in it before he left.

Another mild cuss word drifted through the apartment, and Pierce gave up on the spot. "Do you trust him?" he asked, knowing what I was thinking as I stood before Nick's dresser.

My jaw clenched, and my head started to pound. "Not where it counts."

"Then look."

Why not? I set my mug down and opened the drawer. Lying atop Nick's socks and tighty whities was my splat gun. "Hey!" I exclaimed, reaching for it only to curl my fingers under before they could touch it. "It's my splat gun," I said, face burning. He must have lifted it from Vivian in Junior's coffeehouse, but why hadn't he returned it to me?

Pierce leaned from the stove to see me. "Testing you? To see if you're trustworthy?"

Either that, or he wanted it for himself. "I guess I just got an F, then," I said, hefting my splat gun before I jammed it at the small of my back where it made an uncomfortable bump. Under the gun was a handful of ticket stubs, receipts, and handwritten notes on napkins. I peered closer, spotting a day pass to the zoo's off-hours runners' program. With a finger, I shifted a few things, not seeing a pattern to it - apart from everything being from places I frequented. "He's been watching me," I said, figuring it out. "Not lately," I added, seeing the dates, "but he has."

The oven opened, and I heard a plate scrape on the faded table.
"Come and eat while it's warm," he called, sounding angry but willing to let me handle it.

Jaw clenched, I picked the bits of my life out from between his socks and dropped them on the dresser. I was taking the gun.

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