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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 49

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I was home. Oh, crap. I think I'm going to cry, I thought as my vision swam.

"Rachel? Rachel!" Ivy said loudly, bringing my attention back from the pixy kids whispering up in the pot rack. Crouched before me, she made me look at her. "You said Lee. You mean Stanley Saladan? He summoned you for Brooke? Why is he helping you now?"

"You got a cast," I slurred, seeing it stark white against her black T-shirt. "Where's Jenks?" I looked at the ceiling for him, and Ivy turned my chin back to her.

"He had a bad feeling, so he went looking for you," she said. "Why did Lee help you?"

I blinked. "Because Pierce can't drive for crap." I started to list, and Ivy sat me back upright. "You have beautiful eyes, Ivy," I said, my words spilling out without thought.

She stared, a surge of vampire incense wafting through me as her eyes dilated to a sudden full black. Swallowing, she took her hands off me. "What did they hit you with?" she asked as she stood and backed away. "Will coffee help or make it worse?"

"I don't know." A soft, contented hmmm slipped from me. She looked so sweet standing there with six pixy girls in their pastel silk dresses hovering around her head. Pixy princess. Pixy Princess Ivy with a pretty, pretty cast.

Jaw clenched, Ivy turned to a thumping in the hall. Pixies rose up, scattering. It was Lee, looking as if he had a right to be here, but unsure as to how Ivy might feel about it. Smart man.

"You've got three seconds to explain," Ivy said, spots of red appearing on her cheeks. Not bad, considering what she'd done to Nick.

The black-haired man gave her a toothy smile and ducked his head. "Hey, hi, Ivy. No hard feelings, huh?"

"Oooh, pretty, pretty shiny eyes," I said, finding Pierce pushing me back down when I tried to get up. A tingle spread from his hand on my shoulder - the man just leaked power. His coat was on the table along with his vest and my stuff. He must have brought everything from Nick's when he came looking for Bis. What a great guy. Even my bag was there.

Ivy was wire tight. "Time's up," she intoned, starting for Lee.

Lee stepped back, hand raised. "You try getting through Hollows traffic with a stoned redhead hanging out the window shouting, 'I'm king of the world!'"

I didn't remember that, but a glance at Pierce told me it was true.

"You summoned her! Like a demon!" Ivy accused.

"She is a demon," he said, and Ivy's face went hard. But if I was one, then Lee was one, too. "I had to," Lee added, his voice softer. "I had a gun at my head. How many things have you done when someone held a gun to your head or said the word 'duty'? Give me a break, will you? I helped her escape."

"You locked her in a boat primed to explode!" Ivy shouted.

Lee's expression lit up in understanding. "That was over a year ago!" he complained as I gave Bis a bunny-eared kiss-kiss. He was atop the fridge doing his lurking gargoyle thing with the pixies. Some of them were getting pretty good at mimicking him, and I smiled.

"Besides, I wasn't the one who planted the bomb," Lee said. "It was Kisten." Lee's face was serious in the sudden silence. "I'm sorry about his passing. He was a good man. Come on, Ivy," he coaxed, like the successful, suave bachelor from a wealthy West Coast witch family that he was. "The boat was business. This is survival. Rachel forgave me."

I was starting to see why Trent liked this guy, even while they were business rivals. I hadn't forgiven him, but I wasn't so far out of it to make the mistake of saying so. Ivy pressed her lips together, tension dropping as she turned away. Hand reaching for the center island counter, I stood. I had to find my calling circle. I wasn't going to wait another moment to get this damned mark off my foot and my name back - my beautiful, anonymous demon name that no one but Ivy, Jenks, Al, and my mother knew. God help me.

Someone took my elbow, and I blinked at Pierce, keeping me upright as I stumbled the two steps from the table to the center counter. His hat was falling off my head, and I fixed it, almost falling over. "You're nigh asleep on your feet," he said. "Sit."

"Al," I said, breathing heavily when my hands smacked the top of the island counter. I'd made it. "You'd better get in a circle. I have to call Al."

Lee jerked. "This is a setup? You're giving me to Al?" he exclaimed, and I started when I felt him tap the line out back.

Ivy ducked and I yelped when Pierce flung out a hand and the ball of purple aimed at us ricocheted into the sink. The pixies scattered, shrieking. "Mr. Saladan!" Pierce shouted as I coughed at the smoke drifting out the open window. "Dash it all, calm yourself!"

"I'm not going back to that!" Lee exclaimed, determined from fear.

Ivy rose from behind the counter, her eyes black and, as Pierce would say, all wrathy. "Rachel doesn't give people to Al, you ass\ You may deserve to be tossed into the ever-after, but that's not what she's doing! As long as you don't owe Al anything, you're safe." She hesitated, then added, "It wouldn't hurt to get in a circle, though."

Lee squinted at her, another ball of black stuff in his hand. Seeing them occupied, I dropped below the level of the counter, swearing as I slipped and fell on my butt. Moving carefully, I got to my knees and looked for my calling mirror. Al was going to pay up. I was going to make him. I was going to have one less tie to demons. It was going to be a good night.

"I've no fist with you," Pierce said, "but threaten Rachel again, and I'll give you thrice the pain you promise her."

Blinking, I stared at my spell books. My mirror wasn't there. "It's gone!" I exclaimed, then remembered it was still in my bag.

"You don't scare me," Lee said to Pierce, oblivious to my disappointment.

"Then I'm of the mind you've not been paying attention," Pierce said, making it a threat.

Above me, Bis crawled along the ceiling, almost matching the color perfectly. His ears were pinned to his head as Pierce and Lee argued. Ignored, I lurched back to the table, falling when I misjudged it, and pulling not only my bag, but all the coats down on me. I sat for a moment, figuring things out, then decided to stay there. If I was on the floor, I couldn't fall down. Slipping my mirror out, I struggled with the heavy glass. "Al?" I shouted, my mirror finally on my lap. "Get your butt over here!" I added, my hand splayed over the middle of it.

The argument suddenly stopped, and Lee edged into my sight from around the center counter. "Should she be doing this right now?" he asked, looking worried.

Ivy was suddenly beside me. "No," she said dryly, lips tight and brow furrowed as she leaned under the table and tried to take the mirror.

"Mine!" I said, yanking it back. "Let go!" I threatened, and she stood, hands on her hips and looking at me in disgust. "I want my name back. Too many people know Al's." I turned back to the mirror, seeing that there were no lines on it. It was empty. "What happened to my mirror?" I said, bewildered. Then realizing that I was looking at the back of the dumb thing, I swore and turned it over. The crystalline beauty of the contrasting wine-colored depths and the sharp diamond lines sparkled in the artificial light, and I lovingly ran my fingers over the glass. It was beautiful. Too bad it took a curse to run it.

The three of them stood over me, all watching with concern. "You're going to let her do this?" Lee asked, his brow furrowed.

"You're the one who drugged her," Ivy said. "Maybe one of you boys can make a circle in case she figures out which hole in her head the words come out of."

"I'm fine!" I said, squinting up at them. "I want my... name back," I said breathlessly, putting my back against a heavy table leg so I wouldn't fall over.
"Get in a circle. All of you."

Hot damn, I felt good. That last shot Lee had given me had been the icing. "Al!" I shouted, hand splayed on the mirror, crossing lines and totally in the wrong place. "Talk to me!"

"Mayhap we should tend to our own funeral," Pierce said, opening the drawer where I keep my magnetic chalk and sketching a large circle around Ivy and Lee. "The drug will be spent soon. It's like watching a corned pixy." Finished, he stood, examined the size of the circle, then picked up my splat gun from the floor, forgotten till now.

Lee stood indignantly in the uninvoked circle. "What do you want a gun for?"

"It's a dash-it-all fine weapon," Pierce said, looking at his pants pocket and frowning. "The demon set me to watch her, so I'll be fine outside the circle, but I don't set much store on a demon's word." Pierce snatched up his coat, shrugged it on, and dropped the splat gun into one of the large front pockets.

Looking doubtful, Lee invoked his circle, and a wash of purple-tinted ever-after rose up.

"Al-1-1-1-1-1-1," I called, using my free hand to position my pinkie properly, squinting when I accidentally shifted my thumb off the right glyph.

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