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Black Magic Sanction


Black Magic Sanction: Page 55


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Jeez.

"You need a ride?" I asked, knowing better than to confront Trent in my current state, but hey, if there was an excuse...

"I've got a driver coming," he said, his hands unclenching. "You got this okay?"

I nodded. "How good are your lawyers?"

"Better than Trent's," he said, smiling. I thought it weird that Lee and Trent were still friends, even after Lee had tried to blow up Trent. But after Trent left him for three days in the camp cistern, I guess all bets were off. I guess it was no weirder than my having saved Trent when I hated him.

Jenks buzzed back in, his wings sparkling with rain. "There's a black car out front," he said, and Lee adjusted his coat as if getting ready to leave.

"That's mine," he said needlessly, his expression heavy. "Are you sure you don't want to come with me? I've got resources for this kind of thing. I can make you disappear, too, but with sunny beaches and little umbrellas in your drinks."

I considered it and dismissed it in the next heartbeat. I didn't want to hide, I just needed a place to catch my balance.

"No way!" Jenks shouted. "Rachel is not going anywhere! She left once, and see what happened? That was a bad idea. Pierce doesn't have a brain in his head. Don't listen to him, Rache. We got this."

Ivy raised her hand. "I hate the beach," she said mildly, and Lee smiled.

"Fair enough," he said, standing in the middle of our kitchen and meeting everyone's eyes with his own. "I'm out of here. Good luck."

"Same to you, Lee." I impulsively gave him a hug, whispering, "Tell Trent he can suck my toes and die, okay?"

He chuckled, rubbing my head for luck before turning and walking away. I let him get away with it, then carefully fixed my hair. There was a brief pixy hail in the sanctuary as he passed through it, then silence. The church felt almost empty. Sighing, I turned to my library under the center counter. If the coven was coming for me, it was going to be a busy night.

"You spelling tonight?" Jenks asked as I pulled a mundane spell book out and thumped it on the counter.

"You know it." Now that Lee was gone, I could get serious. My thoughts strayed to the demon texts, inches from my knees. There were things in there that would stop intruders dead in their tracks. It would be so easy. And wrong. No, not an option.

"I can't believe you were considering leaving again, Rache," Jenks said, indignant, his wings stilling to nothing as he landed on the rim of the spell pot I'd just gotten down. "You leave and you're dead. I don't care how far Lee's money can take you. We've been in the garden long enough to shore up the defenses, and they'll have to get through that to reach the church. How long can you stay in a bubble?"

"A bubble won't help her if they set the church on fire," Ivy said dryly.

"Maybe I could put the church in a bubble," I mused as I turned pages, thinking there had to be a way out of this. Besides going to Trent and signing his lousy paper, that is.

"Gas and electrical lines," Ivy said, always the doomsayer. "No good if it's witches coming for you. Besides, you want to hide here for how long?"

I winced while Jenks vigorously bobbed his head. "Point taken," I said. "What do you think it will be? Witches?" I forced myself to not fidget, though Ivy could probably tell I was upset just by sniffing the air.

Ivy stretched until the red stone in her belly-button ring showed from under her black T-shirt. "Well, it won't be the Weres," she said as she reached one hand for the ceiling, the one in the cast bent over her head. "And no local vamps. Rynn would bury them alive."

"Brooke said we had until sunup," Jenks said grimly, wings going full tilt and sending a silver light to fill the empty sink.
"That means out-of-state assassins. That's where my pollen is. Tink's a Disney whore, Rache. Can't you go even one year without a price on your head?"

Tired, I skated my sock-footed toe around on the linoleum, staring at my book. I had until sunup to prep for who knew what. "I don't mind leaving. I'm the one they want."

Ivy smiled, a faint, amused expression, as she came closer. The width of the counter between us, she pulled out a second book and set it gently on the counter, her long fingers pale on the faded rough leather. "Leave? Just when it's getting interesting?"

My eyebrows rose when she actually opened it. Seeing her brow furrowed and her lower lip between her teeth, I wondered if she knew how provocative she looked as she tried to understand a part of me that was as foreign to her as vampire lust was to me. Probably.

Jenks landed on the open pages, hands on his hips as he looked down. "David needs a couple more days to get your paperwork," he said, eyes down. "We can keep you alive that long half asleep."

"Besides," Ivy said, looking up at me with calm brown eyes, "we don't have anything better to do tomorrow. Wednesdays are always slow."

I smiled, glad I had such good friends.



The wind was warm, and I could hear insect wings clattering in the tall grass as I sat beside Pierce in the vast golden field, content. Above my head, the amber seed heads of ripe wheat waved, and as I reached to tickle Pierce with a broken stalk, his eyes opened, shocking me with their deep blue depths. For an instant, Kisten gazed hotly at me, then his features melted and Pierce again took his place. The witch's loose waves were in disarray, and his hat shadowed his face. "It's almost sunrise," he said, his accent making me smile. "Time to wake."

Then his eyes shifted, going red and slitted like a goat's. His features became harder, taking on a ruddy complexion until it was Al lying before me in his crushed green velvet, one knee casually drawn up. The skies turned bloodred, and he reached out a white-gloved hand, grasping my wrist but not pulling me closer. "Come home, itchy witch."

I snorted, jerking awake.

Bolting upright, I stared at my closed window to see the fading light of sunrise against the colorful reds and blues of the stained glass. Heart pounding, I realized the clattering of insect wings in my dream had been Jenks hovering before my closed door, listening at the crack.

He had a finger to his lips, and after seeing my wide-eyed stare, he went back to the door.

Slowly my pulse eased, and I looked at my clock. Quarter after six. I'd worked most of the night, finally lying down about three hours ago to get some sleep. Throwing off the afghan, I carefully pulled my knees up to tighten the laces of my sneakers. I didn't feel so good.

"Why are you in my room?" I whispered, not knowing why I was being quiet except that Jenks had told me to be.

"It's after sunup," he said, ear to the door. "You think I'm going to leave you alone? Open season on redheads started fifteen minutes ago."

Fingers fumbling and knees protesting, I tied my shoes. Three hours of sleep wasn't nearly enough. "Where is everyone?" I asked as I rose to peek out the small stained-glass window.

"Bis is asleep, the cat's inside, Jax is on the steeple, and my kids are strategically placed in the garden with Matalina," he said shortly. "We're just waiting for God to say go. Either that, or your killers are waiting for you to walk in front of a fairy-farted window."

I backed from the window, arms around myself. Jax is here? "What about Nick?"

Jenks turned, hovering beside the door. "What about him?

You said Jax is here...," I questioned.

Frowning, he muttered, "The kid either got really smart or really stupid. He came in right after you went to bed. Said he left Nick because he didn't like the way the lunker went after you with a knife. Tink's little red thong, Rachel. If I'd been there, I would've killed Nick's ratty ass. Now I don't know if I should take Jax back or send Jrixibell to see if he's spying on us."

My eyebrows rose. From the sanctuary came a loud "I don't trust you, that's why!"

It was Ivy, and she was ticked. "Who's here? Edden?"

Jenks dropped an inch in height, his wings slowing. "Pierce."

"Is he okay?" I stiffened. "How come no one woke me up?"

"Because he was fine and you were sleeping." Jenks gave up on listening and faced me with his hands on his hips in his best Peter Pan pose. "He's only been here five minutes, and already he's causing trouble. Cool your hormones, Rache."

"Your opinion of me is supposed to change my emotions for her?" Pierce's voice came, hushed but intense. "You can't assist her, vampire. Your love can only save her by limiting her. It's what you are. There's no shame but that you're using her to try to rise beyond your scope."

Great. Just freaking great. Snatching up a brush, I ran it over my hair three times before I gave up. God help him. He was stripping Ivy of the lies that kept her sane.

"Don't go out!" Jenks exclaimed as I reached for the doorknob. "They'll quit talking!"

"That's the idea," I said, jerking the door open

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