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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 56

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. "Pierce?" I called, hearing Ivy hiss something. A quiver pulled through me as I felt him tap the line in the backyard. Shit.

"Don't do it, Ivy!" I shouted, running painfully to the sanctuary. Damn it, if she pinned him to the wall, I was going to be pissed.

Remembering what Jenks had said about windows, I skidded to a halt at the end of the hall, heart pounding. Pierce wasn't pinned to a wall, but standing beside the burnt pool table in the dusky morning light, dimmer than usual because of the boarded-up window. He still had his full-length wool duster on, and my dream rushed back. Facing Ivy, he looked wary and dangerous as he frowned, his hands in the pockets of his long coat and his hat on his head. I could almost smell the power spilling off him, rising above his pockets to spill over and eddy about his feet. He didn't look hurt at all. In fact, he looked great.

The scent of redwood battled with vamp incense to fill the church with the hint of power and sex. Breathing deeply, I took a step in. Ivy had changed into her working leathers in preparation for today's festivities, and her arm cast looked very white and new in its black sling. Her eyes were a full, intoxicating black, and she moved with a sultry pace as she circled him, eight feet back. Yup, she'd lost it. Her blood fasting was not a good idea.

She paused when she got between Pierce and me, coyly turning to me. Her expression was a sultry mix of lust and domination. "Ivy, stop it," I said when my neck started to tingle.

"He wants to take you to the ever-after," she said, fear dulling her sexual air. "Ask him."

Pierce pulled his left hand from his pocket in a gesture for me to listen, and a knot of tension eased when I saw its smooth length instead of Al's white gloves. "You must agree that though smelling almighty putrid it's safe. You'd be safe there."

I'd seen the ever-after in the daylight, and it was nasty. "Is that why you're not hurt?" I said hotly. "You got a deal going with Al? You convince me to bag reality and go hide in the ever-after, and he doesn't beat you to a pulp? I'm not a demon, and I don't belong there!"

"No." Pierce glanced at Ivy, then Jenks, before taking a step closer. "I don't think you're a demon." His left hand went back into a deep pocket, and my face got cold when he brought out the blackened, paint-peeling remains of my cherry-red splat gun. "My apologies," he said as he crossed the room and placed it in my grip. "He plum destroyed your spell pistol."

"H-how?" I stammered, then remembered that Pierce had had it when I left. Jenks whistled long and slow, and on impulse, I pulled Pierce's right hand out. The witch hissed in pain, and I turned it over to see the imprint of the splat gun's handle.

"Oh my God. Pierce. What did he do to you?" I tossed the melted gun to the burnt couch, and Pierce stiffened when Ivy approached. "Jenks, get a pain amulet," I said, and the pixy darted off. "You shot at him?" I demanded, my worry coming out as anger. "Are you crazy? I'm surprised he didn't kill you!"

Standing resolutely before me, Pierce hid his burnt hand behind his back. "I'm sure he'd rather. I didn't remain to give him the chance. My aim was poor, and he melted your spell caster after my second volley. You'd rather I remained for a beating?"

And now that the sun was up, Al couldn't follow him. Ohhh, I bet he's pissed.

Jenks dripped gold sparkles as he came back, and I took the amulet from him, draping it over Pierce's head and catching it briefly on the brim of his hat. Immediately Pierce's pinched expression eased, but Jenks was buzzing in alarm. "Al is going to be ma-a-a-ad," he drawled in warning. "He's gonna think Rachel gave you her gun."

Making a sound of disapproval, Ivy pushed herself into motion, her grace giving me the willies as she peeked out the front door. I glanced at the melted gun on the charred cushions and silently agreed. "I can't believe you shot at him. Come on," I said as I took Pierce's upper arm. "I've got a burn charm. It's only for stove burns, but it will help."

Pierce didn't move, and my grip slipped off him. "You're under a coven death sentence," he said, warily glancing at Ivy. "I know you're not cotton to the ever-after, but Al will take you in. The coven can't reach you there."

His language was slipping, telling me he was really upset, and I eyed him in disbelief. "I am not going to go crying to Al for help. I might have to put up with you, but I don't have to take your advice. You were wrong about not telling Al about the coven in the first place. You were wrong about leaving the church. And you were wrong about getting on that bus. Did you know Vivian almost killed everyone on it? I'm not leaving to hide in the ever-after!"

Pierce's brow furrowed.
"Mayhap they wouldn't have died had we been there."

I frowned, having thought the same thing. Is that his backhanded way of blaming me?

Ivy came back in from the foyer, standing with her feet spread and senses alert, listening. Her eyes were still dark, but at least she wasn't looking like she was ready to jump anyone. Jenks joined her, the noisy clatter of his wings loud in the silence of an otherwise pixy-empty church. "We can keep Rachel alive," he said almost snottily. "We don't need your help."

Pierce crossed his arms over his chest, but I wasn't leaving, and that was it. I didn't care how much he frowned and cleared his throat. Running a hand over my sleep-snarled hair, I tried to remember how long ago it had been when I'd made a burn charm. Less than a year, certainly. But I needed a way to talk to Pierce alone. I did not want them hearing what was going to come out of my mouth next. "Jenks, how much feverfew do we have?"

He flew backward from me, expression cross as he saw I was clearly trying to get rid of him. "I'll go check - Rachel," he said caustically, then darted out the back.

I turned to Ivy next, waiting.

"I'll do a perimeter," she muttered. "Stay away from the windows."

Boot heels clunking in noisy protest, she left out the front, careful to make sure Rex didn't slip out with her. I caught a glimpse of the morning as the door opened to show bright sun glinting on the pavement, still wet from last night's rain. Cool and peaceful. Well, lean change that, I thought, turning back to Pierce.

His shoulders were stiff, his jaw clenched and his cheeks faintly red without a hint of stubble. When had he had time to shave? "Pierce," I said, knowing Jenks was eavesdropping. "Thank you for getting Al to... I mean, you didn't have to... I was handling it," I said plaintively, then gave up, slumping. "Thank you," I said earnestly. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Pierce's posture eased, and he lost his hard expression. "You're welcome."

"But I'm not leaving the church," I said, and his frown returned. "I tried that, and it went wrong. These are my friends, and I'm sticking with them."

My fingers lightly ran down his injured hand's arm, tugging it out to see the damage, but he wouldn't let me see. "Just how mad is Al?" I asked. Rex was rubbing against my leg asking to go out, and I picked her up. "That's why you want me to go back, isn't it? You figure if I go back looking for protection, he won't be so mad about you shooting him."

"Perish the thought," Pierce said, his eyes glinting. "It's your safety I'm thinking of."

Like I believed that. "And you think I make bad decisions," I said, carrying Rex to the kitchen as I went to get a burn charm. I knew he'd follow.

"He was savage as a meat ax," he said from behind me. "I might be beaten come sundown, but it was worth it," he muttered. "I opine that we both like what scares us most."

The kitchen was blue from the pulled curtains, peaceful. "Excuse me?"

He shrugged, his shoulders looking hunched under the duster. "I like trying to kill demons, and I think you fancy Ivy."

My fingers fondling Rex's ears hesitated. "Excuse me?" I said again, more stridently.

Pierce leaned in, surprising me when his forehead almost touched mine. "She can save you, you know," he whispered, his own fingers going out to touch Rex, between us, and I froze. "If you abandon yourself and cleave to her, fully accepting her sovereignty over you, you will be protected by the vampires to the death. They see you as their next leap."

Oh. That. I couldn't look up, and I focused on our fingers, touching among the purring cat's fur. "I wouldn't be myself," I said, wondering why he was bringing this up.

"True, you would be different. But you'd be strong. And remembered forever." He took a breath, and as his fingers left mine, I looked up. "Do you love her?"

His question shocked the hell out of me. "You are full of questions, aren't you?"

There was that same worried wrinkle above his eyes. I'd seen it before when he'd talked to me about Nick, and my pulse quickened. He wanted me to say no. "Do you?" he asked earnestly. "Don't mistake my apparent simple nature for stupidity.

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