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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 72

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"I've got this!" I shouted, and she looked at me.

"I lost track of Rex," she said, not hearing me, but my waving hands were clear enough.

"Oh." Suitably subdued, I waited by the nicked floor molding while she pushed my door open and did a quick look for felines. "Uh, she's under the bed!" I exclaimed when a pair of yellow eyes looked at me from beside the laptop Ivy had given me last summer.

Ivy didn't hear, her head in my closet, and panic iced through me when the cat stood and started pacing forward.
"Non sum qualis eraml" I shouted.

The breath in me turned inside out, and I reached for something, anything. Dizziness roared in, and I was already mumbling, "I take the smut, I take it," before even the hint of it could lay me out. Unlike an earth charm that changed a person, a demon curse didn't hurt - unless you refused the smut. My vision swam in a nauseating swirl, and I took another breath, my lungs starved for air as they formed, empty and slack.

"You okay?" Ivy asked, close and worried.

Blinking, I found she was holding my arm to keep me upright. Rex was at my feet, tail twitching in confusion. And I was stark naked, as hairy as an orangutan. "Oh, for God's sake," I muttered as I snatched my pillow and covered myself. Eaten by a cat. Wouldn't the coven love that?

Ivy grinned, her eyes black because of the emotions I was kicking out. "Welcome back," she said wryly, letting me go and sauntering out my door. I heard a thump and a sigh as she leaned her head back against the wall in the hall next to my door, and when I went to shut the door - which she'd left open - Ivy put a long hand in the way. "I want to talk to you," she said from the hall.

I hesitated, then tossed my pillow back on my bed before I yanked my top drawer open and pulled out a bright red pair of undies. Yeah. Red would be good today. Rex jumped up on my bed, chirping for attention, but I couldn't bring myself to touch her yet. A soft bong from the belfry told me the sun was down. Bis had taken to tapping it when he woke. My thoughts drifted to having gotten my own summoning name back, and I smiled. I could lounge around in my robe, or shower, or even shave, maybe, without worrying about being jerked out. Slowly my smile faded. I was not feeling bad for Al. No freaking way.

"Can I come in yet?" Ivy asked from the hall.

I pulled a camisole over my head, red to match my underwear. "I'm not dressed."

The click of my door closing pulled me around. "I said I'm not dressed!" I exclaimed, seeing Ivy with her back to it, her eyes a nice steady brown, but her expression grim.

"I, ah, looked Pierce up on the Internet," she said, and my anger shifted to worry.

Oh. Avoiding her, I dug around in my top drawer for a pair of ankle socks. My feet, once cold and dirty, were clean. My scars were gone again. Apart from the hair thing, demon curses were better than a shower. I glanced at my snarled hair in the mirror over my dresser. Almost. The neurotoxins from my vampire bite were still there, and the tweaking to my mitochondria, too. My ears, too, needed piercing. Again.

"How bad is it?" I asked, yanking open a lower drawer and pulling out my TAKATA STAFF shirt. I figured she would look him up, and I wasn't sure I wanted to hear this. I was starting to like Pierce, which meant he was bad news. "Bad enough."

The shirt scraped my nose as I pulled it on, and feeling a little less exposed, I went to my closet for a pair of jeans. Ivy was sitting on my bed with Rex, her long fingers between the smiling cat's ears. "He told me he's a former coven member," I said, shoving first one leg, then another into the fresh cotton and zipping it up. Much better.

"Once a member, always a member," Ivy murmured when I turned around with my socks and sat on the end of my bed.

"Even when they kill you for knowing black magic." Sure, you could kill a busload of people by perverting a white spell, but they'd shun you for doing a harmless black one. Damn hypocrites. Twisting my foot up, I marveled at the pristine smoothness of its underside. "Pierce told me they blew his cover because they didn't like him summoning demons, but he was doing it to kill them."

"That's what I found," she said slowly, "but there's more."

There was always more. "He knows about the demon thing," I said, seeing her eyes downcast and clearly reluctant to say anything. "He's not going to hurt me."

But my confidence trickled away at her expression. "Ask him about Eleison."

I bent to reach my running shoes, under my bed. They'd cost me a fortune, but were the most comfortable pair of shoes I had since Alcatraz had one pair of my boots and my other was split between here and the ever-after. I had to talk to Al, tell him the gun wasn't my idea. What an ass, shooting at Al. "Is Eleison his girlfriend?" I asked. Dead girlfriends, I could handle.

Looking ill, Ivy shook her head. "It was an eighteenth-century southern town."

Was? Oh. My eyes went to the wall as if I could see through it to where Jenks was with Pierce. My breath tight, I asked, "What did he do?"

Ivy let Rex drop to the floor, and the cat waited impatiently under the doorknob. "He used black magic to vaporize it while trying to kill a demon."

"Mmmm." Good thing I didnt like the guy. "Are you sure it was him?"

Ivy nodded. "Four hundred innocents. Dead."

My fingers tying my shoes were slow. "I guess putting four hundred people in the ground might explain why he was in purgatory."

I looked up when Ivy shifted closer. "Rachel, I don't care if you sleep with the guy, but do it fast and get it over with. He's going to get you killed. He won't mean to, but he will. People die around him."

People die around me, too. Depressed, I let my foot hit the rug. "I'll be careful." Eyes rising, I found hers pinched in an inner pain. "I'll be careful, okay?"

She stood up as I did, her smile thin. "Okay."

Vll ask him about it. Get the whole story, I thought, feeling refreshed in my clean clothes and the entire night spreading out before me. I'm in control and not upset. I can work with this.

"Do we have anything to eat?" I asked, thinking about the now-useless sleepy-time charms I'd made last night. "I've got spelling to do tonight." Maybe find one that lowered your blood pressure. "I have an idea of how to get Trent and the coven off my back."

Ivy gave me a look before opening my door. "The coven isn't going to give up on you."

"I have to try," I said as I followed her down the dark hallway. Pierce was talking to Jenks behind my closed bathroom door, and my chest tightened. Good thing I didn't like him.

"I'll talk to Rynn," Ivy said, her voice wispy as she entered the kitchen and thunked the light on with her elbow. "Maybe he'll help now. Sending fairies to burn our church isn't right."

"My idea doesn't involve Rynn Cormel," I drawled as I headed for the fridge. Coming out with a carton of cottage cheese, I caught the spoon that Ivy threw me. "Do you have David's cell number? I need him to bird-dog some legal stuff for me."

Ivy smiled. "Way ahead of you," she said as she went to her computer.

I shoveled a huge spoonful of cottage cheese into my mouth, eyes closing in bliss at the soft bite. God, I was hungry.

But my eyes flew open at a soft tremble from under my feet. Ivy's eyebrows rose, and then a rumble rolled over the church like distant thunder. From the belfry, the bell bonged, and a shiver cascaded through me. The big mojo amulet on my bag flashed red, then went quiet. Holy crap. Someone had just rung the bells.

The bathroom door crashed open, and from the back of the church, I heard Ceri's steps as she came in from the garden. Jenks flew in, his dust carrying a hint of gray, but his wings were bright red in excitement. "It wasn't me!" I said as the pixy landed on the center island counter.

"That was an explosion!" Jenks said.

Ceri slid in with her hand to her hair to keep the fair strands from floating. "It was a magical explosion!" she said breathlessly. "Someone just rang the bells!"

Pierce came in behind her, and my heart clenched. He had shaved and was back in his usual dark pants and vest, his eyes wide and his hair tousled. He looked entirely in control, and yet... like he belonged in my chaotic life. Eleison, echoed in my thoughts. Four hundred people.

Looking away, I downed more cottage cheese, not knowing when I'd get another chance to eat. "I think it was Brooke," I said as I dug my spoon in. It was after sunset. She'd tried to summon me. Stupid woman. But I could make it work for me - twice over.

Pierce edged past Ceri to stand beside me. I eyed him, then put my attention on my lunch. "She summoned Al," he said flatly. "The fool." Pushing from the counter, I ate one more spoonful and put the lid back on. Ivy's eyes were on me as I opened my charm cupboard and pulled out a pain amulet. Yeah. Yll need this.

"What are you doing?" Ivy asked.

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