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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 82

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My heart pounded as I felt the line take us, and I had a moment of panic. This didn't count. If Al took me out of here before I could finish the deal, it didn't count!

"Wait!" Nick's voice came thinly, and I heard Al swear, but we misted back into existence to see Nick standing there with his long, sensitive hand outstretched in doubt. A surge of adrenaline and sexual excitement pulsed in me. Shit, I'm not getting turned on over this?

Al must have sensed it, because he leaned closer, his hand curving around my side, then withdrawing lightly across my back to make me quiver.
"Sweet mother of chaos," he breathed. "Rachel, you are indeed one of us. Have your time in the sun. You're worth the extra wait."

Licking my lips, I stood, unable to move. The blood pounded low in my groin, and I clenched my teeth. Damn it, I was not getting turned on by besting Nick in a game of bluff!

Am I?

"What's the take?" Nick asked warily, eying me so closely that I had to wonder if he knew what was going through my mind.

Swallowing, I pulled from Al. "I want to steal something from Trent." Something more than his hoof pick this time.

Al dropped back, humming happily about this little witch of mine.

Nick looked me up and down. "Lab, office, or living quarters?"

Damn it, I think Yvegot him! There'd be the obligatory pissing contest, but he'd do it. "Thief's choice, just not his living quarters."

Nick grabbed a couple of twist ties from the trash and laced a boot closed. "Why not his rooms?"

I shrugged, shifting farther from both men. "I promised I wouldn't."

"Can I take a person?" Nick asked, and I recoiled.

"No. A thing. I don't care what it is. I figured you'd know better than me what Trent has in his basement that he's not sharing with the world. It has to be something embarrassing and sensational. Something he wants back, bad, but doesn't want to admit having."

Nick looked up from tying his second boot with a twist tie. "Blackmail? He gets the coven off your case or you go public with it?" His head shook. "He'll just kill you."

"Which is why I'm giving it back before he has the chance," I said. I didn't think Trent would kill me. If I died, even disgraced and shunned, his biolabs would hit the front page.

Nick looked at me in disbelief. "You want me to steal just so you can give it back?"

"That's my itchy witch for you," Al said with a sigh. "Nicholas Gregory Sparagmos, I will take your mark back for everything in this room."

"Only if I'm not included on the list," he shot back, and Al scrunched his features up in disappointment.


"It's a prank, Nick," I said, bringing the conversation back to me. "You know, for fun? Trent is going to announce his candidacy for city mayor on Friday. The press will be there. I'm going to give it back then."

His expression brightening, Nick bobbed his head. "He'll press charges."

My breath puffed out of me. "Only if I'm really lucky," I muttered.

Nick looked at me, read my tells, and knew I wasn't lying. I needed hira, and that alone was enough. Not because he liked me or wanted to help, but because when it was done, I was going to owe him, and he'd never let me forget it.

Still balancing on a no, he eyed me. "I don't see what you're getting here," he said.

Smiling, I sauntered forward, moving slowly as I put my arms around his neck and leaned in. "That's because you're a thief, Nicky," I whispered, lips next to his ear. Pulling back, I gave him a kiss. It was dead. There was nothing there. No hatred, no anger, no love. Nothing. I didn't care. He was a means to an end. Nothing more.

Our lips parted, and I waited. I could see in his expression that he knew it was done. And somehow that moved our relationship to a completely unexpected level. Business.

"I know exactly what you need," he said, and I smiled.

Itook a deep breath, pulling the garden-damp air deep into me and feeling as if the golden haze of afternoon pooled inside me, all yellow and swirly. There was a hint of chill in the air this early in the spring, and the tang of Jenks's stump, still burning, reminded me of fall. It might burn for months, the roots smoldering underground as it slowly erased Jenks's heartache. Even so, it felt good to be home and in the garden.

There was only the faint hissing of cars to remind me that I was in the suburbs of Cincinnati; all else was quiet. Jenks's family was in mourning, and the garden seemed empty. In my hand was a handful of hickory twigs, still green and sporting new leaves. I'd used the last of the bark scrapings this morning making up a new batch of pain amulets. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to need for tonight's escapade, but pain amulets were a good bet. Especially if I didn't have a splat gun - thanks to Pierce.

Motions slow and provocative, I went up the worn back-porch steps, daring the coven to take a potshot at me, but it was probable that Vivian was at the coven, relating how I'd given Brooke to a demon. They had to have heard about the fairies by now, too. Ceri had taken the survivors with her when she'd left in the same cab I'd pulled up in this morning with Nick. All but one fairy, apparently, which I had yet to see and Jenks didn't know about.

My hand on the screen door, I looked over my shoulder at the garden, remembering how dangerous it had been when I was four inches tall. Fairies and pixies were the Arnolds of the Inderland world as far as I was concerned. Suddenly uneasy, I looked to the invisible ley line, feeling like someone was watching. My eyes rose to see Bis sleeping on the steeple. Creeped out, I darted inside as if the monster under the bed had taken up residence under my porch.

The screen door smacked behind me, making me jump, and I kicked my running sneakers off, leaving chunks of dirt that Ivy would eventually yell at me about. I shut the main door by leaning back against the thick wood, and my gaze fell on the tiny arrows still in Ivy's couch. Had it been only yesterday?

Ivy and Nick's soft bickering in the kitchen was soothing. They'd been at it since downloading and printing out the blueprints of Trent's outbuildings from the city's public files. Ivy insisted that she'd gone through a secure server and that the download would be undetected, but I was sure we were on someone's list now.

Twigs in hand, I went into the kitchen, my peace growing as I found them reasonably calm at Ivy's big table, construction blueprints between them. Nick and Ivy had been modifying them, changing what was on file at the city to match what had actually happened at the construction site. The taped-together pages covered the table, and most of Ivy's stuff had been stacked on the floor to make more room.

Only Pierce looked up as I entered, standing at the fridge with a glass and playing with the water dispenser. At the table, the argument over some small placement of a camera continued. Ivy was edging into a vampy state, her eyes dark and motions quick, but she wasn't sultry, which was her big tell for losing it. Her black mood wasn't bothering Nick, and he was strenuously arguing a point, erasing her marks and penciling in his own. The white flash of her new cast had been covered with a black stretchy fabric that might have been a sock with the toe cut off. I had no doubts that being in a cast wasn't going to slow her down at all.

Standing on the paper, Jenks watched. I was surprised he was here, but the garden was probably too painful. His classic Peter Pan pose had slumped into a depressed hunch with his arms over his middle, and his wings were against his back. Jax, back again and sitting on Nick's shoulder, didn't look much better.

Jenks looked up when I dropped my twigs on the center counter, a flash of guilt crossing him in that he hadn't gotten them for me. I smiled, and a black dust sifted down. Reaching for the last dirty spell pot, I dunked it in the warm sudsy water.

"What about the security at that level?" Ivy said, tapping the paper. "You know they have more than cameras down there. Spell detectors, too."

"Tink's titties, Ivy," Jenks complained, his wings perking up. "That's what I'm for! Uh, we're for," he amended, looking at his son when Jax scraped his wings.

"The pixies have this," Nick said dryly as he tossed his pencil down and leaned back, scowling. "You've really got a problem with trust, vampire."

Ivy's eyes narrowed, and my neck tingled. "I trust the pixies. You, I don't."

I gave the spell pot a quick rinse in my saltwater vat, then ran it under the cold tap. The copper needed a good polishing, but not today. Pierce silently took it from me before I could set it to dry, yanking the dish towel from the rack and making good with it. I gave him a quick smile. He'd been a big help today, and I'd gained a deeper respect for his skills. It was a lot like when I worked with Al, but Pierce wasn't as quick to play teacher - which I appreciated.

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