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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 86

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"How you doing?" Nick whispered, right freaking behind me.

I tried not to jump, but I figured he knew he'd startled me by his smile when I turned. "I have done this before. Nic-k," I said tightly.

He went to say something, but our attention went to the ceiling at a soft thump. I tensed, relaxing when Jenks flew downstairs, dusting a soft gold. "Remind me never to piss off Ivy," he said as he hovered before me. "She dropped them faster than a slug takes a crap."

Ivy sauntered downstairs, her silhouette confident and slim as she tugged her sleeves down and pocketed something in her belt pack. "We've got ten minutes," she said sounding loud as she broke the hush. "They'll wake up in fifteen minutes thinking they fell asleep. Which they did." She patted her belt pouch and smiled, her fangs making me shiver. "I could have made it longer, but they check in with security every half hour."

Nick was eying her belt. "What is it?"

"It's mine," she said, shooing Jax away before the smaller pixy could get a good sniff.

Nervousness seeped up through me as if rising like fog from the earth. Whatever it was, it had been illegal. We were sliding into this criminal thing far too easily. Did it matter if our motives were good if the means were bad? Or was the real question, did I want to go to Alcatraz and get my ovaries taken out and wind up lobotomized? This was survival against illegal action, and Trent was at the root of it. Guilt could take a long walk in a short shadow.

"Okay. Spread out," I said. "We've got ten minutes to find the door to the tunnel."

Immediately Jenks took off, his wings a slow, depressed hum. Jax was hot in the other direction. It was obvious that Jax was trying to impress his dad with his backup abilities. Jenks didn't seem to care, still hurting about Matalina. I hadn't even wanted him to come, but he needed to be needed right now, not alone in a church.

Ivy started for the front of the stables, and Nick followed Jax to the back. I poked about after Jenks, checking out the opposite row of stalls. Somewhere in here was a passage under the road and back to the main compound. It wasn't on any of the plans, but if you brought up the public record of who got paid during the construction of the stables, it was obvious that there was one here. You don't write a check for the materials and equipment to make a tunnel just for grins. I only hoped it didn't go right to Trent's private quarters.

The lights were low as we searched, and the horses were getting nervous. Nick wasn't comfortable with the big animals, and Ivy was like having a panther among the herd. Me, they ignored as I tapped the walls for an echo and looked for unexplained worn spots on the floor.

"What's the time, Jenks?" I asked as I rapped my knuckle against the wall holding a dozen different saddles.

"Five minutes, twenty-six seconds," he said, skimming the floor where it met the wall.

"I've got it!" shrilled a high-pitched voice, and the horse across the way snorted, her ears objecting to Jax's exuberant call as much as mine. "I think I've got it!"

Jenks was gone in a burst of dust. Breath held as I walked through it, I followed his sparkles to the end of the stables. Ivy came even with me, smelling of vampire incense. She was enjoying this. It had been a while since we'd done anything together, and I'd missed seeing her happy.

"Good going, Jax," Jenks was saying as the pixy hovered in a double-size box stall, making the black horse in it toss his nose at the dust sifting down. "How did you find it?"

"There's a draft," he said, dropping down to show his dust being pulled under the straw. "See? There's a trapdoor right here."

The horse swung his head to try to bite him like a fly, and Jax darted out of the way, glowing a bright red as he landed on Nick's shoulder. The man was standing in the dead center of the aisle, uncomfortable. "Nice," I said, eying the horse, who now had his ears back, evil as he swung and tossed his head, daring us to come in.

"Girls like horses," Nick said, arms crossed. "One of you can get him out."

Ivy frowned. "Oh, for God's sake," she muttered, reaching for the gate.

"No!" I shouted, seeing the not-so-subtle equine signs.

The horse lunged forward, but Ivy was quicker, pulling her hand back an instant before the horse got his teeth on her. He stomped, tossing his head with his ears back. "Little sucker," she said, clearly shaken as she dropped back to where Nick stood.

Jenks smirked and flitted into the stall, not a hint of dust showing as he avoided the horse's bite and vanished under the floorboards.
An instant later, a soft electric glow leaked up through the cracks. He'd found the lights.

"Did he get you?" I said, taking Ivy's hand, but apart from a bad mood, she looked okay.

A silver dust sifted over our fingers, and I let go when Jenks rejoined us. "It's a passage, all right," he said as Ivy shook her head. "It runs under the road. This is it."

Nick crossed his arms. "With hell horse guarding it? Ivy, will your drugs work on it?"

She shook her head. "I don't have enough. He's got to weigh over a thousand pounds."

"Hit him over the head with your cast," Jenks said. "Use what you got."

Ivy just looked at him, and I sighed, standing outside easy bite range. "I'm not going to be stopped by a freaking horse!" I said.

The horse's ears flicked forward, and his nose toss took on a less aggressive slant. My breath caught, and Jenks landed on my shoulder. "Did you see that?" he said, and Ivy chuckled.

"Rachel, I think he likes you."

"No way," I said, but the monster's ears flicked forward again, followed by a happy step toward us. My lips twisted, and I gazed at Ivy, mystified.

Jenks laughed. It was the first time I'd heard it since Matalina died, and something eased in me. "Well, I know you're not a virgin to soothe a savage beast," he said, and I swatted at him, missing him by a mile. "Go pet the horse, Rachel."

Nick scuffed his feet. "We're running out of time here..."

"Go pet the horse," I grumbled. "Do you people know the bite pressure of those teeth?" Wiping my hand on my black slacks, I reached out, jerking when the horse hung his head over the wall and head-butted me.

"I'll be damned," Nick swore, and Jenks laughed again.

"I don't get this," I said, as shocked as Ivy appeared, her black eyes wide and wondering. My hands went up to touch him, and I looked for a halter to put on him so I could lead him out. But when my gaze fell on the nameplate, my jaw dropped. "Tulpa?" I said, and the horse blew at me, seeming to be disappointed that I didn't have a snack for him.

"Ivy, this is the horse I fell off," I said, seeing that she was allowed to touch the gate now. "It was like thirteen years ago. Horses don't live that long and look this good." My focus went blurry as I pieced it together. "You're Trent's familiar, aren't you, old boy," I said as I slipped inside the stall as if I belonged. Tulpa wouldn't hurt me.

"Tick tock, Rache," Jenks said, and I cooed at the huge animal, not caring what Nick or Ivy thought as I ran my hands appreciatively over his black coat, glistening with the first hints of silver. God, the muscles on him. "Come on in," I said as I shoved his shoulder, and the horse obediently shifted to the wall of the big stall. "Back. Back up," I said, my hand on his neck giving a soft pressure, and I smiled when the horse took two more steps off the trapdoor. At least Trent's horse liked me. I should write him a letter and tell him. It would make his day.

Ivy came in, and Jenks, eying the blowing horse as she found the lever and swung the small trapdoor open. Clearly the horse was used to it, making only a snuff at the artificial light at his feet. His head dropped as if searching for a familiar face coming up and perhaps an apple. Ivy started down the metal stairs, her vamp reflexes making it easy one-handed, but Nick was still in the hallway.

Jenks put his hands on his hips and hovered. "What's wrong, crap-for-brains?"

Her head even with the floor, Ivy hesitated. "You don't have to come."

Grimacing, he eyed me and the horse. His hand on the gate prompted a sudden shifting from Tulpa, but I pushed him back. Horses were great. Once they accepted your dominance, there was no question. They sort of seemed to like it.

"Just get down the stairs, Nick," I said, and he slipped inside, almost skating down the metal framework in his haste. Jax was with him, and it was with an odd reluctance that I left Tulpa, giving him a pat before taking the stairs and unwedging the rod that had propped it open.

"Thanks, Tulpa," I said wistfully as the door shut, inches from my head. The last sight I saw was a floppy pair of lips with bristly whiskers snuffling at the narrowing crack. I turned and went downstairs, sighing at the thumps of his hooves overhead. I'd forgotten how much I liked horses.

Jenks was waiting for me, his hands on his hips as he hovered in his black thief outfit, looking better even if his grief was just out of sight in the back of his eyes.

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