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Black Magic Sanction


Black Magic Sanction: Page 88


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"It's just devious enough to be true," I said dryly. They couldn't hear the pixy signals. Lucky them.

Nick all but sauntered beside me, and Jax joined us after we turned the corner. "It's Trent's magnetic-imaging system," Nick said. "Trent is going to use magic as well as technology to keep his vault closed. And for that, he'll need the ley line, unexpectedly pulled downward by a very powerful magnet, something no one would think twice about in a facility such as this."

He was right, but how had he known such a thing was possible?

"I'm telling you Trent won't use magic to close his vault," Ivy grumped. "He doesn't like magic."

But his security expert loved magic. And his dad had, too.

The hallway dead-ended at an encouragingly formidable set of double doors. The line had to be behind them, though; they were the only doors in the entire hall. The carpet was pristine, no coffee stains or scrapes. The air, too, felt stale. Jenks was at the camera in the corner, and when Jax took his place, the more experienced pixy dropped down to hover with us as we faced the oak doors. Reaching past Nick, I tapped it with a knuckle. Thick.

"Well, wonder boy," Ivy said sourly, "let's see what's behind door number three."

"It'll be there," Nick said indignantly as he slid a wired card into the card reader and proceeded to play Mr. Accountant on the attached device.

I shook my head, brow furrowed. Dropping back to where Jenks hovered, I fidgeted. Beyond the door were untold riches - my ticket to getting Trent, the coven, and Al off my case. Was I a thief if I was going to give it back? Did I care?

"Are you sure those cameras aren't recording?" I asked. Down at the end of the hallway, Jax huffed, and I tossed a strand of hair out of my eyes. "I feel like I'm being watched."

"This would be easier if it was quiet," Nick said, and Ivy frowned. Nick took his fingers from the keypad and cracked his knuckles. A slip of pixy dust dropped down to lubricate the electrons as much as for luck, and Nick hit the big green button.

The red light on the pad went out, and the green one lit. There was a faint buzzing, and Nick grabbed the card out of the reader with jaunty swiftness and turned the handle. My gut clenched, but the twin doors opened silently. "QED," he said, gesturing for me to go first.

Ivy caught my shoulder. "In my family, that means quite easily dead. I'll go first." Giving Nick a mistrusting once-over, she went into the dark room. Fluorescent lights flicked on at her presence. It worried me, but it was unlikely they'd monitor the lights when there were other ways to detect people.

"It can't be this easy," I said as I followed her with Nick tight on my heels. Jax was with him, and Jenks slipped in an instant before the doors shut.

"Maybe because it isn't," Ivy said, and I stared at the blank walls of the large room.

"Where's the vault?" I asked, then turned to Nick. "Where's the freaking vault!"

"Right in front of you," he said, and I spun, in a really bad mood. "Rachel, where's the ley line?" he added, and frustrated, I hesitated.

"Uh, right here," I said, eyes going wide. "You don't think the way into the vault is... through the ever-after?" I asked, and Nick smiled deviously. "But you can't do that!"

It was a beautiful thought if it could be done, though. The perfect door. If the magnets were unpowered, the line wouldn't even come close and the door wouldn't even exist. Closing my eyes, I reached for the ley line, shocked when I found it, bent and running through the wall just as he'd said it might. A quiver went through me. Trent's dad had gone into the ever-after with my dad and come out, not bought a trip from someone. He could shift from reality to the ever-after and back using a ley line. And so could Trent, apparently. He must really not want me to know he could if he had risked everything last summer buying our way in and out of the ever-after.

Nick's smile was wide when I opened my eyes, and he pushed himself from the wall. "So where's the door?"

Heart pounding, I scanned the empty room. "Right in front of us. Let me pull up my second sight and see what's going on." Damn it, Nick knew witches couldn't do this. But he thought I could?

It was weird, how the magnets had pulled the line deep into the earth. Weird, and really clever. But even that thought vanished when I brought my second sight up to find that instead of the expected rock and rubble of being underground, we were in an open space, with tall ceilings and flat floors, colorful banners, and the phantom sound of eighties music done instrumentally.

"Holy. Crap," I gasped, shocked when I recognized it. It was the demons' mall. Al had taken me here once when he was out of powered rock from Pompeii. My hand went to my throat as I saw the demons and familiars going about their business. I'd be unseen unless they used their own second sight. I was like a ghost, not really in the ever-after but just looking at it. I turned to the wall, blinking. It was gone, a coffeehouse catering to demons and familiars alike in its place.

"Whoa. Dudes," I said. "Ivy, you're not going to believe this. It's a mall." It was times like this that made me glad demons couldn't pop over to reality whenever they felt like it but had to be summoned. Nothing could stop them from looking, though.

Nick grunted, and I turned from the juxtaposed views of the wall and coffeehouse to see him, seemingly standing in the mall, oblivious to demons going past. Nick's aura was a lot darker than the last time I'd seen him. Jax, on his shoulder, was a spot of rainbows. "Can you get in?" Nick asked.

Feeling ill and disoriented from holding two visions of reality, I blinked, deciding that his black smut was a lot thicker. The mark that Al had given him was like a black hole, sucking in all the light around it, twin to the new one on his shoulder. Seeing him waiting for an answer, I nodded. "Probably." Witches couldn't shift realities by standing in a ley line, but I wasn't a witch. Shit.

Nick bobbed his head. "There should be a panel on the other side. Just hit open. You've probably got thirty seconds to get me in so I can enter the code to disable the alarm."

"Alarm?" Ivy said, probably thinking that's why I looked sick. "You didn't say anything about that before."

He turned to her. "And you thought the vault was being hidden in a magnetic resonator. Roll with it, vamp. Or can't you function without a plan to blow your nose?"

"Uh, Rache?" Jenks interrupted, looking worried.
Rainbows spilled from him, his aura falling like pixy dust. He knew what it might mean if I could do this, and I hoped he'd keep quiet about it.

"Just... let me see," I said, then faced the blank wall, shaking out my hands and trying to find a sense of calm. This wasn't like trying to jump from one line to another. I simply wanted to slip into the ever-after through a ley line. Just go into the ever-after, walk three paces, then get out of the line. Right into a demon coffeehouse. Great. And hope that when I reappear in reality, I'm in an open room and not buried in dirt. If Trent could do it, maybe I could. I'd never be trapped in the ever-after again, either, provided I could find a ley line.

"Rachel," Nick said, bending close. "There is a room behind the wall. Why have a lock on an empty room? I trust you. You can do this."

I eyed him and his smutty aura, and he took his hand off me. How come he knew I was different? This didn't smell good at all.

But closing my eyes, I strengthened my second sight. Once more, the red-tinted burnt amber smell enfolded me. The ley line ran right through the wall. Best to take two steps maybe.

"Rachel?"

"I'm fine, Ivy," I said, my voice harsher than I had intended. "Jenks, don't even think about it." Just do it, I thought, and then I stepped into the line and let it take me.

The smell hit me, jerking my eyes open. Noise jangled, a hundred conversations, arguments, loud gossip. Shit, I'd done it. I didn't know if I should be happy or depressed. It sounded like Takata being piped in. It was hot, and sweat threatened to break out. Pushing my hair back, I took a shallow breath. I was what I was. The door to the coffeehouse was ahead of me, THE COFFEE VAULT painted on it in big silver letters. You ve got to be kidding. It was too obvious to ignore. Grasping the handle, I pushed open the door and went in.

Two demons looked up, the laughter of their joke still showing on their faces. Dressed in leisure suits I wouldn't be caught dead in, they looked me up and down, assessing how high I was in the familiar hierarchy. I felt naked without Al, and I gave them a bunny-eared kiss-kiss. "Hey, hi," I said, feeling stupid. "Just passing through." Damn it, I shouldn't be able to do this.

The better dressed of the two eyed me. "Who the hell do you belong

to?"

Ambivalent, I let the door shut behind me. There was a room mirroring this one in reality.

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