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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 90

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"Who takes the smut?" he asked as his fingers encircled the tiny vial, and Jenks bristled.

"I do, now drink it!" I said, handing Ivy the last one. "I'll invoke them together. You uninvoke it by saying the invocation word again, so don't say it until you mean it. Got it?"

Ivy hesitated, and Jenks got in her face. "Do it, you chicken-shit vamp!" he yelled, and she did.

My breath exploded out of me, and I touched the line, strengthening my grip on it. The thing was right next to me, and the hair on my arms was standing on end. Maybe the demons were watching, getting a good laugh.

I put my hands on Ivy's and Nicks shoulders, and said, "Quid me fiet!" What am I becoming? Yeah. It fit. It was a freaking demon curse. I'd made it, and I was using it.

Ivy jerked, and I held on to her, not letting her break my gaze as the magic cascaded over us together. Her eyes widened as she felt herself change, her own face going longer and thin, aging a decade or two, and her hair silvering. Her clothes, too, changed, becoming what I remembered from the last time I'd seen Dr. Anders. Dark slacks, white shirt, and a lab coat - no hint of a cast. Demon magic. You've got to love it. It was only a glamour, though, not her real body. Under my fingers, I could feel the hardened plaster.

"You're Ceri!" she said, and feeling the magic soak in, I let go of her and dropped back.

"I take it," I whispered, accepting the smut for all of them, and I stifled a shudder as I felt it lap over me, settling in like a blanket, smothering. I'd never be free of it.

Ivy turned to Nick. "You look like Trent," she said. "My God, Rachel. How long have you been able to do this?"

I followed her gaze to where Jax was flitting like mad over Nick, who indeed looked like Trent, dressed in his usual suit and tie. It was demon magic at its best, but it was only an illusion. "Not long. It won't hold up to touch. I mean, you aren't really dressed in a lab coat, and your arm is still broken. It's all an illusion that goes no deeper than your aura. Cheaper that way. Let's get out of here."

My brief high was gone, and I felt sick. I'd made the curse, taken the curse, made my friends take the curse, and then invoked it. Bad tempered, I reached for the door.

"You're not pregnant," Jenks said, and my mouth fell open. I knew I'd forgotten something!

"Shove your belt pack under your shirt," Ivy suggested, and as Jax slipped out the crack in the door to get the camera, I swung it around and did what she said. It was too big for seven months, but it was better than nothing. The picture, draped across my back, showed, and Nick had his card reader. I stank like burnt amber, too. Dead. We were so dead.

"Let's go," I said, and Nick opened the door.

Jax took the first camera. Jenks buzzed on ahead, his ultrasonic hail hurting my ears as we got to the corner. Jax was a blur, racing over our heads to leapfrog ahead.

The sight of two security people jogging down the hallway spiked my adrenaline. "Here we go, boys and girls," I said, glancing at Ivy and trying to remember if Dr. Anders had eyes that dark or if Ivy's curse wasn't covering all of her.

"Sir! Ma'am!" the one said, coming to a breathless halt, his hand on his holstered weapon. "What are you doing down here?"

I tensed. If Nick was going to betray us, it would be now. Ivy kept her mouth shut, knowing she wouldn't sound like Dr. Anders, and I jumped when Nick took my arm as if in support. "Someone got into the vault," Nick said, lifting his card gadget. "With this. I think they're headed for the upper floors." The two men stared at him. "Well, go get them!" he added, and they turned to run the way they had come, shoes clacking as they radioed ahead.

Swallowing, I looked down at the fake bulge at my middle. "That was close," I said, knees shaking as we started forward again.

"If we're not out of here in two minutes, we're caught," Ivy muttered. "How fast can a woman seven months pregnant run?"

"This one can run pretty damn fast," I said, and we jogged to the elevators, waving a worried encouragement to the occasional face that peeped out from an office or lab, wanting to know what was going on. Soon as Quen showed up, it would be over. God, what I would give for my splat gun. Good thing I didn't have it.

The sight of the elevator sent a surge of excitement through me. Almost there. If we could just get inside the workings, we'd be all but home free. Feeling like actors in a sci-fi film, we slid to a stop. As Jax kept the camera on a loop, Nick and Ivy both reached to wedge the doors apart, Ivy using her hand not in a cast.

"Come on. Come on!" I encouraged, but then the little ding of an approaching car iced through me, and the doors slid open. Six security guys were in it. All of them were looking at us in surprise. Not my day. So not my day.

"That way," Nick said, doing a credible imitation of Trent on a bad day. "They gained the vault. Check every room from here to there. Now!"

"Mr. Kalamack," one said as the others jumped to obey. "Allow me to escort you to the upper floors. I understand your interest in the vaults, and you, too, ma am," he added, looking nervous as he shot me a glance, "but Quen would have me on grocery detail if anything happened to either of you."

I breathed easier when Ivy subtly shifted out of an attack position. Down the hall, I could hear doors opening and shouts of a negative nature. Jaw tight, I silently walked into the elevator. Riding would be easier, but frankly, I didn't think it would be stopping on our floor. We'd have to get out another way, not through the stables.

As I stood pensively next to the security officer who had accompanied me in, I motioned with my eyes for Nick and Ivy to join me. See you up top, Jenks, I thought, wishing him luck. I knew he and Jax would make it okay, but my gut still tightened. How were we going to ditch these guys without knocking them out and giving it away that we were the ones they were after?

"I want an office-by-office search," Nick said as he joined me, and Ivy gave him a nudge to keep his mouth shut.

The officer seemed to be waiting for something, and Nick started patting his pockets as if for a key card. "Allow me," the man finally said, running his card and hitting the R button.

R? I thought. R for residence? Not good.

My stomach churned as the lift rose. Silence grew heavy, and I started to sweat as I noticed the officer looking at my slightly too-large middle, then the card and wire thing still in Nick's grip. Oh God. I smelled.

"Thank you... Marvin, for accompanying us," Nick said, bringing the man's attention back to him.

Ivy stood stock-still in the corner, eyes down as she filled the car with the spicy scent of vampire. Damn, damn, damn! Stinky vampire, stinky witch, and stinky sneakers. Okay, they looked like dress shoes, but Nick's boots smelled like leather soaked in salt water and left for a year in the back of a closet. This guy had to be on some major allergy medicine to not notice the stink of burnt amber. And how were we going to get out of the residence wing? If we didn't run into Trent, we'd run into someone who'd just seen him. Maybe we should have hit the man, but then we'd have to run out of here over the pastures. This way, we might get a car.

Looking at the array of buttons, I leaned into Nick. "I don't feel well," I whispered, trying to make my voice wispy. "Trenton, I need some, ah, feverfew."

Ivy stiffened, and Nick turned to me.

"Feverfew?" he echoed as the doors opened to the familiar low-ceilinged, brown-and-gold opulence of Trent's bar, his living room and wide windows looking out onto the landscaped pool spread out before us. Into the lion's den. This was not going well, but I lurched out, at least knowing where we were. Ivy came with me, and Nick. And the security guy, of course. Damn it.

"I saw some from the car the other day as we drove into Cincinnati," I said, babbling. "Please, I need it now." I put a hand to the belt pack to shift it to the middle as I walked, making a beeline for the kitchens and the garage beyond. "It's for the baby."

"The baby!" Nick exclaimed, his pale eyebrows raised, taking my elbow as he paced beside me. "You there," he said to the faltering officer. "Call ahead for a car!"

Jeez, he was doing it wrong. Trent never demanded anything, unless it was for someone to kill me. Hunching close, Nick curved an arm around my waist, looking like he was leading as he followed my subtle motions, telling him which way to go.
My face scrunched up in an ugly mask, and I would have slugged him if I could have gotten away with it. He was being too strong with the staff, thinking power and money meant you had to be a hard-ass.

Ivy stood beside us, blocking us from view from the main room. It was unlikely anyone would notice us under the bar's low ceiling, but the security officer had paused to talk to someone. I caught, "I thought he was in his office," and I moved faster.

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