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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 94

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I bit my lip, and Jenks's sour look eased. "It's better than the ever-after and Al," he said to Ivy, and the vampire grimaced.

Go with Pierce? Alone? Was he kidding? Ivy clearly wasn't happy with this either, but she finally nodded. "I'd rather have you on this side of the lines," she said sourly.

Pierce frowned at her mistrust as Jenks dusted a bright silver. Standing beside the river, the witch seemed to change. His mood darkened, and his gaze lingered on the moving water as if testing it. Hands in the pockets of his coat, he asked me, "Can you swim?"

Suddenly the ever-after was looking a whole lot better. "You want me to get in the water?" I asked. "It's freezing!"

Ivy's steps were loud on the gravel as she came up to us, but any hope that she was going to side with me died when she took my elbow and started walking to the river. "Rachel, Pierce is right this time," she said, and I made a noise of disbelief. "Trent owns Cincinnati. It's a death trap. The ever-after is just as bad. Go with Pierce."

"Ivy!" I protested. My feet splashed into the water, and I jerked out. "It's cold!" I said, pulling out of their reach and staring at the fast-moving water.

"Don't be a girl, Rache," Jenks said, hovering over the water and jerking up three more feet when something jumped at him.

"Look!" I said, pointing and backing out completely. "There are fish in there!"

Pierce ducked his head, muttering, "I think she's afraid."

I huffed, but Jenks came to my rescue. "She doesn't need to be. I'm going with her."

Ivy's eyes, black and glinting in the starlight, widened. "You are not leaving me alone with your kids and that gargoyle."

"I can't bring my kids with me!" he protested. "Come on, Ivy, give me a break!"

I jerked when Pierce pulled me off balance and into the water a step. "Hey!" I shouted, hearing it echo on the flat water. "I said I'm not getting in the water! I almost died the last time." Memories of ice and Trent surfaced, and I wrapped my arms around my middle. I had saved him, and he had saved me. What was wrong with us?

Ivy spun to me. "Shut up. Go with Pierce. Jenks will go with you so we know where you are, then he'll come back and tell me. I've got the kids." She glanced at Jenks. "Okay?"

"Okay," the pixy said, and I wondered if he'd really leave me. Except that if he didn't, she'd never know where I was.

"I'll get everything set up for Fountain Square," she was saying. "At least we didn't tell Nick everything about that! You keep the statue in case Trent follows me.
I'm going to Rynn's, but better safe than sorry. Get in the water, Rachel. They can track you to here, but the water will kill the scent. I imagine you'll go down about a mile before you can make it across."

"Depends on how well she swims," Pierce said, his feet already in the water, and I shivered.

"Guys, this isn't a good idea," I said as the cold seeped into me, but no one was listening.

"Jenks will come back when I've got everything set and bring you anything small you might need." Ivy was starting to babble, and she shut her mouth, her eyes frightened. She didn't want to leave me, and I gave her a hug just to shut her up.

"Thank you," I said, breathing her in, and her arms went around me tentatively. "Thank you for helping me today." I put her at arm's length and smiled, feeling my eyes warm with unshed tears. "I don't deserve people like you and Jenks."

"Aww, I'm going to barf fairy farts," Jenks said, but he landed on her shoulder, shedding a bright sifting of pixy dust.

She dropped back, our hands parting. "Then I'm gone," she said, walking backward a hesitant step. "You're going to be okay? Be smart."

She was talking about Pierce, and I nodded, feeling him behind me in the water.

"God, Ivy, just go!" Jenks shouted, and she turned and started jogging, a passel of pixies lighting her way. She could probably outrun any dog. She'd be fine. Right?

I felt the statue through the thin fabric of my belt pack, worried about her. Ivy thought Pierce's hole was going to be safer than Rynn Cormel's stronghold. Or maybe she just didn't want to dangle such a priceless piece of blackmail in front of the master vampire. "See you tomorrow!" I shouted, and got a backward wave.

"Can we go now?" Jenks said snidely, his gold dust turning yellow when it hit the water, looking like sun sparkles in the middle of the night.

"We can go now." I slipped as I edged back into the river, caught by Pierce until I jerked away. Yes, I was grateful for him saving me yet again. But I'd been burned too many times by strong, capable men with a past. A pang of something lit through me as I saw him in the water beside me, the current eddying about his ankles and the starlight lighting his face to show his grim mood.

"You've got a place on the river, huh?" I asked, and he nodded, not smiling at all.

"Take off your shoes," he said as he shoved his hat into a back pocket. "Drop them somewhere in the river."

Standing at the edge, I slipped them off. "Will it help throw them off the trail?"

Pierce turned to me, already calf deep. The light sort of seemed to slide off him, blurring his features, and I shivered. "The weight of them will pull you down. Your clothes should be fine, seeing as you're not in skirts. I can't tell you how many women I lost at the end in the name of modesty. Do what I say when I say, and don't stop or you'll die. Understand?"

Turning his back, he waded into the water.

Jenks landed on my shoulder. "Talk about a hard-ass."

"Yeah, and he's telling me what to do again." Shaking, I yanked the other shoe off and threw them both back at my moms car. Slowly I turned to follow Pierce, wincing as ice-cold muck squished into my socks.

Fine, I'd do what he said, when he said. For now.

My head was above water. Barely. There wasn't ice on the river, but there might as well have been. I was so cold, I wasn't sure my legs were moving. Numb, I forced myself to keep kicking. Jenks was my guide, and his dust lit the way. If not for that, I was sure I would've gotten lost trying to cross this dumb, stupid, cold river. What a good idea, swim the Ohio River. We couldn't steal a boat or anything. No-o-o-o-o, we had to swim it.

"Almost there, Rache," Jenks said as he darted back from the soft splash of Pierce confidently moving forward. His wings were a worried green. "Get your witch ass moving!"

"Go to hell," I gasped. My lips were inches from going under, and I got a mouthful of river. It went into my lungs, and I panicked.

"Rache!" Jenks shouted as I stopped swimming and tried to breathe. The current took me, and I floundered. Jenks's shouts became muffled, turning into a black swirl of bubbles. Coughing, I clawed my way to the surface.

"Pierce!" Jenks shrilled, and I went down again. My arms were leaden. A blessed warmth was stealing into me, and I listened to the rumble of the water. Numb, I drifted, letting the bubbles slip out. At least the water had gotten warm. The last time I'd fallen asleep in the Ohio River, it had been warm then, too.

A sharp pain in my scalp jerked through me, and I gasped as the cold air hit my face.

"Rachel!" a high-pitched glow was screaming, but I couldn't move to smack it away.

I was still in the water, but stars were playing hide-and-seek among the black leaves overhead. One of them kept moving. It was swearing, too, spilling a glow all over my face. Confused, I felt the ground scrape under my back. Water flowed over my legs, but someone was whispering, covering me up with something heavy and wet.

"I'm not of a mind to understand," the voice was saying. "It's not that cold, and she's a considerably skilled woman. Fit as any."

"She's sensitive to the cold, you ass," the star was saying, dipping close, and the slits of my eyes closed again. "You're going to kill her! Look, she's blue. She's freaking blue again!"

"She'll be fine," the low voice said, and something cold shifted my head and breath touched my cheek. "Stop acting like an old woman. I've seen worse. Rachel? Open your eyes!"

Like I could? My head lolled as I felt myself rise. "Sensitive to the cold," he whispered irately. "How's a body supposed to know? She looks as healthy as a plow horse."

Plow horse, I thought, hazy, my weight shifting.

"She's going to be okay," he said again, but this time, I could hear worry.

"Why, because you think you love her?"

It was my star again, my lucky star, and it was hovering above me to shine a light on the man's face. His features were dripping, creased in worry, and his black hair was plastered to his face. "I shouldn't," he said to the star, and the star's glow dimmed.

"But you do. You're going to kill her. You're going to break her heart and then she'll get sloppy and die."

The world jolted as Pierce stumbled, and I lost track of everything. My existence became a confused motion of stops and starts.

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