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Black Magic Sanction: Page 97
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I was the plumber, as Ivy would say, out among the people settling issues, fixing things so that the secret of our species might not be espied. I was sent to Eleison to evaluate and bring back word, but when I found a black coven with a demon and three girls in their circle... I swan, their fear was a powerful thing. It would have been a sin to Moses had I not done something. The circle broke when I made my presence known, and the demon made his escape. I expected to make a die of it, but he didn't kill me. Not right off the reel."
His voice faltered, and I felt a surge of pity, imagining it.
"Every last person perished before the sun rose, each more foully than the last," he breathed. "The demon murdered the three girls by a most horrible means, thinking that they meant something to me. Witches of skill were taken to the ever-after, and warlocks and children of no account... slaughtered like chickens and left askew with their limbs tangled."
I had to say something. "You tried to stop the demon," I offered.
"Of course I did. But the demon set no great store by my efforts, and my skills saved only myself. Not even a child could I spare." His gaze became angry. "A coven member, helpless. I was a dash-it-all coven member, and I was helpless. It was my dang-blamed innocence of the way things are, ignoring the truth of it. I opine you're wiser than me, having followed your heart from the beginning and being open with your choices, not hiding them behind lies even if it made your path harder."
God help me, he thought my acceptance of black magic was a good thing? Hadn't he been watching this past year?
He hung his head, saying, "The coven hid the massacre as a sickness, and knowing they wouldn't cotton to it, I began studying on it in private. How can you fight a winning battle with something you don't even know the limits of? When by chance a twist of black magic saved my life and hurt no one, I went to the coven with my thoughts. They said they would consider it and sent me to find a rogue master vampire while they discussed it at length."
My shivering had stopped, and I stared at the same nothing he was. "Christopher," I said, remembering the vampire we'd tagged on my nineteenth winter solstice. Was I attracted to Pierce because he believed what I wanted to think was the truth? That demon magic wasnt bad unless you made another pay the cost? Were we both delusional?
He nodded. "They betrayed me, giving him warning that I was coming and the knowledge to implicate me as a witch and the wisdom to make me helpless, bound with silver my own mentor had charmed. There was no one decision that landed me in your graveyard, but I'll allow it started with Eleison."
The coven had buried him alive. In my backyard. In a hole like the one we were in now. And I'm flaking out about dogs? "I'm so sorry."
He smiled sadly at me, and I noticed his stubble was coming in red, though his hair was black. "I'm not," he said. "If I hadn't paused my life in purgatory, I'd not be here to see the wonder of planes, computers, and orange juice. Or you."
I drew back, suddenly conscious of my nasty hair and river-water-soaked clothes. His presence beside me grew obvious, and the moist warmth between us rose up, carrying our mingling scents. "Are you cold?" he asked softly.
Shit, shit, shit. I knew what was happening, but I didn't want to stop it. Be smart, Ivy had said. Was this smart? "No," I whispered, pulse racing. I was not falling for him. I wasn't! But a small voice inside me said I might have, and what was left was only justification and trying to find a way to live with the coming heartache when it ended.
I'd asked for the truth, and he'd told me. He knew who I was. Had for a long time. And he was sitting beside me, having dragged me out of the river and kept me from being torn apart by dogs despite what I was. Who I might become.
Slowly, I shifted my weight to lean into him. My heart pounded at the simple motion that was anything but. I felt his warmth mingle with mine as the curious sensation of hesitant trust and tension swirled, sparking even more desire. Damn me back to the Turn, but I wanted this. Bad track record, obvious warnings, and roommates aside, I wanted to see where this might go. More important, I was strong enough to see where it might end, and it would end. Smart decision? Probably not, but it was being made with my eyes open.
He was a black-arts witch who made no apologies. He didn't care what the coven thought, and even more telling, he had the ability and the strength to stand up to them, thumb his nose, and still be who he wanted to be. That was what I wanted, too.
He leaned toward me, and I stiffened at the thrill of wanted emotion spilling down my side where we touched. Feeling it, he hesitated. "I truly scare you?" he asked, inches away.
"Yes." I took a breath, poised on something new as I gazed at him, remembering him wrapped around me as I tried to bolt, holding me - protecting me from myself.
He paused, eyes fixed to mine. "I'm of a mind that you're lying now."
I shifted, lips parted as I looked at him. "You do scare me. You're a dangerous, threatening witch, and me associating with you isn't going to help me get unshunned. You use black magic too quickly, you tell me what to do as if you're in charge, you're way too cocky with Al, and people around you die." But they die around me, too.
The blanket fell from my shoulder, and nodding his agreement of my assessment, he leaned to pull it back up around me. My eyes flashed to his when he didn't slump back, but instead hesitated, his lips inches from mine. Waiting. "So?" he asked, the modern phrase sounding odd from him.
People die around me, too. Not caring about tomorrow, I lifted my chin to meet him.
Warmth spilled through my body, and my grip tightened. His lips were warm against me, with just enough demand in them to ignite my own passion. A small noise slipped from me, and my eyes closed. I shifted closer, wanting this.
Our lips parted, and I met his eyes, wondering what I'd find. My worry vanished at the hot desire mirrored in his. I wasn't going to think anymore. Trying to plan my life wasn't working, and this felt good. In my gut, in my heart. I didn't care if it didn't last.
Rising, I put my knees on either side of him to sit on his lap, my head almost touching the ceiling. His smile didn't last long, or at least I didn't see it because I leaned in and kissed him.
Pierce's hand went behind my head, holding me firm. A tingle of ley-line energy threatened between us, and my breath came fast. Oh God. I'd forgotten about that, and my hands twined behind his back as his hand at my spine made a fist and his lips stopped moving against mine. "Don't stop, Pierce," I said, breathless, and he gazed at me, blue eyes serious.
"You know what we're doing and where this might go?" he asked as if I were a child.
I bent forward to whisper in his ear. "Yes." My breath turned to nibbles, and I felt him grow hard under me. Oh God, this could be so good if I let it happen.
His hand moved again along my back, but it was slow and devoid of intent. "My pride won't take being one of your mistakes," he said softly.
He's worried I'm going to leave him? I hesitated. Pulling back, I searched his gaze as the heat he had instilled in me lingered. "It's only a mistake if one of us makes it so," I said. "I'm not asking anything of you. I have today and tomorrow - I can't look further than that. You know my past. You know I can't make promises."
Pierce took my hands from behind his neck and solemnly held them between us. "You've given up on love."
Shaking my head I lifted our entwined hands and kissed his knuckles. "No. But it hurts too much when you want it to last and it can't. I'm sorry, Pierce. I can't give any more than this."
I stopped his words with a shake of my head. "I'm not giving up on love, but I'm not going to cry anymore when it's over." Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Distressed, he said, "I'm not going to leave you."
A shiver went through me, and though we sat poised on a new beginning, I looked at our past and what he had done: taken another man's body to be alive, learned black magic and used it openly, tried to kill Al. He had great power, was as black as me, and he thought he loved me? He hardly knew me. "Pierce, you will."
"But staying with you is what I wish to do," he said earnestly, his hand brushing my skin.
A slow smile curved over my face, and I leaned down over him. "No," I said. "Wishes are lies. Tell me you're going to leave. Tell me you're not going to stay. Tell me that it's only for a while so I can enjoy today," I whispered in his ear, as if saying it louder would break me. "And when you go, don't think me cold when I don't cry. I can't cry anymore, Pierce. It hurts too much."
He pulled me closer, and I shifted to lay beside him, his arms twined around me.
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