The Witch With No Name
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Landon hesitated, as if trying to decide only now if giving me this info was a good idea.
What next, Landon . . . ? I intoned, and he tugged the paper back to himself.
Roll the scarf into a cylinder and run it through the Mbius strip. Both loops.
Big Mbius strip, check. I had one of those. I had two of them, actually. Whats it made of? I asked, and I almost saw him kick himself.
Shit, I forgot that part, he muttered. Copper. Yes, copper.
My fingers drummed on the counter. You know what? I think Ill just go to the library and find a nice reincarnation spell. Take my chances.
Landon glared. I know how to do this.
You sure? I snapped, and both of us looked to the hallway at a pixy guffaw. No one was there, but a tiny whisper of pixy dust was slipping down.
Landon rolled up the paper, clearly ready to take his ball and go home. It was the lure of being the one who brought down the vampires that kept him here, kept him honest. Most of this is all just to get the Goddesss attention. Its the thought that counts.
I sobered at the reminder of the Goddess. Newt had assured me that the mystics and the Goddess herself wouldnt recognize me even if I stood in a ley line and shouted for her, but she wasnt called a goddess because she was impotent. Okay, run the pentagram through the Mbius strip. Then what?
My sudden meekness bolstered Landons mood, and I frowned when he tucked the paper into an inner pocket and went to get his hat from the table. The scarf finds a neutral flow from the copper ions it picks up, so now you can shake the salt out and drape the scarf over the recipients face, blood spot at the forehead right where you anointed him. From there, you simply open the container holding the soul. Chanting the phrase will draw it forth, and the soul should go to him and fix into place. At least until he dies again. Burn the scarf to break the pathway and prevent the soul from escaping the body.
He put on his hat, clearly ready to go. I nodded, still uneasy in that he might have forgotten somethingintentionally. You never said where the spiderweb fit in.
Oh! Right. He hesitated in the archway. Drape it over your shoulder for protection against an aggressive soul.
Aggressive soul. Yes, Id run into one of those before, but Al hadnt used spiderwebs to help protect against them. Come to think of it, Id never seen a spider in the ever-after, and I thought it pathetic that the elves and demons had polluted their world to the point where even a spider couldnt survive.
Ellasbeth, are you ready? Landon called as he stood in the threshold between the kitchen and the hallway, and I heard her ask him for a moment. Frowning, Landon leaned against the frame of the opening.
You sure you dont want to add anything else? I said, trying not to look at the pocket he put the charm in. I wanted it, wanted it bad.
No. Mood sour, he looked into the living room, then pushed himself forward. Steps fast, he came three paces in, eyes intent as he pulled the paper from his inner pocket, taunting me with it. I jumped when he tugged on the line out back, tossing the paper into the sink and igniting it with a single word.
Son of a bastard, I thought, grimacing at the sudden rush of shoes in the hall. Trent slid to a halt when he saw Landon standing over the fire in the sink, and he exhaled in relief. Ellasbeth click-clacked in behind him, coat over her arm, and Trent frowned. Thanks for your help. You both have a flight out of here tonight, right? Trent asked, clearly eager for them to leave.
Landon chuckled, turning the taps on to wash even the ash into the sewer system and out of my reach. Ive got a reservation at the Cincinnatian. Ellasbeth tells me its the only decent live-in hotel in the area.
Even if the staff is surly. Ellasbeths mood wasnt good, but it wasnt bad either. Trent must have given her something, but I bet it had cost her. Suddenly I felt as if both of us had been manipulated, even if it had been us who had called them.
Do you have what you need? Trent asked, and I nodded. The more satisfied Ellasbeth and Landon became, the more uneasy I felt. It technically wasnt a curse if I didnt have to kill anyone to perform the magic. There hadnt been any indication that it required direct contact with the Goddess to do the curse either, but he could have left that out. He had before.
Smile stilted, Ellasbeth turned to Trent. Thank you, she said, and my pulse hammered. Ill be in touch as soon as I get a permanent address.
My expression froze. Crap on toast, the woman was moving to Cincinnati. Shit, shit, shit! Why had I gone along with this? Made it sound like a good idea?
Ill wait for your call. Trent put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a cold kiss good-bye on her cheek. My gut tightened. I knew I gave myself away when Ellasbeth leaned in to accept it, her eyes on mine and a mocking smile on her thin, lipstick-red lips. The tension rose. Landon clearly wasnt happy either. Im an idiot. My clear conscience wouldnt keep me warm at night, hold me when I cried, or smile when I made a joke.
Landon, Ellasbeth said as she held her coat out to him, and he slowly moved to settle it across her shoulders.
Bye now, I said as I leaned against the counter and tried not to grimace. Thanks for the soul-stealing charm.
Her coat on, Ellasbeth waited a telling moment for Trent to escort them to the door, but when he ignored them, she turned on a heel and stalked off, shoes clicking on the hardwood floor. Landon lurched to catch up, already digging in a pocket for the car keys.
A shower of pixy dust sifted down from the overhanging rack. I hadnt known Jenks was up there, but I wasnt surprised as he gave Trent a thumbs-up and darted out after them.
Trent sighed heavily, and together we listened to Ellasbeths heels aggressively striking the floor in the sanctuary. That woman is plotting, I said softly, and Trent pulled me into a sudden, unexpected hug.
Oh God, he almost moaned, his arms tight around me as I scrambled to shift gears. I think you are the only thing keeping me from going insane sometimes. You and the girls.
But he had kissed her. Really? I mumbled. From the front, the door slammed, making the curtains over the sink drift.
Breath catching, he nodded, still staring at the ceiling as if the words he wanted to say were imprinted up there with pixy dust. When everything seems to impact everything and theres no easy answer, I ask myself: Will this decision take me closer or farther from you? And then its so clear. Even if it doesnt make sense at the time.
He thought this would bring us closer? My heart thudded. He had meant that kiss as show, but fear still lingered. Ellasbeth had brought everything back that Id been ignoring, everything that Trent had been working his entire life for and lost because of me,everything his father had begun, everything that I couldnt help him with and she could. I could do nothing as a flash of heartache lit through me. I love him. I can say that now. Youre going to let her see Lucy? Trent, thats so dangerous.
It was your idea. He exhaled, pulling me closer so my head was against his shoulder and I could feel every inch of him pressed against me. Youre right, though. It would be more dangerous not to, he said, his words making my hair move. Besides, Im angry, not cruel, and Im confident that Ellasbeth is now cognizant of what she gambled and lost by casually tossing that all-or-nothing choice down before me. If she wants to see Lucy, shes going to make every sacrifice she wouldve made if she had married me in the first place, but now all she gets is to be a part of Lucys life, not mine. She will hate Cincinnati for the very things I love about it. My revenge is complete.
Hes giving her a chance to fulfill her original role, I thought, tension winding through me. Trent wasnt seeing this as a way for Ellasbeth to wind him around her finger, but I did.
Trent gave me a squeeze, but I couldnt get myself out of my funk. He was bringing pieces back into play to try to regain his standing. I knew he wouldnt sacrifice me to reach his end, but there was no way he could do it if I was beside himand someday hed realize that. Hed grow cold, indifferent. Id seen it before.
I dont trust Landon, I said, feeling my breath come back from him as my fingers defined the lines of his back. I dont trust Ellasbeth, and I certainly dont trust them together. As soon as were no longer useful to Landon, and she realizes she wont get what she wants, shell try to gain custody with a more permanent means, you know that, right?
Trent let me go, avoiding me. Damn it, he did know, and yet he was giving her the very chance she needed to stick a knife in his ribs. Trent
You think Landons charm is true? he interrupted.
He was still holding me, and I pressed into him. I dont like using a charm passed down by oral tradition for two thousand years, I said, then added, But I think they use it enough that as long as Landon remembered it right, it will work. Are you sure you dont have anything in your library? He could be setting us up. That charm might take our souls for all I know.
His reassuring smile only made me more concerned. He wants an end to the vampires more than an end to me or you. We can trust that.
So were safe until the undead vampires are dead. I should probably write it down before I forget. I reluctantly pulled from him to get a pencil and paper from Ivys desk. Even if it will be in my handwriting and not his.
I think Jenks has it, Trent said, looking out at the garden. Jenks! he shouted, startling me. Wheres the charm?
Pen in hand, I turned from the table to see Trent stretching to the hanging rack to turn the few hanging pots as if to empty them. You had him copy it? Why didnt I think of that?
Because you Spent dust spilled out of one, covering Trent in silver. He sneezed, missing the postage-stamp-size scrap of paper now drifting to the floor. It had to be the copied charm, and I picked it up, recognizing Jenkss handwriting and the glyph of a pentagram. There it is, he said, seeing it in my hand and smiling. Because you arent used to dealing with civil servants disguised as religious leaders.
A smile found me. Have I told you lately how wonderful you are? I tugged at his belt, pulling him to me again. My arms went around his neck, and I beamed at him, the copied spell in one hand, the fingers of my other hand playing with the hair at the nape of his neck, stretching until I could just brush the arch of his pointy ears. Heartache swept me. How long could I hold on to him? A year? Two?
Repeatedly, but Im open to hearing it again, he said, eyes alight with possibilities as he tilted his head and our lips met in a kiss.
Emotion spilled through me, heat tingling from our lips down to my middle, all the sweeter for knowing it could never last. My hand fisted in his hair, and his breath caught at the tight demand. He pulled me closer, his hands at my waist almost lifting me off my feet. The kitchen, I thought as my back hit the counter and his hand slipped under my shirt, his fingers both smooth and demanding, tracing over my skin. What was it about the kitchen that seemed to get both of us in a rush?
My eyes opened as our lips parted, but the tingling hed started continued, making me move against him in time with his ever-moving hands, searching, rising to hint at finding my breast and send new tingles down to my spine. You know what to do when you think of me, huh? I said, thinking it was one of the most telling things anyone had ever said to me, making me feel loved and needed all at the same time.
Always, he breathed, looking at my lips.
What are you thinking now? I teased.
Im trying to remember why you havent moved in with me, he said, and we slowly stilled, pressed against each other and content to just be.
Because I cant take that hurt again, I thought, unable to say it. Because anything this good cant last. Because I love you. Because Ellasbeth and he were talking again, and I knew that was what everyone wanted. Quen would be so-o-o pleased.
Tinks titties, you two arent pressing flesh again, Jenks griped as he flew in at head height, saving me from answering. God! Im glad pixies dust instead of sweat. You should see the heat waves coming up from you.
Trent started to let go, but seeing the doubt my silence had made, I pulled him back and found his lips, hungry almost as soon as I closed my eyes and let my fingers drift down his back to his tight, grabbable backside. Trent responded, and I dont know what happened to Jenkss copied spell as I suddenly found myself spun around and plunked on the counter.
Oh God! Jenks complained as I wrapped my legs around Trent, imprisoning him. The bare hint of stubble pricked over my fingertips as I traced his jawline. Stop it, will you? Jenks griped. Just cause there arent any more kids in the church doesnt mean you can . . .
Breathless, I pulled from Trent. My lip unexpectedly caught between his teeth for a bare instant, and a flash of passion lit through me even as we parted. Can what, Jenks? I said, letting my feet fall from around Trent so he could turn to look at the disgusted pixy hovering before us. Id found Trent to be a surprisingly attentive lover the last three months, the tabloids going crazy at kisses over sparkling wine at Carew Tower, and his casual touch as he tried to teach me how to golf, and though the passion had been real, I knew the intent behind the last thirty seconds had only been to shock Jenks. It made me love him even morehe was a part of my life, and I hadnt seen it even happen. Now all I had to do was hold on until it fell apart.