The Witch With No Name
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Scary? I set my coffee down and crossed the kitchen in three strides. Ivy looked up, startled, and then I dropped down right there so I could give her a hug. Youre not alone, I whispered, my arms around her and breathing her in. Slowly her hand touched my back, hesitant and light. The memory of her teeth sliding cleanly into me rose and fell, a flash and then nothing.
Thats not what I meant, she said, and I let go of her. Im scared, she said, eyes beginning to swim as she looked at the ceiling. Im scared, even as Ive got this wonderful thing happening. Her eyes fell to mine. Ive always been untouchable, protected by someone so powerful he alone can abuse me and call it love. For the first time Im my own person. What if something happens?
I gave her a squeeze, smiling. No one is going to touch you with me around.
She made a bark of laughter at that, wiping her eye. Thats funny. I remember saying the same exact thing to you when you moved in.
And no one did, did they? I glanced at Trent as he strode down the hall, phone to his ear. Bis, Buddy, and Jenks followed with noisy chatter.
Dont be absurd, he said, voice faint from the sanctuary. The girls were never in any danger. Vampires have a soft spot for children. They wouldnt have touched them.
It was true, and I looked back at Ivy to see her lost in a memory. You okay? I asked, and her focus sharpened on me. There was sorrow in her, even as she was glad to be free of them. She nodded, and I stood.
Hes going to walk into the sun, isnt he? Ivy asked.
Pretty sure, I said glumly. Hows Nina? Meaning, was she strong enough to survive it?
Ivys grip was white-knuckled tight on her coffee. She hasnt gone a day without him in her mind to steady her, she said, eyes down. I cant save her. She just cant stop. Hes in there now, I can tell. Maybe I should just walk away.
He was in her now? My God, I would have bet my life that he wasnt. Ivy . . .
I cant save her if she doesnt want to be saved, Rachel!
There was a sudden sliding of dog nails in the hall, and we both turned when Trent poked his head into the kitchen, his phone pressed against his shoulder. Rachel, can I use your room for a moment. I need a door.
No door ever stopped me, Jenks boasted as he hovered behind him. Trent, Im telling you its a great idea. Shes going to hate it!
I nodded, and Trent smiled a quick, terse thanks and vanished.
Hey! Jenks darted after him. Youre the one who wants her gone!
Ivy looked depressed as she stared into her coffee. I hesitated, then called out, Jenks? Will you and Bis check the walls? Jenks hovered backward into the archway until I could see his utter disbelief. Ill get him to take the dog. Just leave him alone, okay?
Bis looked in, upside down and around the doorframe, both sad and happy. Yeah? Jenks said, and when I crossed my heart, he flew off. Bis dropped into the air, and followed.
He doesnt want Buddy, the gargoyle complained. I can take care of him. I promise!
There was a scrabbling of claws and a squeak from the cat door as the three of them finally left. Sighing, I looked at Ivy, still despondent and lost in thought.
Its going to be okay, I said, but my confidence was faltering. Youve been fighting them your entire life. Shes only been doing it for six months.
Her shoulders were stiff, and she started to cry. Ivy, who could do anything, was crying silent tears, unable to move for fear of falling completely apart. She doesnt have a lifetime to learn, she protested. Shes got days. Hes going to walk. Cormel knows it, but he wants his soul so bad hes ignoring it. Hes going to walk, and shes going to die with him!
The shower went off, and she stood, mourning a future not even here yet. Oh God, shes going to go mad.
Ivy. She wasnt listening, and I squeezed her shoulder. Ivy, look at me! Finally she turned back, and I tried to smile, even as my heart thumped in fear. Id do anything to save her, to see her happy, but never had I thought it might mean I risked my life for someone I didnt even like all that much. Ive been thinking about this, I said. I think I can modify Trents binding charm so that you can carry it around with you, like in your purse or something, and if she does die, you can catch her soul.
But . . . , she whispered, hope almost painful in her eyes.
Still, I smiled. I know its not exactly what you want, but if you have her soul, it wont be in the ever-after. I think if we fix a soul soon enough, there would be almost none of the trauma that Felix is showing. Maybe its not that he has his soul back thats causing the trouble. Maybe its the guilt for all the things he did that is sending him over the deep end. He was never that stable to begin with.
Tears fell freely, and she smiled, looking beautiful. You think?
Eyes welling, I pulled her into a hug. I had to do this, the Goddess be damned. I know.
Ivy started at a soft scuffing of bare feet, and we jerked apart as Nina cleared her throat. I flushed though wed done nothing wrong, and Ivy hurriedly wiped her eyes. Her chin lifted, not to hide that shed been crying, but rather a clear statement that she wasnt going to talk about it.
Sorry, Nina said, looking domestic with her hair up in a towel and Ivys black robe tied around her. Didnt mean to interrupt.
I backed up from Ivy. Jealousy was normal, expected, and I almost welcomed seeing it since it meant she loved her. Did you leave me any hot water?
Ninas smile was wide but clearly fake. You bet.
Thanks. My smile was honest, though, and I gave a nod to Ivy as I left. She looked a hundred times better. This was what she had been worried about, terrified she was going to lose Nina when Felix walked. I was going to make two bottles, not just one. Id find a way around needing the Goddesss help.
Dont be silly, Ivy said loudly as I reached the bathroom. Shes just glad Im okay. I did get hit by a car yesterday.
Had it only been yesterday?
No way was I going to put my same clothes on, and I knocked softly on my door, then went in. Immediately my expression eased. Trent was stretched out on my bed, thestuffed animal hed won for me at Six Flags shoved under his head, his feet all the way down to the folded-up afghan. His eyes were shut, and his phone was in his loose grip. I could hear Ellasbeth talking.
Yes, Im listening, he mumbled, eyes shut.
My heart went out to him, and I carefully slid the phone free, edging backward to the door and slipping out. He didnt even notice, seeming to settle in even deeper atop my covers.
Breath held, I eased the door shut and leaned against the wall. Im trying to understand, Trenton, Ellasbeths perfectly reasonable voice said from the tiny speaker. But youre ignoring the consequences of your actions.
I wanted to lash out, drive her away. I loved Trent, and she was going to ruin it! But what I did was clear my throat and pleasantly say, Excuse me, Ellasbeth?
There was a moment of shocked silence, then, Rachel? Im talking to Trent.
Jenks hummed into the hallway from the kitchen, and I waved at him to be quiet. Actually, youre not, I said, and the pixy hovered close, grinning. He fell asleep, and Im asking you not to call again for at least four hours unless its an emergency.
She was silent, but I could hear her anger as she breathed. A small part of me felt bad. Id vacationed in Camp Dumped before, and it hurt. Look, I said, holding the phone closer. Hes been up for forty-eight hours. Jumped realities twice, rescued a soul from hell, and adopted a dog, I said, and Jenks gave me a glittering thumbs-up. Hes doing the smart thing and catching some Zs before coming home, okay? And until he wakes up, Im holding his phone in case theres an emergency. Is this an emergency? I knew it wasnt, but I couldnt resist the tiny dig.
You are not his wife, she said caustically.
Neither are you, I said right back. Okay, maybe two digs.
No, Im just the mother of his child.
I warmed even as I waved Jenks back. Right, Im glad you brought that up, I said, doing my utmost to be reasonable, but wanting to impart a few things to her and the only way she listened to anyone was if they hit her with a stick. God help me, but Im the only one who thinks you spending time with the girls is a good idea, and Im starting to have second thoughts. Im your advocate for Lucy, so quit pissing me off.
Again she was silent, worrying me. A silent elf is a thinking elf, and Ellasbeth wasnt known for her kind thoughts.
Ellasbeth, Trent is trying to do the right thing by the girls, but every time you force your way in, youre making demands that make him feel more threatened. My head hurt, and I took a breath, hating myself. If you would back off a little, hed be a whole lot more comfortable with the idea of sharing Lucy.
Why am I doing this? I thought. But for all the rightness between us, I couldnt help Trent, and Ellasbeth . . . Ellasbeth could. I might not like her, but Id seen her with the girls, and she was a good mother. Trent loved me, but if I took away his choice, our love would be tainted with the thought that Id selfishly ruined his shot at what hed been striving for his entire life.
Im not afraid to love someone.
You said you werent going to confuse him, Ellasbeth said. He has responsibilities, demands, and now youre sleeping with him!
I slumped against the wall, guilt warring in me. Yeah. Sorry about that. It just kind of happened. She huffed with anger, and I forged ahead. But Ill tell you what, Ellasbeth. Tell me that you love him
I love him, she said hotly, and in some way, I think she did. She was too bitter not to.
Then tell me you love him enough to support his decision to try to ease tensions between the elves and demons, and Ill drive him back to his estate myself. Say no, please say no . . .
What does that have to do with anything? she blurted out.
It wasnt a no, but it wasnt a yes either. Everything, I said, even more conflicted. You can talk to Trent in four hours, kay?
The phone clicked off from her side of things, and I hit the end key. That was fun, Jenks said, and I met his eyes, not sharing his enthusiasm.
No, it wasnt. Crap on toast, I was shaking, and I tucked the phone into my back pocket, thinking it felt unfamiliar. Excuse me. I have to leave Trent a note.
The pixy was grinning as I opened my door, warning him to stay out as I shut it. Trents feet had shifted, and I pulled the afghan up over him, smiling at his face, relaxed in sleep. Thank you for keeping Jenks safe tonight, I whispered as I reached for the notepad beside my clock.
His whispered voice slid through me. Warm and content, I sat on the edge of the bed. I talked to Ellasbeth, I said as I pulled the afghan up even more. You can crash here. Shes going to call in four hours.
His hand came out to find me, and the blanket fell away. I heard, he said. Dont go.
He slid to the far edge of the bed, afghan raised for me to join him. I need a shower, I said, eyes on my closet, and he pulled me down, arm going over me as he gentled me to him.
I like the way you smell.
A quiver shook me as he sighed and spooned closer. It was warm where hed been, and the scent of him was everywhere, the hint of burnt amber almost not unpleasant. My shoes felt funny on the bed, and I felt him sigh. I have stuff to do, I protested, not moving.
He tugged me closer. I like that you care about Ellasbeth, he said, shocking me. Shes a hard woman to understand. Her heart is good, though.
Um, yeah. He was falling asleep again. I could stay until he did.
Promise you wont leave me, he whispered, my hair moving in the breath of his words.
I already did that, I said, but I was looking into the future, and I saw myself alone. Why was I even pretending? But I knew why.
No, you almost left me tonight. His words were slurring. He was drifting off, not really awake. You almost became shadow. I saw it. Promise me you wont go. Dont leave me. I wont know what is right and what is wrong if you do, and I like doing the right thing.
Becoming shadow. I lay there unmoving, suddenly very much awake as I recalled the blackness of nothing. It had been real, and he and Jenks had pulled me out of it. Im here, I breathed, needing to feel him behind me.
Ive not done anything really wrong in a long time . . . , Trent said, words trailing into nothing. Thank you.