The Witch With No Name
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I havent noticed. But that might be why hes cutting it so short lately. Trent stopped before me, worry creasing his features. You could have slept upstairs. You did sleep, yes?
A few hours. I fell into step beside him when he gestured for us to continue down the hall past Ivys door. Im not a spare room kind of girl.
It wouldnt have been the spare room you would have been in, he said, matching our steps and giving me a sideways hug. Life is too short for bad coffee, he said, taking my cup out of my hand and setting it on a table in the hall. Hows Ivy?
Okay, thanks to you, I said, not wanting to talk about it. My arm went around him and my head fell onto his shoulder. Trent eased us to a halt and I pulled him to me, resting my head against his chest. The light scent of his aftershave was a bare hint, just enough, and my jaw finally began to relax. I could hear the sound of his waterfall downstairs, past the great room, and my eyes closed.
The relief that he came to help me in the ever-after had almost hurt, even if hed risked his life and an already failing reputation. There hadnt been a wisp of regret in him, and I shoved the coming heartache down because even though he meshed with my life perfectly, I did not mesh with his.
Trent had been moving toward bringing his people back from the brink of extinction his entire life. The path had been laid out. Hed willingly sacrificed for itand he would again. The ugly truth was, I couldnt help him accomplish what he needed to do, I could only hinder it. That was why Jonathan disliked me and Quen disapproved even as he agreed that this was the happiest Trent had ever been despite his dwindling fortune and the lawsuits piling up like cordwood. Trent was all about dutyand I was dragging him down.
You okay? he asked, and I tilted my head and turned the hug into a brief kiss.
Yes. I dropped my head again, needing to feel him next to me if only for this space of time. I dont like leaving her in that ugly white bed.
Its going to be okay. His voice rumbled up through me.
I didnt want to move. Ever. I dont know what I would have done if she had
I couldnt even say it, and my eyes warmed as the tears spilled over.
His grip strengthened, and I blinked up at him, feeling like a wimp. But she didnt, he said firmly, understanding in his eyes. You did good. You got her out of immediate danger, and more important, gave her a place to meet her future with dignity and peace. If she had died, she wouldve done so with the person she loved most in the world with her. No one can ask for more than that, even kings.
How could he understand so clearly? When you put it like that . . . I sniffed back the tears, letting go of him to wipe my eyes. Sorry, I said with a sad little laugh that really wasnt one. I havent gotten enough sleep. I dont know how you do it, getting up at daybreak like this. This is crazy.
He eased me back into motion, heading down the hallway. Coffee helps. Have you found the staff break room? Theres a mini kitchen. Frozen waffles . . . , he coaxed.
I remembered the homemade ones Maggie had made for us. It had been the first meal wed ever shared. Sure, thanks. His hand lingered about my waist, and I dropped my head onto his shoulder again, breathing him in, gaining his strength. I wished things were different. Ivy was going to be okay, but that Trent had saved her life wasnt going to help his political standing. Keeping her alive was going to be even harder. Cormel didnt want money, he wanted his soul.
The click of Ivys door brought me around, and we hesitated when Nina came out looking exhausted and rumpledworse than the day after she and Ivy had come back from a five-day backpacking adventure in what was left of a Turn-ravaged Guam.
Coffee? the bedraggled woman rasped, her hair still dull with dust and hanging in strands about her creased, worried face. The scratch the surface demon had given her was red rimmed and swollen, looking worse than it probably was.
And waffles. Trent gestured for her to join us. Right this way.
Relief flickered across her face. Thank you, she whispered, shuffling forward in her torn nylons. She hadnt even taken the time for a shower, and was still in the same clothes shed had on in the ever-after. The faint scent of burnt amber lingered even now. Her clothes were a monochromatic orange from the dust, and guilt kept her head down. That was fine with me.
We keep this stocked for the medical staff, Trent was saying as we found the comfortable, if somewhat sterile, break room, open to the hallway. Im assuming that youd rather eat here than upstairs?
I nodded as I took in the clean counters, homey tables, and fresh flowers in vases still beaded up with condensation. Four monitors hung from the ceiling, three dark and one lit with Ivys vitals. An entire wall was taken up with one of those floor-to-ceiling vid screens showing a deck and a garden, and I collapsed at a table, thankful for the small comfort.
Nina took a chair across from me, easing down with a little more grace and a cautious glance. There were dirty dishes in the sink from the doctor and nurse on call. Id put them in the dishwasher later.
I loved watching a man cook, even if it was only toast, and I collapsed my head onto the cradle my arms made on the table, exhausted, as Trent took waffles out of the tiny freezer in the top of the fridge. If you want to come upstairs, I can make them from scratch, he said as the door sealed with a sucking sound. The girls are at the stables with Quen. I thought it better to keep them occupied out of the, ah, house.
Frozen is good. I smiled as he ripped the box open, letting my head hit the table as the toaster went down. I liked the girls, but Lucy, especially, was inquisitive to the point of exhaustion.
I never thought Id ever eat anything out of a box from the freezer, Trent said, his voice distant in thought, but the girls want everything now, and frankly, these arent half bad.
My breath was coming back stale from the table. It sounded as if he was in the fridge again, and curious, I pulled my head up as he set butter and cold maple syrup on the counter. Nina had fallen asleep in the chair, her head lolling back and her breath even.
I had said I wasnt going to tell Ivy, but I couldnt ignore the fact that Felix had been dipping into her Nina as if she were his personal thirty-one-flavor shop. My anger was a slow, steady burn for the lie she was living. Ivy was trying to help her, damn it. Ivy loved her. And Nina wasnt even trying.
A muffled thump echoed through the walls, and Nina snorted awake. For an instant, we froze. Alarm slidthrough me at Ninas expression. She was scared. It wasnt fear for Ivy, it was fear for herself. What have you done, tricky little vampire?
My eyes went to Ivys monitor: elevated pulse. Panic dribbled through my thoughts, and I stood.
Rachel? Nina quavered.
Fear slammed into me, and I ran.
Jonathan! Trent shouted, but I was already sliding to a halt at Ivys door. Heart pounding, I yanked it open. Fear bubbled up, acidic and paralyzing. Ivy was on the bed struggling with a man all in white.
Jaw clenched, I silently grabbed his arm and flung him off her. His mask pulled free and he crashed into a bank of low cupboards, arms and legs askew. Ivys face was creased in pain. Her eyes met mine as she held her middle and slid off the bed and out of the way.
The mans black shoulder-length hair stood out strongly against the white of his suit, and the annoyed expression on his young face ticked me off. Who let you in? I said, and he smirked as he got to his feet.
Living-vampire fast, he made a dart for the door. I jumped for him, careful not to hold him long enough for him to turn and get a grip. It had been years since Id sparred with Ivy, but hard-won lessons die even harder. My foot jabbed out to hit the back of his knee. He went down, pissed when he caught himself with his palms on the floor. Tossing the hair from his eyes, he shook his head, the promise of hurt in his eyes.
He came at me fast and hard. I blocked, the sudden pain in my arm vanishing when his second strike made it go numb. I retreated, pulling the side bar from the bed and slamming it into his next swing. He hissed in pain, and I spun with it in the bare moment he hesitated. It hit him square across the temple, and he reeled backward. My heart pounded as he staggered, hand to his head. I still had my magic, and as he shook the stars from his sight, I pulled the line to me.
Ivy! Nina shrieked from the open door.
No! I cried, reaching out when the attacker dove for her instead.
Trent was a dark blur, yanking Nina into the hall and out of danger. Celieano! he shouted, hand outstretched, and I felt a drop in the ley line. It was a simple circle, and Ivys attacker ran right into it. He staggered back into the room, his nose broken and bleeding, unable to see through the blood and tears.
I dropped the bed bar. Hands in fists, I spun for momentum and sent my foot into his exposed middle. His air huffed out, and he hit the floor and slid into the built-in wardrobe.
Panting, I looked at Trent. We had to take the vamp alive, or wed never find out whod sent him.
The vampire, though, was finding his feet.
Detrudo! I exclaimed, shoving a wad of energy through my palms. It blew him back onto the bed and sent Trent stumbling into the wall. Ivy rose, shaking and pale. The vampires eyes widened upon seeing the needle in her fist.
Right, he said, and with no warning, he lunged at Trent, jabbing out in a rabbit punch at the last moment. Trent shifted to avoid it, falling when the vampire hooked his foot behind Trents and pulled. Trent went down, silent even as he pushed back up.
The damage, though, had been done, and the vampire dove for the hall and his freedom.
Get him! I shouted as I lurched past the bed. Trent was three steps faster. My breath came in with a gasp at a sudden pull on the line. Trent stopped short, and I ran into him.
Down! he shouted, shoving me.
We hit the hallways floor in a tangle. Trents elbow slammed into my gut even as my shoulder took most of the fall. Wiggling, I tried to shove him off, only to have him grip me tighter. I found out why when a heat-stealing wave of force pulsed over us, and was drawn back, tingling like frost in my nose. It was Jonathan, and only now did Trent slide off me.
I propped myself up on an elbow and tossed the hair from my eyes. The vampire was clenched in a ball, either in pain or from cold. Jonathans aura danced over him like little waves of electricity. Jonathan stood in an aggressive hunch, the charm still dripping from his stiff fingers.
Crap on toast, hed done it again. I was sure the vampire was alive despite it looking otherwise; Jonathan enjoyed wringing information from people more than he should. I had a pretty good idea of how word got out where Ivy was, but confirmation would be nice.
Oh God, Ivy! Nina exclaimed, and she passed me in a wave of burnt amber and vampire incense.
I pulled my knees together and wiped my mouth. Thanks, Jonathan, I said, reaching up for Trents hand. He yanked me up, and I stood, catching my balance against a brief wave of vertigo. Felix might not be actively in Nina, but a master that skilled could lay low, take in the world without even being recognized. Damn it all to hell and back. Like it or not, Nina was a threat to Ivys life. I couldnt let Ivy pretend anymore.
Jonathan lifted his eyes from the contorted vampire on the floor and tugged his shirt straight. Why is it every time the Sahan is with you, someone tries to kill him?
He wasnt trying to kill Trent, he was trying to kill Ivy. Ivy. Anger bubbled up as I turned to Ivys room. Pissed, I strode in. Nina was there, crying as she tried to get Ivy into bed.
Im okay. Nina, Im okay! Ivy protested as she slid into the rocking chair instead. She wasnt okay. Shed sat there because it was too hard to make it to the bed.
Shaking, I grabbed Ninas shoulder and spun her up and away from Ivy. Get away from her! I shouted as Nina fell back against the bed, her shock shifting to a black-eyed hatred.
Rachel, no! Ivy protested, but I pushed her hand off me, not caring that both vampires eyes had gone pupil black.
This is her fault! I exclaimed, my hand shaking as I pointed at Nina. She let him in!
I did not!
She wasnt a very convincing liar, especially when she scooted across the bed to get closer to the door and away from me. How else would Cormel know where we were? I demanded, and Trent took her shoulders. If it was to keep her unmoving or to keep me from smacking her, I didnt know.
I wouldnt help Cormel! Nina objected, eyes darting. Ive not even told my sister where I am!
But if Felix was as good as I thought, shed never know he was there. I hadnt in the ever-after.
Ivys hand was cold on my arm, her fingers making a tingling path. You dont have to, I said softly, and Ninas face went ashen. Tell her. Tell Ivy, or Im going to.
I . . . I . . . , Nina stammered, pulling away from Trent to stand alone. She wanted to be caught in the lie. She wanted it to end. She could be innocentbut I didnt trust her.
Rachel . . . Ivys voice held heartache. It ticked me off. Ivy knew she wasnt clean.