Authors: Cate Tiernan
His mouth was warm and hard, and I instantly recognized it. My body recognized his; my mouth knew the touch and pressure and taste of his. I could smell the slight smokiness of his clothes and hair and the fresh detergent scent of his shirt. It felt like,
. I started to weaken, like honey warmed by the sun, becoming softer, more fluid.
But because I still somehow had two synapses left to rub together, I broke from his hold again, pushing his chest hard, shoving him. He was breathing fast, chest rising and falling, and his dark, dark eyes looked lit by flames.
“Get off me!” I said too loudly, and lowered my voice. “Get away from me,” I whispered furiously. “There’s nothing between us; there’ll
be anything between us! Now get the hell out of my way!”
Staring at me angrily, he held up his hands—surrender. He picked up the jars of French clay and asabarraca and headed toward the kitchen. “Get the rest of the stuff.”
Then I was alone in the workroom, feeling like I was losing my mind.
Unfortunately, I knew myself well enough to know that I was partly angry at him and partly angry at myself for wanting him despite everything. He’d set up horrifying accidents for me and Thais; he didn’t love me, didn’t love anybody….
But something about him caused my body to go into hyperdrive. Something inside me wanted him, wanted desperately to meld with him no matter what he or I rationally wanted or thought. I took some slow, steady breaths, trying to calm myself. I pressed my palms against my cheeks, which felt like they were on fire.
I forced myself to remember what else Nan had said. Thais was getting rosemary and stuff—oh, broadleaf dock leaves. Red clover. All this stuff had purifying, cleansing properties. The vervain would give everything an extra boost.
I brought the vervain and dried leaves back into the kitchen, where the kettle was boiling.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Nan said, getting out her mortar and pestle. “There’s a small jar in the back of the cupboard marked
. Get that too.”
I nodded, refusing to look at Richard, who leaned against the fridge, drinking his beer. In moments I came back with the jar of ashes, collected from various sacred fires.
Our food was cold on the table. I had lost my appetite anyway. My hands clenched and unclenched nervously. I had to get out of here. Just being around Richard, much less Richard and Luc together, was making me feel like I was coming out of my skin.
“Okay, Luc,” said Nan, sounding a bit more brisk. “Four things. A tea to make and drink one cup of three times a day. I’ll write it out for you. It’ll help cleanse and strengthen your liver. A wash to use on your skin, also three times a day. A mask to use once a day. You put it on, let it dry, then gently wash it off. And finally, a spell to perform twice a day, at noon and midnight, that will help channel this anger and energy out of you.”
“Thank you, Petra,” said Luc, his voice muffled. “I really appreciate it.” I’d never seen him like this—it was like his gorgeous outer shell had split to reveal this ugly, less cocky version of himself.
Someone had done this to him magickally. Someone pretty strong. One of the Treize.
I wished I’d thought of it.
I still felt burned about what he had done to me and Thais. My heart still felt broken. And in weak moments that I hadn’t admitted to anyone, I still wanted him to be mine and only mine. But I had to say—seeing him like this made it a little easier somehow.
“Has anyone else been affected like this?” Thais asked. I’d been avoiding her eyes, not wanting to know if she was watching Luc, but now I looked at her. She seemed stiff and uncomfortable, but whether because of Luc or Richard or our fight, I didn’t know.
Luc and Richard glanced at each other, and Luc said, “No, not like this. But Manon has moved out. She’s left Sophie. Right now she’s staying with Axelle.”
“Such a good idea,” Richard murmured.
“Why did she move out?” Thais asked.
“It turns out she tried to use the rite to kill herself, like Marcel did,” Luc explained. “But without anyone else’s help.”
Nan shrugged wryly.
“But Sophie worked against her, preventing her spell from taking effect—not that it even would have,” Luc went on. “Manon realized it and felt like Sophie had betrayed her. They had a fight, and Manon broke up with her.”
“Oh, my goodness,” Nan murmured, her hand to her chest.
“Wow,” said Thais. “How long had they been together?”
“Uh …” Richard thought. “About a hundred and twenty years, I think. Something like that. They have a big fight every forty years or so. This will probably blow over.”
“I don’t know,” said Luc. “This seems different. Manon was … more than furious.”
“Women!” Richard shook his head, and I gave him an angry glare. He grinned at me and I quickly looked away. When Richard smiled, he looked like an angel who had been kicked out of heaven.
“Daedalus seems to still feel weak from it,” Luc said, his eyes on Nan. He must have noticed how she looking, how she was acting.
Nan nodded gravely.
“But no one else has anything like this,” Luc said, gesturing to his face in disgust. “This is all mine.”
“I think it will improve,” Nan said. “It’s not permanent. Just follow this regimen and in three weeks you’ll be recognizable.”
“Three weeks?” Luc sounded horrified.
“You’ll be okay,” Richard said, patting Luc’s shoulder. “It’ll be good for you. Character-building. See how the other half lives. Man on the street and so on. Instead of that male-model babe-magnet thing you usually have going.”
Thais made a strangled sound, and I had to forcibly swallow a shriek of rage. Luc’s babe-magnet effect had broken my heart and Thais’s as well. Trust Richard to rub our noses in it.
“I’m going to Racey’s,” I said abruptly.
“But you haven’t eaten,” said Nan.
“Not hungry anymore.”
“Well, okay,” Nan said, “but don’t stay out late. It’s a school night.”
“Okay.” I made sure Nan wasn’t looking, and then I stuck my tongue out at Richard. His eyebrows shot up and he grinned again. I turned and hightailed it out of the kitchen, but not before I’d glimpsed Thais’s startled face—she’d seen me. But she didn’t know the whole story between me and Richard, and she never would.
My purse and the keys to our dinky little rental car were by the front door. Outside, it was completely dark, a pleasant, balmy evening, maybe in the sixties. It was October. In a little less than four weeks our most important festival, Monvoile, would take place. It was a time of supreme magick, when the mists between the worlds thinned and pulled back slightly. And I had a plan for it.
I got in the car and started the engine, picturing tired little squirrels pedaling, making the engine run. As I pulled away from the curb, I felt Richard’s presence lingering behind me. To hell with him. Jerk. I pulled out my cell phone.
“Race? Listen, if anyone asks, I’m at your house, okay?”
aedalus tilted the shade of his dresser lamp to throw light more directly on his face. Peering into his mirror, he turned one cheek toward it, then the other. Two days after the rite, his eyes were sunken, his forehead furrowed, his lips thinner.
His powers were weakening, and it showed on his face.
He had no idea how this had happened, only when—at the rite. The failed rite that he had planned for, dreamed of, researched for more than two hundred years. It hadn’t been the perfect recreation—no one had been pregnant. Several people had been brought there by force. The actual Source had not been bubbling up from the ground at their feet. Plus the twins, with their power—that could have been enough to throw the whole thing off. Everything that had been under his control—the timing, tools, the spells themselves, the location—all that had been perfect. But he wasn’t able to completely control the Treize—not the way Melita had.
And, of course, Petra had actively worked against him. Petra, Marcel, Ouida, probably others that he wasn’t aware of. They’d worked against him, betrayed him. And now look at him—getting weaker every day. He wasn’t positive that someone had specifically spelled him to weaken like this or whether it was just an effect of the rite’s energy going haywire, being misused. But he would find out.
He had to prevent anyone from realizing what had happened to him. He couldn’t afford to look weaker. Now, in front of the mirror, he practiced standing up straighter, holding back his shoulders, trying to firm his jaw.
Depression settled on his shoulders, making them sag. His power was leaking slowly out of him day by day, as if it were sugar trickling from a tiny hole in a sack. At this rate, he would be a hollow shell, a grotesque, powerless, walking skeleton, within a year.
He had no choice now. Melita
be found. Then the two of them would do whatever it took to reopen the Source and completely re-perform the rite again in its entirety. With any luck, someone would be pregnant by then. He would have to speak to Luc, find out what was going
on with that. If Luc hadn’t made such a monumental blunder in the first place—
Anyway. His own path now was clear. But with Melita back, they would no longer be a Treize. One person would be superfluous and would need to be eliminated. One of the twins, to break up their joint power? Or someone whose loyalties were clearly not with him? Or the weakest person?
He would have to decide, and soon, before he lost any more strength.
His doorbell rang, startling him. This problem had so consumed him that he hadn’t felt anyone approaching, even coming up the stairs.
He cast his senses and frowned when he realized who it was. What would she want?
Before he opened the apartment door, he squared his shoulders and stood up straight, putting a stern frown on his face to seem stronger.
“Hello, Daedalus.” Clio was trying to look casual, but he read tension in her shifting feet, the way one hand held her purse strap so tightly.
Daedalus glanced quickly past her out onto the covered balcony. She was alone.
“Who sent you?” he asked brusquely. “What do you want? I’m very busy.”
“I know,” said Clio, sounding more sure of herself.
“I want—I want you to teach me.” Cerise’s beautiful leaf green eyes looked at him out of Clio’s face. In a moment, he was transported back 240 years.
“I want to be immortal,” she said.
waited on Daedalus’s doorstep, trying to look brave and calm. “You offered to teach me that night in the cemetery,” I reminded him. “I want to take you up on it.”
“Petra just worked against me during the most important rite of the last two centuries,” Daedalus said coolly. “Does she know you’re here?”
I hesitated. If I said no, would he take it as permission to kill me and chop me up into little pieces?
“No,” I said, just as coolly, raising my chin. After all, I was Clio Martin, and I’d been making guys—young and old—quake at the knees since I was fourteen. “But Thais does.”
In a general way. Not a specific right-now way. And she would have killed me if she did know.
Daedalus looked at me. Lamps cast a soft amber glow over the walls, making the fourteen-foot ceilings look even higher. He seemed to make a decision and stepped back from the door. He gestured me in, and I expected spooky symbolic music to start playing, like “crossing the threshold, ooh.”
Like he had the first time we’d all met in his apartment, Daedalus went to a small table with crystal decanters laid out as though part of a movie set. He poured some plum-colored liquid into two miniature wineglasses and handed me one. It smelled nutty and warm and sweet. I waited for him to drink his first, since I hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. He took a small sip, seeming to savor it before swallowing.
I decided to wait on mine. Time to get down to business.
“Look,” I said, taking a deep breath. “The rite. I don’t know what happened with everyone else. But I had a vision. I saw myself dead. Drowned. I don’t know why.” I walked past him to the tall French windows that led to his balcony overlooking the narrow street. “I don’t want to die. Not now, not ever. I want to be immortal, like you and the Treize. Teach me how to do the rite, whatever I need to do, to make it work.”
I looked at him, still standing by his drinks tray. What if he had changed his mind?
“I saw myself
,” I repeated, trying to keep desperation out of my voice. “It wasn’t just a vision—it was real. It’s going to happen. I don’t know when, but soon. I have to stop it.”
I forced myself to wait, looking as calm as I could. I didn’t want to give him any more power over me than I had to.
Finally he spoke. “So you want to participate, to help raise the power and channel it, instead of merely watch?”
His eyes narrowed at me, and his glance flicked down to my untried glass of port.
“Who sent you?”
“No one. I want you to teach me. Are you up for it or not? Do you
anything you can teach me?” I injected just the faintest tinge of skepticism into my voice, figuring that his Y-chromosome bullheaded-ness would kick in.