Children of Poseidon: Rann (10 page)

BOOK: Children of Poseidon: Rann
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Maya’s mouth twisted into a sneer, but she gestured towards the door. “Come on. See if you’ve any idea what’s wrong with her.” She led the two coven members out of the room, Maria’s posture stiff with offense. Jewel rose to follow, but Rann held her back.

“I’m sorry if you don’t like my concern,” he said, “but you must realise that I can’t let you put yourself in danger.”

Jewel pulled her arm away. “There you go again. You don’t ‘let’ me do anything. I make my own decisions.”

Rann followed her. “Of course you do. You are an adult. But I make my own decisions, too.”

Jewel elbowed him in the ribs.

In Maya’s bedroom, Charlie and Maria stared down at the seawitch. Maria looked blank, while Charlie’s face screwed up in concentration.

“It’s impossible to read her while she’s wearing the bracelets,” he said. “Could we take them off?”

Rann moved between them. “No. She’s carrying death magic.”

“What?” Both coven members spoke at once.

“She was leaking it into the ocean when she was found. She keeps the bracelets on. Anyway, she was already catatonic then.”

“She’s been used as a familiar?” The horror in Maria’s whisper filled the room. She obviously knew what that meant. “For death magic?”

“We believe so.” Rann gazed down at the silent seawitch. “But something else has turned her into this.” He gestured at her zombie-like presence.

“That’s banned magic,” Maria continued, “and I don’t know anyone who’d have the strength or knowledge to do it now.” She squinted suspiciously at Rann, before turning her gaze to Jewel, then Maya.

“Well, it wasn’t any of us.” Maya folded her arms.

“Hmm.” Maria sounded doubtful.

“Do you know what’s making her so unresponsive?” Jewel didn’t care whether they suspected her or not.

“No.” Maria looked at her companion.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry. We’ll ask around, but I don’t think any of the coven are likely to have seen a seawitch before. They were supposed to have died out centuries ago. And as for knowing about death magic?” He pursed his lips. “We don’t encourage that sort of knowledge in our coven. Come on, Maria, we should go.”

Maria dragged her attention from the seawitch. “You should end her misery.” She followed Charles out into the hall.

Maya hustled them out of the flat, while Jewel and Rann moved back into the sitting room.

“Why are you helping them?” Rann sank back onto the sofa, pulling Jewel down next to him. “They did nothing for you. Where were they when you needed them?”

“I don’t know.” Jewel couldn’t work out why they’d picked on her. “She
is
my mother. You can’t choose your parents, and I know it’s irrational, but I do feel that she’s my responsibility. The covens believe blood is important.”

“I see.”

“And you can’t tell me what to do either.” She had a feeling she might have to keep saying that.

“Of course not.” Rann said, straight-faced. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Jewel raised an eyebrow.

“When have I ever told anyone what to do?”

There was something wrong with that argument, as Rann rarely had to issue commands to get what he wanted. His islanders fell over themselves to carry out his unspoken wishes, while he sat back and pretended to be a relaxed sort of demigod. Jewel snorted. She’d been round him long enough to see what lay under the laid back attitude. It had certainly deserted him quickly enough this evening.

Maya came back into the room and sagged down onto the vacant sofa. “What a pair of no hopers.” She pushed her hair away from her face and grimaced. “You’ll never guess what they suggested.”

“What?”

“That you take your mother’s place. As coven leader.” She lay back and waited for a response.

“What?” Jewel almost screamed. “You have got to be joking?”

“No.” Maya sounded satisfied with her reaction. “That’s what they said. Charlie said you had the right bloodlines.”

“They must be as mad as my mother.”

“I think they’ve finally found an alternative to me.” Maya sounded unreasonably pleased.

Jewel jumped up, stalked towards her, and glared, arms folded.

Maya raised both eyebrows.

Jewel stared down into her friend’s amused amber eyes. “No.”

“No?”

“Under no circumstances.” Jewel spoke slowly so there could be no mistake. “There’s no way I would serve in that coven in any position.”

“Sure?”

“Maya.” Jewel wasn’t amused. “You’re messing with me. I will never be any part of that coven. They would have let my mother execute me. I don’t like the people. I don’t want to live in London. I don’t—”

“All right.” Maya held up one hand. “I get the picture. I was just passing on the suggestion.”

“I’ll talk to my mother, but that’s all I’m doing. Then I’m going. Somewhere else.” She kicked Maya’s ankle. “Anyway, the leadership isn’t linked to bloodline.”

“Okay.”

“When this is over, I’m finding a nice, civilised coven in a place with sun and sea. With rational people. I’ll start looking tomorrow.” Jewel sat down again.

“Fine,” Maya said. “I might come with you.”

“And me.” Rann nudged Jewel with his shoulder. “Or you can come home with me.”

Jewel suppressed an angry scream.

Rann put his arm round her and hugged her to him. Certain it meant nothing, as Rann expressed his affection physically as a matter of course, Jewel let him hold her for only a moment before she got up and wandered over to the bay window that faced out onto the street. She couldn’t believe the two coven members had suggested she moved into the primary position in the coven. As she’d pointed out to Maya, the leadership had never been linked to any particular bloodline. Chance meant that the last three generations of her family had taken the role, but that didn’t mean it was hereditary. There were at least a dozen coven members with more power than her, and more than that with experience.

She stared out into the darkness, wondering what sort of mess she’d strayed back into.
Why did I come back? What made me think it was a good idea?

Chapter 11

Jewel had shrugged him off. Rann wasn’t exactly annoyed and he wasn’t exactly hurt. Actually, he didn’t quite know how he felt. He scowled at Jewel’s back view as she gazed out the window. She had a very nice back view, her bottom neat in her sequined jeans, and a thin line of golden skin revealed by the cropped red sweater.

“That’s funny.” She didn’t turn round.

“What’s funny?” Maya wandered over to join her, but Rann stayed on the sofa. He didn’t want to chase her round the room. She’d never been so skittish before, but then he’d always seen her as a child before.

“That man down there. I think he’s the same one I saw this afternoon. Several times.”

“What? That tramp?” Maya sounded curious but not concerned.

“The one by the house with the white door,” Jewel told her. “He’s wearing a long coat.”

“Long hair? It’s too dark to see him properly. Are you sure?”

“That’s the one.”

Rann finally gave in to his curiosity and joined them at the window. “You think he’s following you?”

“No.” Jewel hesitated. “No. I don’t know. It just seems weird that I’ve seen him three times today.”

Rann squinted at the barely visible figure in the shadow of the house opposite. The light from the streetlamps didn’t reach him, and Rann strained to make out his shape and the long hair. He stared into the darkness until the man sensed he was being watched, shuffled his feet, and slowly disappeared down the street.

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Rann could easily catch him up.

“No.” Jewel bit her lip. “Not yet. It might be a coincidence.”

“There are a lot of homeless in London now.” Maya propped a hip on the window ledge. “Even up here.”

Jewel heaved a deep sigh and ambled back to the sofa. “Maya? Sit down, will you? I’ve got something I need to tell you.”

Rann stayed by the window. “Would you like me to go?” He wasn’t sure whether Jewel would like his support or whether she’d rather talk to Maya in private. She wasn’t pleased at his protectiveness earlier.

“No.”

He glanced over his shoulder.

Jewel’s eyes pleaded with him. “Please stay.”

He walked back and sat opposite the two women. Maya shifted impatiently.

“What’s up?” She ran a hand through her fiery hair and pushed it behind her ears. “What’s with the mystery?”

“It’s something my mother told me today.”

Rann knew her well enough to detect the nerves in her voice. Apparently Maya did, too, as she shifted position to see Jewel more clearly.

“What?” Maya’s sharp gaze made Jewel even more nervous.

“She told me who my father was.”

“No! Really? Who?” Maya had known Jewel long enough to realise how big a deal this was for her.

Jewel had first begun to talk about her unknown father as soon as she understood that most children had fathers. Maya had always been her closest friend, so she heard it all. By the time Jewel reached her tenth birthday, her mother had taught her that some questions shouldn’t be asked, at least if she didn’t want to be punished. So she stopped for a few years. As teenagers though, she and Maya had talked about fathers a lot. A little about mothers, too, but that was a sore subject, as Jewel had such a poor relationship with hers, while Kara favoured Maya over the other young witches in the coven. By mutual agreement, they avoided the subject. If it came up by accident, the conversation usually ended with Jewel’s angry tears and Maya stalking off. The subject of fathers wasn’t so loaded.

“I don’t know how to tell you this.” She glanced at Rann for inspiration, and his mouth twitched slightly in encouragement.

“Just get on with it.” Maya’s eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute. Does Rann know?”

Jewel took a deep breath. “My father was the same as yours.”

She could tell Maya hadn’t been expecting that.

“What?”

“Your father—”

“Had an affair with your mother?” Both Maya’s expression and her voice were completely empty.

“Not exactly.” Jewel’s voice faded. She glanced at Rann again, and he moved across, positioning himself behind her.

“He was unfaithful?” Disbelief leaked into Maya’s voice, then a little anger as she looked at Rann. “And how did you know?”

Rann shrugged. “I met Jewel as she was coming home.”

Maya’s eyes were slits of amber fire. “I don’t believe it. Kara must have been lying. Lila told me about our father. He’d never have done that. And with Kara? Not in this life.” Her hot gaze burned into Jewel. “She was messing with you.”

“No.” Jewel shook her head. “Maya, I’m sorry. It was worse than that. She—”

“What could be worse? Anyway, we look completely different.”

“That’s true.” Jewel thought about it.
Could Kara have been lying?
“But look at you and Lila. You’re as different as we are.”

Rann inhaled noisily. “You and Lila, you could be—”

“My father would never . . .” Maya’s voice seethed with anger.

Jewel edged away. She’d seen an angry Maya before, although not since she’d been banished from the coven, and not since she’d taken her oaths. She never wanted to repeat the experience. “It wasn’t your father’s fault.” Jewel spoke as quickly as possible, to get it all out before her courage failed. “My mother drugged him and cursed him with a spell.”

“What?”

Jewel repeated everything her mother had told her, while Maya’s face set into an expression of disbelief and outrage.

“She said she got rid of him?” Her voice rose, and small flames flickered behind her eyes.

Jewel swallowed. “That’s what she told me. ‘He was easy to get rid of.’ That’s what she said.” Jewel got up from the sofa and paced back to the window, leaving Maya to fight her rising temper. She looked out into the dark street again. It appeared to be empty.

“So he didn’t go mad?” Maya took a deep breath. “He was never possessed by his own magic?”

“I don’t know.” Jewel turned to face her.

The fire in Maya’s eyes had subsided. Her expression was impossible to interpret, but at least her fingertips weren’t leaking flames. All those hours of practising her control had paid off. “Did she tell you—”

Jewel shook her head. “I don’t know how she got rid of him.”

Maya said the words that Jewel couldn’t bring herself to utter. “Do you think she had him killed?”

“I don’t know.” Jewel forced the words out. “I just don’t know. Maya, I’m so sorry.”

“I need to think about this.” Maya chewed on her lower lip. “I’m going to bed.” She held herself stiffly, and Jewel knew her well enough to see that she had to exert a lot of effort to prevent her magic from leaking.

“The seawitch . . .” Jewel offered to retrieve her from Maya’s room.

“She’ll be all right there tonight. There’s a futon on the floor. Or she can sleep on the daybed.” Maya stamped out of the room, closing the door with exaggerated care. It opened again, and she looked back in. “She hasn’t a clue where she is anyway.” She disappeared.

Jewel collapsed back onto the sofa. She wondered if Maya blamed her, but it was impossible to tell. Maya’s temper had always been a problem for her, and she’d spent years working on her control. Now, even her close friends couldn’t read her moods.

Jewel’s eyes drifted closed, and she rested her head against the back of the sofa. She’d had quite an eventful day. After the slow, peaceful rhythm of life on his island, she had to be feeling displaced at least. Rann shifted along the sofa until his thigh bumped hers. She opened her eyes, giving him a sidelong glance.

“Do you think Maya will ever speak to me again?”

Rann slipped one arm round her shoulders. She felt smaller than usual, slight and breakable. “Of course she will. She’s got a quick temper, but it doesn’t last.”

“She never lost her temper, though,” Jewel pointed out. “That’s worrying.”

“None of this is your fault,” Rann said. “You’re more of a victim than anyone here. She’ll see that, when she thinks about it.”

“Victim?” Jewel spat the word out. “I’m not going to be a victim.” She paused and nibbled her smallest finger. “But if my mother murdered her father, I won’t blame her if she hates me.”

“She won’t hate you.”

“I—”

“Will you still be visiting your mother tomorrow?”

“I suppose so.” Jewel pulled a face. “I don’t know about Maya though. Whether she’ll want to. Or whether it’s a good idea. If she wants to confront Kara, it could all go horribly wrong.” Her face showed clearly how worrying that scenario would be.

“I think you should leave it a day or two.” Rann hugged her closer, and she looked up at him, a small frown appearing between her eyes. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” he added.
When did Jewel become so aggressively independent?
“I just think it would be a good idea to let Maya calm down and get her thoughts together.”

“If she ever does.” Jewel relaxed back against him.

“I think we should also try and find out what happened to your father.”

“We could ask Kara how she got rid of him.” Jewel sounded doubtful. “If you think that’ll work?”

“You could do that,” Rann agreed. “But please? Do me a favour?”

“What?”

He smiled at the suspicion in Jewel’s voice. “Don’t try and ask that sort of question if you’re by yourself. Make sure Maya’s with you.” He wanted to insist on accompanying her himself. Swallowing hard, he made an effort to keep the words back; he didn’t want to annoy her again. He knew she was right. This battle belonged to her, however much he might want to fight it for her. And while she might look fragile and delicate, his Jewel had a core of steel. She just needed to find it for herself.

“Okay.” She agreed, with no argument.

A weight dropped from his mind. “The idea I had was to ask Connor and Annis to look into his disappearance. The PI firm, remember?”

“Oh yes.” Jewel pursed her lips. “That’s a good idea.”

“I’ll call them in a minute.” Rann couldn’t be bothered to move, and he savoured the warmth of Jewel’s body against his. She might not have noticed, but she had relaxed against him, her body tucked into his side.

“Isn’t it a bit late?”

“Werewolves tend to be nocturnal,” Rann said. “Anyway, I’m sure most PIs are used to getting calls at strange times.”

They sat in companionable silence until Jewel elbowed him in the ribs. “Go on then. Phone them.”

“Ow.” She had sharp elbows. He removed his arm from her shoulders and pulled her to face him. He dropped a brief kiss on her soft lips. “Okay. There’s no need to damage me.” She blinked up at him then pushed on his chest. “No kissing.”

He allowed himself to be pushed and took out his phone. Her gaze stayed on him, as he typed in the PI’s number.

“WW Investigations.” The voice on the other end of the call didn’t sound familiar, but it belonged to a female.

“Annis?”

“Yes?”

“It’s Rann. You might remember me from that people-trafficking operation nine years ago?”

“I remember.” The voice warmed slightly. “What can I do for you?”

Rann told her about the seawitch. “Do you think you’d be able to find out where she came from?”

“We can certainly try,” she said. “Why don’t we come and see you? Talk about what we can do.”

“Tomorrow?”

“The morning would be good for us.”

“There’s one other thing,” Rann said. “You remember Lila?”

“Very well.” Annis’s voice became positively friendly. “We’ve stayed in touch.”

“She thinks her father was driven mad by his own magic and succumbed to a sort of wanderlust.”

“Right.”

“However, I’ve just heard that he might have been drugged and spelled, or possibly cursed,” Rann explained. “We’d like to know what really happened.”

“You and Lila?”

“She doesn’t know yet.” He waited for Annis to break the brief silence.

“She’s a friend. There would be a conflict of interest.”

“I’ll call her as soon as I can. Get her to talk to you.” He should let Lila know as soon as possible anyway. If he didn’t tell her, then Maya probably would. And Lila was the only person who had any real influence over her sister. “So we’ll expect you tomorrow. About ten?”

Annis agreed, and Rann disconnected the call.

“Did you follow that?” He turned back to Jewel.

She shuffled to the edge of the sofa, big eyes examining his face. “More or less. You’re going to call Lila? Now?”

“There’s no signal on the island. I’ll call Lykos’s selkie representative in Glasgow and ask him to tell Lila to get in touch. We probably won’t hear until tomorrow.” He placed the call and made his request.

“At least Maya can talk to her.” Jewel still looked like a worried kitten. “Maya always listens to Lila.”

Rann wanted to smooth the concern away but wasn’t sure how. He frowned thoughtfully for a second. “That reminds me. I should try and get hold of Damnam. Lykos said he’d be the person who knew most about seawitches.”

“Damnam?” Jewel gave him a sharp look.

Damnam had been behind Maya’s abduction nine years ago. Micael had told him about Maya’s talents, and Damnam had ordered her brought to him. Apparently he’d told her he wouldn’t give up trying to persuade her to work for him. Still, he’d been quiet ever since Lykos had taken Maya back.

“We can handle Damnam.” His half-brother couldn’t match him in power. Much of Damnam’s magic came from his circle of witches, and as far as Rann knew, he hadn’t managed to form his coven yet. Even if he had, he probably wouldn’t be able to overpower Rann and Lykos together. And Maya had her own strengths nowadays. “He’s withdrawn to his island, and as far as we know, he’s concentrating on his business empire. He knows he’s outclassed.”

BOOK: Children of Poseidon: Rann
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