Children of Poseidon: Rann (8 page)

BOOK: Children of Poseidon: Rann
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Jewel struggled to draw breath. She’d stopped listening after the name. “Maya’s father?”

Kara didn’t answer directly. “Why did Maya get that sort of ability but you didn’t? Her mother wasn’t so great.” Her bitterness clouded her view of the past. Maya’s mother had been a powerful healer.

Jewel and Maya were almost the same age; only a few months separated them.

“He was going mad. Maya said his magic drove him insane. He disappeared before she was born. Are you sure that he was my father?”

Kara’s face adopted an expression of affront. “Of course I’m sure. I knew who my partner was. My father chose him. I spent months getting him prepared. Feeding him the drugs. Luring him into trusting me. And he was the only man who had me then. It had to be him. I was never promiscuous.” She narrowed her eyes at Jewel. “Not like you.”

“Fergal was married,” Jewel said.

“To that worthless healer.” Kara shrugged. “And what did that lead to? A weak empath.”

Is she talking about Lila?

“He should have been mine. With his power and my family connections, we might have ruled the city. Not just North London.”

Great. My mother has a world domination complex.
Jewel would have to go and tell the coven and Maya that her mother had become a megalomaniac. She had a sudden thought. “Does Maya know?”

“Of course she doesn’t.” Kara’s eyes flashed diamond bright, and she rose from the sofa. She took a step towards Jewel. “She should have been my daughter. The healer should have had you.”

Jewel shot to her feet, glad the coffee table protected her. “What happened to Fergal?” The rumour that he’d been consumed by his magic had been generally accepted. Most people, including his wife and daughters, thought he died.

“The drugs sent him a little loopy.” Kara smiled to herself.

Jewel’s skin tingled with anxiety. It looked as though her mother had been mad for a while longer than the coven suspected.

“It was easy to get rid of him.” She tilted her head to one side and pursed her lips. “Although, if I’d known you were going to be such a failure, I’d have kept him around for longer. Maybe tried again.”

Jewel edged out from behind the coffee table and towards the door. She needed to get as far away as possible. If she had her way, she’d never return.

“Are you leaving?”

“Thanks for the tea.” Jewel watched her mother as carefully as she would have watched a predatory animal.

“Don’t come back.” Kara perched on the sofa, sipping tea in her old refined way.

Jewel sidled out the door.

“You aren’t welcome here.” The words flew after her.

The maid hovered in the hall, ready to show her out. Her legs shaking, Jewel asked if she could use the bathroom. Resting her forehead against the cool glass of the mirror, she waited for the weakness to pass. The pulse in her throat pounded in her ears, and she breathed slowly, counting from one to ten. After washing her hands in cold water, she looked round for her bag.
Damn. I must have left it on the sofa.

The maid had disappeared, and Jewel hesitated at the door to the sitting room. The best case scenario would be that Kara had gone and the room would be empty. She listened. A slight rustle of movement came from within and then she heard the mage’s voice.

Muffled by the closed door, only the words “seawitch,” “daughter,” and “opportunity” reached her ears.

Heat washed over her body, leaving her forehead damp. She really didn’t want to go back into that room. Her bag would have to stay there. Turning away, she bumped into the maid.

“Miss Vargas? Are you all right?”

“I’ve lost my handbag.”

“I’ll find it for you.” The maid knocked firmly on the door, waiting a moment before she pushed it open.

Jewel got the impression she’d learned not to walk into rooms without a loud announcement of her presence. She returned, holding out the bag to Jewel.

“There you are.” She led the way to the front door and opened it. “Have a nice day.”

The door slammed closed behind her. Jewel stood on the front step, her handbag clutched to her breasts, heart thudding against her chest. Gathering herself together, she headed for the main gates, heaving a sigh of relief as they clanged closed, leaving her on the pavement. She lifted her head and caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. A figure, enveloped in baggy tweed, loitered on the opposite side of the road, his head drooping. A flash of blue from his eyes focussed on the house before he glanced at Jewel.

I’ve seen him before.
She blinked, and when she looked again, he was gone.

Chapter 9

Jewel started to walk back towards Maya’s flat, but after a few steps, she slowed her pace. She turned round and squinted through the cast iron gate at the huge house where she had grown up. It looked sinister now. Contemplating her newly acquired knowledge, she decided not to go back to the flat.
What will I say to Maya?

Trudging towards Hampstead High Street, she tried to make sense of everything she’d heard, but her mind wouldn’t focus, and she finally halted. She propped herself against a wall, legs trembling.

“Are you all right, dear?” An elderly woman touched her arm and peered into her face.

Jewel nodded. “I’m fine. Low blood sugar moment. I need to get something to eat.” She focussed on the woman’s concerned face. “I am all right. Really. But thank you.” She headed towards the coffee shop she’d been in earlier and ordered an extra creamy hot chocolate. Her seat by the window was still unoccupied, and she carried the chocolate over to it, sitting down with a huff of relief. She definitely felt peculiar. Everything had been going as she’d expected, until she’d asked Kara why she didn’t like her. She should never have stirred up that hornet’s nest. Confrontations were never a good idea.

She sipped her chocolate slowly and thought about what she’d learned. Why they’d ever thought Kara could be of help was beyond Jewel.
Maybe nine years has distorted my memory of my mother. She’s not so great, and she knows nothing about seawitches.

They’d have to go elsewhere for help with the damaged seawitch. Although Alberic had seemed to know something and been keen to help, Jewel shuddered. They would have to be a lot more desperate before she would accept anything from him. She couldn’t figure out why he had displayed such an unhealthy interest.

Jewel knew she had always disappointed her mother, but she’d never understood why. As a child she’d been obedient, diligent in her lessons, and well thought of by her teachers and friends. She’d been told her spell casting and other forms of magic put her in the slightly higher than average range, but striving to please her mother had gotten her nowhere; nothing made any difference. At best, her mother ignored her. At worst, she became abusive. By the time Jewel reached the age of thirteen, she made a point of avoiding her mother, and by the time Micael came along, she was an easy target. She let out a deep sigh. Understanding why she was the way she was didn’t help her deal with it.

She and Maya were half-sisters. That would normally have thrilled her; they’d been as good as sisters since they were old enough to go to nursery school. Now it just chilled her.

What did my mother do? What did she mean by saying she got rid of Fergal?

Neither Maya nor Jewel had known him. Maya barely remembered her mother, who died just before her sixth birthday. She heard stories about her parents, though, from Lila, who remembered them both clearly and with a strong sense of love.

Did Kara destroy Maya’s family?
Jewel put her head in her hands and tried not to groan. She had no idea what she was she going to tell her friend. Or how. Or when. The groan emerged, and a table of teenagers shifted in their seats to stare at her.

She forced a smile to her face and rubbed her arm as though it ached. She didn’t want to be thought a weirdo, even by complete strangers. Finishing her chocolate, she pushed her chair back and stood up. Her legs felt a little more solid, but a deep hollow filled the pit of her stomach. She made her way back to Maya’s flat, still unsure what she would say.

Rann sat on the low wall outside the big Victorian house. Jewel screwed her eyes closed, opened them again to check she wasn’t imagining things, and a huge sensation of relief swept over her.

Rann saw Jewel coming along the road before she saw him. She trudged slowly up the hill, her head down. She wore a short red skirt, short black biker boots, and a slightly oversized biker jacket.

He frowned.
Where’s her hair? And why does she look so beaten?

He knew London wasn’t good for her and that he had to persuade her to come back with him, somehow. It hurt him, caused him actual physical pain, to see her looking so tired.
What happened to the glowing, golden creature who left my island only a few days earlier?

Jewel raised her head and saw him, and before she concealed her expression, her whole face lit up. She was glad to see him. Rann relaxed; he hadn’t been sure whether she’d view his visit as interference. He pushed himself up off the wall and strode towards her, wrapping her in his arms and hugging her to him.
Mine.
The word echoed in his head, and he froze in recognition of the moment. She relaxed against him briefly, before pulling away.

“Rann. What on earth are you doing here?”

“Checking up on you.”

A scowl formed on her face.

“I’m joking.” Still shaken by the unfamiliar need to possess her, he held up his hands. “I had a few thoughts about the seawitch. Come on, let’s go inside. Maya’s not back yet.”

Jewel handed him the keys and followed him up the flights of stairs to Maya’s top floor flat.

“I’ll make some tea,” he said. “That’s what you do in London, isn’t it?”

Jewel took off the jacket and hung it on a peg in the hallway. She reached to take Rann’s coat, but he was dressed in faded jeans and an old Harvard University sweatshirt in some shade of dull purple. He hated wearing too many clothes, and the cold didn’t bother him.

“You’ll clash with Maya’s kitchen.” She followed him into the kitchen just in time to catch his wince at the colour scheme.

He spun three hundred and sixty degrees, taking in the entirety of the room, eyes lingering on the fruit chandelier. “I suppose it suits Maya.” Grimacing, he pulled open cupboard doors, searching for the tea things.

Jewel sat at the kitchen table and let him.

Rann was a lot more able than he made out and was perfectly capable of looking after himself if there was no one present who was paid to do it. He stretched up into an overhead cupboard to reach the teapot, turned round, and caught Jewel staring at him. He pushed his sleeves up. Her gaze moved to his forearms.

Rann raised one eyebrow and then clicked his fingers together, startling her out of her trance. He ran a hand through her hair as he passed. Soft and silky, it caressed his fingers. “Love the new hairstyle.”

He’d obviously said the right thing.

“Do you?” Jewel beamed. “Really? I wasn’t sure about it.”

“It suits you.” Rann ruffled it again, and Jewel pushed his hand away.

“Don’t mess it up then.”

He put a couple of mugs on the table, filled them with tea, and added milk.

“You’re supposed to put the milk in first.”

“Are you sure?” Rann sat down.

“Haven’t a clue.” Jewel picked up her cup. “There’re some biscuits in the cupboard. If you want them.” She sipped the tea.

“What’s wrong, Jewel?” Rann still held the image of her trudging up the hill towards him in his head.

She let out a deep sigh. “I thought you wanted to talk about the seawitch.”

“When Maya gets back. I want to talk about you now. Why did you look so upset?”

“I saw my mother.” She placed her mug on the table and stared into it, running her forefinger along the rim.

Rann waited.

“I asked her why she hated me.”

Rann raised both his eyebrows. He was well aware that Jewel hated confrontations and liked to take a roundabout route to any problem.

“She said I was a disappointment.”

“Then she’s a very stupid woman and doesn’t deserve you.”

Jewel’s soft pink lips curved into a small smile. “I found I didn’t really care what she thought. I thought she couldn’t say anything to me that would bother me.”

“So why are you upset?” Rann asked again.

“She told me who my father was.” Jewel began to trace a pattern on the table top with her finger. Rann shifted his chair round so he sat next to her. He put his hand over hers. Her skin felt baby soft, and her oval nails were painted a pale rose.

“Tell me.”

“He was Fergal.”

“Fergal?” He’d never heard the name before.

“Fergal Redcar. Maya’s father. One of the strongest mages in London.” Jewel pulled her fingers from under Rann’s and rubbed both her hands over her face.

Rann frowned.
Jewel’s father was Maya’s father?
He hadn’t expected that.

Aren’t witches monogamous?
“So your mother had an affair with Maya’s father? You didn’t know?”

“No!” Jewel’s head jerked up. “It wasn’t like that. She drugged him and bespelled him. Then she said she got rid of him. What did she do, Rann?” An expression of horror swamped her delicate features, and she buried her face in her hands.

Rann jumped up and pulled her to her feet. He wrapped his arms round her and sat back down with her in his lap.

She wriggled but then lowered her head to his chest. “What do you think she meant?”

“I don’t know.” Rann rested his face on the top of Jewel’s head. “Do you want to find out?”

She took a huge breath, her body trembling as she let it out. “I have to. What if she killed him? Maya always thought the weight of his magic drove him insane. It happens to some powerful mages, you know?” She tilted her head to gauge his reaction.

He nodded.

“But what if he didn’t wander off? What if she murdered him?” Her voice sank to a whisper.

“I don’t know. But we can find out.” He wasn’t sure how, but he’d certainly try. For Jewel. He stroked her arm. “Whatever she did, though, it’s not your fault.” He tried to interject a note of command into his voice. He wanted Jewel to believe that, but she shook her head against his chest.

“If my mother did that, then she messed up Maya’s family. Wrecked Maya’s life.” A note of hysteria shook her voice, and Rann decided he needed to put a stop to that.

“Maya’s life looks pretty good to me,” he said. “It looks more as though she tried to ruin your life. And you’re doing fine.”

Jewel said nothing.

“Are you going to tell Maya?”

“No!” She struggled to sit up straight. “I suppose I’ll have to. I don’t know how, though. Let me think about it. I’ll tell her tomorrow.”

“You have to. Soon. If Kara is as mental as she sounds, it won’t be long before she pours out all her secrets to anyone who’ll listen.”

“I know.” Jewel scrambled to her feet.

Rann let his hands slide away from her.

“Come and have a look at the seawitch.” She led him through to the sitting room, telling him what Kara and Alberic had said. “I wonder why that mage was so interested. It was a bit odd.”

The two of them studied the still figure on the sofa.

“We sit her up in the morning, lie her down at night,” Jewel said. “She eats if we hold food to her mouth, but that’s all. She doesn’t move by herself.”

“I stopped off in Scotland.” Rann sank onto the opposite sofa. “Talked to Lykos and Lila. Lila had some ideas. We’ll talk about them when Maya comes home.” He held his hand out to Jewel. “Come and sit with me.”

She slowly moved over and sat down at the other end of the sofa.

“You should come home.”

Her arms folded defensively over her chest.

“There’s no place for you here.” He tried to read her face. “Look at you. Come back with me when we’ve sorted things here.”

Jewel ducked her head, avoiding his gaze. “No. I told you why I wouldn’t. Nothing’s changed.”

Rann examined her. She was so stubborn.
Why doesn’t she just trust herself, and me, and go with her feelings?
“You were happy there.”

“I’m going to change into some jeans.” Jewel jumped off the sofa and stalked out of the room.

He walked over and crouched down next to the silent figure of the seawitch. He
had
seen something in her eyes.

“Everything’s going to be fine,” he told her, but he had a strong feeling the reassurance was for his own peace of mind rather than hers. She didn’t answer.

Jewel stayed in her room until she heard the jangle of Maya’s key in the lock. She couldn’t argue with Rann. Before she knew it, she’d be on a flight back to Dar es Salaam, then in his bed, then nervously waiting for him to move on to his next lover. She knew he wouldn’t discard her, but she couldn’t watch him with anyone else.

Maybe she would have been willing to make the move if she knew how she really felt.
Is it just a crush? Am I infatuated with Rann’s power and generosity?

It didn’t matter, because she knew that seeing him with someone else would destroy her. She’d learned that from previous lovers; she tended to choose the ones she didn’t feel too deeply for, in the hope she could minimise the pangs of jealousy. It hadn’t worked that well in the past. She just had to live with it, and if her feelings for Rann involved love rather than infatuation, then maybe she would take the risk. She didn’t know, and the only way she ever would was if she left and developed her inner strength and emotional resilience.

A door slammed, and voices from the kitchen broke into her thoughts. She scrambled off the bed to open her door. Listening carefully, she recognised Maya’s voice and quickly changed into a pair of new jeans made of aged, comfortable denim, embellished with sequins. She glanced in the mirror to check her appearance. Her hair still surprised her every time she ran a comb through it and realised how short it was. Running nervous fingers over it, she made herself walk into the kitchen where Rann sat at the kitchen table and Maya leaned on the counter. Both of them looked up at her as she closed the door. She avoided both of their gazes.

“Jewel.” Maya stirred a pan on the top of the stove.

Jewel stared.
Since when did she take up cooking?

“Rann said you had a bad day.” She pointed at an open wine bottle. “Help yourself. Are you okay? What happened with your mother?”

Jewel glowered at Rann; he had no business talking to Maya about her. “I’m fine. I’ll tell you about it later, after Rann’s said what he came to say.”

BOOK: Children of Poseidon: Rann
7.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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