Authors: Linda Robertson
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Contemporary, #Romance, #General
This moment had all the titillating arousal of the touch of a stranger, but it was mingled with the security of a committed relationship and an inherent knowledge of what pleasure our bodies could create.
He broke the kiss and I instantly yearned for more.
Lust had laid claim to me, but I fought to catch my breath and regain control of my passions.
“Can you feel the storm within you, my love?”
“Can you feel the blaze burning in your soul?”
How did he know?
“Is the flood filling you up?”
“What is happening?”
“You are so close. . . . ” He took my thumb into his mouth and sucked on it.
He switched to the other thumb.
The sensation was strangely wonderful.
“Call your mantle.”
“Close your eyes. Look inside yourself. There is a light within you, an armor that glows.”
My eyes shut obediently. I tried to see within . . . to feel a storm, a blaze or a flood. “I can’t find it.”
He kissed my palm, my wrist. Working his way up my arm to the inner spot on my elbow, he then moved back to my neck.
“Don’t stop,” I begged.
“Search deep, my love. Follow the desire deep into this body, then fall into it, fall deep into the sensations rising in your soul. There you will find the light.” He squeezed my hands.
And there it was. At the instant I found it, I felt brightness shine out from me.
He gasped. “Yes. There it is, my love. Now hold on to it. Open your eyes.”
Silvery light twinkled around us. It was beautiful.
He rubbed his thumbs in circles against mine. “This is how you command fire, love. Right here. In your thumbs.”
“You do. Now choose something to burn. You do not command all the elements yet, so you have to be in contact with something to make it blaze, but since I am here with you, you can push your will through me . . . and burn it without direct contact.”
After looking around, I chose the curtains. Focusing on them, I cast my demand down my arms, into my thumb, and passed it to his.
Flames licked over the curtains. The fire gave off heat and light, but did not consume the fabric.
Aidon reviewed my handiwork with an expression of satisfaction. “You are a quick study, my love.” He pressed his lips to mine again.
ait,” Johnny said, facing Demeter. “What if you get stuck in the meditation, too?”
He watched her carefully as she considered the question he had posed like a weapon.
“I don’t mean any insult,” he added when she hesitated, “but she’s the Lustrata and she’s stuck. What makes you think you won’t get stuck?”
She lifted her chin and set her shoulders. “That won’t happen.”
“How can you be so sure?” Hunter asked.
“Because. Whatever is interfering with her is doing so because she is the Lustrata. My insignificance means I won’t get ensnared.”
Johnny shot a glance at Hunter, who passed it to Vilna like a hot potato. Vilna’s face twisted into a rather displeased expression, but she nodded. “She has a point.”
“Let’s do this,” Demeter said. She scooted the tray of supplies on the counter closer to her and took up a position near Red.
Hunter sat on the floor and took her shoes off. “So we’re clear, Domn Lup: Are you going to be inside the circle or outside of it?”
Johnny shrugged. “Demeter?”
“Doesn’t matter, I guess. You can be in if you want to, but I don’t foresee there being anything you can do.”
“Outside,” he said.
“All righty, then.” Hunter now had her socks off as well. “You keep your eyes on Persephone and let us know if at any time the magic makes you so uncomfortable you have to leave the area.” She cuffed the ends of her pants up. Pulling bracelets adorned with little colored stones from her pockets, she hooked them around her ankles. Then she stood.
“Use this.” Demeter lifted a pouch of what looked like petals from the tray and handed it to her.
Hunter sniffed it. “Apricot? Honey? What is this?”
“A mix of agrimony and arbutus petals,” Demeter said.
“Ah,” Vilna added. “Good choices.”
“Why?” Hunter asked. “I use herbs, but I don’t recall ever having used agrimony before . . . or arbutus.”
“Probably not, dear.” Lydia joined their conversation. “Agrimony is best for reversing spells, breaking hexes, and banishing negative entities. Arbutus is used for exorcisms.”
“Hold on a minute,” Johnny interrupted. “Banish negative entities? Exorcisms? What the fu—fudge is going on?” He changed his expletive at the last, considering who was present.
“Precautions,” Demeter answered. “It’s helpful, not all-inclusive. We don’t know what we’re dealing with.”
“You said she was stuck in a meditation.”
“You didn’t say the something that was keeping her there might be an evil entity.”
“There’s no way to know if that’s the case until I
speak with the totem, so I’m covering the bases should this be a worst-case scenario. Now step back and let us get on with this.”
Begrudgingly, he returned to his spot in the doorway.
With the broom she rode in on, Hunter swept a counterclockwise circle around Red, saying, “With this broom, I sweep all negativity away.” The witches moved inside the circle. “Let positive energy flow that our efforts may be pure.”
“So mote it be,” Demeter said. Vilna-Daluca and Lydia echoed the statement.
Hunter laid her broom on the floor. She took the incense stick Demeter had lit for her in one hand, and the four stones she had gathered in the other. She closed her eyes for a moment and turned in a circle. She stopped and pointed. “North is this way?”
“Yes,” Demeter said.
Starting at the north, Hunter walked a clockwise circle this time. She made one slow circuit, letting the smoke waft from the end of the incense. On the beginning of the second go-round, she crouched to place a stone at the eastern point. “Elements of air, of the east, guard this circle and breathe into us the breath of life.”
When she rose she did not walk to the next point, she danced to it. He noticed that she moved with the confident balance of a trained dancer. He also noted that she had cute feet; her toenails were painted a dark red, the bracelets were draped at sexy angles, and the stones tinkled when they struck together.
She placed another stone. “Elements of fire, of the south, guard this circle and warm us with the heat of life.”
When she rose up, she twirled, then arched her back,
lifting the incense up high. Her hips swiveled and her body swayed. Another spin brought her to the next point and another stone was set upon the floor. “Elements of water, of the west, guard this circle and bathe us in the liquid of life.”
When she rose again, she seemed even deeper into the ritual. She had passed him when drawing the circle and he was sure she was no longer aware of his presence. Red and he had talked about magic many times. She’d told him that, for some, the casting of a circle was merely an act of protection. For others, it was like drawing a curtain around the circle, a curtain that transported them out of this world and into the etheric world. If he had to guess, he’d have said Hunter belonged to the latter.
Hunter positioned the last stone. “Elements of earth, of the north, guard this circle and tread with us the terrain of life.” She rose and Demeter put a wand into her open hand. “This circle is cast and sealed,” she said, making one final ring around with the tip of the wand pointing at the circle she’d swept and danced already. “The elements are present. Lord and Lady, hail! I call to thee. Hear me, Goddess, She who walks alone in the spaces in between, maintain the balance of power we are about to invoke. Aid us to bring your daughter home.”
Vilna-Daluca, Lydia, and Demeter stood around Red, each a point of a wide triangle. As Hunter completed this circle casting, Demeter shuffle-stepped closer to Red, not breaking the water circle around her. Hunter took up the position Demeter had vacated.
“Vilna, since you have far more experience than I with ley lines,” Hunter said, “I defer to you for the sorcery portion.”
With a nod, Vilna accepted the black pillar candle
that Demeter offered. When Hunter and Lydia also held their candles and Demeter had lit each one, Vilna began.
She didn’t speak, but she hummed softly. Within seconds, the hair on the nape of Johnny’s neck was rising. As she refined the melody, adding a note here and there, she let her voice grow louder. Lifting the candle to eye level, she stared at it intently and sang. Slowly, her right hand rose above her head, fingers curled as if she held a softball. A blue-purple orb of light swirled between her palm and fingers.
To her left, Hunter joined the melody, following it, then accenting it. She lifted her candle, focused on the flame, then raised her hand. When the flickering orb appeared in her hand, an arc-like lightning sprang from Vilna’s to connect to Hunter’s.
Last, Lydia began to sing. Her addition to the song was bold, fully formed from the first note. She belted her unique tune like it was the chorus of song she’d always known. She copied the position of the other witches and the orb flashed into her hand, followed by the lightning joining hers to Hunter’s. A completing arc joined hers to Vilna’s.
Blue-purple light filled the space within the circle Hunter had cast, shading the witches with a glow not unlike the black lights Johnny had seen at various clubs his band had played in.
He was listening to the witches’ lovely, dark chant, and was rather fond of the strange melody, but he remembered he was to keep his eyes on Red.
God, she’s going to hurt when she comes out of this. I’ll carry her upstairs to a hot bubble bath, followed by a massage. Anything she wants
Demeter reached into her pocket and pulled out a four-leaf clover. “Here goes,” she said, and placed the clover on her tongue. She reached into her pocket again, and pulled out two stones. One she kept in her right hand, the other she transferred to the left. She slid her foot forward to the edge of the watery circle that protected Red.
With one last glance at him, she breathed deep and pushed her foot through the water.
oliath supervised Risqué being moved onto a stretcher, then two Beholders lifted her and kept her level as they carried her down the steps from the court witch’s suite.
One of the Beholders asked, “The new infirmary, boss?”
“Yes.” When Ivanka had broken her arm, he’d decided it would be to their advantage to have a triage and small infirmary on-site to manage the occasional injuries his people incurred in the line of duty. The space that was formerly used to store stage props was reclaimed for this purpose.
He’d been so busy lately, he had not had time to check the progress. So, he followed the Beholders across the area behind the scrim.
He was only a few yards from the door when a strange smell met his nostrils and he stopped. Glancing around, he sniffed again. It was an oily odor. One present only when the service elevator was in use. “Continue,” he ordered the guards.
Running to the gate, he saw the new hydraulic that had been installed; the car had gone up. To his best guess, it remained one level above the ground floor. He pressed the button to bring the car down. Impatient, he paced as the elevator returned, then entered, shut the gate, and pushed the button to lift him up.
When it dinged softly and stopped, he stood stock-still, listening, sniffing.
Ailo had come this way with Beverley.
He opened the gate and searched the area until he found a broken window.
Goliath rode the elevator down. When it stopped, he walked to the infirmary. Voices were coming from a hallway in the rear. He proceeded in that direction and found the hall had four doors. The voices were behind the last one—but lights were on in both of the rearmost rooms.
He peered into the second-to-last room and saw Mero in the bed. Seven stood to one side, watching as their esteemed guest fed from a Beholder’s wrist. It was clear, even from a distance, that Mero had been severely beaten.
Goliath raised a brow at Seven; she made an irritated face at him and waved him on.
Looking into the last room, he saw Risqué—still on the stretcher that now rested on an exam table. Ivanka was holding a compress to Risqué’s side.
Seeing him, Ivanka said, “I learn field medicine.”
“The doctor we’ve employed is on her way.”
“We have a doctor now?” one of the Beholders asked.
“Yes,” Goliath answered.
“He give us this hospital,” Ivanka said.
The Beholder grinned. “You’re gonna make a fine Haven Master.” The two Beholders left.
Sil entered seconds after they left. “What is going on?”
He nodded. “Too much to explain just now. You and Ivanka need to stay with Risqué.”
Sil nodded and, for a moment, he and Sil stared at each other. Then he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her.
When their lips parted, he left the infirmary. It would take Menessos only a few minutes to locate Ailo and verify her getaway path; Goliath guessed his former master had nearly accomplished this task by now. Still, he had time. . . .
Goliath jogged to his own quarters, pulled off his formal jacket, and tossed it on a chair. Unbuttoning the collar of his shirt, he walked to the table near his bed and lit an incense stick. For a long moment he stood before it, focusing on his intention and breathing the sweet scent of juniper. “I will make sure she’s safe, Lorrie. I promise.”
A buzzing erupted from within his bedside table. Light seeped out from the edges of the drawer. He frowned. His phone was across the room in his jacket pocket. He pulled open the drawer and saw an old cell phone, folded shut. Persephone Alcmedi had given it to him.
His dead brother, Samson, had spoken to the court witch via this magical device.
He reached slowly for it, cautiously picked it up, and then turned it over.