A Dog Ties His Knott SEX STORY

A Dog ties his Knot

Shelby raced down the field, her tan skin and toned muscles were flawless and all the men on the sidelines couldn’t help but stare at her. Her long blonde hair was tangled, but that only made her more appealing and her perky breasts were a full firm B cup that you could see in all their glory as her thin jersey clung to her moist skin. With 10 seconds left in the game she ascended the last few feet and landed the ball into the net for the game winning goal. As her teammates gathered around her, she couldn’t help but notice all the men on the sidelines staring at her and she grinned playfully at them. Now at 18 she was probably the last girl on her soccer team who was still a virgin, but that didn’t bother her at all. It was not that she was a prude; she just didn’t like any of the boys at her high school and found them immature and none the less sexually unappealing. She was quite the tease however, flaunting her body in tiny daisy duke like shorts and tight tank tops that hung low so her cleavage was clearly visible.

Shelby threw her sports bag into the trunk of her car and climbed sorely into the driver’s seat. The soccer field was only a short distance from her house and she couldn’t wait to get home to take a long hot bath.

As the water ran filling up the tub she slid herself down into it letting the warm water relax her, but her mind floated and she soon found herself feeling quite Horney instead of relaxed. She was used to masturbating and loved playing with her clit to make herself cum, but, she loved it even more when the pressure from the shower assisted her, causing her to have an even more intense orgasm. She positioned her legs on either side of the faucet and slid her butt down towards the running water. Making sure the water fell right onto her clit, beating down on it, sending shock waves of pleasure throughout her body. Her knees buckled as she got closer to Cumming and a loud groan escaped from her. She soon found herself thrusting her pelvis closer to the faucet allowing for harder water pressure on her clit as she suddenly released moaning loudly as she came. She fought her best the hold herself up, allowing the water to run its full course surging her into a second orgasm but her legs were weak, both from the game earlier and the strength it took to hold herself up against the faucet.

She climbed out of the shower her legs buckling under neither her from exhaustion and wrapped a towel around her wet naked body. Exiting the bath room she opened the door to her large dog Cain who had been staring at the door, obviously interested at all the commotion going on in the bath room. She nudged him aside and made her way to her room where she promptly collapsed on her bed. She was worn out and exhausted from the day and she felt her tired eyes closing.

Shelby was awoken suddenly, she felt something cold and wet working its way up in between her legs and then, oh god, she felt a warm wet tongue run from the entrance to her pussy up to her pert little asshole. She was startled, but for some reason it seemed to excite her as the tongue probed deeper into her pussy, separating her pussy lips and into her small, tight, virgin hole. The dogs tongue once again made its way from her pussy to her ass and she felt it poking and working its way into her tight ass hole. The pain was immense and she let out a cry. So she scrambled quickly to remove herself from the situation. She stood up and felt wet fluid running down her leg, although she had sort of found it degrading and totally disgusting that she had just allowed Cain to lick her naked pussy and ass apparently it had also caused a quite large arousal in her cunt which she could now feel was beginning to ache, wanting more.

Shelby headed back to the bathroom to finish herself off once more when she felt the cold nose press up against her behind as she was walking down the hallway. “CAIN NO!” she ordered but the dog paid no mind to her command. Without warning he jumped up onto her back, his large paws landing on the shoulders. His nails dug into her smooth skin and his weight, along with the pain and the pressure coming from his nails forced her to the ground. She fell to her knees and she furiously turned to give him a smack when she felt her towel slipping off her. She reached to grab her towel and secure it once more but instead froze in fear as she felt Cain’s paws fall onto her once more. She tried to push him off but the sheer weight of the dog pushed her further to the floor. She was now on her elbows and knees when it struck her, Cain was mounting her. She let out a deafening scream and she felt him start to move back and forth. His claws digging into her, she could feel them ripping her skin and the blood trickling down her sides.

His motions became more fluid and she felt his dick hit against her pussy lips. “OH FUCK” she let out, her mind racing, she was not going to let herself get fucked by a dog, much less allow herself to lose her virginity this way. She tried scrambling forward to get away from Cain’s grasp but that only made the situation worse. She soon felt the tip of his dick hit the entrance of her tight virgin ass hole. She let out a gasp but it was to late, Cain had known he hit his mark. Thrusting forward he forced his cock into her ass. Shelby screamed in pain as she felt her tight skin ripping and expanding. He began to pump his cock in and out of her ferociously and she began to cry. Shelby screamed out in pain again and the dog tightened his grip on her, pulling her closer to him, scratching her deep with his claws. Suddenly she felt his cock tightening and became aware that a large lump was slapping against her asshole. Max thrust again and she felt the Knott in the dogs penis start to enter her ass. The pain she thought was unbearable until she felt him thrust again this time shoving the whole knot into her now raw but still tight little hole. She cried out in pain and felt the Knott growing larger and larger until it felt like there was a baseball right inside her ass, and then she felt him cum, his warm cum shot up deep into her ass and he seemed to spasm a few times letting out spurt after spurt of dog cum deep into her ass.

He soon released his grip of her and stood over her panting; desperate for escape she tried pulling herself forward only to feel the sharp pain of the Knott stuck in her ass, she couldn’t break free, she was stuck on him. She looked back and saw small trickles of blood and semen running down her legs. In pain and exhausted, she blacked out.

She had only blacked out for a few minutes, but she would later realize this was where she made her big mistake. When she woke back up she was in a haze, unaware if she had dreamt being anal raped by a dog or if that was something that had actually happened. She soon realized that it was not a dream as she felt the tremendous pain coming from her asshole as the dogs tongue licked the remaining cum from her behind and felt his hot breath the back of her pussy. Before she had time to move the dogs furry legs were around her and she found herself screaming “Not again Cain, Not again” the dog had however found his target more rapidly this time and she felt his prick move up into the entrance of her pussy. Realizing from the last time that there was nothing she could do to stop Cain from having his way with her she stopped squirming and got ready to accept it, in fear that her moving might direct his cock into her ass again. His next thrust was quite a surprise as he fully forced his cock into her, stuffing the whole thing inside her, ripping and tearing through her hymen. She screamed in pain and felt blood trickle down her legs once again, but this time as he fucked her it begin to feel more and more erotic.

Shelby found herself thrusting back against Cain and fully enjoying her first fuck. All of a sudden she felt herself close to climaxing and she released, experiencing the biggest orgasm she had ever had. She found herself moaning in pleasure this time instead of pain and her own cum was running freely down her legs. Right as she was about to cum again she felt his cock stiffen and grow. She became aware that he was about to cum and feared his Knott being buried inside her once more. She felt the bulge starting and tried to move forward once more. “Oh please Cain stop. I promise ill suck it for you” she moaned, still very much enjoying the feeling of his cock being stuffed inside her. She felt him quicken his pace as his prick hit hard against the back of her pussy and felt him shove his Knot inside her once again. The Knott started growing and she felt an immense pain forming as it grew bigger and bigger. This to, was now beginning to feel like a base ball was growing inside her and she felt the entrance hole to her pussy slightly tearing. Tears stung her eyes but through the pain she still found pleasure and she once again found herself close to an orgasm. Right when she was about to cum she felt his cock pulse as Cain let out jet after jet of hot dog cum deep into her cunt. This sent her into major over drive and she screamed as her orgasm took control of her body once more.

When he finished Cumming he stood atop her panting and she laid there and waited for his Knott to subside. When it finally shrank, his cock slipped out of her and she looked down and saw all the dogs cum running down her legs into a pool onto the floor, she crawled over to him and on impulse took his prick in her mouth and cleaned the reaming cum off him until his dick subsided slipping back into its sheath.

This was when she decided that Cain would now be her new fuck buddy and she could wait till she found a smart college boy to have sex with. She didn’t like those high school boys anyways and she doubted any of them could fuck her as well as Cain had, or give her orgasms like he did. She went from a virgin being raped by her own dog twice in one day taking both her virginities to a woman completely devoted to her dog until she met the “man of her dreams” As they say “the dog is man’s best friend,” but I think in this case they mean, the jdog is a woman’s best friend.

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Awesome Mom Part 2 SEX STORY

a36aa589331858801723ebaf24f533bb Awesome Mom
Part 2

Thanksgiving had come and gone and so did mom and I. When our neighbor left our house, Dad watched a movie with us in the living room while mom cleaned up. When she was done she came into the living room and watched the end of the movie. When it was over, my little brother went upstairs to his room and went to bed. My dad followed after the nightly news. I stayed downstairs with my mother for a few minutes. When we heard dad go into the bathroom, I pulled up moms skirt and began to rub her ass. She was facing me and grabbed my head and began to explore my mouth and tongue again. I pulled my right hand from her ass and inserted a finger in her cunt. She was sopping wet already. After a few minutes, she said she had to go upstairs and promised my dad a Thanksgiving fuck. In a way I felt jealous, but I was willing to share. Mom was just happy that he was paying attention to her tonight. Mom reached out, grabbed my cock and said “If I get done early and your awake, maybe I can give you that desert you wanted. She gave me a little peck on the lips and walked upstairs. I shut off all the lights, locked up the house and went upstairs to my bedroom.

After getting dressed for bed, I tip toed over to my parents bed and could here the bed squeaking. It sounded like my dad was trying to pound my mother’s ass into the box spring. Now I was jealous, but excited at the same time and began to jerk off listening to my mom moan and call out in pleasure. I walked back to my room and began to go on the computer. I began to search for porn tubes with mothers and sons. I found a few and finally found a video I liked. I played it and began to think of my mother. I closed my eyes and began to pound away. At this time, my mother was done with my dad and came to my room. My door was closed but unlocked so mom quietly walked in intending to surprise me. I surprised her instead. She was taken back when she saw me jerking off. She walked up behind me and was there for a moment before she said “so you like older women”? I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Mom” I said “I didn’t here you come in”. She was looking at the video streaming on the computer and asked “Is this what your into, or did I just start something new”? I said “You started something new, I used to look and younger girls or porn stars, but now I think I like MILF’s”. I asked where dad was and mom said he fell asleep after her came as usual. When mom startled me I jumped up and was standing with my cock in my hand. Mom sat down at my computer and said she never watched porn on the computer only every now and again with my father during special occasions. She began to click on different sites and was looking at all different things, like blow job video’s hand jobs video’s, anal and so on. She clicked on an older woman seducing a younger girl and leaned back in my chair. Mom was wearing a robe with nothing on underneath. She opened her robe and began to stroke her pussy. I was watching this and reached out for one of her tits while still stroking my cock. As the lesbian video got into full swing, mom would occasionally look at me and then back at the monitor. She really did like girls. Watching mom masturbate to the video was too much for me. I felt that familiar feeling in my balls and my legs began to tense. I told mom I was about to cum and she opened her robe wider, exposing her tits. “Cum on my tits and face baby, let it go”. I did and came all over her like she wanted. With that mom began to cum and was soon dripping all over my leather computer chair and floor.

Mom took her fingers and began to wipe the cum from her face and tits and lick them. “Ummmm, you taste like your dad”. I sat back on my bed while mom went to the bathroom to wash up. She came back, but I was asleep on my bed with my feet hanging off the bed and cock in hand. Mom told me later that she came back for more, but I fell asleep so she put my feet on the bed, covered me and went to down stairs. She told me the next morning that she was up till 3 am masturbating to porn on the computer. She laughed and said “I got you into older women and you got me into computer porn”. I had plans to go out with my friends especially because there was a girl who was my friend’s cousin and I wanted to bang her for the past year. She lived in the next town but was with her cousin at my game and wanted to finally hook up. Dad had gone to work and my brother was on a play date at his friend’s house. My mom was disappointed that I was going and wanted to have some fun, but I wanted this 15 year old piece of ass. Mom was great, but I still liked girls my own age. Mom jokingly said, “I don’t mind, you can bring her over and we could share you”. HHHMMMM that was I thought.

I met up with my friend Roy and his cousin Toni, she was hot. She had medium length brown hair, small tits and a great ass. We were at my friend Roy’s house along with 10 other kids because his parents were away for the weekend. It was noon and I found out that Toni had to leave in an hour, so after 15 minutes we excused ourselves and went to Roy’s bedroom. Long story short, we got naked and I fucked the shit out of this little minx. She wasn’t bad for 15. She sucked my cock and I ate her bald little pussy and then fucked her cunt, but I realized she wasn’t really experienced. We made arraignments to meet soon and she left the party. I left a few minutes later, because all I could think about was my mom home alone. It was 1:30 pm when I got home and was let down to see moms car gone. I went into the house and after about 15 minutes, mom’s car pulled up. She had gone to the gym and then food shopping for milk and a few other supplies we went through during Thanksgiving dinner. Mom was surprised to see me too. She thought I would be at Roy’s all day. I helped her with the groceries and she asked how my little hook up was? I said it was fine, but she wasn’t mom. Mom looked at me and asked if I wore a rubber. I stated no and that Toni was on the pill for a year now. Mom looked at me for a few seconds and said “do you still have her pussy on you or did you wash it off”? I said “I thought you might like that” and pulled out my cock right there in the kitchen. Mom squatted down and smelled my cock and said, “wow she has a nice smelling pussy” and placed my cock in her mouth and began to suck me off like a champ. Mom was wearing Lycra pants and top, had a sports bra underneath and looked so fucking hot. Her ass was just spectacular and you could almost see her camel toe her pants were so tight. Mom began to suck my cock with such energy that the spit from her blow job was dripping all around her hand and face and you could even hear the drops of spit hitting the floor. I didn’t want to cum just yet, so I pushed mom’s head off my cock and made her stand up. I put my thumbs on the inside of her waist band and pulled those Lyrca pants off her ass. Mom began to protest only because she said she needed a shower after her work out. Once again, like a good son, I didn’t listen. I pulled her pants and thong down past her ankles and off her legs, and then made her sit on the kitchen counter. I grabbed the back of her right knee and held it up to her chest as I buried my face in her cunt. Mom was still asking me to stop so she could shower and not smell like sweat, but the musky scent of her pussy and sweat made me crazy and I ate her out with the force of ten men. I inserted two fingers into her cunt trying to find her G spot and licked her clit like crazy. Mom began to tense up and said “Oh my god honey, don’t stop, don’t stop, mommy is going to cum”. With that she grabbed my head and held it just off her pussy about an inch or two. She replaced my tongue with her fingers and rubbed her clit furiously. In seconds she began squirting her pussy juice all over my face and the floor. Just like her spit, I could hear her cum hitting the tile floor under me. I began jerking off and soon was ready to cum too. I told mom I was going to cum and she slid off the counter and sucked my cock dry. We both sat on the kitchen floor, spent.

After a few minutes, I told mom I was going upstairs to clean up. Mom said she would be up soon and wanted to put the groceries away and start dinner. I took a quick shower and entered my room. A few minutes later I heard mom go in her bedroom where she soon took a shower. I lay on my bed naked and dozed off for a few minutes. I woke up when I heard my mom calling out for me to come to her bedroom. I entered her room and found her on her bed with just stockings and high heels. Mom also had her rabbit (vibrator) next to her. I told mom to wait and went to my room for my digital camera. When I returned I told mom I wanted pictures to remember this by and also to jerk off to. She agreed but said they had to either be secured in a password file or on a thumb drive and NO ONE was allowed to see them but us. I agreed and started taking some shots of my mom posing. Mom even said she was getting very turned on by posing for pictures. She picked up her rabbit and began to fuck her cunt with it. All the while I was snapping away. I couldn’t believe my smoking hot mom and I were doing all this crazy shit. Mom flipped over onto her stomach and inserted the rabbit into her ass. I almost died. Mom began to moan as the rabbit disappeared up her ass. Mom fingered herself with one hand while fucking her ass with the other. Soon mom was coming again. I snapped a couple of great shot of her cum squirting out of her cunt. I got on the bed and mom rolled on her back. I positioned myself between her legs and inserted my cock in her cunt. I began to pound away and snap some pictures of her cunt eating my cock. Mom flipped me over and began to ride my cock like she was breaking in a horse. A few times she came off my cock and slammed down right on the head of my cock. She just reached down pulled me straight up and inserted it back in. I was in heaven. I wanted mom’s ass now, so I rolled her off and onto her back. I placed a pillow under her ass and grabbed my cock. I told her I needed her ass now and she reached up, grabbed the back of her knees and pulled them up to her tits, exposing her open ass to me. I placed the head of my cock at her opening and she said to be careful and go slow. I lubed her asshole with her pussy juice and my pre cum. Soon mom was taking my entire shaft. I rammed her for all I was worth while mom screamed out in pleasure, “fuck my ass baby, that’s it fuck my ass hard. I want you to cum in my ass honey”. Mom was now holding both legs against her tits with one arm while her other hand was rubbing her clit. I couldn’t take it any longer and exploded into mom’s ass. As I did, mom came too and squirted all over my lower abdomen. I held my cock in her ass until it got softer then pulled out. Mom grabbed the towel from her shower and placed it under her ass. She lifted one leg and we both watched as my cum dripped out of her ass and her little asshole ring began to twitch and contract. It was nasty and hot at the same time.

We cleaned up and my dad and brother soon came home. Mom and I continued to fuck all through High school. Mom wanted to do real weird shit like have me fuck her from behind in front of her bedroom window as we watched my dad snow plowing our driveway or by the bathroom window while he was just outside by the pool and so on. Toni and I became an item while I was in High Scholl and I would teach her everything mom did to me and soon enough she was one of the best fucks I ever had. She was a grade behind me and after I went to college I only saw her a few times in four years. When I went to college mom and I all but stopped our sessions. I was too busy and never stayed home much even when I did come home. I was 6’3” and 255 lbs in college and was playing football for my dad and moms college. Good genes and some rounds of steroids kept me in prime shape and I was being scouted by a few NFL teams. But my knee gave out with a career ending injury my senior year. During one of the school breaks I was home and mom and I had one last round for old time’s sake. I told her I still jerk off to the hundreds of pictures I took of her over the years. While she was jerking me off she said do you remember Toni the little girl you used to follow you around and come over all the time. I said “yes, of course, she was a great little lay”. Mom said well I seduced her just after you left for college and fucked her for a year while you were gone. Mom leaned in next to my ear gave me a little lick and told be the whole story. It was one of our best and last fuck sessions we had, but her and Toni will be another story.

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Awesome Mom SEX STORY

Awesome Mom
Part 1

My experience all started when I was 16. Let me give you some background on my parents first. Both were from the same state on the East coast but never met until some years later. They both attended a Division A College in the Mid-West. My dad played football and mom played volleyball. My dad stood 6″‘3″, 250 lbs with dark hair and played tight end. My mom was 6′, 150 lbs with blonde hair. Both could have been models. They met during their junior year and dated till the end of senior year when my mom got pregnant with me. Five years later my brother was born. My mom was only 21 at the time and my dad was 22.

They stayed in the Mid-West because my dad never made pro but received a degree in engineering and got a great job from an Alumni of the school. My mom received her degree in education and taught grammar school during the school year and played on a beach volleyball league during the summer. I travelled a lot with my mom during this time until my brother was born. My mom would later take my brother and me until he was three and my mom was then 29 years old. My dad worked through the summer and we would travel with my mother and one of her friends who would watch us. When I was six I remember hearing noise coming from the bed next to me with my mom and her friend. My brother was still in a folding play pen. I was scared because I thought she was in pain, It was years later when I was in high school that I realized she had sex with her friend right there in the bed next to me. After mom retired from playing, she just taught school and we would hang out all summer by the lake with a few of her different friends.

When I was 16 I was the starting quarterback for the junior varsity at my High School. During my sophomore year I took my team to an undefeated record. I thank my mom and dad for my great genes. I was 6’ and 190 lbs when I was 16 and had an arm like a cannon. My dad taught me a great work out regiment and would work out with me every morning before school. This kept my body in prime condition. He also taught me never to commit to any girls through high school and college. He said just use them for sex and move on to the next one. What a guy. The night before Thanksgiving I played my last JV game and took my team to their first division title. However, on the last series of downs I slipped while dropping back for a pass and pulled my groin. I came out of the game for the last two minutes, but we won anyway.

That night when I got home I was icing my groin and then would apply heat. My dad was down stairs and my mom came to my room to check on me. My mom said she had done this numerous times and knew a great way to massage the pulled muscle. I was embarrassed as my mom pulled down my shorts and asked me to open my legs. I said “mom, no, I don’t want you touching me there”. My mom just smiled and said, “You know how many times I’ve done this for your father”. I looked into my mothers blue eyes and then down to her breasts. She was wearing a low cut sweater and her 36 D cups were standing at attention. When my mom grabbed my groin next to my balls, I had to look away to avoid getting a hard on, it didn’t work. My dick popped up past the waistband of my boxers. I looked down and felt the warmth of my mother’s hands and her excellent skill at massaging.

I noticed that my mother never looked up at me and kept staring at my crotch. I apologized for the hard on, but she shrugged it off and stated it happened to my dad too. Then she blew my mind when she said she thought I was bigger than my dad. I became red in the face and she began to giggle. I lay back on my pillow and closed my eyes. That’s when I felt her thumb brush against the head of my cock. At first it was just one pass, then another a minute later. Pre cum started to form at the tip of my cock. I was now staring down at what mom was doing and she finally looked up at me and said, “It’s nice to have someone get excited over my touch again”. I thought, oh no there must be trouble in paradise. Mom looked back down and ran her thumb over my pre cum and began to stroke my cock with more frequency. “I know what will make you fell better baby”. Do you want mommy to help you out”. How could I say no? “Sure” I said and mom pulled at my waistband until my boxers were around my thighs. Mom got up and locked my door. I asked her what about dad and my brother, she said dad was watching a movie and wouldn’t be up for a while and my brother fell asleep on the couch.

I looked at this awesome woman standing before me. I never looked at my mom in a sexy way, but I did now. She was gorgeous. She had long blonde hair, nice firm breasts and a fantastic ass. She was wearing jeans and a low cut sweater. She had just finished preparing food for Thanksgiving but still smelled like her perfume. As she walked over to the bed, she said I played a great game and deserved a little reward. She knew the speech my dad gave me about girls and also knew I had not been with one all season. The girls in school knew my act and unless they just wanted to get laid, which most did, they knew I wouldn’t date them, just fuck them and move on. My cock was rock hard and I thought I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe my mom was doing this; she was always so straight with us. I later found out that she was slut in college and with girls too. Mom sat next to me on the bed and began to stroke my cock. She was a pro. I thought I would cum any second, but mom knew how to hold me off. While she was stroking my cock, she said “please don’t think of me as a bad mother, it’s just that I wanted to held out your pulled muscle, but once I saw your cock I couldn’t help myself”. Your dad doesn’t get that turned on by me anymore”. “I think he’s having an affair anyway”. She almost blew my mind. What the fuck, I thought they were the perfect couple. I figured what the hell now so I asked my mom, “Can I see your tits”? Mom didn’t hesitate; she pulled her sweater over her head and unclipped her bra. Her tits were perfect. I reached out and began to stroke her nipples.

She began to talk dirty which also blew my mind. I never heard my mom curse before. She said “yeah, grab my nipples baby it’s been so long, pull on them hard, fuck yeah”. When I did she began to stroke faster and with a purpose. That’s all it took. Mom felt my body tense and I said I was coming. Mom leaned over and jerked me off all over her tits. I couldn’t believe how much I came. My cum dripped off her tits and onto my thighs. Mom began to rub my cum all over her tits. She took one of my tee shirts off the floor and wiped her tits, placed her sweater back on and said how my groin was now. I said it couldn’t be better.

The next day was Thanksgiving and it was just us and a neighbor who had no family. All of my Uncles, Aunts and cousins were back east. Like I said my parents stayed in the mid-west after college. We had a lot of friends, but no family. I couldn’t get my mind off of my experience with mom the night before. After dinner our neighbor and dad fell asleep on the couch before desert. My brother was in the basement locked on his usual video games. I approached my mom in the kitchen she was wearing a long skirt and sweater. She looked so hot to me all of the sudden. She was the ultimate MILF. I asked her if she was ok with what happened last night. She looked at me and apologized and began to cry. She thought she just fucked me up for life and that I would be in therapy for life. I said no way. It was kind of funny, but when she was jerking me off I told her I didn’t look at her like my mother, but as a gorgeous older woman who I wanted to fuck also. Mom stopped for a second and said we needed to talk. We went upstairs to my room and she closed the door. She said that she has been with many men in college but never cheated on him with a man after marriage. She was bi sexual and had numerous affairs with women after marriage. The way she saw it women weren’t cheating. She usually picked up girls from college who she met while playing on the beach volleyball circuit. That explained the noises I heard coming from her bed in the hotel room when I was six. Anyway, when she played volleyball in high school, almost all the girls were gay and she had a few experiences and liked it. But she also liked boys too much to be totally gay. So after marriage she found sexual exploration with women instead of men and felt it only natural and that it didn’t feel like cheating on my dad. That was until last night. She said she had no intention of jerking me off or having any thoughts prior to seeing my cock. After she saw my cock getting hard she couldn’t control herself. Then she looked at me and said she has been thinking about it all day. She began to cry again and said she was such a bad mother. I hugged her and told her no, in fact I think you’re the best mother in the world and if she wanted, I would show her my cock again.

She laughed and said no that what happened last night was enough. I figured she was being nice and knew what we did was wrong, but still wanted more. I stood up from the bed and dropped my pants, leaving my cock standing at attention right before her eyes. I looked at her and stated, “I know you want to, and I want you to also”. Mom looked and me and said “what do you want me to do”? I began stroking my cock and stepped forward and said “suck it”. Mom grabbed my cock and said “you really don’t think I’m a bad mother for this do you”? I said no and that all I wanted to do was please her and make her happy. Mom took my cock and placed it in her mouth. She started off slow and soft, gently stroking me as she sucked my cock. Mom pulled my cock out of her mouth and said, “oh God I’m going to hell, I love this so much, your cock tastes so nice, I want to make you cum baby” I grabbed the back of moms hair and began to pull on it. She pulled my cock out and said” that’s it baby, pull mommies hair, and pull it hard”. I began to move my hips forward and back, fucking mom’s mouth. Mom began to give me a sloppy wet blow job and was letting the saliva drip off my cock. It was on her hand, face and dripping on the floor. It was the most incredible blow job I ever had. I knew I was about to cum, so I pulled out of her mouth. Mom seemed disappointed when I did that. She looked up at me with a quizzical look. I said “I want to see you pussy mom, I saw your tits last night”. Mom stood up and began to undo her skirt. She looked at me and said “I’m such a slut doing this for my oldest son, but I can’t help myself, you’re too sexy and I’m so fucking horny”.

Her skirt fell to the floor and she wasn’t wearing any underwear. She said she masturbated twice last night and once in the bathroom before dinner, thinking about my cock. I reached my hand between her legs and touched her cunt. It was dripping wet. I inserted my finger into her cunt and she began to moan. My middle finger began to fuck her pussy in and out. Mom’s legs began to buckle and she placed her hand on my shoulder. I grabbed her waist with my other hand and pulled her close. I found her clit and began to rub it with vigor. Mom’s forehead was against mine, so I tilted her head and began to French kiss my mother. Our tongues were in perfect harmony and moved as if we were lovers for years. She moaned in my mouth and grabbed my head with both hands as she began to cum. “That’s it baby I’m Cumming, your making mommy cum, don’t stop”. With that she exploded on my hand. I wouldn’t call it squirting, but she was releasing cum and it was drenching my hand. I held her so she wouldn’t fall and laid her back on the bed. I knew what I was thankful for that day.

As mom lay on the bed catching her breath I grabbed her and slid her up on the bed. I was between her legs and all of the sudden mom stopped me and said “no, we can’t fuck”. Fucking is incest, what we did wasn’t incest, but if you fuck me it will be”. I liked the way she thought, but she knew it was incest already, she was just trying to justify us not fucking, and I didn’t listen. I had to have her and I had to cum right there. I grabbed my cock and slipped in right into her pussy. She threw her head back, placed her hands over her face and just said “oh my god”. I began to pound away with all my might. Mom laid there lifting her ass to meet my every stroke. After about five minutes I was about to cum. I told my mom and she asked not to cum inside her and to pull out. As I pulled out she slid between my legs and swallowed my cock. Mom sucked every last drop of my cum and we both laid there spent. We quickly got dressed and had one last kiss before returning to the family room. Dad and our neighbor had just woken up and mom said, “Anyone ready for desert”? They both said yes and she called down stairs for my little brother. I said I was ready for desert and mom knew just what I meant, when dad walked in the dinning room, mom looked at me and said I have some desert for you later, and walked into the kitchen.

To be continued…

Featured post

My Two Aunts Part 3 SEX STORY

Introduction:

Continued true story

My Two Aunts
Part 3

My wife dropped me off at the Airport. Just as I got there Aunt Dee called my cell and said to wait for her and that she was only a few minutes away. I gave my wife a kiss goodbye and thanked her for everything. A few minutes later, Aunt Dee pulled up with her husband. We all hugged and after her goodbye with her husband Aunt Dee and I walked through security and to our gate. We were two hours early and decided to have a few morning drinks. After three bloody Mary’s, we bordered our plane and were on our way to Arizona. We had a great time reminiscing and talking about our lives and family. I didn’t want to bring up our few month fuck fest all those years back, but once on the plane, Aunt Dee brought up the topic.

She told me those two months after she was in school she was doing a lot of coke and fucking up in class. She stated that she me a girl named Cindy who lived upstairs from her and was a sort of punk rocker chick. Aunt Dee said they became friends and Cindy liked coke too. She only lived 30 miles from the college so she would make runs back home weekly for her stash. She too was making money at school by dealing to classmates. She said Cindy was a lesbian and before she knew it Cindy seduced her and she had her first lesbian experience. Aunt Dee figured that she was in college and it was just experimenting, right? Anyway, before she knew it Cindy was making her have sex for coke and it became a regular thing. After Christmas break, Cindy showed up with a dildo and fucked her on a regular basis. I told her I remembered Cindy around the dorm and at parties and thought they were just friends. She told me the weekends I was there was the only time they didn’t fuck. Aunt Dee said her head was so fucked up, she didn’t even know what day of the week it was. Anyway, one weekend just before we broke it off three of Cindy’s friends came to visit and before long they all started to fuck around, except they got a little rough. In fact Aunt Dee said she was raped by them. After they were fucking around, one girl became really aggressive and held her down while the other started to slap her and pull her pants down. Before she knew it, Cindy had the dildo out and they all took turns holding her down and fucking her. One girl was a squirted and she would always squat over her when she came and would cum all over her face while another girl held her down. When the finally let her go she stayed in her apartment for three days. I didn’t want to tell her, but I had a huge hard on while she told me the story.

Aunt Dee met a body builder named Steve who was a few years older. They started dating soon after that and by then it was spring and our affair was over. Steve was on steroids and was able to get her coke when she wanted it. When school ended so did their relationship because of the distance of where they lived. My grandparents found her coke a week after she was home and connected her 2.5 GPA with her drug addiction and sent her off to rehab. I knew that part of the story; hell the whole family knew that part of the story. After six months in rehab, Aunt Dee was back on the wagon and commuting to one of the States best college where she earned her degree four years later with honors. She married her husband a few years later. He had just become a Fireman and was a great guy and a straight arrow. Aunt Dee lay her head down on my shoulder and we both fell a sleep until we landed.

Aunt Linda was waiting for us at the airport and soon we were at her house and putting our cloths away. It was Thursday and with us gaining an extra three hours, we had all day to reminisce. I had tickets for a Friday night Baseball game and a Sunday afternoon football game, so we had plenty of time together. We had a few cocktails and Aunt Linda took us to some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We all talked about the old days and family again, but there was always underlining sex talk and jokes and I got the impression that neither one was happy about their sex life. We stopped for dinner and more cocktails. After dinner we went back to the house and watched the sun set over the mountains. It was still in the 80’s and Aunt Dee suggested we go swimming. I went to my bedroom and the girls to theirs. I was dressed first and jumped in the pool. The next one out was Aunt Linda. Aunt Linda was 50 years old, still had her long brown hair and a great body for her age. She gained a little weight but was still able to look good in a bikini and her tits were much bigger than I remember. She jumped in the pool and swam up next to me. She put her arms around me and gave me a peck on the lips and a big hug telling me how glad she was that I was there and we could spend time together. She kept her hands around my next and complemented me for staying in shape, not like her husband. Aunt Linda told me that he has only been home for two weeks in the past four months because of his band. Then out of the blue she tells me that she only got laid twice in the past four months and that was two months ago when he was home. She said she was getting tired of masturbating to the internet. I almost choked on my tongue when she said that. All of the sudden I heard “My, aren’t we a little cozy in the pool”. With that Aunt Dee walked into the shallow end wearing and very sexy bikini. Her body was still amazing at 43. Aunt Linda never let go of me, just sort of turned us sideways to look at her. I almost died when Aunt Linda said “well maybe I want to get a little, you know we had sex 20 years ago”! Aunt Dee’s jaw hit the bottom of the pool. She said “when”? Aunt Linda said “I don’t know the date but it was around the time you when off to school, I think her just came back from dropping you off”? Aunt Dee gave me a stare I thought she wanted to kill me. “And how many times did you fuck”? Aunt Dee asked. Aunt Linda said “I’m not sure, a few but it was only one night”. Aunt Dee then spoke up and began to tell about our coke filled adventures. They both looked at me, called me a pig for fucking them both on the same weekend and not saying anything. They began to splash me and jump on my back. Both bikini clad ladies with the same face and bodies I’ve loved since childhood. I grabbed Aunt Dee first and tossed her across the pool and then Aunt Linda.

We fucked around and I groped each one as much as I could. I had a huge hard on and they knew exactly what I was doing. Finally Aunt Lind said “you keep grabbing my tits, here why don’t you just grab them the right way instead of your little touch here and there”. Aunt Dee just said “Holy Shit why don’t you just fuck him right here”. Aunt Linda then said “that doesn’t sound like a bad idea”. I reached out and began to massage her tits. They felt great. Because she never had kids, I guess they stayed perky because they were the same as a 30 year olds. Because of all the drinks we were pretty wasted and feeling no pain. Aunt Linda put her arms around my neck and said “do you still kiss as well as you did all those years ago. I said “better”, and with that Aunt Linda and I locked in a French kiss as I was still groping her tits. Aunt Dee just watched in shock. We finally broke our kiss and Aunt Dee said “are you done now, what the fuck”? Aunt Linda and I began to laugh and I slowly let my hand go down to her stomach and finally into her waistband and felt her cunt. Aunt Linda turned and looked at me with a smile. She knew exactly what I was about to say. I looker her in the eye with a smile ear to ear and said “you shaved”. She had a bald pussy instead of the hairy little bush I remembered. She told me that after watching porn on the internet, every woman was shaved, so she tried it and liked it.

Aunt Dee looked again and said “are you fingering my sister right in front of me”? I just looked at her and said “yep”. At this point I inserted a finger in Aunt Linda’s cunt as Aunt Dee swam next to us. Aunt Dee said “well my tits are better that hers” and began to remove her top. I reached out for one of them and began to fondle her left breast. They were magnificent. Aunt Linda said “hey, get your own guy; this one is mine for the weekend.” I was in shock. Aunt Dee said, “I’m two thousand miles from home, I’m not going out to find a man, besides, he’s family so it’s not like we are cheating. How about we share him?” I thought I died and went to heaven. After all these years, I was finally going to fuck them again.

I moved my hand down from Aunt Dee’s tit to her pussy and she too was shaved. I inserted a finger in her cunt and began to finger fuck both of them. I alternated kissing one then the other. Aunt Linda told me to get on the edge of the pool. I did as I was told and she pulled off my bathing suit. My cock was standing straight up and I reached for my drink and Aunt Linda commented on the size of my cock then wrapped her mouth around it. She used that same technique as she did 20 years ago and once again began to give me the best, if not better, than the blow job she did years ago. Aunt Dee got a little jealous and said “Can I have a turn?” Aunt Linda reluctantly handed over my cock and I watched as my gorgeous Aunt sucked my cock. She wasn’t as good as Linda but she knew what she was doing. After the two blew me a few times each, I suggested we go back into the living room. Once we were there, Aunt Linda (the hippie) lit a joint and we all took a drag. Aunt Dee was carful not to relapse but said she was clean from drugs for so long she was fine. I grabbed Aunt Linda by the hips and began to remove her bottoms as she was smoking her joint. She blew the smoke in my face and handed the joint back to Dee. I pulled her down on the couch and shifted to the floor so I was now kneeling between her legs. I began to lick her cunt and inserted two fingers in her wet pussy. I found her clit and went to town. She was so aroused that she came in under five minutes. I wiped my mouth and looked over at Dee. She was sitting in Linda’s computer chair with no cloths on masturbating. I made my way between her legs and began to eat her cunt. Dee just held my head and placed one foot on my shoulder. Before I knew it she was coming in my mouth. She bucked so much that she almost knocked herself off her chair. Her chair had wheels and I grabbed the arm of the chair before it tumbled over. We all began to laugh and finally I moved Aunt Dee to the couch next to Linda.

I got between Aunt Linda’s legs and pressed my cock against her pussy. I looked into her eyes and then leaned in for a kiss. While I was kissing her, my cock slid right in her pussy. She let out a moan and my whole shaft sank into her cunt. I began to pound away like a dog in heat. Aunt Dee just sat watching. I reached up and began to fondle Aunt Dee’s tits as I fucked her sister. I the reached over and began to kiss Aunt Dee. That was all I could take. Fucking one Aunt and kissing the other. I pulled my cock out and stood up. Both ladies put their heads together as I came on both their faces. My legs gave out when I was done and I sat back on the floor waiting to recoup. Both Aunt’s got up and went to clean up. When they got back we talked about how all our marriages have fallen into a funk. It’s not that we didn’t love our spouses, it’s just that we lost that intense lust, kind of like what we were feeling right now. Because we were family, we justified it, but we knew deep down that we were all lying to ourselves.

Aunt Dee then said she needed to get laid. I sat on the couch and Aunt Dee began to blow me to get my cock hard. It didn’t take long especially when I was thinking, I never cleaned my cock and she was sucking her sisters cunt along with my cock too. Aunt Dee then stood up, squatted over me and began to ride my cock. After a few minutes Aunt Linda reached over and began to rub Aunt Dee’s tits. When Aunt Dee didn’t say a word, Aunt Linda began to puller nipples and said, “Come on baby make your little Aunt cum.” “Fuck her tight little pussy.” Aunt Dee began to get excited and pound even harder on my cock. I was trying to meet every stroke with as much force as I could muster. Aunt Linda reached back and grabbed my cock as I fucked Aunt Dee. Then Aunt Linda got on her knees and pulled my cock out and began to suck on it. Aunt Dee looked back and said “Oh my god did you just do that?” Aunt Linda looked up and said “I know you like girls too, doest it matter at this point?” She then placed my cock back in her cunt and stood up next to us. Aunt Linda bent over and began to rub Aunt Dee’s clit and in no time Aunt Dee came, and shook violently on my cock. She slid off my cock and back on the couch. Aunt Linda took her place and did a reverse cowgirl on me. She was leaning back with her back against my chest and we began pounding away. Aunt Dee said “Two can play at this game.” and leaned in and began to lick my balls. When Aunt Linda calmed down a bit, Aunt Dee began to lick her clit. I couldn’t believe these two sisters were doing this lesbo act. It was amazing. Aunt Linda began to tense up and I knew she was going to cum. It seemed like she was tense and tight for a few minutes before she had the most awesome orgasm of her life. She would later tell us that that was the best she ever had. Aunt Linda stood up and sat next to me. Aunt Dee took her place between my legs and began to blow me. Soon I shot my load in her throat and she drank every drop. Dee stood up and planted a long kiss on me. When she was done, she looked at Linda and asked it she was alright? Aunt Linda said “I’ve never been better”.”

We all slept in Aunt Linda’s King size bed and took turns fucking the following morning. We took a break in the afternoon for more sight seeing and the baseball game. All I thought about was fucking them again. We did again after the game and a few time Saturday and Saturday night. Sunday we went to the game and after stopped at a local bar for a few after game drinks and shots. Once we were feeling no pain we returned home for some final fucking. Aunt Dee and Linda never really touched each other after the first night until Sunday night when I convinced Aunt Dee to lie on her back and Aunt Linda to lie on top of her with both pussies facing me. One on her back the other doggie style. As I went from pussy to pussy, they began to kiss and eventually wound up in a sixty-nine. I just sat there and jerked off. They didn’t last long and eventually I came for the last time in Aunt Dee’s mouth and she saved some for Aunt Linda as I watched Dee spit my cum into Linda’s mouth. It was fucking Awesome.

We had an early flight the next day and after our goodbyes we promised to do it again. Dee and I got on the plane and slept the whole ride home. When we arrived at the airport, we were picked up by both our spouses and stayed talking for a while. We said goodbye and I gave Dee a huge hug and off we went. My wife asked if I had a good time, and I said “No, I had the BEST time of my life with my Two Aunts!”

Featured post

My Two Aunts Part 2 SEX STORY

Introduction:

Continued story about the best weekends of my life

Now I was on my way into the city with Aunt Linda. My head was still reeling over last night and that morning with Aunt Dee. All I could think about was my Aunt Dee’s cunt and couldn’t wait to get back in it. While I was driving my Aunt Linda I noticed that she was the spitting image of my Aunt Dee only an older version. I never looked at her that way, but all of the sudden, I wanted her now. What the fuck was going on inside my head, two Aunts in one day. I figured Aunt Dee and I were a lot closer in age so that’s why we wound up fucking, but there was no chance in fucking Aunt Linda, was there?

Aunt Linda was 25 years old and working in the city for the past three years. She had an apartment there and enjoyed the city life. She was a bit of a hippie, loved nature, was very free and laid back and she didn’t like to wear a bra unless she had too. Aunt Linda was a pot head and the whole family knew except grandma and grandpa (Her parents). Anyway, while driving back Aunt Linda told me how she was without a boyfriend for the past six months and how guys all suck. She even joked about becoming a lesbian, but that women are worse than men. She asked if I would like to go to a club and hang out for the night because she hadn’t gone out in a while and all her friends were hooked up. Once we got to the city I called my folks and told them I was with Aunt Linda in the city and would be home in the morning. My mom was ok with it because I was with her little sister, what could happen, right?

Aunt Linda had long straight brown hair, blue eyes, a great ass and bigger tits that Aunt Dee, maybe a 38 D or so. They were very perky even when she wasn’t wearing a bra. We got to her place and I changed into a nice shirt I had in my bag from the trip with Aunt Dee that I never wore. Aunt Linda got dressed in a long hippie type skirt, white top but with a bra. We smoked a joint, had a beer and off we went. She got me into all these clubs I was under age for. She knew all the bouncers and bartenders. We drank and danced, not like Aunt Dee, but it was fun and we were having a great time. We left the last bar at 2 am and picked up some food and brought it back to her apartment. Just before we ate she lit up another and we smoked. The munchies kicked in and we ate our food. While we were eating Aunt Linda unclipped her bra and tossed it on the chair, not saying a word, as if it was purely natural. I could see her nipples right through her white blouse. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them and she knew it. When we were done eating, we cleaned up and went on her couch to watch TV. She sat down and I laid my head on her lap. She began to stroke my hair and asked about my most recent girlfriend. I told her we broke it off in April because she wanted to get to serious and I was just starting college. She was asking about my sex life and how much I got laid. I had a hard on that was bursting out of my pants, especially because I was looking straight up at her tits and she was caressing my face and hair.

Fuck this, I couldn’t take it and went for broke. I reached my hand up and began to caress her long hair, as I did the back of my hand was rubbing against her tit. I began to press harder and harder with every stroke, finally I began to rub her nipple with the back of my hand and finally placed it between my fore finger and middle finger and began to pull on it. Aunt Linda grabbed my hair and pulled it as she threw her head back and moaned out loud. That was all I needed. I reached under her shirt and began to rub her tits with both hands, pulling her nipples with each pass. She liked them pulled, just as much as Aunt Dee. I sat up and straddled her. Both hands still on her tits and placed a kiss on her lips. When she didn’t object, I stuck my tongue in her mouth and she answered back by opening wide. We kissed for a while and I felt her hands rubbing my cock. When we stopped kissing, she said “your cock feels huge, let me see that thing”, and with that I stood up and dropped my pants. I wanted nothing more than to have her mouth on my cock. I couldn’t believe it, less than 24 hours ago I was fucking her sister, my other Aunt. She placed her mouth on my cock and her right hand on my shaft. She kept her forefinger and thumb in a circle and pressed up against her lips. Every time she sucked and moved up and down my shaft, so did her hand. Her left hand continued to caress my balls. It was the best blow job I ever had. It was wet with spit and felt like velvet. I lasted less than five minutes and blew my load down her throat. She swallowed every drop and told me I tasted great. I pulled her shirt up and got on my knees and began to suck on her tits. Aunt Linda leaned back on the couch and reached her hands under the waistband of her skirt and began to rub her pussy. I figured I would help and as I reached under her skirt I felt that she was not wearing under wear. I also noticed that my free spirit Aunt was a bit hairy between her legs. Like I said she was a bit of a hippie. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t that hairy to begin with and besides I could smell her cunt and it smelled sweet and musky, the perfect combination. As I fingered Aunt Linda, she told me she hasn’t gotten laid in six months and need this bad. It seems like that was going around with my Aunts, and I was happy to help out.

I reached up and pulled her waistband of her skirt down revealing her hair little bush. It wasn’t has bad as I thought. It was trimmed, but full. Remember it was the 80’s and shaved cunts weren’t as popular as today. They were either trimmed, or had a landing strip, only a few girls were completely shaved and those were the ones with the best bodies wearing the smallest bikinis. Anyway I stuck two fingers in her cunt and bent them upwards trying to find her G spot as I licked her clit. Aunt Linda lifted her legs and placed both feet on the edge of the couch holding her knees and spreading her legs. She was instructing me to like faster, slower and finally hold right there as I felt her body tense and she came all over my face. She didn’t squirt, she was just soaking wet. As I went to wipe my face she stopped me and held my head and began to slowly lick her cum from my face, my dick got as hard as a rock. It was the most erotic thing I ever experienced that far in my life.

Aunt Linda held my hand and walked me over to her bed. I lay down and she straddled me, reaching for my cock and placing it at the opening of her cunt. She sat down on my shaft taking the whole thing. She kept rocking on my cock with her hands on my chest. I began to talk dirty to her and slapped her ass a few time. The more I talked dirty the faster she moved and harder she would grind on my lower abdomen. I started slapping her ass and telling her to rub her fucking clit on me until she came, she just moaned harder and started saying “yes, yes, I want to cum, oh god yes, smack my ass, hit it hard, treat me like your 15 year old whore”. I took my right thumb and placed it by her clit, and that’s all it took, she started to cum so hard she was banging on my stomach it actually started to hurt. I couldn’t take anymore and said I was going to cum. She jumped off my cock and swallowed the whole thing again, drinking every last drop of cum out of my prick. We both collapsed and fell asleep.

The next morning she was lying next to me with her cunt staring me in the face. So I got between her legs and started to finger her cunt to get it wet. She woke up with a smile and just said good morning. I stuck my cock in her cunt and she grabbed her legs and placed a pillow under her ass. She held her legs to her chest and leaned back, exposing her open cunt. That was one of the best fucks I ever had. I pulled out and shot my load all over her chest, face and hair. When I was done I fell back on the bed. Aunt Linda felt her hair and looked at me and stated “are you fucking kidding me, you came all in my hair”. We just laughed and she got up and grabbed a towel. I left a few hours later and wound up never fucking Aunt Linda again, until…..

It’s was 25 years since the best weekend of my life. We all eventually got married. Aunt Linda married a musician never had no kids and moved to Arizona. Aunt Dee got married to a Fireman and has two boys, one 15 year old and one 10 year old. Her husband also has a landscaping business on the side. I got married and have a 12 year old girl and 9 year old boy. Last year my wife gave me the most awesome birthday present: tickets to an Arizona Cardinals game and a Diamondback game on the same weekend in September. She got me three tickets and worked it out with both Aunt Linda and Aunt Dee. Because we were so close years back and haven’t had the time to be together in a while, she made all the plans for me. Aunt Dee was leaving her family behind for a four day vacation, and Aunt Linda’s husband was away on tour in Europe, so it would just be the three of us. This is when the really good part of this story takes place.

To be concluded……

Featured post

My Two Aunts SEX STORY

Introduction:

This is a true story. Just found this site and felt I had to share

My Two Aunts

Let me tell you how this current story starts by going back to 1966. My grandmother had my mom when she was 20 years old. My uncle came five years later and my Aunt Linda eight years after him. My mom was 13 at the time Aunt Linda was born. My Grandmother got pregnant unexpectedly at age 40 with my Aunt Dee. My mom was pregnant at the same time. I was born in August of 1966 and my Aunt Dee was born six weeks after me. True story. My Aunt Linda, Aunt Dee and I were all close growing up. Especially me and Aunt Dee. I never knew who Victoria Justice was until I saw my son watching a show last year and asked who the girl was on the show, he stated “It’s Victoria Justice; doesn’t she look like Aunt Dee when she was young”? I was thinking the same thing, she was the spitting image and Aunt Linda was just an older version of Aunt Dee. Aunt Linda and Aunt Dee could have been twins if not for the 7 years separating them. If you don’t know who Victoria Justice is, check her out on the internet and get back to my story.

We lived it adjacent towns and went to different schools but saw each other almost every weekend growing up. When we were 13 we played a game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”. It was a Holiday weekend and we were in my grandparent’s basement. I coaxed Aunt Dee into lifting up her shirt and eventually pulling it off while I dropped my pants. We fondled each other a little bit but didn’t know what to do. To us it was like having sex. I remember her tiny tits and small nipples. They felt so soft and warm. A few moments later I had her pants down to her knees and was fingering her bald pussy. Oh my god you never forget that first sweet slit. It was funny because even though we didn’t know what to do, I fingered her pussy and she was stroking my cock. We got a little nervous and got dressed, never to speak of it again, until two years later.

We were both sophomores in High School and wound up at the same party in a different town. Neither of you knew the other was going. We were 15 at the time and I was with my buddy Tony and Aunt Dee was with her friend Jen. We bumped into each other shortly after we arrived. We talked and went our separate ways to see who we could hook up with. After a while we were back to hanging out with each other, but Tony and Jen hooked up and were making out in some room. There was a girl from her school named Jennifer who was a real bitch and I was hitting on her until I realized she thought the world revolved around her. Now Aunt Dee was a complete knock out, with her long brown hair, blue eyes and amazing body. I had the same family genes, just not the blue eyes. Not to brag, but I could have gotten laid anywhere, any place, any time. God gifted me with decent looks, height, slim body and a sense of humor. My Aunt and I were the hottest there and we knew it. Anyway, Jennifer and my Aunt hated each other and Jennifer began to break Aunt Dee’s chops in front of everyone. I was getting us a drink and when I came back I put Jennifer in her place to make matters worse no one at the party except Tony and Jen knew we were related. I told Jennifer that Aunt Dee was with me and proved it by making out with her in front of Jennifer. Jennifer walked away with her tail between her legs and Aunt Dee and I kept going. I couldn’t help myself and began to feel her ass with one hand and wrap my arm around her hips with the other. After five minutes I used the excuse that it was for effect. She said “I know”, wiped her face and said it was time for her to leave. I thought that a good idea before things got out of hand.

Once again, we never mentioned it again unit two more years later when she went off to college. Aunt Dee had dated over the last two years of high school and she even confessed to me when she lost her virginity not to long after our party. Anyway, she was now going to college in a different state, 250 miles away. I was staying at the local college because I was working and playing in a band and was enjoying myself. I eventually graduated from a very prestigious school in my state. My grandfather, her father, didn’t want to drive her to school, he said the ride was too much for him, so I loaned him my Dotson and he gave me his station wagon with all her shit in it. Aunt Dee was upset, not because her parents were not going but that her boyfriend dumped her at the end of the school year. It was August and I wasn’t sure if grandpa’s car was going to make the round trip, so I packed an overnight bag just in case.

When we got to the college we found her dorm and unpacked. I decided to stay the night because her roommate wasn’t to arrive for another two days. We walk around campus and fund a party at a frat house. No one cared who you were as long as you paid the five bucks to get in. While we were there and drinking, Aunt Dee confessed that she had been doing Coke for the past six months and asked if we could score. Coke wasn’t my thing, but I asked around and sure as hell for $75 bucks, I got her a gram. I couldn’t believe my Aunt was doing coke. It was only 1984, but what the fuck. She disappeared for a few minutes and came out like a new woman. We started dancing at this VFW hall and before I knew it my leg was between hers and we were bumping and grinding like crazy. My hand was on her tight as jeans and we were sweating to the August heat and booze. Aunt Dee leaned in and whispered in my ear that coke made her horny as hell. I looked back at her and said me too. She laughed threw her head back, arms in the air and her 34 AA tits sticking straight up in my face. She dropped her arms around my neck and planted her lips on mine and soon our tongues were dancing faster than us. I had both hands on her tiny ass and wanted to fuck my Aunt right there on the dance floor. We stopped kissing and dancing and got another drink. While sitting there saying nothing, Aunt Dee spoke first and said, “If you don’t mind, can you just be my friend tonight and not my nephew, I just need a friend tonight, I don’t want to be alone”. I said sure and that I never really looked at her as my Aunt anyway. We just laughed and left the party shortly after that.

We made out a few times on the way back to the dorm and got lost some too. When we made it back to the dorm, we both pee’d and lay down on the bed. She set out two lines and I did my first coke with her that night. I never really liked it much, but she did and holy shit did it make her horny. After we did the coke, we had some beer that I brought up and before we knew it we were back to sucking face and groping each other, this time was different. While I was lying on top of her, I began to squeeze her tits, I reached up under her shirt and began to massage be breast through her bra. Her hands found their way to my crotch and she began to rub her hands on the outside of my pants. I couldn’t take it any longer and had to have her .I had sit up and removed her shirt and bra. My dreams had come true. All those years of jerking off thinking about fucking my Aunt Dee were finally coming true. While I began to suck her tits I told her I wanted to do that since we were 13. She surprised me by saying her too but kept avoiding it because she knew this would happen. I sucked and pulled on her nipples while she was sitting on my lap. The more I pulled on her nipples, the hotter she got and began to order me to pull on them harder and slap her tits. I couldn’t believe a girl this gorgeous was such a slut. After a while she jumped back and began to undo my pants. She kept saying “I want to suck this sweet cock, take this fucking thing out now”. No sooner had my cock gotten out of my pants, and her mouth was all over it. God she was good too. Not the best I ever had, but she was good. I laid back and watched the entire show. I didn’t want to miss a sight or miss the feeling of her mouth around my cock. I thought I was going to blow a load in her mouth, so I pushed her back onto the bed and grabbed her pants. I needed to see and taste her pussy. Once I got her jeans off, I looked upon the most perfect pussy in the world. It was bald, smelled of perfume and that nice young musky odor. I began to kiss her inner thighs and inserted a finger in her cunt. She moaned and said “eat my fucking pussy, god I want you tongue on my fucking clit, make me come, I want to cum so fucking bad”. I was only happy to oblige. I inserted two fingers and found her G spot. She began to slide her ass back and forth while I licked her clit; suddenly she stopped, tightened up and held my head in place as I licked. She said “Oh God I’m Cumming, I fucking Cumming” and with that her body began to spasm until she was finished.

I worked my way up next to her and lay there for a moment. We were sweating like we were in a sauna, even though the A/C was on. I moved between her legs and grabbed the back of her knees and without a word, slid my cock inside her pussy. I fucked her for the good part of 20 minutes. Missionary, sideways, doggie style, you name it. She stopped once to do a line, but I didn’t care if it kept her fucking me the more the merrier. It wasn’t long before she was riding me and playing with her clit until she came. As she was having her spasm attack from coming, I shot my load deep into her cunt. I was scared at first, but after she told me she was on the pill. We feel asleep shortly after that. The next morning I woke up to her perfect ass staring me in the face. I inserted a finger in her cunt and began to finger her. She leaned her head back and said good morning. I rolled her over onto her stomach and inserted my cock in her cunt. I could feel her fingers working on her clit as I banged her as hard as I could. We both came again, this time I shot my load all over her back and long brown hair, and it was an awesome sight.

I had to leave and get my grandpa’s car back to him, but promised to come once a month on the one weekend my band didn’t play somewhere. I held my promise, and from September till April I showed up with an ounce of Coke, made myself a few bucks by selling all the cut stuff and giving her the uncut coke. In return she fucked my brains out. Around April she told me she had a boyfriend, and didn’t want to explain our relationship. I understood, and that was the last time I fucked her until……

I returned my grandfathers car and when I got to his house my Aunt Linda was there visiting from the city. My grandfather was waiting for me to come home to drive her back. He asked me how Aunt Dee was and I assured her she was fine. Not having anything else to do I got my car back and offered to drive my older gorgeous Aunt Linda back to the city. That’s where this story starts to get good. To be continued….

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THE VAMPIRE WAR Book 2 of The Vampire Sorceress T.L. Cerepaka

5665d4f20b4766dc8bc86f3848d2920745dc764fThe one day I take off from training with Dad just had to be the day when I get ambushed
by a bunch of vampires. I had been so looking forward to spending the day lying in my bed
catching up on my reading, because this week’s training had resulted in more than a few
injuries that hurt even with my powerful half-vampire body. Even though Dad was twice
my age, he really knew how and where to hit hard when he wanted, apparently under the
assumption that I could handle it due to my body being technically stronger than his.
In any case, I had been looking forward to resting after church today and had even taken a
shortcut through the back alleyways of Greensboro, the town I lived in, in order to get back
to my apartment faster. Of course, I’d been sticking to back alleyways a lot recently, ever
since I became a half-vampire, because they were usually darker than the main streets,
which meant I didn’t have to risk exposing myself to the sun and burning my skin or
outright dying. I still didn’t know exactly how much direct sunlight I could take, being a
half-vampire and all, but I knew that direct sunlight hurt and I wanted to avoid it as much as
possible.
Prior to my transformation, I used to avoid back alleys and dark places because I didn’t
want to get mugged or worse by random street thugs. After my transformation, however, I
felt a lot safer traveling these places during the day. I’d been accosted a few times by idiots
who thought I was easy pickings because I was a thin young woman in her twenties, but
they usually learned their mistake when I would send them flying with a spell or leave them
lying on the ground with a well-placed kick. Often times I just needed to flash my fangs or
lift my sunglasses just high enough for them to see my red eyes and they would run away
screaming about demons. I guess criminals really are a cowardly, superstitious lot after all.
But all this scaring normal human criminals must have made me complacent, because I
should have noticed the pale-skinned, dark clothes-wearing men who followed me from
church that afternoon. Unfortunately, all I could think about at the time was Pastor Jones’—
who was the pastor at my church—sermon on repentance and how great my dark apartment
was going to be after I got home. I was also distracted by my blood thirst due to not having
drank any blood since breakfast, which was not as bad as it used to be but still crept up on
me every now and then. Kind of like my craving for chocolate.
So when I found myself trapped in an alleyway, with two vampires behind me and two
vampires before me, I cursed myself for not noticing. Dad had taught me the importance of
situational awareness and I had gotten better at it than when I was just a normal human, but
my life had been so quiet for the past month or so that I had let my skills lapse.
I didn’t know who these vampires worked for. Like all vampires, they were pale-skinned,
with blood red eyes and fangs which were as sharp as knives. These ones were skinnier than
some I’d seen, but I knew that physical appearance meant little when dealing with vampires,
because most vampires had unnatural physical strength that was not reflected by the size of
their muscles. They looked like Newborns to me, the lowest rank in the Hierarchy, but even
Newborns could be a threat if you weren’t careful.
I normally wouldn’t be so worried about killing them, but unfortunately I didn’t bring my
silver sword, Domination, with me today, because when Pastor Jones talks about wielding
the ‘sword of God,’ I’m pretty sure that wasn’t an invitation to bring your sword to church.
It was possible to kill vampires without silver, but I still wasn’t as good at magic as I was at
swordplay, which meant my chances of killing these goons and getting out of here alive
were low.
Nonetheless, I summoned two fireballs in my hands and looked up and down the alley.
The vampires had not moved an inch since they blocked off my path, but that meant little
because vampires could move very quickly when they wanted to.
“All right,” I said, speaking in an effort to loosen my nerves, “who do you guys work for?
Are you from the Vampire Council? Is the Lamb doctrine no longer in effect and am I fair
game now or something?”
It made sense if they were from the Council. It had been well over a month since Lucius—
a vampire I knew who was more handsome than any vampire had a right to be—had
invoked something called the ‘Lamb doctrine,’ which basically meant he had been arrested
by the Order of Vampires in my place. I still didn’t know what Lucius’ current status was,
but I had been told that I would be safe from the Vampire Council for at least a month while
Lucius was being tried for my crimes. That didn’t mean that these guys were from the
Council, of course, but it would make sense if they were.
One of the vampires stepped forward. He was basically identical to the other three, except
with curlier hair and jagged claws. “We do not work for the Council, half-vampire. We have
come from someone else, who is aware of your power and wishes to make you an offer.”
“An offer?” I said. “What kind of offer are we talking about here?”
“An offer to join our master,” said the vampire. “Our master is seeking to increase his own
power and he wishes to have the power of a half-vampire on his side in order to do that.
Being a half-vampire means you’re quite unique.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, “but I’m not particularly interested in working for your ‘master,’
especially without knowing who he is.”
“Our master gave us strict orders to keep his identity secret from you,” said the vampire,
“at least until you agree to meet him.”
“Sorry, but I’m not one for blind dates,” I said. “Go back and tell your master that I’m
waiting for the guy God has prepared for me, which probably isn’t a vampire.”
The vampire shrugged. “Our master did not say you would have any say in the matter. If
you refuse to come with us voluntarily, then we will have to force you to come with us.”
“Straight to the point,” I said. “Well, at least I don’t have to guess your intentions.”
The curly-haired vampire gestured at me. Its fellow vampires rushed toward me from
either side, but I immediately hurled my fireballs in both directions. Unfortunately, the
vampires dodged my fireballs easily, but I summoned more fireballs and kept shooting them
both ways. But aim was off, because I couldn’t aim in two directions at once, and so I ended
up hitting everything but the vampires.
So I cut off the fireballs and instead summoned an energy barrier around my body, just
like Dad taught me. The barrier blocked the slashing claws of the vampires, who looked
confused at the sudden appearance of this strange barrier I had summoned. But I then thrust
my arms out to my sides, causing the barrier to expand and smash against the vampires,
sending them flying everywhere.
I shut off the barrier and turned to run away, but then the vampires recovered from the
attack and flew back toward me on their wings. They landed around me and started to slash
and stab at me, forcing me to dodge their attacks as best as I could. I ducked and fired a
fireball into the face of the vampire directly in front of me, causing it to screech in pain and
stagger away from me, but then another vampire slammed its shoulder into me and I fell
onto the ground.
One of the vampires tried to stomp its boot on my face, but I rolled out of the way in the
nick of time and got to my feet a few feet away. I raised my hand to throw another fireball,
but then two cold hands wrapped around my wrists and jerked my arms backward. I looked
over my shoulder in surprise and saw the curly-haired vampire who had been speaking to
me standing there, his fingers tightly clinging to my wrists.
“You’re a quick one, half-vampire,” said the curly-haired vampire, “but our master
wouldn’t be happy if you escaped us.”
The curly-haired vampire slammed his head into the back of mine. It was a harsh blow,
much harsher than I expected, and I would have fallen onto the ground if the curly-haired
vampire hadn’t been holding me up. Then he twisted my arms behind my back and slammed
me onto the street, causing me to cry out in pain. The rest of his vampire friends soon
surrounded us, including the one I had thrown a fireball at, whose face was still smoking,
though it didn’t seem bothered by that.
“Now, we’re going to knock you out to make you easier to take back to the master,” said
the curly-haired vampire. “We’ll try to make sure it doesn’t hurt, but we can’t promise
anything.”
I struggled against the curly-haired vampire, but he had me in a very awkward position. I
couldn’t use magic, because the pain in my twisted arms made me unable to concentrate. I
looked up to see one of the vampires pulling back its boot, probably to kick me in the face,
which would definitely knock me out and probably break my nose and some teeth at the
same time.
Right before the vampire could kick me, however, his head suddenly went flying off his
shoulders. The vampire’s body collapsed, and as it did so, I thought I saw a man wielding an
ax before he suddenly vanished, though that might have just been my imagination.
“What was that?” said the curly-haired vampire, fear entering his voice for the first time.
“Who did that?”
“I don’t know,” said another vampire, looking around uncertainly. “I think I saw a human,
but—”
A wooden stake suddenly burst through the vampire’s chest, sending black blood flying
everywhere. The vampire screeched in pain before its head also went flying off, its body
collapsing at the same time. This time, I was sure that I had seen a man wielding an ax
standing behind that vampire, though he disappeared too fast for me to make out any
specific details.
But I was never one to question my look. I felt the curly-haired vampire’s grip on my
wrists loosen, so I summoned a fireball in my right hand, which burned the curly-haired
vampire hands. It hissed in pain and let go, but then I kicked it in the gut, sending the curlyhaired
staggering backwards. I rolled over onto my back and held up my hand to shoot
another fireball, but to my surprise, the vampires were not paying attention to me. They
were instead retreating, looking this way and that as if trying to find a ghost.
“Where are you, human?” said the curly-haired vampire, his head whipping around wildly.
“Show yourself.”
A deep chuckle came from seemingly everywhere at once. “A vamp demanding that I
show myself? Please. You just don’t like the fact that I’m using your own ambush
techniques against you. Not so fun when the hunter becomes the hunted, now is it?”
Without warning, another vampire’s head flew off its shoulders. The remaining three
vampires all jumped when their friend lost his head, staring at his corpse as it fell onto the
street with a dull thunk.
“How are you doing this, human?” said the curly-haired vampire, panic now obvious in his
voice. “Stop it. It’s—”
“Scary?” came the voice again, masculine and amused. “Frightening? Anxiety-inducing?
Well, now you know how all your victims have ever felt. Savor it, because you won’t live
long enough to enjoy it.”
Another vampire’s head went flying off. The curly-haired vampire fired a strange dark
energy blast at the spot behind his friend, but it missed and only hit the street, leaving a
small crater where it landed.
A second later, the other surviving vampire’s hood was suddenly ripped off its head and
tossed to the ground. The vampire screamed in pain, clutching its now-burning face that was
exposed to the afternoon sun. But its scream was abruptly cut off when an ax appeared out
of nowhere and sliced cleanly through its neck. Unlike the other vampires, this one simply
collapsed to the street without further drama.
That left only the curly-haired vampire, who no longer looked as confident as he had even
a moment ago. He was whipping his head every which way, rotating on the spot, looking
desperately for the guy who was killing all of his friends. Me, I stayed where I was, because
I figured it probably wouldn’t be wise to be standing upright when there was a crazy guy
swinging an ax everywhere.
“Stop hiding,” said the curly-haired vampire, his voice stricken with panic. “Fight me, you
pathetic human, fight me!”
A dark laughter echoed through the alley. “’Fight me, fight me!’ You sound like my niece,
but my niece at least has the excuse of being a five-year-old girl. What’s your excuse? Did
your master steal your balls when he converted you? If not, I think I know what I’ll cut off
first.”
That must have been enough, because the curly-haired vampire turned and ran away. He
was making his way to the shadows behind a dumpster, probably intending to escape
through the Shadow Way, but then I heard a whistling sound and the curly-haired vampire
tripped and fell on his face. He tried to scramble back to his feet, but then he suddenly fell
back down as if someone was standing on him.
As it turned out, someone was standing on him. In the next instant, a man appeared on top
of the Newborn, pinning him to the ground with one of his boots. He wore long, red robes
and carried a large silver ax at his side. His hair was long and brown, but I couldn’t see his
face because his back was to me. His body was clearly muscular, though. I mean, it had to
be, otherwise how would he be able to carry around such a huge ax with one hand?
“A sorcerer?” said the curly-haired vampire in fear. “What are you doing here?”
“I prefer the term ‘vampire hunter,’” said the sorcerer, whose voice was exactly the same
as that voice which had been mocking the vampires during the entire fight. “And right now,
I have a vampire to hunt. Namely, you.”
The sorcerer raised his ax above his head, but suddenly the curly-haired vampire held up a
hand and a dark energy blast flew out of his palm. The sorcerer jumped backwards, but that
freed the curly-haired vampire, which immediately got up and rushed toward the dumpster’s
shadow.
“He’s getting away!” I shouted.
The sorcerer, however, was already on it. He drew a knife from his belt and hurled it at the
curly-haired vampire. The silver knife nailed the curly-haired vampire directly between the
shoulder blades, causing it to scream in pain, but in the next moment it disappeared into the
Shadow Way and we saw it no more.
***
“Damn it,” said the sorcerer, lowering his hand and staring at the dumpster with a mixture
of annoyance and disappointment. “That was my favorite knife. Now I’ll never get it back.”
Personally, I thought that the fact that a dangerous vampire just got away was more
noteworthy than the fact that this guy lost one of his favorite weapons, but I didn’t say that
aloud. I just got to my feet, dusting off my jeans and jacket and checking myself to make
sure I was okay. Aside from a few scrapes and bumps, I seemed fine, though that made
sense, because I didn’t do a whole lot of actual fighting. At least, nothing on the same level
as this sorcerer guy anyway.
“Thanks for saving me,” I said, looking at the sorcerer. “I thought I was a goner there.”
The sorcerer turned around, and my jaw fell open despite myself. He was beautiful. I
didn’t know how else to put it. He had the face of a model, with high cheekbones,
penetrating black eyes, and a well-defined jawline. His long hair just added to his
handsomeness. That it was messy from all of the fighting he did just added to his
attractiveness, in my opinion. It helped that his chest was also pretty big. As I suspected, he
must have hit the gym a lot.
“You’re welcome,” said the sorcerer with a bow. “I despise vampires, especially vampires
that attack pretty young women like yourself. But don’t feel the need to thank me. I was just
doing my job.”
“Uh huh,” I said, nodding. My eyes couldn’t stop drifting to his silver ax. My vampire side
was sending my brain warning signs about it, while my human side told me to calm down
and not freak out.
Despite that, the sorcerer must have noticed what I was looking at, because he said, “Like
my ax? I’ll let you hold it if you want, though I think a girl as petite as you would probably
have difficulty holding it up.”
I shook my head and looked the sorcerer in the eyes. “Oh, no, it’s fine. I was just … I
don’t see people walking around with big silver axes like that all the time.”
The sorcerer shrugged. “Most vampire hunters prefer swords or knives due to their
lightweight nature, but I’ve always preferred my ax. Once you master the weapon, it is
actually even more effective at beheading vamps than a sword is. Combine it with magic
and you’ve got a terrifying killing technique that would make even a Vampire Lord
hesitate.”
“So that was magic you did earlier?” I said. “The invisibility?”
“Correct,” said the sorcerer, nodding. “Invisibility is a difficult magic to master, but like
the ax, once you learn how to do it, it becomes indispensable for dealing with vamps.
Vamps tend to have better senses than humans, but they still rely on their sight more than
the others and never expect humans to use magic to hide ourselves like that. That’s why all
those vamps were so scared, because they weren’t used to dealing with a sorcerer who can
use invisibility.”
I didn’t tell him that I had been scared myself. Until I actually saw him, I thought he might
be some other vampire, maybe from the Order, who was taking out those other guys just to
get at me. Maybe that was paranoid, but given how I still didn’t know the full extent of
vampire magic, I felt it was a justifiable fear. I relaxed a bit now, though, knowing that he
was just a sorcerer and therefore a human who probably had nothing to do with the Vampire
Council.
“That’s interesting,” I said. “I can summon fireballs and energy barriers, but my magical
skills aren’t nearly as advanced as yours.”
“Comes with experience,” said the sorcerer. He snapped his fingers. “Oh, excuse me, I
haven’t introduced myself yet. Batholomew Reynolds, vampire hunter, at your service,
though you can just call me Bart for short.”
“Bart,” I said, nodding. “Well, I’m—”
“Tara Lee,” Bart interrupted. “Daughter of Richard Lee, the famous Hunter, correct?”
“How did you know?” I said in surprise. “Have you been stalking me?”
And then I thought, Would I be upset if a sorcerer as handsome as him was stalking me?
“Not exactly,” said Bart, shaking his head. “The Vampire Hunters Guild keeps up-to-date
information on all members, retired and active. I simply looked up the Hunter’s file and
found a picture of you, though I think it must have been from a few years ago because you
look slightly older than you did back then.”
I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that Bart hadn’t actually been stalking me, but
aloud I said, “Wait, what Vampire Hunters Guild? I’ve never heard of it.”
Bart frowned, as if wondering if I was joking or not. “The Vampire Hunters Guild is the
sole vampire hunting organization among the sorcerers. Every vampire hunter is a member
of it, though you don’t have to join it if you don’t want to. Still, there are a lot of benefits for
joining, which is why pretty much everyone is a member. Your dad was a well-known
member back in his youth. Did he never tell you?”
There were a lot of things Dad never told me about, at least in regards to the sorcerer
community and his time within it. But aloud, I said, “No, he never did. In fact, I didn’t know
magic even existed until about a month ago. Dad never saw any reason to tell me about it.”
“He didn’t?” said Bart. “Interesting. I heard that the Hunter had left the sorcerer
community, but I thought that was just a rumor. Perhaps there’s more truth to it than I
thought.”
Although Bart didn’t seem like a bad guy, I realized that I didn’t actually know him or
know if he was even really a vampire hunter. He was definitely a sorcerer, but that didn’t
mean he was friendly or a good guy. I had to be careful with what I told him, especially
given my nature as a half-vampire. Dad made it clear that sorcerers didn’t like half-vampires
anymore than vampires did, so I needed to be careful that I didn’t reveal my nature to him
and make Bart decide to put that ax of his in my neck.
“So how long have you been following me?” I said. “And why did you save me?”
“I haven’t been following you very long,” said Bart. “I followed you to church and then I
followed you here. I intended to reveal myself in your apartment, where we would have
some privacy, but when those vamps attacked, I decided to do what I did best and kill the
bastards. I apologize if I frightened you. It wasn’t my intention.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said, waving my hands. “I appreciate that you save me, but, um, why were
you following me in the first place? What made you want to look for me?”
“I need to see your father,” said Bart. He rested his hand on the hilt of his ax, though it
seemed more like a habit than a sign that he was going to draw it again. “There’s been some
dangerous developments in the sorcerer community and I need his help.”
“What kind of developments are we talking about?” I said. “And why are they
dangerous?”
Bart looked away for a moment, as if uncomfortable. “I don’t feel comfortable discussing
them out here, where someone might eavesdrop on us. Best to discuss this in private with
your dad, especially as it concerns him. He will have the context necessary to understand
what’s happening.”
I frowned. Bart seemed to be telling the truth, as far as I could tell. Something bad had
happened in the sorcerer community and he felt like he needed Dad’s help dealing with it. I
couldn’t help but wonder what this problem was, but I didn’t think I would be able to
convince Bart to tell me what it was ahead of time.
“I’m not sure,” I said, rubbing the spot on my neck where I had been bitten what seemed
like a lifetime ago now. “Dad doesn’t really have much to do with the sorcerer community
anymore, so he might not be interested in helping. And besides, while I’m thankful for your
help just now, I still don’t know you well enough to—”
“I know your secret.”
I froze. “What?”
“Your secret,” Bart said. “You know what I’m talking about.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said with a gulp. “I have no secrets. I mean,
not any secrets that most people don’t have—”
“Don’t lie to me,” said Bart. He pointed at me. “You’re a half-vampire. I overheard those
vamps call you that and you didn’t deny it.”
My eyes widened. I considered running away, but after seeing Bart take out all those
vampires like they were nothing, I didn’t think I would be able to get very far before he
caught me. “All right. I’m a half-vampire, but please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to die.”
“Oh, I won’t tell anyone,” Bart said, “on the condition that you take me directly to the
Hunter so I can talk with him about what’s been happening in the sorcerer community.”
“Are you blackmailing me?”
“Of course,” said Bart. “Do you have a problem with that?”
I bit my lower lip. I was about to say yes, but then I realized that I was actually impressed
with Bart’s blunt honesty. That was a pretty rare thing to find in most people today and it
served only to make him even more attractive to me, maybe even outright sexy. There was
no way I could honestly say I was bothered by that.
So I slowly said, “No, I don’t. But I’m surprised you haven’t killed me already like you
did to those other guys.”
“I need you,” said Bart simply. “Besides, the daughter of the legendary Hunter couldn’t be
evil, even if she was turned into a half-vampire.”
I could tell that Bart, despite his bluntness, had other reasons for sparing me, but I chose
not to say that aloud. “Well, then I guess it’s time for us to leave.”
“Great,” said Bart with a winning smile. “We’re going to the Hunter’s house. Tell me
where it is and we can head there without delay.”
***
I offered to go to my apartment and get my car so we could drive to Dad’s house, but Bart
rejected the offer.
“We don’t need a car to get to the Hunter’s house,” said Bart, shaking his head. “Cars are
too slow.”
“Excuse me?” I said. “Cars are about the only way you can get around in Texas, especially
in the hill country. Do you sorcerers have a more efficient way to travel?”
“Yes,” said Bart, nodding. “Let me show it to you.”
“Is it the Shadow Way?” I said before Bart could do anything. I glanced at the shadows
behind the dumpster. “We’re not going through there, are we?”
“Of course not,” said Bart, shaking his head. “Sorcerers don’t use the Shadow Way. The
Shadow Way has a corrupting influence on humans who travel along it. Even sorcerers who
cast spells to protect them from the Shadow Way’s corruption rarely linger longer than they
have to. Besides, I don’t want to deal with the Strangers.”
“Then how are we going to get to Dad’s house quickly?” I said.
“Teleportation,” said Bart. “Hasn’t the Hunter taught you about that yet?”
I shook my head, slightly embarrassed. “No. Like I said, I’ve only known about magic for
about a month, so my understanding of it is still really basic.”
Bart looked at me in surprise. “Teleportation isn’t very advanced magic. It’s actually the
first spell you learn as a Journeyman. Are you telling me that you aren’t even a Journeyman
yet?”
I knew what Bart was talking about. All sorcerers followed a path known as the Six Steps,
a traditional path designed to help sorcerers to advance in their magical skills. The first Step
was Apprentice, while the sixth and final Step was Master Sorcerer. From what I
understood, I was an Apprentice, though Dad thought I would probably reach the
Journeyman Step, the Second Step, by the end of the summer at the rate I was learning.
“I’m an Apprentice,” I said with a shrug. “Like I said, I just started. I’m not going to be a
Journeyman for a while. What Step are you on, by the way?”
“High Sorcerer,” said Bart. “That’s the Fourth Step, above Acolyte, which is above
Journeyman. Still, I don’t believe it. The adult daughter of the famous Hunter is still an
Apprentice.”
Normally, I would have been annoyed at someone talking to me like that, but Bart was so
good-looking that I was willing to let it slide for now. Besides, I couldn’t help but feel a bit
embarrassed about it myself. Dad told me that most sorcerers seriously started the Steps
when they turn sixteen, but I didn’t start until I was twenty-four. I would still learn and
grow, Dad always told me, but it would take a little bit longer than most because my
education had been so delayed. I had hoped that being half-vampire might accelerate my
learning a bit more, but if anything, it seemed to retard my growth, perhaps because my
vampire side wasn’t as magically adept as my human side.
“Can we get going already?” I said. “You wanted to see Dad, right? So let’s go and see
him already.”
“Okay,” said Bart, “but first, let me prepare the teleportation ritual.”
Bart pulled a bag out of his pocket and, opening it, began rotating in a circle, pouring a
thin line of shiny blue dust around him in a vague circle.
“What’s that stuff?” I said, looking at the blue dust, some of which had been blown on my
clothing thanks to the soft breeze. “Glitter?”
“It’s not glitter,” said Bart as he finished pouring the dust. He closed the bag up and
stuffed it back into his pocket before turning to face me again, his arms folded in front of his
chest. “It’s teleportation dust.”
“Teleportation dust?” I said. “I don’t suppose that means it can teleport people, does it?”
Bart looked annoyed at my lame attempt at a joke, but he said, “Yes, it does teleport
people, though not by itself. First, you need to create a circle around yourself like I did and
then cast a teleportation spell on the dust itself. Then the dust will take you to wherever you
need to go. Simple as that.”
“If you can already cast a teleportation spell, then why don’t you just do that instead of
messing with this dust?” I said, gesturing at the circle around him.
“Because teleportation spells by themselves are incredibly dangerous,” said Bart. “Done
wrong, a teleportation spell can actually kill its user by teleporting their body parts all over
the place, or worse, teleporting them inside out. It is possible to teleport using a spell by
itself safely, but only Master Sorcerers can do that, and even then, it’s still dangerous. For
the rest of us, we need this dust to protect us from its negative effects.”
I couldn’t help but imagine what I would look like if I tried to cast a teleportation spell and
ended up teleporting each part of my body to a different place. It was a disgusting mental
image, one I was more than happy to put aside in order to focus on something else.
“All right,” I said, “what do we do now?”
“Just step into the circle with me and hold my hand,” said Bart. He stepped back to make
some room for me in the circle. “Both of us need to be inside the circle in order for the spell
to work. Otherwise, I’ll teleport all by myself and you’ll be left here.”
I hesitated about walking into the circle with a guy I barely knew, but then I remembered
that Bart knew my secret and was more than willing to tell everyone about it if I refused to
go along with him. Besides, Bart was kind of cute. Not as handsome as Lucius, but
definitely attractive. A part of me was hungry to bite his neck, but I ignored my blood thirst
and stepped into the circle beside him.
“All right,” said Bart. “We need to make sure that all of our limbs are in the circle,
otherwise we won’t teleport to the Hunter’s house whole.”
“Keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times, eh?” I said.
Bart looked at me with a blank expression. “What? Was that a reference?”
“Yeah,” I said. “To what people who work on roller coasters usually say to people using
the rides.”
Bart frowned. “Roller coasters … those are the big metal things that Powerless ride for
fun, right?”
“You mean you’ve never been on a roller coaster before?”
“I’m a sorcerer,” said Bart, looking away from me. “I was born and raised by sorcerer
parents in the sorcerer community. Excuse me if I happen to be unfamiliar with the strange
death traps that Powerless use to amuse themselves.”
I had completely forgotten that sorcerers lived apart from the rest of humanity with their
own separate communities. Dad had explained that sorcerers remained separate from the
rest of humanity in order to fight vampires more effectively, but I’d had so little contact
with the wider sorcerer community since discovering my heritage and becoming a halfvampire
that I had forgotten that. It didn’t help that Dad was the only sorcerer I had any
regular contact with, and he was not an ordinary sorcerer due to the fact that he had chosen
to live among Powerless humans. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure I hadn’t met any
sorcerers since becoming a half-vampire, which didn’t help me understand the sorcerer
community any better.
Bart opened his hand. “Take my hand. We’ll be safer if we hold hands, less likely to be
separated during the teleportation process.”
“Is that common?”
“No, but teleportation spells can go wrong even if you’re careful,” said Bart. “Better to be
safe than sorry.”
I took Bart’s hand, which was a lot warmer than mine. His hand suddenly closed around
mine in an unexpectedly tight grip.
“All right,” said Bart. “It looks like we’re all set, so here we go.”
Bart pointed a finger at the dust. A thin stream of blue light shot out of his finger and
struck the dust, immediately making the dust start to glow the same shade of blue as the
light. I had to cover my eyes with my other hand to keep my vision from being damaged,
while Bart just stood relaxed like he did this every day, which was very possible, given who
he was.
A bright flash of blue light erupted around us. I hissed in surprise and closed my eyes
tightly, but Bart didn’t make any sound at all. The bright light was almost enough to make
me let go of him, but I felt Bart’s grip tighten even more on my hand and he even pulled me
slightly closer to him as if trying to make sure I didn’t fall away.
But the bright flash lasted less than a second. In the next instant, the light faded away,
allowing me to open my eyes and see where we were.
We stood in front of the parsonage, Dad’s house. There was no mistaking the small
bungalow for anything other than the house of my dad. His red truck was even parked in the
driveway. All my worries about Bart teleporting me somewhere else immediately vanished,
though I let go of his hand anyway and stepped away from him to get out of his personal
space.
“So this is the Hunter’s house,” said Bart, looking at Dad’s bungalow with a slightly
puzzled look. “I thought it would be bigger.”
“The church Dad pastors isn’t very big,” I said with a shrug. “The parsonage is about all
they could—”
“Church?” Bart whipped his head toward me, a puzzled and alarmed look on his face.
“Did you just say church?”
“I … did,” I said, eying Bart carefully. “Why?”
“The Hunter goes to a church,” said Bart. “Is that what you said?”
“I said Dad pastors the church,” I said, “and he has ever since he retired from vampire
hunting, so—”
Bart looked at the parsonage again, an ill expression on his face. “The Hunter not merely
attends a Christian church, but is also its pastor? I thought all the rumors about the Hunter
having converted to the Powerless religion were false, but if you are correct, then they’re
not merely true, but actually understating the horror of what has happened to the Hunter.”
“What are you so worried about?” I said. “Dad’s okay. He can still use magic and still
hates vampires. I don’t see what the problem—”
“I need to see him myself,” said Bart, lowering his hand. He didn’t seem to be paying
attention to me. “Hopefully this is all some kind of mistake or there’s some reasonable
explanation for all of this. Teacher always said that everything has a reason, though
admittedly she didn’t say that everything had a good reason, but—”
“Slow down, buddy,” I said. “I can’t understand a thing you’re saying. You’re talking too
fast.”
But again, Bart didn’t seem to notice me. He suddenly took off up the driveway, walking
directly toward the front door of the house. Taken by surprise, I nonetheless walked after
him, quickly catching up to him despite his longer legs giving him longer strides.
“What are you so worried about?” I said, matching his pace as best as I could. “You act
like Dad was turned into a vampire or something.”
Bart huffed. “The Hunter becoming a vampire would be far less shocking to me than the
Hunter becoming a Christian pastor. In many ways, it is far worse.”
“Worse?” I said as we stopped at the front door. “What do you mean? What are you
talking about?”
“I don’t have time to explain it to you,” said Bart. “I need to see the Hunter and find out
just what is going on here myself.”
Bart grabbed the brass knocker on the door and slammed it against the door three times.
“Legendary Hunter! I, Bartholomew Reynolds, son of Arthur Reynolds and student of
Marissa Keen, have come seeking your assistance!”
I grabbed Bart’s wrist and jerked his hand down, causing him to look at me in surprise.
“Would you keep it down? I don’t want all of Dad’s neighbors to hear us and see you.
We’re lucky they didn’t see us just magically appear on Dad’s front lawn earlier.”
“But how else will he know we’re here unless we knock on the door?” said Bart.
I almost found Bart’s genuine confusion about how we were supposed to let Dad know we
were here cute, but then shook my head and said, “Look, I’ve got a key, so I can just let us
in. Don’t worry about what Dad will think. He’s okay with me just walking in and he’ll be
okay with you once I explain who you are.”
Bart frowned, but then he stepped aside, allowing me to step in front of the door and stick
my key into its lock. But when I turned the key, I discovered that the door was already
unlocked.
“I didn’t hear a click,” said Bart. “Did your key work?”
“No, but only because the door is already unlocked,” I said, removing my key and twisting
the doorknob, which moved as smoothly as ever. “Odd. Dad usually locks the door
whenever he leaves the house.”
“Leaves the house?” Bart repeated. “Don’t tell me we came all this way for nothing.”
I shook my head. “No, Dad must be here, even though he should actually probably be at
church right now or on his way back home. Maybe he got sick and had to stay home or
something. Only one way to find out.”
I opened the door and walked inside … only to step on something soft and squishy that
immediately pulled me up toward the ceiling as I screamed.
***
In the next moment, I found myself hanging upside down from the ceiling like a cocoon, a
strange, purple webbing wrapped firmly around my ankles.
“Tara!” said Bart, stepping inside and looking up at me. “Tara, are you okay? What
happened?”
“I don’t know,” I said, looking in bewilderment at the strange purple webbing which was
slowly but surely moving down my ankles to my knees. “I just stepped on something and
then I somehow got pulled up here. Like someone set a t—”
I was interrupted by a screeching sound below, following by a long stream of webbing
shooting out of the darkness of the house toward Bart. The webbing struck Bart in the chest
and yanked him forward, but he grabbed the door jamb at the last second and held his
ground. But he had to hold the door jam with both hands, clutching it so tightly that the
jamb was starting to crack. The webbing was taut as whatever was on the other end tried to
pull Bart into its grasp, but Bart managed to stand his ground against the obvious effort of
the creature.
“What … is … this … stuff?” said Bart, his voiced straining under the effort of clutching
the jamb. “Webbing?”
I looked toward the dark interior of the house. Thanks to my night vision, however, I could
see as well as I could in the daytime, if not better, but part of me wished I couldn’t, because
the thing I saw was creepy enough to give me at least six months’ worth of nightmares.
It looked like a giant spider, standing in the hallway with its legs braced against the walls
on either side for support. It was hairy and brown, with two thick pincers on its mouth. The
purple webbing it had shot at Bart was coming from its mouth, which it was pulling back
with obvious effort. The spider had to be at least as tall as me, but three times as wide. It
looked like something straight out of a fantasy novel, but it was very real and it was very
really trying to kill both of us.
“What is that thing?” I said, staring at the spider creature in pure horror. “Where did it
come from?”
“It doesn’t matter what it is,” said Bart, his voice still strained. “Just kill it!”
Bart’s voice snapped me out of my horror. I popped my claws out of my fingers and
slashed at the webbing holding my feet up, sending me falling to the floor. I landed on my
feet and immediately cut the webbing that was attached to Bart. As soon as I did, the web
shot backwards and slapped the spider in the face, sending it staggering backward a few feet
as it growled in pain.
Standing upright, I held my claws before me carefully, keeping a close eye on the spider,
which was rubbing its face from where it had been hit by its own webbing. Its movements
were bizarre and abrupt, almost like a puppet, but as far as I could tell, that thing was a real,
living creature that would probably eat us both alive if it got the chance.
Bart walked up beside me, rubbing his chest where the spider had been pulling on it. He
was also looking at the spider, his mouth turned into a deeply disturbed frown.
“Uh oh,” said Bart. “I know what that thing is, now that I’ve gotten a better look at it.”
“Then tell me,” I said, without looking at Bart, because I didn’t want to take my eyes off
that beast. “And you’d better tell me how to kill it, too, because we’ll die if you don’t.”
“It’s a marionette spider,” said Bart. “They usually live in the Shadow Way where they
hunt anyone who is unlucky enough to get lost in there. Vampires sometimes tame them,
but most of the time they’re too wild and dangerous to tame because they’ll kill vampires
just as quickly as humans.”
“But if this spider is here, then where’s Dad?” I said, glancing at Bart. “And more
importantly, how do I kill it?”
“A silver weapon usually does the trick,” said Bart. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a silver
weapon.”
“Would vampire claws work?” I said, flashing my claws at him.
“Possibly,” said Bart. “If you can get in close enough and cut its throat, you could kill it.
It’s dangerous, though.”
“All right,” I said, looking at the marionette spider again. “You cover me with your spells
while I go in for the kill.”
I rushed toward the marionette spider, which had not moved an inch since I cut its
webbing. It reared back like it was about to shoot more webbing at me, but then a bright
light flew over me and struck the marionette spider in the face. The spider screeched in rage
and covered its face, which left it completely open to my claws. I raised my claws and
brought them down toward its face.
But at the last second, the marionette spider sank into the shadows on the floor. My claws
slashed empty air and I staggered forward slightly from the momentum, almost losing my
balance before I regained it.
“What the hell?” I said, looking over my shoulder at the spot where the spider had been
standing mere moments before. “Where did it go?”
“Oh, I forgot to mention that marionette spiders can enter and exit the Shadow Way at
will,” said Bart with a slightly sheepish grin. “It’s a common tactic they use whenever
they’re on the hunt. They’ll disappear into the Shadow Way to confuse their prey, only to
pop out of the shadows when their prey least expects it.”
I looked at him. “What do you mean, when I least expect—”
I heard movement above me and looked up at the ceiling to see the marionette spider
clinging to the ceiling. It fired webbing at me, but I jumped backwards and avoided the
webbing before it hit me.
Skidding to a stop beside Bart, I said, “Damn it. It’s too fast. How do we catch it?”
“I have a spell that could help,” said Bart. “But it will take a minute or two to get going.
Can you distract it for me while I set up the spell?”
“Distract it?” I said. “How?”
Bart opened his mouth, perhaps to give me a suggestion, but then some of the spider’s
webbing came out of nowhere and struck my abdomen. Without warning, I was yanked off
my feet and across the floor toward the spider, which was still hanging from the ceiling with
its eyes glaring at me as it drew me closer and closer to its gaping maw.
I slashed at the webbing, cutting it off instantly. I scrambled to my feet, but then the
marionette spider rushed toward me and knocked me down. It pinned me to the floor with
one of its legs and tried to bite my face off with its pincers. But I caught the pincers with my
hands and held them back as hard as I could, but it was difficult even with the extra strength
that being a half-vampire gave me. The marionette spider was incredibly strong and it was
only through sheer effort that I was able to hold it at bay at all.
“Come on, Bart,” I said, my voice straining now as I held back the spider’s pincers as best
as I could. “I can’t hold this thing off forever!”
“It’s almost finished,” said Bart somewhere behind me. “Just a couple more seconds and it
should be all set.”
But I didn’t know if I even had a couple more seconds. My arms were starting to get sore
from holding back the pincers, to the point where I just wanted to let go, but I didn’t,
because if I did, then I would end up spider food. So I forced myself to hold the monstrous
spider back as hard as I could, but even with all of my strength put into doing this, its
pincers drew gradually closer and closer to my face. I could smell its awful breath, which
was like mud mixed with oil, but I didn’t let it distract me.
Then, all of a sudden, Bart shouted, “Tara, push its head up! Now!”
Without hesitation, I kicked my right leg up. My leg slammed into the underside of the
spider’s head, jerking its head up, its pincers flying out of my grasp. The marionette spider
let out a grunt, but it was the last sound it made before a thunderbolt lanced out of nowhere
and struck the spider directly in the face.
The marionette spider’s head exploded, sending its blood and brains flying everywhere.
That included onto me, getting onto my clothes and hair despite the fact that I covered my
face with my hands. The marionette spider’s body collapsed on the floor in front of me. Its
legs twitched once or twice and then became very still.
“Tara, are you okay?” said Bart, running up to me and stopping next to me. “Are you
hurt?”
I sat up and felt the blood in my hair. “No, but now I’ve got spider blood in my hair and
it’s going to take ages to clean out. And my clothes are ruined, too.”
Bart tilted his head to the side. “Can’t you just drink the blood? Or do half-vampires not
drink spider blood?”
I licked some of the spider blood on my finger and shuddered. “Nope. Not drinking that.
Tastes like muddy water. Not all blood is made equal.”
“Well, it’s good to know that you’re unharmed, at least,” said Bart. He looked at the
marionette spider. “I wonder how this spider got here. Marionette spiders rarely leave the
Shadow Way, even to hunt. They usually prefer to hunt their prey in the Shadow Way,
because that’s their natural habitat.”
I looked down at my jacket, which was now covered in spider brains and blood, and
grimaced. “I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t want to know, but—”
A loud moan almost made me jump. It sounded like it was coming from the living room,
but I didn’t see anyone in there.
“What was that?” I said, looking up at Bart. “Did you hear someone moaning or am I just
imagining things?”
Bart shook his head. “No, I heard it, too. Stay here while I check the living room, just to
make sure that the marionette spider didn’t bring any friends.”
Before I could object to the notion that I couldn’t defend myself, Bart walked into the
living room and vanished from sight. But he was gone for only a second before he shouted,
“Tara! You need to see this and you need to see this now.”
Rising to my feet, I shouted, “What is it? Did you find the source of the moaning?”
“I did, but you’re not going to like it,” said Bart. “You’re not going to like it at all.”
The fear in his voice made me wonder what, exactly, Bart had found. I was almost afraid
to go look myself, but my curiosity—and my concern for Dad, who I didn’t see even though
this was his house—overrode my fear and I walked into the living room.
I wish I didn’t, because as soon as I entered the room, I saw Dad hanging from the ceiling,
looking quite dead.
***
Dad hung from the ceiling in the same way I did when I walked into that spider’s trap
earlier, only he was covered up in more webbing than I had. The webbing went all the way
up to his neck, forming a strange sort of purple cocoon over his body that made me feel ill
just looking at it. The rest of the living room wasn’t in very good shape, either. The TV had
been smashed and lay on the floor, pieces of its shattered screen everywhere; the coffee
table had been stepped on and destroyed right in the middle; and all of Dad’s Bible studies,
commentaries, and other theological books had been knocked off their shelves. The couch
was torn in two, which made it look like a big fight had happened here, but I still feared for
Dad’s life.
“Dad?” I said, running up to him and shaking him. “Dad, can you hear me? Dad!”
But Dad didn’t even stir. His glasses were missing and his eyes were closed. I wasn’t sure
if he was dead or just unconscious. He looked dead, but I didn’t see any blood or anything
to indicate that the spider had bitten him or anything like that.
I looked at Bart. “Bart, can you tell if he’s dead or not?”
“Hard to say,” said Bart, who wore an expression of disgust on his features. “Usually,
marionette spiders like to web up their food and let it sit for a while before they eat it,
because the webbing absorbs the moisture from their prey’s body and makes its body brittle
and crunchy. Given how the Hunter doesn’t look like a mummy, my guess is that he’s still
alive and still has most of his body fluids, but we should free him quickly just to make
sure.”
I nodded and jumped up toward the ceiling. When I reached the ceiling, I slashed at the
webbing with my claws and Dad fell. But Bart caught him in his arms and gently lowered
him onto the floor. Pulling out a silver knife from nowhere, Bart began cutting a line down
the webbing as I fell back down and landed beside him.
“Hey, didn’t you say you lost your knife to those vampires earlier?” I said, looking at the
knife he was smoothly running down the cocoon’s surface.
“That was my favorite knife,” said Bart without looking at me. “I carry at least three silver
knives with me wherever I go. Knives are useful for more than just killing vamps, you
know. Ah, here we go.”
Bart finished cutting the webbing and dropped his knife on the floor. He ripped open the
webbing with both hands, revealing Dad’s body to us. Dad was in his Sunday clothes, a neat
white button down shirt and brown slacks to go with it. But if my clothing was disgusting
thanks to all of the spider’s bodily fluids sprayed on it, his were even worse, soaked straight
through like he had just been swimming in the ocean.
“It looks like the webbing was in the process of draining him dry,” said Bart with a sigh.
“Luckily, he didn’t lose much moisture, as far as I can tell.”
“You mean he’s going to be okay?” I said hopefully.
“I don’t know,” said Bart. “Even just minor draining of bodily fluids can cause irreparable
damage to the human body. Also, often the sensation having your fluids drained directly
from your body alone will kill a victim, so a marionette spider’s prey is usually dead long
before their corpse is drained of its fluids.”
“Meaning Dad might be dead after all?” I said, my voice growing high with fear.
“Let me check his pulse,” said Bart. “Only way to be sure.”
Bart grabbed Dad’s wrist and checked his pulse. “Yes, I can feel his pulse. He’s still alive,
still breathing, but it’s weak. I don’t know when he’ll wake—”
Dad suddenly gasped, making Bart and I nearly jump. At the same time, Dad’s eyes
fluttered open and he looked around in confusion, panting and breathing hard as he did so.
“Where … where am I?” said Dad, his voice ragged and dangerously low. “What
happened? Am I … am I dead? Is this heaven?”
“Dad!” I bent down over him and hugged him as tightly as I could. “You’re alive! I can’t
believe it. For a moment there I thought you were dead.”
“Tara?” said Dad, his voice tight. “Can you please let go of me? Having a hard time
breathing here.”
I let go of Dad and said, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to almost choke you out.”
Dad coughed and gasped so badly that I thought he was just going to die here and now.
“It’s fine, Tara. I’m just very weak right now and can’t handle bear hugs very well right
now.”
“Right,” I said. “You nearly had all of the fluids drained from your body, so you’ll
probably need to spend a lot of time sleeping to recover.”
“Fluids drained from my body?” said Dad in confusion. He looked down at his body and
frowned. “Where did all this webbing come from and why is my clothing so wet? And why
am I lying on the floor?”
“You mean you don’t remember being attacked by the marionette spider?” I said in
surprise. “Really?”
“Marionette spider …” Dad’s eyes suddenly widened with realization. “Yes, I remember
now. I just got back home from church and came in here to put my Bible away when the
spider attacked me. I tried to fight it off, but it took me by surprise and overwhelmed me.
The last thing I remember is getting hit in the head by one of its legs, but I don’t remember
anything else. Was it really a marionette spider?”
“It was,” I said, nodding. “Ask Bart. He’s the expert here, not me.”
“Who?” said Dad with a frown.
“Bart,” I said. I looked over at Bart. “Bart, why don’t you introduce yourself to—”
I stopped speaking when I saw that Bart was sitting a few feet away from us. It looked like
he had jumped away when Dad woke up, but he didn’t look like he wanted to come any
closer to us. He watched Dad with the same eyes that a scientist had when studying a newly
discovered species of animal.
Dad looked at Bart, a frown on his face. “And who are you, young man? You’re clearly a
sorcerer of some kind, but—”
“Bartholomew Reynolds,” Bart said quickly. “Son of Arthur Reynolds and student of
Marissa Keen. It’s an honor to meet you, great Hunter.”
“Arthur Reynolds?” Dad repeated. He struggled to sit up and failed due to how weak he
was, so he just lay in the webbing instead. “I recognize that name. Wasn’t he the head of the
Vampire Hunters Guild?”
“Yes, he was,” said Bart, nodding. “He’s my father. He told me many stories about you
and I’ve admired you my whole life, basing my vampire hunting career on yours, though
I’ve never had a sword like the one you used to wield. Still, I am just as ruthless in
exterminating evil as you are and seek to cleanse the world of all vampires, no matter where
they are.”
Bart spoke quickly, as if he was trying to get it all out before a timer was going off
somewhere. It certainly convinced me that Bart looked up to my dad, or rather, the stories
he used to hear about Dad, at any rate.
Dad blinked a couple of times, as if trying to take in everything Bart said at once. “That’s,
uh, nice to hear, Bart. But you can go back to the Vampire Hunters Guild. I’m not sure if
anyone told you, but I don’t do that sort of thing anymore and am not interested in taking on
apprentices.”
“Oh, I’m not interested in becoming your apprentice,” said Bart. He scratched the back of
his neck. “Of course, I wouldn’t mind becoming your apprentice, because I’m sure you
would have a lot to teach me, but I really came looking for you because I need your help.
Not just me, by the way, but the entire sorcerer community, and the vampire community, as
well.”
“That sounds like a very serious problem,” said Dad. He propped himself up on his
elbows, which seemed to be all he could do at the moment. “What problem could be big
enough to threaten sorcerers and vampires alike?”
Bart looked Dad in the eyes. “Someone is trying to provoke a war between the Sorcerer
Parliament and the Vampire Council. And unless we stop them fast, I fear that they will
succeed.”
***
Before I could ask Bart to elaborate on his statement, Dad insisted on getting something to
drink and eat first, because he was very tired from having a lot of his bodily fluids sucked
from his body and needed to regain his energy before he could listen to Bart’s story. I got
him a glass of water and a ham sandwich from the kitchen, while Bart used a healing spell
to alleviate some of Dad’s pain. Bart also used his magic to do away with the marionette
spider’s corpse and its extra webbing, casting a spell that banished the remains of the
marionette spider to the Shadow Way where it would probably be found and eaten by
another marionette spider at some point (according to Bart, marionette spiders had a
tendency to eat their dead, which added another level of creepiness to them that made me
more determined than ever to not step foot in the Shadow Way ever again).
Thus, it was a few minutes later that Dad sat in his recliner in the living room, a thick
blanket covering his legs to keep him warm, while Bart and I sat on the remains of the
couch. I sat on the right end, closer to Dad, while Bart sat the left end, but despite that I
couldn’t help but feel a little excited to be near Bart. I still found him ridiculously
handsome, even if not as handsome as Lucius, and was glad to have a chance to look at him
as he told us his story.
“All right,” said Dad, reclining in his chair, with his ham sandwich sitting on a plate on his
lap. “You said that there is a threat to the sorcerer and vampire communities, that someone
is trying to provoke a war between the Sorcerer Parliament and the Vampire Council. What
did you mean by that?”
“Let me start from the beginning,” said Bart. He tugged at the sleeves of his robes, which
seemed to be an unconscious habit of his from what I could tell. “Ever since your
retirement, tensions between sorcerers and vampires have been going down. Not entirely,
mind you, and we’re definitely nowhere near close to making any sort of peace with those
vamps, but there’s been less violence between us than at any other point in history. Part of
this is due to how small the vampire population is nowadays.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “Has the vampire population shrunk?”
“Considerably,” said Bart, “particularly within the last twenty years. No one knows for
sure, but official estimates from the Parliament indicate that the world vampire population
has fallen by as much as twenty percent over the last couple of decades, with another ten to
twenty percent drop over the next decade.”
“That’s amazing,” said Dad. “When I was a vampire hunter, the vampire population was
actually growing. What’s the cause for this sudden decline?”
“There are a variety of reasons for that,” said Bart. “One is that vampire hunters have
simply gotten better at killing vamps. You were more influential over the Guild than you
might realize, Hunter. A lot of your techniques have been copied and mastered by the new
generation of hunters, who have used these techniques and abilities to kill vampires more
efficiently than ever. The number of kills recorded in the Guild’s record book has gone up
steadily since your retirement, particularly within the last couple of years or so.”
Dad smiled. “Good to hear. I’m surprised that they’ve been copying me, though, because
when I left the Guild, it was on not exactly good terms with the Guildmaster.”
“Well, everyone in the Guild I’ve spoken to has nothing but good things to say about you,”
said Bart with a shrug. “Even my father, Arthur Reynolds, has only ever told me good
stories about you. You’re seen as a hero by most vampire hunters, a standard by which other
vampire hunters judge themselves.”
“Are there other reasons for why the vampire population has been declining?” I said,
before Dad could respond. “Surely it can’t just be because the vampire hunters are getting
better at killing.”
“You’re right,” said Bart. “Another reason is the lack of Vampire Lords. Many have been
killed over the last couple of decades, and those few that have survived generally stay out of
sight. Because they are not going out creating new Hordes or sending out existing
Hordelings in their stead, there haven’t been enough new vampires created to replace the
ones being killed off.”
“It’s kind of a cycle,” I said. “You guys have gotten better at killing vampires, which leads
to Vampire Lords and their Hordes to hide instead of going out and making more
Newborns, which makes it easier for you guys to kill vampires because there aren’t as many
and those few that still exist are too afraid to come out and be killed, and so on.”
“Exactly,” said Bart, nodding. “I’ve even heard some people say that we might actually be
able to wipe out the vampires entirely by the end of the century. Hard to know if that’s true
or not, but the fact that people are even saying that should show you just how effective
we’ve gotten at killing vamps.”
“Well, if everything is going so well, then why do you need me?” said Dad. He took a bite
out of his sandwich and swallowed. “Sounds to me like you guys have this under control.”
“I’m not finished yet,” said Bart, holding up a hand. “Anyway, because of the declining
vampire population, the Vampire Council has issued orders to the vampire community to
avoid fighting sorcerers. They haven’t tried to send any peace envoys or anything like that,
but right now the Vampire Council has been advising all vampires under its jurisdiction to
keep to themselves and find other food sources to quench their thirst. There are even rumors
that the Vampire Council is considering trying to form some kind of peace treaty with the
Parliament in order to spare their people, though so far I haven’t seen any real evidence to
back that up.”
“I still fail to see where I’m supposed to come into this,” said Dad. “Or when you’re going
to get into this war you mentioned.”
Bart folded his arms in front of his chest. “The problem happened two weeks ago, shortly
after this month’s parliamentary meeting. When the members of the Sorcerer Parliament
were leaving the meeting room, they were attacked by several vampires claiming to be
members of the Order of Vampires.”
“You mean the Vampire Council’s secret intelligence organization?” I said.
“Yes,” said Bart, nodding. “I’m surprised you’ve heard of them, given your general
ignorance of other parts of magical life.”
“I have some experience with them,” I said with a shrug.
“Right,” said Bart. “Well, the attack was unsuccessful, because the members of Parliament
were protected by their bodyguards and were able to kill or drive off the Order members
who participated in the attack. They managed to capture one vampire, however, who
claimed to have attacked the Parliament on orders from the Vampire Council itself.”
Dad visibly stiffened when Bart said that. “You don’t believe him, do you?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” I said, tilting my head to the side. “Aren’t vampires and sorcerers
always trying to kill each other anyway? Why is it so surprising that the Vampire Council
would send some of their assassins to try to take out the leaders of the sorcerers?”
“Because that’s never happened before,” Dad said patiently. “For as long as the Sorcerer
Parliament and Vampire Council have existed, the two ruling bodies have never directly
fought each other before. There was a general unspoken agreement between them that they
would never directly attack each other, though there have been several close calls
throughout history.”
“The Hunter is correct,” said Bart. “As a result, the Sorcerer Parliament has put together a
team of vampire hunters whose job is to hunt down and kill the members of the Vampire
Council in retaliation, a team I am a member of, though I managed to get away from
everyone else in order to find you.”
“Why?” said Dad.
“Because I don’t think the Vampire Council actually sent any Order members to kill the
members of Parliament,” said Bart. “I don’t trust or like vamps in the slightest, but this just
doesn’t make sense to me. Why would the Vampire Council risk escalating hostilities with
the sorcerer community when their people are in such a precarious position?”
“But didn’t you just say that the captured Order member claimed to have been sent by the
Council itself?” I said. “That seems like conclusive enough evidence to me.”
“I don’t consider it conclusive because the Order member killed himself while he was in
custody,” said Bart. “Everyone else think it’s because he didn’t want to be forced to tell
more of the Council’s secrets, but personally I think he just wanted his lie to avoid being
uncovered. The Vampire Council has expressly denied sending any assassins after the
members of Parliament, though no one besides me believes them.”
“I agree that it doesn’t make sense for the Vampire Council to provoke Parliament like
this, but vamps aren’t always logical,” said Dad. “At their core, vamps are evil, soulless
creatures who want to cause as much death and destruction as they possibly can. That means
they won’t always act in rational ways.”
I winced slightly at Dad’s denunciation of vampires. I knew he didn’t include me in that
characterization, what with me being a half-vampire and all, but I still couldn’t help but feel
a little offended when he said that. It was probably because I was thinking of Lucius, whose
status I still didn’t know. He didn’t seem to fit Dad’s description of vampires, but then, I
guess there always are exceptions to the rule.
“True, but the members of the Vampire Council are all Vampire Lords, and Vampire
Lords are known for being more intelligent than their Hordelings,” said Bart. “Besides, I’ve
uncovered evidence that someone is attempting to provoke an all-out war between the
sorcerers and vampires. Let me show you.”
Bart pulled a piece of paper from his robes and held it out for us to see. It was a letter of
some sort, written in very beautiful cursive that made me jealous, because my own
handwriting wasn’t anywhere near that pretty.
“What is that?” said Dad. “A letter?”
“Yes,” said Bart, nodding. “I found it shortly after the initial attack on the Parliament. It
appears to have been dropped by one of the Order vampires.”
“Who wrote it?” I said.
Bart pulled the letter back to himself and looked down at it. “I think it is from whoever is
actually behind the attack. It describes what time the vampires should attack Parliament, as
well as the possible protections keeping the Parliament members safe.”
“That doesn’t seem like evidence to me,” I said. “Unless you have reason to believe that it
was not written by one of the Council members, that is.”
Bart looked up at us, a serious look on his face. “The reason I believe it was not written by
a Council member is because it was signed by someone calling himself ‘the Cyclops.’”
“Cyclops?” I said. “Like the mythical creature from Greek mythology?”
Bart nodded. “Yes, which, by the way, are not real, of course.”
“Then it’s a pseudonym,” said Dad. “Maybe one that a member of the Vampire Council is
writing under.”
Bart shook his head. “Nope. None of the Vampire Council members write under
pseudonyms, and I know this because I checked the Guild’s detailed files on them and
didn’t find this pseudonym in any of them. It’s someone else, though I still don’t know who
at this point.”
“Have you showed this letter to anyone in the Parliament or Guild?” said Dad.
“I did, but everyone thinks it’s either a member of the Vampire Council, like you, or
maybe the Chief of the Order, a vampire named Xanner,” said Bart. “No one believes me
when I say that it is someone else entirely.”
“Is that why you came to me?” said Dad. “Did you think I might be more willing to
believe you?”
“Yes,” said Bart. “All my life, I’ve heard stories about the legendary Hunter, whose
knowledge of vampire magic and lore was second only to the Vampire Council. It was a
risk, I’ll admit, but it was also the only choice I saw that I had.”
Dad tapped his chin in thought. “Interesting. I wonder if that marionette spider that
attacked me had anything to do with this Cyclops character.”
“Or those vampires who attacked me in Greensboro,” I added. “They said their ‘master’
wanted me to join them, but they didn’t say who he was.”
“I think it’s entirely possible that all three of these events are connected,” said Bart. “We
just need to figure out how, that’s all.”
Dad sighed. “I retired from vampire hunting precisely because I didn’t want to get
involved in this kind of nonsense. Oh, well. Sometimes God tells you your work isn’t done,
and it’s pretty obvious that he’s telling me that I still have some work to do in the sorcerer
community. Very well. I’ll help you.”
“Actually,” said Bart slowly, as if he was afraid of offending Dad, “I’m not so sure I want
your help anymore.”
“What?” I said. “You came all this way and told us about a possible war between sorcerers
and vampires erupting and now you’re telling us that you don’t want Dad’s help?”
“Yes,” said Bart. “I know what I just said, but having seen what the Hunter is like, I am
not sure I want his help anymore.”
“What do you mean?” said Dad. “If you mean how weak I look, that’s because of the
marionette spider’s webbing. Give me a day or two and I’ll be back in shape in no—”
“That’s not what I mean,” said Bart. “I mean what you’re doing with your life now. Your
profession.” He took a deep breath and then said, “You’re a Christian. And I can’t work
with Christians.”
***
“Wait, really?” I said, looking at Bart in disbelief. “You don’t want to work with Dad
because he’s a Christian? That seems like an awfully petty reason to not want his help
anymore.”
Bart glared at me. “Petty? How is it petty to not want to work with members of the
religion which has spent so long silencing and oppressing my people? Do you even know
what Christians have historically done to sorcerers?”
“What are you talking about?” I said. I looked at Dad. “Dad, do you know what Bart is
talking about? What does he mean that Christians have oppressed sorcerers? Is he just
making things up now or what?”
Dad readjusted his seat in his recliner, a slightly uncomfortable look on his face. “He’s not
exactly lying, but he also doesn’t really understand the full context of the historical
relationship between Christians and sorcerers. Sorcerers haven’t exactly been nice to
Christians, either.”
“Only because Christians have been outright cruel to us,” said Bart. His fist closed tightly
around the letter in his hand, nearly ripping it. “When I first heard the rumors that the
legendary Hunter Richard Lee had converted to the Powerless religion, I assumed that they
were wrong. Even if they were right, I thought it might not be so bad, because you might
only be a normal convert, but when Tara told me that you were the pastor of a church, that
confirmed all my worst fears.”
“I converted to Christianity well before I quit my vampire hunting career,” Dad pointed
out. “Ask anyone who was active in the Guild at that time, such as your father, who could
tell you that I was a Christian for several years before I stopped hunting vampires. Or did
Arthur keep that a secret from you because he didn’t think you could handle the truth?”
I held up both of my hands before Bart could respond. “Wait, wait, hold on. Can someone
fill me in on the history between Christians and sorcerers? I know that Christianity has been
against magic for pretty much it’s entire existence, but I’m thinking there’s something
deeper going on here than that.”
“It began when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in
the third century AD,” said Bart. “The Church began to persecute sorcerers, even though
some sorcerers had been working for the Roman Empire from its founding until Constantine
was made emperor. That was just the beginning of a long history of Christians persecuting
and attacking sorcerers wherever they found them. Part of the reason we sorcerers have
remained separate from Powerless society is that we don’t want to be persecuted by the
Church.”
“It can’t have been that bad, could it?” I said hesitantly.
“It was even worse,” said Bart with a shudder. “In every time and place where Christianity
has held power, sorcerers have had to take extra precautions to remain secret. It’s true that
sorcerers have always, to some extent, had to hide our true nature from the rest of society
even prior to the rise of Christianity, but it grew much worse under Christian persecution,
though admittedly Muslims and Jews haven’t treated us much better.”
“But the Church doesn’t persecute sorcerers anymore nowadays, right?” I said.
“Only because no one in the Powerless world really believes in magic anymore,” said
Bart. “But I guarantee you that if most people found out about us, we’d find ourselves
persecuted and hounded just like our ancestors. Christians would do everything in their
power to kill us and it would be like the old days again. That’s why most sorcerers aren’t
Christians and never, ever will be.”
“Are you atheists, then?” I said. “Because you said the Muslims and Jews aren’t much
better, so—”
“No,” said Bart, shaking his head. “Most sorcerers do believe in God, but not a personal
one. We simply believe that God created the universe and then left it to run on its own. We
don’t believe that he is paying much attention to it, much less than he’s actively engaged
inside it. And the idea that God would become man and die on a cross for our ‘sins’ … well,
we find that simply ridiculous.”
Then Bart looked at Dad, his eyes full of disappointment. “So you can imagine how I feel
when I find out that one of the sorcerer community’s greatest heroes is now serving the very
same religion which has oppressed our people since its inception. I had hoped that the
rumors were false, but if anything, they just downplayed the seriousness of the Hunter’s
conversion.”
I bit my lower lip and looked at Dad. Dad, to his credit, didn’t look very angry. He simply
sipped his cup, though whether he was thinking of how to respond to Bart’s accusations or
if he was thinking about something else, I couldn’t say.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Hunter?” said Bart. “Why did you convert to the
religion of our enemy? Did you lose your mind after spending so many years fighting
vampires?”
Dad took another sip from his cup and lowered it onto the plate he held. “I think that I
don’t need to explain myself to an uppity young kid like yourself. Maybe you need to
understand that you’ve been taught just one perspective of history and not the entirety of it.”
“I don’t need to know the entirety of history to know that you’re basically a traitor to our
people,” said Bart. “I don’t understand why the Parliament has allowed you to live. Or did
you really retire from the Guild at all? Or were you kicked out because you converted to
Christianity?”
“I retired on my own,” Dad replied. “It was never a problem in the Guild even when I was
working there, aside from a handful of idiots who were saying the same things as you.
Luckily, I was so great at killing vamps that the Guildmaster at the time didn’t care what
those idiots said.”
Bart suddenly stood up. “Idiot? It’s not idiotic to hate the religion that has oppressed your
people ever since its inception. But I guess you’ve got to project your own flaws somehow,
huh?”
“Whoa, Bart, calm down,” I said, reaching out to touch his wrist, “there’s no need to get so
angry.”
Bart yanked his hand away from me before I could touch him and took a step back. He
glared at me and said, “And why are you a Christian? You’re a half-vampire, for God’s
sake. I didn’t know it was even possible for a half-vampire to be a Christian.”
I hesitated when he said that. Ever since I became a half-vampire, I had been worrying
about my salvation and whether I was still saved or not. Dad thought I was, and I did, too,
but I couldn’t deny that I still had my doubts from time to time. They weren’t as serious as
they used to be, but hearing Bart say that was almost exactly the same as him reopening an
old wound I thought had closed long ago. It hurt, and it hurt a lot.
“Anything is possible through the power of Christ, Bart,” said Dad. “You would know that
if you weren’t blinded by your own bigotry.”
Bart’s hands shook. “Better to be blinded by light than by darkness, Hunter.”
With that, Bart turned and left the room. He left so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until
I heard the front door open and close with a slam.
“Bart?” I called out, rising from my seat on the couch. “Bart, are you there?”
“He’s gone, Tara,” said Dad without a hint of sadness in his voice. “And don’t bother
going after him. He clearly doesn’t want anything to do with you or me anymore, which is
fine, because I don’t want anything to do with him, either.”
I sank back onto the couch, but unlike Dad, I couldn’t feel satisfied about this. “But Bart
seems like a good guy. And his theory about a war developing between vampires and
sorcerers seems like something worth investigating.”
Dad shrugged. “It’s entirely possible that he’s wrong. Given how he reacted so violently to
the fact that I’m a pastor, he probably isn’t a very rational man in the first place. Good
riddance.”
I bit my lower lip. “But everything he said about Christianity and sorcerers … was it
true?”
Dad sighed. “Yes, but like I said, he doesn’t have the full context. He only knows what
he’s been taught by his parents and community. He doesn’t understand why Christians and
sorcerers have clashed so often throughout history. Yes, sometimes Christians were in the
wrong, but just as often, sorcerers were the instigators and it was the Christians who stopped
them.”
“Really?” I said. “How so?”
“While sorcerers are generally better than vampires, that is not always the case,” said Dad.
“Throughout history, there have been a few sorcerers who have been even worse than the
vampires they claimed to fight. Some of these sorcerers either went on to become dictators
themselves or else use their magical abilities to influence Powerless leaders for their own
purposes. This was especially common in Medieval Europe; for example, the Black Plague
was created by a mad sorcerer who wanted to cleanse Europe of all Christians and make the
continent into a homeland for sorcerers.”
I gulped. “That’s definitely crazy.”
“And that guy wasn’t even the worst sorcerer ever,” said Dad. “There’s a reason witchcraft
has been outlawed in Christian countries, and it isn’t because Christians are a bunch of
killjoys or bigots. Truth is that the sorcerer community hasn’t always been very wise with
its powers or always able to rein in its more destructive or evil members. Like many things
in history, the conflict between Christians and sorcerers is a lot more complicated than what
most people believe.”
I folded my hands over my lap. “So can a sorcerer be a Christian, then?”
“Certainly,” said Dad. “Technically, sorcerers can be members of any religion, but
historically sorcerers have never been involved in most major religions due to our status as a
separate race, plus, of course, the fact that many religions throughout the world—not just
Christianity—have persecuted sorcerers in the past. Even today, in many Third World
countries, it is dangerous to let Powerless people know you’re a sorcerer.”
“Do sorcerers have a religion, then?” I said.
“Sort of,” said Dad. “Like Bart said, most sorcerers do believe in a God of some kind, but
they believe that he doesn’t interact with the world much, if at all, and definitely not to the
same extent that Christians believe. Most sorcerers tend to believe in the Origin, the original
source of our powers, and it tends to take the place of God for most sorcerers.”
I rubbed my arm. “Why did you become a Christian, if I might ask? Did you hate
Christianity when you were younger, too, or what?”
“When I was growing up, I did,” said Dad, nodding. “Mostly because that’s what my own
father taught me and what everyone else in the sorcerer community believed. I was raised
by two sorcerer parents, so I never had a real chance to study Christianity on my own. It
wasn’t until I turned seventeen that I began actively studying the various world religions
and became a Christian as a result.”
“What made you become interested in religion in the first place?” I said.
“Lots of things, but mostly because I wanted an explanation for evil in the world that made
sense,” said Dad. “Whether you realize it or not, Christianity provides an excellent
explanation for the presence of evil in the world and, by extension, the existence of
vampires. But most sorcerers didn’t—and clearly still don’t, if Bart is representative of his
fellow sorcerers—believe that.”
“Was it hard being a Christian as a vampire hunter?” I said. “Did you ever have any
problems?”
“Not as many as you’d think, given the rampant hostility toward Christians that exists in
the sorcerer community,” said Dad. He sipped his water again. “I think I was tolerated
mostly because I was such an efficient vampire hunter. I killed more vampires than anyone
else in the Guild at the time, so I imagine that the Guildmaster didn’t want to get rid of his
best vampire hunter just because I happen to belong to a religion he didn’t like. Guildmaster
Thomas was always a stern but fair leader and even mentored me for a while there. I guess
he must have retired himself at some point, though, if Bart is correct.”
“What about Bart’s dad?” I said. “You said you remembered him from your time in the
Guild. What did he think about your religion?”
Dad sighed. “Arthur was tolerant, I guess, and a little curious, because he always had more
interest in spirituality and religion than most sorcerers. But he never converted himself, and
it looks like his tolerant and curious attitude didn’t get passed down to his son. A shame,
because Arthur and I were good friends during my time in the Guild and the two of us made
an excellent team despite our differences in opinion. I’m not surprised to hear he became the
Guildmaster, though. He was usually second only to me in terms of vampire hunting, so it
makes sense that he got the job after Thomas retired.”
“Is that also why you left the sorcerer community?” I said. “Because of your religion?”
“That was part of it, but not the main part,” said Dad. “Truthfully, I just wanted to raise
you in a quiet, safe environment. That that quiet, safe environment would also be one where
you didn’t grow up mindlessly hating Christianity is a bonus, though an important one, of
course.”
I looked at the hallway again and frowned. “I wonder if we’ll ever see Bart again.”
“Doubt it,” said Dad. “If he reacts that violently to the mere idea of Christianity, then he’s
probably going to avoid us like the plague. A shame, really, because I’d been hoping that I
might get to see his father again, because it’s been years since I last saw Arthur and I don’t
know how he’s doing.”
I looked at Dad again. “And you’re absolutely sure that I shouldn’t go after him? The war
—”
“Probably nothing,” said Dad, shaking his head. “And even if it is, what do I care? I’m not
involved in either side anymore. Besides, even if a war breaks out, I think the sorcerers will
be able to deal with the vamps, assuming Bart was telling the truth about the declining
vampire population numbers. You should just go back to your apartment and not worry
yourself.”
I bit my lower lip, but nodded and said, “Okay, Dad. I guess it doesn’t really involve me
anyway. Still, I wonder who sent that marionette spider after you.”
“I don’t know,” said Dad, “but don’t worry about me. I’ll just be a little more careful for a
while until I’m better.”
I stood up. “Well, then I guess I’ll leave, unless you want me to help with the clean up,
that is.”
Dad shook his head again. “No, that won’t be necessary. I know a spell or two that should
clean up this mess nicely.”
“All right, then,” I said. “See you later, and stay safe.”
I turned and left the living room. I opened the front door and stepped out, closing it behind
me silently. I half-expected to see Bart standing on the front lawn, but a quick look up and
down the street showed me that he had indeed teleported, though to where, I didn’t know.
A part of me felt like I should try to find him and help him stop this war, but on the other
hand, I didn’t know Bart all that well and for all I knew he might want nothing to do with
me, given that I was both a half-vampire and a Christian. And like Dad said, this really
didn’t have anything to do with us.
So I walked down the driveway, intending to get back home and get something to eat,
because I was hungry.
***
“Frederick!” I called out as I entered my apartment and closed the door behind me.
“Frederick, I’m home!”
A slight mrow sound came the kitchen, causing me to poke my head in and see Frederick
lying in his bed beside the fridge. Frederick was my pet cat, a colorful calico who I had
owned for a couple of years now. I’d gotten him when he was a kitten, but he had grown
into a big cat very quickly, to the point where I used to have a hard time lifting him up due
to how heavy he was (not fat, though. He was just a very big cat). Nowadays, of course, I
didn’t have trouble lifting him due to the increased strength I received when I was turned
into a half-vampire, but that didn’t change the fact that he was quite big.
Freddy looked up at me from his bed, a lazy look on his face. Based on the size of his
belly, I figured he must have gotten a mouse at some point while I was away. That was
another reason I kept him around. He was a good mouser, though you’d never know that
given how lazy he appeared. I rarely saw him actually catch mice. Most of the time, I just
noticed that his belly was bigger than it should be, which was all the evidence I needed that
he was catching mice.
But for the moment, I didn’t care about Freddy, because my blood thirst was becoming
unbearable, given how I hadn’t had any blood since breakfast. So I walked into the kitchen
and, opening the door, pulled out a bottle of monkey blood from the top shelf. Popping open
the lid, I drank about a quarter of the bottle before closing the lid and sighing with relief as
my blood lust died down. It had been bothering me ever since I left Dad’s house an hour or
two ago, to the point where I’d had to use a lot of my willpower just to avoid attacking
random people on the bus I took back to Greensboro. It had been hard, though, especially
when a young woman about my age sat next to me on the bus.
Leaning against the kitchen counter, I looked down at the monkey blood. I still had a lot of
monkey blood leftover from what Lucius had given me on our first day of training together,
even though that had been a month ago. This was because I’d discovered that I didn’t need
to drink the whole bottle to sate my thirst, that I could get away with drinking less than a
quarter of the bottle itself. And I didn’t even have to drink it every day, either. I could go
two or three, sometimes even as much as four, whole days without needing to sate my thirst,
which made it even easier to conserve the monkey blood I had.
Another reason I conserved my supply was because I didn’t know where to buy monkey
blood. Lucius had mentioned something about introducing me to his ‘merchant’ last month,
but because Lucius had been arrested before he could do that, I didn’t know where Lucius
got his monkey blood from or where I could get some for myself. It didn’t bother me at first,
but now I had about a week or two of monkey blood left and I wasn’t sure what I was going
to do to replace it.
I had considered hunting animals at night, but I had never gone hunting before, much less
at night as a vampire blinded by my blood lust. Another option I’d considered was raiding
the local hospital’s blood donor supply, but that was even less realistic, because I might get
caught, and even if I wasn’t caught, I didn’t want to drink human blood and become more of
a monster than I already was.
What I needed, more than anything, was Lucius. He would be able to introduce me to the
merchant who could sell me more monkey blood. That way, I would never need to worry
about losing control of my blood lust and accidentally harming someone.
I felt something brush against my legs and looked down. Freddy was rubbing against my
legs, a clear sign he wanted attention, so I put the bottle on the counter and bent over to
scratch the back of his ears. But I wasn’t really paying attention to Freddy. I was thinking
about Lucius and how, unless a miracle happened, I would run out of monkey blood and fall
victim to my own vampiric nature.
The problem was that Lucius was still in the custody of the Order of Vampires. And I had
no idea where the Order was, so I couldn’t stage a rescue, assuming Lucius was even still
alive at all. For all I knew, Lucius might have been executed a while ago and I was all on
my own. That would be terrible luck for me if it turned out that Lucius had been beheaded
already, so I told myself that Lucius was probably still alive and that all I needed to do was
just find him and everything would be okay.
But that was far easier said than done. As I said, I didn’t know where the Order was. I
knew they were based in a place called Castle Wings, but that was about as helpful as telling
me that they lived in Hogwarts. I could use the Shadow Way to go there, but I was still
terribly afraid of the Shadow Way after my close encounter with the Stranger known as
Timmy. Besides, Lucius had said that you shouldn’t travel the Shadow Way alone, even if
you are an experienced vampire, thanks to the aforementioned Strangers.
And, despite what Dad said, I still worried about Bart. I felt like he was telling the truth
about an all-out war brewing between the sorcerers and the vampires. Someone probably
was trying to provoke an open conflict between the two sides, but I had no idea who it could
possibly be. Whoever it was, they wanted me. I still remembered those vampires who
cornered me in that alley earlier today, who had talked about their ‘master’ wanting my
power. They were involved somehow, I knew it.
Again, though, I was at a loss for what to do. I wanted to find out if Lucius was okay, but I
also wanted to help Bart. It didn’t help that the two of them were both fairly attractive,
which was true of Bart even despite how much he hated Christianity. I felt like they were
both ultimately good men who needed my help.
The question, though, was how to help either of them, if at all. Maybe Dad was right. This
didn’t really have anything to do with us. Maybe the only thing I needed to worry about was
keeping my monkey blood supply in stock, but that just tied back to Lucius again. I
wondered, though, if Dad might be able to help me in that area. He wasn’t a vampire
himself, no, but he was very knowledgeable about vampires and might be able to help me
figure out where to buy more blood for myself.
My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the front door. The sudden knock startled
Freddy, who immediately ran behind the fridge.
“Oh, Freddy,” I said with a chuckle. “It’s just the door. There’s no need to be such a
scaredy cat.”
Shaking my head and thinking about how silly cats could be, I walked over to the front
door and opened it. “Hello?”
But there was no one standing on the other side. I poked my head out of my apartment and
looked up and down the main hallway, but didn’t see anyone out. It was completely empty,
which would not have been that alarming normally, but given how the knock had literally
just been a couple of seconds ago, there was no way that whoever had knocked on the door
could have had enough time to run away before I opened it. Maybe I had heard someone
knocking on one of the other apartment doors. Due to how close the apartments were to
each other, it was common to think someone was knocking on your door when they were
actually knocking on someone else’s door that was close to yours.
I pulled my head back into my apartment and was just about to close the door when I
noticed a small package on the ground in front of my door. Bending over, I picked up the
package and looked it over. It was small—about the size of my cell phone—and unmarked,
save for two words written in black marker: ‘TARA LEE.’
I frowned. That was my name, all right, but I didn’t know who could possibly have sent
me this package. I hadn’t ordered anything online recently and I wasn’t expecting a package
from any of my friends or family. That the package had no other identifying information on
it—not even a return address—told me that this had been hand-delivered to me, though by
who and why, I didn’t know.
Closing the door to my apartment, I walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the
kitchen table. Freddy jumped onto the table and began trying to take my attention away
from the package, but I pushed him away in order to focus on the box. Freddy made an
annoyed mrow, but then hopped off onto the chair next to me and curled up, though he
didn’t look happy about the fact that I was paying more attention to the package than him.
He would just have to deal with it.
I felt the package. There seemed to be some kind of bottle in it, or at least something made
of glass. My first thought was that it had to be a shot glass of some sort due to how small it
was, but it seemed absurd to me that someone would mail me a shot glass, of all things.
Besides, I didn’t drink alcohol, and not just because I was a vampire, which made a shot
glass a really useless gift, if that’s what it was.
I cut open the package with one of my claws and pulled out the object. My eyes widened
with amazement at the small, glass object I held in my hand.
It wasn’t a shot glass at all. It was a very small bottle of monkey blood, tightly sealed with
a cork. Like the package, it had no identifying information on it other than ‘MONKEY
BLOOD,’ but I didn’t care. I was so thirsty that I ripped open the cork and chugged the
entire bottle down in one gulp. The monkey blood flowed down my throat easily, making
my mouth and throat feel refreshed. It had been a long time since I drank that well and for a
moment I just sat there at the table, savoring the taste of monkey blood in my mouth and the
sensation of the blood going down my throat into my body.
“Man, that was good,” I said, putting the now-empty bottle down on the table. “I wonder
who could have sent me this, though, Freddy. Do you think it was Lucius?”
Freddy didn’t say anything. His tail swished back and forth, as if trying to find out if I
would let him sit on my lap or not.
That was when I noticed a small piece of paper poking out of the packaging. In my haste
to drink the blood, I had not noticed the letter which had fallen out with it. Picking up the
paper, I discovered that it was a short letter, which read:
To Tara,
Hope you enjoy the monkey blood. Thought you might be running out, so I sent you this
bottle just to be safe.
Also, meet me in the Greensboro City Park tonight at midnight. I have more monkey blood
where this came from, but can’t give it to you just yet for reasons you’ll understand soon. I
also can’t say much here in case this letter is intercepted by the Order. Just be there at the
time I mentioned. See you soon.
From, Lucius.
***
Normally, it wasn’t the smartest move in the world for a young woman in her twenties to
be out in the park after dark. While the Greensboro City Park was well-known for its safety
and security, the fact was that city parks at night were prime locations for creepers looking
to kidnap or rape young women without being caught themselves. There had even been a
well-publicized story last year about a man who raped a woman in Greensboro City Park at
midnight, though like I said, that was an aberration and had done nothing to scare people
away from the Park (though I heard from Jane, who works for the city, that fewer people
came to the Park at night since that incident).
But I was a half-vampire, so I felt perfectly safe. I could see better at night than I could
during the day, for one, so if any creeper tried to sneak up on me, he’d have a hard time
doing it. Even if someone tried to get me, they’d have to contend with my enhanced strength
and magical abilities, as well as Domination, which I’d brought along with me for safety.
While I was still an Apprentice level sorcerer, I was good enough with magic that I wasn’t
afraid of any Powerless humans who might try to harm me.
But even if I had been just a perfectly ordinary Powerless girl, without a hint of magical or
fighting prowess, I would still have gone to the Park tonight, because I wanted to see Lucius
again more than anything else in the world and this was my best, maybe only, chance to do
that.
I crouched among the trees near one of the Park’s ponds, where I was unlikely to be seen
by any late night Park attendees unless they were actively looking for me. I didn’t want to
draw unnecessary attention to myself, so I kept still and made no noise. Granted, I hadn’t
seen anyone else tonight other than a Park worker who had been pulling midnight duty back
at the entry booth (he’d been easy to sneak by because he had been reading something on
his tablet rather than actually doing his job), but I still wanted to make sure that no one other
than Lucius saw me.
Of course, the letter hadn’t told me where, exactly, I was supposed to meet Lucius.
Greensboro City Park was big. Not quite as big as some parks, perhaps, but it was big
enough that it was a popular spot for joggers. There were a lot of places in the Park that
Lucius might go to, but again, the letter hadn’t specified. Maybe that was the point, given
how Lucius seemed concerned about his letter somehow being intercepted by the Order.
Luckily, I used logic to figure that Lucius would likely appear somewhere in the heart of
the Park, which was the wildest and least visited part of the Park. The trees were thickest
here and the trails weren’t nearly as well defined or clean as the ones around the periphery. I
suspected that Lucius, not wanting to break the Secrecy Pact which separated the magical
world from the nonmagical, would come here because he would be less likely to be seen
here than elsewhere.
Yet even if my theory was wrong and Lucius was instead going to be somewhere else, I
would know. I couldn’t explain how, but somehow I would know exactly where he was
when he appeared. It was something like instinct, but not quite. I just knew that I knew it, if
that made any sense.
What made all this waiting hard, though, was my blood lust. The small bottle of monkey
blood I’d had earlier helped quench my thirst a little, but not for long. I wasn’t in danger of
attacking random people—yet—but I feared that if Lucius didn’t show up soon, I would be
forced to go back to my apartment to avoid losing control of my vampire instincts. I did not
want to spend the rest of the night stalking the poor Park workers who were stuck with the
graveyard shift.
Then I heard movement nearby. It sounded like footsteps, moving softly through the trees.
At first, I thought it was just one of the Park workers or maybe one of those rare night time
visitors, but my enhanced hearing allowed me to hear the sound of feet walking across the
leaves. That meant that whoever was here was walking barefoot, and because only a
vampire would walk barefoot at night like this, I concluded that it had to be Lucius.
Rising from my spot among the trees, I walked out of the trees and stood on the shore of
the pond. The pond was as dark and quiet as the rest of the Park, but I could still hear
movements in the trees around me. I looked between the trees, trying desperately to catch a
glimpse of Lucius, who I knew had to be close. I couldn’t quite feel him, not yet, but I knew
that he had to be close by and that I would see him soon.
Then I saw movement among the trees. It was quick, brief, easy to miss if you weren’t
paying attention like me. But the general shape of the figure moving among the trees looked
just like Lucius. I didn’t know why Lucius wasn’t just walking out and showing himself, but
I didn’t care. I just stepped forward and said, in a low voice which barely contained my own
excitement, “Lucius, is that you? It’s me, Tara.”
The only response I received was silence. I didn’t even see the figure moving among the
trees anymore. Had Lucius stopped? If so, why? Surely he would recognize my voice,
wouldn’t he? Maybe the fact that I was speaking had taken him by surprise and he was
trying to make sure that it was actually me.
Taking another step forward, I said, “Lucius, it’s okay. I don’t know what you’ve been
through or where you’ve been, but you don’t have to be afraid. It’s just me, Tara.”
I heard movement among the trees again, but this time, it wasn’t just one person. It
sounded like multiple people were converging on the pond from multiple angles. I whipped
my head this way and that, but it was impossible to focus on one thing for too long. I could
only see shapes and shadows moving among the trees, but one thing was obvious: They
were all coming toward me.
Then, without warning, multiple vampires burst out of the trees on every side. They
appeared silently, without making a noise, but it was impossible to miss them. They were all
tall and lanky, their mindless red eyes standing out against the darkness of the night like
candles. I didn’t know where these vampires fit on the Hierarchy, but given how mindless
they looked, I guessed they were Bloodseekers, maybe Draculs. In any case, there were
about six of them, which meant I was outnumbered, though that didn’t mean I was going to
give up yet.
“Who are you people?” I said, looking this way and that in a vain attempt to look at all of
them at once. “Where’s Lucius? What did you do with him?”
“Lucius isn’t here right now,” said a voice from the shadows of the trees suddenly. “You’ll
have to look for your knight in shining armor elsewhere.”
From within the shadows of the tree, another vampire stepped out, only he looked different
from the Bloodseekers which surrounded me in a loose circle. His red eyes displayed an
intelligence that was fairly human, while his physique, though not as bulky as Lucius, was
definitely athletic. He had long leather wings poking out of his back, while his head was
bald and he wore a goatee which made him look especially evil. He was definitely not a
Bloodseeker, though who he was, I didn’t know.
But I knew a threat when I saw one.
“You’re not Lucius!” I cried out.
I rushed toward the vampire and swung Domination at him. But the vampire dodged
Domination easily and then kicked me in the stomach. The blow knocked me backwards,
almost causing me to fall into the pond, but I caught myself at the last second and threw a
fireball at the vampire. The vampire, however, raised his hands and spread them apart,
creating a glowing energy barrier. The fireball struck the barrier and exploded, but when the
smoke cleared, the barrier still stood and the vampire on the other side stood completely
unharmed.
“You’re quicker than Hojak said,” said the vampire. “I wonder if those are the natural
reflexes of a half-vampire or if you were taught to move that fast when faced with an
obvious threat like me.”
Panting, I held Domination before me defensively. “I don’t know who you are or what you
did with Lucius, but I will take that stupid head of yours off your neck if you take even one
step closer to me. And I’ll kill every last one of your friends, too, if they try anything.”
“We didn’t do anything with Lucius,” said the vampire in annoyance. “He’s still in Castle
Wings, being held prisoner for crimes he didn’t commit. We just forged his handwriting in
order to trick you into coming here.”
“You mean Lucius was never going to be here at all?” I said, lowering Domination
slightly. “It was all a lie?”
“Of course,” said the vampire. “But a useful one, seeing as it brought you out here, right
where we want you.”
I grit my teeth. “You’re acting like you’ve got me, but I’m still standing and I still have
Domination, which I know you vamps are afraid of. I don’t think you thought through your
grand master plan terribly well.”
“Planning has never been my forte,” said the vampire with a shrug. “But you’ve got to
admit, my plan worked well this time. If you hadn’t been so desperate to see that selfrighteous
Pure, you would never have come out here in the first place.”
He had a point, but I would never admit it to him. “I take it you don’t think very highly of
Lucius.”
“I think little of Pures in general,” said the vampire. He licked his lips. “They give up
human blood for no reason other than to feel superior to the rest of us. Quite frankly, I think
the Council should outlaw Purity and set up bounties for all Pures. They make the vampire
race weak with their unwillingness to feast upon our natural prey. Lucius is no different.”
“Lucius is way better than you,” I said. “Even if he wasn’t a Pure, he’s still better than the
rest of you vamps.”
The vampire shook his head. “Look, I’m not interested in debating the merits of Purity.
I’m interested in bringing you to our leader, and I know just the way to do it.”
“Your leader?” I said. “Are you with those creeps who attacked me in the alley earlier? Or
are you with another Vampire Lord who wants to use me for his own purposes?”
“Hojak and the others are my allies, yes,” said the vampire, nodding. “Or were my allies, I
should say, given how they all got themselves pointlessly slaughtered by that vampire
hunter. We work for the same leader, the same master.”
I sighed deeply. “Okay, can you tell your ‘master’ that I’m not interested in whatever he
has to offer? Because I’ve already had to deal with one Vampire Lord who wanted to use
my powers to further his agenda and I have zero interest in going through that experience
again.”
The vampire smiled. “I never said that my master is a Vampire Lord, did I? But even if he
was, you still wouldn’t be able to resist the offer I am going to make to you.”
“And what ‘offer’ would that be?” I said. I gestured at my ears sarcastically. “I’m all ears.”
“Simple,” said the vampire. He pointed at me. “If you kill one of the members of the
Sorcerer Parliament for us, then we will free Lucius from his captivity and you will never
have to worry about him ever again.”
***
“You want me to kill a member of the Sorcerer Parliament itself?” I said.
“You catch on quickly,” said the vampire. “So? What do you say?”
“You’re acting like I would even consider doing that,” I said. “I don’t know how this
works in the vampire world, but among humans, we sometimes repeat what we heard
because we thought we misheard it because of how crazy and unbelievable it sounded.”
“Oh, I have no doubt you’ll agree to it,” said the vampire simply. “After all, you care
about Lucius more than anyone in the world, maybe even more than your own father.
You’ve been pining for him for the past month, worrying ceaselessly about his wellbeing, so
it is only logical that you would agree to work for someone who claims they can help him.”
“How did you know I’ve been missing Lucius?” I said. I put a hand on my head. “You’re
not a telepath, are you?”
“Our master has his ways of knowing things,” said the vampire. “As his humble servant,
I’m expected only to deliver the messages he wants me to deliver, not question how he
knows things. But I’m telling the truth that we could free him. Castle Wings is a wellfortified
castle, but it’s not nearly as impregnable as the Order thinks it is.”
I hesitated, and then asked, “How is Lucius? Is he okay? Can you tell me that, at least?”
“I can tell you that he’s still alive,” said the vampire, “though in rather bad condition,
because the Order doesn’t treat its prisoners very well. Still, he’s very much alive and
misses you almost as much as you miss him.”
That sounded almost too good to be true, but at the same time, I wanted to believe it,
because it made me feel better. “And you say you will free him if I kill a member of the
Sorcerer Parliament.”
“Exactly,” said the vampire. “My master always keeps his word, should you accept and
complete this mission. Lucius will be freed and you and he will be together again, perhaps
forever.”
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself in a wedding dress walking down the aisle of a church
with Dad. Lucius stood on the stage in a black tuxedo which made him look more handsome
than he had any right to be. He smiled when he saw me and I smiled back, filling me with so
much warm feelings that I just wanted to run up and kiss him there and then.
But then I shook my head and brought myself back to reality and said, “Why does your
master want me to kill a member of Parliament?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” said the vampire. He spread his hands. “War between sorcerers and
vampires. Plain and simple.”
My eyes widened. “So someone is trying to start a war between the sorcerers and vampires
after all. Bart was right.”
“It’s not much of a secret,” said the vampire with another shrug. “Obviously, we don’t go
around telling people about this, but any sufficiently intelligent person would be able to
figure it out if they paid attention, which most people don’t.”
My eyes narrowed. “Who is your master and why does he want to start a war between the
sorcerers and vampires? What does he hope to gain from that?”
“Now that’s a secret,” said the vampire with a smirk. “What he hopes to attain from all of
this is ‘top secret,’ as humans might say. It will become obvious in time, however, to
vampire and sorcerer alike. In the meantime, there is much work to do, including the work
of actually starting the war in question.”
“And you think that me killing that member of Parliament will start the war?” I said.
“How does that work, exactly? Am I supposed to leave a calling card that says something
like ‘I, a vampire, killed this sorcerer. Now go to war.’”
“You’ll know the details soon enough,” said the vampire. “For now, I just need your
acceptance or denial. Are you going to do what my master wants or are you going to
refuse?”
“What will your master do if I refuse?” I said. “Kill me?”
The vampire folded his arms in front of his chest. “Eh, probably not. But we will kill
Lucius.”
“You wouldn’t.”
“If we can rescue him, then we can also kill him,” said the vampire. “It wouldn’t be that
hard. Simply send in an assassin armed with a silver blade and take off his head. Even I
could do it, and I’m no master assassin.”
My hands balled into fists. I could tell that this vampire and his master—whoever he was
—were serious about killing Lucius if I refused. I couldn’t stand the thought of Lucius
dying, but on the other hand, I also didn’t want to be part of a plan to kick off a war between
sorcerers and vampires. I didn’t see how anyone could benefit from a war of that size and
scale, but that didn’t mean much, given how little I knew of the magical world in general.
To buy a little more time to think, I said, “What about the marionette spider that attacked
my dad in his home? Was that your doing as well?”
“Yes,” said the vampire, nodding. “My master sent that spider to kill the Hunter. Sadly, it
didn’t work, but it came very close.”
“Why?” I said. “Why did your master want to kill my dad?”
“Because my master considers him a threat and wanted him out of the way,” said the
vampire. “But we’ll leave him alone if you will agree to do what my master wants you to
do.”
The vampire spoke like he was offering me a great deal. Either his sense of morality was
skewed or he was being sarcastic. I couldn’t tell which.
“So?” said the vampire. “What is your decision? You better answer quickly, because our
master is an impatient man and he doesn’t take well to those who dither.”
“What if I decide to fight you instead?” I said. “You and your allies? And kill every last
one of you?”
“You can try, I suppose,” said the vampire. “But consider our brief skirmish earlier and
how I came out on top. For being such a unique and powerful creature, you don’t seem to
have much in the way of fighting skills or magical ability.”
He was right and I knew it. I didn’t have a very good track record taking on so many
enemies at once. The Bloodseekers were probably easy enough on their own, but given how
this guy was clearly far above them in the Hierarchy, my chances of beating him were pretty
low. I found myself wishing, for the hundredth time, that I had received more training and
that I had had an ally like Lucius or even Bart. As it was, however, I was on my own, which
meant that I wasn’t in a very good place to negotiate.
My eyes darted back and forth as I considered my options. On all sides, I was surrounded.
And even if I somehow managed to beat all of them, I would still be unable to save Lucius,
who they would probably kill as soon as they found out what I did. I saw no way out of this
except to agree to their deal, but I couldn’t do that, because I wasn’t an assassin and had no
interest in becoming one anytime soon.
“Well?” said the vampire. “The clock is ticking, half-vampire. Our master expects us to
return with a response as soon as possible. Otherwise, he will get angry, and you don’t want
to see him when he gets angry. Trust me.”
I bit my lower lip, but slowly and reluctantly lowered Domination. “All right. I accept
your deal.”
“You do?” said the vampire, who sounded genuinely surprised. “You aren’t going to try to
fight us?”
I sheathed Domination, even though that left me feeling incredibly vulnerable. “No, I’m
not. There’s no point. I wouldn’t be able to beat all of you by myself.”
I hated to admit it, but it was true. I was in no position to beat these guys. All I could do
was accept their offer and hopefully find some way to turn it around back on them, though
that was starting to seem increasingly less likely the more I thought about it.
“That is very good to hear,” said the vampire. “Our master will be more than pleased to
hear that you’ve made the right choice. Now, come with us. We have much work to do and
it will take a little while to set you up.”
***
A few minutes later, the vampire—who told me that his name was Jajaras—and I stepped
out of the Shadow Way into the hallway of an unfamiliar building. It was a fairly wide
hallway, with old red carpeting along the stone floor. Portions of the walls were slightly
darker than others, which seemed to be where old paintings had once hung. It reminded me
of stereotypical European castle interiors, except there were no lights or torches by which to
see. Not that I needed them, of course, being a half-vampire and all, but it still felt kind of
strange anyway.
“Here we are,” said Jajaras, gesturing at the hallway. “This is our master’s base, Castle
Rook. It is located in Central Europe.”
“Europe?” I said. “You mean we’re not in America anymore?”
“Why does that surprise you?” said Jajaras. “The Shadow Way can allow a person to
travel anywhere on the planet from any other part of the planet. It’s why we vampires love
to use it.”
“Well, it’s just that I’ve never been outside of the United States before,” I said. “So I’m
curious about this place.”
“Take your curiosity and throw it away,” said Jajaras, turning away from me, “because
we’re not going on a tour of Central Europe. We came here only to get you the necessary
information to assassinate the member of Parliament we’ve picked out for you. We will be
in and out in less than an hour, maybe less than half an hour, depending on how quickly you
grasp what needs to be done.”
“Will I get to meet your master?” I said.
Jajaras shook his head. “Not today, no. Our master is out of the castle at the moment, but I
will be sure to let him know that you were here. And anyway, everyone will see our master
eventually, once his plan bears fruit. For now, follow me.”
Jajaras took off to the right, moving quickly and forcing me to move just as quickly in
order to keep up. As we walked, I could not help but look around the barren, empty hall and
its grimy stone walls, floor, and ceiling.
“This place doesn’t look like anyone lives here,” I said, looking at Jajaras’ back as I
followed him. “I take it your master isn’t much of an interior decorator?”
“He doesn’t care much for elaborate decoration, yes” said Jajaras without looking over his
shoulder at me. “So long as the ceiling holds and the walls don’t have any holes in them, our
master doesn’t care what it looks like, and neither do we. The human fascination with
making your living quarters look ‘nice’ is strange and one which makes humans look even
weaker than they already are.”
“What’s wrong with wanting to make your home look nice?” I said. “If you’re going to be
spending most of your time at your house, then I think it makes sense that you would want
to make sure it looked good.”
Jajaras looked over his shoulder at me like I had just said something really stupid.
“Despite being a half-vampire, you talk an awful lot like a human. That is to say, far too
much.”
I felt a little embarrassed when Jajaras said that, but, being as curious as I was, I said, “So
where, exactly, in Central Europe is Castle Rook? Like, which country? Because there are
several countries in Central Europe and—”
“That’s not for you to know,” Jajaras interrupted me. “I probably shouldn’t have even told
you that much, to be frank. Still, it won’t matter in the end, because once the war starts,
neither the sorcerers nor the vampires will have the time or energy to come after our
master.”
I would have asked Jajaras more about what he meant by that, but there was something in
his tone of voice which made it clear that he didn’t really want to talk to me anymore. So I
kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible a mistake I had just
made. I should have rejected his offer earlier and just accepted the consequences. That
would have been better than agreeing to assassinate an innocent man in order to start a
pointless war.
But if I’d done that, then Lucius would probably be dead already. And besides, I had
already decided that I was going to figure out a way to turn this around back on Jajaras and
his master. How, I didn’t know, but I was sure that something would occur to me at some
point. I prayed to God that he would give me the guidance and knowledge necessary to turn
this into something good, though for some reason I had a feeling that things were about to
get much worse.
We went down a short staircase and then stopped in front of a large wooden door. It
looked too heavy for one person to open by themselves, but Jajaras pushed it open with one
hand and entered. I stepped inside and looked around at our surroundings as Jajaras closed
the door behind me.
The room which we had entered was medium-sized, with a large wooden table in the
center that was covered with a black tablecloth. On top of the cloth were papers, pictures,
and books scattered about in what seemed to be a very disorganized fashion, though Jajaras
immediately began rifling through the papers and pictures as if they were perfectly
organized in a very logical way.
“What’s all that?” I said, watching as Jajaras pushed aside various papers and pictures here
and there.
“Information on the Parliament and Council which our spies within both groups have
gathered over the years,” said Jajaras, again without looking at me. “Much of it isn’t
relevant to our current mission, however, or to yours. There’s just one document I’m
looking for … ah, here.”
Jajaras pulled a single piece of paper out of the various scattered papers and handed it to
me. “Here is your target.”
I took the document and looked down at the picture clipped to it. It showed an elderlylooking
sorcerer who was completely bald, staring at the camera with the most piercing eyes
I’d ever seen on another human being. It was like he was staring up at me directly through
the photo itself, which made it hard for me to continue to meet his gaze.
Underneath the photo was a caption which read ‘PARLIAMENTARIAN LUKE
MICHAELS, 84.’
“In case you can’t read, that is Luke Michaels, the oldest and most respected member of
the Sorcerer Parliament,” said Jajaras, folding his arms in front of his chest. “Michaels has
been a member of the Parliament for over fifty years, longer than any other Parliament
member, past or present. Most Parliament members tend to last ten or fifteen, sometimes
twenty, years, but Michaels has been reelected several times.”
“Is he that good?” I said, looking up at Jajaras.
“I don’t know,” said Jajaras. “I don’t pay especially close attention to sorcerer politics. All
I know is that he is deeply respected among the general sorcerer population. His death at the
hands of a vampire assassin would undoubtedly stir up enough outrage from the sorcerer
community to encourage the rest of the Parliament to declare war on the vampire
community, which would in turn force the Vampire Council to declare war on them.”
I lowered the document to my waist. “But I’m not a vampire. I’m a half-vampire.”
“To your average sorcerer, there’s no difference,” said Jajaras. “In the eyes of the
sorcerers, we are all abominations who must be cleansed from the earth. Frankly, I am
looking forward to the war, because it will mean we vampires can finally go all out against
the sorcerers.”
“Are you going to fight in it?” I said.
Jajaras shook his head. “Of course not. And neither will anyone else in my master’s
employ. We shall remain outside of the conflict and wait for the perfect opportunity to
strike, when both sides are too weak to fight.”
“Is that part of your master’s plans or is he just afraid of getting killed?”
“You’ll find out soon enough,” said Jajaras. “Now, let’s discuss exactly how you are going
to kill Michaels. We already have a plan figured out, one that incorporates your unique
skills and abilities. All you need to do is follow it.”
“You mean you aren’t going to ask me for my opinion on it?” I said. “At all?”
“There’s no need,” said Jajaras. “My master is very knowledgeable about half-vampires
and is aware of their legendary powers and abilities. Plus, we’ve been watching you, Tara
Lee, ever since you killed Lord Taranas and prevented him from getting the Vampire
Sword. We know far more about you than you can even guess.”
Given how they had known about my connection to Lucius—as well as how desperately I
wanted to see him again—I did not doubt that Jajaras and his master knew even more than
they let on. They might even know who my mother was. It would not be wise to test their
claim, because I had a feeling they were going to pass with flying colors.
Instead, I said, “All right, tell me what I need to do. I’m all ears.”
Jajaras leaned against the table, his arms still folded in front of his chest. “It’s simple. You
will break into Michaels’ home on his ranch in Texas and kill him in his sleep.”
I frowned. “Really? It’s that simple?”
“It sounds simple, but as I’m sure you know, there’s a lot more to it than just that,” said
Jajaras. “Michaels didn’t reach his level of power and influence in the sorcerer community
by being stupid, after all. His ranch is well-protected, both with normal human defenses
such as gates and fences, and magical, such as spells designed to detect intruders or
magically-locked doors. His bedroom is especially well-protected, with a wide variety of
different spells that could turn any would-be assassin or thief into mushy paste if they’re not
careful.”
I gulped. “Maybe we should abandon this plan, then, because I’m not good enough to
break into anywhere just yet.”
“Oh, you won’t be alone,” said Jajaras. “You’ll be escorted into the ranch by a spy on the
inside, who Michaels believes is a trusted subordinate. This spy will disable some of the
magical defenses protecting Michaels, though only temporarily in order to give you the
chance to enter and kill Michaels. You won’t have the luxury of time. You will have to get
in and out without delay.”
“A spy?” I said. “How did you get a vampire into the ranch like that? And one that’s won
Michaels’ trust?”
“When did I say that the spy was a vampire?” said Jajaras with a smirk. “He’s a sorcerer,
just like your father.”
“A sorcerer?” I said. “Why would a sorcerer work for your master? I thought sorcerers and
vampires didn’t work together for any reason.”
“Our master has a way of bringing together the most unlikely of allies,” said Jajaras.
“Once you meet him yourself, you will understand. Until then, however, you must kill
Michaels. If you do so, we will free Lucius, per our agreement.”
“What if I fail?” I said. “Suppose something goes wrong and I fail to kill Michaels. What
will you do then?”
Jajaras chuckled. “What will I do? Wrong question. Ask what my master will do, because
one thing I can guarantee you, Tara Lee, is that my master rewards failure one way only:
Death to the one who failed. It’s quite motivating.”
***
The plan to assassinate Michaels had to wait until tomorrow night, because Michaels
would not be at his ranch until then and the spy within Michaels’ ranch needed time to
disable the defensive spells and prepare everything for me. So Jajaras took me back to my
apartment, where he left several documents about the ranch with me which his spies had
gathered over the last couple of years. He gave me strict orders to keep them to myself and
not share them with other people. He warned me that sharing the documents—as well as the
plan to assassinate Michaels itself—would be treated exactly the same as if I had gone
ahead and told someone else about the plan, which meant that Lucius would be killed and I
would be as well.
I normally wouldn’t mind having to go back to my apartment, but there was no way I
could relax under the current circumstances. I couldn’t even read the documents, because I
was so worried about someone finding out what I was doing that I found it hard to focus
long enough to read them.
Nonetheless, I sat at the kitchen table, picking up random documents and staring at them
blankly before putting them back down. I only got the most basic information from them.
The ranch was called the Four Spell Ranch, it had been founded in 1885 by Michaels’
father, it was known to the Powerless world but people just thought that Michaels was an
eccentric billionaire of some sort rather than the sorcerer he actually was, and so on. Under
other circumstances this would have made for interesting reading material, but now all it did
was make me anxious. Even Freddy sitting in my lap wasn’t enough to make me feel better.
Why had I agreed to do this? It was the dumbest thing I’d done yet. I should have just said
no to Jajaras and tried to take him and his fellow vamps down back in the Park. But if I’d
refused, then that would have put Lucius’ life at risk.
And there was the problem. Lucius. I cared too much about him. I didn’t want to put his
life in danger. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted to see him again, to be with him again,
despite knowing how impossible that really was. Jajaras had exploited my feelings for
Lucius and now I was about to pay the price for letting him do that.
I couldn’t even call Dad and talk to him about it, because if I did, then I was sure that
Jajaras would know and kill Lucius. Nor was there anyone else in the world I could talk to
about this, either, for the same reason. And I would have to wait an entire day with this
knowledge weighing on my heart. I was glad that tomorrow was my day off from work, but
then I realized that would mean spending all day tomorrow by myself, rather than having
my secretary work to distract me.
“Freddy, you’re the only one I can talk to about this,” I said, stroking Freddy’s ears softly.
“But you can’t help me, because you’re just a cat and you don’t know anything.”
Freddy purred contentedly in my lap, seemingly not noticing my depressed tone. Either
that or he noticed and just didn’t care, which I wouldn’t put past him, given how he was a
cat and all.
There was a sudden knock at the door, loud and insistent. As usual, Freddy immediately
sprang from my lap and hid behind the fridge, his claws cutting my skin. Frowning in
annoyance, I nonetheless stood up and said, “Hold on, I’m coming!”
I walked over to the door and opened it. I didn’t know who I expected to see, but I
definitely did not expect to see Bartholomew Reynolds standing in the doorway, a serious
expression on his face.
“Bart?” I said. “What are you doing here? And how did you find my apartment?”
“The Internet is a useful tool, even though it’s mostly something the Powerless use to
make up for their lack of magical ability,” said Bart. “As for why I’m here, I need … help.”
Bart sounded very reluctant when he said that, almost as if he was ashamed to admit it.
Then I remembered how angry he had been earlier, about how he refused to work with
Christians and how he saw me and Dad as traitors to the sorcerer community, and I realized
that he was probably just reluctant to come to a Christian for help.
“Help with what?” I said.
“The war,” said Bart. “Remember? The one I told you about?”
“Ah,” I said, nodding, trying not to look guilty. “Right, the war between the sorcerers and
vampires that you think someone is trying to start up.”
“I don’t just think someone is trying to start it,” said Bart. “I know someone is. And I think
I’ve finally figured out who it is.”
“Oh, really?” I said. “That’s interesting. What do you need my help with?”
Bart looked up and down the hallway outside my apartment quickly, as if to make sure we
weren’t being eavesdropped, before leaning forward and saying, in a low voice, “Because if
it is who I think it is, then I can’t defeat him on my own. I need help … and you’re the only
one who I think can help.”
“Hold on,” I said, holding up a hand. “This is all so fast. I don’t even know who you’re
talking about.”
Bart pulled back. “Forgive me. It’s just that time is of the essence and I have a hard time
being patient, especially once I learn the truth. We should sit down in your apartment and I
can tell you all about it.”
I almost nodded, but then remembered all the papers on the kitchen table and said, “Uh,
can you wait just a minute? My apartment is really messy and I need to clean it up a bit
before you can come in. It’s a literal garbage dump.”
Bart frowned and looked over my shoulder. “It doesn’t look that bad to—”
I slammed the door in his face and rushed to the kitchen. Scooping up all the documents in
my arms, I rushed to my bedroom, kicked open the door, and dumped all of the documents
on the floor near the foot of my bed. Then I grabbed my coat off my bed and tossed it over
the documents, which hid them sort of well, but would have to do for now.
Rushing out of my room, I opened the apartment door again and found Bart still standing
where I’d left him. “Okay, it’s all clean now. Come in and make yourself comfortable.”
Bart eyed me suspiciously, but then shrugged, maybe deciding I was just weird or
something, and entered. I closed the door behind him and the two of us walked into the
kitchen, where Bart took a seat on one of the chairs and I leaned against the kitchen sink.
“So,” I said, wrapping my fingers around the handle of the false drawer of the kitchen
sink, “this seems kind of late.”
“I know,” said Bart. I noticed he had bags under his eyes, which he immediately rubbed as
if he was sleepy. “And normally, I wouldn’t bother calling up anyone this late, but when I
get engrossed in research, I have a tendency to forget what time it is. Back when I was an
Apprentice, I would pick up a book before I went to bed thinking I would read a page or
two, only to spend all night reading it. And these were long books, too, with plenty of
difficult language to decipher.”
“Well, the late hour doesn’t really bother me, given that I’m half-vampire and all,” I said.
“But I take it that your research was fruitful.”
“I think it is,” said Bart, leaning back in my chair and yawning. “After I left you and your
Dad, I figured that I was all on my own in regards to stopping the war. I was lost at first,
because aside from that letter I showed you, I didn’t have much else to go on in regards to
finding out who was trying to manipulate both sides into going to war against each other.”
“Then how did you end up finding out who did it?” I said.
“The letter itself,” Bart replied. He pulled the letter out of his pocket again and laid it on
the table. “You see, there are certain spells which can scan a letter and the materials it is
made out of and tell you exactly what kind of ink and paper was used to make the letter. It’s
a spell mostly used by the Sorcerer Parliament’s Law Enforcers, because it is helpful for
solving crimes, but otherwise it is seen as a useless spell by most sorcerers. Even I
downplayed its importance until I realized that it could help me figure out who had made
the letter and where it came from.”
“Interesting,” I said. “What did the spell reveal?”
“Firstly, the letter is made of very fine paper,” said Bart. “A very expensive kind that you
can’t just find in your average office supply store. Same with the ink, which is even more
expensive and fine. You would need to be a fairly wealthy individual in order to have access
to the materials used to create this letter, which was my first clue that the person trying to
start the war is wealthy.”
Thinking about Castle Rook and how big and ancient it was, I nodded. “Yeah, that makes
sense. Still doesn’t tell us who it is, though.”
“Actually, it tells us more than you’d think,” said Bart. “There aren’t many figures in the
sorcerer or vampire world with this kind of money, so I eventually narrowed it down to a
handful of wealthy people on either side. Once I had the wealthy narrowed down, I started
looking for examples of their handwriting so I could compare it to the handwriting on the
Cyclops’ letter. I found several examples in the Sorcerer Parliament’s Library of
Knowledge, which was how I eventually figured out who had written that letter in the first
place.”
“And?” I said. “Who wrote it?”
Bart once again looked around, as if afraid someone might eavesdrop on us. Of course, the
only ‘person’ who might eavesdrop on us was Freddy, and he was currently too busy hiding
behind the fridge to eavesdrop on anyone at the moment.
Finally, Bart looked at me and said, “Luke Michaels, the oldest and most respected
member of the Sorcerer Parliament.”
***
My eyes widened in shock and my jaw fell open. “You can’t be serious.”
“You mean you know who Luke Michaels is?” said Bart. “I thought you were ignorant of
the sorcerer world.”
I gulped. “Uh, Dad told me about the Sorcerer Parliament once, including who Luke
Michaels is. I’m still not very familiar with him, of course, but I know that he’s the oldest
and longest serving member of the Sorcerer Parliament.”
“Well, you’re right about that,” said Bart, nodding. “He’s also a powerful sorcerer in his
own right. Some people think he could be the next Supreme Sorcerer, though he’s never
shown any interest in that title as far as I know.”
“Supreme Sorcerer?” I said. “What’s that?”
“You mean you’ve never heard of the Supreme Sorcerer?” said Bart. “Odd. I thought the
Hunter taught you about the Six Steps.”
“He did,” I said. “But none of the Steps are called Supreme Sorcerer.”
“That’s because the title of Supreme Sorcerer isn’t something everyone can attain,” said
Bart. “It’s a once in a generation—maybe even less than that—title granted only to sorcerers
of the most powerful abilities. There is only ever one Supreme Sorcerer at any one time,
because the title is bestowed upon the Supreme Sorcerer by the Origin itself. And anyone
arrogant enough to take the title for themselves will usually end up getting killed in horrible
ways.”
I grimaced. “Well, who is the current Supreme Sorcerer, then?”
“There isn’t one,” said Bart, shaking his head. “The last Supreme Sorcerer died thirty
years ago, killed by a Vampire Lord. The Origin has yet to see fit to grant that title to a
deserving candidate.”
“How long does it normally take for the Origin to choose a new Supreme Sorcerer?” I
said.
“No one knows,” said Bart with a shrug. “The Origin moves on its own schedule. In some
points of history, the next Supreme Sorcerer has been chosen almost immediately after the
death of the previous one. At other times, a full century passed before the Origin chose the
next one. It is pretty much impossible to predict, but thankfully the Sorcerer Parliament
doesn’t need the Supreme Sorcerer to function.”
“Then what’s the point of having a Supreme Sorcerer in the first place?” I said, tilting my
head to the side.
“The Supreme Sorcerer is supposed to delve into the secrets of the Origin and pass its
knowledge on to the new generations of sorcerers in order to make sure that the Origin’s
knowledge is not lost,” said Bart. “The Supreme Sorcerer has also, throughout history,
defended the sorcerer community and Earth in general from supernatural threats which even
Master Sorcerers have been unable to defeat.”
“What kind of threat is so powerful that it needs a Supreme Sorcerer to deal with?”
“You don’t want to know,” said Bart with a shudder. “Anyway, that’s irrelevant to what
I’m trying to tell you. The point is that Luke Michaels appears to be the one trying to
engineer a war between the sorcerers and the vampires.”
“But why would he do that?” I said. “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but if Luke Michaels is
a member of the Sorcerer Parliament, then doesn’t he have a vested interest in making sure
that there isn’t some kind of war?”
“I don’t know why he would do something like that,” said Bart, shaking his head. “I don’t
even want to believe it, because all my life I’ve grown up thinking that Michaels is a hero.
He’s been one of my biggest magical inspirations, right next to the Hunter himself. If
Michaels is trying to engineer such a stupid, pointless, and destructive conflict, then either
he’s completely lost his mind or he’s not as good as everyone was led to believe. Either
explanation is troubling, I’m sure you understand.”
“I do,” I said, nodding. “So what are you going to do about it?”
Bart rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know. If I went and accused Michaels of doing this
without any proof, I could get in serious trouble with the Parliament. I might even get my
vampire hunting license revoked and get kicked out of the Vampire Hunters Guild itself. At
the very least, people just won’t believe me and my credibility would take a serious hit and I
might embarrass my father. But I also can’t just sit here and do nothing about it.”
“Why did you come to me about it?” I said. I folded my arms in front of my chest. “I
thought you didn’t trust me, or my dad for that matter, because we’re ‘traitors’ to the
sorcerer community.”
Bart hung his head on his chest. “I’m sorry for saying that earlier. I just got so upset that
all of the worst rumors I heard about the Hunter were true that I stomped out without really
thinking. It’s a bad habit of mine that I’ve tried to curb in the past, but it still gets me when I
least expect it.”
“I’ll say,” I said. “I thought you were going to report me to the Parliament because I was a
Christian rather than because I’m a half-vampire.”
“Sorry about that,” said Bart, again without looking at me. “The reason I came to you is
because I figured you were the only person who would listen to me. No one else in the
Guild would believe my theory, and there’s no one in Parliament who would, either.”
I bit my lower lip, but said nothing. I was thinking about how this tied into the plan that
Jajaras roped me into. It seemed strange to me that Michaels would be trying to engineer the
war but at the same time also want me to assassinate him. Either Bart was wrong and
Michaels was not Jajaras’ master or something crazy was going on here that none of us
quite understood. I wasn’t a betting woman, but given all of the twists and turns that had
happened so far, I was willing to bet on the latter.
But I couldn’t share my thoughts with Bart, because if I did, Jajaras would kill Lucius. I
would have to be careful about what I said, because if I was too loose with my words, I
could easily make this situation infinitely worse than it had to be.
“I see,” I said slowly. “Maybe you should investigate this matter more fully first before
you do anything. It’s not like you have ironclad proof, after all. Right now, you just have
evidence that seems to point in that direction, but maybe you need some more evidence first
before you make any conclusions.”
“You’re probably right,” said Bart with a sigh. He raised his head to look at me. “But let
me tell you, Tara, that I don’t have confidence that any evidence I find will change this
conclusion. It’s just a feeling at the moment, but in the past, my instincts about such matters
have consistently turned out right. It’s why my father always used to tell me that I would
make a great detective for the Parliament, because I was capable of solving puzzles that
most people can’t with very little evidence.”
“I know, but I think it would still be best if you did a bit more investigation before
jumping to any conclusions,” I said. “Maybe you should go back to the Sorcerer Parliament
and try searching for clues there. You never know. You might find the proof you need to
convince everyone about your conclusion.”
“You’ve got a good point,” said Bart, nodding. “The Sorcerer Parliament headquarters
would likely be the best place to search for more evidence. Even so, I’ll have to be careful,
because if Michaels really is behind this plot, then he will probably try to destroy me if he
finds out what I’m doing.”
I felt relieved that Bart was going to do that, because it meant he would have to leave my
apartment and wouldn’t find out what I was going to do. “Great. So why don’t you leave
now and get a head start on the investigation? Time’s a-wasting and you have a war to
prevent, after all.”
“Right,” said Bart. “But I was wondering if you would like to come with me and help.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You want me to help you? Why?”
Bart leaned forward, resting his arms on the table as he did so. “Because I need as many
allies as I can get and you would be helpful. Plus, I’m worried that those vampires might try
to get you again and I want to make sure that you’re where I can see you.”
“Oh, thanks for worrying about me and all, Bart, but you really shouldn’t,” I said, waving
at him in a casual way. “I’ll be fine on my own. I think that, after you threw the knife into
the back of that vampire, they’ll leave me alone for a while. You should just focus on
confirming the identity of Cyclops. I can take care of myself.”
I wish I could have told him the truth, but unfortunately I didn’t want to put his life or
Lucius’ life into danger by letting him in on the fact that those vampires had essentially
already gotten me. I wanted Bart to be as far away from me as possible so that he wouldn’t
get involved in this assassination plot. While Bart could be kind of an asshole, I could tell
that he was a genuinely decent guy underneath and that he just wanted to do the right thing.
Bart frowned. “Well, all right. It would probably not be wise to bring a half-vampire to the
Sorcerer Parliament anyway, even if you are the daughter of the legendary Hunter. I doubt
they would be happy to see you.”
He rose from his chair. “Thanks for letting me into your apartment for this chat. I feel like
I now have a proper direction for my investigation. With luck, I’ll have the proof I need to
present to the rest of the Sorcerer Parliament in a few days, hopefully before that war starts.
And if I find anything important, I’ll let you know.”
With that, Bart turned and left my apartment. I waited until he closed the door behind him
and heard his footsteps walking away down the hallway before I sighed and sat down on a
nearby stool.
Nothing really made sense to me anymore. If Bart was right, then Michaels was both
engineering the war and yet at the same time trying to make me kill him. Furthermore, that
would mean that Michaels, a sorcerer, somehow got a bunch of vampires under his control,
which was a bizarre thought by itself, regardless of what Jajaras said about the
persuasiveness of his master. Clearly, there was a lot more going on than either Bart or I
understood, but unfortunately I had no way of finding out the truth.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Tomorrow night, when I went to assassinate Michaels on
his ranch, I would probably find out what was really going on here. One way or another, I
would discover the truth … and, despite how curious I was, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for
it.
***
Tomorrow night found me crouching in the bushes just outside of the Four Wand Ranch,
which was Luke Michaels’ private ranch. More specifically, I was on its northeastern side,
outside of the tall, barb wire fence which ran the entire length of the Ranch. It was an
impressively tall fence, without any holes big enough for me to slip through. That normally
wouldn’t be a problem, because I could jump high enough to clear the top of the fence
easily, but the problem was that the fence was magically enchanted to block people who
tried to jump over it. The documents Jajaras gave me weren’t very clear on what would
happen to me if I tried to jump the fence, but they did make it clear that it would be painful
and that even if I survived, the Ranch guards would be alerted to my presence and capture
me before I could even think of escaping.
That was why I was sitting out here, a few minutes before midnight, waiting for the spy on
the inside of the Ranch to turn off the spell long enough for me to jump the fence.
According to Jajaras, the spy was supposed to show up at midnight exactly and disable the
security spell around this portion of the fence long enough for me to jump over it and land
on the other side. Then I would sneak into Michaels’ mansion, where I would then find
Michaels’ room, break in, and do the deed I had been dreading to do all day.
So far, I had not seen anyone in this corner of the Ranch, though that was to be expected,
partly because it wasn’t midnight yet, partly because I had already been informed that this
particular corner of the Ranch was rarely visited even by the ranch hands, which would
make it easier for me to sneak up to the mansion. I did, however, see the large, ornate
mansion located not too far from the fence itself. Most of the lights were on in the windows,
though my eyes were drawn to the upper right window on the highest floor, because that
was supposedly where Michaels’ room was. The light was off in there, which was how I
knew that Michaels was already in bed, or was getting ready to go to bed if he wasn’t
already.
My hands were sweaty and my nerves were close to being shot. My blood lust was also
acting up the way it always did whenever I got nervous. I had taken a couple of sips of
monkey blood before going out precisely to avoid this, but it must not have been enough
because my mouth still thirsted for blood. I cursed myself for not bringing along a bottle for
precisely this kind of situation.
A part of me said that there was still time to leave, that I could get up and run away. I
didn’t even need to use the Shadow Way if I didn’t want to. I could just run all the way back
home, which would take several hours, but given my improved speed and stamina as a halfvampire,
that wasn’t nearly as daunting as it might have appeared at first glance. It wasn’t
midnight yet, after all.
But then I heard footsteps in the darkness on the other side of the fence and realized that
my time was up. A person-shaped silhouette appeared under the half moon’s rays making its
way slowly but surely over to the fence. The silhouette didn’t stop or hesitate, which meant
that it had to be the spy within the Ranch. He must have been confident that no one was
following him, otherwise he would not be moving so quickly and confidently.
The figure stopped in front of the fence, allowing me to see that it was a fairly lanky man
wearing a hood over his face. He raised a hand and waved it in front of the fence once. The
air around the fence shimmered and then faded, which was how I knew that he had disabled
the security spell.
Rising from the bushes, I jumped into the air as high as I could. I soared over the top of the
fence and landed on the ground next to the spy, who took a step away from me, perhaps
surprised by my sudden landing.
Standing up, I dusted off my pants and looked at the spy. “Hi, I’m Tara, the—”
“The half-vampire Jajaras told me about,” said the spy. His voice was creaky, like a pipe.
“You can jump rather high.”
“Comes with the territory,” I said with a shrug. “And you are the spy, right?”
The man nodded, though he didn’t remove his hood. “Yes. I’m Ethan Jester, the assistant
to Luke Michaels. Pleasure to meet you.”
I nodded. “Same here, though I guess you aren’t exactly a ‘loyal’ assistant to him, eh?”
Ethan looked away. “Michaels and the rest of the Parliament are fools. My true master,
however, is a visionary. Once you kill Michaels, you won’t see me crying at his funeral, I’ll
tell you that much.”
I tilted my head to the side. “Your ‘true’ master, eh? You mean the guy Jajaras works for,
the guy whose identity I still don’t know.”
“And whose identity you won’t know until it is needed,” Ethan said. He pointed toward
the mansion in the distance. “Now, enough talking. To reach the mansion, simply head
straight from here until you reach the back door. I left it unlocked and have also disabled all
of the mansion’s security spells. You won’t have to worry about being detected before you
enter.”
“What about other guards?” I said. “Is there anyone else in the mansion I should be aware
of?”
“Nope,” said Ethan, shaking his head. “The other ranch hands stay in a bunkhouse on the
other side of the ranch. The mansion itself is reserved solely for Michaels, as well as any
guests he has over, but tonight Michaels is alone.”
“Is he asleep?” I said.
“He should be,” said Ethan. “Michaels may be a powerful sorcerer, but he’s still an old
man who needs his rest just like every other old person on the planet. He probably went to
sleep at least an hour ago, if not longer. By the time you get up there, he should be out cold
and will never hear you coming up behind him.”
I nodded, but in truth, I didn’t like how efficiently Ethan had managed to take out every
possible threat to the operation. I had hoped that something might go wrong, forcing us to
put off the assassination attempt for another night and therefore give me more time to figure
out how to get out of this, but it was obvious to me that the Cyclops (who I was sure was the
man who employed both Ethan and Jajaras) had been very smart about recruiting intelligent
people. That meant that I would have to hope for a miracle from God, but somehow I didn’t
think that the Lord of hosts was in the mood to bail me out of this situation.
“All right, then,” I said. “Time for me to go. See you later.”
“First, however, I need to make sure you know the backup plan,” said Ethan. “Jajaras went
over it with you, didn’t he?”
I nodded again. “Yeah. If the plan fails, I retreat into the Shadow Way and then send a
signal to let Jajaras know that I failed so he can fish me out of there. We went over it before
I came here.”
“Good,” said Ethan. “I just wanted to make sure that he hadn’t neglected to go over that
part of the plan with you, given Jajaras’ tendency to forget important details. Just typical
vamp behavior, you understand.”
Frankly, I didn’t, but given how little contact I had with vampires, perhaps I was just
inexperienced. “Okay. If you don’t have anything else to talk with me about, then I’m going
in.”
“Good luck,” said Ethan. “As for me, I’m going back to the bunkhouse. I left a fake replica
of myself in my bed there to make sure no one noticed I was missing, so I will have the
perfect alibi in the event you fail to kill Michaels.”
I frowned. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Some people need to model long term thinking to those who are less than capable of it,”
Ethan replied. “Vamps are notorious for their inability to think longer than their next meal.
Given how you are half-vampire, I wonder how that has affected your long term thinking
skills. Likely negatively, though I can’t say for sure.”
I scowled. “My ‘long term thinking skills’ are just fine. Now, are you just going to keep
passive aggressively insulting me like that or are you going to leave?”
Ethan shook his head. “I forget how sensitive vamps can be at times, but very well. The
next time we see each other, the war will have hopefully begun and the master’s plan will be
in full swing.”
Ethan turned around and walked away, this time moving quicker than before. I didn’t wait
to watch him go, however. Instead, I immediately walked in the direction he had told me
about, cutting across the wide property and doing my best to keep low to the ground to
avoid being spotted. I know Ethan said that there was no one in the mansion except
Michaels and that he had disabled all of the security spells, but it was still wise to be as
stealthy as possible anyway.
Despite the absolute immensity of the area around the mansion, I reached the mansion
itself quickly. I stopped behind an old-fashioned well that didn’t seem to be in use anymore
and looked around again. I had reached the back of the mansion which, as Ethan had said,
was completely undefended. I didn’t see any guards standing nearby or even a dog lying on
the porch. The back door light was on, but it wasn’t very bright, though it did make my eyes
squint slightly and my skin itch when it touched me.
It looked safe to cross, but then it occurred to me that I didn’t need to go through the back
door to reach Michaels’ room. The window to his room above me looked wide enough for
me to enter, and if Ethan was correct, then Michaels was probably sleeping like a rock right
now, which meant he wouldn’t be able to hear me enter, assuming I was quiet. Plus, I could
jump or climb up the house fairly easily.
So I ran out from behind the well and began climbing the back of the house. In seconds, I
reached the roof and carefully made my way over to the window to Michaels’ room.
Stopping on the window sill, I peered through the window carefully, just to make sure that
Michaels was actually asleep.
The room was completely dark, with not a single light turned on, not even a night light.
But my night vision allowed me to see Luke Michaels sleeping on his bed in the center of
the room. His back was to me, but there was no mistaking that long gray hair for the hair of
anyone else. I didn’t see anyone else in the room with him, either, which meant that I was
free to enter and kill him.
It took me a second to break the locks and open the window from the outside. Before I
pushed the windows open, however, I hesitated. Though I was in deep now, there was still a
chance—however remote—that I could turn and leave now. I could run away and leave
Michaels to sleep soundly in his bed. I didn’t need to kill him. I didn’t need to start a war
that would destroy both the sorcerer and vampire communities.
But then I thought about Lucius and how I didn’t want him to die. So I pushed open the
window and slipped inside as silently as I could, my feet lightly landing on the solid wood
floor.
And as soon as the soles of my shoes touched the floor, every light in the room turned on
at once.
***
The pain from being hit by so much light at once was what I imagined having a pot of
boiling water thrown in your face must have felt like. I screamed and slammed my hands
over my face and fell onto the floor, pulling my head down, trying to do my best to create as
dark a space as possible. But the lights were so bright that even the darkest place I could
make was still too bright. The light overhead burned every inch of my exposed skin, making
me feel like I was sitting in an oven.
“There you are,” said an old, deep voice above me. “I thought a vamp might try to get me,
but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”
I slowly raised my head to see who had spoken, though it was hard to see because the light
was so bright. I put my hands over my eyes to protect my vision, though even that didn’t
offer as much protection as I would have liked.
Standing before me was Luke Michaels himself. He looked pretty much exactly the same
as he did in the pictures I had seen of him, except wearing blue pajamas rather than fancy
sorcerer robes. He was leaning on his cane for support, but I didn’t think he looked even
remotely weak, because his eyes were harsh and piercing. Even if the room had been
completely dark, I wasn’t sure I would have been able to meet his stern gaze without
looking away or begging for forgiveness for something bad I did.
“A pretty one, you are,” said Michaels, “but I know from experience that females are often
more dangerous than males. Luckily, females burn just as easily under bright light as
males.”
“How … how did you know I was going to attack you like this?” I said. I found it hard to
speak due to all of the pain I was in.
Michaels leaned on his cane and stroked his beard. “It’s something that the other members
of the Parliament and I discussed after that initial attack on us. We suspected that whoever
had sent those vamps to kill us would try to take one of us out when we were apart from the
others. So before I went to bed, I cast a light spell that would activate as soon as a vampire
set foot in my room. It’s one of the simplest and oldest security spells created by sorcerers,
but also one of the more reliable ones.”
I had to look down at the floor, rather than at Michaels himself, because looking up at him
meant looking at the light on the ceiling, which would have meant going blind, and I didn’t
want to go blind. “Do you know who sent me, then?”
“I can guess,” said Michaels. “The same person who sent those vampires to attack me and
the other Parliament members, presumably. I don’t quite know how you managed to break
into my Ranch, but I assume you must have had help on the inside, which means that after
I’m done with you, I will have to go through and find out who betrayed me.”
I looked up at Michaels urgently. “Hey, wait! I don’t know what you mean by ‘done with
you,’ but I’m not like those vampires who attacked you. I’m on your side and—”
Michaels slammed his cane in my face, knocking me to the floor. Then he jabbed the tip of
the cane into my neck, which burned like fire and made me gasp in pain.
“’I’m on your side,’” Michaels repeated mockingly. “Please. You just admitted that you
came here to kill me. That is not what someone on ‘my’ side would do. You’re a liar, and a
bad one at that, like most vamps.”
“Why does your cane hurt …?” I said, barely able to think through the pain against my
throat.
“Silver tip,” said Michaels with a smirk. “By itself, it can’t really kill you, but it’s useful
for pinning vamps to the floor like this.” He pulled a silver knife out from behind his back.
“This knife, on the other hand, can kill you. The question, then, is whether I should behead
you or stab you in the heart. Which would you rather experience? The beheading is quicker
and generally painless, while the knife takes a little longer to do the job and is quite a bit
more painful.”
I would have said that I didn’t want to do either, but between the bright light and the
silver-tipped cane being forced against my throat, I couldn’t speak at all.
“Beheading it is, then,” said Michaels. “A good choice, if I do say so myself.”
Uh oh. There was still a lot I didn’t know about my half-vampire powers, but one thing I
did know was that I would die just as easily as anyone if I got beheaded. The knowledge
that I was only a few seconds away from the end of my life sent adrenaline running through
my body.
I grabbed Michaels’ cane and shoved him backward. Michaels staggered backwards, a
look of surprise on his face, while I jumped to my feet and turned to run away through the
window. But before I could get very far, I heard something thrown at me and felt Michaels’
knife stab into my arm, making me stagger forward and grab a nearby chair for balance.
Looking at my arm, I saw Michaels’ knife embedded firmly in my flesh. I felt it, too, like a
branding iron being applied firmly to my skin.
“Now, now,” said Michaels, wagging a finger at me. “You aren’t going to get away that
easily, vamp. You aren’t going anywhere, in fact, until I say you can.”
I gritted my teeth. Bart hadn’t been lying about Michaels being a powerful sorcerer, and he
hadn’t even used any magic yet. I ripped the knife out of my arm and howled in pain as
black blood flowed out of the wound, but the immediate burning sensation was gone and the
pain was already starting to go away.
But Michaels waved his cane like a wand and thick steel chains descended from the ceiling
and wrapped around my arms. With a yelp, I was yanked up toward the ceiling, much closer
to the light, which burned my skin even hotter than before now that I was closer to it. I
couldn’t even look at the light anymore, forcing myself to look down at Michaels below,
who was grinning up at me like a madman.
“You’re a surprisingly tough one, given how you managed to pull that knife out of your
arm like that,” said Michaels. “Most vamps would have been paralyzed by shock if they
were stabbed like that, but perhaps you’re tougher than most. Never mind that. No vampire
can handle intense exposure to so much light at once like this. I can already see your skin
starting to smoke.”
What the hell? He was right. Slight wisps of smoke were already starting to rise from the
exposed parts of my skin. If I didn’t act soon, my whole body would catch flame, and once
it did, I would be dead for sure. Breaking the chains holding me up wouldn’t be that hard,
but there was no point in freeing myself if the light was going to continue to shine on me.
I exerted my strength and yanked as hard as I could on the chains. The chains snapped and
I fell to the floor, landing in a three point landing, but Michaels waved his cane again and
made the floor shake underneath me. The sudden tremor caused me to stagger and nearly
fall over, but I managed to regain my balance just as Michaels rushed toward me with
surprising speed, holding his cane before him like a sword.
I drew Domination from my side and held it up just as Michaels’ cane came flying at me.
Michaels’ cane struck my sword and almost knocked me off my feet, but I kept my balance,
holding Domination before me as Michaels forced me down with his cane. Despite being
such an old man, he was surprisingly strong, though it didn’t help that my arm was still
bleeding from where his knife had lodged itself earlier.
“A silver sword?” said Michaels, his voice slightly strained as he pushed against me.
“Interesting. I have never known a vampire to use any sort of silver weapon. Just what are
you?”
I gritted my teeth. “Not your ordinary vampire.”
With a grunt, I shoved Michaels back. Surprised, Michaels staggered backwards and I
lashed out with Domination, knocking his cane out of his hands. He grabbed his hand where
I’d cut it and cursed under his breath, but then I kicked him in the chest. He staggered and
stumbled backwards again, falling at the foot of his bed, and before he could get up, I stood
before him and placed the tip of Domination’s sword against his throat. Michaels froze, but
when he looked up into my eyes, I only saw hatred and anger, but not fear.
“You are … strong,” said Michaels, who was panting and still grasping his wrist. “I
thought you were rookie at first, but you seem a fair bit smarter than your average Newborn.
I suppose you’re going to kill me, now that you have me at your mercy.”
I still didn’t want to, because killing Michaels would just help the guy who was trying to
provoke a war between the sorcerers and the vampires. It would be the morally wrong thing
to do, and I knew it.
But my vampire half didn’t care. Michaels had burned my skin with his light, stabbed me
in the arm, and tried to kill me more than once. There was no way I was going to let
someone who had just tried their damnedest to kill me survive, especially someone as
powerful and influential as Michaels, who could easily make my life a living hell if he
survived even if he didn’t know my name. He needed to die.
So I raised Domination and slashed Michaels’ throat.
***
Domination cut cleanly through Michaels’ throat. Michaels’ eyes widened in surprise one
last time before his eyeballs rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed onto the floor,
blood leaking out of his throat and staining his pajamas. The stench of human blood made
my mouth water, but instead of bending over to start drinking, I dropped Domination on the
floor and stared at Michaels’ corpse in horror.
What had I done? I’d killed a man—an innocent man—in cold blood. I let my vampire
side get the best of me. I hadn’t even been thinking when I killed him. I was just so upset
from my fight with him that I didn’t even think twice about killing Michaels. The motion
came to me as naturally as if I did this every day.
I didn’t scream, mostly because my vocal chords seemed to freeze in my throat. I couldn’t
take my eyes off Michaels’ corpse. Even when the magical light went off—with Michaels
dead, there was no one to sustain its energy—all I could do was stare, with unbelieving
eyes, at the slowly widening pool of blood forming around his neck.
I looked at Domination, which lay on the floor nearby. Its tip was stained with Michaels’
blood, making it look less like a sword for justice and more like a murder tool. But wasn’t
that what it was now? It was a weapon used to kill an innocent man in cold blood. It was a
weapon I used to kill an innocent man in cold blood. And even worse, war between the
vampires and sorcerers was all but assured now, and it was my fault.
Once again, I found myself questioning my own salvation. If this wasn’t proof that the
Holy Spirit had left my body when I became a half-vampire, then I didn’t know what was.
For the last month, I’d thought that maybe I was overreacting before, that perhaps God
hadn’t abandoned me after all when I became a half-vampire, that my salvation was just as
assured as it ever was, maybe even more so because I would need God’s holiness to keep
my vampire side in check.
Now, however, I was far less sure of that than before and, instead, far more sure that God
was no longer with me. Maybe murder wasn’t the unforgivable sin, but surely this was a
sign that my salvation was essentially lost. It was even worse when I thought about all of the
people who were going to die in the upcoming war, the people whose lives I put in danger,
even if I didn’t mean to.
The door to Michaels’ room burst open and two men rushed into the room armed with
wands. I realized that they were sorcerers, perhaps some of Michaels’ own bodyguards, who
had either heard the fighting or perhaps had been made aware of the fight thanks to some
kind of alarm. They stopped as soon as they crossed the threshold and held their wands
before them like swords.
“Parliamentarian Michaels!” one of the guards cried out. “We heard fighting in your room
and—”
“He’s dead!” the other guard said. “And that woman killed him!”
Without waiting to see what either guard would do, I picked up Domination and ran
toward the window. I heard them shouting at me to stop and come back, but I didn’t listen to
a word they said. I jumped through the open window and landed on the roof, crouching just
in time to avoid getting blasted in the back of the head by a fireball that came out after me. I
jumped off the roof and landed on the back porch before taking off across the Ranch, hoping
against hope that Ethan’s disabling of the security spell protecting the Ranch was still in
effect and that I would be able to escape before Michaels’ guards caught me.
But I didn’t get very far before a bright blue light exploded in front of me, forcing me to
come to a stop and cover my eyes with my arm to avoid being blinded. When the light went
away, I lowered my arm and found myself face to face with another Ranch guard, a big,
burly man in jeans and wearing a cowboy hat. I would have mistaken him for just another
average ranch hand if he wasn’t also carrying a silver short sword in his hands.
“Gotcha, vamp!” the guard said. “You’re not going to get away that easily!”
The guard slashed at me with his sword, forcing me to parry the blow with Domination. I
tried to stab him back, but the guard dodged it easily and then immediately rushed in toward
me, his sword slashing across my chest. I raised Domination just in time to block the blow,
but the guard kept striking me again and again with incredibly rapid strokes, forcing me to
block each and every blow. This would have been hard even on a good day, but with my
arm still bleeding from where Michaels’ knife had struck it, I had to use all my wits and
speed just to keep up with the guard’s incredibly fast attacks. If I let even just one blow get
through, I doubted I would stand again.
But then the guard hit Domination too hard and his sword bounced off mine, briefly
leaving his chest open. I immediately slashed at his chest with Domination, cutting cleanly
through his shirt and making him cry out in pain as blood leaked from his chest. Rather than
collapse, however, he lunged toward me one last time, but his aim was off and I dodged him
easily before slamming the flat of Domination in his face. He fell flat on his back and didn’t
get up.
I didn’t stop to make sure he was down, however. I rushed through the darkness of the
night toward the fence as fast as possible. Though my strides were rather short due to my
height, I nonetheless made excellent progress, but I could also still hear the guards behind
me and felt the exterior lights of the mansion starting to turn on. I increased my speed,
hoping against hope that I would be able to escape before the Ranch guards caught up with
me.
An earsplitting howl struck my ears like a punch. In the next instant, something large and
hairy bowled into me, knocking me flat off my feet. I hit the ground and gasped in pain,
because I’d fallen on my wounded arm, which made pain explode through me like crazy. I
heard large feet come to a stop nearby and raised my head to see what might be the very last
sight I ever saw.
The thing which had knocked me over was a dog. But not just any dog. It was massive,
probably twice as tall as me, and three times as thick. Its fur was thick and black, an almost
perfect match for the darkness of the night. Its eyes, on the other hand, shone more like
twinkling stars, which would have been beautiful if it wasn’t growling at me like a wolf,
flashing its dagger-like teeth, disgusting saliva dripping out of its mouth onto the ground
upon which it stood.
I recognized the creature from the documents Jajaras gave me earlier. It was a demon dog,
a type of dog that was magically enhanced by a sorcerer. More specifically, it was Michaels’
demon dog, an unnamed creature which the documents said patrolled the ranch at night. I
had completely forgotten about the dog until now, but I didn’t have time to feel ashamed
about that.
I rose to my feet, but then the creature rushed toward me. It snapped its teeth again, but I
managed to jump out of the way at the last second, hitting the ground with a roll and rolling
back to my feet several feet away. Again, the pain in my wounded arm exploded, but I
ignored it as I turned around to face the dog again, which had also stopped and turned to
face me, perhaps trying to make sure I wouldn’t dodge it again.
“Nice doggy,” I said, panting hard and trying to make myself look as nonthreatening as
possible. “I don’t know where your owner is, but you clearly aren’t supposed to be out so
late at night. Why don’t you go back to your doggy house and get some rest? I’m sure you
dogs need your sleep, too.”
The demon dog growled, so loud that it sounded like it was right next to my ear, but then
suddenly vanished before my eyes.
“What?” I said, looking around. “Where did it—”
A howling sound behind me was the only warning I got before the dog leaped out of the
shadows and slammed into me from behind. The blow sent me flying and I crashed into the
dirt, rolling along the ground until I came to a stop, dazed by the impact of the crash. I
shook my head, however, and raised my head just in time to see the demon dog rushing
toward me, its teeth bared like knives.
It took me a second to realize that the dog had probably just traveled through the Shadow
Way to sneak up on me, but that thought passed through my mind in a second. In the next, I
raised Domination and slashed at the demon dog when it got close enough. But then the dog
slammed its teeth on Domination and pulled hard, nearly yanking my sword out of my
hands, but I redoubled my grip at the last second and held on to Domination as tightly as I
could. This led to the most dangerous tug-of-war I had ever participated in, with me
struggling to keep Domination and the dog struggling to tear it out of my grasp.
“Let go, you stupid dog,” I growled through gritted teeth. “Let go, before I—”
“The demon dog has found her!” a voice that sounded dangerously too close for comfort
shouted. “I hear him growling! Sounds like he’s struggling with something!”
I looked over my shoulder and saw about three guards running toward us in the darkness.
One of the guards, the one in the lead, had a light at the end of his wand, which was
probably how they were getting around in the darkness, but it didn’t matter. Once they got
here, I was toast, which meant I needed to deal with this dumb dog as soon as possible.
Turning my attention back to the dog, I took one hand off Domination. Sensing victory,
the demon dog started pulling harder than ever, but then I raised a hand and fired a fireball
directly at the dog’s face.
The fireball exploded in the dog’s eyes, causing it to howl in pain and let go of
Domination. I pulled my sword back toward me and scrambled to my feet while the dog
stumbled backwards, whimpering and growling as it shook its head back and forth and
pawed at its own face. I threw another fireball at it for good measure, striking it in the face
again and causing the dog to run away crying like the overgrown puppy it was.
But I didn’t have time to enjoy the fact that I beat the dog. The guards were nearly upon
me, which meant I needed to run, but I was too exhausted from my fight with the other
guard and the demon dog to run. I took a few steps toward the fence, but my strength was
beginning to fail me. In seconds, the guards would reach me, and once they did, I doubted
they would be willing to hear my side of the story.
So I did the only thing I could: I stepped into the darkness and into the Shadow Way itself.
***
As soon as I passed through the Shadow Way, I dropped Domination again and collapsed
onto the stone floor. I kicked the door closed behind me, but that was all that I had strength
to do. I panted hard, my body practically dripping with sweat, but already I was starting to
calm down, because now that I was in the Shadow Way, I couldn’t hear the Ranch guards
anymore. I also didn’t think that the dog—the creature which the guards called ‘the
Hound’—would be coming after me, either, because getting two fireballs tossed in your face
was rather distracting. For now, at least, that meant I was safe.
I may have been safe, but I was definitely not sound. I rolled over onto my back and
groaned, because my arm was still bleeding. I clutched the knife wound, which felt deep,
but not irreparable. It was times like these that I wished I had healing spells at my
command, because they would have been really helpful right about now. Unfortunately, Dad
had said that healing spells were hard to learn and that he would teach them to me later after
I advanced further in the Steps. It seemed like a reasonable thing to say at the time, but now
I wish I had insisted on Dad teaching me healing spells anyway, because God almighty it
hurt.
But the physical pain didn’t hurt quite as much as the knowledge that I had killed a human
being. And not just any human being, either, but an important politician, whose death would
likely result in a war that no one would survive. Getting a knife thrown into my arm was
probably the least I deserved for killing him.
Yeah, I know I only killed him because I’d been blackmailed into doing so, but that still
didn’t take away the fact that I’d murdered a man. I’d killed vampires before, but killing a
human being was different. Maybe it was because I didn’t care as much for vampires as I
did for humans, but murdering a human was very much a different experience from killing a
vampire. And not in a good way, either.
But I would worry about my existential crisis later. For now, I needed to get to Dad. He
knew healing spells. He would be able to heal my wound. It would mean having to tell him
exactly how I got this wound, which was a conversation I was not looking forward to
having, but the only other alternative was to lie here and bleed out. And unlike human
blood, vampire blood smelled awful, like crap.
I tried to sit up, but I was still too tired and the pain in my arm made me lie down again
anyway. Maybe I would just rest for a couple more minutes before I went anywhere. Lucius
had told me that vampires could handle wounds much better than humans, that I wouldn’t
have to worry about infection the same way I would if I were purely human, but that was for
full-blooded vampires like him. For a half-vampire like myself, I had no guarantee that
would apply to me. I might just bleed out like a normal human or I might survive like a
vampire. This was the part about being a half-vampire that I really didn’t like: Not knowing
whether I would have vampire or human responses to things—especially potentially lethal
things—I hadn’t experienced before.
But then I heard footsteps nearby. I looked around rapidly, but didn’t see anyone else in
the Shadow Way save for myself. Yet I still heard the footsteps drawing closer and closer,
though it was hard to tell from what direction they were coming exactly.
But if someone else was in the Shadow Way with me, then there was a good chance that a
Stranger was nearby, a member of that mysterious group of beings who stalked the hallways
of the Shadow Way. I’d had only one experience with a Stranger before, but I was in no
mood to deal with them again, especially in such a weak state.
I tried to sit up again, but I was still in too much pain to move. So I just lay there on the
floor, clutching Domination with one hand, ready to attack any Stranger who tried to get
me. The footsteps were getting closer … closer … right upon me …
A familiar vampiric face appeared over me. It was Jajaras, whose blood red eyes looked
down upon me with a mixture of interest and annoyance.
“There you are, girl,” said Jajaras. “You look hurt.”
Sighing in relief, I said, “Yeah, I am. My arm—”
“I don’t care about your arm,” Jajaras interrupted. “I was merely making an observation
about your health, not expressing concern for it.”
I bit my lower lip. “You’re a real charmer, you know that?”
“My master didn’t hire me for my ‘charm,’” said Jajaras. “Anyway, how did the mission
go? Was it successful?”
I nodded, but without any happiness. “Yeah. I killed … Michaels is dead.”
For some reason, I couldn’t say the words ‘I killed Michaels.’ I wasn’t sure why. Maybe
because saying it out loud would be tantamount to confessing my sin, and, even though
Jajaras was about the farthest thing from a Catholic priest, I wasn’t ready to confess
anything to anyone yet.
Jajaras’ face broke into a creepy smile. “Really? Impressive. I thought you would chicken
out at the last second and run away, but I see you are far more bloodthirsty, even brutal,
than I first imagined. I will have to apologize to my master for doubting his wisdom in
choosing you to do this important job, rather than someone more loyal such as me.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I said. “By the way, how did you find me? I just entered the
Shadow Way less than a minute ago.”
“My master ordered me to wait for you in the Shadow Way,” Jajaras said. “Evidently, he
suspected that you might not make it out of this mission entirely unscathed. As usual, my
master was correct, something he will be happy to hear once I return to Castle Rook and
inform him of what has happened.”
“You’re going back to Castle Rook?” I said with a slight groan. “Is your master back?”
Jajaras nodded. “He is. And he would like to meet you now.”
“Me?” I said. I winced at the pain in my arm. “Really?”
“Really,” said Jajaras with another nod. “My master believes it’s been long enough. He’s
been interested in you for a long time, Tara, and he gave me orders to fetch you and bring
you back to Castle Rook once your mission was complete.”
“What about Lucius?” I said. “Are you going to uphold your end of the deal and save
him?”
Jajaras’ expression was strangely blank. “That will be up to my master to decide. For now,
let me heal your arm, because you are going to need to be in tiptop shape to meet my
master.”
Jajaras pulled a bottle of green liquid out of his coat and, popping the lid, dumped the
green liquid on my arm. As soon as the green liquid—which smelled of seaweed for some
reason—touched my wound, my wound burned. I groaned loudly, almost screamed in pain,
but I bit my tongue at the last minute. I felt the liquid sink into my wound, causing the
burning sensation to worsen with each passing second, until the burning sensation vanished.
I looked at my arm and was surprised by what I saw. My arm was whole again. It didn’t
even look like it had been wounded in the first place. Nor did it hurt. It felt like my other
arm, that is to say, uninjured and in perfect working order.
“What was that?” I said, looking up at Jajaras.
“A healing potion concocted by yours truly,” said Jajaras, waving the bottle at me before
putting it back in the interior pocket of his coat. “Most vampires can’t use magic, so in order
to heal from our wounds and injuries, we’ve had to rely on our own methods. Potions are a
very popular method for vampires to fix their problems and I happen to have a gift for
making them.”
“Is that why your master hired you?” I said, sitting up and feeling my newly-repaired arm.
“Because you’re a good potion maker?”
“That is one of the many reasons he chose me,” said Jajaras. “But enough talking. My
master will be pleased to hear that the mission was successful. And, of course, he will be
more than happy to see you. Come with me. We have no time to lose.”
Jajaras turned and started making his way down the Shadow Way. I scrambled to my feet
and followed after him, still holding Domination by my side. I really didn’t want to go with
Jajaras—I wanted to go back home and sleep—but I knew that if I refused to go with him
that Jajaras would just force me to follow him, and anyway, I was interested in seeing his
master for the first time, as well as finding out if he would save Lucius.
But even if Jajaras’ master agreed to save Lucius, that would not change the fact that I had
killed an innocent man and condemned the sorcerer and vampire communities to war, a war
I wasn’t sure either side would win.
***
It took us about ten minutes of walking through the Shadow Way before we reached
Castle Rook. We didn’t see any Strangers along the way, thankfully, but as usual whenever
I was in the Shadow Way, I felt like I was being watched by someone I couldn’t see.
Jajaras, of course, didn’t seem even remotely disturbed, but one thing I’d learned about
vampires was that, despite being just as much at risk of being kidnapped by the Strangers as
sorcerers, they didn’t worry nearly as easily as sorcerers did. I wondered if it was because
vampires were so naturally strong that they feared very little or if they were so soulless that
it never occurred to them to be afraid of anything. Both seemed likely to me, though it
didn’t matter much given how I had apparently missed out on vampiric fearlessness, given
my own timidity.
When we emerged from the Shadow Way into Castle Rook, we were back in the same
hallway that we had appeared in earlier. Not much had changed since I had last been here,
though a couple of sorcerers passed us when we emerged from the Shadow Way. The
sorcerers did not run away, but they did look at us with a mixture of surprise and suspicion,
though they didn’t say a word and soon disappeared around the corner of the hallway
behind us.
“Who were those two?” I said, looking in the direction into which those two sorcerers had
walked.
“Other servants of my master, of course,” said Jajaras. “I already told you that my master
employs both vampires and sorcerers alike, yes? Likely those two are back from a mission
of their own. Not sure what it could be, but given how they’re both sorcerers, I imagine they
must have something to do with the Sorcerer Parliament. In any case, it isn’t my place to
question what my fellow servants are doing. Come with me.”
Jajaras started walking down the hallway at a fairly quick pace. I followed, but it took a lot
of energy for me to do so, because I was still very tired from all of the fighting and
excitement of the night. I sure could go for a hot cup of coffee right now, but somehow I
didn’t think that Jajaras would be kind enough to get me one. He’d probably just glare at me
and mutter under his breath about how dumb I was.
We didn’t go into the same room from the last time I was here. We even passed the door to
it, with Jajaras not even glancing at it as we walked. He took me down another hallway, this
one narrower than the first, and lined with ancient suits of knight armor. They looked like
genuine suits of armor to me, like the kind worn by the knights of the Middle Ages, but we
didn’t stop or slow down to look at any of them in great detail. We just walked down the
hallway to a large stone door at the other end, a door with a heavy metal knocker on it.
“Here we are,” said Jajaras, stopping in front of the door. “The throne room, where my
master should be at this very moment.”
“A throne room?” I said, looking at Jajaras skeptically. “Does your ‘master’ fancy himself
a king or something?”
Jajaras looked at me with a completely serious expression. “He’s no king. He’s a
visionary.”
Before I could ask Jajaras to elaborate on that, Jajaras put both hands on the doors and
pushed them open. It clearly took a lot of effort on his part, but eventually the doors swung
inwards and we both entered.
The first thing I noticed about the throne room was the fancy dinner for two set in the
middle. No, I’m serious. In the center of this ancient and imposing-looking throne room was
a small table with a fancy white tablecloth covering it. On the table itself were two plates
with raw meat on them and two glasses of what might have been very red wine or blood.
There wasn’t a candle to top it off, but there was a bouquet of flowers, each flower a
different design and color. Two fancy-looking chairs stood on either end of the table, while
another vampire stood next to the table wearing a fancy tuxedo and carrying a covered dish,
like he was some kind of butler or something.
Behind the table was a large throne made of iron and stone. And seated on the throne was
a man I had never before seen in my life, yet who seemed oddly familiar just the same.
Unlike Jajaras or any of the other vampires I’d seen since coming here, the man sitting on
the throne looked almost human. He wore a simple but sexy black tuxedo, which
accentuated, rather than hid, his powerful muscles. His black hair was sleek and shiny,
making him look like he had just stepped off the set of a movie. Indeed, I would have
thought he actually was human, if I didn’t see his red eyes and the fangs sticking out of his
mouth.
The man looked up from the book he was reading when we entered, but then closed the
book without looking and rose from his throne.
“Ah, you must be Tara Lee,” said the man as Jajaras and I approached. “The half-vampire
I’ve heard so much about.”
There was something strange about his voice. It was the accent. It sounded either
Hungarian or Polish, though I wasn’t up to date on my Central European accents. Either
way, it was strangely charming, almost enough to make me relax. But I didn’t, at least not
entirely … well, not mostly, anyway. Okay, I relaxed, but you try not relaxing when such a
handsome guy starts speaking to you in that sexy accent.
“Master Ambrus,” said Jajaras, stopping before the table and bowing low. “I have brought
the other half-vampire, Tara Lee, just as you requested.”
“Excellent work, Jajaras,” said the man, who I guessed must have been Master Ambrus.
He stepped off his throne and walked up to me. “You are even more beautiful in person than
in the pictures and videos I have seen. But I shouldn’t be surprised. Legend says that halfvampires
are beautiful, even more so than normal vampires.”
“Um, thank you,” I said somewhat awkwardly. “Are you Jajaras’ master? The one I’ve
heard so much about?”
Ambrus nodded. “Indeed. I am the leader of Future Dream, which is the name of this little
group of mine. I founded it years ago here in Hungary, when I wasn’t much older than
yourself, and have been steadily working toward the organization’s ultimate goal. Speaking
of ultimate goal, how did the assassination of Michaels go?”
“Perfectly, master,” said Jajaras. He gestured at me. “The girl Tara killed Michaels in his
room and his body was discovered by his bodyguards.”
“Wonderful,” said Ambrus. His face broke into a wide smile. “It is only a matter of time
before this news reaches the rest of the Parliament, who will deduce that a vampire, likely
sent by the Vampire Council, killed him. There will be pressure from within and without
Parliament to declare war, which will inevitably happen, because sorcerers have always
been looking for an excuse to wipe out the vampires and this gives them the perfect reason
to begin the process.”
“But why?” I said. “What do you hope to attain from this war? Everything I’ve heard
makes it sound like it will weaken both sides, maybe even destroy both communities
entirely. It sounds terrible.”
“It sounds wonderful,” said Ambrus with a sigh. “But that’s the reason I called you here in
the first place. Aside from my desire to see you for myself, I also wanted to tell you why
I’ve been working toward this goal for so many years. Hence why I had my servants set up
this fine dinner for us, because I believe that the best conversations are always had over
dinner.”
Ambrus gestured at the table before his throne. “Please, sit down. It will be easier and
more pleasant to talk that way.”
Ambrus spoke and acted like a true gentleman, but I sensed a hint of a threat behind his
gentlemanly demeanor, as if he would not take no for an answer. Given how I was
interested in learning what he was trying to do anyway, I didn’t see any point in his
threatening me, but maybe he just wanted to make sure I didn’t get any ideas.
So I sat down at the table, while Ambrus took a seat on the other end. He immediately
sipped the wineglass and sighed. “Ah, the fresh blood of a young Chinese woman. In my
opinion, young Chinese women have the best tasting blood among all the women of the
world, especially when freshly bled.”
I looked at my own wineglass, which was full of the same blood as Ambrus’. “’Fresh’?
What, exactly, do you mean by that?”
Ambrus smiled in a chilling way. “What does a restaurant that boasts freshly made
pancakes mean when it uses that word?”
A chill went down my spine as the implication of Ambrus’ question sank in, but I didn’t
say it aloud because I was now starting to realize that Ambrus was every bit as bloodthirsty
as any other vampire, his gentlemanly demeanor notwithstanding. “Thanks, but I don’t
drink human blood. I prefer animal blood, monkey blood to be specific.”
I expected Ambrus to mock me for it, because all vampires seemed to do that whenever I
told them my preferences, but instead he nodded and said, “Ah, yes, of course. Excuse my
forgetfulness. I don’t known very many Pures. Reginald, please switch out her wineglass for
what she really wants.”
The vampire waiter who stood at attention took the wineglass of Chinese blood off the
table and swapped it out with an identical wineglass that looked pretty much the same as the
first one. I sniffed it and discovered that it actually was monkey blood, so I sipped it,
savoring the flavor on my tongue.
“Do you like it?” said Ambrus. “That blood is also quite fresh, because I’ve learned about
your blood preferences through research and made sure to have some on hand in case you
asked for it.”
I licked my lips. “Yeah, it does taste good, but it’s kind of creepy how you’ve been
keeping an eye on me, to be honest. I don’t even know you.”
“My apologies,” said Ambrus, putting his hands together like he was praying. “It has
simply been so long since I last met someone like me that I didn’t quite know how to
approach you at first. I am normally quite smooth with the ladies, but you’ve tripped me up
a little bit because of our shared nature.”
I frowned. “Shared nature? Ambrus, I’m a half-vampire, not a full one. I know that means
I have some vampire blood flowing through me, but just because we happen to both have
vampire genetics doesn’t mean—”
“I’m not a vampire, either,” said Ambrus, shaking his head.
I tilted my head to the side. “Then you’re a sorcerer who likes to drink human blood? Like
some kind of psycho?”
“Oh, I’m not a psycho, either,” said Ambrus. His smile grew even more chilling. “I’m a
half-vampire. Just like you.”
***
Ambrus did not seem to be joking. He simply sat in his chair, his smile never leaving his
slightly bloody lips, looking at me as if to see what my response would be. He didn’t even
touch his napkin. Neither Jajaras, who stood nearby, or Reginald reacted, either, though they
could have just as easily been in on the joke with him.
I smiled uncertainly. “That’s funny, Ambrus, but you don’t expect me to really believe
that, do you? I’m the first half-vampire to exist in three centuries. Everyone’s told me that.”
“Everyone is wrong,” said Ambrus swiftly. He brushed back a single hair that was out of
place on his head. “And that is just the way I like it.”
I had no idea if Ambrus was being genuinely serious here or if he was playing with me. He
looked fairly serious, but he had also just claimed to be a half-vampire, despite there only
being one (which was me, obviously). I looked at Jajaras and Reginald for any hints, but the
two of them looked every bit as serious as Ambrus. Either Ambrus was actually telling the
truth here or they were both in on the joke, too. If so, then maybe I wasn’t dealing with a
bunch of crazy bad guys at all, but just a couple of guys who like playing pranks on
innocent young girls like me.
I looked at Ambrus again. “This isn’t funny anymore, Ambrus.”
“It was never meant to be,” said Ambrus. He leaned back in his chair, steepling the tips of
his fingers together. “I am being one hundred percent serious about my nature as a halfvampire.
You’re simply skeptical.”
“Skeptical?” I said. “More like outright disbelief. I’m the only half-vampire in the world at
the moment. There have been others before me, but I know for a fact that I’m the only halfvampire
currently active. You’re lying.”
“Could a vampire do this?” said Ambrus.
He held up a hand and a fireball—which looked exactly like the kind I made—appeared in
the palm of his hand. He tossed the fireball from hand to hand briefly before crushing it in
his left hand, making the light go out and turning the table dark again.
“You saw that, didn’t you?” said Ambrus. “The fireball spell, though simple for sorcerers
to learn, is beyond the ability of all but the most powerful Vampire Lords to learn. Even
many Vampire Lords refuse to learn it, because heat and light are harmful to vampires even
when they used it. And, true, being a half-vampire means I don’t take well to light myself,
but it also means that I have a much higher pain tolerance for it than most vampires.”
“It still doesn’t mean anything,” I said. “Maybe that was just a trick.”
“And maybe you’re just in denial,” said Ambrus. “But if you need more proof, consider
your sword, Domination. I have not asked you to take it off or get rid of it, even though
silver is incredibly dangerous to vampires. That’s because I don’t fear it as much as actual
vampires do. Right, Jajaras, Reginald?”
The two vampire servants, I realized, were keeping their distance from the table. They
were looking at Domination, which was sheathed by my side, with uncertain eyes. Ambrus,
by contrast, didn’t seem even remotely alarmed by it, even though he was less than five feet
away from me. He simply sipped his blood glass and rested it on the table as if he was on a
normal date.
“I see,” I said. “And I guess you are right. An actual vampire would never have let me
come this far with Domination, even if I kept it sheathed at my side.”
“Then you believe me?” said Ambrus. “That I am a half-vampire?”
I bit my lower lip, but slowly nodded. “That’s what the evidence seems to suggest so far,
so yes, I do.”
“Excellent,” said Ambrus. “I knew you would accept it eventually. Half-vampires have a
unique connection to each other. We are able to sense whenever one of us is around, even if
we can’t see each other. Don’t you feel that connection, Tara? Because I feel it toward you.”
I was about to say that no, I didn’t, but then I felt a hard sensation running along my back.
It felt like it was pointing me toward Ambrus, trying to make me be with him, but I stayed
in my seat because however attractive Ambrus was (and I had to admit that he was very
handsome), I knew better than to get close to him. Like Lucius, Ambrus was handsome but
dangerous. Unlike Lucius, however, Ambrus didn’t seem to have any sense of deeper
morality or principle. I had a feeling he’d sell his own mother if he thought it would get him
what he wanted. That meant I had to be careful around him, half-vampire or no.
“If you really are a half-vampire, how is that possible?” I said slowly. “Half-vampires are
incredibly rare. There is supposed to be only one half-vampire active at any one time, and
even then, they usually don’t live long because both sorcerers and vampires have ancient
laws requiring their deaths. The last half-vampire before me lived three centuries ago, well
before you or I were born.”
Ambrus wiped his mouth with his napkin before resting it on the table before him. The
bloodstain on his white napkin stood out like a red sore on a clear face. “True, half-vampires
have traditionally been extremely rare to the point where many vampires and sorcerers
consider us more myth than material, but no one knows everything. A clever enough
individual can stay underneath the radar of sorcerer and vampire alike, keeping his true
nature a secret until it is too late for anyone to do anything about it. Such is how I have lived
my life for the past seventy years or so—”
“Seventy years?” I repeated in surprise. “You look like you’re in your thirties.”
Ambrus smiled. “Has no one told you that half-vampires stop aging? We are stuck with
whatever appearance we had when we transformed. I was bitten on my thirtieth birthday, so
I am over a century old now. In fact, I’m the same age my grandfather was just before the
Second World War. I had always hoped to live to be one hundred, but I had never thought I
would look like I was thirty. I thought I would look old and decrepit, just like my
grandfather, but I’m not complaining, of course.”
I would have found his long-lived age impossible to believe if I hadn’t already known that
vampires could live to be extremely old, like Lucius, who was three hundred years old
himself. It also made me wonder if, one hundred years from now, I would look the same
way I did today. Would I always look like a young woman in her mid-twenties? Would I
never get gray hair or wrinkles or suffer back issues? I had to admit that all sounded
absolutely wonderful, but at the same time, I had gotten all of that by potentially losing my
salvation. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
“Much like you, Tara, I grew up in a family of sorcerers,” said Ambrus. “Unlike you, my
family was open about our heritage, at least to me. My father was a famous Hungarian
vampire hunter, similar in many ways to your own father, except that he never retired. My
mother, on the other hand, was a stay-at-home housewife who raised me and my brothers
while our father was away. She was a wonderful woman, the epitome of femininity, though
she was never very good at magic herself despite being a sorceress by blood.”
“It sounds to me like you had a good life,” I said.
“It was,” said Ambrus. “Especially for a poor Hungarian boy growing up in rural Hungary.
But my father eventually retired after he became too old to keep fighting vampires, while
my brothers and I grew up and moved out of the house to go live our own lives and start our
own families. We still came back home to visit as often as we could, however, particularly
around Christmas and other important holidays like that. We made sure to support our
parents in their old age, like the good sons we were.”
Then Ambrus frowned. “But just because my father retired from vampire hunting, that did
not mean that vampire hunting had retired from him. Having been a vampire hunter for
thirty years, my father had inevitably earned many enemies, most vampires. Even after
retiring, the vampires never forgot how he killed so many of their kind. They eventually
tracked him down to his house and waited for the perfect opportunity to strike.”
I gulped. “Did they?”
“They did,” said Ambrus. “It was early Christmas morning, when my brothers and I and
our wives had come back home to spend the holiday with our parents. The vampire Horde
descended on the house before the sun rose and killed everyone, including my brother
Viktor’s pregnant wife. The only one who survived was me, and that was mostly because of
luck.”
“How … how did you survive?” I said with a slight tremble to my voice.
Ambrus smiled sheepishly. “I had to get up to use the restroom and, because my parents’
house didn’t have indoor plumbing, I had to go outside. By the time I got back, the house
was a mess and everyone in my family was dead. A few vampires had also been killed
during the attack, however, but it didn’t make me feel any better, because I knew that the
actual Horde must have been much bigger than the few dead vamps I found.”
“What did you do after that?” I said.
“I was attacked,” said Ambrus. He rubbed his neck in the same spot where I had been
bitten. “As it turned out, not all of the vampires were equally dead. I was inspecting the
‘corpse’ of one of them when its eyes opened and it pounced on me. It bit my neck right
here and filled my veins with its poison. I managed to kill the vampire by stabbing it with
my father’s trusty silver knife, which he had dropped on the floor when he died, but because
the vampire managed to bite me anyway before its death, I ended up transforming into the
half-vampire you see today.”
I put a hand over my mouth. “How awful. Your whole family being killed and you being
transformed against your will … that’s one of the worst stories I’ve ever heard.”
“Then you haven’t heard many stories,” said Ambrus. “At first, I was distraught over this
transformation, especially knowing that the ancient laws of the sorcerers meant I was
supposed to be killed. I was so afraid of being killed that I ran away, even leaving Hungary
for several decades to avoid running afoul of the Hungarian sorcerers who would no doubt
kill me if they found out what I was. I later read a newspaper report about the death of my
family, which described the incident as tragic, but the police who investigated my family’s
death did not know who had done it and didn’t know where I was, either. I didn’t come
forward to help the police, because I knew there was no way they could handle the
vampires, nor did I want to break the Secrecy Pact and become the target of every sorcerer
in the world.”
“Where did you go after that?” I said.
“Everywhere,” said Ambrus. “I traveled around the world, first through Europe, then Asia,
and eventually South America. I avoided places where sorcerers might live and spent most
of my life among the homeless, who I fed on because I needed blood. I also avoided
vampires, because I knew they were not going to be any kinder toward me than the
sorcerers. All the while, my power grew, though it took me twenty years to become fully
comfortable in my new skin and accept what I was.”
“And then what did you do?”
“Returned to Hungary.” Ambrus’ eyes darkened. “I tracked down the Vampire Lord who
had sent his Horde to kill my family and slaughtered him and his Horde in return. By then, I
had learned how to use both my vampire and sorcerer halves equally well, balancing their
unique abilities and using their strengths to outweigh their respective negatives. I still hadn’t
told anyone what I actually was, but it was a relief to avenge my family. I feel like my
parents approved of my actions, even though they were not alive to see me do it.”
“Wow,” I said. “You slaughtered a Vampire Lord and his Horde all by yourself?”
“Yes,” said Ambrus, nodding. “They didn’t know what they were up against. Like you,
they thought I was just an ordinary vampire, a Nosfer who didn’t know his place in the
Hierarchy. By the time they realized what I was, they were all dead. The Vampire Lord, in
particular, suffered horribly before I finished him off. I gouged out his eyes with my father’s
silver sword and fed them to him before I cut his head off and burned his body with fire.”
That made me feel sick to my stomach. I wasn’t upset about the death of a Vampired Lord
from fifty years ago, really. I was more disturbed by how Ambrus seemed to relish in it,
even now fifty years later. He certainly seemed every bit the vampire he claimed he wasn’t.
“After that, I founded Future Dream, the organization which still exists today,” said
Ambrus. “It has been a long time in coming, Future Dream has, but its ultimate goal is about
to be fulfilled, and once it is, I will bring it out of the shadows and into the light.”
“But what is Future Dream trying to do?” I said. “Or maybe I should ask, what are you
trying to do?”
“You mean you haven’t figured it out yet?” said Ambrus. “Very well, let me put it plainly:
The complete and utter destruction of the sorcerer and vampire communities, with the only
survivors serving under we half-vampires, who will rule the planet as gods.”
***
I pushed back in my chair slightly, causing its feet to scrape against the stone floor. But I
didn’t get up, because I knew that if I did, Jajaras and Reginald would ensure I never
escaped. But I desperately wanted to stay as far away from Ambrus as possible now,
because it was becoming increasingly clear to me that he had lost his mind.
“You look scared,” said Ambrus. “There’s no need to be. I have zero intention of harming
you. In fact, I want you to rule alongside me as my queen. We can rule the world together as
half-vampires. How does that sound?”
“Horrible,” I said. “Why would you want to do such a terrible thing?”
Ambrus sighed. “I thought you might react this way, but very well, let me explain my
vision to you. I don’t mind having to explain it, because I love talking about my vision for
the future because it is infinitely preferable to the drabness of the present.”
Ambrus sipped his blood again and then said, “During my twenty years traveling the
world, avoiding sorcerer and vampire alike while trying to master my powers and
understand my new nature, I had a lot of time in which to think. I thought about a lot of
things: my dead family, my shattered faith, my new powers, and the new post-war world
which was being built all around me. Mostly, however, I started to think about the nature of
the vampire and sorcerer conflict. What started it, why it existed, and why both sides hated
half-vampires so much that they had laws requiring us to be killed on sight.”
“That’s easy,” I said. “The conflict between vampires and sorcerers started ages ago, when
the Darkness corrupted some humans and the Origin empowered others to fight them. The
sorcerers have been fighting the vampires ever since, protecting humanity from their
bloodthirsty nature.”
Ambrus laughed. He laughed long and hard, like I’d just told the funniest joke in the
world. I didn’t see what was so funny about what I said, though. I was perfectly earnest in
my explanation of the vampire/sorcerer conflict, at least as I understood it. Then again,
some people thought that earnestness was laughable anyway, which made me think that
Ambrus must be a little cynical.
“Do you really believe that sorcerers are any better than the vampires they hunt?” said
Ambrus after he finished laughing, though he was still smiling. “Come now, Tara, you of all
people should know that this isn’t a battle of black versus white, but gray versus gray.”
“Why would I think that?” I said. “I’m a sorcerer myself. Or was a sorcerer, anyway.”
“Think about it,” said Ambrus, tapping the side of his head. “Your father left the sorcerer
community because it hated him and his religion. You yourself are liable to be killed at any
moment, should a sorcerer stumble upon your true nature, all for something you had no
hand in doing yourself. You didn’t choose to be a half-vampire, after all, and yet the
sorcerers view you as just as big a threat as a Vampire Lord, if not more so. Sorcerer loyalty
only goes so far, it seems.”
“That may be true, but there’s a reason they hate half-vampires,” I said. I put a hand on my
chest. “It’s horrible. I don’t fit in either world very well. I have to constantly keep my
vampire side at bay so I don’t hurt anyone and I’m always afraid I’ve either lost or will lose
my personal salvation. I don’t want to be killed, but I can understand why the sorcerers—
and even the vampires—would want to kill me.”
Ambrus snorted. “There’s nothing wrong with being a half-vampire, Tara. The sorcerers
don’t want to kill us because we are a threat to humanity or goodness or whatever. They
want to kill us because we’re a threat to their power.”
“Their power?” I repeated. “I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean,” said Ambrus. “Sorcerers and vampires alike see us as a
threat to their very existence, not because we are abominations, but because we are
superior.”
“Superior,” I said. “In what ways?”
“In every way,” said Ambrus. “We represent the perfect synthesis of sorcerer and vampire.
Like vampires, we are long-lived, super strong, quick, and can travel through the Shadow
Way. Like sorcerers, we can use magic and wield silver. We are the next step in the
development of the sorcerer and vampire, a hybrid who are both and neither at the same
time.”
“But what about the Darkness and the Origin?” I said. “Don’t they play a role in all of
this?”
“Mythology is all that they are,” said Ambrus. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is
that there is no good, there is no evil, no Darkness or Origin or God or Satan. There is only
brute power and the eternal struggle between the superior and the inferior. The ancient laws
were created not to protect humanity or limit the spread of evil, but to prevent the inferior
from being replaced by their natural superiors.”
“But—”
“The entire conflict between vampires and sorcerers is a joke,” Ambrus continued,
apparently without noticing that I was trying to speak. He raised his blood glass, which,
despite my aversion to human blood, looked quite delicious. “They don’t really disagree on
anything fundamentally, don’t really believe in the whole ‘good versus evil’ motif they have
going on. They are simply two inferior species keeping each other around because they have
no purpose beyond this petty conflict. Otherwise, one or the other would have come out on
top long ago.”
“You mean that the Vampire Council and the Sorcerer Parliament are actually working
together?” I said.
Ambrus lowered his glass, a grim look on his face. “Of course not. They hate each other as
much as anyone. But to take the vampire/sorcerer conflict seriously is to buy into a myth
every bit as real as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. It is nothing more than a distraction
from the knowledge that they are inferior creatures who deserve to be replaced by their
natural superiors. That is to say, you and I.”
Okay, now I was sure that Ambrus was insane. I mean, I’d already suspected it before, but
all this talk about ‘inferiors’ and ‘superiors’ convinced me that, while his body may not
have aged much since he became a half-vampire, his mind had decayed to the point of
insanity. I wondered if I would end up the same way when I became as old as him or if there
was another reason he’d lost his mind.
Ambrus drank the rest of his glass in one gulp and tossed it away. The glass shattered
against the floor, sending pieces of glass flying everywhere. I winced when the glass
shattered against the floor, but I didn’t move from my chair. Ambrus may have been insane,
but that didn’t mean he was weak or pathetic.
“The point of Future Dream is to ensure the destruction of sorcerers and vampires,” said
Ambrus. “For the past fifty years, I have been steadily recruiting vampires and sorcerers
alike, moving them into key positions in both communities in order to ensure that the war I
planned would happen. Our numbers are few in contrast to the wider vampire and sorcerer
communities, but each and every one of us believes in the dream.”
“The dream of seeing your people wiped out and any that remain becoming subservient to
a power-hungry mad man?” I said.
Ambrus smirked. “You don’t mince any words, do you? But no, that’s not what they
signed up for. I have promised to make each and every one of them a half-vampire, so that
they may also become superior. A species needs multiple individuals in order to exist, after
all. I intend for half-vampires to fill the whole world, which is easier to do if I have a fairly
large group of such beings to start with.”
I looked at Jajaras and Reginald. Neither vampire looked even remotely surprised by this
revelation, which meant they must have been in on it the entire time. Of course they were.
Jajaras had shown to me just how fanatical the members of Future Dream were. And I could
see why. Given how Ambrus described being a half-vampire as such as an amazing thing, I
could see why so many members of Future Dream were working hard to make the dream a
reality.
Still, I couldn’t say I was convinced myself. I looked at Ambrus again and said, “Why do
you want me, then? And why did you wait so long to approach me?”
“Because I didn’t know you even existed at first,” said Ambrus. “Like you, I was
convinced that I was the only living half-vampire in the world, but when my own vampire
servants began to relay rumors of another half-vampire in America to me, I knew I had to
investigate them. The entire Vampire Sword episode nearly turned me off, however,
because I was sure that Lord Taranas would turn you into the ultimate living weapon.
Luckily, however, you broke his hold on you and killed him. That was good, because I
would have had to deal with him myself at some point and you saved me a lot of time and
energy having to do so.”
“I didn’t kill him myself,” I said. “God gave me the strength to do that.”
Ambrus chuckled darkly. “Ah, God. In my childhood, I went to church with my family
regularly, because my mother was a believer, even though my father, like most sorcerers,
distrusted and even outright hatred Christianity. I used to think it was a good religion,
myself, but seeing my family slaughtered so mercilessly like that, with nary a sign of God, I
abandoned it and no longer believe in a god of any sort. At least, not one that actually cares
about the world or its woes, at any rate.”
“You don’t understand God, then,” I said. “I’m sorry to hear about your family, but—”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Ambrus, waving at me as if to brush aside the topic. “I’m not
interested in discussing the existence of God. I’m interested in bringing you over to my side,
to stand by me as my partner. We could be the Adam and Eve of half-vampires, turning our
race into a mighty nation that no one on Earth will be able stand against.”
“Sorry, but I’m not particularly interested in bearing your children,” I said. “I don’t even
know if half-vampires can even have children.”
“Want to find out?” said Ambrus in a suggestive tone.
I bit my lower lip. “No, I really don’t.”
“When did I say you would have any choice in the matter?” said Ambrus.
I heard movement behind me and looked over my shoulder. Jajaras and Reginald stood in
front of the doors, which were closed and locked. There weren’t any windows in this room,
either, which meant that I was effectively trapped.
I looked at Ambrus again. “If you lay even one hand on me, I’ll rip it off and beat you to
death with it.”
“I never said I was going to lay even one finger on your pretty little head, my dear Tara,”
said Ambrus. “Instead, I am going to make you join me voluntarily. Jajaras, tell the servants
to bring him in.”
“Yes, master,” said Jajaras with a bow.
Jajaras melted into the shadows. A couple of seconds later, Jajaras returned, but he was not
alone. Two other Future Dream members—one a vampire, the other a sorcerer—followed
him out of the shadows, but they seemed to be carrying something large and heavy between
them, which I didn’t understand until they had completely emerged from the Shadow Way
and showed exactly what they were carrying:
It was Lucius.
***
Lucius looked unconscious. His head hung on his chest, while his legs scraped along the
floor behind him uselessly. He was shirtless, which I would have appreciated under other
circumstances, because it let me see his big, muscular body. But now, I wished I couldn’t
see him at all, because his body was marred with scars and barely healed wounds
everywhere, but especially on his chest. It looked like he had been tortured. He looked so
bad that I wasn’t even sure he was still alive or not.
“Lucius!” I said, rising to my feet.
Ambrus raised a hand. “Ah, ah, Tara, I didn’t say you could leave the dinner table. It’s
rude to leave your date for the first handsome man you see.”
Ambrus snapped his hands and I felt an invisible force shove me back down into my seat.
Still, I looked over at Lucius, who was so limp in the hands of his captors that he looked
almost like a doll.
“What did you do to him?” I said, looking at Ambrus again. “Did you torture him?”
Ambrus shook his head. “Of course not. You can thank the Order of Vampires for those
scars. They tortured him as the punishment you would have received if he hadn’t invoked
the Lamb doctrine and would have executed him at some point, had not my minions saved
him.”
“Saved him,” I said, “just so you can use him against me, right?”
Ambrus shrugged. “You can look at it that way if you want, but personally I think that’s
an unhelpful—and, more to the point, ungrateful—perspective to have on the situation.
Think of it this way. There’s at least a chance that Lucius will live now, however slim it
might be.”
“A chance?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“It’s simple,” said Ambrus. “Join me and my organization and I will let Lucius live. Reject
my offer, however, and, well, I think you know what I will do to Lucius if you say no.”
I couldn’t deny that. Right now, Ambrus had leverage in our negotiations. So long as he
had Lucius, I didn’t have as much power as I wanted. I could say no, but even if I did, I
knew that Ambrus’ servants would kill Lucius. Lucius was in no position to defend or free
himself, which meant that his life and safety rested entirely in my hands.
I clinched my fists. I didn’t want anything to do with Ambrus, especially after he mocked
God, but at the same time, I didn’t want Lucius to die, either. If Lucius died because of me,
there was no way I could live with myself, even if Ambrus’ plan worked and he made halfvampires
the dominant species on the planet. Ambrus may have had a hard life (assuming
his story was true, which was doubtful given how deceitful he obviously was), but that
didn’t mean he was right in his plans to destroy the vampire and sorcerer communities by
engineering a false war, a false war I had helped to start.
But again, I was in no position to save Lucius without risking his life. If I tried to get up
and save Lucius, Ambrus’ minions would probably kill him before I could get there. Or
Ambrus himself would step in and stop me. I didn’t know the exact range of Ambrus’
power, but given how he had been a half-vampire for seventy years, that meant he had seven
decades of experience in magical and vampiric powers on his side. He could probably
destroy me with a flick of his finger or at least inflict a lot of pain on me. In a straight fight
to the death, Ambrus would probably curb-stomp me, and he wouldn’t even need to try.
The only advantage I had over him was Domination, which had more reach than his knife.
Even so, Dad had taught me that the person with the bigger weapon didn’t necessarily
always win the fight. Skill and strategy mattered just as much as the weapons used, if not
more so, and right now Ambrus had skill, strategy, and weapons on his side, versus me, who
just had weapons (or weapon, in my case).
Ambrus leaned forward in his chair, an expectant look on his face. “Well, Tara? What is
your answer? I’m listening, you know. There’s no need to delay.”
I tried my best to think of a way—any way—out of this situation, but it seemed no use. If I
refused to help Ambrus, then Lucius would die, and it would be my fault. But I had zero
intention of helping a guy as crazy as him. I was saving myself for an actual Christian man,
not a nihilistic atheist like this guy. Ambrus was rather handsome, but he had already shown
what he really was to me: A monster who didn’t care about anyone else other than himself.
That was when an idea occurred to me, a possible way to get out of this situation with both
me and Lucius in one piece. It depended on how much Ambrus needed me for his plan, but
if I was correct, then he needed me far more than I needed Lucius.
I stood up. Ambrus raised a hand, no doubt to sit me back down, but I quickly drew
Domination from its sheath and held its blade against my neck. Ambrus’ hand froze, his red
eyes fixed firmly on my blade.
“What are you doing, Tara?” said Ambrus in a calm voice, though I could tell he was
surprised by my sudden action. “You’re holding your sword a little too close to your neck, I
think.”
“I know what I’m doing, Ambrus,” I said. “I’m offering you a new deal, just like what you
offered me, only my deal is even better.”
Ambrus raised an eyebrow. “A deal? You aren’t in any position to offer me a new deal,
young girl. I am the one with the leverage here, not you. Or did you forget that my minions
are currently threatening Lucius’ life?”
“I’m well aware of what your minions are doing,” I said. “But I also know that you want
me, but you can’t have me if I slit my own throat and die on the spot, right?”
Ambrus’ eyes narrowed. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I would,” I said, speaking as confidently as possible in order to make sure he didn’t
suspect anything was up. “You’ve made it pretty clear to me that you have a grand vision of
turning me into your queen. You can’t do that if I’m dead, so if I slit my own throat, then
your whole plan will fall apart. At the very least, you’ll be pretty disappointed and maybe
have to work harder to make your plan a reality.”
For the first time since I had seen Ambrus, his smirk faltered. “You are not a suicidal girl.
I know that for a fact, because suicide is considered a sin in Christianity.”
“This wouldn’t be suicide,” I said. “It would be sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice?” said Ambrus. “That implies you are going to get something out of it, but I fail
to see how you benefit from killing yourself.”
“True, killing myself wouldn’t benefit myself exactly, especially because I still don’t
know if I’m going to heaven or not,” I said. “But it would mess up your plans and frustrate
you a lot, which would be all worth it in the end.”
“What about Lucius?” said Ambrus. “I thought you cared about him. Are you willing to
leave him in my hands just so I don’t get you?”
“That’s where the deal comes in, Ambrus,” I said. “In exchange for Lucius’ freedom, I
will not kill myself. In fact, I’ll even work with you willingly, just as long as you let Lucius
go, free and unharmed.”
I knew how crazy I must have looked to Ambrus, but it was the only real plan I had. I was
betting on the fact that Ambrus wanted me more than he wanted to kill Lucius. And
anyway, I could potentially kill Ambrus later on if I had to, perhaps when he let his guard
down. Of course, Ambrus did not seem like the type of guy who would ever let his guard
down, even around people he trusted, but this was still my best chance at stopping Ambrus
and Future Dream.
And yes, I was willing to kill myself, if absolutely necessary. I really didn’t want to,
because again I didn’t know where I would end up when I died, but if I had to, I would. It
was better to die than help Ambrus take over the world. I just hoped that Ambrus would
accept my deal, because I was not looking forward to cutting my own throat and bleeding
out on the floor of a castle in Hungary far away from home.
Ambrus’ eyes darted between me and Lucius, as if he was trying to find a loophole he
could take advantage of. I didn’t lower Domination from my throat, even though my
vampiric instincts were going crazy due to holding a sharp, silver blade so close to my neck.
It was one of the benefits of being a half-vampire, that I could use silver without being
overwhelmed by vampiric fear over it, though it was a bit distracting, I had to admit.
After a couple of tense seconds—in which I was sure that Ambrus was going to reject my
offer and kill both me and Lucius—he relaxed. “You drive a hard bargain, Tara, much
harder than I expected from a girl like you. Very well. I’ll spare Lucius’ life and let him go
free in exchange for your service by my side.”
A wave of relief washed over me just then, making me lower Domination to my side.
“Thanks. I didn’t expect you to actually give.”
Ambrus shrugged. “I’m a much more reasonable person than I may appear. I didn’t
survive for over a century by being stupid.”
“Great,” I said. I nodded at Lucius. “Tell your goons to let Lucius go. Do it now.”
Ambrus nodded. He looked over at them. “Drop the Pure.”
The vampire and the sorcerer dropped Lucius on the floor unceremoniously. Without even
thinking about it, I ran over to Lucius and knelt by his side, putting Domination on the floor
as I grabbed his shoulders.
“Lucius, can you hear me?” I said. “Hello, Lucius?”
A deep groaning sound came from Lucius. His eyes opened, but when he looked up at me,
his expression was strangely blank.
“Tara?” said Lucius in an incredibly weak voice. “Is that you?”
“It is,” I said, nodding. “Are you okay? Can you still walk?”
“Not sure,” said Lucius. “I might, but I feel tired. Where am I?”
“Safe now,” I said.
A shadow suddenly fell over me and I looked over my shoulder to see Ambrus standing
above me and Lucius. From where I knelt, Ambrus looked even taller than before, his arms
folded in front of his large chest, looking quite intimidating in his fancy suit.
“Ambrus,” I said, unable to hide the dislike in my voice. “I know I agreed to work with
you, but I want to make sure Lucius can get home first.”
“Why?” said Ambrus. “He is merely another vampire, one who will likely die in the
coming war. There is no point in worrying about him, not when we have so much work to
do.”
“He’s still my … friend,” I said, clutching Lucius’s shoulders with my hands. “And I
always make sure that my friends are safe.”
Ambrus looked unimpressed with what I said, but I didn’t care. Maybe I was going to
work with Ambrus for the rest of my life or maybe I wasn’t. All I cared about was making
sure that Lucius was okay.
I turned back to focus on Lucius and said, “Lucius, let’s try walking, see if your legs can
move or not.”
But Lucius wasn’t looking at me. He was looking up at Ambrus, his eyes puzzled.
“Who is this?” said Lucius. “And what ‘war’ was he talking about?”
“Lucius,” I said, grabbing his face and forcing him to look at me, “in order to save you, I
had to make a deal with this guy. A deal you probably won’t like, but—”
“What deal, Tara?” said Lucius. He propped himself up on his hands and elbows, though it
seemed to take a lot of effort from him. “What deal?”
“One that is none of your business, vampire,” said Ambrus. “Now why don’t you run
along and go back to whatever shadow you crawled out from? Your presence is no longer
needed here.”
“Ambrus, there’s no need for that tone,” I said, looking up at Ambrus somewhat weakly.
“Lucius isn’t even a threat. He’s—”
“A threat? Threat to what?” said Lucius. “What is going on here?”
Ambrus looked at the two servants who had been holding Lucius. “Grab the vampire and
drag him out of here. His presence is no longer needed.”
The vampire and the sorcerer nodded in understanding and moved to grab Lucius, but
Lucius immediately jumped to his feet and punched them both in the face. The sorcerer fell
down instantly, while the vampire staggered to the side, clutching its face where Lucius had
punched it.
Turning around, Lucius pointed at Ambrus and said, “I don’t know who you are or what
you’re planning to do, but all this talk of war and planning makes me suspicious. I’m going
to take you to the Vampire Council and see what they think.”
Before I could stop him, Lucius lunged at Ambrus, but Ambrus dodged Lucius easily. As
Lucius passed him, Ambrus reached out and grabbed Lucius’s shoulders and slammed him
face first into the floor. He twisted Lucius’ arms behinds his back and then drew a silver
knife out of his pocket, which he held above his head with clear intent to bring it down on
Lucius.
“Ambrus, no!” I shouted. “Our deal!”
“He attacked me,” said Ambrus calmly. “And two of my servants. I am at perfect liberty to
protect my life—and my plan—if anyone threatens it, including uppity vampires like
Lucius.”
With that, Ambrus brought his knife down on Lucius’ neck faster than I could stop him.
***
Even though I knelt less than a foot away from Ambrus and Lucius, I felt so helpless. I just
watched as Ambrus’ knife came down toward Lucius’ neck, which would undoubtedly kill
Lucius even if it didn’t take his head off. I reached out one hand toward him, but I could not
reach far enough to actually stop him.
All of a sudden, the doors burst open and a small lightning bolt came out of nowhere and
struck Ambrus’ knife hand. The knife flew out of Ambrus’ hand while he cursed and held
his hand against his chest, his eyes widening in shock at his smoking fingers.
“What was that?” said Ambrus, his voice slightly tinged with pain. He looked toward the
doors. “Who shot that lightning bolt at me? A traitor?”
“That would assume I even worked for you in the first place,” said a familiar voice on the
other side of the doors. “Which I never have, and never will.”
A sorcerer with long, brown hair and a silver ax at his side stepped into the room. I could
not help but gasp when I saw him, because I recognized him, yet I couldn’t understand how
he could be here.
“Who are you?” said Ambrus, glaring at the sorcerer with anger and confusion.
“Bartholomew Reynolds,” said Bart, raising his silver ax. “Vampire hunter and son of
Arthur Reynolds, the head of the Vampire Hunters Guild. And I’m also here to kick your
ass.”
“Bart?” I said, staring at Bart in disbelief. “Is that really you? What are you doing here?
How did you even get here in the first place?”
“Nice to see you again, too, Tara,” said Bart, nodding at me. His eyes darted to the dinner
table and frowned. “Don’t tell me you’re dating this guy.”
“I’m—” I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. How did you find me? I didn’t tell you or
anyone else where I was.”
Bart chuckled. “Did you think I was just going to forget about you after I told you
everything I figured out? Truth is, when I left your apartment, I cast a tracking spell that
would allow me to find out where you were. That’s because I originally assumed that you
might be the person trying to cause the war and wanted to make sure I always knew where
you were in case I needed to stop you.”
“You mean you thought I was the bad guy?” I said. I scowled. “I don’t look like a villain,
do I?”
Bart shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry about that. It’s just that you were the only suspect I had
who made sense, given your nature as a half-vampire and all. Even then, I didn’t really
believe you were evil, per se, because you didn’t come across as intelligent enough to
orchestrate a plan like the one I just uncovered. But I wasn’t totally wrong about the identity
of the perpetrator. It was a half-vampire, but just not you.”
I was about to ask Bart if he just called me dumb, when Ambrus said, “How long have you
been here and how come my servants didn’t tell me about you?”
Bart smiled. “You mean the vamps I ran into? I killed them. They didn’t see it coming. I
thought about barging in, but I decided to wait a little while and overhear your plan first.
Looks like I made the right choice, because I now know everything you just told Tara. I’m
not sure if I believe even half of it, but I’m sure that the Parliament will be very interested in
hearing your story once I capture you and bring you back to them in chains.”
“You won’t get anything, hunter,” said Ambrus. “Jajaras, Reginald, kill him! Don’t let him
escape!”
Jajaras and Reginald—who had been knocked aside by the doors when they opened earlier
—rushed toward Bart with blinding speed, but Bart raised his silver ax and slashed it several
times. Jajaras managed to avoid getting his head cut off, but Reginald ran headlong into the
path of the ax, sending his head flying off his shoulders and his body collapsed onto the
floor. Jajaras backed away, but Bart ran toward him and slashed with his ax, taking Jajaras’
head off in an instant.
Lowering his bloody ax, Bart looked over at Ambrus and said, “Is that all you’ve got?
Because I could do this all day and still have energy left to kill you.”
Ambrus growled, but then Lucius suddenly jerked upward, knocking Ambrus off him.
Lucius tried to get on top of Ambrus and pin him down, but Ambrus rolled away and got to
his feet. He looked at all three of us with pure hatred on his face, his hands clinched into
tight fists as he looked at us.
Lucius rose to his own feet and helped me up as well. It felt good to hold Lucius’ hand
again and I didn’t want to let go, but I did anyway so I could hold Domination in both
hands. Bart ran over and stood beside us, holding his ax in a battle stance as the three of us
faced Ambrus.
“Face it, Ambrus,” I said. “Not only do we have you outnumbered, but we also have you
outmatched. There’s no way you can beat all three of us in a fight.”
Ambrus’ hands shook, but when he spoke, it was in a very calm voice. “I will admit to
being impressed that you managed to turn this situation on me so quickly. And, indeed, all
three of you seem to be quite powerful, but your power still doesn’t come even close to
dwarfing my own. Indeed, it barely equals it.”
Ambrus put his hands together and pulled them apart. As he did so, a strange, shadow-like
webbing appeared between his hands, growing wider and wider as he spread his hands
apart, until soon he had a long black web in front of his body. The webbing moved and
undulated like water, but I had no idea what it was until Bart’s eyes widened and he
shouted, “Down!”
Before I could ask Bart why, Ambrus threw the webbing at us. Lucius grabbed me and
pulled me down to the floor with him, while Bart dropped beside us. The webbing flew
overhead, just barely missing us, and landed on the floor behind us, where it hissed and
immediately began eating into the stone floor as soon as it landed.
“Holy cow,” I said, looking over my shoulder at the black webbing eating away at the
stone floor. “What was that?”
“Acid webbing,” said Bart. “Very deadly spell. If it wraps around you, it will sear your
skin straight off your body. Even vampires can’t survive direct contact with that thing.”
“Explain later,” said Lucius. He pointed. “Look, Ambrus is trying to get away.”
Lucius was right. While we had been distracted by the acid webbing, Ambrus had taken
advantage of our distraction to make a run for the exit. Lucius leaped back to his feet,
however, and flew across the room. He flew over Ambrus and landed squarely in the open
doorway, causing Ambrus to screech to a halt before he ran into Lucius, who immediately
jumped at him and started slashing at him with his claws. But Ambrus grabbed Lucius’
wrists and started struggling against him, doing his best to keep Lucius’ claws from gouging
out his eyes.
“Lucius has Ambrus distracted,” I said. I looked at Bart. “What should we do?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Bart. He rose to his feet and dusted off his robes. “Take him down
before he manages to overpower Lucius. Watch.”
Bart summoned a fireball in his hand and threw it at Ambrus’ back. Right before his
fireball hit Ambrus, however, Ambrus whirled around and put Lucius in his way. The
fireball struck Lucius’ back, causing Lucius to cry out in pain, though he didn’t get far
before Ambrus shoved him backward onto the floor.
“Thank you for the help, Bartholomew,” said Ambrus with a chuckle. “I was worried that
Lucius might overwhelm me for a moment there.”
I looked at Bart in annoyance. “Watch where your aim. You nearly killed Lucius.”
“Sorry,” said Bart, scratching the back of his head. “I didn’t realize he would do that.”
I groaned, but had no time to continue to get onto Bart for this, because Ambrus was
stalking toward Lucius with his hands held above his head, clearly planning to kill Lucius. I
couldn’t let him do that, so I ran toward Ambrus and, when I was about halfway to him,
jumped and landed between him and Lucius.
As soon as I landed, I slashed Domination at Ambrus, but Ambrus dodged the sword and
slashed at me with his claws. But I managed to parry his claws with Domination and slashed
at him again, this time actually forcing him to jump backward to avoid getting cut.
“I see that sword is for more than just show,” said Ambrus, holding his claws before him
defensively. “Clearly, it can be used for killing, too.”
I didn’t say anything. I just slashed at Ambrus again, but he held his hands out and formed
a protective blue energy barrier around his body. Domination clanked uselessly against the
barrier, even bouncing off it. I staggered backwards, while Ambrus dropped the barrier and
lashed out at me with a slash from his claws, which cut through my chest and scratched my
chest and the upper part of my breasts.
I cried out in pain, dropping Domination and falling to the floor. I clutched my wounds,
which were bleeding, though not very badly at the moment. Still, the pain had been
surprisingly hot, like Ambrus had slashed me with a burning piece of metal.
I reached out to try to pick up Domination again, only for Ambrus’ foot to slam down on
my wrist. I looked up at Ambrus, who held his claws before him like knives.
“Like my claws?” said Ambrus, flexing his fingers. “They’re covered in silver, just in case
I ever need to use them against vampires. Or other half-vampires, as the case may—”
Ambrus was interrupted by a yell from Bart, who had somehow gotten behind Ambrus and
was now swinging his ax at Ambrus’ neck. Ambrus, however, dodged, easily dodging
Bart’s ax, and then lashed out with a kick, but Bart jumped out of the way at the last second
and easily dodged the kick. He swung his ax at Ambrus again, this time forcing Ambrus to
back away to avoid the ax’s sharp blade.
While Bart forced Ambrus to retreat, I rolled over onto my side to look at Lucius. He was
still lying on the floor, in a half-fetal position, his back smoking slightly from where Bart’s
fireball had hit him.
“Lucius, are you all right?” I said.
Lucius groaned. “I’ll be fine, Tara. Don’t worry about me. Just help your sorcerer friend.
Take down Ambrus.”
I frowned, because I didn’t think Lucius sounded well, but I decided that taking down
Ambrus was more important at the moment than making sure Lucius was okay. Doing my
best to ignore the pain in my own wounds, I reached over and grabbed Domination, pulling
it close to me and clutching its handle with both hands.
Rising to my feet, I looked over at the fight between Bart and Ambrus. Bart was swinging
his ax in what seemed like wild, yet calculated, strokes, while Ambrus dodged each slash as
best as he could. But even I could tell that it was only a matter of time before one of Bart’s
blows landed, and once it did, Ambrus would definitely go down.
But then Bart accidentally slashed too wide, leaving an opening, and Ambrus struck.
Ambrus slashed both his claws at Bart’s exposed chest, cutting across Bart’s robes and
causing Bart to cry out in pain. Ambrus followed this up with a swift kick to the abdomen,
making Bart drop his ax onto the floor before Bart himself fell down as well. Ambrus
caught Bart’s collar, however, and pulled back his claw, no doubt to stab into Bart’s face.
I didn’t even hesitate. I ran toward Ambrus and Bart, Domination held tightly in my hands,
and slashed it downward at the same time Ambrus’ claw flew toward Bart’s face.
Domination blocked Ambrus’ claw, causing Ambrus to look at me in surprise. But I didn’t
hesitate. I slashed at his face, intending to cut the top of his head clean off, but instead
Ambrus moved his head with the trajectory of my sword. Domination cut through his skin,
making Ambrus scream in pain. He let go of Bart and staggered away, clutching his nowbleeding
face with both hands.
“It’s over, Ambrus,” I said, pointing Domination at his face. “You’re coming with us. You
lost.”
I expected Ambrus to start screaming and ranting at me, to start losing his mind and acting
incoherently, but instead, Ambrus slowly lowered his hands from his face and looked at me.
His face was horrible now. His handsome features were covered in blood, courtesy of the
long, ugly cut running from his crown across his nose and down to his chin. It looked kind
of like Lucius’ scar, except far worse.
“I will admit that my plan has undoubtedly failed,” said Ambrus. He didn’t sound like he
was in pain at all, despite the wound on his face. “But you would be deeply mistaken to
assume that means that I am going to come with you or your friends peacefully. Or at all,
for that matter.”
Ambrus stepped backwards and, before my startled eyes, vanished into the shadows out of
my sight.
***
I ran over to the spot where Ambrus had been standing mere moments before and looked
around hurriedly, but I didn’t see Ambrus anywhere. He seemed to have vanished entirely,
though I suspected that he had probably just stepped into the Shadow Way. I was just about
to follow him myself when I heard groaning behind me and looked over my shoulder to see
Bart sitting up, rubbing his stomach where Ambrus had punched him not more than a
minute or two ago.
“Ow,” said Bart. “First time I’ve ever been punched by a half-vampire. Not too different
from being punched by an actual vampire, though it still hurts a lot.”
“He got away,” I said, looking back into the shadows. “And I’m going after—”
“You won’t.”
I turned around again to see Lucius walking toward us. His back was no longer smoking,
but he walked slowly and deliberately, perhaps perhaps due to the pain in his back. He
stopped several feet away from Bart, who had gotten back to his feet by now and was
dusting off his robes.
“I won’t?” I said. “Won’t what?”
“Go after him,” said Lucius. “Ambrus clearly knows the Shadow Way better than you,
otherwise he would not have escaped through it. Given the size of the Shadow Way, you
will probably never capture him, even if you left right now. You don’t want to end up being
nearly tricked by a Stranger again, do you?”
I blushed, but said, “But if he gets away—”
“He has gotten away, you mean,” said Lucius. “Even I wouldn’t chase him now, and I
know the Shadow Way better than you. Besides, I suspect Ambrus is going to lay low for a
while, now that his plan has been ruined.”
“Has it?” I said. I lowered Domination to my side. “Michaels is still dead. The war is still
going to happen. Maybe Ambrus will have to rebuild Future Dream or something, but his
overall goal is still going to happen, even if he can’t take advantage of it the way he wanted
to.”
“Not unless we go to the Sorcerer Parliament and tell them the truth,” said Bart. He picked
up his ax, looked it over once, and hooked it in his belt loop. “If they know about Ambrus,
then they won’t feel the need to declare war on the vampires.”
“And I will go back to the Vampire Council and inform them about Ambrus,” said Lucius.
“They will be just as interested in hearing about him as the Parliament is, if not more so,
given how he attempted to frame them by manipulating you into killing Michaels.”
“But we don’t have proof of his existence,” I said. “Why would either the Parliament or
the Council believe you without proof?”
“Good point,” said Bart, folding his arms across his chest. He looked around the nowempty
throne room with a thoughtful expression on his face. “Maybe Ambrus has some
papers lying around this castle which might help us prove that he’s responsible for this.
Could take a while to find, though, because this castle seems pretty big.”
The mention of papers stirred a memory in my mind, causing me to say, “Wait a minute.
When I agreed to kill Michaels, Jajaras, one of Ambrus’ servants, gave me a bunch of
documents about Michaels, information that Future Dream had collected on him. I could
give you guys the documents so you can show them to your respective leaders in order to
convince them that they were nearly set up.”
“Really?” said Bart in surprise. “That’s convenient. Where are the documents?”
“Back at my apartment,” I said. “When we go back there, I can give them to you guys.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Bart. “But I’d still like to investigate Castle Rook more fully.
There are probably still some Future Dream agents hanging around here and if we can
capture even just one of them and make him confess, that would be even better than
showing the Parliament some documents.”
“It would not be wise to explore this castle alone,” said Lucius. “If there are any Future
Dream agents hiding, they may attack anyone they deem a threat. It would probably be best
to come back here with backup later on, just to be safe.”
Bart suddenly looked at Lucius as if he had forgotten Lucius was here. “You’re Lucius
Red, right? I don’t think we were ever introduced.”
Lucius nodded. “Yes, that’s me, though I’m curious how you know my name.”
“Because you’re a Pure,” said Bart. “The Vampire Hunters Guild keeps a list of all known
Pures and your name is on it.”
“Why does the Vampire Hunters Guild keep a list of all known Pures?” I said. “What’s the
point of it?”
Bart shrugged. “Oh, you know, we just want to keep an eye on these supposedly ‘good’
vampires, just in case any of them go rogue or are lying about their nature. It’s happened
more than a few times over the years.”
That reminded me of what Dad said, about how Pures were still distrusted by sorcerers
because you could never be sure if a given Pure was actually good or if they were just
faking it. I didn’t think that Lucius was faking it, because from what I’d seen of him, he was
a genuinely good guy, even if he was a vampire.
“I see,” said Lucius. “Well, I hope I’m not too high up on the list. I’ve been on my best
behavior ever since I became a Pure.”
“I hope you have,” said Bart in a somewhat sour tone. He rested his hand on the handle of
his ax. “Otherwise … well, you know what I’d do, I’m sure.”
Lucius smiled, showing his long, sharp fangs. “And I trust that you’d know what I would
do if you ever came after me?”
Bart nodded curtly. “Yep, though I doubt you would survive very long if I ever decided
that you are a threat to humanity.”
“I’m over three hundred years old,” said Lucius. “It would be interesting to see a young
pup like you try to kill me.”
“Maybe I should try it now,” said Bart. “I still have enough energy for another fight,
though I’m not sure I can say the same about you, old man.”
“Hold on, guys,” I said, holding up my hands. “There’s no point in fighting each other,
okay? We have more important things to do than figure out who is the biggest kid in the
sandbox.”
Lucius and Bart continued to glare at each other, but then Bart looked away first and
shrugged. “You’re right, Tara. I need to go back to the Parliament as soon as possible and
inform them of Ambrus’ existence. I think they will have a hard time believing me if I tell
them that he’s a half-vampire, though.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, myself,” I said. “Once you show them the documents I will
give you, I’m sure they’ll be perfectly willing to believe that Ambrus is a half-vampire.”
“I hope you’re right,” said Bart. “It’s just that no one has ever heard of a half-vampire
hiding like that. Most half-vampires are discovered and eliminated fairly early on, because
their unique natures make them stand out.”
I nodded, but then something occurred to me and I said, “What about me? Are you going
to tell the Sorcerer Parliament about me?”
Bart shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. You’re different from Ambrus, Tara. Unlike
him, you’ve made a real effort to stop the war, even if Ambrus forced you to kill Michaels.
I’ll just tell them that I found Ambrus on my own and not mention you.”
I sighed in relief. “Thanks, Bart. I really appreciate it.”
Bart looked at Lucius. “What about you, Lucius? I know the vampires have similar laws
regarding half-vampires. What are you going to do?”
“The Vampire Council is already aware of Tara,” said Lucius. “And the only reason they
haven’t killed her yet is because of the Lamb doctrine, though it expired a while ago,
meaning that any vampire is free to kill Tara now.”
I gulped. “Does that mean the Council is going to send its agents after me?”
Lucius shook his head. “No, I doubt it.”
“Why?” I said. “Aren’t there supposed to be, like, ancient laws that say they’re supposed
to kill all half-vampires they find or something?”
“There are, but your case is a little different,” said Lucius. “Your dad is the Hunter, and
they’re afraid of pissing him off, to put it bluntly.”
I tilted my head to the side. “They’re scared of Dad?”
“Yes,” said Lucius. “And I think you know why, of course.”
“Because Dad used to be the best vampire hunter ever,” I said, nodding. “Still, Dad’s been
retired for twenty-four years. How much of a threat could he possibly pose to the Council?”
“A massive one,” said Lucius. “Remember, Tara, I knew your father when he was
younger, and I also have experience with so-called ‘retired’ vampire hunters. They may no
longer be actively going around the world hunting down my people, but they still have the
necessary skills to kill any vampire who comes after them. And the name of the Hunter still
evokes fear in a lot of vampires, even in many members of the Vampire Council.”
“So I’m safe?” I said.
“For now,” said Lucius. “Whether or not you’ll always be safe … I can’t say. All I can say
is that I suggest you stay close to Richard and continue to learn how to defend yourself. It’s
the only way to ensure your safety in the long term.”
I could not help but feel a little relieved when Lucius said that. I had been worrying quite a
bit over whether the Vampire Council would send agents to kill me, so hearing that they
were too afraid of my father to even touch me left me feeling happier than before. At the
same time, though, I didn’t like Lucius’ ‘for now,’ because there was no telling if that ‘for
now’ would last ten years or ten seconds.
But that was why I needed to keep training and become stronger. And hopefully someday,
I would find a way to become a normal human girl again.

Featured post

Catching Emily

femme-sexe-lesbienne-en-gif-porno-du-32This is a story about my sister and me. I’m sorry if the punctuation is screwed up, but there’s nothing I can do about it. If it bothers you please do us both a favor and move on to another story. If you decide to over-look it and stay, thanks and enjoy. And as always, feedback is most welcome.

My sister and I were raised in a strict household. There was no cussing and absolutely no nudity. We undressed in the bathroom and dressed in the bathroom… with the door locked.
Emily, was 16 at the time. She was a tall girl, perhaps five feet ten or even eleven. Height ran in our family, although weight did not. Emily was one hundred ten pounds at best.
She was not what anyone would call beautiful. She had long dark hair and pretty green eyes, but her nose was slightly longer than she wished and her teeth were a bit crooked. Still, I always thought she was pretty.
What Emily did have in her favor was a large pair of perfectly shaped breasts. She had developed these between the ages of thirteen and fifteen and I tried to see them at every opportunity, but always fell short.
I was fourteen and like any fourteen year old boy I lived for two things; nudie mags and jerking off. And even though the mags were a great inspiration my thoughts always turned to Emily while I was beating off. I just had to get a look at those tits, just once!
I devised a plan. My Mom and Dad both working the evening shift which meant Emily and I were home alone from the time we got off the school bus until mid-night. I was going to get a look at my sister if it killed me and actually, if I got caught that was a very distincted possibility.
On the day in question I told my Mom that I would be staying late for a science fair meeting and that one of my friends Mom would give me a ride home. I made sure my sister heard me.  20141009145617-b70f0e2b
School let out at three-thirty, but I ditched at two and thumbed a ride home. I then hung out in sight of my house until both Mom and Dad left for work.
Once my parents were gone I walked to my door and went inside.
Now, my stupid adolescent plan was to hide in the bathroom behind the shower curtain and when my sister came in to change her clothes I would get the peek I so wanted. In fact, I went a step farther and brought my digital camera with me. I turned off the sound so there would be no shutter noise and I also turned off the flash. And then I stood in there and waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, I heard my sister come in the front door. My heart was racing. I was sure she would hear the bass drum beating that I felt in my chest. And then she came into the bathroom.
Thinking she was home alone Emily didn’t lock the door. In fact, I never heard her close it.
I had positioned the shower curtain so that I could peek out and see a reflection in the mirror of the entire bathroom on onc end of the tub and a straight shot at the toilet from the other. Emily began to undress.
First she pulled her shirt over her head and dropped it on the floor. Her breasts were everything I had imagined. She wore a plain white bra, but I didn’t care. I was electrified with the view I was getting.
Next she unbuckled her belt and let her jeans slide down her long shapely legs. I hadn’t realized Emily had such beautiful legs.  3485195
I held my breath. Would she continue removing pieces of clothing or would she put on some house clothes and head off to do home work. I waited and got my answer shortly.
Emily reached behind herself and unfastened her bra. It fell to the floor and my heart stopped. There was the true to life vision that I had only imagined for the past two years standing a foot or two from me. I had to squeeze the camera least I would drop it. But she didn’t stop there. As quickly as she had removed her bra she hooked her thumbs in her panties and slid them down over her knees and off her feet tossing them in a heap with the rest of her clothes. And oh my goodness her pussy was shaved. If my parents knew Emily had shaved her pussy they would killed her. If I could get a picture of this I would rule the world. I was frozen like a statue. If I moved or in any way let her know I was there I was also dead. D.E.A.D. I waited.
And then the most unbelievable thing happened. Emily closed the toilet lid and sat down. She reached into her purse, which I hadn’t noticed before, and pulled out a large, purple bullet shaped vibrator. She turned it on with one hand while spreading her shaved pussy lips with the other. I could see her clit which was already aroused in anticipation of what was coming. As soon as the vibrator touch Emily’s clit she threw her head back and moaned. This was the perfect time. I positioned the camera as to take in her entire body and pressed the shutter. And the fucking flash went off.
Emily snapped her head up and instinctively slammed her legs shut. I, on the other hand, nearly broke my neck jumping out of the shower and running toward my bedroom. I didn’t know if Emily was behind me or not and I didn’t waste any time checking. I ran into my bedroom, slammed the door and locked it. I had the picture but I also had some very big trouble.
A few minutes later Emily was at the door.
‘Open up you little shit’, she screamed.     images (2)
‘Not until you calmed down,’ I said yelled back. I was stalling until I could think of a place to hide the camera. Then it came to me. Just hide the SD card. Done.
I opened the door and Emily, who was now dressed, stormed in.
‘Where is it,’ she screamed again. She saw the camera on my bed and lounged for it.
‘Don’t waste your time. I pulled the card out’.
Emily turned to face me. ‘You are so dead. I’m telling Dad as soon as he gets home’, she hissed.
‘On really? Well when you tell him I hid in the shower be sure to tell him you were stroking your monkey with a vibrator. And if he doesn’t believe you, hell I’ll show him the picture’. At this point I had no idea what the picture looked like, but I wasn’t going to blow the deal. It was my only chance to get out of this mess.
Emily stopped cold. Her expression changed from rage to fear in less than a second. I just grinned.
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘What do you want? I’ll make your bed everyday, clean your room, what? Just give me the picture.’
I don’t know where the words came from that I heard myself say, but they were unmistakable.
‘I want you to do what you were doing in the bathroom while I watch.’
Emily turned white. ‘You’re kidding?’ she said.
‘No, I’m telling you what I want’. I got even braver. ‘I want to see to fuck your pussy with that vibrator’.
Emily shook her head. ‘No way. If you show Dad that picture you’ll be in the shit just as deep as I will be. You got nothing on me.’
‘Oh really? How’s this. Dad, I knew what Emily was doing and I knew you’d never believe me so I took a picture just to prove it’. Emily turned an even whiter shade of pale.
‘When,? she said.        tumblr_inline_mpdi97SFU51qz4rgp
‘Now’.
‘Where?’
‘Right here’.
Emily left the room. And I waited.
Thirty minutes passed and I was sure she was calling my bluff. She probably knew I would never do that to her. I wouldn’t ruin her life over this. Hell, it was all my fault for hiding in the shower in the first place. And then she came back into my room.
‘No touching,’ she said.
I nodded agreement.
Emily put the vibrator on my bed. She looked at me, directly in my eyes, and took her top off. This time she wasn’t wearing the bra.
I looked at her breasts more closely than I had before. The were perfectly round, perfectly symmetrical, with half dollar size areolas and eraser shaped nipples that stood at attention. My cock stirred in my pants.
Emily unfastened her belt and let her pants fall to the floor. This time she wasn’t wearing underwear either. My cock went from stirring to trying to break free of my own pants.
Emily went to my computer chair, turned it around to face me and sat down. As if I wasn’t in the room she turned the vibrator on, and as before opened her pussy lips and placed the tip on her clit.
It may have been my imagination, but was her clit a little more aroused then it had been it the bathroom?
Emily began to work the vibrator up and down her exposed pussy lips each time going all the way to her tight little asshole and then back up to her swollen clit. She made little ,oh, shapes with her mouth and occasionally let out a soft moan. I needed to jerk off.
Emily continued her motions and each time I thought she was ready to cum she slowed her pace just enough to let it pass. Finally, she laid the vibrator across her clit and yelled, ‘Now’!       images
Emily’s ass came out of the chair as she pushed the vibrator hard against her clit and closed her legs tightly. Her beautiful pointed nipples stood straight up. I thought I would cum in my pants.
When Emily’s climax subsided she relaxed back into the chair with her eyes closed. She hadn’t turned the vibrator off yet.
And then, to my absolute astonishment she began to rub the vibrator over her clit again.
‘Take out your cock,’ she said.
I was hearing things. This whole thing was beyond my comprehension and I was just hearing things.
‘What,? I said.
Emily looked at the obvious bulge in my pants and said it again.
‘Take out you cock’.
I did as she asked.
My dick was as hard as I could ever remember. I guess it was in the neighborhood of six inches. The tip was wet and the head was bright red.
Emily looked at it and then up at me. ‘Start jerking,’ she said.
I didn’t have to be told twice. It was a dream come true. As I stroked my prick Emily began to work her pussy over with the vibrator once more.
I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer and so I did something that surprised me and shocked Emily.
I stopped jerking off and walked over to where she was sitting, knelt down and pulled her hand holding the vibrator away. Before she could say a word I had my mouth over her clit and was licking it with everything I had. I didn’t know what she would do, but I knew this was an opportunity that would most likely never come again. And so I ate my sisters pussy.
Emily’s ass came off the chair as she grabbed my head with both hands and pulled my mouth tightly to her exposed cunt. She cried, moaned, laughed and bucked all at the same time. And oh she tasted so good. 8Or1V3r
Once I knew Emily wasn’t going to freak out on me I moved up and down her slit licking her asshole, dipping into her vagina and twisting her clit in my lips. It was only a matter of minutes until she slammed her pussy into my face and screamed out, ‘I’m fucking cuming in your mouth. Oh, fuck eat my cunt. Oh fuck.’ She held on with both hands.
I felt Emily’s clit twitch and her pussy hole contract as each spasm washed over her. After about twenty seconds of none stop cuming she began to shake and buck with less forcefulness until she finally collapsed into the chair.
I looked down at my sister. My cock was straining for relief. I took it in my hand and with just a few strokes I was on the verge of eruption.
Emily opened her eyes just in time. She pushed my hand away replacing it with her own as she force her magnificent tits upward. I began to cum in her hand. She jerked me off like a pro.
I shot load after hot load of cum onto my sisters tits. Some hit her stomach and one stream even hit her chin. I had never cum so much or so hard in my life.
When the last stream finally dribbled from my cock I thought I would faint.
I stood there, my prick hanging loosely with cum swinging in an arc from the tip while my beautiful sister was looking up smiling, my cum all over her.
She reached out and gently grabbed my balls.
‘Tomorrow don’t hide in the shower,’ she said. ‘Just wait for me in here….’

Featured post

A Charmed Life: The Ashland Witches, Book 1

382cdf6b0c5b74546b9142b08dcd600b1e8ac2daOf the four of us, the only one who could never stay in one place was
Fiona. She said it would take an act of the gods for her to come
home. This was the kind of statement that usually got her into
trouble. – Avery Ryan
Chapter 1
“So this isn’t how I expected us to be together again.” Waverly Ryan rubbed at her
arms and looked around the room.
As much as Fiona wanted to say, “Yeah, well I bet Emma did,” she kept her
thoughts to herself and mirrored her friend’s actions. It was colder than she
expected for April in Nebraska. She was usually in Paris this time of year, not
dressed in black standing in the bleak living room of her father’s old farmhouse
with other mourners.
In a way, she did expect to be here for this very reason. She was almost surprised
her father had lasted this long, considering his habits. She didn’t say so, of course.
But she knew Waverly’s sister, Avery, saw right through her. Even though Fiona
Shaw had perfected the art of the poker face, it didn’t matter because Avery could
sense and calm her emotions, a talent strangely at odds with her detached,
analytical nature.
Even without broadcasting her thoughts, Fiona could tell Avery knew exactly how
she felt. The problem was, so could Waverly, the circle’s token empath. It was a
talent that often got her into trouble because Waverly received so many emotions
that in some cases, she couldn’t handle it.
Fortunately, Avery also had a talent for mitigating the emotional effect on her sister
and directing the conversation in a way that deflected any awkwardness. Rather
than comment on the funeral or the rather tedious reception, she asked, “How long
will you stay?”
Fiona shot her a grim smile of relief. “As long as it takes to settle things, I guess.”
She shrugged and ran her hands through her short, red hair. She couldn’t manage
to tame it even at her father’s funeral, but it hardly mattered now. He was gone and
she was standing on the first floor of her house, surrounded by people she hadn’t
expected to see again, like neighbors and her father’s coworkers.
Sure, she expected
to see her best friends one of these days, but not the rest of the people there.
“So maybe the circle can be complete again,” Waverly ventured. “At least for a little
while. I mean, estates take some time to settle, right? And I’m sure you’ve got to
deal with things like insurance and the house…” She trailed off when Avery shook
her head at her.
“Talking about business right now? No,” Avery scolded her sister. “Fiona needs time
to grieve.”
Fiona looked at her friends, so different and so dear to her. Waverly was the fretful
one, often toying with her long brown hair and showing far more emotion than her
thoughtful sister, Avery. Some might go so far as to mistake Avery’s cool blonde
beauty for disinterest, but she wasn’t heartless – just methodical. And then there
was Emma – gorgeous, steady, ravenhaired
Emma.
Here they were, in their mid to late twenties, their lives so different than when they
met in high school. All of them had jobs and Emma was settled down in a serious
relationship. Fiona glanced over at Crystal, Emma’s partner of seven years. She
stood at the punch bowl, nodding as she spoke with Emma’s mother.
“How is Crystal doing?” Fiona asked.
“She’s good.” Emma’s answer lacked enthusiasm and Fiona decided not to pursue
the topic. Her fellow witches weren’t the only ones who could read emotions.
“And how is Sara?” Waverly asked, drawing Fiona’s attention back to her.
“Who?” Fiona blinked as she tried to recall who Waverly meant.
“Sara. Wasn’t that the cutie you hooked up with in London?”
“Ohhh…” To be honest, Fiona hardly remembered. London was before Paris, before
Adaline, but after Helen in Athens, right? Sometimes her travels were a blur in her
mind and so were her socalled
“girlfriends” from one country to the next. As far as
she was concerned, all that mattered was getting her story, immersing herself in
whatever she was writing, enjoying a warm snuggle with a lovely lady, and then
getting on her way. How was she supposed to remember the names of all those
women? They were different every time.
Avery put her hand on Fiona’s arm and said to their friends, “I’m sure Fiona’s
lovers are the last thing on her mind today.”
Grateful for Avery’s intuitive intervention once more, Fiona dipped her gaze to her
feet. Shoes said a lot about a person or people, in this case. Emma’s were sensible
closedtoe
shoes. Waverly’s were a little too strappy for the spring, let alone a
funeral, and Avery’s were cute, classic Mary Janes.
Fiona remembered when she first met her friends. Their circle of three had been
bonded as a magick circle, but incomplete. Earth, air, and water needed her fire to
inspire their actions. And as part of a small handful of gay residents in their tiny
community of Ashland, Nebraska, they gave each other muchneeded
emotional
support, too.
Fiona’s wanderlust wasn’t the town’s fault, though. She liked Ashland well enough,
but she’d moved so often until she turned seventeen, it felt natural to always be on
the go. Heck, she hadn’t even stayed at the same college for four years. Though she
did manage to graduate and move immediately into a coveted job writing for The
New Yorker. Briefly, anyway.
“You could just stay,” Emma said and shrugged as if it were that easy.
Fiona bit back a scoff. Staying in one town, living in the same house was easy for
Emma, the everdependable
earth witch. She had Crystal and her store and her
family intact. Emma had perfected the art of adulting even before it became
fashionable to use “adult” as a verb. They jokingly referred to her as “the coven
mom.”
Maybe it helped that she was a clairvoyant and knew what life would toss her way.
Having an idea of what to expect would certainly make it easier to move through
life, accept the positive, and work through the negative.
But Fiona would have hated that talent. She wanted life to be unpredictable and
interesting, to live with a “come what may” attitude. She didn’t need security
because things always went her way. And if they didn’t go her way, she had the
power to change that.
Except this. This was the one instance where she couldn’t manifest something into
being. Well, maybe she could, but she knew as well as her friends that disturbing
the dead was a dangerous business. Besides, it was for the best in this case. Sure,
her dad was an alcoholic. Sure, driving after drinking was a risk he took. It was no
one’s responsibility but his own. But, still…
She dipped her gaze to the circle of shoes again and let out a long breath. “I have to
settle his estate and that will probably take some time,” she admitted. “So I’m not
going anywhere too soon. Besides, I’m between assignments at the moment. I’m
sure if I need to work, I can take something local to keep me busy once I figure out
what I need to do here.”
Fiona could see it in the way Waverly tensed up. The brunette wanted to squeal and
jump up and down, but she managed to restrain herself. Thank goodness. A funeral
reception was no place for Waverly to go all perky cheerleader on her, especially at
their ages.
“Let us know if we can help you at all,” Avery said, reaching up to give Fiona’s arm
a gentle, reassuring squeeze. “We’re all here for you. We always have been.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Fiona smoothed her hands down the front of her black
blazer and glanced around the room. “I should probably make the rounds. You
know, other people are going to want to talk to me, I’m sure.”
“Of course. We shouldn’t monopolize the daughter of the deceased.” Avery nodded
and glared at both Waverly and Emma until they nodded too. “We’ll stay and help
tidy up after everyone leaves if you’d like.”
Fiona waved them away as she took a step back. “There’s no need. Besides, Emma
has Crystal with her, and I’m sure all of you have work in the morning.”
“Fiona, remember, we’re a circle and we’re here for you.”
Avery’s words stopped her in her tracks. Wasn’t that what they had pledged over
ten years ago when they were teenagers? They would always be there for one
another. Even distance wouldn’t get in the way of their bond. That was the promise.
The only two who bothered with distance were Fiona and Avery, though. Both
Waverly and Emma went to college locally, while Avery went to the west coast and
Fiona went to the east coast. She still didn’t know what brought Avery back to their
tiny town, considering she could work anywhere. Why would she settle for living in
rural Ashland and working in Omaha, when she could have been huge in L.A.?
“I appreciate that,” Fiona acknowledged. “Let me just see my other guests.” She
turned away and glanced around the room.
The house was large enough to hold quite a crowd and as much as Fiona wanted
everyone to leave, she knew it would feel empty when everyone was gone. For the
moment, however, claustrophobia set in and she had to take a long, deep breath.
She had her reasons for only visiting once or twice a year since college, and being
swept up in a life of wandering and writing had been her escape from all of that.
As far as the house was concerned, she hoped she could sell it quickly and move on
with her life.
There was nothing like moving through a crowd of people who were halfacquaintances
and remembered her as a seventeenyearold.
It felt like walking
underwater. Fiona’s feet were leaden as she moved from person to person, thanking
them for attending. All of them had a few words to say about her father, of course –
how much they missed him, how hard working he was, how helpful.
Yup, that was her father, Mr. Helpful. Also, the town drunk, which was what forced
Fiona to cut her trip short, come home, identify his body, and arrange a funeral.
She expected it would be simple to settle things, at least financially – sell the house,
pay the final bills, and move on with her life. If there was anything she could be
thankful for in this situation, it was that her dad had life insurance through his
employer. It was some small comfort.
It took longer than she wanted to speak to her guests, but she had to do it. Her
parents had divorced long ago, her father’s parents were deceased, as were two of
his three siblings, while the third was too ill to make the trip all the way from
Boston. So there was no one else to handle these duties.
After the last guest left, Fiona found her friends lingering in the living room. They
turned to her, faces filled with expectation. How long could she give them, how
much of her time? A few days? A few weeks? She just didn’t know yet.
And as much as she loved her friends, nothing mattered to her but freedom from the
reminder of the man who had pulled one hell of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act on her
when she left for college. Did that even matter anymore, ten years later, now that
he was gone? She didn’t know.
One thing she did know, though, was that she was exhausted. The flight home, the
cold shock of seeing her deceased father, and the whirlwind of planning the funeral
– all of it caught up with her and she folded in on herself.
Of course, Waverly was the first to move to console her, followed by Emma, who
wrapped her in a motherly embrace.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Fiona said with a sob.
“Well, I can refer you to a local probate attorney,” Emma soothed. “He’ll guide you
through the process.”
Fiona sniffled and nodded. That would be good. The last thing she needed was the
complexities of administering an estate to trip her up when everything else in her
life was going so well.
“I’d appreciate that,” she said.
“And we’ll have a circle for healing,” Waverly added. “There’s a waning moon next
weekend, a good time for releasing.”
Fiona bit back a laugh. Any socalled
releasing was going to be a long process for
her. “That sounds nice,” she whispered.
Avery looked at her, doubt clearly written in the way she furrowed her brow. But a
moment later, she joined the circle of friends, the circle of witches who had once
pledged to stand by one another no matter what.
Chapter 2
Leaving the lawyer’s office with Emma should have felt like a relief to Fiona, but it
didn’t. She was supposed to be glad there was a person to guide her through the
probate process, be glad there was a Will that was very specific about her father’s
wishes. The attorney told her it should be a very tidy estate since her father had all
his ducks in a row. Amazing, considering her father spent the past ten years getting
blind drunk night after night.
“Hey,” Emma said, “let’s go to Cheri O’s for lunch.”
Fiona shrugged and nodded. They were walking down Silver Street anyway. It only
made sense that they go to the restaurant that was a longstanding
Ashland
tradition.
“Sounds good,” she finally said, watching the sidewalk pass beneath her feet. “Why
is it that even after we grow up, we try to skip the cracks?”
“What?” Emma looked at her and then down. “Oh, I don’t know. One of those habits
we form as kids, I suppose, and never really let go of.” Since Emma owned a local
shop, she was the one who drew the short straw when it came to babysitting Fiona
at the lawyer’s office.
But Fiona was glad her first oneonone
catchup
time would be with Emma. Avery
would have been even better. Just as long as it wasn’t Waverly and her constant
fretful chatter. It wasn’t that Fiona didn’t like Waverly. It was just that fire and
water didn’t mix very well. They needed a third person there to balance them out,
like Emma’s earthy, calming influence, or Avery’s airy logic.
“Here we are.” Emma held the door for her and greeted the server by name as they
sat down. As soon as they each had their soda – Fiona never had acquired the
Midwestern habit of referring to it as “pop” – Emma lifted her glass. “To you.”
“Why me?” Fiona asked as she clinked her glass against Emma’s.
Emma set her glass on the table and shrugged. “Because you’re doing exactly what
you want with your life, Fi. How lucky are you? Me? I’m still stuck in this same
town, still living across the street from my parents.”
Fiona couldn’t stop the snort that escaped her. “How can you be stuck here when
you purposely chose to start a business and settle down with someone local?”
All those years ago when Fiona’s father moved them to Ashland, she hadn’t been
thrilled with the idea. After spending the majority of her young life in the Boston
area, Nebraska just seemed flat, both geographically and culturally. Add in the fact
that Ashland had fewer than twentyfive
hundred people in it, and Fiona was pretty
sure she would go crazy.
In truth, she hadn’t. The town was lovely and Omaha had nearly the same cultural
amenities as Boston. Still, Fiona was accustomed to wandering and staying in one
place was hard on her. It was the circle that kept her sane, the first friends she fit
in with for a long time. But the idea of Ashland as her home hadn’t quite stuck.
“You know what I mean. You had a dream and you followed it. We’re all really
proud of you, even if we never tell you so.” Emma folded her arms and leaned
forward just a bit. In a lower voice, she said, “I think the girls are a little jealous
sometimes. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t. You’re living an exciting life.”
“Em, you’re the smartest person I know, besides Avery. Why did you decide to stay
if you really don’t want to be here?” Fiona asked. She sipped at her soda and sighed
at the taste. She generally avoided empty calories, so the occasional soft drink was a
treat.
Emma propped her elbow on the table and thrust her fingers under her heavy black
hair. She turned away, her brown eyes focusing on some point in the distance that
Fiona couldn’t identify. Then Emma blinked and turned back to her with a little
shake of her head. “Things will change soon,” she said.
“I know that look.” Fiona tilted her head as she tried to figure out what Emma was
thinking. Unfortunately, Emma was serene and about as easy to read as a stone.
She’d had one of her visions – that much was obvious in the way the conversation
paused and her gaze fixed elsewhere. But she didn’t want to talk about it.
At least Emma would share if it had anything to do with Fiona, but since it didn’t
seem to involve her, Fiona didn’t pry. Those visions were subjective anyway, she
knew. They were usually indicative of a catalyst for some potential event. It could
be avoided and how one proceeded was their own choice. Clairvoyance didn’t
circumvent free will. It just let Emma know what the universe might throw in
someone’s path.
The server returned, saving Fiona from finding a way to fill the awkward silence.
The woman set the platters with their lunch wraps in front of them and pulled a
bottle of ketchup from her apron. Emma immediately poured a dollop of the ketchup
on the plate next to her French fries. Ever the safe, predictable earth witch, Fiona
mused as she drummed her fingers against the tabletop.
“The more things change,” she muttered.
“The more they stay the same.” Emma completed the cliché and gave her a small
smile as she put the ketchup bottle back in the center of the table. “Maybe that’s the
problem.”
That was it, Fiona knew. All Emma was going to give her. Whatever vision she’d
had, it was for Emma to work out for herself. And she would do it thoughtfully,
methodically, careful not to harm anyone, as long as she could help it.
Rather than wonder, Fiona gave Emma the thing she knew her friend wanted – the
goods on her meeting with the attorney. “Well, the lawyer thinks the estate should
be pretty straightforward. For an alcoholic, Dad was surprisingly organized.”
“That’s good to hear. I mean, if you have to deal with something like this, I guess.
Even the bleakest cloud can have a silver lining.”
“Right?” Fiona still had difficulty talking about her father in the past tense, but she
supposed that was only natural whether a passing was sudden or expected. “The life
insurance should be more than enough to pay for the funeral and have money left
over to pay any bills. I’ll have to spend the week gathering all that I can, though,
like bills, bank statements, and more, so I know what Dad has for debts and assets.”
“Do you think you’re up for going through the house on your own?” Emma asked.
Fiona’s heart felt like it dropped and she poked at the wrap on her plate. She didn’t
have much of an appetite, especially when discussing her father.
“I’d like some help,” she confessed. “I don’t like being alone in the house as it is. It’s
just too weird for me, you know? Dad was always home. He never changed his
habits. He just went to work, maybe to the bar on a Friday or Saturday night, and
then fishing on weekend mornings. I’ve never lived in that house alone. The biggest
place I’ve ever been alone in is a hotel suite.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, how long do you think you’ll be here?”
“At least a week, but probably longer.” That was the thing about Fiona’s lifestyle. It
wasn’t like she had to rush back to a home or a job. Her home was the world and
her job was wherever she found an assignment that suited her. “I thought I might
stick around a little while longer, because of all the places I’ve written about, I’ve
never done anything on our town.”
“Really?” Emma looked surprised. “You actually think about it as our town? I mean,
as your town? What about all the writing projects and articles you used for your
first portfolio? What were they about?”
Fiona felt a little better talking about her career. She loved writing. Traveling
around the world, capturing people, places, and events meant everything to her.
Her innate element of fire was in everything and everyone – how the world moved
and changed. Most of that movement and change tended to be in metropolitan
areas, but there was something that made her wonder if she could find merit in
sharing her thoughts about a place like Ashland.
“Those articles were from Boston and Omaha,” she admitted. “I never really
considered doing anything rural, but over the years I’ve been thinking about it.
Maybe something showcasing the prairies. It’s just a thought.”
“It’s a nice thought.” Emma bit into her wrap and Fiona finally felt the urge to do
the same. Talking about her love of travel and documenting it with her articles was
an infinitely better subject than her father. Sure, she had loved him with all her
heart. Even as an alcoholic, he’d never abused her or neglected her. Heck, the man
hadn’t even yelled at her when she misbehaved.
It was just that one time…
But that was enough.
It was only after Fiona left for college that her father started going downhill with
his drinking. The three or four beer bottles she saw in the trash every morning
when she was an adolescent became vodka bottles she noticed when she was home
for her breaks. The father who loved her and cared for her, who raised her when her
mother didn’t want to, compensated for her absence by drinking harder and more
often.
Worse than that was the resentment with which he treated her every time she came
home on school break. After nearrepeats
of the horrible scene he’d put her through
the first time she left, she started staying on campus during both summer and
winter. Instead, she worked and that was her excuse for not being able to come
home for longer than a few days.
She traveled in large part because she was compelled to see what would happen if
she simply went wherever there was a story to be told, but she would be lying to
herself if she didn’t admit there was another side to it. That as much as she liked to
think she didn’t feel stifled in the small town she, in fact, did. Fiona was too restless
to stay in one place long, but some places were less “right” for her than others. This
was one of them.
“You don’t have to circle with us you know, if you don’t want to.”
Fiona blinked at Emma. “What?”
“Waverly and that whole healing circle idea? You don’t have to do that.”
“I know.” Fiona realized Emma had already eaten half her wrap and she’d hardly
touched her own. She took several bites and washed them down with the soda.
Emma knew. Fiona could feel it. That was one witch whose intuition worked
overtime. But Emma was also sensible enough to let it rest unless Fiona wanted to
talk.
“So, how’s the shop?”
“The shop is good.” Even though Emma answered evenly, Fiona realized she didn’t
want her to pursue the inevitable line of questioning. It looked like both of them
were dancing around uncomfortable topics. What was going on with her friend?
Despite her curiosity, Fiona took Emma’s reticence as a cue to change the subject.
“And how about Waverly?”
Emma let out a chuckle and waved her hand in the air. “Still the same Waverly –
she can’t stop worrying about this or that unless there’s music to distract her. She
should have gone to New York while she had the chance. She is still the most
amazing ballerina I have ever seen.”
“True, but do you think she would have been able to hack it there?”
“At worst, she would have spent her best years dancing in the chorus, but at least
she would have done something she loved.” Emma turned her plate around and
picked up a fry. “I don’t know if it would have made her less timid, but I think it
would have been a good experience for her, at least for strengthening her emotional
shields. But she seems happy enough teaching tiny ballerinas, so I guess everything
is fine.”
It was too bad Waverly hadn’t danced her way out of town and to the east coast,
Fiona had to agree. Even though Fiona had no interest in dance, the few times she
had seen Waverly in a show, she had to admit she was beyond impressed. Teaching
seemed like a waste of her talents. “Does she have a girlfriend?”
“No, and never will at this rate. She can’t bring herself to approach women. She did
just fine getting dates in college. I’m not sure what changed after graduation.
Maybe everything that comes with a relationship was just too much for her.”
Fiona pursed her lips and looked down at the wrap. If approaching women was the
reason Waverly wasn’t in a relationship, Fiona had the opposite problem. When
someone caught her eye, she always made the attempt.
“And that just leaves Avery,” she pointed out.
“Ah, Avery. You know how she is.”
“In her own world,” Fiona confirmed, “where all the people add up and everything
makes sense.”
“Exactly.” Emma nodded, her eyes twinkling a bit. Everyone loved Avery, but Avery
didn’t show love for anyone. “Her job is going great. She works at some big
marketing agency in Omaha and loves it. Even though she won’t admit it, I know
her power goes into everything she does. She can’t help it. If you’ve ever seen one of
her ad campaigns, you’d know it. No one can compel a person to feel the story the
way she can.”
“Well, just because she can sell stuff doesn’t mean she can sell herself. Girlfriend
status?”
“Single. She always seems too busy for that sort of thing and when she does meet a
woman, they usually run away screaming. That whole intellect before emotion
thing. She’s just never been keen on showing affection.”
The wrap on Fiona’s plate was finally gone and she picked at her fries as she
pondered Emma’s words. Avery was her complete opposite, of course. Where the air
witch didn’t express herself in love, Fiona would fall headoverheels
passionately in
lust with a beautiful woman – preferably in another country or on a different coast
– and then stay with them a few days before continuing her travels. She returned to
them sometimes. And sometimes there were others. There was always a reason to
go back to London, Paris, Rome, or any of the other places where she had met and
loved a woman.
And that was the one way in which she and Avery were so alike. Their hearts
refused to be bound to someone else.
“What are you thinking?” Emma asked.
Fiona scrunched her nose a bit. There were some things she’d rather not say, even
to her best friends. But this was safe enough. “I was thinking that I could have had
a shot with Avery. Goodness knows I wanted her when we were in high school.”
The laugh Emma barked out surprised her. “Didn’t everyone want Avery, though?
You, me, and anyone else with a pulse?”
This was true. Avery was more than the tall, cool, analytical blonde beauty. She
was smart and sporty. She could hang with the girls or the guys. That cleancut
allAmerican
girl mystique came to her naturally and everyone found it attractive.
As she ran her hand through her short red waves, Fiona remembered again why she
didn’t feel like she fit in anywhere. She was the girl who wore combat boots her first
day of school and glared at anyone who looked at her, even if there was only friendly
curiosity in their stare. How Avery had worked up the courage to approach her, she
never did figure out. But the point was Avery did approach her and invited her to
sit at the table with herself, Waverly, and Emma. All it took was one handshake for
Fiona to know she was there to make their little trio a complete circle.
“Well, how about tonight we get together for a housecleaning
party?” Emma
suggested, dragging her back to the present.
Fiona thought about the offer. She was going to have to decline, she realized. “Not
just yet. I mean, I appreciate the suggestion – you know that. But I feel like as
weird as it is to be alone in the house, I should go through it by myself first. There
could just be personal stuff that I don’t want anyone else to see. Heck, there’s
probably stuff there I don’t want to see.”
“True, but what if you find something you can’t handle on your own?”
Fiona didn’t know what that could possibly mean. She was the feisty, scrappy one of
their quartet, after all. But she supposed Emma had a point. “Well, all of you are
within five minutes of the house, so if I see something I’m not sure I want to deal
with by myself, I’ll call somebody.”
“Promise?” Emma asked. Her nurturing aura came naturally to her. She couldn’t
help but mother the people she cared about and Fiona loved her for it.
“I promise. Also, it’s a weekday and I know all of you have to work tomorrow. Why
don’t we do the cleaning party on Saturday, if you don’t mind? By then, I think I’ll
have sorted through Dad’s papers and then be ready to do actual cleaning – you
know, maybe set aside stuff for a garage sale.”
She watched as Emma slid her hand across the table and picked up the check.
Those slow, deliberate movements told her Emma was processing her statement.
“You aren’t staying,” her friend finally said. “Why not?”
“Well, I can’t stay here forever. I’ve got work to do.” Old reliable. It was the same
excuse she’d used to avoid Ashland since graduating from college.
“Are you on assignment or under contract, or working for a particular news agency
or magazine?” Emma asked as she examined the check.
“Not at the moment, no.” Fiona was completely freelance and she loved it. Sure,
publishers pursued her for certain types of stories, but she got to pick and choose
her assignments.
Emma nodded once. “Do you have a home to get back to – an apartment somewhere
exotic?”
“No.”
“Here in the U.S.?”
“No, no apartment or home.” Fiona folded her arms over her chest and leaned back
in her chair. “I know what you’re trying to do, Em.”
“That’s good because I’m certainly not hiding anything.” Emma dug into her wallet
and set a couple twenty dollar bills on the table. “I’ve got lunch and the tip. Don’t
argue with me. We never see you, so I want to treat you. And as for my questions,
I’m asking because I’d like you to consider keeping the house. Not that you have to
live there, but it might be nice for you to have a home base when you need a rest
from the nomadic life. Depending on what your father owes on the mortgage, you
could have an asset on your hands.”
Fiona snorted and rolled her eyes. “I’m sure the last thing I want is to be tied down
to a mortgage. I’m twentyeight,
Emma. For me, that means I’m still young enough
to travel and enjoy the world. Heck, look at amazing women like Jane Goodall. She’s
over eighty years old and she still follows her passion. So whether I’m twentyeight
or eightyeight,
I don’t see myself settling down.”
They rose from the table and Emma got that distant, hazy look in her eyes again.
She hesitated and Fiona saw her fingers curl over the top of her chair before her
expression cleared.
“Well then,” Emma said, giving her shoulders a little shake, “I’d suggest you avoid
women with red lips.”
Chapter 3
FIONA STOOD IN THE doorway of her father’s house and took a deep breath. How was
she going to tackle this alone? Maybe she should have taken Emma up on the offer
to help. At the very least, she could use some kind of Hollywood witchcraft that
would instantaneously gather every single bit of paper in the house and pile it on
the living room floor for her.
Still, there couldn’t be that many places she would have to dig for papers. It was a
oneandahalf
story farmhouse from the early 1900s. While it wasn’t necessarily
historic, it did have that old west vibe Fiona loved. She took a deep breath and told
herself that even though the windows were wide open, letting in the spring breeze,
there was still the slightest hint of a smell that she could only describe as old. Not
musty, but pleasantly vintage.
When she stepped upstairs, she realized she wasn’t totally alone. The litter box in
the upstairs bathroom reminded her that there was a cat somewhere, a cat she kept
forgetting existed. What was his name again? Fiona crouched in front of the box and
realized it only had a couple of clumps in it. The cat must be an indooroutdoor
cat.
She’d have to keep an eye out for it.
She peeked into her father’s bedroom next. It was tidy, the furniture sparse – just a
bed and a dresser. Still, she knew she had to step inside and start digging, so she
did. Sidestepping a discarded denim jacket, she reached the dresser and gathered
all of the papers from atop it. As much as she hated poking around in anyone’s
personal things, she opened each drawer to check for papers. She found nothing but
neatlyfolded
laundry.
Once her inspection of the bedroom was done, she picked up a picture frame and
looked at the photographs. There was her senior year picture from high school on
one side and a gray tabby cat on the other. Great. At least she knew what kind of
cat lived in her father’s house, if the cat ever showed up.
She set the frame back down on the dresser and walked into the next bedroom, the
pile of papers in hand. This was her room, so she knew there wasn’t much of
anything in here since she lived her life out of her suitcase. Still, she lingered in the
doorway and glanced around her old bedroom. She tried to refrain from mentally
cataloging her belongings, but she couldn’t help it. Bed, dresser, prom dress that
was ten years out of style…
There was no place for any of it in her life. No home of her own to put the stuff in,
permanently or temporarily.
Fiona trotted back downstairs and set the stack of papers on the coffee table. Her
father hadn’t been one for collecting much by way of knickknacks,
paintings, or
books, other than some hideous figurines in the den. No need for an estate sale. A
plain old garage sale should do the trick to empty the house so she could put it on
the market.
She went through the small dining room, checking the hutch to see if her father
stored any papers in it. The few she found in the drawers went into the small pile
on the coffee table. Then she checked the kitchen, where she found a few more.
Some, she saw, were as basic as a partial grocery list or receipt, but she gathered
them anyway.
There was a third bedroom at the back of the house, which her father used as a den.
It seemed funny to think he would have a desk and computer but, to her surprise,
he had a fairly new looking Mac in there. There was another framed picture of the
cat and then one of her hanging on the wall, matted and framed professionally,
alongside a magazine article.
Fiona clasped her hands behind her back as she looked at the frame hanging on the
wall. It was the first article she ever had published in The New Yorker. She was
surprised she never noticed it when she visited before, but then again she didn’t
poke around her dad’s office. Nosing around into his personal life would have only
exacerbated the animosity between them.
She went to the desk and gathered the papers on the blotter and in the drawers.
Even with the sophisticated computer, the office still seemed dark and oldfashioned.
Though she hated to get into her father’s personal business, she turned
on the computer. Once she was in, she started going through his software and files.
She almost breathed a sigh of relief when she realized he hadn’t done any
bookkeeping or electronic bill paying. All of that still seemed to be done on paper
and with checks. He didn’t appear to have any social media accounts she needed to
close, so that was one less complication in her life.
The browser favorites and cache were either articles written by Fiona, or weather,
and local agricultural and fishing news. “So you just used the computer to keep up
with me. I never knew.” Fiona rested her chin on her hand and stared at the screen.
Her own picture, alongside her most recentlypublished
article, stared back at her.
It was heartwarming to know her dad had bought a computer just to keep up with
her work. Even the few emails he exchanged with people mentioned how proud he
was of her. Cousins, back home in Massachusetts, Fiona guessed, since their last
names were all Shaw.
She shut the computer down and brought the rest of the paperwork into the living
room. After sinking down onto the couch, she propped her elbows on her knees and
stared at the pile on the coffee table. It wasn’t much, but she still had to organize it.
The lawyer already had the obvious stuff – the Will, the life insurance policy and
paperwork, and the funeral statement. This was the everyday minutiae that Fiona
needed to make sense of, so she could settle what remained of her father’s life.
“Holy shit, this is depressing,” she muttered and scrubbed her hands over her face.
“I’m not even sure I can do this right now.”
A gentle scratching sound at the front door caught her attention and she rose from
the couch. That had to be the cat, right? She crossed the front hall and opened the
door.
Sure enough, a gray tabby stood on the porch staring up at her, blinking its wide
eyes.
“Hey there,” she said, feeling a little foolish that she was talking to a cat. “Um,
sorry, but I don’t even know your name.”
The cat sauntered in with what appeared to be a shrug and then twined itself
around her legs, slinking and flowing in that sinuous manner felines had. Fiona
bent down to pet him and her fingers encountered the collar around his neck.
“Wow, you have a tag and everything. I guess Dad wanted to make sure people
knew where you belonged.” She looked at the small round charm hanging from the
green collar. “Scrappy. That’s not a very creative name, you know. My friends call
me that sometimes.”
The cat blinked at her, apparently unfazed by its own mediocrity.
“Whatever. I guess you’re kind of stuck with me at the moment.” Fiona smoothed
her hand along the short fur of Scrappy’s back. “I used to really want a kitten, but
Dad never got me one. I guess he got you to replace me, sort of.”
Scrappy pushed his head into her palm and purred when she complied with the
petting he demanded.
“Fine, then. Let’s see if there’s any food for you.” Fiona unfolded herself from her
crouch and walked into the kitchen, the gray tabby trotting along at her heels. She
found a bag of dry cat food and filled his bowl, then refilled his water dish. “Just do
me a favor and don’t have fleas or anything. That’d suck.”
Scrappy ignored her, instead lowering his face to the bowl to lap at the water.
With a shrug, Fiona went back to the living room and resumed her helpless posture
on the couch. “And I’m talking to a cat,” she told herself. “I think I need to get out of
here.”
A glance at her watch told her it was too early for dinner. She certainly wasn’t
hungry just yet, but she also wasn’t in the mood to sit there sifting through papers.
After a few moments of internal debate, she forced herself to begin the task at hand.
Sorting the papers wasn’t difficult. It was just tedious. Fiona wasn’t one to
categorize and arrange. That was Avery and Emma. What Fiona did was make
things happen – a date, a job, even something as mundane as finding the perfect
parking spot. That was her talent. Too bad it wouldn’t help her here.
By the time she was done, she could justify going out for dinner. There was a bar
nearby and the thought of a cold beer also sounded pretty good to her.
She left the papers in their organized piles on the coffee table and drove across
town. Fiona wasn’t really one to go to bars and neither were her friends, but they
had gone there once to celebrate after college graduation.
After sitting in the parking lot for a moment, she got out of her car and walked into
the place. It was exactly how she remembered it – dimlylit
and classic Nebraska
paraphernalia decorating the walls. It felt like a good place to disappear into her
own sorrows, to let go of the weight of the past couple of days.
Rather than take up an entire booth or table, she sat at the bar and lifted her gaze
to the menu. The place was already busy and she let the pleasant hum of customer
chatter distract her from her thoughts.
“Hey, honey, what can I get you?” The bartender placed a square white napkin in
front of her and leaned on the bar, hands braced apart as she waited.
Fiona barely spared her a glance. She was too busy checking out the menu hanging
on the wall. When it took her a second longer to decide, she could feel the
impatience radiating from the bartender’s tense body. “I’ll try the taco special and a
Corona,” she finally said.
“Lime in that Corona?” The woman reached below the bar and then placed a bottle
atop the square napkin. She flipped the cap off before Fiona could blink.
“Yeah, thanks.”
The woman moved away from her, her strides long and purposeful. Fiona watched
her, unable to stop the mental assessment. Lean legs encased in tight, dark blue
jeans. Upper body wrapped in a black bustier with wide shoulder straps. The
woman turned and Fiona’s mind registered cleavage. Or the lack thereof. Even
though the outfit was tight and borderline biker babe, it wasn’t all that revealing. It
moved with her body like a second skin and Fiona supposed she had nailed that
cross between sexy and efficient.
She finally looked at the bartender’s face as the woman returned to pop a slice of
lime down into her bottle.
“Holy shit.” The words came out before she could filter them. It was the kind of
verbal gaffe that usually got her into trouble and gave her a reason to recover by
charming the pants off of someone.
“I’m sorry?” The bartender cocked her eyebrow at her and Fiona shook her head, her
mouth twisting in a grim line.
“Sorry. I just didn’t realize you were so beautiful.”
The bartender let out a laugh and shrugged as if it was nothing. “No need to
apologize.” She stepped away and Fiona blinked, trying to remember the face she
had just seen.
In the low light, she could tell the bartender’s hair was a long, wavy amber blonde,
the same color as the waves of wheat on the prairies. Her eyes were a pale slate
gray, lined in black and fringed with dark lashes. Fiona tried not to stare. Straight
nose, sculpted eyebrows, makeup minimal but polished.
“So, are you just passing through?”
“What?” Fiona looked up at the bartender, who stood facing her again. Those gray
eyes focused on her and Fiona couldn’t catch her breath. “Uh, no, I live here,” she
finally responded.
“Really? I haven’t seen you around. Did you just turn twentyone
or something?”
“I mean… I don’t… that is, I don’t live here, but I used to before college.” Fiona
placed her hands on either side of the Corona and ran them up the sides of the
glass, gathering the condensation off the exterior of the bottle. “My dad just died
and I came home because of that.”
“Oh, shit.” The bartender winced. “Are you Denny Shaw’s daughter?”
Now Fiona didn’t fight the urge to do a double take. “Yeah, I am. Did you know
him?”
The woman sighed and tapped her fist against the top of the bar. “Yeah. He came in
a couple times a week, drank some beers, and made small talk. If it’s any
consolation, he wasn’t a jerk like some of the guys we get in here, you know? He was
always really courteous, really nice. It’s awful, what happened that night.”
Fiona wasn’t sure to how to respond to that. No one had ever complimented her
father to her before, except at the funeral. What could she say? She settled on
“Thanks” and picked up her beer.
The bartender looked like she wanted to say something more, but instead she
compressed her lips, turned, and went around to the back. When she returned, she
slid a platter of tacos down in front of Fiona. “On the house,” she said.
“What? No. That’s not necessary.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it is.” The bartender turned and walked away to tend to another
customer, leaving Fiona with a beer, a platter of tacos, and a strange breathless
sensation that just would not quit.
It was only after she left the bar that Fiona realized something, something
connected to her lunch with Emma.
The bartender had red lips. Full, velvety, very red lips.
Chapter 4
“So fuck you, you and your fortunetelling
abilities,” Fiona concluded.
The trio of witches sitting in her living room laughed. Fiona had to admit she had
delivered a particularly colorful rant, but she didn’t expect them to laugh at her for
it. Waverly and Avery both nudged each other, practically helpless with a severe
case of the giggles. The fact that their laughter was fueled by copious amounts of
tequila probably only exacerbated the situation.
“Oh yeah, yuck it up, you clowns.” Fiona threw her hands in the air and rolled her
eyes. No one seemed to understand the gravity of her situation. She pondered
tossing lime slices at the girls to shut them up.
“Hey.” Waverly pointed at her, the gesturing hand holding a shot glass that
threatened to slosh amber liquid on the hardwood floor. “Em warned you. She told
you so. Haven’t you learned by now that you ignore her at your peril?”
Fiona blew a raspberry at Waverly and refilled her own shot glass. “That’s exactly
what worries me. The only thing she told me was to avoid women with red lips. How
could I know I’d run into one? And now that I have, how am I going to get away
from the inevitable?” She shook the salt onto her hand, licked it off, knocked back
the shot, and then bit into a piece of lime.
“Knowledge is power.” Emma had only done one tequila shot which, Fiona knew,
was all she would do. The earth witch was looking through the pile of papers
assigned to her and sorting them by date. Dependable Emma, always on the job.
Waverly had the easiest task – going through the slips of paper that appeared to be
worthless, like receipts and flyers – which was a good thing, because she was a
lightweight. Only two shots in and she was already acting like a teenager. Fiona
wondered if she should have served plain water instead to keep everyone on task.
Then again, Fiona supposed all of them needed those teenage moments. It kept
everything from seeming so serious and she needed the levity after a handful of
miserable days. She glanced at Emma, who merely shrugged at her.
“Tell me,” Avery piped up, “what’s so inevitable?”
Fiona pointed an accusing finger at Emma. “She knows. She always knows.”
Emma put her own hands up defensively. “I know only what I saw in my vision. I
warned you and you just admitted that in front of two other witnesses, so any
actions that followed are your own. The decision that brought you to where you are
now is entirely your responsibility.”
“But you had a reason for telling me to avoid her, so spill. Don’t give me that
nebulous ‘my visions are subjective’ or ‘based on other’s decisions’ bullshit.”
Lips clamped together, Emma shook her head.
“That’s all I get?” Fiona asked. “Nothing more?”
“I think you can figure out what’s going to happen next. You said yourself it was
inevitable. You don’t need clairvoyance to see what you’ve already figured out.”
“And what is that?”
Avery chortled and set her shot glass down on the coffee table. “First of all,
constantly badgering Emma to answer your questions won’t work. You know that.
Second, the answer is to see that you like she of the ohsored
lips. You wouldn’t be
telling us about her if you didn’t, considering you never tell us about the other
women in your life. And you certainly wouldn’t be panicking if you didn’t feel
something about the encounter.”
“Excuse me, but apparently I told you about the other women in my life, so this one
isn’t exactly different or special.”
“Correction: you never told us much about them at all,” Avery amended. “You would
email us things like, ‘Having a lovely time in London. Met a babe named Sara.’ Or
‘Topless time on the Riviera – hoping to score with Francesca.’ But that was it. A
sentence or two at most. You’ve talked about this one specific chick for a good halfhour
now.”
“Well… that’s because…” Fiona looked around the room. “Someone give me
something to work with here.”
“You said you didn’t want to be alone in the house,” Emma supplied. “So the
universe sent you someone, so you won’t have to be alone here. It’s pretty obvious.”
Fiona bent her head to hide the furrow of her brow. Was Emma right? She did have
a tendency to receive things, both intentionally and unintentionally. If she didn’t
watch it, her manifesting talents had a mind of their own. She was a walking “Be
careful what you wish for” cliché, as Avery often liked to remind her. Was the
appearance of this unearthly gorgeous woman in her life a response to that desire?
If it was, could she just give in to her lust and then be on her way, as she did with
all the other women she met?
“I hoped I would have figured out how to control it by now.” Fiona tried not to feel
dejected as she stared down at the papers in front of her. “I’m twentyeightyearsold.
My powers should respond to me when I want them to, not try to run my life.”
“I think it’s going to be a lifelong work in progress to truly master them, rather than
having them master you. But I find that it’s like it is for all of us.” Emma reached
over and rubbed Fiona’s back. “Trust me, if I could control my visions, I would, but I
can’t so I’ve learned how to work with what I get.”
“I know, I know,” Fiona groaned. “But I should be able to control this. I shouldn’t
have the universe just taking charge wherever it wants to play with my life.”
Waverly pointed at her. “You know nature abhors a vacuum. You pretty much
invited it to fill what you deemed a void, an empty space in need of something to
make it not empty. So what if you end up with a little side piece here in Ashland?
It’s not the end of the world.”
“Side piece? Really?” Avery poked her sister and shook her head. “Who are you and
what have you done with Waverly?”
The elder sister simply giggled and bit into a slice of lime.
“Besides your ridiculous use of slang, keep in mind Fi doesn’t have a piece, which
means she can’t have a side piece.”
“Or does she have many pieces?” Emma pointed out as she discarded an empty
envelope into the small trash container next to the coffee table. “Think about it –
she writes to us at least once a month about the exotic beauties she meets, but do
any of them last?”
All eyes turned to Fiona, who glared back.
“Hey,” she said defensively, “I don’t have time for a relationship or a commitment or
even romance. I’m a busy woman.”
“Busy, but not too busy to get some between assignments.” Emma’s look wasn’t
reproachful – just matteroffact.
Fiona put her head in her hands. “What am I going to do? She’s the hottest woman
I’ve ever seen and it’s kind of messing with my head.”
The girls exchanged glances. “Do you need to do something?” Emma asked.
That was a better question, Fiona realized, and she shook her head. “Yes, I need to
do something, because I think I like her as more than a quickie.”
“Interesting. I have to see this redlipped
siren for myself. Which bar?” Avery asked.
“That saloon place on the other side of town – the one we went to when we
celebrated graduation. Remember?”
“Oh. That one.” Avery looked at Emma, but neither of them spoke.
“That’s where your dad was the night of the accident, you know.” Waverly went on,
oblivious to the “cut it out” gestures both Avery and Emma directed her way. “Your
hot babe could have served him his last drink. Wouldn’t that be weird? Or would it
be ironic? Or morbid? I can’t remember anymore. I feel dizzy.”
Fiona sat up straighter, not sure how to respond. The dryness in her mouth told her
everything she needed to know. This was why she refused to read the police report.
She didn’t want to assign blame when she knew full well it was her father’s decision
to drink and drive. She didn’t want to read the description of the accident. It was
enough that she had seen her father for herself. It was enough that every night
when she lay down in her old bed in the empty house, she cried for her loss.
“Oh gods, I feel sick.” Waverly struggled to her feet and stumbled to the bathroom.
The sound of her retching followed and Avery rolled her eyes.
“Sorry about that. We told her not to drink. She still doesn’t hold her liquor very
well.”
Although she knew it was true, Fiona didn’t need Avery to excuse her older sister’s
behavior. It wasn’t Waverly she was angry at now. It was the bartender for the ohsosubtle
way she talked about Denny, as if he hadn’t come in that night, gotten
drunk, and then plowed his car into a tree.
“Fiona?” Emma laid her hand on her arm, but Fiona pulled away.
“I’m fine,” she bit out. “I’m not mad at Wave. I’ve spent every night since the funeral
crying about Dad and I thought it might be easier tonight, but I guess not.”
“You might not be mad at her, but you are mad. We can all see it. It’s hard to hide
that kind of anger from anyone. Is there anything we can do?”
Fiona clamped her lips together and tried to think. Bring my father back, even
though he was an asshole to me when I left and we never really fixed our
relationship?
No. If she spoke, she knew she would do it in anger. She might say something she
would regret, which was pretty much how her temperament worked. Fucking fire,
always burning so hot, so ready to fight.
“She wants us to leave her alone,” Avery said, pushing herself to her feet and going
to the bathroom. At least she had the grace not to try to placate Fiona by
manipulating her emotions. Unlike her sister, Avery knew when to leave something
alone. “I’ll collect Ms. Big Mouth.”
When they were alone together, Emma looked at Fiona, her brown eyes soft with
tears. “Whatever happened that night, you don’t have to go back to it, don’t have to
try to see it through his eyes. He’s gone and it was too soon.”
“I know,” Fiona whispered, still sitting on the couch, elbows propped on her knees
and fingers laced together in front of her. “I know.” Even though she repeated it, she
also knew this wasn’t something she could or would let go.
The idea that her father went to a bar and took his last drink there enraged her.
Surely they would have seen that he was too drunk to drive. They should have
called him a cab, taken his keys, not let him go. He might still be here, then. Sure,
their relationship would still be broken with neither of them making the attempt to
repair it, but at least there would be a chance.
Avery led Waverly into the living room to gather their purses and tilted her head at
Emma. “Heading home?” she asked.
“Yeah. I guess Crystal will be wanting me home soon, anyway.” She brushed her
hands over her thighs and rose to her feet. Fiona felt Emma’s hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t go there or there’s no going back,” was all she said, before leaving the house.
When the door shut behind her friends, Fiona buried her face in her hands and let
the grief claim her as it had the past few nights. Hot tears spilled over her palms
and she wept so loudly, she couldn’t hear herself think. Each sob echoed in her own
ears. She was only vaguely aware of Scrappy rubbing against her legs. Knowing her
father’s cat was trying to comfort her just made her cry harder.
How had a housecleaning
party gone so wrong? Why couldn’t Waverly just keep her
mouth shut? And would Fiona ever feel like she could get through another day
without crying herself to sleep?
For once, Emma was only halfright
because Fiona knew the truth.
There already was no going back.
Chapter 5
Fiona couldn’t remember the last time she slept so long and deeply. Even though
she had cried herself to sleep night after night since returning to Ashland, this had
been the worst. A neverending
river of hot tears would do that to a person, she
guessed – make them sleep like the dead they were grieving.
It took most of her morning to get the papers sorted and in folders to keep each
batch separate. At least the girls had helped with that last night. They left her with
less work to do to get everything organized. She dropped them off at the lawyer’s
office just after lunchtime and then sat in her car, fingers curled around the
steering wheel as she stared down the street.
It wouldn’t take long to drive to the saloon and talk to people there. They were open
and she could have lunch. She could see the bartender again. She could…
Fiona bowed her head and closed her eyes. What could she do – interview them the
way the police probably already did? What would that even consist of? And what if
the bartender was on shift right now. What would she even say to her?
Were you here the night my dad died? Did you serve him alcohol? Do you realize
drunk driving is against the law?
More questions floated in and out of her mind, more things she probably didn’t want
to know the answers to, but that nagged at her nonetheless.
Even though Emma had told her not to, Fiona shifted her car into drive and went to
the bar. She could eat lunch and toast her dad’s memory, get some closure, and
leave it at that. Nothing more. At least, that’s what she convinced herself she would
do if her resolve didn’t falter.
Most of the lunch crowd was gone by the time she arrived, but she still chose to sit
at the bar instead of a table.
And there she was – that bartender. Long, wavy amber blonde hair in a low
ponytail, eyebrows sculpted to perfection, and full red lips begging to be kissed. She
did everything with confidence. From pouring a glass of alcohol to serving a platter
of food, she modeled poise and grace in all that she did. She had to be older, Fiona
decided, because there was nothing giggly or flirtatious about the way she spoke
with the patrons. She was all business.
When she strode over to Fiona, recognition sparked in her gray eyes. “Hey there.” It
was a gentler greeting than their first time, now that she knew who Fiona was.
“Hey. Could I get a burger with fries and a Sam Adams?”
“Drinking this early in the day? You must be having a rough one.” She reached
under the bar, set a bottle upon it, flipped the cap off with her opener, and then
extended her hand. “If you’re going to be frequenting this establishment, we really
should introduce ourselves. I’m Gabe,” she said.
Fiona looked at the hand, not sure if she wanted to touch it. What would she feel if
she did? Equal parts grief and lust fought for dominance. She finally took it and
exchanged a firm handshake. “I’m Fiona. Did your parents seriously name you
Gabe?”
“Gabrielle, actually. My full name is Gabrielle Sylvie Marchand in all its French
glory. Awful, isn’t it? They called me Gabby, but I hate that even more. It sounds so
young and froufrou,
and I’m neither. So I prefer to go by Gabe.”
“Understandable.” Fiona realized Gabe was watching her, but she didn’t say
anything more. The bartender finally left to place the food order and Fiona picked
up the beer. Muttering, “Here’s to you, Dad,” she drank to her father’s memory.
Gabe mercifully left her alone until she served the burger. Then she leaned against
the bar, the neckline of her black tshirt
dipping just enough to give Fiona a
shadowed view of her cleavage. “I’m really sorry about your father,” she said. “I
know you don’t know me, but if there’s anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask. I
sincerely meant it when I told you he was a good guy.”
A number of responses rolled through Fiona’s mind, all of them completely
inappropriate one way or the other. She finally settled on, “Thanks. I appreciate
that.” Then she picked up the burger to indicate that the conversation was done.
She ate without interruption, left her payment and tip on the bar, and turned to
walk out the door.
“Hey!” When Fiona turned, she saw Gabe trotting toward her. She looked too
perfect in her tight jeans and long, lean black tshirt.
It gave Fiona heart
palpitations to see such a gorgeous woman chasing her down.
“Thanks for lunch,” Fiona said, her voice shaky. She had to get out of here before
her emotions went haywire.
“Wait.” Gabe took her hand, which surprised Fiona, and placed something in it. “I
want you to have this. Your father gave it to me one night. He told me it was once
yours, but you left it behind figuring you didn’t need to take it with you to college or
something. But now that you’re home, it feels like it should go back to you.”
“…the hell…” Fiona unfolded her fingers and looked at the circle of metal in it. “My
pentacle.”
“Yeah.” Gabe thrust her hands into her back pockets and shook her head. “I mean,
I’m Pagan and a witch anyway, but that’s not mine. It’s yours, so you should have it
back.”
Fiona blinked down at the piece of jewelry. “What made him think to give this to
you?”
“I don’t know, exactly. I guess because one day I mentioned how annoying some
customers can be – kind of rude and grabby with female bartenders, you know? So
he brought that in the following week and told me I should always carry it with me.
He said he didn’t believe in that sort of stuff, but maybe it would protect me.”
“But to give you this?” Fiona asked, holding the pentacle up by the small circle
meant to hold it on a necklace. “Why this?”
“I guess because…” Gabe turned and tugged the back of her shirt down slightly,
then pulled her hair aside. Just below her neck was a tattoo of a pentagram with a
stylized bird on either side of it. Everything was done in plain black ink, but the
tattoo still managed to be rich and beautiful on her pale skin.
When Gabe turned back to her, Fiona realized she was staring at the blonde.
“Air sign,” she said with a shrug, letting her ponytail fall back into place. “Hence
the birds. I suppose being a fire witch, you just get in fistfights and sort things out
that way.”
“You know…” Fiona struggled to find words that didn’t sound awkward. “Most
people don’t recognize me for what I am. For a bartender, you surprise me.”
“Good. I like surprising people.”
The grin that crossed Gabe’s face was both playful and adorable, and Fiona dipped
her head to hide the blush that flamed within her cheeks.
“Well, seriously,” Gabe continued. “Most of the time, I don’t care what people think
of me. It’s enough to know they’re off balance in my presence. But I’d really like to
know what about me surprises you so much. Why don’t we talk about it over dinner
tonight?”
“Dinner.” Fiona shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She was accustomed
to being the pursuer in matters of lust, not the pursued. This was certainly
different. “Tonight is Friday, I think. Don’t you have to work or something?”
Gabe shook her head. “I don’t work on Fridays. I suppose I should, considering the
tips are better. But the crowd is also a little rougher, so I tend not to work on
weekend nights unless I really need the money.”
It was the first time Fiona had thought about Gabe as more than a bartender. What
was she like outside of her job? Was her tough, efficient attitude just a persona or
was that how she was every day? Where did she live? What did she like to do? Was
she asking her on a date or just being friendly because she felt some sense of
responsibility toward Fiona?
“Okay, if you’re not interested in dinner, maybe we could just take a walk? Coffee?
Throw me a bone here. I mean, I’m not used to getting turned down when I ask
somebody out.”
Fiona had to admit to herself that Gabe was damn cute when she looked sheepish,
her hands still stuffed in her back pockets, her shoulders just slightly hunched.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” Fiona finally said. “Now that I’ve
turned everything in to the attorney for my dad’s estate, I think I’ll be getting on my
way pretty soon.”
“So is that your roundabout way of turning me down or letting me know not to
expect anything? Because I can handle the second one, but I hope you’re not doing
the first one.”
It was like a punch to her gut. Most women played coy with her, acted cutely, and
tried to get her attention once they knew who she was and that she was interested
in them. Gabe was straightforward about her interest, not emotional or sulky or
wheedling. Every time Fiona returned to one of her lovers in Europe, they would
pout and cling to her, and demand to know when she would be back after their few
nights together. Gabe didn’t seem like the type to do that. Could she really
understand Fiona’s expectations, though? That she was the kind of woman who had
to live without strings attached? That she shouldn’t expect Fiona to turn into some
giddy girl over the idea of love and romance?
More to the point, could Fiona reconcile herself with the idea of dating a woman
who knew her father? Someone her father was fond enough of to give her a
protective charm?
“Okay, you’re taking too long to answer and I’m standing here like an idiot, waiting
for you to say something.” Gabe indicated over her shoulder with her thumb and
said, “I’m just going to go, now.”
“No. Wait.” Fiona didn’t know what she was about to do, let alone what she should
do. The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could think. “Dinner sounds
good.”
“Great. But let’s go anywhere but here. Care for anything specific?”
Fiona tried to think about other restaurants in the area, but it had been so long
since she lived there…
“Tell you what – I’ll pick something and pick you up if that’s okay with you. Can I
pick you up at your dad’s place?”
“How do you know where he lived?” Fiona asked.
“I’m a bartender. There isn’t much I don’t know.” Gabe’s stance relaxed and she
smiled. “Besides, there’s this little thing called a phone book that lists everyone’s
addresses in it. Very handy in a small town.”
Relief flooded Fiona. Everything Gabe said made perfect sense. Her answers were
logical, not emotional. Fiona was the one letting emotions get the better of her.
“Right. That works for me, though…” She shifted uncomfortably, aware that Gabe
was staring at her.
“What is it?” Gabe finally asked.
“I mean… you’re… so gorgeous. How is it that you’re a lesbian? I figure you know
I’m one because you knew my father, so he probably told you. But… I mean, are you
a lesbian?”
Gabe let out a laugh that was rich and full. “I’m such a lesbian,” she said, still
chuckling. “And thank you for the compliment. When I turned forty, I wasn’t so sure
about my looks, but I appreciate that.”
Fiona swept her gaze over Gabe, hardly believing what she just said. “Forty?” she
asked.
“I know, right? But, yeah, I’m forty and there are other things. Like the fact that
I’ve got two grown kids.”
“What?” Fiona couldn’t help it. She shouted the question and took a step back,
looking at Gabe again from head to toe. Jeans, black tshirt
– didn’t mothers wear
their parenthood somewhere on them?
The laughter that followed was a little softer. “Trust me. I wear black because it
hides a multitude of tummy sins. And like I said, the kids are grown, so don’t worry
about that. Just let me take you out to dinner and we’ll talk. Will you do that?”
Fiona nodded, feeling like she shouldn’t open her mouth again. At least, not until
she knew Gabe better.
Chapter 6
Waverly sat on the edge of the bed, head tilted and fingers pressed to her mouth as
she inspected the outfit Fiona was modeling for her.
“Come on, if you have nothing to say, I know it sucks.” Fiona sighed and unzipped
the floral sundress.
“It’s not that it sucks. The dress is dreamy.” Waverly picked it up off the floor and
held it to her chest. “It’s just that the pattern and colors aren’t right for you. Too
much red. It makes you look like one big walking… something. Try the green one,
instead, and let me keep the red dress.”
Fiona turned back to her suitcase and the pale green dress draped across it. It was
her favorite dress and, really, her goto
date dress. She wore it when she wanted to
get lucky because it had its own magick. Not that she had infused it with magick.
No. That wouldn’t be ethical. But the dress just seemed capable of closing the deal
all on its own.
“I can’t wear that dress,” she said. “It’s the dress.”
“And I can’t believe you forgave me for the other night.” Waverly set the red floral
dress aside and clasped her hands in her lap. “I’m real sorry about that.”
“It’s fine. I talked to Gabe about it. I couldn’t help. You know how I am. She wasn’t
actually there that night.” Fiona plopped down on the bed next to Waverly and
ducked her head. “Though that doesn’t make it any less awkward or complicated to
be dating the bartender who knew my dad.”
Waverly hummed and patted the red dress.
“You like it. Just take it.” Fiona waved as she rose once again and looked at the
options in her suitcase. She traveled light in many ways, she realized – not just
when it came to clothes and living situations, but when it came to people, too. Now
when she wanted to be able to just reach into a closet and have the right thing to
wear, she couldn’t. That was the downside of living out of a suitcase.
As if guessing the direction of her thoughts, Waverly asked, “Do you have anything
in the closet?”
“Maybe.” Fiona’s size hadn’t changed much since high school and she had left some
clothes behind, but the styles would be woefully outdated. She finally settled on a
pair of jeans and one of her favorite blouses. After all, she couldn’t imagine Gabe
taking her anywhere fancy just yet. She was just a bartender, after all, and…
Fiona squeezed her eyes shut and blew out a breath. “I’m such a judgmental jerk.”
“What? Why would you say that?”
She turned to Waverly and flapped her hands at her sides like a bird with useless
wings. “Gabe is fortyyearsold.
She has two grown kids. She’s a bartender. She
works at the place my dad used to go to get drunk, all so he could smash into a tree
one night. Maybe it’s too much for me to handle right now.”
“Much complication,” Waverly agreed, her mouth an O of awe. “Wow, kids… I mean,
the forty thing isn’t a big deal. Forty is the new thirty and we’re almost thirty.”
“What the hell does that even mean? It’s almost as bad as that stupid ‘living the
dream’ phrase. Whose dream is it anyway and why does it matter if we’re living it?”
This time when Fiona sat down on the bed, she fell back and stared up at the
ceiling. “I mean, I admit we have to rethink what it means to be certain ages. I
know plenty of fortyyearold
women who play video games and enjoy things other
people might not expect. I think age is just about knowing better at a certain point.
Or hoping you know better.”
“What I know is that you have to do what’s right for you,” Waverly told her. “If this
feels right, go. If it doesn’t, don’t.”
Fiona let out a delicate snort and rolled over on her side, propped her head on her
hand, and looked at Waverly. “Have you ever dated someone much older or younger
than you?”
“No.” Waverly fiddled with the comforter on the bed. “I don’t really date, but Crystal
is five years younger than Emma. It drives her nuts sometimes that she doesn’t
seem to grow up.”
“I think that has more to do with personality than age, though. Emma has always
been more grownup
than anyone I know.” Fiona pushed herself upright and leaned
into Waverly. “And what about Avery?”
“Avery is Avery, and no one knows what to make of her.” That was all Waverly
needed to say. “What about all of your various exotic ladies around the world?
Surely some of them are older or younger than you by several years.”
Fiona’s thoughts drifted to Europe and she let out a sigh. “Well, I don’t think I’ve
spent enough time with them to really determine that, but I guess there was
Constanta,” she finally said.
“Ooh, what a beautiful name. Tell me more about her.”
“That’s just the thing. I don’t know much about her or any of my lovers.” Fiona
stood in front of the mirror and turned in a slow circle, checking the lines of her
jeans and blouse. “Constanta is maybe fifty or so, an incredibly beautiful woman in
Spain. She’s not just my lover. She’s a role model to me.”
“I’m intrigued.” Waverly leaned forward, an eager gleam in her eye. “Details, girl.”
“Like I said, I don’t really know. When I meet these women, I get to know them so
superficially. After all, I’m in town maybe a week at most. They’re lovely and
available, they say something interesting, and then I try to get them into bed.”
Fiona leaned against the wall next to the mirror and shook her head. “It’s not
intentional. It’s just that my work doesn’t give me a chance to settle in and really
get to know a person.”
Waverly looked at her with a sympathetic grimace. “I guess that makes sense. It
sucks, but it makes sense. So if you don’t get to know these women, why is
Constanta your role model?”
Now it was Fiona’s turn to grimace. Like her, Waverly tended to just say whatever
came into her mind. If Avery or Emma were there, they would have questioned her
more gently. Still, that was why she called Waverly to hang out while she picked
her outfit – because she needed someone who would get excited about the date and
give her straightforward, visceral reactions to not just how she looked, but anything
she had to say about Gabe.
“Well, Constanta is a journalist and she’s welltraveled.
She has this amazing
wisdom accumulated from her experiences, you know? I want to be that woman
someday.” Fiona plucked at a piece of fuzz off of her blouse. “I know it’s weird to say
‘I want to be fifty,’ but it’s more than an age or a number. I think being worldly and
sophisticated is what impresses me in a person – any person.”
“Which is why you never were comfortable here.” Waverly bowed her head, but not
before Fiona saw the tears in her eyes. “Your personality, your ambitions, and your
power are just too big for little ol’ Ashland, I guess. We all knew that, but
sometimes it still makes me cry to know we might not see you for another five or
ten, or even twenty years, if ever.”
“What? Oh, sweetie.” Fiona sat on the bed and put her arms around Waverly. “You
know you guys are my best friends. I always come back to see you.”
The slim shoulders under her hands heaved and shook with Waverly’s hiccupping
sobs. “I know, but how can we stay best friends by email? You visit once a year at
most and then get out of Dodge. Your emails are super short – like these mini
episodes of your life. Digital communication is no substitute for real intimacy, the
kind friends should have.”
Fiona rubbed Waverly’s back and sighed. “I’m not good at relationships. You know
that.”
Even as she said it, she knew she was lying. She was perfectly at ease here in
Ashland, among her fellow witches. She had to admit, to herself at least, that she
thought of them often. Even when she was visiting the ruins of Greece or the cafes
in France, her friends were on her mind. It was a connection she couldn’t shake.
It was a connection she also feared sharing with another woman. How could anyone
understand her friendship with the ones back home or the fact that they were not
just friends, but her sisterwitches?
“No other woman could understand me like you guys do,” Fiona finally said. “My
only real attachments are here.”
Waverly looked up at her, redeyed,
and nodded. Where Fiona was a temperamental
blabbermouth, Waverly was a weepy one. Fiona laughed and pulled her into a tight
hug against her side. Her embrace loosened after a moment and she glanced at the
open window.
“She’ll be here in six seconds.”
“How can you tell? You don’t even have a clock in this room.”
As if responding to her question, a vehicle stopped and idled outside the house, then
the engine turned off and they heard a door open and close.
“You always could do that.” Waverly shook her head and gave Fiona a squeeze.
“Can I meet her?”
“I feel like it’s inevitable, because if I say no, you’re just going to sneak down the
stairs after me. So, yeah. Come on.” Fiona stood and smoothed her blouse one last
time. She walked down the stairs with Waverly just a few steps behind her. Even
Scrappy came trotting out of the kitchen, away from his nightly serving of cat food,
to see what all the fuss was about.
“It’s nothing,” Fiona heard Waverly tell the cat. “She’s just got a date.”
Fiona glanced back in time to see Scrappy give the equivalent of a disinterested
feline shrug and saunter back into the kitchen. “Okay, and how can you tell he’s
even wondering about tonight?”
With a wink, Waverly said, “You have your ways and I have mine.”
“Oh jeez.” Fiona turned and opened the door, not sure what to expect.
Gabe stood there in her usual tight jeans, but she was wearing a black blouse
instead of a bustier or tshirt.
Her blonde hair was loose around her shoulders and
elaborate filigreepattern
earrings hung from her ears.
Now that they were away from the bar Fiona associated Gabe with, she could look
at her as just another woman. There were subtle lines on her face, mostly around
her mouth and eyes. That told Fiona she smiled often. That was damn nice.
“Hi there,” Gabe said with a small wave. “You look gorgeous.”
“Thanks. I had help.” Fiona gestured behind her and said, “Gabe, this is Waverly
Ryan. We’ve been friends since high school. Waverly, this is Gabrielle Marchand.
She works at K.C.’s.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Even though Waverly was generally the friendliest person of
their group, she kept a respectful distance. Fiona was grateful. It wasn’t that Wave
made a bad impression, but she could be overenthusiastic
in how she responded to
people and situations. The last thing she needed was someone scaring off the first
date she’d had in America since… Wait – did a onenightstand
in New York City
last year count?
Gabe looked Fiona up and down and then smiled at her. “Well, the help was worth
it, though I think you would probably look beautiful in a potato sack.”
“Wow. It’s been a long time since I got a Midwestern compliment.” Fiona leaned
against the doorway, not sure why she couldn’t get her feet to move.
“Go on,” Waverly encouraged. “I’ll make sure Scrappy has plenty of water and then
I’ll lock up.”
Fiona refrained from snorting. Locking up in their town was unnecessary. Nothing
ever happened in Ashland. Besides, if someone came along and stole something,
they would be doing her a favor. One less thing to sell.
“Ready?” Gabe asked.
“Yup.” Fiona followed her onto the porch, pausing only to glance over her shoulder
at Waverly, who made a shooing motion at her.
Fiona gave her a Vulcan salute and then followed Gabe to the car.
Chapter 7
“The city sure hasn’t changed,” Fiona observed. Omaha was still a network of
crisscrossing highways, old factories, and tall buildings. Gabe had taken her to the
historic Old Market for dinner, a place Fiona hadn’t visited for as long as she could
remember.
“When was the last time you visited Omaha?” The way Gabe looked at her over the
menu, Fiona almost felt guilty for the admission she had to make.
“Before I left for college, I think. Whenever I came home to see my dad, I passed
through Eppley, of course, but I didn’t actually go to Omaha for any reason.”
Gabe tilted her head and blinked at her. “You think the last time was ten years ago?
What about all the times you visited home during summer breaks or took time off
from work?”
“Um…” How could she possibly confess to this beautiful woman, a woman who
clearly loved the area, that she avoided coming home as much as possible? “I mean,
I came home for part of my summers, sure, but I never really took time off from
work. So I’d fly into Eppley, spend a day visiting my father and friends, spend the
night at a hotel, and then leave again.”
“Okay, so that begs the inevitable question – why not stick around longer?” Gabe
closed the menu and folded her hands atop it. “I know your father was very proud of
you and your work. You’re a journalist, right?”
“Sort of.” Fiona squirmed in her chair. No other date had made her feel more
uncomfortable or guarded about answering questions. She felt like confessing to
this woman about how she lived her life would open her up to all sorts of judgment.
Women in Europe were different. There was something cosmopolitan about them,
something worldly and accepting of her flitting in and out of their lives.
The server approached, so Fiona turned her attention back to the menu. At least it
was a basic, casual American eatery – nothing super fancy. “The beer battered fish
is good,” Gabe suggested, “though I’m sure you’ve had better in actual coastal
states.”
Fiona smiled and ordered the fish anyway. It wasn’t worth it to say something
about the kind of fish she’d eaten in places like England, Spain, Greece, or Italy.
That would just be arrogant of her and the last thing she wanted to do was come
across as a jerk.
“If you recommend it, then I trust you,” she said after handing her menu over to
their server. “Fresh, local fish is nice and all, but sometimes you get what you get.”
Gabe laced her fingers together and rested her chin on the backs of her hands.
“True. And I feel like the real story here isn’t you being a globetrotting
writer,
Fiona. It’s something else. Why don’t you tell me about it?”
No one had ever asked her these questions before, or at least in that manner. Her
friends would nag a bit, lovingly, and then back off. But Gabe looked like a woman
on a mission, her mouth quirked in a halfsmile
and her eyes narrowed just a bit.
Those beautiful gray eyes of hers had subtle wrinkles at the corners and Fiona
couldn’t help but smile back.
She ducked her head and tried to sound nonchalant when she answered, even
though butterflies were fluttering in her tummy. “It’s just what I do. That’s all there
is to it. I think I’m going to head to the restroom.”
“I have to go, too. Mind if I join you?”
Fiona let out a short laugh. “That’s not too cliché, is it?”
“I guess it depends. If we go in there to dab on some mascara and giggle about boys,
it’s very cliché. But if we go in there for other reasons…” Gabe’s shoulder lifted in a
hint of a shrug. “It’s nature. No sense in fighting it.”
They both rose from the table and, for once, Fiona realized she felt flustered. Most
women she encountered understood where she was coming from – she was in town
for a few nights and open to sharing those nights in a sexual way. The end. But
Gabe wanted to know why that was how she played it.
As she entered a stall and locked the door behind her, Fiona sat down and tried to
make sense of the jumble of thoughts.
Why did she live her life like that? Because guys could do it without censure, so why
not? And she had a right to live her life, her way. Work was her passion and she
was committed to that first. That passion meant she didn’t stay in one place, so
getting attached was never a good idea. Besides, she’d learned the hard way as a
child that attachments led to pain.
When Fiona stepped out of the stall and placed her hands under the spigot to wash
them, she felt heat rise to her cheeks.
Fire, fire, burning bright, help me make it through this night.
That was the chant Avery had taught her long ago when the circle agreed that
Fiona’s temper and big mouth were getting her into trouble – and detention – far
too often. She had carried it with her ever since and used it whenever she needed a
focus that would dial back her emotions.
She lifted her gaze and met Gabe’s in the mirror. Those damn butterflies started all
over again, making her anxious. Gabe was taller than her. How come she hadn’t
noticed that earlier? The stately blonde could rest her chin on Fiona’s head. The
disparity made her feel shorter than usual.
Fuck being petite, Fiona snarled internally. Short, but scrappy. That was how both
friends and peers labeled her. But next to Gabe’s statuesque beauty and intense
scrutiny, she felt more short than scrappy. And then there was the disparity in their
shapes – Gabe so slender and Fiona with soft curves, including a rounded tummy. It
was the first time she felt any shame about her body in front of another woman.
Gabe’s arm shot out, her hand making contact with Fiona’s shoulder as she backed
her against the wall. Those perfect red lips came down on Fiona’s, molding to them
firmly. Fiona closed her eyes as her arms lifted up and then settled around Gabe’s
neck.
Maybe the bartender would be content with just being her Nebraska lover, once
Fiona left. Someone she could come back to once a year for dinner and a hot night
together. Maybe that was what Gabe wanted after all.
And then she leaned back and whispered, “If you want more of that, you’re going to
have to come clean with me, Fiona.”
Fiona’s eyes fluttered open and she stared up at her. “What?”
“You heard me. I’m here because I like you, because I want to get to know you and
see if I’m right to feel this way. This isn’t a hookup.
It’s a date. I’m not a oneanddone
woman, so if you like me too, you’re going to have to meet me halfway.”
“Ultimatums on the first date?” Fiona wasn’t sure if she felt curious or furious at
Gabe.
But the blonde simply shook her head and smiled down at her. “No ultimatum. Just
laying it out for you up front, so you don’t waste your time if you can’t give me what
I want. And vice versa, of course.”
“What about what I want?” After all, it was her date too, and Fiona’s life revolved
around doing things her way.
“I have a feeling that’s something you either haven’t figured out or need to readdress
in your life. Why don’t you let me know if I’m on track with that
assessment?” Gabe winked at her and then nodded her head toward the door.
“Come on. The food is probably waiting for us.”
Fiona turned and opened the door, her eyes cast down on the floor as she walked to
the table. That was one thing she didn’t miss about the Midwest – how
straightforward most people were. They had no refinement when it came to, well,
anything.
The food was there, just as Gabe predicted. Fiona sat down and Gabe followed a
moment later. She’d probably smeared her lipstick and Fiona raised her hand to her
lips, wondering if she had any on her mouth.
“Don’t worry. Once you start eating, it’ll wear off.” Gabe still had that smirk on her
face. “Why don’t we turn things around a bit? Maybe that will help.”
“Sure.” Fiona would appreciate anything that helped her focus her thoughts
elsewhere.
“So, like I said, I’m forty and I’ve got two grown kids. They have the same dad,
though I’ve never been married. I grew up in South Dakota and moved to Gretna
when the kids were ready to start school. I wanted to give them stability, so I’ve
lived in the same house since before they went to kindergarten. Now they’re both in
college. I worked at their school until they were old enough to stay home alone at
night and then finally became a bartender, which was what I really wanted to do.”
Even though Fiona was eating her food, she felt impatience needling at her. She
wanted to ask a question, but she didn’t want to cover her mouth just to speak. It
was a bad habit of hers – giving in to the need to speak immediately – and one she
was still trying to break herself of. Fortunately, Gabe seemed content to let the
silence be, so as soon as Fiona swallowed, she got the question out.
“You wanted to be a bartender?”
“Yup. Is that so hard to believe?”
Fiona picked up her water and sipped at it as she considered the question. “I mean,
I didn’t realize that was something anyone aspired to, and I know that’s coming
across wrong.”
“No, I get what you mean. It’s like finding out someone wanted to be a garbage man
or a janitor or work at the DMV.” Gabe cut her fish into small, bitesized
pieces,
seemingly content to carry the conversation. “Yes, I actually wanted to be a
bartender since I was sixteen, but then I got pregnant in high school right before
graduation. Then I reconnected with the guy and even though I’m smart enough to
know better, I secretly wanted another baby. So voila – my kids. I decided a young,
single mom really needed a stable day job with normal hours and normal daycare.”
“Wow, if you got pregnant that young, didn’t your parents help you out?”
She watched as Gabe speared a bite of fish with her fork. The straightshooter
apparently didn’t like questions along those lines, because her answer came much
slower than her previous ones. “My parents are the main reason I left South Dakota
to come here. Living near Omaha has its advantages, of course. It was an easy place
for me to settle into after number two was born – plenty of job opportunities and
housing, and just far enough from family to keep them out of my life.”
“So I’m not the only one with a story.” Turning the tables should have felt sweet,
but the way Gabe grimaced told Fiona that was a story her date just wasn’t ready to
tell. Yet.
“I’ve been very honest and forthcoming with you about where I am in my life, but as
far as where I came from, that will take time. I still need to make my own peace
with it.” Gabe lifted her gaze to Fiona’s. “Maybe that’s what I see in you – someone
who also has a conflicted past that she needs to reckon with. Just tell me if I’m
close. That’s all I ask.”
Fiona closed her eyes for a moment and let Gabe’s words sink in. Close didn’t even
begin to describe the assessment. It was deadon,
but after years of cultivating a life
around her dreams, Fiona would be damned if she was going to revisit the pain that
got her here. Her father’s death was enough to deal with right now.
“You’re going through a rough time and I realize that.” Gabe’s statement pulled
Fiona from her thoughts and she opened her eyes to see the gorgeous woman
watching her. “But I want you to know that you aren’t unique in having a past
that’s painful. Everyone has their ghosts. It’s how we handle them that determines
whether we grow and thrive, or stagnate and never move on. Sooner or later, we all
have to decide which of those will serve us best.”
Chapter 8
“The way I work it, this place will be gone within the hour,” Fiona said confidently
as she stood in the doorway, watching the real estate agent hammer the “For Sale”
sign into the ground. “Just watch me manifest a sale and badaboom!
The house
will be gone and I’ll be free to move on with my life. Maybe I’ll even leave with some
extra cash in my pocket. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“If you say so.” Emma didn’t sound quite convinced and Fiona narrowed her eyes.
“Are you saying my power is rusty? Or is there something else on your mind, Em?”
Emma looked unconcerned with Fiona’s scrutiny. Instead, she leaned back on the
sofa and sipped at her coffee. “Could be one or the other. How often do you use your
manifesting to get things you want?”
“Often enough. If you want a list, I’m sure I could give you one, mostly involving
work.”
“Manifesting the good assignments, eh, and then a house sale? That’s so selfserving.”
Fiona rolled her eyes and leaned back into the house. “Shut up. It’s not like I’m
taking anything away from anyone else. I just ask for the perfect situation for what
I need at the moment. That’s all.”
“Mmhm.” Emma sipped at the coffee in her hand. “So how about a postmortem
on
the date? Did you manifest her into bed? You know Waverly is going to want details
next time you see her, if not sooner.”
The date. A shiver shook Fiona, even though it was a warm day. She waved goodbye
to the realtor and then turned back to Emma. “There aren’t many details to share. I
want her, but I’m not sure I can handle her.”
“Oh, my. Care to tell me what that means?” Emma looked amused, like she had a
secret joke to which only she knew the punchline. Fiona most definitely was not
amused. At all. Nothing was more frustrating than having to admit there was a
woman she couldn’t smooth talk into bed. That there was a woman who wanted
something Fiona couldn’t give her.
“Well, she doesn’t put up with my crap, that’s for sure.”
“She’s a bartender. Tough love is a necessary skill. That and being able to break
faces, I think.”
Fiona turned back into the house and hesitated just inside the doorway. A pang of
regret filled her and she leaned back against the wall, then sank down to the floor.
“She asked me questions about things only you guys could understand,” she
whispered. “When I tell her I’ve put the house up for sale, she’ll question me about
that, too. But it’s not my house. It’s never been my house. It’s my dad’s house.”
“It’s not that we understand so much as love you just the way you are,” Emma said.
“Honestly…” She slipped off the sofa, folded her legs, and sat on the floor across
from Fiona. “We wish you’d reconsider. This is a great old farmhouse and a great
community. I know you say you’re too busy to visit, but you’ve been here over a
week now, so the busy thing is just an excuse. Anyone with half a brain can see
that.”
“Shut up.” Fiona rolled her head against the wall and glared past Emma into the
dining room.
“First of all, stop telling me to shut up. And another thing – you don’t even have an
American home base. Is it really worth spending the money to stay in hotels all the
time? You would probably spend less money if you at least maintained an
apartment somewhere. Anywhere.”
Travel was part of her outofpocket
expenses, Fiona had to admit. Unless she was
specifically on assignment, rather than working freelance, her job wasn’t exactly
lucrative. But she loved it. Sure, she could stand to cut back on some trips and do
more of her writing from one place. It wasn’t like traveling altered her perspective
on a topic or world event. It was just that…
“Fire can’t be contained. That’s not what I’m trying to do here.” Emma reached
across the space that divided them and took Fiona’s hand in hers. “It’s just that I’m
afraid you’re burning yourself out and that it’s not for love. It’s because you’re
running away from something like you always have.”
Fiona looked at the hand around hers, Emma’s skin darker against her pale white
fingers. “It’s easy for you,” Fiona whispered. “You just face everything headon
and
you have an entire family here to support you.”
Emma’s hand tightened around hers. “No, I don’t face everything headon.
I’m
avoiding something right now, too, and you know it. Everyone knows. But what I
also know is that as a circle, we can achieve anything. That includes looking back
and making peace with whatever shaped the people we are today. I think you need
to stay in Ashland, at least for a little while.”
“Are you telling me this because of something you’ve seen in a vision or as a friend
who wants me to stick around?”
“Neither.” Emma edged closer to Fiona, set her coffee cup aside, and pulled her into
a hug. Fiona sagged against her friend and her entire world felt right again, like
there was someone there to support her, to keep her from somehow falling off the
face of the earth. Because Emma was earth incarnate – steady and solid and
reliable. She was that friend, the one who questioned, but never judged.
“It feels weird, doesn’t it?” Emma asked.
“What does?”
Fiona felt Emma shake with gentle laughter. “Wanting to get attached to someone,
even though all your instincts still tell you to run.”
Burying her face down against Emma’s shoulder, Fiona squeezed her eyes shut and
said nothing. What could she say?
“It hurts to lose someone, the way you’ve lost people since you were a kid. But it
hurts more to never know the joy of having them in your life to begin with. Couldn’t
you open up to that idea?”
“No.” Fiona’s voice was muffled against Emma’s shoulder. When they separated, she
repeated, “No. I can’t do that.”
“But you have no problem with being attached to us.”
“Ugh.” Fiona blinked the wetness from her eyes, but it didn’t stop a tear from
rolling down her cheek. “You guys are different.”
Emma picked up her coffee and cradled it between both hands. “How are we
different than anyone else?”
It wasn’t just their complementary energies and powers, Fiona knew. It was
something much simpler than that. “You’re my friends. I’ve never been in love with
any of you or wanted to date you. I mean, you and I both thought Avery was hot, but
our feelings for her were never romantic beyond that.”
“Right. She’s just that girl with that certain something everyone goes gaga over,
regardless of sexual orientation.” Emma angled her body so she could stretch her
legs out in front of her and lean back against the wall next to Fiona. “So what is it,
then? How do you find it so easy to be with us, but not anyone else – even your own
family?”
This was the part she hadn’t told anyone – how angry her father was at her for
going to college out of state. It was something she’d held back from even her very
best friends. She tipped her head back against the wall as she thought back to the
day she walked through that door with nothing but two suitcases while her father
glowered at her. Not once in her entire childhood had her father struck her, abused
her, or yelled at her. But the moment she declared her independence, her intention
to follow her dream, her father’s treatment of her had gone from that of paternal
affection to bitter codependent.
“Fi. What happened?” Emma’s brows drew together and she looked more worried
than Fiona had ever seen her. “I mean, when you got to Ashland, you were that cool,
distant, weirdish new girl. But now you’re not just distant. You’re in pain.
Seriously, something went down. What was it?”
“Are you telling me you didn’t see it before it happened?” Fiona asked.
Emma shook her head. “That’s not how premonitions work. I can’t control them and
I can’t peek at people individually. They come when they come. As far as you after
high school, I got nothing until this week. I know you trust me. Can’t you talk to
me?”
Fiona heaved a sigh and shifted on the floor. The hardwood was putting her butt to
sleep, and having her entire focus on that body part wasn’t exactly conducive to
carrying on a serious conversation. “I feel like if I’m going to tell you, I should tell
the circle. I owe all of you an explanation and I guess now’s the time to get it out.”
They both lifted their gazes to the calendar hanging on the wall just outside the
kitchen. “Remember what Waverly said about the waning moon?” Emma asked.
“There’s no time like the present to let things go.”
Fiona licked her lips as she considered Emma’s words. “If I jump, I need someone to
go with me.”
“That won’t be a problem. I think after ten years, all four of us have things we need
to acknowledge and release, and this is the perfect time to do it. I’ll call the girls.
We’ll go to the usual place.” Emma pushed herself to her feet and dusted the
backside of her jeans. “Also, this floor needs vacuuming.”
“Yeah, I know.” Fiona stood and followed Emma outside. The “For Sale” sign
taunted her from its position on the lawn, near the sidewalk. Regret shot through
her once more and she wrapped her arms around herself.
Emma must have noticed the gesture or the change in mood, because she squinted
at the sign and said, “You know, you can change your mind. You aren’t committed
to this course of action.”
“I know, but as hard as it is to let things go, I’m not sure I’m ready to stay, either.”
“Right. Well…” Emma looked back at Fiona. “Maybe you need to invite Gabe to the
circle.”
“What? Why would I do that when I hardly know her?”
“You said she’s a witch, too. Maybe it would be easier for you to kill two birds with
one stone – release what’s holding you back and hurting you, and let her know why
you’re so cagey about relationships.”
As much as Fiona didn’t want to acknowledge the past pain to her friends, she
dreaded sharing it with Gabe. Talking about it was going to make it real and shed a
new light on her father, a light she wasn’t sure she wanted anyone to see him in. It
felt odd to protect him, but she wondered if her loyalty to his memory was
misguided. There was nothing wrong with telling everyone the truth, right?
“Let’s not have her at one of our rituals just yet,” she said. “First of all, I don’t know
her well enough to invite her to something I’m used to doing with intimate friends.
Second, I’m not sure I want to ruin my opportunity to have another date with her if
I haven’t ruined it already.”
“No problem. I understand and respect your decision. So as far as the release ritual,
I’ll set it up.” Emma turned and sauntered toward the sidewalk, then glanced back
and said, “By the way, she’s an incredible kisser, isn’t she?”
Fiona clenched her fists at her side. “How did you–”
“Please. Don’t finish that question. I knew the answer when I told you to avoid her
in the first place. You can thank me and my clairvoyance later.” Emma wagged her
fingers at Fiona, then turned and continued on her merry way down the street and
into town.
With a grumble, Fiona walked back into the house and tugged the vacuum out of
the front closet. Emma was right about all the important things.
The house needed vacuuming.
Fiona needed to face and release her past.
And, yes, Gabe was an incredible kisser.
Chapter 9
Fiona couldn’t forget Gabe’s words from the other night. Or that kiss. Or the way
she looked. Who was this tall, lithe, nobullshit
woman who spoke with so much
wisdom about life and who questioned Fiona about hers? Considering what Gabe
had shared about her past as a teenage mother, Fiona was surprised she didn’t have
a grudge against her family. After all, shouldn’t her family have been there to help
her raise two small children? Then again, Gabe must have had a reason for leaving
them.
If Gabe had issues of her own, how could she expect Fiona turn to her for help? To
share the intimate details of her life and how she became the person she was today?
The questions plagued her as she stood outside the bar, debating whether or not to
go inside. Without making a conscious decision, she placed her hand on the door
and entered. She just had to see the woman who made her tummy flutter
uncontrollably, after all.
As her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she saw Gabe there, behind the bar with a
younger guy Fiona hadn’t seen previously. They were chatting amiably as they
restocked bottles behind the bar and Fiona lingered by the door, not sure she
wanted to disrupt their work.
Gabe caught her eye across the room, leaned over to say something to the guy, and
then walked around the bar. “Hey there. I’m glad you came in today. How are you?”
Fiona tried to pull her energy into her center. Why did she feel so… scattered
around Gabe? Where was the confidence of the worldtraveling
writer who had a
woman in every major city?
“I’m doing well. I thought you might want to grab a late lunch if you have a break
coming up.”
Those perfect red lips curved into a smile and she nodded. “But first, I need to do
this.” Gabe cupped Fiona’s face in her hands, tilted it upright, and kissed her. Her
lips were velvety soft against Fiona’s, yet firm and searching. Fiona allowed herself
to get lost in the moment. She felt small next to Gabe – short, a little too buxom,
and entirely off balance. It was so different than how she felt with the other women
she kept in her life.
Why?
“Mm,” Gabe murmured as they parted. “I think we’re going to have to find
somewhere private and do that again and again.”
“Yes, please,” Fiona said breathlessly. The energy in and around her coalesced,
finally finding her center, filling it with heat. It was Gabe’s touch that realigned
her and she blinked up at her wonderingly. Gabe was an air sign, which fanned her
flame, rather than diminished it. For once, Fiona didn’t feel the need to run from
something another woman had to offer her.
“Come on.” Gabe nudged her into motion and they walked outside into the spring
warmth. “Wow, it is a beautiful today, isn’t it? I love May. It’s my favorite month of
the year.”
“Spoken like a true air sign.”
Gabe let out a chuckle. “And yours is October, I bet, when the trees are covered with
fiery red leaves and the air smells like smoke.”
“How did you guess?”
“You’re not the only witch in Ashland, remember?” Gabe tilted her head and
squinted up at the sun. “I mean, not that I live here, but I’m here often enough that
I think that should count for something. There’s five of you, right? Do you know
them?”
“Yeah, I went to high school with them. You met Waverly and then there’s her
sister and another friend and her girlfriend.”
“Very nice. Do the four of you function as a coven?”
It was the first time anyone she dated brought up the subject of witchcraft. Then
again, Gabe was the first witch Fiona had met and liked, other than her friends.
“You could say that. We each hold the power of a key element, so our energy
complements each other’s. When we’re together, we can work some powerful
magick, but we have individual talents, too.”
They sauntered down the street, Gabe’s thumbs hooked in the pockets of her jeans
and Fiona feeling conspicuous next to her. Gabe stood out with her height, her
perfect hair and makeup,
the tight jeans, and the black bustier. But she rocked it.
Fiona glanced down at her own curvy body and sighed.
“I’d throw all of that off balance, so I don’t anticipate ever being invited to one of
your circles.”
“That’s not true. Crystal is our fifth sometimes and she doesn’t throw anything off
balance. You’d be welcome to come.” Fiona pursed her lips and then added, “I mean
if I was here.”
“But you don’t plan on staying, do you? I figured that out last night. You already
put your dad’s house on the market. That’s too bad – it’s a cute house.”
“It is,” Fiona agreed, “but even if I stayed in Ashland, I wouldn’t choose to stay at
the house.”
“Why not?”
Fiona squeezed her eyes shut. Before she could formulate an answer, she heard
someone call her name. When she opened her eyes, she let out a sigh of relief.
“Emma. What are you doing here?”
“Working, of course. You’re on Silver Street. This is my turf. What are you up to
today?” Emma was standing there holding a large bouquet of flowers and her gaze
bounced from Fiona to Gabe, then back to Fiona.
“Just taking a walk. Emma, this is Gabrielle Marchand. Gabe, this is one of my old
friends from high school, Emma Hanson.”
She watched as the women shook hands, both smiling. “It’s nice to meet another one
of Fiona’s friends,” Gabe said. “Maybe you can tell me some embarrassing secrets
about her later.”
Emma winked and said, “You know a loyal friend would never do that. Come on in.
I was just changing out the flowers. I think you’ve been in here a few times, Gabe.”
“I have. I go up to New Millennium in Omaha, too. It’s hard to decide which space is
my favorite, though.”
“This one, I hope. Of course, I’m biased.”
When Emma held the door to the shop they were standing in front of open for them,
that was when Fiona realized where they were.
When was the last time she had been in Emma’s store? She didn’t remember. And it
certainly hadn’t been with a woman she liked. Those women were anywhere but
here. Usually. But now there was someone. Someone here, in what had only become
her hometown because of her best friends.
Fiona lingered by the incense display and watched as Gabe chatted with Emma,
while Emma put the flowers in small vases around the shop. They seemed to settle
into easy conversation, almost like old friends themselves. The energy around her,
she realized, was right. Not just right, but harmonious. Gabe was all that was
positive about an air sign – open, curious, and wise.
What were the odds of finding someone like her so close to the only place she even
remotely considered home? The whole reason she left was because she couldn’t
stand just staying in one place. There was nothing for her here, except maybe a job
at the newspaper. And there was nothing interesting about that, as far as she was
concerned.
Not that Nebraska was anything like the drab Kansas landscape shown in The
Wizard of Oz. It was just that Fiona knew there was nothing here for her.
At least, there was nothing then. But what if things changed?
“How about a reading?” Emma asked, jolting Fiona out of her musings.
“Hm? What?”
Emma laughed and gestured to the back of the store. “Would you like a tarot
reading for the both of you? Crystal is very good and she doesn’t have any
appointments scheduled right now.”
That was the last thing Fiona wanted. Emma knew Crystal was incredibly
intuitive. As a water sign, Crystal was a lot like Waverly – highly emotional and
sensitive. The reading would reveal too much. It might even bring up things she
wasn’t ready to discuss with Gabe, let alone face herself just yet.
So she shook her head. “Another time,” she demurred.
“I understand.” Emma turned back to Gabe to answer her question about a
particular herb, and Fiona took the opportunity to retreat into the corner where the
messenger bags hung on the wall. She turned and stared at the fabric, the patterns
and colors blurring.
“Hey.”
Fiona jumped when Gabe’s hand patted her shoulder.
“Oh jeez, are you okay?”
“No. This…” Fiona pressed her hand over her heart, which was beating so fast, she
couldn’t breathe. “The room is spinning.”
“Okay, you need to sit down.” Gabe pushed down on Fiona’s shoulders until Fiona
folded her legs and sat on the floor. Then Gabe crouched in front of her and held her
gaze. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Too fast,” Fiona said.
“What?”
Fiona pressed her hands to her face. “I think this is moving too fast.”
“We had one date, Fi. One kiss.”
“Two kisses.”
“Fine. Two kisses. How is that too fast? Besides, you came to see me today, not the
other way around.” Gabe gently wrapped her fingers around Fiona’s wrists and
drew her hands away from her face. “I know there’s something about you that I’m
missing. I just don’t know what it is. Why don’t you tell me?”
Fiona shook her head, which only nauseated her. “Not yet.”
“Not yet. Meaning there’s still a chance?”
“I think that’s what scares me,” Fiona admitted, sure she would babble if she tried
to say more than a few words. How had she gone from recognizing the balanced
energy around her to a panic attack?
Gabe narrowed her eyes, then reached up to take the bottle of water Emma offered.
She handed it to Fiona, who sipped at it. Fiona felt like an idiot, sitting there on the
floor of her best friend’s store while the most beautiful woman in the world crouched
in front of her. What was wrong with her?
Control. I need control. I’ve had control and now it’s gone. My dad died. I turned my
life upside down to be here. Why did I meet her?
Her thoughts raced and Fiona tried not to gulp the water, but at least it quenched
the heat. Somewhat. As long as Gabe existed there in Ashland, Fiona would never
be satisfied with leaving it again. She knew that, now.
“It’s not you, Gabe,” Emma said, her voice gentle. “It’s her. She’s been through a lot
and this is new to her. It’s the first time anyone else’s energy has aligned with hers.
She’s not used to it.”
“Yeah, I kind of gleaned that the love thing hadn’t happened for her yet and there’s
a story here. A long one, I’m betting.”
“Trust me, so are we. We’ve known her for over ten years and I’m sure we only know
half of her story. She doesn’t let many people in.”
Fiona watched as Emma and Gabe exchanged glances, then Gabe turned back to
her. “Your friends don’t even know what’s up with you?”
“She selfprotects,”
Emma added. “It’s like an impenetrable wall around her.”
Gabe nodded wordlessly.
“Stop talking about me like I’m not even here,” Fiona finally interjected now that
the whirlwind of thought had settled into a coherent stream. “My father just died,
for fuck’s sake. Isn’t that enough?”
“We know that, sweetie.” Emma radiated sincerity. “No one is telling you not to
have a freakout, but you can’t continue to keep it inside or things like this will keep
happening. Has this happened to you when you traveled?”
“No. Only with…” Fiona hated to place blame or point fingers. But she looked at
Gabe and shook her head. “I’m sorry. This wasn’t what I expected to happen today.
But seeing you looking so comfortable in here and realizing you fit into my world
really freaked me out.”
Gabe’s brow furrowed and Fiona regretted her words. Honesty wasn’t always the
best policy, she guessed.
“I think I get it. I’ll tell you what – I’m going to head back to work. You stay here
and let your friends take care of you. We’ll get together when you’re ready.”
Watching Gabe’s retreating figure was even harder than having her close. “Wait!”
Fiona called. “When will that be?”
Gabe glanced back from where she stood in the doorway. “I don’t know yet, but I
have a feeling we’ll both know when the time is right.”
As she left, Fiona felt the energy inside her clench with frustration. She turned her
gaze to Emma. “I’ve ruined everything.”
“No, you haven’t. I think she understands. She and I both do.”
“Oh really.” Fiona twisted her hand around the top of the bottle. “And what do you
both think you understand?”
“That you looked at her and realized it feels nice to have her around, that
everything feels right in this moment, and this finally feels like home to you,
especially with Gabe here. So you freaked out.”
Fiona’s throat went dry and she had to swallow more water just to speak again.
“More like lost my shit, I guess.”
“Is that a confirmation?”
“Can I plead the fifth?”
“Sure.” Emma’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “But as this isn’t a criminal case, I
think you should just accept the sentence we’ve handed down and serve your time.”
“Really? And what would that be?”
Emma put her hand on her hip and lifted the other to one of the buds she had put in
the vase on the counter next to the rack of messenger bags. Before Fiona’s eyes, the
buds opened and the petals unfurled into a full blossom – perfect red roses.
“Life in Ashland with Gabe, with no possibility of parole.”
Chapter 10
The circle gathered AT the same place they had as teenagers – out behind an old,
abandoned house with a dilapidated barn. Back when they were younger, it felt
deliciously forbidden to trespass on that property, even if no one else was using it.
But the land itself was so beautiful, that it had – as Emma put it – called to her.
In the spring, it was bordered with lilacs, the air perfumed when the blooms
opened. It was the perfect place for outdoor rituals, even when it meant shivering in
their coats in the winter just to see the sunrise for the Solstice. Tonight, though,
they could relax. It was warm enough to be outdoors and Emma brought something
extra to keep them cozy.
“Do you just carry this around in your truck for occasions like this?” Waverly asked
as she stared down at the pile of cut logs.
“Of course not. I just planned well for tonight. That’s all.” Emma knelt and started
arranging them in a deep pit in the ground and then Avery dropped another armful
of firewood next to it. Fiona stood at Emma’s pickup
truck, gathering more.
Fiona was grateful. Even though the cold weather didn’t affect her, fire did. It made
her feel safe and secure. Like she could conquer anything that stood in her way. She
set her pile of logs next to the fire pit and then knelt. She felt her friends’ gazes on
her as she held her hands over the wood in the pit and drew on the energy of the
fire inside of her. It took only a moment for the logs to catch light and for the flame
to crackle to life. The pit was deep enough that they could still see each other across
it, over the flames, but shallow enough that the heat rose and kept everyone warm,
as long as they stayed within its golden circle of light.
Everyone sat on the ground around the flickering fire. “You haven’t lost your touch,”
Avery commented as she took her place on the east side of the circle.
“No, she’s only honed it.” Waverly glared at Fiona as she stood on the west side and
kicked at the ground. “It’s kind of dry out here and we haven’t had much rain this
May. Are you sure this will be okay?”
“There’s rain in the forecast tonight,” Emma told her. “It’ll come after we leave.
Besides, there’s nothing but dirt and sand around this thing, and then there are the
rocks bordering the pit. It’ll be fine, worrywart.”
“Jeez, how we would explain that?” Avery held her hand to her ear, miming a phone
call. “Um, yes, fire department? We were practicing witchcraft and burned the old
farm down.”
Waverly and Emma giggled, and Fiona finally cracked a smile. What was it about
circles that brought out the goofiest in them? And the best, too…
“Well, Fiona called this circle, so she should open it.” Emma nodded at her.
Right. She was on. Fiona looked into the flames and took a deep breath, aligning
herself with the strength of the fire. “First, I want to apologize for not visiting more
often. It’s not your fault. You’re my best friends, like sisters to me. My avoidance of
Ashland has nothing to do with you.”
“We know that,” Waverly assured her. “We never assumed you were avoiding us.”
“Good.” Fiona straightened and set her palms atop her knees. “It was my dad. When
I told him I was leaving to go to school on the east coast, he got angry and I felt like
I couldn’t come back after that. I mean, he knew I planned to go to college, but he
thought I would just go to UNO. When I broke it to him that I was going to Boston,
he flipped his shit.”
“Your dad? Angry?” Avery tossed her hair and leaned back, bracing her hands
against the earth. “I never saw him angry in his life.”
“Yeah, well.” The memory made Fiona wince. “It wasn’t pretty, especially since he
was drunk at the time.”
The girls let out a simultaneous muttered, “Oh, shit.”
“What happened?” Waverly asked.
Fiona closed her eyes. “You know we moved a lot when I was a kid. Not to different
towns – just within the Boston area until we moved out here. I never figured out
why Dad was always changing apartments and phone numbers. I was too busy
being unhappy, anyway. The kids thought I was weird and they teased me for not
having a mother. It wasn’t a great childhood, but I never cared what anyone else
thought about me. Dad taught me that and I want to say that I have a lot of
gratitude toward him for the way he raised me.”
The darkness behind her eyelids shifted and she saw herself entering the cafeteria
at AshlandGreenwood
High School. The three girls at the table in the corner had
drawn her attention without even saying a word, their energy pulling her to them.
It was Avery who ultimately had the courage to approach her. Since Fiona was the
token weird new girl, none of the other students would dare.
“Everything got better when I came here.” She opened her eyes and smiled at
Avery, then Emma, and finally Waverly. “You made me feel at home and I knew
this was where I belonged. But I still couldn’t stay with my dad. I wanted to see the
world and then maybe come back here in ten years and write a book or something.
Dad made that impossible for me.”
“How?” Waverly leaned toward her and took Fiona’s hand. There was something
calming about her water energy, something that leveled out the fire within.
“He yelled at me when he realized the college thing was a reality. Told me I was an
ungrateful bitch and that he disowned me. He must have repeated it three or four
times as I walked out the door. That and he told me to just take my shit and go. It
was awful.”
“Oh my gods, that’s harsh. I never knew he was capable of that kind of behavior.”
Fiona nodded as tears streaked down her face. Outside of the intense personal loss
she’d suffered in the past month, it wasn’t often that she cried, but something about
being among her friends helped. She gave into the tears that were long overdue.
These weren’t tears of grief for her father’s death, though, but for the loss of their
relationship long before that day.
“He said other hateful things and I resolved not to come back if I could help it. The
problem was Ashland was the one place that felt like home, but I didn’t want to set
foot under his roof again.”
“Fi.” Waverly rose up on her knees and hugged her. Waverly’s strong, wiry arms
were tight around Fiona, but comforting as they squeezed her. “We love you,” she
whispered.
“I know you do.” Fiona returned the hug, even though she knew her tears were
soaking Waverly’s shoulder. When they separated, she accepted the tissue Avery
offered her. “When I got some distance that was when I realized my dad was codependent.
It was blatantly obvious that all he wanted to do was manipulate me
into staying here by treating me like shit. Seems counterintuitive to me, because all
I did was take steps to move farther and farther away. Every time I came back to
visit, he still treated me like crap.”
“It’s a strange dichotomy,” Emma said. “Abusers use words to make someone feel
bad in order to take away their power and keep them around. And many of the
victims believe those words, believe they’re worthless and no one else will love
them, or that they can’t handle life on their own. So they stay. You were able not to
get caught up in that cycle and I’m proud of you for leaving.”
Fiona blew her nose and nodded. “I never thought of my dad as an abuser. He was a
functional alcoholic from the time I was born until I graduated from high school.
But the moment I set my foot out the door with no intention of returning for several
months, he was absolutely pissed. Honestly, I…”
As she broke into fresh sobs, Fiona doubled over while Waverly rubbed her back.
“I hate,” she tried again, “thinking of him as an abuser. Because when I was a kid,
he was great. He took me camping, bought treats when I showed him good report
cards, and stuff like that. You know? He never spanked me, never yelled at me, and
then this one moment just destroyed our relationship for the next ten years. I didn’t
expect it.”
“None of us did,” Emma said. “Or we would have said something to you.”
Fiona nodded, well aware of what Emma meant. “I know you would have. Anyway, I
think traveling wasn’t just to satisfy my wanderlust. It was to stay as far away as I
could with the most plausible excuse possible.”
“Work,” Avery acknowledged. “You were always working, or at least pretending to.”
“Yup.”
“And all this time, we had no idea.” Waverly’s body sagged. “I wish you’d told us.”
“And what would you have done about it?” Fiona asked.
A long, silent moment passed, and then Waverly shook her head. “I don’t know, but
at the very least we would have been here for you. Thank you for telling us the
truth.”
“Thank you for letting me tell it.” Fiona had to admit it felt good to get it out of her
system.
“Where does that leave you now?” Avery reached out and patted Fiona’s shoulder.
“Well.” Fiona looked up at the night sky, marveling for a moment at how clear it
was. That was the thing about rural Nebraska. Unlike being in the city, you could
actually see the stars here. “I feel like I’ve made peace with Dad’s role in being the
abuser and me being a victim, even if it was just that one moment. All the times I
came back to visit were really tense, which is why I’d only stay for a day or two, and
never at my dad’s house.”
Avery blinked across the way at Waverly, and then at Emma. “You could have
fooled us. We thought you stayed at his house during your visits.”
“Nah. I stayed at a hotel by Eppley. It was too weird to stay at Dad’s house.”
“I can’t imagine what that must have been like.” Avery bowed her head and Fiona
knew she was chastising herself for not noticing anything wrong.
“Hey, don’t do that,” Fiona scolded her. “No one knew. I thought I would take this to
my grave until…” Nausea assailed her and she doubled over.
As with the panic attack at Emma’s store, someone was there to offer her a bottle of
water, to rub her back, and give her a moment to collect herself.
“Why is this happening to me?” she muttered.
“It’s happening because you need to release it,” she heard Emma say.
“No. That’s not why.” This time it was Waverly who spoke. Her hand, Fiona
realized, had never left her back. “It’s because she’s holding on to something else
entirely. It’s not the past that’s making her sick. It’s the present.”
When Fiona looked up, she saw the way Waverly’s gaze went misty and distant. It
wasn’t often that Waverly needed to search deep to use her power. Most people’s
emotions bubbled near the surface. But everyone knew Fiona worked hard to bury
hers.
“You need to decide who is really to blame for what happened to your father,”
Waverly said in a quavering voice. “And when you realize and accept the truth, then
that is when you’ll release it. But until you do, it’s going to make you sick inside.”
Fiona held Waverly’s gaze, her entire body trembling. “I want to release it,” she
said.
“Then you need to start at the surface and work your way down.”
From across the circle, Fiona heard Emma whisper, “So mote it be.”
Chapter 11
“Are you sure you aren’t trying to force this?” Gabe asked as they sat in the movie
theater. “I just want to be sure you’re ready, especially since I already laid it on the
line for you.”
“I don’t know what I’m trying to do, but if asking you out to the movies is trying to
force myself to get over something, then so be it. All that matters to me at the
moment is the butter.” The popcorn smelled wonderful and Fiona took a fistful of it
out of the bucket. Of course, she hadn’t eaten all day…
Gabe looked skeptical as she watched her. “Well, I’ve already figured out you have a
healthy appetite, which I admire. But a date at the movies is just an excuse not to
have to talk,” she said, a halfsmile
quirking at her lips.
“What makes you say that?” Fiona reached for another handful and tried to be
delicate about how she ate it, but there really was no polite way to eat popcorn and
be satisfied.
“Years of bartending teaches you a thing or two about human nature.” Gabe
shrugged and accepted the popcorn bucket that Fiona angled her way. “So, popcorn,
but no pop? Isn’t your throat going to get awfully dry?”
Fiona shook her head. “Drinking at the movies is a bad idea. Soda makes you have
to pee and it always happens at the worst possible time during the movie. So you sit
and hold it, thinking you can make it to the end, and then get up to go anyway. But
it turns out the most crucial part wasn’t going to happen when you initially felt the
urge to pee. It happens when you can’t wait anymore and just have to go. So I never
drink anything at the movies.”
“And my friends back home thought I was a weird girl.” Gabe snorted and leaned
back in the seat. It reclined and she let out a long sigh. “I spend too much time on
my feet. This feels really nice.”
“Yeah, I love these seats,” Fiona agreed. “Hard to believe a theater can feel kind of
luxurious, but I suppose it must after standing behind a bar day after day.”
“Well, I’d rather spend my time with you anyway. And preferably not upright.”
When Gabe rolled her head to look at her, Fiona felt her heart skip a beat. With her
flawless skin and tinted lips, Gabe looked like a movie star. Fiona imagined if she
replaced the jeans and black top with an evening gown, she would make a very
convincing 1930s femme fatale. Damn, she was hot.
“The movie is starting,” Fiona said softly as the lights dimmed and the speakers
started to hum.
Gabe leaned across the seats and kissed her, taking what remained of her breath.
“That’s to give you something to think about for later,” she whispered.
The seat was plush and Fiona was glad to lean back and think about the kiss
throughout the advertisements and the previews. She thought about it at the start
of the movie and then at the middle part where she realized she had to go to the
bathroom after all, even after eschewing beverages. When she got back and saw
Gabe’s lithe form stretched comfortably on the reclining seats, she thought about
kissing her in return in the flickering light the screen cast over the theater.
As soon as the movie ended, she rolled toward Gabe and pressed her lips to hers. It
was the first time Fiona had taken the initiative with her and it felt good. Not as
good as when Gabe did it, but certainly better than she had felt waiting to make her
move.
Gabe’s lips moved beneath hers and then parted. Something shifted around them.
Not the lights or the music, but something more substantial. As the kiss deepened,
Fiona knew she wanted to stay in Ashland and find out where this would go.
Fiona pulled away, but she didn’t open her eyes.
“It’s still not right,” Gabe whispered.
“No, it is.”
“No, it’s not.”
“It is,” Fiona insisted, opening her eyes. “It is so right. There are just things we
have to talk about first. But isn’t that what dating is – getting to know each other?”
They both sat up and Fiona realized the theater had emptied, the last of the moviegoers
filtered out the double doors. A young man stood by with a broom and
dustpan, waiting to clean the floors.
“Let’s go. We’re holding up the kid from his work.” Gabe stood and pulled Fiona
along with her. The sunlight was too bright after two hours in a dark theater and
Fiona blinked until her vision adjusted. When she turned to Gabe, she tried not to
stare.
As always, she looked luminous whether she was in the dark or the light. How did a
fortyyearold
woman manage to look like that?
“What is it?” Gabe asked, glancing sideways at her.
“Just you.” Fiona took her by the elbow and stopped her. “So you weren’t working at
the bar the night my father had his accident?”
Gabe looked down at her, scrunching her brow. “I told you I wasn’t. Why do you
have to keep asking me about that?”
The breath Fiona let out was long and louder than she intended. She raked both
hands through her short, wavy red hair and glanced around. The hustle and bustle
of Omaha wasn’t enough of a distraction from the thoughts careening through her
mind.
“I’m attracted to you, Gabe. I think that’s obvious. But I’m angry, too. I don’t know
what to think about what happened to Dad that night – if the wrong person was
working at the bar and gave him one drink too many. Don’t bars have rules about
things like that?”
“Actually yes, there are state laws about serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated
person.” Gabe turned to face her, arms folded, and face like stone. “Look, I didn’t
want to throw this back at you, but if you’re going to keep asking, I have to ask you
this. Have you read the police report?”
“No.” Fiona mirrored her pose. “Why does that even matter?”
Gabe closed her eyes for a moment and Fiona saw her swallow. Then Gabe looked at
her and said, “The police found an empty bottle of vodka in your dad’s car. The time
he left the bar was early – only seven that night. The accident happened an hour
later. Your father was drunk, but he didn’t get drunk at any of the bars in town.”
Fiona frowned and looked down at the sidewalk. “It takes five minutes to get home
from the bar, so you’re saying he went home and got drunk, and then went out
again, or…”
“Or he sat in the parking lot drinking or went somewhere else and drank that
bottle. Whatever happened, no one served him the drinks that got him intoxicated.
The accident happened on the other side of town, too, so my guess is he found an
empty parking lot, got totally hammered, and then tried to drive home like that. Or
maybe he was drinking at home and then decided to go somewhere. Either way, my
coworkers
aren’t to blame and you need to let it go. Okay?”
“Shit.” Fiona hid her face in her hands and shook her head. She hated wondering
and she hated saying something that sounded like an accusation. Maybe asking
wasn’t as much of a relief as she thought it would be.
“Look, all of us know the laws about us serving or selling alcohol to a person who is
obviously drunk. Our bartender on staff that night told the police he cut your father
off after three drinks like he always did. But his blood alcohol level was through the
roof – not consistent with just three beers or three shots. Trust me on this. I know
you probably don’t want to read the police report and that’s why you’re asking me
these questions, but it’s not going to feel good whichever way you go about getting
the information.”
A semi drove by, its horn blaring. Fiona looked and watched two young guys scurry
out of the street, onto the sidewalk, yelling at the driver. Then she turned back to
Gabe. A raindrop fell from the sky. She lifted her gaze to the gathering clouds
overhead, blanketing the sky with gray. The gray resembled her mood, she decided
– dark and hopeless, and the raindrops were like tears from the sky.
“Fiona, please look at me.” Gabe’s voice was imploring and Fiona met her gaze once
more. “We can only do so much as bartenders. We have many alcoholics who come
in to drink and, unfortunately, they have to take agency for their own actions. Over
the years a bartender becomes more than just someone who serves alcohol, though.
I might be an air sign, but I’ve learned how to read people and give them the
empathy they need, even if I don’t feel what they feel.”
Tears burned at the corners of Fiona’s eyes, but she blinked them away and glanced
back at the busy street. “Yeah, well, I guess I just feel too much then.”
“And I like that about you, Fiona. Your fire is what draws me to you. I feel like
having you around is going to make life interesting, if only you’ll stay.”
Fiona swallowed and squeezed her eyes shut. “At first I wasn’t sure I was ready to
do that, but now I think I am.”
“I’ve figured out that you travel to run away and I admire you for stopping and
trying to face it.”
Blinking at Gabe, Fiona took in a ragged breath. “You do?”
“Oh, hell yeah. I’ve run away from things. Who hasn’t? And while it served me well
at the time, I learned later that sometimes we have to face those things. Otherwise,
they’re always going to haunt us. I think what I see is a kindred spirit in you.”
That was a comforting thought. Pain felt like such a unique concept, something
carried by the individual and that no one else could understand. The idea that
someone might have some inkling of what Fiona had felt over the years made her
resolve soften, just a little.
“So won’t you tell me what you are running away from?”
Fiona shook her head, a shiver going through her. Though she knew Gabe was
sincere, they were still relative strangers. “I’m not sure you would understand.”
“Try me. I might surprise you.” Gabe took a step closer and smoothed Fiona’s hair
with a little sigh. “Your hair is as wild as you are, but that’s part of what makes it
beautiful.”
Fiona didn’t know what to say to that, so she just looked up at her and held her
breath. Having her so close made her want to lean in and run in the opposite
direction at the same time. What was it about the confidence Gabe radiated that
made Fiona feel so small next to her?
Gabe glanced up and down the street and said, “Come on. Maybe it’ll make you feel
better if I show you mine. Then you can show me yours.”
More fat raindrops fell from the sky, splashing against the sidewalk and leaving
dark splotches on the pavement around them. “This isn’t the time to make a sexual
joke,” Fiona said, ducking her head as the rainfall increased.
“Maybe not, but I’m serious. I think you need proof that someone else might
empathize with your pain.” Gabe offered her hand and nodded her head toward one
of the restaurants along the sidewalk. “Come on, before we end up soaking wet.”
Fiona waited a moment, her heart pounding in her chest.
“I know you’re going through a lot, but you’re not going to work it out standing here
in the rain or even in an afternoon chatting with me. But hang out with me a little
longer. Even if you’re not ready to be with me yet, we can at least start as friends
and see where it goes from there.”
The rain continued to get heavier and Fiona finally took Gabe’s hand. If she found
the courage to tell her friends about how she and her father had left their
relationship, then maybe telling someone who wanted to be her friend would help
her get past it.
Chapter 12
“I still can’t believe the look on your face.” Fiona shook her head and picked up a
crab rangoon. “Seriously. What’s so funny about ordering a pu pu platter? I just
happened to forget they don’t call them that here.”
Gabe chuckled as she piled several appetizers on the plate in front of her. “Um,
maybe the fact that they’re an east coast thing, not a Midwestern thing. The waiter
looked so confused when you asked about them.”
“Well, I’m from Boston, you know. Old habits and all that. Besides, I’ve been getting
most of my Chinese food on the east coast again, these days.”
“It’s clear you never fully assimilated here,” Gabe concluded. “What with calling pop
‘soda’ and asking for a pu pu platter.”
“We’re just in the wrong restaurant. Plenty of the other ones in Omaha call them
that.” Fiona looked at the assortment of appetizers arranged on the table.
Their plates were heaped with absolute deliciousness – not just crab rangoon, but
egg rolls, teriyaki beef, chicken fingers, and jumbo shrimp. Fiona sipped at her soda
and wondered how much she could eat. Then again, how much should she eat? It
was a tough call on a date, but since Gabe had already complimented her appetite,
Fiona decided she was free to indulge.
“I actually do love the Midwest, but I was sixteen when I moved here. My
Massachusetts habits were already ingrained in me by then.”
“Fine. I accept your excuse.” Gabe waved at the air dismissively and then her
expression softened into a smile. “So, why don’t you tell me how you ended up
here?”
“I guess I never got into that.” Fiona dipped her egg roll in the duck sauce and
watched it drip off the end, onto her plate, before taking a bite. “My parents
divorced when I was about four. From what I understand, my mother went to
California. My dad stayed in the same town after she left, but he moved us around
from apartment to apartment, changed our phone number all the time. I don’t know
why, but I didn’t question it much because I didn’t have to change schools. He
always rewarded me for good reports cards, took me camping every summer, and
was generally a good father.”
She watched Gabe bob her head up and down, and then lick a bit of sauce off one of
her fingers. The gesture was strangely alluring and Fiona had to drag her mind
back to the present when Gabe said, “Well, that seems weird to me. I wonder why
he moved you around so much.”
“I don’t know. Maybe he was looking for a better deal on rent every time. Anyway,
we moved here and that was that. I got pretty cozy with the friends I made in my
junior year of high school – Avery, Waverly, and Emma. Leaving them was one of
the hardest things I’ve ever done.” Fiona leaned back as the server set two bowls of
egg drop soup on the table.
“Why did you leave, then?” Gabe asked as she picked up her soup spoon.
Fiona grinned, recalling her experiences over the past ten years. As much as she
used her work to escape, she also loved every moment of her travels. “Because I
couldn’t stay. I felt compelled to see the world. I had to go to college back on the east
coast or travel and write about it. The only time I yearned for home was when I
thought of my friends. But my dad and I didn’t part on the best of terms when I left
for college, so I came back to see them – not him.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Crossing her arms over the edge of the table, Fiona leaned forward and said, “But
as I recall, you told me your parents were the main reason you left South Dakota to
come here. So I guess you were on to something as far as knowing I had issues of
my own.”
When Gabe tilted her head, Fiona had to catch her breath. She looked so sure of
herself. Why couldn’t Fiona feel that way in her presence? What was it about being
back here that killed her own selfconfidence?
“My family hated me for being gay,” Gabe finally said. “It was as simple as that.”
“How did they even know? You had a boyfriend and two children with him.”
“Mm.” Gabe stirred her soup, a slight grimace on her face. “I did that in an attempt
to be normal and because I really wanted children. Being normal is pretty
important in the Dakotas. Not like Boston where you can let your freak flag fly.”
“That sucks,” Fiona said heatedly. It didn’t surprise her that she felt her own
energy rising and swirling within her in response to Gabe’s words. Individuality
was of the utmost importance, as far as Fiona was concerned. When someone didn’t
respect another person’s right to simply be themselves, it set her off. “Hate is a
strong word, though,” she finally said.
“Yes, and a strong reaction, too, but that’s how they feel about me. It didn’t help
that I was a witch, something very much against their socalled
Christian values.”
Fiona dipped another egg roll in her sauce and bit off the end of it. “How did they
react when you got pregnant?”
“They tried to convince me to get married to the father. I told them I wasn’t ready.
Then the second baby happened and they were adamant that I needed to have a
normal, respectable life. Their ultimatum was get married or get out, so I left.” The
way Gabe shrugged told Fiona she didn’t want to treat it like a big deal, but just as
a fact of her life. “I couldn’t please them without compromising myself and I refused
to let them try to impose the same prejudices on my kids, so that’s why I came to
Omaha. Not that Nebraska is a bastion of liberalism and tolerance – far from it –
but this city has been good to me.”
The food was slowly dwindling, but the conversation certainly wasn’t. And neither
were Fiona’s feelings. If anything, they were growing as she sat there and got her
first glimpse beyond the rubyred
lips of the woman she was coming to admire.
“You know, these aren’t the kinds of conversations I normally have with women,”
Fiona admitted.
“Oh? What kinds of conversations you normally have?”
Gabe stared at her in a way that told Fiona she was very curious and, perhaps, a
little amused. Wondering what she expected, Fiona said, “The kinds that land me in
bed with them. European women aren’t complicated. They know what they want
and that’s that.”
“As opposed to American women who overcomplicate
everything.” Gabe leaned
forward and winked at her. “But I can promise you, I know what I want and that’s
that as far as I’m concerned.”
“American women don’t work like that.” Even as she said it, Fiona knew in her
heart that Gabe was the exception, not the rule. Maybe it was the fact that she was
older or maybe it was her life experiences. Either way, Gabe had all the grace of a
mature woman, as well as an air sign, which only made Fiona want her even more.
She looked at the food that remained on her plate and tried not to get too lost in her
thoughts as she ate it.
“Did your father always know you were a witch?”
The question caught Fiona off guard and she blinked across the table at Gabe. “I
think he did, but he didn’t talk about it. I mean, it wasn’t a problem for us. Dad was
agnostic and my magick abilities didn’t affect our relationship. They really affected
just me. What about you?”
“I think what you know about my parents is enough to tell you what they thought
about me being a witch.” Gabe finished the last of her soup and poked at the
appetizers still on her plate. “They weren’t thrilled, so bringing my gifts elsewhere
was for the best.”
If there was one thing Fiona hated to do, it was stereotype people. But she knew in
her heart that Gabe’s parents fit every stereotype she disagreed with and Gabe
wasn’t ashamed to admit it.
“My father was a functional alcoholic when I was a kid,” Fiona finally said, “but not
so much after I left the house. When I say my father and I didn’t part on the best of
terms, that’s putting it as kindly as possible.”
Gabe dipped her head as if acknowledging the admission, leaving it up to Fiona to
decide whether or not she would continue.
“We had a fight. Well…” Fiona hesitated and canted her head to one side. “He
fought. I just stood there and cried while he yelled all kinds of horrible things at me.
It was the first time he ever yelled at me or said anything less than loving.”
“Why didn’t you do or say something at the time?” Gabe asked. Her hand slid across
the table and curled around Fiona’s. Something about their joined hands gave Fiona
the courage to continue, to tell someone who was still practically a stranger these
kinds of personal things.
“I wanted to, but I couldn’t because I was afraid of hurting him.” It was another
confession she hated to put out there, but there it was. “My temper isn’t under
perfect control at the best of times. That night, I knew if I yelled back, I might do
something I’d regret. But I was too surprised to know how to respond, either. I
mean, what do you do when your parent hasn’t lifted a finger against you or raised
his voice in eighteen years?”
The breath Gabe let out seemed to make her entire body sag and she shook her
head helplessly. “I don’t know, Fiona. My parents let me know I was defective the
moment I showed any signs of not being their perfect little girl. So I’m not sure
what’s worse – growing up with that and deciding to escape it, or having what
seems like a fairly normal life and then realizing there was something awful
underneath it all along.”
“There were other things, things I didn’t realize were signs of a problem until I was
an adult.”
“Such as?”
The expression on Gabe’s face encouraged her to continue. Her lovely features were
soft with interest and concern, her eyes misty with tears. Tears for Fiona. No one
had ever cried for her before, except maybe her friends when she told them she was
leaving.
“I told you we moved from one apartment to another back in Boston. I thought
maybe he was looking for a better apartment or a better deal, but I’ve started to
wonder…” Fiona looked at their joined hands and felt strength flow from the
connection. “My parents divorced when I was four. I never heard from my mother
after that. Dad told me she went to California.”
“Do you think there’s a connection between the divorce and the moving?” It was a
legitimate question and one Fiona had pondered more often than not since getting
some distance from her father.
She looked at the empty plates on the table. “I think getting out of the house
brought clarity,” she finally said, “but I still haven’t put all the pieces of the puzzle
together yet.”
Fiona moved her gaze to their hands and then up along Gabe’s bare arm. Her pale
skin was perfect, the muscles in her upper arm sinuous and lean. She couldn’t help
but let her gaze drift along Gabe’s collarbone and to her breasts, covered by that
black tshirt,
but pressing against it with distinct curves.
“I’ll just hurt you,” she announced before she could stop herself.
“What?”
Even though she hated to do it, Fiona lifted her gaze to Gabe’s face. “I don’t want to
get involved. It’s something I just don’t do because I won’t be here once this is all
said and done. You were right. I’m not ready.”
“By ‘this’ you mean your father’s estate? Selling the house?” Gabe clarified. Even
though Fiona expected her to break her hold, she didn’t. Those strong fingers
remained clasped around her hand.
“Yeah. That’s what I mean. My work takes me all over the world. I can’t stay in one
place.”
“Can’t,” Gabe asked, “or won’t?”
Chapter 13
Fiona was ankle deep in her father’s things when she found the letters.
Not that she meant to, of course. She was pulling things off the shelf in his closet
when she discovered them. It was unexpected, considering the things she had tossed
into a box so far – a pair of dress shoes he had probably only worn once, a vintage
pocket knife from his boyhood, and an old deck of playing cards. So the shoebox full
of cards and letters came as a surprise to her.
At first when she flipped through them, she saw that they were addressed to him
from family members. There were childhood birthday and holiday cards, and then a
bundle of letters wrapped with twine that she pulled out and looked at. They were
letters between her grandparents, she realized, dated throughout World War II.
Further in were cards congratulating him on his marriage and then fatherhood.
And then there were the cards from her to him for Father’s Day and birthdays. Her
name was scrawled on them in childish handwriting – “Love, Fiona.” Tucked
between them were other mementos, like photos of her and paper ornaments she
had made in school.
After that was when she found the recent letters. The letters to her, from him.
Never once in her life had she received a letter from her father, so she looked at the
date of the first one. He wrote it the day she left for college. Blinking in surprise,
she skimmed the page. Even with the old stereo turned up loud, the classic rock
drowning out her thoughts, she couldn’t help but catch a few words that made her
hesitate.
Out of every room in the house, the bedroom was the last place she wanted to clean,
because it felt too personal. After all, her father had slept there, woken up in there,
gotten dressed, and did all the other things people did in their bedrooms. She really
didn’t want to contemplate what those other things might be, but she knew if
someone went through her bedroom – even though she didn’t exactly have one – she
would feel weird.
She sank down onto the edge of her father’s bed, among the boxes of clothes she was
sorting into those fit to donate and those she could trash. The dates on the letters
were all between the time she left for college and just until last month. Ten years’
worth of letters. Even though it wasn’t a thick sheaf of paper, it was enough to fill
her hands.
All of the letters were addressed to her in her father’s blocky handwriting, yet she
had never seen them before in her life. The first letter expressed his sadness about
her departure and his regret at how he had treated her the previous night and as
she got in her car to leave. The second shared his frustration with her for leaving,
asking how she could do that to him.
After that, the letters got increasingly angrier, the handwriting more cramped and
shaky. They were written, she realized, when he was drunk. Sometimes the paper
was wrinkled in places as if dotted with tears at one point. And if the frequency of
some of the letters was any indication, he was inebriated and weepy more often
than not.
“Holy shit…” Fiona put her fingers to her lips as if she could hold in the words, but
it was too late. After staring at the letters in shock, she set them on the bed and
tried to catch her breath. Up until nearly his dying day, her father had harbored
this resentment toward her and put it on paper, but why not mail them? Did he
hope someday she would find them or did he think he might forgive her one day and
then get rid of them?
No matter what, it hurt to know the depth of his anger with her.
“Hey, Fi?” a familiar voice called from downstairs. “Fi, I brought some more boxes.
Do you still need them?”
There were footsteps coming up the stairs and then Emma appeared in the hallway.
“Oh, my… What happened?” Emma bustled into the room and dropped an empty
box in the corner before sitting next to Fiona on the bed and patting her knee.
“It’s my fault.” The words came out haltingly, thickly as Fiona’s throat closed up
with tears. “Dad died because I wasn’t here. If I’d been here, I could have stopped
this. All these years of him wasting away and being miserable.”
“That’s bullshit.” It wasn’t often that Emma swore, but this one came out with such
feeling, Fiona would have jumped if she didn’t feel so heavy with sorrow. Those
warm arms of hers went around Fiona, drawing her into an embrace. “Jeez, he
drank and drank and drank after you left. Everyone saw that. No one could have
changed that. All the love and magick in the world couldn’t have changed that
because he didn’t love himself. He didn’t know how to love, Fiona.”
Fiona remained stiff in her friend’s hold. “I could have saved him. Maybe I couldn’t
have changed him, but I could have kept him from becoming what he became.” The
heat was building in and around her, threatening to break her control. She’d held
onto it for so long – this power to make things happen – and now it felt like too
much to contain.
“What the…” Emma drew away and jumped off the bed, shaking out her arms. “You
burned me, Fi.”
“Yeah? Good. I’m glad I burned you, because that’s what I do – I burn people,
especially the ones I love. Maybe if you stay away, I won’t hurt you the way I hurt
Dad. Or the other people in my life, just by existing and then leaving them when
they need me most. Just the way my mother did to me.” Fiona continued to stare
ahead without acknowledging her friend. She just wanted her to go away.
“I had a feeling this was what all of this went back to – your mom.”
“You don’t know a damn thing,” Fiona ground out, her hands clenching around the
edge of the mattress.
“I know losing a parent is hard, because I spent the last year nursing my mom back
to health after she battled breast cancer. Did you ever think about that?”
Fiona didn’t respond. How could she? There was no comparison between having a
mother your entire life and being abandoned by the one person who was supposed to
love and protect you, only to then abandon your father in his time of need.
“No, you don’t think about other people. You only think about your own pain and
you refuse to share it with others because you think we can’t possibly understand.
But newsflash – we’re all as human as you are, and we understand.”
Fiona let the silence speak for itself.
“You really want me to go away? Fine. I will.” Emma kicked at the boxes on the
floor in a rare display of temper. “But you know what? You’re too easily set off.
Think this through logically and stop jumping to conclusions.”
“I’m not jumping to conclusions. It’s right there for me to see in Dad’s handwriting.
Read the letters if you don’t believe me.”
Emma folded her arms and glared down at her. “I don’t have to. I heard it every day
from him when you were gone.”
“What?” Fiona finally turned her head and stared back at her. “What did you say?”
“I said every damn day. Whenever he could manage to find me walking down the
street, he’d tell me how proud he was of you. And then his tune would change. He
knew I could see right through him, so it would all come out – how angry he was
that you left, but how sad, too.”
“You knew.” Fiona clambered up off the bed and stood to face Emma, arms folded,
mirroring her pose. She felt the lightbulb behind her quiver in response to the fiery
energy radiating off of her, but she didn’t care. The explosion was inevitable. “Why
didn’t you tell me?”
“Oh, and shit on your perfect life? Yeah, that’s what a friend does. Right. He
dumped it on me, so it was my burden to bear. I was being a friend by not telling
you.”
The lightbulb shattered with a sizzle, but Fiona ignored it. “No, that isn’t what a
friend does, Emma. She tells someone when their loved one is in pain or suffering.”
“And what would you have done if I told you every time I saw your father, he reeked
of alcohol or that his eyes were so red, there were no whites left anymore? What
would you have done, Fiona – come home after all the time you spent resisting it?”
“Maybe.”
“No.” Emma slashed at the air with her hand. “Hell no. You are a smart woman and
a talented writer. I couldn’t let you waste your life here.”
Fiona rubbed her hands over her face and turned away, her shoulders shaking as
the tears finally fell. “How come I didn’t notice any of this when I visited?”
“Because you didn’t want to.”
“It’s my fault.”
“Nothing is your fault. You had to follow your own path.” Emma maintained her
distance, but she didn’t leave the room. “Look, you had a decent childhood, even
with the moving around and not having a mother in your life. Heck, I think all of
that is part of the reason you were so determined to get out of here. You had the
drive and ambition to do something with your life. Your father wanted you to go out
there and do it too, even though he couldn’t live without someone to care for in his
own unhealthy way.”
Fiona turned and glared at her, the fury still radiating from her, even though tears
streaked down her cheeks. “I spent years,” Fiona hissed, “years blaming my father
for being codependent,
for being weak and helpless to his impulses. And now I see
that he blamed me. What if he’s right? If I’d stayed, he would be alive.”
“Yes, but would you be the person you were supposed to become?”
“Just do me a favor and leave.”
“Really, Fi? Really?” Emma shook her head and then brushed past her to enter the
hall. She turned back, her fists clenched and her arms straight at her sides. “Fine,
kick me out, but don’t take this on yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong but
decide to live the life you were given. You didn’t owe your father anything. You
came into this world for your own purposes, not someone else’s.”
Fiona’s entire body shook as she took a breath. “Get out. I don’t need your woowoo
bullshit.”
“Funny. You can manifest anything you want with just a thought, but you don’t
need my woowoo
bullshit. At least call Gabe. Maybe she can talk some sense into
you.”
“When you said there’s no going back, I thought you meant to blissful ignorance
about my dad – not this!” Fiona cried frantically. “And I can’t call Gabe. I don’t want
that kind of a relationship with her! I’ll just hurt her!”
Emma shrugged. “Then don’t have one. Just make a friend since you won’t let us be
your friends anymore.”
“That’s not what I…” Fiona curled her fingers into her hair and shook her head. “I
don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t want to hurt her, either!”
“Then don’t hurt anyone.”
“I can’t have it both ways!”
The expression on Emma’s face was set in anger. “Then pick a way. See you later,
Fiona. I’ll let you deal with this, but the girls and I are only a phone call away if you
need us.”
When she was finally alone in the house again, Fiona sank back down onto the edge
of the bed and stared down the hall. “Yeah, my friends sure were there for me. They
didn’t even find it in them to tell me just how bad off my father was. Great.
Wonderful friends.”
There was one person she knew wouldn’t try to placate her, though, so she picked
up her phone and dialed the number Gabe had given her.
Chapter 14
“Shit.” Gabe rubbed her hand across her chin and set the last letter back down on
the countertop, then looked at Fiona.
Gabe’s house in Gretna was spacious and airy. The stylish black and white kitchen
smelled of coffee and Fiona clasped her hands around her cup as she perched on her
stool at the island. “So that sucks,” she whispered against the rim of the coffee cup.
“Finding all of that, I mean, and then the way I treated Emma.”
“Yeah, I know it does.” Gabe propped her elbow on the counter and rested her chin
in her hand as she looked at her. “So what are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know.” The coffee scorched a trail of fire down her throat and Fiona coughed
a bit. It felt good, though, that internal heat.
“Have you considered performing a ritual?”
“No.”
The expression on Gabe’s face was one of disbelief as her eyebrows lifted. “You’re a
powerful witch, your father’s dead so you can’t exactly work things out with him,
and you haven’t considered a ritual to release all of this negativity?”
“We had a ritual to release it, but I just felt worse after. Plus, I’ve avoided magick
for a while.”
“Why would you do that?”
Fiona fluffed her hair as she thought about the question. How did she find herself
telling this woman all of her innermost thoughts yet again? “First it was because I
had too little control when I was younger,” she finally said. “I thought my control
would get better when I was an adult and it did. Too good, actually. For example, I
can manifest the charm to get laid wherever I go. That’s not exactly the most
responsible use of my power, not that I’m complaining.”
Gabe’s laughter filled the air and Fiona was surprised to see her double over with
mirth.
“That’s… not exactly flattering, you know. I don’t think you should laugh at me just
because I can get women into bed easily.”
“I know, I know.” Gabe straightened and wiped tears from her eyes, then smiled at
her. “I’m sure you’ve manifested other things without realizing it, like jobs and
money, or a place to stay when you needed it.”
“Sure, practical things, absolutely.”
“So.” Gabe pointed at the letters. “Forgiving both your father and yourself is
practical, don’t you think?”
A chill rippled through her. “So you think I’m to blame, too.”
“Not at all. But I think thinking you’re to blame is a natural reaction.” The other
woman’s fingers stroked the inside of Fiona’s wrist and then stilled over her pulse.
“Yes, you have a heartbeat, so clearly you’re human. And being human means
taking things personally sometimes.”
Warmth replaced the chill, heat drove away the cold, and Fiona knew…
“Ah, there it is.” Gabe leaned across the counter and molded her lips to Fiona’s. The
hunger in the kiss drew Fiona up from the stool and she wrapped her arms around
Gabe. This gorgeous woman had to know by now how Fiona felt about her, that she
wanted her. Fiona put every ounce of heat into that kiss until Gabe tore her mouth
away to catch her breath.
“What if I had stayed, though?” Fiona whispered. “Would he have gotten worse or
stayed the same?”
“Honey.” Gabe lifted her hand and stroked Fiona’s hair away from her face. “You
couldn’t have fixed him, no matter what you did. You needed your experiences to
make you the person you are and you cannot take agency for anyone’s decisions but
your own.”
Fiona dipped her gaze to the floor, but the pressure of Gabe’s fingers on her chin
forced her to lift it again, to meet those slate gray eyes.
“Alcoholism is an illness and only a professional could have treated it. Your father
didn’t want to be treated and he didn’t want a support system or functional
relationships. He couldn’t function on his own, so he organized his behavior around
you after your mother divorced him. And after you left, he couldn’t function at all, so
he organized his behavior around even more alcohol. Does that mean it’s your
fault?”
Fiona felt her breath catch and then hold.
“No, it’s not because it’s part of his addiction. You staying would just enable it. You
leaving didn’t make it worse, though. He chose to get worse instead of getting help.
And trust me, whenever I saw him at the bar, I tried to encourage him to get
treatment because I knew what he was. He told me he knew he had a problem, but
he refused to use the resources available to him.”
“He told you he knew?” Fiona asked, her breath finally releasing. “He knew he was
an alcoholic?”
“Yes, Fiona, he knew. He acknowledged it often. Maybe not to you or your friends,
but he said it to me.” Something flashed in Gabe’s eyes – unshed tears she blinked
away quickly. “We get that a lot, you know. Sometimes a person just feels better
talking to a bartender, because we aren’t there to judge. Even when we withhold
service because we think someone is inebriated, we still don’t judge. In a way, we
offer a safe space. Unfortunately, your father chose not to take the next step and
find his place in a safe space that would help him function again. So no matter what
you think, I hope you realize he knew it was his problem, not yours.”
If Gabe hadn’t been holding her, Fiona thought she would fall back on the stool. The
tension filtered out of her body, replaced instead by that same pleasantly restless
feeling she often felt when she had a new adventure planned.
“You can’t hold on to the guilt. It’s not yours to bear,” Gabe insisted. She drew Fiona
around the island and pulled her close, their bodies fitting together softly. The heat
that radiated from Fiona wrapped around them. If she expected that same anxiety
she’d felt in the store when she realized how right it felt to be with Gabe, it never
came.
Instead, Fiona pressed her lips to Gabe’s and shared another passionate kiss with
her. That was what she needed. Connection, warmth, understanding. Gabe had all
of that and so much more. Before Fiona knew what she was doing, she felt
something hard behind her hands. Her fingers and palms pushed against the wall
on either side of Gabe’s head and her body surged against the bartender’s to hold
her in place.
The last time she wanted a woman so badly was… New York? Paris? London?
No. The other women paled in comparison to Gabe. Fiona didn’t think she had ever
wanted someone this intensely. There was only this moment, no memory of other
women or other moments. One of Fiona’s hands drifted down over Gabe’s shoulder,
along her arm, then to one of her breasts. It filled Fiona’s cupping hand, overflowing
it just slightly. Just enough.
Gabe tilted her head to deepen the kiss and her own hands slid down to clasp
around Fiona’s backside. They stood tangled up in one another as realization
crashed through the sensual haze.
I want to be here. I have no reason to run.
For once, the anticipation of a conquest wasn’t laced with fear. It was full of
excitement. Fiona dropped her mouth to Gabe’s neck and trailed kisses along it.
“Hell yeah.” It came out on a sigh as Gabe tipped her head back against the wall
and rubbed her lower body against Fiona.
It was the sharp sound of a door closing that stopped Fiona from going any further.
“Hey Mom, hope you don’t mind, but I’ve got a shit ton of…” The voice had
approached and then stopped. A heartbeat passed as Fiona stared at Gabe, who
looked over her head with a smile. “You have company. I’m sorry.”
“Are you kidding? My own daughter shouldn’t be sorry for coming home, even if it is
to do laundry.” Gabe turned Fiona around and linked their arms together, still
keeping her close. “Fiona, this is Katharine, my youngest. Kate, this is Fiona.”
Kate had the same honey blonde hair as her mother, but her eyes were green and
facial features not nearly as mature. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said, approaching
with her hand extended and a smile. “Sorry for barging in like that.”
“It’s fine.” Fiona shook Kate’s hand and glanced at Gabe. “I’ll admit, I didn’t expect
your mother to give her kids such traditional names. Katharine is one of my
favorites.”
“Oh, James and I aren’t named for anything traditional, unless 1930s movie stars
count.” Kate pointed at her mother. “This one was obsessed with The Philadelphia
Story when we were born. James is lucky he didn’t end up being a Cary, instead.
“Hey.” Gabe wrapped her arms around Fiona’s waist to keep her close, much to
Fiona’s surprise. “That movie is a trifecta of Hollywood royalty. Don’t knock it.”
Kate waved the comment off and walked back toward the front door. “I’ve got three
baskets of laundry, so I hope you don’t mind.”
“Never. We’ll do pizza since it’s an auspicious occasion.” Gabe looked at Fiona.
“What do you think?”
It was the first time Fiona had dated someone with children. At least, that she
knew of. What was the protocol here? How was she supposed to behave with Gabe
in front of her obviously adult daughter?
And when was she going to apologize to Emma for the way she treated her earlier,
when all she wanted to do was help? Her awful behavior from before lingered in her
mind and her heart gave an extra leap. She had all of these wonderful women
around her who just wanted to support and love her in her time of need. She didn’t
deserve them…
“I think pizza sounds great,” Fiona finally said.
“Don’t feel intimidated. She’s twentyyearsold.
She can handle seeing her mom
dating.” Gabe finally released Fiona and moved to the freezer. “James is twentytwo,
so he can handle it too, but the odds of him dropping in are much lower. He
goes to UNL. Kate is at UNO.”
“Oh, what’s she studying?”
The thump of a laundry basket just inside the kitchen was followed by, “Library
science. James is studying engineering. You decide who the bigger nerd is. Mom
can’t make up her mind, but as long as I’m here, she’ll tell me I’m the nerdy one. If
James is here, she’ll tease him. If we’re both here, then we get to team up against
her.”
Gabe let out that wonderful laugh of hers and Fiona finally relaxed. When she
glanced at Gabe, the gorgeous blonde winked at her.
“They know I love them and I’m ridiculously proud of them. All I ever wanted was
for my kids to pursue their passions. If I get to be a bartender, then they sure as
hell get to be whatever they want.”
“Don’t let her fool you.” Kate sat on one of the stools and hooked her feet around the
legs. “She really wanted us to be artists or musicians. It hurt to break it to her that
we’re just not that cool.”
Any remaining tension dissipated and Fiona laughed. “Well, I think your mom is on
the right track with how she’s raising you.”
“That remains to be seen.” Kate pursed her lips and tilted her head. “I feel like I
know you from somewhere. Are you from Gretna or did you go to UNO?”
“I’m from Ashland and I went to school on the east coast.”
“Oh.” Kate narrowed her eyes. “But I do recognize you.” She stared at Fiona another
moment longer, then shrugged and bounced off the stool.
“Where are you going?” Gabe asked. She was holding a frozen pizza between both
hands like an offering.
“Starting the laundry and getting some more shit out of my car.”
“Please. What are you doing driving around with shit in your car?”
The way Kate rolled her eyes reminded Fiona of how she would react to her own
father’s goodnatured
puns. That was how she wanted to remember him, she
realized. As she turned away to scoop up those very hurtful, personal letters and
stuff them into her purse, she listened to the banter between Kate and Gabe. It
reminded her so much of her adolescence before everything went wrong. Before the
inevitable adulthood she couldn’t – and wouldn’t – stop just to make her father
happy.
When Kate went to the basement to start her first load of laundry, Gabe sighed and
squinted at Fiona. “Sorry. I didn’t expect her, but I hope you don’t feel weird with
her here.”
“No, I don’t. I mean, I’ve never been in this situation before, but it feels okay to me.
Do your kids visit often?”
“Not often enough to justify the size of this house.” Gabe’s gaze shifted from corner
to corner, from kitchen to dining room to living room. “When they were little, they
ran around like crazy. I needed the space. Now it’s too big, like an empty nest.”
“I knew it!” The triumphant shout made Fiona and Gabe turn to look at Kate as she
bounded into the room, a magazine curled in her hand. Fiona recognized the yellow
border on the cover and felt a blush creep into her cheeks.
Kate placed the magazine on the island and opened it to the page that showed a
picture of Fiona standing on a mountainside in Tibet. It was her last published
article before she’d come home to handle her father’s affairs.
“I should have told you I was dating a writer,” Gabe said casually as she discarded
the pizza box and slid the contents into the oven.
“A writer? Mom, this is freakin’ legit.” Kate folded her hands on the counter and
stared at Fiona. “What’s it like to travel all over the world?”
“Well…” Fiona looked at Gabe for help, and that’s when she felt it. Whatever had
thrown her so offkilter
in Gabe’s presence solidified. The world no longer tilted on
its axis.
Everything was back on the right track.
Chapter 15
“Are you sure you’re ready to do this?” Gabe asked.
The way Fiona clutched the letters to her chest, she wondered the same thing
herself. But she nodded. Something had to be done. It was finally time. “I have to do
this.”
“Well, I’m here.” Gabe’s hand encircled hers, strong and sure. “And so are they.”
Fiona looked ahead to the clearing, where the flames of the fire leaped and danced.
How long had she been here in Ashland now – about two weeks, going on three? It
felt like so much longer, considering the ups and downs of everything she had gone
through. She flew in for a funeral and stayed to date a woman who made her feel
like she was strong enough to deal with anything that came her way. Like she could
finally deal with the unexpected discoveries and realizations about her toxic
relationship with her father.
The figures around the fire became more distinct as she approached the circle. Long
shadows spilled onto the ground in front of Avery, Waverly, and Emma. The heat
drew Fiona closer and she turned to Gabe. “Are you ready to meet all of my friends
together at the same time?”
“A circle of witches? I’m delighted,” Gabe drawled. “Besides, I’ve already met two, so
that really just leaves one more.”
It was Waverly who stepped out first to greet them and Fiona was happy that the
circle welcomed Gabe readily. Waverly introduced Gabe to Avery, so Fiona turned to
Emma and gave her a tentative halfsmile.
“I’m sorry for being an asshole to you the other day,” Fiona said. “You were just
trying to help and I treated you like crap.”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. You’ve been under a lot of stress and I
think reaching a breaking point was inevitable. I didn’t need to have a vision to see
that.” They stepped toward each other and into a hug, embracing each other tightly.
“But what are friends for if not to see you at your worst and still love you? Now you
can add Gabe to that list.”
“Well, there’s more.” Fiona bowed her head, her gaze fixed on the ground. “I didn’t
pay any attention to the fact that your mother was dealing with cancer or that you
were the one caring for her all this time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve not been paying
attention for the past ten years to what any of you have been going through. I suck
as a friend.”
Emma squeezed her shoulder. “You don’t suck. Your journey just took you
elsewhere and you couldn’t keep up with everything back here. So stop beating
yourself up and let’s move on together.”
“Em…” Fiona clamped her lips together and glanced over her shoulder, where Gabe
was chatting with Avery and Waverly.
“No worries, friend. I mean it. The past is in the past. We’ll take this step by step.
The first step is to release everything that’s holding you back so you can embrace
the future.” Emma gave her arm another reassuring press and then took her place
on the north side of the circle. Fiona moved to the south and smiled when Gabe
went with Avery to stand on the east side. What was it about her air witch friends
who helped balance everything and make it feel right again, especially Gabe?
She glanced toward the west, where Waverly stood. “Are we doing a full, formal
ritual this time?” the water witch asked.
“Full, formal ritual,” Emma affirmed. Her gaze was fastened on the fire in the
center as she spoke, casting the circle around them.
How long had it been since Fiona actually practiced ritual and magick? High school,
she realized. Other than manifesting her needs on her own, she hadn’t used formal
ritual as a tool for anything in ten years. Even though her manifesting was strong,
it was no substitute for setting and speaking her intentions with the universe, and
then following through with action.
After Emma cast the circle, called the quarters, and spoke the invocations, Fiona
held out the unsent letters her father had written to her.
“Everyone here knows me. Most of you have known me since I was sixteen. One of
you only met me a couple of weeks ago, but I feel like you know me almost as well
as these old friends of mine do.” Fiona shared a smile with everyone around the
circle, her gaze lingering on Gabe. “There was one thing I never told anyone and
that was how my father yelled at me the day I left for college. He said all kinds of
horrible things in the heat of the moment and then his resentment of me festered
inside of him.”
Tears shined on Waverly’s face and she patted Fiona’s arm.
“That’s the worst thing about anger, I think.” Fiona held the letters higher. “If we
don’t forgive, it destroys us from the inside out. I know that’s what happened to my
father. It wasn’t a drink’s fault or a server’s fault or my fault that I lost him. It was
his own fault and his decision. I do not and will not bear any responsibility for my
father’s choices. In the end, he lost himself.”
Fiona let the papers flutter from her fingers and watched them drift down into the
fire, page by page. As each letter met the flames, it lit and became ashes in a matter
of moments. Fiona unleashed her energy with each letter and watched as a spiral of
flame shot upward to engulf the last of the pages.
She threw her head back and looked up at the stars, and repeated her last
statement. “I do not and will not bear any responsibility for my father’s choices. I
will not forget, but I do forgive the way our relationship changed when I left for
college. And I will remember the good times, the times he loved me and cared for me
and was responsible for me. May I learn and grow from all of this, and not repeat
either of my parents’ mistakes.”
When she looked at the circle again, Fiona realized Waverly wasn’t the only one
crying. Even Emma and Avery were moved to tears by her spell. Gabe’s eyes were
glistening with tears, as well as pride.
“I’m back,” Fiona whispered and clenched her fist. “I’m back.”
****
After Emma closed the circle, they sat and shared food, drinks, and conversation.
“Wow, this is amazing,” Emma said as she passed the bottle of wine to her right, so
Avery could pour a cup. “Have you been saving this for a special occasion, Wave?”
Waverly grinned. “Actually, yes.” Since she was the water sign, it was always her
job to provide the libations. “I’ve been holding onto that bottle since I got my first
paycheck after college. I just knew it was right for when the coven was complete
again. Now it’s not just complete – it’s growing.”
“Hold up.” Fiona raised her palm and waved it in an arc in front of her friends.
“Don’t jump the gun. Gabe and I have only been on two dates. We’re still getting to
know each other.”
Waverly looked across the circle and smirked. “Well, I’d like to hear Gabe’s
perspective on your relationship and where it stands.”
The way Gabe’s laugh rang through the air made Fiona flush and dip her head. “My
perspective. That’s interesting.” Gabe poured her cup and passed the bottle on to
Fiona. “I’m with Fiona on this. We’ve been on two dates. We’ve also had a stroll and
she’s been to my house, even met one of my kids. I’d say things are going well, but
we’re both adults here. There’s no need to rush things.”
“And why do you say that?”
“Waverly, please don’t get drunk again,” Avery interjected, glaring at her sister.
“No, no, she’s fine.” Gabe smiled at Avery and then looked back at Waverly. “I say
that because Fiona’s not going anywhere. We have all the time in the world.
Besides, I have a feeling she’s got some other ghosts to address, though I hope we’ll
meet them together.”
It was a peculiar statement coming from Gabe and Fiona glanced across the circle.
Emma lowered her gaze and appeared to be very interested in the seam of her
jeans.
Avery redirected the conversation smoothly, moving on to work matters. Fiona
noticed how Waverly squirmed when her sister glared at her across the fire pit. It
seemed like the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Emma was
settled, but uncomfortable even discussing it. Waverly was as emotional as ever,
even as she approached thirty. And Avery? She was the same logical young woman,
but now she was applying that analytical side to a marketing career.
The fire dimmed throughout the night and Fiona spoke less and observed more.
When there was a lull in the conversation, she said, “You guys, I have to apologize
to all of you.”
“Why is that?” Avery asked.
Fiona inhaled the cool, spring air through her nose and lifted her gaze to the stars
once more. “It’s funny to think that stars are little balls of fire far away from us, you
know? They change their position and sometimes they even expand and collapse
upon themselves, but then there’s always a new star to takes its place.”
“Is… this analogy… something?” The uncertainty in Waverly’s voice was so typical
of her and Fiona had to laugh.
“Yeah, it’s something. Eventually, a star has to die, like us. But that ball of fire is
made up of so many different things and it’s those different things that make it
brilliant. When I left here, I went in search of different things and I had moments
when I shined so brightly, I thought I might burst from the excitement of it.” Fiona
tilted her head, a fond smile lifting the corner of her lips. “But in the end, the things
that made me brilliant were right here in Ashland. The reason I have to apologize is
because I left, but when I visited, I never really came back. We’d go to lunch or
dinner or hang out together at Emma’s house, but I wasn’t present, the way I
should have been.”
“Honey…”
Fiona shook her head at Emma. “No, please. All of you deserve this apology from
me. I knew Emma and Crystal were together and settled. I knew you owned the
shop. I knew Waverly was working as a dance teacher. I knew Avery was working
in marketing. But as far as the ups and downs of your lives, I never paid close
attention. I wanted to be the special one – the one everyone in our town looked at
and thought, ‘Wow, she really made something of herself.’ But I realize I was
nobody without my friends.”
“Ohhh.” Emma rose and circled the fire, so she could sit next to Fiona and hug her.
“You were always somebody, with or without us. But we’re glad you’re home.”
“What about your father’s house?” Avery asked. “If you’re staying, are you still
going to sell it?”
When Emma released Fiona, Fiona nodded. “Yeah. I can’t hold on to it. I don’t want
to hold on to it. I’ll find my own place to live.”
“You should start looking now,” Emma suggested. “There are a few cute houses for
sale if you want to stay in Ashland.”
“I do and I definitely want to buy another house, not stay in an apartment.”
Drawing her knees in and wrapping her arms around them, Fiona glanced at Gabe.
“I figure I can do some local writing. Maybe even get a gig for a magazine here. But
at least I can continue freelancing.”
Her friends all exchanged glances, then smiles, and finally squeals as they piled on
her in a group hug. Fiona managed to peek past them and saw Gabe still sitting
next to the fire, looking amused.
As they cleaned up the area, Fiona helped Emma tidy up the bed of her pickup
truck.
“You know,” Emma said as she shut the tailgate, “you have the ability to manifest
what you want or need in life.”
There was a point. Fiona knew there was, so she waited patiently for it.
“But what you want and need, whether you realize it, is true love.”
Fiona scoffed and kicked at the ground. “I don’t think it exists.”
“I know.” Emma turned and laid the tip of her finger on Fiona’s nose. “No worries,
though. The universe is out to prove you wrong through one of the sexiest air
witches I’ve ever seen. Hold on to her. She’s the person who’s going to help you
make even more breakthroughs.”
Chapter 16
Selling the house would be the easy part, Fiona decided as she hefted an end table
up off the living room floor and walked down the front steps with it. Buying one she
liked would be harder, considering how small the town was and the limited
selection of homes on the market.
“You’re still on a cleaning spree, aren’t you?” Gabe grunted from behind her,
carrying a matching end table through the front door. “Getting rid of everything you
associate with your past, letting all of it go.”
Fiona set her table down on the lawn and stepped aside to let Gabe place the other
next to it. The matched set was in good shape and she priced it cheap. She imagined
herself in a used car lot advertisement – everything had to go!
“You bet. I’m so done. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was good and I will always
look back at it fondly, despite my parents’ divorce. Dad did the best he could raising
me. My transition to adulthood was rocky, but I need to let that go. Like Emma
said, the past is in the past. I’ve faced it and acknowledged it, and now I need to
move on with my life. I’m a twentyeightyearold
woman, not a kid.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun in your life, too. You still have a
lot of years left to live, young lady.” Gabe approached her and clasped her hands
around Fiona’s waist, pulling her in for a kiss.
“Mm,” Fiona murmured against those soft, red lips. When they parted, she said, “So
I have a feeling you’re proposing the kind of fun that I’m going to appreciate after a
long, hard day of putting together a big garage sale.”
“Oh, I think so. In fact, I know you’re going to need something to relax you.”
After another heartbeat, Fiona tilted her head and grinned. “You do realize you’re
twelve years older than me, right? While you were rocking flannel shirts, listening
to Nirvana, and perfecting the art of teen rebellion, I was learning how to walk and
talk, and throwing tantrums.”
“Yes, I know. It’s terribly forbidden.” Gabe wagged her eyebrows up and down
comically until Fiona let out a snort of laughter.
“Shut up. You’re so sarcastic.”
Gabe’s low, husky laugh sent Fiona’s pulse into overdrive. It felt like they had
danced around the idea of a relationship more than anything during the past month
and now all she wanted to do was find out exactly what Gabe meant by relaxing.
“Yeah, well, the age difference isn’t really that big a deal,” Gabe said. “Maybe if you
were a little younger, it would be, but by the time a woman is around twentyseven
or so, she’s pretty well figured herself out. Thank the Saturn return for that.”
Saturn return. Why hadn’t Fiona remembered that? “Everyone’s favorite powerful
astrological time when Saturn stations in the same place it was in the heavens
when we were born.”
“Exactly. This is when most women hit their stride in life, career, and family. This
is when it all comes together.” Gabe seemed to consider her words and added, “Only
to fall apart when you turn thirtyfive,
mind you.”
“What?” Fiona drew back and put her hands on her hips. “Are you kidding me?”
“Don’t worry. It just seems like a Saturn return resonates for several years and
finally smooths out by around thirtyseven.
But I’m more than willing to join you on
this bumpy ride if you’ll let me.”
Fiona folded her arms and compressed her lips. What more bumpiness could there
be now that she finally felt like she was home, where she belonged? Once she sold
the house and moved into one of her own, she just wanted to move forward with her
life. She didn’t need mystical curveballs tossed her way.
“Okay,” Gabe said. “Let’s focus on the garage sale. I know you want this stuff gone
and the vultures will descend soon enough to try to wheedle you into selling them a
twentyfive
cent book for a dime.”
“Right? That’s the fun part. Everyone wants to play Let’s Make A Deal. Hey, thanks
so much for your help this morning. I know it’s early and early mornings aren’t your
cup of tea.”
“That’s what friends and potential girlfriends are for.”
Fiona tried to ignore the hammering of her heart as she turned and strode back into
the house, aware Gabe was behind her. Potential girlfriend? She needed to ponder
that remark later since the yard sale was set to begin at eight and it was already
seventhirty.
It wouldn’t be long before cars lined up along the street.
“Let’s take the sofa out of here. It shouldn’t be too heavy,” Fiona said, crouching on
one side of the loveseat to curl her fingers underneath it.
By the time the sun climbed over the trees, the yard was full of furniture, books,
clothes, household goods, and plenty of bargainhunters.
Despite her earlier
sarcasm, Fiona was more than happy to negotiate and get rid of everything. She
would rather part with items she had no interest in for a dime than quibble over
another fifteen cents.
“Whoa. Hold on.” Gabe turned to face her, holding a dress against herself. “Was this
your prom dress?”
“Yeah. It’s beyond out of style, but I’m sure someone with talent can make it look
good.” Fiona looked at the money box on her small folding table. It was almost
overflowing with cash and coins, money she would set aside for furnishing her own
home.
“Excuse me, Fiona, but I have a question.”
Fiona looked up and smiled at the woman who had spoken. “Good morning, Miss
Martha. How are you?” The woman was in her sixties and had been her father’s
next door neighbor since he moved in.
“I’m doing well. How are you?”
“Not bad.” Fiona slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans and shrugged. “It’s
weird being here without my father, but it’s time to let all of this go. It’s not to my
taste.”
“Well, I’m sorry to lose a good neighbor. Your father was always quiet, never any
trouble. Sure, he played some loud music now and then, but he was generally
helpful.” Martha smiled in a motherly way and her glance drifted over the items in
the yard before returning to Fiona’s face. “I was wondering if you were willing to
sell that lovely hutch of his – the one he kept in the den.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, no. That’s the one thing I’m keeping. It belonged to my greatgrandmother,
so it’s a family heirloom. I’d like to hold on to it, but thank you for
asking.”
A look of confusion crossed Martha’s face. “Do you have siblings?”
Now it was Fiona’s turn to feel confused about her neighbor’s question as she shook
her head. “No, it’s just me.”
“Ah. So there aren’t any nieces or nephews to pass the piece onto?”
“No…” Fiona furrowed her brow and asked, “Do you mind telling me what you’re
getting at, Miss Martha?”
“Well, knowing you’re gay and all, you’re not intending to have children, right? I
mean, technically you can’t make children with another woman.” Martha lifted her
hand and said, “Of course, I’m not implying there’s a problem with you being gay.
Not at all.”
“No, I know you’re not. I realize that. But…” Fiona glanced back at the front door of
the house. “You’re wondering why I want to hold on to a family heirloom when I
have no one to pass it on to and odds are I never will.”
“Frankly, yes.”
The words left Fiona wondering the same thing. She knew why she wanted it – to
enjoy and appreciate its existence and the history that came with it. But would she
have a child someday to tell about it, to say, “This belonged to your greatgreatgrandmother”
to? Or someday when she was gone, would it go to a stranger in an
estate sale?
She looked at Gabe and felt her chest tighten. There were things she still wanted in
her life, regardless of who she loved. And that meant the hutch was hers to keep, as
far as she was concerned.
“Because,” she said, looking back at Martha, “I do have a family and I’d like to keep
the hutch in it for now. But if that changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.” Fiona did
her best to be polite, even though she knew she sounded adamant about her
decision.
“Well, then.” Martha lifted up on her toes a bit and smiled. “I understand and I
won’t ask again. I’ve been coveting those Hummel figurines of your father’s. I better
buy them before someone else does. They’re quite a treasure.”
“Yes, please do. I understand they can be quite valuable.” Turning, Fiona watched
Martha stride across the lawn to inspect the figurines in question.
Gabe approached her and whispered, “I hope she buys those things. They’re so ugly.
I never want to see them again.”
“Yeah, me too. She wanted to buy the one thing I wasn’t willing to get rid of, so I’m
glad there’s something else she could find out here.”
“Since you’re getting rid of everything. What are you going to do for furniture?”
A few shoppers converged on them and Fiona stepped aside to negotiate their
transactions. As soon as it was quiet again, she turned to Gabe. “I’ll buy some when
I have a house to put it in,” she said.
“Furniture can be pretty expensive.”
“I know and I’ve got some money saved, but…” Fiona ran her fingers through her
hair. “One step at a time, you know? First I have to find a house I like, sell this one,
buy another one – there are still quite a few things to do between now and the time
when I’ll actually need furniture. I did keep a few things, like my bedroom set and
the hutch.”
“Just what every house needs to be complete.” Gabe gestured to the dining room set
that two people were loading into a pickup truck. “After all, who needs a table when
you can eat on the floor?”
Fiona chuckled and tapped her finger against the money box. “I just sold that set for
a cool hundred. I’m not about to complain that I have to sit on a floor to eat for a few
weeks.”
Even as she spoke, she knew the wheels were turning in Gabe’s mind. After a
month of dating her, she could tell. Gabe’s eyes would narrow and she would focus
her gaze on something in the distance, pondering whatever was on her mind. It was
one of the most endearing things about her – how she analyzed things so intently.
“Whatever you’re planning, stop. Don’t worry about me,” Fiona insisted. “I’m a big
girl. I think I can handle selling and buying a house, and putting furniture in it. But
I promise to let you know if I need any help.”
“I know you can do all of it on your own. I was just thinking about something else.”
Gabe leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I better get to work. I’m opening and
taking deliveries today. Good luck with the garage sale. I hope everything sells.”
“Me too. I’m excited about making a fresh start in my life. College was supposed to
be it, you know? But it was kind of tainted by the sendoff
I got from my dad.”
Gabe rubbed her arm and gave her a rueful smile. “I can understand that. It was
supposed to be your big day after working so hard for it and he ruined it. But I’m
glad you’re able to release it and start again. Trust me, you’ll find yourself starting
over again and again in life, even at my age. Even older than that. It’s just how this
merrygoround
of existence goes, I think.” Gabe leaned in for one more kiss and
then strode to her car, those long legs of hers covering the distance quickly.
Fiona wanted to do more than exchange a couple of chaste kisses, but she watched
Gabe go, waved at her when she got in the car, and then turned to negotiate with
Martha about those hideous Hummels.
Chapter 17
The empty house felt far more peaceful than it ever had. Not just quiet but truly
peaceful. Fiona surveyed it from the front door before turning and leaving. She and
Gabe finally had a third date scheduled.
With every mile that rolled by, bringing her closer to Gabe’s house, Fiona felt
anticipation tingle through her. Her palms were hot against the steering wheel as
she wondered what Gabe had in mind for tonight. What Fiona really wanted was to
take the next step in their relationship, to move past those thrilling kisses into
something more intimate. Could someone plan on having sex? Sure. Would it go as
planned? That, Fiona didn’t know.
But she knew her intention was to make love to Gabe tonight. Every thought in her
mind was of seducing the beautiful woman she had opened herself up to over the
past few weeks. A night out at a dance club was the perfect way to do that.
There was only one car in Gabe’s driveway – her black sedan. Good. Fiona didn’t
need to face children, even adult children, when her mind was on…
Gabe stepped out and turned to lock the front door. When she turned back to
Fiona’s car and waved, Fiona felt her heart leap.
She was so fucking gorgeous.
The modelperfect
woman made her way to the car with long, graceful strides that
again reminded Fiona of what she lacked in that department. But Gabe seemed to
like her just the way she was – short, buxom, and scrappy.
Fiona had slept with older women before, like her dear friend Constanta, which was
why she looked forward to tonight. She loved how women in their forties and fifties
radiated confidence. Out of all her lovers, they were the least inhibited in bed. They
had earned their status through years of trial and error and carried wisdom without
arrogance. It was a far cry from the younger women she’d slept with.
“Hey, you.” Gabe slid into the passenger seat and leaned across the console to kiss
her. The hunger in the kiss warmed Fiona all over and she moaned into it. “So I
think we both have the same thing in mind for tonight,” Gabe said raspily as she
leaned back.
“Yeah, maybe.” Fiona licked her lips, tasting Gabe’s cinnamon lip gloss on them.
“Do you want to skip the club?”
Fiona shook her head. “Definitely not. I think we should go.”
Gabe traced her finger along Fiona’s lips and her body sagged as she sighed. “Fine,
but we really don’t have to. Our third date could happen right here at my place.”
The more Gabe tried to convince her, the more Fiona decided going out was a good
idea. If Gabe desired Fiona the way Fiona desired her, then she wanted to draw out
the sensation. She turned the key in the ignition and smiled. “Why don’t we
consider this foreplay?”
Even though she’d never been much for clubs, Fiona took Gabe into the heart of
Omaha for some fun. It was a very different atmosphere from the rural bar. They
could easily get caught up in the flashing lights, thumping techno music, and
dancing amid the throng of primarily gay couples. Instead of beer, they indulged in
brightlycolored
drinks with fun names. When Fiona served two tall glasses of
cloudy pink liquid to Gabe, the blonde lifted her eyebrows.
“Do you know what this is?”
“Yes and you might like it,” Fiona told her.
“I don’t know.” Gabe lifted the glass and inspected the liquid inside. “I don’t tend to
drink the froufrou
stuff.”
Fiona barked out a laugh. “Just like you don’t like having a froufrou
name?
Considering your South Dakota origins, I’d say Gabrielle is a pretty progressive
name. Besides, I like your name. It’s pretty, like you.”
“You do?”
“Sure, but I like Gabe, too, because it’s tough, like you.”
Gabe rolled her eyes and raised the glass. “So you like everything about me. That’s
something to celebrate. Cheers, then.”
As they drank, Fiona watched her date over the rim of her glass. When they set
them down on the high pub stand, she asked, “So, do you dance?”
“Believe it or not, yes.” With joined hands, Gabe and Fiona walked onto the dance
floor and began moving to the music. The frantic tempo of club music wasn’t
something Fiona liked listening to, but every so often she was in the right mood to
get lost in the sharp, staccato beat.
Fiona spun and then Gabe was behind her, hands on her hips. They synchronized
their movements until it seemed like their bodies were united. Then Fiona looked
over her shoulder and kissed Gabe lightly. That brush of lips was gentle, but it set
her blood on fire.
“You’re going to get so lucky tonight,” Gabe whispered against her mouth.
“I’m counting on it.” Regaining control of her desire, Fiona spun in Gabe’s arms and
clasped her shoulders. For the first time in her life since college, she gave into a
very passionate, very public kiss. The way Gabe slanted her mouth over hers, her
tongue searching, left Fiona breathless. Even in gay clubs, she tended to keep her
hands to herself, but all she wanted to do was touch Gabe.
“Coming here was a good idea after all,” Gabe told her. “You’re right about the
foreplay. It’s pretty sexy.”
“Well, I aim to please.” The pulse of the music changed and Fiona followed it,
grinding against Gabe.
“That, or you’ve got the moves.” Gabe followed along, her pelvis meeting Fiona’s.
She threw back her head and laughed. “I never go to these places. Why haven’t I
done this before now?”
Fiona guessed the answer to that was pretty clear – why would a bartender want to
go to another bar or a nightclub, after spending five days a week in one? Even for
Fiona, clubbing was only a onceinawhile
adventure.
“You’re here now,” she said.
“I’m here with you,” Gabe answered, looking at her again. “And that’s how I want it
to be.” They stayed that way for a long time, Gabe’s arms draped over her
shoulders, Fiona’s hands on either side of her ribcage, and gazes locked.
By the time they arrived back at Gabe’s house, Fiona knew how the night would
end. The moment she slipped the key from the ignition, Gabe’s lips were on hers –
kissing, tasting, demanding a response.
Fiona leaned back under her and moaned against her supple lips.
“Hey,” Gabe whispered. “There’s something I always wanted to do but never tried. I
want you to indulge me.”
“Anything,” Fiona responded, unable to catch her breath.
The wicked grin Gabe gave her made her heart leap. Then Gabe opened the door,
got out of the car, and pulled Fiona into the passenger seat. “I’m so glad you wore a
skirt.”
“I have a feeling I’m going to be glad too.” Fiona’s voice was husky with desire as
she lay back and watched Gabe’s hands on her knees, pressing them open. “Are you
serious? Someone might see us.”
“Nobody is going to see us.” The confidence in Gabe’s voice was somewhat
reassuring, but Fiona knew part of the thrill was the possibility of getting caught.
So she watched Gabe’s every move as the blonde woman lowered her head and lifted
Fiona’s black pleated skirt. Cool air danced over her hot skin, followed by warm lips
working their way up her inner thigh.
The panties Fiona wore were no more than a scrap of lace, meant to look sexy for a
moment and then slide down her legs, which was exactly what Gabe did with them.
Now she really was exposed and she squirmed at the thought of it.
Then Gabe’s lips descended on her clit and Fiona had to cling to the seat to remind
herself she was still a sapient human being, not just an indistinct cluster of feeling.
With each long, slow lick of Gabe’s tongue between her aching lips, each firm pass
over that sensitive flesh, Fiona shivered and moaned.
At one point, Gabe’s hands glided up her torso and then cupped her breasts. When
those strong fingers clutched at Fiona with need, she groaned and lifted up into
Gabe’s hold. She saw her legs draped over Gabe’s shoulders and that blonde head
between her thighs, moving up and down with the motion of her tongue.
“Holy…” Fiona felt her eyes roll back in her head as she orgasmed, the sensual
tension inside her uncoiling at last. The waiting had been worth it and this, she
knew, was only the beginning.
As she collapsed back against the seat, she felt Gabe still lapping at her flesh with
tiny licks.
“Stop that,” she moaned and batted at Gabe’s head.
“But you taste so good, especially after coming.” Gabe’s voice was muffled, her lips
moving against Fiona’s skin. “I could stay down here all night.”
“I’m…” Fiona shuddered and then ground out, “Sensitive.”
“I know. I love that. You’ve got to let me just keep going.”
Even though little aftershocks shook her, Fiona tried again to find her voice.
“Can’t.”
“Mmhm,” Gabe murmured, the sound vibrating Fiona’s lower body. “Just a little
more.”
Fiona gave up trying to push Gabe away from her. Now that magic tongue was
dragging up and down her valley, taking up the nectar there and then swirling
around her clit until Fiona felt her body shake with orgasm again. There was no
stopping it and she gave into the second, less earthshattering
release with a little
sigh.
“Okay, that was enough,” she whispered.
“Uhuh.”
Now Gabe was sucking at her with long, drawnout
pulls on her lips and
clit. Fiona squeezed her eyes shut and reached down with one hand, surprised at
how hard she clutched at Gabe’s hair. At first, she thought it was to push her away,
but she couldn’t help herself – she held her in place and rode out yet another
orgasm, this time with a low and keening wail of ecstasy.
Her entire body finally fell back and she blinked as Gabe emerged into view.
“Now that was enough.” Gabe settled atop her and Fiona gave her a small nod, then
opened her mouth to accept the kiss. Everything she smelled and tasted was
intoxicating, a heady mix of herself and Gabe together.
“More,” Fiona whispered when Gabe held herself above her.
A smile curved Gabe’s lips and she took Fiona by both hands. Even though she was
weak at the knees, Fiona made it into the house and to the bedroom. She didn’t
have time to appreciate anything about the house, though, because Gabe was
stripping naked. The only thing Fiona wanted to see was this beautiful woman
without any clothing.
So she sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her. She was tall, yes, with that
gorgeous, nearlyflawless
face. But there were faded stretch marks across her belly,
almost as subtle as the delicate laugh lines around her eyes. Fiona reached out her
hands and traced them with her fingers.
“They’re in the shape of a phoenix,” she marveled.
“I know. They came from my second pregnancy. That was the one when I decided I
wasn’t going to change to please anyone. I was just going to be myself,
unapologetically.”
Fiona placed her hands on either side of Gabe’s waist and looked up at her. “That’s
beautiful.” Those breasts, too, turned out to be notsoperfect.
But even though they
drooped just a bit, they were still full and soft.
“Again, babies.” Gabe tilted her head a bit and grinned wryly. “And age, I guess.”
“Your age is beautiful,” Fiona told her, then rose to her feet to lift her shirt up over
her head. Her own breasts remained perky and round, bobbing when she unclasped
her bra. Then she shimmied her skirt down over her hips, biting her lip when it
caught for a brief moment over her belly. “I… I’m not as…”
“You’re perfect,” Gabe told her and knelt to kiss Fiona’s soft tummy. “Our perfection
isn’t in how we look. It’s in how we love. Besides.” She straightened her legs and
rested her chin on the top of Fiona’s head. “I like that you’re short enough for me to
do this to you.”
“Oh, do you?” With that question, Fiona turned and moved her lips along the warm
skin of Gabe’s neck, then down across her shoulders.
She felt Gabe’s arms settle around her, felt her sigh with pleasure. “Yes, I do. You’re
the perfect height, but maybe…” Fiona turned her face up to Gabe, who smoothed
her wavy red hair away from it and looked down at her. “Maybe we need to kick
‘perfect’ out of our vocabulary. It’s in the eye of the beholder, anyway, like you said.
And what I behold right now is the woman who feels so right in my arms.”
Gabe was articulating the feeling Fiona had fought from their first meeting. Now,
Fiona gave into it as she turned Gabe toward the bed and kissed her until she fell
back onto it.
“I believe it’s my turn to make you wiggle until you can’t take it anymore,” Fiona
whispered.
Chapter 18
“Okay, you’ve been here an entire month and not once have we gotten together
without the girls tagging along. It’s my turn now.” Avery crossed her legs and
leaned back in her chair.
As far as Fiona was concerned, her friend looked quite at home in her office. The
marketing firm where she worked was posh and modern, in a towering professional
building at the heart of Omaha. The atmosphere was exactly what Fiona envisioned
– harried creatives running back and forth in their effort to meet deadlines for their
clients.
“How can you just sit back while they’re scurrying around out there like chickens
with their heads cut off?” Fiona gestured toward the large window that showed the
rest of the firm outside of Avery’s office. “It must be nice being a director, just
sitting back and watching all of the chaos. You look like a queen overseeing her
subjects.”
Avery’s laugh was far too similar to the Wicked Witch of the West’s and Fiona put
her hands over her ears. “Oh, I was kidding,” Avery said, slapping her hands down
on her desk. “That was just for effect.”
“Fine.” Fiona dropped her hands. “So, yeah, we haven’t really gotten together except
for circles and a bit of house cleaning. How is everything?”
“It’s good. Busy, you know. You’re used to this sort of thing, right?”
“Only when I visit a newspaper or magazine. Newsrooms are crazy but in a good
way.” Fiona reached forward to lift the first ball in the Newton’s cradle on Avery’s
desk and let it go. As the balls bounced back and forth off of each other, she said, “I
kind of miss it. I mean, traveling was fabulous, but I like the bustle of the office. It’s
fun in a weird way. What about you?”
The way Avery spun back and forth in her chair, Fiona knew she was stalling for
time. “Work is good.”
“And?” Fiona pressed, waving her hand in the air. “What about your life?”
“And that’s my life. Work.” Avery shrugged. “Just work. Besides, you’re the one with
the gorgeous girlfriend, so if anyone has anything to tell, it’s you. What’s happening
there?”
“Ah ha ha.” Butterflies filled her stomach and Fiona leaned back, covering her face
with her hands, remembering her night with Gabe. “Everything is happening
there.”
“Everything? So, I take it dating has turned into something more?”
Fiona nodded and compressed her lips. Gabe was the kind of woman she wanted to
tell everyone about. She was infinitely cool, smart, and had a low tolerance for
bullshit. They shared a love for movie nights and popcorn, and…
“Are you going to give me details?” Avery derailed her train of thought with just
seven words.
“Sorry, yeah.” Dipping her head, Fiona tried to think of something suitable to tell
her friend. There were the nights the spent tangled in each other’s legs and arms,
heat radiating from their bodies after lovemaking.
She discarded that thought and
tried to find another, more suitable one to share.
Avery rose from her desk, her heels clacking against the floor, and circled it to fold
her arms and look down at Fiona. “You’re getting busy, aren’t you?”
“It’s kind of inevitable when people date steadily and realize they like each other.”
“Is it? Do tell.” Avery perched on the desk, looking very formidable in her sleek
turquoise blouse and black pants.
“What is there to tell? You’ve dated. You know how it goes when you’re with a girl
you like.”
To Fiona’s surprise, her friend shook her head. “Not exactly. I haven’t had a date
or…” Avery rolled her eyes toward the window and then lowered her voice. “Or sex
since college.”
“No sex since college?”
“Keep it down,” Avery told her through gritted teeth. “I’m not exactly proud of the
fact that I’ve been practically celibate for the past six years.”
“But, why? How could that be? I mean…” Fiona held out her hands. “You’re so
beautiful and successful and…” Words failed her. How could Avery drop this
knowledgebomb
on her here and now? How was she supposed to react?
The blonde let out a sigh and slithered off the desk, then walked back around
behind it. “I think that’s part of the problem. I’m successful, which takes hard work.
Hard work means I don’t have time to meet women. So being beautiful is
meaningless. Granted, I worked hard in college, but it was a lot easier to find a good
time then, too. I had some wild times. Not a whole bunch of lovers like you, but a
few. Sometimes a few in my room at the same time, not going to lie.”
Fiona straightened in the chair and watched as Avery sat behind her desk. She
certainly did look gorgeous and intimidating there, like a woman who kept her cool
at all times. A lot like Gabe, really.
“But I think I did that more for efficiency’s sake – not because I was craving
intimacy or attachment. It’s just never been something I need in my life.”
“Maybe not, but you deserve to be happy,” Fiona said, glancing down at the
Newton’s cradle. The metal balls had finally clicked to a stop.
“I appreciate that, but I don’t think I need to get attached to someone to be happy.
Maybe love just isn’t in the cards for me and I’m fine with that.”
“Have you asked Emma? She says Crystal gives great tarot readings.”
Avery shook her head, her long, straight blonde hair cascading around her
shoulders. “Are you kidding? I’m not going to ask her or Crystal to get all
clairvoyant for me when they’ve got relationship problems of their own.”
So that was why Emma was reluctant to talk about Crystal or much at all about her
home life. Fiona realized her mouth must have been hanging open because a
knowing smile crossed Avery’s face.
“You didn’t notice it, but you did notice something was off kilter, I bet. It’s the one
thing she doesn’t hide well.”
“But what is going on with those two? I thought they were happy together. They’ve
been living together for almost seven years now.” Leaning forward, Fiona poked at a
stack of multicolored
Postit
notes on the desk and looked at the huge whiteboard
on the wall to her left. It was covered with various colors of Postits
and markers.
“If you haven’t figured it out, it’s not for me to tell,” Avery demurred.
“Oh, I sort of figured it out the day of my father’s funeral when Emma didn’t want
to talk about Crystal. But why won’t she? Can’t you tell me what’s going on?”
“I can tell you what I think is going on. My best guess is they’re suffering from the
notquitesevenyear
itch. They got together toward the end of high school for
Crystal and right after Emma graduated from college, you know? And they both
shared a dream to open a shop, but I think they’ve drifted apart since then. Here.”
Avery slid something metallic across the desk. “Fidget with that.”
Fiona picked it up and realized it was some kind of puzzle – a cube with a gear
stuck in it. She started turning and rotating it, playing with it as they talked. “Well,
that sucks. I hope they sort it out.”
“Me too. They seemed like the perfect couple for a while, but maybe it’s just time for
them to look elsewhere or work harder on their relationship. I just don’t know.”
That was no surprise to Fiona. Relationships weren’t exactly Avery’s forte, as the
air witch had already explained. “So what about your analysis of Waverly, then?”
“She’s much harder to pin down. Isn’t that weird?” Avery clucked her tongue
against her teeth and shook her head. “Then again, my sister has always been
really adept at keeping a little distance between us. Even though she’s the
emotional one, she won’t reveal what’s eating at her. There’s something there,
though. I just know there is. My guess is she’s having the opposite problem I am –
she’s lonely and yearning to change that.”
“Jeez, I feel bad.” Fiona continued to spin the gear from one hole to the next,
rotating the cube as she did so. “I never really kept up with any of you, you know?
Even with things like email and social media, I just didn’t bother to pay attention.”
Avery let out a low, sultry laugh. “Trust me, there was nothing to pay attention to
on social media. We’re far from the days of vaguebooking about ourselves, after all.”
She propped her elbow on the desk and tilted her head to rest against her palm.
“You never saw any drunken ‘I can’t believe it – what should I do?’ posts from any of
us, because they don’t exist. The girls have all played it very close to the vest
lately.”
“Still, we should have been in contact with each other. Friends should be able to tell
each other their darkest concerns and share their hardest problems.” With one more
turn, the gear pulled free of the cube and Fiona set both pieces on the desk.
Avery reached across her desk and took the parts, examining them. “Good job. I got
that from Waverly for my last birthday and I never figured it out. I kind of kept it
as a reminder that maybe some things just aren’t meant to be solved, no matter how
hard I try.”
“But I solved it,” Fiona pointed out.
“You did and without even trying. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for me.” Avery
nodded, still looking at the pieces in her hands. Then she looked up at Fiona with a
grin. “I’m glad you’re back to stay. I think having you home and letting us be there
for you as you went through releasing the crap from your past will help all of us
break through.”
“Break through what?” Avery wasn’t usually the cryptic one in the group. She
tended to leave that to Emma, so Fiona was having a hard time following her.
Whatever was on her mind, it seemed personal. The problem was Avery was also
the last person to ever admit to having a dilemma. She kept her fears, worries, and
sadness to herself.
The grin faded and Avery’s brow smoothed out as she laid the separated metal
pieces in a drawer. “Whatever is holding us back these days. It hasn’t been the same
without you, Fiona. We were missing a vital piece of the puzzle for a really long
time. We didn’t realize it until you came back and stayed long enough to make a
difference. Now we know the truth.”
The truth? “Which is?”
“Witches.” Avery folded her hands on the desk and held her gaze. “That’s all there is
to it. When we give up a piece of ourselves, thinking it will bring true love, it won’t.
When we are honest with ourselves, everything else falls into place.” Avery blinked
and looked down, then swiped at her pants leg with her palm. “I really should learn
to take my own advice.”
Fiona didn’t know why, but she knew her heart was racing as the words sank in.
Was her departure really that bad for everyone else? Would they ever get over it?
“I’m sorry if I hurt any of you in any way. That wasn’t my intention.”
“Of course it wasn’t.” When Avery looked at her again, the smile had slid back into
place. “Your intention was to distance yourself from your father and everything
here that made you feel like something was holding you back. You did that. No one
blames you for that, especially after your ritual of release. We knew everything
would cycle back around, somehow.”
“Cycle back around to what?” Fiona asked.
“Ah, that is what we wonder, too.” As Fiona watched, Avery turned to look at the
calendar hanging on the wall. “There’s something bigger than us out there,
something that keeps everything together, keeps us from coming undone. Do you
know what I mean?”
“I know you’re pulling an Emma on me.” Fiona looked at the calendar too, but she
didn’t see anything on it that indicated what Avery meant.
Avery let out a soft “pfft” and shook her head. She said nothing more and Fiona left
wondering if the whole reason she felt ready to stay in Ashland had less to do with
her own needs and more to do with her friends.
Chapter 19
Selling the house WAS the easy part. Finding one took more work and as Fiona stood
in front of another available house, she shook her head. “This one is way too big,”
she told the realtor. “I mean, it’s really cute, but it’s more house than I need.”
“I understand.” The realtor marked something off on her clipboard and shrugged.
“It’s a much smaller market here in Ashland than elsewhere. Have you considered
looking at other towns in Saunders County or maybe out in Sarpy County?”
“No. I plan to stay in Ashland.” Fiona shook her head, which at least helped fan her
a bit. That late spring heat had blazed in like she remembered it doing in other
years. Nebraska enjoyed a brief spring before summer launched a sultry assault
that left everyone reaching for their air conditioners.
“Well, I’m afraid I don’t know what else to show you right now.” The realtor looked
at her papers and said, “I think we’ve been to every house in town. The longer you
wait to buy one, the longer you make your buyers wait.”
Pressure. Fiona didn’t appreciate having it heaped on her, but she thrived on it. “I’ll
figure it out by the end of the week,” she assured the realtor. “The right one will
come along. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another appointment.”
She waved goodbye to the woman and then hurried along the sidewalk until she
reached the bar. It was a jarring change from being outside in the sunlight and
Fiona stood on the threshold of the building until her sight adjusted.
There she was – the most gorgeous woman in all of Nebraska. Maybe even the
world. And she was Fiona’s.
Fiona approached the bar and watched Gabe work. What was it about her
girlfriend’s favorite uniform of jeans and a black top that was so sexy? Or about the
way she moved so efficiently through her duties? Even though her clothing wasn’t
particularly revealing and her behavior with the customers wasn’t flirtatious,
everything about Gabe was just right. Two months into being home and Fiona
couldn’t believe she had a girlfriend, much less one as stunning as Gabe.
She sat on a barstool and waited until the blonde noticed her. “Hey shorty,” Gabe
said in greeting, leaning across the bar to kiss her.
“Mm, I told you never to call me that.”
“Well, you are short and adorable.”
“Kittens are short and adorable.”
Gabe made a face. “Yes, but I’d never refer to you as ‘Kitten.’ This isn’t a bad 1950s
beach movie. Unless you want to rethink your look – go the rockabilly route? You’d
look cute in those dresses and then I’d be totally justified in calling you ‘Kitten’.”
With a roll of her eyes, Fiona opened her purse and said, “Okay, that is quite
enough of that. I admire the gorgeous women who can pull off that look, but I’m
definitely not one of them.”
“No, think about it.” Gabe pointed to a print hanging on the wall next to the
dartboard. “You could do the whole sweet, wholesome pinup
look, like that. It’d be
fabulous on you.”
Fiona loved that Gabe thought she would look gorgeous in a corset, with her hair
curled and her lips red and pouting. The idea was almost enticing enough to get her
to try it, but she shook her head. “I appreciate that, but it’s not my style, any more
than an evening gown is yours.”
“Oh? And how do you know that?” Gabe lifted her eyebrows in mock reproach and
braced herself against the bar. “I’ll have you know I do the Bond babe look very
well.”
“Fine. I believe you. Anyway, just do me a favor and stop calling me short. I know
you like it, but you don’t need to remind me every time I see you.”
“Aw, but I think you’re so cute.” Gabe ruffled her hair and winked.
Fiona melted all over again, the way she did when she saw her girlfriend. They’d
stopped counting dates after the fifth, after declaring their desire to be
monogamous. It scared Fiona a little bit – she had to admit that. The way
everything fell into place usually did, though.
She knew it was her own power, that uncanny ability she had to manifest whatever
she wanted and needed. What she needed to do was learn to channel it with
intention. Gabe, she knew, was intentional. Fiona had gone home after their fourth
date and stated her intention to be open to true love. The universe answered, as she
expected – with Gabe suggesting they date exclusively and Fiona agreeing to it
wholeheartedly.
Now she pulled out another reminder that intention was powerful. As soon as her
fingers touched the paper, they went hot and tingly with energy. “I got a job offer
this morning before I went to see the latest house,” she told Gabe.
“Oh yeah? Is it writing for the Omaha World Herald?”
“No, I didn’t apply there yet, though it was on my list. Here.” Fiona passed the
paper across the bar. Gabe picked it up, her eyes scanning the offer.
“Wow, Nebraska Life Magazine. They want you to be a staff writer covering
Saunders County. It’s pretty rural out here, you know. Are you sure that’s your
thing?” Gabe handed the paper back to Fiona.
“Rural doesn’t mean there’s nothing to write about. I think I can make it work. They
must think I can, too, because I had to interview twice and give them several
writing samples.”
“They only publish six times a year,” Gabe pointed out. “That can’t be much of an
income.”
Fiona bobbed her head in acknowledgment. “I thought I would still continue writing
freelance pieces, too. I’m already working on a series about local ghost towns. Not in
a woowoo
way, but about the socioeconomics
that made the people abandon certain
towns.”
“Ah. You mean when the railroad came through some towns and bypassed others?”
“Basically.” Fiona could have told another person what she was writing and they
might have just scratched their heads and shrugged, but Gabe was on the ball. “So
I’m here for dinner, as promised. Though it’s not much of a date since you’re
working.”
“I know, but it’s nice just to have you around. Early in the week is always so slow. It
gets boring.” The way Gabe leaned against the counter and lengthened her already
lithe body made Fiona just want to kiss her again. Instead, she looked at the menu.
Someone called to Gabe from the backroom and she sighed. “I’ll be back to take your
order,” she told Fiona.
While she was gone, Fiona glanced around the bar. It felt strange to spend so much
time at the place where her father was a regular. She wondered if she was in
danger of becoming like him, but dismissed that fear. The last thing she wanted
was to be drunk, let alone all the time. After her first drunken experience in college,
she never wanted to feel that wretched again.
When Gabe returned to the bar, Fiona said, “Isn’t it awful to think about what
people miss when they are entirely focused on alleviating the pain of living?”
Gabe’s expression softened and she nodded. “Yeah. It hurts to watch, especially
when it’s someone you love. Is that our deep thought for the night?”
“I think so.” Fiona closed the menu and put it back in its stand. “Well, how about a
burger and some chili cheese fries, and a Sprite.”
“Ooh, living on the edge? We don’t keep Tums in the backroom. Just giving you a
head’s up.”
“I think I’ll survive. Let’s give it a try.” Fiona closed her eyes as Gabe kissed her and
then watched her sashay back into the kitchen to place the order. Her gaze
wandered to the flyercovered
corkboard near the door and then to a discarded
newspaper on the bar. Pinging echoed from her purse, so she pulled out her phone
to look at the notification.
“Hey, you shouldn’t work over dinner,” Gabe said as she walked by to serve a patron
at the other end of the bar.
“No, it’s not that.” Fiona blinked at the screen and scrolled down to read the entire
email. “It’s my realtor,” she said as Gabe walked by again. “She took me to see a
house this morning and I said no to her, and then I told her the right one would
come along before the end of the week.”
The way her girlfriend scoffed was comical. “Are you still torturing the lady? Just
pick a house, Fi.”
“I can’t. None of them feel right. But she just sent me a new listing. It’s…” Fiona
turned the phone so Gabe could see the screen. “What do you think?”
Gabe paused and looked, two glasses clutched in one hand, two bottles of beer in the
other. Even though she vibrated with energy, she settled in that pose for a moment.
“Wow, it’s… it’s you, Fiona. I mean, the house looks perfect for you.”
Fiona turned the screen back to look again and felt a swell of heat spiral through
and around her. It pulled at her, urged her toward the door. “I know,” she said
hesitantly, “but it seems big for me…”
“Look, I don’t have time to chat about it, but here’s my advice, for what it’s worth.
You’ve got all the money coming in from the sale of your father’s house. His life
insurance more than covered any remaining bills and debts. Buy the beautiful
house, if it feels right. So what if it’s too big? Something will fill it.”
“Like… what?”
“I don’t know, but I have a feeling you’ll figure it out. You probably called this house
to you just by saying the right one would come your way. Set up an appointment to
see it. And stop torturing your poor realtor by being impossible to please. I have to
serve these.”
Gabe held the hand with the beers up, strode to a table where two young guys were
seated, set the drinks down, took their order, went back to the kitchen, and then
finally stood in front of Fiona with her order of chili cheese fries.
“I’ll tell you what,” Gabe said as she set the plates on the bar in front of Fiona. “If
you want, I’ll go see it with you. Schedule a tour with your realtor any day before
tenthirty
and I’ll be there, rain or shine.”
“That’d be great.” The fries on the plate were steaming hot and Fiona picked one up,
glad to know she would have company. Ever since she began looking at houses, it
felt like a lonely process. Sure, the realtor was there, but there was something
weird and personal about looking at houses. The only person Fiona wanted judging
her potential living space was, well, herself. Not the person who stood to make a
commission off the sale of Fiona’s father’s house.
She nibbled at the fries, looping the long strands of melted cheese around each one
she plucked off the plate. After a sip of her soda, she emailed the realtor back to
request a showing of the newlyavailable
house. She had her answer the moment
her burger came out.
“She wants to know if we want to see it tomorrow morning at nine,” Fiona told
Gabe.
“So soon? Yes. That’d be great.” Her girlfriend reached across the bar and laced her
fingers with Fiona’s. “How about I meet you at your house and take you to the
showing?”
The funny thing was it was no longer Fiona’s house. Not that it really had been. It
was her dad’s house and it was already under contract to another family, a family
that she knew would be right at home in it.
Now Fiona just had to find a place where she would feel right at home.
“That would be wonderful,” she told Gabe. “Thank you for doing this with me.”
Chapter 20
With every rotation of the wheels, every moment that brought them closer to the
house they were supposed to see, Fiona felt her pulse skitter and her heart race.
She sensed an invisible thread connecting her to something in the distance and
knew without even analyzing it that it was the house.
Her house.
“You held out for a reason,” Gabe reassured her. “Maybe this is it.”
The moment they pulled up in front of the house, Fiona didn’t need to look up from
the road to know. “This is it,” she said. “It’s been waiting for me. Come on.”
They got out of the car and Fiona greeted her realtor, whose mouth was twisted in a
grimace. Fiona could imagine what she was thinking. The woman had shown her a
dozen houses in her price range and Fiona had vetoed every single one, and then
rejected the idea of looking one county over at other options. She imagined her
realtor’s patience was wearing quite thin.
With a huff, the woman unlocked the front door. “This one has been standing here
empty for a while now,” the realtor told her. “There was a dispute over the property
and they had to settle it in court – messy divorce or something. But now that’s
resolved, so they can finally sell the place.”
Fiona took a deep breath, able to ignore the fact that the air in the house was a
little musty. Even though it was an Edwardianstyle
home, the layout was open and
airy, not dark like her father’s oldfashioned
farmhouse. Fiona already liked the
white exterior with its wraparound porch and black trim. She ignored the realtor’s
prattling about details and went straight for the back door. It led into a fourseason
room with a view of a large backyard bordered by privacy hedges on all sides.
Beyond the hedges were woods and Fiona squinted at them, familiar with the
energy that radiated from the land.
“I know those woods,” she told Gabe as her girlfriend sidled up to her. “That’s where
we have our rituals.”
“You mean this property backs up to the other side of the clearing?”
A laugh bubbled to Fiona’s lips and she turned, nodding. “Yeah, I think it does.” She
saw the realtor just beyond Gabe’s shoulder and as compelled as she felt to ask,
“Where do I sign?” she took a deep breath. This was a process she had to take one
step at a time, just like everything else since her return to Ashland. It wasn’t an
impulse purchase, like new shoes or a stylish purse. It was an investment.
“Are you going to be okay?” Gabe asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. Concern
creased her forehead, but Fiona nodded.
“Let me center myself. I just need a moment. Could you make sure she doesn’t
barge in on me?”
Without a word, Gabe turned and approached the realtor to ask her a question.
Fiona didn’t pay attention to anything they said. She just turned and lifted her
arms to the window that gave her a view of the backyard. It was southfacing,
just
the way she liked it. But that wasn’t the true test.
Fiona turned back into the house and hurried up the stairs to the second floor.
There was a long hallway and at the very end of it, on the south side of the house,
was the largest bedroom. The master bedroom. She stepped into it and closed her
eyes. She didn’t need to open them to see the bay window or the builtin
bookshelves, not to mention the view of the familiar woods beyond.
When she opened her eyes again, she saw sparks of gold showering down in front of
her. A trick of the light, she told herself, from closing her eyes so tightly and then
opening them again to look directly where the sun was shining.
“And up here is the… Oh. She’s already found it.” The realtor walked down the hall
and Fiona turned to see Gabe trailing behind her. “We just saw the basement. It’s a
rarity, you know – finished with a full bathroom and –”
“Where do I sign?” Fiona asked.
****
“Here’s to your new house.” Gabe lifted a glass of red wine and clinked it against
Fiona’s. The crystal chimed like a bell.
“My new house.” Contentment settled over Fiona as she tipped the glass to her lips,
inhaling the wine’s fragrance before taking a sip. It seemed strange to stand in the
empty kitchen of her adolescent home, to celebrate selling it and buying another,
but she knew it was the right thing to do.
“Maybe this is a bad time to ask this question, but what would your father think of
you selling this place?”
Fiona thought back to the framed article hanging in the den and smiled. “I think as
misplaced as his love could be at times, Dad would be proud of me. He really did
love me. He couldn’t help it if an illness kept him from having healthy relationships.
It was his decision to let the illness run his life. But underneath it, he still loved
me.”
There was a crash near the back of the house and Fiona set her glass down on the
counter to find the source of the noise. To her dismay, the picture frame with her
article had fallen to the floor of the den and shattered.
“I’ll get the broom,” Gabe muttered from behind her and Fiona heard her footsteps
retreating toward the kitchen.
“Shit.” Reaching down to pick up the larger remnants of the frame and the glass,
Fiona sighed and finally settled for pulling the paper out of the mess. The heavy
mat must have protected it because the paper came away cleanly. As she tugged it
to her, a smaller piece of paper fluttered to the ground among the shards of glass.
She hesitated for a mere moment before picking it up off the floor and rising to her
feet.
“Gabe,” she said as her girlfriend returned with the broom and dustpan. “Take a
look at this.”
The blonde sidled up to her and looked down at the piece of paper Fiona held out for
her inspection. “Who is Donna Blake?”
Fiona let out a shaky breath, her chest tightening. “My mother.”
“Where did you find that?”
“It was behind the article, tucked between that and the backing of the frame.” Fiona
turned the small piece of paper with her father’s familiar handwriting over and
read the back. Even though the pencil was faded on both sides, it remained legible.
“Someday you’ll want to see her,” she read.
“How long do you think it was back there?” Gabe asked, sweeping the shards into a
tidy pile.
Fiona shook her head. “I don’t know. My first big magazine article was about six,
seven years ago, but this paper looks older than that. Dad must have had it for a
while. I wonder why he shoved it back there when he had the article framed.”
“Probably so he wouldn’t lose it or so you would find it when the time was right.”
When she crouched to pick up the dustpan and sweep the glass into it, Gabe looked
up at Fiona. “Your father knew you were a witch. He knew someday you’d find that
if you were meant to.”
“I have a feeling it wasn’t me at work here. More like I just got my father’s approval
to move on with my life.”
Gabe chuckled and bent her head to focus on her task. “Well, I didn’t want to put it
that way. Kind of thought you wouldn’t fancy the notion of his spirit lingering.”
After a few breaths, Fiona felt clarity sink in. “I can’t really make peace with my
past and move forward with my life if I don’t talk to her. I mean… crap, she
abandoned me, after all. I have to know why if I’m going to release this, too.”
“That’s a fair assessment, I think.” Gabe lifted the dustpan full of gleaming shards.
“I think I got all of it, but I’ll dab the floor with wet paper towels to be sure.”
Fiona nodded and let her girlfriend handle the cleanup.
She was still stunned by
the find. It wasn’t that her father had hidden it from her. It was that it came now,
after all this time. When was the last time she saw her mother? She was about fouryearsold
and the final departure happened in a tearful scene at Logan Airport.
Although the memory was vague, it still pained her to recall it. Tears pricked at her
eyes and Fiona pressed the piece of paper to her chest.
How could she see her mother after over twentyfour
years? What would she say to
the woman who hadn’t bothered to write to her or seek her out online? It was easy
enough to find a person on Facebook. Then again, what if her name had changed?
What if she had remarried? Blake was her maiden name, so that might explain why
Fiona never found her those few times she conducted her own searches. Her mother
might also intentionally have chosen to avoid social media, to avoid being found in
the internet age.
“Are you okay?” Gabe asked gently. “You’re being so quiet.”
“I just have so many questions.” Fiona sank to the floor and let her head loll against
the wall. “Like whether or not I should try writing to this address or finding a
phone number for it, or if I should just pop in and see if she still lives there. She
can’t avoid me if I do that.”
“Well, why did she leave your father?”
“I don’t know. He never talked about it other than to say it wasn’t working out.
Then he told me she went off to California to be with family, which was why the
judge gave him custody of me. Staying in Boston gave me more stability, especially
since my dad had a support system there, you know? He already had a good job, a
place to live, and his parents and two of his siblings lived there. The judge wasn’t
about to send a fouryearold
crosscountry
after a divorce.”
Gabe reached out and rubbed Fiona’s shoulders, then drew her close so Fiona could
rest her head against Gabe’s. “It sounds complicated. I guess I should ask why you
want to see your mother. What would be your reason for it, other than releasing the
past?”
“I don’t know.” Fiona’s voice sounded as hollow as her chest felt. “I guess I want to
know why they got divorced and why she never tried to find me or contact me.”
“Do you think your dad always moving from apartment to apartment had something
to do with it? I mean, maybe your mother wasn’t the only one who wanted to make
it hard for someone to find her, which is why she told your father she went to
California, but she ultimately ended up in New Hampshire, according to this.”
That brought up even more questions and Fiona felt herself sagging against Gabe.
“I have to take it one thing at a time,” she said tiredly. “But I need a second to
process this.”
“Take all the time you need. You’re a smart, confident woman and you know what
to do.”
Smart. Confident. In everything but relationships, Fiona realized now. I’m so
fucked up when it comes to connecting with people and this is why. Because the one
person who was supposed to be a constant in my life abandoned me. I have to know
why she did that to me.
She turned to Gabe and gave her a watery smile. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
Gabe smoothed her hair back from her face and gave her a kiss. “Hey, I support the
idea of you going to see her. You’ve let go of one thing from your past, but you still
have another parental relationship to resolve. I want a girlfriend who is happy and
healthy. And if you disagree – if you feel like this won’t give you happiness – then
don’t do it. Do you think you should sleep on it?”
“I think…” Fiona felt drowsy with Gabe stroking her hair. “I think I should sleep on
you.”
“That might work too.”
Chapter 21
The warm night air caressed Fiona’s skin as she lay back on the blanket, looking up
at the sky. Once again, she marveled at how clear the night was and how easily she
could identify the constellations that twinkled above her.
“When I was a kid, I thought every time I blinked, the stars blinked back,” she told
Gabe. “We lived in a nice house when I was little and you could actually see the
stars at night.”
“That’s what I love about being here.” Gabe stretched next to her and then folded
her hands behind her head. “It’s easy to get away from the city lights if you drive
just a few miles down the road. Even around the towns in Sarpy County, you can
see how Nebraska retains its character – cornfields and wide open spaces. It’s
pretty cool. Then again, I could just be a Midwestern sap.”
“No, you’re right. It’s cool.” Fiona knew the other thing making her feel so warm, so
drowsy and contented, was her girlfriend’s presence. Just lying next to her on the
blanket, barely touching each other while looking up at the night sky, made her
happy. “I bet South Dakota is perfect for stargazing, too.”
“It is, but that’s pretty much what we do with our days, too.” Gabe let out a soft
sigh. “We stargaze. We look and wonder about life beyond those empty spaces and
the people who want us to conform.”
“I know not everyone there is like that. Just a few people you knew.”
“Yeah.” The blanket rustled against the grass as Gabe shook her head. “Not
everyone. But enough people that I couldn’t tolerate the intolerance. Actually, I
used to take the kids up there for vacations. We’d go camping up in the Black Hills
National Forest and they loved it.”
After seeing the world, Fiona knew she loved Nebraska and she imagined she would
like seeing the Black Hills, too. She finally had a basis for comparison and could
make a decision about where she wanted to be. “Home is where my heart is,” she
whispered.
“And what is home to you?” Gabe asked, still not looking at her.
“It’s right here.” Fiona rolled onto her side and nuzzled at Gabe’s ear, then draped
her arm over her girlfriend to hold her close.
Gabe’s soft giggles spurred her on and Fiona wiggled closer so she could tangle her
leg with the lanky blonde’s. “Ah, don’t stop,” Gabe told her.
“I don’t plan to.” Fiona continued to rub herself against her, working her lips along
Gabe’s cheek, down to her chin, then her neck, and across her shoulder. The woman
next to her moaned, which only turned Fiona on even more. Giving her pleasure
was the only thing on Fiona’s mind. This seemed like the best way to spend what
would be one of her last few nights in her father’s house before she moved into the
new one. She wanted to leave it with good memories of love and laughter.
She rose up over Gabe and looked down at her, into those gray eyes that glinted
silvery in the moonlight. A thread of energy weaved around them, an ethereal
strand as silver as Gabe’s eyes and as gossamer as the wispy clouds in the inky
night sky.
“Do you know how much I love you?” Fiona asked.
“Yes, I know. But I don’t know why you love me.”
Fiona tilted her head and halfsmiled.
“It started with lust. You’re beautiful and you
know it. And then it built into something more than chemistry and first
impressions. I love you for being wise and willing to share that wisdom, but in a
gentle way. I love that you speak your mind without hurting people’s feelings. And I
love how we laugh at the same things, how cool you are when I’m hottempered,
how we can both watch the same movie and see different things in it. When I’m not
with you, I even love that I miss you.”
“Sweetheart…” Gabe lifted her head to kiss her, those full lips of hers like velvet
against Fiona’s. Everything in that kiss reinforced what she already knew. This was
where her heart was all along. She just needed to find the right person to give her a
reason to stay, to make it feel like a home.
They rolled over, Gabe asserting herself by grasping Fiona’s shoulders and
deepening the kiss. Fiona loved her confidence and her fearlessness in bed. Years of
experience, she mused, were to thank for how comfortable Gabe was with her body
and with pleasing her partner. Each time they were together, Fiona saw another
reminder of the twelve years that separated them in age.
And every reminder, be it a wrinkle she had never noticed before or the way Gabe
referred to something before Fiona was old enough to care about pop culture, made
her heart swell with even more love.
Better yet, Gabe listened to Fiona. She valued her ideas and opinions, and wanted
to hear them. Millennial or Generation X, it didn’t matter. They were bound by
something more important than age or status.
They were bound by their hearts.
Fiona let her head fall back as Gabe touched her, those slender fingers dancing over
her collarbone and chest, then lowering further to caress her pelvis. Everywhere
Gabe touched left a trail of sensation, consuming Fiona with lust.
“I swear if you tease me tonight…”
“You’ll what?” Gabe let out another of her low chuckles as her hand drifted down
between Fiona’s thighs, stroking along the bare skin there. Dresses and skirts were
going to be the death of her, Fiona decided, but what a sweet death it would be.
Gabe certainly was teasing her, the pads of her fingers lightly skimming along her
inner thighs, back and forth, up and down. Fiona felt liquid heat gathering at her
entrance. She didn’t think she could wait much longer to make love, but it seemed
Gabe hadn’t gotten the memo.
Rather than drifting higher, those fingers moved lower until Gabe slipped Fiona’s
flats off to massage her feet.
Fiona propped herself up on her elbows and glared at her. “Are you serious? You’re
giving me a foot rub at a time like this?”
“Come on. It feels good, doesn’t it?” Gabe coaxed. Her long, strong fingers kneaded
the soles of Fiona’s feet and then the tops with firm, even strokes.
“Well, yes, but it would feel good if you touched other parts of me.” Fiona let out a
low moan as Gabe pressed hard on the bottom of her foot.
The wicked grin that followed sent a shiver through her. “I’m sure it would, but
don’t underestimate the power of the entire body to behave as an erogenous zone.”
Gabe pressed the tips of her fingers just beneath the undersides of Fiona’s toes.
“That and a foot rub is very relaxing.”
“I don’t think I need to be any more relaxed than I already am,” Fiona told her, but
she still watched her girlfriend’s movements with interest. The most exotic thing
she’d done with a lover was go skinnydipping
in the ocean at night. Her European
women had all been enthusiastic in bed, but not very creative, other than the one
who wanted to paint a portrait of her. Naked. Fiona had declined. She would rather
not be immortalized as a nude on canvas and have someone recognize her.
Gabe, however, played her like a musical instrument, finetuning
their lovemaking
until Fiona found it difficult to remove herself from her embrace. She hated that
they lived apart, that in the morning, she had to leave Gabe’s bed and go home.
She watched Gabe switch to her other foot, each touch sending tingles up her leg
and to other places she hoped her girlfriend would soon touch. Despite her
eagerness, Fiona realized every moment Gabe spent caressing her was another
second they could spend together. Especially since they both knew there might be a
temporary interruption in their time together soon.
Fiona knew confirmation of her mother’s address could come to her any day. It
could be waiting in her email
at this very moment and as soon as she had it, she
knew what she planned to do. Gabe knew, too, so maybe that was why she chose
tonight to explore every inch of Fiona’s body. To memorize her, to commit her to
memory during the short time they would inevitably be parted from one another.
Those talented hands finally slid up to her thighs once more and then parted them
slightly. Fiona arched at the contact as Gabe’s tongue met her fiery flesh. With long,
slow strokes, Gabe brought her from hazy, relaxed lust to the edge of ecstasy. And
then she backed off, leaving Fiona panting for breath, desperate for release.
Gabe did this several times until Fiona grabbed at her hair and whispered, “Don’t
stop!”
The low laughter vibrated against her pussy, sending yet another shockwave of
pleasure through her. Fiona was so close and all Gabe seemed to want to do was
play with her. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t…
At last it came, the explosion of rapture that had Fiona twisting and grabbing onto
the blanket as her entire body shuddered with bliss. Gabe held onto her, keeping
her anchored, even as she was lost in the moment.
And then she collapsed to her back and blinked as awareness seeped into her mind
again. Gabe stretched out alongside her and drew her close, sharing warmth. “I
know you’ll leave as soon as you can,” Gabe told her. “So I wanted to give you
something to remember me by, something you can look forward to coming home to.”
“Mmhm,” Fiona murmured sleepily. “You did, and if you give me a few minutes, I’ll
give you a reason to welcome me home.”
“You’re on,” Gabe told her.
So, once she recovered, Fiona rolled her girlfriend over to give her the same sensual
torture. Only she didn’t go anywhere near Gabe’s feet. Instead, Fiona shimmed
those tight blue jeans off her girlfriend’s body, then pulled her panties off, and
rolled her over on the blanket.
“Do I want to ask what you’re doing back there?” The blonde peeked over her
shoulder.
“I’m sure you do want to ask, but you’ll feel it soon enough.” Fiona straddled one of
Gabe’s legs and slid her hand beneath her. The way Gabe’s head tipped back and
she let out a breathy “Oh my” told Fiona she did, indeed, feel it.
Fiona used her thumb and middle finger to part Gabe’s soft lips. Then with light
strokes of her index finger, she feathered teasing touches down Gabe’s clit and
along her dewy valley. The accumulating nectar on the tip of her finger made it
glide easily over that hot flesh and she felt Gabe’s breath finally catch.
Grinning to herself, Fiona changed the motion to firm circles on the clitoris. To her
delight, Gabe bowed her head and lifted her backside slightly to give her easier
access.
Keeping her fingers in place, Fiona leaned over Gabe’s back and whispered, “I want
to see you lose control of yourself for once. I want to drive you crazy tonight.”
As she spoke, she slid her thumb inside Gabe’s warmth, while using both her index
and middle fingers to strum at her sensitive nub. Her girlfriend rewarded her by
lifting and dropping her hips, panting for breath as she clutched the blanket. Fiona
shifted her body so she was kneeling between Gabe’s legs and slid her other hand
beneath her shuddering body.
It took only a moment to switch to inserting two fingers from one hand and then
using the fingers of her other to circle that slightly tense clit. Gabe met her hands,
thrusting against them, grinding into Fiona’s firm touch.
In another moment, Gabe let go, her screams of pleasure muffled against the
blanket as Fiona rubbed her to orgasm.
“And that,” she whispered in Gabe’s ear, “was just the beginning of what we’re
going to do tonight.”
Chapter 22
As predicted, Fiona left for Boston within only a couple of days. As she told Gabe
when she found her mother’s address, she would take it step by step.
Step one was easy. Fiona tried searching online for her mother yet again and, as
before, came up with nothing. So she reached out to one of her journalist friends in
New York. Even though she hated asking for favors, she knew he would
understand. Sure enough, he put his investigative skills to work and got what she
hadn’t been able to find. He called her back, confirmed the address, and gave her an
additional address to try.
“It looks like she’s remarried,” he told her. “The name isn’t Blake anymore, though
it’s listed on older directories that way. Now I find a Donna Sprague at that address
and then another Donna Sprague at a business address in the same town. Looks
like a bookstore called A Charmed Life. Does that sound like who you’re looking
for?”
Who but a witch would name a shop something like that? “I think it does. I can at
least check it out. Thanks for the help, Justin.”
And before she knew it, Fiona was on step two – a passenger on a plane to Boston.
After tossing and turning all night at her hotel near the airport, she got in her
rental car and drove north to New Hampshire. It took nearly four hours and too
many tolls, but she finally parked on the main street of a small northern New
Hampshire town. It wasn’t difficult to find street parking in front of the quaint
shops and she looked up at the oldfashioned
signs hanging over the doors along the
street.
A Charmed Life was right in front of her. She closed her eyes and took a moment to
center herself. The faint tingle of magick was certainly present in the area, but
whether it emanated from the shop or something else, she couldn’t quite discern. It
was one talent she hadn’t honed – her ability to pinpoint the source of energy.
“Here goes nothing,” Fiona muttered to herself and pushed the car door open.
A bell chimed as she entered the store. A woman stood at the front, bent over a
stack of books. Her long skirt swayed around her ankles and her loose tunic gave
her plenty of room to move as she stooped, then turned and reached to place a book
on one of the higher shelves.
Fiona stared at the woman. She had long, cascading waves of blonde hair, hazel
eyes, and a short, compact body that moved with purpose among the stacks.
Brow furrowed, Fiona followed her movements until she found her voice. “Mom?”
she asked.
“Well.” The woman straightened and looked her over. “It’s about time you came to
see me, Fiona.” She extended her hand and Fiona reached toward her.
When their fingers met in a tentative touch, the air crackled between them and
Fiona stared in wonder at where their skin touched.
Her mother’s gentle smile made her eyes crinkle with joy. “I guess the apple doesn’t
fall far from the tree, though your fire is obviously stronger than mine. I’m glad to
see that. How is my little witch?”
“I have to admit I’m at a loss.” Fiona shifted her weight and glanced around the
shop. “Have you been here all this time?”
“In the store? As much as I love my work, if I did that, I think I’d go insane.”
“No. I mean…” Fiona closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind.
“You mean here in New Hampshire.”
“Yes.”
When Fiona opened her eyes again, her mother was smiling at her. “What do you
think, Fiona?”
“I think you have a lot of explaining to do.” Fiona hoped she didn’t sound angry or
combative, but merely curious. “I just found your address and I’m here because I
think I have a right to know why you weren’t a part of my life.”
“I know. And I owe you much more than just an explanation. Well, let’s get to it.”
Donna gestured for Fiona to follow her deeper into the shop. It was dark, tall
shelves of books blocking out any light. The books, Fiona realized, were all used and
it seemed many were heavy, vintage tomes.
There was a sitting area in the back with three cushy armchairs. Donna curled up
on one of them and gestured for her to choose another.
“Don’t worry if you didn’t lock your car. No one is going to break into it here,” her
mother said. “And it’s the quiet part of the day, so I expect we won’t see any
customers for a while.”
“Right.” Fiona sat in the chair that faced her mother’s and crossed her legs, folding
her hands over her knee. It felt so surreal to be sitting there, facing a woman she
only remembered in vague, hazy flashes from her early childhood.
Her mother let out a laugh and shook her head. “You’re so formal,” she said. “This
isn’t what I expected from my little fire witch.”
“Then what did you expect?” Fiona shot back. Was her mother judging her? Who
was she to judge Fiona, after abandoning her all those years ago?
“No, it suits you, makes you look formidable, not that you need any help in that
area.” Donna waved off the remark as if she were swatting a fly. “Don’t take
everything so seriously, especially the past.”
“But I came here to learn about the past. There’s so much I need to understand
and…” Fiona hesitated and squirmed in the chair, but only for a moment. “I feel like
you owe me that. I’m not here to judge you or ask you to be a part of my life if
there’s a reason you can’t be. I just want to know what happened, so I can move on.”
“What happened?”
“Why I lost a mother when I needed her most.”
Her mother was still for a long moment and this time Fiona knew she was judging
her, assessing her words. “Holding onto the past is destructive, Fiona.”
“So is moving forward without learning from it. I was just a little girl. I needed you
and you left me. Like I said, I’m not here to judge you for that. I just want to
understand your reasons.”
Her mother finally smiled and nodded. “Then you’re ready for the talk. But not just
yet. First, tell me how you’re doing.”
Fiona yearned to let her mother do the talking, especially since she traveled all this
way to finally get the truth about her parents’ split. They couldn’t just skip the past
twentyfour
years as if they didn’t happen. That wasn’t right. But she also knew
people couldn’t be forced into giving up what they didn’t want to give up. Blowing
out a breath, she focused on bringing her frustration under control and tried to
think of the best way to tell her mother about the past couple of months.
“I guess I’m okay, considering everything I’ve gone through lately. Dad died two
months ago.”
Her mother was quiet, then leaned forward, held her hand over a votive candle in a
holder on the low coffee table, and snapped her fingers. The flame popped into
existence and she shut her eyes. “I knew he passed,” she said, “but it’s nice that
someone finally decided to come and tell me in person.”
“Did you still love him?” It was a hard question, Fiona knew, but she felt like she
had to ask it.
“No, but I had compassion for him.” Her mother opened her eyes again and looked
at her. “He chose his own path. It was no one’s fault but his own.”
“Yeah. I know.” Fiona bobbed her head and watched the candle flame flicker and
glow.
“But you had a hard time with it for a while. You wanted to blame someone else or
even yourself until you realized the only person to blame was the one who took his
own life into his own hands.”
Fiona put her hands up and said, “Look, are you one of those woowoo
kinds of
witches, because I didn’t come here for that.”
“Not at all. I’ve just learned a lot from my past experiences.” Donna settled back in
her chair and rested her hands on the arms. “Other than that, how are you doing?
I’ve seen your articles. You do great work. I’m really proud of you.”
“Thanks.” It felt strange to have her absentee mother say that to her and Fiona
hesitated, not sure what to say or ask next. Did her mother even have a right to feel
proud of her?
“Maybe I don’t have a right to tell you that.” Her mother responded as if Fiona had
spoken aloud. “But I really am proud of what you’ve accomplished. You did all the
things I didn’t do when I was eighteen. You went to college, you graduated, and
then you followed your dreams. I got pregnant, got married, and then realized…”
She turned, her gaze focused on something in the distance. Maybe she was looking
at nothing tangible, Fiona realized, but instead remembering the past. Or maybe
she didn’t want to say something that came out sounding wrong.
So Fiona beat her to it. “Was I a mistake?”
“Definitely not.” Donna turned back to her and gave a oneshouldered
shrug. “It was
March. We were making out in Denny’s car and just found a way to keep warm
together. We knew what could happen and we probably wanted it to happen.”
“So I was unintentionally intentional?”
“Something like that.” Her mother leaned forward again, this time to stretch and
reposition her legs. “It’s a bad habit of mine,” she said. “Sitting on my legs, I mean.
Not necking in cars.”
“I do it too. Sit on my legs, that is.”
The smile that crossed her mother’s face was knowing. “I bet you do. Well, are you
staying in Nebraska or continuing your world travels?”
“I plan to stay. I sold Dad’s house, bought a new one, and I think I’m ready to settle
down.”
“Got that wanderlust out of you? I figured you would, sooner or later. It was a
symptom of your upbringing more than anything.”
“What does that mean?”
The silence that hung between them while Donna appeared to mull over her
question was no longer tense. It still felt heavy, but this time with promise, with all
that was unspoken and waiting to be resolved.
“Your father moved you around from place to place in Boston after we divorced. He
feared that one day I would come back and try to take you away. But I never came
back or even visited, and you wonder why. You also wonder why you could never
settle down in a relationship – why the moment someone got close to you, or at least
tried to, you would use your job as an excuse to go. Am I getting warm?”
Fiona glanced at the clock on the wall. “You’re a complete stranger to me,” she told
Donna as she returned her gaze to her mother. “What am I supposed to do – admit
things like that to someone I don’t even know anymore?”
“If you like, but you don’t have to. I already know.” Donna canted her head to one
side, that enigmatic smile still on her face. “You use bullshit excuses to not get close
to people. The problem you have is a fear of intimacy, which goes back to me pretty
much abandoning you and then your father moving you around from apartment to
apartment.”
“Um, thanks for the diagnosis, but I already figured all of that out a long time ago.”
“Of course and you’ve even acknowledged it. But you need me to do the same for
you.”
Fiona stared at her mother as the woman rose from the armchair and walked to the
back of her shop, through a narrow doorway. When she returned, she handed Fiona
a can of soda. “You know, I didn’t come here for you to judge me.”
“I’m not judging you. I’m acknowledging that I screwed up and your father didn’t
help matters.” Her mother popped her own can of soda open and took a long drink.
“Where are you staying while you’re here?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet.” Fiona tapped the top of her can, not sure she was in
the mood for a soda, but not wanting to be ungracious. She still wasn’t quite sure
how to behave with her mother.
“Then you can stay with me,” Donna announced.
Chapter 23
She lived in what used to be a schoolhouse and it was breathtaking. Fiona stood
outside the white shingled building and stared up at it. There was even a narrow
belltower
at the top. This, she thought, was something to write about. Someday.
Maybe.
“Come on.” Her mother gestured for her to follow. “I know you’re going to want to
meet Ron and the cats.”
“Why would I want to meet the cats?” Fiona asked as she hefted her suitcase out of
the trunk of the car.
“Are you telling me you don’t like cats? No selfrespecting
witch dislikes cats.” As if
in response to her words, two cats appeared on the front porch. One sauntered
through the front door and then sat at the top of the steps, licking its forepaws. The
other dashed down the steps and across the yard to greet them, slinking around
Donna’s ankles.
Fiona thought about Scrappy, who was currently in Emma’s care. She was
becoming more affectionate toward the cat, she had to admit. She almost missed
him the way she missed her friends and Gabe. So she bent to give the attentive cat
a gentle pat on the head.
“That’s Peanut and the one who refuses to interact is Snowball. Come on. Ron is
looking forward to meeting you.”
“How do you know that?” Fiona asked.
“Because when I married him a few years ago and told him I had a daughter, his
exact words were, ‘Oh, I’m looking forward to meeting her’.” Donna waved for her to
follow her into the house.
It was typical of most historic New England buildings, with wood floors that looked
like they could survive anything and dark woodwork framing pristine white walls.
It reminded Fiona of the house she had chosen and she hesitated in the living room
to look at the photographs. There were some of her mother, some of her with a man
she assumed was her husband, and then some of Fiona herself as an infant and
toddler.
Donna stopped and turned to join her. “Your baby pictures are all that I could
salvage from the house when I left. That was all I had of you until the internet came
along. After that, finding you was easy.”
“Well, you didn’t make it easy for me to find you.”
“No, I didn’t. But I knew you would when the time was right.”
“Yeah, and who were you to let it be that way?” Fiona asked. “Seriously, I’ve been a
child for the majority of my life and you just let me wonder about you. For at least
fourteen years, it was your responsibility to find me. Not the other way around.”
Sadness creased Donna’s features and she bowed her head. “I know. I failed you as
a mother, but the more time and space there was between me and your father, the
easier it was to avoid him. He wasn’t an easy person to live with, but you know
that.”
Fiona knew. Oh, how she knew. She turned to the pictures and bit back her
response. People had their reasons for doing things. She was going to have to accept
that sometimes she just wouldn’t understand those reasons.
“Here.” Her mother held out her hand and unfurled her fingers. When Fiona looked
down at her palm, she saw a gold link bracelet with a heart charm attached. “I wore
this every day after I left, thinking of you. You can have it now.”
Fiona plucked the bracelet from her mother’s hand and realized the heart was a
locket. She opened it and looked at the small picture of herself as an infant
contained inside.
“I didn’t want to leave you, but I really couldn’t deal with your father. Our divorce
was not a friendly one and our marriage wasn’t at all what I expected. He couldn’t
or wouldn’t stop drinking, and I wouldn’t live with that behavior. It wasn’t good for
you to hear us fighting night after night.”
“Yeah. I know you meant well and I understand why you left him.” Fiona curled her
fingers around the locket and nodded. “It means a lot to me to hear you say that.
This entire time, I didn’t know what to think. I thought if I was a mother, I’d never
be able to abandon my child, even if I couldn’t deal with the other parent. I still
don’t understand why you left me.”
“Maybe some women are just stronger than me.” Donna lifted her hand to Fiona’s
chin, turning it just a bit. “I’m stubborn, but I’m not strong. Mine is the fire that
doesn’t have a sturdy structure to feed off of. That’s Aries for you. We’re quick to
burn but just as quick to crumble. Your fire, though, is built on something far more
concrete. You’re strong – Sagittarius strong.”
Fiona couldn’t help it. She snorted with laughter and said, “You should put that on
a tshirt,
Mom.” It was the first time she had spoken the word “mom” to her mother
in twentyfour
years and she suddenly wondered if it was the wrong thing to do.
But Donna smiled and said, “I like hearing that again. Oh, why did I wait? I’m so
sorry, Fiona.” She pulled her into her embrace, and Fiona knew she wouldn’t be
able to stop the tears that rushed to her eyes. So she let them fall as she clung to
her mother.
If the releasing ritual had been freeing, this was cathartic. Every bit of pain and
disappointment over the past twentyfour
years welled to the surface and was shed
in those tears. Things wouldn’t be perfect between them, Fiona knew. There was no
recapturing what they both lost in their relationship. Things wouldn’t even change
all that much. But now at least she had some answers and maybe, just maybe, a
mother in her life.
****
“And then I told him, ‘Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, but not that kind of a doctor’.”
Both Fiona and her mother burst into laughter and pounded the table. Fiona wiped
tears of mirth out of her eyes and shook her head. “Doesn’t he realize there’s a huge
difference between internal medicine and proctology?”
“No, Fiona, to him proctology is as internal as it gets.” Ron shook his head and
looked at his wife. “Please tell me there are more potatoes.”
Even though she’d just met him, Fiona decided she liked Ron. It was strange to
realize she had a stepfather and even stranger that he was a portly, affable man.
But he looked at Donna like he adored her and there was a calming vibe that
emanated from him. It was easy to see he was a good person.
“There are plenty more,” Donna said, “but if you don’t mind, Fiona and I are going
to take a walk alone.”
“Sure, go ahead. I’ll take care of the dishes.”
Fiona looked at her plate and even though she was overfull, she wanted to try to eat
more potatoes too. They were perfect – fluffy, buttery, and with a hint of garlic. But
she knew she would regret it, so she pushed away from the table and followed her
mother through the kitchen, into the backyard.
“Do you smell that?” Donna asked as they crossed the lawn. “Summer’s almost
here.”
Lifting her nose to the air, Fiona had to admit her mother had keen senses. The air
definitely carried that sultry quality that announced summer’s arrival. Fiona
glanced back at her mother. “Does that mean fewer people in the bookstore?”
“Maybe. Or more if they want books for their vacations. It can go either way from
month to month.” Donna nudged her and said, “Speaking of summer vacations, are
you taking one?”
“This is it, I think. Being here, I mean. It feels like a vacation after dealing with a
funeral, an estate, getting a job, and selling and buying a house. That’s a crazy
amount of work in a short span of time.”
“It is,” her mother agreed. “So since you’re settling down in Nebraska, what’s next
for you? What’s this job and is there someone special you’re seeing?”
Fiona bit her lip, not sure how her mother would react to the truth. “The job is
writing for a local magazine and I am seeing someone, yes,” she finally said.
“When does the job start?”
“Actually, it started a few weeks ago. I’m the Saunders County staff writer for
Nebraska Life Magazine. The entire county where I live is mostly rural and really
pretty. There’s plenty of history, as well as current events to highlight and share. So
that’s what I’m writing about six times a year.”
“Good. And will you tell me about the girlfriend?”
Fiona whipped her head around to stare at her mother, her heart racing. “How…
did you know?”
“It wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Whenever I’ve seen you photographed, it’s been
with a woman. Usually in Europe. Remember, I work in a bookstore. I’m a reader of
many things, including magazines and newspapers. Even foreign ones.”
“The women in those pictures could be my friends,” Fiona pointed out.
“True, or they could be something more, considering the way you look at each other
in those photos.” Her mother lifted her hands and said, “Don’t worry. It’s not like
there are that many pictures of you out there. But there are a few. You certainly
run with a beautiful crowd on your European jaunts.”
Lifting her gaze to the stillblue
sky, Fiona supposed her mother was right. She had
an affinity for beautiful people and beautiful things. But not too much of either,
because then it just became life clutter.
“You came here for answers and the truth is I regret leaving you.” The conversation
shifted, just like that, and Donna continued. “But I was young and unprepared for
everything that came with being married and being a mother.”
With a nod, Fiona said, “It looks like I did okay without having a mother figure, but
it still would have helped to have you around. The strongest memory I have of you
is of you leaving for the last time.”
Tears sprung into her mother’s eyes. “That’s the strongest memory I have of you,
I’m sorry to say. I’d like to replace it with something else if that’s possible.”
Unbidden, the waterworks started again as they embraced. Only this time, Fiona’s
mother was crying too. They stayed that way for a long time and when they stepped
apart, the sun had almost set. With joined hands, Fiona and her mother continued
walking across the yard, toward the tree line.
“On the other side of the trees, you’d be in Canada.”
“Wow, really?” They stopped and Fiona stared at the evergreens, then lifted her
gaze to the sky above them. “Did you know I’d turn out to be a witch?”
Her mother let out a low laugh. “Yes, baby, I did. You showed you talent at a very
young age. I should have been there to teach you how to use it, but I think you
figured it out pretty well for yourself.”
“I did my best. Dad wasn’t exactly thrilled when I tried practicing on our gas stove.”
Fiona let out a breath. “Though he was less thrilled when I left for college.”
“Denny was like that – stubborn and thought everyone in his life owed him
something. I’m not sure where that came from, but I couldn’t change him. Goodness
knows I tried. I thought maybe he’d let go of that selfishness when you came along,
but it only got worse. I finally divorced him so you wouldn’t have to listen to us
yelling at each other every night.”
Fiona dabbed at the wetness on her face. “I remember that,” she said. “The yelling.
Is that why you went all the way to California?”
“Partly. My mother – your grandmother – was living there at the time. But she
moved back here a few years later, and so did I.”
“Oh, right…” Fiona turned to face Donna. “I have an entire family, right? I mean,
your sister, your brothers, and my grandmother. They’re all still around, aren’t
they?”
Donna rested her hands on Fiona’s shoulder and smiled. “My little witch, would you
like to meet them?”
Chapter 24
“What do you think of visiting New Hampshire this summer?” Fiona tucked the
ends of the packing paper in and set the wrapped item in the box, then reached for
the next vase. There weren’t many delicate knickknacks
in her father’s den since
the garage sale. Then again, there weren’t many things left at all in the house, and
she was relieved that she could pack light for her move.
“Do you mean for me to meet your family?” Gabe asked. She was setting books in
shallow boxes, emptying the one set of bookshelves in the den.
Fiona hummed in the affirmative as she added some lighter items over the wrapped
vases. “Once I’m settled in with the job and house, my mother was hoping to see me
again.”
“I’m glad you had a good visit with her. Do you think you’re really ready to
introduce me to your family, though? You just met them.”
“After two months of dating? I’m pretty sure we’re ready for that step.”
The expression that crossed Gabe’s face was a grimace of distaste. “I’m not exactly
keen on family gatherings, for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand. But I think you
should go and have fun. Who will be there?”
Fiona crouched back on her heels and closed her eyes as she tried to remember.
“There’s my grandmother, two uncles, an aunt, and about a zillion cousins, I think.
My grandfather and grandmother are divorced and he lives on the west coast. It
should be a pretty big gathering. My first cousins are mostly around my age,
married with kids except maybe two of them. And I figure I can visit my dad’s sister
in Boston, too. She’s not doing so well, which was why she didn’t come out for his
funeral.”
“Is your mother’s side nice?”
“I don’t remember any of them very well, but I started connecting with them on
Facebook and so far they seem to be.” Fiona was glad she had gotten rid of her
father’s heavy desk. She didn’t relish the idea of trying to move that. But she’d kept
the Mac since all she had was a laptop. She picked the office supplies up off the floor
and tossed them in the box.
“You should go. It’s pretty personal, anyway, not really the best time to introduce
everyone to your girlfriend. Just keep in touch while you’re gone. When do you
think you’re going?” Gabe sounded nonchalant, but there was a catch in her voice
that kept Fiona from feeling entirely comfortable.
Before she could respond, she heard Waverly call, “Hey ladies, I’ve got more paper.”
The brunette stood in the doorway, a roll of brown packing paper between her
hands. “Where do you want me to put it?”
“I’ll take it. Thanks.” Gabe leaped to her feet and took the roll. “I’ll go work on the
kitchen since the den is almost finished.”
As soon as she was out of earshot, Waverly turned to Fiona and whispered, “Why is
she so on edge?”
“You could tell, huh?”
Waverly pointed at herself. “I’m an empath. Duh. What’s going on? Did you two
have a fight in the past ten minutes? I don’t think I was even gone that long.”
“Not exactly a fight, no. I don’t think she’s stoked about the idea of meeting my
mother and my family on that side.” The thought of that hurt. Fiona was more than
thrilled to finally have the rest of her family back in her life, yet her girlfriend was
rejecting them without even meeting them first.
“Oof. Do you think it’s because of her experiences with her family when she was
growing up?”
Fiona shrugged and folded down the flaps of the box she was working on. “I can’t
say, but that sounds like a reasonable guess.”
“Yeah. You’re not the only one in this relationship with family issues holding you
back. At least you’ve been working through yours, though.” Waverly crouched by the
box of books and poked at it. “Maybe the family she ought to visit is her own, not
yours.”
“Do you think that would help the situation?”
“It might. It helped you.” Waverly met Fiona’s gaze, glanced toward the doorway,
and then lowered her voice. “I know she comes off all strong and everything, but
even a woman her age can benefit from looking at the past, seeing what’s holding
her back, and then letting it go. All of us have our baggage. Some of us just have
more than others. And some of us need to learn to chuck those suckers onto another
flight and wish them bon voyage.”
As serious as the situation was, Fiona couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sure this is the
kind of discussion that will get me laid tonight.”
“Some things are more important than sex.”
“Wave, why weren’t you a social worker or counselor or something?” Fiona asked.
Even though she usually thought of Waverly as a spastic worrier, she knew her
heart was in the right place. And once in a while, she shared a nugget of undeniable
wisdom.
Her friend dropped her gaze and bit her lip. “Even I have my limits. Empathy isn’t
all fun and games. It can be exhausting always feeling other people’s emotions. If I’d
exposed myself to that kind of work right out of college, I never would have
survived.”
“I’m sure you would have done just fine,” Fiona reassured her.
“No.” Waverly raised her eyes to Fiona’s. “I mean I literally would not have
survived. I would have killed myself rather than deal with the constant
bombardment of negativity. Shielding is exhausting, too, but there is one other
thing that keeps everyone else’s emotions out and that’s music. That’s why I’m a
dancer. It helps me and teaching it helps others. Just not in the way you think I
ought to help them.”
“Jeez, that’s heavy,” Fiona whispered. The idea that Waverly had even
contemplated suicide made her shudder. How could she not know her friend
suffered so terribly because of her empathy? It sounded more like a curse than a
witchy talent when she put it that way.
“I’m sorry. It’s not like you need more heaviness in your life after the past couple of
months. It’s okay, though. I’m okay. I have much more control over my power now,
but back when I was a teenager it was pretty awful, especially with all the raging
hormones. That’s why I was weepy all the time. I couldn’t sort out which emotions
were mine and which were other people’s outofcontrol
feelings.”
Fiona leaned over her box and hugged Waverly. “I’m glad you’re doing what’s right
for you and I’m sorry I was too dense to realize what you were going through all this
time.”
“Thanks, and it’s okay. We’ve all been a little more secretive than maybe we should
have been.” Her friend glanced back over her shoulder and sighed. “As for
relationships, I’m no help in that area, but I think it’s only fair for you to have that
discussion with Gabe – about working through her issues, I mean.”
“What a role reversal.” Fiona looked down at the box in front of her as she mulled
over Waverly’s words. It was true that Gabe gave advice freely. Freely and gently,
which was part of her charm. Her input was always logical, which was why Fiona
took it. But when it came to taking her own advice, Gabe tended to be far more
stubborn. Maybe what Fiona saw as confidence was actually a wall meant to keep
certain things out of her girlfriend’s life.
Waverly was right. It wouldn’t be completely unreasonable for Fiona to dig a little
deeper and learn why Gabe didn’t want to meet her family. After all, just because
Gabe had issues with her own family didn’t mean all families were like that. Fiona
could certainly use her support as she progressed with her own growth, but maybe
Gabe needed support as well. She just didn’t voice it as readily as Fiona. Typical air
witch – all logic and no emotion, unwilling to reach out to or rely upon another
human being.
“It’s the end of an era,” Avery announced from the living room.
Fiona and Waverly both rose to their feet and turned. Emma was there too and
Gabe emerged from the kitchen looking pleased.
“Ladies, it was over twelve years ago that we met,” Avery said, holding up a bottle
of unopened wine. “Except for Gabe, who graced us with her presence two months
ago and then became a part of our circle. We love anyone who loves our impossible,
hotheaded,
fiery Fiona. You have worked wonders with her and we appreciate it.
She needs someone to love who loves her back, so thank you for that.”
Gabe tilted her head and blew Avery an exaggerated kiss.
“Thank you, thank you.” Avery turned to Fiona and pointed at her with the bottle of
wine. “We had sleepovers nearly every week in this house, but somehow we never
drove your dad nuts with our staying up late and giggling. We conducted many
rituals in the field and managed to never set it on fire. Now you’re claiming your
independence as an adult by moving out of this house and into your own gorgeous
place that is all your own. And all I can say is… damn it, can I have a key?”
Everyone laughed as Avery continued her speech.
“Seriously. I’m kind of sick of rooming with Waverly. I’ve known her my entire life.
It’s time for a change.”
“Well, as much as I’d enjoy having company, I have another person in mind to give a
key to,” Fiona acknowledged. She turned to Gabe and said, “That is if you were
serious when you said your house is too big for you without the kids.”
“Um…what?”
“Remember when you told me your house is too big and it feels like an empty nest?
Well, I was thinking you could share my nest, so to speak.” It was a huge step for
Fiona and she felt her heart swell up in her chest at the thought of having this
woman live with her, of waking up next to her every day and falling asleep with her
each night.
Gabe glanced at the assembled women and then narrowed her eyes. “Can we talk
about this later, Fi?”
“Why?” Fiona approached her and laced her fingers with her girlfriend’s. “There’s no
reason for you to live so far away and my new place has plenty of room for James
and Kate during school breaks, and even in the future when they marry and have
kids, and want to visit.”
Gabe was shaking her head imperceptibly and a chill shot through Fiona. This was
not the response she’d expected.
“Fine, then. Why not?” Fiona whispered.
“I’m not just ready for that step.” The refusal was gentle but firm.
“But…” Fiona blinked rapidly to fight tears. “It’s the perfect place for a family.
Look, at first when we got together, I had commitment issues. You know that. I
didn’t want a relationship. Holy shit, I really didn’t, but now I know what I want
and I’m all in.”
The warmth of Gabe’s hands left hers as the woman backed away from her,
breaking contact. “Sorry, Fi, but I’m… I’m just not.”
“You’re not all in or you’re not ready to move in together? If it’s the first, we’ve got a
problem. If it’s the second, I can wait.” Fiona pressed her hands to her chest as she
stared at Gabe beseechingly. “I can wait,” she repeated.
“Yeah, well, don’t hold your breath.” Gabe nodded to the other women in the room.
“I’m sorry.” With that, she turned and strode out the door, leaving Fiona stunned
and her friends looking on.
Before she could even break down, they were there for her – her three best friends
with supportive arms and words of comfort.
But none of that could alleviate her confusion.
Chapter 25
Fiona felt numb through the entire closing process. It should have been a happy day
for her, selling her father’s house and then buying her own, but she just wanted to
go back two nights and have a doover.
The new house keys were cold and heavy in
her hand. It was a special moment, one she expected to share with her girlfriend,
and she felt like Gabe had ruined it for her.
When she left the realtor’s office, she got in her car and drove down the street to her
new house. It was still gorgeous – pristine white and calling to her with its energy.
The girls were already there, along with Scrappy yowling in annoyance in his
carrier, just waiting to be let into the new place.
“You did well,” Emma told Fiona as she unlocked the front door. “This place really is
beautiful. I’m jealous.”
Fiona bit back a scoff. What good would a beautiful house do her if she had no one
to share it with? Emma must have sensed the direction of her thoughts because she
rested her hand on Fiona’s shoulder and gave her an encouraging smile.
Of course, it was Waverly who asked, “Have you tried calling her?”
“Not yet,” Fiona answered shortly. “I want to wait until I’m settled, and then I’ll
figure out things with Gabe.”
“Just how broken up are you?”
“Shut up, Wave,” Avery interjected. “They aren’t at all broken up. It’s just
something they need to talk about.” The blonde hesitated with the box she had
picked up off the porch and looked at Fiona. “I’m right, right?”
“I just don’t know right now.” Fiona stepped across the threshold and, as dejected as
she felt, couldn’t help but notice how the house lifted her spirits. The southfacing
kitchen and fourseason
room, the prospect of her new bedroom, and the coven there
to help her move into the place. It wasn’t so bad, after all. It could be better, yes, but
she knew Avery was right. She and Gabe just needed to talk. They weren’t broken
up. They were just going through a rough moment. Life, she knew, was filled with
rough moments. One bump in the road was no reason to act tragic.
So she took a deep breath, turned, and brushed past her friends. “If you girls are
willing to unload Emma’s truck, I’ll empty my car.”
All three of them murmured their assent as Fiona scurried across the front lawn to
her car. She popped the trunk and then stood in its shadow, just out of view. When
she pulled out her phone to contact Gabe, she realized there was a recent text
message from her. She opened it and smiled at the oneword
question.
Tonight?
Her frustration evaporated. Fiona already knew this was partially her fault for
ambushing Gabe with a very public invitation to move in together. Smiling, she
typed back what she hoped was a playful reply. You’re a mindreader.
Yes, please.
Public or private?
That was a good question. Fiona knew a discussion between them wouldn’t erupt
into any sort of scene or argument. But she also knew she needed to be able to
approach Gabe with the same tough love Gabe dished out as a bartender. Since she
didn’t want to have her first memory of Gabe in the new house to be a potential
disagreement, she wrote back, Public. Somewhere quiet, though.
I know just the place, Gabe responded a few seconds later.
Fiona nodded at the phone and then another notification popped up.
Meet me at the bar at seven.
That sounded reasonable, especially for the middle of the week. It wouldn’t be
crowded there and this was Gabe’s night off. Maybe being in familiar territory
would make her feel better, so Fiona texted back an acceptance of the date and
stuffed her phone back into her purse.
Today was supposed to be a happy day for her, so she took a deep breath.
Everything would be resolved tonight. It had to be. She would apologize for the
inappropriate timing of her proposal and Gabe would…
She doubted Gabe would acknowledge the need to deal with her issues, but she
decided it was better to hope for the best than to assume one way or the other.
“Hiding on us?”
Fiona jumped as she turned to see Emma walking toward her, trying to carry what
looked like a heavy box.
“Seriously, it’s your house. Don’t make us do all the work, Fi.”
“I’m sorry.” Fiona plucked her suitcase out of the trunk and followed Emma into the
house.
“Don’t apologize. I can guess what you were doing. Girlfriends need attention, kind
of like plants.”
“Oh? Should I water her daily?” Fiona felt her spirits lift as she spoke.
“Yes, and don’t forget to add plenty of compost to keep the soil rich and mulch to
keep the plant weedfree.”
Emma chuckled at her own silliness and said, “This box
says ‘Books.’ Where does it go?”
The books. Gabe had packed those. Just like that, Fiona’s spirits plummeted again.
Was she going to be like this all day, until she finally saw Gabe again and got a
chance to talk to her? “Would you put them in the small bedroom at the end of the
hall, next to the master bedroom?” she asked. “I’m making that my office.”
“You get a writing space all your own? Nice. How many bedrooms total?” Emma
hefted the box and set her foot on the first step.
“Three bedrooms upstairs and then one in the finished basement. And the rooms in
the basement are really nice, too. Not some kind of dark, awful subterranean
dwelling, you know? The bedroom and rec room have wide windows that open out.
They let in a lot of natural light.”
“Augh, I’m jealous. Crystal and I live in one of the dark old farmhouses, like what
your dad had. I’d kind of like to move into something brighter or more modern, but
she’s not into the idea.” Emma managed to make it down the hall and set the box of
books in the room, while Fiona put her suitcase in the master bedroom.
It was a bedroom she’d hoped to share with Gabe, but as she looked around, she
wondered if Gabe would even stay the night. We’re not broken up, she reminded
herself again. We just have some things to work out with each other and we’ll do that
tonight.
“Fi, are you going to be okay?” Emma stood in the doorway, her brow creased with
concern.
“I think so. It’s just the other night – that wasn’t the reaction I expected from her.”
Emma let out a little groan and stepped forward to pat her shoulder. “I know. That
was a tricky situation. I think all of us were thrown by what you asked and how it
played out. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to ask her to move in with you.”
“Wha… This is my fault?” Fiona stared at her friend, openmouthed.
Emma did a
doubletake
and Fiona chuckled. “I’m kidding. After I thought about it, I realized it
was probably not the best time or place to ask her to move in with me.”
“Thank goodness.” Emma pressed her hands to her chest. “You know I’m not one to
assign blame, ever. But I definitely agree that it might have gone better if you kept
it private. That’s all. It sounds like you two have things to discuss, and none of us
should be involved in that. It’s personal, you know, and we respect your privacy and
hers.”
Even though she knew Emma was being nice, the last thing Fiona wanted was
someone to play devil’s advocate and reaffirm that she had screwed up. “Look, I
already said I knew I probably messed up with the timing and everything, but if you
don’t mind I could really use a friend who’s on my side – not someone letting me
know I did something wrong.”
Emma winced, but she nodded. “You’re right. Too often, I’m the person who sees all
sides and doesn’t give as much sympathy to one or the other. You don’t need that
right now. You need someone to support you through this. It’s something I know I
have to work on. I’ll just say that I hope everything works out for you and Gabe.”
It was, but Fiona wasn’t about to harp on it. Instead, she turned into Emma’s hug
and said, “Thank you.”
Her friends made short work of the move, especially since Fiona had sold everything
in the yard sale. It was barely afternoon when they gathered in the living room of
the new house.
“Well, there’s not much furniture, but this is my home now,” Fiona declared.
“It will be even more yours once we do this.” Avery opened her messenger bag and
took out four bundles of white sage. She handed them out to everyone and then lit
each one. They started at the front door and smudged the house from top to bottom,
offering blessings for Fiona’s life there as they went.
“And love,” Waverly finished when they returned to where they had started. “May
this house be filled with it forever more.”
“Thanks, guys.” Fiona smiled and held the smoldering smudge stick between her
hands. “As long as we are friends, I know there will always be light and love and
laughter in my life.”
Waverly leaned sideways to hug her with one arm. “We’re just glad you stayed here
in Ashland. Our talents balance and complement one another’s. We’re stronger
together.”
“But learning personal strength is important too,” Fiona pointed out as she swirled
her sage around with a flourish.
“And having friends gives us the courage to find our own strength.” Emma leaned in
to join the hug. Rolling her eyes, Avery stepped forward too.
“You guys are such sappy nerds,” she said.
“Yeah, but we’re sappy nerds who have each other,” her sister answered.
Fiona bowed her head and nodded. That was what mattered. Now if only the
woman she loved would come back to her, everything would be as it should. Her
heart would be whole and nothing would be able to stop her.
Chapter 26
“It’s not you,” Gabe told her. “It’s me and that’s the cliché truth. I know you’re
impulsive and I love that about you, but I definitely am not blaming you for any of
this. I’ll admit I hoped you would ask me and then when it happened, I panicked.”
They were finally settled together at a table in a quiet corner of the bar. There were
two bottles of beer in front of them and the low music masked their conversation.
The few people there for a midweek drink were on the other side, closer to the bar.
“Ever since I was a teenager, my family let me know I was pretty much an
abomination to them. They found things that let them know I wasn’t what they
expected – not a good Christian daughter who would marry a man and bear good
Christian babies. They threw it in my face constantly.”
It was an awful story, the kind of horrifying stereotype too many gay people
endured when it came to unsupportive families. Fiona knew how fortunate she was
that her father never judged her for being a lesbian or a witch, but she also knew
many people weren’t so lucky.
“The only concept of family I’ve been able to make peace with is the one I created for
myself with my kids. It works for me. I love them unconditionally, as I believe
parents should. I’m just not sure I want to change that by moving in with someone,
even you.”
“I’m not asking to be a second mom to your kids or ruin your family dynamic,” Fiona
said, curling her fingers around the icecold
bottle of beer. Condensation was
beginning to form on the outside and her fingers slipped up and down the glass.
They lifted their bottles for simultaneous sips.
“I know you’re not,” Gabe said as she set her bottle back on the table with a clink.
“But I’m concerned about things going bad and not having a place of my own to
escape to. When I left South Dakota with a toddler and a baby, I had nothing to my
name. My only saving grace was a high school friend whose family had moved down
here and was willing to give me a place to live while I got on my feet. And even
though they were a wonderful family, I was too damn skittish to let them do much
for me. I didn’t want to feel like I owed them anything.”
Fiona nodded and leaned back in her chair. “Do you feel like you owe your parents
something?”
“I don’t think so anymore, but I think they wanted me to feel that way. I’ve been on
my own for over twenty years now, so I would like to think I’m over it. But when I
even imagine visiting them…” A delicate shudder wracked Gabe’s slender body and
she turned away to look across the bar.
It was terrible, Fiona realized, how the pain of the past could resonate so strongly in
the present. Even now at fortyyearsold,
with her own house and two intelligent,
capable adult children, Gabe lacked confidence when it came to her own parents.
“I have a feeling we never really ‘get over’ our families or our upbringing. I think all
we can do is make a decision about how we want to be as adults and when we have
kids. Is this why you don’t want to come meet my family?” Fiona asked. “Because
you had such an awful time with yours?”
It took only one nod to answer her question.
“Wow. I don’t know what to say.” Fiona rubbed at the smooth surface of the table
with the palm of her hand. “It pisses me off that the negative things from our
childhood have such a ripple effect in our lives and on the lives of others. Even when
we learn from them and say we won’t repeat our parents’ mistakes, we still can’t
bring ourselves to actually face the people who were such a part of making us who
we are. It sucks.”
“It does suck,” Gabe agreed. “I want to move forward. I want to have functional
relationships and be part of a family with you.”
Be part of a family with you.
Fiona lifted her gaze. “You do?” she asked breathlessly.
“I do because I love you.” Gabe’s hand inched across the table until it met Fiona’s.
“I’ve never said that to any other woman I’ve dated, but you’re the one, Fiona.”
“You’re my one.” Fiona’s voice caught and as dry as her throat was, she knew now
was not the time for a drink. “I love you and I will support any decisions you make.
If that means we continue to live apart for now, I understand.”
“Thank you.” Gabe rose from her chair and Fiona mirrored her, standing so they
could exchange a sweet, gentle kiss. When they sat again, they left their hands
linked, but both reached for their beers again.
It was a step in the right direction, Fiona knew. They were human, after all. Even
witches weren’t immune to the emotions of fear or rejection.
“You know, for years I’ve had this wild idea that I’d go see them, confront them and
let them know I can stand on my own two feet.”
“Hm?” Fiona blinked at Gabe. “See who?”
“My parents. I’ve thought about it. We don’t keep in touch at all. No emails, no
letters, not even birthday cards.”
“Wow, that bad?”
With a chuckle, Gabe dipped her head. “That bad. I didn’t even want them buying
birthday presents for my kids. I just didn’t want them to do anything that they
could throw back into my face as something that made me beholden to them. I know
it sounds weird.”
“Actually, I can relate in a different way.” Fiona took another sip of her beer before
continuing. “When I left for college, it only took a couple of months to realize that’s
how my dad felt – that he had given me life and a roof over my head, and I somehow
owed him something for that. In his case, it was my presence. I didn’t have to
change as a person, but I just had to always be there for him to depend on, to give
him a reason to go on existing.” Fiona shrugged and shook her head. “I couldn’t do
that. I became an adult and it was time to move on. He was the one who needed to
learn to stand on his own two feet, not the other way around, and I think he hated
that.”
“Man.” Gabe propped her chin on her palm and smiled. “Wouldn’t it be nice if just
turning eighteen solved everything? If there was some kind of magic line between
childhood and adulthood, it would be so much easier. But there isn’t.”
“No, there isn’t,” Fiona agreed. In those few moments, the fear that filled her over
the past couple of days dissipated. They were going to be just fine together. She
could tell and now all she wanted to do was curl up close to Gabe, to love her and let
her know she would always be there for her.
Gabe must have picked up on the same vibe because she hand relaxed back against
her chair and took another sip of her beer. “I’m fucked up, I know that.”
“If you’re fucked up, then I’d like to think we’re both in good company when we’re
together.”
The soft snort Gabe let out made Fiona chuckle. “That’s another thing – why can’t
turning forty mean you finally have it all figured out?”
“Oh, I think you’ve got it figured out,” Fiona told her. “In fact, I think you always
had it figured out. Dealing with other people is the hard part.”
“Yeah.” As Fiona watched, Gabe tapped on her beer bottle and whistled. After
another moment, she said, “Maybe it’s time I went up there. I’ve been stalling about
it for years now and I can’t think of a better time to face my fears.”
It sounded like a good plan to Fiona, but she had to rein in her urge to tell Gabe to
go for it. Instead, she asked, “What are your fears?”
Gabe let out an audible breath. “Well, let’s see… My parents not loving me is
number one, I guess. You would think by now I would be over that, but that kind of
disapproval leaves lasting scars. So feeling like they hate me or regret having me is
the one lingering fear.”
“You think they regret having you? That’s harsh.”
“Harsh, but I can’t discount the possibility.” The way Gabe shrugged told Fiona she
wasn’t addressing it in an emotional sense, as much as an analytical one. “Logically
speaking, it’s a possibility because anything is possible.”
“Spoken like a true air witch.” Fiona raised her bottle as if in salute to her
girlfriend.
“Oh, and that’s another thing – the witch thing. If there’s no delesbianing
me,
there’s certainly no dewitching
me.”
As far as Fiona was concerned, if anyone tried to do either to Gabe, she could
imagine Gabe stopping them in their tracks with a withering glare. But parents,
she knew, were a very different challenge.
“So how are you going to face your fears?” Fiona asked.
“I’ll go back to my hometown and I’m hoping you’ll come with me.” Silence
descended between them and as Fiona opened her mouth, Gabe waved both hands
in front of her face. “I don’t mean to flaunt you in front of them,” she explained. “I
mean as support – as someone who loves me and will stand by me.”
Fiona reached out and took the flailing hands between her own. “I would be honored
to do that, for you. It means you’re putting a lot of trust in me and that makes me
feel incredible, Gabe.”
The bartender’s gaze softened and her entire body relaxed. “Thank you. The fact
that you would come means a lot to me, too.”
They sat like that for a long moment, Fiona holding and stroking Gabe’s hands
while Gabe just smiled at her. Finally, Fiona said, “Hey, I got moved into my new
house.”
“Did you? I can’t wait to see it again.”
“Well, there’s not much to see. Just the hutch and a few boxes downstairs, and then
my old bedroom set, the books, and the computer upstairs.”
“A bed, eh?” Gabe lifted her eyebrows up and down several times. “Well, then, that’s
all we need.”
Fiona giggled and shoved at her girlfriend’s hands. “Shut up, you.” After a moment,
she sobered and resumed rubbing her thumb along Gabe’s palm.
“What is it?”
“Just wondering – do you think actually visiting your parents is what you need to do
or would a ritual suffice? It’s easy enough to banish things, especially with a full
circle to lend you their energy.”
“I know, but…” Gabe inhaled and compressed her lips. “Yeah, I need to do this the
human way. I either need to confirm that my parents will never be in my life or see
if there’s a chance for them to open their hearts to me.”
The thought of them driving to South Dakota, only to have Gabe’s parents reject
her, made Fiona wince. But if it’s what she felt she had to do, then Fiona would
stand by her, just as she promised. “I hate to see you get hurt, but I want you to
follow your heart.”
“Thanks. I hate to take the chance, but I know I’ve got to. Sometimes healing comes
from facing our problems. Speaking of which, how are things with your mother?”
“Surprisingly good. Really, the whole family has just been very welcoming.
Everyone wondered where I was all these years, what became of me, and are really
glad to have me in their lives.” Fiona tilted her head and halfsmiled.
“It feels right,
like I found what was missing. Part of me would like to move closer to everyone, but
I belong here.”
“Did you ever think you would find your mother?”
“Honestly? No.” Fiona thought back to all the times she had tried and failed. “She
should have been easier to find than she was, but part of me thinks she used magick
to cover her tracks, at least a little. She really wanted to avoid my father.”
Gabe looked sympathetic as she reached for her beer bottle. “I feel bad for Denny. I
mean, other than his inability to have healthy relationships, he was generally a
good guy.”
“He was and I hope the things I’ve said about him didn’t vilify him in any way.”
“No, all you did was reveal that he was human, like us. He had strengths and
weaknesses. The way he treated you when you left was a huge moment of
weakness. Can you forgive him for it?”
Considering the question, Fiona glanced around the bar. Her gaze lingered on the
few people in the building, then returned to Gabe. “Yeah,” she said, “I already
have.”
“Then you have just revealed one of your biggest strengths.” Gabe lifted her beer
and said, “Here’s to absent parents. They aren’t always perfect, but at least they
tried.”
“Hear, hear,” Fiona agreed.
As their bottles clinked, she hoped Gabe’s parents would prove their own daughter
wrong.
Chapter 27
Even though it was only a few hours’ drive north to get to South Dakota, each mile
felt like many. Maybe it was because Gabe was the one driving and she had a thing
for obeying the speed limit. “Going five over is a stupid myth,” she told Fiona.
“Besides, we don’t need to break the law. I’m in no hurry to see those people.”
Fiona couldn’t blame her. She certainly wouldn’t be rushing to visit intolerant
bigots, just to see if maybe they had changed in twenty years. But she respected
Gabe’s decision and the strength she had to see it through.
Besides, every instinct in her was telling her this was the right thing to do. As the
fields rolled by, Fiona watched the scenery. Something about the golden fields of the
Midwest awakened her energy, drew on her magick and lent an ethereal shimmer
to everything.
That or maybe it was Gabe’s presence. Fiona certainly couldn’t miss the swirl of
yellow energy that twined with her own and danced along the road as their wheels
turned. Yes, if their magick was in perfect harmony, they were doing what they
needed to do.
“Who taught you how to be a witch?” The words tumbled from her lips before she
could stop them.
“What do you mean?” Gabe asked.
Fiona turned and looked at her. She wished her profile was as perfect as Gabe’s –
strong brow, straight nose, and defined lips. Fiona wriggled her nose and fluffed her
hair. “I mean, who helped you learn how to use your powers?”
“No one. I had to figure them out for myself. What about you?”
“Same. My mother would have, I guess, but obviously she wasn’t around.” Fiona
reached up to poke at the fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror. “These are the
cheesiest things in the world.”
“And you know you love them. Stop that.” Gabe swatted at her hand, then returned
hers to the steering wheel. “Is that something all witches deal with, you think – the
absence of someone to teach them?”
In all her travels, Fiona had studied witchcraft from country to country. It was one
of the reasons she chose to see the world, so she could better understand her
powers, where they came from, and how to use them. But there was never anything
about families or lack thereof.
“I don’t think so. I mean, Avery and Waverly are sisters, but they had to figure a lot
of it out on their own. Their parents aren’t witches. I think it came from their
grandparents or someone like that. Emma was the exception. Her mom trained her.
Other than that, what we are and why we exist is a mystery. I’ve studied it for
years now, but have come up with pretty much nothing so far.”
“Well, that kind of sucks.”
That was putting it mildly. “Yeah,” Fiona agreed. “It also kind of sucks that we
never get to fully use our abilities, like heroines in some kind of cool urban fantasy.”
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Heroine implies you’d have to fight something
or someone, and that means danger. I don’t think I like the idea of you being in
danger.”
Fiona laughed. “You like your witchcraft on the mundane side, I take it?”
The sideeye
Gabe shot her way only made her laugh even more. “On the gentle
side, if you please, and yes, I do. Personally, I’m glad this world isn’t full of
werewolves and vampires and… Or is it?”
Wagging her finger, Fiona said, “I can’t tell you those kinds of secrets without a
special payment.”
Gabe scoffed and gripped the wheel tighter. “You’re the one who’s been all over the
world. I’m sure you ran into other witches in Europe.”
“I did, actually, yeah.” It took a moment of thought, but Fiona recalled at least a
handful. “They still take on more of the village wisewoman
role there. It’s really
sweet, how their communities embrace them. We need more wisewomen
in our
modern lives.”
“As opposed to wise guys, like you?”
If they hadn’t been in a moving vehicle, Fiona might have chucked something soft at
her or tickled her, but she kept her hands to herself. “Something like that.”
They pulled off the highway and Fiona noticed Gabe’s knuckles whiten. The joyful
energy that had emanated from her drew in until it was no more than a faint golden
glimmer mingled with her aura. “We’re nearly there,” Gabe said.
She didn’t need to tell Fiona. It was easy enough to sense the tension dragging her
girlfriend’s mood down.
They turned onto a shoplined
main street and then made another turn into a
residential area. The houses along the road were large with even larger fencedin
yards. It wasn’t necessarily an affluentlooking
town, but it was tidy and wellmaintained.
Gabe pulled over and nodded toward a house across the street. “That’s it,” she told
Fiona. “Where I grew up and realized I needed to be anywhere but here.”
Now it was Fiona’s turn to look. Leaning forward, she looked past her girlfriend at
the onestory
brick house with the white picket fence around the front yard. “Do you
think they still live there?”
“Yeah. I checked first. No surprise. They’ve lived in that house since long before I
was born. They bought it as soon as they got married and then went on to have two
and a half kids.”
“Two and a half?” Fiona lifted her eyebrows.
“I’d be the half.” After a heartbeat, Gabe clarified, “Well, the third one who turned
out to be not quite the perfect child.”
Fiona couldn’t imagine the pressure to be perfect, let alone whatever it was Gabe’s
parents wanted her to be. “You’re not a half,” she told her. “You’re a complete
human who deserves the same love, compassion, and respect as most people do.”
“I appreciate that. It would be nice if other people agreed with you.”
“Well, the upside is most people do.”
Gabe rolled her eyes. “You have more faith in humanity than I do.”
A long moment passed and they both watched the house. Nothing changed. There
wasn’t even a breeze.
“You know what,” Fiona whispered, “I do have a lot of faith in humanity. I’ve been
all over this world and for the most part, everyone wants the same things. The
problem is we all have different perceptions of the incidental shit, like gender and
sexual orientation and religion and more. It’s when we let that stuff go and just
connect as humans that we’re happiest.”
Gabe leaned across the seat and hugged her. Those arms wrapped so tightly around
Fiona, she thought Gabe would never let go. But she ultimately did and then pulled
down the visor to check herself in the mirror.
“They’re going to hate the way I look. I don’t know why I bother.” With a shrug,
Gabe flipped the visor back into place.
Fiona couldn’t imagine anyone hating the way Gabe looked, any more than she
could imagine parents hating their own child. Then again, she was biased and
happy to admit that Gabe’s fire engine red lips still gave her flutters in her belly.
With a huff of breath, Gabe pushed open the driver’s side door. Fiona emerged from
the other side and looked over the roof of the car at her. “Do you want me to come
with you or wait here?”
She watched as Gabe looked at the house, back at her, and then at the house again.
“Either way, I’m screwed. It might as well be with you. At least then I’ll have
confirmation that I’m not crazy – that they’re just as awful as I’ve remembered for
the past twenty years.”
Gabe extended her hand and Fiona walked around the car to take it. As they made
their way across the street and up the driveway, Fiona ran through a chant in her
head – a ward to protect Gabe from feeling any more hurt, pain, or negativity from
the whole experience, however it turned out.
The pristine white door stood out against the red brick and Fiona stared at the
number twelve nailed to it. Everything about the house was mundane, so neat and
normal. It was a place she could already tell was stifling for someone like Gabe.
After another heartbeat, Gabe finally pressed her finger into the doorbell, then
squeezed Fiona’s hand. When the door opened, Fiona looked up at a woman whose
eyes were very much like Gabe’s – that same slate gray, though this woman had
lost her beauty some years ago. Unlike Gabe, she didn’t have laugh or smile lines
around her eyes. Instead, her mouth was pinched, with two vertical lines on either
side of it.
The woman let out a low choking sound and asked, “Gabrielle?”
“Hello, Mom. I thought I would check and see how you and Dad are doing.”
No one made another sound after that and Fiona wondered how long Gabe’s mother
would wait to even react. Her expression had become stony, even though something
glistened in her eyes. “We haven’t heard a word from you in twenty years and you
came to see how we’re doing?” she finally asked.
“Yes.” Gabe’s answer was short and she offered no other explanation. Considering
just how much determination it took for her to get this far, Fiona figured it was a
fair response.
“Well, as you can see I’m doing just fine. I’m alive, anyway. Your father is too. I will
let him know you stopped by to inquire.”
The door started to close and Gabe said, “Great. I’ll let the kids know you’re both
alive, too.”
To Fiona’s surprise, the door swung open again and Gabe’s mother stepped back
into view, arms folded. “Well, isn’t that nice. I suppose they’re all grown up now, my
own grandkids with no knowledge of who I am.”
“That’s right.” Gabe lifted her chin slightly and Fiona silently applauded her
courage.
“Children should know their own family.”
“They do know their family. They know me.” Gabe pointed to herself and then
wrapped her arm around Fiona. “And they know love, so that’s what matters. Blood
isn’t everything, Mom, but I wanted you to know that I ended up happy, even if you
didn’t want that for me.”
Her mother’s gaze bounced back and forth between Gabe and Fiona, then settled on
Gabe. “I did want you to be happy, the right way.”
“No. You wanted me to be happy your way. There is no one right way. Look…” Gabe
reached into her pocket and pulled out a small card. “I just want you to know that if
you ever want to email me, you can, but only if it’s to have a real conversation – not
tell me I’m doing things wrong.”
“I’d rather go on as things were, if you don’t mind.” Her mother stared at the card
like it was some kind of vicious animal. “Though you really ought to put James and
Katharine into contact with me, so I can make sure they know right from wrong.”
Gabe stuffed the card back in her pocket and Fiona felt a squeeze on her hand. This
conversation was clearly over, as far as her girlfriend was concerned.
“I’ll tell them you feel that way. Goodbye, Mom. I’m sorry for disturbing you.”
Chapter 28
“So that was a real treat, wasn’t it?” Gabe asked. “‘You really ought to put James
and Katharine into contact with me, so I can make sure they know right from
wrong.’ Have you ever heard anyone say something so obnoxious? Jeez.”
Fiona tried not to laugh as she bit into her burger. Sarcasm was the best medicine
and Gabe liked to give extra doses of it when she was feeling extra sassy. Despite
the failed reunion, everything still felt all right. Better than all right. Gabe was
chuckling and shaking her head, and they were both famished. Fiona might have
attributed their giddiness to hunger, but even after eating two appetizers, Gabe was
still on a roll.
“Do you have any idea what Kate and James would say to that? They would crucify
that woman, no pun intended. James is into science and Kate is so wellread,
they
would both drive her crazy if she tried to get all religious on them.”
“Are you going to tell them about the visit?” Fiona asked.
“Oh yeah.” Gabe nodded and picked up her milkshake. “I’ve never denied them the
opportunity to reach out to their grandparents. I just didn’t want their
grandparents connecting with them, if that makes sense. I want James and Kate to
live their lives on their own terms.”
Gabe put her lips around the straw and before Fiona could ask another question, a
shadow shifted over their table.
“Excuse me, ladies.”
Fiona looked up and out of the corner of her eye saw Gabe set her milkshake down
and wipe her hands on a napkin.
“I’m very sorry for interrupting your lunch,” the middleaged
man standing at their
table said, “but I heard a rumor that my daughter was in town. I was hoping to get
a hug from her before she leaves again for parts unknown.”
“Dad.” Gabe stood up from the table so quickly, it tilted and the plates clattered.
Fiona steadied it and watched as her girlfriend hugged the man. “What are you
doing here, Dad?”
“Well, I’m having something to eat, if you don’t mind me joining you.”
“Sure.” Gabe slid back into the booth and scooted toward the window to make room
for her father. “How did you find us?”
He jerked his thumb toward the window. “It was easy. I saw you through the
window. You haven’t changed much, except for getting a little older.” He looked at
Fiona across the table, his eyes kind, and Fiona realized Gabe’s mother certainly
hadn’t spoken on behalf of her father. This man looked not just affable, but
downright jovial. She couldn’t understand the difference. Gabe’s parents were like
night and day.
“Fiona, this is my dad, Mr. Marchand.”
Fiona reached across the table to shake his hand. “It’s nice to meet you,” she told
him. Internally, though, she couldn’t wait for an explanation of how this seemingly
nice man had played a role in Gabe’s difficult upbringing.
“Nice to meet you too. You look like a nice girl, the kind I always hoped my
Gabrielle would end up with. That is, are you two together?”
“Yes, Dad,” Gabe said with a grin. “We are very much together.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear that.” He gestured to the waitress and ordered a slice of pie
and a coffee. “I already had my lunch,” he explained. “In fact, I was eating when you
came to the door. Of course, Muriel wouldn’t tell me who was there until after you
pulled away. You know how she is.”
His appearance at the diner seemed surreal to Fiona, but as much as she
questioned it, she knew she would have to wait for a better understanding.
Everything around her was still humming with harmony, letting her know things
were proceeding as they should. She just had to let the conversation take its course,
she decided.
“So…” Gabe picked up her burger and took a bite.
“So I’ve had a lot of time to think since you left. More than twenty years, in fact.”
Mr. Marchand rubbed his hand over his closecut
dark gray hair. “That gives a
person time to really consider their past actions, you know? And the way we treated
you just wasn’t right.”
“Mom doesn’t share your sentiments,” Gabe said after swallowing her bite and
washing it down with a drink of her milkshake. “I think she still thinks I’m the
devil or going to hell or something like that.”
There was a long pause as the waitress set the pie and coffee on the table. Fiona
simply ate her meal without saying another word. This was for Gabe to work out
with her father, just as Gabe let her figure things out with her own family.
“No, she doesn’t. I’m not saying I haven’t changed my beliefs about certain things,
like my faith. But as parents, we had certain duties to you and we failed in those.
We forgot to love you the way we should and instead let our beliefs get in the way.
What I thought I gained in closeness to God meant I lost a daughter, and I realized
God wouldn’t want that. I’ve learned that love is love. I truly believe that in my
heart now, and as long as you’re happy, I’m happy for you.”
Fiona watched Gabe, who was watching her father, tears shining in her eyes. “I am
happy, Dad,” she finally said.
“Good. Then that settles that.” He raised the coffee cup to his mouth and winked at
Fiona. “And will you tell me more about this pretty lady?”
“There isn’t much to tell,” Fiona said. “I’m Gabe’s girlfriend.”
“I see you’re a witch too.”
“Uh…” Fiona glanced at Gabe, who simply shrugged and shook her head.
Mr. Marchand chuckled, a laugh surprisingly similar to Gabe’s. “Of course my wife
didn’t want to hear of it, but Gabrielle got it from my side of the family. My mother,
actually. Not much you can do about that, just like you can’t change who people fall
in love with. It’s hard to explain that to some people, though.”
“Dad, you never told me.” Gabe glared at him, her eyes narrowed. “You could have
said something.”
“I wanted to, but your mother was against it. She thought it would put ideas into
your head or legitimize your – what did she call it? – unholy talents. I’m sure that’s
just one of the many reasons why your mother didn’t get along with my mother.”
Both Fiona and Gabe burst out laughing at this. Fiona had to admit it was funny to
hear their powers described that way and she laughed until tears streamed down
her cheeks.
“Oh Dad,” Gabe said, wiping the moisture from her eyes, “if I ever start a garage
band, I’m calling us the Unholy Talents.”
Mr. Marchand’s mouth quirked into a smile and he said, “Glad you approve,” before
eating a bite of the pie. “So tell me about the kids. They’re adults now. I can’t
imagine what they look like compared to when they were babies.”
Gabe took her phone out of her purse and started scrolling through photographs for
her father, telling him about what the kids were pursuing and which colleges they
were attending.
Fiona watched as they talked, pleasantly surprised at how easily Gabe interacted
with her father. As the conversation ended and Mr. Marchand got up to leave, he
took the card with Gabe’s email address and hugged her once more. Gabe promised
to ask her kids if they would be willing to reach out to him and then…
That was it. The two of them sat in silence, watching Mr. Marchand through the
window of the diner as he got into his car and drove away.
“So, what do you think?” Fiona asked.
She watched the way Gabe’s chest rose and fell, the way the color that filled her
cheeks when she had an animated conversation returned to normal. “I think he was
sincere,” she said. “I really do.”
“But couldn’t he have stood up for you when you were younger?”
“I don’t think so. He seems to have changed quite a bit. Even coming from a
background of witchcraft himself, my guess is he learned to blend in rather than
stand out. I’m sure the values he tried to teach me were an attempt to protect me,
in a way. Besides, he doesn’t have any magickal talents of his own, so he probably
found it easier to pass himself off as a normal person. I’m sure my grandmother
didn’t exactly run around telling people she was a witch back then, either. But she
died when I was very young, so I don’t know what the dynamic was like.”
“Is it fair, though?” Fiona tried to sort out her thoughts and clarified, “I mean is it
fair that he just stood back and let your mother be so harsh with you for so many
years?”
A small frown creased Gabe’s brow and then smoothed out. “I don’t think it’s fair,
no, but I also think he’s sorry for that. I’m not going to just forgive everything in one
conversation, goodness knows. But it’s a step in the right direction and I think
that’s something, at least. Don’t you?”
Fiona wanted to admit she didn’t agree, but that was the fire in her. She wanted
fairness and justice, an apology for Gabe from her parents. However, she also knew
it wasn’t her fight.
“It’s something,” she agreed. “And since it’s not my business to judge anyone, I’m
going to just keep standing by you, because that’s what I came here to do.”
“Thank you for that.” Gabe picked up her milkshake and grimaced. “It’s almost
gone. That’s so unfair. What do you think about getting seconds?”
Fiona checked her milkshake. “Seconds and possibly thirds.”
Chapter 29
They pulled into Fiona’s driveway just after sunset. It was a long day in the car for
little payoff, but Gabe seemed happy and that was what mattered.
“Do you want to stay over tonight?” Fiona asked, reluctant to get out of the car.
Even though they’d spent the entire day together, she wasn’t ready for it to end just
yet. They needed to bring it back full circle, she knew, back to the two of them,
because that was where it all began. When one grieving daughter met one wise
bartender and fell in love.
“I’d love to.” Gabe reached out to smooth her hand over Fiona’s face and then tucked
her hair behind her ear. “I want to see you with the morning light on your face, and
I want to see that every day from here on out.”
“You do?” Breathless, all Fiona could do was sit and watch Gabe, lean her head into
the caress and silently ask for more.
The nod she received in response made her heart leap.
“Yeah, I do. I said it myself, my house is too big for me. Yours is perfect for the both
of us, and still has enough room to give James and Kate their own rooms, if they
want. Or guest rooms so they can drop in anytime. I mean, I’d like to talk it over
with the two of them. I’m not about to pull the rug out from under them, but my
answer to moving in is yes.”
“Yes, contingent upon approval from James and Kate. That’s reasonable. Their
input is important because my home would become their home, too,” Fiona agreed.
“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t ready to take that step.”
Gabe let out a low laugh. “You wouldn’t feel that way if they were still infants with
stinky diapers, spitting up all the time, or if they were sassy preteens
mouthing off
to you, trust me.”
“Oh, please. You have the perfect children.”
“That’s only because they’re adults living on their own now. Absence makes the
heart grow fonder.” Gabe winked at her. “Trust me, they still have their moments,
but I love them anyway.”
It was Fiona’s turn to thread her fingers through Gabe’s long, exquisite hair and tug
her close. “That’s because you’re a wonderful person,” she whispered before molding
her mouth to Gabe’s. It was a long, passionate kiss, an exchange of heat and
hunger.
“None of this,” Gabe said, “would have been possible without you.”
“None of what?” Fiona clung to her, dizzy with need. The last thing she wanted to
do now was talk, especially about children or family. But that seemed to be exactly
what her girlfriend wanted to do for the moment.
“Everything. I waited so long to see my parents and I’m glad I finally did it, even if
it wasn’t what I hoped. At least my dad seems to have come around.”
Talking about parents at a time like this? Fiona was at a loss. Right now all she
wanted was to be tangled around Gabe in bed. Those cool sheets were waiting for
her in her very own bedroom, a bedroom she hoped to share with Gabe for a long
time to come.
“I’m sure…” Fiona tried, licked her lips, and then spoke again. “What needs to
happen will happen. For both of us.”
“Yes. For both of us.” Gabe continued to stroke her face, but she didn’t move in for
another kiss. Every touch was driving Fiona crazy. They were here at last, both of
them willing to make a commitment. She wanted to celebrate it, not reflect on the
road they had traveled together. There was time to do that in the future.
So she leaned in to press her lips to Gabe’s again, only to hear a low, gentle laugh.
Gabe pulled back, a sly smile on her face. “What’s this? Why are you so impatient?”
“You’re impossible,” Fiona grumbled. “I just want to go inside and snuggle with you.
We’ve been in this damn car all day.”
“I know, but I want to savor this moment. I mean, I finally did something I’ve been
putting off for nearly two decades. It’s a big deal to me.”
Fiona pulled Gabe back across the console into a tight hug. “Yes, you did it. I know
it was difficult for you, so I’m really proud of you.”
“You gave me the strength to do it, you know. We did it together.” Gabe’s voice was
muffled against her hair as they embraced and Fiona closed her eyes, losing herself
in the moment.
When had they actually stopped to celebrate everything they had done this spring?
Gabe was right. They needed to savor it. Fiona had laid her father to rest, yes. But
then she made peace with her past, bought a house, found her mother. And what
about Gabe? Facing parents who made you feel like they wish they never had you
was a horrible thought, but she had done it.
Of course Fiona wanted to celebrate those triumphs, but it seemed Gabe wanted to
dwell on them for at least a moment longer. So Fiona followed her lead because she
knew it wasn’t just her on this journey anymore. It was the both of them.
“There.” Gabe finally straightened and smiled at her. “I needed that.”
“I’m sure I could have given you a much better hug inside the house,” Fiona pointed
out. “We have car stuff in our way.”
“Yeah, well, you’re going to.” Gabe pushed the car door open. Fiona was glad to get
out and stretch her legs. She shook them a bit as she walked up the front steps and
to the door. Pulling out her keys, she glanced at Gabe and jingled them.
“Are you sure you want one of these? Once I give something like this out, I don’t
expect it back.”
That wicked grin continued to tug at Gabe’s lips. “Oh please, how many times have
you given out a key to your place?”
“Never, because I never had a place and if I did, I can’t think of one woman in my
past who would have gotten a key.” Fiona unlocked the door and opened it. The
downstairs was still fairly bare, but she knew she left it that way intentionally,
hoping Gabe would share her life with Fiona.
“And now you have both a place and a woman who deserves a key.” As soon as Gabe
closed the door behind her, they were in each other’s arms again. Only this time
there was no gear shift poking between them and Fiona’s bed was just upstairs.
This was home, Fiona knew, in more ways than one. She hadn’t just found a place
to live. She’d finally found a place to belong. Ashland was that place all along, but
something had blocked her from seeing that until now.
They stumbled up the stairs, embracing, kissing, and bumping into walls like overeager
teenagers. Fiona loved the feeling of Gabe’s hands on either side of her face,
holding her in place as those soft red lips met hers. It was the first time she had
been with a woman she wanted to spend time with, not just hump and leave.
Passionate affairs with exotic women were all well and good, but simply being near
Gabe was enough for her.
Somehow they made it into Fiona’s bedroom without hurting themselves. And then
they managed to get undressed with only a few mishaps. They even managed to
laugh about Fiona lightly stubbing her toe into the foot of the bed, but after that, it
was on.
Fiona didn’t know how many times she made Gabe orgasm in the time she spent
caressing her, thrusting her fingers into her, kissing, and licking her. They certainly
seemed like the most intense releases Gabe had in their time together – uninhibited
and full of joy.
When she rolled Fiona onto her back and slanted her mouth down over hers, Fiona
thought she would lose it then and there. There was something even fiercer in the
way Gabe made love to her tonight. It was as if something had held her back all
those others times, but now she was free to give in to it.
They continued long into the night, snuggling and snoozing only briefly before
waking up to do it again. At one point, Fiona crept downstairs to put together some
snacks for them, only to have the food somehow included in their lovemaking.
By the time the sun filtered through her window and danced across her closed
eyelids, Fiona had no strength left.
She took a moment to adjust and let her eyes flutter open in the brilliance. Gabe’s
face was only inches away, sharing the same pillow. Her eyes were closed, her
eyelashes making dark fans against her skin. Everything about her glowed in that
southfacing
bedroom, with the morning sun peeking in as it made its way across
the sky. The bedroom would be hot in the summertime, just the way Fiona liked it.
But for now, she was captivated by the beauty in front of her. Gabe’s potent air
magick clung to her in brilliant motes of energy that dappled her entire form.
Fiona recalled what she’d said about the village wisewomen
and needing more of
them, then smiled. Gabe was most certainly their village wisewoman.
She
practiced her magick every day in a way that helped those willing to accept it. She
had certainly helped Fiona with it, even if she didn’t realize magick was at work at
the time.
Reluctant to wake her, Fiona rested her head on the pillow and snuggled a little
closer to capture Gabe’s warmth. There was so much to do now that they had made
the decision to move in together. Did this make Gabe her girlfriend or her partner
now? What about other possibilities? What would the kids say when Gabe told
them?
Questions buzzed through her mind, but soon settled as Fiona’s eyes fluttered shut
again and her breathing evened out.
They had plenty of time to answer those questions later.
Epilogue
“So if your return started with a funeral, what are the odds it will end with a
wedding?” Waverly asked.
“End?” Fiona snorted and clutched her glass of champagne. “So that’s it – I have to
propose to Gabe and then die?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. Argh.” Waverly covered her face with her hands, while
everyone around her laughed.
It was Avery as usual who moved them on from her sister’s verbal slipup.
“Well,
we’re just so happy for you that you two finally made the leap, marriage or not.
Another one settles down.”
“That’s right.” Fiona raised her glass with the others and glanced around the circle.
Her heart beat fast, even though she was just standing there. Holding her breath,
she looked from one familiar face to another and then to the one they had added.
This was, she knew, the person she had been waiting for. It didn’t matter that she
spent the last several years doing one thing and then just suddenly… stopped. It
was because everything was here for her, here at the home she never recognized she
had.
“I spent years afraid to fall in love,” she said. “Too many years. And then I met you,
Gabrielle. Here we are, together at last.”
Gabe acknowledge her words with a smile. “Together at last,” she agreed.
“I hope that’s the way it will stay.” Fiona wrapped her arm around Gabe’s waist to
pull her close and sipped at her champagne. Was there a wedding in their future, as
Waverly asked? Possibly, but she wanted to give it some time. After all, they had
only just moved in together. She wanted to take it one step at a time.
They had already accomplished so much, inspired each other to face their ghosts
and either make friends with them or banish them. That was the wonderful thing
about adding her partner to a circle of such dear friends. All of them were stronger
together while learning to be powerful as individuals.
“Speaking of settling down, what about you?” Waverly turned to Emma. “Are you
ever going to pop the question to Crystal? If Fiona and Gabe aren’t getting married,
we need our circle mom to set a good example for them.”
Emma looked down at her champagne flute and ran her finger around the rim of it.
A sure sign, Fiona knew, that she was uncomfortable with the question. “Crystal
and I aren’t ready to take that step.”
“What? After almost seven years? Of course you are. You’ve been living together
since–”
Avery placed her hand on Waverly’s arm and shook her head. “She said no. Let it
go.”
“But Crystal isn’t even here to celebrate with us and she should be. What’s with
that?”
“Wave.” Fiona saw Avery’s hand tighten around her sister’s wrist. “No,” she
repeated.
Waverly tossed her hair and blinked the shimmer of tears out of her eyes, but she
lifted her glass to her lips as if to disguise her annoyance.
It was a valid question, but Fiona knew Emma didn’t want to pursue it. Instead,
she asked, “Hey, what is everyone’s plans for Midsummer? It’s coming soon.”
“Oh, we kind of skipped Beltane, didn’t we?” Avery asked.
“Kind of. We’re bad witches.”
Everyone glanced toward the back of the house, the south side and the windows
that opened up to the large backyard, with the woods beyond. “I think we know
where we’re going to be,” Avery said. “After all, you bought the perfect property. We
don’t need to go to that field anymore. You’ve got a big, private yard. We could have
rituals right here if you’re okay with that.”
“More than okay with that.” Fiona looked up at Gabe and rubbed her back. “Honey,
what do you think about hosting rituals here?”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea.” The gentle nudge of Gabe’s hip emphasized her
declaration. “Meanwhile, can all of you work some magick to speed up the sale of
my house in Gretna? It would be nice to get it off my hands.”
Everyone laughed and they sauntered toward the back door, chattering along the
way. Fiona was the last one out. She stood for a moment in the doorway, savoring
the sight before her. Five witches, four best friends, one partner in life, love, and
magick.
She couldn’t ask for more than that.
Other Titles
Something About You
Must Love Chickens
Meant to Be
Game of Hearts
All For Love
A Vote for Love
A Brief History of Longing
Lady in Waiting
Fire on Ice
Forever Valentine
Series
League of Lesbians: Origins – with Em Stevens
League of Lesbians: Frankie – with Em Stevens
League of Lesbians: Lil – with Em Stevens
A Charmed Life: The Ashland Witches, Book 1
A Garden Dream: The Ashland Witches, Book 2
A Magick Dance: The Ashland Witches, Book 3
A Prairie Love: The Ashland Witches, Book 4 (coming spring 2018)

Featured post

The Pussy Train II

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Introduction:

The saga continues

Each week I’d get on the Pussy Train hoping so much to see Amy again. 6 weeks went by and still no Amy. Don’t get me wrong, I was having the time of my life each and every week, but I really wanted to see Amy. We seemed to make a certain connection that I can’t put into words. There was just a connection.

Then it happened. It was October 17th and it was raining hard. Robin and I were waiting for the train and we were soaked. The train stopped at precisely 10:00 and we got on. It was tough getting our wet clothes off, but we made the 30 second deadline. After we were naked (by this time, I had no problem seeing my best friend naked and attentive – if you catch my drift – and didn’t care if he saw me) we were just going to put out clothes in the lockers when a fully clothed woman came over.

“You can put you valuables in the locker and give me your clothes. I will mark them, dry them and leave them in a pile that will be marked with you locker number.”

Robin and I both thought this was a cool idea so we handed her our clothes and filled out a small piece of paper with our locker number on it.

We moved about the train talking with people and flirting with the odd woman. It was probably an hour before I met someone I really clicked with. It had never taken this long before and I was getting a little worried.

Her name was Wendy and we went into the third car. Once in there we found a round bed that was vacant and we proceeded to fuck ourselves silly. She loved cum. Guys that were wandering through or just watching would always end up getting their cocks drained while I fucked her. Wendy would suck them off and hold their cum in her mouth for a long time. Sometimes she’d have a few guys standing there stroking their cocks while they watched and she’d get them to cum close together so she could have multiple loads in her mouth. She’d swish the cum around in her mouth like mouthwash; she’d gurgle it. She just LOVED cum. I found this to be quite an erotic experience. I’d never met anyone who loved cum so much. I came three times with Wendy and each time, while I was waiting to get hard again, Wendy just kept sucking cocks as she played with mine.

Wendy and I had been going at it for 4 hours and I couldn’t go anymore. I was spent. Nothing in the world was getting me hard again, but Wendy was still sucking cocks. I got up and walked towards to exit. Just before leaving the car I glanced back and Wendy hadn’t even noticed I was gone.

“Oh well,” I thought, “It was still an interesting experience even if I was just a cock to her.”

Although the train was all about sex, I felt kind of cheap and used. I hadn’t felt like this before – at least not on The Pussy Train.

I walked back to the main car and when I got there I saw the time. It was only five minutes until we got to our stop, so I went and got my clothes. I got dressed and sat down beside Robin to put on my shoes.

“Have a good time, Will?” he asked.

“It was certainly different. I’ll say that much. I’ll give you the whole rundown on the ride home.”

“Cool.”

The train stopped and Robin and I got up to leave the train.

“Will!”

I was just stepping off the train and hearing my name made my head snap around. I lost my footing and fell down the stairs. After I hit the ground I rolled over and looked into the train. The door was shutting, but it was a stunning sight. Amy was standing on the train waving at me. Then I did a double-take. Standing beside Amy was another Amy. Then the door was closed and the train slowly started to move away. There was nothing I could do. There were no windows on the train and the doors were never re-opened.

“Dude! That was Amy!” I yelled at Robin who was still giggling about me falling off the train.

“Who’s Amy?”

“Fuck man! She’s only the woman I’ve been going on and on and on about for the last six weeks.”

“Oh her.”

“Yeah ‘Oh her’! I’ve been looking for her every week and I finally find her. I didn’t even get to talk to her. Who knows if I’m ever going to see her again? And get THIS! There were TWO of them on the train!”

“Two? What d’ya mean?”

“I mean I think she has an identical twin sister!”

“Fuck you she has a twin sister. You probably hit your head when you fell and were seeing double. Maybe we better run ya by the emergency ward – or the psych ward. Twin sister.” Robin said while laughing and shaking his head.

“I know what I saw. I wasn’t seeing double. The only thing I saw two of was Amy. I’m gonna to go nuts.”

On the ride into town Robin kept asking me what happened on the train and I told him, but my mind was not anywhere close to our conversation. I kept thinking about Amy.

A week went by and I was the only one of our twosome boarding the train that week. I spent the whole ride in the main car talking but mostly looking for Amy. A few women asked me to go to the other cars with them, but I didn’t want to take the chance of missing Amy. I felt bad turning them down, but I just couldn’t take the chance of seeing Amy again.

It went on like this for another five weeks. Robin and I went to Poker as usual and lost – as usual. This was getting expensive, but it had taken us over a year of waiting to get seats in this poker group so we didn’t want to give them up. We left poker and drove out the the Pussy Train stop. At 10 the train came by and we got on. As soon as I got on I saw her standing there looking at me. It was Amy.

“Dude! Get naked or they’ll boot ya.” Robin said.

I tore off my clothes and raced over to Amy.

“I’m so glad to see you again, Amy. I’ve been looking for you for a while.”

“I’m glad to see you, too, Will. I knew what stop you got on and off at and I was sure to be waiting there in case you got on.”

“I’ve been getting on every week looking for you.”

“Hmmmm. Could this be considered ‘stalking’?” she said with a chuckle.

“Only if I was standing naked out side your house looking for you.”

We both had a good laugh. Then Amy moved in and hugged me. I kissed the top of her head as she held me. It felt so good having her perfect boobs pushed up against me.

“Come with me,” said Amy.

She took my hand and led me into the other cars. In the second car it was business as usual with everyone sucking, fucking, moaning and screaming. Amy kept pulling me along. The third car was similar but a little quieter and less full. Still she pulled me along. The fourth car was pretty empty. Just a couple of the 15 or so beds were occupied.

Amy led me to the corner and then motioned for me to sit down. When I was seated Amy climbed into my lap and attached hew lips to my own. We sat there kissing for a few minutes and then I laid back. I could feel Amy’s heart beating into my chest and I’m sure she felt mine. I broke the kiss and gasped for air.

“I was worried I’d never see you again. It’s been six weeks and it was six weeks the last time, too. Is this a pattern I can plan on?”

“I’m afraid so. I live in Chicago and I can only afford airfare every six weeks.”

“Chicago!? Damn! That’s a helluva distance to travel just to get laid.”

“You know as much as I do that the Pussy Train is like nothing else in the entire world.”

“Yeah, I do. But for future reference, the correct answer to that would be ‘I’d travel further than that to be with YOU’. That’ll get you laid for sure.” I said laughing.

“Are you saying I’m going to have a PROBLEM getting laid?” she replied while laughing and slapping my rock hard cock.  tumblr_o39v86psRo1usi1rso1_540

“OK. You win. But if you live in Chicago how did you hear about the Pussy Train?”

“I used to live in Portland and a friend introduced me to it a few months before I got transferred to Chicago.”

“I see.”

I moved closer to Amy and began to kiss here again. As we kissed our hands stroked and caressed each others’ body. We went on for about fifteen minutes and then I had to break for a breather.

“Now last time after I… after…”

“After ‘The Incident’?” Amy interrupted chuckling.

“’The Incident’. I like that. Much more manly than ‘Falling Down The Stairs’. After ‘The Incident’ I’m pretty sure I saw two of you.”

After Amy stopped laughing she continued.

“Sorry. I was just replaying my mental video of you and ‘The Incident’. I wish I had it recorded. We’d win many video contests.”

“Okay, but the question. Two Amy’s?”

“There aren’t two Amy’s. There’s ONE Amy and ONE Elly.”

“Elly. And she’s your twin?”

“No – she’s just someone I met on the train. OF COURSE she’s my twin! Did you hurt yourself when you fell?”

“No – I’m just a little shocked. Now…”

Again Amy interrupted me.

“Now I want you to fuck me.”

Amy rolled on top of me and began sucking my nipples.

“You make it hard for a guy to say no.” I said with a smirk.

Amy broke to suction on my nipple.

“You may be saying no, but HE’S saying YES.” She chuckled as she grabbed my cock and stuffed it into her wet pussy.

“I’M not saying no. I was talking about that other hypothetical guy. But what about the condom?”

“The hell with it. I want YOU inside me, NOT latex.”

Amy began bouncing up and down on me with vigor. Her perfect breasts bounced with every stroke. I reached up and pinched her nipples. I rolled them around between my thumb and forefinger.

“Oh YES!” she moaned. “Pinch them harder! Twist them! Oh fuck yes!!”

Then she collapsed on me and kissed me deeply while still humping her hips up and down.

“I missed your fabulous cock so much. You’re the best I’ve ever had.” She gasped.

That last statement hit me. My ego was hitting an all-time high. I rolled Amy over and began to pound my member into her with a force never before seen. With each thrust Amy moved an inch or two higher on the bed. She was grunting her every stroke.

“Oh yes. Pound me Will! Pound me as hard as you want. I want this! I want YOU!”

Seat was dripping off my face onto her body. Her face had sweat running down her cheeks.

“Amy. This is so fucking hot! Oh fuck yes!”

As I assaulted her pussy I felt my cock start to surge.

“Amy!! I’m going to cum!”

“Yes, Will! Shoot your load into me! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“FUCK!! OOOOOOOOOH” I moaned.

“I can feel your cum shooting into me. Yes Will! YEEEEEEEESS!”

I collapsed onto Amy and we kissed. Out tongues met and danced together. We kissed for a long time.

“Oh Amy. That was the BEST it’s ever been for me. EVER.”

“I know Will. That was incredible. It’s never felt like that before. I LOVED when you were fucking me hard. It hurt, but I loved it. This may open up a whole new world for me.”

Again we kissed forever. When we were catching our breath I started asking her a question.

“Now tell me…”

“You want to know about my sister.”

“Damn you’re good. How did you know that?”

“You’re a guy, right? That’s always the first thing guys want to talk about when they find out I’m a twin. What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know.”

I sat looking at her for a minute or so.

“Why didn’t she come with you?”

“She’s more reserved that me. People say identical twins are the same, but that’s not true. With Elly and me we’re the same in many ways and different, too. After I found out about the Pussy Train I kept telling her about it and trying to get her to come but she wouldn’t. It was 3 months before she even let me tell her about it in detail. It was the details that got her interested. When she cam last time she had a good time, but I don’t know if it’s something she wants to do regularly.”

I looked at my watch and saw it was close to time for me to leave.

“I’ve got to get off the train soon, Amy. Would you come with me? I’ll drive you wherever you need to go.”

“I can’t, Will. I’ve got to get back home as soon as I can. I’m staying with my parents.”

“I can’t go 6 weeks without seeing you. Can I pay for a place ticket for you next week?”

“Thanks, but I wouldn’t feel right about that. I’ll give you my phone number and you give me yours. We’ll get to know each other more and I’ll see you in six weeks.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but if that’s the only possibility I guess it’s better than nothing.”

We went back to the main car and exchanged e-mails, phone numbers, Facebook names, MySpace names, Twitter names; the whole shebang.

The train stopped near the Millers’ farm and Robin and I got off.

Featured post

My daughters dildo

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Introduction:

This story was written by DirtyMindedMom, i was so impressed with it that i broke it down and reposted it here. I don’t claim any credit for it’s brilliance. ←A single dad finds it too difficult to resist his horney teen daughter.

This is not my story, it’s a great story which is why I’m posting it here. Oh, and it’s a long one with more to come, and apologies for not breaking it down into chapters.
Enjoy….
Written by DirtyMindedMom
Being a single father has many challenges, especially when you have a daughter. Nicole’s mom has been out of the picture since right after her first birthday, so it’s been just the two of us for the past sixteen years. It wasn’t easy early on, but I managed to provide a stable home and raise a pretty good kid . I admit she was somewhat of a tomboy, but she was healthy and happy, did well in school, and the two of us got along great. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean I was at all prepared for puberty.

It was something I’d avoided thinking about, but before I knew it there she was. My little girl was becoming a woman before I was ready. It fell to me to have “The Talk” with her. It took me a week to work up the nerve and to figure out what I was going to say. I was as uncomfortable as I could be when I first sat her down, but Nicole’s natural curiosity and her open personality made what could have been a painfully awkward conversation into a special moment that actually brought us closer together.

Then, of course, came the other stuff. I tried to make it seem as normal as I could, but a father taking his daughter bra shopping for the first time makes for an unusual day at the mall. This pales in comparison, however, to having to explain about tampons and all the things that go along with that whole monthly song and dance. And teaching a son to shave his face is one thing, but, trust me, teaching your daughter to shave her legs is something else entirely.

You might think I’d made it over the toughest hurdles of parenting a young girl through the journey into womanhood, and so did I, until my beautiful 18-year-old daughter came to me one day with an unexpected request.
“Daddy, I need you to help me with something.” She always
reverted to calling me “Daddy” when she wanted something from me, mainly because it always worked.

“I just gave you your allowance two days ago.”

“It’s not that. You know how I broke up with Steven last month, right?” She sat down on the arm of my easy chair. I hit the pause button on the remote so I wouldn’t miss anything that the Avengers were up to. “Well,” she continued, “I decided that with school, and getting ready for college, and soccer that I don’t really have time for a boyfriend right now.”

“I love that plan,” I said and meant it.

She gave me a pinch on the arm. “Listen, I’m serious about this. I don’t want a boyfriend, but that means I still have a problem.”

“And that problem is…?”

My daughter shifted uncomfortably next to me. “Okay, first of all, you know I’m not a virgin anymore, right?”

Whoa! The conversation had taken an unexpected turn. I suddenly had no idea where she was going with this.

“I wasn’t entirely sure, but, okay, now I know.”

“God, Daddy, don’t look so horrified. It’s not like I’m a total slut, or anything. It was only Steven.” She bit her lip and looked away as a slight flush colored her cheeks. “A lot.”

Just what every father wants to hear. Then it dawned on me what she was leading up to.

“Oh, God, you’re pregnant.”

“No!” She smacked me on the shoulder. “Give me a little more credit than that. I’m on the pill and we always used condoms.”

“How long have you been on the pill?”

“I don’t know, like a year. Anyway, that’s not the point.”

I was relieved and somewhat hurt at the same time. “What is the point?”

“I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I really liked having sex.” She was right, I didn’t want to hear it. “And I really, really miss it.”

I covered my ears and closed my eyes. Maybe this was just a bad dream and I would wake up any second. Nicole pulled my hands away.

“Daddy, stop it. I’m trying to tell you that I’m really horny and I need your help.”

“I can’t hear you!” I tried to clap my hands back over my ears, but she held my wrists firm.

“Shut up and stop being such a baby,” she scolded me with a laugh. “So since I don’t want a boyfriend, and I don’t want to get desperate and start hooking up with random guys, I need you to buy me something.”

“A one-way ticket to a convent?”

“Trust me, if I didn’t have to ask you I wouldn’t, but I need you to buy me a dildo.”

“Huh?” I’d heard her, but it wasn’t registering.

“A dildo, Daddy. You know? Like a fake dick.”

“I know what a dildo is. But…but why…”

She gave me one of her patented “how could you be so stupid” looks. “Why do you think?” Nicole was still holding onto my wrists and I was suddenly aware of how close she was. “This is more embarrassing for me than it is for you, Daddy, but I don’t know what else to do. I can’t really explain it, but now that I’ve had sex with a boy it feels like something is missing when I do it by myself.”

Was my sweet little daughter honestly saying what I thought she was saying?

“I don’t…um…what…ah…” I was completely failing on every level. I had to get it together.

“I thought that maybe if I had a dildo it would feel more like I was having sex with a boy, and I would be able to concentrate on school stuff better instead of being so horny all the time.”

“That all sounds very reasonable, my darling little princess, but you have to admit this isn’t the sort of thing a father ever wants to hear from his daughter.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a hug. I could feel the softness of one of her breasts pressed against my shoulder. I tried to ignore it, but failed. “It’s not like I have a mom around to ask for help with this kind of stuff. Even if you at least had a girlfriend, I could talk to her.”

“Let’s not go there right now.” She must be serious if she was playing the mom card.

“Come on, Daddy, you were the one who taught me about the birds and the bees and all that stuff. You knew I wasn’t going to be a virgin forever. I’m not a little girl anymore.” She toyed with my hair as she spoke, fixing it the way she liked. This was exactly the kind of intimate contact I was afraid of at that moment. “You’re the one who taught me that sex is a beautiful thing, and that masturbating was a natural part of growing up. You also always told me that I could come to you if I had any questions or problems about sex, so here I am.”

I’d always related sex to my daughter in a very abstract way, but this was real. As a father I knew I had to do everything I could to help her, but as a man I couldn’t control my physical response to the thought of my nubile daughter being so desperately horny that she had to ask me for a dildo to masturbate with. I did my best to not think about my growing erection and prayed it would go away before she noticed.

“You’re right,” I conceded. “It’s hard for me to accept that my sweet little girl has somehow grown into a sexy little woman. Go get my wallet.”

“Oh, Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She kissed me on the cheek with each thank you and ran off with a happy squeal.

I took the opportunity to try to tuck my hard-on away so that it wouldn’t be obvious. What kind of a dad was I? It was bad enough that I was paying for my daughter to buy sex toys, but to get an erection over the whole thing was just plain wrong.

“I’ve been doing some research.” Nicole was back quicker than I expected, leaving me only half tucked.

She placed her laptop on my lap. I was relieved at first because it hid the highly inappropriate bulge in my pants, but then I saw what was on the screen: an array of candy-colored dildos and vibrators!

“This site has the best selection, good prices, and free shipping.” She settled back down onto the arm of my chair and leaned in close against me so we could both see the computer screen. Damn, she smelled good.

“How about I give you my credit card and you can get whatever you want.”

“No, you have to help me pick out the right one. I never had a dildo before, I don’t know what to get.”

“I never had a dildo before either. How am I supposed to know what you need?”

“Because you know everything, Daddy.” She reached over and used the touchpad to scroll down the webpage. Her hand was unknowingly hovering just inches above my semi-erect cock. “Okay, so the first thing I have to figure out is if I want just a plain dildo or one that vibrates. What do you think?”

“I guess it depends on if you want to, um…or if you’d rather, ah…” I squirmed uncomfortably.

“C’mon, Daddy, don’t be such a prude. Just say what you’re trying to say. I’m a big girl, I can handle it.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about.” I took a deep breath and decided to do as she asked and speak directly despite every instinct telling me not to. “Here goes. I suppose the plain dildos would be good for orgasms from penetration, while the vibrators can also stimulate the clitoris.”

Nicole giggled and kissed my cheek. “You don’t have to be all technical. You can just say clit.” She leaned forward to get a closer look at the screen, placing a hand on my thigh to support herself. “I heard vibrators can make you less sensitive.”

“Are you planning on using it five times a day?”

“At least five, but probably more.” She said this with a straight face. When my jaw dropped she broke into a laugh and punched me in the arm. “Just because I’m horny doesn’t make me a complete sex freak, Daddy. I plan on using it the normal amount. Maybe three or four times a week. Probably more at first, but then just every other day, or so.”

Visions of my darling daughter sprawled out on her bed with her legs spread having sex with her new toy sprang uninvited into my head. I wanted to be the cool dad and support my girl, but this was going to ruin me as a father.

“As long as you use it in moderation I don’t think you’ll need to worry about your sensitivity.”

“Good, then I’ll get one that vibrates so I can use it on my clit.” She seemed to be deliberately using provocative language. She was probably having fun torturing me like this. “Now we have to figure out what shape would be good. They have all kinds of weird ones like this.” She clicked on one that had a bulbous end and a corkscrew shaft, then another that was a series of increasingly large spherical bulges. “And then they have all these that are in the shape of a penis.” She clicked back and selected one of the lifelike replicas.

I couldn’t get over the fact that I was sitting in my living room looking at a collection of huge dongs with my daughter. It was insane, but I didn’t want to admit that there was a part of me that was beginning to enjoy it. Especially one very specific part of me.

“I suppose they both have their advantages,” I offered lamely. “Some of them look like they’ve been engineered to get the job done, but evolution is a pretty good engineer herself.”

“Okay, Mr. Science Channel, what I think you’re saying is a penis one would be better.”

“I don’t know for sure, but you can’t go too far wrong with a proven design.”

She thought about it as she clicked around on a few more of the space-age vibrators. “That’s a good point. I know what it feels like to have a cock…oops, sorry, I mean a penis inside me, but I don’t know what it would feel like to stick one of these other things in my vajay-jay. Too bad we can’t test drive them before deciding.”

The way she kept saying “we” was driving me crazy. And by that I mean crazy in a good way that was very bad. She was, either consciously or unconsciously, making me a sort of partner in her private sex life. That was someplace that no father was supposed to be. Maybe it was a mistake not to get remarried so Nicole could have had a mother figure to guide her through these sorts of situations.

“When it comes to dildos, I think they have to stick to a ‘you try it, you buy it’ policy.” We both chuckled nervously at my not quite funny joke. “How about that one?” I asked, pointing to a random penis-shaped vibrator.

“Hmm, too skinny. I want something with some girth to it, but not too crazy big, you know?” Something like this would be good, but I don’t know about the balls. What do you think?”

“About balls? I’m a fan.”

“Now you’re just making fun of me. This is a big decision, Daddy. I want to make sure I get the right one.”

“Alright, then, let’s see.” I clicked on one of the models with testicles included. “As far as a dildo goes, from what I can tell, the balls don’t really add much to the experience. Maybe they give you something to hold on to while you’re…you know. But I’d guess they’re more for aesthetic purposes than anything.”

“Hmmm.” My daughter mulled over the pros and cons. “I’m a fan of balls, too – real ones – but I don’t think we need them on my dildo.” She shifted on the arm of my chair and I noticed how warm she was next to me. “What’s the suction cup on the bottom for?”

“I don’t know. Maybe so you can stick it on the wall of the shower and go at it hands-free.”

“Interesting.” She seemed to be contemplating all the possibilities. “But, for now, all I need is one with the right business end.”

She went back to the main page displaying dozens of phallic sex toys. I could hear my daughter breathing close to my ear. She shifted again, and I noticed that she seemed to be squeezing her legs together rather tightly. I was so worried about controlling my own arousal I hadn’t stopped to consider that she might be getting turned on by all of this as well. I assumed this was nothing more than a virtual shopping trip for her, but I became distinctly aware that she might be as sexually charged up as me. I tried to push such thoughts out of my head.

“What do you think of that one?” I pointed and felt my arm brush against one of Nicole’s small breasts. Instead of pulling away, she leaned closer.

“I like it, but I’m not sure about the color. The flesh-colored ones look like they were cut off some poor guy. That freaks me out a little. Maybe something like this purple one.”

“Um, yeah, that looks like a good one.”

“These glass ones look pretty cool, too.” Nicole clicked to the next page and browsed through all the varied lengths, shapes, and sizes. “I bet those would feel nice even though they don’t vibrate.”

“Maybe, if you’re a good girl, Santa will bring you one this year.”

She laughed and gave me a playful shove with her body. The idea of buying my daughter a sex toy for Christmas sent an unseemly tingle through my balls. I had always prided myself on being a good and responsible father, but in the span of a few minutes all that was being placed in dire jeopardy.

Nicole went back to the previous page and clicked on the purple one. “I like the size of the head on this one, and the way it curves up a little at the end.”

“Is it, um…thick enough for you? Not too skinny?”

“No, it seems about right.” She licked her lips without being aware of it. “Let’s see…three speeds, water-resistant, two double-A batteries, and pleasure ribs. Mmm, hadn’t noticed those. What do you think, Daddy, do you like this one?”

“Sure.” I cleared my throat, becoming acutely aware that I was fully hard and feeling the need to do something about it. “That one looks like it’ll do the trick.”

She hung on my shoulder as I navigated through the ordering process, entered in my credit card number, and hit the submit button.

“Awesome! I can’t wait,” she chirped and threw her arms around my neck again. “Thanks for getting me my very own cock, Daddy.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. Enjoy it.”

“Oh, I will.” She kissed me several times on the cheek, grabbed her laptop, and dashed off to her bedroom. Luckily she was in such a rush that she didn’t notice the elongated bulge in my pants.

As soon as I heard Nicole’s bedroom door close, I hurried to my own room and pulled out my dick. I didn’t waste any time and immediately began beating off. It was wrong, and disgusting, but I couldn’t help myself. I was almost certain that my daughter was in her room at that very moment doing the very same thing. I tried not to picture her with her panties down around her ankles and her fingers buried in her sweet pussy, but there was no way to avoid it.

I could still feel the way she pressed her body against me. The warmth of her quick breaths on my neck. The soft touch of her breast against my arm. The sound of words like dildo and cock on her darling lips. My horny little girl.

My balls clenched and a fountain of cum erupted from my cock. I spurted all over the carpet and didn’t even care. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cum so fast. I kept jerking myself, milking even more jizz from my aching balls. Fuck, that felt good. Too good. I was a revolting pig.

Nicole came to me for help because she trusted me. She relied on me solve a very personal problem, and here I was jacking off over it all like some kind of perverted schoolboy. She would be horrified to know that her own father was masturbating himself to thoughts of her playing with her pussy. I was beyond reproach.

I got a hand towel from the bathroom and wiped the tip of my dick clean. I couldn’t help but notice that I was still hard – an unusual post-orgasm condition at my age. I dabbed up what I could from the carpet, feeling increasingly humiliated by the biological evidence of my own depravity.

It was a moment of weakness. A one-time thing that wouldn’t happen again. I just needed to pull myself together, get my head screwed back on straight, and everything would simply go back to normal now that I had gotten that out of my system. That’s all there was to it.

Or so I thought.

It was a daily struggle to keep my thoughts in check around my daughter. Nicole would be innocently walking through the house in her usual shorts and t-shirt, and it felt to me like she was parading around in the sexiest lingerie I’d ever seen. The sight of her long, shapely bare legs set me off every time. I couldn’t stop noticing how the cotton fabric of her shirt would drape over her small, firm breasts. I could always tell when she wasn’t wearing a bra – not because of the bounce, but because her tits took on a different shape when they were unconfined. Even the way her pony-tail swayed when she moved had me thinking wildly inappropriate thoughts.

I suppressed these perverse mental transgressions as soon as I recognized what I was doing, and I fought to keep Nicole out of my mind whenever I jerked off (which seemed to be more frequently ever since our sex toy shopping spree). Part of the problem was that there was more to it than her physical sensuality.

I had a new awareness about my daughter that I’d never had before. Sure, I knew she liked boys and was dating. When she officially got a steady boyfriend I understood what went along with that. But, until she asked me for a dildo, it was all a vaguely abstract notion. Now it was real – very, very real. My daughter was masturbating. She had been penetrated. She obviously loved cock. She desperately wanted something hard in her pussy so she could have better orgasms. My girl had become a fully mature sexual creature. This added dimension made her more of a woman than I was prepared to deal with. And, as a woman, she became the target of the natural desires that go along with being a man. The fact that we were so close, and that I loved her so damned much, only seemed to intensify these illicit desires of mine.

She apparently had no idea the effect she was having on me. It wasn’t unusual for Nicole to traipse around the house in short-shorts or even panties. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but now it was a splendid form of torture.

I still couldn’t believe she’d actually come to me for help buying a dildo. Granted, she had a point that I was the only one for her to turn to for something like that, but it didn’t make it any less shocking. When I was her age I never would have uttered the word masturbation in front of my parents, much less openly admitted that I did it. kids today had a whole different attitude about it, as if it were as normal as brushing your teeth. I suppose it should be seen as a good thing. Or maybe it was just going to lead to trouble.

“It came! It’s here, it’s here!” Nicole came running into the living room with a plain cardboard box in her hands.

My heart immediately began beating faster. She plopped down on the floor at the foot of my chair and began tearing at the box. She wasn’t going to actually open it right in front of me, was she? Yes. Yes, she was. I hit the mute button and tried to calm myself.

“I haven’t seen you this excited except on Christmas morning.”

She stuck her tongue out at me and threw aside a wad of bubble wrap. Wide-eyed, she reverently lifted her new treasure out of the box. There it was…my daughter’s dildo.

It gleamed a neon purple beneath the clear plastic of the clamshell packaging. She turned it over in her hands like she couldn’t believe it was real. She looked up at me with a beaming smile, before trying to open it. The packaging wouldn’t yield to her eager fingers. She held it out to me.

“Daddy, I can’t get it open,” she whined plaintively.

I took the thing from her with a shaking hand while I pulled out my pocket knife. She was up on her knees and clapping her hands as I carefully cut away the stubborn plastic. I held the package open and Nicole snatched the sex toy from it. It wasn’t a picture on the computer anymore; it was definitely the real thing.

“Oh, wow,” she marveled. “It has a little bit of squishiness to it. Feel!” She held the cock-shaped toy out to me.

I gave it a tentative squeeze between my thumb and forefinger. “Nice…I guess.”

“Yeah, I thought it was going to be like hard plastic, but this is better.”

She ran her fingers over the head of the thing and gave it an experimental pinch. I just about had a heart attack when she then rubbed it against her cheek to feel what it was like on her skin. I was afraid she was going to start sucking on it right there in front of me, but thankfully she went back to inspecting it instead. She twisted the cap off the bottom.

“This is where the batteries go. Daddy, get me some batteries!”

I took the ones out of my remote and handed them to her. She fumbled with her new toy and after a few missed tries got the batteries installed. I noticed that her hands were shaking more than mine. Nicole fiddled with the controller. Her purple dick came to life and began buzzing.

She squealed with delight. “Oh my God, that feels so weird.” My daughter touched her sex toy to her cheek again, then ran it up along the top of her bare thigh. She reached out and touched my leg with it. I jerked away and she laughed at me. “Don’t be afraid, Daddy, it’s not a real penis!”

“I know, but still…”

She turned it up to the medium setting and her smile widened; at high speed her jaw dropped. She looked at me with incredulous glee. It looked like she wanted to say something, but held back knowing it would be too much to share with her father. She stepped the device back down until it was silent.

“I’m going to go try it!” She jumped up and gave me a big hug. “Thanks, Daddy, I love you so much!”

And with that she was running off to her bedroom. I heard her door close and a strange sensation ran through me. Despite all efforts to the contrary, I couldn’t help picturing my girl pulling her shorts down, jumping into bed, spreading her legs, and sliding her new toy into her sweet, young pussy. I tried to divert my attention and attempted to change the channel on the TV a few times before I realized there were no longer batteries in the remote. I got up to go find some replacements.

Instead of heading for the kitchen where I kept the spare batteries, I found myself softly making my way toward my daughter’s bedroom. I paused at the end of the hallway and listened. All was quiet. I crept closer. Once I was at her door I could hear it. That low, steady buzz. She was really doing it. My darling girl was on the other side of that door masturbating with her dildo.

My cock was rock solid in my pants. I was disgusted with myself. It was bad enough that I was violating her privacy, but then to also get a full-blown erection from it was simply reprehensible. I unzipped my jeans and pulled my cock out.

Leaning in closer I strained to hear more as I began stroking myself. I was lower than low, but I couldn’t stop myself. All I could think about was that big purple cock going in and out of my girl’s pussy. I wanted to see the look of pure delight on her face as she fucked herself. I wanted to see her nubile body writhing on her bed as she pleasured herself. I wanted to see the slick juices flowing from her little hole as she made herself cum.

The sound of a surprised “Oh!” came from the other side of the door. A tingle ran from my balls to my asshole. I told myself I had to walk away, but instead I stood there jacking my stiff cock with my pants down around my knees like a filthy pervert. I heard her again. It was a series of little moans that were building quickly toward something. My baby girl was making herself cum. It was really happening. And she was making it happen with the dildo her daddy bought her.

A jet of cum erupted from my cock and hit Nicole’s bedroom door. I quickly cupped my hand over my cockhead and caught the rest in my palm as my balls clenched and more jizz spewed out. I was cumming with my daughter. It was simply fantastic.

It was only a matter of seconds before I regained my senses. The flood of guilt and shame that had been suppressed while beating off quickly rose. Oh my God, what was wrong with me? I was standing outside my daughter’s bedroom with my pants down and a handful of my own semen. The buzzing sound stopped. She might come out any second.

I scuttled away down the hall as quietly as I could, holding my pants up with one hand and my cum in the other as my erection bounced freely. If she knew what I’d done she’d never speak to me again. She trusted me and I’d betrayed her. There would be enough guys in the world trying to take advantage of her, the last thing she needed was for her dad to be one of them.

Once in the kitchen I cleaned myself up, got my pants back on, and resolved not to let that happen again. I fished a new pair of double-A’s out of the junk drawer and returned to my chair. It was almost half an hour before Nicole came flouncing in and collapsed onto the sofa. Her cheeks were rosy and she had a dreamy smile.

“Well, it works,” she reported with a shy giggle. “I definitely won’t be needing a boyfriend for a while.”

I still couldn’t believe she was talking to me this way, but I can’t honestly say I didn’t like it.

“I’m glad you’re happy, sweetheart.” I forced myself to stare at the TV and not ogle my daughter’s body.

After a few minutes she began fidgeting, then got up and headed for her bedroom again.

“Don’t overdo it on the first day, honey,” I warned her.

“Dad! I’m going to do my homework,” she insisted unconvincingly.

“Yeah, sure you are,” I teased. “Have fun.”

She gave me a sly smile that told me I was right before she hurried off to her room for another round with her new favorite toy.

I managed to control myself fairly well over the next week. It was torment during those times I suspected she was going at it, but I kept my distance and gave her the respect she deserved. I wasn’t able to keep my thoughts entirely in check, however. At night when I was trying to fall asleep I would imagine her humping away at her dildo in the next room. My cock would be hard in an instant and I had to jerk off to the sick images filling my head. I kept telling myself it was a passing phase and that things would go back to normal soon. And they might have if it wasn’t for my maddeningly uninhibited daughter.

I shuffled into the bathroom one morning and stopped dead in my tracks. Nicole’s dildo was lying there on the vanity next to the sink. Had she washed it and left it behind? Or had she been using it in here? It somehow looked bigger than I remembered. My heart thumped. That thing had been inside my daughter’s pussy. Many times. I couldn’t help but wonder what it smelled like. Maybe if she hadn’t washed it I could just take a little sniff. She would never–

“Hey, Daddy, have you seen my dildo? Oops, there it is.” She brushed past me in her panties and bra and grabbed her toy. “Don’t want to lose you,” she said to it and gave it a kiss.

“I hope you’re not bringing that thing to school with you,” I joked.

“Not today,” she quipped back. Her eyes flicked downward for a quick second. She gave me one of her sly smiles and closed the bathroom door as she left.

I looked down to see that there was a tent forming in my pajama bottoms. That little vixen was going to be the death of me. I whacked off in the shower like a horny teenager. By the time I was finished, Nicole had left for school. I went to her bedroom and pushed her door open.

The smell of the body spray she had put on before leaving was still strong in the air. Lying there on her bed was the dildo. She didn’t even make any effort to hide it. I was once again amazed at how open kids were about this sort of thing these days. I felt like a complete scumbag, but I couldn’t help picking it up and giving it a quick sniff. It smelled of hand soap and latex. She must have washed it. It was embarrassing how disappointed I was.

I laid the toy back down where I had found it, but couldn’t bring myself to leave. I dropped my towel and grabbed my prick. I was standing over the bed where my little girl played with herself. This was the spot where she would make herself cum. My dick was stiff in a matter of seconds.

“You’re a horny little thing, aren’t you, Nicole?” I said this out loud and felt like a fool. “You like fucking the toy Daddy bought you.” I beat my cock harder. “You love masturbating that hot little pussy of yours, don’t you?” I grabbed my balls and kept jacking my shaft for all I was worth. “You horny fucking slut! You beautiful horny little fucking slut!”

I barely had the presence of mind to catch my cum before I spurted it all over her bed clothes. I dropped to my knees and groaned as I milked my cock once again into my hand like a degenerate pervert. A couple weeks earlier I would have never entertained such deviant thoughts, but now it was just about all I could think of. I had to get myself together for the sake of my daughter. I know I wasn’t the best father there was, but I was better than this.

It was only a matter of days before I was tested again. It was Friday night and I was in my chair watching TV after a busy week at work. My brain was fried, and after a couple of beers I was having trouble keeping my eyes open.

Nicole came home from her night out, making a flurry of noise as she bounced from one room to the next singing an off-tune version of whatever the latest hit pop song was on the radio.

“How was the movie?” I called to her.

“Sucked! But there was a fight in the theater, so that was cool.” She poked her head into the living room. “Whatcha watchin’?”

“ESPN highlights.”

“Let’s watch a movie or something. Wanna?”

I never pass up a chance to spend time with my daughter, especially when it’s her idea. “Sure.”

“Cool!” She headed off to her bedroom, then I heard her getting drinks and snacks in the kitchen. She came back in her PJs and bare feet, her hair up in a cute ponytail. She set a glass of Coke down on the end table next to me and dropped a bag of cheese doodles in my lap (which she knows are my favorite). She flopped onto the sofa with her drink and a bag of potato chips. She had stolen the remote at some point during all this, navigated to the onDemand menu, and selected a movie that was more expensive than it had any right to be.

I was able to stay conscious for the first twenty minutes, then I apparently drifted off.

There was a buzzing sound. I was dreaming about Nicole using her toy again. I had to stop doing that. The sound persisted no matter how hard I tried to put it out of my mind. Wait. It wasn’t in my mind. I wasn’t asl**p. The sound was in the room with me. Impossible.

I opened my eyes. The movie was still playing. Nicole was on the sofa in her pajamas staring absently at the screen. She had her dildo in her hand and was lightly playing it over her crotch. Her feet were up on the sofa, her knees apart, and she was massaging her pussy through her pajama bottoms with her vibrator. This had to be a dream.

Her eyes flicked to me and she noticed I was awake.

“Oops!” She quickly closed her legs and turned off the toy. “I thought you were asl**p.”

“I was but…” I was half in reality and half out. “I should probably go to bed so you can be alone…”

“No, you don’t have to go,” she said quickly. “I’ll save that for later.” She put the dildo on the coffee table. “I was just…you know.” She shrugged, begging me with her eyes to stay up with her.

I certainly wasn’t sl**py any longer. Even though I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what I had just seen, my cock understood it all perfectly. I was certain the bulge in my pants wouldn’t be noticeable in the dark, and I almost didn’t care if it was.

With a swig of Coke, and a mouthful of doodles, I tried to catch up with the inane plot of the movie. I couldn’t stop sneaking glances at my daughter. It was hard to tell with the pattern on her PJs, but I thought I could see her nipples poking up. I noticed that she was sneaking glances at me when I wasn’t looking. What the hell was going on here?

“Daddy, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, sweetheart.”

“It’s something personal.”

“I’m listening.”

“When was the last time you were with a woman?”

Not a question I was expecting. “Ah…let’s see. I went on some dates a while back, but nothing serious.”

“I know about that,” she said. “What I mean is how long has it been since you were WITH a woman?”

“You mean sex?”

“Duh! Yes, of course, sex.” She ran her hand along the length of her ponytail and it was just about the sexiest thing she could have done at that moment. “C’mon, you can tell me.”

“Not that it’s any of your business, young lady, but it’s been a few years. A lot of years, actually.”

“So…what do you do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think about it.”

“But don’t you get, you know…horny?”

If I was smart I would have ended this conversation before I got myself into trouble.

“I suppose I do, just like anyone else.” I couldn’t help glancing at the sex toy lying between us.

“So what do you do about it?”

I had a feeling I knew what she was trying to get me to say, but wasn’t certain. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you…” Nicole held the fingers of one hand in a circle and moved them up and down suggestively.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She was a bold little thing, I had to give her that.

“I don’t know if this is something we should be discussing.”

“Don’t be such a poop. Everybody does it.”

“If you already know that, then why are you asking me if I do?”

“Don’t know.” She’d lost all interest in the movie. “Something I’ve been kind of thinking about lately, that’s all.”

I worried that maybe she could see the bulge my hard cock was making. Part of me wanted her to see it.

“If you have to hear it, then…yes, I do get horny and I do masturbate.”

Her eyes lit up when I said the last word. “A lot?”

“Not as much as you.”

My daughter smiled and gave her ponytail another stroke. What she didn’t do was deny it.

“I love the toy you got me,” she said, picking it up and hugging it to her chest. “So, would you say you jerk off like every day?”

I had to laugh. She wasn’t going to let up. And I had to confess I enjoyed hearing her talking like that. My erection strained against my pants.

“Not every day.” I wasn’t sure how honest I wanted to be with her about this. “But close.”

“I do it pretty much every day. Even back when I was dating Steven, I did it all the time. Do you think I’m weird?”

“Well, you are weird, but not because of that.” I was trying to keep things light so she wouldn’t know that she was driving me wild with lust.

“I worry that I’m addicted to it sometimes.” She contemplated the dildo she was holding. “I bet you jerked off a lot when you were my age.”

“I suppose I did. Although it wasn’t something I could talk about with my parents.” I was only making a half-hearted attempt to steer the conversation back into safe waters.

“I’m glad we can talk about this kind of stuff,” she said and lay back on the sofa. “It’s good that we don’t have to make a big secret out of it. Don’t you think?”

“I guess. Communication is always important.” I was too distracted by what my daughter was doing to think straight.

She was holding the dildo with one hand so that the base of it rested low on her belly. With her other hand she was running her fingers over its contours with a loving touch. I watched as my mouth went dry and my breathing quickened. She lightly wrapped her hand around it and began stroking it up and down.

“It must be cool to be a guy and have a penis,” she mused. “To have this big powerful thing that you can just grab onto whenever you want. Is that what if feels like, Daddy?”

Why was she doing this to me? I never envisioned my sweet, innocent daughter as a seductive temptress, but that’s what she surely was. Did she even know what she was doing? Did she have any idea what effect she was having on me? God have mercy on my wretched soul.

“I never really thought about it like that, but…yeah, I guess it’s pretty cool.” I swallowed hard, but my mouth was still dry. “But being a woman has its advantages, too.”

She waggled the dildo like she had a cock of her own and thought about what I’d said. “I do like being a girl,” she conceded and ran a hand up her leg and down the inside of her thigh. She was getting dangerously close to crossing the line. “Do you ever wish I was a boy instead?”

“Never,” I told her quite honestly. “I can’t imagine my life without you, sweetheart. I couldn’t have wished for a better daughter.”

She didn’t respond, but I knew she liked hearing me say that. And I meant every word of it. Nicole was the reason I got out of bed in morning. She was the reason I had the courage to go on when my marriage had fallen apart only two years after it had started. She was my whole world. I lived to give her everything she wanted.

“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m being weird tonight.” She tapped the tip of her toy cock against her chin as she tried to think of what to say next. “I just feel like I can talk to you about anything and you’d understand. My friends would all think I was a freak if I told them half the stuff I was feeling sometimes.”

She looked over at me for confirmation that I was on her side. All I could do was smile at the sight of her big eyes gleaming across the darkened room at me. Nothing in the world was as precious to me as that girl, and nothing ever would be.

“You’ll never be a freak to me, no matter what you’re thinking or feeling. I love you just for being you.”

“I love you, too, Daddy.” She kissed the tip of the cock, seemingly without being aware of the juxtaposition of her words with her actions.

She abruptly got up from the sofa and came over to my chair. I shifted in an effort to conceal my hard-on. She hugged me around the neck and kissed me on the cheek.

“This movie kind of stinks.” She tapped her dildo against her tummy provocatively. “I’m going to go to my room and masturbate, then get to sleep. How about you?”

“The same, I guess.”

That got a big grin out of her.

“Cool.” She took one more lingering glance at my crotch before turning to go. “Have fun with that, Daddy.”

I heard the sound of her vibrator buzzing as soon as she left the room. She was definitely teasing me deliberately. I heard her bedroom door close and didn’t even bother waiting. I pulled my cock out of my pants and began jerking off like a man possessed. It was only a matter of about a minute before I was spraying fat gobs of jizz all over my shirt.

Being open with your children about sex was one thing, but this was getting ridiculous. I didn’t know what kind of game Nicole was playing, but I couldn’t let her get the better of me like this. I was the responsible adult. I needed to keep my responses under control. Just because she was curious, and exploring the boundaries of our relationship, was no excuse for me to give into my basest cravings. She was my daughter, and that’s all it could ever be.

I decided to go to bed before I was tempted to do anything stupid. As I approached my bedroom door I noticed something lying on the floor in the hallway. It was a pair of my daughter’s panties. I picked them up. They were still warm. And moist.

She must have dropped them by accident. But why had she taken them off in the hallway instead of in her bedroom? Deep down I knew the answer, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. It was just an accident. I pressed the pink cotton fabric to my nose and breathed her in.

A simple, meaningless, accident…

Nicole was awake before me the next morning, which was unusual. Her panties were next to me on my bed. I was tempted to wrap them around my morning hard-on and jack off with them one more time. Since they were already crusted with two loads from the night before, I decided to restrain myself. I got up and tucked my daughter’s soiled panties down into my hamper under some of my own clothes. I needed to run them through the wash and clean off my filthy cum stains before sneaking them back into her drawer. I didn’t want her to know that her own father had sunk so low that he was doing unforgivably perverted things with her underwear.

I put on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, and followed the smell of brewing coffee. Nicole brightened with a huge smile as soon as she saw me shuffle into the kitchen. She was wearing a tight-fitting pair of pajama shorts and a flimsy top that left no question about whether or not she had a bra on (she clearly didn’t). I had a sense that if I looked closely enough I would be able to detect the rosy blush of her pink areolas through the light fabric. I did everything I could not to look.

“Morning, Daddy!” She came to me and kissed my cheek. “I’m making breakfast. What d’ya want?”

“How about scrambled eggs and toast?”

“Coming right up, sir.”

She had outgrown those bottoms. They were way too tight on her. I could see every curve of her pert little ass. Even the sensual crease of her gorgeously shaped butt was apparent. The only thing I couldn’t see were panty lines. I couldn’t tell if she was being a cock-teasing minx on purpose, or if it was all just her being innocently clueless and I was the one suddenly noticing her in this new, strikingly inappropriate, way.

I reached for the unopened electric bill sitting on the table in the hopes of distracting myself from my enchanting daughter and short-circuiting yet another improper erection.

“I’m sorry if I weirded you out last night,” Nicole said as she cracked the eggs into the pan. “I was in a kind of a strange mood.”

“No need to apologize.” I put aside the undecipherable bill and looked for something else to put my eyes on besides my daughter’s perfect ass. “We all have strange moods now and then. Some stranger than others.”

She dropped a couple slices of bread into the toaster. “Thanks for putting up with me.” She fetched the butter out of the refrigerator and set it on the table. Her nipples were conspicuously poking up from under the top. It was most likely because of the cold air from the refrigerator and they would surely settle back down in a minute or so. “I like that we can talk about anything together.”

“Me, too, sweetheart.” I tried to push away the dark urges that were rising up unbidden.

“I don’t think any other dad would be willing to admit to his daughter about how he jerks off.” She checked to see what kind of reaction that got out of me.

“Maybe because most dads don’t have a daughter who carries her dildo around everywhere she goes.”

She shot me a guilty smile over her shoulder. “Leave my new best friend out of this.”

Nicole scooped the eggs onto a plate, plucked the toast from the toaster, and set my plate in front of me along with the salt shaker. She sat down across from me and sipped her orange juice.

“Looks delicious,” I said for the sake of saying anything and dug in.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Ho, boy. I’m guessing this is another one of those personal questions, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking permission first.”

The wicked look in her eyes was enough to confirm my suspicion. “Last night, when we were talking, did you get an erection?”

I almost choked on my eggs. “What? Why?”

“Just curious.” She handed me a napkin. “It’s no big deal, but it looked like maybe you did and I was only wondering. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want.” The last was said as a veiled challenge more than anything.

I looked up from my plate and saw my daughter leaning forward, intently waiting for an answer. I knew what she wanted to hear, but I also knew that I shouldn’t be encouraging her.

“Yeah,” I confessed, “I might have.”

Her eyes grew wide with delight at my response. “Why did you have a hard-on?”

“I don’t know. It just happens to men sometimes.” I was being a coward and she knew it. “Probably because of the way you were touching your dildo, or maybe all that talk about masturbating.”

“You are so cute right now, Daddy.” She reached out and grasped my forearm in a gesture of loving support. “You don’t have to be embarrassed about it. I don’t mind if you get hard around me. I know that it’s a natural thing that happens to guys, and it’s not like I’m a little kid anymore.”

“No, you certainly aren’t.”

“I mean, I get horny all the time, and there’s no point in pretending that you don’t get like that, too.” Her nipples were poking up through her top again, and I definitely couldn’t explain it away this time as being caused by cold air. “It seems silly for us to have to hide the way we’re feeling from each other. Don’t you think?”

I had to try to inject some sanity into this conversation before it went too far.

“Look, sweetheart, I think you and I have a great relationship, and I wouldn’t ever want to do anything to lose that. It’s just that I’m not sure it’s a good idea for us to be too open about our sex lives with each other.” I felt her hand give my arm a light squeeze. “We should be able to talk if you have questions or problems, but I’m worried that it’s inappropriate for me as your father to share too much with you.”

My heart was beating fast and I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was saying what I knew I needed to say, but I hated every word out of my mouth. I could see some of that brightness fading from Nicole’s face as she absorbed what I was telling her. She put on a brave smile and patted my arm reassuringly.

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. Oops, I forgot your coffee.” She got up and went to pour me a cup. “Like I said, I’ve been in a weird mood lately. Forget about everything and just pretend like I’m my normal self.” She delivered my coffee with just the right amount of sugar and cream.

“I don’t want you to be upset, honey. I don’t want to ever do anything to hurt you, or to mess things up between us. That’s all.”

“I’m not upset,” she assured me without believing it herself. “I think you’re the best dad a girl could ever want.” She hugged me from the side with her head tucked against my neck. “I love you so much.”

“And I love you, sweetheart.” I patted her on the back.

She held the hug longer than usual. I wondered if she was about to start crying, but when she broke away she was as cheerful and chipper as ever. I knew she was feeling rejected and was doing everything she could not to let me see it. She was trying to protect me from feeling bad about what I’d said. I loved her for that, but I still felt bad.

The next couple days passed without incident. There was an intangible awkwardness between Nicole and me, but I knew it would pass soon. I was keeping my lascivious thoughts about my daughter to a minimum, and she was behaving herself in a much more proper manner. I was relieved that this strange storm had passed, until I went to do my laundry.

As I opened the hamper I remembered that Nicole’s panties were still hidden under my stuff. I dug down but couldn’t find them. I emptied the hamper out into the laundry basket one item at a time, but they were nowhere to be found. I went through everything two more times, but they definitely weren’t there. What the fuck?

That sinking feeling was back in my stomach. I went to Nicole’s bedroom. She was at soccer practice and wouldn’t be home for another hour. I looked in her underwear drawer, but they weren’t there. I checked her hamper without luck. I pulled the covers back on her bed and my worst-case worry was confirmed.

There by her pillow was her purple dildo. Twisted around that dildo were the panties that I had found outside my bedroom door. And they were still dirty. The spots where my cum had soaked into them and dried were more than obvious. There was no way that she didn’t know beyond a doubt that I had not only taken her underwear into my room with me, but that I had clearly jerked off onto them. More than once.

This was about as humiliating as it could get. I wanted to grab them and clean away the evidence of my lustful sins, but then she’d know I was snooping in her room. She hadn’t washed them herself. What did that mean? Was she planning on blackmailing me somehow? If one day down the road I told her she couldn’t stay out late with her friends, or go to a party, would she pull out those panties and wave them in my face? How could I exercise any parental authority with her holding onto that kind of leverage? I had royally screwed the pooch this time.

I left everything where it was and walked out of her bedroom in a haze. I had no idea what to do, so I simply did nothing. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and it would all resolve itself quietly. Unlikely, but possible.

Nicole came home from practice and hit the shower. When she was done, my sweet daughter came into the living room wrapped in a towel that barely reached the tops of her thighs. She was holding her purple friend.

“Daddy, do we have any more batteries? I think I wore these ones out.”

“Already?”

She just shrugged and gave me a shy smile. The hussy was back.

She followed me into the kitchen and waited while I got her a new pair of batteries.

“Can you put them in for me?” She held the toy out to me, then pulled it back quickly. “Oops, wait! I haven’t washed it since the last time I used it.” She bit her lip seductively and looked at me with those big, beautiful eyes. “Oh, but you don’t mind that, do you, Daddy?”

She once again offered me her dildo. I took it, knowing that it was covered with the dried pussy juices of my baby girl. Damn, that k** was devious. I tried to keep my hands steady as I swapped out the batteries for her, even though I suspected she was perfectly capable of doing it herself. I handed the toy over and she turned it on.

“Wow! That’s more like it.” She touched the tip of her fake cock to her cheek and ran it across her lips. “I’ve been thinking about this all day.” She turned and headed for her bedroom. “See you in about half an hour.”

I swear I caught a glimpse of ass cheek as she went. It was all I could do not to follow her and jack off at her door again while I listened to my little girl fuck herself silly.

This had everything to do with the panties. The moral high ground had evaporated from underneath me like it was never there. She had the upper hand, and she was going to take advantage of it. Well, let her play her little games. I was the adult. I was her father. Yes, I’d had a moment of weakness, but I wasn’t going to let her get the better of me in this. All I needed to do was ignore her childish enticements and she would eventually give up trying to get a rise out of me.

Over the next few days I held firm. She resorted to leaving her dildo lying around all over the house. It seemed like I couldn’t turn around without it being there to taunt me. Nicole was running around the house in as little as she could get away with. One evening she was in the panties I had jerked off with, and I was pretty sure she still hadn’t washed them. The next night, as I went to my room to go to sleep, I heard that telltale buzzing noise coming from down the hall. It sounded louder than it should have. That’s when I noticed that Nicole’s door wasn’t closed all the way.

I stood there for a long time with my hand on the knob of my bedroom door. There was no mistaking what she was doing. But did she even understand it herself? Was she letting the fantasy get the better of her? I knew I had. The reality of what she was contemplating was too ugly to fully appreciate – especially at her age. There was some misguided, romantic idea in her head about me that would only bring pain and suffering if acted on. I heard a soft moan float down the hallway from her bedroom.

My knees felt weak, and my resolve even weaker. Everything was starting to unravel. I was overthinking this. I had to put it out of my mind, and not give her the satisfaction of responding to her provocations. She’d figure out soon enough that she couldn’t assert her feminine power over me. I was her father, for God’s sake.

I silently slipped into my bedroom, then violently beat off three times before falling into an exhausted sl**p.

Work the next day was all but impossible. I couldn’t concentrate on anything without my daughter taking over my thoughts. I had to put a stop to her lewd behavior. If she acted up this evening I intended to confront her. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but being a parent isn’t always easy.

Surprisingly, Nicole was a model daughter that night. Soccer game, dinner, homework, and a little TV with her old man. Nothing inappropriate. No sexual innuendo. Not even a revealing outfit. Perhaps we had cleared the hurdle. I was beyond relieved. At least until a knock at my bedroom door later that night woke me up.

“Nicole?”

“Yeah, it’s just me,” she whispered, already in my room. “I can’t sl**p.”

I looked for the glowing numbers of my clock, saw that it was after 2:00 a.m., and groaned. I felt her getting under the covers with me. “What’s the matter?” I muttered sl**pily.

“I don’t know. Nothing.”

“Then why aren’t you in your bed asl**p?” I could feel myself already starting to doze off.

“Daddy? Are you mad at me?”

“No. What makes you think I’m mad at you?”

“I feel like you’ve kind of been avoiding me. Well, not exactly avoiding, but something like it.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, sweetheart. I’m not mad at you.” I was barely getting the words out as I fought not to fall back to sleep.

“You seemed like maybe you were upset because I was talking about sex too much.”

“I wasn’t upset, really…more like concerned.”

“About what?” She shifted closer until her arm was touching mine.

“About things I shouldn’t be talking to you about…or doing.” I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

“Like what happened with my panties?”

“Huh?” That woke me up a little.

“You know,” her voice was low and almost seductive in the dark. “Like how you jerked off on my panties. That’s what you did, right?”

“Um…I don’t…you see, what you don’t understand is…” I tried to pull my head together, but was failing in every way possible.

“It’s okay, Daddy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” She snuggled closer. “You can tell me if that’s what you did.” She was so near, and warm. “Did you?”

There was no point in denying it. She already knew. “Yes. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that, but…”

“You don’t have to explain it, Daddy. I understand.” Her fingers tickled up my forearm. “It’s been a long time since you’ve been with a woman, so you’ve got to do something.”

“That doesn’t make it right for me to do something like that.” I should have sent her back to her own bedroom at that point. I should have at least moved away from her. Instead I let her stay close and continue touching me. Neither of us spoke for nearly a minute. I was beginning to relax again when I heard my daughter’s voice.

“Daddy? What do you think about when you’re masturbating?”

I found myself answering, almost as if she had me in a hypnotic trance. “The usual things I guess. Women…fantasies…”

“Do you ever think about me?”

Even in my drowsy stupor I knew better than to respond honestly to that.

Nicole waited, but when no answer came she said, “Because I think about you sometimes, Daddy. Especially lately when I’m using my dildo.”

I had to wonder if I’d slipped into a dream state. I couldn’t have heard what I just thought I did.

“Honey…wait? What?”

“I’m sorry, Daddy, but I can’t help it. When I masturbate I think about you sometimes.” She laid her hand on my chest. “Actually, a lot of the time. Do you think I’m gross for doing that?”

“No,” I said trying not to panic. “No, but I don’t understand…”

“It started a while ago. You were in the shower and I came in to get something and I saw you. It was through the glass, and everything was steamy, and I was trying not to look, but I saw your hand moving…down there.” She pressed closer and I felt something hard against my hip. “I never thought about you like that before, but after I saw you jerking off in the shower I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I know it’s supposed to be disgusting to think about anything to do with your parents and sex, but it makes me really, really horny to think about you touching your cock like that.”

I wasn’t ready to deal with what I was hearing from my darling girl. “Something’s poking me,” I complained. “What is that?”

“Oh, sorry.” She reached between us. “It’s my dildo.”

“Why did you bring that in here?” This was getting more surreal by the moment.

“I didn’t really mean to. I like having it close by just in case.”

“In case what?”

Nicole’s hand moved from my chest down to my stomach. I put my hand atop hers, afraid it might go lower.

“Daddy, were you thinking about me when you jerked off and came on my panties? You can tell me the truth. It’s okay if you did.”

I should have simply kept my mouth shut, but for some sick reason I wanted her to know.

“Yes.” A pang of fear twisted my insides, but at the same time a sort of relief washed over me. “Yes, sweetheart, I was thinking about you when I was jerking off with your panties. I thought about how you’ve been walking around here lately showing off your legs and not wearing a bra. I thought about you using that dildo of yours, and about what a sexy woman you’re becoming.” I could practically hear her smiling in the dark. It was exactly what she wanted to hear.

“So I guess I’m not the only pervert in this family, after all,” she said with a light giggle that made my heart warm. She was quiet for a few moments with her cheek nuzzled against my shoulder. “Daddy? Is your cock hard right now?”

“Silly question. You know it is.”

“My pussy is really wet.”

Hearing my daughter say pussy like that for the first time sent a pleasant shock through me. My hard cock jumped in my underwear. I had let this go too far.

“Maybe you should take your friend back to your own bed now, sweetheart.”

“Noooo,” she whined and hugged me tighter. “Let me stay here with you.”

“Only if you promise to stop talking like that.”

“I promise.” She kissed my shoulder. “I’m sorry for getti