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Authors: Cate Tiernan

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BOOK: Dark Magick
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“How is Cal?” I managed.
“He’s better,” she said. “Thanks to you. I came home and found him in the parlor, and he managed to tell me most of what happened. I’ve been doing some healing work with him.”
“I didn’t know what to do,” I said helplessly. “He fell asleep, and I had to get home. I have his car at my house,” I added inanely.
Selene nodded. “We’ll come get it later,” she said, and I dug in my pocket and gave her the keys. She took them and pushed open the kitchen door.
I sniffed the air. “What’s that?” I asked.
Now I noticed that the kitchen was ablaze with light, sound, color, scent. I paused in the doorway, trying to separate out the different stimuli. Selene walked over to the stove to stir something, and I realized she had a small, three-legged cast-iron cauldron bubbling on the burner of her range. The odd thing was how normal it looked somehow.
She caught my glance and said, “Usually I do all this outside. But this autumn has been so awful, weatherwise.” She stirred slowly with a long wooden spoon, then leaned over and inhaled, the steam making her face flush slightly.
“What are you making?” I asked, moving closer.
“This is a vision potion,” she explained. “When ingested by a knowledgeable witch, it aids with scrying and divination.”
“Like a hallucinogen?” I asked, a little shocked. Images of LSD and mushrooms and people freaking out flashed through my mind.
Selene laughed. “No. It’s just an aid, to make it easier to find your visions. I only make it every four or five years or so. I don’t use it that often, and a little goes a long way.”
On the gleaming granite counter I saw labeled vials and small jars and, at one end, a stack of homemade candles.
“Did you do all this?” I asked.
Selene nodded and brushed her dark hair away from her face. “I always go through a flurry of activity around this time of year. Samhain is over, Yule hasn’t begun—I suppose I just itch for something to do.Years ago I started making many of my own tinctures and essential oils and infusions—they’re always fresher and better than what you can buy in the store. Have you ever made candles?”
“No.”
Selene looked around the kitchen, at the bustle and clutter, and said, “Things you make, cook, sew, decorate—those are all expressions of the power and homages to the Goddess.” Busily she stirred the cauldron, deasil, and then tasted a tiny bit on the end of her spoon.
At any other time I would have found this impromptu lesson fascinating, but at the moment I was too keyed up to focus on it. “Will Cal be okay?” I blurted out.
“Yes,” Selene said. She looked directly at me. “Do you want to talk about Hunter?”
That was all it took, and suddenly I was crying silently, my shoulders shaking, my face burning. In a moment she was beside me, holding me. A tissue appeared, and I took it.
“Selene,” I said shakily, “I think he’s dead.”
“Shhh,” she said soothingly. “Poor darling. Sit down. Let me give you some tea.”
Tea? I thought wildly. I think I
killed
someone, and you’re offering me
tea
?
But it was witch tea, and within seconds of my first sip I felt my emotions calm slightly, enough to get myself under control. Selene sat across the table from me, looking into my eyes.
“Hunter tried to kill Cal,” she said intently. “He might have tried to kill you, too. Anyone standing there would have done what you did. You saw a friend in danger, and you acted. No one could blame you for that.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt Hunter,” I said, my voice wavering.
“Of course you didn’t,” she agreed. “You just wanted to stop him. There was no way to predict what would happen. Listen to me, my dear. If you hadn’t done what you did, if you hadn’t been so quick thinking and loyal, then it would be Cal now in the river, and I would be mourning him and possibly you, too. Hunter came here looking for trouble. He was on our property. He was out for blood.You and Cal both acted in self-defense.”
Slowly I drank my tea. The way Selene put it, it sounded reasonable, even inevitable. “Do you—do you think we should go to the police?” I asked.
Selene cocked her head to one side, considering. “No,” she said after a moment. “The difficulty is that there were no other witnesses. And that knife wound in Hunter’s neck would be hard to explain as self-defense, even though you and I both know that’s the truth of it.”
A fresh wave of dread washed over me. She was right. To the police, it would probably look like murder.
I remembered something else. “And his car,” I said. “Did you move it?”
Selene nodded. “I spelled it to start and drove it to an abandoned barn just outside of town. It sounds premeditated, I know, but it seemed the prudent thing to do.” She reached out and covered my hand with her own. “I know it’s hard. I know you feel that your life will never be the same. But you must try to let it go, my dear.”
I swallowed miserably. “I feel so guilty,” I said.
“Let me tell you about Hunter,” she said, and her voice was suddenly almost harsh. I shivered.
“I’ve heard reports about him,” Selene went on. “By all accounts he was a loose cannon, someone who could not be trusted. Even the council had their doubts about him, thought he had gone too far, too many times. He’s been obsessed with Woodbanes all his life, and in the last few years this obsession had taken a deadly turn.” She seemed quite serious, and I nodded.
A thought occurred to me. “Then why was he going after Cal?” I asked. “You guys don’t know what clan you are, right? I heard Hunter call Cal Woodbane—did he think Cal . . . wait—” I shook my head, confused. Cal had told me that he and Hunter probably had the same father. And Sky had said Cal was Woodbane like his father. Which made both Cal and Hunter half Woodbane? I couldn’t keep all this straight.
“Who knows what he thought?” said Selene. “He was clearly crazy. I mean, this is someone who killed his own brother.”
My eyebrows knitted. I vaguely remembered Cal throwing that accusation at Hunter last night. “What do you mean?”
Selene shook her head, then started as her cauldron hissed and spat on the stove, almost boiling over. She hurried over to adjust the flame. For the next few minutes she was very busy, and I hesitated to interrupt her.
“Do you think I could see Cal?” I asked finally.
She looked back at me regretfully. “I’m sorry, Morgan, but I gave him a drink to make him sleep. He probably won’t wake up until tonight.”
“Oh.” I stood up and retrieved my coat, unwilling to pursue the story about Hunter if Selene didn’t want to tell me. I felt a thousand times better than I had, but I knew instinctively the pain and guilt would return.
“Thank you for coming,” Selene said, straining a steaming mixture over the sink. “And remember, what you did last night was the right thing. Believe that.”
I nodded awkwardly.
“Please call me if you want to talk,” Selene added as I headed for the door. “Anytime.”
“Thank you,” I said. I pushed through the door and headed home.
3
Dread
My birthday dinner was like a movie. I felt like I was watching myself through a window, smiling, talking to people, opening presents. I was glad to see Aunt Eileen and her girlfriend, Paula Steen, again—and Mom and Mary K. had worked hard to make everything special. It would have been a great birthday, except for the horrific images that kept crashing into my brain. Hunter and Cal grappling in the churned, bloody snow. Myself, sinking to my knees under Cal’s binding spell, then me looking down at the athame in my hand and looking up to see Hunter. Hunter, rivulets of blood on his neck, going over the edge of the cliff. “Hey, are you all right?” Mary K. asked me as I stood by the window, gazing out into the darkness. “You seem kind of out of it.”
“Just tired,” I told her. I added quickly, “But I’m having a great time.Thanks, Mary K.”
“We aim to please.” She flashed me a grin.
Finally Aunt Eileen and Paula left, and I went upstairs and called Cal. His voice sounded weak and scratchy.
“I’m okay,” he said. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I said. “Physically.”
“I know.” He sighed. “I can’t believe it. I didn’t mean for him to go over the edge. I just wanted to stop him.” He laughed dryly, a croaking sound. “Helluva seventeenth birthday. I’m sorry, Morgan.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. “He came after you.”
“I didn’t want him to hurt you.”
“But why did you put binding spells on me?” I asked.
“I was afraid. I didn’t want you to jump into the middle of it and get hurt,” Cal said.
“I wanted to help you. I hated being frozen like that. It was awful.”
“I’m so sorry, Morgan,” Cal breathed. “Everything was happening so fast, and I thought I was acting for the best.”
“Don’t ever do that to me again.”
“I won’t, I promise. I’m sorry.”
“Okay. I called 911 when I got home,” I admitted softly. “And I sent Sky an anonymous witch message, telling her where to look for Hunter.”
Cal was silent for a minute. Then he said, “You did the right thing. I’m glad you did.”
“It didn’t help, though. I saw Sky at the river this morning. She said Hunter didn’t come home last night. She was sure I knew something about it.”
“What did you tell her?”
“That I didn’t know what she was talking about. She said she didn’t feel Hunter’s presence or something like that.And she called me a lying Woodbane.”
“That bitch,” Cal said angrily.
“Could she find out about what happened somehow? Using magick?”
“No,” said Cal. “My mom put warding spells around the whole place to block anyone from scrying and seeing what happened. Don’t worry.”
“I am worried,” I insisted. A bubble of panic was rising in my throat again. “This is horrible. I can’t stand it.”
“Morgan! Try to calm down,” said Cal. “It will all be okay, you’ll see. I won’t let anything happen to you. The only thing is, I’m afraid Sky is going to be a problem. Hunter was her cousin, and she’s not going to let this rest. Tomorrow we’ll spell your house and your car with wards of protection. But still—be on your guard.”
“Okay.” Dread settled more heavily on my shoulders as I hung up. Wherever this is going, I thought, there’s no way it can end well. No way at all.
 
On Monday morning I got up early and grabbed the morning paper before anyone else could see it. Widow’s Vale doesn’t have its own daily paper, just a twice-monthly publication that’s mostly pickup articles from other papers. I quickly paged through the
Albany Times Union
to see if there was any mention of a body being fished out of the Hudson. There wasn’t. I gnawed my lip. What did that mean? Had his body not been found yet? Or was it just that we weren’t close enough to Albany for them to cover the story?
I drove with Mary K. to school and parked outside the building, feeling like I had aged five years over the weekend.
As I turned off the engine, Bakker Blackburn, Mary K.’s boyfriend, trotted up to meet her. “Hey, babe,” he said, nuzzling her neck.
Mary K. giggled and pushed him away. He took her book bag from her, and they went off to meet their friends.
Robbie Gurevitch, one of my best friends and a member of my coven, strolled up to my car. A group of freshman girls stared admiringly at him as he passed them, and I saw him blush. Being gorgeous was new to him—until I’d given him a healing potion a month ago, he’d had horrible acne. But the potion had cleared up his skin and even erased the scars.
“Are you going to fix your car?” he asked me.
I looked at my broken headlight and smashed nose and sighed. A few days ago I’d thought someone was following me, and I had skidded on a patch of ice and crunched my beloved behemoth of a car, fondly known as Das Boot, into a ditch. At the time it had seemed utterly terrifying, but since the events of Saturday night, it felt more in perspective.
BOOK: Dark Magick
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ads

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