“I feel like a fox in a henhouse full of Catholic girls,” he said, looking pleased. “This is doing wonders for my ego.”
“Oh, like your ego needs help,” I retorted, then wanted to bite my tongue.
But Hunter didn’t take offense and instead said, “What names have you been studying?”
Huge, long freaking lists, I wanted to say. I took a deep breath and said, “Um, wildflowers and herbs of this geographic zone, ones that bloom in spring, summer, and fall and are dormant in winter. Ones that are poisonous. Plants that can counteract spells, either good or bad. Plants that neutralize energy.” I named ten or eleven of them, starting with
—mayapple—then paused, hoping he was suitably impressed. Learning just the English or Latin names of hundreds of different plants would have been quite a feat, but I had also learned their true names, their magickal names, by which I could use them in spells, find them, increase or decrease their properties.
Hunter, however, looked underwhelmed. His green eyes were impassive. “And under what condition would you use
in a spell?”
I hesitated, something about his voice making me think carefully about his question.
Maroc dath, maroc dath
—I knew it as mayapple, a wild plant with a white flower that bloomed before the last frost of the year . . . used to clarify potions, to make a healing ointment, to . . .
Then I got it.
wasn’t mayapple. “I meant maroc
” I said with dignity. “
. Mayapple.” I tried to remember if
“So you’re not studying spells in which you use menstrual blood,” Hunter said, his eyes on mine. “
. Menstrual blood, usually that of a virgin. Used primarily in dark rites, occasionally in fertility spells. That’s not what you meant?”
Okay, now I wanted the earth to swallow me. I closed my eyes. “No,” I said faintly. “That’s not what I meant.”
When I opened my eyes again, he was shaking his head. “What would happen if you did that in a spell?” he asked rhetorically. “What happens if you don’t know all of this and therefore make errors in your spells?”
My first instinct was to throw a pillow at him. Then I remembered that he was trying to get me to learn so I would be protected. He was trying to help me. I remembered that I had told him I trusted him, and that it had been true.
With my next breath an awareness came over me, something unconnected to what Hunter and I were talking about, and my eyes widened and flew to his face.
“Do you feel it?” I whispered, and he nodded slightly, his whole body tense and still. I moved cautiously toward him, and he reached out his hand to clasp mine. Someone was scrying for me, someone was trying to find me. I sat next to Hunter on the bed, barely conscious of the warmth of his thigh against mine. As one, we closed our eyes and sent out our senses, dissolving the barriers between us and the world, reaching out toward our unseen spy as he or she reached out toward us.
I began to get a sense of a person, a person shape, an energy pattern—and in the next instant it was gone, snuffed as quickly as a candle, without even a wisp trail of smoke to lead me to it. I opened my eyes.
“Interesting,” Hunter muttered. “Did you get an identity?”
I shook my head and untangled my fingers from his. He looked down at our hands as if he hadn’t known they were joined.
“I have something to tell you,” I said, and then I gave him the story of possibly seeing a candle in a window at Cal’s house the day before.
“Why didn’t you tell me immediately?” he asked, looking angry.
“It just happened last night,” I began, defending myself. Then I stopped. He was right, of course. “I—I didn’t know what to do,” I offered awkwardly. “I figured I was making a big deal out of nothing, just being paranoid.” I stood up, moved away from the bed, and pushed my hair over my shoulder.
“Morgan of course you should have told me,” Hunter said. His jaw tensed. “Unless you have a good reason not to.”
What was he trying to say? “Yes,” I said sarcastically. “That’s it. I’m in league with Cal and Selene, and I didn’t want to tell you because when I
myself to the dark side, I
want you to know about it.”
Hunter looked like I had slapped him, and he stood quickly, so we were only inches apart and he was towering over me, bright spots of anger appearing on his fair cheeks. His hands gripped my shoulders, and my eyes widened. I jerked away from him, slapping his hands away, and we stared at each other.
“Don’t ever joke about that again,” he said in a low voice. “That isn’t funny. How can you even say something like that after what you saw David Redstone go through?”
I gasped, remembering, and to my horror, hot tears welled in my eyes. It
been stupid and appalling to throw that at Hunter after seeing it in reality. What had I been thinking?
Deliberately Hunter stepped back, away from me, and pushed his hand through his hair. A muscle in his jaw twitched, and I knew he was trying hard to control himself.
“I never lose my temper,” he muttered, not looking at me. “My whole job, my whole life is about being calm and objective and rational.” Then he glanced up, and his eyes were like green water, cool and clear and beautiful, and I felt caught by them, the fire of my anger doused. “What is it about you that gets under my skin? Why do you get to me?” He shook his head.
“We just rub each other the wrong way sometimes,” I said clumsily, sinking back down into my desk chair.
“Is that what you think it is?” he asked cryptically. He sat down on my bed again, and I had no idea how to answer him. “All right,” he said, “back to the candle. I believe that you saw something. Selene’s house has been spelled inside and out with ward-evil, confusion, barrier spells, you name it. A member of the council and I worked for hours after the fire, trying to seal the house and dispel the negative energy from it. Obviously we didn’t do enough.”
“Do you think it’s Cal, or Selene, back inside?” I asked. Had that been Cal I saw in the window, Cal, so close?
“I don’t know. I can’t see how they could get in, after everything we did. But I can’t dismiss the possibility. I’ll have to check into it.”
Of course he would. He was a Seeker. I realized then that I hadn’t wanted to tell him in case it
been Cal I’d seen. Even after all that Cal had done, I didn’t want Hunter to be seeking him. A vision of David Redstone, weeping and writhing as his power left him, rose up in my mind. I couldn’t bear the thought of Cal suffering the same torment.
Hunter’s face was serious and still. “Look,” he said, standing up and reaching into his backpack. “Let’s scry together, right now, joining our energy. Let’s just see what happens.” He took a purple silk bundle out of the backpack and unwrapped it. Inside was a large, dark, flattish stone. “This was my father’s
,” he said, his voice expressionless. “Have you scryed with a stone before?”
I shook my head. “Only with fire.”
“Stones are as reliable as fire,” he told me, sitting cross-legged on the floor. “Fire is harder to work with but offers more information. Come sit down.”
I sat across from him, our knees touching, as if we were about to do
. Leaning forward, I looked into the flat, polished face of the stone, feeling the familiar excitement of exploring something new in Wicca. My hair draped forward, brushing the stone. Quickly I gathered it at the base of my neck and with practiced gestures twisted it into a braid. I didn’t bother securing the end but let it hang behind me.
“It seems like not too many girls have long hair anymore,” Hunter said absently. “They all have short, layery . . .” He motioned with his hands, unable to come up with the vocabulary to describe modern do’s.
“I know,” I said. “I think about cutting it sometimes. But I hate fussing with a style. This way I never have to think about it.”
“It’s beautiful,” Hunter said. “Don’t cut it.” Then he blinked and became businesslike, while I once again tried to get my bearings on the peaks and valleys of our interaction. “Right. Now, this is just the same as scrying with fire. You open yourself to the world, accept what knowledge the universe offers you, and try to not think: just be. Just like with fire.”
“Got it,” I said, still processing the fact that Hunter liked my hair.
“Good. Now, we’re looking for Cal or Selene,” Hunter said, his voice softening and fading.
We leaned toward each other, our heads almost touching, our hands joined lightly on the
. It was like looking into a black pool in a woods, I thought. Like looking down a well. As my breathing shifted and slowed and my consciousness expanded gently into the space around me, the
began to seem like a hole in the universe, an opening into incomprehensible wonders, answers, possibilities.
I could no longer feel anything physically: I was suspended in time, in space, and existed only because of my thoughts and my energy. I felt Hunter’s life force near mine, felt his warmth, his presence, his intelligence, and nothing startled me. Everything was fine.
In the face of the stone I began to see swirls of gray mist, like striated clouds, and I released any expectations I’d had and simply watched to see what they would become. Then it was like watching a video or a moving photograph: I saw a person, walking toward me, as if looking into a camera. It was a middle-aged man, a handsome man, and he looked both surprised and alarmed and intensely curious. I’d seen him before, but I couldn’t think where.
“Goddess,” Hunter muttered, his breath suddenly coming sharp and fast. I felt my consciousness flare.
“Gìomanach,” said the man softly. His face was lined, his hair gray, his eyes brown. But there was something of Hunter in the shape of his jaw, the angle of his cheek.
“Dad,” Hunter said, sounding strangled.
I gasped. Hunter hadn’t seen either of his parents in ten years, and though we’d talked about the possibility of his trying to find them, as far as I knew, he’d done nothing about it yet. What was happening?
“Gìomanach,” said the man again. “You’re grown. My son . . .” He looked away. In the background I could barely make out a house, painted white. I heard a seagull cry faintly and wondered where Hunter’s father had been all this time, where he was now.
“Dad,” Hunter said. I felt the coiled tension of his emotions; it almost caused me pain. “Linden—”
“I know,” said the man, looking older and sadder. “I know. Beck told us how your brother died. It wasn’t your fault. It was his own fate. Listen, my son—your mother—”
Then the picture changed as a dark presence washed across the face of the
. It was like a cloud, a purple-black vapor roiling across the
, and Hunter and I watched unspeaking as the dark wave focused and concentrated, blotting out his father’s face, the whitewashed window.
With a jolt Hunter snapped back, straightening, his eyes flicking open to stare widely at me, and I gazed at him, seeing his pale face as the grounding of my reality.
My temples were damp with sweat, and my hands were shaking. I rubbed my palms against my corduroys and tried to swallow but couldn’t. I knew I had just seen the dark wave in the stone—the dark wave that had consumed my ancestors and almost every member of my ancestral coven almost twenty years before. The dark wave that we believed was somehow connected to Selene.
Hunter spoke first. “Do you think the dark wave took my father just then?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
“No!” I said strongly. He looked so lost. Without thinking I rose to my knees and clasped him in my arms, cradling his head against my chest. “I’m almost sure it didn’t. It was more like it passed in front of the stone. Between us and him. I can’t believe it, Hunter, that was your father. He’s alive!”
“Yes,” Hunter said. “I believe he is.” He paused, then said. “I wonder what he was trying to tell me about Mum.”
I was silent, unable to think of anything comforting to tell him.
“I’ve got to tell the council,” he mumbled against my shirt.
After a few moments he pulled back slightly, and reached up to brush my damp hair away from my face. I looked in his eyes and couldn’t read the emotions there. Cal’s emotions had always seemed so transparent: desire, admiration, lighthearted flirtation. Hunter was still mostly unreadable to me.
Then I thought, To hell with it, and before either of us realized it, I bent down, put my hands on his shoulders, and pressed my lips against his, keeping my eyes open. I saw the flash of surprise, the sudden ignition of desire, and then his eyes drifted closed and he pulled me backward with him to the floor. I was on top of him, his chest against mine, our legs tangled together.
I don’t know how long we lay against the hard floor, the unforgiving jute rug, kissing again and again, but finally I heard a furtive tap on my door and Mary K.’s quiet voice: “Mom just pulled up.”
Flushed, breathing hard, I trotted downstairs and helped Mom unload groceries from her car, and ten minutes later when I went back to my room, Hunter was gone, and I had no idea how he had managed to leave without any of us noticing.
Circle of Three
November 8, 1973
Clyda fainted again yesterday. I found her at the bottom of
the stairs. This is the third time in two weeks. Neither of us
have mentioned it, but the fact is that she is old. She hasn’t
taken care of herself, she’s worked too much magick with too few limitations, and she’s dabbled too freely with the dark
That’s a mistake I never make. Yes, I’m part of Turneval,
and yes, I call on the dark side. But never without protecting myself. Never without precautions. I don’t drink from that cauldron without making sure it will be refilled.