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“What’s going on?” I let him tug me off the couch and then rolled my stiff neck. “How long was I out?”

“Most of the day. Come on, we’re out of time. We have to go.”

“But I thought we had a couple of days.” I staggered next to him, trying to get my aching body to work. I probably should’ve lain down on my bed, or spent time packing, or said goodbye to Veronica, but I hadn’t thought I’d be out that long. His hand was back, steadying me, but the charge from a moment ago was gone.

“We should’ve had a couple days. They should’ve sent minions for at least that long. After the minions couldn’t crack the ward, someone else would’ve come to check it out. That’s when you’d get bumped up on the importance scale. At least, that’s how it used to work. If anything, their organization should’ve become less effective, not more. I’m missing something.”

We hurried into the dining room, where a cloudy crystal ball sat on the table, the white inside of it rolling lazily. My mother was sitting in the seat next to it, leaning over a metal plate filled with water.

“What the hell?” I said, stopping dead.

“Do not swear in this house, Penelope Bristol,” my mother snapped, not looking up from the water-filled plate.

“Don’t swear? Really? That’s a real crystal ball, isn’t it? Because the white part of the twenty-dollar version does not spin and whirl like that.”

“Of course it is a real crystal ball. And if you’d had only Seer abilities, I might not have hidden all of this from you. But since you got the magical talent from your father, here we are. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.”

“You are too old to use that expression, Ma,” I groused.

“I’m not too old for anything.”

“Fine. You’re too uncool.”

She straightened from the plate and looked at Emery. “The problem is something to do with a white stream of magic. I can’t tell much more. It is appearing on a small rectangle.”

“Shit.” Emery crossed his arms and studied the ground between his feet.

“Do not swear in this household, young man,” my mother yelled, moving down a chair to sit in front of the crystal ball.

“Someone must’ve been there the other night.” Emery scratched his head. “They must’ve gotten video. And since you drove through the place”—I got a cockeyed look—“it would’ve been easy for them to get your license plate. So here they are to investigate.”

“Which means they also know you’re in town, Emery,” my mother said, her hands on either side of the crystal ball, her eyes closed.

“You don’t even look at it?” I muttered. “Jeez. You could’ve given me a pointer or two. I probably looked like a dope.”

“Your way sells better,” my mother said, touching the sides of the glass.

“They already knew I was in town,” Emery said darkly. He studied me for a moment. “They’ll send everything they have. They won’t take any chances with you.”

I opened my mouth to ask why, but he was already striding away.

I glanced at my mother, feeling the energy of her magic once again fill the room.

My answers weren’t with her. They would be filtered through Emery. My life was tied with him now. My survival with his.

My premonition from the other day zipped through my mind, and suddenly I knew what everything meant. This was the something that would happen soon and change my life forever. Emery and the guild shoving me onto another course. But the journey had already started in New Orleans, or maybe even before. And no, clearly I couldn’t hide from it or turn away. All I could do now was hold on, and do everything in my power to live long enough to claim my destiny, whatever that might be.

Shivers washed over me. I hadn’t inherited many Seer abilities, maybe, but I sure had ended up with a couple of the most irritating ones.

I rushed after Emery. “Why won’t they take any chances with me?” I asked, climbing the stairs after him.

He got to the top landing and turned left, toward my bedroom. He pushed open the door, and shivers of a different nature coated me.

“What are you doing?” Silence met me as he kept moving. “And why won’t you answer my damn questions?”

“Don’t swear in this household,” he said, and I narrowed my eyes at his teasing tone. He glanced at my bed but passed by. He finally slowed near the window. Magic rose from various places in the room. This time, I recognized the elements, as he’d called them. Some were natural things—my plant in the window, a couple of power stones on the dresser, the dirt from my shoes, something from my hamper (which made me frown and want to throw it out of the room in embarrassment). Others were from treated items, like the dresser or my cotton blanket.

I didn’t recognize the properties like he seemed to, but I did recognize the patterns. The colors. The way they all wrapped around each other, some braiding, others fusing. It was complex and exciting.

“That’s the spell that makes the eye slide by, right?” I asked, chewing on my lip. “Or is it the ward? But why would you do the ward in here? So the eye one is my final answer.”

He shook his head. “What would it have been like to learn all this with your brain? How much easier would it have been?”

“Just one answer would do. Just one.”

“It’s the eye-sliding spell, yes. There’s a name for it, but it’s Latin, and my Latin sucks.”

“You know Latin?”

“A bit. As will you. And you’ll probably learn it at three times the speed I did, with a pronunciation that’s twice as good. That’ll be a fun pill to swallow.” He smeared the spell across the window before leaning in and looking down to the front yard.

“Competitive, huh?” I rushed up next to him, accidentally jamming my shoulder into his.

He bumped over. I bounced off, grabbed the chair to steady myself, and brought it crashing to the ground with me.

“At least I’m not clumsy. I have that going for me,” he said, not glancing over at me sprawled out on the ground. He also didn’t bother helping me up. Somehow, it was less embarrassing that way.

I climbed to my feet and shoved in close, trying not to notice the huge size difference between our arms. I really needed to lay off the TV time.

“Won’t they have seen you put that spell up?” I whispered.

“I’ve only known three naturals. Four, now. Three of those four could see the magic creating a spell with their bare eyes. You are one of those three. As far as I know, no other mages have that ability. Certainly no witches. And you’re the first person I’ve met who can feel the magical intent of a spell. Your parents seem to have created a superhero, then hidden her away from the world. It’s a tragedy and a blessing at the same time, given the organization on your doorstep.”

“Right,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say in response to his babbling.

A woman stood on the sidewalk off to the right, at the corner of our house. She had her hands in a satchel resting on her hip. Two men stood across the street, side by side, each with satchels, similar to what I’d seen in the church in New Orleans. The one on the left, a grizzled older guy with straggly white hair and a lean body, had his arms crossed in front of his chest. The stocky middle-aged man next to him was talking and pointing in turns.

Lewis stood at his window behind them, his scowl apparent even from the distance. He’d blame my mother for all this, I had no doubt.

“If you did the eye-sliding spell, why are they still looking at the house?” I asked, watching the woman take out a couple of green items from her satchel. She set them at her feet.

“They have the address, and your neighbors’ houses are all numbered. Their eyes might try to find somewhere else to go, but their brains won’t be so easily fooled. They’ll know what spell has been used.”

I nodded, because that made perfect sense. The effect probably annoyed Lewis to no end, since one of his favorite pastimes was glaring at our house.

The woman at the corner took out a few more items. “What is she going to do, create a veggie bomb?” I mumbled. “Look at all the stuff she’s piling up.”


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