Page 7

‘You’ll let me know if you start feeling ill.’ There was the faintest hint of command in his voice.

My smile grew and I snapped off a salute. ‘Yessir!’

‘I’m being serious, Ivy. The last thing you need is a relapse. It’s already been a long day for you.’

I leaned across and planted a kiss on his lips. ‘If I feel anything other than perfect, I promise I will tell you,’ I said.

‘And if this gets dangerous…’

‘I’m here to talk to an insubstantial being who could still be a figment of my imagination. I don’t think I’m likely to get hurt.’ I raised my eyebrows. ‘In fact, you’re the one we should be worrying about. We’re breaking into the Order. You’ve not been back here since you signed your release papers. This place was your life, Rafe, and now we’re sneaking into it like criminals. That’s gotta sting.’

‘It’s not a problem.’

Somehow I doubted that but I let it go for now. Dynamic Magic Configuration Consultant jobs aside, I still reckoned it was in Winter’s best interests to rejoin the Order. But that was a decision he had to come to on his own and it was really nice having him along with me for backup. More than nice.

‘If I forget to say it later,’ I told him, ‘thank you for watching my back.’

His features finally relaxed into a smile. ‘Always.’

We gazed at each other like two lovesick plonkers – hell, we were two lovesick plonkers – then I nodded and got out of the car. It was already five to midnight. We had to vamoose.

I might have been able to gain access in the middle of the day with Philip Maidmont by my side but getting in with an ex-Adeptus Exemptus in the middle of the night was entirely different. I snickered softly. ‘Ex-Adeptus Exemptus. Try saying that quickly three times in a row.’

Winter rolled his eyes. ‘Come on. There are a few lights on towards the back so the main doors will be open.’

If lights were on, that meant people were still working. I shuddered. Winter smirked, as if reading my thoughts, then he took my elbow and steered me up the steps and inside the building.

There weren’t as many security witches on guard as there were during the day – which made no sense to me whatsoever – but two of them were still sitting out front and eyeing our approach. Winter hooked his arm through my elbow and we strolled up to them.

‘Adeptus Exemptus…’ the first one began.

Winter held up his hand. ‘Not any longer. As I’m sure you know.’

His buddy was bolder. ‘And I’m sure you know, sir, that we cannot allow you to enter unless you have an appointment.’ He made a show of checking his watch. ‘I think visiting hours are over.’

‘Of course, of course,’ Winter murmured. He showed them an envelope. ‘I wanted to leave this for the Ipsissimus. I promised him I’d bring it over.’

The witch’s lip curled. ‘And you thought you’d drop it off now?’ His implication was obvious – Winter was too scared to come by at a sane hour. He wanted to make sure he avoided bumping into any former colleagues. What the witch didn’t realise was that Winter didn’t suffer from any ego issues.

‘I did.’ Winter shrugged and stepped back. ‘One more thing,’ he said, reaching into his pocket.

The witch smirked. ‘Yes?’

Winter pulled out a handful of herbs he’d prepared earlier and blew them gently towards the pair of guards. They blinked rapidly several times before their eyes rolled into the back of their heads and they keeled over. I caught the nice quiet one; Winter grabbed Mr Nasty.

‘You should have let him fall,’ I said.

‘He’s only doing his job.’

‘He didn’t have to be a prick about it.’

Winter took my hand. ‘Are you angry on my behalf?’

I groaned. ‘I guess so. You realise we’re turning into the worst kind of couple, right? Making moony eyes at each other and bristling at every perceived slight? It’s a slippery slope. Next thing you know we’ll be wearing matching T-shirts and getting Winter Luvs Wilde stickers for the car.’

He chuckled. ‘I think we’re probably safe for now. I don’t own many T-shirts.’ He had a point. Even when he stayed at home as part of the ranks of the hopelessly unemployed, he wore a perfectly starched shirt.

I grinned and tugged his hand. ‘Come on. Grenville’s portrait is up this way.’

‘What?’ he asked in a mocking voice. ‘Not up a flight of stairs?’

‘Ha, ha.’ I rolled my eyes. ‘Let’s go.’

We ambled up together, pausing when we reached the picture. ‘Intimidating bugger,’ Winter remarked.

‘Careful what you say,’ I said. ‘He’s kind of vain.’

‘Vain?’ Grenville screeched into my ear. ‘Vain?’

I winced. ‘Sorry.’

Winter gave me a questioning glance. I nodded briefly and turned to face the ghost. ‘Hey, chum,’ I said cheerily.

Grenville glared. ‘Who is this man?’

‘A highly talented witch who wanted to meet you for himself.’ I smiled.

The ghost snorted. ‘He’s not that talented then, is he? Only you are capable of that.’ He looked me up and down. ‘More’s the pity.’

I was starting to get a teeny bit fed up of all these dead people deriding me. ‘Look,’ I said, turning off my friendly expression. ‘You’re the one who wanted to meet here. I would rather be sleeping. If you prefer that we leave, that can easily be arranged.’ I didn’t mention that I needed him to tell me if I was turning into an evil necromancer. I’d save that part for when I knew I truly had the ghost in the palm of my hand. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spiritual mastermind but I reckoned I was getting close.

Grenville sniffed loudly. ‘As the highest ranking spiritual entity on this plane, I have been nominated to make contact with you and lay out our demands.’

I blinked. ‘Demands?’ I felt Winter stiffen beside me and put a reassuring hand on his arm but I still stared at Grenville as if he were nuts.

‘Indeed.’ Grenville rose up so that he towered over me. If he thought that was supposed to be intimidating then he hadn’t had to drive hen parties home at three o’clock in the morning. ‘What is your name?’

‘Ivy.’

‘Ha! Figures.’

I narrowed my eyes. ‘Why?’

‘It’s a ground-creeping plant which insinuates itself everywhere and is next to impossible to kill.’

Hmm. I quite liked that analogy. I flashed Grenville a smile. ‘Cool.’

‘Whatever. Listen very carefully, Ivy.’ He bared his teeth. ‘I do not wish to repeat myself. First of all, we want a halt put on all future curses. It’s getting crowded enough here as it is.’

‘What?’

‘You are not the brightest witch, are you?’ He sighed. ‘Why do you think so many of us spirits are still here?’

That one was easy. ‘Unfinished business. You need to find the person who killed you, or to look after your family members before you can pass into the light.’

‘Pah! I died over two hundred years ago. Do you really think that’s an issue? We don’t hang around here because we want to, we are here because we are forced to stay. Do you know how common it is for someone to say “rot in hell”? Do you know what happens as a result? All it takes is for the curser to have the faintest smidgen of magic for eternal disaster to ensue.’

‘But you’re not in hell,’ I pointed out. ‘You’re in limbo.’

He tutted. ‘Hell by another name.’ He shook his head in disbelief at being faced with such an imbecile. ‘Words have power. You’re a witch. You should realise that.’

‘So any flippant comment can consign someone to eternal damnation?’ To say I was dubious about that was putting it mildly.

Grenville sighed. ‘What are the marriage vows? To love, honour and obey—’

Whoa. ‘None of that obeying crap. We’re not living in the nineteenth century. Not any more.’

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***