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‘What?’

‘You’re raising the dead, Trevor. You’re responsible for at least one death.’

Bellows bolted to his feet. ‘I bloody well am not! Okay, I blackmailed Belinda. Okay, I might have seduced some of the crew members. But I have never tried to raise a corpse!’

Winter’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Seduced? Is that what you’re calling sexual assault?’

Bellows began to bluster and babble. Winter would have stayed to listen but frankly he’d had more than enough. Trevor Bellows was a bastard and he deserved to be locked up for a very long time but Winter knew that when he’d denied the necromancy, he’d been telling the truth. Bellows’ alarm was genuine.

Winter wasn’t surprised. Regardless of what Ivy had suggested, the sleazy supposed witch simply didn’t have the magic to pull off those kinds of spells. He stood up and walked out while Bellows continued to talk. Plonker, as Ivy would say.

Out in the corridor, a familiar floppy-haired witch pushed himself off the wall and bounded forward. ‘Adeptus Exemptus Winter! How’s the interrogation going?’

Winter glared at Tarquin Villeneuve. ‘Fine.’ He pushed past him. Dawn wasn’t far off and he could do with a few hours’ sleep before he went to check on Ivy. The last thing he needed was this idiot getting in his way.

‘Wait! There’s something I have to tell you!’

Winter rolled his eyes and halted, reluctantly turning round. ‘What?’

‘I made that vial. The one Belinda Battenapple had round her neck.’

‘I know. So what?’

Villeneuve was nonplussed. ‘Well, my talent is obvious. I think I would be an excellent candidate for Arcane Branch. In fact, I have a few ideas for questions you should ask Mr Bellows.’

‘Good for you. But Arcane Branch is full. I suggest you put your … talents to use elsewhere.’

Villeneuve thrust out an arm to stop him from moving away. Winter stared at it in astonishment. ‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?’

‘You need to listen to me, Adeptus. I don’t know what Ivy has said about me but I can assure you that I have nothing but integrity and…’

Winter sighed. ‘Shut up.’

Villeneuve gave him a knowing wink. ‘You like her, don’t you?’

Winter growled, ‘What are you wittering on about?’

‘Ivy.’ Villeneuve smiled, flashing white, even teeth. ‘I can understand it. She does have a certain allure, doesn’t she? And I can tell you from personal experience that blondes definitely do have more fun.’

Winter bunched up his fists. Unfortunately, Villeneuve wasn’t done and clapped him on the back as if they were the best of friends.

‘I’m prepared to step out of your way and let you have her. It’s the least I can do for an Adeptus Exemptus like yourself. Of course,’ he added, ‘I wouldn’t expect anything in return. You wouldn’t have to put in a good word for me at Arcane Branch. Not that it wouldn’t be welcome but I believe in hard work and earning the position I deserve.’

Any second now, Villeneuve would receive exactly the position he deserved. ‘You will step out of the way,’ Winter demanded in a tone that would have sent almost anyone else – Ivy included – running for cover.

‘Sure. Anyone with half a brain can see how much you like her. It’s the way your eyes follow her when you think she’s not looking.’ Villeneuve’s smile changed to a smirk, as if suggesting that something lascivious went through Winter’s mind every time Ivy appeared.

‘Maybe,’ Winter said through his rising anger, ‘Ivy would like to decide for herself. Maybe I don’t need you to step out of the way and neither does she.’

‘Whoa, chillax, Adeptus! It was just a suggestion.’

Chillax? Was that even a word? Winter had never been prone to violence but he was itching to wipe the smile off Villeneuve’s face. He took a deep breath, counted to three, then turned and started to walk away again.

‘Did you ask Trevor Bellows about the spells he’s been practising in between filming?’ Villeneuve called.

Goddamnit. Winter stopped. This time he didn’t waste his time turning. ‘What spells?’

‘You should ask him. All I know is that he’s been punching above his weight and trying things he should know better than to attempt. He’s still in the interrogation room. The police won’t mind if you speak to him again.’

Something was going on here – and Winter didn’t think it had anything to do with Trevor Bellows. He decided he’d shake the truth out of Ivy’s stupid ex-boyfriend and damn the consequences.

‘Meow.’

He glanced over. Brutus had appeared in an open window to the left and was peering at Winter with an uncharacteristic wide-eyed stare.

Abandoning Villeneuve, Winter strode over. ‘What is it? Is it Ivy? Is she alright?’

Villeneuve chuckled. ‘You’re not expecting the cat to answer, are you?’

‘Man,’ Brutus said. ‘Go.’

‘Go where? The hotel?’ Terror coursed through Winter’s veins.

Villeneuve stared. ‘Did you throw your voice, Adeptus?’

Brutus gave him a withering look and returned his attention to Winter. ‘Ivy is positioning herself in severe and immediate jeopardy. She has departed the hotel in order to locate some local human named Gareth and is under the impression that she will not return from this encounter. One might suggest that you leave this place post haste and go to her aid.’

Shit, shit, shit. ‘Where exactly did she go, Brutus?’

‘A farm. I believe the name is McAllan? If she does not discover her quarry there, she believes he will be at the cemetery. She departed over an hour ago. You must hurry.’

Brutus was still talking when Winter sprinted for the door. Villeneuve started to shout, ‘Wait! You can’t go! Ivy doesn’t want you to!’ There was a pause. ‘Ouch! You’ve pierced through my damn flesh! You bloody cat, what did you do that for?’

Winter burst outside just as his phone started to ring. Thinking it might be Ivy, he answered it.

‘This is Iqbal,’ Ivy’s friend burst out in a rush. ‘Something’s wrong. We keep trying to get hold of Ivy. She left a message asking about someone named Gareth. His counsellor is a friend of my ex and … never mind. She called me because Ivy’s not picking up. She said that Gareth’s a good guy but she’s worried about his family. There’s a brother. Stepbrother or adopted brother or something like that. I don’t know. Adeptus, you have to get to Ivy now. I think something’s happening. I think…’

‘I’m on my way,’ Winter ground out. ‘I’m on my way now.’ He ran even faster.

***

Every time he reached a red light, Winter flicked a rune out towards it and changed it to green. He’d never normally condone such behaviour even in an emergency but this was different. Ivy was different. When he got hold of her, he’d throttle her. Then he’d hug her and kiss her. After that he might tie her up to ensure she never did anything like this again.

He told himself that the reason his hands were shaking was because of the adrenaline. If he recognised his fear for her he’d be a mess – and incapable of doing anything to help her. But Brutus had genuinely been worried. Winter drew in a ragged breath.

Locating the farm, and ignoring the dirt that flew up around the bike’s wheels, he forced it up the narrow lane to the farmhouse at speed. He reminded himself that panic never helped anyone then he leapt from the seat without bothering to turn off the engine and hammered on the door. ‘Open up!’

When the door didn’t open immediately, Winter raised one leg and kicked it. There was a crash of splintering wood and he stalked inside. ‘Ivy! Where the hell are you? Ivy!’

From out of nowhere a woman appeared and Winter’s body tensed.

She brandished a shotgun in his direction. ‘Get out of my house.’ She raised the muzzle.

Winter’s hand snapped forward and he yanked the weapon out of her grasp. ‘Where is she?’ he demanded. ‘Where is Ivy Wilde?’

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