Blood Trade Page 66


’’It wasn\ working.’’


I closed my mouth. I wasn\ sure what wasn\ working, but these were the first words Evan Trueblood had spoken in my presence in two days and I wasn\ going to get in the way.


’’I thought I had all the math in my head. I can do math around ten other witches, I can see it in the air around a working. I thought I had it. But I messed up.’’


I was staring at his hands now too, not sure where this was going, but it sounded perilously close to an apology.


’’If you hadn\ been there, the fangheads would have gotten totally free of the temporary binding and attacked me, and I\d have been part of the circle. And they would have finished the working. All of the witches would have died. Molly would have killed me.’’


I smiled at that, but Big Evan wasn\ watching me. He turned his hands over and stared at the empty palms. ’’In the past hundred years, the witch population in the Southeast dropped by seventy percent.’’ He turned his head to take me in. I was sitting there in my jeans and sweater, my hands pale from the cold, attempting to keep my face unemotional, nonreactive. ’’Vamps are responsible. We knew it, but we couldn\ prove it. The European council of Mithrans wasn\ interested in anything we said, though we petitioned them for decades at every convocation, or whatever the fangheads call their gathering of the chief bloodsuckers.


’’Because of you,’’ he nearly snarled the word, ’’because of the investigation you did into the Damours, the holder of the blood diamond, Leo Pellissier had to admit there was a problem, had to admit to the kidnappings, the murders, the whole nine yards. He had to report it to the European vamps.’’


Evan shook his head and, frowning sourly, looked out into the day. ’’The Witch Council had been trying to get the MOC involved in the investigation for decades and he wasn\ interested. Not till you got involved and discovered the answer to something that we had been investigating for more than twenty years. And you did it all in a matter of weeks, without getting my children killed.’’


’’Nearly.’’


’’Shut up. I\m not done.’’


I sat back and shut up.


’’You saved my wife. You saved my kids. Admittedly, you put them in danger in the first place, but I know my wife, and she was right in the middle of the trouble anyway. Then you killed one of us who had been caught up in the darkness of demon calling. You saw it and you dealt with it, and I didn\ see it and I did nothing. You saved us all. And I have treated you like shit. And, yeah, I know how you feel about that word, but that\s what I treated you like.’’


Evan laughed again, this one through his nose and almost real. ’’You can talk now.’’


’’Wow. That\s a lot of self-flagellating hooey.’’


’’I am It is not You are so fuc ’’ he paused, fisting his hands ’’dang polite, it\s sometimes hard to remember you carry an arsenal and have a posse to do your bidding.’’ He looked from his fists to me and said, ’’Stop grinning and go ahead. Talk. I\m listening.’’


’’Okay. Thank you.’’


Evan glared at me, and I shrugged. ’’Seriously. Thank you. I love Molly. I love your children. I even love you, though that shocks the heck outta me. And I have missed you all so much. I want back the family we once had, but I know that Molly may never again let me. It makes a huge difference to know that you aren\ sabotaging that in any way.’’


’’I know it wasn\ sensible to have been so angry at you for everything that happened,’’ he said. ’’Evangelina was out of control, so steeped in demon magic and blood magic that the entire Witch Council working together might not have been able to bring her down. You did us all a huge favor taking her on. You put your life on the line.’’


I shuddered, remembering the way her flesh gave to the pointed blade. The feel of her blood, hot and thick, as it erupted over my hand. ’’I would take it back, if I could,’’ I whispered.


Evan sighed. ’’I knew all along that my feelings weren\ logical and that I should just deal and get over it. I knew that. But . . . there\s stuff you don\ know. About me and my history. And it makes it hard to let people in, close to my family.’’


He took a breath that sounded relieved and shaky and determined all at once, which was a lot for most people, but probably not for an air witch like Evan Trueblood. ’’I\ll let you talk to Angelina. And I won\ say anything when Molly is finally ready to call you. She forgives you, by the way. For killing her sister.’’


Joy swept through me at the words. I nodded and wiped away a stray tear that had escaped down my cheek.


’’It\s just hard yet. I think she\ll come around soon and Are you crying?’’


I nodded, miserable. ’’I\m not sure, because I\m not good at this stuff, but I think it\s supposed to be happy tears, though that always sounded stupid to me. Why cry when you\ e happy. You know?’’


Evan said nothing to that, but I could smell his scent change. He was horrified. Which made me laugh and cry at the same time. ’’Okay. We need to talk business,’’ I said.


’’Good. This was a little touchy-feely for me.’’ I could hear the relief in his tone.


’’Three things. One: I\d like for you to listen to Rick\s spell. He nearly turned on the first night of the full moon. He was hurting and worried that he\d get stuck in his cat form. Can you tweak his spells?’’ Evan nodded, and I went on. ’’Two: The vamp in the garage that Soul told you about? It admitted to being present when Bryson Ryder and his family were killed. And though I can\ prove it, I\m betting he was the vamp who talked to Misha, claiming to be Ryder, a primo of a nonexistent vamp clan. He liked playing games with females, and when Misha described the voice, it fit old, elegant, Southern. If so, then he was the one who gave Misha to Lotus, Silandre, and Esther.’’


’’So you killed him,’’ Evan said flatly.


’’No. I turned the thing he\d become over to Big H, carapace, tiny little wings, bug-ugly face, and all.’’


Evan\s beard curled into a smile. ’’Losing that much money musta hurt.’’


I smiled back. ’’The MOC paid me part of my fee even though his head was still attached. And it was worth the loss of the rest to keep you magic-using types happy.


’’And three: I know you and Molly offered to show your healing spells to Misha for Charly. I know you\ e going to work with her as soon as she\s able to travel. But I want you to consider what might happen to your spells if you added a vamp\s blood in.’’


Evan went still as a vamp. For a long time he didn\ seem to breathe. Slowly he turned his head to me. ’’No witch has acquired access to a vampire\s blood in my lifetime. Use of it is nearly mythical.’’ He studied my face for proof that I was jerking his chain. ’’There are spells and workings from hundreds of years ago that show the efficacy of vampire blood in healing witches. How are you gonna get Leo to order a scion to donate?’’


’’Leo owes me one. A boon, sorta.’’


’’A vampire owes you a boon?’’


I was getting pretty good. I had astounded Evan several times today and it wasn\ even lunchtime yet. I quoted, ’’\In recompense of your debt and in honor of your service, you may choose a gift from among mine. Choose wisely.\ Sounds like a boon to me.’’


’’Yeah. That is . . . stellar.’’ Then his face twisted into a frown so dark it looked like a storm was raging inside him. ’’Let the other shoe drop.’’


’’Well, there\s just one problem. Somewhere around here is the spike from Calvary, used to make amulets. It was probably the focus for all the power from the circle of witches, and with it, it\s possible to do transformational magic. And Hieronymus, Master of the City of Natchez, wants it for his very own.’’


Big Evan groaned. ’’It just never ends with you. Does it?’’


EPILOGUE


Bobby stood straight and tall, his red hair brushed and shining in the noonday sun, his new suit sharp and neat. Misha and Charly stood to his sides, dressed to the nines. Misha still looked drained, pale, and wan, but she was alive and writing and working on her book\s deadline. Charly looked better than I had ever seen her, her hair growing back out and her skin pink and healthy. I knew the impression of good health was only skin deep. She still had leukemia, but the combo of vamp blood, Evan Trueblood\s magic, and chemo seemed to be working, at least for now. I stood at a right angle to the three, wearing my full vamp-fighting gear, at Bobby\s request. He wanted me to look like a vamp killer on his special day.


Eli, wearing full-dress military uniform, stepped slowly, formally, to Bobby, his eyes staring straight ahead, his every movement ceremonial. When he reached Bobby, he stopped, put his feet together, and slowly, so slowly, saluted Bobby. My old friend\s blue eyes followed every motion, every movement, full of wonder.


The Ranger slid a box from the crook of his left arm and opened it. Inside was a Purple Heart. I had argued against Eli giving Bobby his own medal, but Eli had laughed and said, ’’I won\ miss it. I\ve got two more.’’ Which was a story for another day. I hoped.


Tears gathered in my eyes as Eli lifted the medal from the box and carefully pinned it over the left side of Bobby\s chest.


Bobby\s eyes swelled with pride. He stood straight and tall, his eyes never leaving Eli\s. The Ranger stepped back and saluted Bobby again. Bobby raised his hand and touched the medal, and then sought me out. ’’I\m a hero too now, Jane.’’


’’Yes, Bobby Bates. You really are. You always have been.’’



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