Table of Contents
appeared in issue 274.
A knock sounded on my front door ten minutes later. By that time, I had my bathrobe on and was curled on the couch with a blanket over my legs. Jason was standing guard in my bedroom door with the biggest knife I owned. We both jumped, he threw me a look and strode to the door. I let him. Jason let Gino in, backed down the stairs and moved out of the way. Gino said something I couldn’t hear and Jason nodded and shut the door.
I sipped the mug of tea I was holding and fought with the desire to burst into tears. Gino walked over and sat down on the edge of the couch beside me. “You okay?” He’d lost the accent he normally affected and his eyes had a hard look to them I’d never seen before.
“No.” My voice cracked, I coughed and tried again. “No... but I’ll recover.”
He said nothing, his gaze steady on my face. I tried to return it, failed and stared into my tea, my lower lip quivering. He patted me on the arm. “I’ll deal with him. Where’s the charm?”
“In...” I choked, cleared my throat and pointed toward the bedroom. “In there. So are his clothes.”
“I’ll show you.” Gino patted me on the arm again, rose from the couch and followed Jason into my bedroom. I sat on the couch, sipped my tea and let my gaze wander around the room, looking at nothing.
The clock on the wall said it was midnight.
I glanced at the window, and then stared at the clock.
It was midnight. About five minutes past. I furrowed my forehead and tried to make sense of things. I’d gone to bed around nine and read for a while so Darnell had probably cast the spell and broken into my bedroom about ten-thirty. Jason shouldn’t have been home for hours yet, but he was. I stared at the clock some more and decided I didn’t care what had brought him back early.
Jason was standing in my bedroom doorway with the knife wielded as if it were a sword, his feet planted solidly on the ground, watching whatever Gino was doing. I didn’t know what powers Darnell possessed, but right at that moment my money was on Jason winning any fight they might have had. He meant business.
Gino passed in front of the doorway on the other side of the room and disappeared from my line of sight. I set the mug on the end-table and tried to shake Darnell’s eyes from my mind. The feeling of being watched, which had plagued me all day, was gone but his words resonated in my brain and echoed in my ears.
Ghostly fingers danced over my body and I shuddered. I felt contaminated, my emotions branded with his evil and my soul desecrated beyond repair. I pulled my feet up onto the couch, wrapped my arms around my knees and dropped my forehead onto them, tears flowing down my face.
Fear welled up from the hidden places of my being and I silently begged Jason for forgiveness for putting him through the same thing. A weight settled onto the couch beside me a few seconds later and Jason put his arm around my shoulders.
“Don’t worry about it.” His voice was quiet. Almost too quiet. I raised my head and looked into his eyes. He wiped a tear from my cheek and gave me one of his lopsided smiles.
I sniffled and leaned my head on his arm. “I’m sorry.”
Jason shook his head, brushed hair from my eyes and smiled at me. “Nothing to be sorry for.”
“But...” I’d stolen his life. I’d terrorized him. I’d turned him into a thing and treated him with less respect than I gave the stray cats which roamed the neighborhood, binding him to me for the rest of his life with a spell that would ensure his complete obedience if I choose to demand it.
He put a gentle finger over my lips. “Yeah. I know.” He grinned and shook his head, his blond hair glistening in the light of the moon shining through my window. “It’s okay.”
“But...” I was stuck on repeat and couldn’t grasp how he could consider anything okay. He looked into my eyes, bent his head and kissed me.
Fireworks went off, rockets exploded in the sky, golden sunlight filled the world and angels sang. Not really, but my emotions hit a high note and stayed there. I kissed him back, snuggled against him and refused to move. He hugged me, tossed the blanket over both our legs and didn’t try to get back off the couch.
I leaned my head against his chest, listened to his heart beating and allowed my eyes to close; drifting on a happy cloud. The cloud vanished when Gino walked out of my bedroom about thirty minutes later and sat down on the coffee table.
“I’ve sealed your hall door. In case of fire, you only have the front door right now, so remember that.”
“Okay.” My mind woke up and I realized what he was talking about. “Did you get him?”
“No. He’s not in the building or on the grounds. I’ll keep watch for him and catch him as soon as he returns. I’ve strengthened the parameter wards, set up guards and notified the senior wizards. He won’t set so much as a toe on this property without my notice. I’ll ward your front door when I leave. Come see me tomorrow and we’ll discuss what else needs to be done.”
I nodded. Jason pulled me closer and I leaned into him. “We’ll come up some time after lunch. Thank you.”
Gino smiled at me and his eyes twinkled. “Yer welcome. Still want that two-bedroom?”
“Uh...” I blushed and hid my face in Jason’s chest.
Jason chuckled. “Probably not, but we’ll let you know.” He answered for me and I wondered at the hidden meaning behind his words, but decided not to say anything. There was only one reason I could think of that we wouldn’t need a two-bedroom and I wasn’t going to be the one to bring it up. Not that I had any objections any more, but I wanted him to do that.
Gino slapped his knees with the palms of his hands then stood. “Welp, I’ll be goin’.” His accent was back, and he was once more the guy I took lessons from each Saturday, instead of the most powerful wizard in the city. I took a deep breath and let Jason off the couch. He accompanied Gino to the door, said something I couldn’t hear, let him out and relocked the door. I watched him walk back to the couch and scooted over so he could sit down.
“Your bedroom’s safe.”
I looked at the doorway and shuddered. “I don’t care.” All I could see was darkness, but my mind filled it with Darnell’s presence and he leered at me from my memories. “You can go sleep in there if you want. I can’t.”
Jason stood and shut the bedroom door then rejoined me on the couch. “I’m used to sleeping out here.”
I giggled and snuggled against him again. “We’re not both gonna fit.”
“So I’ll sleep on the floor. Maybe.” He stuck a finger in my ribs and I shrieked and tried to squirm away then returned the favor. We spent a breathless five minutes torturing each other then he kissed me, got me my blanket and pillow from my bed and settled down on the floor beside the couch. I stretched out along its length, closed my eyes and drifted away on the ocean of sleep, secure in the knowledge that Gino had everything under control.
I was wrong... badly.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2006 by Crystalwizard