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Spellbinder (Chapter 10)

Gran told me that the only person who can send a spirit back is the one who called it up," Thea said. "But the problem is that you have to be able to see the spirit, you have to be close to it. Then you can do the sending-back spell."

"Okay," Dani said, nodding. "But-"

"Wait, I'm getting to it." Thea got up and began to pace the few steps between her bed and Blaise's. She spoke slowly at first, then more rapidly. "What I'm thinking is that this can't be the first time this has happened. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, some witch must have called up a spirit and let it get away. And then had to go out and get hold of it again."

"I'm sure that's true. But so what?"

"So if we could find a record of how she did it-how she tracked the spirit down-we might be in business."

Dani was getting excited. "Yeah-and it wouldn't even have to be a case of a summoned spirit. I mean, some spirits just won't go to the other side at all after they've died, right? Maybe there's a record about how one of them got sent across the veil."

"Or a story. Or a poem. Anything that would give us a clue about how to get them to stay in the same room with you while you do the spell." Thea stopped and grinned at Dani. "And if there's one thing Gran has lots of, it's records and stories and poems. There are hundreds of books in the workshop."

Dani jumped up, dark eyes snapping. "I'll call my mom and tell her I'm staying over tonight. Then- we find it."

After Dani called her mother, Thea called Eric to make sure he was okay. Now that she knew there was a demented spirit on the loose she was worried about him.

"You're sure you're all right?" he said. "I mean, I still feel awful about taking you to that place. I wanted-well, I'd like it if we could see each other without something terrible happening."

Thea felt as if someone had squeezed her heart. "Me, too."

"Maybe we could do something tomorrow. If you're up to it."

"That would be good." She didn't dare to keep talking to him with Dani around. It would be too easy for anyone listening to guess her feelings.

The first thing Thea noticed in the workshop was that Blaise had taken her new project with her.

She must be close to finishing it.

"I'll start here," Dani said, standing in front of a large bookcase. "Some of these look really old."

Thea picked another case. There were books of every kind: leather-bound, paper-bound, cloth-bound, suede-bound, unbound. Some were printed, some were handwritten, some were illuminated. Some were in languages Thea didn't know.

The first shelf yielded nothing except an interesting spell titled "how to make an elixir of abhorrence, which works quite as well, or perhaps a little worse than the traditional Elixirs of Loathing or Detestation, and is less delicate and expensive than the Elixir of Odium used by royals and members of the nobility, and will also keep extremely well for a very long time."

Hmm…

Thea put that book aside. She'd looked through another half a shelf when Dani said, "Hey, I found your family tree."

Thea scooted over. "Yeah, that's the one Gran keeps. It doesn't go anywhere near back to Hellewise." She laughed.

"Who's this guy?" Dani put her finger on a name. " 'Hunter Redfern.' I thought the Redferns were that hotshot vampire family."

"Lamia family. I mean, there's a difference, you know. Someone who's made into a vampire can't have kids."

"But what's the lamia guy doing in your family tree?"

"He's the one who did a kinship ceremony with Maeve Harman, back in the sixteen hundreds. She was the leader of the Harmans then. See? And we're all descended from their daughter Roseclear."

"She did it with a vampire? Creepy."

Thea smiled. "She did it to stop their families from fighting-they had a feud going on. And so now all of us modern Harmans have a little vampire blood."

"I'll remember to watch out if you start looking at my throat." Dani traced a finger down the tree. "It looks like you and Blaise are the last of the female Harmans."

"Yeah, we're it. The last Hearth-Women."

"That's a big responsibility."

It was almost exactly what Gran had said. Thea suddenly felt uncomfortable with family trees. "Yeah. Um, I guess we'd better keep reading."

It was several hours later when Dani said quietly, "I've got it."

"What?" Thea went to sit by her. The book on Dani's knees was bound in green with a crescent moon and three stars on the front-a Night World symbol for witches.

"It's a book of humorous stories, but they're supposed to be true. This one is about a guy named Walstan Harman back in seventeen seventy. He died, but he didn't cross over. He just hung around town playing jokes on everybody-appearing at night with his head under his arm and stuff like that. He never stayed in one place long enough for them to catch him, though."

"So how did they track him down?"

Dani flashed a  triumphant smile.  "They didn't. They lured him in.''

Light dawned for Thea. "Of course-I'm so stupid. But how?"

Dani's slender finger swept down the page. "Well, first they waited till Samhain, so the veil between the worlds would be thinnest. Then Nicholas Harman

had this big feast prepared, this huge table piled up with Walstan's favorite food." Dani made a face.

"Which happened to be mince pie made with bear meat and pumpkin, with a cornmeal crust. They have a recipe for it here, too. Gah."

"Never mind that. Did it work?"

"Apparently. They set up the table with the pies in an empty room, then they cast a circle around it.

Old Walstan was attracted to the food-I guess he just couldn't resist taking a look, even if he couldn't eat it. And when he came down to check it out, they

opened the door and nabbed him."

" 'Sent him speedily and conveniently through the narrow path to the airy void,' " Thea read over Dani's shoulder. The story sounded genuine-only someone who'd actually seen a summoning or a sending-back would know those words.

"So now we know how to do it," Dani said. "We wait until Halloween and then we lure her. We just have to find something she likes-"

"Or… something she hates," Thea broke in as an idea struck her. They stared at each other. "Like   what   she   saw   at   the   old   gym,"   Dani

breathed. "Something that reminded her of what they did to her."

"Yes, except…" Thea stopped. Her mind was rating on, but she didn't want to share her thoughts with Dani. Except that the humans might already be doing something oh ? Halloween, something that would attract Suzanne. If the police opened the old gym, the Halloween party would be an incredibly strong lure. All those horror booths…

So if I wanted to draw her somewhere else, I'd need to be doing something even worse, something that would remind her even more of what happened to her. And I'd need bait, somebody she'd want to kill. A human. Somebody who'd work with me, who'd be willing…

Not Eric.

Her thoughts came up short as she realized where they were leading. She found that her hands were icy cold and her heart was pounding slowly.

No. Not Eric, no matter what. Not even to save lives.

She pushed the thought from her mind. Of course there was some other way, and she'd find it. There was time….

"Thea? You still with me?" Dani was watching her.

"I was just trying to figure it all out." Thea forced herself to speak calmly, to focus on Dani. "Urn, listen, there's one good thing I just thought of-we may have a little time. If Suzanne is still watching the old gym, it could work for us. As long as the gym is closed up, people won't go in there, and she won't be able to get anybody."

"I hope so," Dani said. "I mean, I understand why she's upset, but nobody deserves to die the way Kevin did. Not even a human."

Late that night, while Dani was breathing peacefully in Blaise's bed, Thea lay and stared at the faint glow above the window curtains.

It wasn't just visions of Kevin. Her mind kept returning to what Dani and Gran had said about her responsibility.

Even if I send Suzanne back, even if Gran gets well, even if I manage to keep Blaise from killing Eric… where am I?

I'm a renegade witch. And there's no future for Eric and me… unless we run away. But that would mean him leaving his family forever-and us being hunted wherever we went. And me betraying the Hearth-Women and the Night World.

One last thought glimmered before she could force her mind into blankness.

There's no way everybody is going to come out of this happy.

The next morning Thea was late for school. And she had a hard time tracking down Blaise-it wasn't until lunchtime that she and Dani found the Circle Midnight witches in the front courtyard.

"Please let us see it," Selene was saying as Thea and Dani walked up. "Just one peek. Please?"

"I want to do a trial run first," Blaise said, looking very pleased with herself. She took a drink of iced tea, ignoring Thea and Dani.

"How's Gran?" Thea broke in without preamble.

Blaise turned. "Better, no thanks to you. Why didn't you call this morning?"

"I overslept." After terrible nightmares about strangled people.

"We were up late last night," Dani said. "It's not Thea's fault."

"Your grandma's really doing well," Vivienne said kindly. "She just needs to rest for a while-Mom'll probably keep her at our place for a couple of days. Sleep heals, you know."

Thea felt a tiny breath of relief, like a spring breeze. If Gran was getting better she had one less thing to worry about. "Thanks, Viv. Please thank your mom, too."

Blaise raised her eyebrows and made a tiny sound like "Hmf." Then she tapped her chin with one long nail. "A trial run…" she said again, gazing far away.

She was dressed unusually, in a bronze silk jacket with a high collar that was zipped up to her chin. Thea had a sudden sinking feeling.

"What are you trying out?" Dani asked.

Blaise gave them a slow smile. "Hang around and you'll see." She scanned the courtyard and said sweetly, "And there is the perfect mark. Selene, will you go ask him to come here?"

Selene got up and languidly drifted to the boy Blaise had pointed at.

Thea recognized him. He was Luke Price, a guy who drove a sleek red Maserati and looked like a bad-boy Hollywood star. He was fashionably unshaven and unkempt, had electric blue eyes, and

right now looked vaguely surprised to find himself following Selene back to Blaise. "Luke, how's it going?" Blaise said pleasantly. Luke shrugged. "Okay. What do you want?" His electric blue eyes lingered on Blaise, but he was obviously used to playing the tough guy with girls.

Blaise laughed shortly, as if taken off guard by the question. "Nothing I can have," she murmured-and then looked slightly startled at herself. "I want to talk to you," she said smoothly, recovering. "And…" She tilted her head thoughtfully. "Maybe the keys to your car."

Luke laughed out loud. He leaned one hip against the concrete wall by the stairs, two fingers fishing in his T-shirt pocket for a cigarette.

"You're crazy," he said indistinctly.

Dani coughed as smoke drifted toward her. Thea swirled her plastic bottle of Evian water in one hand.

Blaise made a face. "Put that out; it's disgusting," she said.

Luke blew smoke toward her. "If you've got something to say, say it." He was eyeing Blaise's zipped-to-the-neck jacket with disfavor. "Otherwise stop wasting my time."

Blaise smiled.

She touched the zipper at her throat. "You want to guess what's under here?"

Luke's eyes went up and down the silk of the jacket, particularly where Blaise made it curve. "Maybe you'd better show me."

"You want me to show you? You're sure, now?"

Thea looked heavenward, thumb playing with the opening to her Evian bottle.

Luke was scowling, blowing smoke between tight lips. His electric blue eyes were narrow. "I think you're some kind of tease…."

Blaise took the zipper between two fingers and slid it down.

The necklace fit like a collar, lying against the pale skin of her throat and the matte black of her simple blouse. And it was everything Thea had known it would be.

It was delicate, exquisite, magical. Swirls of stars and moons in enchanted patterns. Gems of all kinds tucked into the mysterious curves. Green garnet, imperial topaz, sunstone, cinnabar. Violet sapphire, African emerald, smokestone.

It seemed to move as you looked at it, the lines changing and flowing. Pulling you into the center of its mystery, winding around you like strands of softly burnished hair. Holding you fast…

Thea pulled herself away with a physical jerk. She had to shut her eyes and put up a hand to do it.

And if it does that to me…

Luke was staring. Thea could actually see the change in his face as the necklace worked its spell. Like some Oscar-winning actor transforming from bad boy to vulnerable kid right there on screen. His jaw softened, his tight lips relaxed. The muscles around his eyes shifted and he lost his tense squint. He looked surprised, then defenseless. Open. Those electric blue eyes seemed dazzled, pupils widening. He sucked in a breath as if he couldn't get enough air. Now he looked awed; now hypnotized; now yearning…

Spellbound.

Luke had been transformed. His whole body seemed smaller. His lips were parted. His eyes were huge and full of light. He looked as if at any second he might fall down and start worshiping Blaise.

Blaise sat like a queen, with her midnight hair tumbling around the necklace, her chest moving slightly as she breathed, her eyes as brilliant as jewels.

"Put the disgusting cigarette down," she said.

Luke dropped the cigarette and stamped on it as if it were a spider.

Then he looked back at Blaise. "You… you're beautiful." He reached a hand toward her.

"Wait," Blaise said. Her face assumed a tragic, wistful expression. "First, I'm going to tell you a sad story. I used to have a little dog that I loved, a cocker spaniel, and we would take long walks together around dusk."

Thea gave her cousin a narrow sideways look. She'd never heard such a lie. And what was Blaise talking about dogs for?

"But he was run over by an eighteen-wheel Piggiy Wiggly truck," Blaise murmured. "And ever since, I've been so lonely…. I miss him so much." She fixed her eyes on the boy in front of her. "Luke . .. will you be my little dog?" Luke looked confused.

"You see," Blaise went on, slipping a hand in her pocket, "if I could just have somebody to remind me of him, I'd feel so much better. So if you'd wear this for me…"

She was holding a blue dog collar.

Luke looked even more confused. Redness was creeping up his neck and jaw. His eyes filled.

"For me?" Blaise coaxed, jingling the collar- which was way too big for a spaniel, Thea noticed. "I'd be so grateful."

Luke looked as if he were having a tremendous internal struggle. His breathing was uneven. He swallowed. A muscle in his jaw twitched.

Then, very slowly, he reached for the collar. Blaise held it down low.

Luke's eyes followed the collar. Jerkily, as if his muscles were fighting each other, he knelt down at Blaise's side. He stayed there, stone-faced, as Blaise fastened the dog collar around his neck.

When it was secure, Blaise laughed. She glanced at the other girls, then jingled the metal loop for the dog tag. "Good boy," she said, and patted his head.

Luke's face lit up with an excitement that bordered on ecstasy. He stared into Blaise's eyes.

"I love you," he said huskily, still squatting.

Blaise wrinkled her nose and laughed again. Then she zipped up the bronze jacket.

The change on Luke's face was much quicker this time than his first transformation. For an instant he looked completely blank, then he glanced around as if he'd suddenly woken up in a classroom.

His fingers went to the dog collar. His face contracted in anger and horror and he jumped up.

"What's going on? What am I doing?"

Blaise just gazed at him serenely. Luke tore the collar off and kicked it. Although he was glaring at Blaise, he didn't seem to remember the last few minutes. "You-are you gonna tell me what you want or not?" he snapped, his upper lip trembling. "Because I'm not going to wait all day." Then,  when nobody said anything,  he walked huffily off. His buddies across the courtyard were roaring with laughter.

"Oops," Blaise said. "I forgot about the car keys." She turned to the other girls. "But I'd say it works." "I'd say it's scary," Dani whispered. "I'd say it's incredible," Selene murmured. "I'd say it's unbelievable," Vivienne added. And I'd say it's the Armageddon of accessories, Thea thought. And, incidentally, so much for Selene and Vivienne changing their ways. They may have been shocked at what happened to Randy and Kevin, but it sure didn't last.

"Blaise," she said tightly, "if you walk around school showing that, you are going to cause a riot." "But I'm not going to walk around school showing it," Blaise said. "There's only one guy I'm interested in right now. And this"-she touched her throat- "has his blood in it. If it works like that on other people, I wonder what it will do to him?"

Thea took a few deep breaths to relax her stomach. She had never gone one-on-one with Blaise in a matter of witchcraft. And no one had ever challenged Blaise for a boy.

But she didn't have a choice-and putting this off wouldn't help.

"I suppose you're planning to find some time to ambush him," she said. "Some time when I'm not around."

It worked. Blaise stood, tall and regal in her bronze silk jacket, hands in her pockets, hair like a waterfall behind her. She gave Thea a slow smile.

"I don't need to ambush anybody," she said with dreadful confidence. "In fact… why don't we set up a meeting after school? Just the three of us. You, me, and Eric-a showdown. And may the best witch win."

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