Home > Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(2)

Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(2)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“It’s been happening for days, on and off,” Hazel said briskly. “I’m sure it’s just the sabbat on everyone’s mind. Napkins, please.”

Lily hesitated, looking like she wanted to argue, but after a moment she just shrugged, shot me an apologetic look, and hurried toward the living room with the napkins in hand.

Hazel turned to face me, and I tried not to squirm. I did not like having Hazel Pellar’s full attention. “How has it been going?” she asked, her voice brisk and businesslike. Just to make sure I knew this wasn’t actual small talk. “Is your niece okay? The tattoos are working?”

I nodded, automatically reaching down to rub my forearm under my sweater. “The tattoos are working. Lily’s going to start teaching me about channeling, now that Simon’s doing a little better,” I said. “And Charlie is fine. My brother-in-law had her checked out just to be safe, but the doctor said her health is perfect.”

Hazel nodded and turned to face the room. The witches nearest us were talking in low, frightened tones, their arms wrapped around themselves.

“What’s really going on with them?” I said quietly. “It’s not just the holiday, or me being here, is it?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Hazel admitted. “Word has spread that you’re working for the vampires now”—her voice hardened with distaste—“and no one’s happy about it. But they were like this before you arrived tonight.” I opened my mouth, but she added tiredly, “I don’t know what it is, Lex. I really don’t.”

Whoa—Hazel Pellar was admitting she didn’t know what was happening? I actually considered teasing her for a second, but Hazel looked genuinely troubled, and it occurred to me how much our positions differed: I was still stumbling through all this magic stuff, which meant I was allowed to make mistakes. The other witches may have disliked me, but none of them expected me to know anything. Hazel, on the other hand, was supposed to have all the answers. It must have felt pretty awful for her to suddenly have no idea what was going on. “Do you feel different?” I asked.

The older witch frowned, and I could see her eyes lose focus as she considered the question. “That’s the interesting part,” she said. “It’s almost . . . power-based.”

“Power-based,” I echoed, just to keep her talking.

“Think of witches as batteries for a moment, with varying degrees of power left in them,” she lectured, and for a moment she sounded exactly like her son, the professor. “In our clan, I would be at the high end, and someone like Tracy”—she nodded toward a petite Asian woman in the corner, Simon’s long-term girlfriend—“would be at the low end. But look at her.”

Tracy was huddled with her arms wrapped around herself, rocking back and forth on her heels just a bit. She was trying to listen to the woman in front of her, but her eyes kept jerking around like she was being hunted. “That could be anything,” I pointed out. “A bad day at work, an argument with family. Maybe she has a cold.”

“True. But you yourself noticed how many people seem affected. Something just seems a bit unsettled, that’s all.” She shrugged, then seemed to remember who she was talking to. “Wait, are you feeling different?” Hazel demanded. My powers could be dangerous, and she was already more or less convinced that I was going to go off the deep end at any moment.

In her defense, she had already seen me do it once.

So I thought about her question carefully, using the techniques Simon had taught me in my training to examine my own feelings and mood. I was definitely uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it had anything to do with magic, just being at this party. It was unusual for me to be in a room with this many people who weren’t my own family, and like many veterans, crowds made me nervous. Especially borderline-hostile crowds of judgmental witches.

It didn’t seem like a great idea to say any of that to Hazel, though. “Nah,” I said finally. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Lily seemed okay too.”

“And Lily’s more powerful than most of them,” she muttered, but I didn’t think she was talking to me. I had been the one to point out the weird mood in the air, but now I found myself not wanting to discuss it. I just wanted to get out of there.

Hazel saw my discomfort and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Lex, I appreciate you coming here tonight, that you’re trying,” she said, without looking at me. “But we’re about to start our sabbat rituals, and they’re agitated enough without adding a—” her voice faltered for a moment, and I could almost see her effort to avoid the term “boundary witch,” “—new person,” she finished instead. “It’s up to you, but it might be best if you ducked out before we begin the ceremony.”

I set my wineglass down on the nearest hard surface. Didn’t have to tell me twice.

To my surprise, Hazel abruptly stepped forward and enveloped me in a warm hug. “It was great that you could join us,” she said brightly, which is when I realized we were putting on a show. “Take care, now.” I hugged her back, forcing myself to smile.

I reminded myself that I should be grateful to Hazel for making an effort to assimilate me into her clan at all. Boundary witches had a reputation for being truly evil, an aberration. Judging by the looks we were getting, there were plenty of members who’d just as soon have me burned at a stake, like so many of my ancestors. But while I didn’t entirely blame them, I didn’t have to stand there and take it, either. As soon as Hazel stepped away, I practically sprinted for my car.

   
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