Home > Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(3)

Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(3)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Chapter 2

The Pellar farmhouse was northeast of Boulder, almost all the way to Longmont. As I sped away from the farm, I rolled down my window for a moment, taking a few gulps of the crisp mountain air, which smelled pleasantly of bonfires and leaf piles. Trick-or-treating had ended hours ago, but as I maneuvered through the suburban area that led to Diagonal Highway, I saw that many of the residents had left out fat bowls of candy for late arrivals. I smiled. Earlier that day I’d had a stream of trick-or-treaters myself, mostly my local cousins and their kids. My cabin east of Boulder is fairly remote, so I gave out king-sized candy bars to make up for the trouble. It had been nice to do something as normal as hand out candy and chat with my family. I’d come to really crave the parts of my life from before I’d found out about the death magic in my blood. Before I’d learned that my niece, the only child of my deceased sister, was a valuable commodity in the Old World, the supernatural community.

As I thought of Charlie, my spirits sank again. My brother-in-law, John, had brought her over tonight too, her wiggly little body encased in a bright yellow bumblebee costume. John had stayed for coffee so I could take pictures and Charlie could play with a couple of my rescue dogs. She was just so adorable, like any human toddler. You’d never guess from looking at her that Charlie is a null, a human being who cancels out all kinds of magic: witch spells, vampirism, even werewolf magic. If you put the most powerful vampire in the world close enough to harmless little Charlie, he or she would become human again, complete with human vulnerabilities and strengths.

Nulls are very useful, very dangerous, and very rare in the Old World. Discovering nulls when they’re young and emotionally pliable is rarer still. Charlie had already survived two kidnapping attempts, and I was determined that there wouldn’t be a third. It was why I’d made the deal with the cardinal vampire of Colorado to keep her protected. In exchange, I had to do whatever she wanted short of killing people, an arrangement that only made the witches of Boulder hate me more.

I realized that my thoughts were just tangling into knots again, so I tried pushing them away, looking for something else to focus on. The radio station in my car was playing “Thriller” in honor of Halloween, and I tapped my fingers on the wheel, feeling restless. For some reason I didn’t feel like being alone, which was unlike me. I sort of wanted to go downtown to see Quinn, my . . . friend? Coworker? The vampire for whom I had a thing? There really wasn’t an easy label for him, but of everyone I’d met so far in the Old World, he knew me best, and although we both worked for Maven, he didn’t seem to want anything from me, or worry that I might accidentally kill him.

Then again, things were awkward with Quinn. We had kissed less than two weeks ago. Then I’d left for Los Angeles to look for new information about my sister’s death, and when I returned I’d been upset, not wanting to talk about it. I had been . . . well, not avoiding Quinn, exactly, but I wasn’t going out of my way to resume our slow momentum toward each other.

It’s Halloween. He’s probably busy anyway, I told myself, trying not to feel like a coward. The vampires hung out at Magic Beans, a coffee shop in the heart of the touristy Pearl Street district. That area was also where the CU students went to drink, and if the past hundred years were any indication, they would be getting rather rowdy on Halloween night. I’d come to realize that rowdy college kids equaled a free buffet for vampires. They could always press their victims to forget being an involuntary blood donor, but it was probably easier to do when the victim in question was drunk and prone to blackouts.

There were lots of cars on the road now, adults on their way to and from their own Halloween celebrations. Time to make a choice. I had already passed the exit that led to the cabin. Now I could either turn around and go home or fight traffic to awkwardly face my crush.

I didn’t really love either option, so I was clamoring for an alternative as I passed the thick hedge that had been planted around Mountain View Memorial Cemetery, ostensibly to protect mourners from the busy highway noise. I glanced over just in time to see a break in the shrubbery, giving me a perfect view into the cemetery . . . which was full of people. They stood in front of the graves, staring down at the in-ground markers. Absolutely, inhumanly still.

That in itself seemed unusual at ten p.m., but it was Halloween. I could dismiss the gathering as part of some organized college prank or protest . . . except for the fact that each and every one of them was emitting an eerie, continuous glow.

Adrenaline surged through me and I wrenched the wheel sideways across the median, spraying cedar chips and bits of shrubbery in my wake. I barely heard the honks and shouts behind me as I stomped on the brake and pulled into one of the entrance turnoffs. Breathing hard, I put the car in park and checked my rearview mirror for cops.

That was so stupid, I berated myself. Why hadn’t I just pulled off at the next exit and circled back? I could get arrested for that little stunt, and what the hell did I care if . . .

Then I got a good look at the figures glowing against the darkness, and my thoughts seemed to drift away like an untethered helium balloon. They weren’t at every grave—or even every fourth grave—but there were still hundreds of them, maybe more. If they had heard my tires squeal or the other cars honking when I crossed the median, they weren’t showing it now. They were just standing there, each one staring down at a headstone.

It wasn’t cold in the car, but there were chills crawling up my back underneath my heavy sweater. Despite everything I’d seen in the last two months, it still took me a long moment to realize that I was looking at ghosts. Actual ghosts. That word didn’t seem to fit them, though. It was too silly, too whimsical. “Ghost” was a construction-paper decoration or an amoeba-like cartoon character. But what I was looking at now was connected to the human souls or spirits that I could see with my magic.

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