Home > Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(5)

Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(5)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I shook my head. “Never mind. What just happened? What were those . . .” I took a breath. “They were ghosts, right? Um, remnants?”

“Not exactly. Ordinary remnants are like short recordings of a death event. Common enough, and they fade away by themselves eventually. These were . . .” Maven twisted one hand in the air, a human gesture for when you can’t find a word. “Gjenganger,” she said at last. “Restless, unhappy spirits whose deaths were violent enough to leave a psychic impact. I turned them away, but we should still leave. Take me to the coffee shop.” I nodded and started the car, pulling us back onto the highway.

I wanted more information, but when I glanced at Maven, I saw that she was frowning slightly. Unlike most vampires I’d met, Maven actually did a pretty good job of remembering to practice human mannerisms—she used contractions, laughed, and I’d even seen her flirt with customers at the coffee shop she manages. But she often dropped it when there were no humans nearby. The worried expression suggested she was too distracted to drop her own act.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

There was a heavy silence, in which I could practically feel her trying to decide whether to trust me with information. I can never just get a goddamned straight answer from vampires. They have to think eight moves ahead to make sure telling me something won’t hurt them down the road.

“They should not have been so vibrant,” she said at last. “Gjenganger appear every Samhain, but I have never seen them in such detail.”

I felt goose bumps prickle my arms under my jacket. Maven was a gajillion years old, so anytime she said she’d never seen or done something, it was significant. “For a moment, I wasn’t sure I could turn them away,” she admitted, and that scared me even more.

I wondered if I should tell her about the strange vibe I’d felt at the witches’ Samhain celebration. Could the two things be related? It seemed possible, but it also didn’t feel right to expose a potential weakness in the witch clan to the cardinal vampire, even if the two groups were technically allied. When push came to shove, I’d sworn my loyalty to Maven, but that didn’t mean push was all the way to shove right now. It’s probably just Samhain throwing everyone off, like Hazel said, I told myself.

“Why would angry ghosts listen to you at all?” I asked.

“They recognize me,” she said simply. “I am death.”

Her tone was so matter-of-fact, especially from her girlish, teenage-looking mouth, that her words sent chills across my shoulder blades. Then she added, “They recognize you too, boundary witch. You should not be in a graveyard on Samhain.”

I blinked. I’d looked up Samhain on Wikipedia. It was a pagan celebration for the end of the harvest season, loosely connected to the modern Halloween. It didn’t seem like it had anything to do with boundary magic. “Why not?”

She gave me a confused look again, as if she thought I was putting her on. “Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, the gjenganger are tethered,” she explained. “But on Samhain, the barrier between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. That’s why they must return to their . . .” she gestured toward the ground, reminding me of the figures’ downcast eyes. “Their remains.”

“Oh.”

Maven gave me a curious look. “I’ve never known a boundary witch with so little understanding of death. Didn’t Hazel Pellar tell you any of this?”

I shook my head. “She doesn’t . . . well, she says she doesn’t know anything about boundary magic.” Then the implications of Maven’s statement sunk in. “Wait, you know other boundary witches?” I said eagerly, peering over at her impassive face. I still knew so little about what I could do. “Living ones? Where are they? Can I meet them?”

She sighed. “No, not living. Look, we’re getting off track. I’m here to speak to you about a job.”

I had about thirty follow-up questions, but I tried to focus. I hadn’t been working for Maven long, and so far she’d required very little of me: I’d really just run a few daytime errands, things Maven and her vampires couldn’t do after business hours. But the way she’d said “job” just now was not the way you talked about picking up dry cleaning or running to the bank—and she’d come to see me herself, which had never happened before. “You didn’t just run into me at the cemetery, then.”

“No. When you didn’t answer my call, I tracked your phone.”

Oh. Right. I’d agreed to let Maven keep tabs on me when I’d sworn my oath of loyalty. “What’s the job?” I asked.

“Two of my people have gone missing,” she replied. “I want you and Quinn to investigate. He’s getting supplies together now.” Her voice was calm, almost dismissive, as though we were discussing her misplaced keys instead of two of her vampires.

“What kind of supplies?” I asked, wary. Weapons? Was she expecting a fight?

She turned her head to study me, and I tried not to squirm. “Quinn explained that there are no werewolves in the state of Colorado, yes? And why?”

I blinked at the abrupt change in topic. “Um, yes. He said that a crazy alpha werewolf started a war here years ago, and you and Itachi destroyed him and scattered the pack.”

She nodded. “My covenant with the witches is to keep the werewolves out of Colorado for twenty years. In return, they must serve my interests, should I call upon them.”

   
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