Home > Boundary Born (Boundary Magic #3)(15)

Boundary Born (Boundary Magic #3)(15)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Then I remembered how everyone said Hitler was a dog person. “Um, would you like something to drink?” I said, because the internal voice of my mother would have been scandalized if I didn’t. “Coffee, water? Or I think I have soda . . .”

I trailed off, but Emil shook his head. “I’m fine,” he assured me. “I had coffee on the flight.” Once Emil’s eyes were off the animals and on me, they roved over my face like he couldn’t stop himself. Like he’d finally found the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow.

I had a sudden, juvenile urge to throw off that blissful expression. “Tell me about my . . . my mother,” I said, wincing at the word. It felt too much like a betrayal of my real mom, who had raised me and loved me and worried about me every day. But at the same time, what else could I call the woman whose uterus Sam and I had once shared?

Emil’s face shut down a little. “Her name was Valerya,” he said, as though he had practiced the words in front of a mirror. “We met in Russia, when I was there on a student visa.”

His hands moved up suddenly—I had to make an effort not to flinch—but he was just fumbling at his pockets. He pulled out a photograph and reached across the coffee table to hand it to me. “That was us.”

I took it with an automatic reverence. I’d seen all the paperwork on our adoption, and a newspaper article from shortly after we were born, but there were never any photos. The picture that Emil handed over showed a trim, youthful Emil with his arm around a young woman. She looked maybe twenty or twenty-one, and for a second I honestly thought Emil had Photoshopped in my sister. Valerya looked that much like Sam, or rather, Sam looked that much like Valerya. Only two things were different from my sister: the eyes—Valerya had brown eyes, unlike the blue that Sam had shared with me and, apparently, Emil. Valerya’s hair was different, too. Despite the faded picture, I could see that instead of Sam’s dark chestnut, our mother’s hair had been reddish-brown. Just like mine.

I felt my eyes prick with sudden, unwelcome tears, and I had to blink hard to keep them back. In the shot, the two of them were wearing simple, relatively timeless clothes that looked homemade. They stood in front of a barn—the faded photo had turned it more rust than red—that could have been anywhere. Anywhere with bright sunshine. “Where was this taken?” I asked.

“Australia. We were visiting my brother at his farm.”

Valerya was smiling for the camera, but her expression was pained and uncomfortable, like she wanted the photographer to put the camera down and let her escape. Maybe she just didn’t like having her picture taken. I felt a sudden rush of protectiveness for this woman, ten years younger than I was now.

“Why weren’t you with her?” I demanded, finally looking at Emil. My voice had come out harder than intended. “When we were born,” I added, trying to soften my tone.

His face clouded over. “We had a fight when she was eight months pregnant. It was my fault,” he added immediately. “I wanted her to give up boundary magic until the baby was born. I had no real reason, other than it unnerved me for her to be playing with life and death when she was growing new life inside her.” He motioned to his own stomach.

So Valerya had been a boundary witch, like me. And this man knew at least a little about the Old World. I didn’t think he was a boundary witch himself—we age slowly, our cells reluctant to die. Unless he was really old . . .

“The argument got heated,” he continued. “We were both yelling, but then I . . . I grabbed her by the shoulders, shook her. She ran from me.” Regret had drawn new lines around his mouth, and he dropped his eyes, looking ashamed. “I thought she would stay with friends for a night, maybe two, and we would make up. But I never saw her again.”

I handed the photo back, but he waved me away. “You keep it,” he said. “You should have a photo of her.”

I set it on the coffee table carefully, placing a hardcover book over the photo to protect it from turning into a dog toy. Chip and Cody had wandered off as soon as Emil stopped petting them, but Gus-Gus made himself comfortable in the man’s lap. I watched him pet the cat for a moment, trying to formulate my next question.

“You’re talking about her in the past tense,” I said finally. “So you know she’s dead?”

He nodded, his face grave. “When more than a week went by, I took some hairs from Valerya’s pillow and brought them to a trades witch I know. He did a locating spell, but she wasn’t anywhere. That only happens when the person has . . . passed on.

“I went to two more witches, but each had the same result. I had nothing with which to locate you—no hair, no fingernails—but I did try finding you my own way.”

“What does that mean?”

He leaned sideways so he could reach into his hip pocket, pulling out a small piece of glossy stone, perfectly round and perfectly black.

“This is a scrying mirror,” he explained. “I have boundary witchblood, like your mother, but like most males I can’t activate it. But I can use natural magics. That’s how I eventually found you, by scrying.”

Natural magic. Simon had mentioned this once or twice, but he usually called it gravitational magic, because it pools in certain places. It’s the same magic that keeps vampires from entering someone’s home without permission, although that was about all I knew about it.

I suddenly felt like an idiot. I’d been so caught up in meeting Emil that I hadn’t stopped to wonder how he’d found me. Careless. “What do you mean? Why would it work now and not then?”

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