Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(12)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(12)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Now the old lady grinned at me approvingly. “I like you,” she said. “The rest of these white people are scared of me. But you push back.”

I went to the sink and rinsed out my mouth. “The old witch likes me,” I muttered. “Lucky me.”

I turned toward the door, but Blossom stepped in front of it, looking wary. “Why’d you call me that?”

“Old?” I asked, just to be a dick.

She waved a hand. “The other thing.”

I lowered my voice. “Because you’ve got witchblood.” I watched her face for recognition—and got it. “You don’t practice magic, and you haven’t for a very long time. But you activated it, when you were a girl. It’s still inside you.”

The woman’s mouth dropped open. “How do you know that?”

Shit. I’d opened my big mouth to show off, and now I was stuck. This woman already knew I was pregnant; if she found out I was a null too . . .

I took a leap. “Sam told me,” I said at last. “I knew her in LA.”

Blossom’s face slowly relaxed, although she still looked wary. “I didn’t think she knew.” When I didn’t say anything else, she shook her head. “John must have told her.” Suddenly anxious, she met my eyes. “You won’t tell anyone?”

“If you don’t mention that I’m pregnant,” I said sweetly.

That approving grin again. “Deal.” Blossom stepped away from the door, waving me on. “Go get some crackers or something.” I sidled around her and escaped through the door.

What was it with everyone and the damned crackers?

Chapter 10

When I went back into the hallway, I felt a familiar sensation in my radius, sort of like light being bent through a crystal. I turned around just as a line of children stampeded through the room, laughing as they knocked into grown-ups and furniture. “Charlie!” Lex called, a little stern. “Come here, please.”

A small girl near the back peeled off from the group and turned to face us, pushing long, dark hair out of her face. My breath caught. She was probably around four, wearing a green sundress and Chuck Taylor sneakers spattered with paint in primary colors. She gazed up at Lex with bright blue eyes. Except for the darker hair and olive skin, she could have been Lex’s younger clone.

Then the little girl frowned, tilting her head sideways as her eyes took in the rest of us. “Hi, Auntie,” she said, drawing closer. Her eyes landed on Molly, widening with interest. “Hey, you’re different. Like Uncle Quinn.”

“Charlie, this is Miss Molly,” Lex said. Molly held out a hand for the girl to shake. Charlie took it, looking amused at the adult ritual. “And this is Miss Scarlett,” Lex said, pointing at me.

For the first time, the girl turned all her attention to me. “You’re pretty,” she said.

I blinked. “Thank you. I think you’re very pretty, too.” Wait, that was wrong, wasn’t it? I’d read somewhere that we were supposed to praise little girls for their accomplishments, not their looks. Goddammit, I’d messed this up already.

Charlie was still studying me. I felt incredibly awkward, like everyone in the whole room must be staring at my embarrassing attempts to connect with a child, but really it was only Lex and Molly.

The little girl grabbed my hand and tugged down. Obediently, I knelt on the floor in front of her, Lex hovering anxiously over us. Charlie’s face screwed up with concentration, and she pushed hair away from my face and leaned toward me so she could whisper in my ear. “Why do you feel different?”

“Because I’m like you,” I said quietly. “Those feelings you get around certain people? I get them, too.”

Charlie looked startled and glanced up at her aunt. “My daddy says I’m not supposed to talk about them,” she said, just loud enough for Lex to hear.

“It’s okay, Charlie,” Lex assured her. “It’s safe to trust Miss Scarlett.”

The little girl studied her aunt for a moment, as if she thought Lex might be testing her. Then she shrugged and turned back to me.

“Why do we get them?” she asked.

I glanced up at Lex, who was chewing on her lower lip as she watched us. Until she was older, it wasn’t safe for Charlie to know about the Old World—she wouldn’t understand that she needed to keep it a secret, which could put her friends or family in danger. “Because we’re very special,” I told Charlie. “When you get older, you’ll learn more about what those feelings mean.”

Her face brightened. “’Cause you’ll teach me?”

There was suddenly a lump in my throat. Stupid hormones. Lex started to say something, to make an excuse for me, but I said to Charlie, “It might be me, or it might be your aunt Lex.”

With no further ado, Charlie climbed into my lap, her tanned arms loose around my shoulders. I held very still, like a butterfly had just landed on my arm. Small hands picked up a strand of my hair and began twisting and curling it around her finger. “Auntie Lex feels different too,” Charlie confided, low enough so Lex couldn’t hear.

I nodded. “She’s very strong.”

“’Cause she was a soldier.”

Well . . . close enough. “Right.”

“When I grow up, I might be a soldier, too,” Charlie went on. “But I’m definitely gonna be a paleontologist. And have a lemonade stand. And I’ll ride horses and have six dogs. That’s more than Aunt Lex has, but she has cats, too.” She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like cats.”

“Me either,” I told her. Nearby, Lex’s phone buzzed, and she stepped a few feet away to answer it.

Molly was still watching Charlie and me, looking amused. I tried to think of something else to say. “I have a dog too,” I finally offered. “Her name is Shadow. She’s really big.”

“And really ugly,” Molly added.

I glared up at her, but she just lifted an eyebrow to say, Well, she is.

“Can I see a picture on your phone?” Charlie asked me eagerly.

I started to reach for the phone in my pocket, but remembered it was the burner. “I don’t have any on my phone right now,” I told her regretfully.

“Oh.” She looked at me with disappointment and judgment. Ah. So there was some of her aunt in her too.

Luckily, at that moment Lex hung up the phone and turned back to us. “We’re on,” she said to me. “She’s expecting you.”

I nodded. “Charlie,” Lex said, “Miss Scarlett and I need to leave now.”

Charlie looked up with obvious displeasure, squeezing the strands of my hair closer, like she was protecting them. “But she’s like me!”

“I know. We still need to leave, though. Besides, it’s almost your bedtime.”

Charlie pouted, but turned back to me. “Do you have FaceTime?” she demanded.

That threw me for a second. I hadn’t realized four-year-olds were aware of FaceTime. But then again, what the hell did I know about kids? “Um, yes. I do.”

“So we’ll talk on FaceTime,” Charlie decided. “That’s what I do with Gramma Blossom, or with Auntie when she has to be gone for days.”

“Okay,” I said, bewildered. “We can FaceTime.”

“Then you can go, I guess.” Charlie released her death grip on my hair and climbed out of my lap. “Bye!” she yelled over her shoulder, racing off to find the rest of the kids.

I blinked. What had just happened?

Molly was grinning as she held out a hand to me. “So that was Charlie,” Lex said, with a smile I hadn’t seen from her before. It was proud and a little embarrassed and sort of fierce. Like a mom. “She’s kind of a force of nature,” Lex added.

“Yeah.” I used Molly’s hand to pull myself up. “I’m getting that.”

The sun had gone down while we were at dinner. Lex drove us back to the Pearl Street Mall area, parking near a funny little coffee shop with a weird setup. Most of the coffee shops I’d been to shared the same basic layout—one big room with a counter somewhere—but the front doors at Magic Beans opened into a short hallway with multiple doors leading off in different directions. There were Day-Glo arrows painted on the floor that eventually led us toward a counter, where a bored-looking teenage boy looked up from a textbook. “Oh. Hey, Lex, hey, Quinn,” he said.

   
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