2 Spells Too Many
I opened my mouth to ask why an Eternal would be after us, but Sol shook his head slightly. His gaze flicked to Karen and Richie, watching us with wide eyes. I nodded, knowing that it was dangerous to talk about magic with those that really don’t understand it. Hell, I don’t understand it (or like it) so I’m the last person who should be talking.
“We won’t find out where we are by sitting here,” Sol muttered. He picked up his top hat. The lack of headroom forced him to bend at almost ninety degrees as he headed for the corridor that was connected to the cavern where we sat.
Richie scrambled after him.
“Wait!” Karen called, hurrying after him.
Marco motioned for me to follow. “Ladies, first.”
It took longer to get out of this hole than it had the one at the Raven’s Nest campground, and I was tired of walking stooped over by the time I emerged to stand beneath the gray sky.
“Good job, Erich,” Sol said, slapping the top hat on his head. “Most excellent.”
Looking around, I realized why Sol was so pleased. We were standing in the center of the triangle formed by our three RVs. The vehicles appeared unscathed, yet all around us there were fallen trees, downed poles, and even an overturned car (though, to be fair, it was one of those tiny smart cars that look like sardine cans on wheels).
“How?” I wondered aloud.
“I installed a Shield Field,” Sol said.
“Clever,” Marco approved.
I squinted at him, confirming he had a non-magical orange shimmer. “You know what that means?”
He shrugged. “I told you I was a wizard’s assistant for two years. A student of the world can learn a lot.”
“Does this mean I’m not getting pizza?” Richie asked.
Considering the roof had been pulled off the superstore, and how dark it was quickly getting due to no electricity working in the vicinity, that seemed like a good guess.
“Afraid not,” Sol told him.
“But I’m starving,” Richie complained.
“We’ll get pizza and ice cream tomorrow,” Karen promised.
“Can I watch TV?” the kid asked, pushing his luck.
“Yes,” Karen replied, obviously too tired to argue with him. “But quietly,” she warned. “I need to lie down.”
“Why don’t I feed the boy some dinner?” Marco offered. “He can watch television at my place while he eats, and you can get some rest.”
Karen nodded her thanks and shuffled toward the green RV.
Not liking the look of her extreme fatigue, I murmured, “I’m going to help her get settled,” and hurried after her.
I made Karen drink a glass of water before she crawled into bed and then suggested, “Why don’t I have Richie stay in my camper overnight? He’ll get to have a sleepover and you can get some uninterrupted sleep.”
She managed a weak smile, pulling the covers around herself. “Thank you, RV.”
“Ravena,” I corrected. “My name is Ravena.”
She nodded. “Don’t get involved with him. It’s dangerous.”
She shook her head, her eyes drifting closed. “Sol. The cost is too high. So high.”
Her words made the small hairs on my arms stand on end. “What do you mean?” I asked.
But she was already asleep.
I didn’t understand her warning, but it unsettled me. What did she know about Sol that made her think he was dangerous?
I let myself out of her camper and found myself face-to-face with the man I’d been worrying about.
“We have to talk,” he declared solemnly.
“You look better,” I told him, walking outside the triangle of vehicles to look at the superstore. His lavender shimmer, which had been scarily pale, was normal again.
The store was surrounded by vehicles with flashing lights and crowds of people milling around. I wondered if there was something I could do to help.
“Nobody’s hurt or missing,” Sol said, as though he’d read my mind. “I talked to the fire chief.”
“That’s a relief.” I began to walk in a loop around the RVs.
Sol fell into step beside me. “How are you?”
I shrugged. “Those trips down the rabbit hole are disorienting.”
“That one was particularly rough,” he acknowledged. “It’s not designed for five people. If you hadn’t helped…” He trailed off.
I glanced up at him. “I didn’t help.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, you did. I had to siphon some energy off you to hold it together.”
“You can do that?”
He nodded. “I didn’t mean to the first time. I don’t have that much control in rabbit form. But I intentionally took it to get everyone away from the storm. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
He stopped walking and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. “For not being any better than the Cullers. For stealing magic.”
I put a hand on his elbow. “You took it in order to save everyone. That’s very different.”
Dropping his hands, he sighed and looked down at me. Eyes dark, he traced a finger down my cheek, branding me with his touch.
My breath caught and I fought the urge to sway toward him.
“You have no idea how much power lurks in you,” Sol said, his voice husky. “You used a basic summoning to pull three people to you.”
“I think that was adrenaline,” I told him, remembering the force that slammed into me when I’d pulled Karen, Richie, and Marco to me. “I was afraid.”
He nodded slowly.
“Nightway said I’m quelled,” I confessed softly. “What does that mean?”
“Suppressed. Your power has been suppressed.” He raised a hand and rested three fingers on the side of my head. “Your memories, too, I suspect.”
I wondered if my hair would singe from the heat of his touch, but I didn’t smell anything burning.
“And I do not believe that Mildred Bloodworth possessed the power to do that,” he continued.
“Mildred!” I jumped away and hurried toward my camper. “I forgot to check on her.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Sol called, a hint of annoyance in his tone.
I opened the door of Princess and the cat bolted right out.
“You left me!” she yowled indignantly. “You left me to die.”
“I—” I didn’t finish because she raced off into the night.
Sol chuckled. “She appears to be unscathed.”
“I hope she doesn’t get herself run over,” I muttered.
“I doubt that would kill her.”
There was something in his tone that made me stop. Looking over at him, I asked, “You don’t think she can die?”
With a shrug, he said, “I think that, as a cat, she’s got nine lives.”
I gaped at him. “That’s a real thing?”
“There’s a hint of truth in most commonly held beliefs,” he replied with a smile.
From a discreet distance away, Marco cleared his throat.
We turned to look at him.
“The boy is asleep,” he explained. “I made enough dinner for all of us, if you’d like.”
“That sounds great,” I told him, suddenly hungry.
“I thought we could dine al fresco,” Marco said. “But I only have two chairs.”
“I’ve got one.” I quickly got my folding lawn chair and carried it over to the Airstream.
Marco had a small table set up with three bowls of chili, a bowl of chips, and three bottles of water.
“Thank you,” I said, slipping into my seat.
“I once judged a chili cook-off,” Marco revealed.
Sol rolled his eyes, but the other man seemed unaware.
“And I do believe my recipe has all of the winning components: color, consistency, aroma, and of course, taste.”
“It smells wonderful,” I told him.
“Mangia, mangia,” he urged.
We ate in silence for a few minutes and I silently agreed with Marco that he had an award-winning recipe. It was delicious.
After a while, Marco cleared his throat nervously. “I think we need to talk about the danger we’re in.”
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