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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(12)

By:Kim Harrison

Ivy looked up, her pencil provocatively between her teeth. “I think they were considering him as a scapegoat in case they can’t find HAPA. You’re a better one, though.”
She was right, which didn’t bode well for me, and I began shifting pages for the correct charm. What I really wanted was some sort of spell to prevent an I.S. memory charm from making me forget that the I.S. owed me a big thank-you for taking care of their mess, because I would take care of it, and I didn’t want to find myself wandering in the park wondering what I was doing out there. Besides, it looked bad when a demon couldn’t remember who owed her what.
Trent might have one. The thought came unbidden, and I shoved it away, not trusting his wild magic. A memory rose up to replace it, even worse: me and Trent trapped in my subconscious, baking cookies at this very counter as he tried to untwist the elven magic he’d done to save my life. Saving me had taken a kiss. A rather . . . hot and heavy one that had prompted me to slap him when I woke up. I shouldn’t have done that. At least I apologized. Eyes closing briefly, I quashed the memory.
The kitchen became quiet as I leafed through the spell book, knowing I wouldn’t find anything as complex as a memory-retention charm in it. Ivy typed something from her papers into a search engine and began scrolling. I had hated Trent for a long time, and letting that go made me feel good. Lately, though, he had scared the crap out of me with his dabbling in wild magic, and my gaze became distant as I recalled Trent, ashen faced and wearing a cap and a ribbon of intent as the world fell down around us. He’d been afraid, but he’d done it. To help me? To help himself. I should stop being stupid and just call him. He probably didn’t want to wake up not remembering this week, either.
My fingers turning pages slowed as I found the detecting charm’s recipe, and I bent my head over the book, trying to decide if I could do it or not. It wasn’t a matter of skill, but tools. Anything that required tapping a line was out, given my bracelet. Fortunately most earth magic was simply putting things into a pot, mixing, heating, and adding three drops of blood to kindle it, and then invoking it—and a knot of tension eased when I decided that I could do the scattershot charm. It called for a circle, but only as a precaution to keep undesirables out of the pot. I’d risk it.
Nodding sharply, I started moving from drawer to cupboard looking for my empty amulets, tick seeds, sticktights, and fairy-wing scales. The last made me flush, and I hoped Belle wasn’t around. The de-winged fairy had moved in with the pixies, physically unable to hibernate or fly anymore to escape the cold.“Jenks?” I shouted, knowing that if he didn’t hear me, one of his kids would relay the message. “Do you have any sticktights and tick seed in that stash of yours?”
“Tink’s tampons, Rache!” he called back, sounding like he was in the back living room. “It’s raining!”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed. Where else am I going to get them? Wally World?”
There was a small thump, and I smirked at Ivy in the following silence. He’d probably gone out the fireplace’s flue. Bis, our resident gargoyle, kept it clean, claiming that the creosote tasted like burnt caramel. I wasn’t going to question the teenager on his dietary needs, and he was cheaper than a chimney sweep.
“You’re making a locator charm?” Ivy said as she went back to her Web search. “I didn’t think you could invoke those.”
“I can’t,” I said as I got out one of her bottled spring waters from the fridge. “I’m going to make a scattershot detection charm since the I.S.’s regular detection charms aren’t turning up anything. Looking for scattered evidence of the man in the park might get better results.” I cracked the bottle’s cap and nuked it for a minute to take off the chill. Chances were good I might spend all night on these only to find I couldn’t kindle them and I’d have to find a witch to invoke them for me. It wasn’t as if I had many witch friends . . . anymore.
The microwave dinged and I took out the water, suddenly melancholy. Not that I’d ever had many species-specific friends. I’d always thought it was my personality, but now I was wondering if my “fellow” witches had known I was different on some basic level and had kept their distance, like chickens pecking the unhealthy bird to death.
I set the warmed water next to the tiny clip of hair that Jenks had swiped from the corpse before we’d left the park. I didn’t like having to prep this without a protection circle, but I didn’t have much choice.
A ping of guilt hit me as I shook the blood-caked hair out of the fold of paper I’d stored it in. How do you explain to the next of kin that your loved one had been tortured and drained for someone’s political message? That HAPA was involved was still being kept out of the papers, but the FIB had released the information that a body with demonic symbols had been found in the park. They were hoping it would slow the perpetrators down, but I knew HAPA was on a schedule that couldn’t be tweaked. Days. We had days. I wanted to believe that the I.S. and the FIB could work together on this, but I knew the reality was going to be difficult, if not impossible.
I heard Jenks before I saw him, his wings a harsh clatter, getting rid of the rain as he flew into the kitchen shedding water drops everywhere. I dove for the assembled ingredients, waving my hands to keep him back. “Watch it, Jenks!” I exclaimed. “I’m working without a circle!” 
“All right, all right!” he crabbed at me, landing on the far side of the island. “I got your tick seed and sticktights. Tink loves a duck!” he exclaimed as he tried to open his jacket only to find that the prickly seeds had caught on the natural fibers. “Look at me! I hope you’re happy, Rache. It’s going to take me hours to get all this unhooked. Couldn’t you have done this before it started to rain?”
“Thanks, Jenks,” I said as I turned the oven on to give him a place to warm up, and three giggling pixy kids came in to play in the updraft. “I couldn’t do this without you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said sourly, clearly pleased as he plucked one of the seeds from his chest with a sudden pull of motion. “I’ll leave them here for you. Jrixibell! Get the Turn out of the oven! What if someone shut you in there!”
Her eyes on her monitor, Ivy clicked a few keys with the sound of finality. “They will have switched bases before you can find them,” she predicted, then closed out her window and stood, stretching to show a glimpse of her belly-button ring. “Gone before you get there.”
I carefully measured out the right amount of water and put it in my second-to-largest spell pot. My smallest had a dent in it from who knew what. “Probably,” I said as the water went chattering in and the bowl rocked. “But I’d like to see what the FIB can pull from a crime scene that the I.S. can’t.”
Ivy smiled with her lips closed, and we watched as the three pixy kids in the kitchen rose up in a noisy swirl of silk and darted into the hall. “Me too,” she said as she began to tidy her papers. “The I.S. is way outclassed when it comes to the detective work.”
Her smile became wicked, and I wondered whom she was thinking about as my neck started to tingle, but then one of Jenks’s kids flew in with an exuberant “Detective Glenn is here!”
Jenks rose up on his dragonfly-like wings and hovered a moment in the open archway to the hall. “I’ll let him in,” he said, proud that he could work the system of pulleys to open the heavy wooden doors. The two of them buzzed out, and I heard a small uproar in the sanctuary.
Ah, I thought as I made sure I hadn’t gotten Jenks’s sticktights on my shirt. That’s why Ivy is tidying up her papers. Her hearing was better than mine. She’d probably heard him drive up in that big-ass SUV he had.
“About time. I’m starving,” Ivy muttered as the distant sound of the door opening filtered back, and Glenn’s cheerful “Hello in the church” came to us. I took in Ivy’s soft flush of anticipation, making me wonder if she was simply talking about the pizza he was supposed to be bringing over—or something more earthy.
I reached for an apron as I recalled finding Glenn’s coat last spring smelling like Ivy. They’d been out on more than a few dates. Normally I’d be worried if a human tried to keep up with Ivy—she was a living vampire who’d been warped by her previous master into not being able to love without physically hurting her partner—but Ivy was learning new patterns and Glenn was not your average guy.
Glenn was ex-military, not overly large but powerful, having the grace of a slow jazz song, the sure momentum of an ocean wave, and the need to raise a person to the best of her abilities. He was nothing if not steady, and Ivy needed steady. I thought it telling that the first time they’d met, he’d asked me why I risked living with her, calling her unreliable, dangerous, and a psychopath, none of which I had been able to deny at that point. But she was also loyal, strong, determined, and a damn good person trying to overcome her past.I looked up from tying on Ivy’s COOK THE STEAK, DON’T STAKE THE COOK apron as Glenn breezed into the kitchen from the dark hallway, a box of pizza in one hand, Jenks on his shoulder, and pixy kids wreathing his head, all of them talking at once. I smiled. So much for first impressions.