Mother Ophelia’s house was pink.
That was the first thing Shay noticed when Ace edged the Hummer into the driveway behind Grandmother Clarissa and Sienna in the Hyundai. The second was that the Victorian-style structure reminded her of an oversized doll house.
“Oh, my God,” Ace said as she took the keys out of the ignition and tucked them into her pocket. “It’s like a freaking flamingo.”
“I like it.” Typical Lacey.
They all climbed out and followed Grandmother Clarissa up the front steps. She knocked lightly on the wooden door and it was opened almost immediately by a woman in her forties with dark braided hair.
“Grandmother Clarissa. Girls. Thank you for coming.” She stepped back and held the door open for them. “Please, come in.”
The parlor room Mother Ophelia led them into was all soft pinks and browns. Shay sunk into the couch beside Vivienne and Sienna, and Chalice claimed the matching loveseat. A moment later Lacey plopped down in it sideways with her head in Chalice’s lap. Ace took one disgusted look at the dusty rose curtains and leaned back against the wall. Phoenix folded her legs and sat down by Sienna’s feet.
Grandmother Clarissa and Mother Ophelia stood in the doorway.
“Aubree?” Mother Ophelia called.
A girl that was a few years younger than Shay peeked over the balcony of the stairs. Her short hair was pulled back in a ponytail, but loose strands stuck out in many places. “Yes, Mother Ophelia?”
“Bring the girls some lemonade and cookies, will you?”
The girl nodded and darted down the stairs, out of site.
“I want to thank you again for coming. I know it must have been a long drive,” Mother Ophelia said. “I wouldn’t have called you out here if it wasn’t extremely important.”
Grandmother Clarissa took the mistress’ hand. “We know, Ophelia. Why don’t you tell us what has happened?”
“It started about a month ago. Teens in the area were disappearing, but I didn’t think anything of it. It happens all the time, you know, and it’s just part of the world. Let the cops do what they can,” Mother Ophelia said.
Shay narrowed her eyes. She didn’t agree with a word the woman was saying, but she let her talk.
“Then the bodies started turning up in the woods,” Mother Ophelia continued. Her lips turned down into a troubled frown, as if she weren’t talking about murdered teens, but a pesky dog that continued using her lawn as a bathroom. “They were torn up like an animal had gotten to them. There was not a drop of blood left in their bodies though.”
Vivienne rolled her eyes, and muttered low enough for only Shay to hear, “Of course. Blame the vampires."
“A seer in Aubree’s coven began having terrible nightmares where she was taken to a dark apartment and attacked by several of the . . . abominations. They’re
not natural. Humans are not meant to be hunted. Something must be done.”
Aubree, the small girl Shay had seen on the stairs, returned with a plate of sugar cookies and a pitcher of lemonade in her hands and a stack of plastic cups tucked under her arm. She set them all down on the glass coffee table and scampered over to stand by Mother Ophelia.
Mother Ophelia laced an arm around Aubree’s shoulder and pulled her close. “Think of the girls, Clarissa. The stress of having these things in the area will interfere with their practicing.”
“Maybe it’s time for them to be taught in casting,” Grandmother Clarissa suggested delicately.
Mother Ophelia drew in a sharp intake of breath. “Why? So that they can go out and harm humans? That’s no more unnatural than a vampire attack.”
“You speak as if you were in the Burning Times. Shall you tie my girls to a stake and set it ablaze just because they practice with gifts that the goddess has given them?”
“Gifts? What you speak of are curses.”
Shay glanced down at the hands resting on her jeans that held her supposed curses. They looked ordinary enough to her, and she’d never used them to harm someone who didn’t deserve it. She didn’t understand how such a peaceful seeming witch could be so cold-hearted and judgmental.
Grandmother Clarissa shook her head. “Say what you will, Ophelia. You’re free to practice and teach however you wish, but do not insult my girls in front of me.”
Mother Ophelia straightened defensively. “Very well.”
“I will look into these attacks, and we will do what we can.”
“Oh, cookies,” Lacey said absentmindedly, and reached out to take one.
As she did, her fingers knocked into a vase of cherry blossoms that also sat on the table. They toppled over the edge and Vivienne’s hand shot out with a lightning quick speed that only a vampire would possess to save it from smashing all over the hardwood floor. She set it back down on the table, and Shay’s widened eyes turned back to Mother Ophelia’s face.
Her upper lip was curled and her eyes were full of shocked horror. She pointed an accusing finger at Vivienne. “You . . . You brought one of them into my home!”
Shay stood and planted her feet in front of Vivienne, but of course there was no need to protect her from a woman who thought all spells were black magic. Vivienne let out a low hiss, and Phoenix sprung up from her spot on the floor. All of the Daughters of Hecate, even Ace, glared down on Mother Ophelia as if she had offended each of them personally.
“Come on, girls,” Grandmother Clarissa said. She strode over to the front door and pulled it open. “We’re leaving now.”
“How dare you bring that thing into my home?”
Shay’s own lips curled. Her amulet of celestite was growing warm against her neck. She unclenched her fists and took a calming breath, letting the stone draw away all of her negative energy. She stayed by Vivienne’s side as they walked to the door, and the other girls followed after them.
Ace shut the door behind them, cutting off the angry mistress’ shouts.
Read, Rate, Subscribe, and Comment
Author’s Note: I changed Shay’s jade talisman to an amulet of celestite. It’s explained why in Duskville: The Hunt and it helps to keep her powers and emotions under control.