Jack and Grandmother Clarissa were in the kitchen cutting up vegetables when Shay went inside. Jack smiled at her, but continued slicing the cucumber on the butting board in front of him.
“Something smells good,” Sienna commented.
“Yeah. What’s cooking, good-looking?” Phoenix trilled, and winked at Jack.
“Baked macaroni and cheese,” Grandmother Clarissa replied.
Shay collapsed into one of the island stools, dropping her head down against the counter with a thud. She peeked up through her curtain of hair as Sienna placed a glass down in front of her.
“It’s just water,” Sienna told her. “Are you feeling any better?”
“I think so,” Shay replied, and sat up, taking a long drink of the cold water.
Vivienne sat down in the stool beside her, placing a hand on her back and rubbing comforting circles. “Do you want to go upstairs and take a nap?”
“No,” Shay blurted, and then took a deep breath and tried again when Vivienne’s eyes widened. “No, I’m fine.”
“I’ll watch after Jack while you’re gone,” Phoenix teased, but there was a concerned edge to her voice.
They all treated her like a child, which would have been annoying if she wasn’t so used to it. Theo used to act the same way with her, as if she was the mother and Shay was the youngest daughter. Thoughts of Theo made her look back to Jack.
“Have you heard anything from them?”
Jack shook his head sadly. “Not yet.”
Theo, Isobel, and Ivory had left a few short weeks after they’d escaped from Duskville.
Shay had known they were uncomfortable. Isobel and Ivory had spent most of their time in the garden, and Theo in her room alone. It had been hardest on Theo. She had always been in charge before, and Ace and Grandmother Clarissa had made her feel threatened.
So when Grandmother Clarissa helped the twins track down their heritage and found living relatives in a small Canadian town, Theo had been all too eager to volunteer to go along with them. They’d packed supplies and borrowed a car, promising to call if they found anything.
Shay frowned and ran her finger around the rim of her glass. “Oh."
“Don’t worry. I’m sure they’re fine,” Vivienne assured her.
Lacey began to giggle uncontrollably and when they all stared at her, she waved a hand dismissively. Sometimes Shay worried about her.
“Where’s the mermaid?” Chalice asked. “Taking a dip in the pool with Flounder and Sebastian?”
“The mermaid jokes are getting old,” Phoenix said.
“Especially since I can think of ten witch jokes off the top of my head that she could’ve said to you,” Vivienne replied. She was usually kind, but she became defensive around Shay and Marina, or whenever Ace made a rude remark at her directly. “In fact, one of my favorite curse words rhymes with witch.”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Ace snapped. She shot Vivienne a warning look and then muttered something under her breath.
Vivienne stiffened, and Lacey stopped the giggling that had been going on for the past few minutes. Ace had said it so low that only the ones with the enhanced senses in the room had been able to hear it.
“What did you just say?” The chair screeched as it slid back and Vivienne stood up. “Did you just call me Dracula?”
Ace shook her hair out of her face and turned to Grandmother Clarissa. She folded her arms over her chest and began to relay the mission as if Vivienne hadn’t spoken.
Shay reached out to grab Vivienne’s sleeve and tug on it gently. “Vee? Please don’t fight.”
Vivienne took a deep breath and sat back down. “I’m sorry. It’s not Buffy’s fault. She’s just mad her skin’s paler than mine.”
Ace stopped mid-sentence and her jaw tightened. She laid a hand on the gun in the belt around her a waist, a gesture that was so casual yet so threatening at the same time.
Grandmother Clarissa had been trying to ignore them, but that had gone too far. Her crystal blue eyes fixed on Ace disapprovingly. “Adrianna. You know better. That is no way to talk to any of your sisters.”
Furious blush rose to Ace’s cheeks and she ducked her head. “I’m sorry, Vivienne.”
Shay felt something nuzzling her leg, and she glanced down and smiled when she saw Juniper. The small black kitten stared up at her with wide, earnest green eyes until she scooped him up in her arms.
“No fair,” Chalice muttered, eyeing Shay and Juniper jealously. “ Chamois hates me.”
“Well, if you named me Chamois, I’d hate you too,” Phoenix replied. “That’s why I named my familiar Dolly.”
Shay could feel the tension in the room disappearing as others began to chime in with their opinions, and Ace relaxed against the counter.
“Dolly isn’t much better,” Chalice countered.
“Could you be any more southern?” Vivienne said.
Shay picked up her water with her free hand and took another sip. It was nice living with them, she thought. The others had been her family, but this felt . . . more natural. As if they really were sisters. Of course, Chalice and Sienna were supposedly distant relatives of hers.
And the mansion was wonderful, of course. They each got their own bedroom and bathroom. There was a training room, a spell room, a library, and an entertainment room. But Shay’s favorite was the one were the familiars were kept.
Each of the witches had their own. Shay, Chalice, and Phoenix all had cats, but for some reason, Sienna had chosen a weasel. Or rather, it had chosen her. She’d found the auburn little thing hurt in the woods one day, caught in a rabbit trap. She brought it home with her and nursed it back to health, but every time she released it, it found its way back. So finally she decided to keep it, naming him Boyce.
The oven dinged, and Grandmother Clarissa said, “Alright dinner’s almost done. Everyone grab a plate. Vivienne, dear, I restocked the fridge in your room and this one, too. Bottom drawer.”
In a flash, Vivienne was pulling open the refrigerator door and taking out a blood bag. She took a cup from the cabinet and began to squeeze the contents out into it until the bag was completely flat. Shay usually tried not to look, and when she did, she pretended the red, thick liquid was cherry syrup.
“Is Marina eating with us?” Vivienne asked.Grandmother Clarissa shook her head. “No. She ate earlier. I think she’s still uncomfortable with eating raw fish in front of all of you. I’m sure it will pass soon though.”
The other girls took their plates and gathered around the large table in the corner of the room, and Jack brought the salad bowl over to place in the middle. Shay stood up from her place at the island and went over to join them.
She smiled. This was her family. Sure, they’d lost some people along the way, but she tried not to think of it. They’d gained people in return, though. And yes, they argued, but most families did, didn’t they? From the outside, it may have looked diverse and odd. But to Shay, it was perfect. And she intended on keeping it that way.
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