Natural Witch (Page 27)

“Are they trying to kill or capture?” Emery asked over the cacophony of air and cars.

“I’d bet capture. They want us.”

“That’s someone higher up. Kill them if you can.”

“I don’t have the right gun for that.” My mom pumped the gun and pushed it out of the window. The black car swerved, the reaction of the surprised driver. He didn’t get a chance to slow down before the boom of the gun discharging.

I winced at the shock of the noise. A tire popped and the remaining tires squealed. The car careened and the front corner of the bumper knocked my rear fender.

My back end tried to fishtail. I cranked the wheel and let off the gas, eyeing the approaching curve of the road. The tires caught as the other car broke free and kept turning, the front wheel ruined. Sparks flew up from metal on road. The car hit a small dirt berm, jumped up, and rammed into a tree.

I ripped my eyes back to the road, coaxing my car straight in time to safely make the curve.

“I wish I could take these things off,” my mother said, I assumed about her breasts, as she wrestled the gun around her bust again. It wouldn’t be the first time she made a comment like that. She bent the gun and pulled out an empty shotgun shell from one of the two barrels. “Ow! Dang it. That was hot.” She threaded another shell into its slot.

I ripped my eyes back to the road a second time.

“Two months ago, I was wondering if there was something else out there. Now I’m hoping there isn’t.” I took a deep breath.

“We don’t get to choose what we’re given, but we do get to choose what we make of it,” my mother said, clicking the gun back into place and looking behind her.

“You got to choose what I was given. Bad choice.” I wiped the back of my forearm against my wet forehead. “Very bad choice. Daddy should’ve made you use your crystal ball.”

“I did. If you had learned your trade since childhood, you would’ve easily broken through all the wards set up around the house, gotten into the secret room, and rooted through your daddy’s books. Then you would’ve created havoc, since you have a gift for creating havoc, and everyone would’ve known what you were before you hit eighteen. It has been a month since you started researching this side of your life. And look where we are.” My mother leaned forward, pushing at my seat. “One month.” She leaned back. “At least now you’re old enough to run over people. Think about your ability for defense at ten. Or twelve.”

“I hate to agree with her, since she doesn’t need any help dominating an argument, but I have to,” Emery said quietly. “Yours was a precarious situation. My brother and I were trained. We were guided along a certain path. The second we veered from that path, we were targeted. Look at my life now. You’re better off, Penny Bristol, trust me.”

“There you go. Do you see?” My mother patted Emery on the shoulder. “This is why I told you to stay away from my daughter.”

A laugh rode a surprised breath, and Emery turned to glance behind him. When he turned back to me, a full smile took up his face, and all the planes and angles softened. Sometimes his high, sharp cheekbones and narrow nose looked almost too severe to be handsome, but now, with that boyish smile and the delighted sparkle in his eyes, he was breathtaking.

“She is a trip,” he said, shifting in his seat to get comfortable.

That was putting it mildly.

“Did the cards say you were supposed to come with us?” I asked my mother, still out of breath. I took my foot off the gas, slowing way down. The last thing I needed was to get pulled over by the cops after hitting someone with my car—for the second time—especially since my mother, who still wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, had a loaded shotgun across her lap.

“No. They said we needed to split ways, but they didn’t say when. You didn’t really think I was going to stay in that house with the guild’s higher-ups roaming around, did you?” My mother shook her head. “Madness. You’d better wise up if you hope to stay alive, Penny.”

“Okay, but…why did we take my car, then?” I asked, looking at her in the rearview mirror. “Yours is bigger. Not to mention nicer. And it goes faster.”

She huffed. “It also costs more to fix.”

Emery glanced over at me with a grin before looking out the window. “I have a place we can stay in Seattle. It’s small. It’ll be tight quarters, but we should be okay for a few days.”

“Count me out.” My mother put the shotgun at her feet. “Drop me off at Merna’s house. I’ll stay with her until things cool off.”

My stomach clenched with anxiety. Parting with my mother would ease my stress in a million ways. But I couldn’t deny her value. She was cunning enough to keep an enormous secret from me for my whole life. Loyal to a fault, handy in a tight spot, and totally fine with shooting people. All those qualities would undoubtedly be useful in the days, weeks, or months to come.

Then again…she was my mother. What a trial it would be to live in a tight space with her.

When we all stepped out of the car in front of Merna’s house, my mother slapped her hands onto Emery’s shoulders and gave him a hard stare. “She is my everything. I do not want to let her go with you alone, but I have no choice. This is the most logical place for us to split.”

His brow furrowed. “I’m not getting a warning. This parting is not a dangerous thing.”

The movement was slight, but it was there. The tiny sag of her spine. The increased lines around her eyes. Her jaw tightened, and she nodded. “Please bring her back to me.”

“I will, ma’am.”

She patted his shoulder. “And clean yourself up. You’re a mess.”

I got a tight hug, another tight hug, and then she batted her tear away. “Penelope, you are as easygoing as your father, which can be a wonderful thing. But not when you are defending yourself. In those times, you need to be more like me. You need to go at the enemy with everything you have. Fight with tooth and nail. Have no fear of tearing down the world around you so that you can get away. Do you understand me?”

I understood her words just fine, but the crazed light in her eyes was another matter. Caregiver clearly wasn’t the role she was born to play. She’d probably come out of the womb with armor and that shotgun. “Yes, Mother,” I said dutifully.

She frowned at me. “Stay alive by any means possible, do you understand me?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“I’ll scribe every night. I’ll use my magic every day. I’ll try to know when you need help, but use that phone of yours. Call me if something goes wrong and you can’t see a way out of it.”

“Okay.”

After another tight hug, then she was back with Emery. “She is too easygoing for her own good, and you are too wild. Work on the balance between you two. My late husband always said, ‘The best magic in the world exists in a perfect balance.’”

“Yes, ma’am. I know something of that.”

She narrowed her eyes. “But don’t try to merge, mind. Otherwise you’ll have me to deal with. And trust me, what you’ve seen so far is tame compared to what I’m capable of.”

“Mother, would you stop?” I tugged at Emery’s arm in embarrassment. Without him, we would’ve been in deep water. He didn’t need constant berating about something that surely wouldn’t be an issue. I had power, sure, but I didn’t have any know-how. Merging with me would just weigh him down.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, his expression solemn.

I rolled my eyes. “If we’re going to go, we should go.” I tugged at him again. The man was a stack of bricks. He didn’t move.

“Wait right there. I’ll talk Merna out of her commuter car. That’ll give you twenty-four hours.”

“Why twenty-four hours?” I asked.

My mother looked at me like I was thick in the head. “We can’t wait any longer than that to call it in as stolen or the cops will get suspicious.”

Emery nodded like that made sense.

Even with this crew, I was the odd one out, and for once, I was okay with that. Sanity was a good thing.

Chapter Twenty

Emery turned off the beat-up old Honda and sat for a moment, staring out at the darkening evening. Parked cars lined the busy Seattle street. People ambled by in light jackets and pulled-up hoods.

I clasped my hands in my lap, giving him a moment to collect his thoughts. His ego had taken a pretty solid beating after a day with my mother. She could bowl over the strongest of people.

“What do you know about the magical world?” he finally asked.

“I know that there are shifters, vampires, witches, mages, and a guy named Vlad. Also that there are two sets of rules: one set for humans, which I know really well, and another set for magical people, which I don’t know at all, but it definitely seems killing people doesn’t hold the same weight.”

“You forgot zombies on your list,” he said, his lips curling upward. He wiped his hand over his mouth, as though he hadn’t wanted to smile.

“Right. Yes. That probably should’ve been first on my list.”

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