I hope you enjoy it. It–and part 3–are posted on my webpage. I wanted to give you an idea of what I post there, but from now on, I”ll post stories there and return to using my blog for thoughts about writing. For now, here’s Demon Heart–part 4–the end.
Gazaar, Rowan, and Hennie looked at the list, then looked at Babet. Prosper shrugged. He didn’t have a clue which witches were more powerful than others. Ophelia was too depressed to be of much help.
Morgana rested her head on Babet’s foot as Babet scanned the names again. “The rest of us are pretty evenly matched.”
Hennie shook her head. “No, dear, you’re the most powerful. You have your mother and your father’s magicks. Then Rowan. Then me. Then the rest. If you were to worry about anyone, who would it be?”
Babet answered without doubt. “Evangeline and Perdita.”
Her mother stared. “But Evangeline has Emile’s powers. She took them when she killed her father.” A death that he thoroughly deserved. “On top of that, her mother’s the voodoo priestess at the settlement. Evangeline has both magicks.”
“She’d rather grow magical herbs than learn spells,” Babet said. “She’s doing better. If she’s threatened, she’ll fight. But that’s defense. She never takes the offense, doesn’t have a fighter’s spirit. Neither does Perdita.”
Rowan pursed her lips, considering that. “Perdita’s never had a husband or a family. She’s content mentoring Evangeline.” Perdita practically oozed happiness lately. She’d always wanted to be a mother. When Evangeline needed to learn their craft, Perdita had taken her under her wing. She thought of Evangeline as a daughter.
Babet nodded. “That’s why I worry about them.”
Hennie frowned. “But Cleo and Maeva are mothers. They nurture, too.”
“Did you see them when their children were in danger? They were ferocious. I wouldn’t go to one of their houses.”
Rowan agreed. “We should concentrate on Perdita and Evangeline.”
“Then they should come here to stay,” Gazaar said. “We can buy another air mattress.”
Prosper raked a hand through his thick, brown hair and looked around the table. He was getting impatient, Babet could tell. “That’s your decision then? Perdita and Evangeline next?”
“Babet and I will go for them.”
Gazaar stood. “I’m coming with you this time.”
“Not enough room in my car,” Prosper said. “I’ll be bringing the two women back with us, and Morgana won’t leave us out of her sight. She gets middle seat.”
Gazaar sighed, and Babet smiled, understanding. Her dad wasn’t used to sitting on the sidelines. He thought a minute. “I’ll meet you there. My job comes with perks. I can will myself anywhere I’m needed.” He looked at his wife. “There’s no need right this moment, so nothing’s calling to me, but if you give me a location, I can go there.”
Rowan grabbed a piece of paper and sketched a quick map for him while Babet and Prosper started to the car. Perdita lived a fifteen-minute drive away. Her dad might reach the house before they did. Perdita had met her father. She considered him the perfect mate for a high priestess and doted on him. They might arrive to find him having tea and coffee cake with her and Evangeline.
When they pulled in the drive, Babet wasn’t surprised to see her dad, sitting in a rocker on the front porch with both witches fussing over him. She smiled. Her dad deserved some TLC when he got away from the pits. He usually focused on performing his duty. This visit was supposed to have been warm, family bonding, celebrating his wife’s three-hundredth birthday, before Xamian showed up.
Prosper hurried toward the porch. “I smell cookies.”
Even Morgana slithered faster than usual. The snake always enjoyed seeing Evangeline. After all, she’d lived at the voodoo settlement with Evangeline and her mother until she chose to be Babet’s familiar.
Babet rolled her eyes. Her mate, with his sensitive shifter nose, could smell a baked good three blocks away. Now he was climbing the steps, reaching for a glass of lemonade and a stack of sugar cookies. Incorrigible.
Babet declined a cookie, but sipped her lemonade. “You two would be safer if you’d stay at my mom’s,” she told Perdita and Evangeline.
The two women exchanged glances. “My property and the house are warded. You helped us make them stronger,” Perdita said. “We’ve been enjoying each other’s company.”
“Baking and playing in your gardens?” They were treating Xamian’s attacks as an excuse for fun, and it annoyed Babet. What she thought they should be doing, she had no idea, so she knew she wasn’t being fair. But really!
Evangeline smiled. It was odd how the girl had the same coloring and facial features as her father—the warlock Emile—but looked completely different. Emile’s raven black hair and pale eyes accented his cruel personality and dark magic. Evangeline’s black waves curled randomly, and her pale eyes skitted away from meeting someone else’s gaze. Babet hadn’t met anyone so unassuming.
“You haven’t assigned us anything to do,” Evangeline said, “or we’d be doing it.”
That’s why Babet worried about them—too passive—but it’s the same thing that made them wonderful, kind friends. It seemed to her that some people were just naturally more aggressive, softer-spoken, or more determined than others. How much could a person change his basic personality? And did she even want them to?
Gazaar took another cookie and smiled. “We could use two, calm witches at Rowan’s right now. Ophelia’s going through a hard time.”
Clever man. Babet hadn’t realized how devious her father could be.
Perdita’s face crinkled in sympathy. “The poor girl, of course we’ll come. Won’t we, Evangeline?”
Evangeline nodded, suddenly serious, too. “When your mother called, she said that Xamian had a partner, and you caught him. Did Mom’s spirits find where Xamian is staying, if he has a base?”
Babet shook her head. “It won’t be easy to find him. He can make himself small.”
“But he’s killed three witches,” Evangeline said. “Has he left anything of him behind?”
“Of him?” And then Babet remembered how Evangeline and her mother killed Emile by sticking pins in a voodoo doll with strands of his hair inside. She blinked, considering. “My dad’s whip bit into his skin.”
Evangeline’s lips curled into a sly smile and Babet rethought the kind, innocent image she had of her friend. “When we get to your mother’s house,” Evangeline said, “we should go to Hennie’s potions shop. Until someone’s visited our settlement, most supernaturals don’t protect themselves against voodoo.” She glanced at the rings Babet and Prosper wore, the ones Babet had bespelled. “You know better.”
Babet looked at her father’s hands. Even he wore one of her rings. Evangeline or Nadine would never curse her, but not all voodoo users held the high standards they did. Every witch in mom’s coven and every magic user she knew, even the vampires, had taken a cue from her and protected themselves.
Prosper held the car door for Perdita, and Evangeline and Babet climbed into the back seat of his car. Morgana settled beside Evangeline. Her father carried the dirty dishes and glasses into their house, shut their door behind him, and thought himself back to her mother’s place. They joined him a short while later.
Hennie’s smile greeted them. The white-haired witch had almost as big of a soft spot for Evangeline as she did for Babet. “Good, you made it.”
Perdita went in search of Ophelia, but Evangeline waved Rowan and the others to the potions room.
“Our magic is different than yours,” she said. “I’ve been studying with my mom as much as I’ve been studying with your coven. I can make a voodoo doll on my own now.”
Rowan stared. So did Babet. Evangeline was so pleasant that it was easy to forget how powerful, and how dangerous, she actually was.
“Can you kill a demon?” she asked.
Babet shook her head. “No, demons can only be killed by whoever created them.”
“The Father,” Gazaar said. “They didn’t start out as demons.”
Evangeline nodded. “Maybe that’s better. We can’t find Xamian, but voodoo magic can hurt and weaken him. He’ll come to us, and then someone else can decide what to do with him.”
Nerves prickled, and Babet rubbed her arms. She wouldn’t underestimate her friend again. “How can we help you?”
Witch stores stocked as many wax candles as any voodoo devotee would need. They melted them and shaped them into a doll with a long, pointed tail. Then they laid Gazaar’s whip onto the work table, and Evangeline grinned at the red fur she scraped from it. Saber-tooth tiger fur. A smug joy filled Babet. Say “meow” to that, Xamian! Chanting a spell Babet didn’t recognize, Evangeline pushed the fur inside the doll. More spells followed, until satisfied, Evangeline reached for a long, sharp needle. She looked at the rest of them. “When I do this, Xamian’s going to feel pain. He’ll be here soon.”
That was an understatement. He’d be here, and he’d be furious.
Evangeline jabbed the pin deep into Xamian’s gut. Then she reached for another one. Three pins later, an explosion hit the ward outside her mother’s privacy fence.
Gazaar grabbed his whip and hurried out of the shop.
Evangeline gave a wicked smile. “I liked Pearl and Agatha.” She jabbed a pin into Xamian’s left knee. A howl came from the alley. Evangeline looked at Babet. “You can help your dad. I’ll keep playing in here.”
Playing. Babet shivered. Her friend had a dark side she hadn’t seen before. She was glad she liked the coven. Prosper looked slightly shocked, but gave his head a quick shake. Of course, he ripped out peoples’ throats when they crossed him. If Babet thought about it, every supernatural had their own way to defend themselves.
“Come on!” She hurried after her dad, Prosper close behind. Rowan and Hennie followed.
Gazaar opened the gate and stared at the demon. Xamian was limping. One arm hung at an odd angle. Ooze ran from a large wound in his stomach and pus dripped from smaller wounds in his shoulders and abdomen.
“What are you doing to me?” Xamian screamed. “How are you torturing me?”
“We’ve combined our magicks.” Gazaar’s whip snaked out and wrapped around Xamian’s waist.
Morgana rushed forward and sank her fangs into his calf. The demon kicked, but Morgana bobbed out of his way and returned to Babet. Soon, dark stains colored Xamian’s veins. The snake’s poison pumped through them. The demon panted. Sweat beaded on his crimson skin, and he pressed his palms to his temples. He struggled, but he was weak. His left leg snapped and he roared. He turned to Gazaar. “Take me! Get me away from here! Drop me back in my pit.”
“As you wish.” Gazaar nodded to the witches and Prosper. “I’ll return soon.”
Prosper stared. He held up his hand and rubbed the ring Babet had bespelled for him. Ancient symbols covered every inch of its surface. “Remind me never to make Evangeline mad.”
“She’s only vicious when someone pushes her too far.”
Prosper let out a long breath, and Hennie patted his arm. “I’m going to start a pot of tea. It’s over. It’s time to relax and celebrate a hard victory. Perdita brought a container of cookies.”
His eyes lit at the mention of cookies. Rowan and Babet trailed behind them. Babet leaned closer to her mother. “Are you all right?”
Rowan frowned. “I need to rethink who I let join our coven. Weaker witches can train with us, but it’s too dangerous to take them in unless they can defend themselves against formidable enemies.”
Babet sighed. Their coven had existed for a long time, but they’d mostly concentrated on improving their magic, becoming better witches. They hadn’t thought about fighting evil, but maybe they should.
When they entered the shop, Prosper came to hand her a cookie. “Eat one. You’ll feel better.”
Babet grimaced, but popped the circle of sugary wonder into her mouth. And who knew? It did make her feel better. So did having Prosper by her side. And soon, Gazaar stood beside her mother.
Evangeline came to hand her father a sealed, waxed bag with the voodoo doll inside it. “In case you need it sometime in the future.”
He raised a black eyebrow at it, but smiled. “Thank you.”
Evangeline laughed. “They’re creepy, aren’t they? They give me the shivers.”
Babet let out a relieved sigh. Her friend did what needed done, but at heart, she was a kind and gentle person.
They ordered in pizza for supper, enjoyed each other’s company, and then everyone started for home. Prosper had called Hatchet to catch him up on the news, and Hatchet had volunteered to pick up Ophelia, Perdita, and Evangeline to give them rides home. When he pulled to the curb, Babet watched Ophelia, shoulders slumped, walk toward his car. She was going home to an empty house.
The girl looked so sad, Babet bit her bottom lip, unsure how to help her. But Perdita said, “It’s going to feel lonely at my place when Evangeline returns to the settlement. What if you stay with me a few days to keep me company? I could use it.”
Ophelia gazed at her in surprise. “Are you sure?”
“We can bake cookies and garden,” Perdita said, “and I can help you practice your magic, to make it stronger.”
“I’d like that.”
Evangeline smiled. “I’ll stay an extra night, so we can all get to know each other better.”
Babet leaned closer to Prosper. Some witches could toss magic bolts and zap enemies, but some baked cookies and made people feel better. Everyone had their own set of strengths, and she meant to respect each of them.
Prosper bent to kiss her forehead. “I have special skills, too. I don’t just rip out throats. I’m a connoisseur of great legs and nimble witches.”
She narrowed her eyes. Had he read her thoughts? “Is that so?”
He tugged on her hand. “I’ll give you a ride home and prove it.”
Morgana followed them to the car. She coiled on the back seat and rested her head on the smooth leather. Babet smiled. They were all ready for the simple joys of home, even the snake.