“Focus, Adra!” That shout came from her instructor in the arcane, Finn Magnum. There was nothing in the world she wanted to do more, since the exercises resulted in her being drenched by an invisible spill of water from Evelyn Turner, the local soothsayer. Apparently, it was really special that she could command an element to do her will.
Yeah, special. Then, why did she seem to be enjoying this just a little too much?
They were out in a meadow near the Old Point Bridge, where no one would presumably see them because of some mojo Finn could work. It was all part of his, here but not here bullshit.
Maybe she was just too black and white, but you were either there, or you were not. There never seemed to be an in between before. However, there’d never been bear shifter boyfriends up until about two weeks ago.
In one crazy moment, she’d discovered there were people who could change into animals at will, her nameless father, wherever he may be, was actually a sorcerer, and her witch powers were pretty. That last was literally the only upside she could see.
As to Boyd, well, he was the only bright spot in all of this. They had decided to be engaged to appease the bears need for secrecy. In their world, she had to be part of the tribe, or she was part of the problem. But, if she brought Boyd home to Mamie and announced she was getting married after a week, her grandmother would pitch her tent on an epic campaign the likes of which has not been seen since Gettysburg.
Mamie made the term steel magnolia seem like an understatement. She had clearly defined expectations, especially for Adra.
“I’m trying, you lughead!” She shouted it back as a fall of water cascaded over her head, leaving her hair in sopping strings. “Language,” he mocked. “Again, Evie. Do it until she gets this.”
“You are a serious jerk, you know that,” she complained. Thankfully, they were hitting the warmest part of the year. If this had been Fall, she might have killed him.
For some reason, the woods to their south were silent. No bird song, no katydids. She had raised her hands to work the barrier spell Herr Finn was torturing her with today. Adra lowered them. “Why is it so quiet?”
Finn, dressed in his usual uniform of tight black jeans and black T, appeared at her elbow, making her jump. She gave a surprised sound and said, “Don’t do that.”
“Can’t help it. It is quiet.”
Evelyn wound her way carefully through the thick grass cautious of snakes. Her beaded braids clinked pleasantly as she moved. When she stood at Finn’s side, she said, “You think someone’s out there?”
Suddenly, a glowing flame of bright burning red and orange shot toward their group. Adra felt her heart try to start racing, but it didn’t really have that kind of time. Instinctively, she raised her hands at the oncoming flame. Green light danced delicately off her fingertips, then roared to life as the flames drew nearer.
Forming a large wall of vine like tendrils inside that green light, the barrier surrounded the three of them. As the flames died away, Adra had expected to be burning, but she wasn’t. She stood within a thinly transparent wall of vines with both Finn and Evie. It domed them all.
A thick laugh reverberated in the humid morning air, a woman’s laugh. “Ah, Finn. Another protege, I see.” The way she said every word was laced with sarcasm and mockery, but Adra couldn’t tell if it was because she meant it to be mockery or if she was just very Irish. Stereotypically so; red hair, thick accent, pale skin like porcelain.
“Amelia Soren, as I live and breathe.” Finn didn’t respond with like mockery, as would be Adra’s expectation of him. Instead, he was being careful, measured. That more than anything else put up her guard. “What brings you to the underworld?”