Home > Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(8)

Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(8)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“You should just let me out here,” Molly added, her voice still trembling. “You haven’t crossed a line yet.”

She was right, I realized. Aside from lying to Eli about where I’d gone, I hadn’t technically done anything wrong . . . as long as I took Molly straight to Dashiell now. Or, at the very least, called him to report her transgression. I could say she’d left before I arrived at the house, and no one would question it—after all, capturing wayward vampires wasn’t part of my job. Cleaning up after them was.

Moreover, not one person in the Old World would judge me harshly for breaking my ties to Molly right now. Especially considering how she’d asked me to move out after I’d gotten into my own dangerous misadventures. I couldn’t exactly blame her, even then, but I didn’t owe her anything now.

But I could still hear Jesse’s voice in my head, as clearly as if he were in the back seat. She’s your friend. You have to help her.

“What do you need?” I asked.

Molly’s lip trembled for a moment, but she just nodded at me, too overwhelmed to speak for a moment. Her eyes darted to the clock on the dashboard. It wasn’t even eight o’clock yet, although it seemed hours later. She cleared her throat. “Can you give me a ride to Thousand Oaks?” I frowned, trying to review my mental list of Los Angeles neighborhoods. “North on the 101,” Molly added, seeing my confusion.

I swallowed. Right. Thousand Oaks was just outside the county line, which I was absolutely not supposed to cross with Shadow. The bargest was with me as a sort of . . . mmm . . . exchange student from a group of evil, werewolf-hunting European witches. They had agreed to stay out of North America as long as Shadow never left LA County. If anyone inside their organization had connections to the Old World, it could theoretically get back to them that I’d broken the rule.

But helping Molly was already breaking the rules. Would it really matter that I was bringing Shadow too?

“Are you sure?” I asked her.

She nodded. “My friend Frederic works at a twenty-four-hour storage facility. I have reserves there.”

Vampires kept cash and IDs stashed here and there in case they had to flee town. Either it was Molly’s closest stash, or any other supplies she had were too close to Dashiell’s home base.

I nodded and restarted the van, but before I shifted into Drive, I did something I never do: I turned off my phone. Technically, this made me unavailable for other crime scenes, which was breaking my contract with the Old World leaders. But “business” had been slow for over a year, thanks to the relative peace. Besides, I’d never done it before, and I was betting I could get away with it once by claiming a dead phone battery.

I was betting a lot.

Chapter 5

The first part of the drive was very quiet. Molly stared out the window, her face empty. I couldn’t imagine what she must be feeling. Forced or not, she’d killed her friends, and now she was going to have to burn down the life she’d spent years building. Every now and then, when I glanced over, I saw fresh tears running down her cheeks.

The pile of framed pictures was still on her lap, and after a while she began lifting each one, carefully removing the photo, and dropping the frame on the floor by her feet. When she was finished, she tucked the small stack of photos into a pocket of her backpack.

“I can’t believe they’re really gone,” she said softly. “Harper and I were supposed to study for our final tonight. I can’t stop thinking of how they—” Her voice broke into a sob, and she sniffed hard, turning to face me. “Can we, like, talk about something else? Tell me how you’ve been.”

This was dancing very close to the subject of how our friendship had fallen apart, but of all people, I understood the value of distraction. “Work’s been pretty good,” I offered. “Corry went off to college in the fall—Berkeley—but I’ve had fewer crime scenes, so I’ve been able to handle things on my own.” Corry was the only other null on this side of the Mississippi, and sort of my protégé, although that word felt weird. “I’ve also been working more with Will on security for the bar, and with the Haynes.”

Dashiell’s security was overseen by a single family that had served him for hundreds of years. Until I was a partner, I hadn’t realized that Theodore Hayne, the head of security, wasn’t the only Hayne currently on Dashiell’s payroll. Theo’s brother, a CPA, handled some of Dashiell’s finances, and his sister, Abigail, took care of all of Dashiell’s electronic security—cell phones, computers, etc. She was the person you called if a vampire’s picture appeared on Facebook, or the werewolves were caught changing on a public security camera. And for a human, she was pretty scary.

Molly’s face broke out into a smile. “You’re working with Abby? How’s that going?”

“Uh . . . you know.” I waved it away. Abigail hated me, but I didn’t want to discuss it.

“What about your brother? How’s Jack doing?” Molly said hurriedly, before a really decent silence could get going.

“Jack is good. He’s doing his internship at the hospital now. He actually got married last weekend.”

Molly brightened. “He did? That’s fantastic!”

I smiled a little. “Her name is Juliet, she’s a guidance counselor at an elementary school, and she’s got two kids. I don’t see them that much, but they’re pathologically adorable.”

“Were you a bridesmaid?”

Of course that would be Molly’s first question. “Yes,” I grumbled. “Eli was an usher. We managed to survive the formalwear, but it was a close thing.”

“That’s right, you’re still with Eli.” For a second I was startled, but then I remembered she would have figured that out in order to find me at the art walk. Was I crazy, or was there a sort of skepticism in her voice? Like she was surprised.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” My voice came out a little defensive. Before she could answer, a half-dozen insecurities flashed through my mind. Because you two have nothing in common. Because he likes being around people and you don’t. Because he’s dependent on you to keep him human. And so on.

But Molly just shrugged. “No ring on your finger. I always figured Eli for the settling-down type.”

I went quiet, but despite the years we’d spent apart, Molly knew me too well not to pick up on it. “He asked you, didn’t he?” she guessed.

“No! Well, not in so many words. He just sort of brought it up. At Jack’s reception. As a . . . possibility.”

I couldn’t really blame him—there we were, all dressed up, the shiniest possible versions of ourselves, surrounded by evidence of love and commitment. Of course it had crossed his mind. I shouldn’t have been surprised . . . but the thing is, I was. I had never really expected us to get married . . . no, that wasn’t right. I hadn’t even considered marriage as a viable option in my life. I was happy with the way things were—living with Eli and Shadow, working my job and my side projects, taking a few college classes on things that interested me. In fact, I’d spent the last three years living in the here and now, trying not to think too much about where I would be in five years, ten years. The marriage conversation had been a rude awakening.

Molly spread her hands wide, impatient for me to continue. “And?”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I told him I wasn’t sure.” I was nearly twenty-seven, plenty old enough for marriage, and Eli and I loved each other. We lived together, we shared expenses, and we were even kind of raising an abominable dog-monster together.

The trouble was, even if you set aside Eli’s maddening overprotectiveness, there were a dozen small reasons not to marry him. Part of it was that Eli wanted kids, and for reasons no one can really explain, nulls can’t have them. We could adopt, of course, but I wasn’t sure that I could be a mom, or sure that I even wanted to anymore. Back when I’d thought I was just a regular human being, I’d always figured that I’d have children eventually. But now . . . just thinking about it terrified me, and I didn’t really know why.

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