“I want you to draw me a map of the mountains, and where you leave the children to the witches,” I said.
Cassava would love that, to raise witches, teaching them and training them to be her own Enders. Seeing as how witches were descendants from elementals long, long ago, I could see it now, as easily as if Cassava spoke the words in front of me. A question popped out of me before I could think better of it. “When was the last child given up?”
“Ahh, that one. Six or seven years ago. And she was barely ten, an early bloomer by all accounts. Usually they have had their first moon cycle before the magic flows.” Her words were soft, and she spoke with a little more authority than I thought was warranted for a human.
She leaned across the table, giving me an ample glimpse of her cleavage. And the necklaces that hung there. One of them was a five-pointed star, the mark of a witch in many circles. I reached out and grabbed it, tugging her closer across the table. “Are you one of them?”
A slow, sultry laugh rolled through her and her body, face, clothes and hair shimmered. She went from a pretty woman to an absolutely stunning one. She stood and smiled down at me, then slowly frowned. “What are you? I cannot pin you as a supernatural, yet you are not human either or the drink would have downed you.”
I leaned back in my chair, thinking fast. I didn’t have many options but to try and get her to believe me. “I seek a supernatural, one who has committed many crimes and many deaths. I believe she may be hiding here, in your mountains.”
“A witch?” There was a dangerous glimmer in her eyes and her fingers twitched as though she were prepping a spell.
“No. An elemental.”
That stopped her. “They are myths, they do not exist.”
It was my turn to smile. “Then you will have no problem with me seeking out the myth in your mountains?”
Her eyes narrowed. “No. You may not.”
I nodded, turned my cup upside down on the table, and stood. “Goodnight to you then. We will be gone by morning.”
It took all I had to turn my back on her and walk away. My skin fairly itched knowing she could blast me and I would not see it coming. The problem was I had no choice, I didn’t want her to know what I planned.
I slipped into the bedroom given to us and lay on the floor. I knew the witch would come after me. I felt it in my bones that she was not done with me. But I was not here for her. I was here for Cassava.
And I was sure she was hiding out with the witches in the mountains. The parallels were only too clear to me. Now, it was only a matter of figuring out just how to corner her, without her new friends catching on to me. I lay there, counting the minutes as I waited for the brothel to settle down. The sounds of lovemaking brought thoughts of Larkspur rolling through me, of our time together.
My eyes drifted shut, and it was only at the edge of sleep that I realized I’d been a fool. I should have stayed awake. Should have fought harder. But . . . a heavy fog slid over me.
Voices back and forth, that was all I could hear, and I could not open my eyes.
“Ahh, he is lovely. He’d make a nice breeder, don’t you think?”
“Mala, I agree. But I think he is more than just a human. There is something about him, and he spoke of elementals as if they were real. He travels with a Yeti. I knew he was special the moment I saw him.”
“It could be he is mad.”
“True.” A hand slid down my chest and cupped my manhood, stroking sure and hard. I groaned, trying to wake up as they set to arousing me.
“What about the other one?”
“The Yeti was caught in the sleep spell as soon as he laid on the bed.”
There was a tug on my waistband, the sound of my buckle being undone. No, this was not happening to me. Not again.
called the power of the earth to me, and strength shot through me, shattering the spell on my mind. I bolted upright and slammed a fist into a woman’s jaw, snapping her head back. The other squealed and scrambled to get away even as she called up a spell. I was on top of her, pinning her belly to the ground so she could not see me. With quick, efficient movements I got her hands behind her and wrapped them tightly with a strip from the bottom of her skirt. With her hands bound, her ability to use a spell fairly disappeared.
“Are you going to kill me?” she whispered. This had to be Mala.
“Perhaps, Mala. Or maybe not, if you help me.” I tipped her so she could see my face, and I hers. Her green eyes were wide and I saw in her the flicker of power that was in every witch. The strength and connection to the elements that spoke of their past convergence to the four families.
She swallowed hard and nodded, which sent a cascade of red hair over her eyes. “I will answer all your questions.”
I left her there and turned to the other. “What is your friend’s name?”
“Well, Yasmine, you’re about to see what it’s like to be in your own sleep spell.” I grabbed Norm and dragged him off the bed with a thump, then took Yasmine by the arm and yanked her up onto the bed. A part of me wanted to strip her down and let the Yeti have a go at her. I shook my head. No, that wasn’t me. No matter what, that wasn’t me. I did up my pants and pulled my cloak on as Norm stirred at my feet.
“Friend, I have to tell you something,” he muttered. “I’d really like to find a lady Yeti, right now.”
My lips twitched and I shook my head. “It’s a spell, so another time maybe.” He groaned and sat up, evidence of his feelings plain to see. I looked away. Wasn’t his fault, any more than it was mine, other than I was a fool getting us caught in the witch trap.