Authors: Kimberly Frost
“What?” I demanded frantically.
“Bryn Lyons. I was having another meeting with him when he got your text. I really wouldn’t have—but then of course, you’re you, so you would.”
“I would what?”
“Be brave enough to invite one of your lovers over to the other’s house for breakfast.”
“Oh my God,” I said, spinning around to glare at Zach and Edie.
“Listen, Tammy Jo, a couple of things.”
I didn’t answer her because I was completely speechless.
“First, I really hope that we can get together today. I’m desperate for a slice of The Tammy torte. I dreamed about it last night. And second, I need your advice on firearms.”
Oh, for the love of Hershey!
“So as soon as you finish breakfast, can you call me back? Ex-oh-ex-oh. That’s hugs and kisses. I’m not sure if anyone really says that. But I used to see that on
and always liked it. All right, again, in summary, you should get in your car and drive away. But barring that, if Bryn starts calling down the heavens, take cover and use an Aetas spell for protection. Bye for now.”
For a moment, I stood as still as stone, completely bewildered. I had no idea what an
spell was or how to do one. And why was Bryn coming to Zach’s?
I checked my messages. There was only one text from Bryn, and it contained two words:
“Where are the other messages?” I demanded.
“Flip,” Edie said, and Zach turned the page for her. “What messages, Tammy? What’s she talking about?” Edie asked Zach.
“Lyons is on his way over,” Zach said.
“Oh, he is,” Edie said, sitting back in her chair with a smile. “Are you going to shoot him?”
I glared at her. She had no business egging Zach on. What the hell was wrong with her anyway?
“Nah,” Zach said.
“Too bad,” Edie said. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to let things take their natural course.”
“I see,” Edie said, still smiling. I wanted to throttle her.
“I don’t see,” I said. “What are you planning to do? To pick a fight with him?”
He didn’t answer.
“Of course you are,” I said, bitter as unsweetened cocoa. I really needed some chocolate to settle my nerves. I grabbed my purse and stomped through the living room and out the front door. Hopping up and down on the porch, I contemplated texting or calling Bryn and telling him not to come. But I knew he’d come anyway, and I didn’t want to fight and distract him while he drove. What if he crashed?
I dug through my purse looking for anything sweet and found two miniature Mr. Goodbars. I ripped off the wrapping and consumed them in three bites.
Bryn’s superfast sports car roared up to the curb, and I met him halfway down the walk.
“I didn’t send you those text messages,” I said.
“I figured,” he said. “But it seems they were true.” He looked me over, and I remembered too late that I was wearing one of Zach’s football jerseys as a nightgown. Waves of Bryn’s magic crashed over me, and it was hard to meet his eyes.
“Bryn, wait. It’s not as bad as it looks. I didn’t make love with him.”
“You spent the night here. You slept in his bed,” he accused.
When I didn’t deny it, he walked past me.
“What will confronting Zach accomplish? He’s not the problem.”
“He’s half the problem,” Bryn said, his Irish lilt returning. It always came out when he was really mad.
He stalked into the house, and I looked around helplessly. I had to stop them. I knew men sometimes needed to let their anger out, but this was too dangerous. Zach could break a jaw with one punch. Bryn could wield magic that sliced like a knife. If they tried to kill each other, they’d succeed.
“What I really need is a tranquilizer gun.” I spotted the hose.
, I thought. Crashing sounds exploded from the house as I ran to the spigot. I spun the knob and dragged the hose up the porch steps.
Halfway across the living room, I ran out of hose. I pointed the nozzle toward the kitchen and blasted the guys with it.
They jerked apart, sputtering, but Bryn muttered a spell and Zach yanked off his shirt. I felt Bryn’s spell ricochet off Zach’s amulet. It slammed into Bryn, who doubled over. Pain sliced through my chest. I dropped the hose, gasping.
The amulet glowed purple and gold. I hiked to the kitchen, shielding my eyes from the bright light. Bryn rubbed his chest, eyeing the medallion. He whispered and his power reached out to the other side of the room, looking for a chink in Zach’s metaphysical armor.
I squinted, my head aching like someone had tightened a vise around it. Bryn reached over and gripped my bare forearm, drawing power. I jerked back.
“No, not to use against Zach,” I said, stepping out of reach.
“He’s used you against me,” Bryn murmured, and then he spoke in Latin and a window shattered inward. Zach spun just in time to keep a glass shard from stabbing him in the leg. It cut the skin and glanced off. Zach grabbed a piece of glass and flung it at Bryn. Bryn countered with a spell and a wave of his hand, but the amulet interfered and the glass sliced Bryn’s side.
I grabbed my side. No blood coated my hand, but pain seared my flesh. I panted for breath and dropped to my knees.
“Zach, stop,” Edie cried. “You’re hurting Tammy Jo.”
Both men swung to look at me.
“The amulet can’t hurt her. She’s protected from it. It’s gotta be his magic in the ring that it’s reacting to. Take that damn ring off,” Zach said, stalking over. I shielded my face from the dreaded pendant.
“Stop. Don’t come closer!” I yelled. He froze.
“Take the ring off her,” Zach growled at Bryn. “You’re not going to use her as a shield.”
“It’s not the ring,” Bryn said, bending down and putting a soothing hand on my back.
I clawed the ring off my finger and cast it aside in case it was the problem. “Let me go,” I said, pushing Bryn away gently. My eyes stung and my head ached. The pain in my side eased, but I thought that was more from time than the weakened effect of the amulet’s power.
“Get out,” Zach yelled, shoving Bryn hard toward the doorway. “Get out so I can take this thing off. It didn’t hurt her like this last night. Not until you got here.”
“You can’t use it against me without using it against her. She and I are bound by a blood oath.”
“Get the hell out of my house,” Zach roared, pushing Bryn through the living room.
I closed my eyes. The two kinds of magic inside me had come uncoiled from each other. The witch magic wanted to reach out to Bryn. The fae magic wanted to stumble outside into the grass to touch the earth, to draw comfort from it, to heal. Too divided to move, I stayed where I was. My hand throbbed and burned for my missing ring.
I crawled toward where I’d thrown it. I needed to put it back on. There was too much pain coming from so many directions.
“Tamara, be still. There’s glass all around you. Be careful,” Bryn said.
“Out!” Zach shouted.
“Yes, go outside, Bryn. Please,” I said. I wanted them apart.
I heard the front door slam and a couple of seconds later, Zach leaned over me. He picked me up and set me on the table. The headache and eye pain eased. He wasn’t wearing the amulet anymore.
My hand still cramped and seared. I looked around and spotted the gold ring. I hopped off the table and stepped over glass to get to it. I slid it back on my finger and exhaled in relief. I leaned against the counter, feeling exhausted.
“I had TJ send me your hairbrush. The warlocks at the training center used the hair to code your witch magic into the amulet. They swore it wouldn’t hurt or repel you. It should work on anyone supernatural except you.”
“Yeah, but I’m not just a witch, Zach. I’m half witch and half fae. I think there’s some iron in the amulet and when it’s activated, it affects me. Also, Bryn’s right. I felt every one of the wounds to him that the amulet inflicted. Our power is connected now. No one can hurt either one of us without hurting the other.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I made an oath.”
“What oath? You’ll take it back.”
“I told you that I made a vow to save his life. I did it willingly, combining my blood and his. My power and his. There’s no way to undo it that I can find. I’ve looked it up in books and asked Aunt Mel.” I shook my head. “It’s for life or longer.”
Zach took a step back like I’d struck him. “So you’re tied to that guy? Forever? When you mentioned the vow before, you made it sound so casual. I didn’t realize what it meant—”
“I don’t have to sleep with him or marry him. I don’t even have to see him. But if he’s wounded or I am, it has consequences for both of us.”
“So you have to protect each other. If someone comes to kill him, that’s your fight, too.”
“How could you do this?” he murmured. “This is worse than if you’d married him. At least then you could’ve divorced him. If this is something that can’t be undone—” He made a strangled sound. “Then he’s already won.” Zach covered his mouth against an anguished groan from deep in his chest.
Tears welled in my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Zach,” I whispered. “I know it’s a shock, but—”
Zach shook his head, his eyes unnaturally bright. He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. “I love you,” he rasped. “I always will. But there’s no way—” He shook his head again and rubbed a hand down his face, sucking in a breath. “I can’t share you. One man. One woman. That’s what I believe in.”
“We can be friends.”
“No. We can’t,” he said.
The weight of his words crushed me, and my knees threatened to buckle. “Okay,” I croaked.
Zach grabbed my arms and pulled me to him. The hug was fierce and then we were both crying. After a few minutes, I started to have hope; he held me so tight.
Then his grip slackened, and he kissed my temple. “All right,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “That’s the end of it. Go on home.”
He let me go and turned, fresh tears still wet on his lashes. He strode out the kitchen door without looking back. I watched him reach the fence and go over it, watched him disappear into the woods where wind rustled lonely branches.
It’s not right
, I thought, holding out a hand to the empty yard.
Last night . . . but now.
The thoughts were as broken as my heart.
All over? We’d never even talk? Like one of us was dead? How could I stand it?
When I came back to myself, I found that I sat in a kitchen chair, all cried out and exhausted.
I shook myself as though I could shake off the morning. I stood woodenly and walked stiffly into the bedroom. I changed into my own clothes and put Zach’s jersey in the clothes hamper. I couldn’t bring myself to strip the bed.
Tears blurred my eyes as I swept the glass into a pile and put it in a trash bag. I used towels to mop up the water from the floor and retrieved the hose from the living room.
I wiped the still-flowing tears from my face with my shirt as I left the house. I tossed the hose beside the house, turned off the water, and returned to the porch.
I realized that Bryn stood in the street, leaning against his car, waiting. How long had it been? He was probably upset, too, and feeling betrayed. I’d made a mess of things, but I couldn’t handle a conversation about it yet. I’d just lost Zach for real and for good. I couldn’t think . . . Bryn would be okay. He always was. He could handle anything.
“I can’t talk,” I said, my voice strangely flat. He started toward me, but I held out a hand to ward him off and shook my head.
“Later, okay? I need a little time.”
He clenched his teeth but got in his car.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, but I don’t think he heard me.
I turned back to the house and stared into the living room that had once been mine. Slowly, I reached in and pulled the front door closed with me on the outside.
FOR THE FIRST couple of hours after I got home, I was melancholy. I opened the windows, wrapped a blanket around me, and flipped through photo albums. I ignored the phone, the fridge, and the ringing bluebells.
Merc came in and lay down with me on the couch. I hugged him to me and fell asleep, which was why I woke an hour later with a mouthful of fur.
“Ugh,” I said, trying to blow the hair off my tongue.
Edie sat on the coffee table, watching over me.
“Hi,” I said, rubbing my face.
“Hello,” she said.
“Are you all right?” I asked. “I didn’t get a chance to talk to you before. Are the Duvall ghosts doing better?”
“The ones who are still around are doing fine. Did you get Lyons to lift his spell?”
“He said he didn’t cast one.”
“Of course he would say that. He has to keep up appearances for you, doesn’t he?” she asked.
I held out a hand to ward off any more of that kind of talk. “I don’t feel like arguing.”
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. You’re tired and wrung out. I came to check on you, not to play the shrew. Are you all right?”
I nodded halfheartedly.
“The phone’s been ringing nonstop. Feel free to ignore it, if you wish.”
“Did Bryn call?”
“How would I know?”
I dug under the cushions for my phone.
Now that the initial shock and grief of losing Zach had passed, things were becoming clear. Zach didn’t want me to have any connection to Bryn, but even if I’d known how Zach would react, I’d have made that oath to save Bryn’s life. It was as simple as that. Also, Zach acted as though I’d betrayed him, but he’d betrayed me, too. By not believing me when I’d first told him about Edie years earlier. He’d sent me to a psychiatrist. One who’d threatened to institutionalize me someday. Zach had treated me like I was broken. Even so, when he’d realized the truth and apologized, I’d forgiven him. Why couldn’t he do the same for me now? Why couldn’t he see that I’d done the best I could on the night of the oath and that I hadn’t hurt him intentionally?
Because jealousy isn’t rational
, I thought.
And it brings out the worst in people.
That thought brought me back to Bryn, who’d been so patient and understanding for weeks. I chewed my lip. How was he now? After finally losing his cool? I tried to put myself in his shoes, seeing the person I loved coming half-dressed out of an ex’s house. I winced. He was probably still mad at me, but he’d seemed calm by the time I saw him on the street.