Magic In the Blood ab-2, page 21part #2 of Allie Beckstrom Series
“Whose?” I repeated, looking at Violet.
She took a sip of her tea. “Mine. And your father’s.”
At my expression she said, “I’m four months along. We had, well, just before he was killed.” She didn’t say any more, which was good. I was having a hard time sorting this out, and picturing her in bed with my father wasn’t helping any.
Kevin had the right idea. I picked up my coffee cup and took a drink. Hot, bitter. I wished it were something stronger.
Violet, who was about my age, was pregnant with my father’s child.
One part of me hoped maybe she was wrong-that it wasn’t my father’s child. That maybe it was Kevin’s or some one-night stand she’d had. But Violet was a smart woman-the brains behind most of the newest tech coming out from my dad’s company. If she believed it was my father’s child, then I was certain it was.
“Wow,” I said. “Are you happy?”
“I am. It was a… shock. I didn’t find out until after. He never knew.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I am. Happy.”
“You and my dad were okay together?”
“Allie, I loved your father. Despite the age difference. I was the one who chased him.”
It didn’t take magic for me to know she was telling the truth. I didn’t know what she had seen in him. My father was a controlling, driven, frequently angry man. But maybe this-the child-was what she had wanted.
“Congratulations?” I offered.
She laughed, a short, happy sound. “I’m sorry. Just… the look on your face is hilarious. Haven’t you ever wanted a little brother or sister?”
Oh. Sweet. Hells.
“When I was a kid, maybe. I’m old enough to be this kid’s mother.” How was that for tactful?
But Violet laughed. “I know. Weird, isn’t it? That’s part of why I wanted to tell you before anyone else. Only Kevin and my doctor knows. I thought you should have a chance to get used to it a little before the gossip columns pick it up.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
She slipped her fingers behind her glasses and pressed against her eyes. She was still smiling. “What else am I going to do? It is what it is. I’ll figure it out as I go. That’s life.” She readjusted her glasses and placed her hands on the tabletop.
Kevin’s fingers stretched slightly, almost but not brushing her hand before he pulled away. I don’t think Violet noticed.
For all her laughter, Violet sounded tired. Maybe even a little weepy. In her shoes, I’d be a big fat pile of panic.
“I’m happy for you,” I said.
“Yes. And I’m happy for our family.”
Sweet hells. I’d just told her we were family. Must be the fever. I mean, I did think I could like her someday-not as my stepmother but maybe as a friend. And if that kid was my father’s child, then he or she had my father’s blood-my blood. That made us family whether I liked it or not.
Violet smiled and her eyes got a little teary. “Thank you.”
She reached over and gave my hands a squeeze just as the waiter showed up for our orders.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Sure.” I ordered a stack of pancakes, sausage, and eggs. Violet went for eggs, toast, and fruit; Kevin chose the omelette and a side of bacon.
As soon as the waiter left, Violet spoke up again. “There are a couple more things I want to talk to you about. Nothing quite so… life changing, I think. First, I want you to take this.” She pulled a cell phone out of her purse. “It’s the same number as the one you have that isn’t working. It’s top-of-the-line.”
I opened my mouth and she held up a finger. “This is coming out of Beckstrom Enterprise’s budget, and it should. I want to be able to get a hold of you easier, Allie. So do other people in the company. Ethan has been trying to talk to you for days.”
“Ethan Katz. Our accountant. He needs to go over some things regarding your father’s estate with you.”
I took the phone. Slick, black, and small. I flicked it open; the screen lit. So far so good. We’d see how long it lasted. I put it in my jacket pocket. “Thank you,” I said. “For some reason, I’m not having much luck with phones lately.”
Kevin shifted slightly. “Batteries going bad on you?”
“How’d you guess?”
He shrugged. “If this phone doesn’t hold up, I have some other ideas.”
Just as I thought. This man played in the magic sandbox with the big boys. Good for Violet. At least she’d have someone who could kick some magical ass and keep her, and my little sibling, safe.
The waiter came back with our food, and no one apologized for digging in. Kevin was attentive to Violet in small ways I don’t think she noticed. Without her asking, he refilled the water of her tea and turned the jam carousel so that the huckleberry was within reach. They moved easily in each other’s space. Something at least I and, when Kevin caught me watching, he was very aware of. I wondered why he hadn’t told her he had feelings for her.
Maybe it was the recently murdered husband and unplanned pregnancy thing? Did they even make a greeting card to profess your love under such circumstances?
Yeah, they probably did. It was probably on the shelf next to the “sorry to hear you got groped by your dad’s ghost, but running him down in the street isn’t the way to pay him back, and by the way, dead people don’t like you” card.
“I don’t know how much thought you’ve put into this,” Violet said. “But I want you to have a part in guiding your father’s business.”
“Interesting. So you don’t like Beckstrom Enterprises?”
“No. I think your father wanted you to step in.” She held up one hand and it cut off my smart-ass reply.
When did I start responding to hand signals? Note to self: work on that.
“I know running the business may not be your goal in life. With the present board and competent heads of all the divisions, things are going fine. Daniel didn’t run the company single-handed, though that’s what he would have liked everyone to think. He hired incredibly qualified and capable people.”
“Sounds like all the bases are covered. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to think about it. Do you want to follow your father’s footsteps and take the company down the path he chose? Do you want to take the company in a new direction? You have a majority of the vote, Allie. Even if you don’t want to do anything different from what is already happening, you need to at least lend your voice to the company’s future. People are waiting to hear what you have to say.”
Holy shit. I don’t know why I hadn’t ever looked at it that way, but she was right. I had the reins of my father’s dirty, vicious, greedy company in my hands. To make, or break.
Violet ate the last of her toast and stared down at her nearly empty plate.
“Sick?” Kevin asked quietly.
“No.” She smiled up at him, and he was very good at not letting her see what her smile did to him. “Just happy I can eat breakfast again.”
He nodded and went back to sipping coffee, watching the door, and ignoring my pointed looks.
Okay, so I wasn’t just going to grind my father’s company into the ground. Violet, and my soon-to-be sibling, depended on it. Not only that, she had cutting-edge magic technology copatented with Beckstrom Enterprises, and I would hate for the control of her own technology to be taken out of her hands. And I bet there were a lot worse hands it could fall into.
“Let me think about it,” I said.
“Good. That’s all I’m asking. So. How are things with you and Zayvion Jones?”
I carefully did not let my reaction show. “What do you mean?”
“I saw the security tape of you and him in the elevator. Looked like things were getting serious between you. Are you still seeing each other?”
Note to self: find security tape and figure out what she’s talking a
“We’re going to dinner tonight,” I said.
She smiled. “I think you would be good together.”
“Wait-you know him?”
Kevin had gathered her plate and stacked it on his and then taken mine and done the same. Violet leaned back on the padded bench and tucked one leg up beneath her, cradling her tea in her hands. She looked over at Kevin, and he nodded.
Well, well. They shared secrets. How interesting.
“He’s a part of the group your father was involved in,” she said. “I’m not directly involved, but I am aware of the things that fall beneath their concern.”
“Could you be more vague?”
Kevin brushed off his hands over the plates. It looked like he was getting rid of crumbs, but what he was really doing was casting a very subtle Mute spell.
Holy hells, he was good. This plain-looking guy with eyes that were too big and a chin that was too small was suddenly up there on my list of people I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
That Mute spell would allow us to talk, and the people around us wouldn’t even notice they couldn’t understand what we were saying.
“Zayvion,” Violet said, “is a part of the Watch. A branch of the Authority. Has he told you this?”
“We haven’t had a lot of time to chat.” Which wasn’t entirely true. Zayvion had not told me he was a part of anything called the Watch. He had mentioned secret magic vigilantes. Maybe it was the same thing?
“The Authority is a private organization of people who do what they can behind the scenes to keep magic, and the people who use it, safe. Zayvion works for them.”
“And my dad was a part of this too?”
Kevin answered. “He was a voice in the Authority. He had influence and sway among the members.”
“Members like you?” I asked.
He nodded. “Members like me.”
“So you’re telling me there is a secret society of magic users, and that Zayvion Jones, and both of you, are involved in it to some degree.”
“Yes,” Violet said.
“Why tell me now? Why should I care?”
“I never agreed with your father keeping it a secret from you,” she said. “Some of the board members in Beckstrom Enterprises are also members of the Authority. I am not foolish enough to think you won’t eventually find out. I’m telling you now because your father’s death sent shock waves through that community.”
“But if I’m not a part of that community, what does it matter to me?”
“Shock waves is a polite term,” Kevin said. “Your father’s voice held wide-reaching power and influence over the order of the group and the direction it was going. Not everyone agreed with him. Now that he is gone, sides are being taken. It is very likely there will be a… confrontation. And you, Allie, are a prime target. Beckstrom’s child. Beckstrom’s blood. Culpable.”
“Whoa,” I said.
But Violet spoke over me. “And that is why we would like you to move in with me. With us, at the condo. The magical wards and locks are beyond compare, unbreakable, and Kevin is an excellent guard. Please, Allie. For your safety. Until this… confrontation blows over.”
It had been less than an hour since we’d admitted we might be family, and now she wanted me to move home with Mommy? There was no way she was talking me into coming home. That place had too many memories I would rather forget.
“No,” I said. “No thanks. Absolutely no.”
Violet gave me a hard look, and I raised my eyebrows, trading her stare for stare.
She finally looked away. “You are so like him. Stubborn.”
I let that slide. See how nice I was to the pregnant woman?
I looked over at Kevin. “Is Zayvion ‘watching’ me? Hunting me? Is Zayvion following me around to decide if I’m a danger to magic or to myself? Spying on me for the Authority?”
Kevin blinked. His eyebrows knitted and he leaned forward a little. “Why do you ask?”
“Just a yes or no will do.”
He didn’t smile, but he looked amused. “No.”
I watched his body language, which he patiently let me. He was hard to read. A lot like Zayvion, but without the Zen bit. Still, he didn’t smell like he was lying.
And if he was any good at reading body language, he just saw how relieved his answer made me. Hells, I had it bad for Zayvion. Something deep inside me feared his interest in me was nothing more than a game of who got to keep the magic. Something deep inside me wanted us, Zayvion and me, to have a chance for something more. A lot more.
“Do you know who is watching me?”
Two for two.
“Do you know who Zayvion is watching?”
“Probably. If you want to know, you should ask him.”
“But let me tell you this,” he said. “There are dangerous people and dark magics in this city, Allie. More than you can handle on your own. You should reconsider Mrs. Beckstrom’s offer.”
Mrs. Beckstrom? Wow, he was in serious denial. And he didn’t have to tell me about dangerous people-I had an appointment with Pike and the police to take down Trager today.
“I’ll keep it in mind.” End of conversation. “Thanks for the phone, Violet. And for breakfast. Call me if you need me.” I stood and put money on the table.
“Allie, I got it,” she said.
“No. I’ll pay my part.”
And instead of acting like my dad and refusing to let me stand on my own, pay on my own, she just nodded. “I programed my number into your phone,” she said. “Just in case.”
Just in case I said no and didn’t move in with her. See what I mean? Smart.
“Don’t forget to make an appointment with Mr. Katz,” she said. “His number’s in there too.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” The spiderweb tingle of the Mute spell brushed over me as Kevin deftly unwove it. I walked to the door without looking back.
Okay, that hadn’t gone quite how I expected. Violet was pregnant. And secret magic vigilantes-the Watch, the Authority-were out to get me because I was my father’s child.
If I believed Kevin and Violet.
And I did.
All the more reason to meet with Pike, go to the cops, and tell them about Trager attacking me and wanting Pike. Then the police could take care of Trager, and Pike could retire, and I could go on a date tonight and get information out of Zayvion so I could find a way to keep myself safe that didn’t involve moving in with my father’s widow.
I wondered if I could hire a bodyguard like Kevin. Wondered if Zayvion would be my bodyguard. Right, like I wanted him all over me every second of the day. A wash of heat flushed through me at the thought of that. Okay, maybe the idea had some merit. Even if he said no, he’d know someone I could hire, at least until this “confrontation” blew itself out.
I made my way along the sidewalk, careful over the rock salt and ice. I didn’t see any cabs.
The phone in my pocket rang. I jerked and almost slipped. I fumbled the phone out of my pocket, expecting to hear Violet’s voice on the other end.
“Allie, this is Detective Stotts. I’ve been trying to reach you. I thought this number wasn’t working.”
“It wasn’t,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I need you to come down to the station as soon as you can.”
Dread knuckled into my stomach and twisted. “Why?”
“Martin Pike is missing.”
“Are you sure? He was helping a friend on the east side. Anthony Bell’s mother.”
“We contacted her. She hasn’t seen him for several days.”
“Days?” Hells, I’d seen Pike just yesterday. Home improvements, my ass. Unless Anthony’s mom had a reason to lie. Which she might. Crap. “I’ll be there soon,” I said.
I pocketed the phone and took three steps toward the curb.
A sharp pain snapped electricity up my thigh. The pain shot th
The pain faded, but I could not move, could not lift my feet. Could not swallow or blink.
The smell of sweet cherries wrapped around me, filled my nose, my mouth.
“Come to me,” a man’s voice whispered.
A wash of sexual pleasure rolled beneath my skin, following the path of the pain. The pleasure blended with the echos of pain, creating a new sensation. Bitter and sweet. Oh. I wanted that. Wanted to feel that again. I didn’t know where the voice was, or who it was, but I would do anything to hear it again.
“Ankeny Square.” Words were cherry sweet in my mind, cherry sweet in my mouth, and they felt good. So very, very good. I shuddered.
The street, the city around me faded at the edges, blurring like a dream. I was panting now, too hot in the icy air. I held my breath, waiting, aching for the voice to speak again.
“Come to me.”
And then the presence of the voice was gone. I was left empty, alone. But able to move.
Ankeny Square. I had to go to Ankeny Square.
I stood on the curb until a cab pulled up. I told the driver to take me to Ankeny Square. I tugged off my scarf, my hat, my gloves. I was hot, too hot. The hook in my chest throbbed and cut, an uncomfortable pleasure. The stroke of pain on my thigh spread heat across my hips and made me squirm.
“Can you go faster?” I asked the driver.
I didn’t hear his answer.
The icy city slid past the window. I pulled off my coat and stripped out of my sweater. In jeans and a T-shirt, I still couldn’t shake the heat, couldn’t ease the lovely pain. What was wrong with me?
I leaned my head against the cool window and closed my eyes.
Was I dreaming? The vibration of the cab’s engine transferred through the glass, and sweat stung my eyes and salted my lips. No, this was too solid, too real for a dream.
Why was I was going to Ankeny Square? Because I had to. Because the voice told me to.
Wait. I was following a voice?
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