Low Midnight Page 51

“Amelia!” His shout echoed.

Startled, she flinched and looked up at him. He’d crossed the room to stand directly in front of her. She was too surprised to back away.

“What in God’s name do you want!” He said it as a curse, not a question, but she answered anyway.

“I want to find fairies.”

She’d never said it out loud before. It sounded stark, desperate, childish. Nevertheless, it was as true as it had ever been. Hands clasped tightly together, a heavy lump in her belly, she waited for his response.

He laughed. If he had done anything else, said any words at all, she might have stayed. If they could have had any conversation at all, if he had asked for explanation, if he had listened—she might have stayed. But he laughed.

She turned and left the room. Her one bag was already packed, she had saved a good deal of cash, and in the future she would have access through banks to her inheritance, which came through one of her grandmothers and the rest of the family could not touch. It was her one stroke of luck. She would walk all the way to the village to catch the train. She would never return.

But she did, so many years later, in such an altered form. She wished she could talk to James just one more time. She wished he would say something to her without shouting.

Now, she had Cormac, who never shouted. More than that, he listened. She could weep.

*   *   *

A COUPLE of hours before dawn, she gave up. Cormac collected what was left of the tools and materials and crawled into the Jeep to put his head back and catch an hour or two of sleep.

Amelia didn’t want to sleep. Perhaps if we perform the spell on the night of a full moon—

He shook his head. “You know I don’t like to spend full moon nights running all over hell and back.”

Surely Kitty and Ben can do without you for one night.

The couple didn’t know it, but Cormac liked to stay close to town on full moon nights, when their wolf sides took charge, forcing them to shape-shift. They usually went with their pack into the mountains or out east into the remote plains, far away from civilization and trouble. They’d been doing it long enough, they could handle themselves just fine. They’d been just fine without him when he was in prison. But now that he was out, Cormac liked to be within easy reach. They’d never called for help. Not yet. But just in case. “No.”

Then we find someplace near Denver with gold in the rocks. This shouldn’t be hard.

“Are you sure it’s even possible?” She didn’t say anything, which meant she had doubts. “You know that’s the trouble those old alchemists had—if you don’t know something’s impossible, you’ll keep trying until you kill yourself.”

I will not kill myself. I haven’t yet. Cormac, come talk to me in person. So to speak.

This was the woman who had survived her own execution. Cormac shouldn’t even try arguing with her. He let his mind fall into their shared space, the high country meadow.

Here, the sunwas setting, casting a late-day glow over the valley, the pattern of clouds and light much like the sunset they had watched the previous evening. The sight gave him a jolt, throwing his sense of time off balance. Time of day, weather—it seemed arbitrary here, when it shouldn’t, because he decided what happened here. Didn’t he?

“The sunset last night,” Amelia said. “You were calm. You latched onto the sense of calm.”

He was sitting on his usual rock; she was standing nearby, looking into the western sky. He guessed she was right. Dealing with his mental state would be easier if he didn’t feel like his brain was working all by itself so much of the time.

“I’d be even more calm if you’d let me sleep.”

She came toward him, eyes lit with enthusiasm. “So many variables are involved in a spell like this, it could take months to test them all. Years, even. Performing the spell at midnight locally is a safe choice, of course. But does the phase of the moon play a part, or the time of the year? Both? This might be a spell that can only be performed once in decades, if an alignment of the phase of the moon and planets and one of the solstices or equinoxes is a factor—”

“I don’t want to spend years doing this.”

“Well no, of course not, since we don’t even know if this spell is possible. I’m merely reviewing possibilities. The more I review them, the more I think it can’t work. It’s just as you say, the old alchemy problem, which as it turned out didn’t need magic to solve, but modern chemical manipulation. Kuzniak wrote down plenty of speculation, but I gather he did very little practical testing. It’s less an idea than it is a rumor.”

“Question is,” Cormac said, “does Layne know it doesn’t work? Layne knows I wanted that book—I’m sure he thinks I’m going to go after the gold. Like he did, like Kuzniak did. Why else would I want it?”

“Does that matter?”

“Yeah. It means he isn’t going to leave me alone.”

“Cormac, I’d like to try one more thing, if you agree to it. I’d like to send a message.”

“What message? To who?”

“To the person who wrote to us about Amy Scanlon,” she said, carefully, as if she expected an argument.

Interesting idea. If this person knew about Amy, he knew about magic. It was a long shot, but Cormac was happy enough to light that fuse to see what happened.

Back in the world, eyes open, Amelia typed out the e-mail. “If you know of Amy Scanlon, then you must know something of magic. Perhaps even a great deal. If this is so, I’d like to get your opinion on a situation I’ve encountered. I have information on the possibility of a spell that produces gold, presumably by pulling it directly from the rock without the effort of mining it. It seems to be a sympathetic-based ritual with earth-element components designed to draw forth the desired effect—” and so on.

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