Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Craft of the Wise 3: Rule of Three by Dee Carney

Liana Everton volleyed her gaze from Ava to Aaron, knowing in the pit of her stomach that she was losing the argument. Careful to keep herself from seeking help from the high priestess of the witch’s coven, she tried another tactic.

“We’ve already established that we must go on the offense. We’ve said it more than once, yet we sit here waiting for the demons to swoop down on us and at the most, hope for the best.” She tried to keep her voice neutral and disguise her mounting frustration.

Ava shook her head. “To send witches and werewolves to the demon realm is begging suicide, Liana.”

“With all due respect, princess, locating the ebony athame was sheer luck. We still need to find the other very specific magical tools with which to fortify you. And finding them guarantees us nothing. Without the Book of Shadows, we…” She exhaled forcefully. “We need the book. It’s in the demon realm. It’s as simple as go there and get it.”

The silence in the room gave her the moment she needed to reflect on what she was doing. Liana Everton, coward extraordinaire, felt compelled to risk her life to help the others. In truth, she’d love nothing better than to curl up on her couch with a good paperback where other women risked their fool necks. Until a few weeks ago, when all hell had broken loose within the coven, the most reckless thing she’d ever done was jaywalk. There was also that time she’d driven eight miles over the speed limit instead of her normal three, but that had been when she’d discovered a bee trapped inside of the car with her.

If Ava’s cousin Dina hadn’t stolen the book, the world wouldn’t be facing the threat of being overrun by demons. But Dina wanted the same power the book would eventually convey to Ava. Never mind she betrayed witchdom by joining forces with their natural enemies. Nevermind she forced a renewed alliance between witches and werewolves because of her greed.

She glanced to her right.

True, they now had another magical tool which would help them all in their fight thanks to their coven’s diviner, Jenna, and her red-haired warrior mate, Vince. Those two had only recently stopped arguing with each other to discover a deep-seated love that would not be shaken. Even if Liana wasn’t the second most powerful witch in the room, she would not have wanted Jenna to leave his side. Ava was too new at practicing the Craft and Mayda, as the current high priestess, was too––Goddess forbid her ever hear the words––old for a mission like this. Besides, the two Valentine women were the most valuable to the coven. To the future of man, really.

Being a damned good witch, but having a yellow streak that ran clear down her back sucked because that left her to find the stolen Book of Shadows. No choice for it. She didn’t like it one bit, but she’d manage. Somehow.

“Aaron, my brother and I could accompany the witch. A small group might be able to pull this off,” a soft-spoken voice said from behind her.

Her pulse picked up a notch as if a direct injection of adrenaline had been pumped into her system. She didn’t need to turn around to recognize who spoke. Ronan fueled her heartbeat into pounding faster every single time.

Since his voice came from the left, the presence sidling up to her right probably meant his twin, Jarod. The staccato tempo her heart picked up confirmed it.

Aaron, alpha to the wolves, shook his head. “I’m sorry but our charge is to the princess. I can’t afford to spare men for a side mission.”

He inclined his head toward Ava. Liana could see her lips move, but from the distance would be hard pressed to hear what was exchanged. Aaron’s eyes softened as he listened. As Ava’s protector and mate, his love for her could not be doubted.

He gave a curt nod to Ava and turned back to Liana. “Very well. But I am not comfortable sending two men with you. One brother should be sufficient to guard a single witch.”

The brief moment of elation for Liana gave way to dread. Choosing which twin wouldn’t be left to her, would it? That was like choosing between heady white chocolate and silky milk chocolate, choosing between a crisp, crunchy apple or a juicy, succulent orange, choosing between slow, savory sex...and rough, sweaty sex. An almost impossible decision, in other words.

“Aaron?” Jenna stretched forward until the alpha could see her unobstructed. She held up a single Tarot card toward him. “Their paths are intertwined. Liana would fare better with both brothers, I would think.”

Interesting that the coven’s diviner chose to contradict the alpha leader. Jarod shifted and she felt rather than saw Ronan move, as if in response to the conversation surrounding them. Ronan seemed to tense, but then relaxed his pose after Jenna’s announcement.

“Christ,” muttered Aaron. “Am I still in charge of my men?” His dark eyes stared into Liana’s. “Can you be done within a few days?”

“Yes.” She nodded hesitantly. “I think so.”

“Jarod? Ronan? Whether you’ve found it or not, you are to return within three days. That’s the best I can do. I still think that’s way too long without both of you here, but it seems I am outnumbered in my opinion by the witches in the room. Godspeed.”

“Blessed be,” Ava said softly next to him.