or check out Skyla's books!
"What?" she hissed.
"You’re staring," he whispered. His gaze went across from them to Peyton briefly and pointedly, then back to Gen.
"So?" she whispered back, leaning close and muttering directly in his ear. "I’m allowed to. She’s, like, my girlfriend." And who could really care that she was staring at her girlfriend? Besides, she hadn’t even been meaning to stare at Peyton; it was more a general, gaze-off-into-space-blankly kind of thing that she tended to do early in the morning when she waited for the bell to signal her first class would be starting. She couldn’t be faulted for that.
Of course, there was the small matter of her not being certain Peyton was really her girlfriend. She had left the dance Friday night thinking she probably was. She tried calling her Sunday afternoon, but apparently Peyton was busy and according to her mom, couldn’t come to the phone. Monday rolled around, and everything seemed like it had been before the dance. Now Tuesday, Gen had another day of friendly smiles, but basically nothing more. There had been a moment of hand-grazing at her locker yesterday afternoon. It sort of seemed to count. But otherwise, it was as if their discussion outside the school that night hadn’t actually occurred, and on more than one occasion Gen wondered if she had briefly gone crazy.
The familiar ring of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts and she pulled it from her bag. A text message read, "Outside. Now. Bring M." She recognized the caller as Michael.
With a sigh, she glanced at her watch. Homeroom was in about two minutes, and it seemed a likely bet that whatever he wanted, they wouldn’t be back in time.
She responded with, "F U!" Staring expectantly at the screen, she waited, knowing he probably wouldn’t leave it at that. Sure enough, seconds later another message came.
Wow, all caps. He must be mad.
"What is it?" Levi asked, noticing her frown at the message.
Though in conversation with Peyton about something at the time of the call, Merri seemed to have a sixth sense about things and immediately glanced Gen’s way to follow the exchange.
"My stalker," she replied with a sigh.
"Is someone bothering you again, Gen?"
She winced, realizing she’d forgotten he had been concerned before when Michael originally did stalk her.
"Is it that girl from Geography?" Merri cut in, once more with one of her brilliant lies before Gen could come up with something.
"She missed a class and Gen gave her the notes, now she’s thinks Gen’s her friend and whines to her about all her problems." She gave Levi an easy smile, then turned to Gen. "She need us to comfort her over some tragedy?"
"Probably..." Gen gathered her bag and stood. Merri followed, and Gen sent an apologetic look to Levi and Peyton. "We should be back soon. She might have locked herself in the bathroom threatening suicide though, so no promises."
Homeroom bell rang and the stairwell filled with students, giving Genevieve and Meredith an opportunity to disappear into the crowd and towards the front doors.
"What’s up?" Merri asked.
"It’s Bosley," Gen muttered. "Apparently he has an assignment or something." They stepped outside and Gen was glad she hadn’t dropped her coat off at her locker. "Also, while I appreciate you making up stories for me—’cause you’re really good at it and all—next time you should probably go with something more convincing than me giving someone class notes. Everyone knows I don’t take notes."
"Good point—I’ll keep that in mind."
Idling in the bus zone outside of the school was Michael’s convertible. The roof up, Gen couldn’t make out who was with him, but someone definitely sat in the backseat.
"Did he tell you what’s up?" Gen asked as she and Merri walked to the car.
"No. Not a clue what this is about."
Reaching the car, Gen stooped and stuck her head into the open passenger window. It was Sage in the back, staring blankly at the seat in front of her. Michael looked annoyed to still be waiting for them.
"You know," Gen started, "part of the fun of being a slacker is that I do show up at school, I just don’t do anything. I can’t get away with skipping class all the time and not doing homework. It’s one or the other."
"Get in the car."
She tried to protest, but that didn’t get her anywhere. A brief argument followed, in which Merri insisted on taking the back so Gen could have more leg room. Finally seated in the car, Gen looked back and forth between Sage and Michael, hoping someone would give details as to what they were doing.
"So?" she said at last when it seemed they wouldn’t. "Where are we going? Road trip somewhere? ‘Splainy, please."
"Toronto," Michael said at last.
"That’s boring. Why there?"
He met her eyes, and shifted the car into gear. "You’re going to meet David Shaw in the hopes he can tell me more about The Immortal."
While the car sped out of the parking lot and toward the highway, Gen didn’t bother to glance back at the school, and therefore failed to see Levi watching the exchange with curiosity from outside the school.
Shaw lived alone in the heart of the city. By the time they left the highway, a fine sprinkling of snow had settled on the pavement, making the already congested city streets more frenzied. Taxis whirled in sudden u-turns in the middle of the road to collect their fares, throngs of people poured across the road when the lights changed, and the few bicyclers seemed in serious peril of getting run over.
"So this guy knows we’re coming, right?" Gen asked as Michael pulled the car into the visitor lot at an upscale condominium building. He’d said little about Shaw during the long drive, and now she’d started to worry they were there to ambush some poor old man.
"You did talk to him, right?" Merri prompted when Michael didn’t answer.
"I phoned him last night." Michael left the car without another word and Gen exchanged a worried glance with Merri.
"And?" Gen said as she got out of the car after him.
"And he thinks we’re coming tomorrow afternoon, so he’s probably packing to leave the country today."
"What if he left the country last night then, if he’s in such a hurry?"
"He wouldn’t," Michael said.
"You can’t know that—"
"He’s responsible, and even spooked, he wouldn’t leave immediately. He’d take at least a day or so to make proper arrangements."
"How could you possibly—"
"I do my homework."
Gen stopped near the car while the others moved toward the building, and crossed her arms in annoyance. "What’s that supposed to mean?"
"Would you hurry the fuck up!" he snapped.
She picked up her pace until she trailed Merri and Sage by just a few steps.
This isn’t going to go well, Gen thought as they made their way into the building. She, Sage, and Merri waited back a few steps while Michael spoke to the doorman. God knows what he might have said to him, but for some reason the group were let into the building. If Gen had to venture a guess, it involved bribery of some sort, but she didn’t want to know either way—it would just make her an accessory.
Michael wasted little time looking around, instead leading them directly towards the elevator. He didn’t hesitate once they reached the fifth floor to take them to Shaw’s condo. Much like the time they went to Krysta’s, Michael seemed to know exactly where he was going.
"You scoped the place out first, didn’t you?" Gen asked as it dawned on her. "Same with Krysta’s."
"It would seem foolish to walk into a building with any of you without knowing the place first," he said.
Even stranger still, Gen realized that must have meant he checked out Krysta’s place before they arrived there because he was looking out for her. Somehow that seemed even more unsettling than his death threats.
They reached a door near the middle of the hallway where Michael stopped to knock. Light shone through the peephole, but it went black as someone stepped in front of it.
When no one answered, Michael knocked again.
"I know you’re in there, Shaw," he said. "We’re not leaving."
A chain rattled and the deadbolt snapped. Michael’s hand moved to his side, reaching for something in his jacket pocket, and Gen shuddered to think what weapon might be waiting for the person on the other side of the door if it wasn’t whom Michael expected. He’d said he checked out the building before, but she supposed anyone could be in the condo waiting for them.
The door opened a few inches. An older man, easily in his fifties, stood within. In a word, Gen would call him "refined." He wore black slacks and a white, pinstriped shirt with the sleeves rolled carefully up, as if he’d been working. Thinning salt-and-pepper hair topped his head, cut closely to his scalp. Though four strangers stood in his hallway, and he eyed Michael suspiciously, he didn’t slam the door immediately, didn’t shout at them. He seemed the sort of man that would never let anything—even Michael’s attitude—get in the way of manners. Dark eyes were focused on Michael and Gen couldn’t determine if he even realized there were three other people in the hallway.
"You’re early," the man, who Gen surmised was David Shaw, said curtly.
Michael tilted his head to the side to look past Shaw. "I see moving boxes. Going somewhere?"
"I think you already know the answer to that," Shaw said. "Now, I’d prefer you leave before I contact security." He made a move to close the door and Gen had a feeling that the situation would get ugly real quick with Michael handling things.
"I’m sorry." Gen darted in front of Michael and gave Shaw a sweet smile. "He," she gestured over her should to Michael, "is really rude and never should have barged in on you like this. Maybe you could talk to me, Mer, and Sage, and we can leave him to brood out in the hallway?"
Shaw regarded her in silence for a moment, then cracked a grin. "Which one are you?"
"I am like the world’s worst witch, also known as Genevieve." She stepped to the right and pointed out the others. "There’s Sage, the Warrior, and Merri, the Seer. And of course, you’ve met our dear Michael." She patted Michael on the shoulder and any other time she was certain he’d snap at her, but he seemed to be on his best behaviour for Shaw.
David Shaw stepped back from the door and gestured inside the condo. "Come inside." His gaze flickered to Michael and his smile faltered. "All of you, I suppose."
After Shaw ushered them inside, he snapped shut two bolts on the door, locking his guests in, and then took their jackets and hung them in the notably empty front closet. He then offered tea and coffee, showing nothing but politeness to a group that had all but broken down his door. Merri offered to help and followed him into the spacious kitchen not far from the entrance, while the others continued into the living room.
"I suppose you’re going to bitch at me for that," Gen said immediately. "But might I remind you before we start that at least it got us in the door?"
"You have proven yourself useful, for once," Michael conceded. "And you said about the most intelligent thing you have to date."
"That you’re the world’s worst witch."
"Bite me." She dropped down on the cream coloured, sectional sofa.
"When he returns," Michael said in a low voice, "if he decides to be difficult, you can try to coax more information out of him."
"Aw, you promise?" she said with a heavy helping of sarcasm to her voice.
"He likes you," Michael continued. "He may be more willing to talk to you than me. Think you’re capable of leading the conversation?"
Gen stuck her tongue out at him in response and he must have taken it as a yes because he didn’t bother pressing her for confirmation.
While they waited, she took a moment to absorb the high-end condo. The first thing that struck her were the shelves that lined the wall opposite the couch. Half were still filled with books, while piles of boxes nearby presumably held the rest. She couldn’t make out any of the titles, but Thad had said Shaw taught Philosophy, so she figured that was a subject predominantly featured. The décor itself had very clean lines and eclectic influences. Boxes, however, were stacked in all corners of the living room, most sealed and waiting to be shipped off to God knows where.
He really must have been spooked, she thought. Michael was right—he plans to at least leave town, if not the country.
Sage sat next to her on the couch, noticeably as far away as possible, while Michael occupied the nearby armchair. Several minutes of silence passed, and then Merri and Shaw returned from the kitchen. Merri set a tray of mugs on the coffee table while Shaw poured tea.
"So what, precisely," Shaw began as he took the chair opposite the girls, "would you like me to tell you?"
"Everything you know about the woman you knew as Natalya," Michael said.
Shaw drew a cup of tea to his lips and took a sip. "That would take a considerable amount of time."
"We aren’t going anywhere."
"Um, I gotta get home sometime today," Gen spoke up, in part because she meant it, and also because Michael had finally given her an opportunity to be of use. She hoped Shaw would respond to her. "So how about you just tell us about when you met her?"
"That was when I was merely twenty years old," Shaw began. "I was in university and I saw her at a bus stop. I was...drawn to her."
"Thad said something like that," Gen said. "What do you mean ‘drawn?’ Like a pull?"
"I mean it almost literally. My body was turning toward her without my being aware of it, and when I saw her, I just started walking. She came home with me, we spent the afternoon in my bed, and she told me who she was.
"An immortal. And I didn’t believe her—not then, not right away—but I listened. She’d been on Earth thousands of years, seen the rise and fall of civilizations, and always she sought me."
"Because you guys knew each other in your past life?" Gen asked and Shaw nodded.
"So she told me, many times. I don’t remember, though. Never recalled anything about it myself, although she was able to tell me the details as if it were yesterday. She stayed with me for a few years, and then vanished one day. She used to warn me that she didn’t wish to interfere with my life for long, and apparently she meant it." Given the subject matter, Gen thought it might have been painful for him to bring up such memories, but instead he recited his words as if they were practiced, the sadness in his eyes never quite reaching his voice. Detached. "The last time I saw her was over thirty years ago, and that is why I cannot help you, Mr. Parris."
"You’ll have to do better than that," Michael said. "You’re the only person I know of who’s ever actually seen her—"
"I don’t know where she is." Shaw gestured to the handful of framed photos on the wall to his left. Gen made out smiling faces; a younger version of Shaw and a few children. "I tried looking for her for over a year after she left, but came up with nothing. I eventually married, raised a family, and tried to put this business out of my head. Maybe you should move on as well."
"That isn’t an option," Michael insisted. "I need to speak with her—you know that."
"I know that if Natalya doesn’t want to be found, then she won’t be found. You will have to wait until she’s ready."
"Do you have any photographs?"
Gen couldn’t tell if Shaw was being obstinate because he really didn’t have any answers, or he just enjoyed tormenting Michael. Either way, she found the entire exchange amusing; it wasn’t often Michael didn’t get what he wanted.
Surprisingly, rather than argue with Shaw some more, Michael turned Genevieve’s way. "Give me your bag."
"No! Wait, why?"
Michael glanced at Shaw with a touch of contempt. "Because we’re not leaving here until I at least know what she looks like. Give me your sketchbook and a pencil."
Gen grudgingly dug out the requested items, but not before pointing out that he should be more prepared next time.
While Michael pulled his chair next to Shaw’s and flipped open the book to a blank sheet, Gen leaned back on the couch and turned to Sage.
"You look bored," she observed. "Why’d you let him drag you along?"
Sage shrugged. "It was this or sit at home."
Though Michael hadn’t yet told her if he’d spoken to Sage about Hayden or not, Gen did detect a subtle change in her. She wasn’t happier, she didn’t seem at all friendlier...but she seemed more relaxed. She actually made eye contact with people now and then and would speak without waiting for someone to speak to her first. If Michael did help her in some small way, then perhaps he wasn’t all bad.
"This may take awhile," Shaw directed to the girls, breaking Gen from her thoughts. "If you’d like to go for a walk, there’s a café just down the block."
"Sounds like a plan," Gen said as she stood.
"You’re not going anywhere," Michael said without taking his eyes from the page.
She sank back down on the couch to sulk. Merri, however, stood and looked carefully at Michael.
"I was going to head to the smoke shop for a second," she said.
Michael nodded without even a glance in her direction.
Genevieve half expected her to argue a case to bring Gen and Sage along, but instead she slipped on her worn winter jacket and left without a word.
Nice someone gets his unwavering trust and loyalty, Gen thought bitterly. She could kid herself and pretend that he needed her there to help him nag poor Shaw for things, but the truth was Merri always got special treatment.
Maybe she’ll at least bring some snacks back with her...
Meredith sat on the subway, tapping her foot nervously. She had a feeling Michael knew she wasn’t heading to the smoke shop, but he didn’t try to stop her. As time went by, and she neared the point where she’d be getting off the subway, she almost wished she had just hit the store and gone back to Shaw’s. If there had been the slightest transit delay, she might have chickened out, but the TTC was on time, so off she went.
The subway paused at her stop and she got off with a few dozen other passengers and walked through the underground paths and up the stairs until she reached the surface. She caught the nearest bus, then ten minutes later found herself at her destination: an apartment building not far from the university.
While she helped Shaw in the kitchen earlier, she had found herself requesting the address even before she knew the words had left her mouth. He didn’t ask why, didn’t press for details, but simply told her what she wanted to know.
Now, here she was.
Merri waited outside for a few minutes, passing the time with a cigarette, which eased her nerves considerably. After stamping the butt out and deciding it was too cold to stand out there any longer, she at last went inside.
The stairwell took her to the second floor and after following a corridor, she found herself before a door. Hesitation-filled moments passed, a deep breath followed, and then she raised her hand and knocked.
There were very, very few times in her life that she could recall having actual butterflies in her stomach, but at that moment she definitely did. Just as she felt her courage dwindle and the desire to run beckoned to her, the door opened.
Thad Kincaid stood in the doorway. Merri couldn’t decide whether she was relieved he was home or not.
"Hi," she said with caution, and attempted to gauge his reaction to her presence. He wasn’t smiling, but he hadn’t slammed the door yet. Seems like a step in the right direction... "I was kind of in the neighbourhood."
"Michael took you guys to see Shaw?"
"Yeah, they’re back at his condo. I’m playing hooky."
"Look." His grip tightened on the door as if he was about to shut it. "I’ve got a paper due and I’m swamped—"
"Please don’t close the door—"
"—so I should probably get back—"
"Can I be honest with you?" she interrupted.
"I’d prefer that over lying, but it seems a little late now."
That stung. She swallowed hard. "I’m..." Nothing seemed more difficult than forcing her thoughts into words, and for once she wished she had more practice with it. "I’m not used to nice guys. And it kind of freaked me out, so I was subconsciously sabotaging things. It was stupid—I was stupid. I apologize. And in the interest of keeping with the honesty thing, I’d really like you to give me another chance and let me inside, ‘cause my shoes are wet from the snow."
His gaze slid down to her torn running shoes and he didn’t yet smile. "You should probably invest in boots."
"That did occur to me on the way over here when I stepped into a puddle of slush."
"So you’d like to come in just because your shoes are wet?" His tone at least seemed a bit lighter. Merri took that as a positive sign.
"Well, I’m hoping for some activities that involve nudity as well, but I’ll take what I can get."
"Now you’re speaking my language." He was guarded still, she could tell, but he seemed to be softening. He stepped back so she could come inside. "And you’re lucky you’re cute. I really wouldn’t forgive you if you were ugly, unless you brought a friend to participate in the naked time."
"I’ll keep that in mind in case I’m ever disfigured in an accident and in need of your forgiveness." She shucked off her coat in the tiny apartment corridor and slipped off her shoes at the door.
Thad paced down the hall toward the kitchen at the back of the apartment. "Want something warm to drink? There’s really bad cappuccino or—"
"Coffee’s good," she said as she followed.
A strange feeling hit her suddenly, and she blinked a few times as her vision blurred. Fear. A gasp of horror sounded in her right ear. Thad’s apartment disappeared, and wherever she was suddenly standing, it was dark, like night. Pavement beneath her feet. Something on the ground in front of her...shoes, legs, a torso…
Life had given her a lot of practice at looking calm to those around her when a random vision hit her, but she lagged behind in the hallway while Thad was still talking to her in the kitchen. He turned to see what delayed her.
"Merri?" His voice sounded distant, but she held on to it and tried to pull herself back to reality.
Not today...any other day, but not today… She reached out until her hand hit the wall beside her and she braced herself there while she took a few deep breaths.
She glanced up as the world cleared once more to find Thad at her side.
Nodding, she tried to smile while ignoring the icy chills rolling up and down her back.
"Did you see something?"
She’d almost forgotten that he knew who she was, so there seemed little point in lying. Still, she’d rather not give him any of the details. "Just a flash of something—happens all the time. I’m glad it was here and not on the subway, though, ‘cause it tends to creep people out."
"You’re sure you’re okay?" he asked again, reaching out to trace the curve of her jaw.
Relief washed over her at his touch. "I think I will be."
An hour passed with Michael hunched over the sketchbook, taking directions from Shaw regarding Natalya’s appearance. Sage pulled a book from her bag and read in silence, while Gen fidgeted in her seat and whined plenty. Shaw occasionally engaged her in conversation, until Michael interrupted to gain more details for the sketch.
After a while, Genevieve stood to stretch her legs by walking around the room. She stopped at the window to gaze outside, and then turned back to the group. "Mer’s been gone awhile. Isn’t anyone worried?"
"I believe she went to visit a mutual acquaintance," Shaw said.
"Kincaid," Michael filled in.
"Isn’t she the sly one. That’s good, though—I thought they were totally cute together."
"Why don’t you think in your head rather than with your mouth?" Michael said without taking his gaze from the paper.
He heard her wandering his way and his body tensed with irritation.
"Oh my god," she said with a gasp as she leaned over his shoulder.
"What?" He glanced up to see her blue eyes fixed on the dark haired beauty Shaw had been describing. "Do you know her?"
Gen shook her head. "No, but that’s, like, really good. I mean...God, that talent is totally wasted on you, ‘cause you’re just such a prick."
"Go sit down."
At last, Shaw looked over the final drawing and nodded. "That is how I remember her. Of course, her hair could be different now, but I wouldn’t forget that face."
Michael studied the picture. Taking in all of the woman’s features and allowing for minor errors Shaw might have made, he was certain he’d never seen her before. She would no doubt be drawn to Newhaven at some point if she hadn’t been already, however, so he could run it past his contacts later and see if anyone recognized her.
"I don’t think there’s anything else useful I can tell you," Shaw said, a not-so-subtle request for them to get the hell out of his condo.
"Sage, Genevieve, take the dishes into the kitchen," he called to the girls. They did so without complaint, leaving Michael alone with Shaw.
"Did she ever talk about the others?" Michael asked, studying Shaw’s reaction. He would have liked to have Merri there, to at least tell if Shaw was withholding something, but it hadn’t occurred to him at the time to ask her to stay.
"Only in the context that they were out there somewhere. Nothing about the future—that wasn’t her way. As you can imagine, being who she is, she was very much about the past. I think we’d all be better off if she could let it go, but that hasn’t happened yet. Please remember, Michael, that it does no one good to spend so much energy on something that once was."
"A man once said that very same thing to me," Michael said.
"And I slit his throat for it."
"Well, I suppose it is in my favour that Natalya would make you suffer an eternity if you ever laid a hand on me."
"Might be a way to get her out of hiding."
"I wouldn’t advise going about it that way. Besides, you haven’t decided whether or not you still have a use for me, and you are much more patient and pragmatic about such things now than in your younger days."
Michael swallowed down the lump in his throat. Granted, he figured Shaw would look into him a bit...but not to that extent. "Been doing some research?"
"I wouldn’t let you in my home otherwise. And you can’t move far in this world without the information making the rounds, which is why I didn’t want you here."
"Are you leaving after we go?"
Shaw shrugged. "I wouldn’t tell you either way."
Gen and Sage returned to the living room then, and Michael handed the sketchbook to its owner.
"Should we go get Merri?" Gen asked as she packed up her messenger bag.
Shaw went to the small desk in the corner where his phone sat and jotted something down on a small card. He handed it to Michael. "That’s Thaddeus’s address, which I gave to the girl earlier."
"Thank you for seeing us," Gen said brightly.
Shaw smiled genuinely in response. "Just promise me one thing..." His went to eyes Michael for a moment. "Once your powers are in full force, knock some sense into this one for me."
"Mr. Parris," Shaw said as the group was leaving the condo.
Michael held behind in the doorway and looked back at the older man.
"Remember, I have nothing to gain by telling you this...but let it go."
Michael ignored Shaw’s words. "We’ll be in touch."
Thad’s room in the small apartment he shared with a few others seemed little more than a large closet, but it was still nicer than Merri’s place, so she didn’t complain. Presently, she was wrapped up in a flannel sheet, stretched out on the futon mattress he kept directly on the floor and staring at the ceiling.
She propped herself up on her elbows and grinned as Thad Kincaid returned with a plate of reheated pizza and a couple of cans of pop in hand. He kicked the bedroom door shut behind him and then dropped onto the mattress next to her.
"Now, you are limited to what was in the fridge that looked edible. I’d order a fresh one, but I’d like to be able to pay rent this month."
"Tough life of a college boy?"
"You know it."
The front door opened then closed, and a voice called from the hallway in a decidedly feminine voice, "You home, Thad?"
"Yes. And busy."
"You live with a girl?" Merri asked in a low voice, brow raised in question.
"No, I live with two guys and one of them has a girlfriend who lives with us."
"So you live with a girl."
"Yeah. Orgies are kept to a minimum, though—only on statutory holidays." He settled next to her, placed the plate on the floor by the bed, and then flopped his arm over her stomach and drew her back down. Leaning over her with a grin, he pressed his lips to her forehead. "I’m glad you came by."
"You know, I still don’t get why you like me," she said, as it honestly did baffle her on more than one occasion.
"It isn’t obvious?" He kissed the tip of her nose. "It’s totally ‘cause you put out."
"Ah, it all makes sense now," she said with a giggle.
Late lunch forgotten, he bent his head down and kissed her deeply, dragging the sheet down and capturing her breast in one warm hand.
A phone rang in the other room, but stopped after two rings. Moments later Thad’s housemate called his name.
"Still busy," he replied between kisses.
"It’s someone looking for a girl named Merri."
With a sigh, he rose and cracked the bedroom door open a few inches to get the telephone receiver. Merri drew the sheet back up over her chest and accepted the phone from his outstretched hand.
"Yeah?" she said with a sigh.
"Funny, I didn’t dial the corner store," Gen said on the other line.
"You leaving now?"
"We’re outside Thad’s building."
Merri drew herself onto her knees and peered out the window at the head of the bed. Below, she saw Michael’s car parked on the street.
"I can see that."
Genevieve, seated in the passenger side, leaned forward to look out the windshield and waved as she spotted Merri.
"Mer?" she said.
"What happened to your shirt?"
"I’m hanging up now, Gen."
"Wait, don’t you need a ride?"
Merri glanced back at Thad, who seemed to guess the reason for the phone call.
"If you stay, we can hit a movie before I take you home," he offered.
That sealed it for Merri.
"See you tomorrow, Gen."
"Merri’s got a boyfriend," Gen sang as she hung up her cell phone. She clasped her hands together in delight. "I’m so happy for them. They were so adorable at the club and I’m pretty sure she’s been thinking about calling him a lot after that fight, whatever it was about."
She caught Sage’s sad gaze in the rearview mirror and immediately regretted her words. It was probably weird for her, seeing couples like that.
"She’s not coming," Gen continued, though Michael seemed to guess as much as he started the car again. "So I guess we can head home. And whaddya know, but I’ve once again missed all my classes. I’m so going to fail because of you."
Michael didn’t say anything and instead kept his gaze on the road. When Gen realized they weren’t heading back the way they came, she looked around in alarm.
"Where are we going? That’s not the highway."
"We have to make a stop," was all he said. She was pretty tired of him being cryptic like that, but she was used to it. As they drove, they passed signs that proclaimed they neared the airport. With any luck, Michael would be the one getting on a plane, travelling one way.
"I’ll be back shortly," he said as he parked the car. "Don’t go anywhere." Though he left the keys in the ignition when he exited the vehicle, Gen only briefly considered stealing his car. She was a terrible driver, after all; best not to kill them both.
"What do you think is going on?" Gen turned to face Sage.
"So are you going back to Michael’s later?"
"You’re there like every day?"
"Are you actually learning anything new, or is it just Michael beating you up?"
"I’m learning plenty of things," Sage replied, her tone slightly sharp. Gen wouldn’t be deterred, however; she didn’t know how long Michael would be gone and in the meantime desired a little conversation.
Sage sighed. "Like patience, concentration, and balance—the fundamentals of many things, which is more than I can say for you."
"I’ll have you know I learned a new spell recently that Mer and I have been working on."
"And does Michael know this?"
"Duh, of course not. It’s a defensive spell and I might have to use it on him someday."
"Let’s see it, then."
"Nuh-uh, you first."
"What do you want me to do?" Sage asked. "Punch you?"
"Um, no," Gen said quickly, ‘cause she figured Sage just might smack her. "But think of something impressive. I’m gonna do magic for Christ’s sake, so it has to be as impressive as that."
"Impressive like a candle going out?"
Sage thought for a moment, then nodded. "Okay, I’ve got something. Can you put the roof down?"
It took Gen a moment to figure out the controls, but eventually she was able to get the convertible top down.
"Okay," Genevieve said. "Impress me."
Sage pulled herself up onto the seat and then placed one hand on the frame and the other on the back of the driver’s seat. She lifted herself slowly, relying on the strength of her arms, and twisted her body so her head face downward and legs rose toward the sky.
"Not impressed yet." Gen yawned for effect.
"Just...wait." Sage breathed out, focusing on her balance. She shifted her weight onto one hand and straightened her arms. At a snail’s pace, she took her hand from the back of the seat and stretched it out beside her so she balanced on just once hand. The wind picked up, but she maintained the position.
"Okay, that’s impressive."
"So what’s your new spell?" Sage asked, still not changing her position.
Gen closed her eyes and rehearsed the simple spell a few times in her mind. Comfortable with the words, she whispered the incantation, breathing power into the phrase. She opened her eyes again in time to see Sage topple into the backseat and yelp.
"Oh my God, are you okay?"
"What did you do?" Sage sputtered as she sat up again. "I couldn’t move, I couldn’t—"
"It binds the person I direct it at," Gen said. "But I can’t hold it for more than a second. It’s the kind of thing I’ll be able to do to like a bad guy or Levi when he’s bugging me. It’ll give me time to get away. What thinks?"
"Some warning next time would be great."
Gen couldn’t help but chuckle, and after a few moments Sage joined in.
"Get in the backseat," Michael barked from behind them.
"Why," Gen began, but as she turned, she realized he wasn’t alone.
A blond man in his late thirties stood behind him, a carry-on bag over one narrow shoulder and suitcase in hand. Light blue eyes twinkling, the guy flashed her a grin, but she hadn’t decided yet if she should return it, being that he was a friend of Michael’s.
"Aw, did you make a friend? I mean, one that’s not a skanky Satanist?"
He gave her a look, suggesting he wouldn’t even bicker with her that afternoon, and with a sigh she unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed in the back next to Sage.
Michael took the guy’s luggage, and while he stowed it in the trunk, his friend got in the passenger seat.
"You’ll have to tell me more about the skanky Satanist later," the guest leaned over and whispered to her, a light Scottish accent to his words. Fine lines crinkled around his eyes and the corners of his mouth with his amusement.
"Skank pretty much sums it up," she said just as Michael got in the car.
After putting the convertible top back up, they were soon on the road again.
"So...who’s this again?" Gen asked when it seemed Michael wouldn’t be making any introductions.
"Finn O’Shea," Michael replied.
"Just Finn, love," the guy said. He met her gaze in the rearview mirror and smiled. "And you would be?"
Gen introduced both herself and Sage, leaving out the "witch" and "warrior" part, as she didn’t know who he was or what exactly he knew about Michael.
The car passengers were fairly silent travelling back to Newhaven. Michael dropped Finn off at his place first, let Gen return to the roomy front seat, and then drove to Sage’s.
"I’ll see you tomorrow," he told her as she got out. Gen thought Sage might have protested not going over that night, but ever the obedient one, she got out without a word.
"I can’t take it anymore," Gen said as he drove towards her house. "Who’s your friend? How did you ever actually make a friend? Does he eat puppies or something?"
"Not to my knowledge and I’ve known him for a few years."
"Then who is he?"
Michael stopped the car in front of her house. "Give me the sketch of Natalya."
Genevieve did so, but not without reminding him she wasn’t letting him change the subject. She tore the sheet from the book and handed it to him. In exchange, he gave her the card with Thad’s address.
"What’s this for?" she asked. She turned it over to see it was a business card with Shaw’s contact information, including an email address and cell phone number.
"Keep in touch with him," Michael advised. "Let me know if he tells you anymore about Natalya, or if he does in fact leave the country."
"I’m not doing your dirty work for you—"
"This isn’t for me. It’s for the three of you. Don’t argue."
"I’ll tell you what Shaw tells me if you tell me who Finn is."
Her phone rang suddenly and she snatched it out of her bag. Peyton’s number greeted her excited gaze.
"Hold on, I’ve gotta get this," she began.
"Just get out of the car—"
"Just a sec!" She answered the call and greeted Peyton, ignoring his glare.
"Missed you at school today," Peyton said.
Those words coming from her gave Gen a little thrill to hear. "I know, I’m sorry. I had to help out this..." She sent a sideways glance at an annoyed Michael. "This really useless guy needed my help with something, and I’m just such a saint that I couldn’t say no."
"Would you get out of the damn car?" Michael snapped, but she waved him off. Still, she figured she’d better speed things along.
"Hey, what are you doing tomorrow night?" she asked Peyton.
"Busy with family stuff."
"Oh." Damn. Hope she’s not just blowing me off. "Thursday?"
"Wanna come over for dinner?" Gen held her breath for a moment while waiting Peyton’s response.
"Okay, I’ll catch you after school then...but I really gotta go right now. See you tomorrow." She hung up and returned her attention to Michael. "Sorry, but that was my girlfriend. Did I tell you I have a girlfriend? ‘Cause I do. Her name’s Peyton."
"I still fail to care. Get out."
"Anyway, I still want to know who Finn is. And I’m not leaving ‘til you start talking."
Michael clearly didn’t want to tell her, but eventually he spoke. "He’s a medium."
"He sees ghosts?"
"Communicates with them."
"And is this purely a social visit or are you expecting someone to die?"
"I asked him to come here for Sage."
"You mean..." She processed the information for a moment. "Like, to contact Hayden for her?"
"That’s the idea, but she doesn’t need to know that in case he can’t."
"You’d really do that to help her?" Gen asked, more than a little shocked at the thought.
"It was just a phone call," was his cool reply.
"Aw, you can say that all you want, but deep down you’re a big softy."
"Did I forget to threaten you with death today or something?" he asked, irritated.
"I see. Then get the fuck out of my car before I shoot you."
"My day is complete." She grabbed her bag and slid out of the car. It didn’t seem right to leave it at that, however—not when he was actually showing signs of being a real human being. She wanted to encourage that kind of behaviour, after all. "It’s really good that you’re doing that for her, though."
"Be at my place by three tomorrow," he said, ignoring any more talk of Sage.
Yep, a big softy. With a gun.