The Weird Girls Page 10

Larissa narrowed her eyes. She didn’t seem to appreciate her inferior’s lack of panic. “It does offend.” She shoved her face into her subordinate’s. “And as your leader, I may use you as I see fit.”

The witch kept her gaze straight. “Genevieve won’t approve. The challenge isn’t just—”

Larissa smacked her hard across the face. The witch’s head flew back. She blinked several times as the print of Larissa’s hand swelled against her cheek.

“Genevieve doesn’t lead you!” Larissa screamed at her.

The other witch said no more. Larissa left her and returned to me. “Now, where were we?” Flames shot out high from the stove like a grease fire. “Oh, yes. I do believe you owe me a plea of mercy.”

The auburn-haired witch stumbled forward. “That’s four challenges!” she hollered. When Larissa ignored her, the auburn-haired witch raced out the door, joining the other witches now shrieking for Genevieve to appear.

The entire house rattled as lightning struck outside, bursting like fire against the windows. The witches bellowed their summoning chant, imploring Genevieve to appear. Screams replaced soft voices. Accusations turned to sobs. And something cracked and splintered like glass.

I didn’t care, not about them or their damn drama. Larissa had destroyed everyone I’d loved. She needed to bleed and I needed to make it happen. If only I could break from her grasp.

Larissa angled my body around in a semi-circle so my face would be the first to meet the blaze. My back bowed and arched. The spell Larissa had wielded to kill my sisters had obviously drained her. Her power was fading fast, only not fast enough. She inched me closer to the stove. Fire licked the edges of my hair, smoking and curling the ends. Sweat and tears dripped down my chin. I bucked and thrashed, still unable to move my arms as if bound. But my legs? They’d always ruled as my strongest part.

Larissa took another sip of wine as she lowered me another few inches. “Say it, Celia. Just say it and this all ends.”

The back of my foot connected with her wine glass. It shattered against her face. She screamed, releasing me from her magical grasp.

The force of my kick swerved me enough so only my arm hit the stove. The flames had extinguished from Larissa’s lack of focus, but the metal grills seared my arm like a piece of fish, flaking off chunks of my flesh. I grunted, clenching my jaw from the wretched sting, refusing to scream. Larissa had caused me enough pain. I wouldn’t allow her the pleasure of witnessing more. I wrenched away from the stove, just as the rising power of Larissa’s magic showered the kitchen with lavender light.

I threw myself across the wooden floor, narrowly missing the avocado green refrigerator she launched in my direction. It broke against the wall, barely shuddering when she attempted to draw it back.

“Bitch!” she screamed. Blood oozed from her right eye and from a gash across her nose. But there was no time to heal. After all, she had a tigress to deal with.

I kicked up into a standing position and growled. My claws slowly protruded through my fingertips as I made my way toward my prey. The dishwasher hurtled from the wall. I leapt over it easily, its speed no match for mine. I focused on Larissa with predator eyes, trailing her as she backed away.

“Celia?”

Taran’s gargled voice halted my steps. What felt like a bucket of slush chilled my skin. My breath quickened. She shouldn’t be here.

“Ceel? Celia, please look at me.”

She shouldn’t be here!

I rammed my eyes shut and buried my pain deep. The cool air in the kitchen shifted. I opened my lids in time to dive out of the way of a flying chair. My claws dug into floor as Taran’s four-inch sandals stepped in front of me. Her legs held that same sickly green tone. I shot to my feet, grinding my fangs to keep from screaming. Bruised marks coiled around her neck. Only the whites of her eyes showed. She smiled without humor. “Don’t hurt her, Ceel.” She scraped a long manicured fingertip across the note still pinned to her white nightgown. “I told you. It’s my fault.”

I clutched her cold body against me, trembling. My eyes stung. “It’s not. I failed you.”

Emme’s voice replaced Taran’s. “We forgive you, Celia.”

I held her at arm’s length. Emme’s soft green eyes barely registered my face. Her mouth opened, spilling white foam. She gagged and choked. I lifted her in my arms and lay her on the floor on her side. As I pushed the hair out of her face, her blond, wavy strands transformed into Shayna’s black silk locks beneath my fingertips. Shayna curled into the knife still imbedded in her sternum. Dark clots leeched out of her mouth as the bloodstain around her chest widened. My hands wandered over her body, desperate to help her, yet unsure how.

Something solid broke against my skull. I flew backwards and landed hard on my spine. My vision cleared in time to see Shayna jerk the knife from her sternum and plunge it down toward my chest. I clutched her wrist with one hand. Whoever she was, whatever she was, didn’t stand a chance against the strength of a four-hundred pound predator. I shoved my feet into her stomach and thrust, sending her soaring into the pentacle.

She hovered above the sacred circle as it electrified like live wire, disintegrating my hair and the pictures into dust. Shayna’s thin, bloody frame twitched and jerked, turning into Emme, then Taran, then Shayna once more before vanishing in a mushroom cloud of lavender.

Lavender.

Larissa.

God damn her!

I rushed to my feet, swerving out of the path of chairs, wine bottles, and appliances jetting at me in a purple haze. I used my brute strength to catch the speeding microwave and launched it back at Larissa. It hit her hard in the stomach and sent her sprawling back against the cabinets. Blood squirted from her eye, forming a puddle of ooze. She whimpered, trying desperately to rid herself of the microwave against her lap. Time was up. Five steps to go until she died.

A misshapen chair cracked me hard across my knee. I fell against my seared arm. The blisters that had formed burst opened and the raw skin scraped against the splintering floor. I roared, in fury and in anguish.

My head snapped up in the direction of the attack. The green talisman around Spiky’s neck glimmered as she levitated the chair she’d struck me with over my head. It sparkled with the power of her mysticism. Turned out she had a pair after all. Except her last ditch efforts weren’t enough to save her. I hurled a discarded water canister into her face. It bounced off her forehead, but she didn’t bounce off the floor when she landed. She fell face first like a wet sponge. The chair crashed next to me, its leg smashing my hand. I shook off the crushing pain. My job wasn’t done. Larissa still lived.

Tentative hands reached in and pulled Spiky’s unconscious form through the bent door frame as I tried to rise. My kneecap rested somewhere to the far right of where it should have been and the swelling told me moving was a very bad idea. But not moving was even worse. My hands gripped the edge of the counter and pulled. I managed to stand and straighten my left leg. I limped forward, ignoring the throbbing pain in my leg, the burning on my arm, and the crushed bones in my hand.

Larissa groaned as she finally shoved the microwave off her lap. I should have thanked her. It made it easier for me to dig the claws of my uninjured hand into her throat and yank her to her feet. We stared at each other, long and hard, as we both panted. Few beings had ever managed to keep my gaze. It should have unnerved me, but then again Larissa was a predator in her own right.

Larissa’s magically reinforced foot sputtered and crackled, sending tiny sparks against my exposed shins. I barely felt it. The nap she’d taken before I’d arrived hadn’t been enough to reenergize her. My head angled toward her, and my beast surged forward. And still Larissa kept her eyes on mine.

“Go ahead,” she spat. “I’m not afraid to die.”

And she wasn’t. Maybe that was part of her problem.

The kill would be so easy. Blood from where my claws pierced her neck already drenched my hand. Another minor squeeze and I’d crush her larynx. The swelling alone would suffocate her. And she’d die slowly. I could even watch if I wanted to. Watch her irises dilate with fear as her body fought to take a breath. Watch her clutch her throat, or flail her arms, or . . .

My grasp loosened. In the end, no matter what I did, it wouldn’t bring back Shayna’s smile, Emme’s soft touch, or Taran’s fiery spirit.

Just like my first kills hadn’t brought back our parents.

Larissa didn’t value the gift of life. What she’d done to my family proved as much. She did love one thing, probably almost as much as I loved my sisters. The claws of my foot shot through the threadbare canvas of my sneakers. Larissa’s lids peeled back as I dug them into her toes. I ignored the screaming muscles of my injured leg and punctured through the tiny bones of her foot. She screeched, sobbing misericordia over and over again until I kicked my foot back.

Her toes and the amethyst encrusted rings rolled in separate directions across the floor. I released Larissa then. She slid along the wall, her eyes wide and her cries strangely childlike. She gripped her dripping foot while I quietly gathered her former source of power. As I bent to pick up the rings, I thought about where I should go. Danny would come help me if I asked. He probably would even stay and watch over the house until it was sold. Me? I needed to leave. There was nothing here for me anymore.

The soft brush of a skirt made me glance up. Genevieve had finally arrived. Her lithe body strode in with her long dark hair sweeping behind her. Once more she kept her long staff against her side. I thought she resembled a vampire when I first saw her. Now she appeared more like an angel. A fallen angel. Had she come to claim me?

A group of her witches gathered in the doorway. “Leave us,” Genevieve told them. They paused before turning their backs and walking down the steps. A few glanced back. Their wary faces told me they didn’t want to leave her alone with the scary beast.

Genevieve’s large blue eyes blinked back at me with a hint of sadness as she scanned my wobbly form. “You’ve been through a lot,” she said softly.

My voice cracked at her acknowledgement. “I guess you can say that.”

Her gaze dropped to the toe rings in the palm of my broken hand. “May I?”

Before I could answer, or think to protect them, Genevieve called forth her magic. Her long wooden staff radiated a bright yellow light, similar to the warm summer sun yet gentle against my eyes. She blew a soft breath onto the rings. Just like that they disintegrated to ash.

Larissa stopped wailing, realizing Tahoe had a new head witch.

Genevieve regarded me closely. “You won the challenge, Celia.” She glimpsed at Larissa. “No matter how unjust the obstacles.” She watched me carefully when I didn’t answer. “Forgive me for not arriving sooner. Larissa used her power to block my sisters’ calls.”

I nodded, but still refused to answer. Genevieve reached to touch my shoulder except thought better of it when she caught my scowl. Just because she destroyed a few rings without taking out the entire structure didn’t mean I trusted her. “Will you give us a week, to gather our things?”

I barely understood her words. “Huh?”

Genevieve smiled patiently. “The conditions of winning the challenge oblige us to leave the area.”

She was right. My victory entitled me to banish them forever. They wanted to stay near Tahoe. The lake represented everything they worshipped—nature and magic in one lovely, almighty source. Denying them would rob them of something beautiful and sacred. Just as I’d been robbed. But hurting them wouldn’t end my pain or alleviate my sorrow. Part of me wanted them to suffer, to continue suffering. The other part of me that wanted to reunite with my family knew my soul needed closure.

I shook my head. “You don’t have to leave. You can stay if you’d like. I just want to be left in peace.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “That’s all we, I mean, I ever wanted.”

Genevieve bowed her head slightly. “Thank you, Celia. Thank you. And of course, I’ll see to it that you and your sisters are left alone—”

My glare cut her words like a knife. Genevieve took a step back, gripping her staff against her. Rage boiled my blood like water. “My sisters? I don’t have any sisters!”

Genevieve’s lips parted. “Oh, my God.”

Once more, the muffled sound of my sibling’s voices haunted my thoughts. Genevieve’s brows raised with shock—no, not shock, more like surprise. Surprise that I didn’t know . . .

My sisters’ voices grew louder, clearer. “What’s a velum?” I asked, suddenly remembering.

“Pardon?”

My breath came out in a shudder. “The witches said they had trouble maintaining the intensity of Larissa’s velum. What is that?”

Genevieve clasped a hand over her mouth. “You really don’t know., do you?”

“Just tell me what it is!”

Genevieve dropped her hand and sighed. “It’s a veil, Celia. A very powerful, very graphic, very cruel veil.”

Everything went still. I stopped breathing, not wanting to believe what my logic was screaming at me. The newt. The image of myself. Physical and real to some extent, but mostly . . . an illusion.

Genevieve took a cautious step toward me. “They’re alive, Celia. Your sisters are alive. They’re waiting for you outside.”

I stumbled forward, slapping Genevieve’s hand away when she tried to steady me. I hobbled as fast as my legs could carry me, falling against the porch railing. The coven screamed collectively, struggling to maintain the newly restored force field.

It stood no chance against my sisters.

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