Ice stepped off the elevator on our floor. This was the time to run, but I wasn’t moving. Any other hunter and I’d have shadow stepped us into the car. I still had time. It wouldn’t have taken more than a second. Instead, I waited for him to find us. I could feel his approach. His magic felt so familiar even after our time apart. It poured off him, filling the hall and reaching out to find us. I was familiar enough with the spell that I could have hidden from it. Every spell has its counter. That was part of what made defectors like me so dangerous. The longer a witch stays with the Coven, the more of their tricks that witch picks up. It was rare that anyone turned away from the power, status, and community that came with being part of the organization. Ice had to know I could counter this spell; we’d learned it at the same time. There had to be another he could be using. Was he giving me a way out?
“What do you want to do?” Ruby asked.
“What?” I’d half-forgotten she was there.
“If he felt your magic through that din downstairs, there’s got to still be a connection there. You can still black hole us outta here if things go wrong.”
“You don’t want to run?” I asked.
“This might be the only chance you get for closure. You can’t go storming the castle just to talk to him, but this is neutral territory. Actually, since it’s our hotel room, you could have home-court advantage,” she said.
She was right. I left her side and grabbed my bag. I fished my runes out of my bag. I had two sets. One set could still work for anyone seeking guidance. The other was charged with power. I’d spent a lot of my time since going on the run enchanting these runes. I grabbed the satchel and poured the small pieces out on the couch. I flipped through them and picked out the ones I needed. Ruby watched me from the threshold between the living room and bedroom. I got to the door in time to set the first two runes down, one on each side of the door. I could feel Ice’s power swelling on the other side of the door. This room wasn’t ours permanently, so it wouldn’t hold off a magical assailant the way a home would, but there was still power in our claim of the space. I opened the door.
Ice stepped into the room and grabbed the door, closing it with more force than necessary. He turned to face me. I kicked the last rune to the door. It didn’t hit dead center between the other two, but it touched the door, and that was enough. A flash of gold light filled the room and faded in a second. He froze in place, staring down at me. He was half a foot taller, and I worried about looking him in the eye. I couldn’t put it off forever, so I hid my hesitance in the act of sizing him up. He was wearing a charcoal grey three-piece suit. It wasn’t his style from when I’d last seen him, but a lot had changed since then. The sharp lines of the suit emphasized how much muscle he’d put on. The purple tie fastened to his white shirt by a clip with the Coven’s emblem on it. His neck and jaw were tense. His stoic expression didn’t hint at what he planned to do. His eyes were a dark enough brown that I couldn’t differentiate the iris from the pupil in the dim room.
He still didn’t move even as we stared at each other. My runes hadn’t frozen him in place; the stillness was his choice. If he tried to use a spell, he’d feel the runes suppressing his magic. He wouldn’t be able to cast a spell until he stepped back out of the room or the line of the runes broke. I still had access to my magic, and if he moved toward the runes even an inch, I would drop him back in the lobby before he could lay hands on one. I wanted so badly to blink or look away, but I didn’t want him to take that to mean I regretted what I did. There wasn’t a minute since killing Vincent when I felt guilty for it. Plenty of guilt over other things, but Vincent deserved what he got. If Ice didn’t understand that, then maybe that would be enough to let me let him go too.
Ice surged forward, grabbing my face and bringing his lips down to meet mine. I didn’t know what I wanted to happen, but I hadn’t been expecting this. That didn’t stop me from returning the kiss. My arms went up around him on instinct. His suit jacket was softer than I’d imagined. My hands grabbed his shoulders so he couldn’t pull back if he came to his senses. He pressed up against me until my back hit the wall and kept kissing me. His hands moved away from my face. One went to the back of my neck, telling me that he had no intention of pulling away, and the other went to my lower back. I lost myself in our kiss. The room got even darker. And then Ruby cleared her throat.
“As hot as that kiss was, I’m really not enough of a voyeur to stick around while you two go any further,” she said.
Ice cleared his throat, stepped back and held his hands in front of his crotch. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, as long as you’re not about to take E back to the Coven to have him vaporized or whatever they’ve got planned. I kinda need him alive,” Ruby said. I was glad she had a comeback because I was speechless.
“E?” Ice asked.
“I’m not gonna use that stupid codename,” she said. “You can call me Ruby. No need to shake hands.”
“I go by Ice,” he said.
“Nice to meet you. Where are we on the ‘you turning him in’ thing?” she asked.
“I…” Ice wasn’t doing much better than me in the speech department.
“That was way too friendly of a Hello if you’re planning to get him killed,” Ruby said, apparently unphased by Ice and my awkwardness.
“I’m not here to turn him in,” he said before turning back to me. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“You did, though. You saw me kill Vincent and sounded the alarm,” I said.
“The alarm went off automatically. The whole building is set to do that if any of the Coven leaders is maliciously wounded. The idea being that help would arrive in time to save them or at least catch their attacker,” Ice said.
“What did he do?” Ice asked before I could find the right words.
“He killed my mother,” I said. Ice didn’t say anything. He just pulled me into a hug. I’d told him about finding my mother once our relationship turned from hooking up to something more. “I’m sorry I thought you turned me in.”
“I wanted to come after you, but they locked things down before I could leave. By the time they let the protections go, I knew I couldn’t try to find you without leading them right to you,” he said. I didn’t pull away from the hug. I needed the physical contact to keep myself convinced this was real. I’d spent so long believing that he’d betrayed me. Even in my most optimistic imagined scenarios, I wouldn’t let myself think I could have him back. That kiss threw all those fantasies out the window. I knew it wouldn’t be as simple as picking up where we left off. But he was here and holding me. That was more than enough for now.