I felt Ice’s magic before as we got off the elevator. Ruby opened the door before we got to it. She looked a little nervous. I tried not to interpret that as a bad sign. There were too many things to worry about. Ruby could just be anxious about how our visit to Willard went. The other Coven witches could be looking for the bibliomancer. Ice could be pissed that we’d taken one of his underlings hostage. The list went on and on, and it got worse with each new thought. I walked in to see that Ice was kneeling at the couch with one hand on each side of our prisoner’s head. His magic flowed in the space like electric circuits, the colors shifting from purple to blue to green and back. His ability to influence the sleeping mind was a strange sibling of cerebremancy. He couldn’t give commands and have them obeyed outright. Subverting another person’s will like that was powerful but short-lived in most cases. Instead, his magic could influence a person’s thoughts for a lifetime. He could sew doubt into a person’s memories, lessen an addiction that plagues them, uncover desires they hide even from themselves, and so much more.
“Who’s he?” Eli asked. I nearly clapped my hands over his mouth. Dream magic could be mercurial; enough stimulus of one kind or another could make things harder on Ice.
“Shhhh,” Ruby hissed. She gestured for us to follow her. We did.
“That’s Ice. He’s who we’re getting the third blocker for,” I said once Ruby closed the door.
“What’s he doing?” Eli asked, matching my hushed volume.
“With any luck, eliminating our problem without raising more suspicion from the other Coven witches,” Ruby said.
“I’ll give you this much Ruby, you don’t disappoint. When Newton sent me after you, he said you’d have found some interesting company. An umbramancer was impressive enough now you’ve got an oneiromancer on top of that,” Eli said. I wondered if he cared that the name of their mutual enemy made Ruby uncomfortable.
“Did you convince Willard?” she said, ignoring Eli’s comment.
“I think so,” I said.
“You’re not certain?” she asked.
“We scared him enough that he might be thinking about running rather than stick around to help us,” I said.
“I don’t think he’ll run. But he’s not gonna be happy with us,” Eli added.
“Well, at least you didn’t kidnap him too. This hotel room is already more crowded than I like,” Ruby said.
“Could you get a hold of June and Billie to let them know Willard agreed to their terms?” I asked Ruby.
“Yeah, no problem,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said.
I went back out to the living room. Ice was sitting on the floor with his back against the couch. His fellow Coven witch was still sound asleep. I joined him on the floor, and he held his hand out palm up. I rested my hand in his. I watched his fingers close around my hand; his grip tightened, and so did mine. I needed him to know I wasn’t running from him. We had a lot to talk about. But I wanted to stay in that moment for as long as possible. I rested my head on his shoulder, breathing in the smell of him. It was the same faint oatmeal and mint as when we were training at the Coven compound. His mother made soaps and bath bombs for a living, and he would always bring some back when he visited her. He couldn’t go see his parents anymore if he came with us. The Coven would start monitoring them. It was selfish to ask him to choose me. Still, I wanted him to.
“Have you thought this through?” I asked.
“Every day since you left,” he said.
“What about your family?”
“They’ll understand. I’ll find a way to tell them I’m okay.” He didn’t hesitate at all; I relaxed against his side.
I could have fallen asleep right there. We still needed to figure out our sleeping arrangements. There were two beds in the bedroom. Ice and I could share, but I didn’t want Ruby to share with Eli. He could take the couch. I was confident he wouldn’t try anything with Ice and me only a few inches away from her. He’d shown impulsive and destructive behavior too many times for me to trust him. I’d lock and ward the bedroom door. Sticking him on the couch meant we needed to deal with the Coven’s bibliomancer sooner rather than later. It was getting late, and we’d need as much rest as we could get if we had to supply the magic necessary to make the blockers.
“What’s the room situation for the Coven members here at the convention?” I asked.
“Two to a room. In the hotel across the street,” Ice said.
“Is her roommate likely to be out?”
“Definitely. She’s rooming with me,” he said.
“What’s your room number?” I asked.
“1121,” He said. Umbra left my shadow. “That’s new.”
“A living shadow; I found them in Florida,” I said. I closed my eyes and focused on Umbra’s path.
“Of course you did. You go to the sunshine state and find the darkest shadow,” he said. I could hear the amusement in his voice and didn’t need to look to know he was smiling.
My familiar slipped from one shadow to another, rarely visible outside of someone or something else’s shadow. It would take someone extremely observant to notice them. Umbra slipped between the closed elevator doors and climbed the floors with the same ease of sliding across the ground. I hadn’t known they could do that. There was a lot I still didn’t know about Umbra’s capabilities. I wasn’t too worried. So much of our connection came to me instinctively when I needed it that I didn’t want to stress about forcing myself to learn faster. Umbra slid under the door. I didn’t feel any wards. Either they weren’t there, or they couldn’t keep a living shadow out. Umbra paused inside the bedroom.
“Which bed is hers?” I asked.
“The one on the left if you’re looking at the beds from the bedroom door,” Ice said. Umbra heard his answer like they were sitting with us still. They moved to stretch out on the bed that Ice indicated.
“You ready for me to send her there?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Ice confirmed.
We replaced all her belongings, and I used my magic to sink the witch into her own shadow. She rose out of the shadow Umbra made on the bed. Umbra slid out from under her and made their way back to us. Eli came out of the bedroom and told us that we would be working on the blockers at Billie’s workshop the following day. Ice and I went to bed together for the first time in years. He held me close, and I fell asleep faster than I had the entire time I’d been on the run.