This was the closest I’d come to feeling guilt over killing Vincent. I felt surprised more than guilty. I hadn’t known that he had a goddaughter when I did it, but it wouldn’t have stopped me. If he orphaned me because he coveted my magic, then he would do it again the next time he didn’t get his way; I still believed that. The Coven took me in when I was a child, and it was years before I found out what he did. For all I knew, he’d destroyed other families before I cut his throat. So Calliope’s accusatory glare didn’t fill me with regret. She’d gotten herself kidnapped, refused to speak to anyone, and actively engaged in self-harm to stay awake, all to get to this moment. I didn’t know what she expected now. She wanted to catch the bad guy and return home with justice for her godfather. Reality was always a bit more complicated than that.
“Everyone is somebody’s something. I won’t lie to you or apologize. Your godfather was a monster, whether or not you knew it. Killing him might make me one, too. But that doesn’t matter much right now,” I said.
“What did he do?” she asked.
“How close were you to him?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer her.
“He was like an uncle to me,” she said.
“A close uncle? Never missed a birthday party? Came for dinner regularly? Babysat you and took you to the movies?”
“He was busy, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t care. You didn’t kill him for being overworked, did you?” The venom came back to her voice.
“What if I told you he was kidnapping young witches because they had rare affinities? Would that be enough to convince you he had to die?” I asked.
“You could have told someone. The Coven would have given those witches justice,” she said.
“How long have you worked for them?”
“Almost a year,” she said.
“And before that, how much did you know about the Coven? I’m guessing a fair amount with a Senior Coven Leader as your godfather,” I said.
“I’m not naïve. I know the system isn’t perfect,” she said.
“Not my point. You’re a bibliomancer; of course, you know the system isn’t perfect. You know more about that system than anyone your age. You’ve never met a research project that lasted long enough to please you. Answer one more question for me, and I’ll tell you exactly why I killed him,” I said.
“Fine,” she said.
“In everything you’ve learned about the Coven, have you ever once read or heard about the Coven’s Blade?”
“That’s what I thought,” I said. I set my plate on the ground, took the blocker necklace off her, and untied one of her hands so she could eat the sandwich I’d put on her lap.
“What does that prove? It’s just three words. You could have made that up.”
“I killed Vincent because he killed my mother. It was vengeance. It wasn’t the only reason he had it coming, but it was my reason,” I said. I picked my plate back up and walked towards the door. It opened for me, perfectly timed so that I didn’t have to slow my pace.
My magic rushed back to me. Umbra assessed me and I felt their relief as much as my own as they settled back into my shadow. I didn’t know that the Coven’s sigil could keep Umbra away. It was another good reason to ask Clark to stop using that particular magic. Maybe I should have worried about how much I was relying on my shadow familiar for comfort, but it felt so natural. I’d been alone for too long and I had no intention of isolating myself again. Clark, Ruby, and Eli were waiting for me in the living room. The video feed of the panic room was up on the television. Calliope was untying the rope around her waist. She’d ignored the sandwich in favor of freeing her other hand when I left. Soon enough, she’d be trying to escape.
“You took the blocker off her. Won’t they know where to find us now?” Eli asked.
“They’ll know how to find her. We’ll be long gone by the time anyone gets here,” I said. “How is that next safe house coming along, Ruby?”
“I can have it stocked with food before we get there,” she said.
“Then let’s move,” I said. Eli and Ruby both got up and left the room. Clark stood and came to me. “I’m sorry I didn’t find out how she undid your magic.”
“It’s okay. I have a feeling she wouldn’t have told you anyway,” he said. I couldn’t decide if he was trying to let me off the hook or if he really believed it. She’d given me the same feeling, which made it easier to accept the kinder option.
“Will you get our stuff? I want to cleanse the house of our magic before the Coven comes looking for us. I’ll meet you at the car,” I said.
“Of course,” he said and kissed me quickly before leaving me to take care of my part.
My magic swept through the house. Finding every trace of Ruby and Clark was easy. I was still growing familiar with Eli’s essence. My tracking his magic through the rooms and hallways made me certain that he was more than he said he was. His electric magic entwined with something subtler. He hadn’t used enough magic while we were here for me to untangle and identify the other affinity. I cleared away all traces of the mystery along with the rest of our magic. I was content knowing that I would have time to watch Eli for more signs of this other affinity.