I didn’t get the chance to shadow-step to Clark. As soon as the light went out of Newton’s eyes, a new compulsion plowed into me like a hurricane. All the magic that Temperance had been pushing had to go somewhere once the other cerebremancer wasn’t holding it at bay, and I was the only one standing in her path. Newton’s compulsions lifted from the other witches, and I knew that a network of supernaturals experienced that same relief. I didn’t let the memory of his power go along with the remains of his magic. If I reminded myself of the good, I might convince myself it was worth it. I’d exchanged my freedom for the certainty that Newton would never come after anyone I cared about.
Several of the Coven witches were breathing hard enough that I could hear them from across the room. If their stillness had been as active as mine was, I knew how they felt. Every muscle in my body clenched tight to hold me still despite my desperate attempts to move even the tiniest part of me. I heard soft footsteps coming up behind me. If I weren’t straining to listen to what was happening around me, I might have missed them. Temperance stepped in front of me. I couldn’t control my facial expression, but whatever she saw in it made her tilt her head. I tried to cloak my mind in shadows, but I worried that it only worked moments earlier because the cerebremancers were occupied with each other.
“You four go downstairs and supervise the market clearing. Do not use deadly force unless absolutely necessary. You two deal with the body. I don’t want there to be any chance of him resurrecting,” she said, without taking her eyes off me. “You are coming with me.”
If my face could shift, it would have shown my surprise. I killed Vincent. Saving Intervening on her behalf didn’t change that. So why wasn’t she avenging her fellow Coven leader? She started walking, and my body released the tension of holding so still to follow her. We walked to the room where I’d left Clark. He hadn’t fully recovered still, and before he could use a spell, Temperance swept him up in her wake. The compulsion pulled him to his feet. He walked around the bed to join me. A moment later, a portal appeared where the one I’d closed had stood. I didn’t see a Coven seal in Temperance’s hand. She stepped through the glowing lights, and we followed her. Bright red light blinded me for a moment, and when my eyes adjusted, we were standing in a room with grey walls and scarlet symbols painted all around us.
“You will not leave this room until I say otherwise,” Temperance said, flooding the words with power and leaving us no other option. She left us alone, and I finally had control over my body back.
“I’m sorry,” Clark said before I could turn to check on him.
“Don’t be,” I said.
“It was the only way I could think to stop him, but I didn’t mean for you to get caught. I’d hoped you’d escape in the chaos.”
“I couldn’t leave you behind,” I said. I didn’t want to relive the choices I’d just made, but I needed him to know he’d done the right thing no matter how things ended for us. “Newton found dangerous memories in my mind, secrets I didn’t even know I’d taken from Vincent before I killed him. If you didn’t call the Coven in for reinforcements, he would have gathered his forces and attacked here. Even if he failed, there would be too much death. It would have crippled the Coven, and the witch community can’t afford that right now.”
“Is it worth it, though?” he asked.
“Yes, I can accept whatever’s coming, knowing that Newton won’t hurt anyone else ever again.”
I thought about Ruby finally being free. I didn’t know how much of our time together was a lie, but I felt confident that her longing for freedom was authentic. Eli didn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore, either. He didn’t have to hurt people anymore. I hoped that he’d do something with his culinary talents. Tina wouldn’t have to drink to make her life bearable. Hoyt could speak again. I didn’t know everything that would change without Newton holding them to his will, but I didn’t need to. It was enough to learn as much as I did.
Clark pulled me into a hug. I hugged him back, and we held each other for a long moment. There wasn’t much else to do. The room Temperance left us in dampened our magic, and even if it didn’t, we had orders not to leave. Eventually, we sat on the couch and waited for something to change. There was plenty of activity in the hallway on the other side of the door. Some of the people that the Coven witches imprisoned people swore and shouted in the surrounding rooms. They would be as powerless to leave as we were. Most of them would go free once the Coven determined how many of the crimes they committed weren’t their fault. Undoubtedly, some hadn’t needed Newton’s compulsions to turn towards the darker side of the supernatural world.
I had no idea how long we’d sat there listening to the sounds of the other prisoners, but a table covered with food and two chairs appeared in the room, signaling that it was either lunch or dinner time. I didn’t feel like I’d missed a meal, but could it really only be a few hours since we’d left Vegas? My stress could easily have surpassed my appetite enough not to notice that we missed a meal. We moved to the table and ate. There wasn’t much point in worrying that they’d poisoned or drugged the food. If they wanted us dead, Temperance could have taken care of that herself. For that matter, she could order whatever she wanted from us. As soon as I swallowed the first bite, my hunger hit me in earnest.
When the need arose, a door appeared on one of the walls, leading to a bathroom. The door vanished again once I’d finished my business. The Coven apparently shared Newton’s desire to keep their prisoners comfortable. I was all too aware that the noise of the surrounding rooms had calmed significantly as time passed. The sound of people moving up and down the hallway continued, but fewer and fewer shouts came from the others. Either they found no point in screaming their objections, or they were being processed by the Coven reasonably quickly. A while after we’d finished eating, the remaining food disappeared, and a deck of cards appeared on the table. They wouldn’t be getting to us anytime soon.