I woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking. Clark’s arm lay across me, not gripping tight but gently reminding me I found a life I’d never let myself hope for. I looked at his face as he stirred from sleep and smiled at me. He pulled me closer and held me for a moment before kissing my cheek. I grabbed him before he could get up and pulled him back to kiss him on the lips. We got out of bed before one of us took it any further. Our first day back at the Coven compound was waiting, and as tempting as procrastinating might be, we couldn’t be late. I stepped out of bed and felt Umbra slid into my shadow. Memories of their night flowed into my mind as we went to the kitchen.
Eli was at the stove frying bacon, and Ruby stood to his left, pouring batter into a waffle maker. He’d told her about the way his second affinity worked before we’d moved into this house. She’d been chilly toward him at first, thawing little by little in the two weeks since. This morning, they were laughing warmly together. I’d worried that our little alliance wouldn’t feel as close once we didn’t have the common goal of stopping Newton. Thankfully, my anxiety didn’t hold true. We’d agreed to take on rolls with the Coven, but we weren’t eager to move in there. Clark and I needed a refuge from the mistrustful looks we caught when we were there. As Calliope did, many of the Coven witches believed that we couldn’t be trusted.
Ruby and Eli didn’t have precisely the same problem. They got their share of dark looks, too, though. Most of the people Newton spent his magic compelling were powerful in their own right. Quite a few of them jumped at the chance to join the Coven. Unfortunately for Ruby, this meant that many of the people she was training alongside bore a grudge. Eli didn’t have many enemies of his own, but his determination to win back Ruby’s trust without magic this time meant a certain amount of backlash from hers. They didn’t take the same time away that Clark and I had since they needed to train to earn their Coven seals.
“You two ready to stop being bums and earn your keep?” Eli asked in way of greeting Clark and me.
“You hear the way he talks to us after I put a roof over his head?” I put my hand over my heart in mock affront.
“So ungrateful,” Clark said, shaking his head.
“Youths these days,” Ruby said.
“I’m older than all of you,” Eli said, trying to hold back a laugh. We served out breakfast as our laughs subsided. “But seriously, aren’t you nervous at all?”
“We’d understand if you were. You basically blackmailed them into getting us this place,” Ruby added. She could have found us accommodations as comfortable as our Coven financed house, but I’d taken a bit of joy in strong-arming them into buying this place for us.
“They wouldn’t have given in so easily if it bothered them,” I said.
“Don’t think of it as us blackmailing them. It’s more like they were trying to woo us, and they gave us this place as part of it,” Clark said.
“The Coven is my sugar daddy!” Ruby said around a piece of waffle.
“Please say that in training today? I’ll cook you whatever you want every meal for a week,” Eli offered.
Their levity help. My first day reporting as the Coven’s Blade worried me more than I let on. I’d have Clark with me. He didn’t want to take up his old position with recruiting again. I couldn’t blame him; he’d broken trust with his former team. His best friend in the Coven took an assignment away. Plus, he didn’t want me going into dangerous situations without backup. I should have argued that Umbra had me covered, but after him following me into Newton’s trap, I knew he’d have another reason ready. If I was being honest, I enjoyed knowing he’d be there for me. We couldn’t guess what challenges waited for us, but we’d fight like hell to come back to this place, Eli and Ruby, our home.