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“No! You can’t tell Red! He’ll never let me live this down. What kind of friend are you? Don’t tell him!”

“I’m the kind of friend who takes time out of hisvery important dateto deliver a cleansing box.” As he spoke, he held out the pine box to Maddox.

But the witch didn’t accept it.

In fact, Maddox took a step back and winced a little. “Are you the kind of friend who will also stay and cast the cleansing spell?”


Nolan had to bite his lip to hold in his laugh. That single word had erupted from Sky’s throat sounding like a very loud chicken squawk. He hadn’t even known Sky could make that sound.

“I tried cleansing it myself, but it didn’t work. I’m using all my power to hold the cloud over my house and to keep those two squares open. The purple…it’s…it’s like a fungus, and it keeps spreading. My powers only seem to fuel it.”

“And you think my powers will cleanse it and kill it dead like bleach.” Sky sighed. “No wonder you didn’t call Red for help. He’d only make it worse like you.”

His date looked over at him with pleading eyes, and Nolan immediately held up his hands. “Go for it. Help your friend. Can I stay and watch?”

“Thanks.” Sky released a heavy breath and his eyes twinkled. “This should only take a few more minutes, and then we can get out of here.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” he offered.

“Nope. Just stay right where you are, and don’t touch anything purple.”

Nolan watched as Sky squatted where he stood and placed the small wooden box on the floor. From within it, he pulled out four white candles, a couple of glass bottles filled with clear liquid, some crystals, a bundle of dried flowers, and a handful of stick matches.

Sky set up everything with a practiced quickness, placing the candles at the compass points around him. As he lit each candle, he whispered something that Nolan couldn’t quite catch, but it sounded like he was speaking in Latin.

“You know why Latin became a dead language, right?” Maddox inquired, wringing a groan out of Sky as he continued to work. Nolan peered over at the giant grape and shook his head. “Because they kept summoning demons in normal conversation.”

Now he got why Sky groaned.

“There is so much wrong with that, I don’t even know where to start,” Sky grumbled as he blew out the match and put the still-smoldering stick aside.

“Just clean my house, witch,” Maddox commanded with a chuckle. Sky flipped him off without even glancing up.

Sky stood with one of the bottles of water clasped between both hands. He closed his eyes as he continued to speak fast words in a low voice. Nolan just happened to look down at the right moment and noticed that the teardrop flames on each candle seemed to slow as if someone had throttled the passage of time.

“This is old magic. Like the beginning-of-time magic,” Maddox explained. Even his voice had grown hushed and solemn, as if this work demanded a kind of reverence from all witches. “We all have strange variations and different spells that we’ve cooked up, but the cleansing spell and the protection circle are two that are the same across all magic casters. I guess it’s as close to the perfect spell as we could get.”

“How old is it? Dark Ages?” Nolan asked, speaking barely over a whisper.

Maddox shrugged as they continued to watch Sky work. “No idea. Probably older than that. There have never been schools or standardizations of spells. Witches learn magic from their mentors, or you learn it from what you can pick up through life. Though the latter way is the right way to blowing yourself up. And getting another witch to teach you her spells and skills is fucking hard. Most learn it from family. Mothers passing down the knowledge to daughters. Or in Sky’s case, grandmother to grandson. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve got more online forums for sharing ideas, spells, and theories.” Maddox paused and scratched his aubergine-tinted hair. “But Sky is right. Witches are territorial and just vindictive. Lots of them like to post faulty spells in hopes of hurting other witches.”

“They willfully hurt their own people?”

Maddox’s grin was crooked. “Yeah, we’re not a tight group. Not even against the others. At least vampires will stand together against witches, and shifters will always join forces against vampires even if they’re from warring clans. But witches?”

“As the saying goes, witches be bitches,” Sky chimed in as he took the small cork out of the bottle.

“But those in a single coven will stick together tighter than family,” Maddox pointed out.

Sky nodded. “Because we are family.” Shaking the bottle three times in front of him, Sky sprinkled water on the floor and walls. The purple that was hit with the water instantly turned black and crusty like a marshmallow that had caught fire. But instead of expanding, the purple retreated, making bigger and bigger circles to reveal shining hardwood floor, soft maroon walls, and elegant furniture.

“That’s it! I knew you’d kill this shit!” Maddox crowed, pumping his fist in the air.

Sky rolled his eyes and continued to work, turning the four compass points. Nolan had to duck out of the way when his date was suddenly facing him. The water flew past him and onto the wall, where the purple was instantly pushed away. A snort escaped Nolan as Sky turned to Maddox and purposefully splashed the water on his friend’s face.

“Thank you, Sky,” Maddox muttered as the bright colors crawled back to reveal pink skin and brown eyes.

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