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Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper
I stood in the too-high snow outside of the dragon mother’s house, leaning on the shovel and staring at my phone.
Sleeping in your arms was nice, Nelly had texted. Well, if it really was the PTSD getting him to soften up finally, I approved.
I love holding you, babe, I texted back. I’ll do it whenever you need me to.
He didn’t immediately respond to that, so I cleared away some snow, which was a damn workout. Across the street, one of the dragon mother’s neighbors was watching me unsubtly from a window. I ran a gloved hand through my hair and hoped it made them gasp.
After five minutes, Nelly hadn’t texted back, and I leaned the shovel against the dragon mother’s house.
“You are not done,” she said from where she looked down on me from a window on the second floor.
“Tiamat, I am the Devil, and I am taking a break,” I said, trying to use lack of candor to circumvent the truth.
“Dodging your chores is how even the Devil gets a permanent bad-hair-day curse, Lucy.”
Well, to hell went the circumnavigation of truth. “Nelly didn’t text me back, so I need to go check on him. I’ll get my chores done, Tiamat.”
“Ah, the tribulations of young love. You’ll need the good hair, then,” she said and closed the window back up again. What I wouldn’t give to know what was going on in her head sometimes. And I was more than my perfect hair. I had character. And he loved my wings.
I teleported to the station, to right outside Nelly’s office, which was basically a broom closet. The door was closed, and I heard wet noises from inside that made me burst straight in.
Marc Deacon, instead of doing what I knew he wanted to with my boyfriend, was sitting in a cheap folding chair and crying. Good for him. I’d have given him a genuine reason for tears if I’d found him fondling Nelly, like a missing tongue or twisted testicles.
“What? I didn’t think you’d be the gloating type,” the unskilled necromancer said.
“Meaning Lionel picked you.” He shook his head and rubbed at his swollen eyes. “He’s too good for you. I don’t care if you turn my bones to jelly, but Lionel is smart and shy and sexy and really funny when he opens up, and you don’t deserve to use him for your own amusement and cheat on him while you do it.” He looked back up at me, but even my hellpoodle had a more intimidating glare. “You could have anyone, I’m sure. Several anyones. Let him go, please. He just — he just deserves something real, and I can give that to him. I want to.”
When had my charm ever failed me so massively? With Marc Deacon, I understood, a little, because he wanted my boyfriend, and badly. Still, he didn’t even have a little crush on me, hadn’t even fantasized a little about a threesome? And Christine was a mystery of a different order. I had to find out about whether she liked poker or not already.
“You have no idea what Nelly wants and definitely don’t know what he needs. You’d do better finding another man to pine after,” I told Marc Deacon and closed the door behind me. Necromancers. They all came with issues, apparently.
Before I could look around and locate my once again errant boyfriend, I felt the sharp sting of one of the defense spells built into his necklace activate. It was close, so I ran rather than teleported, and good thing, because it allowed me to feel the magic that was being hurled at him, even as I cracked open the office door behind which I could sense the necklace’s protective spell flare bright and hot.
This was siphon magic. It wasn’t so common that I knew it well, although I’d felt Sephy use it when I’d visited her and Hades.
This siphon magic was something else entirely, and just from the strength of it, from the elegance with which the siphon wove its magic, from the sheer, irrefutable force of it, I could tell the immensity of power the person who’d made it had access to. And since I had no doubt at all that the maker of this siphon was Ariadne, I knew where Nelly got his brutish power. Once he learned to really own and use it, refine it rather than just go smash with it, my boyfriend would be magnificent, something to behold. I’d take him even if he weren’t. But the more powerful he was, the more I would flaunt him, of course.
I pulled the office door open all the way. Several equally concerning things made up the scene ahead of me, and all of it was so dramatically crafted by the terrors of the real world that it should have been a painting set in oil rather than happening.
If reality were a painting, it would be called something to invoke hubris, like The Reclamation of the Prodigal Son, because the man on my left, beautiful like Nelly was, but darker in every aspect of his features and with cruel lines around his mouth and eyes, was without a doubt the man who wanted to be a bull, the beast trapped in a labyrinth by the goddess he had loved or lured into loving him.
I could guess what the Minotaur wanted with Nelly.