Amelia Broadway quickly brushed her chin-length brunette hair. She was very excited but also a little nervous. After all, the fairy portal experiment had been pushed up by almost a full week. But Amelia looked into the mirror confidently. She was ready. They were ready.
She looked back into the mirror and saw her girlfriend of six months still lazing in bed. “Seriously, honey,” Amelia said, “if you are gonna come and help, you have to get up.”
“I don’t know,” Tara Thornton said sitting up. “You know I don’t wanna be no part of any coven. The last time―well let’s just say it didn’t go too well.”
Amelia shook her head. Tara had kept mostly to herself about her past throughout their affair, but Amelia couldn’t really judge her. She had yet to tell Tara about her family and her father’s wealth. It always seemed to change her relationships for the worse when she did. Of course, she wasn’t really sure that she and Tara had much of a relationship in the traditional sense. About six months ago, Tara had come into Octavia’s magic shop, where Amelia worked part time, and had shown an interest in both learning a little witchcraft and in Amelia. The two had soon―as in that very night―started having sex, a lot of sex. They’d managed to keep things pretty casual up to this point, but they were to that stage in their quasi-relationship when they needed either to start getting more serious or to end things—at least, that was how Amelia saw it.
Amelia wasn’t sure which of those two possibilities would happen; to be honest, she wasn’t even sure which one she wanted. The sex was good―sometimes even great―and Tara was very passionate, but Amelia felt like she was missing something with Tara.
Amelia saw that Tara was staring at her in the mirror. “Well, it’s up to you, Tara. You know that. Octavia has asked for everyone she can get for the circle tonight, and it’s for the thing I’ve been working on, so you know I want you there.”
“Oh―your mysterious project,” Tara said, rolling her eyes.
Amelia rolled her eyes back, “I would have told you about it―you know that―but the person who hired me wanted everything to be kept confidential. I had to sign a contract with him. Plus, you don’t like to hear about witch stuff anyway—unless it’s related to those defense spells you love so much.”
Tara came up behind Amelia and rubbed her smooth shoulders, “I know. And I can’t complain much. All the money your motha fuckin’ boss gives you has taken me out to some real nice restaurants.” Tara winked playfully at Amelia in the mirror.
Amelia, in turn, gave Tara a little swat on her naked bottom as her girlfriend turned away to go to the bathroom. Amelia took a moment to enjoy the view of Tara’s beautiful body before she finished brushing her hair.
A few minutes later, Tara emerged from the bathroom fully dressed. Amelia looked at her. “You know you don’t have to come if you are gonna feel uncomfortable.”
“No,” Tara said, “I wanna be there. I gotta face my fears one day if I’m ever gonna get on with my life, and I do wanna try to do that. And, of course, I want to be there for you too.”
Amelia smiled at her lover and gave her a big kiss on the lips. Perhaps, a long-term relationship with Tara wasn’t out of the cards, after all.
Tara mingled pensively with the fifteen other witches who had gathered in the room to the side of Octavia’s magic shop.
The shop itself was filled to the brim with various ingredients, containers, and other paraphernalia for spells. Up front, there was also a token section for the tourists, complete with fake voodoo dolls and plastic shrunken heads. By contrast, the room that she was in now was spacious and uncluttered. There was a large design drawn in the middle of the wooden floor―similar to one she had seen in Marnie’s shop―and the sight of it always made Tara cringe a bit. On shelves along the walls of the room was a large library of books, in which Amelia kept her nose planted for much of her spare time when she wasn’t working in the shop itself.
Amelia had gone to the back storage room ten minutes earlier to speak with Octavia and, Tara assumed, her mysterious employer. Tara had a bad feeling, but she wanted―no needed―to move ahead without being so fucking scared all the time.
Six months earlier—after avoiding everything supernatural for a couple of months after the Marnie debacle—Tara had looked into witchcraft again for one reason and one reason only: self-defense against mother fuckin’ vampires. Marnie or Antonia―or whoever that bitch had ended up being―had been screwed up, but she had empowered Tara to understand that she didn’t have to be a victim where those bloodsuckers were concerned.
Tara had been looking over her shoulder for the better part of a year now, wondering if she’d see that she-devil Pam there. Truth be told, Tara was just as nervous about being out at night as she was about participating in the coven’s spell that evening. Tara liked being safely ensconced in her apartment or Amelia’s apartment at night―all night. She’d purposely moved a few of her own items into Amelia’s home as well, knowing that she would then have the power to rescind any vampire’s invitation.
Not for the first time, Tara thought about her involvement with Amelia. Certainly, the witch had been attractive to Tara, and they had begun a sexual relationship very soon after meeting, but Tara knew she was holding back on Amelia. Tara was also honest enough with herself to admit that she was using the witch—at least in part. Amelia was talented and had taught Tara a lot about witchcraft, especially protection spells. And the best thing was that Amelia never asked questions―never pried into her past or personal life.
Tara appreciated all those things, but she was getting restless, and to be honest, she was craving men again too. After Franklin Mott had raped her, Tara thought that she might not ever want another man again, but it seemed that time had healed at least that fear. Amelia was bisexual as well; in fact, one of her past paramours, a guy named Bob, was sending Tara a jealousy-laden glare even then.
Tara felt that Amelia wanted to start getting more serious, and that was not something Tara wanted right then—maybe not ever again. Tara sighed. Part of coming to the coven meeting that night was so that she could talk to Octavia about training her a bit so that she wouldn’t have to count on Amelia for that anymore. That would make breaking up with her just that much easier―at least if that is what happened. And―being honest with herself―Tara thought that it was only a matter of time before they did break up.
Tara shook her head as she thought about her fear of committing herself to anyone. She’d really loved Naomi, but after she’d returned to New Orleans following the fucking nightmare that had gone down in Bon Temps, she and Naomi couldn’t make it work. Naomi didn’t trust her anymore, and she had been too fucking focused on her fear that Pam might kill Naomi to let herself get truly close to her again. After a couple of weeks of trying, they’d broken up for good.
Before Naomi, Tara had just barely clung to her sanity after the Franklin thing. And before that, she’d had a string of one-night stands and destructive relationships—like the one she’d tried to have with Sam Merlotte. Tara silently cursed her mother for fucking up her life so much and then silently cursed herself for letting her mother fuck up her life. Leaving Bon Temps the first time had been about her choosing a new path, but Tara still felt as lost as ever. She had a momentary flash of Sookie and wished that she could talk everything over with her friend as they’d done so many times in the past, but she put that thought to the side. Sookie had chosen her own path as well.
Tara rolled her eyes at the still glaring Bob. What Tara really thought she needed right then was a long-ass period of forced celibacy so that she couldn’t use sex to try to make herself feel better―so that she’d be forced to deal with herself. Of course, the thought of that scared the fuck out of Tara, which is why she’d stayed with Amelia a little longer than she knew she should.
Tara shook her head, and to avoid Bob’s continuing stare, she pulled out her cell phone to re-read the text she’d gotten earlier from Lafayette. She’d agreed to keep in communication with her cousin as long as he’d agreed to certain rules. Rule number one was that there was to be no talk about witches, vampires, fairies or any other fucked up shit that went on in Bon Temps. Rule number two was no talk about Sookie unless she was finally dead―and not just in a ‘becoming a vampire way’ either―or unless she’d finally given up vampires for good. Needless to say, there’d been absolutely no fucking talk about Sookie between them. Tara shook her head in disgust at that thought. She still couldn’t believe that Sookie would choose those bloodsuckers over their friendship.
In her heart of hearts, Tara loved Sookie and wanted for her to be safe, but she didn’t want to know anything about her life since she was pretty certain it was still swirling around Dead and Deader, the two vampires she’d been fawning over when Tara had last seen her. How Sookie could forgive either of them was a fucking mystery to her, but Tara was certain it had to do with the fucking blood they’d pumped into her.
So Lafayette and she basically just shared short emails or texts telling each other that they were alive. Two months ago, Lafayette had told Tara that he might be coming to New Orleans, but she’d vetoed the idea of them getting together. Tara didn’t want to risk getting wrapped up in all the shit that she was sure was happening in her tiny hometown. Lafayette had also told her that he was engaged to Jesus, and Tara wanted to be happy with it, but Jesus was another fucked up super-fucking-natural, and Tara was worried for her cousin.
Tara’s attention turned―as did everyone else’s―to the doorway leading to the storage area as Octavia entered. The older woman moved with an air of power that every person there could feel. She seemed to hum with magic just as Antonia had. Amelia was next to her.
“Everyone take positions and begin centering yourselves,” the older witch said. “Amelia will lead you.”
Tara noticed Amelia looking at her nervously and tilted her head in question as she began to walk toward the circle.
Octavia headed Tara off. She looked at Tara closely. “Miss Thornton, I would like to speak with you for a moment, please.”
Tara looked confused and tried to catch Amelia’s eye, but her girlfriend was talking to someone else at that moment.
“Okay,” Tara said apprehensively.
Octavia led Tara toward the back room, but stopped when they were in the short hallway. “Tara, there is someone who would like to speak to you in the back, but he wanted me to speak to you first. He wants for me to tell you that he means you no harm. He also wants for me to assure you that I will conduct a spell on him if he tries to do you harm. And he wants me to tell you that he will not try to stop you from leaving if you don’t wish to speak to him.”
Tara was getting very nervous, “Who the fuck is it?”
“It is I.”
Tara heard the masculine voice, and her skin crawled. She turned toward the back room and saw Eric Northman standing there, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders just a little slumped.
“Oh―hell no!” Tara cried out.