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Books By Damon Rain

Learning My Lust

Magic Means Book 1

Magic Means Book 2 (July 21, 2018)

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©2018 Damon Rain all rights reserved.

No part of this eBook may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Before we begin…

This series contains graphic sex between humans, mythical creatures, and various combinations of the two. Some of the acts may be surprising or challenging to your tastes, you have been warned.

I hope you enjoy this book. I took a great deal of pleasure in writing it!

Damon Rain


Chapter 1

Chuck and his quarry rushed through the streets of Verlor, no area of busy Old Town was sacred. The pavement glistened with a thin sheen left by rain that blasted the quarter only twenty minutes before. It was all the magic she had, her attempt at masking her escape. It didn't work.

She got his Peering Stone, an important tool for an Explorer as they'd come to be called. If she got home, to her rooms in the Tate Mansion, Inez would be praised, elevated to the position of the Curator of their entire library of magic, or at least their store, and who knows what dark purpose his Peering Stone would be put to.

If he let her have it, and he was tempted to, he would have no way to verify that a magic door actually led where it told him it did, a dangerous state of affairs. Some doors lied. He could expect to emerge in a lovely glade and find himself in the caldera of a volcano.

Still, his lungs burned, his legs were already turning to jelly, and his feet hurt from the chase. It was hell, chasing Inez. The gifted Guardian was sleek, fast, petite and definitely smarter than him. If he wasn't crazy about her, this would be easier.

He always fell in love hard and fast, and the first time he saw her working at the Tate Library he was smitten. Wearing a dark vest over a fine, white silk blouse, her bust seemed to test the buttons. The narrow pencil skirt had a broad panel running down the front with the Tate tartan, and it was fitted to her hips, stretching over her thighs down to the knee. Dark stockings led to black high heels, not the kind of footwear he expected someone who spent days on their feet to wear, but they looked amazing on her. Inez's diminutive height didn't lessen her presence or class and when she turned so she could see her face clearly, his heart skipped a beat. Full lips were adorned with sensible makeup but made glossy, a shade of pink that suited her skin tone - olive, but a shade that was light enough to tell him that she'd probably stayed in all winter - and her brown hair was tied up in a bun at the back. How could someone with such classy beauty be affiliated with the Tates? It was well known that they were the masters of the most powerful Dark Enclave in North America, and their library had the greatest collection of black magic knowledge outside of Europe. He was there to see if he could read a few sections of the Circular Passage, a rare book on higher forms of magical travel, and to his surprise, she was the one who knew where to find it, what pages to flip to and Inez was extremely kind about doing it.

He knew she wasn't a Woman of Doors, not a Explorer like him. Inez hadn't been with the Tates long enough to be a member of a higher circle, so she wasn't a great witch yet. After a few more visits he determined that she was highly intelligent, sometimes a little chilly, but determined and focused. Finding reasons to visit was hard until he eventually decided to start investigating the Endless Mystery. That topic was different for every practice, but for Explorers like him, it was the question of how so many dimensions could exist and what were in them. No Explorer ever solved their Mystery, but there were hundreds of journals and books from the ones that accepted the quest and enjoyed it. Most of their knowledge was invaluable.

It gave him a reason to visit the library almost every day, since the Tate Estate Library had twenty-one volumes on the topic. Inez was delighted to hear that he was studying it, taking the ultimate Explorer quest on and truly dedicating himself to being a Man of Doors. She helped him get through the material quickly, even prepared a reading plan for three of the most boring volumes from Explorers who didn't appreciate the quest but made a few notable discoveries. On his fifth visit, only a week ago, they were looking over one of the more important tomes, illuminated with pictures of thin-limbed toothy demons on the chains of tall elven looking beings, she put her hand on his and left it there. He looked at her, found her biting her lip and he remembered thinking that there was no way he was feeling the way he was. It was also the first time she wore any kind of scent when he visited. Hints of it were in the air - rose combined with a rich fragrance that he could only guess was made to smell like burnt leaves in the fall - and she was wearing a short kilt instead of her usual pencil skirt, making her look almost flirty.

To Chuck's surprise and delight, she let her bottom lip flip out from between her teeth and began leaning towards him. Their kiss felt as magical and special as any Beltane sacrament. "I didn't know if you were here for the books or for me," she breathed as they parted.

"Yes," he said, stealing a brief smooch, laying his palm on her cheek. Inez smiled.

"An adventurer with a brain. I don't know if I'm lucky or pitiable. You could go through a door one day and never come back."

"I have a Peering Stone. I'll always know where I'm going," he said. "And I know," he kissed her again, meaning to smooch quick, softly, but she didn't let him get away. Sometime later, when their playful lip lock came to a momentary end, he finished. "I know I'm lucky in finding you. I want to romance you, Inez. We'll take tea with the faeries in Swellendam, have dinner in the Junden High Court of Elves. Then we'll visit the lovers temple at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where we'll kiss at sunset before retiring to the Glade of Lady Green for the night."

"Ending at one of the sexiest places in the universe... you're getting ahead of yourself a little," she said, smiling softly. The moment came to an end as she leaned back, the more official, stern disposition returning. "Why don't we start at your place? Make me dinner."

Chuck was a horrible cook. He could prepare rabbit or squirrel over a fire, but cooking in a kitchen? It would be reasonable for him to alert the fire department in advance of preparing soup. He knew a way around that, though. His place was clean, just small. "It's a single bedroom," he said. "And I'll have something amazing on the table for you." It would be from France. "Maybe a movie after that if we feel like going out?" he offered, trying to show her that he didn't expect her to have dinner with him then jump into bed directly.

"They're playing Practical Magic not far from your place at the Tempest Theater."

"Perfect," he said, pretending he was eager to see it for the fifty third time. He would enjoy being with her, that's what mattered.

When it came time for their date, everything seemed to be going well. She brought wine, they kissed at the door with warm, happy tenderness for what must have been a few minutes. She even had a backpack with her. "Whatever happens, I'm happy I met you, Charles," she said.

He was taking their salad course out of the fridge when he realized that the window in his bedroom was wide open. He dropped the bowls, sending lettuce, tomato and other cubed ingredients in all directions when he saw that his Peering Stone wasn't where it ought to be - beside his keys in a bowl by the door.

Her bag was gone, she was gone. The only evidence that she was there at all was a small card folded on her plate that said; I'm sorry. He was across the window with his head poking out a moment later. A strand of web glistened as it hung between his building and the next. She was in a long, black silken cloak that was enchanted to absorb light, making it easier for her to merge with shadow. Against moonlight, it only helped highlight her silhouette as she crossed between the buildings on the thin tendril. "Come back, and all's forgiven!" he shouted after her.

Inez increased her pace four-fold, she'd be across in short order. Instead of doing something rash, like cutting the strand at his end, he decided to take the risk, to get in front of her.

He turned around and slammed his door then knocked on it, activating the enchantment he'd paid to have cast there. It became magically charged, and he pictured the door on the building Inez was on her way to. Opening it, he passed through, emerging in time to catch her ten feet from the door leading inside the building across the street. "That is the most important thing I own, please don't do this," he said.

"Get out of the way," Inez said, taking a combat stance. "You shouldn't have told me you had one. My masters won't accept failure."

"I won't let you off this roof while you have that." He blocked the doorway.

With surprising alacrity, she strode towards him, closing the gap between them with confidence that looked dangerous. "Get out of the way. Last warning."

He didn't move.

"I'm sorry," she said before leaping onto him, gripping his hair in her small but unbelievably strong hand, planted a knee in his stomach, then dropping, sending him up then flying behind her.

It was a miracle that he didn't break anything when he came down on the gravel covered rooftop, rolling to a stop after skidding for a few feet. "Oh, no; she's a Guardian."

Guardians. They could be in the light or dark magical camps or mercenaries in-between. Most of them specialized in physical magic, but they could have any tricks you could imagine up their sleeves. She was obviously working for the Tate Family's Dark Enclave. Bad news.

That didn't mean he couldn't catch her. That he couldn't trick her into a corner where he'd have a chance to talk things over. Every time she opened a door, he'd have a shot at changing the chase, but he'd have to keep her in sight for that.

Already aching in at least three places, Chuck got to his feet and slammed the rooftop door. He pictured the door at the bottom of the building, hoping that she was headed for the street, then waited. No one had used that door for magical purposes in the past, he could sense its sad mundane powerlessness, and it took almost longer than he was willing to wait for it to change its destination. At long last, it no longer led to the main stairwell of the building, but the main doors at the bottom, and he stepped through. It would revert to its normal, boring destination when it closed again, but the next person who wanted to use it for magic would have an easier time.

Inez was running through the lobby of the hotel towards him. "We can talk this through, there are other Peering Stones," he said.

"Help! This guy's Chasing me!" she screamed as she ran towards him, passing through the main door of the hotel. He didn't dare try to grab her with everyone watching.

"How can I be chasing her, if she's running towards me?" he asked as she passed by.

The bellhop, who looked like he was a bodybuilder in his off time, wasn't having it. "All right, guy, you just go in the other direction, and we won't have any trouble."

Inez was ten feet past him. If she made the corner he could lose her. Chuck shrugged and pretended to start crossing the street in the opposite direction.

"That's right, guy, just let her go," said the bellhop bodybuilder.

"That's right, asshole, just leave her alone," said a snooty fellow in a fine suit as he slipped into his Bugatti.

Chuck spun on his heel, confident that he was far enough from everyone for them to interfere with him giving chase and sprinted after Inez. "You'd understand if you were in my position!" he shouted over his shoulder. He kept her in sight, even around the next corner, then she clapped her hands over her head and it started to rain so hard that it felt like it might pin him to the ground. "What the hell?" he asked, rushing harder, seeing a shape that might be her ahead. "She has weather magic?"

Chapter 2

The disease came for Scott Pender's father quickly. Before he could return home from a tour with Sacred Sacrament, a band that needed to hire him at the last minute because their guitarist disappeared into rehab, the neighborhood friends his father accumulated took care of him. He was grateful, the time and money they put in to make sure that his father had what he needed was invaluable, but months later, after all treatment options had been explored, and his father was in his final days, it was just the two of them.

Scott had no rancor for people from the neighborhood. He knew they wanted to remember Darren Pender the way they always knew him. Friendly, healthy, and perhaps a little too thin skinned. He owned and operated a pawn shop for over thirty years, and so many people found help there during desperate times. After his mother left when he was eight, Scott practically lived there, hanging out with his dad, surrounded by musical instruments, video games, more music than he could listen to in three lifetimes, and he learned a lot about people, about how to be flexible enough, but not so much that he let people rip him off.

Looking further back, he knew he loved his mother as a boy, and he couldn't remember anything that would serve as a warning before her sudden departure. He'd just finished tracking her down, twenty years later. It was too late. Instead of a happy reunion, or even a complex one, he found a gravestone. She'd thrown herself from the top of the Saint Francis Church bell tower in Los Angeles. There was no explanation, and her family - people he'd never met, didn't know existed at all until he was talking to their lawyers - had taken almost all her journals, raided her estate to the extent the law allowed. They used the law as a tool and a shield, hiding their locations and names from him. Even his special talents couldn't give him a clue as to who these people were.

Even so, the Mastersons couldn't take everything from him. There were published works, over eighty books with six publishers, the rights of which reverted to him along with an account she bequeathed to him containing all her royalties. All her royalties. She spent almost nothing during her twenty-one-year writing career. She was an expert on the occult. It has high magic stuff he had difficulty understanding, way over his head. It did something important for him, especially when he read a slim book she wrote shortly after leaving him and his father called; THE MYSTERY OF SEEKERS. It brought back memories of her teaching him tricks, where she would hide something and he would have to tell her where it was. He was good at it, better than any rational explanation could account for.

He brought the topic up with his father right before he became ill, and it was gracefully sidestepped every time. His mother's family didn't want to communicate with him at all, and the lawyer he could afford told him to take the inheritance, drain the account, move the money, use it for real estate somewhere and live in that place. The Mastersons wanted everything their wandering daughter had in life, especially the books she didn't have a chance to publish. The fight for boxes of manuscripts that were left to him ended when his father's cancer started winning, spreading fast. You had to let some things go, but he knew he'd continue the fight later. After his father, the Mastersons were the only family he had left.

The medical bills weren't as heavy as they could have been by far. They were in Canada, so Scott was able to pay for all the extra comforts the hospital could provide. He'd left his father watching an old Saturday Night Live episode, fetching some coffee for himself. He was still on rocker time; sleep in late, stay up late. It was still early for him, ten o'clock in the evening. The nurses were kind enough to look the other way, letting him stay the night in a chair beside his father's bed. He was in pain and a little alert or drugged and gone. His father chose to be a little alert, to see his last hours. Scott only debated it with him once, telling him that he didn't have to suffer and stay alert because he was there. "Every moment of life is worth living, Son," Darren said, ending that conflict.

That conversation was running through Scott's head when he arrived at his father's door, finding it closed. There was a white light inside. He opened the door and saw a woman in a fine, simple but elegant black silk dress and heels - her raven hair had a flair of blue that rose from the back of her head like a fan of feathers - her hands were outstretched to his father from the foot of his bed.

"What are you doing?" he asked urgently, his voice still hushed. He could feel the tone of the energy, it was good, pure. Scott moved into the room and closed the door behind him, watching as wisps of white light moved between her and his father, who looked peaceful.

The woman lowered her hands, the light faded, and she leaned on the foot of the bed, catching her breath. He was stuck to the spot, looking at her, then to his father and back. He looked restful, more colour in him than he'd seen in a while. With a shake of her head, she stood up straight, adjusted the thin straps holding her black silk dress up and crossed the room to him. Her perfume - earthy with notes of patchouli and sandalwood - filled his nostrils as she took his hand, squeezing it, and leaned her body against his, kissing him on the cheek. "I was able to take his pain, but he's at the end. I wish I could have come sooner."

"You could have saved him?" Scott asked, fighting the appearance of a tear, fortifying himself.

"I could have only given him more time. The disease he's fighting is many years old. She straightened her dress, slipped a silver ring around her neck and fastened it. Her pupils were perfectly black, nested in a face that looked ageless, beautiful, pale. His anxiety dissipated as she smiled at him for a moment. "Your father helped me when no one in Old Town would, expecting nothing in return. It's a rarity for my people, and the only time I experienced that kind of generosity. I would give him my life if it would save his." She took a tissue from a stand beside the door and polished her thin silver choker, removing fingerprints. It was solid, fitted to her neck. "I could only come because of the fundraiser downstairs, it hides my purpose here. Your mother sent me."

"She's been gone three months."

"Like I said," the woman said, stepping away from him. "She sent me. I have to get back before they realize what I’ve done."

Scott stepped away from the door so she could leave, looking at his father, who was slowly rousing. "Thank you."

"Let him talk to you, his head is clear. He'll be gone soon." She said before retreating.

He was only torn between getting a better look at her so he could find her later and rushing to his father's bedside for an instant before he crossed the room and took his hand. "Can I get some water?" his father croaked.

Scott poured water into a cup, dropped a straw in it for him and held it while his father took a few sips and sighed. "How do you feel?"

"Like I'm about to go on a long trip, but my body's not coming with me," Darren said with a smirk. "You know I'm proud of the path you followed. If I knew you'd tour the world, playing guitar for anyone who would keep tour bus wheels turning under you when I handed you that old six string, I'd do it again. It's one of the only things your mother and I agreed on; you should be worldly."

Scott had been by his father's bedside for weeks, but the full realization that he was about to pass only struck him then. "I still have it, the Epiphone."

"You do? You still play it? The neck on that thing used to bend like a bow every season."

"When I visit my storage unit," Scott said. "I still adjust the truss rod the way you taught me."

"Good, that'll last you a lifetime," he sighed. "You're getting tired of the road, though, aren't you?"

That was far from Scott's mind, but it was a realization he made months before, when he was in Los Angeles looking for his mother. "Yeah, ten years is a long time."

"Not many Seekers rest. Most of them die young. I didn't because I started a store, settled down young."

"Dad -" Scott didn't know what he wanted his last conversation with his father to be about, but he was bone weary of conversations that led to more questions after fighting with lawyers over his mother's manuscripts and journals.

"This is important," he said, squeezing his hand. "I was afraid you'd be a Seeker until you started touring. Afraid again when you found cocaine. A lot of us turn to that kind of thing to keep our spirits still, to stop searching for one thing after another. So proud of you for being clean for five years now, but I'm worried again. You're right to stop touring, you need to go on one more though. Your mother showed me who you need. She struggled with the terrible things her family believed about you, and they tricked her into thinking that your birth was a mistake. That, and the unrest in the city drove her over the edge, but she's clear now, on the other side, and her biggest regret is leaving us. She started to teach you before she left, and after that, I didn't know how to continue it. My family was gone, there were no seekers in Old Town, so I didn't have help. She's found you a master, someone who can start teaching you. She won't be your last, but you have to promise me you'll seek her out. You've always been good at finding what you want, what you need. Gigs, equipment, just enough money to get by, and who knows what else. That's the Seeker in you. Train with Laura Light."

She was one of the biggest stars in the latest wave of heavy metal, a British opera singer who became one of the most successful women in non-pop music. He knew who he could call to get in front of her people, but she was notorious for being picky and firing band members. It was a tall order.

"I'll try," he said.

"Focus on her, use your gift. You'll find something she wants more than anything in the world, and that will be what you need to convince her to become your teacher. Your mother's waiting. The darkness around her has been cleared away. The Guardians of Old Town stand with her." A look of wonder overcame him as his gaze turned upward and sighed. "She's as light and kind as she was when we first met." He turned to look at Scott, smiling. "I love you, Son." The life left him then.

His vision blurred by tears, Scott kissed his father's hand, laid it down on the covers and left to fetch the nurse.

Chapter 3

That cloak was like a beacon to Chuck. A piece of kit that he was sure served her well, allowing her to merge with darkness, but he wore the Amulet of Kysen, which allowed him to choose a magical object and detect it anywhere. When she attacked him on the roof - the memory of which made him wonder if he should actually catch her - her cloak touched him, and he only had to remember its silky surface to focus in on it.

Again, he lost her around a corner, and he could see her in his mind's eye, stopping for a moment, looking for a doorway that she could hide in while he passed by.

He was relieved that they were still far from any part of the Tate Estate, that family were kept from buying property in Old Town. It was a refuge for Light Witches and Guardians who served the greater good. It was his neighborhood.

He made it around the corner behind her, his lungs burning, he felt like he could throw up. She looked at him, shook her head with a cocky smile. "You can't get me in here," she said. "It's Masterson owned." She started walking up the stairs to an old town house.

Perhaps the house was owned by the Masterson family, allies to the Tates, but the door had no magical protection, just the space inside. Straining quietly, Chuck reached out with his mind and sent an enchantment to the doorway, making sure it landed the moment she opened it. He sprinted forward.

She opened the door, confronted with the sight of a pond in the middle of a lovely green glade bathed in golden light. He caught her as she turned away from the door, tackling her so they both travelled to the Glade of Eveline. A peaceful place where they'd be safe, but she would be unable to go far. The pocket dimension was only a few miles across, and saturated by good magic, making any dark magic difficult if impossible to cast.

As they fell through the air, he realized that he'd imagined his door directly over the pond. "Oh, shit," he said.

"You son-of-a..." she had time to say before hitting the water.

It was cool, normally pleasant, but unwelcome at the moment. Inez swam to the shore with the skill and speed of someone who spent a lot of time in the water. He did not. He was a good swimmer, but she was a superior physical specimen despite her feminine shape. By the time he reached the shore, she was standing there, looking in all directions as the sun set. "Where did you take us?"

"We're in my Grandmother's Glade. The Glade of Eveline."

"You... What?" she asked, shocked. "I can't leave! I have no way out! This is a pocket dimension! I'll starve here!"

"Oh, don't be so dramatic. Give me the stone back and I'll take you almost wherever you want. Across the street from the Library, the headquarters for heartless betrayers to pick up your thirty pieces of silver, whatever."

"I'm stealing this from you because you don't need it, and my masters won't let me get away with leaving it in your hands."

"I need that stone, otherwise I could go through a door thinking it's going to take me one place, and end up in another. Like a volcano, a super collider, or Courtney Love's bedroom."

Inez tried to suppress her amusement but failed just enough for him to see the emergence of a smile before it was squelched. "But you can detect that on your own, it just takes time."

"Hours, and I'd need Green Dragon's Dust. Sure, it doesn't come from a real dragon, but it takes ground jade, goblin's tooth and it would have to be blessed by a High Priest or Priestess. That stone saves me thousands of dollars and hours every time I want to open a door."

"I thought you were an experienced, practiced Man of Doors?"

"I started doing this five years ago. I earned that Peering Stone by travelling to a world where they think a pen light is a magic torch, a motorcycle is a roaring demon, and the glasses you wore in the library are a complex magical device. The only reason why I got it was because a tribesman thought the glass marbles I had with me were prettier."

"So you're as much a thief as I am."

"Oh, he was really happy with his marbles, it was a fair trade. Listen, give it back and all's forgiven. I'll open a door here, get you back home, and even find you a lead on where you can get a different Peering Stone for your masters. Someone like you, with magic, and stamina, and kung-fu, and irresistible sex appeal can get to one, I'm sure."

Joking about the realm he found his stone in didn't make her smile, or lighten her mood, but compliments seemed to put her at ease. "I can't." She dropped her cape and started sluicing water off her tights, pushing her hand down her shapely thigh. Inez was short, it made her well-muscled legs, her wide hips, her waist, even her shoulders and bust look exaggerated, and he loved her extreme shape. It almost distracted him from their argument.

"You will turn the stone over," he said, mentally scrambling for a reason why she'd want to. "Because I'll help you get another Peering Stone, and I'll even help you steal one other item. You name it."

"Anything?" That caught her attention. "The Tate Enclave doesn't have an Explorer anymore."

"I know," Chuck said, pulling his soaked shirt off. He might not have a bodybuilder's physique, but he was lean and tall. "But you could have your own, at least for a while."

Inez started walking towards him, her white blouse clinging to her, revealing a lacy half-cup bra beneath. "I can't do that. I have to get the stone to them tonight. They know I'm taking it one way or another right now."

"Time moves at one seventh the speed here. We have time to figure this out." He so badly wanted to find the rationale that would bring her over to his side. Maybe it was that simple, bringing her back into the light, or at least near the middle, away from the Tates and their Dark Enclave. He had to be careful though. "We can take our time, even enjoy ourselves maybe."

"Hmm..." Inez laid her hand on Chuck's chest, her fingertips toying with his blonde chest hair. "If you could see things my way, maybe. What do you suggest?"

Her saucy smile, brown eyes looking up at him, her non-violent nearness made his heart pound against his ribs with urgency. "I have some wine stashed here, the apples and high savoury fruit are in season. I could show you around while we collect some and relax after."

"High savoury, I've only read about it, but it's an aphrodisiac. Calms a succubus, but turns trust into fancy, fancy into passion and passion into love."

"Okay, so just apples. I'm a gentleman, I won't trick or persuade you to do anything you don't want to."

"As if you could." Her hand curled around the Amulet of Kysen, the seeing eye in the middle of the stone coin disappearing under her fingers. How could he be so stupid? It was the second time she'd made him lose his head, only this time it was faster. Inez only had to wear some wet white clothing and black tights, give him the impression that she might be reasonable, perhaps even a little interested, and he let her get the upper hand. She could yank it off its leather thong, bring it back to her masters as a bonus or keep it for herself, making herself even more valuable to them. "Don't," he said, deadly serious. If she pulled the Amulet of Kysen off his neck and tried to keep it from him, he knew what he'd do. He would leave. Inez would be trapped. There would always be enough food, enough water, and she'd find comfort in his Grandmother's little cabin. Even more if she found his trailer. Would he return? Absolutely, but not for weeks, and definitely not alone. The Peering Stone didn't open doors, neither did the Amulet of Kysen or anything else in the pocket dimension. He knew for a fact anyone but a Explorer would be trapped. "Leave that where it is and I'll start trusting you. Take it, and…"

She interrupted Chuck, leaning against him, her cold clothes sending a shiver through him, planting her plush lips on his. Her hand released the amulet, and he joined the playful kiss - lips plucking, tongues teasing with tips and eventually caressing - and he was surprised when she started unbuttoning her blouse. He helped her with the last two, then it was on the ground. Chuck ran his hands down her back, warming her wet, cool skin with a firm, massaging touch. She spun out of his arms when his fingers touched the waistline of her tights. "I can't do this," she said. "By the Gods, I want to, Charles but I need something, a success."

He hated himself for suspecting that he was being led on, but he did, and he checked with his amulet, searching for the Peering Stone with his mind. It was at the bottom of the pond. Inez lost it when she fell in. "You don't have the Stone," he said.

"I thought about tricking you, getting the amulet, using it to find the Peering Stone in the pond, maybe waiting until you were asleep. What they'll do to me if I don't get it is monstrous. I can't tell you why the Tates need it, or what they'll use it for, but it will make the Tate Enclave so powerful, so wealthy that you wouldn't believe it. I would be rewarded with more freedom, money, power."

"Money, power; these are things neither of us should care about. Learning, gathering like-minded people, getting control of ourselves and our power are all we should be thinking about. We shouldn't need much, not us, not the gifted. I'm lucky, I have this place, but I don't have the people who made it. My Grandmother, my mother, my father, they're all gone because someone wanted more power and they didn't have the patience to get it the right way. Sometimes I wish this place didn't exist, because; for all its beauty, I'm always reminded that if it weren't for magic, I'd probably still have a family. But no, I live in a reality where people get sucked into the dark, where morals are ignored, the ends always justify the means, and people like my parents get crushed under someone else's desire for power. So, tell me; how the hell did they get someone like you?"

"The education I'm getting through the library, the university, thanks to the Tate Enclave is better than anything I could find on the continent."

"So, pack your bags. I'll be your school bus every day and you can go to one of the White Enclave schools in Germany or Britain. I'd do that for you."

"That's a dream, a fantasy. I need the stone tonight."

"What for?"

"I can't tell you," she replied, stepping further away, frightening fireflies to dim.

"What doors to they have access to?"

Inez shook her head and started to turn away.

"What do they want to summon?" he asked. "And what are they summoning by mistake?" it was a guess. Dark magicians sometimes thought they could gather spirits around them to control where a portal they made led so they could try and get what they wanted through. It sometimes went wrong. Explorers were best at closing them when the bodies stopped dropping and the demon that came through was dead. He'd closed two, both from magicians of the light who thought they were opening doors to planes of knowledge, where demons masqueraded as helpful spirits. Inez momentarily froze. He was right. "They are already summoning demons. They're not getting what they want, so they need this stone to fine-tune their portals. What are they using as bait?"

"It's a punishment. If neophytes break too many rules, they are chosen to lure demons through a portal."

"How? Not as food, then it would be execution."

"As mates. Men are manipulated by a succubus so they stay excited, women are treated similarly. Their scents are thickened until it's a musk. It's not just the neophytes, either. Sometimes others are punished the same way, but usually as punishment for greater transgressions, to lure more powerful demons. If I don't bring that stone home tonight, I will be next. The best I can hope for is an extension, a day or two more to get it."

It was disgusting, he almost couldn't imagine anything worse.

"The demons they bring into this world are subdued right away and harvested. Claws, teeth, skin, limbs if they'll grow back. After a few months, the demon is carved open alive during a sacrificial rite then their organs are removed while they're alive. They save the heart for last. The Tate Enclave is growing in power with every demon they capture, every person they punish."

"They're going to get out. They have to know that history tells us that the demons always break free eventually. The payment always comes due, and the demons won't discriminate between humans who trapped them and the innocent. They'll rampage like they did before, and then, when they're all defeated, other Enclaves will declare war on them if they survive, and it'll only get worse."

"The Enclave is already so powerful that they can prevent that," Inez said, sitting down, putting her head into her hands. "They're too powerful. If I don't take it, someone worse will come for it. Someone who doesn't care about you."

Chuck turned and sloshed back into the pond, following his sense of where the Peering Stone was. Moments later, he emerged with it in his hand, pondering the problem. Most of all, he made sure his head was clear, that he knew which side he ultimately wanted to be on. Inez was on the bank, sitting on a large boulder. He had to make one last appeal, and it had to be powerful, intelligent.

Holding the Peering Stone firmly in his hand, he knelt down in front of her. Inez wasn't crying, or emotionally affected from what he could see, she was simply waiting. The curve of her cheek in the silver moonlight, so much like her twin sisters', gave him an idea. They were so different, even in the way they carried themselves, but there had to be the right kind of similarities down deep. "I see your sister every week or so. I visit her and her roommate as often as I can because they keep a happy home. Every week Izzie says something about you. It's an old story about when you were kids, or lately she asks me how you are, since I told her I was visiting the library. A couple weeks ago, we'd had some wine - okay, a lot of wine - and I asked her what she'd do if you came back."

A tear started rolling down Inez's cheek.

Chuck pressed on in a gentle tone. "She cried too, but she didn't have to think about it. Izzie told me you'd be welcome. Always, no matter what you'd done. Then something happened. Izzie got angry. I'd never seen her get that way before, not like that. She said; 'If anyone tried to take her back, or punish her for leaving the Dark Enclave, I would gather the Guardians of Light. Tell the Light Enclave that they had to come too, or they'd lose both of us, and then she would lead them in your defence.' There was so much strength and determination in her when she said it. I knew it was true. I know that if you come back to our side, you might not be wealthy the way you are now, but you'll have no end of people to surround you. Friends who are happy to return, a sister who is strong and loving to take you in. Even a father who will celebrate you."

"Adoptive father," Inez corrected.

"He doesn't see the difference." He watched her cry, start to shake, and he took her hands in his but pressed on. "He doesn't talk about you, that's how he tries to handle your absence. Your twin can't go an evening without bringing you up, and he can't because the hurt comes back so fully. I saw it once. It's as if he ages twenty years, the warmth drains out of him, he goes grey, ashen. If you're afraid that he'll turn his back on you because he's the Light Enclave High Priest, then you're wrong. He'd take you back as readily as your twin sister, it would be as wonderful to him as the spark of life itself."

"But how?" crying so hard that it came out as a wheeze.

He shed a few tears as well but focused on the task of finding the right solution. "I'll take some of the power from this for myself," he held up the Peering Stone, it glinted under the light of a blue moon. "Then you'll take it to your masters. These don't last forever, and with a little juice drained already, it'll die out even sooner. They might be able to find the right artificer to get it fixed, but you'll be long gone by then. You give this to them, then you wait until you get your pat on the back - maybe a few days - then as soon as you can get to Old Town without raising suspicion, go. I'll make sure there's someone there to make you disappear. Maybe it'll be me, but I don't know."

"Why wouldn't it be you?"

"Wait, that's what you want to know? The rest of my plan is good?"

"Yes, it's good. I need to get away from the Dark Enclave. It's too dangerous. I just didn't think anyone cared. I thought my bridges were burned. There are only a couple problems. Even if I get the Peering Stone to them and they suspect nothing, it'll take me a while to justify a trip to Old Town. It might not be for weeks. I also won't be able to take anything I gained while I was with the Dark Enclave with me."

"You won't need anything. You have friends and family who will provide."

"I know, thanks to you, I know. But why wouldn't you be the one to hide me?" she wiped her tears away.

He picked up a smooth stone from the shore. "I'm going to be transferring old power, using magic I barely understand. I will be linked to both stones, feel what they're doing at any distance for a while. This river rock will only hold enough for me to use it on a few doors, the original will have a lot more left. I'm going to try to take the stone I make and use it to find or make a real one. I don't know if I'll ever make it back, but if you promise me that you'll return to your sister, leave the dark behind, then it'll be worth it even if I fail. This Peering Stone is the only one our Light Enclave has. I have to replace it, even if someone else carries it back to them for me."

"No. You started all this self-doubt, and lured me out of my library, gave me something to chase, so you're going to come back."

"Well, you'll be getting what you were chasing," Chuck said, looking at the Peering Stone.

"I mean you, you idiot," she said, touching his face with her cool hand. "Don't do anything that'll trap you, or get you killed. I want you to be there when I'm free from the Tate Estate. Promise me."

"I promise," Chuck said, lying expertly. He would try but being bound to a stone that would be used to help a Dark Circle summon demons meant that he would feel their actions, he could use their portals while they were open. He'd find a way to stop them and knowing exactly what they were doing and how was a start, but he needed a lot more to accomplish it. Allies, power, especially knowledge that he may have to travel far and wide for.

Inez leaned forward and embraced him, kissing his shoulder before resting her head there. "The person I am when I'm serving the Tates is cold, she shuts her heart away. I was the quiet, bookish one when Izzie and I were growing up, but my heart still ruled me, I don't know who I am when I embrace that part of me anymore, but she doesn't want you to disappear."

"Follow me," he said, standing up and leading her up the path.

He picked a few apples on his way through, left the savoury fruit where it was, and followed the trail through the underbrush and stands of trees. "This place is amazing," Inez said. "I've never been to a glade before, not like this. I've stood in one with the outer circle during a ceremony when Izzie and I were teenagers, but we weren't allowed to explore and it only lasted about five minutes. It wasn't like this though. This is wild, beautiful, and I feel safe."

"It was made as a sanctuary," Chuck said. "I only have about nineteen years before it starts receding."

"That's unless you or someone you trust learns to expand it," Inez said. She bit into an apple and laughed as the juices dripped down her chin.

"They're the way apples grow when they're in a perfectly balanced environment," he explained. "I hope I can master the talents it takes to expand this place, the best I can do so far is get this here." They emerged and stopped, looking at an old airstream trailer. It was in excellent shape, a point of pride for Chuck. Inez didn't seem as impressed as he expected. He pressed on. "I don't expect to move it from here, so I made some changes. Replaced the bed with a real mattress, added some solar panels, a few extra batteries, a flat screen - not a big one, I couldn't afford it - and a couple other minor creature comforts. I'd like to move it closer to the pond, but I don't want to clear any trees, so it stays where it is."

He opened the door and they went inside. "It's only an old sixteen-footer, but I like it," he said, turning the overhead light on. He pushed his pants down, and to his surprise, Inez helped as the wet denim caught on his knees. When they were off, she pushed him down on the bed, kissing him as she laid atop his chest. She was so cold, he rolled over and ran his hands over her waist, up her sides. "I really was just changing my pants," he told her with a chuckle. "Maybe getting a t-shirt and shorts for you so you could be in something dry."

"I thought you were taking me to your special place to have your way," Inez said with a crooked smile, stretching out under him.

"I-" he started to respond.

"I was looking forward to it." Her brown eyes watched him, closely, her body was beginning to warm beneath him, and her legs slowly parted. "I'm surprised you didn't take me by the pond."

"A gentleman never assumes," Chuck said, lowering his lips to hers, taking full enjoyment of the sensation of her soft kiss drawing him in. Inez moaned as he teased, luring her tongue out with flicks of his, holding back just enough so she had to raise her head to lock lips with him before he would follow her back down. It was a kiss that grew in intensity quickly, becoming a full exploration before long. Her feet ran up his legs to his waist where her toes caught the waistband of his boxers. With surprising dexterity, they drew them down to his ankles, leaving him nude. His manhood rested between her legs, pinned against her wet tights.

There was no way he could accomplish the same act, so he broke their kiss and sat up. Her hands ran down his chest, her nails would have left marks if they weren't so short. Chuck ran his hands down her chest, across her breasts lightly, then undid the clasp holding her bra together and ran his hands under the cups, firmly massaging her considerable breasts, enough to fill his hands and more.

Inez sighed and closed her eyes. His hands were warm, his touch was firm and between long strokes up and down her body, he liked to tease with his fingertips. Her and her sister were both gifted with sensitive skin, and after they turned eighteen, Izzie concocted a cream that only made touch more fun and pleasurable for them. It was one of the secrets of Old Town now, but Inez would occasionally find a way to send a neophyte to the Pink Secret to pick up a couple jars so she could do as she and her sister did every night for years - put it all over their bodies before bed - only Inez wore gloves when she did so. Her hands had to remain hard, trained to receive and deal punishment. She also avoided her feet, which had to be ready for similar treatment. Treating herself with the cream reminded her of Izzie, who she missed every day. Most enjoyable things reminded her of Izzie, for the first twenty-one years of their lives they were inseparable, preferring to sleep in the same bed until late in their teens.

They even attended their first Beltane orgy together with their boyfriends, losing them early in the night and finding other lovers minutes later. The urge to be sexual with her sister never came up for either of them, even though it was something some men enjoyed suggesting. To Inez, Izzie was her innocent, safe, loving place. She was the harder sister, and Izzie often came to her to talk, or for cuddle comfort even when they'd grown, but sometimes, when it felt like everything was going wrong, Inez would go to Izzie and find open arms, an attentive ear and innocent comfort. It was like they had an advantage over everyone else, the pair of them were an island when they came together. There was no end to how much she missed that and missed Izzie. With a plan to return, and reassurances that she'd be accepted, she missed her even more, and as Chuck's fingers got under the waistband of her tights, a tear rolled down her cheek.

He laid down beside her and stroked her cheek gently. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pressure you."

Inez wiped her tears away and shook her head. "It's not you," she said. "God, these feel awful," she said of her tights, which she yanked off and threw onto the back of a chair. Her G-String was next, she didn't care if she was naked, not beside him. Inez had many lovers, most of them were casual, many of them unremarkable, and modesty had never been something that was precious to her. With a long sigh, she stroked her thighs and her stubbly crotch. "Oops, be right back," she said, hopping out of the high bed, noting how much she liked the thick mattress - it was probably the best thing about the little trailer, even though she liked everything else about it so far - and stepped into the little bathroom.

"No, really, are you okay?" Chuck called after her.

Inez left the door open and started to focus her thoughts. The little magic trick she was about to do was very difficult, but not exhausting. "I'm shaving my coochie for you," she answered in a sing-song voice.

A long moment passed. "You don't have to do that," he said finally.

"Well, it's not really shaving, but turning hair to water," she relaxed her body and slid her hand between her legs, concentrating on the little hairs she'd let sprout over the late winter. For her sister, it was an easy trick, but she was a gifted healer. Inez could heal herself a little, others less, but her expertise were augmenting speed and force. Not exactly a great foundation for grooming tricks. There was a man in the next room who wanted her, and she adored him, though she wouldn't tell him exactly how much, and she wouldn't see him for weeks. Unlike her sister, she didn't feel comfortable keeping her relationships open - one man at a time was plenty even if it wasn't serious - so she wouldn't be wandering while he was away. At long last she felt a tingle in her hand and the magical energy began to pool in her palm. With a clear image of her hair turning to water under her hand and fingers, she ran them between her legs, feeling it happen as she went. Pleased with her soft smoothness, she used the showerhead to rinse herself then dried herself with a towel. Water that was once hair didn't smell or taste very good, so she made sure it was gone.

Inez ran out of the bathroom and leapt up onto the bed, rolling right into his arms and smooching him briefly. "I'm okay, and exactly as I want you to see me."

"What were the tears about?" he asked.

Oh, Chuck, if you didn't care so much, you'd be between my legs, kissing me and having the time of your life, Inez thought. "You're helping me get a second chance with everything I really care about, I was touched." Inez shivered. "But now I'm cold." She rolled onto her stomach and kicked her feet. "Rub me?"

Before her eyes his manhood rose to full, it was impressive, but more amusingly, it seemed like she said just the right words, presented the right image. He started at her feet, digging his thumbs right into the bottoms, sending her straight to heaven. "Ooooh," she moaned loudly.

"Your feet are freezing," he chuckled. "I'll fix that."

Chuck loved massage, he even had some oils at his apartment that he'd been meaning to bring to his trailer, but he didn't expect he'd have a woman visiting. The last thing he expected was to have Inez stretched out on his bed, nude and asking for him to give her a rubdown. He read almost as much about massage and sex as magic and went out of his way to find masters for a while. He finished with one foot, smiling at her cooing and groaning. He could have gone on for another half hour, just on that petite foot, but he eventually wanted to work his way up. Inez wiggled her bottom and he leaned down, sloppily kissing a cheek. Unable to resist, he nibbled a little, making her squeal and giggle. He leaned back and dug into the other foot, watching her writhe and listening to her coo. After a moment she settled into the rhythm and pressure of his attention. "Two years ago, I started looking for a place I read about in a book called; 'The Pleasures of Portia Saint,' thinking that I'd heard of the school she spent a year in."

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