“Bashful. How cute.” She turned back to Caleb. “So what can I do for my favorite knowledgeable loon?”

Smiling at her teasing, he indicated the shelves with his thumb. “I need a few things. Mind if I help myself?”

“Go for it, sug. Just let me know if you need any help.”

“Will do.”

Nick picked up one of the baskets by the altar and handed it to Caleb, who took it to the wall and started filling it with things Nick knew nothing about. While he was trying to learn all of this, there was just so much, and what with school …

He one day expected his brain to explode from all the necessary and trivial information he was attempting to cram into it.

As he looked around while he waited for Caleb, he saw a couple of photos near the register. Some were of Voodoo priests and priestesses. But others were of an all-girl family. A huge all-girl family. And while he glanced over them, he caught a familiar face.

Was that…?

He stepped closer to make sure it was who he thought, and then his jaw went slack.

Yes … yes, it was.


Nick frowned at Ana. “You know Tabitha Devereaux?”

“Of course. She’s my niece.”

“Really?” He had to catch himself before he said “but you look so normal.” After all, the woman did own a Voodoo store, which by its very existence knocked her out of the realm of normality. Still … owning this store was a far cry from Tabitha’s special breed of scary intensity.

All of a sudden, Nick felt an odd sensation run over his skin. He had no idea what it was, but it made him turn around to see a girl not much older than him coming out of the back. Her brown hair was almost the same color as Ana’s and she had a pair of big blue eyes.

“We need more paper towels,” she said to Ana. She straightened her top and then slowed her approach as she realized the two of them weren’t alone in the store. She looked at Ana curiously.

Ana jerked her chin toward him. “His name’s Nick. He knows Tabby. Do you two know each other?”

The girl shook her head before pinning a suspicious glare on Nick. She had a gleam in her eyes that said she was trying to decide what category to put him in.

Scary. Insane. Or friendly.

“Are you one of Tabby’s zoo crew?”

Nick had no idea what she meant by that. “Zoo crew?”

“The insane lunatics she runs around with at night, looking for vampires to stake?” She shook her head at Ana. “I don’t know where she gets that from.”

’Cause she definitely couldn’t get it from the Voodoo side of the family.

But Nick refrained from stating the obvious and having her hex him for it. “No. I’m not a zoo crew loon.”

That appeased her. “Ah, good. I’m her older sister, Tiyana, by the way. Nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, you too.” Sort of. Though to be honest, he was beginning to think their entire family tree was deeply rooted in the lush swamp of weird, idiosyncratic, and insane.

“Hey, Ana?” Caleb asked, intruding on a conversation that had been going nowhere. “Do you have some unused blackberry, thistle, and papoose root in the back?”

“Of course. Do you need valerian, too?”

“No, thanks. We’re trying to bind evil, not invite it out to party.”

“Glad to hear that. Last kid we had in here … Let’s just say, people who don’t understand the powers they’re courting should play Parcheesi in their spare time.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Caleb dropped another small container in his basket. “I also need at least ten ounces of your 7 African Powers oil and a huge vat of black salt.”

She exchanged a wide-eyed stare with Tiyana that said Caleb’s order was excessive. “What are you into, boy?” Oh yeah, there was no missing the castigation in her tone or question.

“Not at liberty to say. But don’t worry. I really do know what I’m doing.”

“I hope so, C. ’Cause I don’t want to have to go rescue you from something that requires that much binding.” She let out a low whistle before she looked back at Tiyana. “And if you ever mess with something like this … both your mother and I will get you.”

Tiyana rolled her eyes. “I’m not Tabitha or her twin. Or the psycho named Karma. Please don’t confuse us.”

Laughing, Ana headed to the back to get what Caleb needed. Nick froze as he reached the end of the high counter and saw a large crystal ball unattended. It pulled him toward it with a lure he couldn’t resist. The one power he had that worked best was scrying, and anytime he saw something that reflective, he had to look into it. He placed his hand on the back of the cool surface to help direct the light.

There in the center of the ball, he saw an image of a slightly older Tiyana having dinner with Ambrose inside a really nice restaurant.

No, not Ambrose …

Him. They were laughing and talking in such a way that he knew they were good friends. Or maybe even something more. Was that why the store had been shielded from him?

“Do you go to school with my sisters?” Tiyana asked as she started pricing the items in the box Caleb had carried for her aunt.

It took him a second to break contact with the ball and understand her question. “Um, no. I go to St. Richard’s.”

She narrowed her gaze on him as if trying to pry information out of his brain without words. “Then how do you know Tabby?”

“Bubba Burdette.”

That relaxed her instantly. She wrinkled her nose, then laughed. “I love Bubba … he’s…”


“Good word.” She leaned forward onto the counter and gave him a view down her shirt he was sure she didn’t mean to. He quickly averted his gaze to hers as heat crept over his entire face and made his ears burn. “You have the most beautiful pair of blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I bet girls at your school go crazy all the time over them.”

And she would lose that bet. Good thing the girl didn’t play poker. “Not really.”

She laughed, then, to his instant relief, straightened. “You know, Nick. If I was a few years younger…” She winked at him.

Feeling really awkward now and a bit scared by her cougar ways, Nick stepped back, closer to Caleb. What the heck’s going on lately? he asked Caleb in his head. Girls are coming on to me everywhere.

Relax, kid. It’s the glamour that comes with your powers. They do that to most of us.

So that was it. Now he understood what had happened with Simi and it made him feel a lot better.

Until he kept thinking about it …

He should probably be grateful he had come-do-me powers with women, but he honestly didn’t like it at all.

Well, that stinks, Cay. How will I ever know if a woman really likes me?

Easy. It’ll be the woman who’s immune to it. She won’t come on to you. She’ll tell you off.

Great. Just what he needed. Someone else criticizing him. I think I’d rather stick with the ones who are awed by my demonic yet sweet powers of persuasion.

Caleb snorted at him.

“All right,” Ana said as she returned with another box full of stuff. “I think—” She stopped mid-sentence as all the lights went out in the store, bathing them in utter darkness.

Caleb stepped closer to Nick while Ana beelined to her niece to protect her.

“Ana?” Tiyana asked, reaching for her aunt’s hand. “Do you feel that?”

“I do. Caleb?”

He set his basket on top of the counter and lowered his head in a way that told Nick he was listening to the ether around them. “Yeah, it’s some seriously dark powers and they are looking for someone.”

Was it him? Nick knew it had to be, but he was hoping and praying that maybe someone else might be on the menu for once. Ash was in town.… It was possible he could have angered something with massive grudge capabilities.


“I swear it feels like Noir,” Ana breathed.

Nick went cold at a name he seriously didn’t want to hear. Noir was the ancient god who owned the Malachai—the same god his father was currently hiding from. He glanced to Caleb and pushed his thoughts to him. I thought he—Nick couldn’t even think Noir’s name without feeding the dark god’s powers—was locked down in his realm and couldn’t leave.

He is. His servants aren’t.

Oh goody. That meant they could easily be here for him. And he could only imagine what kind of playmates Noir would send out to recover the missing Malachai embryo. Nick had met a couple of them already and had no interest in getting acquainted with any more.

His panic rising, he swallowed hard as the sound of rustling … legs or wings or some other ominous body part echoed on the street outside. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

Caleb ran to the shop’s door and locked it tight. All around them, various objects in the store began to glow bright. Like Menyara’s symbols in his condo, Ana had thrown protection spells up to keep her store safe from the creatures who would do her or her customers harm.

“Will that hold it off?” Caleb asked Ana.

Ana and her niece exchanged a concerned frown. “It should. But…”

I hate buts.

A tic started in Caleb’s jaw. “Now’s not a good time for a but.”

Ana didn’t respond verbally. Her eyes, however, grew so wide, it was a wonder they remained in their sockets.

Turning to see what had her so horrified, Nick stepped back as his own terror seized him. The doors and windows began to move like they were breathing. In and out, over and over, with such force that the wood whined under the strain of it. The glass began to crack. The sound went down his spine like nails against a chalkboard.

Then, faster than he could react, the windows blew out, showering them with glass shards. Insane laughter echoed. And out of nowhere a rabid herd of animals—cats, dogs, birds, insects, and such—ran past the store like a pack of baying hounds after a fox.

Nick let out an elongated breath of relief. Since they weren’t stopping, maybe they weren’t after him after all.

At least that was his thought until one large, mangy brown dog doubled back. Covered in a white frothing sweat, it stood before the windows on its hind legs to look in at them and growl angrily.

Nick crossed himself and started praying.

“Mara,” Tiyana said in a breathless tone.

Nick scowled at her. “Who the heck’s Mara?”

“Not a who, Nick,” Caleb explained. “The Mara are Norse spirits who use animals to hunt down an assigned target.”

“What are they after?” Ana asked.

Me. It was the safest bet. But Nick didn’t say that out loud. He was afraid if he did, the dog might attack. Although judging by the way it was eyeballing them, it was about to open business on them anyway.

It backed up on its haunches.

Nick crouched low, bracing himself for the attack.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, fire burst across the opening of the store, lighting up the dark street and sending the dog and its friends running away as fast as they could.

A jubilant rebel yell rang out, bringing a smile to Nick’s face as he recognized the lunatic sound. And he was grateful he was too far away to smell the duck urine.

An instant later, Bubba and Mark, both armed with military-grade flamethrowers, swept the street free of the Mara. In unison, they covered every inch of the pavement without setting anything on fire.

That in and of itself was a miracle. Especially for the two most accident-prone people Nick had ever had the misfortune of calling friend.

“Yeah!” Mark shouted in a deep tone, shaking his fist after the dogs. “That’s right, bitches, run back to whatever hole you crawled out of and stay there!”

Bubba stopped on the stoop outside of Erzulie’s to look through the broken-out windows. “Y’all all right in there?”

Ana laughed at him. “Depends. Are you planning to burn down my store?”

“Not planning to. But … I wasn’t planning on having to stop my zombie survival class tonight to run after some ancient Slavic demon bloodhounds neither.”

Ana saluted him. “Touché.”

“Bubba!” Mark shouted from down the street. “I could use a little help here. Cujo’s fighting back and he’s got a lot of angry friends with him.”

Bubba stepped backward to glance down the street where Mark had gone. “Nah, you appear to be doing all right by yourself.”

“I hate you, fat man!”

“Fat?” Bubba said indignantly. “Your head weighs more than I do, and don’t get me started on your ego that has its own zip code.” He turned back toward them and saluted them with the pilot light on his flamethrower. “Y’all have a good night and stay alive.”

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