A/N: So this is the second prelude that will lead into Tales of Darley Heights. While Howls focused on the werewolves, Cursed will focus on the witches.
Also bear in mind that this chronologically takes place before Howls. Please let me know what you think :)
Lorna Prentice's steps were careful and precise as she approached the powerful witch who stood tugging a comb through her coal-black tresses. Her hair seemed to shimmer like oil as it cascaded down her back, and as she turned, Lorna clasped her hands together meekly. She was not a woman easily intimidated, save by a witch of standing and ability such as the one before her.
Odette Reilly's deep brown eyes surveyed Lorna without a trace of warmth. Although not a callous young woman, she was not known for her kindness. Witches of such authority did not need to be kind. They needed to show their inferiors that they were to be obeyed without question. Women like Odette needed to give women like Lorna reason to follow, to admire, to respect them.
"She grows in power, Morrigan." Lorna's voice was low and her blue eyes filled with worry as her forehead creased into a frown. "It's too dangerous for her to be in Darley Heights with only him. She needs me. She needs us. The coven would benefit from…"
The Morrigan, leader of the Perth Coven, held up her hand for silence, and Lorna immediately stopped speaking. Odette knew precisely who they were talking about, and her formerly bored expression had become concerned, almost fearful. She stepped forward. Although smaller than Lorna, the power emanating from her made the older woman feel dwarfed.
"I will say what benefits the coven, Lorna." Her voice was soft and silky. The Morrigan did not raise her voice, not even when angered. That was possibly the thing about her that unnerved Lorna the most. Not her enviable control over the wild magic that followed through the veins of all witches and warlocks, but her unwavering calm.
"I don't trust Drake Dormien." Lorna knew the man well. He was only several years younger than her, her nephew by her older sister. He was not necessarily a bad person, but she knew he indulged in drugs and alcohol to drown out the wild magic that he could not control, not as Odette could.
"No one trusts him." There was the hint of laughter in Odette's voice, but it died as quickly as it came. "That's why with him is the safest place for her. The wolves don't stray near him, except for their alpha. But some say Joel Ridley is fearless."
"Do you think that's true?" Lorna inquired, before realising the naivety in her words. She had been naïve once, eighteen years ago when she had conceived her daughter with a canach who had been her making and breaking. Humans and wolves were foolish and thought that all witches and warlocks were the same: bound by the curse of feral magic in their blood. But they had different triggers, different ways of activating their magic. Canach fed off emotions and feelings. The Morrigan was a canach also.
"I don't think anyone is fearless," Odette murmured, and as she turned away, Lorna caught sight of the three parallel scars that ran down from her shoulder, disappearing beneath the fabric of her shirt. The pearly white ridged marks were a mark of some horror from her past, but the Morrigan never spoke of it, and none dared raise the topic. Everyone had their demons, and for many of them, magic was one of them.
"What news do you have?" Wesley Rodriguez demanded, striding into the bookstore. The bell tinkled to signify the entry of a potential customer, but looking up from her books with a frown, Giulia Chester knew he was no customer. Wesley swung the 'open' sign to 'closed', before he leaned across the counter. Neither witch nor werewolf, Giulia was something rarer still: a human bookstore owner involved in the intricacies of the supernatural world.
"I am running a business here, Mr Rodriguez." Giulia's voice was firm as she pressed her palms down flat on the counter. "You can't simply walk in and expect me to shut up shop whenever you want news about your daughter or her coven."
"I think you will find that I can." Wesley raised his eyebrows at her boldness. Giulia had seen what he could do, but she had not witnessed the full extent of Wesley's power. Many magickind still trembled at the mention of his name. "So, tell me. What does your research tell us about the Perth coven?"
For all their secrecies, covens had flaws. Every now and then, something was bound to pop up – and it did. Books of potions that humans deemed useless, ancient incantations on the internet. Giulia had been fascinated with witchcraft, and so Wesley had taken full advantage of that. She was entangled in the mysteries of their world, although privately he knew what must become of her. Giulia could never be allowed to divulge anything to another person.
She had contacts, so she was useful. Besides, the Perth coven would never suspect a mere human of spying on them. The Morrigan, that cold bitch, was far too proud to believe anyone other than magickind were capable of having the upper hand. Giulia slid her books to the side, giving Wesley her full attention.
"Celina has been sent away."
"What?" Wesley's eyebrows furrowed into a frown. He had not seen his daughter since she had been a small child, and it baffled as to him why her mother might send her away. He leaned further over the counter. "Why, and where?"
"I don't know why." Giulia shook her head slowly. "But I know where. She was sent to Darley Heights, to live with a man by the name of Drake Dormien."
Wesley pushed himself away from the counter, hands clenching into fists of rage. The books on the shelves started to tremble as the canach gave in to the anger. He let his emotions control him, and let the magic come flowing forth. Books went flying across the store, pages ripping out with loud tearing sounds. Giulia cried out in a mixture of shock and horror, but she did not attempt to stop him. She couldn't, after all.
Wesley's breathing was harsh as he reined in his magic, the books falling to the floor, lifeless and destroyed. He spun around to face Giulia, dark eyes wild as the magic that flowed through his veins. Drake Dormien. Lorna's nephew, although old enough to be a brother or cousin due to the scarce few years that separated them. Drake was a man who indulged in drugs and alcohol – because unlike his cousin and his aunt, he found it immensely difficult to control his magic.
It was an insult that his daughter had been sent to Drake instead of him. He was aware that Lorna was not fond of him in the least, but she disliked Drake as well. The real question was still why. Celina was not even seventeen years old, and Lorna had always been protective of her. Darley Heights was not far from where the coven based themselves, but why send her there?
"Thank you, Giulia." Wesley's voice was dangerously soft as he crossed over to the woman, who watched him fearfully. He reached out and stroked her hair, tucking a strand behind her ear. She flushed, seeming either flustered or flattered by his affectionate touch. He smiled warmly. "But I have no further use for you."
Giulia's eyes widened momentarily, but she didn't even have time to speak. In a quick twist of his wrist, Wesley snapped her neck, letting her motionless body collapse to the floor amongst the books she so loved. He didn't need magic to kill a mere human like her. Giulia had been useful, but she had served her purpose. He didn't want word getting out about what he was doing, or where he was going.
Celina woke at the crack of dawn, slipping out of her bedroom to inspect the shabby apartment she shared with her cousin Drake. It was in a state of complete chaos, as she'd anticipated. Raking a hand through her blonde hair, she was overcome by a wave of frustration. They had a rent inspection due within the week, and the landlord was going to be so pissed if they hadn't cleaned up since last time.
She had school in an hour, but this was a daily ritual. Clean up Drake's mess, while Drake himself slept off a hangover or came down from a high. Celina started with the bottles, swiping an arm across the dining table so that they all toppled into a big black plastic bag. She didn't care if the loud clanking woke her cousin. She hoped that it might. She often felt resentment for having to clean up after him, as if he was the child and she was the adult. Celina understood very well why Drake was a walking hurricane, destroying everything in his path, but some mornings her sympathy levels were very low.
"What the hell's all that noise?" Drake emerged from his room amidst a large waft of smoke, rubbing his eyes and glaring across at Celina as she continued to tidy up.
"We've got the inspection on Thursday," Celina reminded him, casually dragging the plastic bag over to the kitchen. "Did you forget?"
"It's too early for this shit," Drake muttered, flopping on the couch and draping an arm dramatically across his face.
Celina felt a surge of bitterness towards him, but quickly pushed it down. She had to remain in control. She was far better at managing her magic than her cousin, but a sudden burst of temper could still do something small. Why had her mum sent her to live with him? It was a question that Celina kept asking herself, over the past few weeks she'd been in Darley Heights. It was a question she thought might go unanswered.
Lorna hadn't given reasons. She'd just given facts. Celina was to go and live with Drake. For safety. But safety from who, and for who? The young girl was very much aware of the fact that her magic was far stronger than that of many in the coven, and she was barely seventeen. By the time she was eighteen, she was expected to choose what path she would go down – for magic came in branches.
It was like learning anything, like school almost. Celina was brilliant at Art, and she applied herself fully to it. Yet she could never wrap her head around Science no matter how hard she tried. Magic was the same – there were some disciplines you were good at, and others that you may never be able to fully understand. Some, in fact many, of their kind found controlling any kind of magic to be a task. Celina's control at such a young age was rare. She knew what sort of magic she was most proficient in, but it was the sort of magic she could never talk about. Not now, and certainly not when she turned eighteen.
"I've got to go to school," Celina reminded her cousin, raising her eyebrows at him. Sometimes, spitefully, she felt the desire to use her magic to frighten him into action. It would work. Even Drake was wary of her. But Celina knew that she would feel too guilty for it. She didn't want to use her abilities to harm or terrify others. She did not want to give anyone more than the reasons they already had to be afraid of her.
"Oh, right." Drake let his arm fall off his face. "Did you need a lift?"
Not when you've probably got drugs and alcohol in your system. "I'm fine catching the bus."
This was why she hated any association with her cousin in public. She was ashamed of him, there was no denying it. Celina didn't want her friends finding out that she lived in a crummy apartment with an older cousin whose veins were always filled with one substance or another. Then she would get questions, like where were her parents, were they dead. Questions that Celina didn't want to answer, for the wrong answer could land her in deep water. It was far better to pretend that everything at home was normal – or what a human might define as normal.
Discarding the last of the beer bottles, Celina went into her room to prepare herself for another day at Darley Heights High. Scraping her hair back into a neat ponytail, she tugged her uniform out of her wardrobe. Bottle green and crimson red were the school colours, as if it was in a constant state of Christmas spirit. Celina filed some last-minute things into her school bag and then slung it over her shoulder. By the time she walked back out, Drake was already shovelling down breakfast.
"Have a good day," he called.
Like that's going to happen.
"You're early." Aimee Tyne pointedly pulled out her iPhone, and Celina had to acknowledge that she was right. Normally, she caught the 7:45 bus to campus, but she had been running a little early this morning and so got on the 7:32 instead. It never surprised Celina that her best friend was early – Aimee's dad started work early and generally dropped her off on the way. He always offered Celina lifts, and she always declined.
"Just wanted to get out of the house, I guess." She heaved a sigh. Aimee knew quite a lot about how things were for Celina with Drake, but not everything. When Celina had transferred to Darley Heights High in the middle of Year 11, she had been quiet and withdrawn. She hadn't really wanted to make friends, especially since she had considered this to be a temporary arrangement.
But then, Aimee happened. Aimee was the girl everyone was drawn to, like moths to the flame. She flitted from one group to another, always taking the time out for everyone, to get to know them. Aimee wasn't popular because of her looks, although there could be no denying she was attractive, at least in Celina's opinion – jet-black ringlets, deep brown eyes, caramel skin and a brilliant white smile. It was because Aimee was the sort of girl who everyone wanted to befriend. She was fun and she treated everyone like they were special.
Celina hadn't wanted to be known. She was perfectly happy in isolation, but she had been taken with Aimee just like everyone else. Aimee had lots of friends, but for whatever odd reason, Celina had become her best friend. As they crossed the school grounds, Celina glanced across at the group of boys playing soccer on the oval, shouting encouragement and jeering at each other.
Aimee nudged her slyly. "Checking out Neal Faulkner?"
"No," Celina blurted out immediately, feeling her cheeks flaring with heat. They both knew it was a lie, because who in their right mind wouldn't be? Neal was in their year, tall and good-looking with dark hair and bright baby blue eyes. They spoke on occasion, but it was generally because Neal wanted to borrow a pen, or Celina had to ask him to shift to one side so she could see the whiteboard.
"Hey, Neal!" Aimee called, and waved. Neal looked up from the game, slightly startled, before he waved back. Celina felt her cheeks getting even hotter, both pleased and annoyed that Aimee had drawn attention to them. Once Neal's focus was back on the ball, Aimee grinned delightedly at her friend. "You need to actually talk to him more, Celina."
"Why?" Celina raised her eyebrows. As hot as Neal was, she wasn't interested in dating – yet another thing she and Aimee had in common. Celina kept her head down and focused on her schoolwork, not wanting to draw attention to herself for fear that something about her would stand out. Aimee had her small group of admirers, but since Celina had met her, she had turned down every guy who had asked her on a date with an apologetic smile. Celina supposed she just wasn't interested, and was confident enough in her own skin that she didn't need to cling desperately to a guy like Georgia McDonald – a girl in their year who always seemed to have a new flavour of the month. Boys she didn't like, but whose attention she enjoyed keeping.
"Well, you like him, right?"
"I think he's hot, it's not the same," Celina responded, more curtly than she'd intended.
Even as a witch, there were things for her to be afraid of aside from exposing her magic and alerting humans to what she was. There were the werewolves. Mostly they were absorbed in their pack dynamics, but there could be brief, yet fatal, bursts of violent savagery. Drake knew a few members from the local pack, including their alpha Joel Ridley and his mate, Morgan Faulkner – Neal's older sister. Knowing that Neal was a werewolf held Celina back for the simple reason that although she knew what he was, she didn't want him to know what she was.
The only thing that frightened Celina more than werewolves were the humans who were aware of them. The hunters. Once upon a time it had simply been a matter of finding a supernatural creature and putting it in the ground, but now the humans had grown more clever. They realised that despite fancy weaponry and fighting skills, they were no match for a werewolf's strength or a witch's power. So they adapted, in a way that Celina found more terrifying than anything else.
Once, these hunters had stalked down their prey with weapons, but now they used a weapon of an entirely different kind: friendliness. Drake had cautioned Celina with stories of what the hunters did now. They posed as regular humans, and identified supernatural creatures within their midst. But they didn't attack, not then. They would befriend the creature, earn its trust completely. They would find out about its pack or coven or any other members of its kind that it associated with. Only once they had bled the creature dry of information did the hunter then turn on them, swiftly and viciously, to stab them in the back. Bleeding them dry in the literal sense this time.
Celina suppressed a shudder as she and Aimee headed to Ancient History. It was an awful fate, and she could think of nothing worse. The knowledge that someone you had put your faith in had used that trust to destroy you…so she was cautious. She kept her head down because to draw attention to herself could be lethal. Not only for herself and for Drake, but for her coven. The coven that had abandoned her to live in boring Darley Heights because of one woman's paranoia.
"You know I don't like parties," Celina groaned, letting her head fall back in frustration. The library was dead during the study period that she and Aimee shared. One of the librarians was shelving books, but aside from a few Year 11s giggling over by the couches, it was only Celina and Aimee.
"It'll be fun," Aimee insisted, scratching out Biology notes in her neat cursive. She stopped, chewing thoughtfully on the end of her blue ballpoint pen. "Besides, you never come to parties. It might do you good to let loose, don't you think?"
It was said without malice, but Celina still felt guilty. Aimee didn't like to go to parties without Celina, but the blonde wasn't one for socialising involving loud music and alcohol. Enough of that went on at home. Nonetheless, she had to admit that Heath's eighteenth did seem like a good opportunity to have some fun. There were around fifty people going, and she would know most of them. Besides, Aimee was always saying that if Celina got anxious, she was happy to leave early. Sometimes, Celina wished her best friend was a little less selfless.
"I guess so," she admitted begrudgingly.
Drake wouldn't mind. He never minded her doing something social, especially if it got her out of the apartment. The door to the library opened, and a cacophony of jumbled words filled the formerly quiet room as several Year 12 boys entered. Neal was among them, and Celina's eyes went back to her textbooks. As if she'd seen where her friend was looking, Aimee grinned.
"I think Neal and the others will be there. Just saying."
"Can you please drop the Neal thing?" Celina begged. As if sensing they were talking about him – who knows, he probably could with his werewolf abilities – Neal glanced across at them. He offered them a smile, and Celina couldn't help but smiling back. His attention was flattering, but it also made her feel a bit uncomfortable and exposed.
Fortunately, Neal went back to socialising with his friends as they prowled through the library shelves. Celina's shoulders slumped, and she hadn't even realised how tense she had been. She pushed a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. If she was going to Heath's party, she needed to look super cute. It was mostly for herself, but a small part of her wouldn't be averse to Neal appreciating it.
Celina didn't ever think she had been to a party so big. Her wide green eyes took in her surroundings – raucous teenagers, copious red cups and a bowl of punch that looked to be the size of a small bath. Aimee whistled lowly as she looked around, clearly impressed. Celina had to admit that her best friend looked stunning – Aimee's curls spiralled uncontrollably down her back, the gold shimmer on her eyelids perfectly matching the skirt she was wearing. Celina felt a little underdressed in her pale blue dress, but was relieved now that she had put the effort into makeup.
"Come on." Aimee took her friend's hand, leading her further into the jungle that was Heath's party. Celina was still taking everything in. She was a little nervous. She didn't usually do big social events like this. It would only take one drink too many for her to lose control and reveal to everyone what she really was.
The lounge had been completely decked out. There was an impressive sound system, speakers that pulsated with some electro-pop hit that Celina didn't recognise. Lights beamed down from the ceiling, sharp and bright. Celina raised a hand to her eyes as if blinded.
"Do you reckon you could grab me some punch?" She asked of Aimee.
Her best friend was all too eager to comply. "Sure. I'll be right back."
A loud splash made Celina spin around. The double doors leading out to the rear yard were open, and she could see several of the teenagers mucking around in Heath's below-ground pool. They were splashing each other and hooting, some of the guys doing flips or bombs to try and impress the girls.
Not for the first time, Celina wondered what it would be like to be a regular teenager. She could flirt with whoever she liked, drink as much as she wanted, without fearing that one spike of emotion could be her undoing. She was more controlled than she often thought, as Drake sourly reminded her, but it didn't stop her from being afraid. She felt something nudging at her hand and turned back, accepting the punch from Aimee.
"I'm going to check out Heath's playlist," Aimee said, having to raise her voice over the volume. "These techno songs suck."
As she walked over to the green iPod left unattended on the coffee table, Celina caught a glimpse of Neal. He was outside by the pool, but he wasn't swimming. He looked slightly concerned. Did he fear losing control like she did? Would one mistake make him into a monster? She wasn't sure. She knew little of the wolves, and Drake was never willingly to divulge too much.
Ironically, the song that Aimee had chosen to put on was The Wolf by Fever Ray, something that made Celina look at her friend and raise her eyebrows. Aimee smirked, but made no attempt to cross back over to her. There was a light tap on her shoulder, and Celina licked her lips as she realised that it was Neal. There was no cup of punch in his hand, so she offered hers silently. He smiled and took a sip, handing it back before glancing around.
"Do you wanna dance?"
"Dance?" Celina repeated uncertainly. She barely went to social events in the first place let alone danced at them. Neal offered her a comforting smile, his blue eyes bright beneath the strobe lights.
"It'll be fun."
Celina nodded slowly and swallowed, closing her eyes and listening to the beat of the music. It would be easier if she let go, and it had been so long since she had let go. Putting her cup down on the table, she started to sway her hips in time to the beat of the music.
Eyes black, big paws, and it's poison, and it's blood…
Strong arms wrapped around her waist, and Celina opened her eyes to see Neal looking down at her. There was no cheeky smile across his lips now. His gaze burned with an intensity she didn't recognise. Part of her wanted to stop, embarrassed, but the majority of her was too captivated by the music to mind Neal's close proximity. His hands rested on her hips as she continued to dance.
We took you out from your mother's womb, our temple, your tomb…
One of his hands ran through her long blonde hair, startling a gasp from Celina. Her heart was hammering in her chest, and when she looked up at him again she saw that rawness in his eyes ago. So many tangled emotions, burning out of control like a wildfire. If only she could reach out and touch them, if only she could temper that fire, if only…Neal's lips brushed hers. Celina pressed forward eagerly and he kissed her fiercely. His grip on her hips tightened, hard enough to leave marks on her ivory skin. Sensing danger, to him and to her, Celina drew back.
"I…I don't think this is a good idea."
"Celina?" The wolf was gone, and it was just the boy now, looking guilty and confused. "I…I'm sorry, I didn't mean…"
"Forget it," Celina said hurriedly, swiping her cup of punch up from the table. She meant it. She wanted him to forget that anything had ever happened between them, two very different supernatural creatures suffering from two very different curses. Both powerful, both young and burdened.
Aimee rushed over to her, worried. "Celina, you look shaken up. Are you okay? Did he try something?"
"No, it wasn't like that," Celina assured her friend, not wanting to paint Neal as the bad guy when she had experienced the desire just as much as he had. "We were dancing and…I just felt dizzy and wanted to stop."
"Do you want me to take you home?" Aimee inquired.
"No." Celina shook her head vigorously. She wasn't going to let Aimee sacrifice her happiness to make sure that she was okay. They had both wanted a fun night out. Celina had just always known it would weigh heavily on her, one way or another. "It's okay. I'll just sit down for a bit."
"If you're sure," Aimee stated, but she didn't sound certain.
Celina huddled under the blankets the next morning and wished she could stay there forever. She didn't want to get up and face Drake's questions about the night before, and she knew that she would have unread texts from Aimee. How was she meant to explain to anyone what had happened the night before? Aimee would not understand the magic, and Drake would not understand the flush of heat that came with being attracted to a boy. He would scoff at such typical teenage dreams, and remind her of her purpose. One day, you're gonna be the Morrigan. Do you really want to waste your time thinking small, Celina?
She had not asked to be the next Morrigan. She did not even want to be the next Morrigan. While some might relish the power that flowed through their veins, and others still might fear it, Celina just wanted it gone. She simply wanted to be a normal teenager who wasn't paranoid about being discovered all hours of the day.
Managing to extricate herself from her bundle of blankets, Celina picked up the small handheld mirror beside her bed. It had been a present from her mum, and it was an antique, spotted with rust now. Lorna Prentice was nothing if not a vain woman, and perhaps she thought Celina had inherited that trait. Instead, the blonde shrank in on herself as she examined her pale, dishevelled reflection. She looked like shit.
Celina's fingers brushed against the cold glass, and it suddenly rippled like water beneath her nails. She snatched her hand back, heart hammering wildly. If it was her magic causing this, she would know about it. When the glass stopped roiling like waves of the ocean, the face that stared back at Celina was not her own.
It was her dad's.
Celina had only met Wesley Rodriguez a handful of times in her life. She didn't know a lot about him, aside from the fact that her mum now hated him, and that he was incredibly dangerous. Her breath caught in her throat, even though she wanted to scream. Wesley just smiled at her.
"You look so much like your mother."
His voice was warped through the glass, as if they were underwater. Celina clutched at the handle of the mirror so tightly that her knuckles went white. She couldn't think of anything to say. If it wasn't her magic causing this communication, it must be his. He was more powerful than she had thought. Maybe as powerful as her.
"What do you want?" The words didn't come out as defiant as she'd hoped, her voice scarcely above a whisper.
"Just to see you." It was an innocent request, and Celina didn't believe him for a moment, but she didn't have the strength to tell him so. "Where are you? I was told that your mother had you sent away."
"She did." Celina pursed her lips together. Lorna had always said that Wesley was fanatical, crazed. That even though he could control his wild magic, sometimes he chose not to for the sake of pandemonium.
"Did she tell you why?" Wesley's tone was somewhat mocking when his daughter remained silent, fingers tightening on the mirror's handle. "Of course she didn't. How typical of Lorna. She would probably tell you it's because of me, but really, it's because of you."
"What do you mean?" Celina asked, and then cursed herself for it. She shouldn't show any interest in what Wesley had to say, but he had touched on a topic that had been concerning her for some time. "What did I do?"
"Nothing, yet." Wesley offered her a benevolent smile. "You were named the next Morrigan when you were fifteen years old, a child. The Morrigan is the most powerful member of a coven, Celina. You were too young at the time…but you are eighteen soon. You'll replace Odette Reilly, who because of you, will probably have the shortest reign of any Morrigan."
"What are you talking about?" Celina hissed through clenched teeth, although she was already starting to guess. She knew that she was destined to become the next Morrigan, but she had never questioned that – perhaps naively. Most Morrigans were not even named until they were of age, and to realise that at fifteen her powers had already been stronger than Odette's…
Celina gasped, her hand slipping on the handle slightly, the mirror cutting the edge of her finger. She had always known that she was powerful, but she had never known how powerful. Now she did, and wished she didn't. The Perth coven had sent her away because they were afraid of her. Of what she was capable of.
"Ah, you understand now." Wesley must have seen the panic that lit up Celina's eyes, because he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "You must understand the way they work, Celina. They cast me out because they couldn't control me. They won't be able to control you either."
"Stop," Celina choked out. She didn't want to hear it, but Wesley continued anyway.
"The Morrigan will do anything to hold onto her power rather than give it up to you. You haven't even Claimed yet, what if you chose…"
"I said stop!" Celina screamed, and the mirror shattered into a thousand pieces around her. None of them touched her, but they fell around her room like rain as the mirror's frame collided with the wall, twisting in on itself. She was angry and afraid. She stared at the blood on her fingers, her focal point. While some magickind focused on bone, or death, or dreams, it was always blood that brought out her strongest magic. But she didn't like to admit it to herself, because blood magic was an atrocity. The spilling of blood mixed with power was an abomination. She was an abomination. She was dearg, and she knew it, but she also knew if that was the magic she Claimed, she would certainly be banished like her dad before her.
Wesley's implication was clear: the Morrigan did not trust Celina with her title. The Morrigan would kill her.
The Morrigan's dark eyes scanned the sleepy streets of Darley Heights with obvious disdain. It was such an ordinary place. Although she often loathed to admit it, Celina Prentice was anything but ordinary – but perhaps that was why Lorna had chosen such a place. Every now and then, a car would crawl down the street, but other than that and the sound of birdsong, Darley Heights was blissfully quiet. Blissfully ignorant of the power that lay within its very midst, and the danger that was to come.
Wesley Rodriguez had come to suspect where the girl was, or so Lorna had informed her. The older witch was panicked, paranoid that her former lover would find their daughter. Odette knew little of Wesley – his whirlwind romance with Lorna had been when she was a young child. Yet she knew that the former Morrigan had banished him from the Perth coven, although precisely what Wesley had done was not common knowledge, and even Odette knew better than to pry. If she was meant to know, she would. Perhaps in time.
"I should have known better than to send her to Drake," the Morrigan said to Lorna. The younger witch's boots clomped down the pavement. Humans were so ignorant, she mused, that they would likely not recognise the aura of command that came to her so naturally. "He could have sold her out."
"He would never," Lorna assured her vehemently, blue eyes sparkling with determination.
The plan was simple. Removing the girl from Darley Heights was too problematic – so the idea that Lorna herself had concocted was that they would pretend to remove Celina from the boring little town she now called home. Wesley would fall for it easily, and try and hunt down his child.
Sometimes, the Morrigan pretended she didn't understand why Wesley was after Celina, but it was obvious. He was an outcast, and she was powerful. If Celina joined him, they would become unstoppable. He might turn against the coven, which was something she had admittedly been worried about. The Morrigan did not openly express her concerns – on the surface she was cool and calm. But underneath the surface, she was still a young woman with a large burden on her shoulders. A burden that, some days, she almost wanted to give up to Celina.
"Mum?" The girl's voice was barely above a whisper as she opened the door. Celina was paler than the Morrigan remembered, her green eyes wide. There were dark circles under those eyes, indicating she hadn't been sleeping since she had texted Lorna about Wesley. "What…I didn't think…"
"I was worried about you." Lorna stepped forward, sweeping her child into her arms. She had never struck the Morrigan as a particularly maternal woman, and so she was unsure if this display of affection was genuine, or manufactured to earn Celina's trust. She drew back, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind the girl's ear. "You remember what the plan is?"
Celina licked her lips and glanced over her shoulder. The Morrigan's eyes narrowed as she saw Drake slumped on the couch, a cigarette smouldering between his fingers. He too was concerned. He was meant to have been taking care of Celina, yet Wesley had still managed to contact her.
"Do the Trinity know about this?" Drake asked, his voice low, red-rimmed eyes focused on the Morrigan. "The Grand Banshee?"
Her lips pressed into a thin line. "There has been no need as of yet. However, should Wesley become a true threat…"
The implication was clear. Wesley himself was something that the Australian covens could deal with, relatively easily. Yet if the warlock had managed to gain some allies, that would certainly be cause for apprehension. Whatever Wesley had done, whatever had happened during his banishment…it had caused him to become twisted, to manipulate. He must have some sort of plan, for why else would he need Celina? As the two women trailed inside and Celina searched for empty suitcases, Lorna shot the Morrigan a grim look.
"You know this is the start of something bigger, don't you?"
The Morrigan nodded slowly. She had felt it, in the emotions of others. It was like a sixth sense, and there could be no doubting that the others in the Perth coven had felt it too. The calm before the storm. Perhaps it was Wesley, or perhaps it was something more. Whatever it was, it was a danger coming. Coming for all of them.