“There’s someone coming,” Cory whispered.
“How can you tell?” I said.
“Close your eyes and focus on the part of you that you use to sense ghosts. Mentally roll it in a ball, understand how it works. How it feels and how your mind and body respond to it.”
I closed my eyes and the tone of voice he used relaxed me instantly. As I listened to his words, I followed his instructions gathering that part of me that sensed other worldly creatures. I wrapped it into a ball; I imagined it inside my chest, a similar place to where I felt sadness. I could pull the awareness closer or extend it to sense more or less of my surroundings. I automatically extended it when I was outside of the house but kept it close when I felt safe. It was an instinct that I could control.
“You have a physical reserve of energy that can be used for magic. It’s typically only used for smaller spells or as a last resort. The goal of practising magic the way we do is to use energy outside of ourselves.”
I took slow, steadying breaths as I spun the mental net around like a ball then extended it out, then in carefully. I was focusing on imagining it as an object rather than what I could feel with it.
“As a Death Mage, you can use that part of yourself to sense the presence of any living creature. Practice the exercise I just taught you for a week, and we can move onto the next step.”
“For God’s sake,” I tutted, the disappointment washing away my concentration.
“She’s almost here,” Cory spoke quieter than he’d been breathing seconds before and I strained to hear him even though we were a hair’s length apart.
There was a knock at the door. “Dex? Can I come in and speak to you? I want to know that you’re okay.”
I looked at Eli wide-eyed; it was Cynthia. He slowly glanced towards the door and mouthed ‘respond’.
“I was just about to go to sleep. I drank a little too much at Irene’s and feel unwell.” I said.
“Barton and I saw the bruises on your neck, please let me in,” Cynthia pleaded.
Eli, who had been on my opposite side, pressed his lips against my ear and whispered, “Recording device”.
When I looked at him, I saw a hurt and angry look on his face as he looked at the door. His breath was shaky as he focused on giving the door the death glare meant for his mother.
“One minute, while I find my robe.” I’d become so comfortable around the others and distracted talking about the plan I’d forgotten I was wearing anything other than my boxer briefs.
Why the hell hadn’t anyone mentioned it?
The others looked at each other, then followed Eli into the bathroom as I grabbed my robe from the back of the door and wrapped it around me. I opened the door with a large, forced smile and kept it when I realised I couldn’t stop my mouth from working that way.
“I thought we could have a conversation.” Cynthia sat down and gave me what was supposed to be a reassuring smile.
I was just as angry as Eli was about the recording device.
Grandfather or Lacy Senior had noticed the bruise on my face. This situation stunk of their over-controlling involvement.
They knew I wouldn’t talk to them.
Cynthia and I were supposed to be close because she was expected to mould me into the perfect Lacy wife, as Mrs Lacy had for her. It didn’t matter that I was a man; I still had my place.
“What do you mean about a bruise?” I asked.
She sat on the bed and grabbed my hands, her eyes almost identical to Eli’s drifting to my neck. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine apart from suffering from my stupidity. I’m better than ever.”
“If you’re involved in anything that could have hurt you, I’d like to know. I want to help you fix it. Fix any problem you have.” Cynthia said. “I promise you can be honest with me if there’s anything that you’re involved with that has put you in danger, I want to make it better. For both you and Eli’s sake.”
I looked her hard in the eyes. “I know how you value honesty, above all else.”
Her smile shook slightly as she took two shaky breaths and broke eye contact with me. “I want to know my son made the right choice picking you.” Her tone was harsher than she’d ever used with me.
I took a second to glance at the bathroom door as though they could tell me what to say through it.
I looked back at Cynthia and realised that she’d noticed. She glared at me. “Is there someone here?”
“There is in the bathroom. Have you been up here with someone?”
I had no idea who she expected based on the tone of her voice, but I was shocked that she hadn’t expected it to be Eli and others.
Who the hell else could it be?
“There’s no one there. I was just looking at the door.”
“Show yourself, I want to know who’s in my house.”
Shouldn’t she know?
Was Cory masking their presence?
She had to know what Eli felt like.
Eli threw the door open and stormed out. The noise it made when it crashed against the wall caused everyone in the room but the mother and son who squared each other off to jump several feet. He stood in front of Cynthia cross-armed. “Take a chill pill, Mother. I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t even your house.”
“Elijah Charles Barton Lacy. There is a proper way to use a door.” Cynthia scoffed. “And that’s not it.”
“You treat me like a child, I may as well act like one.”
The others sheepishly followed Eli out of the bathroom but kept their distance near the door. I didn’t overly want to be close to Cynthia and Eli either. They were thick as thieves ninety per cent of the time, and the other ten per cent of the time they ripped each other’s heads off. I almost booked it the first time I heard them argue since we were teenagers, but I’d already put six months into the relationship by that point. Maybe all the arguments I’d witnessed between them as a kid had left me numb to the situation.
“Recording a private conversation with my husband. What the fuck is wrong with you?” Eli flicked his fingers and the pen she had in her pocket sizzled. She threw the pen from her pocket and gave Eli a hard look as she ground her foot on it to put out the small flames that had formed. Grandfather and Lacy Senior burst into the bedroom.
As a kid I’d love showing people my bedroom, hoping they’d ask about something I was interested in.
Now, not so much.
I let my head rest in my palms and ran my fingers through the curls to massage my skull. To give some relief to my pounding head.
This was the last thing I needed right now.
Did everyone know about the whole ‘accused of being Nox thing’?
Had they all been listening to the device? Were they working on their own or with the detectives?
“You kids are rather cosy up here,” Grandfather said.
I almost gagged. The tone he used made it sound like we’d been having an orgy up here. Eli and Julie were cousins, and so were Kat and I.
“I didn’t know it was a crime to spend time with my friends,” I said.
I looked up and met his narrowed eyes. He sighed and walked out of the room, Lacy Senior following. Eli looked at his mother as though daring her to say something. She picked up the pen with a huff and left, closing the door behind her.
“What the hell was that?” I waved my hands about as I looked at the others for answers.
“Someone’s gotten to her,” Eli remarked. “I wondered why we’d seen little of Detective Dominguez lately.”
“I’m not Nox.”
The others slowly nodded, wide-eyed.
They seriously didn’t think I was some psycho murderer.
I forced myself to keep my breathing focused and pushed back the anxious thoughts pushing at the back of my mind. I just wanted all of this to be over. I’d had enough of this day. My sore head pounded again, the headache that Cory had eased returning with full force.
“I want to go to sleep. Could everyone other than Eli please leave?”
“Good night.” Kat was the first to walk out, with the others saying goodnight and following her from the room.