The silence of the night settled over Tabithia as she waited.
The witching hour could hide almost anything. Things a person couldn't obscure in the harsh light of day.
She was good at hiding. Had to be. None of her close friends knew what she concealed beneath the surface of her adrenaline-junkie escapades. Not even her aunts knew that, beneath her skin, she hid the revulsion clawing at her. Why should they? People had burdens. Burdens they managed alone. Hers were no different. And they were easier to hide in the dimness of the midnight hours. Night allowed the edges of darkness within her to melt into forgetfulness. Black was, in fact, her favourite colour.
She should have been born a vampire, not a witch.
Sadly, no. She was one of the Wiccan, a Daughter of the Three. She wasn't one of those goodie-two-shoes, can't-hurt-anyone witches. Oh, no. Her ancient coven believed in survival. Survival meant being so badass no one messed with you. She had the badass down to a T.
For all the good it did her.
Tabithia hunkered further down in her crouch as a runner, glittering with reflectors, ran by with her music blaring. She winced. Clearly, the runner had no regard for her ears. Or herself. Aged buildings, paint peeling and splashed with colourful graffiti, lined a street full of potholes and trash, yet a woman ran by with her ear buds blocking out any sound other than her music? Humans. Tab never would understand them.
She really wanted to curse her aunt, Circerran, nicknamed Trouble, for getting her out here. By now, Tabithia could be drinking at One Eye's immortal tavern or racing her way-too-expensive but fantastic Ecosse road bike with other immortals. Instead, she waited until the jogger disappeared before craning her neck around the building's brick corner to peer down the murky street. Cursing wasn't her thing, anyway. Too many people just didn't get that a curse could come back and bite you in the ass. She did. Oh, yeah, she got that, so no cursing for her.
Several minutes passed, and no one else appeared. Not surprising since even a stray cat wouldn't wander through this neighbourhood so late at night. The runner lacked common sense. Still, Tabithia didn't trust her eyesight alone. Magic could flow beneath the surface of almost anything from a poisoned apple to a slum neighbourhood street. With one more glance behind and to both sides of her, she leaned a hand on the rough brick wall and focused her inner eye, revealing nothing more than the shadows of the cars she'd already spotted parked along both sides of the street.
Tabithia watched a second more before letting the witch sight fade, leaving her alone in the shadows once again. Hunger, not for food, but for the feel of others around her, beat at her. Restlessness burned along her body. Her muscles ached from holding them tightly bunched and ready for action-action not happening on a street corner.
I could be out partying. Drinking it up. But no. Trouble calls and I have to answer.
True. She always would, too, no doubt.
So, party time would have to wait. Instead she waited, while the darkness inside her built higher and higher. The need to ease the pain blistered along her senses grew, and she knew, just knew that only more pain could ease the beast clawing at her.
She drew her butterfly knife and balanced the double-sided blade by its tip between her two fingers, flicked the scissor-like sheath along her knuckles and spun the silver blade over and between her fingers. The cool weight of steel comforted her. The sharp edge provided the pain that would ease the memories. She watched the silver blur as she twisted her wrist and let the razor-sharp blade glide over her knuckles before snapping the two sections of the hilt in her hand. The urge to screw up the rhythm of her knife play surged through her. With more effort than she felt comfortable with, she steadied her hand and began another round of flip and catch, until she could control her breathing.
Trouble would be there soon
"Well? What's up? Any news?"
Shit! Tabithia clenched her fist around the smooth hilt of her knife, just barely stopping herself from yelping at aunt's soft whisper near her ear.
She hated when Trouble caught her by surprise. No doubt her observant aunt had done it on purpose, too. Not many could get the drop on her, but when Trouble did, her aunt always enjoyed it to the max. Aggravating didn't even begin to describe her aunt.
Not bothering to turn, since she could sense her aunt's grin without the humiliation of actually seeing it, she took her time to pocket her knife, trying to summon the patience to deal with her aunt's cheerfulness. "Nada. Should there be? Is this going to take all night? I do have a party-"
"Please. You always have a party. This pays the bills. Right?"
Tabithia had enough money set aside to pay for her partying from here to eternity-if she ever had to pay for her partying. Trouble? Gobs more. Her aunt stockpiled money like a squirrel packing a tree full of nuts for the next ice age.
When she grumbled again, Trouble laughed. Tabithia reluctantly turned around to confront her, barely resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
Her aunt's eyes sparkled with happiness. She always sparkled-tonight proved to be no exception. Dressed in a white T-shirt with the words 'More Cowbell' scrolled across her breasts, black hip-hugger jeans tucked into knee-high black boots, she looked more like a hip rocker chick than a deadly spell-caster. She winked when Tabithia met her eye.
"Caught ya, didn't I?"
"Nah, I knew you were on your way."
Trouble's grin widened, but she dropped the issue. "Yeah, anyways, chica, this one will be worth the wait."
Like Tabithia hadn't heard that before.
She ignored Trouble's huffed laugh. A woman who looked like her aunt shouldn't be able to get them into such trouble. Her ivory skin, high cheekbones, wide, green eyes, cute, little, pink bow mouth, and heart-shaped face simply looked like they belonged on some supermodel, not an adrenaline junkie hooked on mad escapades. Gorgeous, waist-length, burgundy hair Tabithia would die for-or kill to have-framed all that beauty into something breathtaking.
Yeah, her aunt made her feel like a watered-down carbon copy. She hated that.
"So? What's the take?"
Trouble placed a long, red-nailed finger over her pink lips and whispered, "Shh, you'll see."
Tabithia turned back to the street, holding in a growl of frustration.