Bethany stood before the mirror in her sister Beauty’s home and turned this way and that. Today she’d borrowed one of Beauty’s favorite sundresses. The fabric was lightweight, and fit snugly over her breasts and ribs, then flared out from her waist to her upper thighs where it floated around her legs. The small pearl buttons going down the front made it appear old fashioned but still casually chic.
She smiled at her reflection, amazed at how well Beauty’s dress fit her. Last she’d been in Beauty’s home, nothing could have fit her.
But it had been much more than a year ago, hadn’t it?
Thirty years had passed in the Fay realm since she last stood here. For her family, it had been only a short time ago. The oddness of that settled over her, almost like a dream.
The room was the same, and yet it seemed like something out of her past.
It was, wasn’t it?
An odd, disorienting sensation made her close her eyes for a moment to gain her bearings on the here and now. Gregory had said such things might happen at first. Time flowed differently in different worlds, but going from one to another was like taking the red eye from Hong Kong to New York City.
A few seconds of vertigo and she relaxed, sensing the Earth beneath her feet. She grounded herself, opened her eyes and smiled ruefully at her reflection. It was a good thing she’d come here and not gone out on the town.
How does Gregory handle shifting from world to world?
He’s ancient. That’s how.
She grinned and turned around to survey her old room.
The quilt her mother had sewn for her still covered her bed, with the ragged left corner where one of her many little pets had chewed on the fabric until it had frayed. She’d slept under that quilt, holding it tight to her chest, wishing with all her might that her parents would return—alive. And then, she’d done the same for Beauty.
Pictures still sat on her night table, the one in the center of her and Star, with Ranger grinning in the background, his arms around them both. They’d just been outside, throwing snowballs and having a fun time before joining her sisters for a huge feast.
Her laptop still sat on her desk, with her pencils and pens all arranged in her pencil box, ready for whatever spell she needed to work out on paper first. There were even drawings she’d sketched then filled in with elaborate color, just to add more detail before she gave the spell a try. If she remembered correctly, it had been a spell for curing her pimples. She ran her finger over the intricate symbols, smiling at the memory.
This was home, but now, it was a home from her childhood.
Even the cream curtains and soft chair by the window were familiar, yet like a blast from her past. She’d curled up there on rainy days and read for hours—or sat there and stared outside at the night sky, wondering where Agni was and if he’d wait for her to grow up.
Sighing, she turned back to the mirror and adjusted her sundress. She’d reached her majority among the Fay. She didn’t need to worry over Agni waiting on her. Her blue eyes darkened, reflecting her worry more than she liked. A frown pulled at her brow, lending her youthfulness a bit more maturity, but not very much. She looked twenty-something. Certainly not topping the hill to reach fifty.
Agni didn’t seem thousands of years old either, did he?
Excitement buzzed down every nerve—or felt that way, at least. She practically twitched with anticipation, but she stemmed it at her sister’s call. Beauty was very tricky to deal with. The empathy gift ran strong in her, strong enough to make Bethany marshal her thoughts before she called out, “Come in.”
“Oh, my!” Beauty said, as soon as she swung the door open. “I still can’t believe you’re all grown up!”
She walked over, all smiles, to stand behind her in the full-length mirror. She smoothed a hand down Bethany’s hair. Everyone seemed to do that—touch her hair. Even as a child, they’d either rumpled it or smoothed it. Maybe it’s a family thing, she thought, tugging on a long length of it.
“So stunning. You are so beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. “I love this dress.”
Beauty frowned at her in the mirror and tilted her head to examine Bethany’s face a bit too closely.
“You look wonderful and come on. Don’t worry,” Beauty said, squeezing Bethany on the shoulder. “It’s your birthday, nothing more. A lot of people talking, blah, blah, blah. Just go with the flow.”
Bethany pushed her hair out of the way and down her back, where it slid to the top of her butt. She’d never cut it, but it never grew any longer. She caught Beauty’s eyes in the mirror and made a face. Her sister laughed like Bethany knew she would.
“Yeah, and everyone freaking over me being all grown up too, right?” she muttered.
“Well, there is that,” Beauty said. “But you had to know that would happen! Come on, outside of Star and Ranger—who both sneaked off to see you in the Fay Realm—none of us were ready for an all grown up Bethany.”
“Yeah, I got that—when Samantha freaked out.”
They both laughed, sharing the moment of humor in a way she never had as a ten-year-old child.
“Just relax. You’ll be fine.”
Bethany nodded, reached over and squeezed Beauty’s hand. “You’re right. It’s just family. Do I look okay?”
Beauty was dressed for the warm day in a soft cream and rose-patterned sundress, the long length of it reaching her calves, but so sheer, Bethany knew Torque would be frowning the entire day. She’d added short, dark brown cowboy boots and a small jean jacket. No doubt she’d added the covering at her mate’s request. Still, Beauty was…well, beautiful. No matter what she had on, Torque frowned as if he thought her sister might suddenly fall all over another male. Bethany knew better. The two of them were worse than Derrick and Samantha—or almost. Torque didn’t doubt where his mate’s heart was—he just didn’t want anyone else enjoying too much of Beauty’s beauty.
“You’re stunning as always.”
“Right! Relax and enjoy it,” Beauty coaxed, tucking her long blonde hair behind her ears. “Or they’re here because they seem to have grown on us, huh?”
Bethany laughed. “Yes, I suppose they have,” she murmured, thinking on Agni and his handsome face and intense eyes. Will he be here?
“You will take your name today, won’t you?”
Bethany turned at the question and took a seat next to Beauty on her bed. “I will. I suppose. Bethany is a child’s name. Blood Moon is a name I hope to grow into.”
Blood Moon. Would she earn such a name? The last witch with that name had freed hundreds of women from the inquisition. She’d also cut the heads off the Death Stalkers posing as priests torturing the witches. A Fay princess with a warlock for a father, the first Blood Moon had done amazing things.
Bethany had to wonder what her mother had been thinking.
“Don’t worry. Sheesh,” Beauty said. “Look at me,” she went on, sitting Indian style on Bethany’s bed. “I don’t use my true name. Instead Torque decided I’m Beauty, and really,” she said, giving Bethany a grin, “someday your mate will do the same.”
Bethany laughed. “Oh, I’m not so sure on that,” she said, but her stomach took off with what felt like a million butterflies. What would Agni name her? Would he touch her like Torque always caressed Beauty, or hold her close like Derrick with her sister Samantha? Her face warmed at the thought and her reflection grew rosy.
Maybe he would be better because he’d be hers.
Is such a thing possible?
Neither of her sisters had searched for nor wanted a mate—Derrick and Torque just showed up. The same had happened with Star, except Ranger had tricked Star just to make sure he could bond her.
With her it was very different. She believed Agni was hers—she had from the first moment she’d met him—and yet, he’d never spoken to her of it. Not once. But she’d been so young…maybe he’s been waiting for me to grow up.
Beauty tipped her head, staring at her with a happy smile. She was so excited. Bethany tried hard to ease her anxiety. Today was about more than her demon or her claim on him. Today she would add her name to the Jade Coven, as one of theirs. Her mother’s coven.
“Mother would be so proud of you.”
Bethany sighed and squeezed Beauty’s hand, surprised that their thoughts had been so similar. “She would, wouldn’t she? We’re all grown up now, aren’t we? You and Torque with your duties on the council, and Samantha and Derrick with their lives in the mountains.”
“We’ve all grown up, even if we didn’t want some of us to grow up quite so fast,” Beauty teased. “You’ve spent more time with the Fay than with us, but I understand,” she hurried to say. “Gregory is a wonderful man—and a good teacher.”
“His is, but he is much too strict, though,” Bethany said, smiling.
Beauty laughed and got up from the bed. “Oh, I bet. Here, let me brush your hair, just once more.”
“Just once more, huh?” Bethany turned slightly so they were both facing the mirror again.
Beauty sighed. “You have such wonderful hair, so smooth and thick.”
“Yes, and midnight black, like ebony silk.”
Bethany rolled her eyes and they both laughed. They sat like that for a while—each simply enjoying being together after their time apart until Beauty paused, staring at them in the mirror again.
“We look alike, don’t we?” Beauty whispered.
Bethany examined their reflections. They were of the same height now, and in many ways they shared similar features. They both had blue eyes, heart-shaped faces, small noses and soft rosebud lips, but there the similarities ended. Bethany’s hair was black, with a few, very few, warmer tones blended in with the dark. Beauty’s was blonde, a golden color that shone with warmth. Beauty was curvier, too and had much more in the chest department.
Bethany examined her breasts critically and could see where a man might be disappointed. Men cared about such things, she believed.
“A little, but I haven’t grown proper breasts,” she murmured. “Have I?”
“What? You have great breasts. They are nothing to frown over. You’re gorgeous and anyone that says different is blind—or possibly insane.”
Bethany gave Beauty a disgusted snort for that. “You’re my sister. Of course you say such things, but really,” she said, considering her smaller frame as she whispered, “that’s not true. Torque would agree with me.”
Beauty choked on a laugh. “I doubt he has ever considered your breasts, darling. He would be shocked to even be asked. My man is, above all else, very old-fashioned. You are my younger sister and for him, that means you will forever be ten.”
“Oh, wonderful,” Bethany said but didn’t mind. Not really. The only man—or demon’s—opinion she worried over was a certain Fire Demon.
“We still have time before everyone arrives. Are you going down to walk on the beach still? Want company?” Beauty asked.
Bethany considered their reflections once more before turning to take Beauty’s hands in hers. “I think I’d like to clear my head. Being back is confusing, a little,” she said honestly, but really that was only part of it. Her last birthday here, Agni had arrived when she’d been by herself in Star’s garden. She hoped he’d come again, this year. What would he say about her now?
“I’m glad you’re back. Maybe you have jet lag from all that world-to-world travel,” Beauty teased.
Bethany sobered at her words. Beauty sounded as if now that Bethany was here, she was home to stay. Wincing, she took a deep breath and said, “I do need to go back, though. You realize that, right?” She regretted her honesty immediately when Beauty gave her a sharp glance.
At Beauty’s concerned expression, Bethany squeezed her hand. “To continue my studies,” she assured her. “I found I was not only good at creating traps, but at sensing evil,” she paused, remembering her first encounter with a demon there. She’d struggled to bind it, but she had. “I have more to learn.”
Beauty tightened her grip on Bethany’s hand. “Sensing evil is difficult to control. But perhaps this is where your strength lies. The trapping…” she murmured, breaking off only to sharpen her gaze back on Bethany with a great deal more power in her blue eyes, “…might be part of your skill, but sensing evil and confining it is a dangerous path, sister.”
“Our lives are always dangerous,” Bethany responded. “Mine will be—we know this—just as yours is.”
Beauty hesitated only a moment before she murmured, “That’s true.”
Her sister was one of the few immortals alive who could not only sense evil, but also sense good—and lead a person back to the right path. Beauty had done so since she’d first returned—much to the distress of Torque. Bethany had a feeling if her brother-in-law had his way, her sister would never go near evil. Ever.