Home > Witching Fire(6)

Witching Fire(6)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

I nodded. “They’re all good people. They’re part of my family. They’d have my back if I needed help, without ever asking why.”

Phasmoria paused. “I’m glad. I can’t be here all the time, or even most of the time. And you’re still…”

“Young, I know. But I do my best to stand on my own two feet—” I paused as Angel bustled into the kitchen, her arms filled with bags. “Angel!”

“I brought desserts. I know you probably already have goodies, but…”

As Phasmoria took the bags from her, I gave her a hug. “I’m glad you came, and we can always use more. Did you bake them?” I peeked in to see several varieties of pie.

She snorted. “You think I’d bring you store-bought pie?”

“Nope, just reassuring myself. Those will go fast. Come here, taste the chowder and tell me if I need to add anything.”

Angel was a natural-born chef. As she obligingly moved toward the stove, I stepped aside, giving her room in which to work. Angel was gorgeous. Like Apollo, she, too, could have been a model. Her white maxi dress was held up by gold buckles on the shoulder straps, and the color stood out in contrast to the warm glow of her rich brown skin. Her eyes were brown, as was her hair that coiled down to her shoulders. She had gathered it back with cloisonne combs, which I remembered had been a present from Rafé.

I leaned against the counter, watching her taste the chowder.

“This is good, but a dash of lemon pepper would go a long way,” she said. “Where’s your spice cabinet?”

I pointed toward the narrow drawer at the end of the counter. I had a galley kitchen, large enough to do some decent cooking in but far from a gourmet kitchen. She found the bottle of lemon pepper and added a dash to the chowder, tasted it again, then added another shake.

“There, that’s good.” Turning around, she let out a groan. “I hope you don’t think I meant it wasn’t good to begin with—”

“No, you told me it was good. I believe you,” I said, laughing. “I’m not so vain about my cooking that I’m going to get my nose bent out of shape when you think of a way to make it better. You’re like…the Cooking Channel incarnate.”

She snorted. “Thank you. I love to cook and I’ve done a lot of it over the past couple of months. It helps me cope.”

“I’ll take these crudité platters out to the table,” my mother said, delicately stepping around me with them. I waited till she was gone.

“How are you doing? Honestly?” Angel and I shared a special bond over Rafé’s death. He had been her boyfriend, and he had been my late fiancé’s brother, the one link I had left to Ulstair, who had been killed by a serial killer over a year before. Losing Rafé forced me to realize that Ulstair was truly gone. But I had Kipa to steady me. Angel had lost her lover.

She hesitated, then tilted her head. “I’m surprisingly okay, to be honest. I keep waiting for his death to fully hit. Oh, I’ve cried, but I keep waiting to have a breakdown that never happens. At first it was hard, but…can I tell you something I haven’t even told Ember?”

“Of course.”

Angel glanced around to make sure we were alone. The party was in full swing and nobody was in the kitchen but us. “I’m sad, but I don’t feel…heartbroken. I feel like I should be, and I feel guilty that I’m not.”

I let out a slow breath. “I understand. I felt the same way after Ulstair died. I missed him, and I still do. I loved him, and I still do. But now I wonder if I was ever truly in love with him, because my heart healed far faster than I expected. While I miss the friendship we had, I don’t miss the relationship.”

“You don’t think that makes me a bad person, then?” Angel searched my face, and I realized she was looking for a way to forgive herself.

I took her hands. “Not at all. You loved Rafé, but he wasn’t your forever-person. That doesn’t mean you didn’t care about him. It doesn’t mean his death didn’t matter.”

She ducked her head, then smiled. “Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. We had a rocky road—coming from different cultures, with him being Fae and me being mostly human. And then when he went through the torture, it changed him and even after counseling, he was never fully the same. I guess he couldn’t be. He wasn’t as present, you know what I mean? I always felt like he was standing outside of himself, watching the rest of us. And it couldn’t just be the PTSD. Look at you—you went through something as bad, or worse, and you’re here. You’re not a million miles away.”

“I got counseling—” I started to say, then stopped. “When Rafé lost his brother, that’s when things first shifted. They were tight, you know. They protected each other. Something shifted back then and it just kept shifting.”

“I’m glad you understand. Everybody expects me to be brokenhearted and to cover myself in black and they tell me I’m hiding from my feelings,” she said. “Ember and Herne tiptoe around, like they’re afraid if they kiss in front of me, I’ll break down. I wish to hell they’d stop coddling me.”

“Tell them,” I said. “Ember’s your best friend. You need to be straight with her. Don’t let the resentment build up. They aren’t going to think you’re a horrible person. Not at all.” I wrapped my arm around her waist. “The truth can be difficult, but it’s ten times easier than living a lie so you protect other people’s expectations.” I rinsed out the massive soup tureen—it was bone china with a cranberry and snowy woods motif. I jerked my head toward the living room. “Come on, help me serve the food before they riot.”

I held the tureen steady as Angel filled it. Then she removed the bread and fish fillets from the oven while I retrieved the fries from the air fryer and emptied them into a bowl matching the tureen’s pattern.

I recruited Kipa to carry the food to the table. We were serving buffet style and had set up two long folding tables so that we could sit in the living room and watch the tree as we ate. I changed the music over to a soft ambient background music—mostly instrumental—and we called people to dinner. My mother fed Raj his cat food without even a hint that he should join us as I made the rounds.

Llew and Jordan had arrived, along with Talia, Viktor and Sheila, Yutani, and Trinity. Vixen was good to their promise, and didn’t cause a ruckus, and as we all sat down to dinner, I relaxed, trying to push away the worry over what my mother had told me.

 

 

The lights of the tree and the candlelight on the table seemed to relax everyone. After we finished eating, the men cleared the dishes and folded the tables, and we all had dessert in the living room. I didn’t have enough furniture so we had brought the chairs from the dining table over, and the folding chairs as well.

True to my prediction, Angel’s pies disappeared at a rapid rate, and then people moved on to the tortes and the pastries. We were discussing anything and everything we could think of that would allow us to avoid talking about the war against the Dragonni.

“So, there I was, stripped down to my golden bikini briefs, when my ex-owner showed up and challenged Vixen to a duel,” Apollo was saying.

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