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Authors: Ashley Shayne

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BOOK: AWitchsSkill
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“Well, not right
now
,” I told him, regret in my tone.
I forced my mind back to the task at hand.

Centering my hands on either side of his chest, I murmured
quietly. Finished with the words, I removed my hands and, placing my mouth
gently over his heart, I exhaled. I moved my hands to either side of his face
and repeated the process, looking into his eyes and blowing gently onto his
brow.

I stepped back and surveyed him with satisfaction. The
disguise spell had worked like a charm—no pun intended. He looked about two
inches shorter than his actual height and was very thin. His hair was a sandy
brown with streaks of gray, and age lines creased his weathered face. I nodded.

“You look older than you usually do. Say in your fifties? You
have light-brown hair with gray in it and you’re thin.”

He stared at me in surprise but I was too busy to deal
explanations. I closed my eyes and pictured my disguise carefully before
chanting the words. I finished and waited, my breathing as fast as my racing pulse,
before inhaling deeply, drawing air straight into my belly. I held the breath
carefully, focusing the whole time, and then exhaled slowly. I felt the spell
settling over me and when it touched my feet I opened my eyes. Acayo’s expression
had turned from surprise to astonishment.

“And?” I asked him, fairly sure it had worked as I’d
planned.

“Um, yeah. I mean, you’re older now too but not that old. Maybe
late thirties. With black hair and your…your breasts are bigger. You look a
little trashy, actually.”

“Perfect.”

“Won’t they see through the disguises? I mean, won’t their
warlock know?”

“He may but I’m betting not.” I shrugged at him. “I don’t
think they’ll expect us to come after them. If they do, I don’t think they’d
expect this sort of sneak attack. I mean, think about it. With everything you
can do, and the stuff I can do, would you expect us to play dress-up and sneak
into the club with the regular customers? I wouldn’t. If the warlock sees us,
he may notice the spells,
if
he has spells in place to detect them on
others. I think his energy will be taken up with placing defensive spells on
himself and the twins and he won’t be on the lookout for them on others.”

Acayo was looking at me somewhat skeptically and I glared at
him.

“Hey, anytime you wanna come up with a better plan, go right
ahead. It’s better than just charging in, looking like us.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. It is indeed better than that.”

“Right.” Mollified, I nodded in the direction of the club. “Let’s
do this then.”

I squared my shoulders, linked an arm through Acayo’s and
marched up to the club as if it were any old night. Two large men were working
the door. They could almost have been twins themselves, they looked so similar.
Both had black hair and rippling muscles under tight, white t-shirts that had the
club logo printed on the front. The bouncers waved us in without a second
glance and I breathed a sigh of relief. We went past them and through a curtain
into the main room. The Galloways’ club, Shimmer, was the best strip club in
town.

Everything was a little seedier than I remembered but beyond
that nothing had changed. The big room had a large center stage and smaller
circular stages scattered around it. A raised platform off to the left held
couches arranged in a u-shape and a glass coffee table. No one was sitting
there at the moment. A slim, pretty brunette with tired eyes was dancing
halfheartedly on the pole mounted on the stage, and two other girls were
performing on the small platforms for a large group of rowdy guys. Besides the
guys, who looked to be on a stag night, the club was relatively quiet since it
was still early. We took a small table near the wall and I headed to the bar to
buy us drinks, making sure to put on a throaty, slightly Southern accent when I
addressed the bartender, and then returned to Acayo. He was watching the
brunette with a look of distaste and I nudged him as I handed him his drink.

“Hey, act like you’re happy to be here please. We don’t
wanna draw attention.” Acayo frowned but put his arm around me obediently and
leered at the stage.

“Better.” I leaned in to him and scanned the club. I didn’t
feel any spells or wards and neither the Galloways nor the warlock were
present. I thought about it for a bit and then flagged down a scantily clad
waitress.

“Your bosses in tonight?” I asked her when she arrived at
our table.

“What’s it to you?”

She tossed the question back at me, flipping her hair and
smiling seductively at Acayo. He returned the smile and I was annoyed for a
moment before remembering he looked like an older man and she was just working.

“I have a business proposition for them. To open a new
branch of the club down in Dallas. Could be big money.”

“Yeah well, I don’t know if they’d be interested. But one of
them will be in later, probably in about an hour if you want to wait. They’ll
sit on the platform up there when they get here. I’ll let them know you want to
talk shop and they’ll have you brought over if they want to talk to you.”

I thanked her and nodded and she sashayed away, waving her
hips as she went.

“Clever girl,” Acayo whispered, leaning in close to me.

He breathed gently into my ear and shivers ran up my spine. I
ignored him and pulled a small vial out of my bag, taking care to keep it
hidden under the table. I removed the stopper and poured a few drops onto the
floor, murmuring a phrase and twisting my hands counterclockwise over them as I
did so.

“What are you doing now?” he asked quietly, putting one hand
on my thigh and rubbing it gently.

“Repulsion spell,” I replied. “Just a little one. Should
make the other customers want to leave. If things get violent, I don’t want a
bloodbath in here.”

The spell began to take effect almost immediately and a lone
man sitting up by the stage staggered to his feet and headed out the door, off
into the night. The other drinkers slowly followed and even the stag party got
to their feet and stumbled toward the front entrance. After an hour had passed,
the bar was empty. We sat there quietly, watching the stage and occasionally
pretending to laugh and flirt. The tension was becoming too much for me and I
was relieved when a back door opened and one of the Galloways came through it.

The twins were big men with acne-scarred cheeks and dull,
dangerous eyes. The one who entered—I thought it was Danny but it was hard to
tell—looked around the bar with surprised eyes under shaggy black brows. He
turned as if to leave and the waitress I’d spoken to hurried up to him. She
gestured in our direction and I took a moment to bless my decision to speak
with her. He looked us over and then nodded before heading our way.

“Leslie said you wanted to talk business?” he said, his
voice gruff as he neared us. I kicked Acayo under the table and he nodded to
him, rising to shake his hand. I smiled and inclined my head, and Danny joined
us. Acayo began speaking, surprising me with the fluent lies flowing from him.
Very
smooth,
I thought, and half wondered if he had been planning to open a
strip club in Dallas after all, he sounded so believable.

With effort, I tuned them out and concentrated completely on
the silent chant running through my mind. I finished, gathered myself and
quickly reached out to grab Danny’s hand. He looked at me in surprise and as
soon as we made eye contact, I snapped the last word and he was mine.

“Where is the warlock?” I asked him, maintaining eye contact
the whole time.

“With my brother.” His voice was quiet and curiously
monotone.

“Are they alone?”

“Yes.”

“Are there protective spells?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t know there
were
protective
spells.”

He frowned and I could feel him start to fight my control. I
wasn’t too surprised. The twins had been called many things in their time, but
weak wasn’t one of them.

“Take us to them.”

Danny got up immediately and we stood and followed him back
through the door. I saw the little waitress watching us and for a moment, I
worried she could be a witness if things went nasty…but then I remembered our
disguises. Even better. If things did go badly, there was a witness who would
distinctly recall two people who actually looked nothing like us. Good thing
witches were born, not trained. Crime really was absurdly easy for a good
witch. We’re limited only by our imagination, intelligence and the ability to
follow through on a plan. But born we were and there weren’t that many of us. And
most of us had a more law-abiding nature. Even I had considered robbing a bank
once or twice but I’d always gotten a hold of myself in time. I’d always
thought the world would be a horrible place if people went around doing things
just because they could, and I respected the law. Mostly…

We followed Danny into a long, dismal corridor. He led us
through a door and up a flight of stairs into an apartment over the club. The
soundproofing was excellent and only a small hint of bass came up from the
speakers down below. The warlock and Danny’s twin, Eddie, were standing at a
table in the center of the room and looking down at a tablet in Eddie’s hands.

They looked up as we entered and the instant Eddie caught
sight of us he roared in anger and flung the tablet at me with all his might. I
yelped and ducked aside too slowly. The tablet caught me in the arm and I
stumbled backward, cursing. I had no idea how he’d known and it crossed my mind
to wonder if it was a twin thing. Maybe he’d somehow sensed I had Danny’s mind
in my control. I’d heard a lot of stories about twins and magic and certainly
believed it could be true.

The warlock attacked before I could recover my balance and I
sprawled to the floor, losing my grip on Danny’s mind. Acayo leaped at Eddie,
and Danny roared as he regained control and leaped into the fray. I hoped Acayo
would be able to deal with both of them and turned my full attention to the
warlock. He gasped as I pushed against his mind and I was grateful I’d taken my
potion before we’d left. I’d guessed right; they weren’t prepared for us. If
they had been, the warlock would have traps or would be powered up like I was.
His lack of foresight meant he was absolutely no match for me. I laughed,
somewhat evilly, I admit it, as the barrier in his mind cracked and I was in. I
pulled him out of consciousness sharply and he crumpled to the ground. He’d
sleep until I woke him—something I had no intention of doing until I’d gotten
some things straight—so I turned my attention back to the fight.

I scrambled backward on the floor and narrowly avoided being
hit by a flying twin. I didn’t have time to see which one, but by the way his
body slumped to the ground I figured that whichever one he was, he was out of
the picture. I looked back to the fight in time to see Acayo take a solid punch
to the face. He reeled backward but recovered quickly and launched forward to
wrap his arms around the other one’s waist, taking him down in a perfect
tackle. They hit the ground and Acayo swarmed upward to sink his teeth into the
remaining twin’s neck. A few moments of horrible sucking sounds later, he let
the twin sink to the ground.

“Well, that didn’t go exactly as planned,” I told him,
eyeing the bodies ruefully. I felt a little sick. Though I’d seen dead people
before, they tended not to be the recently deceased kind. The difference
between a body on a slab and the still-warm body of someone to whom you’d been
speaking a minute before was extreme. I fought down nausea and tried to be
practical. “And now we’re left with a live warlock to do something about.”

Acayo eyed the unconscious man.

“I could just kill him now, if you want?” he asked politely.

I shook my head in response. It hardly seemed necessary.

I went to kneel next to the unconscious warlock and consider
my options. I gestured at the door and Acayo went to poke his head out. A
moment later, he returned to me with a nod. I blessed the loud music in the
club and pulled chalk out of my bag. I marked the warlock in and woke him with
a spell. He snapped awake immediately and scrambled up, gaze taking in his dead
masters with fear.

“Who else knows about us?” I asked him sharply.

“No one,” he replied in a quivering voice. “They paid me and
they’re dead. There’s no one else I know of. They didn’t want word to get out,
in case they failed.”

I considered him and was about to speak a truth spell when
Acayo stopped me.

“He speaks truth. I can hear it,” he murmured.

I nodded in reply and began the spell I’d prepared before we
left. Quickly, I wiped all memory of us from his mind, leaving only the idea
that he’d come for a first meeting with the twins, just in time to see them
killed by an older couple. He would flee as quickly as he could. Satisfied, I
knocked the warlock out and released my wards.

We left quickly and I thought the waitress had missed our
exit. With any luck, it would be a few hours before the bodies were discovered.
I assumed the warlock could take care of himself. Outside again, we hesitated
before I suggested heading back to my apartment to regroup. We stopped midway
back to my car, hidden from sight in a dark park, and I released our disguises
quickly.

We returned to the car without attracting attention. We got
in and I realized I was shaking a bit as I stuck the key in the ignition. Acayo
must have noticed, because he got out and came around to the driver’s side to
take over. Although a man wanting to do the driving would normally annoy me, I was
so tired I climbed over into the passenger seat without complaint. We arrived
back at the apartment and made it in without any nasty surprises. Alone in my
quiet place, I found myself suddenly shy.

“Well, thank you for helping me. I would have been in a lot
of trouble if you hadn’t come to save me and…and everything.” I blushed and
looked away for a moment before glancing back at him. He was staring at me,
eyes sultry, his gorgeous lips lifted in a little smile.

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