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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
I contemplated going back into the house, purse over my shoulder. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Utter mayhem lay within. Absolute chaos in a kitchen, complete with spilled food, a huffy dragon, one very pissed-off house sprite, and my sister, the wide-eyed, catch-da-giant-bird turkey-chaser. Add to that the rest of the milling—and by now, thoroughly confused—throng that made up our extended family, and it was a no-brainer. Not a chance. Nope. Not gonna happen.
I was perfectly fine out here in the pouring rain, getting soaked. Let Smoky take his lumps from Iris. This was all his fault, not mine. The only part they could blame me for was that I had assigned him the chore of bringing home a twenty-five-pound turkey for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner. Was it really my responsibility to remind him to make certain it was already dead?
Not. My. Fault. And neither was the Three Stooges aftermath that followed. Now, with Iris and Hanna both on the warpath, I had no desire to go back in there and subject myself to their outrage.
As my gaze wandered over to the turkey pecking around our backyard, it occurred to me that the bird was giving me the evil eye. He reminded me of a big fat demon bird, gloating like some demented vulture. The fat old Tom was closer to the woods than our back door, and I wondered if he realized just how lucky he was.
I stamped my foot in his direction. “Go on, you dumb bird. Make a break for it while you can, before Smoky comes looking for you.” As if he understood me, the turkey turned toward the tree line in back of the yard and slowly began to waddle off into the sunset. Or as the case actually was, the pitch darkness. It was only around five thirty, but by this time of year, the Seattle area was swathed in night. Sunset had come and gone about an hour ago.
I snorted. “Have a happy Thanksgiving, bird. You lucked out, so say a prayer to the Great Turkey.”
As I watched him vanish into the woods, I wondered where the hell Smoky had found him. No doubt he’d stolen him from some turkey farm or something. Wild turkeys generally didn’t go running around the streets of Seattle. But I wasn’t going to ask. After this fiasco, I had a feeling that my dragon-shifting husband wouldn’t be in any mood to discuss turkey-napping.
Thanks to sheer dumb luck, the bird had managed to escape from the kitchen. He’d left behind a trail of walking wounded, though—including me. That beak was nasty sharp and I had the scratch to prove it, but at least I didn’t have a hole in my hand like Roz did. Yeah, in the great dinner war, the bird deserved his freedom. He’d earned it. As the last of his tail feathers vanished from sight on the path leading to Birchwater Pond, I saluted him.
“You’ve got what it takes to make it, soldier. Carry on.”
With one last look at the house, I straightened my shoulders and headed toward my car. We still needed a turkey for Thanksgiving tomorrow, so I might as well head out to buy one. On the up side, by the time I got back, things should have smoothed over and the mess should be cleaned up.
Families. One thing was for certain: Mine was loopy, batty, and all around, a freakshow crew. But I wouldn’t trade them for all the glitter and glitz in Otherworld or Earthside.
I slid into the driver’s seat, but as I inserted the key into the ignition, a shiver ran down my back. A shadow passed through me, cold and dark and incredibly ancient.
Suddenly nervous, I hit the button to lock the doors. Maybe it was the wind that rattled the trees that had spooked me. Or maybe it was the driving rain. Or perhaps the darkness and perpetual gloom had finally managed to suck the smile off my face. Whatever the case, I glanced back at the house, anxious.
PTSD, maybe? We had recently come through a horrible stretch, what with the war raging in Otherworld and losing our father. We were all still a little shell-shocked. I had been coping with a lot of nightmares and flashbacks the past few weeks, but this didn’t feel like it originated from the same place.
Trying to quiet my mind, I listened, breathing slowly.
Listen . . .
At first, I could sense only the wind and rain that lashed the yard, but then . . . below that . . . There it was. Something was on the move. Something big. I searched my feelings, examining the sensation. Was it fear? Yes, I was definitely afraid, but there was more to it than that. Anticipation? Anxiety? A tingling at the base of my neck told me that deep magic was afoot, and would soon be knocking on my door.
Magic rode the currents, on the wings of a flock of birds. They were there, in the astral, black as coal and shrieking warnings from an ancient wood filled with extraordinary beasts. The rolling mists of time poured past as the ravens cried, their song echoing with magic. Dark magic, deep woodland magic. Death coming in on waves of flame and smoke.
As if in synch with my thoughts, a shriek cut through the darkness, startling me out of my trance. I recognized the cry. Raven. Raven was calling. And where raven flew, Raven Mother couldn’t be far behind.
And behind Raven Mother, chasing her, was a dragon. At first I flashed back to Hyto, but then caught hold of myself. Hyto was dead and gone. I forced myself to focus, to examine the energy that rushed past. This dragon was ancient—not a dragon from the Dragon Reaches, but even older. This creature rose from the depths of the earth, come awake after eons of time asleep in its lair.
As he roared to life, chasing the flock of ravens, he suddenly vanished from my sight.
I found myself sitting in the car, my hand on the keys.
What the hell was that all about?
Almost afraid to examine the vision, I shuddered and started the ignition. As the engine warmed up, I stared into the darkness, my thoughts far distant from Thanksgiving.
Something big was headed my way, and there was no use trying to avoid it. I might as well just open my arms and brace for whatever it was. Trying to hide from trouble had ceased to be an effective defense mechanism a few years ago when the demons had first shown up.
With a grimace, I pulled out my phone and texted Menolly that I was heading for the store to replace the turkey. As I eased out of the driveway, I whispered, “Bring it on, Raven Mother. Bring it on. I’m waiting for you.”
A faint laughter echoed over the howling of the wind. She’d heard me. And she was waiting.
* * *
“Give me that!” Delilah’s voice rang out, and I turned, scanning the mob for her face. Somebody was bound to get hurt in this mess. People were shoving in every direction, trying to push their way through the mass of churning bodies. To my left, a woman tripped and fell. I tried to maneuver through the crowd to reach her, but a man stopped to help her back to her feet and she dusted herself off, looking no worse for the wear, and then, a glint in her eye, she vanished into the seething throng.
Still unable to locate Delilah, I glanced over my shoulder. Smoky and Trillian were standing at attention, waiting for my orders, both looking resigned and rather frightened. Their arms full, they threaded their way through the chaos as they tried to follow me. With Delilah still nowhere to be seen, I made a unilateral decision. She’d just have to catch up to us later.
“Over to the pet section, pronto!”
Pointing toward the opposite end of the store, I began to traverse the aisles. Wordlessly, they filed along behind me. I gauged the easiest, quickest route, then began to wind through the rows of merchandise, narrowly skirting a table of precariously stacked crystal dishes. Motioning for the guys to be cautious, I held my breath until we were past the display.
Once we were out of housewares, the crowd began to thin out as we maneuvered our way over to the pet toy aisle. Along the way, I caught sight of an insulated lunch bag in fuchsia, with a cat appliqué splashed across the front. It really was cute. Another woman was eyeing it and I had a split second to make up my mind.
“Nerissa would love that.” I snatched it up seconds before my opponent could grab it and, once again, we were on the move, leaving her sputtering in the dust. A few moments later, we reached our destination: the pet care section. We had the department to ourselves. Most of the crowds were over in electronics and toys. Chase and Iris were forging their way through the latter and I silently wished them luck.
“Are we done yet?” Smoky grumbled. “Haven’t you found enough loot? It’s four thirty in the morning, woman.” He didn’t sound that angry, though. In fact, the twinkle in his eye told me he was putting on a show because he thought it was required. Just like a man.
Trillian, also my husband, snorted. “You really think that’s going to work? Dude, you should know your wife and her sisters by now. We’ve got at least another hour to go. Remember last year?”
Trillian’s obsidian skin glistened under the florescent lights. He’d braided his hair to keep it out of the way. The silver strands rested smooth against his back, shimmering with the faintest of cerulean highlights. He had worn a sleek black turtleneck and black jeans, but left his jacket in the car, claiming it made him more aerodynamic in the crowds. A Svartan, one of the Dark and Charming Fae, he usually managed to get what he wanted by smooth-talking whoever was in his way. But on Black Friday, all bets were off. My sisters and I overruled all opinions in the household.
Smoky, on the other hand, was attired in his usual get up: white jeans, V-neck pale blue sweater, and long white trench. At six-four, my dragon towered over the crowds. Though I kept him near, even his imposing nature didn’t offer us much protection during the early hours of the most terrifying shopping day of the year. He, too, had braided his hair, though it was ankle length instead of mid-shoulder like Trillian’s. Luckily, his hair moved all on its lonesome. If it hadn’t, his braid would have gotten trampled several times tonight.
“Don’t remind me.” Smoky rolled his eyes. “Last year was worse than this, I’ll give you that.”
“The others aren’t done yet, so just hold your horses. Remember? Hanna promised leftover turkey soup along with fresh baked homemade bread if you guys play nice.” I picked up a catnip mouse and shook it, frowning at the squeaky-squeaky sound. Delilah would love it.
Her toys were constantly ragged, she played with them so much. And then, the thought occurred to me that we should get her panther form a toy, too. One that could withstand a good mauling. Also—why not one for Nerissa? Her puma liked to play and, on occasion, Delilah and our sister-in-law went hunting together in the forest behind our house. They never really caught anything, but the big cats liked to prowl through the trees.
“After we’re done here, we’re heading over to the stuffed toys. So gird your loins, or whatever it is you boys do in order to stay sane.”
Oblivious to their groans, I began tossing toy mice in my cart, before we pushed onward.
* * *
We had not only brought Delilah’s Jeep, Menolly’s Mustang, and my Lexus, but also Morio’s SUV, which gave us room for everybody who had wanted to come, and all the packages as well.
Hanna had stayed home to watch Maggie, our baby calico gargoyle. Vanzir and Rozurial had begged off. They were planning some secret surprise and had shooed us out of the house, instructing us not to return till early morning. I wasn’t sure what they were up to, but could only pray it wasn’t something stupid like turning the house into a giant video game or something.
It was nearing 6 A.M. as we pulled into the driveway of our lovely old three-story Victorian with basement. Menolly still had some time before she had to be in her lair to sleep. Vampires and sunrise? Not such a good mix, so we always made sure she was home in time to get to bed. But we still had nearly ninety minutes before the sun crawled over the horizon. Or up behind the clouds, as was more often the norm here in Seattle.
As we piled out of our cars, the men gathering all our loot for us, I glanced at Trillian and Smoky and wearily smiled. “You do realize how much I love the pair of you, don’t you? And Morio, too.” Morio was my third husband. I was one hell of a lucky woman.
His hands full, Smoky winked at me as a strand of his hair unbraided itself, slowly reaching over to caress my cheek. A smile creased his face. Dragon smiles were always a little sly, a little coy.
“You can show us just how much you love us after we haul all this stuff inside.” His voice was husky, and I caught my breath as the touch of his hair sparked off an ache that rose between my legs. I wanted him and I wanted him now. It had been two days since I’d had sex—we’d all been busy. But that was two days too long.
Trillian brushed past me, arching an eyebrow. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all night.”
“I wish.” Shaking my head, I forced my attention away from my nether regions, which were now up in arms, demanding attention. “Go on, the pair of you. You know what waits for us inside there. An early morning brunch, and then Iris and Hanna are going to put us all to work. Except Menolly, of course. Honestly, how Iris manages to have as much energy as she does after having the twins, I have no clue. It’s been less than a month and she’s raring to go.”
As much as the thought of an early A.M. tryst with my men appealed to me, the morning was given over to homely duties. Today we’d all be decking out the house for Yuletide, from bottom to top. With Iris and Hanna in charge, it meant we’d fill every nook and cranny with some sort of decoration. But I didn’t begrudge the time spent, especially this year.
With Father dead and so much upheaval in our lives, it was important to keep our traditions alive. We needed these touchstones to ground us and keep us on track. My premonitions of the other night had faded, and I had put them down to skittishness. So far, nothing had happened, and I hadn’t bothered telling anybody about them.
Trillian laughed. “Fine. We’ll avoid facing the wrath of the house-maidens. But that means we’re on for this evening, though frankly, I’m going to need a nap before then. The few hours we got after Thanksgiving dinner were helpful, but not enough.”