Elemental Flame - Phaedra Weldon




"Detective, it's Arden Vervain."

Crwys held his breath for a full half minute as he toned down everything he wanted to say to the newly elected High Witch of New Orleans. Counting down from ten never worked for him. Mostly because he just came up with ten insulting things he wanted to say. Especially to Miss Vervain. He made a mental note to get a new cell number. He planted a smile on his face as he looked at Levi, whose desk faced his own. His partner glanced up, frowned and tilted his head, then went back to his computer to finish paperwork.

"What do you want?" Well, the tone was brisk but he did sincerely want to know why this Witch was calling him. Things had been so quiet since their brush with the Magician Circe. He and Levi had collared three murder suspects and his relationship with Samantha Hawthorne had reached the place where he felt she needed to know what he was.

And who he was.

"Look, Holliard. We need to take whatever this is between us and set it aside. I'm calling you because the Obsidian Queen's contacted me about her price. She wants Sam and one of her Fetches managed to bring Sam to the clearing."

"What?" He sat forward. "What clearing?"

"The one on my property. The same place I made the deal with her. I need you to get out here and stop this before she takes Sam with her."

"I'm on my way." Crwys jumped out of his chair, which rolled backwards as he jerked his leather jacket off the back. "I'm heading out."

"Was that Sam?" Levi asked as he pushed back from the desk.

Crwys slipped the jacket on and held up his hand. "No. Just…something I need to take care of." Normally, he'd bring Levi along with him. The two had been inseparable since the day their hosts met. Crwys was also aware of Levi's disapproval of his relationship with Sam. Levi had been there when Crwys fell in love for the first time, and he'd been there when his heart cracked at her loss. Levi also knew about the secrets that came from that pairing—secrets that needed to remain secret.

Falling for a human again was dangerous for Crwys, not just physically, but it could make him vulnerable in many ways. Taking care of Sam's problems shouldn't be set on Levi's shoulders, so heading out to stop a Faerie queen seemed like just another day in Crwys's life. He would prevent Brendi from taking Sam and put an end to this. Brendi's father had asked for amnesty for Sam. The idea Brendi would go through a second party to get around her promise to her father—knowing a promise from a Faerie bound them to that promise—was atrocious. This could be the catalyst to oust Brendi once and for all.

"Don't forget your dinner with Sam," Levi called out as Crwys headed to the door. "And don't forget the roses!"

Crwys grinned. He'd bought a dozen roses and had them in a gold box in the break room fridge. He'd paid double what roses cost just because it was Valentine's Day, but Sam was worth it. She was worth a million times that amount. He grabbed the box out of the fridge on the way out and put them in the back seat of his '64 Mustang Fastback.

He dialed Sam's number as he got in and turned the key. The rumble of the V8 always boosted his confidence. The raw power of it reminded him of his youth, of days spent in the sun, in the wind, in utter ignorance of what his life would become.

When it went to voicemail he disconnected. No need to leave one if she was in that Circle. He cheated and put his portable light on the dashboard as he sped out of town toward Gypsy Gardens.

The dashboard clock read five twenty-two as he pulled into the long dirt drive leading up to Arden's house. He didn't see Sam's Jeep and wondered if she'd parked somewhere else on the property. He tossed his badge on the passenger seat but kept his weapon tucked into the back of his jeans as he got out of the Mustang and slammed the door.

A young woman came running out of the house, dressed in a ritual robe, waving at him. "Detective Holliard!"

"Hey," he said as she nearly barreled into him. He gently grabbed her upper arms to steady her. "Calm down and breathe. Where's Sam?"

"In the Circle!"