Portals and Puppy Dogs - Amy Lane

Author’s Note

IT turns out that my retention for the rules of anything—police procedure, job hierarchies, witchcraft—is severely limited by the time it takes my irritating brain to go, “But I’d do it THIS way!” I did my best to stick to the rules of witchcraft here, but in doing research it occurred to me that many people seemed to be making up their own. So, uhm, I did too. Just saying. If your friends are caught in a dimensional rift and you’re trying to get them out using hedge-witch magic, maybe don’t use this as a sourcebook.

As If by Magic

“REDDICK, Lockhart, and Baldwin Accounting, Alex Kennedy, associate, speaking.”

Alex spoke into his headset and continued to enter figures from the box of receipts on his left into the spreadsheet on his computer. According to his friends, this ability made him “spooky smart,” but given that he was the least talented witch in a coven of seven, he thought the “spooky” was just there to flatter him.

“Hey, it’s me,” his roommate said, sounding quiet and nervous—but then, Bartholomew Baker was possibly the most painfully shy person Alex had ever met, so he always sounded like that. “I… uh, was wondering if, uh, you could walk Glinda tonight. I mean, a second time. Lachlan took her out this morning, and he’s been doing his accounts at our kitchen table, but he was, uh, sort of hoping we could go back to his place tonight.” Alex could actually hear his anxious swallow over the phone. “So we could, you know, have tomorrow for the coven meeting.”

And tonight for making hot lemming love, Alex thought dryly. Bartholomew and Lachlan had only gotten together two weeks ago—but there was nearly two years of pent-up longing built up between them, and although Lachlan was very solicitous about how guarded Bartholomew was, Alex had no doubt they were making the most of every private moment.

He suppressed a sigh.

If only he could have some private moments of his own.

“I hear you,” Alex said. “You’ll be there for the ritual tonight, right?” he asked a little nervously. “I mean, before you leave?”

“Yeah, I’ll get home ten minutes before dark. Do you need Lachlan to fill in for you?”

Alex grimaced. The coven was supposed to have seven people in it, but two of them were… missing? Well, that wasn’t quite right. Everybody knew where they were—Dante and Cully’s house was the third of the four-house cul-de-sac, where they’d lived since the entire coven had graduated from college.

The problem was since a spell had gone hideously awry two weeks earlier, nobody knew when the two roommates were. Going into their house was… problematic. All of the residents of the Sebastian Circle cul-de-sac could hear Dante and Cully, and sometimes they could see one of them or the other—but they weren’t always solid, and they were never visible in the same instant.

And that wasn’t the only physical manifestation of the mangled spell.

The fact was if the remaining five coven members didn’t cast a sunrise and sunset protection spell without fail each day, the physical world around Sebastian Circle became increasingly bizarre.

Morning was usually not a problem—even when Bartholomew had sleepovers at Lachlan’s, he left at 6:00 a.m. so he could be in the cul-de-sac well before 7:00 for the sunrise spell, and nobody else left the cul-de-sac overnight, so that was easy. But Alex rode his bike to and from work, and since they were in the middle of October, sunset came a bit earlier each day. If he left even a little late, that made things damned tight. Lachlan had been asked to sub in on occasion, and every once in a while, when someone got stuck in traffic, they’d had to make do with only three members of the coven.

Three members—even with Jordan and Bartholomew, who were the coven’s most powerful practitioners—were not enough to stem the tide of strange animal behavior, oddly colored emanations, horrible shadows, and what sounded like human screams that bubbled up from the ground when they couldn’t get five people there.

When Bartholomew said, “Oh yes. Don’t worry, Alex, I’ll be there in time for the ritual,” Alex could feel his spine physically relax, vertebra by vertebra. “I’ll just have to leave before her last walk of the night.”

Alex smiled a little. Such a small favor, really, but Bartholomew never wanted to impose. “Yeah, man. No problem. I’ll walk her. As long as you’re there during sunset, I’m all good.”

“You’re okay in the house alone?” Bartholomew asked. Well,