Chapter 1 Continued
Scene break between the end of the previous section and here.
Astrid pulled her door shut just as she heard footsteps behind her in the hallway.
“Well looky who it is. Haven’t caught sight of you in a few days,” the smoky laugh coughed out behind Astrid.
“Hello Mags,” Astrid turned to greet the woman. “Pleasure to see you as well.”
“Now where have you been hiding, hon? I popped over yesterday to ask you for dinner and you weren’t home. Nor the time before that when I stopped by.” Mags smile betrayed her accusatory words.
“My apologies. I’ve been visiting the little shop around the corner. I’ve come to covet their coffee in the mornings.”
“Oh, the one with the good muffins. Yes, a marvelous place that one is,” Mags clapped her hands together, ignoring the newspaper she held.
“Indeed. After breakfast I’ve been learning the streets of my new home.”
“Ah, no job yet then.” Mags had a habit of stating questions instead of asking them.
“Not yet, unfortunately. I’m hoping to hear back from someone by the end of the week,” Astrid dropped her gaze, ashamed at her failure in obtaining a job in her first week away from home.
“Don’t worry, hon. A smart, pretty thing like you--some place will snatch you up in no time.”
“I hope you’re right,” Astrid mumbled while Mags unlocked her apartment door.
“You have such pretty, interesting eyes. I can’t recall having seen purple before,” Mags muttered to herself, almost too quiet for Astrid to her.
But hear she did, her hand jumping to the amulet she wore. It was still in place, so how could—
Astrid said some nonsense about forgetting something or other and dove back into her apartment. She barreled for the bathroom, seeking the mirror.
The lights stung her eyes flashing on after the dim light of the dark flat. Her reflection, horrified, gaped at her from the mirror. The eyes that had been a soft, deep blue upon leaving her home had shifted into a deep purple, almost the color of the gem in her amulet. They also had adopted the cat’s-eye aspects that no human should have.
What had happened? Was the spell wearing off?
No. She’d just had the family witch refresh her amulet before she’d moved out. It couldn’t be malfunctioning.
And yet it was. The proof was staring right back at her.
Astrid slumped against the counter as she fumbled in her bag for her cell. Frantic, she dialed Zavier. He would probably be in some meeting or other, he always was meeting with some company or other, assuring them the family had the best interests for the money they let him protect. When he didn’t answer she hung up and dialed him again. Her breathing had become sharp and shallow.
She focused on the sharp feeling in her palm. Ring. Ring. The sharp, radiating points of her nails dug further into her palm. Ring. Ring. Voicemail. Astrid swatted at the end button. She refused to leave a voicemail about this. Dial him again. Ring. Ring. Her palm felt wet. She didn’t look at it. Inhale. Exhale. Don’t hold it in. She remembered that. Holding her breath between the in and out would only make her heart race faster. Ring. Ri—
“Asylbia.” Shit. “What is so urgent you could not leave me a message. I know you don’t like the business, but that doesn’t exempt you from--”
“My amulet.” She interrupted him.
She didn’t want to hear his anger. She needed him right now. He should understand that. The silence on the other side of the phone was enough to deafen her.
“Where are you?” Facts. Always get the facts.
“My apartment. My eyes--”
“I will be there in thirty minutes, little sis.” She could hear him move away from the phone before the line disconnected.
Astrid dropped her phone onto the counter. She wanted to smash the mirror for its betrayal of her. But she gazed into its endless waters, searching for any other piece of her that was bleeding through the spell. She had become so accustomed to her human persona, but now her two worlds were bleeding together.
Her eyes were no longer human, that much was apparent. Nose, lips, chin, everything looked fine. Neck was the correct length, torso looked fine. She looked away from the mirror and down to her hips and legs. All looked and felt as it should. She swept her hair up as if she were going to put it into a pony tail and spotted the change once more. Her ears had thinned and taken on a noticeable point.
She dropped her hair down, noticing the tips of her ears poked through her hair.
She forced herself away from the mirror, fleeing the bathroom and it’s betrayal. Racing into the living room she pulled the blinds over the windows. If something else went wrong she did not need any of her elderly neighbors spying her.
Astrid dropped on the couch and checked her watch. Three minutes. Only three minutes had passed since she’d spoken with Zavier. She pulled her amulet from under her shirt, being careful not to pull to hard and break the chain that held it around her throat. She ran her fingers over it, inspecting the smooth surface and every point where it joined its metal casing.
Nothing felt out of place. No chips or snags to indicate damage. Holding it as close to her eyes as the chain would allow she hoped for her razor sharp gaze to discover what her fingers were missing.
Nothing was wrong with it.
Physically the amulet was as perfect as the day it had been placed around her neck.
So why wasn’t it working correctly she wanted to shout at the heavens.
Her mother could never find out about this. It would only strengthen her resolve to return Astrid to the family home. Hell, if Cenna had it her way Astrid would be confined to guard to family treasure for eternity so she wouldn’t be able to get in any more trouble.
Check the time. Ten minutes since the phone call had ended. Only twenty to go. Astrid hoped his stance of thirty had been an overestimate. She could feel the panic attack looking for an opening in her armor, as feeble as it was already.
Inhale. Exhale. Don’t hold it in. Steady, even breaths. Her mother had always been amused by Astrid’s ‘episodes’ as she liked to call them. Cenna always thought Astrid to be acting for attention. But the panic was real. Mother didn’t understand that even those at the top of the food chain could feel fear.
The vein in her neck was throbbing right under her chin. It didn’t hurt per se, but it certainly became a distraction. Anything to focus on besides her own impending doom. She clenched her hands in her lap to stop their shaking. She had stopped telling herself to calm down. She just had to ride out the waves of panic now.
Astrid focused on the pulse in her neck.
Zavier would help her figure it out. Maybe the witch’s booster hadn’t worked correctly and this was just the natural fading. Astrid would be pissed if that were the case. What the hell did the family pay the old woman for if her spells had stopped being affective. Cenna would probably eat the woman for dinner if that were the truth of the matter.
Astrid hoped the witch hadn’t messed up the spell. She had been a nanny of sorts to Astrid as she’d grown and Astrid would hate to see the woman harmed because of her.
But this was all useless speculation anyways.
Astrid didn’t have a mastery over any of the transfiguration arts, which is why she needed Zavier. He would be able to tell her what was going wrong. Astrid was the wordsmith of the family. A useless talent, but one that she loved.
Though in the present circumstances she wished she’d had a different skill.
A sharp knock on the front door jolted Astrid away from her melancholy thoughts. Her pulse had slowed and her hands had almost lost their shake.
Astrid tiptoed over to the door. If it were anyone other than Zavier, she didn’t want them to hear that she was home still. She pressed her eye to the peephole to see her brother’s impassive gaze watching the door.
Astrid flung herself at the doorknob and wrenched the door open to let him inside.
Zavier pushed the door shut, miraculously not slamming it, and caught her face in his hands. His gaze studied her, taking in the details of her that had bled through the spell. One hand twitched her hair away so he could inspect her ears. Astrid knew he’d caught the tips peeking out of her locks as she had....