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Born of Magic's Fire by Tasha

 

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Part 16

It was the middle of the night, as far as Rachel was concerned it was way too hot, and so she had headed for the kitchen. Having a second home in the Castle was a great asset, but the bedrooms were one hell of a long way from refrigerator. It was on her way back with a tall glass of juice that she nearly bumped into Derek.

"Good evening," he said with a warm smile, "I didn't expect to meet anyone at this time of night."

"Me neither," the woman replied as her heart stopped thudding in her chest.

How the man managed to walk around quite so quietly she was going to have to find out, him appearing round the corner at the top of the stairs had scared the hell out of her. Their relationship was quite a complex one, they'd been taking it slow. They were both comfortable in each other's company, but each of them had barriers that they hadn't yet dropped. Standing there, on the landing, in her night- gown, Rachel felt suddenly vulnerable. There was something very male about Derek, and even with the cheerful smile on his face there was almost a predatory glint in his eye.

"It's very warm tonight, isn't it," the Precept observed calmly, "I was going to the kitchen myself."

It was almost like standing there with a stranger, Rachel just had no idea what to do. She spent hours with this man, she'd kissed him, held him, she loved him dearly, but something about this meeting scared her.

"Are you all right?" Derek saw the anxiety in her face and he moved close, protectively.

"I'm fine," the psychiatrist replied just a little too fast.

She put the glass down on the hall table to hide the fact that her hand was shaking. His hand reached out and rested on her arm supportively, he obviously had no idea that it was his presence that was causing her nervousness. Rachel looked up into his face, and saw how much he cared, from that point she couldn't help herself. With almost wanton abandon she took his face in her hands and kissed him hard. There was a moment's resistance, and then his arms entwined her and his mouth accepted hers greedily. Their bodies pressed close and human passion met human passion like runaway trains.

How long they stayed like that, neither of them could have said, but suddenly the hall clock struck 2 a.m., and it's chimes broke the spell. It was like Cinderella's coach changing back to a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, one moment they were clinging to each other like a pair of desperate teenagers, and the next they were slightly apart, blinking at each other.

"Um, ah," was how Rachel started, "um ... I really should be getting to bed. I have to be up early tomorrow to get Kat to school."

"Ah, yes," Derek agreed, at a loss to explain what they had just been up to.

His companion smiled awkwardly and then fled to her room, leaving her juice sitting on the sideboard. The sudden urges were a little hard to explain, and Derek just stood there for a while.


Nick was still grinning to himself when he walked across the landing towards Philip's room at ten to eight in the morning. He'd probably been grinning in his sleep. As far as he was concerned he had had a totally fantastic evening, and he was still on a high. He and Holland had touched first base and things were looking extremely good for a try on second: the ex-SEAL was on cloud nine. As he tapped on Philip's door he resisted the urge to sing.

They were supposed to be leaving very shortly for the trip to see one of the ex-coven members, and the fact that there was no answer from his friend's room surprised Nick. There had been a very short conversation the night before and they'd agreed to meet at quarter to eight, when Philip hadn't shown, the other Legacy member just assumed he was running a few minutes late. He knocked again a little louder, well, over sleeping could happen to anyone. The young man knocked a third time, and was beginning to think he might have to search the gardens when the door to the next room opened. A very sleepy head appeared.

"Yes?" Philip asked without even noticing that Nick's mouth was hanging open.

"Ah, it's nearly eight o'clock," the ex-SEAL said eventually, "we're supposed to be leaving soon."

Comprehension dawned very slowly on the other man's face, he looked somewhat wrecked.

"Oh, damn," he said as soon as the message was computed, "I forgot. I've only been asleep for an hour."

He really didn't seem to realise what he'd said, and the growing stunned expression on his friend's face did not seem to register.

"Give me ten minutes," he said just before diving back into Jasmine's room, "I'll meet you down stairs."

Nick made it to the main hallway before he began to laugh.


By the time Philip had showered, dressed and run down the stairs he was somewhat more compus mentis, and he couldn't help but notice the funny look Nick was giving him. There was no time for detailed enquiries just then, however, since they really had to leave. It was only when the two were sitting side by side in the Legacy helecopter that the ex-priest finally brought it up.

"What?" he said pointedly, as his companion looked at him and smiled for the twentieth time.

"You really only get an hour's sleep?" was all Nick shot back with a wicked grin.

Philip tried to look indignant and managed it for all of ten seconds, until his friend's expression got the better of him. He still looked slightly embarrassed, this wasn't the sort of subject he was used to, but he had to smile as well.

"Yes," he replied with a sideways glance, "and I'm knackered."

Nick began to laugh.


It was a united female front which the university was going to see on Friday, but not until later in the day and Alex was preparing her bag when Jas finally emerged into the rest of the house.

"Good morning," the researcher greeted with her habitual cheerfulness, "you're late today."

She was quite surprised when the other woman just beamed at her. There was something different about the Guide this morning, and Alex couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. She was dressed the same as the day before, jeans and a blouse, her hair was pulled back with the same scruchie, but she seemed to be walking on air.

"Is there a reason you're so happy?" the young woman enquired brightly, "or is this just something I should expect from time to time."

Jasmine had only been in the house for six days, but she and Alex had already struck up a firm friendship. Their shared sensitivity gave then a lot in common, and although the researcher was not the only psychic in the house, she had been the only female one, Jas gave her someone to talk to. Each woman would follow the other to hell and back without much thought.

"Philip came to my room last night," was what Jas told her best friend.

The two had discussed the difficulties of a relationship with a man who could fall over the edge into self guilt, and it took a moment for the light of realisation to dawn in Alex's face.

"And he didn't leave," she wanted to make sure.

The other woman nodded her head vigorously.

"Ewwww, that's wonderful," Alex threw her arms round her friend and hugged her.

The researcher knew something that was right when she heard it, and this was high up there with almost perfect. By the time Rachel wandered into the control room, the pair were sitting in a corner having a whispered conversation, and giggling like school girls. It didn't take them long to fill her in on why they were quite so cheerful. It was difficult not to join in the atmosphere.


Rachel and Alex went to the University just after lunch; Derek spent the day tracking down and talking to the last ex-coven member, who was in Kenya; and Nick and Philip met up with the resident Professor of Psychology at UCLA. It was a busy day, but by the look of the faces around the conference table that evening, no one could really explain what was going on.

The meeting had been proceeding for a good half hour before the silence fell. It was a final, sort of lost silence: for once nobody seemed to be able to produce a lead. There were three lists on the table, each containing names, but not one of them was much help. The first list contained the names of the coven members who the House considered beyond suspicion, or more accurately, completely assessed, The second were those names of people who were neutral as far as instincts went, and the third were the titles of those who had appeared hostile to the Legacy. The problem was, only the first list gave them anything to go on, and that was to rule people out. There was not the first indication of who might be the saboteur at all.

The coven's description of events suggested it was a man, but the Legacy were not taking that for granted. If this person could hide their identity with magic, they could probably fake that as well.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," Nick chose to break the deadlock. "We need more information, or wait until he makes another move."

"That may be too late," Alex pointed out calmly.

"But that doesn't change the facts," Rachel put her oar in, "Nick's right, we're just going in circles."

They looked to Derek, he would have to make a decision.

"All right," he said eventually, "let's adjourn until tomorrow evening. If anyone thinks of anything, or finds something before then we'll call a meeting earlier, otherwise we just have to keep digging."

Everyone nodded, what else could they do?


The atmosphere in the house had added up to a somewhat difficult evening for Rachel. There had been little discussion as to whether the psychiatrist and her daughter would stay: it was the weekend and the circumstances of the current case made it a forgone conclusions. For the next two days the small family would reside on Angel Island. This, of course excited Kat no end, which was why it had taken an age to get her to sleep. The girl just kept talking: not out of malice or spite, but simply because she had so much to say. Her mother had tried to leave her room on several occasions, and it was only after a couple of house that she was able to actually get away.

What Rachel was not expecting when she finally managed to get Kat to sleep, was Derek standing in the hallway as she walked towards her own room. He didn't seem to have been waiting, in fact he came to a halt at virtually the same moment she appeared, but he was carrying a glass of juice.

"It's warmer tonight than it was yesterday," he said with a smile. "I thought you might need this."

The ice cubes rattled as he offered her the container. It was such a thoughtful gesture and she smiled back at him as she reached out.

"Thank you," the psychiatrist replied calmly, even as she noted that he took rather a long time to release the glass after her fingers connected with his.

There was just a moment when neither of them could decide what to say, and they just looked at each other.

"About last night," Rachel finally said.

They'd been avoiding the subject all day, but with true professional instinct, the psychiatrist knew that side stepping her problems would not make them go away. It was when she first opened her mouth that Rachel watched an expression appear on Derek's face that few people ever saw: the Precept of the San Francisco house wasn't quite sure what to do.

"I think the artefact from the coven is influencing the house," the tall man took the safest route into the conversation. "Mostly it seems to be in a good way ..."

There was a `but' coming, Rachel could tell, and she couldn't quite keep the disappointment off her face. She thought Derek was going to just brush the previous evening away. Now perception was one of the psychic's strong points, not that he always acted on it, but her momentary expression stopped his speech. The fact that Rachel would not feel nervous of the encounter any more had not crossed Derek's mind, now it did.

The woman had had all night to think about the consequences of the previous night, and she had more than come round to the idea. Every kind of scenario had travelled through her head, something like this being one of them, but secretly she had hoped that something might come of it. They had not really addressed the concept of more than a superficial physical relationship, it had just been quietly ignored. Now that was no longer possible.

"Nothing is influencing me to do anything," Rachel had no idea she was going to say it until the phrase came out of her mouth, then she had no choice but to continue, "it's just reminding me that I'm a woman."

Derek actually looked slightly stunned and rather pleased. He'd never been what could be termed sexually repressed, but with Rachel he hadn't wanted to pressure her into anything. Grief had brought them together and they had developed a loving, comfortable relationship. It looked as if it was about to become a little more.

"A very beautiful woman," he said quietly.

Rachel reached out her hand with a half smile.

"Let's go to my room," she responded calmly.

End of Part 16

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