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I woke up in Valor’s arms. He could have carried me over to the bed at some point in the night and I wouldn’t have known. I was dead to the world. Instead, he’d held me through the night. I thought it was pretty romantic.
“Helped keep me awake during my watch,” he explained before he collapsed in my bed.
As I watched him stretched out on my quilt, I came to the realization that in-Valor’s-arms was where I wanted to be…as in always.
Sadly, the guys had to go back in their crates early in the morning while the sun was still shining into the garage. Greg had told me he wanted my mother to check the statues when she got home so they had to be in the boxes and ready to be checked. My mom was arriving in Denver on a noon flight and would be home before two.
None of them were keen to change into their old clothing and return to their stone forms but Valor was especially reluctant. I could tell he was worried about harpies and hated leaving me without protection.
“My mother will be here,” I pointed out. “As well as Hooligan. And as soon as she leaves on Thursday morning, I’ll come downstairs, open the garage and let you out.”
He was the last one to go into his crate, helping me to close up the rest of the boxes first. Before he stepped into his wooden packing container, he knelt in front of Hooli and held his furry face between his hands. “Take care of MacKenzie, Hooligan.”
Hooligan gave a soft bark like he understood. It should have helped Valor’s mood but he still seemed tense as he stepped into his crate and helped me attach the bottom panel. I’d hoped he might kiss me goodbye but he eyed the open garage doors with a resigned look. I could tell he didn’t want to kiss me in case a harpy was out there, watching. “Don’t let anything happen to you, Kenz. You’re too important to me.”
I hated to see him so worried. “Everything will be fine,” I reassured him.
“Take care of yourself,” he commanded as he crossed his arms over his chest and assumed his original scowling pose.
I tacked the top panel into place and sighed as I returned the hammer to the tool chest. Before I went back in the house, I started my car and parked it in the driveway so my mother could pull her Subaru into the garage.
Inside the house, I whipped through the rooms and checked to make sure there was no sign of gargoyle invasion. The guys had straightened their rooms and stashed their bows under their beds. Their old clothes were buried in the bottoms of drawers and my dad’s tools were back in the garage. I rounded up their notebooks and readers and stacked them at the back of my bedroom closet.
I was ready for my mom when she pulled up the driveway a few hours later. I met her in the garage. “You bring me anything?” I teased.
She knew I was kidding. She’d decided when my brother and I were young that she wouldn’t start bringing gifts home when she traveled because she traveled so often and she didn’t want the house filled with knickknacks that would require dusting. My mother isn’t big on housecleaning.
“Just a hug,” she answered as she pulled me into a big squeeze. “What have you been doing? I want to hear all the news and gossip from school.”
In the kitchen, she fixed a pot of tea for us while I sank down on a barstool and brought her up to date. My mom believes in keeping up with what’s going on. And since my grades are seldom an issue, she keeps track of who’s going out with who.
“What about Whitney?” she asked. “Is she still seeing Michael?”
I shook my head. “She only went out with him once.”
“Mim?” she asked hopefully as she handed me a cup of steaming tea.
I almost shook my head again then changed my mind. “I think she’s met someone who likes her. His name is Dare Greystone.”
“Sounds cute,” she said. “What about you?”
“Me?” I asked, almost choking on my tea. “What about me?”
“You look different,” she mentioned after taking a sip from her cup.
“What do you mean?”
She tilted her head and pursed her lips shrewdly. “You look happy. In fact, you almost look like you’re glowing. You haven’t…found a boyfriend, have you?”
My mom is such a ridiculous romantic you wouldn’t believe it. She’s always reminding me how Romeo and Juliet were only fifteen years old. I like to point out that Romeo thought he was in love with Rosaline approximately two minutes before he met Juliet.
“Actually, I have met someone,” I admitted, and sat a little straighter on the barstool.
All excited, she sat down on the stool beside me. “Is it someone from school?”
“Nooo,” I answered.
“Someone from Platte Valley?” she asked, meaning the high school closest to Pine Grove.
“No,” I responded. “He doesn’t go to school.”
She frowned slightly but the twinkle in her eye was still there. “How old is this guy?”
“About eighteen,” I told her.
“About eighteen?” she exclaimed. “Don’t you know?”
“He’s eighteen,” I improvised quickly.
“An older guy, huh? But he doesn’t go to school.” True to character, she skipped the dropout issue and went right to, “Is he going to college?”
“No,” I answered and realized my mystery boyfriend must not sound like much of a prize, even to my mother.
“Does he have a job?”
“Kind of. He’s done a lot of hunting and he thinks he can make a living selling handmade bows.”
Mom considered that for a few seconds before saying, “Well, that’s not so bad.”
Like I said, my mom is a hopeless romantic.
“What does he look like?” she asked enthusiastically.
I leaned toward her and hoped the gargoyles couldn’t hear me from their crates in the garage. “He’s pretty cute,” I admitted, thinking that was the understatement of the year.
“As cute as this Dare Greystone who likes Mim?”
“They’re brothers,” I told her in a conspiratorial whisper. “His name’s Valor.”
“Dare and Valor,” she murmured thoughtfully as she slipped from the barstool and stepped behind the kitchen counter. “Unusual names.”
I decided I’d better hold off telling her about Havoc and the rest of Valor’s family.
“They’re actually Trevor’s friends,” I mentioned, thinking my lies to Mim should probably match my lies to my mother, in case they ran into each other.
Her head disappeared below the counter as she rummaged through the cupboards. “Your cousin Trevor…from England?”
“Yes. That’s how I met them. Trevor gave them my contact information and they…looked me up when they got here.”
“How does spaghetti sound?” she asked as she pulled a can of tomato paste from below the counter.
“Sounds good to me.”
“So they’re British,” she mused. She took a can opener from the drawer next to the fridge. “How long have they been here?”
“Not too long,” I answered then realized there probably wasn’t much bow hunting in England. This lying business was complicated. “But long enough to have done some bow hunting.”
Mom started some spaghetti sauce for dinner and we left it on the stove while we went out to the garage to open the crates. Evidently, Greg wanted her to report back to him as soon as possible. Together, we opened one side of each tall, wooden box.
“Wow,” she said, clearly awed as she gazed at Havoc in the last crate.
“What kind of stone do you think they’re made of?” I asked her, remembering my initial curiosity about the flint-like material.
“It looks like chalcedony, but…”
“It’s unusual to see a chunk this big, let alone several chunks this big.”
I hadn’t realized that.
“The detail is incredible. They’re so lifelike and each of them has so much personality.”
“Do you think so?” I asked.
She nodded as she looked at Havoc. “This one is the character of the group, the one most likely to get into trouble.” She stepped over to the box that held Defiance. “This is the bad boy.”
“Bad boy?” I questioned as I tilted my head and considered Defiance. Now that I thought about it, he was kind of aloof and even…aristocratic.
“This is the strong one. The decision maker,” she declared, correctly picking out Victor. “He has a quiet look of command in his eyes.”
Knowing Victor could see me, I grinned at him.
“This one has no wings so that makes him the fallen angel,” she announced when she reached Dare’s crate. “He understands suffering and that makes him sensitive toward others.”
“What about the last one?” I asked swiftly, not wanting her to dwell on Dare’s suffering.
She walked over to Valor’s crate and shook her head. “This one looks like he’s carrying a world of worry on his shoulders.”
I felt a stab of guilt. I couldn’t help but feel responsible for the dark look of concern in Valor’s eyes.
“These sculptures are really beautiful,” my mom said. “I wish…”
“What?” I asked.
“I wish we could take them inside and just…enjoy them.”
I nodded. That would be a good idea since we could place the gargoyles in front of the windows and then they’d be able to wake up right away if anything happened…well, as long as it happened in the daytime. On the other hand, they might be safer in the garage. I didn’t want a harpy breaking through our windows and grabbing one of the guys. “Greg would probably prefer they were in the garage,” I said. “Locked up where nobody can see them.”
“Nobody will see them in the house,” she argued and looked at me like she couldn’t understand what I was thinking. She had a point. The house is a long way from the road. But she was thinking about our neighbors. I was worried about harpies.
“Which one is your favorite?” I asked.
“This one,” she answered, and stepped over to Dare’s crate. “I think he’s the most beautiful.”
“Really?” I’d expected her to pick Victor but I guess the golden gargoyle looked better in living color than he did in gray stone.
“It’s close,” she admitted. “They’re all fabulous. But it’s between this one and the one who looks like his brother.” She pointed to the statue of Valor.
I had to smile. My mother’s pretty observant.
We went back inside and I gave the spaghetti sauce a stir while Mom called Greg. When she asked if we could bring one of the statues into the house, he insisted we leave them crated up in their boxes. He explained the crates were marked so that he’d know which sculpture was in which crate.
I asked her to find out if he’d shipped out anything else since yesterday but he said he was going to do that on Monday.
While mom was home for the next four days, we did some after-school shopping and saw a couple of movies at one of the theatres on the west side of Denver. It was great to have my mother home but I missed the guys. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken them to a theatre yet. And when we ate out at our favorite restaurant, I wondered how they’d like Chinese food.
Most of all, I missed Valor’s presence in my room at night. Hooli seemed to miss him too. He laid his big head on my French provincial chair and sighed while a mournful sound whined in his chest. “Never mind,” I told Hooligan. “He’ll be back soon.”
I got up early on Thursday to see my mother off. The cold pinched at my nose and I could see my breath as I stood at the edge of the garage and waved goodbye. Winter was definitely coming. As soon as the red Subaru disappeared around the bend in the driveway, I raced for the tool chest and grabbed the hammer.
I was wearing a bright, electric blue top I’d picked up on a recent shopping trip with my mother. Blue looked good on me and I wore it often, but I’d chosen this particular top because the intense color matched Valor’s eyes. The neckline was a bit low but Mom didn’t think I was “giving everything away”, as she put it. In fact, she insisted on paying for it.
I opened Valor’s box first and actually got a big, long hug as he swept me off my feet and swung me around a few times. It was definitely a Hallmark moment even though I didn’t get the kiss I was hoping for. At the end of all the swinging, he stood me up and held me away from his body as his gaze dropped to my new top then back to my face.
“You look amazing,” he murmured. “And…and…”
“Jolly awesome?” I helped him out.
“Jolly awesome,” he confirmed with a breathless laugh as he glanced down at my top again. “That color totally suits you.”
“I totally does,” I agreed, meaning the color of his eyes and not my new top. “Let’s open the rest of the crates. I have some places I want to take you guys.”
That night we all went out for Chinese food and a movie.
A week after my mother left, we still hadn’t heard anything from the step-person. Every day, I expected Greg to call and chew me out for sending the wrong crate. I’d planned to tell him that I’d shipped the right box and he must have made a mistake when he marked them. But the call from my stepfather never came. The crates with the last three gargoyles never came either, and the pack was getting edgy.
‘Course, the constant snarl of the chainsaw next door didn’t help anybody’s mood.
On my invitation, Whitney and Mim were spending more time at my place and the gargoyles seemed to appreciate the company as well as the distraction. When the girls asked about Reason, Victor told them his brother had returned to England for the time being.
While we were waiting to hear about our missing gargoyles, Havoc got on a Parcheesi jag. The game had been crazy popular in England about a hundred years ago, and Havoc had been dying to play it for almost as long. So we looked around on the Internet and found a used game for two dollars plus shipping.
Most of the time, the gargoyles played for money. But when Mim and Whitney were around, they played for what they called a friendly kiss. Havoc usually won but Defiance could be strong competition when the girls were in the game. Havoc didn’t show any favoritism when it came to kissing girls, but Defiance always insisted on a kiss from Whitney. And his kisses were a lot friendlier than Havoc’s, if you know what I mean
Dare didn’t normally play. I don’t think he liked to watch Havoc kiss Mim. But one afternoon, he joined us in a game and seemed determined to reach the finish line first. That day, Mim got off to a good start and won for the first time ever. ‘Course I kept running interference for her to make sure she won. I’m not sure, but I think Havoc was helping too.
Mim turned an endearing shade of pink when she asked for her prize—a kiss from Dare. The severely handsome gargoyle seemed startled but pleased. The kiss only lasted like a second, but afterward Dare had a faraway look in his eyes. Like he wanted be alone with Mim somewhere far away.
Okay. Maybe that sounds overly optimistic but you had to be there.
By that time, I was mixing a tablespoon of venom with my water every morning and Valor seemed more at ease around me. The gargoyles had finished their first set of bows and I’d opened a website for them with links to the site where their bows were listed for sale. We received a few inquires and read the emails together as part of our daily lessons.
Gradually, the guys gravitated away from the television and spent more time on the computer. They knew how to navigate to their website and print out emails. They also spent hours viewing satellite maps of the UK and looking for familiar landmarks that would help them find the treasure hoards they’d known about eight hundred years earlier.
But despite all of our attempts to keep occupied, we were starting to get frantic with worry. Thirteen days had gone by since we’d shipped Reason to Texas, which was more than enough time for him to get to the lone star state, even if he took the scenic route and stopped at every outlet mall along the way.
On Friday afternoon, I decided to call Greg before it got too late in England. He’d think it was weird for me to call him, but I couldn’t see any other solution. ‘Course Mom and I had opened the crates together so at least I could reasonably express an interest in the sculptures.
The pack gathered around me in the kitchen as I punched the long distance number into the telephone keypad.
“Hi, Greg,” I said when he answered the phone. “It’s MacKenzie.”
“What’s wrong?” he demanded, probably worried about his appropriated property.
“Nothing,” I answered. “We’re just…I’m just wondering what happened to the last three crates you said you were going to send.”
“They’re not there yet?” he barked. He seemed distracted, like the crates weren’t his main concern anymore. I was surprised by the change in his attitude.
“No,” I answered, fighting to hide the alarm in my voice. “Did you send them? When did you send them? Do you have a tracking number?”
After a slight pause and the sound of rustling paper, he read off the number.
“I’m kinda surprised you didn’t check with me to make sure I’d be home to accept the delivery,” I ventured tentatively.
“I’ve been busy,” he muttered without offering any details. “The shipper probably tried to deliver the crates when you weren’t home. I’ll check into it on my end.”
I planned to follow up as well but first I had to ask about Reason. “Mom and I opened some of your boxes while she was here. The statues are really nice. How did the Texas millionaire like the one you sent him?”
“No idea,” he grunted. “I haven’t heard from him.”
“Oh,” I murmured. Greg wasn’t giving me much help. “When do you think you’ll hear back?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe never. The guy’s a millionaire. For all I know, he hasn’t even opened the box. It could be sitting in his airplane hanger next to his Rolls Royce and his sealed collection of Van Goghs.”
Ugh. That wasn’t exactly good news. “Has he paid you the rest of the money?” I asked. I realized my question would sound strange to Greg but I wanted to find out if Reason had arrived in Texas.
“No,” he snapped, like it was none of my business. “But I expect to receive the payment soon.”
“Well, let me know if you hear anything,” I pressed. “I’d…be interested.”
As soon as I hung up, I told the gargoyles what I’d learned and headed for the computer in the family room where I checked the status of the shipment from England. Unfortunately, it appeared to have left St. Louis five days earlier but hadn’t arrived at its next destination. I called the shipping company and they said they’d check into it and get back to me within twenty-four hours.
“Twenty-four hours.” Defiance repeated the words flatly while an unhappy frown creased his high forehead. I could tell he was worried about his brothers.
Havoc slid his gaze in my direction. “Maybe MacKenzie could try to help us find them.”
At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I caught on. Amazed, I turned my head slowly and stared at Havoc. He was suggesting I might be able to find his missing cousins because I was a witch.
Yeah, right, I thought. Good luck with that.
“What do you think?” Havoc asked me while carefully eyeing Valor.
I watched Valor too. The last time we talked about me being a witch, he was dead against the idea.
“It’s up to MacKenzie,” Valor answered as if he’d rather not get involved.
Victor gave Valor a considering look then moved his gaze to me. “Would you mind giving it a try, MacKenzie?”
I shrugged. “Just don’t get your hopes up,” I warned him.
They sat me down at the dining room table.
“First you need some glass,” Defiance stated.
“Or a bowl of water,” Havoc added.
“Glass works better,” Defiance immediately argued.
There didn’t seem to be much agreement on how the scrying should be done. It seemed as if each of the gargoyles had his opinion on how the procedure should be performed. In the end, I tried everything. We found some glass in the garage that had fallen out of a double-paned window. I tried the glass and water and mirrors but nothing worked. I even tried laying the piece of glass over a map on the table and hanging a needle above it on a long piece of thread.
I saw that in a movie a few years ago. It worked spectacularly in the film.
“You have to believe in your power,” Defiance lectured as he braced his hands on the table and scowled down on me.
“And you have to want the magic to work,” Victor said.
“I do want the magic to work,” I insisted since I couldn’t claim I believed in my power. “I want to find your cousins so you guys can quit worrying about them.”
“You need to want it more than that. You have to want it…for strong personal reasons,” insisted Defiance.
“For emotional reasons,” Havoc added.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. My shoulders slumped. I felt like I was letting them down. “Maybe if I had met your cousins, it would make a difference. I’m sure I could find one of you guys if you were missing.”
“I’m sure you could,” Dare replied encouragingly. He looked at his brother sitting at the other end of the table as if to say, “Can we get some help, here?”
“Why don’t you take a break?” Valor suggested when he noticed Dare’s pointed look. “You’ve been at it for more than two hours.”
“I guess you were right about me,” I muttered in a low voice as I lifted my eyes and looked at him. “I’m not much of a witch.”
Dare’s mouth tightened into a flat line and he gave his brother a blunt stare. He was probably thinking I’d never be able to ”access my powers” as long as I believed Valor didn’t want me to.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I told Dare. “But you’re wrong. Valor isn’t stopping me from finding the rest of the pack. I just don’t have the ability. Maybe the power of red hair has died over the centuries. Or maybe…”
“What?” he demanded with an edge of impatience that was unusual for him. “Maybe there never were any witches? Maybe a witch didn’t scry my location and give it to that harpy who kept me prisoner all those years?”
“She didn’t say that,” Valor murmured, defending me as he rose to his feet. “Come,” he said, and offered me his hand.
I was surprised when he didn’t let got of my hand as we stepped through the front door. It was just starting to get dark and maybe he thought we were safe from the sight of any harpies that might be hanging around. He took me out to the edge of our property line and picked out the widest tree that faced the tree-slayer’s house. Blocker’s lights were on which meant he was probably at home.
“Lean back against the tree,” he told me. “And put your hands behind you so they’re touching the bark.”
I did as he instructed. “What’s the plan?”
“You’re going to cast a spell,” he informed me.
I looked at Blocker’s house and figured the spell I was going to cast had something to do with my neighbor. “Is that why I’m leaning against this tree? Because wood is necessary to make magic?”
He nodded. “Live trees are best and oaks are the strongest source of power. But this pine should work for a simple spell like this one.”
“What if there isn’t a live tree available?” I asked, trying to be a good student.
“Leaves will work for small spells. Even dried leaves. Pieces of wood can be used if you have nothing else.”
“Like a piece of wooden furniture?” I queried as I leaned against the tree and waited for his next command. “Like the dining room table?”
“Exactly like the dining room table. But a clever witch will keep a piece of wood with her at all times.”
“Like a wand?” I suggested eagerly. I liked the idea of a wand. Wands are cool.
“A staff would be better.”
He chuckled. “Because there’s more wood in it.”
My mouth tilted wryly. I guess I should have been able to figure that out. Now that I gave it some thought, I decided a staff might be just as nice as a wand. And it could pass for a walking stick.
Valor propped his shoulder against the side of the tree. “Now focus on the house and cast your spell.”
I sent him a blank stare. “What spell would that be?”
“Do I have to do all the work?” he sighed, although his eyes glinted with amusement. “What spell would you like to cast, MacKenzie? What do you want for strong personal reasons? For emotional reasons?”
I decided a kissing spell would be very nice but I didn’t say so. “I’d like my neighbor to stop cutting trees,” I admitted. “How do I do that?”
“Be careful not to make the spell too vague. If you only wish for your neighbor to stop cutting trees, he might have a heart attack.” He sent me a sly look “I know you wouldn’t want that.”
“No,” I snickered. “I wouldn’t want that.”
Valor waved his heavily knuckled hand toward the house. “Just suggest that he change his mind about the trees.”
I fixed my gaze on the neighbor’s house though my attention kept wandering to the gargoyle standing so close to me. “Do I have to say the spell out loud or can I do this in my head?”
He leaned in front of me and rested his hand on the tree beside my face. As I gazed into his thickly lashed eyes, I noticed his lips were mere inches from mine. “Something tells me you aren’t taking this seriously,” he murmured with a stern smile.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. I tamped down a rebellious giggle while my eyes locked on the firm, hard line of lips.
“You have to believe in your power if you want this to work,” he lectured gently.
If that was true, then there wasn’t much hope for this spell ever getting off the ground.
“I believe in you,” he added quietly. “I believe in your power.”
“You do?” I asked softly, wondering if that meant he was finally ready to accept me for what I was…and what I might be. Even though I still thought the whole witch business was silly, it was nice to know Valor’s feelings for me were strong enough to overcome his eight-hundred-year-old prejudices.
“Aye,” he answered. “You’re probably the most powerful witch I’ve ever known.”
Feeling suddenly shy, I twisted a wild strand of my hair around my finger. “Because my hair’s so red?”
“No,” he answered. “Because only very strong magic could have changed me to my living form without the sun’s help.”
I realized he was talking about when the tool chest fell on me. “You really think I did that?”
He held my gaze and nodded.
“Are you sure?” I argued stubbornly. “Have you tried to make the change since then? Without the sun’s help?”
He watched my eyes and lifted his chin. “I tried every day when your mother was home and we were stuck in our packing boxes. We all tried. When I told the others what happened on the morning I met you, Victor thought maybe our powers might have increased during the eight hundred years we were dormant. Defiance suggested maybe the Colorado sunshine was stronger than the sun in England. Before your mother got home, we even checked the roof of the garage for cracks to make sure a stray ray of sunlight hadn’t reached me.”
“So you’re convinced I spelled you out of your stone form?”
He nodded seriously. “I am. Now, do you want to stop your neighbor or not?”
I took a deep breath, determined to do my best. “I want to stop him,” I answered firmly. Which was true. I did want to stop my neighbor…almost as much as I wanted Valor to kiss me, which hadn’t happened in a long time.
His face moved closer and his head tilted. I felt his warm breath wash against my mouth. I closed my eyes. As I’ve said before, sometimes you just have to plan for the best.
“Then open your eyes,” he commanded. “And cast your spell.”
When I peeked out from beneath my lashes, Valor was leaning his shoulder against the tree again, as if he hadn’t just almost kissed me and had no intention of ever doing such a thing. Disappointed, I banished him from my mind and concentrated on the house that sat about a hundred feet away.
“Oh,” he added suddenly. “I guess I should mention it’s best if your spell rhymes.”
“You’re not serious!” I exploded in a loud whisper.
He shrugged. “All the spells I ever heard rhymed.”
“Then why don’t you just give me one of those spells?” I demanded.
“Because they aren’t in English. They’re in the old Celtic tongue. And if you don’t understand them, they won’t work.”
I pushed out a sigh and took a moment to make up a rhyming spell, not entirely convinced that he wasn’t just winding me up. “At this time, change your mind,” I commanded beneath my breath. I felt like a complete idiot, standing in the dark while chanting bad poetry. “You don’t want to cut another tree. You didn’t realize how hard it would be. It was a bad idea anyhow. Change your mind and stop right now.”
Valor looked like he was trying very hard not to laugh. “Well,” he said in a strained voice. “That’s…not bad. I’m sure it will get easier with time.”
“Do you think it will work?” I asked sourly.
“I have complete faith in you,” he insisted. His eyes sparkled with humor as he took my hand again and pulled me back toward the house. The laughter in his blue gaze was almost enough to melt my bones.
|Art : an a-z guide a dictionary of terms and concepts related to art history and art techniques, including artists and schools of art. 745. 6 Harris, David. The art of calligraphy||Cover art: The latest projects from Diamond Select Toys and dc comics|
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|The following pages. Cover designed by Jack Gaughan first printing, march 1980 123456789 daw trademark registered printed in canada cover printed in u. S. A||A cknowledgements By Donald Chávez y Gilbert|