Home > Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #7)

Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #7)
Author: Annette Marie

Chapter One

Druids and witches are not the same thing.

I mean, I knew that already, but seeing the differences firsthand was a whole new experience.

“So, uh,” I began, eyebrows arched, “are you sure this is … strictly necessary?”

Kaveri looked up, her long brown hair swinging over one shoulder. Balancing a bag of dark soil on her palm, she frowned. “Of course. Is something the matter?”

“It’s just … the first time I did this, it was different.”

She straightened, and several feet away, Delta also turned toward me, holding a bundle of fresh-cut flowers. The two witches gave me looks that were part “then your first time was wrong” and part “are you serious right now?”

With a deep chuckle, Philip walked past the two witches. He carried a large tree branch, dead leaves still clinging to it. “I’m guessing your previous experience involved a druid?”

Kaveri and Delta pulled faces as though he’d uttered a nasty swear word.

I made a face back at them. Was there any point in denying it? Considering my entire guild thought I’d had relations with a notorious rogue druid, it wasn’t exactly a secret.

“Yep,” I declared unapologetically. “And it was a snap, gotta say.”

Delta sniffed. “And probably a weak bond.”

Kaveri glanced away, a faint flush tinting her warm tawny skin. She’d never admit it, but she totally had the mythic version of a bad-boy crush on said druid.

“Unfortunately,” Philip said, “we only know one way to join a witch and her fae familiar. It’s slower, but equally effective.”

“I wasn’t complaining,” I clarified. Okay, maybe a little bit of complaining. “Just … you know, making sure I understand.”

Not that I understood anything about the weird nature circle the three witches were setting up around me.

Philip had chosen a cluster of trees in a park only a few blocks from the Crow and Hammer for the fae-familiar ritual. It was a nice spot, sheltered from passersby, and I could almost forget we were in Vancouver’s disreputable Downtown Eastside. The mood was only a little ruined by the fact that, three months ago in this same park, I’d participated in a five-way confrontation between a team of demon hunters, a demon mage, an unbound demon, and a contracted demon, plus me, Aaron, and Kai.

There’d been a lot of demons.

But the witches didn’t know about that incident, and I had no plans to mention it.

I hitched a pleasant smile onto my face as Philip, Delta, and Kaveri bustled around me, setting up their fancy dirt circle with leaves, flowers, dried herbs, seeds, a dish of water, and a wax candle. Philip used his stick to scratch incomprehensible markings in the hard-packed earth. Considering I was supposed to be a witch—according to my mythic registration paperwork, at least—I should probably know more about the Spiritalis class and their unique magic.

While they worked, I curled my arms around the warm critter in my lap. Hoshi watched the witches with curious fuchsia eyes, her long silver tail looping behind me. Her spiny, insect-like wings were tucked against her back, but her long antennae bobbed in my face, the crystalline tips glowing faintly.

She perked up when the three witches took positions around the circle and began a songlike chant. The sylph weaved her head side to side as she listened, huge eyes blinking.

Repairing my bond with Hoshi was high on my to-do list, but as the chant went on, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from wandering. Fresh in my mind were too many traumas, the memories crowding each other as they fought for my attention.

A week ago, Kai and I sneaking onto a plane and flying south to Los Angeles. Breaking into an MPD precinct to rescue Zak and destroying the building on our way out.

That night, Zak and I returning to the ruins of his farm. Grieving together over what he’d lost. His hatred-fueled need for revenge.

Had it only been three days since we’d planned our attack on Varvara Nikolaev, her rogues, and her inexplicably powerful golems? Only three days since Zak had betrayed me, Ezra had lost control, and I’d destroyed all my magic to save him?


I jolted. Philip was crouched beside me, a narrow stick of charcoal in his hand.

“Where would you like the familiar mark?” he asked.

Untangling my arms from Hoshi, I unzipped my leather jacket and shrugged it off. The late January cold bit into my skin as I rolled up the sleeve of my thin sweater. I wanted it in the same spot as last time.

Philip held my upper arm steady as he began to draw. I twisted my mouth at the scratchy tip of the charcoal, thinking wistfully of Zak’s pragmatic eyeliner pencil. That probably wasn’t natural enough for a witch.

It took the witch a few minutes longer to complete the complex design, but he didn’t need a reference for it, which impressed me. He lowered the charcoal and surveyed his work.

“Excellent,” he said. “Now, we begin the formal ritual of exchange, where I’ll invite the fae to—”

Hoshi stretched out her neck and bumped her nose against the mark on my arm. Heat flashed through my body—followed by a wave of swirling color in my mind.

“Hoshi!” I gushed delightedly, sweeping her into a squirmy hug. A rainbow of pink assaulted my mind’s eye as she buried her face in my chest, tail flicking.

“Or we can skip that part,” Philip said drily. “You have a strong bond with your familiar without any magic at all, Tori.”

“Probably because she’s my friend,” I said, giving the sylph one more squeeze. “Are we done?”

“I guess so.”

As I pushed to my feet, I glanced across at the elaborate nature circle, then at my arm. I almost asked if we really couldn’t have skipped to the familiar mark part, but instead, I grinned at the witches.

“Thanks for your help. I’m so glad to have Hoshi back.”

They smiled happily, and Delta even looked misty-eyed over the sylph’s dizzying dance, her serpentine body undulating excitedly as she circled me. Her language of color was pinging in my head so fast I couldn’t follow, but I wasn’t worried about that. We had lots of time to catch up.

As Philip and Delta tidied the circle, Kaveri wandered over to me. She watched Hoshi settle behind my back, her paws on my shoulders.

“Thanks again, Kaveri,” I said more quietly. “I really appreciate it.”

She nodded. “It wouldn’t have worked, you know.”


She pointed at my bare arm, the charcoal lines dark against my pale skin. “If Philip had drawn that without the ritual, it wouldn’t have worked. Don’t you remember what I told you?”

“Uh … which thing that you told me?”

“About witches versus druids. Druids can manipulate natural energies directly, but witches can’t do that. We need the ritual.”

“Oh.” Right. No need to admit I barely recalled that conversation. The arrival of the actual druid we’d been discussing had distracted me immediately afterward.

“I would’ve liked to see the Crystal Druid perform a familiar ritual without … the ritual. It would’ve been interesting to witness.” She gave me a sidelong look. “I don’t suppose he’ll be back to visit you?”

A heavy weight settled over me, pressing on my lungs. “No. He’s long gone.”

“But aren’t you two frien—”

“No.” The word came out harsh and clipped. “We were never friends.”

She glanced down at her feet. “Sorry.”

Hoshi nudged the back of my neck. Shaking myself, I stooped to grab my jacket and pulled it on. Beneath the black markings on my arm would be a faintly glowing replica of the design that would fade in a few days. Kind of a shame, as the pinkish blue magic looked pretty damn cool.

As I zipped up my jacket, Philip slung his duffle bag of witchy supplies over his shoulder. “Shall we head back?”

I nodded, and Hoshi spun a final circle around me before fading from sight. The three witches glanced up to watch her fly away—or that’s what I assumed was going on. They could see the sylph when she shifted into the fae demesne, but my lame human eyes couldn’t detect shit.

Oh well. Having glimpsed the secret fae world, I was cool with nice, predictable human reality.

As we followed a quiet street back toward the guild, I let the witches draw ahead of me. My thoughts were wandering again, rushing forward to what came next—to the impossible task I had to accomplish and the obstacles piling up in my path. I’d fought mages, sorcerers, witches, fae, and demons, but my new enemy was undefeatable and unstoppable: time.

When you wanted it to hurry up, it slowed to a crawl. When you desperately needed more, it rushed ahead. Time was such an asshole.

As the cube-shaped guild came into view, a gray SUV rolled through the intersection and slowed, its signal flashing. It turned into the parking lot.

“I’m going around the back,” I told the witches. “See you inside.”

Waving, Kaveri followed Philip and Delta to the front door. I veered toward the sidewalk, and as I entered the lot, the SUV door slammed shut.

Not realizing he had an audience, Aaron stood with his shoulders hunched, keys clutched in his hand. The sight of the pyromage alone, when just a week ago it had been rare to see him without one or both of his best friends at his side, made me ache.

At the crunch of gravel under my shoes, he glanced up. His shoulders went back and he flashed a grin—but it didn’t reach his dull blue eyes.

“Hey,” I said. “You’re here early.”

“So are you.” He reached out, and I stepped into his arms. He hugged me tight. “How’d the familiar reunion go?”

“All done!” I said brightly, arms around his broad shoulders. Our sentimental hug wasn’t strictly necessary—it’d been less than a day since we’d seen each other—but we both needed it. “Hoshi and I can talk again.”


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