Black Heart Page 30

“I’m sensing a big ‘but’ here,” I said, growing angry.

“But all magic leaves a trace. And that trace of my magic left in you may be enough to keep you from harming me should the day ever come when you should wish to do such a thing.”

“That day is now,” I growled. “I’m not some toy for you—or Lucifer—to play with.”

“I only meant to help,” Puck said. I could not see his eyes because of the veil, but I was sure they were twinkling.

He may have intended to help, but he couldn’t resist the chance to help himself, as well.

“Next time you feel the urge to aid me, resist,” I said. “I don’t need any more assistance from you.”

“If you say so,” Puck said.

“I do,” I said, and stomped away with much more energy than I’d had before Puck’s boost.

7

BECAUSE I WAS ANGRY, AND MY ANGER OFTEN MADE me blind and deaf to everything around me, I blundered over the crest of a hill and nearly walked into a troop of patrolling Cimice.

I skidded to a stop, the loose gravel shifting beneath my boots. The lead insect called a halt just a few feet away, its mantislike head twisting this way and that. I stayed perfectly still, pulling my veil tighter around me, and hoped the Cimice would not be able to sniff me out. My veil would never have fooled a werewolf, but I knew nothing about an insect’s ability to smell. I had no idea where Puck was, but presumably he had more sense than I did and hadn’t practically walked into the Cimice’s arms.

After a few long and tense minutes in which the little band of six crawled all over the immediate area looking for signs of intruders, they finally decided to continue on their way.

I exhaled the breath I’d been holding and waited for Puck to reveal himself. His voice at my ear almost startled a little scream out of me, but I swallowed it. I did not want to draw the Cimice back to me.

“We must proceed with caution from here,” he said. “No more temper tantrums.”

I wanted to say that a temper tantrum implied my anger was unjustified, and that was definitely not the case. I wanted to say that I would not have been angry at all were it not for his behavior. But I did neither of those things. I did not feel like being drawn any further into Puck’s logic. Plus, even when I was right, I always had the vague sense that I was losing when I argued with him.

That happened a lot with Lucifer, too.

We continued in silence for a while, passing two more small Cimice patrols. The cicada-like buzzing had started up again, but this time I was able to block out the noise by concentrating on my will and my magic.

We went farther into the mountain, surrounded by rock and the noise of the Cimice. Every so often Puck would put his hand on my shoulder so I would know he was still present. And then, suddenly, we were there.

It looked like a hive because it was a hive. There was a great gash torn in the mountain, and from it the Cimice spilled forth. The giant insects crawled all over the side of the mountain.

We drew off behind a series of large rocks and dropped the veil so we could counsel.

I wasn’t sure what the Cimice were doing, but the place hummed with activity. All of the creatures moved with a purpose in and out of the cave. I could see the problem immediately.

“How do we kill them all?” I murmured.

According to the fae, the Cimice bred like city rats. One or two breeding pairs could replace the whole population within a few months. So the only way to do the job thoroughly was to make sure every last Cimice was eliminated. But how could I possibly do that?

“How did you kill all the vampires?” Puck asked.

“The vampires had all taken Azazel’s serum in order to walk in daylight. Azazel had infused the serum with his magic, and his magic was also in me, since I was his daughter. So I called the vampires to me using that link, and once the magic was activated and we were bound, I sent a spell of destruction out through them.”

“Blood,” Puck said. “So mundane and yet so powerful. I suppose that does mean that you are, in fact, Azazel’s daughter and not Lucifer’s.”

“Off topic,” I said. “We already covered that. So how do I make sure to get all of the Cimice?”

“You’ve already presented the answer,” Puck said.

“Blood?” I asked. “How will that work? I don’t have the blood of the Cimice inside me.”

“So crude,” Puck chided. “You just need some of the Cimice’s blood to direct the spell. Since only a few of the creatures settled here, all of the subsequent generations will share genes from the first group.”

“So I just need to catch one of them, take its blood, and then use the blood to push the spell through?” I asked skeptically. “I’m not sure about that. I don’t know if I can do that kind of magic. All of the spells I’ve used thus far have been internally motivated—you know what I mean?”

“Just because you have not done something like this before does not mean you cannot,” Puck said. “Madeline, now that you have fully opened yourself to Lucifer’s legacy, you have a vast, untapped store of power. You have not even begun to plumb the depths of that power.”

“If you say so,” I said.

It was extremely scary to think that I was sitting on a massive well of power. What if I lost control? I could go off like a nuclear bomb. More than once I’d suspected that I’d barely skimmed the surface of my magic, but I didn’t like to think that I had unlimited abilities sitting at my fingertips. That would make me like Lucifer, and I did not want to be like Lucifer.

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