WHEN CONNOR WALKED IN, SHE FLOATED A FEATHER. Not in the graceful dance Branna demonstrated, but it floated.
He sent her a wink, then, twirling a finger, had the feather spinning up to tickle her under the chin.
“Show-off,” she said, but laughed, and did a twirl of her own. “I’m in witch kindergarten. I’ve made flame, moved water, floated the feather, and I did that.”
She gestured toward the white flowerpot, and the pretty painted daisy blooming in it.
“That’s well done.” Impressed, he walked to the worktable.
“I did that,” she corrected, showing him the little seedling beside the bloom. “Branna did the flower.”
“Still well done. It’s quite the day you’ve had, cousin.” He draped an arm around her shoulders for a quick hug. “And I’m here to collect on my pint. School’s out, don’t you think, Branna? It’s half-six, and I’m next to starving.”
“The magick’s in his heart, but our Connor thinks with his belly. Or what’s just below it.”
“And shamed I am of neither. Let’s go to the pub. Iona buys my pint, I buy the meal. That’s a good deal on any table.”
“Why not?” Branna decided. “We’ve things to talk about, and I could do with a pint and some food while we’re doing it.”
She pulled the clips from her hair, shook it, and had Iona sighing with envy. “Come on, Kathel. I’ll be five minutes,” she said.
“She’ll be twenty,” Connor corrected. “We’ll meet you there,” he called out, and reached for Iona’s hand.
“I don’t mind waiting.”
“She’s going to decide to change her clothes, then having done that, to fuss with her face. I could have my pint by the time she’s finished, and you can be telling me about your day.”
“Possibly the best day ever. It’ll take a while.”
“I’ve nothing but time—as long as we’re heading for that pint and my supper.”
* * *
MAYBE IT WAS THE RESIDUAL ENERGY FROM THE POWER SHE’D practiced, combined with the excitement of a new job, but Iona felt she could have sprinted all the way to the village.
Connor had other ideas and set a meandering pace on the winding road. She knew she chattered, but he’d asked, after all. And he listened, laughed, tossed in comments.
When she told him of Alastar, Connor lifted his eyebrows, angled his head. His eyes, so full of fun, seemed to sharpen with a quick, canny focus.
“Well now, that’s an interesting sort of development, isn’t it then?”
“It upset Branna.”
“Well, Fin tends to most days of the week, and him sending back this particular horse? That’s a message from him, to her particularly.”
He gave Iona a quiet smile. “She might take it as one.”
“It doesn’t upset you.”
“It’s coming, isn’t it—whatever it will be. We knew that when you showed up on the doorstep.”
He looked away, toward the woods, and his eyes, she thought, looked beyond anything she could see.
“This is just the next of it,” he told her, “and I’d say having a good horse is a positive thing.”
“But he’s Fin’s, and if Fin’s part of the—I don’t know—opposing force—”