Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy 1) - Page 135

“I could use a shower and a beer. No, beer first.”

“We’ll go again, then a beer,” Meara told her. “Don’t hold back this time. Didn’t Branna tell you she’d charmed the blades as dull as our first form science teacher? Remember her, Branna?”

“To my sorrow, I do. Miss Kenny, who could out-sister the sisters for the hard eye and bore your brain to liquid between your ears.”

“I heard she moved to Donegal and married a fishmonger.”

“I pity him.” Branna rose with her bowl of potatoes, her compost bucket of peels. “I’ll put these on and fetch the beer while the two of you hack at each other.”

Stalling, as she really did need to catch her breath, Iona studied her sword. “You don’t really think we’ll use these, this way, against Cabhan.”

“There’s no telling, is there? And as I don’t have what you do, this may be what I’ll use and need should the time come.”

“Why don’t you sound scared?”

“I’ve known of the legend all my life, and the hard fact of it since I’ve known Branna, which seems forever. That’s the one part. And on the other . . .” Meara looked around her, the new plantings, those from past years spreading and spearing, the woods beyond in their rainy evening gloom.

“It doesn’t seem real, does it? That come the solstice we’ll try to end all this by whatever means we can. Blood and magick, blade and fang. It’s not life, but a story. And yet it is. I’m caught up in that, I think. Above that, when it comes, I’ll be with people I trust more than any others. So, the fear’s not there. Yet.”

“I wish it were now. Some nights I think, let it be tomorrow, so it can be over. Then in the morning, I think, thank God it’s not today, so I have another day. Not just to practice, to learn, but—”

“To live.”

“To live, to be here. To be a part of all this. To ride Alastar, to work, to see my cousins, and you and . . .”


Iona shrugged, almost managed casual. “I like seeing him. I think we’ve been dealing with everything really well. Being friends was the right answer.”

“Oh bollocks. You’re friends right enough, but that’ll never be all. The pair of you send out so much haze that’s sex and lust and emotion I don’t know how any of us see straight.”

“I’m not sending out anything. Am I?”

“Sure you are. I don’t suppose a woman in love can help it. But plenty’s coming from his direction.” Meara threw up her hands at the thought of so many she cared about refusing to reach for wha

t they wanted most. “Iona, the man brought you flowers, and I’m thinking the only woman he’s carried bouquets to might be his ma or his granny. And aren’t the drinks you like stocked in the little fridge?”

“Ah, now that you mention it—”

“Who do you think’s seen to that? And who brought you a toasted sandwich when you couldn’t stop for lunch just yesterday?”

“He’d do the same for anyone.”

Meara could only roll her eyes skyward. “He did it for you. And didn’t I hear him with my own ears tell you only days ago that the blue sweater you wore to the pub looked fine on you? And who made sure you sat out of the draft of the door while we were there?”

“I . . . didn’t notice.”

“Because you’re trying so hard not to notice. You’re putting everything you can into your work, your practice so you don’t have much left to think of him, because it’s hard for you. At the same time you’ve blinded yourself to the wondrous fact that the man’s besotted. He’s wooing you.”

“He is not.” The heart she’d worked so hard to steady stumbled a little. “He is?”

“Try to notice,” Meara advised. “Now come at me like you mean it.” She drew her sword. “And earn that beer.”

* * *

SHE LET HERSELF NOTICE, A LITTLE, THE NEXT DAY. She knew she had a habit of letting hope overrule everything else. All logic, all sense and self-preservation could, and usually did, fizzle under the bright light of hope.

Not this time, she warned herself. Too much at stake. But she could notice, a little, if there was something to notice.

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