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When Tis Done – Part 85

When Tis Done cover smallAfter dinner, the Mississippi & Louisiana teens meet at Jordan’s for awhile. They talk about the Texas contingent, and review plans for the following day.

Jordan rabbit punched his ribs. “Don’t make me hurt you, Osric.”

He clutched his chest. “Ow, you slay me just by using that name.”

She repeated it several times and he yowled like a stepped on cat.

“Everything okay?” Jackie called.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sweet replied. “But they’re beating up on me, Miss Jackie.”

“Girls, stop that!”

“How do you know it wasn’t the boys?” Jordan called.

“Because he’d be unconscious.”

“Valid point.”

Brian and Jordan kissed goodnight quickly, not wanting to hold up Sweet and Ginny.

“See you tomorrow. You be safe.”

“You, too. I love you kind of a lot.”

“I love you kind of a lot, too.” He gave her another quick kiss and got in the car.

Jordan stood in the driveway with Andre and Louisa until they were out of sight. Louisa went downstairs, but Andre walked the house with Jordan, checking the doors and windows. He muttered wards as they made the rounds.

“Don’t you trust my dad’s wards?” Jordan chided.

“I do, very much. But my unborn baby is here. I’m giving it every extra bit I can.”

“Will that be a problem? If Louisa is pregnant, she shouldn’t be in a fight.”

“I thought about that. If she’s close by, in a protected location, she can still help by chanelling her energy.”

“How close?”

“We’ve been practicing. Even if she’s a mile away, we can work effectively.”

“I didn’t even know that was possible!”

“No one told us it wasn’t.” He smirked. “According to my mom, provisions are made by the Powers That Be, for pregnant women. So they won’t put the baby at risk, their powers are boosted. They stay that way until the child is two years old.”

“That’s so cool! I had no idea.”

“Neither did we. But then again, none of us were pregnant before. No need to tell us everything.”

“True. Thanks for making the rounds with me.”

“Not a problem, Short Stack.” He kissed the top of her head and earned himself a jab in the ribs.

Jordan got ready for bed, wondering what the following day would hold. She and Brian would be learning the fire spell with the others. Though she could wield all four elements, as could Brian, they both had a penchant for fire. Her other strong suit was air and his best was, of course, earth. Grateful she got to sleep in a little, she turned out her lamp and fell almost immediately asleep.

The morning came with a grumble and rumble of thunder. Jordan woke, feeling fingers of energy up and down her spine. Worried, she examined the sky, probing the clouds. There was something not quite right about this storm. Though it seemed natural on the surface, below was a churning fury born of malicious magic. When she got to the kitchen for breakfast, everyone seemed on edge, especially Andre. She hadn’t forgotten that he not only read auras, he sensed emotions. Those of everyone around him, were nearly as tumultuous as the weather.

“I don’t like this,” Heath said, examining the sky for the third time since joining them.

“Dad, stop it. You’re freaking me out. We all know this isn’t right.”

“We need to do that ritual today, before nightfall. We can give our fire wielders an hour or two, tops. And we didn’t do the binding with you and Brian. Why?”

“I guess we forgot,” Jordan said. “We should do that before we do the branding.”

“Why?” Andre asked.

Jordan shrugged. “I just know we should.”

“I bow to your expertise,” Andre said, bowing slightly.

Jordan swatted at him, but he ducked away, chuckling.

“We need to get the fire wielders together immediately,” Heath said, whipping out his phone. He called Miles.

Since Heath was by far more attuned to weather than any of the Center Circle, Miles listened.

“Can we gather at your place?”

“Yes. Jackie already gave the go order. She’ll have the crystal room set up with everything we’ll need.”

“Excellent. Brian and Maribelle will be over soon. They’re on their way out the door.”

“Thanks. I need to make calls.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 84

When Tis Done cover smallChase sees the other men around Marissa, and finally decides that he can’t live without her. He declares his love, giving her a big kiss. Brian is very happy that they worked out their issues. Neil greets everyone, and they hand out the necklaces. Marissa explains about the branding.

“Like an invisible tattoo,” Jordan added, seeing that they were somewhat confused by Marissa’s announcement.

“Yes, exactly. It doesn’t use any needles or anything, it’s put there by magic. We need all the fire wielders to do it and we will need at least a day to prepare, but we want to put this on all of us. In fact, once y’all have learned it, you can do it at home for the folks who aren’t here.”

“This sounds fascinating,” Caleb said. “I wield fire. How can I help?”

Of the Texas Inner Circle, two were fire wielders. Many of the Mississippi and Louisiana Circles handled fire. Of these, most were also Casters or Charmers. Although Marissa wasn’t a fire wielder, because it was her idea, she spoke to them about what needed to be done. While they were busy, the others cleaned up. Once that was accomplished, Claude Beauchamps took the doctors and nurses inside to talk about the infertility problems.

Left to their own devices, the others showed one another spells and skills they had learned. The Texas boys showed off for the Mississippi and Louisiana girls. Already paired off, and seeming to be happy about their choices, they were bonding. Parents watched anxiously, relaxing as the young people laughed and got to know one another.

“This could work,” John murmured to Neil. “I wish we’d thought of it before.”

“Our girls wouldn’t have been ready before. It came at the perfect time for Chase and Marissa, I must say. I didn’t think thay boy was going to get his shit together.”

“When will we make this formal?” Roy asked, sidling up to them. His wife was in the fire group.

“We’ll ask the parents,” Neil decided. “I don’t want to push this on anyone. When they feel their kids are ready, we’ll formalize it.”

“I really think we should do it this weekend,” John said.

Neil and Roy frowned.

“Why’s that?” Neil asked.

“Because I think whatever is coming will be coming soon. I think we need to fill the Circle and make it whole, or we might not survive. Caleb agrees with me. So does his grandfather, who is Voice for the Outer Circle.”

“I still say we need to consult the parents, but if you feel that strongly, John, we’ll pass that along.”

The brothers nodded.

Soon after, the fire wielders were finished. Neil and Roy took the parents aside and spoke to them. John joined them, voicing his urgency, and the parents all felt the agreement needed to be finalized as soon as possible. They decided on the following night for that, as well as the branding. When that had been decided, everyone went home.

Brian rode to Jordan’s house with her and her parents. The Inner Circle met there in Jordan’s finished basement, to talk about the Texas youth.

“Seem like nice guys,” Sweet said. “Polite, friendly.”

“Could all be an act to make us think so,” Louisa said.

“No, I think they’re genuinely nice,” Marissa countered. “At least Caleb and Derrick. I spoke to them in the fire group. I feel an urgency with this spell. I’m glad we’re doing it tomorrow.”

“You could do ours tonight,” Sweet suggested.

“No,” Andre cautioned. “It’s a complicated procedure. If it’s done wrong, it can damage, not protect. We’ll be practicing tomorrow.”

“On people?” Chase put his hand over his heart.

“No, silly. On vegetables and fruit. We won’t put our hands on anyone until we’re sure of what we’re doing. If anyone doesn’t feel they are up to snuff, they won’t do the spell.”

“Just so we’re clear. I don’t want you buring a hole in me by mistake,” Chase teased.

“I’ll protect you, honey,” Marissa said, touching his cheek.

“Thank you. I might get myself in trouble just so you can.” He gave her a soft kiss.

Louisa yawned, setting them all yawning in responce. “Where are we staying? I’m exhausted all the time, these days.”

“You’re here, where you were last time,” Jordan said. “Sweet and Ginny, you’re at Brian’s. I don’t know where your folks are staying. I was only given your room assignments.”

“Well, I’m for my bed,” Louisa said. “Night, y’all. See you in the morning.”

“What’s the plan for breakfast?” Brian asked.

“Everyone at their host’s house,” Marissa said. “Lunch will be at our house with practice after at Cynthia and Neil’s.”

“Got it. Goodnight, all,” Brian said, waving.

“I’ll walk you up,” Jordan offered. “Do you want a ride?”

“We’ll take him,” Sweet said.

“Thanks. I hate coming back in the dark alone.”

“I would never make a lady do that,” Sweet replied, giving her a hug. “Sleep well, Small Fry.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 83

When Tis Done cover smallThe Texas group arrives and the boys meet the girls. Caleb Verano, the Voice of the Texas Inner Circle, is very interested in Sweet’s sister. Playing the big brother role expected of him, Sweet introduces himself to Caleb, giving him a none-to-subtle threat.

Sweet nodded. “Seems he didn’t take the idea of having his balls frozen too kindly, but he assured me he’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“You believe him?”

“Fuck, no. But he believed me, which is all that’s important.” He clapped Chase on the shoulder and guided him over to the food. “Lighten up, dude. Enjoy the party. No one is going to steal your woman away.”

“You don’t know that.”

Sweet spent several seconds scanning the group, looking at auras and body language. “Yeah, I do. I also know that you need to go over there right now, give that girl a kiss and tell her you love her.”

He shoved Chase toward Marissa, who was looking somewhat lost and afraid. Chase stumbled, but took Sweet’s advice. Lifting Marissa’s hand to his lips, he kissed it, then kissed her lips.

“I love you, Marissa. I don’t want anyone but you. I know I’m a total jerk and a complete tool, but the idea of seeing you with another man—makes me sick. You’re mine, heart and soul and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you with me.”

Stunned, Marissa’s mouth fell open. Bursting into tears, she flung her arms around Chase’s neck, planting a kiss on his surprised mouth. His hands clasped her waist, easing around her back. The kiss lasted well over a minute. Everyone looked on, somewhat startled. Jordan grabbed Louisa and Ginny’s hands. The three girls bounced happily, watching as their friends mended their relationship. They could tell by the shifts in their auras that they were getting along better than they ever had.

“I’m guessing that Marissa withdraws her eligibility,” Brian whispered to Caleb.

Chuckling, the Voice of the Texas Inner Circle tapped his knuckles.

The kiss ended and everyone cheered. Marissa blushed slightly and Chase’s ears turned red, but they looked happier than Brian had ever seen them. Holding hands, they accepted congratulations from everyone, even the Texas boys.

Jordan, Ginny and Louisa nearly killed Marissa with hugs. The boys almost knocked Chase flat, pounding him on the back. Brian was thrilled. He’d counted on something like that taking place, and was glad he hadn’t been disappointed. He had no idea what he would have done if he’d had to put them both out of the Circle. Relieved, he watched as Jordan congratulated Marissa. Feeling someone at his shoulder, he turned to see David.

“Worked out after all.”

“Yes, thank God. I was worried.”

“Me, too. You think they can pull it together now?”

“Yes, sir. I think so. It took seeing her with the other men, to make him grow up and realize what a good woman he’s got. He showed restraint. If that had been Jordan, I think I’d have flattened someone.”

David chuckled, slapping him on the back. “That’s the Earth wielder in you. I’d just smack him with a dust cloud and suffocate the bastard.”

“That works, too.”

Neil hugged his nephew and Marissa, putting an arm around each of them. “Now that we’ve settled this pairing, I hope we can be equally successful with the others. We have a gift for everyone, a token of our friendship.”

Miles and Heath brought out the trays of necklaces and circulated through the crowd of guests with them.

“These were made by our late member, Cliff Finley, and me. Chase and Marissa also helped with them. There are some special blessings on each of them, something that, we hope, will help fight the Dark. Please take one and wear it in good health.”

They had made enough for the absent members of the group, as well as family members. Once the necklaces had been accepted, Neil continued.

“Marissa had another idea. I’m going to let her tell you about it.” He clapped, indicating that she should step forward and speak.

“Thanks, Neil. My friends and I were talking the other night…. You know that scene in Temple of Doom where the man’s heart gets ripped out?”

Everyone who knew the movie put a protective hands over their hearts.

“We found a reference in the Encyclopedia Magicka which indicates that such a spell actually exisits.”

There were many shocked exclamations. It took a moment for everyone to stop talking.

“I didn’t mean to scare you. What I wanted to tell you is that we have found a way to protect ourselves from it. We’re going to place the charm on the necklaces tonight, but there is another procedure which would place the same charm on us—on our skin.”

“Like an invisible tattoo,” Jordan added, seeing that they were somewhat confused by Marissa’s announcement.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 82

When Tis Done cover smallWhile gathered in the yard, they are visited by Brian’s great-great grandfather, Theo. Maribelle is able to see him clearly, and can also hear him. He tells her there is a way for the fire wielders to brand the spell into their skin.

“Won’t that hurt?” Marissa asked, holding her hands over her heart.

“Possibly. But don’t you think having your heart ripped out of your chest would hurt a lot more?”

Marissa shrugged, tipping her head. “Put that way….”

“How do we do it?” Jordan asked.

“I’ll tell everyone when our friends arrive. In fact, some of them just pulled up.”

The members of the Circles arrived nearly all at once. They were missing a few of the Outer Circle as they were scattered across the country, but the other two Circles were complete. The teenagers greeted their friends from Louisiana, thrilled to find out that Louisa was, indeed, pregnant. A big fuss was made over that. Their child would be the first of the next generation. Each of the mothers gave them a special blessing before they found places to sit.

The Texas contingent arrived a few minutes later, led by Captain Curtis. His brother, Roy, and his wife, Danielle, greeted Neil and Cynthia first. They were introduced to each couple whose daughters were of age, then met the girls. The rest of the group were more or less ignored, but they understood the importance of this meeting. It was an alliance, of sorts, between the two Circle communities. The other Texas couples met the girls and their families.

When one couple approached Marissa, she smiled politely, her hand creeping over to hold Chase’s.

“We were told that you were up for consideration,” the father said sternly. “Isn’t that the case, John?”

“Oh, well…I am….” Pressing her lips together, Marissa tried not to cry.

“We’ve had some internal issues,” Brian said, drawing himself up to his full, and somewhat imposing, height, surprised to find he was taller than the rest of the men. “Marissa had agreed, but if she and Chase can work through their challenges, then her membership will be off the table.”

The other man nodded, accepting that. He didn’t seem to think it strange that a teenager answered him. In fact, they all seemed to be accepting of Brian and Jordan’s authority over their group. The adults were as deferential to them as they were to their parents.

Sweet’s sister was brought forward and she greeted the Voice of the Texas Inner Circle, Caleb Verano. He was a striking looking young man, just over average height with a swimmer’s broad shouldered, lithe build. His hair was jet black, his eyes a sparkling jasper—sharp contrast to Summer Sweet’s dazzling blonde hair and icy blue eyes.

Verano is Spanish for Summer,” he told her as he kissed her hand. “If we married, it would be endless Summer in our home.”

She giggled, liking the attention from the handsome young man. He was slightly older, nearly eighteen, but she was nearly sixteen herself, so the age difference wasn’t great. She and the other girls were introduced to the remaining boys, but the one most taken with her was Caleb. The other boys weren’t quite sure how to treat Marissa. She still held Chase’s hand, but was introduced as one of the abvailable women. Though they were polite, they weren’t as attentive as they might have been. It didn’t help that Chase stayed by her side, glaring at any man who looked her way.

“Would you lighten up?” Sweet said to Chase, nudging him with his elbow. “Those guys think you wanna kill ’em.”

Chase directed his angry stare at his friend. “Maybe I don’t like how they’re looking at my woman.”

Sweet stepped back a few inches, hands in the air. “Dude, just sayin’. We all know about the problems you two have had. Not trying to give you shit. If you want her, you need to square things. Meanwhile, what do you think of that guy, Caleb?”

Since he was the one man who hadn’t hit on Marissa, Chase liked him. “He seems like a nice guy. I think he and Summer would do well together.”

“Yeah, he seems pretty cool. However, since she’s my sister, I have to go play my part.”

Chase chuckled, knowing that Sweet would be politely intimidating. He’d come a long way in the last couple of years, from an awkward, geeky teen, to a confident, self-possessed man. He and Ginny were due to marry in about a year, but were already living together. They’d had their own relationship issues, but not nearly as extensive as Chase and Marissa.

Sweet sidled up to Caleb, hands in his pockets as he greeted the slightly taller young man. He was smiling, but there was a wariness in his eyes that increased as he spoke to Caleb. Then, something the other man said to him made him laugh. Nodding, he shook Caleb’s hand, hugged his sister and wandered back over to Chase.

“I told him if he didn’t behave himself this weekend, I’d kill him.”

“No, shit, really?”

Sweet nodded. “Seems he didn’t take the idea of having his balls frozen too kindly, but he assured me he’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 81

When Tis Done cover smallChase and Brian do a perimeter check, glad the did, because some of the wards are damaged. They tell Miles and Heath what they’ve found, and they are very concerned.

“Holes? That’s weird! Completely through?” Miles asked.

“No, like thin places in your jeans right before a hole opens,” Chase replied.

Nodding, both men hurried off to look at the wards. Neil joined them. Cynthia went over the spell with Jackie, Marissa and Maribelle. Brian and Chase joined Jordan, who was holding Elise. The baby flung herself at her big brother as soon as he was close enough.

“Byee!” she gurgled, patting his lips with her spit covered fingers.

“Elise!” he gurgled back, rubbing her nose with his. He froze, staring into his sister’s eyes. “Get Dad,” he told Chase. “Now! Go!”

“Miles!” Chase bellowed, rushing off after the men.

“Brian, what’s wrong?” Jordan said.

The women had turned and were rushing over, but Brian halted them with a gruff command.

“Nothing serious,” he said in a very soft, cajoling voice. “But I think…. I think there is something very strange going on here.”

Miles rushed up. He was the only one Brian allowed to come closer.

“Dad,” Brian said softly. “Look in Elise’s eyes and tell me what you see.”

Miles stood directly behind his son and looked in his daughter’s staring eyes. She hardly blinked as she held her brother’s gaze.

“Holy shit,” Miles whispered. “What is that?”

“Not a what,” Brian whispered in return. “That’s a who. And I don’t know. Is that in her or is it really behind me? Because it’s scaring the ever loving shit out of me right now.”

The baby blinked slowly and the image shifted. It was no longer directly behind Brian, but rather to the left of his father, somewhat behind. Reaching for them. Miles held up a hand, snapping a harsh command. The figure stopped, hand mere inches from Miles’ shoulder.

“Who is that?” Brian asked.

Miles tilted his head. “That, Brian, is your great-great-grandfather Theodore Casey. What he’s doing here or why, I don’t know. But I’d sure like to find out before our guests arrive. Do you see anyone else?”

“No, sir. Just him.”

Miles nodded, confirming what Brian said. “Then I think we need to find out what’s brought him around, don’t you?”

“Yep. Theodore, would you like to join us?” he said to the image in his sister’s eye.

The man smiled, stepping back. He folded his arms across his chest and waited.

“Do I have to keep looking at him this way? Cause I’m getting a headache and I really want to blink.”

“I think we can manage something,” Maribelle said with a smile. “Theo, let’s sit by the fire and chat, shall we?” She gestured to a nearby bench. She sat on one end, indicating that Theo should sit on the other.

“Can you see him, Mom?”

“Yes, clearly. Which is amazing, since I see everything in a slight fog. I don’t know if I can hear him or not. Theo, why are you here?”

The breeze fluttered an answer in the trees. Jordan thought she could barely discern a voice. It was high and breathy, not quite a proper voice at all, more an illusion of one, as if the speaker had lost the ability to make himself heard.

Maribelle Casey smiled, taking an invisible hand. They could tell by the way her fingers curled around the air. “He felt your call,” she told Brian with a tip of her head.

“But I didn’t—” Stopping suddenly, he realized that he had asked for help as he went to sleep. He hadn’t directed the request at anyone in particular, but this seemed to be his answer. “I asked for help as I was going to bed. Is that why he’s here?”

“Yes. He heard you and he’s been trying to get our attention, but it’s much harder than you might imagine. Elise was the only one who could see him, until now.” She paused, smiling and listening, her head tilted to one side. “I see. Yes. That’s very helpful, Theo. Thank you.” She kissed the air, hugging emptiness to her. “Please come back and visit again, now that you know how.” She blew a kiss and waved as if someone were walking off. Sighing happily, she settled back a little. “Well, that was interesting!”

The others waited impatiently, but she didn’t seem inclined to share the conversation with them.

“Well?” Miles couldn’t stand it another second. “Why was my great-grandfather here?”

“He had a message for Marissa. She’s on the right track with the warding. They called it branding, though it didn’t use a hot iron. However, fire wielders will need to do it and it does entail burning the spell into the person’s skin.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 80

When Tis Done cover smallNeil and Cynthia have a newlywed moment, driving the others outside for awhile. Brian and Chase feel it more than the girls, and make up some chore, so they can escape from the energy for awhile.

Chase shuddered, clawing at his spine with both hands. “I feel like I’ve got spiders up my back.”

Brian had the same feeling. He was doing his own shivering and freaking out. “How can the girls ignore that?”

“No clue, but I wish I could. I’d do a stump if I thought it would help.”

“Splinters,” Brian said sensibly.

Chase crossed his legs with both hands over his privates. “Yeah. Ouch.”

“So, this tattoo thing. Marissa found a spell?”

“Yeah, I think so. She’ll ask Jackie.”

They busied themselves with the wards, just as glad they had, because there were spots where the protection seemed thin.

“What could cause that?” Chase wondered as they reset the ward.

“No idea. I thought these were pretty impervious. I wish I were better at this.”

“Get better quickly, okay? I used to do this with Dad, so I know what to do, but I need your help. Some of these are different and they’re more complicated.”

“Can you see them?” Brian was stunned.

“Yeah, can’t you?”

“I sense them. I see sort of a shimmer.”

“I see them individually. Each one is a diferent color. It’s quite beautiful. The thinning bits are paler and wispy.”

“Are there many?”

“Quite a few. Like someone was throwing balls at a plate of glass that cracked a little with each hit. I’m glad we did this. I’m concerned. We need your dad to look over this.” Chase stared at the air, arms crossed, thinking.

“Yes, but let’s finish anyway.”

“Hell, yeah. I’m not going back to the house yet!” Chase shuddered from head to foot.

Making the loop of the property line, they neared the house once more. The golden glow was brighter now, blazing for several seconds before dimming and going out. Chase stumbled, fumbling with the ward he was trying to repair. Brian tried to grab him, but feeling just as clumsy, he missed. Both boys toppled on the ground, landing in an untidy heap. Laughing and shoving one another, they got up and dusted themselves off.

“Do you think it will be like that—for us?” Chase asked.

“No idea. Kinda freaky, if I’m honest. Can you imagine? Our folks would know from half a mile away!”

“I sure hope not.” Chase wouldn’t look at the house, nor did he look at Brian anymore than he had to. “I’m really happy for them,” he murmured. “But jealous as hell.”

“I know.” Brian clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Relax. Our time will arrive. Once we take that step, there’s no turning back.”

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick about it—with you and with Marissa. I’m so jealous of what you and Jordan have, I can’t stand it. You’re like parts of each other and it seems completely effortless. I want what you have, what they have.” He pointed to the house. “What my folks had.”

“You dumb ass.” Brian shoved his friend back a few feet. “You do have that. You and Marissa work well together. You’re completely in sync. You have the advantage of being around one another your entire lives. Jordan and I don’t have that. There are still things we’re learning about each other.”

“I want surprises. I want not to know what she’s thinking. I don’t want to be able to read every expression. She knows me better than I know myself, and sometimes that’s not such a good thing.”

“You have to quit fighting that. We all should have that. Do you know how strong a unit we’d be if every couple were as in tune as you and Mar? We’d kick serious Dark Side ass!”

“You really think so?”

“I know so. Look at the plus side instead of the negatives.”

“When I find some, I’ll sure do that.”

They made their way back to the picnic area to find Miles, Heath and Maribelle had joined them. The girls were playing with Elise. Neil and Cynthia walked hand in hand out the back door. She looked slightly flustered, he looked happy and rather proud.

“Glad you could join us,” Heath said with a smirk. “Jeez, did we ever look that happy?” he asked his wife.

“More than once.”

“Sorry about that,” Cynthia giggled, tugging at her hair.

“I haven’t forgotten being a newlywed,” Maribelle said with a smile. “Is there anything that needs to be done for the meal?”

“No, we’re set,” Jackie answered. “I do need to run the spell casting by you.”

“Dad, we need you and Heath to double check our work. There were holes in the wards. Chase and I patched them, but you may need to do them again.”

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When Tis Done – Part 79

When Tis Done cover smallMarissa has the idea to use a charm of some kind, to infuse the ward against the Killing Hand, into their skin, for additional protection. The boys check the wards around the site and Marissa joins Jordan. Pleased to see that Brian and Chase have mended some of their differences, Jordan gives Brian a big kiss.

“I should go away more often, if I’m gonna get a welcome like that every time.” He kissed her quickly and gave her a lingering hug.

To everyone’s surprise, Marissa did the same thing with Chase. Faster, more fleeting, but she showed him more affection in those ten seconds, than she had ever publically expressed. Chase was so surprised, he inhaled sharply, but gave a slow exhale when she stood next to him, her arm around his waist. His own arm crept slowly around her, as if he were afraid she’d run away. When she stayed, he smiled at her, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek. She didn’t pull away, so he relaxed a little, enjoying what she gave him.

No one wanted to spoil the moment for them, but keeping silent would draw attention as much as pointing at them. Neil hugged his wife once more, kissing her cheek. She fed him another taste and he gave her another kiss, this time on the lips.

“Still doesn’t taste as sweet as you,” he teased. “I don’t think anything does.”

“Ditto,” she murmured.

“What can we help with?” Brian asked, feeling the need to redirect their attention. He could sense their desire and it made him incredibly uncomfortable.

“Get out the picnic supplies,” Cynthia said, not moving from the circle of Neil’s arms.

“Yes, ma’am,” the teens chorused.

Jackie joined them as they gathered the bins of paper plates, plastic ware and napkins which were kept in the storage cabinet on the deck. They had so many gatherings at the Finley home, they kept a stockpile of items there.

“Getting low on napkins,” Jackie remarked.

“No, I saw another package in the cabinet. I’ll get it,” Jordan said.

She dashed up the steps and over to the cabinet. As she went past the door to the kitchen, she saw Neil and Cynthia kissing. Not just kissing, his hands were all over her. The pudding had been set to one side and forgotten. Suddenly embarrassed, as if she were a voyeur, Jordan rushed down the steps. Tripping halfway down, she fell with a yip of fear. Suddenly, she was floating and landed on the ground at the base of the stairs. Surprised and puzzled, she tried to figure out what had happened. Brian raced to her side.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, thanks to you.”

“Wasn’t me.” He nodded at Chase. “He caught you.”

“Thanks, Chase. I’d have ended up with some nasty bruises.”

“You could have broken your arm,” Jackie fussed. “Or your neck! Why were you running?”

“I saw Neil and Cynthia—kissing,” she whispered. Her tone and accompanying blush told them it was more than just that.

“We’ll stay out here for awhile,” Jackie said. “Let me tell the men to come around back.” She called Heath.

“Stopping to pick up Maribelle and the baby. Be there soon.”

“Take your time. I hope they won’t get too busy with the rest of us around, but with newlyweds….”

“Exactly. I hate that we’re having to impose on them, but that’s our best meeting space.”

“I’d host, but we’re not nearly as isolated. I’m glad we all own the property around here, or we’d have to worry about developers.”

They talked a few more minutes before hanging up. Jackie hoped the teens wouldn’t notice the extra energy in the air, but suspected that the boys did. Determined to keep them occupied, she asked about the necklaces. Chase got them for her and she examined the work.

“Super job,” she complimented. “You have an eye for detail, both of you. These are better than Cliff’s. I think we should all have ours upgraded.”

“Marissa had an idea about additional wards,” Brian said.

He was doing his best to ignore the golden glow he saw coming from the bedroom window. The vibrations in the air around them were almost too much for him to bear. He could see that it was affecting Chase as much as it was him. The girls didn’t seem to notice it, but Jackie did.

Marissa explained about the Killing Hand and her idea for supernatural tattoos. Brian was glad she took over the explanation, because he couldn’t if he’d tried. He and Chase made an excuse to check the wards on the perimeter of the property and scuttled away to do that. The further they got from the house, the better is was, but they were both sweating and panting when they arrived a the stream on the outer limit of the land.

“Shit!” Chase said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. “I wish they’d warned us. Better yet, kept a lid on it. That was super sexy, and really creepy all at once. My aunt and uncle! It wasn’t that icky with my folks.” He shuddered, clawing at his spine with both hands. “I feel like I’ve got spiders up my back.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 78

When Tis Done cover smallNeil sets Marissa and Chase on a task of charming the necklaces, while he and Brian prepare the meeting area. They talk about why Chase is so obstinate, and Brian blames himself.

Neil smiled. “Kid, this is not all on you and you aren’t allowed to take the blame. Sure, that hurt. It probably affected him some, but that isn’t enough. I wonder, sometimes, looking back, if our folks started teaching us too early. I was four when I started my first lessons. Chase was five or six. It changes your perspective somewhat. I believe it’s important to teach our children, but maybe some middle ground before they mature, but after they have a few years on them. Trouble is, we don’t have a handbook for this. We play it all by ear.”

“How did they do back in the day?”

“Back in ancient times, we lived in closed communities and raised our young to know what was what from birth. But we weren’t trying to fit into normal society. Some of the remote Circles, those that live in less developed areas of the world, can do that. Around here, they’d think they had another Wako on their hands and send in the FBI to rescue our kids.”

The door to the shed opened below, Chase and Marissa came out smiling and holding hands. Neil and Brian pretended not to notice. Neil popped the top off a couple of IBC root beers and handed them each one when they sat down.

“Done. Good job on the necklaces,” Chase said. “They needed a little tweaking, but otherwise, they were fine. Marissa got the charms on them and they are ready to get the new stuff tonight.”

“I got to thinking,” Marissa said quietly. “These necklaces are good, but they can be damaged or torn off. What we really need is some sort of ward on our skin—like a tattoo.”

“Only not quite as archaic,” Chase concluded. “Mar had an idea.”

“There is a spell for a charm to be infused in the skin. I’m not entirely sure how it’s done, but I bet one of our parents would know. If this is something we’re really worried about, we should do that.”

“I agree,” Neil said. “We’ll discuss it tonight when the Texas party arrives. I think the necklaces would make a good option, but I’m not averse to two lines of defense. Brian?”

“I agree. Good idea, Marissa.”

“I’m going to go check on Jordan,” she said and stood up rather suddenly.

The men hopped to their feet as she left, settling back once more. No one knew what to say. Neil was waiting for the boys to bridge their gap, only acting as a moderator. When it became obvious that neither of them knew what to say, he decided he should.

“Brian and I laid the wards around the fire pit, but it wouldn’t hurt to double check them. Do you know what your dad used to use?”

“Yeah. I could do that.”

“Why don’t you and Brian work on that? I’m gonna go see if the ladies need help.”

The boys put their empty bottles in the recycling bin and trotted down the steps. Neil stood on the deck, casting his focusing spell before going inside. The women didn’t need his help, but he knew the boys needed time alone. He also knew that if he helped out, they would let him act as official taster, a job he had always loved. Not only that, he needed to be close to his wife. He’d never experienced this sort of thing before. Whether it was part of their bonding, or because he was finally able to show her how much he loved her, he didn’t know. He’d learned not to question.

The women were in the kitchen. Cynthia was next to the stove, stirring something mysterious in a big pot. It smelled good, but he had been taught as a child, not to taste things without asking what they were. A useful lesson, since sometimes his mother wasn’t preparing food. Sidling up behind her, he put his arms around her, nuzzling her cheek.

“Smells almost as delicious as you.”

Giggling, Cynthia gave him a taste. It was smooth, silky and sweet. Licking his lips, Neil tried to analyze the flavors as Brian had.

“Chocolate….” that was obvious and easy. “Cinnamon. Little bit of orange essence.” He licked his lips once more. “What is that? It’s delicious.”

“A pudding to go between the layers of the cake. I’m glad you like it. It’s my own recipe.” She gave him another taste.

Neil closed his eyes, savoring the flavor. “I wouldn’t mind licking that off…um. Sorry,” he whispered.

“I’ll save some,” she whispered back.

Marissa tightened up, but Jordan patted her hand. Neil and Cynthia were newlyweds, after all. She could only imagine how she and Brian would be once they finally gave in to their passion. Looking outside, she saw Brian and Chase coming up the back steps. They were laughing and joking like they had before the intensity of their reltionship drove them apart. Unable to stop herself, Jordan rushed to the sliding glass door and let them in. She gave Brian a quick kiss, hugging him tightly.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 77

When Tis Done cover smallThe teens head to Neil and Cynthia’s house. Jackie is there, waiting, and helps comfort Jordan. Neil takes Brian, Chase and Marissa to the backyard, setting Chase and Marissa the task of making necklaces, while he and Brian talk. He tells Brian that he has the skill to keep people on task, and was able to do it, even when he wasn’t in the Circle.

“How? That would be handy.”

Neil grinned, showing Brian what to do. After a few false starts, he managed to cast the easy, basic spell. Nodding approval, Neil led him to a table near the picnic area.

“We need to scatter this in and around the fire, as well as around the circle where we sit. I have no clue what any of it is, so don’t ask. I’m doing what my wife told me. I’ve found it’s easier just to say yes, ma’am, and do the job without arguing. Not that I would…. I don’t ask questions, either.”

“I recognize this stuff. Salt with cumin,” he pointed to one bag. “This is ground, dried rowan berries that looks like it’s been mixed with something else.” He sniffed delicately, closing his eyes. “Oak, Ash and Thorn.”

“How can you tell by smelling it? Or looking at it?”

Brian shrugged, shaking his head. “I can smell things and identify them. I can see the resonance of each one, all blended together. I’ve never used it like this before, but I see the advantages of powder. That is ivy and holly leaves and berries.” He pointed to another soft cloth bag. “And this….” He sniffed delicately. “Ew! Not sure what that is, but it stinks. Bitter.”

“That one I know,” Neil said. “That’s alum, also known as potash. Like I said, I have no clue what this stuff is for, I’m just putting it down.”

They each picked up a cloth bag and started scattering the contents as Cynthia had instructed Neil to do.

“The oak, ash and thorn is a blend of sacred woods, often used for protection. It’s a trinity, of sorts. The rowan is also for protection. The ivy and holly serve a similar purpose. All of them combined make for extra layers of protection. I don’t know what the alum is for and I’ve never heard of the fairy dust. I wish that my parents had taught me more when I was a kid.”

“I learned all kinds of stuff, but I don’t remember it. I put that behind me.” Shaking his head, Neil stopped working. “You have no idea what it was like, not being chosen.”

Brian clapped a big hand on the other man’s shoulder. “No, I don’t. And you have no idea what it was like to have all these weird things happening with no clue what it was all about. I don’t know why my folks kept me in the dark—or Jordan’s.”

“I think I know why. They had to know that there was something different, unique about you. The Dreams, nightmares, that wasn’t normal. Maybe something that Claude told them made them think that keeping your powers secret was safer for you? I know with Jordan, Heath and Jackie didn’t want to accept that she was the one, but they also recognized that she had special gifts that set her apart. If they raised her as a regular kid, she wouldn’t view herself as anything else. She wouldn’t stand out and become a target.”

Brian nodded, realizing that was true. As much attention as they attracted when their powers woke, it had probably been a good idea. “One thing that our folks did teach us, was how to fight. I’m grateful for that. Even if I didn’t have special powers, I know how to kick someone’s ass.”

Neil chuckled. “I’ll bet you do. You look like a man who knows what he’s doing. Can you shoot a gun?”

Brian snorted. “You grew up with my dad, what do you think?”

“I think you’re a crack shot who won’t fold under pressure.”

“I do okay,” Brian smiled modestly.

“I’ll set up a range one of these days. Then you can show me what you’ve got.”

They finished their job and put the bags away, leaving Chase and Marissa on their task. They sat on the deck and popped open a couple of root beers.

“That should take another hour or so,” Neil said with a smirk, tipping his head at the shed. “You still intent on throwing them out?”

“I don’t want to. Next to Jordan and me, they’re the strongest and most skilled couple we have. The others are good, but there’s something special about those two. I don’t want to throw them out, and I don’t want to lose either of one them, but if they can’t fix their relationship, they’re no good to me. They make us vulnerable.”

“Agreed. I’ve tried talking to Chase, but he’s unreachable. I don’t know where it went wrong. Losing his dad hurt him, but that’s not the only issue. Sure, he’d like to get laid, but what man doesn’t? You’ve been around him more than anyone. What do you think?”

Brian shook his head. “I’ve asked myself a million times. I don’t know—except…. Shit, could it really be that simple?”

“How simple?”

“We were talking once, when we were kids. He tried to tell me how he was special, things he could do, that sort of thing. I laughed at him and told him he was making it all up. I didn’t believe him. You know how kids are. I teased him unmercifully for a full summer over that conversation. I think we were seven? I made all kinds of fun, putting him down and giving him shit. The entire time, I really did believe him, but I didn’t want to, because I wanted to be special, too.” He put his face in his hands, groaning softly. “I was horrible. When my dad found out, he tore my ass up and gave me a big lecture about how it wasn’t right to make fun of others. That lesson stuck and I backed off. But I wonder now. Did I do that?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 76

When Tis Done cover smallBrian and Dora go to the security office and view the security tape. They realize that Lien might have done this so that she will be put in jail near her father. They decide that’s the worst thing that could happen, so Dora alters the recording. Also, they find out that Steve Wilke, the security guard, is the brother of a Circle member in Ohio.

“Thanks, Mar. You’re a good friend.”

“Was it Lien?” Marissa asked.

“Yes. Oh, funny thing about Steve Wilke, he’s one of us. Well, his sister is the chosen one for their Circle, but he knows about us.”

“I never got that vibe off him,” she admitted. “You’re sure?”

“Positive. I’m still not sure….” He shook his head, not wanting to give in to his paranoia. “We’ll treat him as a friend an ally unless he proves he’s not. He gave me a copy of the footage and Dora blurred the other stuff.”

“Why? Don’t we want this bitch locked up?” Jordan demanded.

“Not if it means she’ll have access to her father. She could do some mojo of her own and get him released. Do we really want that?”

“No,” Marissa said. “I can’t help thinking the best place for that girl is far away from her brother, father and us.”

“Couldn’t agree more. Let’s see if the cops will let us go. If our dads are here, maybe we can leave. I’ll ask.” Brian hopped out of the car and approached the police officer in charge.

“Sure, kid. You take your little girlfriend home. She seems pretty torn up.”

“She’s miserable, sir. Thank you. Dad, can I borrow your car and take her home?”

“Sure. Heath can give me a ride home. Jackie’s waiting at Aunt Cynthia’s house.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you there.” Brian shook hands with the officer and took his father’s keys.

Chase joined him. “I guess we’re going to Aunt Cynthia’s.” He chuckled as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Looks that way. You okay, babe?” Brian asked, gazing at Jordan in the rearview mirror.

“Yeah. Mostly.”

“It will be okay. Your mom’s not going to be angry. Your dad’s not mad at you, she won’t be either.”

“I know!” She burst into tears again, clinging to Marissa.

Brian drove cautiously out of the parking lot and rushed a little to get to Cynthia and Neil’s house. He pulled up near the steps and was met by Jackie and Cynthia. Flinging the door to the backseat open, Jackie dragged her daughter out, enfolding her in comforting arms.

“It’s okay, baby girl. Mom’s here now. Don’t worry. It’s okay.” She hugged and kissed her daughter until Brian was afraid she’d strangle her by accident.

Cynthia seemed to have the same thought. She pulled Jackie away and led them into the house.

“Boys, meet Neil in the back yard. Marissa, you go with.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused.

Neil was by the bonfire, sprinkling a sparkling, gray powder on the ground. “Careful. Not too close. I’m not sure how stable this stuff is. It already sparked a couple times.” He finished what he was doing and washed his hands at the outside tap.

“What is that?” Marissa asked.

“Not sure what’s in it. Cynthia simply calls it Fairy Dust. It’s this stuff that she and Cliff used to mix up for spells and rituals. Not used very often, because its volitile and sparks easily.”

“And you put it by the fire?” Marissa yelped.

“As instructed by my wife,” Neil said. “Me, I’d keep it locked up like explosive ordnance.”

“What can we help with?” Chase asked.

“I heard we needed more necklaces, so I’ve been working on them. Cliff made me one years ago, but the ones he made y’all are a little different. I need for y’all to check them and then help me put the basic wards on them. I’m not too good at that yet.”

“I’m shit at that,” Brian confessed. “Marissa is really good at it, though. Chase—he’s garbage.” He chuckled as his friend punched his arm. “But he knows how to make the necklaces.”

“In here,” Neil said, guiding them into the shed. He pushed Marissa and Chase ahead, pulling Brian out as he closed the door.

They were so engrossed in the task, they didn’t notice that they were alone. Neil tugged Brian a little further away before speaking.

“I think they need some time to work together and not fight. This is a simple task they can work on together. They won’t notice we’re missing for awhile.”

“How do you know?”

“Cause one thing I’m damn good at is keeping people focused on a task. Even when I wasn’t in the Circle, I could do it. I kept my people on task and alert with very little effort. Simple as making toast.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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