Good morning, fellow sufferers! Yes, it’s Monday morning, and while we may not get to choose the time we wake up or what brand of coffee is in the break room, we DO get to choose our own adventures. Last week, we got a little closer to the truth of who to trust (no one, not even our best friend and erstwhile boyfriend) and a whole lot closer to the naked chest of one smokin’ necromancer, and y’all overwhelmingly chose to take Dace out with a spell and get to your dad’s office before Dace can go snooping around for his father’s benefit. Just what is Justice Shaw after, anyway? Pull out your wands and let’s find out!

Chapter 10: Tabitha Whitley, P.I.

“Seriously, Dad, do you want me to do this or not?” Dace nearly shouts, snapping you out of your thoughts. “Then let me go!” He clicks off his phone, and as he shoves it into his shoulder bag (seriously, he carries a purse. How did you never notice this before?), you’re suddenly white hot angry. Before he can fasten the buckle on his designer leather messenger pouch, you aim your wand at him and mutter a quick incapacitus spell, and Dace drops to the ground, unconscious.

“Serves you right, you son of a bitch,” you snarl, then run back toward the house. You’ve taken two steps before you remember Eli and are torn between irritation at another squandered makeout opportunity and the fact that you even thought about making out with him. As if he heard your thoughts (and the way this night is going, he probably did), Eli — and his towel — is right behind you. “Eli! What are you doing?”

“Tabs, you don’t even know what you’re looking for. Let me help.” He’s right, you know he’s right, but you also know he’s hiding something. Who will he really be helping, you or the rebellious necromancers? All you know is you’re tired of questions and are ready for action, so you just shrug and keep walking toward the terrace. Eli can follow you if he wants, and you probably wouldn’t be able to stop him anyway.

“Tabs!” You turn toward the female voice, hoping you’re sending out “polite but very busy and important hostess” vibes. “Great party! Wooo!!” the girl hollers, waving her red Solo cup in the air. You just smile and waggle your fingers (who was that, anyway?) before speeding through the open sliding-glass doors, Eli close on your heels. A few curious whispers and giggles drift in from outside before he slides the door shut and follows you down the hall to your dad’s office.

Outside the door, you stop and cast your favorite auricus aperto spell to make sure the office is empty. Just thinking about crossing the threshold makes your stomach twist and your heart pound. You can’t hear anything inside, so you turn the knob and push the door open, keeping the spell active so you can listen for anyone coming. It’s dark and hot in there, and smells like leather and newsprint and Auggie, your dad’s 12-year-old border collie. The tip of your wand glows as you peer around. Everything looks like you remembered — there’s a tower of papers on the desk, a few books stacked on the table by the cold fireplace, several empty glasses and teacups, the portrait of your great-grandmother that gave you nightmares as a small girl and still makes you break out in a cold sweat. How are you even going to begin?

Eli brushes past you, heading straight for the desk. He riffles through the scattered papers, quickly turns to the file drawers and just as quickly shuts them again. He marches to the fireplace and holds out his hands, and the empty hearth briefly glows green. “Nothing,” he mutters, and shakes his head. You stop him just as he’s turning toward the bookshelves.

“Wait! Do you know what you’re looking for, either?” you whisper.

“No, I just … I HAVE to know it when I see it,” he whispers back.

“Stop moving. Just stand still. I’m going to try to see if anything seems out of place.” You close your eyes and concentrate on the feelings deep within the walls and furnishings of the room. In your memory, you bring up your dad — how he sounds, looks, feels — and you focus on the uneasy feeling you’ve had lately when you’ve been around him, searching for that same sense of not-quite-right in the room. The air feels suddenly hotter, and you open your eyes to find you’re staring straight into Eli’s glittering green eyes. He grabs your arms and shoves you back against the wall and before you know it, his lips are pressed against yours and your hands are tangled in his dark curls. Eli slides his hands down your arms to your waist, sending fiery tingles through your belly. His mouth is hot and urgent on your lips, your neck, your collarbone. Gasping, you wrap your arms around him to pull him closer and feel the ridges of his scars rough on the soft skin of your forearms. “Eli,” you groan, but he just kisses you harder, pressing his whole body against yours and you forget what you were going to say anyway. Dizzy, you start to sink toward the floor, pulling him down on top of you and inadvertently loosening his towel. You reach down to tug it off — why is this terrycloth nuisance in the way now! — when the sound of footsteps outside the office door shatters the moment. Your eyes fly open and you and Eli crawl behind the nearest piece of furniture, a disgustingly ostentatious leather wingback loveseat, just as the door opens and the lights come on.

“Mr. Shaw, of course!” your father booms, clapping Dace on the back. “Anything for my girl, and by extension you.” Horrified, you watch their feet — one clad in boat shoes and one in frat-boy flip flops — move toward the coffee table in front of your hiding place. “Let me see … it was right here. That’s odd, I don’t remember putting that folder on the table … hm. Must have been Melba, though I’ve told her a thousand times not to clean in here. … Hmm … letter of intent … no … desegregation … amicus brief … ah! Here you are, my boy. The contract, all signed in blood, haha!” As he hands a long scroll to Dace, a gleaming brass teardrop the size of a marble drops to the carpet, but neither Dace nor your father notices and they leave you and Eli in the dark once again.

You scramble up and reach for the little brass object, but Eli stops you. “Don’t touch it! You don’t know what it might be!” he cautions.

Do you:

A. Scoff at his caution and grab the amulet. You’re not going to let him get to it first. Yeah, you were just about to make his baby, but can you really trust him?

B. Stop, and ask him what he’s talking about. Does he really know something, or is he just being cautious?

C. Shrug, and go back to what you were up to before you were so rudely interrupted.

D. Grab an envelope from your father’s desk to stash the trinket in and get the heck out of there. You can ask questions later, in a safer place.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.