Daughters of Darkness (Chapter 6)

Whydidn't we just kill her?" Kestrel asked.

Rowan and Jade looked at each other. There were few things they agreed on, but one of them was

definitely Kestrel.

. "First of all, we agreed not to do that here. Wedon't use our powers-"

"And we don't feed onhumans. Or kill them," Kestrel finished the chant. "But you already used your

powers tonight; you called Jade."

"I had to let her know what story I'd just toldabout Aunt Opal. Actually, I should have planned

forthis earlier. I should have realized that people are going to come and ask where Aunt Opal is."

"She's the only one who's asking. If we killed her-"

"We can't just go killing people in our new home,"Rowan said tightly. "Besides, she said she had family

waiting for her. Are we going to kill all of them?"

Kestrel shrugged.

"We arenotgoing to start a blood feud," Rowan said even more tightly.

"But what about influencing her?" Jade said. Shewas sitting with Tiggy in her arms, kissing the

velvety black top of the kitten's head. "Making her forget she's suspicious-or making her think she saw

Aunt Opal?"

"That would be fine-if it were just her," Rowansaid patiently. "But it's not. Are we going to influ

enceeveryone who comes to the house? What aboutpeople who call on the phone? What about

teachers?You two are supposed to start school in a couple of weeks."

"Maybe we'll just have to miss that," Kestrel said without regret.

Rowan was shaking her head. "We need a permanent solution. We need to find some reasonable

explanation for why Aunt Opal is gone."

"We need to move Aunt Opal," Kestrel said flatly."We need to get rid of her."

"No, no. We might have to produce the body,"Rowan said.

"Looking likethat?"

They began to argue about it. Jade rested her chin on Tiggy's head and stared out the multipaned kitchen

window. She was thinking about Mark Carter, who had such a gallant heart. It gave her a pleasantly

forbidden thrill just to picture him. Back home there weren't any humans wandering around free. She

could never have been tempted to break NightWorld law and fall in love with one. But here …yes, Jade

could almost imagine falling in love with Mark Carter. Just as if she were a human girl.

She shivered deliriously. But just as she was tryingto picture what human girls did when they were in

love, Tiggy gave a sudden heave. He twisted out of her arms and hit the kitchen floor running. The fur on

his back was up.

Jade looked at the window again.She couldn't see anything. But …she felt …

She turned to her sisters. "Something was out there in the garden tonight," she said. "And Icouldn't smell


Rowan and Kestrel were still arguing. They didn't hear her.

Mary-Lynnette opened her eyes and sneezed. She'd overslept. Sun was shining around the edges of her

dark blue curtains.

Get up and get to work, she told herself. But instead she lay rubbing sleep out of her eyes and tryingto

wake up. She was a night person, not a morningperson.

The room was large and painted twilight blue. Mary-Lynnette had stuck the glow-in-the-dark starsand

planets to the ceiling herself. Taped onto the dresser mirror was a bumper sticker saying I BRAKEFOR

ASTEROIDS.On the walls were a giant relief map of the moon, a poster from the Sky-Gazer's Almanac,

and photographic prints of the Pleiades,theHorsehead Nebula, and the total eclipse of 1995.

It was Mary-Lynnette's retreat, the place to go when people didn't understand. She always felt safeinthe


She yawned and staggered to the bathroom, grabbing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on the way. She was

brushing her hair as she walked down the stairs when she heard voices from the living room.

-252Claudine's voice … and a male voice. Not Mark; weekdays he usually went to his friend Ben's

house.A stranger.

Mary-Lynnette peeked through the kitchen. Therewas a guy sitting on the living room couch. She could

see only the back of his head, which was ash blond. Mary-Lynnette shrugged and started to open the

refrigerator, when she heard her own name.

"Mary-Lynnette is very good friends with her," Claudine was saying in her quick, lightly accented

voice. "I remember a few years ago she helped her fix up a goat shed."

They're talking about Mrs. B.!

"Why does she keep goats? I think she told Mary-Lynnette it would help since she couldn't get out that

much anymore."

"How strange," the guy said. He had a lazy, careless-sounding voice. "I wonder what she meant


Mary-Lynnette, who was now peering intently through the kitchen while keeping absolutely still,saw

Claudine give one of her slight, charming shrugs.

"I suppose she meant the milk-every day she has fresh milk now. She doesn't have to go to the

store. But I don't know. You'll have to ask her yourself." She laughed.

-252Not going to be easy, Mary-Lynnette thought. Now, why would some strange guy be here asking

questions about Mrs. B.?

Of course. He had to be police or something. FBI.But his voice made her wonder. He sounded too

young to be either, unless he was planning to infiltrate Dewitt High as a narc. Mary-Lynnette edgedfarther

into the kitchen, getting a better view.There-she could see him in the mirror.

Disappointment coursed through her.

Definitely not old enough to be FBI. And much asMary-Lynnette wanted him to be a keen-eyed, quick

witted, hard-driving detective, he wasn't. He was only the handsomest boy she'd ever seen in her life.

He was lanky and elegant, with long legs stretched out in front of him, ankles crossed under the coffee

table. He looked like a big amiable cat. He had deancut features, slightly tilted wicked eyes, and a

disarming lazy grin.

Not just lazy, Mary-Lynnette decided. Fatuous. Bland. Maybe even stupid. She wasn't impressed by

good looks unless they were the thin, brown, and interesting kind, like-well, like Jeremy Lovett for

instance. Gorgeous guys-guys who looked like bigash-blond cats-didn't have any reason to develop their

minds. They were self-absorbed and vain. With IQs barely high enough to keep a seat warm.

And this guy looked as if he couldn't get awake orserious to save his life.

I don't care what he's here for. Ithink I'll go upstairs.

it was then that the guy on the couch lifted onehand, wiggling the fingers in the air. He half-turned. Not

far enough actually to look at Mary-Lynnette,but far enough to make it dear he was talking to

somebody behind him. She could now see his profilein the mirror. "Hi, there."

"Mary-Lynnette, is that you?" Claudine called.

"Yes." Mary-Lynnette opened the refrigerator doorand made banging noises. "Just getting some

juice. Then I'm going out."

Her heard was beating hard-with embarrassmentand annoyance. Okay, so he must have seen her in the

mirror. He probably thought she was staring at him because of the way he looked. He probably had

people staring at him everywhere he went. So what, big deal, go away.

"Don't go yet," Claudine called. "Come out here and talk for a few minutes."

No. Mary-Lynnette knew it was a childish and stupid reaction, but she couldn't help it. She banged a

bottle of apricot juice against a bottle of Calistoga sparkling water.

"Come meet Mrs. Burdock's nephew," Claudine called.

Mary-Lynnette went still.

She stood in the cold air of the refrigerator, lookingsightlessly at the temperature dial in the back. Then

she put the bottle of apricot juice down. She twisted a Coke out of a six-pack without seeing it.

What nephew? I don't remember hearing about any nephew.

But then, she'd never heard much about Mrs. B.'s nieces either, not until they were coming out. Mrs. B.

just didn't talk about her familymuch.

So he's her nephew. . . that's why he's askingabout her. But does he know? Ishe in on it with those girls?

Or is he after them? Or .. .

Thoroughly confused, she walked into the living room.

"Mary-Lynnette, this is Ash. He's here to visit withhis aunt and his sisters," Claudine said. "Ash,

this isMary-Lynnette. The one who's such good friends with your aunt."

Ash gotup, all in one lovely, lazy motion. Just like a cat, including the stretch in the middle. "Hi."

He offered a hand. Mary-Lynnette touched it withfingers damp and cold from the Coke can, glanced up

at his face, and said "Hi."

Except that it didn't happen that way.

If happened like this: Mary-Lynnette had her eyeson the carpet as she came in, which gave her a good

view of his Nike tennis shoes and the ripped kneesof his jeans. When he stood up she looked at his

T-shirt, which had an obscure design-a black floweron a white background. Probably the emblem of

some rock group. And then when his hand entered her field of vision, she reached for it automatically,

muttering a greeting and looking up at his face justas she touched it. And This was the part that was hard

to describe.



Hey, don't I know you?

She didn't. That was the thing. She didn't know him-but she felt that she should. She also felt as if

somebody had reached inside her and touched herspine with a live electric wire. It was extremely not

enjoyable. The room turned vaguely pink. Her throat swelled and she could feel her heart beating there.

Also not-enjoyable. But somehow when you put it alltogether, it made a kind of trembly dizziness like …

Like what she felt when she looked at the Lagoon Nebula. Or imagined galaxies gathered into dusters

and superclusters, bigger and bigger, until size lost any meaning and she felt herself falling.

She was falling now. She couldn't see anything except his eyes. And those eyes were strange, prismlike,

changing color like a star seen throughheavy atmosphere. Now blue, now gold, now violet.

Oh, take this away. Please, I don't want it.

"It's so good to see a new face around here, isn'tit? We're very boring out here by ourselves,"

Claudine said, in completely normal and slightly flustered tones. Mary-Lynnette was snapped out of her

trance, and she reacted as if Ash had just offered her a mongoose instead of his hand. She jumped

backward,looking anywhere but at him. She had the feeling of being saved from falling down a mine


"O-kay," Claudine _ said in her cute accent."Hmm." She was twisting a strand of curly dark hair,

something she only did when she was extremely ner vous. "Maybe you guys know each other already?"

There was a silence.

I should say something, Mary-Lynnette thoughtdazedly, staring at the fieldstone fireplace. I'm acting

crazy and humiliating Claudine.

But what just happened here?

Doesn't matter. Worry later. She swallowed, plastered a smile on her face, and said, "So, how long are

you here for?"

Her mistake was that then she looked at him. Andit all happened again. Not quite as vividly as before,

maybe because she wasn't touching him. But the electric shock feeling was the same.

Andhelooked like a cat who's had a shock. Bristling. Unhappy. Astonished. Well, at least he wasawake,

Mary-Lynnette thought. He and Mary-Lynnettestared at each other while the room spun andturned pink.

"Whoare you?" Mary-Lynnette said, abandoning any vestige of politeness.

"Who areyou?" he said, in just about exactly the same tone.

They both glared.

Claudine was making little clicking noises with her tongue and clearing away the tomato juice. Mary

Lynnette felt distantly sorry for her, but couldn'tspare her any attention. Mary-Lynnette's whole

consciousness was focused on the guy in front of her; on fighting him, on blocking him out. On getting rid

of this bizarre feeling that she was one of two puzzle pieces that had just been snapped together.

"Now, look," she said tensely, at the precise moment that he began brusquely, "Look-"

They both stopped and glared again. Then Mary-Lynnette managed to tear her eyes away. Something

was tugging at her mind… .

"Ash," she said, getting hold of it."Ash. Mrs. Burdockdid say something about you … about a

littleboy named Ash. I didn't know she was talking abouther nephew."

"Great-nephew," Ash said, his voice not quite steady. "What did she say?"

"She said that you were a bad little boy, and that you were probably going to grow up even


"Well, she had thatright," Ash said, and his ex pression softened a bit-as if he were on more

familiar ground.

Mary-Lynnette's heart was slowing. She found thatif she concentrated, she could make the strange feel

ings recede. It helped if she looked away from Ash.

Deep breath, she told herself. And another. Okay,now let's get things straight. Let go of what just hap

pened; forget all that; think about it later. What's important now?

What was important nowwas that: 1) This guy was the brother of those girls; 2) He might be in on

whatever had happened to Mrs. B.; and, 3) If he wasn'tin on it, he might be able to help with some

informa tion. Such as whether his aunt had left a will, and if so, who got the family jewels.

She glanced at Ash from the side of her eye. He definitely looked calmer. Hackles going down. Chest

lifting more slowly. They were both switching gear.

"So Rowan and Kestrel and Jade are your sisters," she said, with all the polite nonchalance she

could muster. "They seem nice."

"I didn't know you knew them," Claudine said,and Mary-Lynnette realized her stepmother was

hovering in the doorway, petite shoulder against thedoorjamb, arms crossed, dishtowel in hand. "I told

him you hadn't met them."

"Mark and I went over there yesterday," MaryLynnette said. And when she said it, something

flashed in Ash's face–something there and gone before she could really analyze it. But it made her feelas

ifshe were standing on the edge of a cliff in a cold wind.

Why? What could be wrong with mentioning she'd met the girls?

"You and Mark . . .and Mark would be-yourbrother?"

"That's right," Claudine said from the doorway.

"Any other brothers or sisters?"

Mary-Lynnette blinked. "What, you're taking a census?"

Ash did a bad imitation of his former lazy smile. "I just like to keep track of my sisters' friends."

Why?"To see if you approve or something?"

"Actually, yes." He did the smile again, with moresuccess. "We're an old-fashioned family. Very


Mary-Lynnette's jaw dropped. Then, all at once,she felt happy. Now she didn't need to think about

murders or pink rooms or what this guy knew. All she needed to think about was what she was goingto

do to him.

"So you're an old-fashioned family," she said, moving a step forward.

Ash nodded.

"And you're in charge," Mary-Lynnette said.

"Well, out here. Back home, my father is."

"And you're just going to tell your sisters which friends they can have. Maybe you get to decide

your aunt's friends, too?"

"Actually, I was just discussing that…."He waved a hand toward Claudine.

Yes, you were, Mary-Lynnette realized. She took another step toward Ash, who was still smiling.

"Oh, no," Claudine said. She flapped her dishtowelonce. "Don't smile."

"I like a girl with spirit," Ash offered, as if he'dworked hard on finding the most obnoxious thing

possible to say. Then, with a sort of determined bravado, he winked, reached out, and chucked

Mary-Lynnette under the chin.

Fzzz! Sparks. Mary-Lynnette sprang back. So didAsh, looking at his own hand as if it had betrayed


Mary-Lynnette had an inexplicable impulse to knock Ash flat and fall down on top of him. She'd never

felt that for any boy before.

She ignored the impulse and kicked him in the shin.

He yelped and hopped backward. Once again the sleepy smugness was gone from his face. He looked


"I think you'd better go away now," Mary-Lynnette said pleasantly. She was amazed at herself.

She'd never been the violent type. Maybe there werethings hidden deep inside her that she'd never


Claudine was gasping and shaking her head. Ashwas still hopping, but not going anywhere. MaryLynnette advanced on him again. Even though he was half a head taller, he backed up. He stared at her

in something like wonder.

"Hey. Hey, look, you know, you really don't knowwhat you're doing," he said. "If you knew…"

AndMary-Lynnette saw it again-something in his face that made him suddenly look not fatuous or

amiable at all. Like the glitter of a knife blade in the light. Something that saiddanger… .

"Oh, go bother someone else, " Mary-Lynnette said. She drew back her foot for another kick.

He opened his mouth, then shut it. Still holding his shin, he looked at Claudine and managed a hurt and

miserable flirtatious smile.

"Thanks so much for all your-"


He lost the smile. "That's what I'm doingl" He limped to the front door. She followed him.

"What do they call you, anyway?" he asked from the front yard, as if he'd finally found the

comebackhe'd been looking for. "Mary? Marylin? M'lin?


"They call me Mary-Lynnette," Mary-Lynnette said flatly, and added under her breath, "That do

speak of me." She'd read The Taming of the Shrew in honors English last year.

"Oh, yeah? How about M'lin the cursed?" He was still backing away.

Mary-Lynnette was startled. So maybe his class hadread it, too. But he didn't look smart enough to

quote Shakespeare.

"Have fun with your sisters," she said, and shutthe door. Then she leaned against it, trying to get

herbreath. Her fingers and face were prickly-numb, as if she were going to faint.

If those girls had only murderedhim, I'd understand, she thought. But they're all sostrange-there's

something seriously weird about that whole family.

Weird in a way that scared her. If she'd believed in premonitions, she'd have been even more scared.

She had a bad feeling-a feeling that things weregoing to happen….

Claudine was staring at her from the living room.

"Very fabulous," she said. "You've just kicked a guest. Now, what was that all about?""He

wouldn't leave."

"You know what I mean. Do you two know eachother?"

Mary-Lynnette just shrugged vaguely. The dizziness was passing, but her mind was swimming with


Claudine looked at her intently, then shook herhead. "I remember my little brother-when he wasfour

years old he used to push a girl flat on her face in the sandbox. He did it to show he liked her."

Mary-Lynnette ignored this. "Claude-what wasAshherefor? What did you talk about?"

"About nothing," Claudine said, exasperated "Justordinary conversation. Since you hate him so

much,what difference does it make?" Then, as Mary Lynnette kept looking at her, she sighed. "He was

very interested in weird facts about life in the country. All the local stories."

Mary-Lynnette snorted. "Did you tell him about Sasquatch?"

"I told him about Vic and Todd."

Mary-Lynnette froze. "You're jolting Why?"'Because that's the kind of thing he asked about!

People lost in time-"

?Losing time.,?

"Whatever. We were just having a nice conversation. He was a nice boy. Finis. "

Mary-Lynnette's heart was beating fast.

She was right. She was sure of it now. Todd and

Vicwereconnected to whatever had happened with the sisters and Mrs. B. But what was the

connection? I'm going to go and find out, she thought.