Gender: Male Age: 21 Location: N/A
|Introduction: This is not my Storie all Credit Goes to Eric Storm|
Don finished loading his computer and his clothes into the car - he had an old Volvo station wagon - and then went to see to his sister. Katie was staring at a pile of clothes on the bed, and at her suitcase, which was already crammed with clothes.
Don stepped behind her and embraced her warmly, finally able to touch her as he wanted to again. Katie melted against him, but he could still feel the tension in her body.
"Donny, where are we going to go? And... I can't even take all my clothes! They don't all fit! And then there's Charlie..." Charlie was a large stuffed rabbit she'd gotten as a child, and she would not go without him.
"Charlie will fit in the back seat. I know exactly where we're going. And why don't you take some of the boxes in the hallway closet to put clothes in? Are you taking anything else?"
Katie loved it as her brother's hands rubbed against her stomach, trying to soothe her nerves. She loved everything about him. And right now, she loved that he was able to do her thinking for her. She had forgotten about the broken-down boxes they had in the hallway closet.
"There's not much else for me to take," she said finally. "Some books, I guess, but you probably don't have that much room left..."
"We've got all the room you'll need, Katie," he said softly in her ear. He kissed her ear, and then trailed kisses all over her cheek. Katie giggled softly, and snuggled even further against him. She could feel his erection pressing against her, but she knew they didn't dare do that here again. Still, she let him hold her for a long time before she pulled away.
Don let her go reluctantly, and then he turned to get Charlie. "I'll take him out to the car," he said. She nodded, and went to get some boxes from the closet.
When Don turned off the car, Katie looked at the house. It was larger than their old one, and it looked far more expensive.
"Where are we?" she asked. Don just smiled at her, and got out of the car. She followed suit, and was a little surprised when he took her hand for the walk to the door. It did feel very nice, though.
Don rang the doorbell, and then he pulled Katie into his arms. He held her from behind, just to let her feel protected. He knew this would be hard on her until she grew comfortable... and he didn't think she was going to grow comfortable soon.
When the door opened, Veronica smiled, but it was clear she was confused. "Don... Katie... won't you please come in?" She'd noted how they were standing, and she gave Don a knowing smile as he passed her in the hall. Don walked all the way back to the study, holding Katie's hand. He just felt more comfortable talking in there. He also needed to show this room to Katie.
"Katie, this is where I've been learning magic. Veronica and I work in here. This is where I've been most of the time I've been gone lately."
Katie looked around, taking it in. She didn't let go of Don's hand throughout, and he made no effort to get her to. He liked his hand right where it was. Finally, she turned around and looked at him again, the fear still plain on her face. He leaned down and kissed her softly. She panicked for a second, with another person there, but it felt so good to her, she soon forgot about that, and was kissing him back enthusiastically.
When they finally came up for air, Veronica moved closer to them. She'd stayed a discreet distance while they had been communing, but she did wonder why they were here.
Sitting up on her usual stool, Veronica said, "So, Don... I assume this is not a social call, given the look on her face. What's the matter?"
Katie shivered, and Don embraced her again. She clung to him, but she didn't cry, so he figured he could talk to Veronica. He looked at his mistress and saw concern and caring in her eyes.
"We need a place to stay."
Veronica cocked an eyebrow. "Perhaps you'd better explain."
"Well, Katie, Julie, Susan, and even Gill seemed to be okay with the idea of my magic, but my parents are fundamentalist Christians. It didn't go over so well with them."
"They kicked you out over your magic?" she asked incredulously.
"No. They tried to exorcise my magic. It was amusing," he said with a chuckle. "But they tried to ground me over it, too."
"Well, I got into a little trouble at school... don't worry, the boy got out of the hospital yesterday," he smiled at Veronica, who looked a little shocked. "And I doubt he'll ever pick on another nerd ever again."
"No, they didn't kick me out over fighting, either. They kicked me out over her," he said softly, indicating his sister.
"You two have..."
"Become intimately involved, yes," he said. Katie cringed, worried about Veronica's reaction.
Veronica, of course, was not surprised. "I'm happy for you both. Of course you can stay here, I hope there wasn't any doubt about that in your mind."
"Not in mine, Mistress, but Katie was worried." Don had slipped, and Katie looked at him just then. He caught her eyes and smiled softly.
"That is what I call her, Katie..."
Katie smiled a little, and hugged him tighter.
"You'll need to get used to calling me Veronica," she said, "if you're going to be living here. I don't want to be called 'Mistress' all the time."
Don nodded. "I guess I can understand that."
Veronica lowered her voice and asked, "Just how much does she know about... us?"
"You mean... oh, that. No, she doesn't know about that. I'll explain it later."
Veronica nodded. "Okay. Do you have things in your car we need to unpack?"
Veronica got off her stool. "Let me show you to your room... or do you want separate rooms?"
Don looked down. "Katie?"
"I want to stay with you," she whispered.
He hugged her more tightly as he looked up. "I guess room will do."
Veronica smiled as she motioned them to follow her.
"What did she mean, do I know about you two?" Katie asked. They'd finished dinner some time ago, and they were sitting in their room together, trying to calm down from a very stressful day.
Don sighed softly, and pulled Katie against him as he leaned back against the headboard. "Veronica and I have been sleeping together for a while."
"What?" Katie asked incredulously. She didn't pull away from him, but she did twist her body so she could see his face clearly, to make sure he wasn't kidding. "She's old as Mom!"
Don smiled. "Yeah, I think she is, not that it matters. It is a required part of my training, that I bond with her in that way. I'm not going to lie to you; it's not something I don't enjoy doing... in fact, we don't exactly restrict ourselves to the required schedule."
Katie shuddered at the thought.
"What's the matter?"
Don laughed, and hugged his sister tighter. "I will try to restrain my passions for her. But Katie... I am required to sleep with her at least once a month, on the full moon. I'll try to control myself... and her... at other times. We should probably talk about Julie and Susan, too..."
"What about them?"
"Katie, I love you. I don't want to hurt you. There's no point in beating around the bush, so to speak... I've been sleeping with Julie and Susan both."
"Well... I mean, what do you want me to do about it?"
"I don't understand."
Katie could be remarkably naive at times.
"Do you want me to break up with them?"
The light finally dawned on her. She got a warm, tingly feeling when she realized that her brother was willing to make her his girlfriend. She turned and hugged him tightly, pulling herself up to kiss him.
"Donny, I love you so much," she said, her voice soft and almost awestruck. "But you and I can't be boyfriend/girlfriend... we'd get into so much trouble! You need to have a girl that you can go out with. I just want to be one of the girls you... stay in with." She winked at him, and he blushed. He hugged her tightly, and then their lips connected passionately.
For the rest of the evening, they stayed in rather loudly.
Don and Katie were eating breakfast when Veronica came in. It had been several weeks since they'd moved in, and the three had settled into something of a routine. Veronica greeted them both pleasantly, and she leaned down to receive a kiss from Don, which he was more than happy to deliver.
As usual, Veronica looked over at Katie after her morning kiss. She'd been trying to discern Katie's feeling toward her since the siblings had moved in, yet Katie was something of an enigma. She rarely spoke to Veronica, but Don had assured her that this wasn't due to any ill feelings, but simply because Katie didn't feel comfortable with her.
Veronica sighed as she got her coffee and sat at the table. Katie smiled gently, but didn't say so much as good morning. Don was still eating his breakfast, which had been prepared by his sister. She had begun doing that shortly after they had moved in, and though he could hardly complain, it made him just a little uneasy. Still, she seemed happy doing it, so he wasn't going to make her stop.
"Don, we need to start some new skills for you today," Veronica said. "I should warn you that this is the phase of third-circle training where a lot of apprentices get hurt."
Katie immediately asked, "Is he in danger?"
Veronica was kind of surprised she'd spoken, but understood the urgency of the question to her. "Not very much danger. He could be hurt, but probably not badly. The worst I've ever heard of is a couple of days in the hospital."
Katie looked distinctly ill, until Don reached over and took her hand. Veronica noticed, and she sighed inaudibly. Not that she resented the bond between them, but she and Don had not really been as intimate as they used to be, and she missed his touch.
"What is it I'm going to be learning?" Don asked.
Veronica shook off her self-pity. "Magical self-defense. Or at least, the start of it. You'll be learning more and more about this as you go. Today we'll start with learning to deflect energy spells."
"But I don't even know any energy spells yet."
Veronica nodded. "It is easier to deflect them than to create them. Not to worry, you'll have a few of those, too, by the end of your third-circle training."
Veronica finished up her cup of coffee, and rose from the table. She was still wearing her bathrobe, and Don's eyes followed her movements. She didn't really notice, however. "I'll let you two finish up. I'll be in the study when you're ready."
Don nodded to her, and she walked out. Don turned to his sister to reassure her.
"I'll be okay, Katie. Veronica will be careful."
Though that was reassuring to Katie, that's not what was on her mind. Though inaudible, Veronica's sigh had not gone unnoticed.
"Donny, you need to do something about her."
Don raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."
"She's really sad. I don't think you've been paying enough attention to her."
"I spend every day with her," he objected.
"You know what I mean!" she insisted. Finally it connected, and Don blushed.
"Um... well... no, I mean... we used to do that kind of a lot."
"How much is 'kind of a lot?'" Katie asked.
"Probably two or three times a week." His blush deepened.
Katie's mouth fell open. "And you've only been with her once since we got here? Donald White, I thought you were smarter than that!"
Katie rolled her eyes. "She misses you!"
"Well, I've been a little preoccupied..."
It was Katie's turn to blush; they'd had sex at least once a day since they'd gotten here. Even during her period, because she'd wanted him. She found that highly odd, but she also didn't care; her brother was so sweet, he'd taken care of her every need. But she knew that he had other people to care for, as well. Susan and Julie had not been over as much as they should have been. She realized this needed to change.
"You and I need to have a talk tonight," she said. "But you have to get ready for training. Please be careful?" she entreated him, her plea clear in her eyes.
"I will." He leaned over and they kissed warmly. She felt her insides melt from his touch. When they parted, she blushed.
"If you don't leave now, you'll be late to training."
"It's only thirty feet from here..."
"Very late," she emphasized, and Don got the message. He chuckled as he rose from the table.
"I'll see you at lunch."
Don's talk with Katie was enlightening and confusing at the same time. He was confused that she would tell him to do what he was doing, but he felt he understood her a little better.
What he was doing was approaching Veronica's door. He was wearing only pajama bottoms, as had become his custom living here. When he reached the door, he had to consider whether or not to knock. He realized that knocking wasn't terribly romantic, and so he decided to quietly open the door.
He had no expectation of sneaking up on Veronica; he expected her to be looking his way when he put his head in through the opening. He found that she wasn't, however. Instead, she was unbuttoning her blouse. He entered the room silently, and barely breathed until the door was shut and latched.
By the time he'd finished doing that, Veronica had removed her blouse, and was just setting her bra down. She was facing the closet, which meant she had no view of him yet. He walked softly over to her, and paused just a moment.
When he'd finally settled his breathing, Don lifted his hands and placed them very gently on Veronica's shoulders. He felt her shiver slightly, and then relax. He began to run his hands over her shoulders and upper back, caressing the skin and occasionally kneading the muscles beneath.
Leaning in, Don kissed the nape of Veronica's neck. She shivered again, and a soft sigh escaped her lips. She wasn't moving at all, letting him touch her as he chose. His kisses moved from the back of her neck around to the side, and he moved a little closer, his hands working a little lower down now, caressing her shoulder blades and her sides. Veronica felt tingles all through her body at his touch.
Don moved even closer, sliding his hands along her skin around to her stomach. His lips moved up to nibble on her ear, causing her to giggle lightly, and blush. She could feel his body pressing against her back, and she felt his cock pressing against her ass. Their lovemaking was usually much more playful than this, but she was loving every second.
Don's fingers scampered across the flesh of her tummy as she squirmed beneath their ministrations. He knew exactly how to pleasure her, and she was already fully aroused and ready for him. He was drawing it out, tonight, however; he didn't want to just screw her silly and let it go at that.
"Oh, gods," Veronica moaned finally, "what's gotten into you?"
Don took a long time to answer her; he didn't wish to interrupt his lips' work on her earlobe. Once he took a break, though, he whispered, "Someone reminded me that I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry."
"Ohhhhh. Don, you don't have to be sorry... I know she's prettier than I am. And I know you love her, and that you don't love me."
Don's fingers reached up and brushed the bottom of Veronica's breasts, causing her to shudder. He continued to stroke the bottom swell of her tits, and she moaned again.
"I don't have to love you to care about you. And I don't really have to do either of those to want to make you feel good. Does this feel good?" he asked, stroking her breasts more fully.
"Ohhhh, gods, yes..."
"Would you like me to stop?" he teased.
As his fingers continued to caress her tits, he whispered into her ear, "Finish undressing."
Veronica unfastened her skirt - she almost never wore pants - and let it fall to the floor. Her panties, already drenched in her juices, followed suit. She was now completely nude, and still feeling self-conscious about her body, though Don had repeatedly told her that he loved looking at her.
Veronica reveled in the feelings he was causing in her, but she wanted to be more active. She stepped away, Don's hands falling reluctantly from her breasts. She turned to look at him, and smiled. It was easy to see his pajamas tenting from his stiff cock. She knew she wanted that.
Kneeling, she tugged his pajamas down off his hips, letting them fall to the floor unnoticed as she stared at his fully erect prick. She licked her lips, and then she let her tongue slip out so that it could lick the head of his cock. Don moaned softly, and she put her hands on his hips. She turned her head to lick down one side of his cock, and then she licked across his balls. Don trembled at the feeling.
As she returned her tongue back to his cock and licked her way to the tip, Veronica brought a hand to his balls and began to fondle them very gently. She knew that he was sensitive there. As her lips slipped over the helmet of his cock, her fingers danced deftly across his nuts.
Don knew that he would not last very long with her treating him to this. Her lips sank further onto his prick, and her tongue slipped wetly along the underside of his shaft. Her fingers continued to fondle him, and her free hand moved to the base of his dick and began to stroke the part of it not in her mouth.
That portion was getting smaller and smaller, however, as Veronica worked her mouth further and further onto his cock. Finally, there was no room for her hand as her lips reached bottom and her nose was nestled in his pubic hair.
Then she hummed.
Don gasped as the tingles shot throughout his body. In a flash, he was coming, his cock spewing its load down her throat. She had to stop humming to swallow, but it no longer mattered. He grunted as the last shots of his cum were expelled, and he was breathing hard.
Veronica slipped his cock out of her mouth, and smiled to herself. She finally rose, to meet his concerned gaze.
"I'm supposed to be pleasing you, not the other way 'round," he complained.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll be pleasing me soon enough," she said with an impish grin. "I was just about to take a shower. Why don't you join me? You can wash my back."
"I'd rather wash your front," he said with a grin of his own.
"That," she retorted, sliding against him, "is one of the ways you'll be pleasing me." She kissed him passionately, her tongue invading his mouth. He ignored the taste of his seed, and kissed her back, hard.
Finally, they separated, and he followed her into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Veronica had a huge tub/shower combination. It was big enough for two people to lie in very comfortably. He thought this might, in fact, be a good thing.
After Veronica turned on the hot water to warm up, she slithered against Don's body again. He loved the feel of her tits pressing against him, of her erect nipples dragging across his skin. When her fingers gently encircled his cock, he felt it stir. He knew she was right; he would soon be ready for her again.
It wasn't all that long before the steam was fogging up the room, and they knew it was time to step in the shower. Don held Veronica's hand as she stepped in, and then he followed her, closing the glass door. Veronica was already beneath the spray, and he enjoyed the look of her glistening body in the dim light.
"Are you planning to stare at me all night?" she asked with a grin.
"I just might," he said in reply. She opened her arms, inviting him to come to her. He stepped close, and pulled her to him. Their lips met and they kissed wantonly. Don felt his cock surge as her tongue pushed its way into his mouth.
Veronica very clearly felt it, as well. She moved her feet, and Don's cock slipped between her legs, rubbing up against her wet pussy lips. Their wetness had little to do with the shower.
Veronica broke their kiss, and she moaned. "I need you inside of me, lover."
"Yes, Mistress," Don said, a playful look crossing his face. He gently pushed her back against the tile wall. Veronica shivered at the touch of the cool tile, but ignored it. Don was glad for the non-skid floor surface as he reached down to grasp the back of Veronica's legs. He lifted her off the ground, and she wrapped her arms around his neck as he pressed her tightly to the wall.
Veronica wrapped her legs around Don's waist, and he was able to move his hand down to position his cock. Slowly, he let her slip down the wall until the head of his cock was pressing at her entrance. She moaned in anticipation, as he pushed her tightly against the wall again, keeping her in place, the head of his cock almost, but not quite, inside her.
Don ran his hands up Veronica's sides, caressing her tenderly. He looked up into her eyes, seeing the need, and the care she felt for him. It wasn't love for either of them, but they knew what their bond was, and in some ways it was stronger than love could ever have been.
Don suddenly pushed away from the wall slightly. Veronica slid down onto his dick in one swift motion. She cried out as he filled her depths. She felt so full, so wonderfully full, and she was seeing stars at the sudden pleasure.
Don did not give her time to recover, but instead began to thrust up into her, using the wall again to hold her in place. She was awash in the pleasant sensations she felt. Her cries echoed in the small chamber as the water washed over her from the side, and his cock slammed up into her from below.
As Veronica tilted her head back, her eyes closed, her groans and pants freely escaping her lips, Don leaned in and began to kiss and nibble on her neck. Veronica groaned in one long, low tone as he did, and her pussy rippled along his cock. He felt her body shudder, and her tits were shoved forcibly against his chest, her back arching as much as it could. He knew she was coming, and he continued to thrust into her throughout.
As Veronica began to come down, Don stopped his thrusting, but he didn't let go of her. He chanted a quick agility spell - he'd need his balance for what he was going to do - and then he squatted, finally dropping down until he was sitting in the huge tub, the hot water washing over both of them. He didn't move, letting Veronica recuperate from her climax.
After a few moments, Veronica looked him in the eyes and smiled.
"That was wonderful," she said, her pussy squeezing his cock tantalizingly. "But somebody didn't come yet."
"Somebody was hoping we weren't through," he said with a grin.
Veronica raised her eyebrows and smiled. "I'm beginning to like you..." She leaned forward and kissed him passionately as her pussy rippled along his cock.
Once they broke their kiss, Veronica released her legs' grip on her lover, and she maneuvered herself into a kneeling position, his hard cock still buried inside her. She wanted to keep it there for just as long as possible. She pushed him, and he scooted backward. She knee-walked with him until he was resting more comfortably with his back against the side of the tub. Throughout it all, she kept her pussy rippling along his shaft.
Once they stopped moving around, Don put his arms around Veronica and held her. She looked into his eyes, and she almost wanted to cry. It was so clear that he cared for her... that he would do almost anything to make her happy. He tilted his head up and they kissed, more tenderly this time.
As they kissed, Veronica began to roll her hips. She slid herself on and off his dick in small strokes, arousing both of them without upsetting their kissing. She clamped her pussy muscles down on his cock as she pulled off him, sending shivers throughout his body.
They stayed that way for quite a while, just moving enough to keep each other well aroused. Finally, though, Don broke their kiss, and put his hands softly on either side of her face.
"You're beautiful," he said. Veronica blushed. She never felt beautiful, except for moments like this one. Don lifted his knees up, to cushion her ass, and he tried to push himself upward. Veronica helped, and soon they were standing up again.
Don moved away from Veronica, letting his dick slip from her pussy. She almost groaned in frustration, but she knew he wouldn't leave her like this. He stepped around her, and she knew immediately what he was doing. She leaned forward and pushed her ass upward.
Stepping behind Veronica, Don pushed his cock back into her pussy, and she moaned at the return of her pleasure. He didn't wait, but began to thrust into her using smooth strokes that took him almost all the way out of her pussy before he slid back in. The angle caused his dick to rub against the front of her pussy repeatedly, and she was soon feeling a warm tingle all over her body.
Don leaned forward, cupping her tits in his hands. His fingers rubbed on either side of her nipples, causing her to moan. He knew she was close, and he wasn't far off, either. He wanted to come with her, wanted to share that moment. He massaged her breasts as he continued to thrust into her.
Veronica put her arms against the wall, bracing herself for what she knew was coming. Her pussy was already beginning to tingle, and she longed for it to explode with her orgasm. Don's fingers were driving her crazy, and his cock was driving her to heaven. She could feel his body tightening against her. She rippled her pussy muscles even harder, trying to draw his cum out of him.
Don let one hand slip down off Veronica's tit, and he stroked it against her clit. That was all she could take, and she cried out, her orgasm washing over her body. Her pussy clamped down so tightly on his cock that he could barely move. He could no longer control his own body, and he thrust into her one last time, releasing his cum in powerful blasts deep into her pussy.
The couple groaned and bucked together for long moments, lost in their passion. They each slowly collapsed to the floor, Don's cock slipping from her pussy. It was several more minutes before either of them had the wherewithal to speak.
Veronica moved back into Don's lap. She was more sated than she could ever remember being. The young man beneath her looked up into her eyes, and knew that he had succeeded; he had made her happy. She kissed him warmly, and embraced him.
After a long moment of companionable silence, he said, "It's a good thing you've got a big water heater."
She giggled and nodded. It was a happy moment.
"Okay, today we're going to take it up a notch," Veronica said. "That's why I asked Katie not to be in the room. First, she might find this distressing, and second, if you slip and deflect it the wrong way, she could get hurt. So you need to focus."
"How much more intense does this get?" Don asked.
"For third-circle, this is the last stage. You won't be able to draw on the magic more until you're nearing the end of third-circle, or into fourth-circle. Anyway, this is the last technique we teach you now for this form of magic defense. Then we'll move on to some other things."
Veronica moved closer to him, to show him the spell in his book. He wrapped his arm around her waist as soon as she was close enough, and she snuggled against him for a long moment without saying anything. Finally, she ran her hand down the page until it was at the right spell.
"This is the one you need to use today. It's pretty intense, and you're probably going to get pretty tired. We're going to cut out after lunch, because you're just not going to have the strength to keep this up."
"Hmmm. I wonder what I'll do with my afternoon," he said, and began stroking her side, and letting his hand wander down onto her ass. Veronica shivered. Since they had reacquainted themselves a week and a half ago, they had been much more affectionate, much as they had been in the beginning. Katie was hardly being ignored, but Don had realized that he was ignoring the other women in his life, and so he'd spent lots more time with Susan and Julie, as well. Everyone seemed to be happier now.
"So, have you got the spell memorized?" Veronica asked him, snapping him out of his reverie.
"Oh, sorry, I was thinking about this afternoon." Veronica blushed as he squeezed her ass, but then he let her go to hold the book. It took him only a little while to memorize the spell - it was short - and then he closed the book, setting it on the table.
Don readied himself, chanting the spell and trying to focus. The spell was only half the battle; if he didn't concentrate and pay attention to Veronica's attack, the spell wouldn't do any good. He wasn't strong enough as a magician for an 'all-over' defense spell, so this worked more like holding a buckler in his hand to ward off a sword attack.
When he felt he was ready, he nodded to Veronica. She put up her hands and began forming an energy ball. He did not know - and was afraid to ask - what that ball would do to him if he missed. She launched it without warning, but he saw it coming anyway, and he was able to deflect it. He found that the hardest part of the spell was controlling direction, but then he decided to treat it just like the shield it was, and he used his arm to direct it.
The energy ball came again, and once more, he batted it aside without too much effort. Veronica spun the ball quickly, however, and Don dropped to the ground as it whizzed past him.
"Good!" Veronica said in praise. "Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just not to be in the way."
As she said this, however, she maneuvered the ball to be right above him, and let it dive down straight at him. Don had no time to roll, and he wasn't in a position to deflect the energy. He raised his shield up to meet it in a head-on impact. He felt like he was being pushed down into the floor. Concentrating, he managed to angle his shield without moving his arm, and the ball of energy slid off his shield, bounced off the floor, and whirled into the air.
Don quickly got to his feet, and was facing the ball of energy when it came at him again. He deflected it one more time, and it whirled away. He wondered how long they were supposed to do this; he was already getting physically tired, and he didn't know exactly how long his magic would hold out.
The training went on for much longer than Don thought he would have been able to hold out. He'd cast a stamina spell, but it hadn't been a strong one, because he didn't want to draw down too much on the power available to his shield. After an hour, however, he was growing weary.
That's why he made the mistake.
He'd just deflected Veronica's attack in a rather flashy and impressive maneuver that involved a roll and then a swipe at the attacking ball. He was pretty pleased with himself, and he wasn't paying attention. Had Veronica known that, she would have stopped her attack before it hit him. However, she, too, was growing weary, and she didn't quite notice that he wasn't aware of her maneuver.
The energy ball hit Don squarely on the side. He screamed in pain, and it threw him off his feet. It wasn't strong enough to do much more than that, but the internal injuries it could cause were worrisome enough. Veronica cried out herself, and ran to his side, vaporizing the ball with a thought.
"Don! Don, oh, shit... Are you okay?"
Don was in no position to answer her. His eyes were still spinning loop-the-loops inside his head, and his brain seemed to be squashed to one side. He tried to take a deep breath, but that incited such a violent, stabbing pain that he decided not to do it again for the rest of his life.
"I'm going to get help," Veronica said softly. She stroked his cheek, and then she dashed out of the room. It was only seconds before she returned with Katie, who screamed and ran to his side.
"DONNY!" she wailed.
"Careful, Katie," Veronica warned. "Don't touch him too much. I don't know what I hurt. Oh, gods, Don, I'm so sorry!"
Don was too busy groaning in pain to worry about her apology, or to acknowledge it, or even to forgive her, which he didn't think was necessary, as it had been his own damned fault for not paying attention. He groaned, and both ladies looked at him with concern.
"The ambulance is on the way," Veronica said softly. Katie was caressing his head, trying to make him feel better as best she could. Don felt little more than the pounding inside his head and the pain inside his body. He hoped the ambulance would arrive soon, with something to stop the pain.
He was unconscious when they did arrive.
Don came slowly back to consciousness. He knew he was in a hospital; it was the only place he could possibly be in a bed and be this uncomfortable. He opened his eyes, hoping it was still daytime. He saw that it was, indeed, still light out. It took only a second before Katie entered his field of view; she'd been watching him intently from her chair, and had seen his eyes open.
"Donny?" she asked. She hated that her voice quivered, but she was so scared for him...
Don reached out for her, and was actually surprised that he could. He took her into his arms and they hugged. She squeezed a little too hard, and he winced.
"Oh, geez, I'm sorry!" she said, almost afraid to touch him now.
"It's okay, Sis. What's wrong with me?"
"They won't tell me. Veronica is off talking to them."
Don nodded, and he pulled his sister into his arms. He kissed her softly on the lips, to let her know he was okay, and then he hugged her. She was very careful to be gentle now.
A short time later, the doctor came in with Veronica in tow. He smiled to see the siblings hugging. Veronica wondered what else they'd been doing, but she kept her smirk to herself.
"Well," the doctor said, to announce his presence. "It would seem you were practicing your martial arts a little too aggressively."
Don looked up quizzically. He saw a stern nod from Veronica, and he got the idea. Don said, "I guess. I didn't expect her to get off that snap kick so fast."
The doctor nodded. "Yes, that would be about what I expected from your injuries. I can hardly tell you not to exercise, but you do need to be more careful."
"What's wrong with me, anyway?" Don asked.
"Oh, I didn't tell you that, did I?" The doctor had a shame-faced grin. "I told your aunt. You have two cracked ribs. They will stitch in a few days, and you will be sore for a week or two. Don't get back to your sparring until they don't hurt anymore. Be very careful for the next few days that you don't do anything to torque them or bump them, or you will be very sorry you did."
"I gather," Don said. He could already feel them aching.
"You passed out from the pain. You don't have any head injuries or concussion that we can see. Take it easy. If you have any dizziness or any other problems, get right back here. Otherwise, you are free to go."
"Thanks, Doc," Don said. He shook the doctor's hand, and sat up slowly. Katie helped him, and Veronica held his hand as the doctor walked out.
"So, Aunt Vera," Don said with a sarcastic grin, "how did I do, anyway?"
"Gods, Don, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." Don put his hand on her cheek to quiet her.
"I let my guard down. Stupid mistake. I don't think I'll be doing it again."
Veronica nodded somberly. "Let's get you home. You need to rest and heal."
"Yeah. Oh, god, this hurts," he said as he let his feet drop to the floor and a stab of pain shot through his chest. "I don't think this is going to be much fun."
Veronica said nothing as she led them both out to the car.
Don sat in the back of the car with his sister because it was more comfortable for the trip home from the hospital. He didn't pay attention to much on the way; he was in too much pain. The doctor had given him a shot of something, but it wasn't doing a whole lot. Veronica had assured him that a more effective remedy was waiting at her house.
When they got to the house, Don was still not paying much attention. He didn't really notice the startled look on Katie's face, and it wasn't until the car door opened that he knew that someone unexpected was there.
"Jesus, what did she do to you this time?" Amy crawled into the car and turned to look at him. She ran her hands gingerly over his chest and abdomen, chanting softly. "Good grief. C'mon, we need to get you inside."
Don made an indication that he could hardly move with her where she was. She said, "Right." It was only then she realized that there was someone staring at her. She looked up at Katie, and smiled. "I remember you. Too bad you don't remember me. Anyway, hi. My name is Amy." She stuck out her hand, and Katie very tentatively shook it.
"You know my brother?"
Veronica had leaned down to look in and see what was going on. "Help him out of the car, Katie, and we'll explain inside."
"Okay." Katie opened her door and very carefully helped her brother slide over and get out of the car. She kept a grip on him, though he could walk just fine by himself.
"What the hell did you do this time?" Amy was demanding of her aunt. Veronica stuttered; she knew that Amy would be concerned, but she had not been prepared for outright hostility.
"Amy, I was just-"
"Just overdoing it. Again. I will never forgive you for Jacob, and I'm not going to let you-"
Don put his hand tenderly on her shoulder, and Amy stopped in mid-sentence, turning to look at him. Her entire posture changed, and it was an almost fascinating thing to watch as she went from totally pissed off to utterly concerned.
"It was my fault, Ames. I let my guard down. It was a stupid thing to do."
"After how many hours of training?"
"Just one," he said quietly. "Can we go in? It's hot out here." Amy took Don's other arm - the first was still occupied by his sister - and they led him into the house and into the living room, where he was directed to sit.
"Who are you?" Katie asked more quietly, now that they were indoors.
"Veronica is my aunt. I'm another magician, like your brother. I'm a third-circle magician, just like he is."
"There's got to be more than that..." Katie said.
Amy blushed. "Yeah, well... I came a couple months back to help your brother get ready for his third-circle test."
"And?" Katie said.
"You're going to have to tell her something," Don interjected. "She's too smart for that to be enough." Katie leaned against her brother; she loved it when he praised her.
Amy turned to Veronica. Veronica grimaced. "Don, if you think she can handle it, we can show her what happened."
"I thought you said her memory was erased."
"It is. But I can show her... like a TV program. She won't remember, but she'll know what went on."
Don turned to his sister, and she looked at him worriedly. He smiled at her, and gave her a kiss. She melted against him; he always made her feel safe. He turned back to Veronica. "In the study?"
Don struggled to get up, and both Katie and Amy helped him. As Don started walking toward the study, he began to talk.
"Katie, what I'm going to tell you is going to sound a little far-fetched, but it's the truth. It's how I started to become a magician, and you were there, but you don't remember it. You should probably be thankful for that, given all the shit that happened. Anyway, here's how it began..."
"Stop squirming!" Amy said good-naturedly.
"Then stop touching me that way," Don replied with a grin. "I thought you were supposed to be healing me. Is this something about how a happy attitude makes the patient heal faster?"
"Keep that up," Amy said with a wicked grin, "and I'll do something that will make you need another three days of healing therapy."
"Katie, save me!" Don said in mock despair. All three of them laughed. Katie was sitting beside her brother. She couldn't help with what Amy was doing, but Amy'd asked her to be there, anyway. She didn't know why, as such, but had a feeling she was about to find out.
"Don," Amy began, slowing the movement of her hands. Her spell had been chanted and she was visualizing now, during which she could talk freely, as long as she kept her concentration. "Have you thought any more about Annie?"
Don stiffened. They'd not talked about her in Katie's presence, though she'd seen enough to deduce things from the presentation a few days before. Katie felt his body tense, and she caressed his arm.
"Do you know where she is?" Katie asked with interest.
"Yeah. I have her address in my wallet," he admitted.
"How did you get that?" Katie asked.
"How do you think, Sis? She gave it to me. We were riding together on your favorite animal, and she and I exchanged addresses and phone numbers. We didn't know that she wouldn't remember any of it when we got home." Don frowned sorrowfully.
Amy picked up the charge. "Have you thought about contacting her?"
"And say what? 'Hi, you don't remember me, but we once had a real intense relationship, and I saved you from dying from a wyvern bite?' I don't think I'd get very far."
"Donny... how... intense... was your relationship?"
"Not as intense as yours and mine!" he retorted. Katie blushed crimson. Don waited for her to settle down. "We never got to have sex. Things were always happening. She got sick, or we got separated, or we were both just too damned tired. Or you or Julie really needed company that night, or... well, you get the point."
Katie frowned at the idea that she had been responsible for some of her brother's unhappiness. She worried that she was doing it again, here in the real world. "Did you love her?" Katie asked bluntly.
"Enough to accept certain death over her," Amy replied for him.
"She wasn't asking you," Don said hotly.
"What?" Katie asked. "I don't remember anything like that from the video..."
"Well, we glossed over a lot of details, to save time. When you guys went to the sacred swamp... you remember that part?"
"Well, he was told that he could retrieve the antidote, but that he would end up dying in the swamp... that in order to save a life, one had to be given up. It was a test, of course, because we wanted to see what kind of person your brother was. He passed with flying colors."
Don was blushing, and Katie looked at him intently.
"So you do love her."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Was she married or anything?"
Don shook his head. "She lost her parents a couple years ago. Her older brother is a jerk. She's basically alone."
Katie shivered involuntarily. That one word struck fear into the core of her soul.
"Donny, you need to find her."
"And do what?"
"She fell in love with you once," Amy replied. "No reason to think she wouldn't do it again."
"I said I was in love with her," Don responded. "That doesn't mean she was in love with me."
Amy cocked an eyebrow. "If you think that for a moment, you weren't paying attention."
Katie chimed in. "Donny... did you promise her?"
"Well... yeah, but it's not like she remembers that I promised her."
"Donald White! That does not wipe away the promise!" Katie was very cute when she was trying to be stern. He leaned over and kissed her. She accepted his kiss, but she wasn't letting him off that easy. "You owe it to her."
"She's got you there, tiger."
"Okay, okay. I'll go find her... but I'm not making any promises. I don't know what she's like here. In ZN, she was scared to death half the time, and I was the nearest source of protection."
"And she's not going to remember that, anyway, thanks to that neat little brain-wiping technique you guys used."
Amy got a strange look on her face, but she didn't say anything.
Katie did. "Promise me you'll find her and look out for her."
"Katie... I promise I'll find her. Beyond that, it'll depend on whether she wants me around."
"Okay, I guess that's fair," Katie said, a frown crossing her face. Don reached out and hugged her with one arm, and she leaned against him. His presence eased her discomfort, and she sighed gently.
Don sat in his car across the street from a large house that almost looked abandoned. Though the lawn was kept and the bushes were pruned, the house had a vaguely empty feeling, just looking at it.
Don knew that it wasn't empty, of course. First off, there was a car parked in the driveway, and it was no clunker, so obviously someone was there. Secondly, there was a light on in an upstairs window. It was still early morning, and the sun was just barely over the horizon.
Don ate his Croissan'wich and watched the house. He didn't really know what else to do. This was the address that Annie had given him while he was in Zemlia Nov. Now, if the girl getting ready upstairs - he'd seen a silhouette - wasn't Annie, then obviously she hadn't felt a thing for him, and he could go home and say that it had been a mistake.
Deep down, he dreaded that option.
He had long since finished his breakfast sandwich and his orange juice by the time she came out of the house. Don's breath caught in his throat as her auburn hair and olive complexion shouted her identity. He took in the rest of her body, remembering almost more than seeing each detail, each curve. Her small breasts still enthralled him, and he remembered the feel of her lips on his own. He wanted to feel that again, to hold her in his arms...
Don shook himself from his reverie as she started her car. He waited until she was about a hundred feet away before he started his own car and followed her. He hated doing this; it would look like he was stalking her to anyone else. The truth was that he simply had no plan for getting back into her life. He watched as she drove down to a gym, and pulled in. He rolled on past and then turned around, parking in the empty lot across the street from her workout center.
Okay, so she likes to stay fit. That's interesting, I guess. Not very useful, though.
Don followed her all day; she went down to a rescue mission, presumably to serve breakfast. She went to Wal-mart. He thought that was especially interesting. Do rich people normally shop at Wal-mart? He had to admit he didn't know. She went to lunch. And then she went home, and stayed there. He saw her sitting in the living room, watching television, with the occasional move to do this or that.
At dinner time, she went back to the rescue mission. Don realized that this was obviously a passion of hers. She gave no indication of being an evangelist... I wonder if she is actually there to save people, or if she just goes to feed them. He didn't know, but it was dark when she came out, and he had to work especially hard now not to be noticed as he was tailing her. She went straight back home, and gave every impression that she would be there the rest of the night.
Don sat in his car and tried to think. Watching her surreptitiously had been very thrilling for him, but vaguely unsatisfying. He wanted to kiss her and fondle her, not watch her drive around town.
Around eleven o'clock, he headed for his motel. You're going to have to come up with something, slick.
Don was wandering through the mall, seemingly uninterested in anything around him. In truth, he was very carefully keeping an eye on Annie. This required the use of a magic spell, since she was nearly four hundred feet away from him. When he saw her go into one store that he knew she would probably be in for a while, he slipped into a nearby clothing shop to make a purchase. He asked the clerk to hold it for him, and he wandered back into the mall, looking to see that Annie was still in the store he'd left her in.
Once she came out, Don picked up following her again. He didn't quite know how to initiate contact, he was merely waiting for the opportunity. He'd had a thought, which was why he'd purchased the item at the clothier. He didn't, however, know if she would cooperate with his idea.
For two more hours, Don wandered aimlessly behind Annie who, he assumed, was wandering aimlessly. It was around four in the afternoon when she finally did the one thing he needed her to do in order for his idea to work. She bought food.
In this case, she bought a fairly big ice cream cone that looked quite good. She was eating it happily, and Don was able to maneuver into a position in front of her. He walked about ten feet in front of her, and then slowly shortened that distance to about six feet. She was, he noted, paying more attention to the ice cream and the shops than to anyone around her.
Don stopped, as if to look at a store, and turned. He knew she could avoid him, if she was paying enough attention, but he was counting on her distraction.
Annie noticed him just in the nick of time, and she started, jerking away from him as if she had run into a wall. At just exactly that moment, Don turned toward her, his eyes lingering on the store, and he began to walk. His head came around just as he bumped into her.
Don hit Annie's arm, and the ice cream, of course, went flying against her blouse. Annie screamed in shock, and dropped her ice cream cone.
"Oh, shit!" Don said in dismay that was entirely feigned. "I'm sorry! Can you ever forgive me? Damn, I need to watch where I'm going!"
Annie was flustered. Her first instinct was to snap at him, but his immediate regret for what he'd done drowned any ill feeling she had. Now she was looking at him as he floundered. She tried to get a word in, but he was apologizing in six different ways at once.
Don pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket. "Here, let me wipe that... no, on second thought, maybe you had better wipe that off. Let me take your bags." Don handed her the hankie, and took hold of her shopping bags, so she could wipe off her blouse. They both knew the chocolate stain would never come out.
"Aw, hell. I'm sorry," he said. It was clear that he meant it, and he did; he hated ruining her shirt, it was just the only thing he could think of.
"It's okay," Annie finally managed to get in. "It's an old shirt, anyway," she lied; it was only two months old.
"I feel awful. I wish there was something I could do. Look, at least let me buy you a new ice cream cone."
Annie wanted to beg off; she wasn't comfortable with people. The look on his face, however, made her change her mind. She saw a kindness there, and an eagerness, that she couldn't really fathom, but she found it attractive.
"Okay," she said.
"Great!" Don said, motioning back the way she had come. He kept hold of her bags as they walked back to the ice cream parlor. Once she'd ordered her cone, and Don had gotten a smaller one for himself, They walked back out into the mall.
"Hey... why don't we sit and finish these? I'd hate to bump into you all over again, being the klutz that I am."
Annie laughed. She knew it was a line, but it was at least original. She didn't know what it was about this young man - and she knew he was younger than her - but she found herself attracted to his personality.
"Okay," she said again.
They made their way over to a bench and sat down side by side. After a short silence, Don finally got up the nerve to say something.
"I'm Don. You're..."
"Annabelle Carter. My friends call me Annie."
"Well, Miss Carter - "
"Please," she said, raising a hand, "don't call me that, of all things!" She smiled at him. "Annie."
"Thank you. Well, Annie, I'm sorry I tried to run over you... I'm new here, and was just kind of gawking at all the stores. Is this a good place to shop?"
"I suppose. It's the only mall in town, so there aren't a lot of options."
Don nodded. He knew that the chit-chat was important, as difficult as it was for him to maintain. He spent the next twenty minutes talking about nothing at all with her. He was astonished that she didn't hesitate to talk with him, though they didn't approach any personal topics.
Finally, when she had finished her ice cream, they both stood. He kept hold of her bags, and said, "You were going home, weren't you. I've delayed you. I'm so sorry..."
"No, that's okay. It's not a problem."
"Let me walk you to your car. It's the least I can do."
"All right," she replied. They walked together, continuing to chat. Suddenly, as they passed the store that Don had gone into earlier, he stopped.
"Could you wait here for just a second? I won't be gone but a moment."
Annie nodded, taking her bags from his hands. Don walked into the store and found the clerk who was holding the package for him. She walked behind the counter and picked it up, handing it to him. He received his receipt, and then he headed out of the store, back to where Annie was waiting. He was actually a little surprised that she had waited; it would have been a good time to leave, if she was uncomfortable.
Don stammered a little; it was the first real emotion he'd exhibited all day, because he didn't know how she'd react. "Look, I... um... the shirt is my fault, I should have been watching where I was going, so... I got you this."
Annie set down her bags and took the bag he was carrying. She pulled out the garment inside to find a lovely light-green blouse. She looked at the tag; it was her size.
"How did you know?"
Don shrugged. "I guessed." Guessing had nothing to do with it; she'd told him in Zemlia Nov what her sizes were.
"But how did you know I liked green?"
"I didn't," Another fib. "But it goes so well with your hair and your skin..."
Annie blushed. "I... don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything. It's just my way of saying I'm sorry for bumping into you."
"Thank you. And you're forgiven."
Don beamed a smile at her, and then he picked up her bags so they could continue to walk to her car. He had deliberately parked several rows away, so that she wouldn't get suspicious. Once they were there, he placed the bags in the trunk and then turned to her.
"I'm sorry I messed up your shirt. But I'm not sorry we met. Thank you for the pleasant chat."
"Thank you, too," Annie said, a strange feeling of loneliness washing over her.
"See ya 'round," Don said, and walked off. He turned back and waved, and Annie returned the gesture with a smile. She got in her car and started it up, pulling out in something of a daze.
Don had to hurry to get into his car before she was completely out of sight. He managed to get behind her, with only two cars separating them. He followed her until she pulled into her driveway, at which point he broke off his surveillance and went back to his motel room.
His half-hour with Annie had been perhaps the happiest he'd been since leaving Zemlia Nov. His sister and the others were wonderful, and he wouldn't want to do without them, but he knew that Annie was really the one he wanted. With these thoughts in mind, Don began to pack.
When Don walked in through the door, Katie was the first to greet him, throwing her arms around him and hugging him tightly. A passionate kiss ensued despite the two other ladies waiting to greet him. Both of them smiled, and politely waited their turn. Their greetings were less passionate, but no less heartfelt.
"I'm glad you're back, Big Brother," Katie said.
"How'd the trip go?" Amy wanted to know.
"Girls, why don't we let him sit down in the living room and rest so he can tell us all about it," Veronica advised. Everyone thought that was a good idea. Katie dashed off to get him something to drink while Amy sat down beside him and tried to let him relax. Veronica sat in a chair across from the sofa, and smiled pleasantly.
"Was it troublesome?" she asked him.
"Not really," he replied. He realized there was more to her question than mere curiosity. "Why?"
"I just have a sense... of foreboding, I guess you'd call it. Something doesn't feel right in the area around Annie."
"Are you trying to tell me-" Don started. Veronica cut him off.
"No, I'm not saying anything is wrong with Annie herself. Just that things are not right around her. And I don't have anything to go on other than a gut feeling. If I did, I'd have let you know already."
"Okay." Katie came back in then with his drink, and she sat down beside him, handing him the soda.
"So?" she said expectantly.
Don took a sip of his soda, and set it on the coffee table. He said, "Well, finding her wasn't any problem at all. She lives right where she said she did. The house almost looked abandoned when I saw it, it's so dark and lifeless. She doesn't work, but she does charity work, and keeps herself fit. I didn't see her talk to a single person besides me."
"Oh, come on," Katie objected. "You never saw her talk to anyone?"
"Well, she could have spoken to people on the phone, I suppose, but no, when she was out and still in my sight, I never saw her talk to anyone."
Veronica nodded. "That doesn't surprise me. With what I learned when she entered the game, it sounds plausible that she has almost no contact with the outside world. Anyway, go on. You found her, then what?"
"Well, I followed her for a couple days, just trying to figure out a way for us to meet. So, when she goes to the mall, I kind of make arrangements to bump into her. Of course, she was holding an ice cream cone when I did."
"You didn't!" Amy accused.
"Yeah, splattered it on her blouse. I was kind of upset about that, it was a nice blouse. But I couldn't think of anything else."
"Cute," Veronica said with a smile.
"Well, I did the whole, 'God I'm an idiot,' bit, and insisted on buying her another ice cream cone. Anyway... Veronica, is there any chance she remembers some of the game?"
"Not likely. Why?"
"I dunno. It just seemed like she was awfully willing to talk to me. I'd seen her shy away from store clerks, but she barely hesitated to chat with me over ice cream. It was weird."
Veronica sat, puzzled, for a second. "It is possible that she subconsciously remembers you, and attaches positive feelings to you. There's no way she would remember any details, however."
"Oh. Okay. Well, anyway, I chatted with her over ice cream, and I had bought her a new blouse to replace the one I knew I was going to ruin, so I gave her that..."
"Wait a minute, you had a replacement blouse with you?" Katie asked incredulously.
Don rolled his eyes. "No. I had bought a nice blouse at a store, and asked the clerk to hold it for me. After everything worked out, I went into the store and pretended to pay for it."
"Anyway, that was about it. I walked her out to her car, and I followed her home - not that she noticed - and then I went back to the motel to pack and come home."
"What was she like?" Amy asked.
Don's eyes sort of glazed, and everyone could tell he was seeing her in his mind's eye again. "As beautiful as the day we met the first time. She's still just as sweet and vulnerable, and kind as I remember."
"And you still love her," Katie said. It was not a question.
"Yeah," he said with an audible sigh. "I just don't know what to do. I wish she could remember what happened."
Amy looked at Veronica, but neither of them said anything.
"You should go to her, Donny," Katie insisted.
"I want to, Katie, but I don't know how."
"You'll think of something," Amy encouraged.
"Hell, it's not like I'm any good with girls..."
"Julie and Susan would beg to differ. In fact, both of them are upset at not having seen you for the last few days."
"Shit," Don replied. "I don't know what to do."
"I guess you have to make a choice," Veronica said. "Julie and Susan, or Annie."
"Hey, what about me?" Katie whined.
Veronica smiled tolerantly and looked to Don to answer her.
Don said, "You're not a choice, Katie. You're a necessity. Anyone who can't handle me and you being together is not going to be my partner."
"Oh," Katie said, blushing.
"Anyway, I guess I do need to think things over. I'll be in the back yard," he said, rising from the couch. The others watched him go in silence, and then had their own discussion about things.
"You know there are ways," Amy insisted. "The spell is reversible."
"Yes, there are ways. And all of them can be dangerous, if not put forth in the right way. You know as well as I do what the consequences could be."
Amy nodded reluctantly. She did know that the issue wasn't as simple as she'd like it to be. "Isn't there anything we can do?"
"Yes, Amy, there is. I'm going to need your help, because the spell is complicated and quite difficult to manage. I'm going to need you to use your healing skills to watch over me and make sure I can complete the spell. If it goes only half-done, it could be catastrophic for everyone."
Amy nodded. "What do you need me to do?"
"Go and get a couple wet washcloths, and some water. Also, you might want to get the medicine kit from the bathroom."
Amy nodded, and left to do as she had been bidden. Veronica cleared her work table, and pulled down a book from the highest shelf. This book, her most prized possession, allowed her to create her own spells. She opened it to the necessary section, and began to compose.
When Amy returned, she found her aunt hard at work. She sat quietly, waiting for Veronica to finish, all the while worrying about the situation. It was a full half-hour before Veronica looked up, her face bearing a look of satisfaction.
"I think I have it."
"Are you sure?"
"You can never be sure with a first-time spell. You know that. But I think this will do it."
"You've attended me for other spells. You know the routine. If I look as if I'm getting weaker, you'll need to cast a healing spell to help me through. That's new for you, I know, but you've healed Don on more than one occasion, so I'm sure you'll do just fine with this."
"Thank you for trying," Amy said quietly.
"I can't reunite you and Jacob, Amy," she said sorrowfully, "but if I can do this, I will. Now, let's get started."
"Now, this is a one-bedroom apartment, and it's kind of small..." the apartment manager said. He looked at the couple as if he was trying to convince them to go away.
"We'll need a two-bedroom apartment, sir," Don said. "This is my sister, Kate."
"Oh!" the man said brightly, far more interested in renting to siblings than an unwed couple. Don grinned at the man's idiocy. "Well, then let's walk down here."
They walked down and unlocked the door of an apartment, and he showed them inside. They walked around for several minutes, looking it over.
"As you can see, it's not well furnished," the man said, pausing.
"That's all right, we can bring in our own furniture."
The man thought this was all sorts of good news. "The rent is $550 a month, plus deposit, and that only includes the water and the gas. You gotta pay the electric yourself."
"That's fine," Don said. Katie looked nervous. The manager pulled out the paperwork from his clipboard and sat at the kitchen table - one of the few things that was in the apartment - to fill it out. He had an office attached to his own apartment, but he kept tenants away from himself as much as possible.
Don filled out the necessary spots, lying where he had to in order to get the paperwork out of the way. He counted out the necessary money - which he'd obtained from Veronica - and in only a few more minutes, the manager was shooed out the door, and the two of them were alone.
Katie came over to her brother, almost shaking. He took her into his arms and held onto her, giving her all the love and support he could manage.
"Donny, how are we going to afford to live here? I can get a job, but it isn't gonna pay much..."
"Don't worry about the money, Katie. Veronica said she'd take care of things for us. We're paid off for the rest of the month, anyway."
"And food? Furniture? Other stuff?"
"All being taken care of. Stop worrying."
"Okay," she said. She laid her head on her brother's chest and sighed as he held her. She believed him when he told her that things would be all right. She just hoped he was right.
"Thanks again, Annie," the shelter manager said. "We always appreciate your help."
"No problem, Mr. Witherspoon. I'll be here tomorrow."
Annie walked down the street toward her car. She pulled her keys out as she walked, looking around nervously. It was not the best of neighborhoods, and she often wished that Mr. Witherspoon would offer to walk her to her car, but he never did. Not that she had any interest in a forty-five-year-old man, but she could use the escort.
She made it safely to her car, and slipped inside quickly, shutting the door and locking it immediately. Putting the key in the ignition, she turned it. The engine cranked and cranked, but would not start. She cursed loudly, and tried again. Still, nothing happened.
Shit. Frank, you dickhead. She had just had her car tuned up a month ago. There was very little chance it had broken on its own. Her brother, Frank, however, was notorious for pulling crap like this.
I'm going to kick him in the nuts for this! It's a seven-mile walk from here!
Annie got out of her car and headed back to the shelter, hoping that Mr. Witherspoon could call her a cab. When she arrived, however, she found it was already locked up tight. Though they called it a shelter, it wasn't really. It was just a place that fed the homeless, along with giving them what she considered a rather long speech about God and salvation.
The price of being fed here, she thought to herself with a grimace. She wondered exactly what she should do. Now you know why you should own a cellphone.
Well, nothing for it, I guess. I will simply have to walk.
Don had watched Annie struggle with her car. He didn't know quite what was wrong with it, as he had not witnessed the tampering. He considered the idea of picking her up right then and giving her a lift, but he thought she might be suspicious about that. Instead, he cast a spell to cause her to simply ignore him, and he followed her to make sure she would be all right.
Annie cursed her brother for nearly a quarter mile before she realized she was in trouble. She had not noticed the two punks following her in the shadows, but when three more emerged, it was obvious that she would be in deep shit soon.
"Hey, mama, what you lookin' for down here?" the one teen asked. His accent was ridiculous, given that he looked white enough to be an albino. She ignored his question, and tried to walk faster.
"Hey, where you goin', bitch?" another thug called out. The boys kept pace with her easily, and closed in.
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