Chapter Nine

Alistair thought it was no longer safe for Mia to stay at the apartment alone. Since she refused to leave and the apartment was big enough for two, Alistair would be opening up the unused apartment across the hallway from Mia’s for Nick and Ronan to use when they took turns standing guard.

Mia hadn’t liked the idea of being babysat but Alistair made it quite clear, this was not up for argument. Besides, it wouldn’t always be Nick and Ronan. Alistair would be introducing her to a couple of other men he trusted who would be helping the out. The men wouldn’t bother her or intrude on her life. They would just be there in case something was to happen.

Mia wanted to argue, but she respected Alistair too much to put up a good fight. With that said, he sent the two men home. One of them would be back in an hour with supplies to clothing to take the first shift. After they left, Alistair ran downstairs to grab them some food from the café while they waited for either of the men to return. It was totally up to them to decide who would be first shift.

Mia sat at the counter as she pushed around her potato chips. She had taken a few bits out of her roast beef sandwich before putting it down. The only real thing that was of interest to her was the steam cup of coffee.

Alistair sat beside her finishing of his own sandwich and chips. They hadn’t spoke for the last five minutes as they just sat there and ate. Or, Alistair ate while Mia pushed her food around.

Mia had known since the beginning the Alistair had worked for the guild before he had retired about fifteen years ago and opened up his bookstore. It had been common knowledge among the employees since Guild members were known to stop by often to see Alistair and for a cup of coffee.

Mia had never really been around when they came. And when she was around, they would just nod at her as they passed her by. Not even bother to spare her a glance. They usually wore the black suits with the guild badge over their breasts, but to Mia they had all seemed more like paper pushers. None of them had really been very powerful and none of them had the bearing of a man in charge. She figured they were probably just co-workers who wanted to catch up with an old friend.

Now Mia realized just how wrong she had been. None of the men were what Mia had thought them to be. They were all specially trained special ops members whose loyalty was still to Alistair, just like Ronan and Nick. Although Alistair no longer worked at the Guild, he still had a good deal of sway in it.

Alistair picked up his coffee cup and drained the last of the coffee. With a satisfied sigh, he placed the empty cup down on the counter next to his empty plate.

“It’s been a long day for me and this was the first real thing I was able to eat,” He told her with a congenial smile. Mia nodded politely, unsure of what she should say.

“From what I hear, you’ve have a very exciting twenty-four hours,” He continued on, his smile never faltering. She just nodded again. “It seems we have found ourselves right smack dab in the middle of a war and right now my dear, you are our only hope.”

Mia’s eyes opened wide in surprise. Had he heard what her father had told her? Had they been out listening in the hallway? She wasn’t sure how she felt about them eavesdropping on her, but she was grateful they had at least stopped her from killing. She wasn’t exactly sure what she would have done if she had so much as nicked her father. She had been barely controlled as if, if he had begun to bleed, what would she have done then?

So far she was doing well at not using her blood magic. But the amount of power she was throwing off in to the air, well she had pretty much just put up and high glowing red arrow pointing right at her doorstep. If she had been in her right mind, she would have realized what she had been doing when she called up that much power. But she hadn’t. She had seen a threat and her mind told her to get rid of it. She wasn’t proud of herself and now because of what she did she was being saddled with a babysitter. It didn’t matter what Alistair called it, she was basically going to be watched every hour of every day until he said otherwise.

“I don’t understand why I’m so important? Why does everyone seem to want me?” Mia asked. First William, then her father, and now Alistair. What did she have that everyone wanted?

Alistair frowned as he watched her. She could see the gears working in his head as he thought about how best to answer her questions.

“How old are you Mia?” He asked finally.

“148, I think. I stopped counting after a while and no one in my family really pays attention to the passing of years. When you are nearly immortal, what is the purpose,” she said with a shrug.

“Well, I’m sixty-five. Not even close to your age,” He said with a kind smile, “I haven’t been alive nearly as long as you have, but I have seen a lot in those years. Probably not as much as you have, but enough to know something special when I see you.”

Mia frowned, Alistair’s word reminded her of something William had said the night before. William had claimed he had created her along with her grandmother. Mia and four others. She had thought his words were just crazy talk. But what if he was speaking the truth? Maybe he hadn’t created her in the way she was thinking. What if he had helped do something to her that had made her different?

“What’s so special about me?” Mia asked. She wanted to know what made her so different from others.

“Mia, there aren’t many people out there like you. And I’m not just talking about you being an Omega. The way you raise power,” he said, shaking his head in wonder, “I have never seen anything like that before. Most people have to gather power, build it up over time. Some people after faster than others and can gather their powers in a few minutes. But usually the way it works is, the more powerful you are, the longer it takes to draw up all that power. But what you did Mia, you can gather you powers immediately. It’s unheard of as far as I know.”

Mia shook her head, “That’s not something special, all blood magic users can do it.”

“No, Mia, they can’t,” Alistair argued. “I may not be a blood magic user but I have known many in my times, both evil and good. As you know, blood magic is powered by blood. So a blood magic user without any blood is basically powerless. You need the sacrifice to gain power.”

Mia nodded in agreement. That was how all blood magic worked. In order to gain power, you must first make a sacrifice. It could either be your blood or the blood of another, but in order to be compensated, a sacrifice must be made first.

“But Mia, as far as we can tell, that’s not how you’re magic works,” Alistair told her.

How could her magic not work that way? That’s how it always worked. She was no different. Her frown deepened. Blood magic was blood magic. There was no magic without blood. It was impossible to work blood magic without first making the sacrifice of blood.

“Mia, think carefully over the past two days. During those two incidents, how were you able to draw magic without making a blood sacrifice?” Alistair asked.

“I didn’t make any sacrifice because I didn’t use my magic. I may have gathered my powers but I didn’t use them for magic, so I didn’t need to make the sacrifice,” Mia told him simply.

“Mia, that’s not how it works for other blood magic users,” He told her kindly. She shook her head no. That’s the way it had always been with her. Gathering her powers and using them in a spell are two totally different things. If she were to work a spell, then she would need a sacrifice, but just gathering her powers didn’t necessarily mean she would be using them for a spell.

“Before a blood magic user can even draw power, they must first make a sacrifice. There is no power without a sacrifice. To gain their powers, they must make a sacrifice. The bigger the sacrifice, the stronger the magic.” Alistair told her.

“The stronger the blood magic user, the more power they can contain. You say I’m an Omega, maybe because I’m an Omega I can contain a lot of power. Maybe I just haven’t gone through what I had stored since the last time I used it,” Mia said, although her words didn’t even sound convincing to her so she was sure Alistair didn’t believe them either.

“Sarah told me that you explained to her that blood magic users were like reservoirs. That they were able to contain magic they drew from making sacrifices,” Mia nodded in agreement to his words. That was how she explained it.

“Well this is how it was explained to me once before. Yes, blood magic users are reservoirs, or containers for magic gathered from the blood sacrifice. But that only so long as it takes them to weave the spell and cast it. Otherwise then they, they are empty. They do not store magic nor could them. Blood magic is very powerful and very volatile as I’m sure you know. If a spell is not preformed correctly, it could backfire and injure the castor just as badly as the target. The human body was not designed to contain blood magic for long periods of time. If contained for too long, it would start to eat up at the person from the inside out.”

Mia shook her head, that’s not how it worked for her.

“Mia, I don’t think you truly are a blood magic user,” Alistair told her seriously, “What you can do, doesn’t fit it in to what I know is classified as blood-magic.”

“If what I do is not blood magic, then what is it?” Mia demanded to know angrily.

“I didn’t say that what you did isn’t blood magic,” Alistair told her calmly, “What you have been doing up until now is blood magic, but that is only because that is all you know. But I think that if you were to try, you could use your magic without having to make the sacrifice. ”

Mia stared at him in complete disbelief. That was impossible. There was no way to work blood magic without making a sacrifice. It was absolutely impossible. She was about to argue that point when he held up his hand, asking her to remain silent.

“After the incident that night you were attacked, I spoke to an old friend who had studied blood magic all his life. I asked him if he thought it was possible for a blood magic user to work magic without needing to make a sacrifice. He agreed with me that it should be impossible. He said, the only thing he could think of that would override the need for a blood sacrifice would be if the person working the magic had made a large enough sacrifice that it would compensate for any future spells casts. In his opinion, the only thing that could ever override that need was the sacrifice of a soul. So either you are not a blood magic users, or somehow you sacrificed your soul.”

Mia’s blood ran cold as his words washed over her. In her mind she saw the characters that ran across her back and arms. She knew each character by heart and knew exactly what the markings on her back meant, but until that very moment, she had never truly understood why they were there.

Is that what William had been talking about? Is that what he meant when he said he was her creator? Had he and her grandmother thought of this process? Had they been the ones to brand her skin with those marking?

Mia felt sick to her stomach. She pushed the plate of food away from her as she ran to the bathroom. What had they done to her? What had they made her into? What had they sacrificed to create her?

She just barely made it to the bathroom in time. She threw up the contents of her stomach, what little she had eaten. She heaved and heaved until there was nothing left. And still she heaved until her stomach ached and her back screamed.

When her stomach finally eased, she flushed the toilet, washed her mouth out with cool water from the sink and splashed water on her face. She wiped her face dry, the whole time refusing to look at herself in the mirror. Because if those markings on her back were correct, this body she was in, this body she had lived her whole life in, didn’t belong to her.

Whatever soul had inhabited this body before her, was no longer there. If the markings on her back were true, their soul had been used to make the sacrifice, their soul had ensured she need never made the blood sacrifice. Their soul was gone, and now hers had taken their place.

Mia finally turned to look at the mirror, her eyes were blood-shot and her face pale. Wiping the shirt off her back she turned around. She craned her neck so that she could read the characters written across her arms and back.

Let the Soul of the Dead Guide the Way to the World of the Living.

Just who the hell was she?

* * *

            Nick threw his duffel bag on the sheet covered sofa. A cloud of dust exploded as his bag landed sending Nick into a coughing fit. He was coughing so hard his eyes began to water.

Everything was still covered in cloth and dust. The apartment hadn’t been used in years and could use a thorough cleaning. Maybe he should have let Ronan win that coin toss after all. Wiping the tears out of his eyes, he hurried to open the living room window to let in some fresh air.

A chilly blast of autumn air filled the room, but it was a hell of a lot better than the musty smell that was in there now. Holding one arm over his nose, he began to pull the white sheets off the furniture and toss them in to a pile by the front door. He would see about having them sent out to be laundered, but that was something he would take care of much later. Right now, he just wanted some place he could sit and rest.

He had been on his feet since three O’clock the morning when the alarm first went out about the six bodies being found on the local university campus by a couple drunk students who had been on their way back to their dorms from a local party. They had literally stumbled upon the women. The two kids had freaked. He was locally one of them had been sober enough to call the cops.

He had spent all morning arguing with the local cops about who jurisdiction the crime was. The cops of the scene didn’t want to release the crime scene to the Guild because it didn’t involve magic. They thought maybe it was some kind of cult thing. Like they had all drank poison before lying down to die.

The fact that the girls were as pale as snow and had not a drop of blood in their body didn’t seem to matter to them. Finally, when their medical examiner came to take a look at the bodies, he could find no trace of poison and no obvious wounds that would lead to the loss of so much blood. He declared it a magical crime and handed it off to Nick.

The cops hadn’t been happy about it, but really, they had no way to deal with this time of killer. Most cops were Norms. Some were magic users, but because it such a highly magic prejudiced field, they didn’t have enough magic users on the force to handle something this big. Nick saw it logistically, they didn’t have the man power or the knowledge to deal with these kind of crimes. To most Norm cops, they just saw the Guild as a rival coming in to take all their glory.

Once Nick could finally call his men in, it was already late in the morning and Nick still needed to question the two kids who had found the body. He had been waiting to hand off the scene to Ronan when Alistair had arrived letting him know he would handle it until Ronan could get there. He had Ronan running a very important errand for him.

Nick really hadn’t thought twice about it before he left everything under Alistair’s care. Now he was thinking he should have paid more attention to the men who arrived to process the scene. He hadn’t realized it at first, but now that he looked back on it, he realized they were all men who were loyal to Alistair.

Now he knew why Alistair had arranged it that way, he had wanted his blood magic user to take a look at the bodies before the rest of the Guild could arrive. If Nick had realized what he was doing, he probably would have fought him over it, which is probably why it had been Ronan who had been sent to retrieve her.

Nick probably wouldn’t have even found out about the whole thing they way they brought her in and took her out if he hadn’t passed by Ronan’s SUV on the way back to the crime scene and seen Ronan with a young Guild agent in his car. He only had a quick glance at her face but he had recognized her instantly. What the hell was she doing in a Guild uniform?

Nick had immediately turned around and headed after Ronan instead of heading back to the crime scene. Alistair could handle it until he returned. Nick lost Ronan in traffic but he figured he knew where to find him. By the time he caught up with him, he was standing beside his car on his phone. From what Nick could hear, he was giving a report of what the woman had told him to someone on the other line.

All of a sudden everything began to click in Nick’s head and he realized what they had done behind his back. Not only had they both know that woman was a blood magic user, but they had allowed her on to an active crime scene to view the bodies. And he knew exactly who was behind it all.

Ronan’s eyes grew large when Nick came stormed around the side of the vehicle. He said one last thing in to the phone before hanging up the call and smiling at his partner.

“What the hell were you two thinking?” He demanded to know. “Bringing an unknown magic user, much less a blood magic user to a crime scene she may have very well created herself? Are the two of your out of your goddamn minds?”

“It’s not what you think-“ Ronan was protesting. But Nick didn’t even give him the chance to argue.

“We know nothing about her. How the hell do you know she wasn’t the one who commit the crimes? And you wanted to bring her there so she can lay evidence that will lead away from her? She is a goddamn blood magic user. She is not to be trusted. They are all evil!”

“Nick, calm down for just a damn minute so that I can explain,” Ronan said, holding his hands up.

“You know my past. You know what was done to me. How could you ever trust one of them?” Nick said in disbelief.

“There are things going on here that you don’t know about. Things Alistair didn’t want to tell you because of your past. Things that involve that woman up there,” Ronan said as he pointed up to the second story of Books and Beans, “There are big things going down right now and she is the only one we have who can help us.”

Before Nick could argue Ronan went on, “These aren’t the first murders of their kind. There have been at least five other attacks just like this one in five different countries. Alistair has been following them and trying to get as much information as he can but no one is saying anything. The blood magic users are being very hush, hush about it. No one seems to know anything. But that woman knows things that we don’t know. She knows more about blood magic than all of us combined. If she can help us, if she can help to prevent another attack, then we need her help. Believe me, I don’t like this any better than you do, but she is our only hope right now.”

“How can you trust her?” Nick growled.

“I don’t, but Sarah and Alistair do,” Ronan informed him, “And I trust them.”

“How can they trust her? They don’t even know who she is. As far as we know, until six months ago this woman didn’t even exist. She is a liar and she is not to be trusted.”

Nick had been planning to argue more when Alistair’s car pulled up next to them. He was just getting out of his car when they had all felt the explosion of power. Nick had only ever felt power like that once before, one night, deep in the woods, twenty-five years ago.

Alistair hadn’t even bothered to wait for the two younger men before he took off. He shoved his key into the side door and ran up the stairs. As old as he was, he still moved like a man in his thirties. Nick could barely keep up with him and he was around half his age.

The closer their got to the power, the strong it grew. The feeling was so intense, by the time they reached the apartment door, all of Nick’s nerves felt like they were on fire. Just what the hell was going on in there?

Alistair had started pounding on the door and calling for Mia. But there was no reply. Only a sense of urgency that was affecting them all. After few more second of Alistair pounding on the door, Ronan moved him aside and blew the door open.

Nick wasn’t sure if he should curse himself for following Ronan that morning or not. If he had just gone on about his own business, things would have remained the same. He wouldn’t need to know that in the room across the hall from him was most likely the same woman who had saved him all those years ago. He wouldn’t need to know that there was probably a blood magic war brewing. And most of all, he wouldn’t need to be confused about how he felt about blood magic users, especially the one across the hallway from him.

Until now, he was happy thinking they were all evil. Until now, he was happy forgetting that the fact that it had been one to get him out of that hell hole twenty-five years ago. Until now, things had been so much easier.

So the question was then, what did he do now? Running a hand through his short blond hair he let out a frustrated growl and threw himself on to the couch. He needed a drink, but right now that was the one thing he couldn’t have. He was on duty, at least for the next twelve hours till Ronan took over.

Grabbing his duffel bag from where it landed on the floor when he pulled the dust cover off, he placed it on the couch beside him and unzipped it. He dug through his bag and pulled out the slim padded case that held his laptop.

Pulling the laptop out of the case he booted the computer up. He needed to do some research. Supposedly there were five other similar killings like the one this morning but he hadn’t heard a thing about it. Blood magic users weren’t known for leaving bodies behind. Usually if someone disappeared, they never showed up again.

Blood magic wasn’t technically illegal. There was a good amount of prejudice towards it but so far they hadn’t been able to outlaw it. Mainly because using blood magic couldn’t be proven as a crime. Blood magic like all other magics was neither good nor evil. It was all about the intention behind it.

There had been some rare occasions where it was documented that blood magic was used to help others. It wasn’t something that happened often, but it had been notated that it does good as well as evil. Like a gun all by itself wasn’t necessarily an evil weapon, it was all dependent on the person who wielded the gun.

To prevent blood magic from being outlawed and all blood magic users marked as criminals, blood magic users tended to hide the evidence of their crimes, much like most major crime organizations. Without proof, how do you proof there was a crime.

So for something this big to happen, not once but five other times and news not reach him, it was unbelievable.

Logging on to the Guild database, he entered in ‘blood magic murders’ in to the search engines. Thousands of entries popped up. With a frown he refined his search to within the last year. That at least narrowed it down to five hundred entries. Still too much for him to look through. He decided the separate them by region. He had gotten enough information from Ronan to at least know where to start. From what Ronan said, Alistair had found the first attack in Africa. Nick narrowed his search to Africa.

That brought it down from five hundred to a more reasonable twenty-eight. Skimming through the brief descriptions he scrolled down the page until he found one that might be the one he was looking for.

Opening up the file he read through the contents. Like today’s attack, the body, had been left in a public place where it would be found within a short amount of time. If the two drunken kids hadn’t stumbled upon the body, it would have most likely been found a few hours later when the track team showed up for their morning practice.

The killer seemed to want the bodies to be found. He didn’t try to hide them, but placed them in places where they would easily be seen. In Africa, the girl had been left in the middle of the playground. Like the young woman today, the girl was eighteen years old. She had not been gone long enough for her friend to report her missing.

She had been found the next morning by a jogger who ran through the playground every morning before work. He understood now why he had may not have heard about this crime. This one was marked as possible blood magic user crime, they had no definite proof nor was there any sign at the crime that magic had been used at all. Their Guild trackers had been able to find no trace of magic what so ever. Very much like today’s scene.

He said the Guild had not even been informed about the body until the police there had taken the body back to their morgue. The police didn’t even suspect it was a magical crime until the autopsy proved there was not a single trace of blood left in the woman’s body. By then it was too late to look for any place on the body where the blood may have been removed.

These seemed to be the first attack. There was little to no information in the report. The guild has canvased the crime scene but it was too late to find anything the killer may have left that the police had not searched for. Too many people had been on the scene to get any sense from it. They couldn’t prove it was a blood magic crime, so they just footnoted it as a possible blood magic crime.

So the first attack had been a single body. And this morning’s attack was six bodies. What is a coincidence that the first crime was a single body and the sixth was six bodies. He didn’t think so but he needed to find the other four reports first before coming to any conclusion.

Flagging the report so that he could come back to it later he started on his search again. It took him three hours and a great deal of frustration but he eventually found the four other reports.

All of them seemed to read the same way. No trace of the attacker found. No trace of magic found. All the bodies drained of blood but not point of removal found. No cuts, needle marks or incisions. There weren’t even any bruises found on the body to prove the girls tried to fight back. All of the girls were under twenty and all were college students at the local university.

He made a note to ask Alistair if he thought there was some importance to the girls all being young. Besides the fact that they were all between the ages of eighteen and twenty and all college students the girls had nothing more in common. How did the attack pick them, what drew them to him. There had to be something. He found it impossible to believe that he just grabbed these girls at random. There had to be a pattern he wasn’t seeing.

With a yawn, he placed his computer on the coffee table in front of him. He stretched out his back and got up. He could use a good cup of coffee and since this place had nothing in it, he decided to go down to Books and Beans for a cup. He was supposed to watch over his new neighbor, but he figured he was still in the building. Close enough if something were to happen.

Grabbing the key Alistair had given him, he locked the apartment door. He stood still for a moment, listening to hear if there was any sound coming from the apartment across the hall. But it was silent which was a good thing.

The door to the apartment hung on the hinges haphazardly from when Ronan had blown it in. Alistair said he was would have someone come and fix it tomorrow since today was Sunday. Since you still had to get through the outer door to get in to the building they figured it would be okay for the day. Especially since one of them would always be next door.

Assured that all was good next door, he headed out. He made sure the metal door locked behind him before he went around to the front entrance. He walked in to Books and Beans and nodded at the cashier, a young girl who smiled back at him a little too brightly. He took a quick turn to the right and headed in to the café.

It was pretty crowded for a Sunday. There was a line for the café and all the tables were packed. He glanced towards the book store side to see they were doing pretty good business as well.

That was good for Alistair. Not like he needed the money, but it kept him busy during his retirement. Liz took care of the money side of the business, so Alistair concentrated on the customer side. During his shifts, Alistair was using running the register or stocking books. Something that would bring him interaction with is customers.

Most of the customers knew him by name and sometimes they would start chatting about one book or another, and before you knew it, an hour would pass. Alistair was very well loved in the community. Everyone just saw a friendly older man. None of them knew that in his previous line of work, he had headed the Special Ops division of the Guild. As far as they were concerned, he was just kind Mr. Rosen, the local book shop owner.

Nick was so deep in thought he didn’t realize how much attention he had drawn until he eyes landed on a young woman who sat at a nearby table. She batted her eyes at him and smiled. She made sure to cross her legs while she had his attention, drawing his attention to their long tone length.

He offered her a polite smiled and turned his head away until to find that half of the women in the café were now staring at him. He was starting to wonder if coming down here had been the best idea.

“I see you still have that effect on woman,” a familiar voice said warmly as an arm slid through his. He turned to find a pair of warm sapphire eyes watching him with barely contained glee. There was a big smile on her face as she watched him flush uncomfortably. “It’s nice to see you still have the same reaction as well to all that feminine attention. This is why I never worried about your wandering when we were married. You didn’t even notice other women and when you did, their attention always seemed to embarrass you.”

“Liz,” He said gratefully as she pulled him out of line and towards the counter. She waved at the two girls taking care of the orders as she grabbed a large mug and filled it to the brim with freshly brewed coffee. The girls were watching them speculatively but neither said anything more than hello before turning back to take care of their orders.

“Here,” She said handing him the full mug, before winding a hand around his free arm, “Why don’t you come with me? John stopped by to say hello and he brought a couple pastrami subs from Luigi’s with him. One was supposed to be for Dad but he already had something to eat.”

Luigi’s was one of the best Italian places in town. Not only that but they were known for their subway sandwiches, especially their pastrami. Even if Nick hadn’t been starving, there was no way he would say no to Luigi’s.

Liz let him to the back room office. It was crowded enough in the store today that he needed to be careful not to bump in to anyone with his hot coffee. When they finally made it safely back to the office Liz and Alistair shared, he coffee was cool enough to drink.

Liz pushed open the door as walked in to the slightly cramped room. Of course Liz’s half of the room was neat and orderly, just like she was. Her desk was clean, not a pen or paper out of place. Her chair was occupied right now, her fiancé, John Tyler was on a phone call. When he saw Nick walk in, he smiled and waved.

Nick waved back before taking a seat at Alistair’s desk, which like normal was covered in half-read books and papers covered in his scribble about one thing or another he needed to do or order.

Liz grabbed the paper bag off her desk and handed in to Nick, “John and I already ate, so eat whatever’s left.”

Nick set his coffee down in the one clear spot he could find before rummaging through the bag of takeout. He found a six-inch sub and a bag of potato chips. There was always a heaping pile of napkins. When you ate anything from Luigi’s, it was going to get messy.

Liz grabbed an extra chair and sat it down next to Nick while he dug in, “So I hear you had a very busy morning.”

Nick just grunted as he took a big bite out of the sub, careful to let the sauerkraut fall back on to the wrapper instead of his jeans.

“Dad keeps trying to pretend he has gotten out of the game, but we all know he still has his nose stuck in everything. The only reason he retired was so that Mom would stop worrying all the time,” Liz said with a shake of his head.

“Is that working out?” Nick asked around a mouth full of food.

Liz chuckled and shook her head, “No, but she says at least he’s no longer on the field. We pretend to believe his ‘I’m nothing but an old book shop owner’ act but we all know he’s still involved in the Guild, even if it’s not officially.”

“Sometimes I worry about what’s he gets himself into,” Liz said with a sigh that turned in to a smile, “But there’s no stopping him. As long as there’s a person out there who needs help, he wants to be the one to help save them.”

“Is that how he sees Mia Carlisle, as someone who needs saving?” Nick asked with a frown.

“Mia’s a good person Nick,” Liz told him. “I know what you must think of her, but I have watched her for the last six months, she is trying hard. She’s a good worker, she polite to all the customers and she has anything bad to say about anyone.”

“And you believe it? What if it’s some kind of act?” Nick said angrily, drawing John’s attention. He shot Liz a questioning look, but she just shook her head and smiled at him. He frowned, but nodded before going back to his conversation with the person on the other end.

“I trust Sarah, Nick. If she says Mia is a good person, I believe her. But not only that, I believe in Mia. I see that she wants very much to change. She didn’t need to do what she’s doing. She doesn’t need to work for minimum wage and live in a tiny old apartment above a book store. Yet she does. She could have done so many other things, yet she works hard for her money. She struggles to make a good, honest living. She may be a blood magic user, but I believe she is honestly a good person.”

Nick scowled as he took another bite out of his sandwich. Usually he loved the pastrami sub from Luigi’s, but today he could have been chewing on cardboard for all he noticed.

“I know you don’t want to hear this but I’m going to say it anyway. Things aren’t always black or white Nick. People aren’t always good or evil. Sometimes they can be both. And if you don’t believe that, well, people do change,” Liz told him, she placed a hand on his rigid arm and gave it a squeeze, “I’m not asking you to give Mia a chance for me, or Sarah, or even Dad. I’m asking you to look at her, truly look at her for yourself. Sometimes people need to change, even you.”

With one final squeeze she stood up. John had finished his lunch and was heading out. He waved at Nick before turning to leave, Liz shot Nick one last worried look before she followed him out, leaving Nick alone with his half-eaten sub and his own thoughts.

Man, he could really use a drink.

Next: Chapter Ten

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