Chapter Twelve

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I convinced my mom to let me go see Justin that afternoon, but I felt a little guilty. I made her think that I was pining for him, which was sort of true, although I wouldn't readily admit that under normal circumstances. I knew Mom had always been fond of Justin, but I hadn't realized how much she liked us as a couple until I asked to go over there. Despite Dad's warnings, she let me leave the house with a smile and a wink.

I took the back way to his house and texted him while I walked. He was waiting for me at the gate in his backyard, and for once I didn't hop his fence. I was surprised when he leaned forward and brushed his lips against mine, and I froze, my skin tingling from his kiss.

"In case anyone is watching," he murmured in my ear, and I nodded. Of course he was right. The lie I'd told my mother just might convince Hecate, as well. Swallowing, I leaned forward and kissed him gently, trying to ignore the way my heart was throbbing between my ears. A slow heat began to climb through my feet and into my legs, and I broke away before I could make a total fool of myself. Justin draped his arm casually across my shoulders and nuzzled my ear as if he didn't notice.

"Wait 'til we're inside." His voice was so low I had to strain to hear it, but I faked a laugh and reached up to hold his hand. As I glanced over my shoulder, I made eye contact with a sleepy-looking owl sitting on a branch in the next yard. It blinked its golden eyes at me twice, and I shivered. Justin had been right to be careful; we were being watched. There was only one other creature with eyes like that, and I didn't doubt that the owl would report directly to Hecate if Justin or I said or did anything out of the ordinary. Hopefully, I thought, the goddess hadn't been watching me for long, or she'd realize that kissing Justin was way out of the ordinary for me lately. I tried not to worry as we headed inside.

Once we were safe in Justin's bedroom, I stepped away from him quickly. It wouldn't do either of us any good if I let him see the way he still stirred me up. I had to get my feelings under control. Justin didn't mention the kiss. Instead, he sat down on the edge of his desk and looked at me.

"So what did you do?" His question was laced with excitement; despite the danger, Justin was enjoying himself.

His energy was infectious, and I smiled as I told him about the hurricane. "I don't know if it worked, but I threw everything I had at it."

Justin immediately crossed to his computer and pulled up a news site. He clicked around for a minute, but then shook his head. "Nothing on here so far. But we should know soon if it was supposed to make landfall in the islands today or tomorrow." He glanced up at me, and he suddenly seemed nervous. "Did you want to stay here while we wait? We could play a game or something." With his brown eyes and unruly hair, he was such a strange combination of sexy and sweet, and my heart lurched. I didn't want to be alone, and if there was any way I could pretend to be a normal teenager one last time, I wanted it. Besides, I'd give anything to spend a few hours alone with Justin.

"Do you still have that old Nintendo in the basement?" He nodded, and I grinned. "Bet I can still kick your ass!" I waited for him to open the door, and he smiled at me. I almost melted.

"We'll just see, won't we?"

***

After spending four blissful hours beating Justin at the old video games of our childhood, I was almost able to forget the spell I'd attempted that morning. Almost.

I remembered everything when we took a break from the games to scavenge for some food in the kitchen. The small black and white TV on the counter was turned on and playing quietly to the empty room when we emerged from the basement, and I immediately heard the words freak weather pattern. I rushed across the room and fixed my eyes on the screen, with Justin following close behind me. He reached over my shoulder to turn up the volume.

The reporter looked confused as he said, "For those of you just joining us, I'm pleased to announce that a freak weather pattern has caused Tropical Storm Helene to dissipate just hours before it was predicted to make landfall in the Bahamas." A satellite image flashed on the screen, first showing the swirling mass of the storm before switching to a blank map.

Justin squeezed my hand, but I kept my eyes on the reporter. "Meteorologists are stumped by this turn of events and warn citizens of the islands and the eastern United States to take precautions as if the storm were still coming. In case the storm re-forms, people are advised to seek shelter in high, inland areas."

My mouth fell open as I took it in, and Justin wrapped his arms around me.

"You did it!"

I hugged him back for an instant, overwhelmed by the heady sensation of power coursing through me. I'd never tried to do anything so important with magic before.

After a moment, I pushed him away as shock replaced my initial euphoria.

He looked at me, confused, and I forced myself to take a step back.

"Right. I did it. I defied Hecate." As my words sank in, his jubilant smile faded, and I saw a flicker of fear in his eyes. Just then, a rumble of thunder shook the house. I glanced outside at the cloudless blue sky and looked back at Justin. "Get it? I'm in trouble." I turned away from him, my mind whirring frantically. I couldn't let Hecate come after me here; something might happen to Justin, and then I'd never forgive myself.

"Where are you going?" Justin rushed to block the door, and I groaned in exasperation.

"Don't you see? Okay, great, we figured out what I can do. But Hecate told me not to try anything like this. I have to get home."

His eyes were filled with concern. "It's not safe for you to leave. This house is warded."

"It's not safe if I stay! Justin, I can't let Hecate hurt you because I'm with you, but it's even more important that I get home. If I'm there, maybe she won't hurt my parents. I don't think anyone else has pissed off this goddess and lived."

Justin frowned, thinking about what I had said. Lightning flashed outside, and I jumped.

"I'm going with you." His voice shook, but his jaw was set. He grabbed his keys and propelled me out the door before I could argue or think.

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