Chapter Twenty-Seven

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"Darlena, honey, I'm sorry to wake you." My mind was still groggy with sleep, but Mom kept pounding on my door.

I crossed the room and opened the door. "What's wrong?"

"There's a hurricane headed our way. We have a few hours 'til it reaches the Outer Banks."

I rubbed my eyes, confused. "So? We're far enough inland not to worry."

She shook her head. "Not this time. This one is strong, the worst of the season, they're saying. The radio even compared it to Fran. Your dad wants to be safe rather than sorry. I need your help sealing up the house and moving things upstairs in case it floods."

Groggily, I got out of bed. As I pulled on my sweats, I noticed my old atlas lying on the desk. I flipped it open to North America, feeling the tingles of magic still on the pages of the book. I looked long and hard at the map, considering.

I had averted a hurricane before, hadn't I? Maybe I could do it again. I drew a deep breath and tried to center myself, but my scattered thoughts kept latching onto the memory of Justin's lips pressed against mine. It was intoxicating, and I found it impossible to think clearly about anything else.

I shook my head and closed the atlas. I was clearly skilled at love magic; why did I feel the need to meddle in matters of chaos? Pushing away the memory of the last hurricane I'd altered, I headed downstairs and began stacking the kitchen chairs on top of the table. Mom worked with me, and it didn't take long to move most of the furniture either upstairs or as high as we could put it on the downstairs level. Then we went out to the shed to find the dusty old storm shutters.

"Will we need to postpone our Mabon celebration?"

She looked up at the sky and frowned. "Maybe. It wouldn't be a good idea to have the fire tonight, that's for sure."

"It'll blow over us. They always do, right?"

Mom nodded, but her forehead was still creased. "I hope so. Something about this storm feels funny."

I looked up at the sky, but it just looked stormy. Soon I had forgotten what Mom said as I struggled with the storm shutters. I had never helped hang them before, and it was tricky, heavy work. When we were done, I headed around the corner of the house, keeping my eyes on the ground. Mom usually put away her gardening tools, but I spotted her yellow trowel lying at the edge of the flower bed. Picking that up, I detached the water hose from the side of the house and dragged it over to the shed.

"What are you doing?" Rochelle had slipped up behind me, and I jumped, startled. I hadn't heard her come up, but the wind had started blowing harder, so that wasn't surprising.

"Getting things cleaned up. Mom says there's a hurricane coming." I handed the hose to her, but she made no move to take it.

"So?"

I looked at her, annoyed. "So I have to help get things put away. Shouldn't you go home and help out, too?"

She shrugged, smiling a strange smile. "My folks will be fine."

Glancing at the purple clouds, I shook my head. "I don't know. It looks like it's going to be bad."

"My storm will not harm them."

For a minute, I didn't understand her words, but then I turned, surprised. "What do you mean, 'your storm'?"

She smiled smugly. "Darlena , did you really think you were the only one who could fool around with weather?"

I felt a chill creeping across my neck. "What did you do?"

"I did what you did! I used a map as a focus, but unlike you, I didn't try to fight the forces of nature. I helped them along."

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