Chapter 1

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Ezra

I stared out the window, taking in the pre-dawn light as the smell of coffee brewing grew stronger. There was a slight chill in the air, just enough to remind me that fall wasn't too far away. Hopefully, it wouldn't get too cold this winter. I wasn't so sure the heat would work without burning down the house.

Taking in the dark aroma of coffee, I fought to keep it from turning into a sigh. John was already out in the garden, his thin frame hunched over working with the plants.

After what happened in the warehouse with his father, and Nathan at the Ackland manor, he and I agreed that going back to his family was a bad idea. The Witches didn't handle betrayal well, and I didn't want to see what they'd do to John. But in the past few months that he had been staying with Avery and me, I'd noticed a change in him that certainly wasn't for the better.

He was quieter and spent most of his time alone working outside around the house. The most startling difference though was how much weight he'd lost. He'd always been on the thin side, but now, he hardly ate, and that certainly wasn't the John I knew.

Hands slipped around my bare waist as Avery cuddled up beside me. "Hmm, you're up early. You okay?"

I could tell from her voice that she was still waking up. To be honest, I had found it rather surprising that it took her the better part of an hour to fully wake up and want to participate in anything other than coffee drinking.

Wrapping an arm around her, I pulled her closer. "I'm fine. Just a lot I want to do today."

She mumbled a sound of disagreement and pulled away to reach for her mug in the nearby cabinet. "Are you going to talk to John today."

I cringed. "If I find the right moment."

Avery slammed the cabinet door shut. "Gods above and below, Ezra! You've been waiting for the 'right moment' all week." She pulled the coffee carafe free from the maker and poured. "I'm really worried about him. He hardly eats or sleeps." She replaced the carafe and turned to me, her expression softening. "He'll listen to you, but not if you don't talk! Do it today, or I will."

I glanced at Avery over my coffee mug, and I decided wisely not to say any more about the subject. "Alright."

Finishing the last sip, I left my mug in the sink and grabbed my staff before stepping out the back door. The late summer air was thick with humidity and heavy, grey clouds filled the sky.

I nodded at John and the garden when he looked up but continued heading out into the side yard beside the house with the grass grew the thickest. I'd been practicing every morning just as the Warriors of the village in the half-world had when I visited. I went through the same moves and sequences that they did, but I wasn't as proficient at them. And it wasn't as easy to do by myself. I felt very self-conscious working through the moves on my own. I'd asked John to join me but he'd yet to do so.

I turned my back to the garden and stood facing the forest that ran along the western edge of the Reinhardt property. I took a deep breath taking a deep breath I close my eyes and found my center, and started the first move.



John

I turned the soil over with my hands feeling the energetic spark of the Earth's magic hum. The air was thick, and I could feel the ground beneath me eagerly awaiting the coming rain. Sitting back, I surveyed my work, after a few more days, and a little encouragement from my gift, and we'd have something other than rice and canned tuna to eat.

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