Friends and Enemies

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Alice spent the day trying to brush aside thoughts of the dagger, though it was hard, since she was hyper aware that it was right there in the desk where she was sitting. She was so preoccupied with trying to think about something else (anything at all) that she hardly noticed when Altair came down around lunch time and placed a plate of sandwiches and a cup of tea by her elbow.

She glanced up, startled, when he cleared his throat loudly. Altair was standing there with his hands on his hips, brows creased in concern. She thought, distractedly, that he looked nice today, his shaggy hair freshly shampooed and tousled, wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and torn blue jeans. He shoved his hands in his pockets and raised one blonde brow at her, clearly waiting for her to say something.

“Oh,” Alice glanced down at the sandwiches, which looked like they might be cucumber and cream cheese. Her favorite, “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, “but that’s not what I was looking for. Azura told me about the dagger, can I see it?”

“Oh, yes of course!” She felt silly. She should have called him downstairs right away, since his previous “occupation” meant he was quite familiar with valuable artifacts.

Alice reached down and opened the cupboard, happy that Maya was at the front dusting the shelves when the bell jangled over the door. She could take care of customers for a while. Her hands were trembling just the tiniest bit when her fingers closed around the box. She couldn’t decide if she was excited to see it again, or just frightened. The same question was playing in her head over and over. Why would she need this dagger? And why was it so drenched in power? Was it black magic, like the witch Germaine had practiced? The thought of handling something that had magic from demons powering it made her stomach turn. She handed the box to Altair right away, but kept the photo, glancing over it again, eyes lingering on her aunt Ruby.

Had her aunt been involved in some sort of cult? Had her aunt been a practitioner of black magic? The thought made her chest tight and her breath shorten. She had always thought of Ruby as a sort of guardian angel watching her, a benevolent force for good. She had given her the charm bracelet when she was a little girl, she had somehow known that Alice would need it. The idea that she might have used dark magic was sickening. She put the photo down on the desk and glanced over at Altair. He was shaking his head in admiration.

“I would have nicked this as soon as I saw it…”

“It’s valuable?”

“I think the handle is gold,” Altair set the box down, eyes shining, “man, that’s nice.”

“Do you recognize it?” she asked eagerly, “do you know anything about it?”

He shrugged, “sorry, I don’t recognize it,” he gestured at the box, “but if you take a look at the design of the guard, how it twists like that, it’s probably Grecian.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Alice muttered, “it’s like your bloody jar of Pandora all over again.”

Altair looked momentarily regretful, “that would have got me so much money.”

“You’re right,” she snapped, “too bad you had to use it so he wouldn’t kill me. Shame, really.”

Altair looked startled, “I wasn’t….I didn’t…”

“I’m sorry,” Alice rubbed her forehead, “I’m just…I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

To her surprise Altair suddenly grabbed her hand and pulled her up from the desk chair, wrapping his arms around her firmly. After a moment, she sort of melted, resting her chin on his shoulder, enjoying the faint scent of cologne on his sweatshirt and the smell of his shampoo.

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