Home > Witching Fire (The Wild Hunt #16)

Witching Fire (The Wild Hunt #16)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

Chapter One



When I walked into the living room, I saw both Kipa and Raj sprawled on the sofa, snoring up a storm. Dishes sticky with maple syrup cluttered the coffee table, and the TV blared away with a reality show. Contestants had to make their way through an obstacle course that looked like a drunken engineer had designed it. Most of them ended up in the water or mud, struggling to return to the course before they were disqualified.

Raj snuggled under a throw—a Hello Kitty throw, at that. He had recently discovered the world of Hello Kitty and now my otherwise sleek, minimalist house was littered with Hello Kitty plushies and Hello Kitty comic books. Much to my dismay, Raj had begged for a Hello Kitty collar as well, and I’d had to fashion one to fit him because nobody made Hello Kitty collars that would fit a gargoyle. But I loved him, and if wearing a pink cartoon collar made him happy, so be it.

I glanced around the living room. Beyond the dirty dishes and the Hello Kitty toys, the place was a mess. The floors needed sweeping, the sofa cushions were scattered everywhere, and generally, chaos ruled. Kipa had stayed at my house all week and his things were everywhere. He tended to leave his things lying around. Raj had slacked off, too. They both seemed under the misconception that I was going to happily skip around in a French maid’s apron, cleaning up after them. Kipa was getting better about his sloppiness, but the Lord of Wolves was an alpha at heart and he was still coming to grips with being in an equal partnership.

Frustrated, I debated on whether to squirt them with the plant mister, or to be nice and just yell them awake. Before I could make up my mind, my phone blared out “Flight of the Valkyries.” That meant one thing: my mother was calling me.

“Hey,” I said, answering. “What’s up? Please don’t tell me you can’t make my party.”

Kipa and I were throwing an open house for Yule that night, which was one reason I was so pissed off about the dirty house. I wasn’t about to clean it and do all the cooking myself.

As usual, my mother—Phasmoria, Queen of the Bean Sidhe—wasted no time with small talk. “I’m coming in early. I’ll be there at three o’clock. We have important things to discuss. And don’t worry, I’ll help with the party tonight.”

I barely managed an “Oh” before she hung up. Staring at the phone, I mulled over the news. I loved my mother but she could be abrupt, bordering on brusque. Turning back to Kipa and Raj, I decided to go with the most expedient route, even though it would be fun to blast them with a shower of water.

“Wake up!” I shifted into high gear, yelling so loud that neither Raj nor Kipa could sleep through my command.

“Wha— What’s wrong?” Kipa asked, jerking awake as he bolted to his feet.

Raj, on the other hand, gave me a lazy blink, staring at me with bleary eyes as he barely moved his head off the sofa. “Is Raven okay?”

“Raven is fine, but the house is not. Not only do I need to cook for the party tonight, but this place is a pigsty and I’m not about to be stuck with the cleaning. Add to that, my mother’s coming in early. She’ll be here at three and I will not have her walking into this mess, so both of you get off your asses and clean up this mess, now!”

Kipa ducked his head. He knew I meant business. “Raj needs to help Kipa,” he said, stretching and yawning. “Raven will tan Raj’s and Kipa’s hides if they don’t do what she says.”

“Very observant,” I said. “Raven wants Raj to put his toys away and turn off that television. Then he’s to sit and watch TV, and not make any more messes. And you,” I turned to Kipa, “for fuck’s sake, please clean the kitchen, the hall bath, and straighten up this living room. You promised you would be responsible for cleaning them when you stay here and newsflash: they’re all filthy. You and Raj made most of the mess in this room. There’s an entire day’s worth of dishes in the sink. Don’t dawdle—get moving!”

Kipa saluted. “Yes, ma’am.” He was grinning, but he had gotten the message. “Sorry I’ve been slacking. You said Phasmoria’s coming early?” He knew better than vex my mother. Even though he was a god, she was Queen of the Bean Sidhe and she scared the hell out of him.

“She’ll be here at three. It’s noon and I still have to do the shopping. You have three hours to clean this place until it’s spotless. And I might add, I expect this to stick. I hate micromanaging people. You’ve been teaching Raj bad habits.”

He sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“I should hope so. You know I hate clutter. I don’t keep a messy house, and I expect both of you to do your chores without complaint. Got it?” Hands on my hips, I stared them down. That was one thing about man-boys and gargoyles. Give them an inch and they’d take a mile.

Both gargoyle and god lowered their eyes and whispered another “Yes ma’am” before kicking it into high gear. As I headed into the bedroom—which, I might add, was clean since I had made the bed when we got up, and dusted—they attacked the mess like industrious worker bees. Sometimes you had to give people a kick in the ass, lovingly so.



Half an hour later, after cleaning the bedroom bathroom and tending to the ferrets, I grabbed my purse and keys. “I’m going shopping. Keep working while I’m gone.” I turned to see that Raj had already dragged out several of his toys again and left them on the floor. I knelt, holding them up. “Did Raj forget what Raven asked him to do?”

Raj hung his head. “Raj is sorry. Raj doesn’t mean to make a mess.”

“Raven knows that,” I said, giving him a hug. He was about the size of a rottweiler and as heavy as one, but he was a sweetheart. Most of the time, if he hurt someone, it was an accident. “It’s usually okay for Raj to make a mess, as long as he cleans it up without being reminded. But Raven and Kipa are having a party tonight, so the house needs to stay clean today. Does Raj understand?”

“Raj understands,” he said, his gloom lifting. He gave me a smile that was as innocent as a child’s. “Raj will do better for Raven. Raj loves Raven.”

“And Raven loves Raj,” I said. That was our pattern. Whenever I left, Raj always told me he loved me and I reaffirmed it back to him.

In some ways, he was very much like a child. In gargoyle years, he was still young. I doubted that Raj could ever fend for himself—not fully. He was in his formative years and growing up away from his own kind. He had had his wings cut off by a demon, and so he was unlike his brethren. And one thing I did know about the gargoyle world was that physical imperfection was considered unacceptable. They’d never take him back, given what the demon had done to him. Gargoyles weren’t kind to their disabled. So I made myself a promise that I would always take care of him, and we had been together for over fifty years.

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