Excerpt from THE NINTH CURSE
“You’re positive this will work?” Joel helped Gen gather wood, piling it next to the pit.
She pulled a matchbook out of her jacket pocket, struck a match and set it to the bits of dry leaves and pine needles under the kindling. “I never said I was positive about this. I wasn’t positive about the healing spell, but it worked.” The fire caught.
“So you experimented on me that night?” He dropped the heavier pieces of wood he’d been collecting.
“I didn’t say it was an experiment. You came to me for help, I tried what I knew. It worked. You’re healed.” She poked at the fire with a stick.
“I thought you said your book had a cure for the Curse of the Mute.”
“Not exactly.” She pulled two plastic baggies out of her pocket. One held some kind of green leaves, the other looked like it held mud.
He caught her by the elbow. “I need this to work, Gen.” He didn’t mean to sound so desperate, but she was all he had to hold on to.
Gen looked down at his hand holding her arm. He knew he should let go, but he couldn’t. Silence hung between them for a moment. Neither of them moved. He wanted to lean into her hair, pull her close. He shook off the feeling and slowly released her. “What’s that stuff?” His voice was gruff to his own ears.
Gen stepped back, the connection broken. “St. John’s wort and graveyard dust. Although it was wet when I gathered it, so it’s more like graveyard mud.”
“Graveyard dust? You got this from a cemetery?”
“Graveyard dust is very powerful. The power of the life lost is absorbed into the soil around a gravesite. The St. John’s wort is used for banishing evil spirits.”
“So there’s an evil spirit following me rather than a curse?”
“A curse is almost like an evil spirit come to life. Whoever placed this curse on your family is long gone, but the evil it was created with is still following you. Plaguing the DeVries family beyond the grave.” She placed a larger piece of wood on the growing fire. “Evil spirits can wreak havoc on the living…mostly in the forms of curses. This particular ceremony should help protect you against this interference.”
“So a panacea of sorts. A ceremony to give me blanket coverage.”
She took out a pinch of St. John’s wort, crushed the leaves in her fingers and tossed them into the flames. The leaves curled and dried under the intense heat, releasing a strong aroma. “Come here.”
Her fingers were stained purple from the plant juices.
He stepped closer.
She painted his lip with her fingers. A gentle touch, barely more than the edge of a butterfly’s wing brushing against his mouth. An unexpected tug in his gut made him think something more existed between them in that moment. She stood so close to him—he could feel the heat of her body. The urge came over him to grab her hand and kiss it. Run his mouth down those slim fingers, over her palm and to the pulse point in her wrist. He wanted more from her than this light touch of her fingers. He knew that now. He stared at her, unblinking, surprised at this revelation. Her eyes were dark in the dim light of early morning. “To protect your voice.” She cleared her throat and pulled her hand away. “And now for the graveyard dust.”
He touched his lips and watched as she took a handful of the mud and tossed it onto the now-raging fire. The damp of the dirt caused a puff of smoke. The smell of wet earth blended with the sharp smell of the burning St. John’s wort. She stretched her hand into the dense smoke and mumbled something he couldn’t understand.
Adam’s presence drifted past. The hair on Gen’s arms rose with the sensation. She kept her face impassive, focusing on the flames and the thick smoke. Joel couldn’t suspect a third person was in their midst.
Her insides twisted from the fevered look in Joel’s eyes when she’d touched his mouth. As if dying coals had been stoked back to life. A slow burning that she hadn’t felt in so long—
“I need the blood.”
The words were a bare whisper in her ear. Like a puff of wind. A soft breeze. She tamped down the strange feelings inside. She had a mission. Her husband needed her help.
“Take it, Gen.”
The brush of an invisible hand against her arm startled her. She whispered the words Adam had told her, the ancient words that would cure Joel from the next curse.
“The blood. Cut him and take the blood.”
Her heart beat rapidly. She whispered, “How?”
“He trusts you. He’ll suspect nothing.”
She circled her hands through the smoke.
“Take your knife and do it.”
“Give me you arm,” Gen said.
Joel had been so intent on watching her actions, her words caught him by surprise. “What?”
With a quick movement, she grabbed his wrist, pushed up his jacket sleeve and sliced a shallow cut in his arm with a pocketknife.
“Hey!” He jerked his arm away. “What the hell?”
Gen closed her eyes and repeated the incantation for the spell. The fire died down. The smoke thinned. She opened her eyes.
His arm dripped blood onto the thick mat of pine needles. “You cut me.”
“The ceremony calls for blood.” She shrugged.
Her indifference unnerved him. “The least you could’ve done was warn me.”
“You’ll be fine. Here.” She handed him a bunch of tissues from her purse. “Now we just wait until tomorrow and see what happens.” She studied his face for a moment. “Let me get this off.” She brushed his lips with her thumb.
He caught her wrist. “That’s okay. I can do it.” He took the back of his hand and wiped the rest of the juices off his mouth. He couldn’t handle the feel of those fingers again. Besides, her surprise slice and dice on his arm peeved him a little.
She kicked dirt over the waning flames of the fire. “Let’s get back before Stella notices we’ve been gone. She doesn’t seem like the type who would keep a secret very well.” She took the bloodied tissues, balled them up and stuffed them in her bag.
“You noticed that, did you?”
She laughed her tinkling, silvery laugh. “She’s probably just a lonely lady.”
Joel snorted. As he followed her into the woods and back to civilization, he wondered if this ceremony would work. He pushed the sleeve of his jacket down to cover the fresh cut. He didn’t need his brother asking any questions.