Electric Heat
door.
    She stiffened and wondered if the whole show had been a setup.
    “If you’ve finished, please follow me.”
    Durant rose, coming on silent feet to stand by her side. As
they followed the witch, Raven realized the entire house was a warren of secret
passageways and rooms. But after a few minutes with no rhyme or reason to its
architecture, it became more like a carnival funhouse. “It’s magic.”
    The woman turned her head slightly. “Only part of it.”
    “Why are we here?” She’d had enough games. She wanted this case
over and done with while she still had time.
    “The coven is in trouble.”
    Raven didn’t say anything for a moment. The witches here
were the best of the best. What kind of murderer stalked the grounds that would
force them to seek outside help? To say they were a select and secretive
organization was putting it mildly. People with even a lick of magic were
inducted into a coven, whether they wanted it or not.
    Those who protested, those who wanted out, were never seen
again…if they were lucky. The few who had been found after a coven was through
with them had been stripped of everything—their powers, their money, and often their
minds.
    Being invited to the coven couldn’t be good for her health.
    “Why me?”
    They continued down the hall, until they came to a set of
double doors. Heloise didn’t pause as she pushed them open and strode into the
room.
    Raven took a step to follow, and stopped short when she
detected a slight hum of magic in the air.
    Wards.
    Raven hesitated, but no amount of standing there would tell
her whether the magic was malevolent or not. And queen bitch wasn’t sharing.
    Durant nudged her aside. “Let me go first.”
    Raven scowled, liking his suggestion even less. When he lifted
his foot to cross over the threshold, she placed her hand on his shoulder and stepped
into the room at his side. Magic washed over her, the sticky cobwebs clinging
to her until they were five feet into the room before sloughing off.
    “Are we going to have to go through this every time I want
answers?”
    Heloise glanced up from her papers. “The wards were created
decades ago. They inform me when I have visitors, and if they have malicious
intent. It also soundproofs the office and makes it impossible for anyone to
eavesdrop by other means. They’re not easily dismantled, so I am disinclined to
take them down just to cater to your delicate sensibilities.”
    Raven grudgingly accepted the explanation. She scanned the
office, and her eyes were drawn to an old portrait of a woman who looked
vaguely familiar. The second woman from her vision. Written on a plaque beneath
was the name Marie Laveau. Despite herself, Raven was impressed. “You’re
related to the voodoo queen.”
    Heloise snorted as if finding the whole thing ridiculous.
“Everyone from Louisiana claims they’re a long lost relative.”
    Raven flushed at the remark, feeling a little foolish, then
focused on the mission. “Why are we here?”
    “We need help, and the coven has voted to seek outside
assistance. The decision was not unanimous.” Those dark eyes of hers were
direct and unflinching.
    Something about her stiffness made Raven distinctively
uneasy.
    “You wanted us here.” Despite all her snootiness, Heloise
had voted to bring them on the case. That was the last thing Raven had
expected.
    The woman gave a regal nod. “Someone is hunting us and
stealing our magic. Our resources are limited. We need someone who can sense
magic and remain unaffected.”
    There was more to it, though.
    “Why me?” Raven couldn’t keep her suspicions from coloring
her voice. There was more happening than what she was being told. The sense of
a cage door closing behind her left Raven with the feeling she was never going
to be permitted to leave.
    “You have a reputation. You’re efficient. Discreet.” There
was a smidge of respect in the witch’s voice, also a certain pleasure in being
able to answer without

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