Baba smiled at me and winked the girlfriend wink. “And he’s British. Sexy.”
My eyes narrowed at her and her neon-pink scrunchie and zebra-striped leggings, making them a haze of mixed-up colors. “You can hear him?”
Her perfectly plucked eyebrow rose playfully. “Of course I can. He sounds divine.”
“Thank bloody God someone thinks so. You have no idea how underappreciated I am, Miss Yaga.”
“The question really is, how can I still hear him, Baba? You know, me being powerless now,” I blatantly taunted.
She smiled, wide and beautiful. “The world does have its mysteries. It’s magical, isn’t it?”
My teeth clenched so hard, I was well on the way to breaking them, but I kept my mouth shut. Bel technically still belonged to the coven. I was desperately afraid she’d take him away from me. Going by coven law, I have no need for a familiar anymore. She had the power to relocate him, or rehome him with someone who needed spiritual and otherworldly guidance. I’d die if she took him, so the last thing I should be doing was calling her out.
Belfry tucked closer into me when Baba took note of him on my shoulder. “And Belfry? How’s my favorite familiar?”
Bel quivered, his tiny wings shaking against my neck. “I’m peachy-fine, and I’m here to tell you, if you came to try and take me away from my girl, forget it. Hear me, Maleficent Two? I stay here with Stevie or things are gonna get real hinky. You’re not stickin’ me with some newb lunatic who doesn’t know her wand from her arse! We’ve been together a long time, me and my Stevie-girl, and it’s stayin’ that way.”
Baba threw her head back and laughed, revealing her creamy throat. “Feisty as ever. I’d never take you from Stephania, Belfry. Surely you don’t think that of me?”
“I think all sorts of things about you,” he growled.
But I tapped his head with a gentle finger. “Behave, Bel. Have some respect.”
Bel still had to answer to Baba, even if I didn’t. I didn’t want him punished for putting on this show in my defense, and I definitely didn’t want to lose the only living family I had left aside from my flighty mother.
Baba’s shoulders lifted and sagged as she sighed, her eyes taking in the view of the boats bobbing on the Sound, the sun sparkling like dancing fairy wings on the calm waters. “It’s lovely here, Stephania. Simply lovely. What a wonderful way to enjoy a cup of coffee, watching as the boats sail about. How lucky are you to have come into such good fortune?”
It was all I could do not to snatch her cup from her and throw it against the windows.
Now my teeth clenched together tighter. “Oh, I’d definitely say luck was what landed me here.”
Yes. I realize I was being sarcastic after I’d just told Belfry to squash it, but the resentment I thought I had a good grip on was seeping into my every word as Baba sat here in my kitchen, like nothing horrific had ever happened between us. It was sticking in my craw, worming its way into a bloody wound, reopening it just enough to make it seep.
Cupping her chin in her hand, she eyed me. “I know you struggled after you left Paris. I’m just happy to see you’ve landed on your feet.”
I think my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. But “struggled” was like calling the Titanic disaster a “small boating accident”. So I sort of lost all that cool I was hanging on to so tightly.
“ Struggled ? Is that the right adjective to use after being fired from my job, having to sell all my belongings because I had no income and very little savings, booted out of my apartment and my town ? Then to top everything off, I was shunned. Just thrown out of the coven as though I’d never even existed. No warning, no explanation, just end of days for loyal, helpful, rule-following Stephania Cartwright. For doing nothing more than trying to help a little boy whose mother is so sickly brainwashed from her dead husband’s verbal and