The red bowl contained a round loaf of bread and a fresh log of goat cheese. As I placed it into the river Eris said, “I offer this food for the Supper of Hecate, for the Queen of Witches.”

“And I am the crone,” Nana croaked.

When she placed the black bowl in my hands I saw that it bore three Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

The drive-thru contribution lacked the charm an offering should have. Rolling my eyes up at her I whispered, “Really?”

“I wasn’t about to stink up the apartment cooking fish.” She flapped her hand at me. “That’ll do just fine.”

I took the black bowl to the water.

“I offer this food for the Supper of Hecate,” Nana said, “for the Dark Mother of the Underworld.”

The river carried Nana’s offering away. Finished, I held the hem of my skirt up, put my foot on the slope, and dug my toes in. It felt secure, so I took the step.

The loose gravel shifted and gave way. My balance was ruined. I flailed my arms trying to steady myself as I backpedaled. My forearm smacked against one of the torches, and something sharp pierced my already injured foot. The torch fell toward the water. I tried to catch it, pivoted wrong, and my ankle wrenched.

Pitching backward, I kept the falling torch in my view, aware it had a burning wick and a container full of lamp oil. Landing on it would be very bad.

It smacked on a rock protruding from the water. The edge cracked. Lamp oil spilled, and light flared as the flame caught it. A gush of heat shoved me, then I was down, too, and I briefly felt the river’s cold embrace just before the agonizing pain of my skull striking stone.


I stood on a mist-shrouded shore in the dark. Not the shore of the rivers in Pittsburgh, however. The willow tree to my right meant this was the shore of my meditation world.

My view was limited to about a dozen yards in any direction. I made a full revolution, searching the thick white air for a telltale sign of Amenemhab, my totem animal, but the jackal was nowhere to be seen.

What am I doing here? I couldn’t remember slipping into what I called my “alpha state” and prompting this visualization. The white dress I wore didn’t help clarify anything for me. Am I dreaming?

A strange, trumpeting bellow made me spin toward the water again. It was not a sound I could readily identify.

The heads of two black dragons materialized from the mist before me. They floated side by side with their necks arched like swans, wings tucked down. Nothing like the eel-ish and smooth-skinned creatures at home in the barn, these dragons had scales and horns and gills. Silver crowns adorned the bases of their horns, and I saw a flash of crimson embedded in the metal. Strands of rubies and diamonds draped to a ring hooked on their rhinolike snout horns. A silver yoke linked them to a wide plank that ran between their long bodies.

It was connected to a tree they towed through the water. Not a log floating behind them, but a branched tree, upright. Squinting, I tried to make sense of what I saw. The trunk was dark, gnarled and angled, as if it had grown in shadow and had had to reach for light. As it neared I saw it was actually a cluster of trunks. In some places, the trunks were like stacked drainpipes, in other spots the bark had smoothed over like scarred skin.

By that, and the evergreen foliage, I identified it as a yew tree. The branches stretched twice as wide as it was high, and enclosed lanterns were hung along the outer perimeter. In their soft glow, black veils hung closer to the trunk and fluttered eerily, defining the base of the rectangular boat.

I noticed a woman sitting on the sloping tree trunk. Her somber pose reminded me of Waterhouse’s Ophelia. Her head was down, the gray hood of her cloak raised. Dark hair spilled down her chest like ink. Her fingers trailed in the water beside her, and her pale, smooth skin had the barest trace of phosphorescence.

The dragons neared the shoreline and lurched suddenly. As they sloshed forward I realized that in addition to their wings, they had four limbs! The dragons I knew didn’t have legs.

I retreated three steps as they brought themselves—and their passenger—right to me.

When they stood ankle-deep in the river, the wide plank plowed into the sandy mud and they halted. One shook his mighty head, and the gemstones flashed in the dim light. The other one warbled in response. The teeth in that mighty maw were as long as steak knives.

I went stock-still, thinking stupidly of the Jurassic Park movie. These aren’t tyrannosaurs, these are dragons.

Movement behind them caught my attention as the woman drew away from the water. Her dress, like mine, had long bell sleeves, but hers had been dragging through the water. They dripped as she gestured for me to join her in the boat.

The plank, it seemed, also served as a gangway, but the mere idea of walking between the dragons with their rows of sharp teeth wasn’t a notion that snuggled up to my sense of well-being.

Guardedly, I went forward. The beasts did nothing but benevolently watch me, so I dared onward. The plank creaked under my weight, and once past the dragon’s long necks, I raised my arms for balance.

Ducking under the foremost branches, I got a better view of the boat bottom. It seemed the tree roots had crawled free of the earth and woven together to form this slender, watertight vessel. At the bow I waited for my host to indicate if I should sit down or come closer.

Her hair had faded to gray. The skin on her hands was like spotted parchment. Her hood shifted slightly as her head rose and her chin jutted toward me. Her smooth cheeks had wrinkled and grown sallow. Her eyes remained hidden in the shadows of the hood.

Even so, I knew her. I had been witness to this transformation before and wasn’t surprised when the cloying fragrance of raisin and currant cakes filled my nostrils.

“Hecate.” I sank to my knees.

The dragons backed the boat onto the lake once more. I tried not to think of the shore that was getting farther and farther away.

For minutes we remained with me on my knees, the world silent except for the gentle splash of water as the dragons swam. When finally She spoke, Hecate said, “The company of men can be warm and pleasant, but men are willful where women are involved. More so when she is a woman of power. Like you.”

The Goddess brought me here to give me dating advice? Dumbfounded, I simply nodded.

“The vampire wizard marked you once, but here in this place, we reversed it onto him. When you showed him you would wield the power you had over him, when you put him on his knees before you, it prompted his planning.”

“Planning what?”

“Another way to control you.”

My brows lowered.

In signum amoris. ‘A sign of love.’ ” She spat into the bottom of the boat.

In signum amoris, the spell Menessos had performed on Johnny and me. He had not asked permission, he’d just acted as he’d seen fit. At the time of the offense, he’d cooled the heat of my fury by explaining that it had created an important link between Johnny and me. “Because of that spell, Johnny and I have been able to communicate telepathically when touching.”

Hecate rose from Her seat and shuffled toward me. “A nice benefit to be sure, child, but the vampire did not tell you what else he did.” Her misshapen fingers gripped my chin and forced me to look at Her just as the breeze lowered Her hood.

The goddess’s eyes were the eyes of the moon, eyes that had stared into the sun for eons. They were the most bizarre color—the color I see in the dark after staring too long into a candle’s flame. I focused on Her face, which was haggard and hard but not unkind.

He was a part of that binding. He can also hear your

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