They didn’t have to wait long. Perhaps fifteen minutes later, while they were all mulling over another pot of coffee, Philip’s phone rang. He spoke into it for a few moments, then set it on the table and turned on the speaker phone setting. “I trust you are satisfied, Mister Sapienti?” Bobbi Leigh’s voice asked.
“As long as he truly believes that is my body he has,” Elia agreed.
“Very well,” Bobbi Leigh said. “I will ask that you and your friends remain where you are until I have confirmation that Orsino and his people have left my city. Once he is gone, we can destroy that wretched stone.”
“Are you sure he’ll leave?” Sierra asked.
“He got what he came for,” Bobbi Leigh drawled.
“Yeah, but he lost the tuar ceatha,” Sierra pressed. “He seemed pretty eager to accept that it was the fae who stole it.”
Though she couldn’t see it, Sierra was certain Bobbi Leigh shrugged on the other end of the line. “I showed him something he knew to be impossible, and then offered him an explanation he was willing to believe,” Bobbi Leigh said in a patient voice. “It was enough, at the very least, to shift his focus away from my organization.”
“But won’t he leave people behind to try to track down the so-called real thieves?”
“In all likelihood,” Bobbi Leigh agreed. “But again, they won’t be looking at us. Well. A few of them might, just to be certain.”
“Then is it safe to destroy the stone so soon?”
“It’s our best option,” Cammy chimed in. “If the fae really have been trying to get it back from him, it’s what they would do. Take it back, get it somewhere safe, and destroy it.”
“Won’t that just make him look harder for us? To take revenge?”
“Not if he really buys that we’re fae,” Cammy smirked, “which my presence at the theft will confirm.”
Sierra looked between Elia and Cammy, confused. “I don’t get it.”
“That’s because this is all very new to you Miss Espina,” Bobby Leigh said. “It is one thing to track down a group of fae and demand they return something that was stolen. To seek vengeance upon them would be suicide on Orsino’s part.”
“He’d be inviting the fae to declare open war upon his court,” Elia added.
“Once the stone is destroyed,” Cammy explained, “he will have lost his opportunity for recourse. There will be no choice but to call his people back to Italy, unless he wants to remain in open contention with Bobbi Leigh.”
“Precisely,” Bobbi Leigh agreed. “Now, if you’ve no further questions, I have business to attend to. Philip, I will see you in my office as soon as you can join me.”
“Yes, Miss Williams,” Philip said, reaching for the phone.
“I will be in touch,” Bobbi Leigh said, then she hung up.
Philip put his phone away and glanced down at his tablet, tapping at it for a few moments. He nodded to himself. “I will have lunch brought down to you shortly.” He left the three of them in the bunker, the door again locking behind him. They filled some of the time by cleaning up the dishes from breakfast, although with three of them chipping in, that didn’t take very long. After that, it was back to coffee and sitting around the kitchen table.
“There’s a lot more sitting around and waiting involved in this than I expected,” Sierra said after the silence got to her.
“It’s better than running for our lives,” Elia pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m just not sure what to do now. I don’t think I can sleep.”
“We should call Bobby,” Cammy said, pulling out her burner phone. “Let him know how things are going.”
But that also didn’t take long and then they were back to waiting. Cammy got another cup of coffee and scowled down at it. “As well-stocked as this place is, you’d think she’d have some tea on hand. A cup of coffee here and there is fine, but I don’t know how you lot drink this stuff all the time.”
“We make do,” Sierra said, sharing a grin with Elia. It occurred to her that it was odd Bobbi Leigh didn’t have tea on hand. She’d anticipated how Cammy would react to her request for Favors, it would reason she’d know to have tea in the bunker where Cammy was holed up. Which reminded her…she looked at Cammy, pursing her lips. “So…these Favors you’ve agreed to, what are the odds she just wants you to give her grandkid singing lessons?”
Cammy sighed and blew a strand of hair out of her face. “I wish. She wants access to fae power ready for when it might suit her purposes. Still, the contract included my limits. I think I can live with anything she wants me to do.” She let out a wry laugh, “If I’m lucky, maybe she’ll just want me to replace the glamours she used to fool Orsino.”
“Can you do that?” Sierra asked, curious. It hadn’t sounded like Cammy had much in the way of training beyond just controlling her powers.
Cammy shrugged. “Probably nothing that impressive, but something smaller, yes.”
“I am sorry,” Elia said as Sierra pondered this, “for what it’s worth. I wish there had been a way that didn’t involve tying you to her.”
“Don’t fret, love,” Cammy said, reaching out to take his hand. “I have no regrets on that front. Your freedom is more than worth it.”
Elia looked touched, but his reply was interrupted by the delivery of lunch. Philip sent them a sandwich tray and a platter of fresh fruit. They nibbled on that, none of them really hungry, and tried to fill the quiet with conversation.
“How do you destroy the stone, anyway?” Sierra asked. “Is it another big ritual, or do you just smash it with a hammer, or what?”
Cammy smiled and held out her hands like a set of scales. “Given my limited knowledge in the area? I’d guess it’s a little of both.”
“Cammy’s the only one who can destroy it without a big magical backlash,” Elia provided.
“Because it’s fae?”
“Sì. If Bobbi Leigh or one of her people tried it, well, let’s just say it’s not something you would want to try in the middle of a big city. There’s no telling how much power is stored in that thing. Cammy can channel it. They can’t.”
“Well, let’s hope she did her homework on the stone and knows what to do,” Sierra muttered. It dawned on her this would be another thing she’d just have to stand around and watch. She hated feeling so useless.
“If there is one thing I learned about Bobbi Leigh while I was part of her crew,” Elia said, “it is that she always does her research. Or at least gets one of her people do to it for her.”
The phone in the bunker began to ring. “Finally,” Sierra breathed, pushing out of her seat to go answer it. “They’ll be here in a few minutes,” she told the others after she hung up. They left the kitchen for the main room. Sierra still felt uneasy there, but it seemed like a better place for a meeting, and they’d already used it for one ritual. It made sense to destroy the stone there. With that in mind, she went to retrieve Elia’s backpack, fishing out the jewelry box and peeking inside to make sure the tuar ceatha was still there. It glimmered at her from the darkness. She carried the jewelry box into the main room and set it on the coffee table, careful to step around the spot where the simulacrum had lain that morning.
“Orsino’s personal jet left an hour ago,” Bobbi Leigh informed them upon her arrival. “I have confirmation that he was aboard when it took off. He left his wolf behind, and two of the guards from his offices, presumably with the task of tracking down the tuar ceatha.” She put her hands on her hips, glancing around at them. “Let’s not give them a chance to find it, hmm?”
“What do you need me to do?” Cammy asked, stepping forward.
“How are you with heavy lifting?” Bobbi Leigh asked.
“Um.” Cammy blinked. “I can hold my own.”
“Good. Petra, if you will.” A tall, burly woman stepped forward, carrying a large case. She set it down next to the coffee table with a loud thud and opened it to reveal an anvil. She slid a bag off her shoulder and pulled out a very heavy looking hammer and a knife. “Let’s clear the area a bit,” Bobbi Leigh said, and gestured for Sierra and Elia to move the coffee table to the side of the room. She nodded to Petra, who held the knife out to Cammy. “You will need to coat the stone and the head of the hammer,” Bobbi Leigh said.
Cammy grimaced, but accepted the knife with a sigh.
“Wait, what?” Sierra asked, panic rising.
“It’s all right, love,” Cammy told her. “Blood is a typical component of most fae workings, I’m afraid.” She sucked in a breath and slid the knife against the fleshy part of her upper arm, then dropped the blade and clapped her hand over the cut.
Sierra turned around, meaning to go check the bathroom for a first aid kit, but Elia caught her sleeve, stopping her. “Look,” he said, pointing, and Sierra saw another of Bobbi Leigh’s people already stepping toward Cammy with a first aid kit in hand. At least Bobbi Leigh had thought ahead. Still, Sierra felt an irrational burst of resentment. She couldn’t even help with bandaging her friend’s cut. She clenched her jaw and tried to remind herself this would be over soon.
Petra handed the hammer to Cammy, and she rubbed her bloody hand over its head. Eager to help somehow, Sierra hurried over to the table to pick up the jewelry box, holding it out for Cammy as soon as she finished with the hammer. Cammy gave her a thankful smile as she opened the box and picked up the stone, giving it its own coating of blood. Everyone in the room, with the exceptions of Sierra and Cammy, winced when the box was opened.
“Quickly, if you please,” Bobbi Leigh said, eyes locked on the stone, face pale.
Cammy nodded and set the tuar ceatha on the anvil, accepting the shaft of the hammer from Petra. “What is the incantation?”
“Leig seachad,” Bobbi Leigh told her.
“Right.” Cammy muttered it under her breath a few times, making sure she had the phrase, then she gave the hammer an experimental heft. Everyone moved back a few steps. “Here we go,” she said, starting to raise the hammer. “Oh,” she said, pausing, “you might want to cover your eyes.” With that, she started chanting the incantation, raising the hammer for real this time. Then, with all of her might, still chanting, she swung down, smashing the stone against the anvil.
Sierra had been too focused on what Cammy was doing to hear what she’d said, and hadn’t closed her eyes. She was knocked back by a flash of light and a roar of sound, stumbling into Elia, who moved to shield her with his body. After a few minutes, she could see again, and her hearing started to return, though her ears still rang. Dios, if that was the result of doing it the right way, I would hate to see what happens when someone without fae blood tries that.
Cammy stood over the anvil, staring down at it with a strange mixture of relief and regret. The tuar ceatha lay in pieces, surprisingly uniform in size. Sierra noted that they no longer glimmered. In fact, as she watched, the color seemed to drain out of them, and the bits of crystal faded to a milky white. “It’s done,” Bobbi Leigh breathed. Tension seemed to bleed out of everyone in the room.
“What will you do with the pieces?” Cammy asked as Petra moved to begin collecting them.
“They’re useless now. I’ll have them dumped in some innocuous pile of gravel somewhere.” She accepted the bag of crystals from Petra and handed it off to Philip, receiving a manila folder in return. “I believe that just about concludes our business,” she told them. “Miss Espina, Miss Kay, if you would wait outside for a moment while I have a word with Mister Sapienti?”
Sierra’s eyebrows rose and she glanced at Elia. He shrugged at her, not objecting to the request, so she scooped up the jewelry box and took Cammy’s arm. They followed Philip, Petra, and the others outside. She took a deep breath in the corridor, glad to be out of the bunker at last. It had been anything but claustrophobic, true, but being confined like that was still not pleasant. Philip waited with them, the rest of the crew heading off to whatever other duties they had waiting. Sierra kept an eye on the bunker doors, foot tapping in impatience. After about ten minutes, Elia stepped out, slipping the manila folder into his backpack. He gave Sierra a reassuring smile. “We can go now,” he said.
Philip led them back to their car and bid them farewell, not bothering to conceal his relief to see them gone. As they pulled out of the parking lot and started making their way to the highway, Sierra turned around in her seat to ask Elia, “What did she say?”
“She advised me to leave Texas,” he snorted, “but conceded that I seem to have made myself a home in Bowieville. She thinks I will be safe there as long as I don’t draw attention to myself.”
“What about that Alonso guy?” Sierra asked. She glanced at Cammy. “Do we think he’ll be able to track us back home?”
“If he does, we’ll be ready for him,” Cammy said, her knuckles tightening on the wheel.
Elia cleared his throat. “I got the impression from Bobbi Leigh that we won’t have to worry about him. She knows he’s the one who killed J.D.” He caught Sierra’s eyes, “I suspect that he and his companions might find themselves suffering accidents before they get far in their investigation.”
“Ah,” Sierra said. She should probably feel bad about that, or conflicted at least. She tried not to think too hard about what it meant that she didn’t. “What’s in the envelope?”
“A fresh start,” he said, grinning. He pulled it out and dumped its contents in his lap.
“Is that a driver’s license?” Sierra arched a brow.
“Along with any other document I might need to establish my new identity.” He held up the identification card and read the name on it, “Eli Simmons.” He wrinkled his nose. “Well. It’s…sort of close.”
“It’s different enough to throw off anyone looking for Elia Sapienti,” Cammy pointed out. She glanced up at the rear-view mirror, meeting his eyes. “I’ll still call you Elia though, if that’s all right.”
“Fine by me,” he said, smiling back at her.
They didn’t head straight to Cammy’s, instead going to Bobby’s place. Bobby asked his aunt to take Jackie to the park so they could have a band meeting. “He’s not in the band!” Jackie pointed to Elia, put out at being sent away.
“He’s our roadie,” Intira called from the couch. “Totally counts.”
“I want to be a roadie too!” Jackie said, staring up at her father. “What’s a roadie?”
“Give it a few more years, darling,” Bobby said. “Then I promise we’ll put you to work too.” He ushered her out the front door and waved goodbye to her, then shooed everyone into the living room so that he and Intira could catch up on all they had missed. “Sounds like it all worked out,” Bobby said, relief clear in his voice. “I’m glad to hear it. You gonna stick around?” He turned to Elia for this last.
“If I’m welcome,” Elia said, staring down at his feet.
“Oh please,” Intira said, laughing. “Do you really think after all of that, we’re gonna tell you to scram?”
“I’m afraid you’re stuck with us,” Cammy said, slinging an arm around his shoulder. “If you want to be,” she added in a whisper.
Elia blushed, but smiled and nodded.
Agnes and Jackie returned before too long, and Bobby insisted everyone stay for dinner. He ordered pizza and they watched a few movies before Sierra, Cammy, and Elia finally pulled themselves away. It was almost eleven by the time Sierra and Elia finally returned to their apartment. “Good thing it’s too late for Mrs. Davis to be up,” Elia joked as he locked the door behind them.
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from her tomorrow,” Sierra said with a wry smile. “But I’m not going to worry about it until then, if that’s all right.”
“Seems fair,” he agreed.
She glanced at her bedroom and rubbed her face. “It is going to be so nice to sleep in my own bed tonight. In fact, I think I’m going to go do just that.”
“Buona notte,” Elia said, watching as she went into her room.
She shut the door and leaned up against it for a few moments, trying to wrap her head around the past few days. Hell, the past few weeks. Was it really all over now? She walked over to her bed and stared at it, trying to will herself to change into her pajamas. The next thing she knew, she was curled up on the floor, sobbing. Some dam inside of her burst wide open, and everything she’d been trying to hold in since all of this began came pouring out. She managed to pull herself up into a sitting position, leaning against the bed with her arms wrapped around her knees, and just let it all flow out. All of the fear and worry and stress, everything she had tried to hide with a brave front, she just let it go. It had been so long since she’d lived without that worry and fear, she wasn’t sure she knew what to do now that it was gone.
The door cracked open and Elia poked his head in, a sympathetic look on his face. He didn’t say anything, just came inside and sat down beside her, letting her rest her head on his shoulder. He reached over to the bedside table and pulled a tissue out of the box, handing it to her. “Gracias,” she said, wiping her face and blowing her nose. She noticed that he was holding a pint of ice cream. “Is that for me?”
“I thought we could share,” he said, holding up two spoons.
“You’re kind of the best roommate ever,” she said, accepting one of the spoons.
“Does that mean you’ll let me stay? I can get my own place now, if that’s what you’d prefer.”
She thought about it for a while, savoring the ice cream. After all they’d been through together, she couldn’t really imagine not having Elia around all the time. She didn’t think she wanted to. “Unless you’d rather live on your own,” she told him, “I’m good with you staying.” She looked around the room, brow furrowed. “Not here, though.”
“I’m sorry?” Elia turned a questioning look on her.
“I think we should keep living together,” Sierra explained, “just not here. This was my space. We’ve made it work, but…let’s find a new apartment. One that fits us both.”
“Oh,” he said, taking his own turn to think it over. “I’d like that,” he said after a while. They ate in silence for a few minutes and then he asked, hesitant, “Are you going to be all right? Everything that’s happened…”
Sierra heaved a huge sigh, dropping her head to stare at the ceiling. She almost laughed. “Let’s see,” she said, really letting herself take it all in, “it turns out magic is real. That’s big. Mind-blowing. But only just the start of this ridiculous rollercoaster I’ve been on. Because Dios apparently decided to send me a little brother,” she nudged Elia’s shoulder and couldn’t help but grin at his touched expression, “who can, oh yes, turn into a cat. Then there’s my best friend-slash-ex, who it turns out is an actual fairy, or the real-life equivalent, and is now in debt to the local magical mafia. Also, I lost my job. Also also, I don’t have the band as an outlet for the next who knows how long, because our drummer broke her arm during a heist, and so the band is out of commission for a while.” Her voice was starting to rise and get high-pitched. She stopped and drew in a deep breath, reining herself in. “So, yeah, basically my whole universe is upside down and I have no idea what happens next. And I hate not knowing what happens next.”
“Sierra,” Elia began, sounding worried.
“But you know what?” She cut him off. “For the first time in my life? I think I’m okay with not knowing.” She looked at him again, offering a reassuring smile. “I know I won’t be alone. That’s something. It’s a start.”
“It’s a start,” he agreed, relaxing a little.
Sierra nodded to herself, thinking it over. She really was okay with how up in the air everything was. It was a strange feeling. “Maybe Dios is telling me it’s time to try something new,” she suggested.
“Maybe,” Elia agreed, looking thoughtful. He scooped up another spoonful of ice cream, then tipped it in her direction in a mock toast. “To new beginnings?” he suggested.
Sierra grinned and tipped her own spoon at him. “To new beginnings,” she agreed.