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The boy, still in that awkward puppy stage they all went into just after they hit puberty, waited until the shop was empty to approach the counter. Ariani knew what that meant but decided to tease him a bit just the same. “In the market for a schoolbook? Reading I Am the Cheese for your lit class?”

“Uh, no.” He seemed to be all eyes and elbows in his awkward urgency. He glanced around the store. It was cute, how he needed to check that it was still empty. “I hear you sell special books.”

She glanced around to, as if it were a big deal. “You mean the occult books?”

He nodded once. A quick, sharp jerk of his head.

“Sure kid. What's your name?” She didn't give him any time to come up with a lie. Snapping her fingers she added, “Name first.”


“Well, Xander, what is it you're looking for? A love spell to put someone under your sway. Maybe a vengeance spell. Do you want to hurt somebody?” Those weren't it and she knew it.

He blushed. Oh yeah, she knew what he wanted. “Maybe I could just browse?”

Ariani pulled out what was basically a comic book with a cover the color of a grocery bag. “You like the naked etchings?”

His eyes bulged out.

“You know Fred at the 7-11 will sell you any skin mag they stock, right?” He muttered something about his Dad's underwear drawer. Ariani lowered her voice. “But maybe you have a taste for the dark side? For demons? Does the thought of vampires biting your …”

She didn't get to finish that thought. He burst out with a sharp, “No. No big broody vampires.”

“Right,” she replied. “No vampires.” She opened the magazine to a picture of an old woodcarving. They were all woodcarvings, mostly of witches. Pretty tame, actually, compared to what he could get elsewhere, but that's what some of these boys seemed to like. His eyes were glued to the picture. Oh yeah, this one would be a repeat customer.

“How much?”

“Twenty bucks.”

He handed over the cash with no complaint and bolted out the door. Ariani hummed to herself as she pocketed the cash. Selling woodcarvings to teenage boys was so much more lucrative than the occult book business. Masters of the craft knew how much the books should cost. For teenagers she could crank out a magazine of photocopied woodcarvings for about three bucks a pop and sell them for twenty. Now that was a business deal.