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We (Don't) Have to Stop Meeting Like This

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The mirror is dark glass, set in a frame carved into luminous figures and symbols dark with tarnish. Sarah’s checked and cross-referenced them all, just to be sure; May Miller in Colorado had asked her to keep an eye out for a scrying mirror and Sarah’s determined to get her one.

Someone outbids her.

It goes to a woman with hair like new honey and a wicked, cat-curling smile who leaves the estate sale immediately afterward. She walks with all the confidence of a queen.

Sarah watches her go until she disappears into the light beyond the doors.

Her client had gotten his hands on half a cursed amulet, and now the other half’s been snapped up by a familiar-looking pretty brunette. Bela follows her—she’ll be doing the girl a favor, stealing it. But the girl stops a few towns over at a house where the air ripples with heat around a burn barrel in the yard, exchanges a few words with the homeowner, and drops the pendant in to melt.

Then she returns to the road, looking towards Bela’s car. “Why were you following me?” she calls, and then, startled, “I know you.”

Sarah would say she’s surprised when she runs into Bela again at a conference in New York City on the subject of art and the occult, but—well, she isn’t.

Bela asking her out for a drink afterward, that’s a surprise. So is how much Sarah enjoys it. Bela flirts as if it’s easy, despite her edges, and Sarah finds herself responding.

(She’d lie if anyone asked her, but she’s also not surprised that the next day the newspapers report that one of the featured objets d’art from the conference has been stolen.)

Bela can’t remember the last time she seduced someone for the sheer joy of it, or got nervous when they proved as enthusiastically amenable to the plan as Sarah—

“Hey,” Sarah says gently. “If you don’t—”

“I do.” Bela has no room for feelings, no right to feelings, not with the pages of a calendar shredding away over her head, but she strips off her underwear and lets Sarah pull her down to the bed, Sarah’s skin almost as smooth as the sheets as Bela slides a leg between hers and kisses her again, bruise-hard and yearning.

The howls end mid-note.

“What was that?” Bela says. She’s disgusting, slimy with spice-bitter oil that sears her eyes, and the Colt falls out of her shaking hands and clatters empty on the floor. The hounds she’s already shot are blurring out of sight. Her bones rattle with how hard she’s shivering.

“Oh my God,” Sarah half-moans. “Oh my God.” She throws her arms around Bela, oil and all, and Bela can’t tell whose shaking is whose; they’re both gasping with impossible relief as their legs give and they fall to the floor together.