“I see.” Father Valentine pressed his lips together firmly as he judged me.

This wasn’t working. I needed to not do what I always did—follow where I was led. I needed to be like Teresa. If someone wasn’t giving me what I wanted, I needed to get it myself.

I took a little sip of the tea and instantly regretted it. The brew was bitter and foul. I barely managed not to make a face as I set down the cup. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long journey. I know you said you didn’t have any facilities here, but is there an outhouse or…?”

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“Oh. Yes, of course. Out the door to the left, behind the next building. You can’t miss it.” Father Valentine grinned, and it chilled me to the core. “Come back and finish your tea, and we can see what we can tell you about fighting demons.”

I plastered on a grin. “Thank you. I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time, dear. It won’t do to rush a lady.”

I nodded, not sure what to say to that, and left the suffocating room. Another slithering wave hit me as I crossed the line of horseshoes and I gasped for breath in the fresh air.

The street outside was totally empty. If they were telling the truth, then only the two of them were here. And if they thought I was “taking my time” in the outhouse, then that gave me at least five minutes of safe snooping.

The only problem was the wards. Passing over them could sound some kind of silent alarm. Lucas had mentioned it, so I had to be very careful. If I set one off, there was no doubt in my mind the Fathers would be breathing down my neck in seconds.

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The good news was, I knew exactly where I was going. I walked around the compound to get to the building in the back. It was slightly bigger than the others, but had no windows. No chimney either. I peeked inside the open doorway, but didn’t see any auras. Nothing white and glowing.

I closed my eyes and rubbed them. Again, nothing.

No. This was wrong. I knew it was in there. I’d seen the aura not fifteen minutes ago. It couldn’t be gone.

I squinted inside, but it was too dark to see much. A mountain of books piled on the floor. I spotted some mixings for potions. But the altar…

Unlit candles crowded its surface. Even though I couldn’t make out the surrounding shapes, I knew something was off about this one. Odd-shaped lumps covered its surface, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what they were. Especially since it smelled like something had died in there.

I held my breath as I focused in on my magic, feeling it ignite within my soul. “Fire hotter than the sun, give me light where there is none.”

The candles flared as my magic filled the room.

Oh God. It smelled like something had died because something had.

Many things.

What I’d hoped was a lumpy blanket was actually the remains of a few guinea pigs. A magic circle was carved into the ground, with a pentagram in the center. The remains of old candles were piled up on top of each other at each point of the star.

I held my hand over my mouth, and tried not to throw up. Whatever these mages were up to, I wanted no part of it, but I couldn’t turn back. No matter how grossed out I was, the thing I needed was here. It had to be.

I quickly warded myself to keep negative energy away, and stepped through the doorway. The slimy sensation was the same as crossing the threshold into Father Valentine’s house. I only had a few moments before the Fathers came to find me.

I ran to the pile of books and scanned the titles. Demon Casting. Spells of Light and Dark. Herbs of Witchery. More than a few of the books sounded helpful, but my little purse wouldn’t hold much of anything. I had to pick one book. Just one.

“God above, give me luck. Help me out so I’m not stuck.”

I reached for a book, and knocked over three more.

Way to backfire, spell.

I knelt down on the floor to pile up the dropped books and a flash of white caught my eye. A glow came from inside a book that had fallen under the bookcase. I never would’ve seen it, but now that I was down here, I knew without doubt that this was the key to finding exactly what I needed.

My fingers shook as I slid it out. The cover was blank. I opened it to the first page. Writing was scrawled in a language I didn’t understand, but the book itself wasn’t what caught my attention.

A loose, folded piece of paper stuck out from the binding.

It gave off a pure, white aura.

I slipped it out and set the book back down. As I opened the folds, I got a case of the giggles.

I’d found a map. And if I was reading the symbols right, it led to a temple.

Oh my God. I’d found a map that lead to the temple of the white mages.

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