Amir Lane has a new queer (gay, lesbian, trans ftm) urban fantasy tale out in their Barrier Witch series: “Gift of Secrets.”
Fairuz will stop at nothing to bring her partner home.
Despite orders to leave the Black Birches dryad gang alone, Detective Fairuz Arshad is determined to do whatever it takes to stop them. Tipped off by Interpol, she uncovers a Black Birches enforcer, Audra Jansens, in a Toronto prison who might have information she needs.
But time is running out. Jansons is awaiting transfer to be deported. Fairuz’s only chance is to go undercover in hopes of extracting leads that could bring Rowan home and bring down the Black Birches. Aboard the transfer van, things spin out of control when the transfer van is ambushed.
Barely escaping, Fairuz is on the run with the mysterious enforcer, who appears to be more than Interpol claims, and grappling with the realization that she and Jansons were set up. Someone on her team isn’t who they appear. Can she figure out who the mole is, or will Fairuz, Jansons, and Rowan pay for her failure with their lives?
Warning: Past sexual abuse of a supporting character.
I wasn’t squeamish. There were very few things I had seen that wouldn’t make most people throw up. I’d definitely thrown up more than once, I wasn’t ashamed to admit that. I would be hard pressed to find someone in Homicide who hadn’t. I also saw more than enough of my own blood. Still, the idea of cutting myself and filling the measuring cup with it made my skin prickle like I was being walked on by ants.
“Dude, we can do another spell, but I can’t promise it’ll be as strong,” Elias said, clearly picking up on my reluctance.
I thought of Rowan’s face in the video on my phone and the photographs of him in that box. The oldest pictures were of him at 13. He hadn’t been rescued until nearly four years later. He’d barely survived it all, but he had survived. “All I wanted was to do good.” That was what he’d told me. After all that, after four years of being treated like trash, he still had good in his heart. Maybe there were other people who could make the world safe for him, but I was the only one stupid enough to actually try it.
Yes, I knew this was stupid. All of it was. But I knew he would do the same for me. That wasn’t just something people said, either, not in this case. He’d risked his life to save me. He could have gotten away and saved his own skin, but he didn’t. I owed him the effort.
I made the cut close to the inside of my elbow, large enough that getting half a cup wouldn’t take forever. I kept my eyes on the ceiling like I did when getting blood drawn. Even though I wasn’t looking, I still felt the blood leaving my body. My head swam, and I had to close my eyes.
Surely I’d lost more blood when Rutherford Bromley had stabbed me in the shoulder. I’d probably also been more distracted.
Before long, Elias pressed a tissue to my arm and pulled the cup away. I took the bandage he offered and covered the slight wound. There was much less blood than I expected. Maybe the tea was actually doing something. Elias wiped down the blade and handed it to Kieron. Kieron didn’t seem as bothered by the half cup of blood he lost, but he was also much bigger than I was. I couldn’t watch Elias mix the blood together in the measuring cup. That was where I drew the line.
“Do you use that for baking?” I blurted without meaning to.
I covered my mouth with my hands. My face burned against my palms. Had I actually just said that? They must have thought I had the most backwards opinions of them. I tried to apologize, but Kieron’s deep laugh bounced off the walls to drown me out. Elias’ good-natured snickers were a much smaller version. That only made it worse. I slid my hands up to cover my entire face, groaning. Did he have a spell that could make me disappear?
“We’ll blame the blood loss,” Elias said with a wink. “Okay, this is the fun part. You asked how what I do is different from what he does?”
I lowered my hands. My curiosity overtook my embarrassment, if only slightly. Do you use that for baking. What kind of idiot was I?
Elias pulled a dry erase marker from under the desk and drew an A with the middle line extending past the legs. Then, he circled the A in what looked like runic letters.
“Do you, Kieron ’Badass Bitch’ Harper, hereby offer your protection to Fairuz
’Runs in Heels’ Arshad as per this here ritual?”
Kieron have a slight nod. “Aye. I do.”
“And do you, Fairuz ’Take No Shit’ Arshad, hereby accept protection of Kieron
‘Kick Ass and Take Names’ Harper as per this here ritual?”
I looked between the two, feeling like I had whiplash. I could barely follow his quick speech. What was he talking about? Protection? What kind of spell was this? I didn’t want to do anything that could get Kieron hurt.
Elias gave me a sympathetic grin and tipped his head. “Don’t worry, that’s just to get the energy going. Consent’s important in these spells, it’s all just a formality.”
I looked to Kieron, feeling very much like he was a stand-in father right now. When he nodded, so did I.
“Yes. I— consent.”
Elias mixed the blood in with the herbs. When it became a thick, disgusting paste, he dipped his thumb into the blood mixture and pressed it into the hole of the A. Both the symbols and his eyes glowed a faint green. I eyed the bowl, watching for it to glow too, but nothing happened. He poured the mixture into a mason jar, then used a pen to scrape what didn’t pour easily. I was glad to see him throw the pen into the trash.
I took the jar with only a slight hesitation, turning it over in my hands.
“Am I… supposed to drink this?”
I didn’t think that was physically possible. Elias made a face.
“Ew, no. There’s a cup of human blood in there. That’s how you get that weird cannibal brain disease. Prion disease? It’s a face mask. Put it on for about an hour, nobody will be able recognize you.”
Was that more or less disgusting than drinking it? More. Less. More. Less.
“Is this safe?” I asked.
“Should be. Might give you some wicked acne. I’ve never actually done this specific one before.”
Great. I was trusting my life to a spell he’d never made before that might give me some wicked acne.
Amir Lane writes supernatural and fantasy with LGBT+ characters. From the frigid and mysterious land of Northern Canada, Amir is obsessed with loud music and black magic. They spend most of their writing time in a small home office or doing the circuit of local coffee shops. They live in a world where magic is an every day occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.
When not figuring out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, and watching cat videos.