Home > Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(7)

Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(7)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“Mom,” my mother said quietly, looking stunned.

“I told you twenty-six years ago that if you married him, you would pay the price. I told you to let him go. You didn’t listen. You raised them to fight. They’re not going to cut and run now.”

“They will do what I say,” Mom ground out. “I’m their mother.”

Grandma Frida squinted at her. “Aha. And how did that work out for me?”

Mom opened her mouth and clicked it shut.

“What’s involved in becoming a House?” Catalina asked.

“At least two of us will have to undergo the trials and register as Primes,” I said. “Most likely it will be you and me.”

My sister frowned. “What if I don’t qualify?”

“I’ll do it!” Arabella announced.

“No,” everyone said at the same time.

“Why not?”

“You know why not,” my mother said. “Don’t make me pull that documentary out again.”

My sister took a deep breath. Uh-oh.

“I’m not going to spend my life hiding. Nobody will ever see what I can do!” She pounded her small fist on the table. “I’m going to qualify.”

My mother’s face told me that I had to fix this fast or she would snap and try to send everyone into exile again.

“You can control your magic,” I said.

“Yes!” Arabella said.

“We know this but nobody else does. People are afraid, because the last person with your magic went crazy. The only way they’ll accept you is if all of us demonstrate that you have complete control over yourself, and we, as a family, have complete control of you. This takes time. If you give us these three years, by the end of it we’ll be established as a House. And then, at eighteen, you can qualify.”

“Nevada!” Mom snarled.

“But this also means that for the next three years all of us will be in the limelight,” I continued. “And you have to stop acting like an impulsive brat.”

“Yes,” Catalina piled on. “No more angry outbursts, no more screaming, no more punching people, or starting stupid shit on Twitter.”

Arabella crossed her arms on her chest. “Fine. But you promise me! You promise me right now that if I behave, I’ll qualify in three years.”

“I promise.”

My mother punched the table.

“So that’s where she gets it from,” Bern observed.

“What’s the alternative?” Grandma Frida asked Mom.

“Not getting locked away for life, where they would keep her constantly sedated,” Mom growled.

“There are some other formalities,” I said. “Everyone who is qualifying will have to give a DNA sample, so they can make sure we are all related. We’ll have to submit some paperwork, they will set the date for the trials, then we are tested, and if we qualify, we become a House.”

“That’s it?” Leon asked.

“Yes.” I put my hand on the stack of paperwork. “If we decide to do this, that’s it. There is no backing out.”

“What if we don’t qualify?” Catalina asked. “We’ll look like idiots who wanted to be Primes and fell short. Nobody would do business with us again.”

“We’ll qualify. I’m a Prime and so are you.”

“They might not even know what my magic is,” she insisted. “What if I permanently affect people? What if—”

“Oh shut up,” Arabella told her. “You made an army of hired killers sit on the floor and listen to your story like they were in kindergarten. And they’re all fine now.”

“I want to register as well,” Bern said. “Maybe not as a Prime, but the last time they tested me, I was ten. I’m stronger now.”

Leon dramatically collapsed on the back of his chair. “Rub it in, all of you. You and your magic. I’ll just sit here with my dud self.”

I opened my mouth and shut it. Now wasn’t the time to spring it on him.

“Nevada, there has to be another way,” Mom said.

“I don’t know what that is,” I told her. “And neither does Rogan. If I knew of another way, I would take it, Mom. I promise you, I would. This is the only way we can keep all of us safe.”

“If we do this, we’ll never be safe,” Mom said.

“Things will never be the same if we do this.” That wasn’t exactly a response to what she said, but I had to keep going. “Which is why we have to vote as a family. We all share responsibility for this decision. Once we make it, nobody complains and everyone has to work together. Does anyone want to add anything?”

Silence.

“Everyone for becoming a House, raise your hands.”

I held my hand up. Bern, Arabella, Leon, and Grandma.

“Everyone for running away and hiding?”

Mom raised her hand.

I looked at Catalina.

“I’m abstaining,” she said.

“You don’t get to abstain,” Arabella said. “For once in your life, make a decision!”

Catalina took a deep breath. “I vote for the House.”

“Fools,” my mother said. “I’ve raised a pack of idiots.”

“But we’re your idiots, Aunt Penelope,” Leon said.

I picked up the paperwork bristling with colored flags indicating signature lines. “I need all of you to sign.”

“Wait!” Grandma Frida grabbed her phone. “We must take a picture for posterity.”

They crowded into the shot around me. Grandma Frida set the phone on a delay and it snapped an image of all of them around me, the paperwork in front of me, a pen in my hand. Cold froze my stomach.

I loved them so much. I just hoped I made the right call.

 

The Office of House Records occupied a short tower of black glass on Old Spanish Trail, across the street from the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The asymmetric building leaned back, textured, its profile odd. As Rogan pulled his gunmetal-grey Range Rover into the parking lot, I saw the front of the tower. It was shaped like a feathered quill.

The setting sun played on the dark glass. Only a handful of cars waited in the parking lot.

“Are you sure he will be there?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“It’s Christmas Day.”

Rogan turned to me. “He will be there, because I called and asked.”

I gripped the zippered file so hard, my fingers went white. Last chance to back out.

Rogan reached over, his magic curling around me. He took my hand and held it in his. “Do you want me to turn around?”

“No.” I swallowed. “Let’s do this.”

We got out of the car and walked to the door. It slid open with a whisper, and we stepped into a modern lobby. Black granite sheathed the walls, grey granite shone on the floor, and in the center of the lobby, thin lines of gold traced a magic circle. A guard looked at us from behind his desk and bowed his head. Rogan led me past him to the elevators.

The folder seemed so heavy in my hands. All my doubts bubbled up and refused to disappear.

“Am I doing the right thing?”

“You’re doing the only thing that makes sense to keep your family safe.”

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