Carlos, Grigori, and Roger dashed back up the hill with Meredith while Anna-Maria dialled for an ambulance. Tyler’s convulsions appeared to have eased somewhat while she was gone, but when they reached him, the fits began anew. Grigori scooped Tyler up in his huge arms and they sprinted back to the main house, Carlos running alongside Grigori and shouting something about putting a spoon between his teeth to keep him from swallowing his tongue, the man slipping in and out of Spanish in his excitement.
Tyler’s fits seemed to calm while they waited for the ambulance, but his breathing was shallow, his forehead clammy with sweat. He did not answer their questions, and they surmised he must be too ill to comprehend anything they said. But Meredith thought she glimpsed a stubborn tightness in his mouth, as if he understood but was refusing to answer them. Dread put its fist around her heart and twisted hard, dread of what, she did not know.
The ambulance arrived and they loaded Tyler into the van. Thanks to Carlos’s quick intervention with the paramedics, Meredith was allowed to ride in the back as well. It was agony, however, because no sooner had they left the winery, the fits started again. He struggled against his constraints, his body twisting in impossible ways, his eyes wide and staring as he choked for air. Meredith wrung her hands as she watched him, frustrated at her inability to do anything.
Medics clustered around Tyler at the hospital, rushing him through the halls. Meredith was asked if he was epileptic, and she could not answer because she did not know. She realised she knew so very little about him.
The doctors were confused by the symptoms, and as always, when the doctors were in doubt, the hospital’s magical staff were called in. Every hospital has a magic ward staffed with psychic healers to cope with supernatural cases.
The healer took one look at Tyler and diagnosed him at once. “He’s been cursed.”
Meredith’s head snapped up and she stared at the healer in disbelief. Cursed?
Tyler was isolated at once as the healers tried to identify what it was he was cursed with. Meredith was left to answer, as best as she could, the questions of the nurse charged with taking down Tyler’s personal details.
Carlos had driven Roger and Grigori to the hospital. They too were amazed to hear that Tyler had been cursed. Carlos and Grigori offered to stay with Meredith, but she told them all to go home. Then she slumped into a chair at the far end of the hall leading into the healers’ ward, dropped her head into her hands, and prepared to wait.
She waited for hours on end. When she couldn’t sit any longer, she paced up and down the hall, frustration and agitation churning within her, stirring up the Wildness along with the sense of magic –
Meredith spun around and recoiled at the sight of the slender figure clad in Chanel and pearls standing several feet away.
“I thought,” Charlotte Berhansen said icily, “we had an agreement that you would never see Tyler again.”
Meredith took a step back. The Wildness within her growled.
Charlotte placed manicured hands on her hips and glared at Meredith. “My son is a fool. I gave him fair warning of what would happen if he ever saw you again. He knew the risks he took.”
“I don’t understand,” Meredith said. “They said he was cursed –”
“Yes,” Charlotte said impatiently. “I know that. I cursed him.”
“You?” Meredith stared at her.
“I know my son,” Charlotte said grimly. “He has always been impossibly stubborn. Once he has his sights set on something, he never lets it go. So I called out the best spell-crafters money could buy. I had him bespelled and warded against you. I blocked every route which might lead him to you. But even that wasn’t enough. So I … took steps. I made sure if he ever came within twelve feet of you for more than a certain amount of time, his body would seize up and never let go until you’re apart – or until he receives nourishment from you in the form of your blood.”
Horror and understanding slowly filtered through Meredith’s numbness. “Blood … you put a blood-curse on your son? How could you?” Another thought struck her. “That kind of curse … it’s not possible unless …” her voice trailed off. “You consorted with vampires.”
“I did what I had to, to ensure my son’s safety,” Charlotte said coldly. “Don’t think you can judge me on this. It was you who pushed me to this extremity.”
“Does he know?”
“Of course he does. But he obviously didn’t tell you, just like he obviously refrained from drinking your blood. He probably thought he could work his way around it, as he has with most of my spells.” She added darkly, under her breath, “Of all times for him to come into his own, it had to be now.” She refocused on the girl before her. “But a blood-curse can’t ever be taken off, not even by magic.
“Mark my words, Meredith Schoxaneur. So long as Tyler stays with you, he will continue to suffer these fits. As time goes by, he’ll require more of your blood. Soon, he’ll even come to crave it. Eventually, nothing will stop him from draining you entirely. If you stay together, one or the other will die. It is as simple as that.”
Meredith gaped at Charlotte. Tyler could have died. She could have killed him, just sitting in that ambulance with him, without realising it. The fool, he knew this, why didn’t he tell me?
“Therefore,” Charlotte concluded, “I think it best if you take yourself away right now. Just leave.”
Meredith nodded slowly. She should be angry, furious with Charlotte for endangering her son’s life the way she had. But all she could think of was as long as she kept moving away from Tyler, he’d live. Slowly, she turned to go.
“Meredith.” The cool voice stalled her. She turned around, but Charlotte wasn’t looking at her. Instead, her head was bent over a chequebook balanced in one manicured hand, the other scratching out sums furiously with an engraved fountain pen. “There is one other spell I have cast, a particularly powerful spell which I am certain Tyler has not yet managed to circumvent, nor do I think he ever will.
“It is this: one’s place of birth is a very powerful place, the same way one’s real name holds great power. This holds true, even with one such as yourself, a Wild One –” Charlotte spoke the words Wild One with distaste, as if it were a dirty word, “– who holds ties with nothing in the world.
“And so this spell of mine, a spell to keep my son from you, will hold true so long as you remain in Berninski, your place of birth, and nowhere else. So long as you stay there, Tyler will have no way of finding where you are.
“I understand that Wild Ones are flighty creatures, unable to linger anywhere for long. However, I can arrange to have fifty thousand dollars wired into any bank account of your choosing within the next hour. I will also arrange for a certain sum to be placed into that account every year. You will not be found wanting if you stay in Berninski, where Tyler cannot find you.” She ripped out a cheque and held it out. “For now, I think you’ll find this more than covers the expense of your flight home.”
Meredith stared at her. Then she laughed, a strange, wild laugh which didn’t sound like her at all. A laugh which caused the older woman to flinch.
Charlotte took a cautious step forward, thrusting the cheque at her.
Meredith shook her head. “Keep your money.” Her voice was low and hoarse. “I don’t want it.”
Charlotte’s mouth tightened. “I don’t see –”
“I’m leaving now,” Meredith said, cutting her off. “I’m going, and you don’t have to worry about my ever seeing Tyler again. I’ll stay home where he can’t find me because I don’t want him to find me. I don’t want him to die. But I won’t take your money for anything. I just want Tyler alive and well. That’s all.” She turned abruptly away from Charlotte. She needed to get away from this cold woman who would butcher her son to keep him from a girl who could kill him, such strange irony among magicians. She needed to get as far away as she could from this hospital so that Tyler would heal, could live.
Charlotte watched her walk away, manicured hands on her hips. She spoke aloud, though Meredith was now out of earshot. “You had better kept your word this time, Wildling.”
Go on to: Chapter Fifteen
Go back to: Chapter Thirteen
New to A Reason for Being? Start from: Chapter One.