I shook my head. ‘No, Alistair. You have less control now, not more. You’re an inch away from the magic taking you over completely. You’ll destroy yourself in the process. You were talking about blood. What colour is yours?’
Winter pulled back his shoulders. ‘It would appear so.’Iqbal gave him a nervous glance. ‘Hi, Adeptus Exemptus Winter. I didn’t see you there until it was too late. I hope you don’t mind that I took off the binding but I knew that Ivy was getting desperate.’
Winter didn’t look at him; his eyes were trained on me. All I could do was shrug awkwardly. ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Desperate.’ Darn it.A curious expression crossed Iqbal’s face as he realised that I wasn’t jigging around as ecstatically as I should be. He lifted his shoulders and gave me a funny look then, putting my lack of joy down to Winter’s brooding presence, he clapped me on the shoulders. ‘The Cauldron,’ he said. ‘Seven o’clock tonight. You can come too, Adeptus,’ he called across to Winter. ‘You’ve not lived until you’ve heard Ivy sing. I need to head off and start that outline but I expect you to be on time.’ He waggled his fingers. ‘You both owe me big time.’My shoulders dropped. Arse.
With Winter by my side, I climbed the stairs up to my floor. I didn’t even call for the lift; it just seemed like too much effort. Winter didn’t say a word and neither did I. For once, I didn’t know what to say.Near the top, footsteps tripped up behind us. Thinking it was Iqbal again, I turned. My heart sank. Eve. Any euphoria I’d felt five minutes ago was now well and truly gone.
‘Ivy!’ Genuine delight crossed her face. ‘It’s so good to see you! Honestly, you wouldn’t believe all that’s happened to me. In fact…’ Her voice faltered as she realised who was standing beside me. ‘Adeptus Exemptus Winter. What are you doing here?’
Winter coughed and looked at me. I scratched my neck. ‘Maybe we should go to my flat,’ I suggested. ‘You can make me a cup of tea and we can talk about it.’My next boyfriend, Jason, was the opposite. We started dating in our late twenties, which is still infantile by New York standards. He was a very nice guy. Things were steady and reliable...and bland. After a year and change, we just ran out of things to talk about and spent lots of time watching TV in a pleasant boredom until he finally euthanized the relationship by moving to Minnesota.
And last, there was Louis. We met at a gallery opening, just as cheesy as it sounds, when I was thirty-two. We enjoyed each other’s company. Moved in together after a year, laughed a lot, felt comfortable enough that he knew that my eating popcorn drizzled with Nutella meant my period was nigh, and I knew that if he ate cabbage, he’d be in the bathroom six hours later. It felt real, and happy. Louis was smart, a psych nurse with a lot of compassion for his patients and great stories from work.Then he got a tattoo. And another. And a third and fourth. And then, just after he got a Chinese character depicting commitment, he dumped me for his tattoo artist.
Then came the online dating years. Sure, sure, we all know the happy couple who met online, who exchanged fun, flirty emails and then finally met, and voilà! They were in love. Oh, the fun stories of the losers they’d endured before they found each other! Daniel the Hot Firefighter and Calista, who lived on the same Park Slope street I did, had met online, though they divorced after a few years so Calista could devote more time to her yoga. But there were others who’d met online, married, and were still very happy together. I was game. I gave it a shot.It was a fail. Same for my closest friend, Paige. Like me, Paige was abruptly and completely unable to find a guy. Like me, she was a successful professional—a lawyer—attractive and interesting. Like me, she’d had a slew of nice and not-bad dates, never to hear from the guy again. We both bought a few dating books and followed the rules assiduously. We both wasted our money.