Uncertain, Kethrin made her way back to the house.
Ancient and faded white siding made the house look like it had fallen into disrepair, suffered through the ages. But kethrin could see where Mike had made repairs. There were repairs on the south side: new shingles and a fresh coat of paint facing the lake. Mike must have upgraded the plumbing.
The cabin--Lizzie's studio--was set a little further back from the lake, nestled beneath the boughs of a couple of enormous ancient fir trees. An ancient red canoe and the shell of a sailboat huddled in against one side of the studio, along the path to the outhouse, memories of more innocent days. Moss had grown along the edges of the canoe's runnels, mute evidence of their mutual neglect.
As Kethrin trudged up the tail of the Oracle Path, she could see Mike moving back and forth inside the cabin. He moved with a slow stiffness she didn't remember. Age impacts us all.
Kethrin drew the back of her hand across her eyes, trying to clear her cheeks. For what she had planned, she was going to need Mike's help.
When Grandmother Khyme moved to the new world, she brought with her the seeds of the new grove and an encyclopedic knowledge of customs and rituals. During th last years of her life, Sadie committed her vast knowledge to paper, in a grimoire that Lizzie had pored over for years. Lizzie had been convinced that there were spells within the Horovenko Grimoire that would lead her to answers she'd desperately needed.
Kethrin knew there were spells in there. But her own role as a Hunter meant that she'd had a lot more exposure to practical magic than Lizzie had. Lizzie had been an idyllic dreamer from the beginning. Kethrin was embodied pragmatism. She'd had to; when their parents disappeared, the ownership of the grove had been put in probate and someone had to make sure that the taxes were paid.
'Lizabet had spent seven years poring through the Horovenko grimoire. And in that time, she'd become a world-famous textile artist, her works possessed by royalty in England and Spain. While Kethrin was learning the ins and outs of Winter Pact and the various factions in North America, 'Lizabet had become a prime practitioner of ritual magic.
On the surface, their last real argument had been about property taxes. Kethrin still remembered the cruel words she'd said, calculated to hurt her sister in the way only sisters could manage. The last words she'd spoken to 'Lizabet.
Some things you couldn't take back. Ritual Magic didn't pay the bills, she'd said. Only, 'Lizabet's had, actually. Kethrin had brokered deals and woven relationshis that would protect the grove from supernatural threats. But it the end, it was 'Lizabet who'd staved off the tax-man. Kethrin wasn't sure who'd made it safer.
"Mike..." Kethrin opened the door. She stopped at his expression, follwoed his gaze down to her legs.
Mike started laughing.
Kethrin felt the slow warmth suffuse her features. He'd always been able to make her feel self-conscious. And she'd been kneeling in the dirt, after all. From her knees down, she was covered in dirt.
"Is it like this every time you come home?" Mike asked. But his eyes had lost the laughter already.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what's happened." She knew, but she didn't know how much Mike truly understood.
Mike shrugged. "You were in the grove. It's what always happens in the grove. No. Take them off. I'm not having you trail dirt all through here. It's taken me long enough to get it this clean. I've got some sweats in back.
'Lizabet's painting clothes.