Six face-down cards were arranged in a circle. Sabrina gathered up the remaining deck and set it aside, then studied the six rectangles I’d selected.
“In this spread, we start with the card that represents your current situation.” She turned the top card, revealing a woman wearing a crown and holding a sword and a scale. “Justice. An ominous beginning …”
Why was I not surprised that we were starting with bad news? “What does it mean?”
“You will need to make a decision soon—something that will irreversibly change your future. A choice you can’t come back from.”
Oh goody. Who didn’t love those kinds of decisions?
She touched the next card. “This one represents the cause of conflict.”
Flipping it, she frowned at the horned creature that dominated the card. A naked man and woman stood on either side of it, loose chains around their necks, the ends held by the beast.
My stomach sank to the floor. Under the illustration was the card’s name: The Devil.
Sabrina tapped her cheek. “Hmm, not what I expected. Are you having issues with addiction,
“What about a new obsession? An unusual fixation? Wanton temptation?”
“No, no, and no.”
She studied my face, then the card. “Could The Devil represent someone else in your life? Someone trapped by addiction or a compulsion of their own?”
The heavy weight dragging my innards to the earth’s core grew colder. I said nothing.
“Let’s see what the other cards reveal.” Her fingers nimbly turned the next one. The air rushed out of her lungs. “Oh.”
Even if her dismayed exhalation hadn’t been a dead giveaway, the card’s illustration was hardly inspiring: a heart impaled by three swords. How much did I want to bet the heart represented mine?
“The Three of Swords,” Sabrina whispered. “Heartbreak. Loss.” I pressed a hand to my hollow gut. “Is someone going to die?”
“Let’s keep going.” She hastily flipped over the next card, revealing a robed man holding a wand in the air. “The Magician! Yes, this is good. This means the loss you’re facing is within your control—you have the power to affect the outcome.”
That was encouraging, but also terrifying. “So, you’re saying … I can maybe prevent someone from dying, then?”
She nodded and flipped over the second last card. “Oh, hmm. The Seven of Swords.”
“I got that card in my first reading. It meant … betrayal? Because someone was deceiving me?”
“The Seven of Swords is the thief.” She pointed to the image of a man sneaking off with an armful of stolen weapons. “In this position in the spread, it speaks of you, not others. You are the thief.”
“I am not a—” I broke off, distracted by the thought of my Queen of Spades artifact. I had stolen that … and my fall-spell crystal too.
“The thief keeps secrets and moves with stealth.” Sabrina considered the card. “Paired with the Magician, which is the power to enact your goals, this card is telling you how to reach the outcome you desire.”
She gave me a long look. “By embodying the virtues of the thief—caution, cunning, discretion, and deception.”
I wasn’t great at the first one, or the second, or … well, any of those things. Lovely. I pointed at the last card. “That one is the outcome, right?”
Nodding, she touched two fingers to the back of the final card in the spread, then turned it over. A crumbling tower struck by lightning and lit by flames sparked recognition through me. I recognized it from my first reading.
“The Tower.” She sighed unhappily. “A foreboding omen. Chaos and upheaval are coming— soon. Even if you succeed, your life will irrevocably change.”
In the card’s illustration, a man and a woman had leaped from the burning tower and were plunging toward the dark abyss below. Gooseflesh erupted across my skin and I sucked in an unsteady breath. “Your cards never have anything good to say.”
She cleared her throat. “Well, I mean … the Tower is also a card of redemption, so there’s that.”
“Oh, okay,” I replied sarcastically. “That makes it all better.”
Her gaze traveled across the spread, and she lightly touched the Devil card. “Do you know who the Devil represents?”
I studied the cards. The Devil holding a man and a woman in chains. A woman casting judgment. Two victims falling from a broken tower.
A heart pierced by three swords.
The tarot cards or the universe or whatever mystical force powered a diviner’s fortune telling was sending damn strong signals my way, and I could almost grasp it. The meaning hovered within reach—but the harder I focused on the elusive message, the higher my anxiety spiked.