Mercenary Magic Page 54

“Sera,” he said, taking a step toward her.

She backed away. “Yeah, so I’m going now.”

He swung around, blocking her way. “We need to talk about this.”

“No, we really don’t.”

“Or we could just pick up where we left off.”

She blocked his hand, pushing it away. “I’m not letting you near me again. Not ever.”

“Why not?” he asked. The look in his eyes was pure sin.

So she focused on the air over his shoulder instead. “You make me lose all sense of reality.”

She realized her mistake as soon as she said the words, and his satisfied smile only reaffirmed that.

“That’s a good thing,” he said.

“No, it’s not.” She stood as tall as she could and put on her best official-sounding voice as she quoted the lines from the guild’s procedure handbook, “Our business is concluded now. Mayhem thanks Drachenburg Industries for your prompt payment.”

“Very impressive, Sera,” he said. “Did you have to practice long to sound so stiff and pompous?”

She’d memorized the lines years ago. She’d just never used them before. Because he was right. They really were stiff and pompous. She preferred to wing it, but winging it with Kai had gotten her into nothing but trouble.

“Mr. Simmons values your business. If there is anything Mayhem can do to assist you in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact him directly,” she finished, passing him.

“Oh, our business is far from over,” he said, his words following her out the door. “I’ll be in touch all right.”

And he wasn’t referring to Mayhem.


The Bearer of Magic News

A FEW DAYS later, Sera came home from work exhausted. She’d fought more than a few horrible monsters that day. It had been nasty and gory—and so completely normal. Routine even. Routine was good. It meant monsters and goo and all kinds of disgusting gunk. There was no drama, no crazy mage cults trying to take over the world, and absolutely positively no big-headed mage shifters who turned into dragons.

Most of all, routine meant a nice, quiet Friday pizza night at home, where the only villains present were confined to the television screen. Riley had promised to order two large pizzas with extra cheese. This was definitely an extra cheese sort of day. Chasing a flock of crotchety harpies across the city was exhausting work, especially when they could fly and Sera was stuck on foot. After that ordeal, she was hungry enough to finish one of those pizzas all by herself.

She could hear the television playing when she came through the front door. The hot, cheesy aroma of pizza wafted down the hall, a delicious beacon drawing her onward to the living room. Halfway there, hunger gave way to dread.

He was here. His magic hummed through the living room like a well-tuned orchestra in an acoustic hall, the vibrations buzzing and bouncing off her skin. The heavy, potent—and yet sweet—scent of dragon magic drowned out the pizza. She was almost as mad about that as his intrusion. Ruining pizza night was a criminal offense as far as Sera was concerned, and he’d managed to do it two weeks in a row.

Riley turned his head, looking at her over the back of the sofa. “Hey, Sera.”

Two open pizza boxes lay atop the coffee table, only a handful of slices left inside of each. An old horror movie cheesier than the pizza played on the television. Kai lifted a slice from the box, then threw back a wink at Sera.

“What the hell is he doing here?” she demanded.

“Joining us for pizza night,” said Riley.

“Like hell he is.”

“Now you’re just being rude. You already tried to kick him out the last time he visited. Kai might start to think you don’t like him.”

“No worries,” he told Riley. “I know she adores me.”

Sera’s jaw locked up. She started counting down from ten. Ten, nine. “Your ‘friend’—and I hesitate to even call him that—”

“With or without the implied quote marks,” said Kai.

Riley snorted.

Eight, seven, six. “—has been lying to you from day one. He lied to you about what he is, who he is—”

Riley turned to Kai. “Wait, so you aren’t really a first tier mage who shifts into a dragon and heads the San Francisco branch of Drachenburg Industries?”

Sera gaped at them in disbelief.

“He told me everything.”

Five. Four. “Oh, how grand of you.” She shot Kai her best saccharine smile. “At what point did you finally admit to my brother that you’ve only been pretending to be his friend?” Three! Two! ONE! “And that you have been lying and manipulating him all in some demented attempt to spy on me because you are—wait, what’s that? Oh, right. A freaking psychopath!”

“Are you a psychopath?” Riley asked Kai.

Kai shrugged. “Only some of the time.”

She growled at them.

“Careful, sweetheart.” Magic burned behind his eyes. “Some might take that as an invitation.”

“You’re hitting on me here? Really? In front of my own brother?”

He turned to Kai. “Do you mind?”

“No. In fact, please do. Take her out. Show her some fun. Someone has to. She’s so tense that you could bounce lightning off of her head.”

One of the pizza boxes burst into flames.

“I see what you mean.” Kai waved his hand, and the flames dissolved into steam. The box was slightly charred around the edges but otherwise undamaged. The air now stank of dragon magic and fire, though. Kai gave her a stern look. “What happened to controlling your magic?”

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