Mercenary Magic Page 11

Sera parked Lily beside the umbrella rack at Drachenburg Industries, then crossed the vast marble desert that was their lobby. Her sneakers squeaked against the glossy white floor, sliding over the swirly blue dragon at the midpoint of the room. The illustration was stunning, a stroke of whimsical genius in an otherwise cold and dispassionate room.

“Name?” the receptionist said as Sera stopped in front of the desk. The woman’s makeup was picture-perfect, as though it had been airbrushed on. Her dark, bouncy curls belonged in a shampoo commercial.

“Serafina Dering.”

The receptionist typed a few things into the computer, which then spit out a visitor badge. She slid it across the counter to Sera. “Take the elevator to the 28th floor. You’ll find Mr. Drachenburg’s office at the end of the hall. Stay on the marked pathways at all times. Drachenburg Industries takes no responsibility for any injuries you may incur—up to and including death—if you stray from the path. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Then enjoy your stay and have a pleasant day.”

Drachenburg Industries’ interests covered all things magical—from potions to poisons, from spells to creatures. They were the world’s largest magical research laboratory. Sera didn’t know what the San Francisco branch specialized in, but from the receptionist’s warning, it must have been something dangerous. Poisonous plants? Experimental sorcery? Fire-breathing tigers?

As long as it’s not jumbo caterpillars, she thought and stepped into the elevator. It shot up the chute.

When it reached the top, Sera behaved herself and followed the path—even though she wouldn’t have minded getting a peek at a fire-breathing tiger. Like below in the lobby, the floors here were marble. Paintings hung on the walls, illuminated by spotlight arrays. A few of them bore the distinctive style of Bellatrix Raven, the most famous magic painter in the world.

The blue glass building and everything in it screamed ‘money’. No expense had been spared here; in fact, a whole bunch of extra expenses had been lathered on. Standing there, in this hallway that dripped money and magic, Sera felt like she was on a completely different planet. The big magic dynasties didn’t see money as an obstacle, or even a tool. To them, money just was. They didn’t even think about it; it was as natural to them as breathing.

This is why Drachenburg hadn’t batted an eye at the hefty premium Mayhem charged for exclusive work. Someone had probably told him Mayhem’s mercenaries were the best, and he’d wanted the best. No, he’d wanted her. Of all the mercenaries working for Simmons, most of them many times more impressive than Sera on paper, he’d asked for her.

Just don’t screw it up.

“Hello, I’m here to see Mr. Drachenburg.”

His secretary peered over the computer at her. “Ms. Dering?” Her stare wasn’t exactly disapproving; it was more indifferent, as though she’d seen hired help come and go from that office so many times that the novelty of turning her nose up at them had long since worn off.

“Yes.”

“Please, go in. Mr. Drachenburg will be with you in a minute.” Her gaze returned to the computer screen, and she said nothing more.

Sera walked past the desk and entered the office. A spectacular view of the bay spread out before her, drawing her across the room with a magic all its own. She’d lived in San Francisco for four years, but she’d never seen the city like this. She stopped before her nose smashed the glass wall and just took a moment to drink it all in. She could get used to that view. And this office.

The room was roughly the size of her house. A desk sat in the corner. Not far from the glass wall, there was a lounge area that consisted of a few leather sofas, two mini-fridges, and three side tables. Atop one sat a picture-perfect basket of fruit. A bowl of chocolates was on the next. And a plate of freshly-baked cookies topped the third. Sera’s stomach growled with hunger. Her muffin was still tucked away inside of her locker. She hadn’t found the time to eat it yet.

Marble floors. Priceless art. A panoramic bird’s eye view of the city. It sure must have been nice to have money. Jewelry. Fancy chocolate. Shoes whose soles weren’t peeling off. The possibilities were endless.

The door opened, and the secretary’s voice spilled inside. “…Drachenburg, she’s waiting for you inside. She’s wearing a sword.”

“Thank you, Gia.”

Sera’s brain tried to reconcile that voice with this place. It refused to cooperate. As the door shut with a whisper, she spun around to find him there—Riley’s friend Kai, the dragon, the lightning rod of magical might. His blue eyes stared out at her, pulsing with ancient power.

CHAPTER SIX

In the Dragon's Lair

EVERY INSTINCT IN Sera’s body was screaming at her to run. This was Drachenburg. The man had seen her fight vampires. Depending on what his mad mage of a cousin had told him, he might even know she’d broken through a wind barrier. Most of all, though, he was strong. Really strong. And the dragon had lured her here, possibly for a midday snack.

Fighting the urge to flee, she bottled up all her magic. Maybe he hadn’t felt it yet.

His smile was smooth, his eyes knowing. Shit.

She pulled in her magic further, compacting it until it was only a heavy lump in her stomach.

“It’s too late for that,” he said, his voice deep and rough.

Layer by layer, his power unfolded, like he was shedding a cocoon. It burned and bit, sizzling her in a field of magic. He was testing her. He breathed in deeply, trying to get a fix on her magic. She clenched her jaw and stared him down. He would not crack her.

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