Mercenary Magic Page 21

“Will I live?” she asked, wiping the back of her hand across her dusty, sweaty forehead.

Kai looked up from scrutinizing her ruined jeans. “No.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” He flipped open his pocket knife.

“I hope you’re not thinking of amputating anything with that toy.”

“If I don’t amputate your jeans, your blood will paste them to these puncture wounds.”

Resigned to her fate, she waved for him to proceed with the operation. As he began to cut, she kept her eyes high. She didn’t need to watch her favorite pair of jeans be butchered. Those mages were going to pay. She didn’t know how, but she was going to make sure of that.

“So, we’ve been transported across the bridge,” she said, staring out toward the water. The Golden Gate Bridge shone red-gold in the warm afternoon sun.

“Yes.”

Snip. Snip. Snip. The tiny scissors were taking forever, but she supposed they were preferable to her sword.

“At least it wasn’t across the country,” she added. “If we hurry, maybe those mages will still be there.”

He set a hand on her shoulder, pushing her back down onto the boulder. “Remain seated. If you keep going on like this, you’ll pass out.” He continued cutting away the bottoms of her jeans. “I messaged the facility’s security and told them to protect the vault.”

“So, did you manage this feat while we were falling through the glyphs or while you were rescuing me from the clutches of that disgruntled bush?”

“Before all that. I wrote to them back outside MRL, demanding to know where the hell they were while we were doing their job. This was right before Olivia arrived on the scene.”

“Olivia? Was that the third telekinetic?”

“Yes.”

“You know her?”

“She’s a member of the Sage Dynasty.”

Another of the prominent magic dynasties. Their line wasn’t quite as old as the Drachenburgs, but it was old enough. What was a Sage doing helping a group of magical misfits break into Magical Research Laboratories?

“She is being controlled, just like Finn,” he answered her unspoken question. “I could see the strange glow in her eyes.”

“The drunk-on-magic look.”

“That’s the one,” he said.

“The incidents are related.”

“Yes. Whatever Finn was trying to steal, I’ll bet Olivia was after the same thing. An attack on the same facility in the span of just a few days by mages with glowing eyes not acting like themselves—that’s no coincidence. It’s a pattern.” He made his final cut, turning her jeans into capris. “Do you have anything to sterilize the wounds?”

Sera shot the ruined strips of denim a despondent look, then met his eyes. “Of course. I come prepared.” She slid a tiny bottle out of a pouch stitched seamlessly into her belt and passed it to him.

“Happen to have a bandage too?” he asked as he took the bottle.

She reached down and slid a roll of gauze out of a second pouch. Kai took it, his hand lingering on hers. For some ridiculous reason, that made Sera’s pulse jump. Probably hormones. Those pesky little things were an annoying bunch.

Sera drew her hand away from him. She shouldn’t have let him touch her in the first place. The closer he got, the easier it was for him to get a lock on her magic.

“You really do come prepared,” he said, cleaning her cuts. “Are you all right?”

Sera winced. “Fine.” She’d dropped the wall, allowing the blocked pain to wash through her body. She had to do it sooner or later anyway, and right now the pain was keeping her sensible. It was keeping her from thinking about how magnificent he looked with the sun at his back, lighting him up in a golden halo.

Argh…or maybe not.

“They’re not glowing.” She pointed at the glyphs etched into the ground. They were fading fast, right before her eyes.

“They pulsed briefly as we fell out of them and have been growing fainter ever since,” he told her.

“Have you tried hitting them with magic like the lightning mage did?”

“Yes. While you were busy sliding down the hill, I hit them with a few spells. Nothing happened. Maybe this is just the exit ramp, and the glyphs here are nothing more than a magical residue created by our journey.”

“Yeah.” She watched the last remnants of the glyphs vanish, leaving behind no evidence that they’d ever been there. She didn’t even feel their magic anymore. “We need to get back.”

“Yes,” he agreed, rising from a crouch. “Ok, you’re all set.”

Sera looked down. Her best jeans were cut off at the knees. Below that, he’d wrapped up her legs with practiced precision. Not a single bit of gauze was wasted. This wasn’t his first time. And that made him unique amongst the mages of the legacy families. Most of them had the first aide skills of a five-year-old. When you had a team of healing mages ready to swoop in every time you stubbed your toe, you tended not to learn the basics of wound treatment.

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“German military.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“No, a military background totally makes sense for you. It definitely explains your penchant for barking orders and just expecting everyone to follow them.”

Something flashed in his eyes. Annoyance? Amusement? The sudden urge to make her his afternoon snack? Did dragons really eat people? The stories said that they did. Sera decided not to think too hard about that. He wasn’t a real dragon anyway, just a mage with a dragon’s personality. Somehow, that wasn’t very comforting.

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