Mercenary Magic Page 24

“Is this yours?” Sera whispered as the host walked over, his steps hurried yet smooth.

“Is what mine?”

“This restaurant.”

“No, of course not. Owning a restaurant would take all the pleasure out of eating there.”

“Mr. Drachenburg, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” the host said. He was wearing a tuxedo. And a spiffy watch that Sera could have pawned off to buy herself a pretty awesome pair of boots. “Your usual table is set and ready for you. Shall I show you and your companion there now?”

Sera had to give it to Mr. Fancy Tuxedo. He didn’t even blink at her dirty top and torn jeans. Maybe Kai came in looking like this all the time. Well, at least there wasn’t blood dripping from her sword or monster guts on her shoes.

At Kai’s nod, the host showed them into the dining area. Here, the name of the game was opulence. The floors were cherrywood, the tablecloths silk, and the guests sparkling with enough diamonds to send a Christmas tree into an epileptic seizure.

Those guests weren’t as courteous as the Illusion host. Not only did they blink, they gawked. Copiously. Every head in the room turned to watch Sera and Kai cross the room. She tried to ignore them—but only sort of succeeded. Disdain dripped from their faces like molasses. Apparently, they didn’t approve of the denim and leather invasion. Or maybe it was the dirt and dried blood.

“Are we here to meet someone about the case?” Sera asked Kai.

“We’re here to eat. It’s been a long day, and I’m hungry.”

He stepped in front of the host to slide Sera’s chair out for her. Sore, wounded, and plain worn out, she plopped down. It felt good to sit. She ran her hands across the seat. Mmm, leather. And not of the battle wear variety either. Sitting in that chair felt as good as sinking into a hot bubble bath. It was the most heavenly seat she’d ever met.

Across from her, Kai plucked a roll from the basket. Steam wafted up from it, the scent of freshly baked bread unfurling from its tasty flesh. Sera grabbed a roll for herself and made quick work of it.

“Butter?” Kai held out a tray, an amused smile light on his lips.

She took it from him, spreading the garlic butter generously across her second roll. After she finished her third, she hazarded a peek at the other guests in the dining area. They were still gawking. Geez.

She leaned forward, whispering to him, “Everyone is staring at us.”

“Let them stare.” He didn’t whisper. He projected his voice, its rich bass filling the room. “The vast majority of them have nothing better to do anyway. Our arrival is the most interesting thing that has happened to them in weeks.” He looked down at the bread basket, frowning when he found it empty. “Besides, if they don’t stop staring, I’ll roast them and eat them for dinner. As I said, I’m famished.”

Clothing rustled and silverware clinked as the gawkers hastily looked away.

“You cannot be serious,” Sera said as a team of waiters refilled their water glasses and set down fresh baskets of bread and other appetizers.

“Sure, I am.” He popped a cube of something lightly breaded into his mouth. “I’m a dragon.”

Ha! I knew it! Except there weren’t any dragons anymore. “You look like a mage to me.”

“Ok, so maybe I’m not a real dragon, but I do shift into one.”

Sera’s knife slipped from her hand, clinking against her plate. Holy-moly recycled zombie parts, that’s why he’s so powerful.

“You dropped your weapon.”

She righted the knife.

“What’s wrong? Haven’t you ever met a dragon shifter before?” His smile was smug, like he knew exactly where in the food chain he sat. Hell, he was flying so high above the food chain that it was only a tiny speck to him.

Sera forced herself to speak, to say anything. It wasn’t wise to let a predator know he’d stunned you. “No, as a matter of fact, I haven’t.”

A small subset of mages could shift their shape. These mage shifters were rare and usually stuck to human forms and the simpler animals, things like birds or mice. Some first tier mages could manage one of the big cats or even a bear. As far as Sera knew, there hadn’t been a dragon shifter in over a century. It took an enormous amount of magic to shift into the most magical of all beings: the dragon. Like mind-blowing amounts of magic.

She had to be careful around him—very, very careful. If he found out what she was, he would kill her, or at least bring her before the Magic Council. And she didn’t think she was strong enough to stop him. Not that she wouldn’t try.

“No? You haven’t met a dragon shifter before? Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. At the moment, there are only two of us in the world, and the other is a monk at a secluded Tibetan monastery.” He inhaled deeply, keeping his eyes fixed on her. “Uncommon as we are, we’re not unique. Not like you. I’ve never met anyone like you before. You are special.”

Sera knew he was trying to scent out her magic—again—and there wasn’t much she could do about it, except to stuff it down where he’d hopefully never find it. Too bad dragons had a nose for magic. She did too. That was just part of being Dragon Born.

Despite its name, the Dragon Born didn’t have much to do with dragons. In fact, Kai’s magic was closer to the dragons’ than hers was. The Dragon Born got their name from the unique circumstance of their birth: they were two souls born into one body, later separated by magic. Just like how the dragons were born.

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