Mercenary Magic Page 30

“Nasty monsters. Sounds like fun,” Sera said.

h“Is Riley there?”

“He’s in the shower.”

“Give him a kiss for me. I’ll give you a call again soon. I have to run now. ”

“Take care of yourself, Alex.”

“You too.”

Just as Sera set down the phone, Riley emerged from the bathroom, dressed in his running clothes. She forced a cheery smile onto her face.

“You’re five minutes late, hotshot.”

“Relax.” He grabbed a bagel. “Was that Alex?”

Sera nodded. “She sounds like she’s having fun.”

“So are you.”

“How do you figure that?”

“I saw the look on your face last night. Whatever crazy, wild, dangerous shenanigans you went through yesterday sure put you in a great mood.”

“Crazy, wild, dangerous shenanigans?”

“Yep.” He chomped down on his bagel. “You love crazy, wild, dangerous shenanigans. The crazier, wilder, and more dangerous—the better.”

“That’s not true.”

“Sure it is.”

“Not.”

“Is.”

This could go on forever. Sera pointed at the clock. “Seven minutes late.”

Riley stuffed the remainder of his bagel into his mouth, then headed for the door.

* * *

Sera and Riley ran side-by-side in silence, the heat of a cloudless sky blaring down on them. They never chitchatted while running. There would be plenty of time to do that later, when they weren’t racing to be the first to the little waterfront smoothie bar where they often paused to partake in fruity treats.

Sera’s cadence was off today. Her legs still hurt from yesterday’s dance with the telekinetics. She’d removed the gauze, replacing it with a field of smaller patches, but below the skin, her muscles ached.

Physical ailments aside, the real reason she was so slow today was that her mind just wasn’t in it. She’d long ago trained herself to push through physical pain, but apparently all it took was a dragon in her head to keep her mind off the game.

What was she going to do about him? The smart, rational thing to do was stay well away from him. He came from one of the elite magic dynasties, and he could somehow sense her magic, no matter what she did to cover it. One of those two things alone would be reason enough to keep her distance. Both together should have had her running for the hills. He represented everything she’d spent her whole life hiding from. He was bad news and lots of it.

And yet there was something about him, something she found herself drawn to. The song of his magic was incredible, the feel of it crashing against her simply divine. She’d had only the tiniest taste of it, but that had been enough. She wanted more. She wanted him to kiss her as he poured his magic into her, saturating her body until it hummed and tingled in tune with his.

Where the hell did all that come from?

Sera pushed herself to run faster, trying to squeeze those insane thoughts out of her head. She couldn’t let herself want those things from Kai because she had a feeling he’d give them to her and then some. And after that, she’d never be able to get him out of her head. She had to stop this now, while she still could.

Even as her muscles screamed in protest, she upped the pace again. Beside her, Riley’s breaths grew strained and shallow. Sweat streamed down the sides of Sera’s face. It slid along her neck and plunged down her back.

As they neared the water, the air cooled, and a light breeze rolled off her sweat-beaded skin. Sera could almost taste the strawberry sweetness. The swirly shop sign came into sight, and that was all the motivation she needed. She shot forward, running all out the rest of the way there.

* * *

It wasn’t only mages who partook in the joy that was magic smoothies. A sizable chunk of the human population ordered them too. So it didn’t look the least bit suspicious for Sera to step up to the counter and order a pair of them for her and Riley.

“Did Alex have any news?” Riley asked.

They stood outside at a banana-yellow table beneath a strawberry umbrella, slurping magic-boosted smoothies through super thick straws. Ice crystals slid down Sera’s throat, dissolving the heat trapped inside her body. A subtle magic aftertaste tingled her tongue.

“Not really. Just that she’s really busy,” Sera said. “She sounds like she’s having a blast.”

“It’s good for her to get out and see new things. The two of you have spent so many years hiding, working, and looking out for me. It’s no life. You need to live life and not worry about me so much.”

“It’s our fault Dad died. Our fault that you had to grow up without him.”

“I was fourteen. I’d already done most of my growing up.” He drank deeply from his smoothie cup. “And it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t wield the blade that killed him.”

She lowered her voice to a whisper. “That assassin was there for us, so it was our fault. After Dad died, Alex and I swore to each other that we would take care of you.”

“And you have,” he said. “But now I’m an adult. I’m fine. I can take care of myself. You need to live your own lives. And you need to let me live mine.”

The phone in Sera’s pocket buzzed. She snuck a peek at the number and saw that it was Kai. Again. What was that, like the fourth time today? She stuffed it back into her shorts. They’d planned to meet after lunch, and she saw no reason to speak to him a second earlier. In fact, she had about four-million-and-two reasons not to.

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