Mercenary Magic Page 31

“Are you going to get that?” Riley asked.


“Avoiding someone?”


He snickered. Sera thought about telling him she was avoiding his psychopath of a new friend, but decided against it. She wanted to keep him as far away from all of this as she possibly could.

“Here’s the thing, Riley. I do realize I’ve been very protective of you. But it’s only because I want you to be safe. If anyone found out about me and Alex, they might use you to get to us.”

“Ifs and maybes,” he replied. “Our world is a dangerous one, drenched in magic. And the humans are in many ways even more dangerous. I or you or Alex might be killed at any time. That’s precisely why we need to live, not hide.”

The magic around them shifted up a gear. The breeze died, and the cool air suddenly got very hot. Sera looked past Riley, spotting the cause of the shift right away. Two mages were crossing the parking lot. Flames licked their hands. All four eyes were fixed on her, promises of pain etched in them.

“Hold that thought,” she told Riley.

Then she stepped out to meet them, wondering why she couldn’t go a single day without being attacked by some idiot or another.



SERA HADN’T BROUGHT along her sword. She never carried it while running, though the sight of someone running with a sword strapped to her back was not an uncommon sight on the streets of San Francisco. That was only one of many strange sights you witnessed daily when you lived in one of the world’s supernatural hotspots.

Sera had brought along a pair of knives. She drew them from the straps around her thighs, wondering how much good they’d do against the pair of fire-happy mages. The flames on their hands spread up their arms. Their skin glowed like orange embers, and golden lights danced in their eyes. A funnel of fire exploded from one of the mages’ fingertips, blasting toward her like a stampede of burning horses. She darted away, but it followed. Trashcans crashed and car alarms blared as she tried to circle around the mages. A fire ball flew over her head.

“Hey, now that was just rude,” she told the second mage. The faint scent of burnt hair filled her nose. She patted down her ponytail to make sure it wasn’t on fire.

He threw back his head and cackled. Yeah, that’s right. He apparently fancied himself a cartoon character. There was an eerie and now familiar gleam in his eyes, just like Finn, Olivia, and all of the other psycho mages she’d fought over the past several days. Every single one of them seemed to be auditioning hard for Magic Junkie of the Year.

Mr. Funnel’s fire hose had gone dry. Sustained streams of magic were hard work to keep up. They drained even veteran mages pretty fast, and these two were as green as the first grass in springtime. It was as though someone had suddenly pumped them full of magic they had no experience handling. They were brash, foolish, and utterly drunk on magic.

Sera threw her knife through Mr. Funnel’s foot, stapling it to the muddy ground. He squealed, the fire dying in his eyes, and she swung out her fist, clocking him in the head. He collapsed into a napping heap at her feet.

Another fireball flew at her. She dodged, but it passed too close too fast, gracing her skin. She bit down on her lips, sealing the pain inside. It wouldn’t do her any good out in the open. Inside of her, she could channel it into fuel for her fight.

“You’re fast,” Fireball said.

He hurled fire at the tree beside her, and the canopy burst into flames. Burning leaves fell gently—almost peacefully—from the branches like soft snow. Sera ran out into the parking lot before any of them could fall on her.

“But not fast enough.”

He fired another blast. She jumped back as a sizable chunk of asphalt cracked beneath her feet.

“Fire is light. Fire is might. It gives you power. It makes them—”

Steam and lightning exploded in a colorful ball around him. When the pink and blue lights had fizzled out and the steam had dissipated, Fireball was lying on the ground. Sera whipped around to find Riley standing at the edge of the parking lot, a translucent orb in his hand. She rushed over to him and swung her arm over his shoulder, leading him away.

“What did you do?” she asked in a harsh whisper, her head pressed close to his.

“A magic bomb. I’ve been developing them in my spare time.”

“I had everything under control. And you are risking exposure.”

“Uh, Sera. Just look around. We’re pretty well exposed already.”

She followed his gaze to the crowd of people who’d gathered all the way from the smoothie bar to the parking lot. They were gaping at the unconscious mages strewn across the asphalt battlefield—but more than that, they were gaping at her and Riley. A few of them had pulled out their phones and were taking videos. Some others were rapidly texting. Fantastic.

“Any hope of discretion died the second those mages charged across the parking lot with flaming hands,” he continued.

“You’re probably right.” Sighing, she took out her phone and dialed Mayhem.

Fred answered on the second ring. “Hey, Sera, what’s up?”

“Where’s Fiona?”

“Ladies’ room. She left me in charge,” he said, clearly excited. Sera could picture him puffing out his chest with pride. “What can I do for you?”

“I have two bodies here at Smoothie Elixir in the Presidio.”

There was a pause. All joy had died in Fred’s voice when he spoke again. “Dead or alive?”

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