Mercenary Magic Page 4

But her brother gave no indication that he felt anything of the sort. He was giving her an odd sort of look, though.

“Is something wrong, Sera?”

Yes, they needed to get out of there. Now. “No,” she said.

“I’m Kai,” said the magic lightning rod, amusement dancing across his lip. He extended his hand.

Every instinct in her body was screaming for her to run, to escape the predator Riley had invited into their home. Instead, she took his hand and shook it. A spark shot up her arm—magical, dangerous…and a bit exciting. She dropped his hand and backed up a step.

“Please excuse us for a second, Kai.” Her words slushed out as a hurried mush.

She grabbed hold of Riley’s hand and pulled him into the kitchen, closing the door behind them. Then she spun around to stare him down.

“What have you done?” she said in a hissed whisper.

Riley leaned against the edge of the small table they’d stuffed into the corner of the kitchen. He pressed his crossed arms to his chest and glared on back at her. “I don’t know what you mean. Am I now not allowed to have friends or something?”

“Sure, have all the friends you want. Just not that friend.”

“You’ve known him for all of two seconds, and already you’re judging him. Is this about the pizza?”

“No.”

He gave her a hard look.

“Ok, maybe it’s just a little about the pizza. That was really uncool, by the way. You can’t just go changing pizza night. Fantasizing about pizza was all that kept me going when I was up to my waist in demonic jumbo caterpillars.”

Riley rolled his eyes. “You’re being melodramatic.”

“Forget the pizza.” Sera dropped her voice back to a whisper. “Your friend is dangerous.”

“How?”

“His magic.”

“Magic?”

“Really? You don’t feel it?” She spread her arms. “That pulsing beacon of primeval power.”

He snorted. “Have you been reading those naughty books again?”

“Please take this seriously, Riley.”

“Sorry.” He coughed. “Ok. Seriously, Kai doesn’t have any magic.”

“He does.”

“I may not be a magic detector like you are, Sera. But I can sense when someone’s magical. Kai is not.”

It was as though they were talking about a completely different person. Unless…

“He’s masking his aura,” she said.

It was the only explanation. Of all the magical beings, only mages could do it—and only a handful of them at that. It took more power and control than most of them had. There was also the pesky little problem that the more magic you had, the more disciplined you needed to be to cover it up. Kai was gushing magic out of his pores. To mask that from everyone, his self-control must have been absolutely mind-boggling. And dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

“Why would he cover it up?” Riley asked. “That doesn’t make sense. You’re being paranoid. He probably just handled a magic mushroom or winged cat or something at work today.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a vet.”

Right. Like there was any way a man with that body spent his days patching up wounded animals. Working security maybe. Or wrestling vampires naked. Yeah, she could totally picture that.

A low chuckle drew her out of her own mind. “If you like him that much, I could arrange to be somewhere else tonight.”

“Huh?”

“You know, so you could take a closer look at ‘that body’.”

Dear God, she hadn’t actually said that out loud, had she?

“Though I have to admit that I’m kind of grossed out at the thought of you fantasizing about my friend naked.”

Oh, yes, she had said it aloud. Sera swallowed hard, her cheeks burning.

“But I suppose it’s better than tossing him out. Which is what you’re planning on doing, isn’t it?”

She took a deep breath. “Do you remember the assassin who came for me and Alex eight years ago?”

All life drained from Riley’s face, leaving him pale as a ghost. “Of course, I remember.” He cleared his throat. “The bastard killed Dad.”

“That assassin was a first tier mage. Not only that, he was the most powerful first tier mage I’d ever met.” She shifted her gaze to the closed door. “Until today.”

Riley didn’t say a thing. He just stared at the door.

“You know I can sense these things. So trust me when I say that no magic mushroom or winged cat could make anyone’s magic feel like that. His magic is ancient and powerful, and he’s deadly. Most people are not killers. Sure, they may puff out their chests, throw up their arms, and make melodramatic threats to kill random strangers who bump their bar stool. But it’s all talk. You can see that when you look into their eyes.

“When I look into Kai’s eyes, I see someone who wouldn’t hesitate to kill a person he felt deserved it. He’s cold and he’s calculating. And based on how effectively he’s masked his aura, he’s very likely the most disciplined person I’ve ever met. All of that together spells danger—and lots of it. We need to stay well away from him.”

Sera angled toward the door. “Stay here. I’ll ask him to leave. If we’re lucky, he hasn’t yet figured out what I am.”

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