Mercenary Magic Page 6


He lifted the last vampire and carried him down the hall after Sera. Not bad. The brutes were pure muscle and weighed a ton. Riley must have upped his gym hours. Maybe there was a girl he wanted to impress.

Sera nearly laughed. Their life was never that simple. More likely, he’d gotten it into his head to start fighting supernaturals.

“Well, I’m only a few weeks away from graduation,” he said. “So it’s too late to switch to knitting now.”

“Does your school even offer a degree in that?”

“Sure. It’s one of the focus points under Physical Manipulation.”



As far as Sera knew, Riley didn’t have that sort of magic. He was the best potion maker she’d ever met, but he couldn’t summon lightning or hurl fire balls. Or do any magic that would protect him in a fight. And that made him vulnerable.

“On second thought, just stick with the Magical Sciences folks. Those telekinetics are all sort of nuts,” she said.

“I’ve noticed.”

They dumped the two vampires next to their buddy. As they walked back to the living room, Sera shot Mayhem’s disposal department a text message to come pick up the corpses. That was one of the perks of working for them. When you killed a monster, they sent a disposal team within thirty minutes. That didn’t save her the hassle of filing the report, but at least she didn’t have to start digging ditches in the middle of the night. As any regular viewer of horror flicks knew, digging ditches in the dark never ended well.

“We need to talk about your friend Kai,” Sera said as she sat down beside Riley on the sofa.

She picked up the bag he’d brought her and reached inside. Damn. The chicken sandwich had gone cold. She took a bite anyway. Double damn. Cold or not, it was delicious. No, it wasn’t just delicious. It was the best sandwich she’d ever had. Admitting that to herself hurt her brain. She did not want to enjoy anything that had been Kai the dragon’s idea.

“I’m not going to stop hanging out with him just because you think his magic is too strong,” Riley told her.

“Not just the magic. The eyes. Remember the murderous eyes!”

“Right. So, I’m not seeing that. He’s just a normal guy. Or as normal as any of us can hope to be in this messed up world.”

Sera gobbled down the last of her sandwich and licked her fingers clean. Then she looked around for more. There wasn’t a crumb to be found. She’d already assaulted every last one of them.

“Riley, there’s a reason we stay away from magic users.”

“You work for a mercenary guild that cleans up supernatural messes. I’d hardly call that ‘staying away’.”

“I kill monsters. I don’t go barhopping with a fraternity of mage brothers. And Mayhem thinks I’m human, remember? I’ve gone to great lengths to keep it that way. Even though that puts me at the bottom of the barrel on the pay scale. It’s still more than I’d make waiting tables. Which I’d be absolutely horrible at, by the way.”

“Yeah, you’re much better at beheading things.”

“Precisely.” She grinned at him. “We all have to make do with the skills we have. Dad trained Alex and me to fight from the day we could walk. He knew that training was our best chance for survival. And he died to ensure that survival. Alex and I are what he made us to be: vicious killers. It’s all we know how to do. It’s probably all that we’ll ever do. But not you. You can be something else. We sent you to school so you could be more.”

So far, the three of them had scraped by all right. Her and Alex’s pay was enough to live on and to pay for Riley’s tuition. Riley was so smart that he could have gotten a scholarship, but they couldn’t risk exposure. All scholarships to magical universities went past the Magic Council. They were always on the lookout for magical talent they could later recruit.

In Riley’s case, they would have found a non-combative mage with a sharp mind and exceptional potion-making skills, just the sort of talent Magic Council members liked to hire into their own private research laboratories. As soon as they dug a bit deeper, though, they’d have found a family history rife with magical secrets. And the one thing the Magic Council would not stand for was a magical secret. They had to know everything. And they had ways of getting to the truth.

“I know. And I do appreciate what you and Alex have done for me,” he said. “By the way, have you heard from her lately?”

Mayhem had sent Alex to Europe on special assignment for some VIP client. She’d been gone for weeks, hunting supernatural baddies. Sera was happy for her—but also sort of jealous. Mayhem had never sent her anywhere on special assignment, and she’d never met any VIPs.

“No. I was planning on calling her this weekend,” she told Riley. “I don’t have to work on Sunday, so I’ll probably do it then.”

“I hope she’s all right.”

“Of course she is. She fights even meaner than I do.”

He chuckled. “She says you’re the mean one.”

“Yeah, well, we never could agree on that one.” Sera eyed the paper bag on the coffee table, the one with Kai’s sandwich inside. “But what we could always agree on was the need to keep you safe. And that’s why we need to be very, very careful about the people we associate with. The last time someone found out about Alex and me, Dad died. I don’t want you to be next.”

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