Mercenary Magic Page 8

“Don’t speak too soon,” he warned.

“That sounds ominous.”

“Cutler is in today.”

Cutler was one of the most powerful mages on Mayhem’s payroll. Though he was a few years older than Sera, he had the maturity level of the average high schooler. The youngest son of one of the city’s oldest and wealthiest magic dynasties, he didn’t actually need to work. He did it for kicks. Killing monsters amused him. He was cocky and careless, and if you ended up on a job with him as your partner, you knew you were in for a triple helping of hell. If you managed to survive his recklessness, you’d better hope he did too. Because if he didn’t, his family would come for you.

“Cutler hardly ever comes in on a Saturday, and he never wakes up this early, even on a weekday,” said Sera.

“Exactly. He must be up to no good.”

Fred was convinced that at least half of the magic-grade mercenaries at Mayhem were up to no good at any given time. Sera wasn’t sure he was wrong about that.

“I’ll keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.” She gave him a conspiring wink. “Ok, I need to go hit the gym.”

Then she headed for the shaded glass doors at the back of the room. They slid open before her, and she entered the real Mayhem. Unlike the ostentatious reception area, the main part of the house was pretty bare bones. The floor of the corridor was concrete painted over in a thick layer of red paint. The walls were plain white, and from the ceiling hung a row of lights that resembled upside-down flying saucers. Sera followed the hallway to the end, then turned right into the locker rooms.

Five minutes later, she was stretching out on her yoga mat in the empty gym hall. Ten minutes after that, she was beating the crap out of a punching bag. In her mind, it had the dragon’s smug face and blue-glass eyes. Bam. Bam. He was a threat to her family, and she had to take him down. Bam. Bam. Wiping the satisfaction off that face was just a bonus. She spun around and kicked the bag hard. It swung back—then just froze midair.

“You are a violent woman, Sera.”

She stepped sideways to get a look at the man behind the bag. Not that there was any point. She knew who she’d find there.

Cutler stood beside the suspended punching bag, his arms crossed against his chest. His golden hair was stylishly disheveled, his turquoise eyes twinkling with mischief. He wasn’t even looking at the punching bag, as though holding it in place with his mind were no more taxing than breathing. It probably wasn’t. Cutler was a first tier mage, and his specialty was telekinesis. He could make forks and spoons waltz together across the dining hall’s table—by the dozens—and still hold a normal conversation. He was not lacking in the magic department, something he relished in demonstrating at every available opportunity.

“I was training, Cutler.”

“You’re always training. Don’t you ever do anything else?”

“You have your magic to protect you. My life depends on staying in shape.”

“Killing monsters when you don’t have any magic is crazy. You know that, right?”

Great, the crazy telekinetic—the guy who started levitating everything in sight whenever he got bored—was calling her crazy.

“Thanks for the assessment,” she said.

“I like crazy.” He stepped forward. “Crazy is fun. Crazy is exciting.”

Sera had the sinking suspicion that he was hitting on her. That was disturbing.

“Why are you here, Cutler?”

He stopped, confusion washing his mischievous grin away. “What?”

“It’s Saturday. It’s not even ten in the morning. And you’re here. At work. Why?”

“I came to see you.” The grin returned with a vengeance. “There’s a party tonight at Liquid. I want you to come with me.”

Liquid was the club where the spoiled sons and daughters of San Francisco’s elite magic dynasties hung out. It was stuffed full of people just like Cutler. Sera would be about as welcome there as a vampire was at a fairy slumber party.

“Liquid is not really my scene,” she said.

“Don’t be a tease.” As he started walking toward her again, jump ropes, barbells, and weights rose into the air behind him.

“I don’t tease. I tell it how it is. And Liquid would spit me out into the street if I ever presumed to enter.”

“Not if you’re with me.”

He gave her a long, assessing look. She was wearing a cranberry-red sport tank and black capris. Her clothes were skin-tight, something he hadn’t failed to notice. A flirtatious grin twitched across his lips.

“You have an amazing body, Sera.”

“It’s the constant training you were complaining so much about.” It had shaped her body into a lean and muscular killing machine.

“Then I take it back.” He stroked his hand down her ponytail. “Training is good. In fact, we should train together. Vigorously.”

He said ‘train’, but he meant…

“Just imagine the possibilities. With my magic and your body, our passion could ignite volcanos.”

Um. Yeah, just um. There were no words—at least none that she could think of. Did those ridiculous lines actually work on other women? Did they lose their minds and throw themselves at him?

“What do you say, Sera?”

That you’re really super creepy.

“Care to live a little?”

Sera was thinking up a cordial way to tell him to hit the road, when Naomi stepped into the gym and saved the day.

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