Mercenary Magic Page 9

“Simmons wants to see us right away,” she said.

“Ok.” Sera looked at Cutler. “I guess we’ll just have to finish our chat later.” Like when I have my sword on me. Or at the very least, a taser.

“Sure thing, gorgeous,” he replied with a wink, then swept past her and left the gym hall.

“What was that all about?” Naomi asked as the hovering objects dropped to the floor.

“You really don’t want to know.”

CHAPTER FIVE

A New Client

NAOMI DIDN’T SAY a word as they climbed the stairs to Simmons’s office. She did, however, snicker a few times. After the fifth time, Sera stopped and turned to her.

“Ok, what is it?”

“Cutler is smitten with you.” Naomi cleared her throat. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“He’s as fickle as a twelve-eyed cat in heat. He’ll find a new object of affection before the day is up. There’s no point in trying to come up with solutions to problems that will fix themselves.”

Naomi nodded. “A practical attitude as always, Sera.”

“And if that fails, I’ll just knock him upside the head. That tends to clear most men of their ill-conceived notions.”

“You certainly have a unique way of dealing with men.” A spark of magic twinkled in her aquamarine eyes. “But you might want to think twice before striking Cutler.”

“Because of his family?”

“Because he’d probably like it,” Naomi said seriously.

Sera had a feeling she might be right about that. Unfortunately. Well, she’d decimate that bridge when she came to it. She started walking down the hallway again.

“Did Simmons say what he wants?”

Naomi shook her head, and her hair feathered across the tops of her shoulders. Today, it was bubblegum-pink and glistening with silver sparkles. Most fairies had the power to transform their appearance, and some half-fairies did too, at least to some degree. Naomi could change her hair and eye color. Lately, she’d been putting in a lot of hours toward morphing her face, but so far she’d only managed to make her skin turn slightly blue. Of all the magical abilities, glamouring was one of the trickiest. It was more about subtlety and precision than about raw brute force.

“Maybe he wants to shower us with praise for a job well done,” Naomi guessed.

“The only way that would happen is if a demon possessed his body and forced him to be nice to us as part of some grand, sinister plan, probably something that involves the consumption of copious amounts of magic mushrooms and dancing naked under the moonlight.”

Naomi blinked. “I often get the feeling that you’re keeping your best stories to yourself.”

Sera grinned back.

A smile cracked her friend’s lips. “What do I have to do to hear some of these crazy tales?”

“I only share when under the influence of pizza.”

“I’ll remember that.”

Sera raised her hand to the closed door and knocked. A moment later, a gruff voice beckoned them to enter.

The director of Mayhem had spent decades building the company up from nothing. Yes, he worked hard, but the organization’s success could be boiled down to two things: his knack for discovering talent and his ability to persuade them to come work for him.

The majority of the talent pool was made up of monster-fighting mercenaries. He called them the Street Team. They killed well, but most of them weren’t exactly genteel. Simmons knew to keep them and their crude mouths in the field and far, far away from Mayhem’s upscale clientele.

For dealing with their paying customers, he had the House Team. They wore silk and pearls, not leather and steel. They were polished and polite. They would never, ever consider punching some snooty old mage lady with a purse full of purple poodle in the face—no matter how much she talked down to them. The old lady, not the poodle. Poodles didn’t usually talk, not even the purple ones.

“Sera. Naomi. Please sit down,” Simmons said as they entered his office.

Giving Sera a worried look, Naomi brushed the door shut behind them, then quickly walked across the room to sit down on one of the chairs in front of Simmons’s desk. Sera followed, her pace slower, her eyes scanning their fearless leader’s face for any hint of what he wanted. He didn’t look annoyed—well, at least not more annoyed than usual.

Simmons had to be at least fifty, but his face was as smooth and fresh as a man half his age. There were a few magical creams you could buy that would do that, but they were really expensive. Not that he had to worry about money; Mayhem was doing better than ever.

His sandy hair was combed back from his face, revealing a wide forehead and a sturdy jaw. He wore black pants and a black vest over a cerulean-blue dress shirt. His tie was a shade lighter than the shirt, just different enough to match, but not blend in completely. On his left wrist, he wore a fancy watch and on his right hand, a fat class ring from one of the country’s magic universities.

Sera took the seat beside Naomi, folded her hands in her lap, and looked up calmly at Simmons. Whatever he wanted, it couldn’t be that bad. She’d been trying extra hard to behave herself lately. Well, at least since that purple poodle lady incident. Which hadn’t even been her fault. The crazy old bat had followed her when she went to deal with the army of angry garden gnomes plaguing her estate. She’d almost gotten them both killed, so Sera had told her off for being a moron. The lady hadn’t taken that well and neither had Simmons. Ever since then, he’d been really careful not to give her any jobs with hardheaded clients who felt the need to loom over the ‘help’ while they worked.

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