Spy Glass Page 23

That would make Nic happy. Finn escorted me home, but I started to worry when we drew closer to the inn. Would he want a kiss good-night? What would I do? Being undercover was harder than I’d thought.

The kissing issue turned out to be a needless concern.

One block from the inn, magic brushed my shoulder, warning me a split second before four armed men surrounded us.

7

MY HANDS GRASPED THE HANDLES OF MY SAIS, BUT I didn’t pull them. Not yet. I studied the men. Ordinary in appearance, wearing nondescript dark clothing and lacking any distinguishing features, the four men could easily blend into a crowd—except for the short swords and daggers in their hands.

Finn stepped in front of me. “Do you gentlemen have a problem?”

“Not with you,” the man in the middle said. “We’d like a word with your companion.”

Why wasn’t I surprised? Firing those guards was about to get me killed. I flexed my muscles. Four against one, suicide for me, but with Finn, we’d have a better chance.

“In private,” Middle Man said.

“Not happening.” Finn drew his sword. Before his blade cleared his scabbard, two of the goons rushed him.

I yanked my sais free of my cloak. Middle Man and the remaining goon advanced. I managed to land a few bruising blows, but they disarmed me in seconds. Stronger than they looked, two of them clamped onto my upper arms and countered my attempts to kick them. A suspicion that these men weren’t the average goons for hire rose along with the bile in my throat.

Finn lasted longer than I did, but the scuffle ended when one of the men struck Finn’s temple with the hilt of his dagger. He collapsed to the ground.

Middle Man glanced up and down the street. “This way.”

Leaving Finn, they dragged me a number of blocks south then west until we stopped in a small side street without lanterns. With a surge of fear-induced energy, I broke their hold. The snick of a switchblade sounded before I even stepped away. Cold steel pressed against my throat. I froze. An arm snaked around my chest, pulling me close to the owner of the knife.

“Relax,” Middle Man said. “We just want to ask you a few questions.”

“Make an appointment,” I said, but he ignored me.

“Why are you in Fulgor?” he asked.

I considered a smart remark, but the sharp blade convinced me not to be too hasty. “To find a job.”

“Why here?”

“The people are so friendly.” I couldn’t resist the sarcasm, but I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth.

Middle Man’s gaze cut to his buddy standing on my right. Motion registered a second before pain exploded in my ribs. I slammed into the man behind me. He kept me on my feet. The switchblade remained in his hand, but it no longer touched my throat. Progress.

They waited for me to recover. Nice of them.

“Why here?” Middle Man asked again.

Time to name drop. “I have friends here. Guards on Fulgor’s security force.”

“You’re close to the Councilor. Who sent you to cozy up to her?”

“No one.”

Even anticipating the blow, I still couldn’t block it. This one landed higher, causing a sharp jab of pain with every breath.

“Who are you working for?”

“Councilor Moon.” I puffed.

Buddy moved to my left and now both sides of my lower rib cage burned.

“Are you working for the Master Magicians?”

“No.”

Another blow. My sides felt tenderized. Time for a cookout.

“Did the Council send you?”

“No.”

“Harder,” Middle Man ordered.

“I’m telling the truth!”

Didn’t seem to matter. Another two rounds of “who are you working for” were followed by precision blows. Hard enough to hurt, but not break my bones.

Before Buddy could land another, Finn appeared. He latched onto the wrist holding the switchblade, yanking the weapon down. They fought for control as the other three tried to pull Finn away. Boots pounded on the street and strident voices ordered the men to stop.

Middle Man said, “Security.” And they bolted.

By the time the guards reached us, the men were out of sight, but they chased after them. Finn’s opponent had abandoned his switchblade. I leaned against the wall. The muscles in my legs trembled and I slid to the ground.

Finn knelt next to me. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” I held still and tried not to breathe in too deep. “How about you?” Blood oozed from a small gash on his temple.

“Just a cut. You don’t look fine. I’ll fetch the healer.”

I grabbed his arm before he could stand. “No.”

“But your ribs—”

“Aren’t broken, just bruised. They were professionals. Just give me a minute.” All the muscles in my upper body ached.

He settled next to me. “What did they want?”

I repeated their questions. “They think I have a hidden agenda.”

“You have worked for the Masters in the past,” Finn said. “What did you tell them?”

“The truth. I’m here on my own. Although I don’t know why a bunch of fired guards would care if my orders came from the Council or not.”

The soldiers returned. Scowls creased their faces.

The guard on the left said to Finn, “They’ve disappeared. Why didn’t you stay behind us as requested?”

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