Spy Glass Page 85

My one request was granted without hesitation, but the other took Tama a few minutes to consider before she agreed.

Carrying a backpack with her meager possessions, Reema trailed behind me. “Are you sure?” she asked for the hundredth time. “I can stay with Tee. The barracks are huge. No one would notice me.”

“The barracks are filled with student magicians. They’ll notice. If I’m not back by the hot season, you can move in there with him until I return.” Only a handful of students remained at the Keep over the long break. A few stayed to work; others had no place else to go.

When we reached the door, Reema grabbed my arm in a panic. “You’ll be back before then. Won’t you?”

I had reassured her before. With travel time, I estimated my trip to last about thirty days. “What’s really worrying you?”

“Nothing.” She shifted her backpack to her other shoulder and scuffed her foot on the ground.

Putting myself in her place, I imagined how I would feel moving into a stranger’s house and having the only adult you trusted leave. “I promise, I’ll be back.”

“Don’t promise,” she said. Moisture glistened in her eyes. “You can’t control fate. If she wants you, you can’t stop her.”

“Did your mother—”

“Promised us everything would be fine. Don’t worry, she said when we were kicked out of our apartment. Don’t fret, she told Teegan when he got sick. I’ll return with enough money for a season, she promised. She never came back.”

Sorrow gripped my heart and squeezed. I knelt next to her. “You’re right. I can’t stop fate, but I can stay one step ahead of her.”

She squinted at me. “Can you really do that?”

“Already have.” I winked.

Faith opened the door and welcomed us inside. She had a plate of cinnamon cookies on the table, and she addressed Reema as if she were an adult, gaining bonus points from the girl. We chatted about nothing in particular until I needed to leave.

After I said my goodbyes, I stood in the doorway.

Faith led Reema upstairs to her new room and office. “You’ll be my assistant. First Adviser to the First Adviser.” Faith’s laugh floated down the stairs.

Confident Reema would be safe, I returned to the Keep and saddled Quartz. I mounted and patted her on the neck. “First stop, Fulgor. You know the way.”

As Quartz walked to the Citadel’s east gate, I enjoyed the sunny day. Only seven days into the heating season, the cool temperature would warm as the sun climbed the sky. No humidity and a light breeze kept the flies from annoying Quartz. The hot sticky weather wouldn’t arrive until late into the season and by then, I planned to be back at the Citadel. And then? No idea. I hoped this trip would be decisive.

Five days later, I arrived in Fulgor. Again. No matter how far away I traveled or what else was going on in my life, I seemed to return to this town. Mixed emotions fluctuated in my chest as Quartz navigated through the morning business crowd.

The familiar streets comforted like home and upset my stomach like a horrible nightmare. I did have friends here, and the factory, which I should sell. And Devlen was here. Why was I so… Impulsive? Confused in Fulgor? At least, this stop would be short. In other words, no visiting Devlen.

I had missed the morning training at Fulgor’s Security HQ. The new annex looked complete from the outside, but various workmen carried supplies into the building. Not wanting to see Devlen, I hustled into the reception area.

The same bored receptionist sat behind the counter. Would she recognize me as the prisoner Rhea Jewelrose?

“Can I help you?” she asked.

Guess not. “I’d like to see Captain Alden, please.”

“Name?”

I told her.

“One minute.” She swiveled around in her chair and shouted through the opening in the wall behind her. “Collin, tell the Captain Opal Cowan’s here to see him.”

So much for a quiet return. Chairs scraped the floor and Nic and Eve filled the doorway.

“The Captain more important than us?” Nic asked in an unfriendly tone.

I sighed. “I’m here on business. If I asked for you first, the Captain would be upset. Besides, I thought you’d be out.” I pointed toward the door. “You know, working?”

While Nic scowled, Eve cut to the heart of the matter. “What business?”

“I need to check with the Captain first,” I said.

“Come on in.” Eve gestured toward two desks facing each other in the back corner.

“Cozy,” I said.

“Not my idea. Believe me. It’s bad enough I have to work with the guy,” Eve said.

“Cap’s in with some bigwig from the Councilor’s Hall. Take a load off.” Nic pushed a chair out with his foot and patted the seat. “So… Besides the new hairdo, what have you been up to?” He acted casual, leaning back and resting his arms on his waist, but his gaze pinned me with keen interest.

“Not much.” I yawned, playing along. “I went down to Booruby for my sister’s wedding and then to the Citadel to hang out with the Master Magicians. Boring stuff.”

“Too bad.” Eve tsked in mock sympathy. “You missed all the fun here.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. Lots of laughs,” Nic said without humor. “There was a prison break at Wirral.” He studied me.

I kept up the inquisitive facade. “Did anyone escape?”

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