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Authors: Eileen Wilks

Tags: #Fantasy

Mind Magic (4 page)

BOOK: Mind Magic
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The Dragon Accords, which were signed by the president eighteen months ago, were a response to mounting levels of ambient magic after the Turning. The effect of high levels of ambient magic on computerized technology had resulted in plane crashes, power failures, intermittent cellular outages, and last year’s brief panic on Wall Street. Dragons’ ability to absorb large amounts of magic convinced a large, bipartisan majority in both the House and the Senate to back the president’s proposal to permit dragons sovereign status within their lairs along with more tangible payment. In exchange, dragons agreed to remain within their assigned territories, with exceptions as noted above. Since the Accords were signed, no significant technological problems due to ambient magic have occurred in the dragons’ territories.



Washington, D.C.

woke slowly in a bed that wasn’t hers. The bed was soft. So was the early morning light. The man pressed up against her back . . . wasn’t.

“I had a wonderful dream,” Rule murmured, his thumb idly circling her nipple. “It was a sunny day, and you and I stood on opposite sides of a bridge. We both walked out onto it until we met in the middle. There, in front of our families and friends, we agreed we were married.”

“Never happen,” Lily said, rolling over so she could see his face. “Everyone knows your people don’t believe in marriage.”

And then she just lay there smiling at him while he smiled at her. She loved the way Rule looked in the mornings. Messy. Which was funny, because she didn’t like mess anywhere else. But when he first woke up, with his face all stubbled and his hair every which way, he was hers. Once they left the bed, he’d be Rho of Leidolf Clan, Lu Nuncio of Nokolai Clan, and second-in-command of a highly secret group fighting a war the rest of the world didn’t know about. Here, he was just hers.

Funny, Lily thought, how unimportant she’d thought weddings were before she had one of her own to look back on. Not very far back, of course. They’d returned from their honeymoon a little over two months ago. It had been a busy two months, but relatively peaceful until . . .

A waking-up yawn overtook her, making her need to stretch, so she did.

“Do that again.”

Her mouth twitched. “Yawn?”

“You can do that, too, if you like,” he allowed, “but I was referring to the part where you pressed up against me.”

“Oh, you mean like this?”

He confirmed that and added another request. She asked for clarification, so he gave her a hands-on demonstration. Suddenly she was wide awake. He began trailing kisses down her torso, pausing here and there at points of interest, making her wish she could purr. She combed her fingers through his hair.

And shrieked, jerking her hand back and shaking it.

His head came up in alarm. “What?”

She closed her eyes. “Your hair turned into spiders.”


“Hundreds of them. Thousands. Crawling and waving their nasty little legs around.”

“I’m guessing that’s a mood killer.”

She nodded, her eyes squeezed tight.


“Not this time.”

“Then if you kept your eyes closed—”

She opened her eyes to glare at him—and promptly shut them again. “I hate spiders.”

“You’re afraid of spiders.” There was a hint of amusement in his voice.

“Don’t even think about teasing me.”

“You’ve fought demons, dworg, a chimea, a wraith, a god, a sidhe lord, and God only knows how many gun-wielding bad guys, but spiders—”

“Shut up, Rule.”

“—make you shriek like a little girl.”

She couldn’t hit him. She might get one of the spiders on her. They weren’t real—she knew that—but they looked and felt real, and would for another . . . shit. She’d forgotten to note the time the hallucination started. “Take your gloating and your creepy spider-covered head elsewhere. But first tell me what time it is.”

A short pause. “Six fifty-eight. How is it I’m just now learning about this phobia?”

“It’s not a phobia. I can handle them one at a time,” she said with dignity. “Just not in the thousands.”

The bed shifted as he stood up. “I’m going to go wash my spiders.”

“No, wait, I need to log how long it lasts, and if I don’t see them go away, I won’t know—”

“Your eyes are shut. You won’t see them go away anyway.”

Oh, God, she was going to have to look at them again. She forced her eyes open long enough to confirm that the episode was not over. “I can take quick peeks.”

A man spoke on the other side of the bedroom door. “Is everything all right?”

“Lily was startled by one of the hallucinations,” Rule said. “She’s fine.”

“I see. The coffee’s ready when you are. I’m going to stir up some pancakes to go with it. We’ve got maple syrup and a blueberry syrup that Deborah makes from the bushes out back.” Ruben’s feet made almost no sound on the hardwood floors as he moved away from the door.

Great. Her boss had heard her yell. Not shriek like a little girl. Rule had exaggerated. Yelling was a perfectly natural response to seeing your lover’s hair turn into spiders. Seeing and feeling it. Teeny little spider legs on her hand . . .

Lily tossed back the sheet and sat up. Scowling, she reached for her notebook on the bedside table. She jotted down the approximate time the hallucination had begun, what she’d seen—and felt—and added “no headache.” Then she snuck a quick peek at Rule, who was contemplating ties. He’d already slipped on a pair of ragged cutoffs to make the trip to the bathroom and selected the day’s armor: a suit the color of wet charcoal.

His head still squirmed with horrid little spiders. She looked away and checked the time.

Keeping a record of when each episode hit, what she saw, and how long they lasted might not do a damn bit of good. Sam had called the episodes unpredictable, and the black dragon used words with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. But he’d also said that both the duration and the nature of experiences during the adjustment period were “highly idiosyncratic,” which was why he couldn’t tell her how long this would last. Between a few weeks and a few months, perhaps. Though it might be shorter. Or longer.

Given all that uncertainty, Lily really wanted Sam to be wrong about one thing. Maybe her version of the hallucinations would turn out to be predictable. It couldn’t hurt to try, and she had learned one thing. When a hallucination was triggered by her connecting with Rule’s “frequency,” she didn’t get a headache afterward.

“Red or blue?” Rule said.


“I’m leaning towards red. Politicians often wear red ties, and people are more comfortable if you seem to be like them.”

“The honorable representative is not going to think you’re like him in any way, no matter what you wear.”

They were on this side of the country for several reasons. Representative Jack Brownsley was one. He was on the committee where the Species Citizenship Bill had languished for over a year, and was among those who’d kept pressure on the chair to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote. He was also one of the politicos screaming loudest about the disappearance of Washington, D.C.’s dragon, which was why he’d agreed to talk to Rule today. He knew Rule had a connection to the dragons.

“Not consciously,” Rule said, “but I’ll use other tools to influence his conscious mind.” A pause. “I am not looking forward to this.”

Surprised, she glanced up—and quickly looked away again. This one was lasting awhile. “I didn’t realize you found dealing with Brownsley that unpleasant.”

“I find it unpleasant to have our mate sense scrambled.”

And he’d be well over half a mile away, so it would be messed up, but . . . “If we don’t ‘look’ for each other, we won’t notice.”


Something in his voice bothered her, mainly because it made her think he was bothered. “Do you want me to go with you?”

A pause while he considered that, then a chuckle. “I might not have a problem dealing with Brownsley, but he’d annoy you. He has some things in common with Leidolf—notably his attitude towards women. At some point he’d try to figuratively pat you on the head. You’d wither his manhood with a glance, and then where would we be?”

“I do not wither manhoods with a glance.” Though she liked the idea. Grandmother could wither pretty much anything with a glance, and she wanted to grow up to be like Grandmother.

“Of course you do. I’ve seen it.”

“Now you’re just flattering me. Why not go with your silver tie? It’s perfect with that suit. Makes you look like a celebrity, and that’s a different kind of power than the representative wields.”

“True, which is why Washington is fascinated by celebrity. Silver it is. Are you going to accompany me to the shower so you can track the duration of the episode?”

“I . . .” She looked up. And smiled. Rule’s head was once more topped by the shiny, mink brown hair she loved. “I won’t have to.”

“Excellent. In that case, you should definitely come watch me shower.”

She laughed. “Forget it. It’s seven thirty.”

“It’s Sunday. Millions of people sleep in on Sunday.”

“Ruben didn’t. He’s going to make us pancakes. After which I’m going to work out with Deborah.”

“I’ll be quick,” he promised.

She snorted. “Sure you will. I want pancakes.”

He sighed. “Rejected in favor of pancakes.”

“With Deborah’s blueberry syrup.”

“There is that.” He smiled and crossed to her and dropped a kiss on her head. “I’m glad the spiders are gone.”

“Me, too. Everyone dislikes spiders, Rule. It’s not a phobia. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. I do not want to be teased over a perfectly natural reaction.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”


He laughed and headed for the door.

She jotted down the time the episode ended, set down her notebook, and stretched. She’d take her shower later, after her workout. There’d be plenty of time for that, she thought gloomily. She was on sick leave. Indefinite sick leave.

Most people did not stay with their boss while they were on sick leave, and Ruben Brooks was Lily’s boss twice over: in an official sense, since he headed Unit 12 of the FBI’s Magical Crimes Division; and in a highly unofficial and not precisely legal sense. Ruben was also the founder and head of the Shadow Unit.

The Shadow Unit was Ruben’s quiet conspiracy to stop the Great Bitch from swallowing the world, most of which didn’t know she existed. Things had been quiet on that front lately. The Great Bitch hadn’t made a move since her agent, Robert Friar, had been sent to hell—otherwise known as Dis or the demon realm—in late April. This lull would end at some point, but it was welcome, especially with the current communications problem.

Normally the dragons handled the Shadow Unit’s communications—you couldn’t get more secure than mindspeech—but with Mika AWOL, Ruben had been forced to fall back on more cumbersome and less secure methods involving either encryption and the Internet or burner phones. That was reason number two Lily and Rule were in D.C. As the Shadow’s second-in-command, Rule had two primary duties, one ongoing and one contingent. He managed the Unit’s finances, and he stood ready to step in as head of the Unit if Ruben were killed or incapacitated.

Reason number three was Leidolf Clan. Ever since the mantle for that clan had been forced on Rule, making him Rho, they’d crossed the country to visit that clanhome as often as possible . . . which hadn’t turned out to be all that often. The mate bond made it impossible for Rule to go without her, and often Lily’s job made it impossible for her to get away. She knew it worried Rule. All lupi needed the occasional presence of their Rho and the mantle he carried; some needed it more than others.

This time, they planned to spend at least a week at Leidolf Clanhome. Longer, if her hallucinations continued.

Lily heaved a sigh and stood. She’d unpacked as soon as they arrived last night, so it took only a moment to pull on her workout things and head for the bathroom to brush her teeth. Deborah and Ruben’s home was large and lovely, but back when it was built, people didn’t see the need for more than one bathroom per floor. They’d added a master bath after they moved in, but the only one available for guests was at the far end of the hall. On the way she met a wolf coming up the stairs. He was pale gray with a grizzled muzzle—a rare sight. Rare, too, was that he seemed a bit winded from climbing the stairs.

He stopped and ducked his head.

“I’m afraid I don’t recognize you,” Lily said apologetically. He must be Wythe—Ruben’s clan—and he looked old, but beyond that she couldn’t tell. “We must have met, but—”

He shook his head once.

Her eyebrows went up. “You weren’t there when I supposedly met every Wythe clan member?”

“That’s Charles,” said the man at the foot of the stairs. Ruben Brooks did not look like a Washington power broker—or a werewolf, for that matter. More like a modestly successful geek. His black-framed glasses weren’t held together by duct tape today, but Lily had seen them that way in the past. “Charles Dupree. You’ve seen him, but you didn’t actually meet him because he was in sleep at the time. I gather,” he added dryly as he moved lightly up the stairs, “he wanted to amend that.”

BOOK: Mind Magic
12.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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