Read Mind Magic Online

Authors: Eileen Wilks

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Mind Magic (7 page)

BOOK: Mind Magic
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Deborah didn’t sigh. Lily wasn’t sure why she had the impression she wanted to. “Yes?”

“I told him to go back to the barracks, but he won’t. Not on my word.” A tightness around Alan’s mouth announced his opinion of that. “The Rho has already left. I could have Charles carried over there, but—”

“He’d probably just come back.”

“He’s a stubborn cuss.”

“I’ll speak with him when I go upstairs.”

“Thanks.” He left as quietly as he’d appeared.

“I . . . met Charles.” Lily had to work to find enough breath to talk. The bastard treadmill had saved the steepest fake hill for the end of her run. She could reduce the speed or the incline, but that would be letting the machine win. Seven minutes to go . . . “He’ll listen . . . to you?”

Deborah had finished her crunches plus some lunges and moved on to weights. “Charles agreed to accept my authority when Ruben wasn’t present. That was one of the terms Ruben set for allowing him to return with us. I am so glad to see you out of breath.”

Six minutes, forty seconds. Surely a couple of those minutes would be cool-down. “Why?”

“Because I thought you never would be.”

Lily snorted. She didn’t have enough breath to laugh. Six minutes, six seconds . . . “Hey,” she panted as Rule’s presence nudged into her awareness. He was close enough for the mate sense to work just fine, but he wasn’t supposed to be. A moment later he appeared in the doorway. “Thought you’d be gone.”

“Something came up.” He looked easy, comfortable. He wasn’t. That certainty came from a type of knowledge older than the mate bond. Lily lived, slept, fought, and made love with this man. She didn’t always know his mind, but she knew his body, and right now his muscles were loose and easy because he wanted them that way, not because he felt relaxed. She couldn’t tell what emotion he was hiding, but he was hiding something.

The smile he gave Deborah looked like any other smile . . . if you weren’t watching his eyes. “Please excuse us a moment. My father called. I need to discuss some clan business with Lily.”

“Of course. It must be important if he called at this hour. It’s not much past six in the morning there, is it? I’ll head upstairs so—”

“No, no. You stay and finish your workout. We’ll step outside.”

FIVE

OUTSIDE
meant the backyard, though Lily considered it a stretch to call a space like this a yard. Deborah, like Lily, loved to garden. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t reverted to shy last night. It’s hard to be shy with someone when you’re talking compost and mealy bugs. Unlike Lily, Deborah was Earth-Gifted. It wasn’t a major Gift, but the size of a Gift didn’t always determine what could be done with it, and Deborah worked with hers all the time.

A lot of public gardens would envy the results. Deborah had said she’d let Lily play in her dirt while she was here. She was looking forward to it.

José fell into step several yards back as Rule left the rear deck. Lily wasn’t sure where he’d come from, but clearly he wasn’t about to let Rule wander around without him, even on land watched by other guards. They were Wythe guards, after all.

His attitude wasn’t entirely chauvinistic. Wythe, like most lupi clans, hadn’t trained its guards to use handguns the way Nokolai did. Ruben was changing that, but it would take time. Most of the guards patrolling the house weren’t armed.

Arranging the guards hadn’t been easy. Ruben understood that Rule had to have his own guards; that wasn’t the issue. But the guest house he’d built to accommodate his Wythe guards wasn’t large enough to house the number of additional guards Rule considered necessary. Plus there was the face issue—at least that’s how Lily thought of it. Rule was Rho to one clan and Lu Nuncio, or heir, to another. Both clans needed to be included in the job of guarding her and Rule. In the end, Rule had brought four guards with them, all Nokolai. They’d be joined later today by four more guards, all Leidolf. Leidolf’s clanhome was close enough for them to drive up, so they hadn’t had to fly any of the California contingent out with them. Two guards would stay on the Brookses’ property, with that duty rotated. The rest would stay in a nearby hotel, ready to accompany Rule or Lily when they left the property. And José would be in charge of them all, Nokolai and Leidolf alike. It wasn’t an easy job, but he’d done it before.

The path Rule took was mossy stone. It led to a gazebo. A few meters beyond that, the tame area some would call a yard ended and trees began—a long, narrow stretch of old-growth forest. The Brookses owned a small slice of that forest. The rest was a jumble of property lines that the lupi enthusiastically ignored when they went for a run.

“Should I be worried?” Lily asked as they approached the gazebo. There was a breeze, which felt good on her sweaty skin.

“I’m not sure.”

That meant no one had died, which was good. Whatever else it might mean, Rule was serious about wanting privacy. He didn’t stop at the gazebo, heading on into the forest on an earthen path unsullied by weeds or grass. Lily suspected Deborah had told them not to grow there. There wasn’t room to walk abreast, so Lily followed behind.

She didn’t mind. Rule had a great butt. Dress slacks didn’t do it justice, but the view was still good.

Rule walked in silence about fifty paces inside the trees, then stopped. “We should be private here, if we keep our voices down.”

Only he didn’t. Speak, that is. Lily waited, but the silence stretched out farther than her patience. “Unless you brought me here to make out—”

“No. Although that’s always a lovely idea.” A smile skimmed his face without reaching his eyes. “You know about Nokolai’s agreement with Sam.”

“Sure.” Per the Dragon Accords, all dragons were supplied with food—mostly cattle, goats, and sheep, delivered live to a holding pen near their lairs. But eating was not the same as hunting. Sam had arranged to hunt deer occasionally on clan land. In return, Nokolai got a favor or favors. The tricky part of the agreement had been how often Nokolai was required to cash in those favors. Sam didn’t want his debt piling up.

“Sam contacted my father. He wishes another deal with the clan. If we agree, he’ll show Cullen how to make his array work without side effects.”

Lily’s eyebrows went up. She thought that over.

Until the Lady turned Ruben lupus, Cullen Seabourne had been the only Gifted lupus in the world. He possessed one of the rarest of Gifts, too: the Sight. In other words, he was a sorcerer, able to see magic. The array was his best attempt so far to protect tech from excess magic. Ever since the Turning, the level of ambient magic had been rising, and magic did not play well with anything that used a computer chip. Unfortunately, while the array did soak up excess magic, it leaked a peculiar form of mind magic that created hallucinogenic memories. If Cullen could make the device work without leaking, it would be worth big money.

She spoke slowly. “He’s not wanting a small favor, then. Unless Sam has decided he doesn’t object to money after all?”

“No, he doesn’t want any of the profits from the device. Those would be divided between Nokolai and the Shadow Unit.” Rule’s voice remained even, but his jaw was so tight it was a wonder he could push the words out. “In return, he wants you to go to Ohio.”

She cocked her head, puzzled. “Ohio pisses you off?”

“Specifically, he wants you to go to a small town called Whistle. You’re to be at a park just east of that town at six
P.M.

“Six o’clock today?”

“Yes. That’s why he wants a decision quickly.” A muscle jumped next to his mouth. “He does not want me to go with you.”

Okay, that explained Rule’s attitude. It didn’t explain anything else. “I’m not sure how far away Whistle, Ohio, is, but the mate bond might not agree with Sam about me going there without you.”

“Isen negotiated the deal. Naturally he thought of that. If the mate bond disallows our separation, that stipulation is void.”

“So what’s up? Why does Sam want me to go to Ohio, but not you?”

“It’s something about the patterns he monitors. He couldn’t or wouldn’t explain.”

Lily did not understand Sam’s patterns. They weren’t the same as Ruben’s precognitive ability, though Ruben’s hunches often matched what Sam read in those patterns. They were what patterners manipulated—she knew that much—but that didn’t tell her what they were. “I thought Sam watched the patterns in California, not Ohio.”

“Perhaps he’s spread his nets more widely that we knew. Perhaps the patterns in California connect to those in Ohio. I don’t know. My father wants to accept the deal. I agreed to present it to you.”

He hadn’t had much choice, if his Rho told him to do it. Maybe that’s why he was pissed. “Why did he call you instead of . . . never mind.” She’d left her phone in their room. Lily never went anywhere without her phone, but there’d seemed so little point to keeping it with her while she worked out. She wasn’t going to get a call about her job. “I’ll have to go, of course.”

“Dammit, Lily, Sam is manipulating you! You’re so antsy about being on sick leave that you’re grabbing his offer the way a toddler reaches for candy.”

“Of course he’s manipulating me. He’s manipulating all of us. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go. I wonder why he did it this way? As an exchange of favors with Nokolai, I mean. He could have just asked me. Not directly,” she added, “since he can’t mindspeak me right now, but he could have passed word to me without going through Isen. I should call—”

“I’m going with you.”

Lily told herself not to react. He was worried about her. Ever since the hallucinations started, Rule had been a tad protective. Mostly he kept it under control, but this was pushing his buttons. “If Sam said you shouldn’t—”

“Do I tell you what to do?” he demanded. “Have I ever interfered with what your job requires of you? Not that this has anything to do with your job, but if you are foolish and bored enough to accept, I go, too.”

Temper sparked. “I’m not the one saying you can’t go. Sam is. I need to call—”

“You can’t even drive. You aren’t safe on your own right now, and I don’t give a damn what Sam says.”

“I don’t have to be able to drive! I’ll take guards with me, of course, so one of them—”

“And will you have a guard with you every moment? In the bathroom? In your room at night? What happens if you see a demon at the window? If you think it’s a hallucination and it isn’t—”

“I can tell the difference. And if you interrupt me one more time—”

He did.

Things went downhill from there.

*   *   *

“OF
course I know about it,” Grandmother said.

She said it in Chinese, which meant she expected Lily to speak Chinese, too. Which Lily could do, but not all that well, and Rule didn’t understand it at all.

She and Rule were still on the forest path, but no longer yelling. At least Lily had stopped yelling. Rule hadn’t started. He never raised his voice, no matter how mad he was. It drove her crazy to be the only one yelling. Lily had pointed out—rather loudly—that she’d been trying to tell him she’d call Grandmother before officially agreeing to anything. She’d borrowed Rule’s phone to do that, since hers was in their room.

In careful Chinese, Lily said, “Would you object to speaking English, Grandmother? Rule is here.”

“The two of you are arguing. Good.” That was in English.

Grandmother often baffled, annoyed, or confused her. This time she managed to do all three at once. “How do you know? And what in the world is good about that?”

“Your wolf is fairly wise about women. He knows nothing of marriage. You are wondering why Sun makes this request.”

Sun Mzao was Sam’s Chinese name. Grandmother, who had a long—a very long—history with the black dragon, called him Sun. But when Lily met the black dragon, he’d told her to call him Sam, so she did. “Yes.”

“I can tell you very little. First, Sun has not perceived the Great Enemy’s hand in the patterns which concern him.”

“Good to know.”

“However, he also has not perceived anything which would definitely rule out
her
involvement, perhaps through multiple intermediaries.”

“That’s less reassuring.”

“Ohio is a long way from California.”

Meaning, she supposed, that even Sam had his limits. “Can you be more specific about why he wants me to go to Ohio?”

“The patterns suggest that your presence there is highly desirable.”

In other words, no. Though Lily suspected Grandmother knew more, she wasn’t sharing. “Why did he arrange the deal through Nokolai?”

“So it would not be a family matter. If you do not agree to the deal on behalf of Nokolai, however, I will ask it of you.”

That put a whole different spin on things. She couldn’t refuse to go if Grandmother asked her, so she might as well go as a representative of Nokolai and let the clan benefit from it. She looked at Rule, eyebrows raised. “You heard?”

He looked grim. “Yes.”

“Rule does not approve?” Grandmother asked.

“He’s unhappy because Sam wants him to stay here. Do you know why?”

“If Sun says Rule should stay in Washington, he should stay in Washington. I will go eat my breakfast now.” Grandmother disconnected.

BOOK: Mind Magic
3.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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