Magick marked the darqre.., p.6

Magick Marked (The DarqRealm Series), page 6


Magick Marked (The DarqRealm Series)

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  The girl’s pale blue eyes met hers, locking on as she surveyed Rho from head to toe. They narrowed as her brows furrowed into a deep scowl.

  A heavy knock on the countertop stole Rho’s attention.

  “Anything I can get you, miss?” the man behind the bar asked. His pale skin and missing pulse gave away his condition as one of her kind.

  “What’s that girl’s problem?” Rho muttered. She glanced over at the girl again, but she’d turned her back to the bar.

  He glanced across the bar before a small smile crossed his lips. “Don’t mind her. She’s not the friendliest Dweller you’ll meet.” He lifted his chin. “Can I get you something to drink?”

  “Whiskey and coke.”

  “You got it. Anything for a member of the Guard.”

  Rho’s gaze shot up. “Excuse me?” No one ever spoke about her position outside of the caverns. Vamps were private people. Their business wasn’t discussed outside of the coven, not in front of other Dwellers and especially not within earshot of dozens of humans.

  “Relax. No one here cares about politics.” He flipped the whiskey bottle upside down into the glass. “My name’s John, by the way.”

  “Rho.” She offered him a short nod. “But I guess you already knew that.”

  With a thumb, he pressed the soda button on the nozzle in his hand. “Have I seen you here before?”

  Possibly. It had been a while since she’d hit the night scene this far from home. “I’m not a fan of bars.”

  He chuckled. “Not enough fresh blood in here for you?”

  She shook her head. “Too much noise.”

  “I thought vampire lore said we loved places like this.”

  “I didn’t read the manual.”

  He smiled. “One whiskey and coke, just for you.” With one hand, he pushed the drink toward her from across the bar top. “You always did seem like a rebel.”

  She arched a brow. “Always? You keep tabs on me or something?” This vampire sure seemed to know an awful lot about her, considering they’d never met. Or at least she didn’t think they had.

  He shrugged a shoulder. “Don’t be so surprised. The executioner is a public figure. Job’s designed that way, I imagine.”

  “Great.” Irritated at the idea of random strangers knowing her business, she turned her attention to the crowd scattered around the room. Time to squash the small talk. Someone in here had to know something helpful. And if anyone in a bar knew where to go for information… “Can I ask you a question?”

  With a sweeping motion, John wiped the granite surface in front of her with a white rag. “Shoot.”

  “In your line of work, how well do you get to know people?”

  Another shrug. “Better than they’d like. Alcohol has a way of making people talk.”

  “Anyone in here ever talk about old magick?”

  His hand froze mid-swipe. “You shouldn’t dabble in magick.”

  Rho gave him a half smile. “Don’t worry about me.” She plucked the drink off the bar and took a sip, staring at the bartender as the cold drink hit her stomach like a rock.

  A long moment passed before the man sighed and pointed discreetly to a table across the room. “Those two over there. They’re fae.”

  “So is your door guy.”

  “Who, Frank? He’s got nothing on those two.”

  “How so?” She’d bet cash money that the door man’s real name wasn’t actually Frank. The fae loved to use names from their native languages.

  John tilted his head toward the two old men. “Those two are way older than any other fae I’ve ever seen here. If anyone would know about old magick, I’d guess it would be them.”

  She smiled sweetly as she eyed her new targets and rose to her feet. “Thanks, John. You’ve been most helpful.”

  “Any time.” Although judging by the tone in his voice, he didn’t mean that.

  Rho’s stomach turned as she glanced across the room at the two fae men. Vampires had always made a point of staying away from magick. Those with the ability to manipulate it could render a vamp’s physical strength irrelevant, so it wasn’t anything to mess with. Not unless a Dweller really knew what they were doing—and she didn’t.

  The one thing she did know was that Eldon had protected those rocks with old magick. He’d said so himself. She wasn’t certain what that meant or why it was important, but she intended to find out.

  Butterflies flittered from her stomach to her throat as she took a long draw on her drink. The icy twang of whiskey settled like a rock in her gut, replacing the nerves and bringing her goal back into focus. They might be powerful fae men, but this was a public establishment with human occupants. No way could they pull any funny business without watchful eyes playing witness.

  With a gulp, she made her way across the room. As if they’d sensed her approach, the two men set down their beverages and rotated in their chairs to face her.

  “What do you want, vampire?” the man on the right asked. He was tall and frail, his thinning white hair combed over to hide his bald scalp. The iridescence to his skin was lackluster but obvious to the trained eye. Tell-tale sign of the fae.

  The shorter, rounder gentleman to his left grunted.

  Rho lifted her glass, as if to invite a friendly conversation. “I have a few questions and I was hoping you may be able to help me.”

  “Why would we help you?” The pudgy man ran a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair before clasping the glass on the table in front of him. “We don’t help your kind.”

  “It’s about magick.” Rho lowered her voice. “Old magick.”

  The gray-haired man narrowed his eyes. “And just what do you know about that?”

  “It’s not what I know. It’s what I need to know.” Rho set her glass down on the table, then leaned an elbow on the bar-top table.

  “You know we can’t speak of this here,” pudgy said, glancing up at gray-hair.

  Gray-hair nodded and surveyed the room. “It’s prohibited in this place. Too many humans. We can go to a private room.”

  Unease came in a rush, settling into Rho’s bones. Being alone with two old, powerful fae didn’t sound like her brightest idea.

  “We can speak in that corner over there,” Rho said, pointing to a dark, empty corner of the room.

  “No.” Pudgy shook his head. “I like this bar and I’m not getting banned. We speak in private or we don’t speak at all. Your choice.”

  Damn. Those weren’t the best options, but they were her only options. These men clearly knew something about magick. They could be her only lead to finding any information about the Kamens.

  After a moment of silent deliberation, Rho sighed. “Fine. I’ll be right back.”

  The men nodded, and she swiveled around to head back toward the bar. She might be trained in combat and skilled with a blade, but she wasn’t stupid. A soldier never went in without reporting her location.

  As she approached the bar, John the bartender was hard at work blending cocktails.

  “Hey, John?” Rho asked.

  John glanced up. “How’d it go with your boys over there?” His hands moved quickly from glasses to ice to bottles.

  She ignored the question. “I wanted to let you know I was going to have a little meeting with them somewhere… quiet.”

  His hands stopped moving as his concerned stare met hers. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

  “It’s the only way to get what I need.”

  “So why are you telling me this?”

  “I think you know why.” Rho’s eyes narrowed.

  Understanding flittered across John’s features as he set the pair of glasses down on the countertop. “Be careful.”

  Rho patted the outer pocket of her purse,
the outline of her favorite gun beneath the layer of leather. “I always am.”

  With a nod, Rho pivoted toward the corner of the bar. The same unfriendly dark-haired female set her drink down on the bar top with a loud clank, her brows pinched in a scowl. What was that girl’s problem? Rho offered her a fake smile before she spun around and headed across the room. Despite turning her back on the woman, Rho could still feel her watchful stare as she walked away.

  The two men were waiting for her near a wall covered in thick black fabric.

  Pudgy pulled back the curtain and motioned toward the darkened opening. “After you.”

  Rho nodded, reaching into her purse as she followed gray-hair into the passage. The instant she stepped into the hallway, the noise from the bar vanished. A small part of her wanted to ask how they’d managed to mute the crowd, but she already knew the answer.

  The lanky, older man didn’t bother to turn toward her as he spoke. “You certainly have some courage, walking through a darkened hallway with men like us.”

  “I guess I’m supposed to say thank you.” She wasn’t sure if he was calling her courageous or stupid. Frankly, she thought she was being a little of both.

  One of the men trailing behind her snorted. “Most vampires wouldn’t want to be seen consorting with one of our kind.”

  “And why is that?” Rho stared straight ahead, trying to blink her vision into focus. Vamps could easily see at night, but she’d swear the passageway was getting darker by the step.

  The man behind her chuckled. “Because everyone knows. You can never trust the fae.”

  Darkness consumed her vision and she froze in place—or at least she thought she did. Her skin tingled as every limb lost sensation. Sound and sight evaded her as her senses blanked out, making her blind and deaf.

  “Stop!” Rho tried to shout, but she couldn’t hear a thing. Paralyzing fear radiated through her body, every reservation she’d had about these men flooding her mind at once. Screaming into the darkness and not knowing if she was making a sound, she cursed herself for being stupid enough to go in without backup. She was going to die tonight.

  “Relax, little vampire,” a man’s voice coaxed as she struggled to break free of his grasp. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

  Damn if she didn’t know that was a lie.

  Chapter Six

  Rho blinked against the inky darkness that bound her vision, but it was useless. Even if she could run, she wouldn’t make it far without the gifts of sight and sound. Her mind boiled with anger at both the men and her own stupidity.

  She drew a deep breath and fought to maintain her composure. “What do you want from me?”

  A deep laugh rumbled from her right. “I believe the correct question is, what do you want from us?”

  “I told you—I just wanted to ask a few questions about magick.” She balled her hands into tight fists. “Do you always bind the senses of people who just want to ask you a damn question?”

  A blinding light flashed. She lifted a hand to shield her face, batting her eyes furiously against the source of the visual assault. When she could finally see again, she lowered her arm.

  Cinder blocks lined the walls, painted in a sterile shade of white. Her body pulsed with the magick in the room. It surrounded her completely. The sensation wasn’t exactly unpleasant but it was uncomfortable, as if her senses had all been plugged into the same socket and they were overloaded.

  A round table sat in the center, surrounded by three chairs. Two of them were occupied.

  “Is that better?” The thin, lanky fae man asked from his seat on the far side of the table. Pudgy sat to his left. He extended a hand. “Please, take a seat.”

  Right. Like he could throw magick at her and then invite her to a dinner party. “I think I’ll stand, thanks.”

  “Sit down,” Pudgy growled, a green spark flashing at his fingertips. He didn’t seem to speak much compared to his leaner counterpart, but his demeanor seemed far more hostile.

  Rho narrowed her eyes before stepping toward the one empty chair at the table. No use pissing off the men who wielded the magick. The only way she’d get any answers to her questions was if she played nicely. She lowered herself slowly into the seat, set her purse in her lap then crossed one leg over the other. “Mind telling me why you felt you needed to blind me with magick?”

  “Sorry about that.” Lanky shrugged a shoulder. “It was for our own protection.”

  She arched a brow. Talk about paranoid. “Did I threaten you?”

  Lanky set a gun on the center of the table. Her gun. The one that was supposed to be in her purse. Unease crawled up her spine as she eyed her favorite hand piece.

  “Actually, yes.” He leaned back in his chair. “Do you usually stow a firearm in your bag when you need someone’s help?”

  First these men had their magick, and now they had her only weapon? A quick glance around the room told her this had to be some sort of magickal holding cell. There was no door or window in sight, which left zero options for exiting the room. This was going from bad to worse.

  She snorted and tried to play off the mounting discomfort. “I always carry. Doesn’t matter if it’s in my house or in a bar. That,” she pointed to the gun, “is always on me.” She reached her hand across the table, but the tall gentleman got there first.

  He slid the gun toward himself, but left it on the table. “Not so fast. You can have this back when we’re done with our conversation.” He slid his fingers along the barrel. “Until then, it stays right here.”

  Damn. Hopefully she wouldn’t need it. “Fine. As long as you help me.”

  “Deal.” The man smiled and offered a short nod. “Now, explain to me why a vampire would come into a bar, seeking the assistance of two fae men she doesn’t know, regarding magick she knows nothing about?”

  Rho willed herself to remain calm. Maybe she was overreacting. Aside from a little impairment, they hadn’t physically hurt her yet. They could have truly feared for their safety. She was a vampire, after all.

  She smiled back at him, resolving to keep her emotions in check. “You’ve answered your own question, haven’t you?”

  He tilted his head.

  “I know nothing about old magick,” she continued. “That’s why I sought you out.”

  “Why us?” he asked.

  She shrugged. “Referral from a friend.”


  “Sorry.” She shook her head. “My sources are anonymous.”

  Pudgy gave Lanky a sidelong glance.

  Lanky rapped his fingers against the table. “Tell me, vampire. Why do you need to know about old magick?”

  Rho leaned forward, resting one arm on the table and the other on her purse. Now or never. “Why would someone protect something with old magick? What’s so special about it?”

  “That’s all you want to know? That’s easy.” Lanky shrugged a shoulder. “It’s stronger than new magick. Spells become stronger with age.”

  “All spells?”

  “Not all, but most. I’d have to know what spell you’re speaking of to know for certain,” lanky answered.

  Crap. She really didn’t want to give him any more details than she had to, but she couldn’t exactly expect him to help her without at least a little information. “It was a protection spell. A friend of mine—a magick mover—performed a spell for me to help protect some… family assets. Someone broke in and stole them, and I’m trying to figure out how that’s possible.”

  “And you assume the vandal used old magick?”

  “You tell me.” Of course she suspected it, but she had no way of knowing. Her knowledge of magick spells was limited, at best.

  “What type of protection spells did your friend use?” lanky asked.

Strong ones.”

  “Which ones, specifically?”

  No way could she tell him that. As far as she knew, the pool of Dwellers with the ability to pull those spells off was tiny. Any hints would give away her resource immediately, and she couldn’t put Eldon in that position. “That’s irrelevant. I just need to know whether or not old magick can break strong protection spells.”

  Lanky leaned forward in his seat, his gaze traveling over Rho as if scrutinizing every detail of her expression. She tried to relax her features and offered up the best poker face she could summon.

  “You know,” he started, a menacing grin crossing his face. “I heard a rumor recently about some special objects going missing. You wouldn’t happen to be speaking about the very same thing, would you?”

  Shit. Shit. Shit. The Kamens. How did he know about the Kamens? She shook her head. “I’m talking about something stolen from my family.”

  “Are you sure?” His brow lifted in interest. “You weren’t protecting an ancient relic that’s recently disappeared?”

  “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” They were on to her. She needed to get out of this place immediately. She rose from her chair and swung her purse over her shoulder. “I think I’ve gotten all the information I need from you, gentlemen. Thank you for all your help, but I really need to get going.”

  Lanky barked a laugh. “You’re not going anywhere, vampire.”

  “You can’t keep me here.” Her gun was still positioned on the center of the table, teasing her with its proximity but still too far away to do her any good. Why didn’t she bring her backup gun? And why did she change into these stupid high heels? She couldn’t stash knives in shoes like these.

  “To the contrary. I’ll keep you here as long as I like.” Lanky rose to stand on the opposite side of the table. “Now tell me where the relic was hidden.”

  “My family’s business doesn’t concern you.”


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