Magick Marked (The DarqRealm Series), page 7
“But your family’s possessions do.” He circled the table, each step bringing him closer to her. “What line are you from? Who is your maker?”
No way was she bringing Frederick into this. Knowing that she held a position of power could only lead to bigger problems. “Let me go.” Gun or no gun, she needed to get the hell out of here. Now.
“Who is your maker?”
She took a step back. “Bite me.”
Lanky lunged forward, landing on Rho and knocking her backwards. His knees landed against her shoulders and he pinned her to the ground. She twisted to throw him off, but failed to move an inch. Vibrations of electrical energy pulsed through her body where they touched, freezing her in place.
“Give me your necklace!” He shouted to the chubby man, who was still sitting in his chair.
The round man sprang up and rushed to his companion’s side, silver chain in hand.
Oh, no. Silver.
Rho struggled and squirmed, but no amount of exertion freed her from his hold. Nothing hurt a vampire worse than silver, and she’d experienced it firsthand—more than once.
“Tell me who your maker is, and I’ll make this easy on you,” Lanky growled.
“Why do you care?” Rho grunted beneath him, pissed at her body for not responding to her commands.
“Because I know someone who would pay a pretty penny for some intel on that relic, and you’re going to give it to me.”
Yeah, that would happen right about never. “Fuck you.” Who the hell wanted intel on the Kamens? Were they fae?
Lanky suspended a silver pentagram only an inch from her face, dangling it from the chain in his hand. “Even better—maybe you know where the Kamen disappeared to. Oh, yes, they’ll pay well for knowledge like that. Or did you take it and hide it somewhere?”
She turned her face away, as if somehow that could improve the distance between her and the silver. “Why would I hide it? I’m trying to find it, dumbass.”
He dropped the chain and it grazed her skin, setting her cheek on fire. Unable to hold back, she screamed as the metal burned her flesh.
He lifted it away. “Tell me where you hid it!”
“I didn’t hide it!”
The fireball of pain exploded, engulfing her face in flames. She screamed again, pushing her face further into the concrete floor. There was no way to move her body away from the source of the anguish, but she tried anyway.
“Unhand her immediately,” a voice boomed from the doorway. Rho opened her eyes and glanced toward the voice, only to find the very last person she’d expected to see there.
“Frederick?” She blinked at him, both embarrassed at her position and relieved to see his face. The fae men didn’t move, just hovered in place as if they’d been frozen there.
The prince kept his stare locked on the fae men. Four figures entered the small room, flanking either side of the prince and blocking the doorway she’d been unable to see moments ago. She recognized a couple of the men right away as members of the Guard.
“That vampire child belongs to me.” Frederick pointed down at her. “You will unhand her at once.”
Lanky sprang to his feet and held his hands up in defeat. “We were only trying to help her.”
Pudgy rolled to his side and pulled himself up gracelessly then nodded in agreement.
“Yes, you certainly looked like you were helping.” Frederick folded his arms across his chest and scowled. “Ed?”
A middle-aged man in a business suit stepped forward and pointed a thumb to the doorway. “You’re out of here gentlemen, both of you. Permanently.”
Lanky gaped. “But Ed! We’ve been coming here for—”
“I don’t care how long you’ve been coming here. You know the rules.” Ed shook his head. “You practiced magick in a human-occupied establishment, without provocation. I can’t let this one go.”
“Get them out of here, Frank,” Ed ordered.
A massive man stepped through the doorway, the cotton of his shirt stretching and pulling across his massive biceps. His dark hair was trimmed short against his skull; his friendly green eyes a stark contrast to his harsh demeanor. Rho recognized the bouncer immediately.
“Just these two, boss?” Frank pointed to Lanky and Pudgy with a hint of a grin on his face, as if he was happy with the idea of throwing those two out on their asses.
Ed nodded. Frank grabbed each man by the arm, disappearing quickly out the doorway.
“Ed, thank you for bringing this to my attention, and again for handling this so swiftly.” Frederick offered a slight bow.
The businessman bowed in return. “Of course. They knew the rules as well as everyone else. I’m just glad John let me know we had a problem before things got… out of hand.” He tipped his head again before he turned and followed the bouncer out the door.
John. Thank God for John. Had he called for help as soon as she’d left with those men? That bartender very well could have saved her life. There was no telling how far those fae men were willing to go to get an answer she didn’t have, especially considering there was money on the table for information on the relics.
Frederick glanced at the floor, his arms still folded across his chest. “I’d like a moment alone with my executioner, gentlemen.”
Great. Just what she needed. A private audience with the prince, who was undoubtedly furious at her for investigating alone. The fact that he’d chosen a moment of torture to waltz through the door only added insult to injury.
The two members of the Guard bowed slightly then slipped out and shut the door behind them.
After a long moment, Frederick spoke. “What on earth were you thinking?”
Rho realized she was still sitting on the floor and rose to her feet. “I just wanted to get some answers.”
“And you thought this was the place to get them?” He made a sweeping motion with his hand. “Here? Alone? Without any backup?”
“We were just talking.”
“Really? Is that why you ended up saddled underneath two fae men trying to burn you with silver?”
“It’s not as bad as it—”
“Rhowen, stop it.”
The authority in his tone shut down the argument instantly. He may be her friend off the record, but they weren’t off the record. Right now he was her creator and her boss, and he was more than a little upset. As one of the few vampires Frederick had sired, he’d always taken his role of protecting her very seriously.
She lifted her head and gazed into his familiar gray eyes.
He drew a deep breath and released it slowly. “You haven’t belonged to this world for long enough to just go around and ask for the answers you seek. Not alone. You’re going to need help.”
That’s why the king had assigned her to that team. She was great with research and recon work, but these weren’t vampires. Belonging to a world didn’t equate to comprehending everything in it.
“I understand,” Rho said.
“Do you? Because the stunt you pulled here tonight could have cost you your life. Have you any idea how old those fae men were?”
“A friend told me they were old.”
“Yes, I know. A friend that saved your life.”
She frowned. “Did John call you?”
“That bartender told his boss, who happens to be a personal friend of mine. Once he knew what you were up against with those fae and that you had no backup, he thought he’d give me a call. This land is my jurisdiction and he wanted to ensure I knew what you were doing. As it turned out, I did not.”
Rho blew out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t know what else to say.
Frederick reached out and clamped his hands on her sh
“Then why did you think I’d be okay with it now?”
“I—I don’t know. It was stupid.” That was the truth. She knew better, and yet she’d let years of training fly out the window for the chance to catch some intel and find the Kamens on her own.
“Yes, it was stupid. Very stupid. Although I suspect you won’t be doing it again.” He shook his head and gave her a small smile before wrapping his arm around her shoulder and pulling her into a gentle hug. “Come on.” He nodded toward the door. “I’ll wait for you to grab something to eat and then take you home. You won’t believe the dress the queen has picked out for you.”
Frederick chuckled, the sound bringing a smile to her face as she followed him out the door. She could only imagine what the queen had in store for her now.
Eldon uncorked the bottle of vintage Macallan and filled the crystal glass to the brim. Whiskey always steadied his thoughts. Considering this was his fourth glass since that vampire had left, he’d hoped his mind would be clearer by now.
The entire contents slid down his throat in one shot, burning its way into his stomach.
What a waste. That vintage cost ten large a bottle. So he poured another glass and tried to be a gentleman about it.
Sip. Problem number one, the little red rock had gone missing. And it wasn’t any little ordinary red rock. When she’d come to visit him the first time and placed that stone on his desk, he’d known exactly what it was.
Generations before, his grandfather had been on the Council when they’d sealed away that magick mover the first time. The family records in the library accounted for the event in great detail, the contents of that room only for the eyes of the Tradare descendants.
Vampires, on the other hand, didn’t have true families and rarely kept detailed records. They didn’t like their movements to be traceable. Rho Vasile hadn’t the faintest idea the level of power she’d held in that pocket of hers.
He shook his head and swirled the brown liquid around in the glass. No, she wasn’t stupid. She was uneducated. The ward she’d tripped when she came onto the property told him her race and approximate age, only a couple of years old, tops. Much too young for that responsibility. What on earth was the Lamia King thinking?
Yet her serious gray eyes had told him she’d seen much more than her young age accounted for. He blinked, trying to forget the emptiness in those eyes.
He took another sip from the crystal glass in his hand. The fact that the spells he’d cast had been broken meant two things. An extraordinarily strong magick mover—or several—broke the spell. And Rho’s problem was now his problem.
Spells bound in blood were difficult to cast and even more challenging to reverse. Certainly it would require more than one magick mover to offset that level of binding. Who possessed such natural power and trained skill? No one on this side of the ley lines.
He shook his head, refusing to consider the alternative.
Problem number two, a vampire had gotten into his head. Judging by her reaction, she hadn’t done it on purpose. She’d been as thrown by it as he was. In fact, she’d been accusatory.
From what he’d read, vampires held some sort of connection with their makers, but obviously that wasn’t what had happened. He wasn’t her creator. Magick movers couldn’t be telepaths. Never had been. Yet she’d been wandering around inside his head with such ease, maintaining the tie without any concentration at all.
The thought of an undead creature taking a stroll through his subconscious made him cringe. Humans were weak enough to let them in without noticing. But movers? Not a chance.
He took another sip then frowned. Maybe their family library had something to say on the matter. Yes, he’d put Adelle on research in the morning. That sister of his could double-oh-seven her way through a government computer locked down tighter than the Pentagon. If anyone could find an archived, hand-scripted record quickly, she could.
Problem number three. Rho hadn’t meant to do it, but she’d revealed to him something extremely important. The vampires were now making a move to retrieve their relic. Certainly it belonged to them, and it was in the best interest of the entire DarqRealm that they retrieve it. Interesting that the Collective hadn’t called him about this yet.
When his father had passed away, he’d assumed his father’s responsibilities on the Council. He’d also inherited a massive mantle of power by virtue of his bloodline. Out of respect for his lineage, they’d call him if they’d discovered a missing Kamen. Unless…
He raised a brow as he brought the glass to his lips again. They must not know yet.
Sending a young female vampire out to retrieve a relic from someone powerful enough to sneak into their coven and steal it undetected? Rho was right. This would be a suicide mission.
Eldon shook his head again. Vampires really were soulless assholes.
He sucked back the last of the whiskey and set the crystal glass back on the mahogany table. A buzz from his desk drew his attention, and he glanced over to find the screen of his cell phone lit up. He snatched it off the desk.
TROUBLE. CALL ME.
Great, this was exactly what he needed after a visit from a vampire, notification of two broken spells, a missing relic and several shots of high-dollar whiskey. Eldon slid his finger across the touch screen to call the sender. Nick had been his best friend since childhood and served as a fellow member of the twelve-person Collective.
“’Sup, dude?” the familiar voice came through the tiny speaker.
“Why can’t you call me instead of sending a text?”
“Because I enjoy pissing you off.”
“You’re an ass.”
“So are you.”
Eldon chuckled. “I need a favor.”
“We need to talk first.”
Nick paused before answering. “The Kamen.”
Eldon froze, knuckles turning white against the phone in his grip. No one knew about the spells he’d cast for that vampire. Not even his sisters.
He cleared his throat. “What about it?”
“We have a… situation.”
Shit. Could they have found out about those spells? It wasn’t illegal to perform magick for money, but the Collective frowned upon it, especially when the beneficiary wasn’t a magick mover. Vampires were considered the bottom of the social barrel.
“And?” Eldon asked, playing it off.
“The Kamen is missing.”
Which Kamen? The one he already knew about?
“Hello? You there?”
Eldon pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Did you hear me?”
“Which Kamen is missing?” Good plan. Answer the question with a question.
“Now you’re the one who’s hearing impaired. Which. One. Is. Missing?” Eldon clipped out.
“Ours, Eldon. The mover’s Kamen. The one in Paris, remember?”
Like he would forget. “Yeah, I remember.”
“The Collective is scheduling an emergency conference. Ten a.m. tomorrow.”
“Yeah, well, our problems are about to get a whole lot bigger.”
“I just had a visitor.”
Silence filled the line before Nick answered. “Who?”
“Vampire female. I did some work for her a few weeks ago. She put a tiny red rock on my desk, which looked an awful lot like our blue one.”
“I protected it for her.”
The front door opened and slammed, announcing the arrival of Eldon’s youngest sister from what he could only assume was a bar.
“Something must have been off,” Eldon continued. “The spells didn’t work.”
“What does that mean?”
“We aren’t the only ones with missing treasures.”
Nick spewed a stream of curses into the phone. They both knew exactly where this could lead. A soft knock on the open door stole Eldon’s attention, and he glanced up to find his sister, Jess, in the doorway.
He turned his back on her and spoke softly into the phone. “Are you finished?”
“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” Nick muttered. The sound of crunching echoed through the speaker, followed by silence. “Seriously man, you know we’re going to have to go to the Collective with this.”
“You know they’re going to be pissed.”
Another curse. “Have you told anyone else about this yet?”
“Not even Adelle or Jess?”
“They’re Tradare blood, too, you know. They have the right to attend the session tomorrow if they want.”
“Not if they don’t know about it.” His sisters didn’t need to be mixed up with this Kamen business. Someone was on the move, and if they were anything like their predecessor, the entire DarqRealm could be in big trouble.
“Is that how you want to play this?” Nick asked.
“Fine. I’ll pick you up at nine.”
“It’s a date.”
Eldon glanced down, pushing a button on the phone before turning to his youngest sister. That purple dress was way too short. Fighting his brotherly instinct to give her a stern lecture about miniskirts and male expectations, he bit his lip.