Con & conjure, p.16
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       Con & Conjure, p.16

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 16


  “Unless she has some double agents in her midst,” Mago countered. “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but why would Balmorlan want the prince dead?”

  “Simple. Balmorlan and Carnades want war; Chigaru in power means peace. ”

  Mago set his glass aside and stood up. “Well, let’s see what we can do to put Inquisitor Balmorlan up to his eyebrows in hot water. ”

  “More beautiful words were never spoken. And if you can pull it off, consider it my birthday present for the next ten years. ”

  “The satisfaction of a sting well done and no shopping for ten years. ” Mago smiled broadly. “How can any man refuse such an offer?”

  I grinned. “That’s my offer, now what is your plan for after you’ve drained Balmorlan’s account?”

  “I opted not to pursue that option. ”

  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Opted not—”

  “Never commit yourself to one course of action when a better one may have just come available. ”

  “May have. ”

  Mago held up a hand. “Hear me out, cousin. I don’t do anything without a reason—or at least a hunch I can hang my hat on. ” He sat down in the chair next to mine. “Phaelan tells me that you have an impeccable glamour. ”

  Oh crap. “Not impeccable, just decent. ”

  “From what he told me, you could fool anyone, anytime. ” Mago had a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Including a man’s wife. ”

  “I’d really rather not glamour myself into a man again. ”

  “You want Taltek Balmorlan to hoist himself on his own petard?”

  “Of course I do, but—”

  “But nothing. ”

  He was right. I didn’t like it, but he was right. When I said I’d do anything to put Balmorlan out of commission, I’d meant it. It just didn’t occur to me that would involve acquiring dangly bits again.

  “Any chance I could do this glamoured as a woman?”

  “None. Two weeks ago, Taltek Balmorlan requested a meeting with a D’Mai banker. An obnoxious little worm named Symon Wiggs. ”

  “Sounds like someone Balmorlan would want for a banker. ”

  Mago smiled. “True, except Symon isn’t his banker. Like myself, Symon Wiggs has various profitable outside interests. In Symon’s case, he represents a Nebian criminal cartel. When these men need money handled, shall we say ‘cleanly,’ Symon is their go-to man. ”

  “So what does this have to do with Balmorlan?”

  “Balmorlan wants to make the cartel an offer, something he seems to think they would be salivating to acquire. ”

  I didn’t like where this was going. “What is it?”

  “I don’t know; but I do know that for him to contact Symon and request a meeting in person, there’s a great deal of money involved. In fact, Symon would have been on the same ship as me. ”

  “Let me guess, something came up at the last moment and he couldn’t make it. ”

  “Just me intercepting the invitation. After reading it, I arranged for Symon to do an audit at our Jebas branch. ” Mago lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “A vice president there owes me a favor, and I called it in. ”

  “Clever. ” I gave him a tired smile. “Thank you, Mago. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate—”

  Mago actually blushed a little then waved me off. “You would have done the same for me. ”

  “Except I don’t have bank vice president friends in tropical resorts. ”

  “I’m sure you could come up with something equally creative and effective if I needed it. ” Mago reached forward and selected a chocolate from the dessert tray. “And after the audit, my friend will reward Symon with a week in the Jebas’s most notorious pleasure palace and casino. ” Mago popped the chocolate in his mouth. “He’ll be calling in a few favors to make that happen. ”

  “So you’re going to owe him even more. ”

  Mago sat back with a satisfied sigh. “No, that’s the simple beauty of the plan. My friend will be arranging for Symon’s nocturnal activities to be captured on a scrying crystal for future viewing. My friend’s colleague is brokering a deal that Symon has to sign off on but is known to be opposed to. My friend thinks Symon will be more agreeable to signing the papers if he knows that his wife will discover that his business trip wasn’t all business. So when you think of it that way, by putting Symon Wiggs into my friend’s clutches I’m actually doing him a favor. ” Mago gave me a pleased little smile. “He says he owes me. ”

  I think my mouth may have fallen open. “You’re better at this than a goblin. ”

  “Why, thank you, Raine. What a lovely compliment. ”

  “I’m not sure I meant it as one, but I’m glad you’re on my side. So I take it I’ll be glamouring myself as an obnoxious little banker?”

  Mago arched a brow.

  “Hey, you called him obnoxious; I didn’t. ”

  “True. Yes, you will. ”

  “Do you have a scrying crystal with you to show me what he looks and sounds like?”

  “Naturally. ” Mago went to a suitcase on a stand in the corner of the room, peeled back a small section to reveal a padded and hidden compartment. He extracted a small box that would easily fit in my palm.

  “I’ve never seen a crystal that small. ”

  “The advances in spy magic are indeed wondrous. ” Mago handed it to me. “Take it with you and study it. You’ll be having a late lunch with him tomorrow at the Swan Song. Balmorlan had initially wanted to meet in the elven embassy, but I knew you weren’t about to set foot in that place again. ”

  I closed the box on the scrying crystal. “I’d really rather not. I’d also really rather not have to perform in front of the hoity-toity crowd at the Swan Song. ”

  Every high-ranking mage and Conclave bureaucrat had a favorite table at the Swan Song. If you were even going to try to make a reservation, you’d better have made sure the chief waiter recognized you and your name, otherwise there would mysteriously be no tables available at any time you wanted to dine. The Swan Song was all windows along the street side on Mid’s major thoroughfare. The owners wanted anyone passing by to see only the crème de la crème of magical society at their tables.

  “Not to mention, I can look and sound like Symon Wiggs, but that doesn’t give me any knowledge of a criminal cartel, their money, or any banking knowledge, period. ”

  “Don’t worry, cousin. You have the perfect coach right here. ”

  “Uh, I’m a quick learner, but I don’t think—”

  Mago’s dark eyes sparkled. “You don’t honestly believe I would let you have all the fun?”

  “You’re going with me?” I asked hopefully.

  “Of course. Balmorlan has never met Symon Wiggs in person. Plus, it’s perfectly normal for men such as Symon to bring along a colleague as a witness—or protection—when dealing with less than savory characters. Besides, I wouldn’t miss seeing you out in public with . . . ” He wiggled his fingers downward. “Now, what did Phaelan say you called them?”

  “Dangly bits. ”

  “Oh yeah, dangly bits. I wouldn’t miss that for the world. No worries, Raine. After my incomparable tutoring, that meeting will be the most fun you’ve ever had with your clothes on. ”

  That night, I had the most fun I could have with my clothes off.

  When I’d told Mychael that I’d be meeting with Mago and Taltek Balmorlan the next day, he hadn’t reacted quite the way that I’d expected.

  I nestled against his bare chest and smiled. Actually all of him was bare.

  “What is it?” Mychael murmured.

  He must have felt me smile. His words rumbled in his chest and against my ear. Nice.

  I snuggled closer. “You took my meeting better than I thought you would. I should have more meetings. ” I raised my head so I could see his eyes. “Is this the way you’re going to react every time I do s
omething dangerous?”

  Mychael smiled sleepily. “You didn’t like it?”

  “Oh, I liked it; I just don’t understand it. ”

  “I don’t want to lose you. ” He gently pushed the hair back from my face, his fingers lingering on my throat. “So anytime you do something where you might get hurt, I’m going to do this beforehand. ”

  “Send me off to my doom with a big grin on my face?”

  Mychael’s hands did some delicious things under the covers. “Something like that. ”

  The sparkle in his eyes told me he wanted to do it all again. I started to say something, but Mychael closed his lips on mine and I suddenly had no idea what I’d been about to say.

  “Sneaky tactics,” I said when he let me come up for air.

  “I never claimed to play nice. ”

  I ran my fingers lightly down his taut stomach, and Mychael’s breath caught in response. “I noticed that,” I murmured, “and I want to say that your behavior has my complete approval. ” My hand moved up to his chest and stopped. “So, what do you think of Mago and me meeting Balmorlan at the Swan Song?”

  Mychael gave me a level look. “It doesn’t matter because what I think won’t change your mind. ”

  “No, it won’t. It can’t. Believe me I’m not chomping at the bit to sit across a table from Taltek Balmorlan unless I get to stick a piece of cutlery in him. Mago’s got a good plan; better still, it lets me play a big part in taking Balmorlan down—even though I have to glamour myself as a man. ” I smiled up at him. “Will you still love me when I’m a short, scrawny, pompous jerk?”

  Mychael made entirely too much of a show of thinking it over. I took a pillow and let him have it. He wrestled the pillow away from me and let me have it. Wrestling, tickling, and giggling followed. I was the giggler; Mychael was the tickler. Mostly. I grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his head down to mine, capturing his lips and taking my sweet time with a long, deep kiss. That put a stop to the tickling.
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