Con & conjure, p.17
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       Con & Conjure, p.17
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 17

 

  “I’ll know it’s you underneath that pompous banker exterior,” Mychael said when I let him up for air, his voice husky. “So I might not be able to control myself. ” His lips curled in a slow, wicked grin. “I might just have to kiss you right in the Swan Song. ”

  “Oooo, I’ve never been kissed there before. ”

  “Then I’ll have to change that. ”

  I looked up into his eyes. “You’re going to be there, aren’t you?”

  His lips were on my throat. “Closer than you ever imagined. ”

  “You’re as good with a glamour as I am. Nothing you’d show up as would surprise me. ”

  “Not nearly as good. I have to stay the same sex that I was born as. ”

  “And I can’t tell you how glad that makes me. ”

  Mychael laughed. “I think you just did. ”

  “You did say your walls are soundproof, right?”

  “They’ve never been tested to your extent. ”

  My eyes widened. “Then the Guardians outside your door could be—”

  “Envious as hell,” Mychael finished for me.

  Crap.

  “How many of your ‘envious as hell’ Guardians will be at the Swan Song tomorrow?”

  “Enough. ”

  “Enough for . . . ”

  “Whatever trouble you manage to kick up. ”

  “And if everything goes perfectly to plan?”

  “Then they’ll be envious and stunned. ”

  “Here’s hoping for stunned. ”

  I piled the pillows on my side of the bed against the headboard and sat up against it, pulling the sheet up with me. Talking about tomorrow had made me think about Mago, which led me to my family, which made me think about criminals, which led to Rache Kai. Thinking about Rache effectively pulled the plug on my playfulness.

  Mychael didn’t know the landing place for all my mental gymnastics; he just saw that I’d covered up all of my toys. He got the hint that playtime was over, or at least suspended for the time being, and sat up in bed next to me. The seconds ticked by and neither one of us said a word. Mychael probably knew what was wrong. I definitely knew what was wrong. I also wasn’t about to be the one to bring it up. I didn’t want to talk about it, argue, or analyze it—all I wanted was for it, namely Rache, to go away. Preferably without killing anyone.

  The knowledge that Rache was on Mid and Mychael knew that he’d once been engaged to me was kind of like a dragon hulking in the middle of the room. You could try to ignore it, but that didn’t change the fact that it was there, it was big, and it wasn’t going anywhere.

  I’d never been good with tension, so it didn’t take much longer for the dam of words building inside of me to break. “Yes, falling in love with Rache was stupid. I was stupid. I should have known better, known he was lying to me, making a fool—”

  “Raine. ”

  “—out of me. I was blind as a bat, and—”

  “Raine. ”

  “—he didn’t even—”

  Mychael reached over and hauled me, sheets and all, across the bed to him. His lips closed on mine in a long, deep kiss that made me stop thinking about Rache or criminals. Eventually the contact from his lips lightened into small, teasing nibbles.

  “What was that for?” Air was suddenly in short supply. “Not that I’m complaining. ”

  “It’s the only way I can get a word in, and because I wanted to. ” He gazed down at me, his sea blue eyes searching my face, reading me. “Raine, being involved with a criminal doesn’t make you one. ”

  “It’s not that. ”

  “And I don’t love you any less because of it. How could I?”

  It was kind of that. Okay, it was mostly that.

  “He’s an assassin,” I said, “and you’re . . . most definitely not. ”

  “Raine, you were young and in love with the man you thought he was. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. So you fell for a guy because he was good-looking, a smooth talker, and treated you like a princess. ”

  “But he was a—”

  “And you didn’t know. You also don’t have any reason to worry about us now. I love you, and your ex-fiancé trying to puncture a goblin prince isn’t going to change that. ”

  “And you. ”

  His brow creased in puzzlement. “And me, what?”

  “He’s trying to puncture you, too. ”

  “My plan is to arrest him before he gets another chance. ” Mychael lightly ran a finger down my cheek. “His lies hurt you then and he may want to physically hurt you now. I’m going to keep both from happening. ”

  “How?”

  “Not all of my Guardians are based in the citadel and in uniform. In fact, a few of them get arrested on a regular basis by the city watch to keep up appearances. They’ll find Rache. In the meantime, I want you to start wearing a mail shirt under your clothes. ”

  I laughed. “You mean you’re not going to try to lock me up in your bedroom?”

  His eyes glittered. “Tempting, but unfortunately impossible right now. ”

  “We have elves to con and an assassin to catch,” I said. “Which brings up another question. You said Rache has never seen your real face. Is there any other way he could have found out who and what you used to be?”

  Mychael didn’t respond immediately.

  Damn.

  “If you have to think about it then it’s possible,” I said.

  “It’s highly unlikely. ”

  “Pardon me if I ignore the ‘highly’ part of your ‘unlikely. ’ If Rache even suspects that you’re the same man who kept gold out of his pockets by snatching hits out from underneath his nose, he’ll perch on every building in this city to take you out. That’s probably why he’s trying to kill you. ”

  “I’ve always had a target on me, and a few of those times have been from Rache Kai. Incoming bolts and blades come with the job. ”

  “That was before the Saghred was part of your job—and me. ”

  Mychael made a sound that was something between a sigh and wry chuckle. “We’ve been over this before. Anything that happens to me is not your fault. ”

  He pulled the sheet down far enough to plant a light kiss between my breasts. I let out a little gasp.

  “It’s your job,” I managed.

  “Absolutely. ” Mychael kissed my stomach.

  “And you enjoy your work. ”

  “Most satisfying. ” He kissed my belly button.

  “And getting to kick Rache Kai’s ass is—”

  “A welcome bonus. ” The tip of his tongue swirled a hot trail around my belly button.

  “But if it hadn’t been for the rock—”

  Mychael looked up at me. “If it hadn’t been for you tricking Sarad Nukpana into touching the Saghred that night in Mermeia, he would have the rock and I’d probably be dead. ”

  Along with some of the other people I loved most in the world.

  “It’s been three months since you found the Saghred. ”

  I nodded once. “Seems like longer. ”

  “Three months is enough time for Sarad Nukpana to have done everything he wanted to do. So all this being your fault turns into you’ve saved every man, woman, and child Sarad Nukpana would have sacrificed, slaughtered, or enslaved if he’d had the Saghred during those three months. ” Mychael’s smile was slow and wicked as his fingers traced the still tingling trail of his kisses. “So if you ask me, everyone in the seven kingdoms owes you a big thank you. ”

  His kisses went lower. “I’ll thank you now. ”

  Chapter 7

  The face looking back at me out of Mychael’s bedroom mirror wasn’t mine.

  I glamoured as soon as I got up, just for practice. I couldn’t leave the citadel looking like Symon Wiggs, but I didn’t want to change into him for the first time just before my meeting with Taltek Balmorlan.

  One of the
more useful enhancements the Saghred had done on my previously meager magical skill set was the ability to do an anatomically correct glamour, to make myself look and sound like someone else. The mechanics of doing a glamour weren’t all that difficult, but I’d seen someone get stuck halfway through a transformation a couple of years back, and I knew that failure now would hurt a lot more than my ego.

  I’d studied the banker’s portrait in the scrying crystal. There was no room for a screwup or even a wrong step. Even though Balmorlan had never met Wiggs in person before, he could have seen his image in a scrying crystal just like I did. Balmorlan had to believe without any doubt that I was Symon Wiggs. Failure wasn’t an option; there was too much at stake. Literally everything I had or would ever have was on the line.

  I focused on Symon’s image, committing it to memory little by little, internalizing the smallest detail. When I had it firmly in my mind’s eye, I released the slightest touch of my power into the image in my mind, projecting it outward, feeling the glamour solidify around me.

  I saw Mychael standing behind me, reflected in the mirror. He checked me out from head to toe, started to say something, then stopped.

  “Well, what do you think?” Even my voice was Symon’s. Mago’s spy crystal had sound as well as images, and I’d taken full advantage.

  Mychael made a face. “Don’t take this the wrong way. I still love you, but I just can’t touch you right now. ”

  I grinned, and on Symon Wiggs it came out as a smirk. Oh yeah, definitely the kind of guy who would act as a front man for a cartel. “No offense taken. Believe me I won’t be staying in this skin one second longer than I have to. ”

  “I just got a message for you from Prince Chigaru requesting a meeting early this afternoon. ”

  I meticulously straightened my frilly cuffs. “Inform His Highness that I have a previous engagement. ” I smiled Symon’s oily little smile. “Disappointment builds character, something the prince seems to be lacking. Being told no a few times will be good for him. ”
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