Con & conjure, p.26
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       Con & Conjure, p.26

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 26


  I didn’t know what Symon’s usual odds were at getting laid, but I was willing to bet the ladies at the Satyr’s Grove would charge him extra.

  Not that I was going to find out.

  At least I didn’t plan on finding out.

  I was a man on a mission. And that mission had nothing to do with what little was between my legs.

  Once inside, Mago didn’t hesitate, but walked straight through the front reception area to a large door flanked by matching muscle. One was human, one an elf, both were big. Not the big that came from working out, but the big that came from throwing out—anyone who caused trouble in the house.

  One smiled at Mago and the other opened the door for us.

  Traveling in Mago’s wake had its advantages.

  The madam’s parlor looked like a really nice gentlemen’s club—dark wood, fancy furniture, rich men. Though not particularly attractive rich men. Ugly might be taking it a bit far, but let’s just say that Symon Wiggs wasn’t the homeliest guy in the room. But the job of every sleek, yet curvaceous woman in that room was to make every last one of those men feel like leaving a sizable chunk of their wealth here before they left.

  A woman was essentially holding court on a low sofa in front of the fireplace. She was a sultry brunette, all curves with most of them on display. Not out, mind you; just strongly hinted at. She saw Mago, and my cousin was the recipient of a dazzling smile. She rose from the sofa and crossed the room in a seductive sway of silks and hips. She and Mago did that double-cheek-kissing thing, then the woman’s smile turned naughty and she kissed my cousin long and deep.

  I felt safe in saying that she and Mago knew each other.

  “It’s been far too long,” she all but purred. “It’s not nice to keep a lady waiting. ”

  Mago’s rakish smile was the twin to the one I’d seen many times on Phaelan. “Last time I was here, I don’t recall you being much of a lady. ”

  The madam languorously ran a lacquered nail down the center of Mago’s chest. “You bring it out in me. ” She gazed around the room. “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to give you a repeat performance this evening. ”

  “Business seems to be good,” he murmured approvingly.

  Her smile was almost demure. “Very good. Patrice is still with us; I’m certain she would be available for you. ”

  “Perhaps later,” Mago told her. “Right now my friend and I would like to bemoan our newly homeless state with your best brandy and two of those splendid cigars. ”


  “The Greyhound Hotel. We escaped with only the clothes on our backs. ”

  The madam made sympathetic sounds while her hands went from Mago’s chest to his shoulders, clearly enjoying the journey. “Do you have a place to stay?”

  Mago didn’t hesitate. “We have a small room available to us. Please tell me the tailor on Capron Street still lifts his needle for the common man, and hasn’t been snatched away yet by the Duke of Brenir. I’m here on business and I can’t attend every meeting wearing the same doublet. I’d never live down the humiliation. ”

  She laughed. “He’s still here, though the duke still hasn’t stopped trying to lure him away. In fact, he’ll be here later this evening. I can send him up to your room. ”

  “Room?” I squeaked.

  “Ah, Camille, this is my friend Symon Wiggs. A colleague of mine from the bank. In town with me on business when the unfortunate tragedy took place. ”

  “Room?” I repeated.

  Madam Camille reached out and ran her hand down my—I mean, Symon’s—chest. The little banker didn’t have much by way of equipment, but if what I felt a split second later was any indication, all of it was in perfect working order. Holy crap. I think that horrified realization must have shown on my face.

  Camille smiled and stepped in closer, brushing her ample charms up against me.

  Oh yeah, perfect working order.

  “I could hardly turn you two gentlemen out into the street,” she said. “Master Peronne has always been a fine, upstanding client of my humble establishment. ” The emphasis she put on those two words clearly indicated that she wasn’t referring to Mago’s superior moral fiber. “I have a small suite on the top floor that would keep you out of the cold for a night—or two. ”

  Mago took Camille’s hand and bestowed a gallant kiss just above an enormous diamond ring. “Such a generous and gracious lady. ”

  Providing room and board wasn’t the kind of generosity Mago was talking about, either. And I think parts of Symon Wiggs were hoping for some of that generosity.

  I had to get out of here.

  “My pleasure,” Camille replied, with a sloe-eyed glance at me.

  Get. Out. Now.

  “On behalf of myself and my colleague, we most gratefully accept,” Mago was saying. “But only until we can make other arrangements. I wouldn’t want to interfere with such a profitable enterprise. ”

  All I could make was a strangled sound.

  “You’ll have to excuse my friend,” Mago said. He lowered his voice. “He’s a little shy. ”

  “Oh. ” Those eyes were on me again, looking me up and down, assessing. What she was assessing, I had no clue. “I have a girl who would be perfect for you,” she said. “I guarantee after a night in her bed, you won’t remember what shy is. ”

  “Maybe later,” I managed. I shot Mago a murderous look.

  If Mago didn’t get to laugh soon, he was going to explode.

  I just growled.

  A growl that stuck in my throat when I saw Rache Kai strolling by the open door with a working girl on his arm. A girl that bore a more than disturbing resemblance to me.

  Mago saw what I’d seen, and didn’t even bat an eye. “An old friend of mine. ” He smiled in a show of teeth that didn’t look at all friendly.

  “Yes, Master Winters arrived a little less than an hour ago. Another of my best customers when he’s in town. ”

  Mago accepted a cigar offered by a girl who’d appeared at his elbow. All she wore was the bow in her hair. As she lit the cigar, Mago spoke around puffs. “If he’s not too busy, I’d like to catch up with him later. ”

  “I could send up a message that you’re here. ”

  “No need, my dear. ” Mago leaned in conspiratorially. “I’d like to surprise him. ”

  Camille laughed. “Understood. ”

  “Do you know how long he’ll be, ah . . . indisposed?”

  One corner of the madam’s mouth turned up in a sly smile. “He paid for the entire night, as usual. He’ll be on the top floor as well, conveniently next to your suite. ”

  Mago exhaled in a puff of aromatic smoke. “How wonderful. ”

  My hands itched to get around Master Winters’s throat. Yes, how wonderful.

  “I’ll have Milette get your drinks. ” Camille’s hand lightly brushed the front of Mago’s trousers before she left.

  My cousin sighed with unabashed pleasure. “There goes a truly lovely woman, with an uncanny head for business. ”

  “You . . . you—”

  His eyes sparkled with mirth. “Be grateful, Symon. ”


  “Quite so. I could have told her the truth—that you don’t like women and were once engaged to Master Winters. ”

  Sitting in Camille’s parlor let us hear all the news there was to hear and then some.

  And see even more.

  I don’t care what they say about women gossiping, give men some juicy news and they’ll leave women in the dust.

  All of this news came to us while being served drinks and little, fancy sandwiches by women wearing next to nothing—or in some cases, nothing at all. One of them bent over to light my cigar. I swear a man could suffocate in a pair of those things. I choked on the first puff. I’d had cigars before, but not with a side order of breasts. Mago saw and winked at me. He wa
s enjoying this way too much.

  “So we’re staying here,” I muttered after the cigar lighter and her bounty had moved on. I think my less-than-enthused reaction had hurt her feelings.

  Mago took a puff and smiled appreciatively at a blonde sauntering past. “I can’t think of a more perfect hiding place. Would anyone ever think to look for you here?”

  “No, but—”

  “But nothing. We get rest—and perhaps even consolation. ” Mago looked at me, a wicked gleam in his eye that looked entirely too much like Phaelan. “Are you quite certain you wouldn’t like to try some of the consolation offered here? I imagine that few people have the enviable opportunity to become the opposite sex for a night and find themselves in one of the kingdoms’ finest establishments. You’ve literally had the day from hell. You could use something to help you relax. ”

  “No. ”

  “A chance to satisfy a curiosity, perhaps?”

  “No. ”

  Mago sat back and took a thoughtful sip of his brandy. “No doubt, Madam Camille will be sending up a lady for the bereft Symon Wiggs. ” He shrugged. “I’ll let you decide how to not satisfy your curiosity. Though you could think of this as a bachelor party of sorts. The last fling before you settle down with your paladin. ”

  “No. ”

  “Suit yourself. As a man who is a man all the time, I can truthfully tell you that you’re making a mistake. ” Mago stood and fastidiously straightened his doublet. “At least I know you won’t go running off to a room with some young beauty while I’m gathering information. ”

  “That’s happened?”

  Mago sighed the sigh of the long suffering. “Just every time I’ve taken Phaelan anywhere. By the time I’ve realized that he’s no longer in the room, he’s usually on his second girl—no pun intended. ”

  “None imagined. ”

  Mago engaged several of the men in conversation, and I sat back and listened. Symon’s squeaky voice coming out of Symon’s thin-lipped mouth was about more than I could take right now. So I listened and I learned.
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