Con & conjure, p.27
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       Con & Conjure, p.27
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 27

 

  Mychael was alive and unharmed.

  I had to bite the inside of my lip to keep myself from reacting. Raine wanted to cry, laugh, and cheer all at once. I had to settle for doing what Symon would do—I tossed back the rest of my brandy and waved a girl over for another.

  Tam and Imala had escaped with Prince Chigaru, though Tam was probably in the last place he wanted to be. The prince’s retinue had moved into the goblin embassy. It didn’t matter that Imala was in charge. Having to stay there would have Tam sleeping with his eyes open, if he slept at all.

  Mago gestured me over to a relatively empty section of room.

  “According to the gentleman with the redhead on his lap, Raine Benares is a very wanted woman. ”

  “And who’s he to know?”

  “The chief magistrate. ”

  “He would know. ”

  “So one would surmise. ”

  “Who’s she wanted by?”

  Silence.

  “Okay . . . who’s she not wanted by?”

  “It’s been my experience that when there’s an arrest warrant out there—with a substantial reward—pretty much everyone is looking, each for their own reasons. ”

  Shit.

  “The watchers would like to question her,” Mago said. “The elven ambassador is feeling keenly embarrassed that one of the elf queen’s subjects is the source of such public concern, and has offered to take her into custody. ”

  “I’ll bet. ”

  Ambassador Giles Keril was cozy as could be nestled in Taltek Balmorlan’s pocket.

  “Guardians?”

  “Patrols are out looking. ”

  “Damn. ”

  Mychael didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me. As long as I was glamoured as Symon Wiggs, I couldn’t use my magic, so I couldn’t contact Mychael with our link, and I didn’t dare unglamour. I’d find a way later to let Mychael know that I was safe, or as safe as I could be. Right now I was ready to make the world a safer place for everyone by having a really meaningful chat with Rache Kai.

  I put out my cigar in the nearest ashtray. “How about before dinner we go talk to our old friend Master Winters?”

  I’d been on the top floor of the Satyr’s Grove before. That’s where the more expensive girls were, and apparently Rache had decided to splurge. Maybe he was consoling himself for missing not only Prince Chigaru, but Mychael as well. That had to affect a man’s confidence. I smiled. If there was any justice in the world, Rache’s sudden lack of confidence meant he probably wasn’t scoring any better in the suite at the end of the hall.

  “My, what a dastardly grin,” Mago murmured.

  “Just thinking happy thoughts. ”

  “Vindictive?”

  I shrugged. “You have your happy; I have mine. ”

  Mago flashed a smile and nimbly twirled the room key between his fingers. “Let’s see how thick the walls are between our suite and Master Winters’s. ”

  I shivered as we walked down the hall, and it wasn’t from cold. The last time I’d been on this floor had been when I’d cornered the naked cathouse client and the evil, ancient elven sorcerer who had possessed him. The sorcerer had escaped from the Saghred and his first order of business had nothing to do with plotting world domination and everything to do with getting laid. I guess when a man spends thousands of years imprisoned inside the Saghred, it gives him a lot of time to think about what he’d do first if he ever got back on the outside.

  The Saghred had wanted to take him back, and it’d come way too close to making me do the taking.

  I’d resisted that time—with Mychael’s help.

  The suite Madam Camille had given us was clearly meant for activities other than eavesdropping on the man in the next room, though I imagine it’d been used for that purpose before, too.

  Red satin and black leather pretty much summed up the decor. Most of the leather covered the room’s furniture, but there was a table with leather . . . accoutrements. I only recognized a few of them, and didn’t want to know about the others.

  Rache Kai was most definitely in the next room.

  Mago knew Rache, so he could identify Rache if he were talking.

  I knew Rache in an entirely different way. I could identify him based on what he was doing right now.

  Mago and I were sitting on the bed, facing the wall our room shared with Rache’s, waiting for him to finish.

  It was taking much longer than I remembered.

  It was damned awkward and borderline embarrassing. Especially with Mago sitting on the bed next to me—the man who’d introduced me to Rache and had regretted it ever since.

  I’d debated just barging in, but seeing that the goal was to persuade Rache not to kill Mychael, Chigaru, or me—interrupting him at that particular moment would go beyond rude straight into suicidal. But sitting there listening while my ex-fiancé did what he used to do with me with another woman who looked like me, while I was sitting on a bed with my cousin next to a tableful of accoutrements?

  Definitely awkward and embarrassing.

  In addition to being rather homely and ill equipped, Symon Wiggs was short. This left me sitting on the edge of the bed, swinging my legs, and trying to look anywhere but at my cousin while the headboard thumped against the wall in the next room. There were other sounds as well, but I was doing my best to ignore them.

  “And just how do you propose to keep Rache from putting a nice, neat hole through both of us?” I asked, desperate to change the subject, careful to keep my voice down.

  “Actually, I’ve done this sort of thing before. ”

  “Busting into a room in a cathouse to have a heart-to-heart talk with an assassin in the midst of postcoital glow? Cause I can guarantee you, the moment we step into that room Rache’s glow is gone—and we’re next. ”

  “One, I don’t ‘bust in’ anywhere. Two, this isn’t a cathouse; it’s a bordello. ”

  “Same thing. ”

  “No, it’s not; I don’t patronize cathouses. ” A corner of his mouth turned up in a quick grin. “Though I don’t believe I’ve ever walked in on an assassin before. ”

  “Which is why we need a plan so our first time isn’t our last. We want Rache reasonable, not raging. ” I thought of something, something that could put a serious crimp in an already questionable plan. “What happened between you and Rache the last time you saw him?”

  “Meaning?”

  “Meaning what terms are you on—speaking or killing?”

  Mago had to think about that one; and I saw a flicker of doubt in his eyes.

  I grunted. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Why don’t you let your puny—and completely harmless-looking—banker buddy handle this one?”

  “Need I remind you that you’re wearing a puny banker body? A dagger in his chest is a dagger in your—”

  I waved my hand dismissively. “Trust me; I know all about feeling pain while wearing a man’s body. ” I carefully slid off the bed until my feet silently touched the floor. “Got any lock picks on you?”

  “Of course, but—”

  “Give them to me. Rache will have that door locked. If I was wearing my body, I could shield myself with magic. ” I grinned. “Symon’s going to shield himself with stupidity. ”

  No one was in the hall. Good. Two men at a door to a room not their own, one picking the lock while another stood watch would look suspicious even in a cathou—excuse me, bordello. It would be beyond embarrassing to get kicked out of a bordello before we got what we came for, which wasn’t even sex.

  I glanced at Mago, pointed to the wall on the left side of Rache’s room, then pointed emphatically to the floor. I was telling Mago to stay. My cousin didn’t like it, but he did as told. I’d told Mago my plan. He didn’t like that, either. But it was a lot safer than his idea. Rache knew Mago, and if their last encounter was anything less than friendly, chances were g
ood that Rache’s reaction would be bad.

  Symon Wiggs was the personification of harmless and helpless—at least physically. The man’s mind was that of a scheming little rodent. Rache wouldn’t put a hole in him, at least not immediately. One, he hadn’t been paid to; and two, a professional assassin just didn’t go around killing random people. It was bad for business. Those rich enough to hire someone of Rache’s caliber wanted to retain the professional services of an assassin, not turn loose a nutcase.

  And if there was anything I’d learned over the years of keeping tabs on Rache Kai, it was that he was the consummate professional.

  The door opened with the softest of clicks. Dammit. Rache knew I was there; better start the show.

  “Patrice,” Symon slurred in a singsong voice. “Patrice?” I opened the door.

  “Wrong room,” Rache barked loud enough to shake the rafters.

  I jumped. Not because he’d scared the crap out of me. It’s what Symon would have done. Just staying in character. Yeah. And the knife glittering in Rache’s hand, ready to throw, didn’t bother me, either.

  I squinted and peered into the room. Rache and the girl were sitting up in the bed. Neither one made any move to cover themselves. Rache Kai had the tall, dark, and handsome thing down to an art, complete with a body that still looked like it belonged on a pedestal in a museum somewhere. The woman had long red hair, pale skin, and I couldn’t tell what color her eyes were. She looked a lot like me. Though what didn’t look like me were a pair of large breasts that didn’t quite go with her tiny waist. Apparently Rache had decided to enhance his memory of me.

  “You’re not Patrice. ” Symon’s voice cracked.

  “Wrong room,” Rache repeated in a still, deadly voice. “She’s not here, and unless you close that door, you’re not going to be here, either. ”

  I did as told. I closed the door.

  With me on the inside.

  I kept my hands in clear view, and dropped the drunk act. But I kept the glamour. I wanted Rache to know who I was, but not the girl in bed with him.
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