Con & conjure, p.6
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       Con & Conjure, p.6

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
 
Page 6

 

  “Are you all right?”

  I opened one eye. “What? No ‘why are you in the middle of an angry mob?’ ”

  Mychael almost thought about smiling. “The answers to some questions are obvious. There’s an explosion, then you and Phaelan are in the middle of an angry mob. Obvious. ” He took another chair for himself. “That and I had men watching the waterfront this morning. ”

  I did smile. “I thought I detected a tail. ”

  “As you should have since you weren’t supposed to leave the citadel without an armed escort—and I told them not to bother hiding. ”

  “I had a meeting,” I said. “A private meeting. One that wouldn’t have been private if I’d been leading a parade of Guardians. ”

  “Did your meeting have anything to do with that explosion?”

  “Not directly. ” I hesitated. “It was about our family project. ”

  Mychael knew exactly what I was talking about. I’d told him weeks ago that if it was the last thing I ever did, I was going to ruin not only Taltek Balmorlan, but anyone else who had the poor judgment to pick that scumbag for a business partner.

  “This is the other cousin you’ve told me about?” Mychael asked.

  “That’s the one. Phaelan’s big brother. Apparently he’s also Chigaru’s personal banker. ”

  Mychael blinked. “A Benares banker?”

  I grinned. “He uses the name Peronne. But yeah, a Benares banker. Great, huh?”

  “And convenient. However, he was nearly the late Chigaru’s former banker. ”

  “Came damned close. You hear what all happened?”

  Mychael arched an eyebrow. “My men are trained observers. ”

  “Did they observe that those bombers were Khrynsani assassins?”

  “A few were close enough to detect the glamours. ”

  “Too bad most every goblin on the waterfront isn’t as gifted. ” I told him about my role in the boat tug-of-war and the messy results.

  Mychael frowned. “Khrynsani assassins and a weather wizard. Was he a goblin?”

  “Couldn’t tell. He was cloaked, hooded, and gloved. ”

  “He’d have to be a goblin. I can’t see Khrynsani assassins trusting a human at their backs. Sounds like I’ve got a Khrynsani nest to find and clean out. ” Mychael indicated the folded cloth in my left hand. “Is that something else Imala and Tam want you to look at?”

  I nodded. “The dart that took Chigaru in the back of the neck. ”

  “The back?”

  “Fired by one of his own courtiers. Imala wants to know who. ” I carefully peeled away the cloth, exposing what was essentially a black needle that was no longer than my last finger joint.

  The dart still had the prince’s blood on it, as did the bolt. Any contact with that blood and I’d be sharing Chigaru’s shoulder-puncturing, virtually drowning experience. But if I wiped any of the blood off, some of the assassin’s residue could be wiped off with it.

  “Can you find out who fired it without touching it?” Mychael asked.

  I winced. “Wish I could. ”

  Mychael knelt on the floor next to me, and I could sense the heat of his body even through his armor. He wrapped his fingers around my hand holding the dart, keeping it steady to get a closer look.

  “I can’t see any residue of poison,” he murmured. “But that doesn’t mean—”

  Some things could be resisted, but why?

  I closed the distance between our lips. I had a bolt in one hand and a dart in the other and didn’t dare drop either one, but my lips didn’t need any help; they were doing a satisfying job all by themselves. I pulled away from the kiss only when the terror of nearly being blown up was replaced by wondering how I could get past Mychael’s armor, and how long we’d have until someone started banging on the door.

  There was nothing more life affirming than lust.

  Mychael’s grin was slow and wicked. “I would ask what that was for, but it doesn’t matter. Thank you. ”

  I felt myself finally start to relax. Sometimes a little lust was not only fun, but needed. “I’m just glad to be alive to do it. I don’t go around asking for big trouble, but it’s got a tendency to show up when I’m around. ”

  “You’ll get no argument from me,” Mychael said. Then the grin was gone. “I’m also not going to argue with you about an armed escort. ”

  I met him with silence. He knew how I felt about being stuck in the middle of a crowd of big, armored men. I might as well stay in the citadel, but I had the sense not to say that out loud.

  I glanced down at the dart and bolt. “Well, the quickest way to get rid of the trouble is to find out who caused it. I don’t suppose you’d step outside while I do this?”

  It was Mychael’s turn to give me the silent treatment.

  “You’re too noisy,” I told him. He knew I didn’t mean talking; I meant magical noise. Mychael was one of the strongest battle mages there was, and just being in the same room with him was playing havoc on my concentration. Having him within touching distance was doing the same thing to my control. Neither was conducive to locating a pair of potential assassins.

  Mychael stood. “I’ll sit on the other side of the room, and you won’t even know I’m here. ”

  After that kiss, I seriously doubted that, but I knew from past experience that Mychael could tamp down his magical power to next to nothing. Within five seconds, he’d done just that. It was as impressive now as it had been then.

  “Are you going to stay in that chair?” Mychael murmured.

  “Good point. ”

  I got out of the chair and found myself a nice corner. With my shoulders wedged against a pair of walls, that’d be at least two directions I couldn’t fall. The impressions I got from an object could be jarring, and since I was trying to find a pair of assassins, the hit from those links could very well put me on the floor. That didn’t even factor in what it’d be like to feel Chigaru’s impressions coming off of that dart and bolt. I’d done seekings before using items ranging from a bolt or blade to a necklace and hairbrush. The most recent use of the object was the one felt first. If a person had been killed with what I was holding, I’d get the treat of feeling what it was like to die right along with them. Chigaru hadn’t died, but taking a crossbow bolt in the shoulder and falling overboard had to have hurt like hell.

  Just do the work, Raine. Do the dart first.

  The problem with touching a poisoned dart was not knowing how much poison was left on it. However, since Chigaru was still alive, the dunking in a harbor full of water must have been what’d kept the poison from killing him. Still, it wasn’t a theory that I was eager to test, especially not on myself. The dart was tiny so I took a big chance and placed the tip of my index finger very carefully on the flat, non-pointed (and hopefully non-poisonous) end.

  In the blink of an eye, I was seeing what the poisoner saw. I’d never had a connection that immediate, which meant this person was close by, very close by. Well, we knew that they were on the yacht, but what I was seeing now wasn’t the yacht. It was the dock, or more precisely on the dock.

  Kneeling at Prince Chigaru Mal’Salin’s side.

  Oh hell.

  Chatar, the goblin healer/mage.

  No, that couldn’t be right. Chatar might be a jerk, but he was a jerk who’d just saved the prince’s life. Why would he poison the prince and then save him? That went beyond not making sense, even for an intrigue-loving goblin courtier.

  The dart showed me something else. When Chigaru was hit with the dart, he started falling to the left. Apparently this baelusa stuff was fast acting. Then the bolt took him in the right shoulder. If the prince hadn’t been shot with that dart, he would have been standing straight when that bolt arrived, and it would have taken him right through the heart and he’d have been dead before he hit the water.

  Saved by poison.

  I ca
refully rewrapped the dart and set it aside. Mychael didn’t say a word, and neither did I. I had my concentration and I didn’t want to lose it.

  I picked up the bolt and wrapped my fingers around it in a fist. A connection with Chigaru Mal’Salin was strong and immediate. The crazy goblin had known that he was going to get shot. He was counting on his people in the crowd to catch whoever was firing the shot. The prince had nearly fifty agents in and around the waterfront. Mychael didn’t know that, and he needed to. His job was to keep the peace on Mid. Certain elves and goblins were spoiling for a war. Just because Chigaru’s people were there to protect him didn’t mean that the prince didn’t have them here for other purposes.

  A goblin seldom had only one motive.

  A Mal’Salin could juggle dozens.

  I’d been shot with a crossbow before, so I could anticipate some of what I’d feel. The jolt of the impact followed by white-hot burning, like what was sticking out of you wasn’t a bolt, but a heated fire poker. The disorientation of falling backward off of the yacht, and pain of hitting the water. Chigaru’s neck and shoulders had borne the brunt of the impact.

  I blew air in and out between my clenched teeth to keep myself from doing the same, only falling against a filthy wall rather than in an even-more-filthy harbor.

  Chigaru’s unconsciousness severed my connection to him. I held up my hand to keep Mychael on his side of the office. He didn’t like it, and he didn’t need words to tell me so. I felt it. It took a few minutes for me to manage to sit up straight, but once I wasn’t seeing two of everything, I searched further for the man—or woman—who’d held the bolt and loaded it into that crossbow. I followed the line that the bolt had taken, back to an open second-floor window. I saw a pair of hands first. The assassin was a man, and his hands weren’t gray, so he was either an elf or human.

  Then I saw his face.

  My eyes flew open and I almost choked on my own breath.

  Rache Kai. The deadliest assassin in the seven kingdoms. Our paths had crossed—and rubbed together.
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