Con & conjure, p.7
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       Con & Conjure, p.7

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 7


  Rache was my ex-fiancé.

  I broke up with him. Let’s just say it could have gone better.

  Chapter 3

  I looked at Mychael and felt a little sick.

  Telling the man you were in love with that the man you used to be in love with was here on business was one thing. When your present love was the top law enforcement officer, and your past fiancé was the kingdoms’ top assassin . . . well, the thought made you queasy.

  “Well?” Mychael asked. A man of few words.

  “I found both of them. ”

  I stood and went over to the dirty window. Prince Chigaru was being carefully lifted onto a litter, loyal snake-in-the-grass Chatar by his side no doubt waiting for another chance.

  Or was I wrong?

  I knew I wasn’t, at least I didn’t think so, but it just didn’t make sense.

  “Raine,” Mychael was saying. “Who is it?”

  “Chatar. ”


  “The healer out there working on Chigaru. ”

  Mychael was instantly at the door, opened it and called to Tam. I didn’t share Mychael’s urgency. Chatar wouldn’t try anything with Imala and her agents watching his every move, and guessing his next one. Tam stepped through the doorway and I told him what I’d seen.

  “Raine, Chatar has been the prince’s personal physician for three years,” Tam said. “Are you certain?”

  “It was fired from a small dart gun,” I told him. “Chatar’s hands loaded it. I saw the tattoos on the backs of his hands. ”

  Tam glowered. “Damn. ”

  “Ditto. ”

  “I’ll have to handle this carefully,” Tam murmured. “Chatar is one of the prince’s closest confidants. ” He left the office and gestured to Imala. You could have heard a fish scale drop on that dock as Imala crossed to him, and Tam leaned down close to Imala’s ear. Her expression gave absolutely nothing away as she looked to me. When I nodded, Imala’s eyes hardened, but she made it a point not to look at Chatar. Instead she tilted her head up and spoke quickly to Tam. He turned and came back to us.

  “Imala will post agents with the prince and Chatar to keep another attempt from being made. She will question those on the yacht to get Chatar’s whereabouts from the time the yacht entered the harbor until I brought the prince out of the water. His cabin will also be searched. ” He looked at me, eyebrows lifted.

  “Yes, I’m sure. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. ”

  “What about the crossbowman?” Mychael asked.

  “Well . . . ” I started.

  Phaelan had walked over to the doorway, and saw what had to be a sickly look on my face.

  “I found our crossbowman,” I told him. I paused. “I love it when my past comes back to bite me in the ass. ”

  Phaelan knew precisely who I was talking about. “Tell me you’re kidding. ”

  “Wish I was. ”

  “Dammit. ”

  “And then some. ”

  “Is he here for anyone else?”

  “Don’t know. ” And I didn’t really want to know since that other person on Rache’s to-kill list could very well be me. As angry as he’d been the day I broke off our engagement, he’d off me for free.

  Mychael was looking from one of us to the other. “Who?”

  “Want me to tell him?” Phaelan asked.

  I sighed. “Might as well. ”

  “Rache Kai,” Phaelan said. “Heard of him?”

  Mychael nodded. “Assassin. The best. ”

  “That’s the one. ” Phaelan looked expectantly at me.

  I waved my hand. “Go ahead, tell him. ”

  “He’s also Raine’s ex-fiancé. ”

  “I broke up with him nearly a decade ago,” I told a stunned Mychael. I did a little cringe of my own. “It really could have gone better. ”

  Mychael’s expression didn’t give anything away. He quietly asked, “Where was his shooting perch?”

  “I broke off contact once I knew it was Rache, but I can track him to the ends of the earth. ”

  “She knows him very well,” Phaelan added helpfully.

  I shot my cousin a withering look.

  “I didn’t know who he was back then,” I hurried to add. “I mean, of course I knew who he was. I didn’t know what he was. I broke off our engagement when I found out. ‘Young’ and ‘stupid’ pretty much sum up my early twenties. ” I stopped blabbering, taking Mychael’s continued silence as an accusation, when it was probably just an inability to get a word in edgewise. “Or didn’t you ever do anything stupid when you were young?”

  My fist had a death grip on the crossbow bolt. I wanted nothing more than to let it go, but I knew I wasn’t finished with it yet—though no doubt the killer elf on the other end would gleefully be done with me. A bit of advice: before you get involved with a man, make sure he’s not a killer for hire; and if he is and you decide to ditch him, make sure he’s a crappy shot.

  Mychael looked at me for a moment, a hint of a smile on his lips. “It’s a wonder I lived to see thirty. ”

  “I’m continually amazed that I lived through my teens,” Tam muttered.

  Phaelan grinned. “Hell, it’s a good day for me when I live past breakfast. ”

  Imala quickly strode over to Mychael. “I need transport through the city for the prince with a Guardian escort. ”

  “Done. ”

  “And I need a perimeter set up around the Greyhound Hotel. ”

  “My men are already there. ” Mychael frowned. “Preparing for the prince’s arrival, in two days. ”

  Imala glanced at the prince and I swear she growled. “I didn’t know. ” She said it like she’d already said it a couple dozen times today and knew she’d say it dozens more. Chigaru was going to get a lecture from the head of his secret service, too.

  At least something good was going to come from all of this.

  Chigaru’s guards managed to get their prince into a coach and on his way to the Greyhound Hotel. The coach was surrounded by goblin guards, and the goblins were surrounded by Guardians. Mychael wasn’t taking any chances that any of Chigaru’s guards might be tempted to make a slight detour to take down any crossbow-toting elves. You could carry pretty much any weapon you wanted to around Mid; you just had to fill out reams of paperwork. Phaelan claimed that if your hand survived all the name signing, it’d be worthless for wielding the weapon you went to all the trouble to be able to carry.

  Mago felt safe enough joining the prince at the hotel. Yes, he was an elf, but he wasn’t carrying a crossbow, the prince knew him—but most importantly, the prince didn’t know him as a Benares. A cover of a respectable mild-mannered banker definitely had its advantages, especially now.

  Me? I had no cover and no hope of obtaining any anytime soon. If Sathrik had hired Rache, Rache had to know that I was on Mid. For all I knew, Sathrik probably slipped Rache a little something extra to turn me into a crossbow cushion, too. After I’d broken up with Rache, I went to a lot of trouble to get as much information on my professionally homicidal ex as I could. Sometimes survival just meant knowing more about your adversary than they thought you knew. I’d been ignorant about Rache once; I swore never to be that way again. Our paths had crossed several times since then, but never with fatal results. Though I’d always known that Rache was the patient sort.

  “Rache prefers upscale accommodations,” I told Mychael. “But he’s willing to sleep in the dirt if his client pays him enough. ”

  “Sathrik has always been willing to pay for what he wants,” Tam said.

  The goblin king was generous and giving—just what I didn’t want to hear.

  “At least he can’t glamour,” Mychael said.

  “Not a spark of magic to his name, thank . . . what did you say?”

  “Rache Kai can’t glamour. ”

  “And you know this, how?”<
br />
  “I know Rache. ”

  “Apparently not as well as you know Rache,” Tam chimed in.

  I wasn’t going to dignify that with a response. Though Mychael’s bombshell wasn’t going to go unnoticed. “Personally or professionally?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “You know exactly what I mean. ”

  Mychael was the Guardian commander, but in his former professional life, he’d also been a Black Cat. Officially, they had no name, though were called Black Cats by certain criminal elements who had the bad luck to come into contact with one. Like a black cat in a dark alley, you might catch a glimpse of one, but if you blinked, it was gone. Black Cat operatives had reported to the elven throne, were trained to do what was needed, where it was needed, and to whom it was needed, going where the law couldn’t go.

  Mychael had been one.

  And Mychael knew Rache.

  “I’ve had to stop him on more than one occasion,” Mychael was saying.

  “Has he seen your face?”

  “Not my real one. ”

  Rache couldn’t glamour, but Mychael could; and as one of the best spellsingers there was, he could also alter his voice. A master of disguise was my Mychael.

  “Did your ‘not real self’ piss Rache off?”

  Mychael grinned. “Just every chance I got. We often found ourselves at odds. ”

  Phaelan spoke up. “He’d been hired to off someone you’d been asked to keep alive?”

  “Something like that. ” Mychael turned to me. “Which is why I want you off the streets as soon as you can tell me where he is. ”

  “We know he’s been hired to assassinate Chigaru,” I said. “I’ve been walking around this island for three months now. Word spread pretty quick that I was here with the Saghred. If Rache had wanted me, he could have come and tried to get me anytime. ”

  “You said Rache wouldn’t kill a fly unless someone had paid him,” Phaelan said.
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