The question was, had the hunting already started? Maybe Penny was loosely affiliated with the guild already, but she’d taken a liking to him earlier and decided to help him out. It would be easy for her to claim she was never here. The witnesses were gone. She’d made double sure of that when she’d run over them. She had to know he’d destroy the rest of the evidence. He was already the enemy, as everyone knew. No one would suspect the involvement of someone else.
Or did the guild not know about her yet because she hadn’t properly entered the magical world? Maybe she was raised as a human, by humans, and no one had yet witnessed her extraordinary capabilities. Kids would’ve taunted her for being different, but without someone in the know to tell her otherwise, she wouldn’t have realized just how valuable her differences were. Emery understood that because he’d lived through it. From what he’d learned, a lot of magical kids did.
He thought back to her little booth, and the way she’d reacted to his questioning. To her beautiful flushes and the fear in her eyes when she’d asked if he was magical.
A heavy weight of certainty filled his stomach.
She didn’t know. She had enough power to rival Emery himself, and she didn’t know.
He’d found a completely green natural.
But she was on the precipice of learning. Something had already spooked her, and she’d just killed a man. Emery didn’t understand why she’d nearly run him down on her way out, only to swerve onto the mages’ bodies—possibly she was a bit mad in pressurized situations—but she was standing on the edge of a very high cliff, just about to step off.
Someone would have to be there to catch her. And that someone couldn’t be the Mages’ Guild. If they added her to their arsenal and trained her up, they’d be unstoppable.
“Damn it,” he swore. He started off toward the bodies. “Solas, calm the weather, but leave it lightly raining. This part of the world is always lightly raining.”
“Is it? How dreary.”
“Then you can go. I won’t need an Elemental after this. Thank you for your help.”
“You did not need me for this. My debt to you is unresolved.”
He shook his head, wanting to be done with her. He wasn’t in a position to owe and receive favors—for someone to keep tabs on him out of duty. In truth, he hadn’t even needed a storm tonight. He’d done it to satisfy her obligation, to send her on her way. A clean slate.
“That you would even come into the Brink to fulfill an obligation is more than most of your people would agree to,” he pushed.
“I am not most people—”
“Your obligation is met. We’re even.”
She stayed silent for a long time, studying him. Finally, she said, “If that is your wish…”
“Then so be it.” She paused in turning. “What will you do now?”
He stopped beside the bodies, all dressed in black. “I need to search these guys for clues about the guild hideout in this area, then get rid of the bodies, take down the spell keeping the humans away…”
“What about the pretty mage?”
He bent over the first man, ignoring the squished part from the car tire. “She has been hidden this long. Hopefully she’ll keep to herself for another day or two. I’ll circle back around to her as soon as I can.”
Solas finished her turn and tilted her head up to the sky. The sudden winds brought her words to him, amplified. “You shouldn’t assume what the guild knows and what they don’t. Never underestimate your enemy.”
Elmer crouched a little lower in the bushes, his limbs shaking. The Elemental was staring at the sky. The rain grew noticeably less intense. Not that it mattered for him. Elmer was soaked through, the cold and wet sinking down to his bones.
Fifty yards away, the natural mage dug through Jessiah’s pockets before moving on to Claud. They lay there, deathly still.
There was little hope they’d survived the attack. Even if they had withstood the ferocious and incredibly powerful magic from the natural mage and his mysterious ally, they couldn’t have withstood the car tires. That female natural was as powerful as she was ruthless. A force to be reckoned with.
Elmer was ever so thankful the mages had told him to stay hidden, to watch the battle and pick up a few pointers instead of getting in the way. They’d thought it a chance to further his training and education, when really, it had saved his life.
Elmer lowered the phone in his hand, gently shaking the bush as he did so.
The natural mage straightened up, looking at something he’d pulled out of Claud’s pocket. Something damaging, no doubt. Claud had been supremely confident that no one could take him down. He hadn’t heeded the others’ warnings to be careful. To keep information safely hidden.
The natural mage didn’t notice the movement, thank the gods.
Sighing in relief, Elmer glanced at the phone screen. The license plate number had been perfectly captured by his camera. He might not have been able to help his three trainers, but he could help the guild as a whole. He could help them find the girl.
“Why aren’t you up?”
I jumped at the sound of my mother’s voice and curled tighter into a ball underneath the covers.
“Penelope Bristol, I know you’re awake. Get up this instant. You’re going to be late for work.”
“Stop picking my lock,” I said with the same petulant tone I’d used since I was a teenager. Some things couldn’t be helped.
“Get up. You gave that establishment your word that you would show up five days a week. Come hell or high water, a Bristol keeps her word.”
I pushed my sheets down and glared at my mother, who took up a large portion of the doorway. Pink curlers covered her head, and white…stuff covered her mustache line.
“You don’t want me to learn anything about witchcraft, but you’re totally fine with me being a fortune-teller? Doesn’t that strike you as odd, Mother?”
“Don’t you give me that sass. Get up. We both know you’re about as gifted in foresight as you are in aquatics. You know enough to keep from drowning, but you better have a floatie handy just in case.”
I frowned at her. I wasn’t a terrible swimmer. Though she did have a point about fortunetelling. I certainly was terrible at that.
“Still. I basically lie for a living,” I said, not moving. “As my mother and the person responsible for teaching me morals, that should give you pause.”
“You don’t lie. You comfort people. Those are different things. Why they believe you, I have no idea, but they seem to and that’s fine. Now get up.” She trundled into my room like a Mack truck after a shot of nitrous.
I sat up, immediately thinking back on the night before. The stranger standing in the middle of the street, a black shadow in the low, murky light of a rainy late afternoon. His large stature and powerfully broad shoulders were a threat in themselves, but that inky globe resting between his palms had been the biggest threat of all.
“I think I might just quit that job, actually.” I glanced at the window. Water sifted down, a light drizzle—not enough to keep people from visiting the medieval village. The storm had blown out as fast as it had come in. “I can probably find something that pays better. Like an office job. Or, I don’t know, maybe traveling. I’d like to travel to New Orleans one day…”
She laid my robe on the bed before opening a drawer and pulling out a pair of sparkly thong panties.
“Mother!” I leapt up. “Get out of there.”
“Like I haven’t seen this?” She held up the underwear and raised her eyebrows. “You think I was always this old and fat, do you? Well, I wasn’t. Your father used to like these little—”
“No, no, no, no, no!” I snatched the thong out of her hand. “I’ll get dressed. Fine. You did your job. Get out.”
“If you want to quit that job, go ahead. But you’ll give your notice like a professional. You will not leave them high and dry.”
“They don’t even need me. They have me next to a palm reader. We do practically the same thing.”
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