Authors: Craig Andrews
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2013 by My Story Productions. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: 2013
This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Also by Craig Andrews
who sees me at my best, and my worst,
but loves me always.
I love you.
aylis emerged from the dark alley with Nyla a couple of steps behind him. The night swallowed the dim light from the flickering streetlamp as he pulled his black coat tight around his shoulders, shielding himself from the rain. He fought to hold back his nervousness—for her sake. It was useless.
made them closer than family and more intimate than lovers. It was also forbidden. If any of the Grand Mages ever discovered that he and Nyla had developed one—No, he wouldn’t think about that.
Nyla glanced at him from the corner of her eye, silently probing his apprehension. He ignored her, instead surveying their surroundings.
“He’s home,” Baylis said, looking at the three-story apartment complex across the street. Most of the windows were dark, but at the corner of the top floor was an illuminated window.
Nyla’s blue eyes narrowed, sharply piercing the night. She seemed to be squinting, but Baylis knew better. She was focusing.
“He’s alone,” she said.
“Good.” Relieved, Baylis sighed. “We made it in time.” He waited for a car to pass then stepped into the street. The sound of water spun from the tires splashing against the wheel wells hid the sound of their footsteps.
Nyla jogged to catch up and took her position at his side. Her silver hair was tucked inside her black compression armor, and she wore a hood to hide the rest. Concealed by the rain, they were two shadows hidden in the night.
The gate into the apartment complex was locked, but it was a relic that hadn’t been updated since the turn of the last century. Baylis wielded water and projected it into the lock, immediately solidifying it into ice crystals so that it pushed against the correct pins, unlocking the mechanism.
“I wish I could do that,” Nyla said.
He smiled at her. It was nothing more than a trick young magi could use to commit pranks. But Nyla was a cleric and therefore had different abilities. “That’s why you have me.” He held the door as she entered.
The complex was empty. He heard some rustling and a few televisions through the thin walls, but the building was otherwise quiet. Making their way to the third-story corner apartment, they kept their pace and movements controlled to avoid attention. Baylis stopped outside the corner apartment. The metal door was painted a deep red. He gave Nyla a slight nod and grabbed the doorknob.
That’s when he heard it—a sound like a match igniting.
Instinctively, Baylis threw his shoulder into the door, barreling into the apartment and yanking Nyla in with him. A mass of blue ice streaked past the door, shattering against the exposed-brick wall at the end of the hall. Small water droplets and ice crystals littered the hallway, quickly melting into the cheap carpet.
“What the hell?” their mark yelled, leaping up from the couch. He was a slender man who was younger than Baylis, with wide-set eyes and a pronounced chin. “Who the hell are you? Get out!” His voice cracked with fear.
A coward, too, apparently. What could Lukas want with him?
“We’re not alone,” Nyla said. “Lukas came for him after all.”
“I noticed.” Baylis glanced at the door, waiting for their pursuer to enter the apartment. The mission was supposed to be simple. They were supposed to grab their mark and bring him under their protection before Lukas could snatch him. And if they met resistance or if Lukas or one of his magi arrived, Baylis and Nyla had been ordered to flee in order to prevent a scene—and to preserve their secret. “Come on!”
The small, single-bedroom apartment had an open concept and was decorated with a mixture of movie posters and sports memorabilia. A well-used couch with sagging cushions and greasy food stains sat in the center of the apartment, facing a thin widescreen television mounted on the wall. Windows, including one leading to the fire escape, lined the north side.
“I said, get the fuck out of my apartment!”
Baylis raced across the apartment then threw open the window to the fire escape. The rain hadn’t let up, and a sudden gust of wind carried it into the apartment.
“Baylis…” Nyla said. Their pursuer stepped in from the hall, his face hidden in shadow.
“I told you—” their mark said, voice growing firm. He strode toward Nyla and grabbed her by her shoulders. His grip faltered, and his gaze fell to his chest, where a jagged piece of ice protruded from his torso. Blood dripped from his lips onto the ice, staining its tip pink. He fell, exposing the man behind him.
Lukas had come himself.
Lukas’s thin lips pursed in obvious frustration. Baylis was certain Lukas hadn’t expected resistance, and he wouldn’t be happy the man he’d come for was lying dead at Nyla’s feet—even if the killing blow had been his own.
Short in stature with wide shoulders, Lukas was a human pit bull. Colored tattoos of fire, water, and air rose from the collar of his shirt and extended up his neck. He kept his curly brown hair short and his face cleanly shaven.
Nyla retreated slowly, holding her hands in front of her in submission, like a person trying not to spook an aggressive dog. But Lukas wasn’t a man who could be held back with submissiveness.
Baylis darted across the room, stepping in front of Nyla to shield her. “Get onto the fire escape,” he said. “Make your way down and run. I’ll catch up.”
She started to say something, but he pushed her away. She should have known better than to distract him. The metal platform creaked ominously as she lunged through the window, but it held, and she quickly descended.
Baylis met Lukas’s eye, weighing the man. Preventing a fight—or a scene—was impossible. The best Baylis could do was keep it confined to the apartment, away from the streets and away from the public and cameras. He wielded fire, projecting it into balls in each of his hands then hurled them at Lukas. Halfway across the room they collided, exploding into a single fireball. Then, wielding again, Baylis hit the fireball with a concussion of air that launched it across the room in a blink.
Lukas clapped his hands together then pulled them apart, stretching a shimmering wall of water between his palms. He caught the fireball, snuffing out the flames as he clapped his hands together again.
Baylis threw a chunk of ice, then a second smaller blast shaped like a chisel. The smaller ice blast cut into the larger, shattering it into dozens of pieces. There were too many for Lukas to counter. They sliced and burrowed into Lukas’s flesh, and he stumbled into the hall. Baylis backed toward the fire escape, keeping an eye on Lukas. Nyla was waiting at the bottom. If Baylis raced down the fire escape while Lukas was stunned, he could escape.
“Run!” he screamed.
She hesitated then ran, disappearing into the dark alley they had emerged from before entering the apartment complex.
Lukas wiped blood from his face with the back of his hand. “Why do you fight when you’ve already lost?”
“I fight for our survival,” Baylis said.
“As do I.” Lukas stepped back into the apartment. “But as long as we live in the shadows, as long as we hide, we’ll never survive.”
“It’s worked for centuries.”
Lukas shook his head. “No. We’re bleeding to death, and unless the wound is healed, we’ll die.”
“You are not our cleric, Lukas.”
“No,” Lukas said, “I am not.” He threw his arms out wide, igniting fireballs in his hands. Lunging forward, he clapped them together, making the two fireballs one, which he flung across the room. “I am your surgeon.”
Baylis threw an ice blast, striking the fireball in midair. The flames turned
and the fireball exploded, hurling Baylis out the window. He was only inches from the pavement by the time he oriented himself. He created a cushion of air between himself and the ground, and it kept him from dying, but not from blacking out from the pain. When Baylis regained consciousness, Lukas was standing over him.
“I’m sorry, Baylis. I wish it hadn’t come to this.”
Baylis coughed up blood. Hanging off the curb into the street, he was in a puddle of water. The cold was the only sensation he could feel beyond the pain in his chest. He couldn’t move his arms or legs. His breathing was weak and sporadic, and he knew the end was near.
Lukas knelt, placing his hands on Baylis’s chest. Baylis thought Lukas was going to heal him, but a magi couldn’t do that. Only a cleric could.
Where is Nyla?
A spasm of searing pain shot through his veins.
The first thing to go was his body heat. Already depleted from his repeated use of fire, he was quickly overtaken by shivers.
The next thing to go was his water. Baylis’s lips cracked as water was pulled from his body. His stomach twisted, rivaling the pain in his chest. Then, in a final draw of power, Lukas pulled the air from Baylis’s body into his own. The world went black as the oxygen retreated from Baylis’s brain. His last memory was of a smiling Lukas standing over him, looking rejuvenated and muttering to himself.
“Now, where is that cleric of yours?”
llyn’s phone rang for the third time in as many minutes. His sister, Kendyl, was calling. Again. He knew he was late, but he couldn’t do anything about that. Mr. Clarke,
named partner at Clarke, Poole, and Associates, was still in his office, so Allyn was still in his. So for the third time in as many minutes, Allyn ignored Kendyl’s call, returning to the case file in front of him.
It was pushing eight o’clock—late to be working on a Saturday night—and the rest of the associates in the small but prestigious firm had retired for the evening, but Allyn had a reputation to uphold. He wasn’t working a sexy case.
Hell, it isn’t even particularly good looking.
But it was important to his client and, thus, important to him. Besides, it was better than chasing ambulances.
Mr. Clarke turned his office light off.
Allyn thought. If he left right away, he would only be an hour late. He might still be able to talk his way out of this one.
Allyn watched as Mr. Clarke’s silhouette grabbed his coat off the coat rack in the corner of his office and threw it over his arm. Burying his head back in his paperwork, Allyn waited for just the right moment when Mr. Clarke would pass his office on the way to the elevator. He hoped Mr. Clarke would acknowledge him with a smile or a nod, anything to show him that his efforts were appreciated. When the squeaky footsteps told Allyn his boss was close, he looked up, hoping to catch Mr. Clark’s eye.
He stopped in the doorway. His square face was clean-shaven, and his full hair was peppered with gray and parted to the side. He leaned against the doorframe, smiling, his blue eyes as piercing as ever. “You wouldn’t be trying to impress me, would you, Mr. Kaplan?”
“No sir.” Allyn suppressed a smile. It felt good to be noticed. “I have a lot of work to catch up on.”
“A good lawyer can always tell when someone is lying.”
Allyn smiled. “Okay. I’m guilty.”
Mr. Clarke stepped into Allyn’s office and took a seat in one of the leather armchairs in front of his desk. Sitting on
side of the desk felt weird.
Allyn’s phone rang again.
Kendyl is going to kill me. Of all nights he wants to chat, it has to be tonight.
“Well, I am impressed.” Mr. Clarke crossed his legs. “You’ve been here for eleven months, and every day for eleven months, you’ve been the first to arrive and the last to leave.”
“Don’t play coy. You know exactly what you’ve been doing.”
“Don’t apologize, either. It obviously worked. You’ve caught my attention. Now, the question is, what are you going to do with it now that you have it?”
The leather creaked as Allyn shifted uncomfortably.
“You want to surprise me. Is that it?” Mr. Clarke asked.
“Something like that.”
“I’m a lawyer, Mr. Kaplan. I don’t like surprises.”
Allyn’s mouth went dry. His job was to know what to say and when to say it, but he was failing at it miserably.
Mr. Clarke burst into laughter. Allyn didn’t know whether to pack his belongings or join in.
“Jesus fucking Christ, son.” Mr. Clarke wiped his eyes. “I’m just pulling your leg. You need to get some sleep.”