Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) - Page 26


“Counteracting Carnades was a simple matter of Vidor and me working out a few details ahead of time.” Mychael moved to mindspeak, too.


“The lie about him hearing Nukpana—”


“Was one of them. This was another. Coming here gave me the opportunity to be seen leaving here—with you.”


“Where are we going?”


Mychael reached out with both hands and pulled my hood up to hide my face. “Hunting.”


Chapter 10


Watcher headquarters was on the edge of the city center near the entertainment district. When you’re law enforcement in a college town, it makes sense to be close to the most likely source of disturbances. With the dusk-to-dawn curfew, the only people on the streets were either watchers or Guardians. Within a few minutes of leaving headquarters, Mychael pulled me back into the shadows as a pair of watchers turned the corner across the street from where we were.


Okay, it was now officially snowing in Hell. Mychael Eiliesor was hiding from the law.


Once the pair had gone far enough down the street, Mychael took my hand tightly in his and we quickly slipped around the corner of the next side street. It was narrow, not much more than an alley. I didn’t speak and Mychael didn’t slow down. We passed another four patrols, two of them Guardians. We hid from all four, and Mychael supplemented the shadows concealing us with a veiling spell as the Guardians passed.


My nose told me that we were getting close to the harbor. My instincts told me we were getting close to our destination. I was right.


Mychael stopped at a boarded-up building that looked like its best days had come and gone long ago. He led me from the street and down some narrow stairs to a door without a knob. He laid his hand flat against the wood and murmured a few words. The door opened on silent—and well-oiled and maintained—hinges.


Mychael shut the door behind us and, with a word, wove a lightglobe into existence that floated above his open palm. We were in a basement that looked like some of the more comfortable hideouts Uncle Ryn had in every major port city. It had the basics: table, a couple of chairs, a bed in the far corner.


And weapons. Lots and lots of weapons.


“So this is your secret hideout.”


“One of them,” Mychael said out loud. “And there’s no need for mindspeak; this room is soundproof and spellproof.”


I grinned and shook my head. “Damn.”


“What?”


“Mychael Eiliesor has a secret lair and is hiding from the law.”


He held up a finger. “Not hiding. I just don’t want to answer any awkward questions or have anyone know where I am.”


“Sounds like Phaelan after he’s pulled a job.” I gave him a slow smile. “What job are we pulling this evening?”


“Sarad Nukpana has an uncle—” Mychael began.


“Janos Ghalfari, the nachtmagus who’s helping him,” I interrupted. “Tam told me. He also told me that he found four houses in the city owned by Nukpana’s mother’s family, and that Nukpana isn’t in any of them.”


“He’s not. What else did Tam tell you?”


I told him about the coach, horses, houses, and how Uncle Janos had nicely come all the way from Regor to help his dear nephew grow his body back.


Mychael nodded in approval. “Good, that saves me a lot of talking. We don’t have time. We have a meeting to go to.”


“Okay, now I’m completely confused.”


“No doubt.”


“What kind of meeting?”


“When a goblin needs something done that another goblin can’t or won’t do, there are a handful of humans on Mid who will get them anything they need for the right price. Janos Ghalfari is helping his nephew regenerate, but he’s not the kidnapper. As far as Ghalfari is concerned, that’s why you hire servants. A goblin would be too easily traced. I’ve discovered that he’s hired two humans through an intermediary.” Mychael paused. “A man and a woman.”


Shit. Mychael didn’t need to say anything else, or even think it. I knew what he wanted me for.


A glamour. To use my magic to make myself look and sound like someone else. It was something I’d never been able to do before the Saghred had done its enhancement work on my previously meager magical skill set.


“We’ve got the two of them under lock and key,” Mychael was saying. “I can do a glamour to alter my face and ears. The man is close enough to me in build so that won’t be a problem. And as a spellsinger, I can change my voice.”


“That doesn’t do me any good. I’ve only done a glamour once and it didn’t go well.” And I didn’t want to do one again.


“Raine, you glamoured yourself into a man, an elven embassy captain no less, and talked your way into the embassy when every guard in the place was on battle alert.”


“And I lost the glamour.”


“Only when Piaras thought you were one of his jailers and punched you in the balls. That’d make any man lose any number of things, least of all his concentration. The embassy was on lockdown, yet you waltzed right in.”


I scowled. “Yeah, I had big balls that night.”


Mychael grinned. “So I heard. I’ve never heard of an anatomically correct glamour.”


“What can I say? I’m gifted. I was also motivated as hell. That might have been the only reason why the spell worked.”


“You don’t believe that and neither do I, or I wouldn’t have brought you here.” Mychael’s eyes were intent on mine. “Raine, I need your help. Kester Morrell and Maire Orla are the names of the humans Ghalfari hired through a local procurer by the name of Karl Cradock. We’re meeting Cradock in less than an hour at a tavern called the Bare Bones down on the waterfront.”


I sighed in resignation. I had to do this and I knew it. “What’s supposed to happen at this meeting?”


“Cradock will pay Morrell and Orla and give them the name of their target—and most important, we’ll be told where to deliver him.”


“What are the chances that it’ll be where Sarad Nukpana is hiding?”


“Slim, but if we can follow, we can find.”


I grinned slowly. “And lucky you, you’ve got one of the best seekers there is with you.”


“I think I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Mychael said softly.


Those words had more than one meaning and from his heated gaze, he meant all of them.


No time to think about Mychael getting lucky, though the visual popped into my head before I could stop it. Mychael knew and the heat in his eyes turned to a challenge.


“Are you in?” he asked, his voice very deep, very male.


I also tried not to think about Mychael’s strong hands roaming all over my naked body, touching, healing—heating. My face wasn’t the only part of me that flushed with warmth.


Mychael responded with a

crooked grin. He knew exactly what I was thinking. “Well, are you?”


A wry smile curled my lips. “All the way.”


“Then let’s do it.”


Sarad Nukpana would want to kidnap either someone I cared about or someone whose death could be pinned squarely on me. I’d either be heartbroken or executed—someone I loved would die or I would. One or the other, and the choice hadn’t been mine until now. If I didn’t screw this up, and we pulled this off, and I found the son of a bitch, we could stop both from happening.


“One question.”


Mychael paused. “Yes?”


“What happened to ‘protect Raine at all costs’?”


“The costs have gotten too high. Kester Morrell never goes anywhere without Maire Orla. They’re partners. It’d tip Cradock off immediately if Morrell showed up for the payoff without her. What you did in the elven embassy was beyond amazing. You have a gift, and one that right now, quite frankly, I’m glad you have.”


“Even if that ‘gift’ came from the Saghred?” I didn’t even try to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.


“Raine, you’re only linked to the Saghred—you are not that rock, and you never will be. You’re stronger than it is, and you need to start believing that.”


I snorted derisively. “Yeah, I’m stronger than a rock that flattens armies.”


“Has it flattened any armies lately?”


“No, but—”


“Because you haven’t let it. You haven’t fed it, and whenever it has tried to control you, you’ve stopped it. That strength is your gift, Raine.”


“I’m not strong. I’m just stubborn.”


A corner of his mouth quirked upward. “There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re stubborn, but you need to get rid of any doubt that you’re not strong enough for anything the Saghred, Nukpana, Carnades, Balmorlan, or anyone else throws at you, because they’re going to be throwing plenty.”


“And if all else fails, I’m a Benares, so I know how to fight dirty.”


“Strength, stubbornness, and underhanded tactics—you can’t lose.” Mychael’s expression turned solemn. “Raine, when we were first bonded I saw you, all of you. I know who you are; I saw your strength, your beautiful spirit. I know what you can do if you simply believe and give yourself the chance.” His next words were deliberate. “And I know what you would never do. That voice you hear, the Saghred’s voice, it’s lying when it says you’re weak; it says that to make you doubt, to make you afraid. Not of the Saghred, but of yourself. It lies because it is the one afraid of you.”


“Mychael, I’m afraid of myself.” I closed my eyes. I had to get the words out; I had to say it out loud. The fear had haunted my thoughts; maybe if I said it, admitted it, the fear would go away, or at least I could control it, before it and the Saghred completely controlled me.


To forget how good the Saghred’s full power coming awake inside of me had felt.


The power, the strength that had coursed through every part of me, to take, to kill. In the bordello, the urge to take that specter had felt good. Too good. Deep down, some dark core of me wanted to do it, wanted to feel that dark magic heating every part of me, needed to feel that destructive power hammering into my enemies.