Three Mages and a Margarita (The Guild Codex: Spellbound Book 1) by Annette Marie


  “When Kai and Ezra were arranging to go to Stanley Park on Sunday, did they talk about their plans while they were here?”

  “Here?” He glanced around the kitchen. “Uh. Yeah, I remember Kai talking to the Stanley Coven on the phone. We were upstairs in the workroom.”

  I pressed a hand to my mouth, my heart hammering.

  “Tori, what the hell is wrong?”

  “I just realized … we’ve been wondering how the rogue guild knew to ambush you near my apartment, and how they knew where I’d be on Sunday, and why they thought you’d be alone that night. We assumed they were predicting our movements, but it’s way simpler than that.”

  His expression hardened with intensity. “How?”

  I wrapped my arms around myself. “Last Saturday before we left, when you offered to walk me home, I mentioned West Georgia Street—and that’s where you first noticed we were being followed. While here at the guild, Kai talked on the phone about how he and Ezra would be gone on Sunday night. And”—I swallowed—“on Saturday, I mentioned to Sabrina that I was going shopping and what my favorite store is.”

  Aaron’s eyes widened.

  “In the storage room, you said, ‘Who could possibly overhear us?’ But there is someone—”

  “Tom,” Aaron hissed. “Is he here? I saw him earlier.”

  “No, he already left. I just checked.” I peered toward the bar as though I could see the corner where Tom had been sitting most of the night—and where he’d been almost every night. Clear as chiming bells, I could hear Liam’s voice as he explained Tom’s psychic ability, clairaudience. Super hearing. He can hear people talking within a certain vicinity.

  Aaron raked a hand through his hair. “Okay, so Tom is probably the only person who could have overheard all three conversations, but that would mean he’s been feeding information to the rogue guild. He wouldn’t do that.”

  “How do you know?”

  “He—he just wouldn’t. He’s a guild member. He wouldn’t betray us like that.”

  I closed my hand around Aaron’s arm, holding tight. What he was really saying was that a guild member wouldn’t betray the guild. Aaron didn’t believe any of his precious comrades-in-arms would deceive him.

  Deception, Sabrina’s tarot cards had warned. Deception lurks in the shadows, calling the conflict ever closer.

  Calling the conflict.

  Tom had left.

  “Aaron,” I gasped. “We need to leave. Right now.”

  Chapter Eighteen

  “What?” Aaron said blankly.

  “We need to leave,” I repeated, panic flaring through me. “Tom left. Liam was the last one here, and he just went home. We’re alone—just like the first time we were attacked.”

  “We’re in the guild, Tori. No one would be dumb enough to attack us here. Besides that, our team is hunting down the rogues as we speak. It doesn’t matter if Tom tries to tip them off.”

  I sucked in a shallow breath to quell my anxiety.

  Aaron rubbed my arms soothingly. “It’s okay. We’ll wait here.” He pulled his phone out, thumbs zooming over the keys. “Felix will come right back after they’re done, since he’s on duty tonight, but I’ll tell Kai and Ezra to return here too. We’ll find out from them if Tom is really involved.”

  “Okay,” I mumbled uncertainly.

  “Message sent.” He looked up from his phone with a smile. “I told you I would always—”

  I didn’t see it, but I heard it—the sickening crack of something hitting bone.

  Aaron lurched sideways, then crumpled. As he hit the floor, my heart slammed to a dead halt, shock paralyzing my entire body. With a silent gargle that would’ve been a scream if I’d had air in my lungs, I stumbled toward him.

  Something flashed past me, just missing my face. I reeled back, hands outstretched with no idea what I was defending against. I spun around and froze a second time.

  People had appeared—three of them, standing casually at the back of the kitchen. A man, a woman … and Tom. His usually shy expression was lined with sadistic glee. I staggered a step away, my foot bumping Aaron’s unmoving arm.

  Three shiny orbs the size of billiard balls hovered in front of the unfamiliar man, each glowing a different color. As they stilled, floating serenely, the red splatters on one became visible. Horrified, I looked down at Aaron—at the blood running down the side of his slack face.

  “He should have listened to you,” Tom said conversationally. “If you’d run immediately, you might’ve escaped.”

  My hands clenched and I inched back another half step. “But then I wouldn’t have gotten to tell you to your face that you’re a shit-eating coward who deserves every bit of pain coming your way.”

  The woman laughed. “Take her out.”

  The other man canted his head, and I threw myself down as two orbs whipped past. Telekinesis. How the hell was I supposed to defend against a telekinetic?

  Go for his eyes, Aaron had told me after Liam had messed with me. He needs to see to use his telekinesis.

  Launching up, I sprinted for the saloon doors. The woman laughed again.

  An orb struck my shoulder with the force of a major league pitcher throwing a fastball. The impact spun me in a half circle and I bounced off the counter but kept on my feet. Gasping, I slapped a hand against the light switch.

  Darkness plunged over the room. Only the faintest light leaked in from the pub, but it did nothing to illuminate the kitchen. The three orbs glowed, hovering in the air near me, but they weren’t moving. The telekinetic didn’t know where to aim them.

  “Get the lights back on!” the woman yelled.

  Tom and the telekinetic growled at each other, clattering against counters and cupboards as they searched for a switch. Crouching, I slid an empty stock pot off the counter and crept toward the orbs. They glowed, allowing the telekinetic to see them, but maybe I could fix that.

  Taking aim with my pot, I swept it through the air like a bug-catching net. Clang, clang, clang. The three orbs hit the bottom of the pot and I slammed it down on the floor, trapping the balls and extinguishing their telltale glow. The man swore furiously.

  I shoved the pot under the sink where the telekinetic wouldn’t spot it even if they got the lights on again, then threw my hands out, feeling for the sauce pans hanging over the range. Grabbing a handle, I charged. I’d been through this kitchen a hundred times. I didn’t need light.

  When I heard the scuff of backpedaling shoes, I whipped the sauce pan around in my signature baseball swing. It thwacked into a body. Skirting back a step, I wound up and swung again. This time I hit a bony limb and the telekinetic yelped.

  A footstep clacked on the floor on my other side, and I whirled, ready to strike. A hand touched my shoulder.

  The saucepan fell to the floor with a bang, and my arms dropped to my sides. I stood there, unmoving, the hand on my arm and a voice in my head. It commanded me to stand still—and that’s what I did. I could do nothing else, the voice drowning out my thoughts, my consciousness.

  Clattering sounds, then light bloomed, blasting my eyes. But I didn’t move. I didn’t know how.

  Tom’s face appeared in front of me, and he sneered. “You were right that I was passing on information about Aaron, but you were wrong about everything else.”

  “You two carry the Sinclair kid,” the woman ordered.

  Tom’s face disappeared, and more scuffling sounds followed. Then the light changed—a surge of red and yellow, the crackle of flames, and an agonized howl.

  The hand on my arm disappeared and awareness flooded my mind. I recoiled, hitting the door to the walk-in fridge and grabbing the handle for balance. The door swung inward and I almost fell, my legs trembling.

  Aaron was halfway up, blood streaking his face. Fire blazed over his arms and his hands clenched around fistfuls of Tom’s shirt. Tom screamed, grabbing at Aaron’s wrists but unable to touch the flames that coated his skin.

  The telekinetic thrust his
hand out and an invisible force shoved Aaron backward. Tom tore free, sobbing as he scrambled away. With a wave of his hand, the telekinetic lifted my abandoned saucepan off the floor and it streaked toward Aaron’s head.

  He smashed it out of the air with his fist, flames exploding on impact. The telekinetic snapped his hand in a “come-hither” motion. A butcher knife zoomed across the kitchen and halted inches from my throat.

  “Stop where you are, or she dies,” the telekinetic barked.

  Teeth bared and fear in his eyes, Aaron went still. The fire on his arms flickered out.

  “If you move,” the woman purred, stepping toward him, “you’ll get to watch her bleed out all over the floor.”

  She reached for his arm.

  “No, Aaron!” I yelled. “Don’t let her touch y—”

  Her hand wrapped around his wrist. The fury and fear in his face evaporated, and his expression went as lifeless as a plastic mannequin. The woman turned a simpering smile on me and flipped her blond hair over her shoulder with her free hand.

  “Shall we, then?” she said to her accomplices.

  The telekinetic, his eyes fixed on the floating knife pointed at my unprotected throat, smirked triumphantly. Openly weeping from his burns, Tom had staggered to the back entrance at the far end of the kitchen, and the woman started after him, her hand tightly gripping Aaron’s wrist. He followed submissively, his eyes vacant. He didn’t look at me as they passed. He didn’t see me at all, and I knew why. She had control of his mind, just as she’d controlled me.

  Tom disappeared through the back door, and the woman paused in the threshold. “Why don’t we show Darius how serious we are? A dead body in his guild ought to get his attention.”

  Chuckling to herself, she steered Aaron out the door, leaving me with the telekinetic. As they vanished, the butcher knife floated away from me as though an invisible wielder were drawing it back to strike. I stared at the blade, unable to move, nowhere to go.

  The knife shot for my throat—then veered off course, screeching across the walk-in fridge door.

  “Tori!”

  At the other end of the kitchen, Liam hung off a saloon door, one hand stretched toward me.

  Swearing, the other telekinetic waved emphatically. Two more butcher knives whipped out of the block and catapulted for Liam. He ran toward the projectiles as a huge pot lid flew in front of him like a shield. The knives ricocheted off the lid and everything crashed to the floor.

  Liam skidded to a stop beside me, hands outstretched as though waiting for the next item to command.

  The other telekinetic glanced over Liam and sneered. A serrated bread knife pulled from the block’s dwindling supply, then a thin-bladed boning knife. As the points swerved in our direction, Liam thrust his hands toward them.

  The knives stopped where they were, vibrating in the air.

  A third knife pulled out of the block and spun to face us. Liam gasped, muscles tensed like he was straining against a terrible weight. The three knives vibrated harder. Liam panted, his arms trembling from the effort.

  The third knife wobbled, then flashed into motion. Liam flung a hand toward it, halting its movement—but the other two broke free and whipped across the distance.

  Liam fell back, tumbling into me. I grabbed him and threw us into the open walk-in fridge. As I kicked the door shut, the third knife hit the metal with a shriek. Footsteps stomped toward the door and I wrapped my fists around the handle, determined to hold it closed.

  “Leave them!” the woman called. “We have what we came for.”

  “Fine,” the telekinetic snarled, his voice right outside the door. The handle shuddered under my palm and a terrifying metallic crunch sounded, then his footsteps thudded away. A door banged.

  I whirled toward Liam. He lay on his back, hyperventilating as his hands waved helplessly around his chest where two knives stuck out of his body.

  “Oh god,” I whimpered. “Hold on, Liam.”

  I fumbled my phone out of my pocket, but there was no reception in the metal-lined fridge. Lurching to the door, I twisted the handle. It didn’t move.

  “No,” I moaned, wrenching on it. “No!”

  I battered my shoulder against the door but the impact didn’t so much as shake the heavy, insulated metal. I twisted the handle until pain burned through my fingers, but I couldn’t make it move. The telekinetic had jammed it.

  Dropping to my knees beside Liam, the painful chill of the floor spreading through my jeans, I tried to remember a long-ago first aid class. Blood trickled from around the knives, and the handles shifted with every frenzied breath he took.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I came back … forgot my sunglasses … heard you—”

  “Shh, Liam.” I wrapped his cold hand in both of mine. “Just hang in there. Help will be here soon.”

  He nodded, his face white, and didn’t ask the question I knew he was thinking. The question I was desperately avoiding.

  Help would come … eventually. But would it come soon enough to save Liam’s life?

  Chapter Nineteen

  Ezra leaned against the table, and I leaned against him. His warm arms banded across my back as though he could squeeze the shivers out of me. I tried to stop my teeth from chattering.

  An hour. An hour trapped in the fridge, desperately hoping Liam wouldn’t die before Ezra, Kai, and Felix returned. I’d heard them come in and screamed my head off until they broke the door open. Kai and Felix had rushed Liam away, taking him … somewhere. Kai had been on the phone with a woman named Elisabetta—the guild’s best healer.

  I’d already given them a brief rundown of what had happened, but while we waited for Kai to return, I told Ezra everything. As I spoke, he went more and more rigid, his arms like steel clamps. The air around us grew noticeably chill and the lights dimmed. I pretended not to notice.

  Ezra’s phone chimed. Keeping an arm around me, he fished it out of his pocket, the studded knuckles of his bad-guy-smasher gloves gleaming. He swiped the screen up and read a message.

  “Liam is with Elisabetta,” he murmured, his smooth voice soothing my anxiety. “Kai and Felix are on their way back, and they’ve called in the troops. Every guild member they could reach is on their way here.”

  I nodded against his chest, too exhausted and sick with worry to voice the questions piling up in my head. Ezra cocooned me in his arms again. My shoulder, struck by the telekinetic’s murder-ball, throbbed nonstop.

  When the front door snapped open, I jumped half a foot and Ezra clamped me tighter to him as though I might leap over backward and hurt myself. Zora swept inside, her pink-streaked pixie cut damp and her giant sword in hand, the sheath’s straps dragging on the floor.

  “Got Felix’s message,” she said tersely. “I’d just stepped out of the shower. What happened?”

  Now that we had company, I tried to pull out of Ezra’s arms but he didn’t let go.

  “While we were hunting the rogues,” he said, an unfamiliar growl in his voice, “a different group attacked Tori, Liam, and Aaron. They took Aaron. Liam is with Elisabetta. Stab wounds.”

  Zora’s eyes blazed. “They took Aaron? How?”

  “From what Tori described, it sounded like a mentalist.”

  She swore with such vileness that I flinched. “You okay, Tori?”

  “I’m fine.” I pried myself out of Ezra’s embrace. “What’s a mentalist?”

  Zora’s mouth twisted with distaste. “A type of psychic who can influence the thoughts or actions of—”

  She broke off as Lyndon the sorcerer strode into the building, followed a moment later by Sin, her hair a tangle and her t-shirt inside out.

  “Tori! Are you okay?” Racing past Lyndon, she grabbed my hand. “Why are you so cold?”

  “I got locked in the fridge.”

  “What?”

  “What’s happening?” Lyndon asked, rubbing the stubble on his usually shaved head. “All Felix’s message said was Liam is in critical co
ndition, Aaron is missing, and everyone needs to get their asses over here.”

  “Felix can explain when he arrives,” Ezra replied. “He’s on his way back.”

  Lyndon nodded toward Ezra’s gear, his Twin Terrors lying on the table behind us. “How did the rogue hunting go?”

  “Better than expected. They had no idea we were coming, which makes the rest of this even stranger.”

  The five of us waited without speaking as the minutes ticked past. More guild members arrived in ones, twos, and threes—familiar faces like Gwen, Ramsey, and Taye from Kai’s rogue hunting team; Andrew, Cameron, and Cearra from the team that had exterminated a vampire nest; Sylvia, the Manhattan-loving sorceress; Riley, Sin’s curly-haired alchemist friend; the yoga witch and her boyfriend. Others I hadn’t seen since my first shift came in as well, gathering silently in the pub. It occurred to me I should offer them drinks or something, but I didn’t move from Ezra’s side.

  The atmosphere was tense, the silence oppressive. Some asked what was going on, but Ezra gave the same answer: “Felix will explain.”

  Finally, the back door thumped and a moment later, Felix strode out of the kitchen with Kai right behind him, still clad in his black warrior gear, looking none the worse for having spent the last several hours tagging rogues. As Felix took a spot in front of the bar, facing the gathered mythics, Kai swept around the table and stopped on my other side.

  “I’ll get straight to business.” Felix glanced at me, then continued. “A rogue guild dubbed the East Hastings Gang has been targeting Aaron for two weeks. Tonight, while Kai led a team against them, another group showed up here. Liam was critically injured in the fight, and Aaron was captured.”

  “Was that group part of the rogue guild?” Zora demanded.

  “We’re not sure.” Felix’s jaw flexed. “We learned from the rogues that they were hired to abduct Aaron. We also learned tonight that Tom Newburg, our clairaudient, has been passing information to either the rogues or the unknown party—or both.”

  Gasps rang through the group. “Tom? Are you sure?”

 
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