Playing with Fire - By Katie MacAlister

Chapter One

"Good twin calling evil twin. The weasel crows at midnight. How copy?"

"Oh, for mercy's sake... I'm busy! Stop sending me silly messages in code! If you have something to say, just say it; otherwise, radio silence, remember?"

"You're no fun anymore. You used to be fun, but lately, I've noticed a change in you. Is it menopause, May?"

Cyrene 's question took me aback so strongly, I stopped creeping down the darkened hallway and blinked in dumbfounded surprise at the mirror that hung on the wall opposite.

No reflected figure blinked back at me.

"Are you still having your period? Do you experience hot flashes at night? Are you now growing, or have you at any time in the recent past grown, a mustache?"

"Goddess help me," I murmured to no one in particular, and tried my best to ignore the perky little voice that chirped so happily in my ear as I continued to make my way down to the dark and deserted room. I thought for a moment of just turning off the miniature radio that allowed Cyrene to contact me, but knowledge born of long experience with my twin reminded me of the folly of such an idea.

"Boy, you really are in a grumpy mood if you won't rise to the bait of menopause," she said in a mildly disgruntled voice.

I stopped briefly to admire a beautiful dull-sea green vase that sat in a glass-fronted display case before slipping silently across the room to the door opposite. "That's because it was completely ridiculous. You're older than me, which means you'll be menopausal before me."

"I'm barely older than you. Just a few years, really. A thousand at the most. What are you doing now?"

Trying to keep from going mad, I wanted to say, but I knew better than to do that, too. Cyrene being helpful was survivable... Cyrene hurt, depressed, or unhappy could have dire repercussions that I truly didn't want to contemplate. "I'm in the library, approaching the office. Which could well have extra security, so radio silence from here on out, OK?"

"You said I could help you." The petulance in her voice was potent enough to make my lips tighten.

"You're helping me by guarding the front of the house." I sidled up to the door and gave it a good long look. There were no wards that I could see. I held up my hand, lightly placing my fingers on the wood. Nothing triggered my sensitive danger alarm.

"I'm on the other side of the street!"

The doorknob turned easily, the door opening with the slightest whisper, which bespoke attentive care by the house staff. "Gives you a better view."

"In a tree!"

"Height gives you an advantage. Hmm." Across the small room, another lovely antique display case stood, this one lit from within, the yellow light spilling out of the case and casting a pool on the thick carpet beneath it. There were a couple of pieces of object d'art in the case, but it was the slender glass vial that sat alone on the center shelf that held my attention.

"Hmm what? I think I'm getting bugs. There are definitely bugs in this tree. What hmm? Did you find the thingie?"

"The Liquor Hepatis? Yes. Now, hush. I have to figure out how this case is protected."

"This is so exciting," Cyrene whispered. "I've never been a part of one of your jobs before. Although this watching business is a bit boring, and I don't see that it's necessary if you said this mage is in England somewhere. I mean, after all, it's a mage!"

The disdain in her voice was evident even over the tinny radio.

"I never did understand what you have against mages. They're just people like everyone else," I murmured as I eyeballed the mundane electronic alarm.

"Oh, they think they're so high and mighty with their arcane magic and deep, dark secrets of the universe. Bah. Give me a nice simple elemental spell any day. Mages are very overrated. I don't see why you don't just go in and get the thingie."

"Overrated or not, Magoth said this particular mage was gone, but his staff is here, and not even a mage would leave something as valuable as an arcanum of the soul unguarded," I answered, disabling the alarm. Mages, as a rule, dislike modern security measures, usually preferring to rely on their own arcane resources, and the owner of the case before me was no different.

I smiled at the spells woven into the wood itself, intended to keep intruders Copyright 2016 - 2024