Bound By Magick: GOING UNDER by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2013, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
Molly Ryan was the kind of woman men looked at.
Not in the same way they looked at the woman at the bar in the tight red sweater and a short skirt with heels. No, they looked at Molly the way people liked to look at pretty, elegant things.
The light seemed to hit her just right. She moved with the kind of grace he rarely saw in people who weren’t dancers. She charmed the hostess. He knew this because they got a great table.
“You’re like a Disney princess.”
Startled, she looked up from her menu. “What?”
“Birds sing, the clouds part, people turn to you expectantly. Is this part of your gift?”
The server came so they suspended the conversation briefly while they ordered.
“Am I so horrible then, Gage Garrity, that only magick would make someone turn to me expectantly?”
He paused, abashed, and then realized she was teasing. “Not horrible at all. Excuse my manners. Don’t tell my aunt or she’ll tell my mother and then I’ll have lectures about how I speak to women, as well as casseroles and my mom’s special tea blends showing up in my kitchen.”
She smiled. “Your aunt is formidable. I’m glad to have her working with me. I bet people will think twice before they give her any guff to get to me.”
Gage laughed. “Yes. Well, she’s a tough old bird.”
“To answer your question, I’m told that charm is part of my power. Rosa, she’s my other mother of sorts, anyway, she said people with my gifts often go into politics or entertainment. Maybe I should be an actor instead.”
He could totally see her as an actor. “Hours are probably better. Pay too.”
“Weather as well. Los Angeles is sunny today I bet.”
But then he wouldn’t be having lunch with her and Meriel would still be at risk too.
“So is there a good reason then? For your mother to be plying you with food?” Her eyes were beautiful, probably the most striking thing about her. The blue of deep, deep water, with flecks of gold around her pupils. Long, dark lashes.
Those eyes of hers saw right through him, he realized. It wasn’t entirely comfortable.
“Been a bit hectic here.” He shrugged.
“I don’t know much about it. About what happened I mean. What I do know is . . .” She shook her head quickly. “I know it’s not the time or place.”
“You’ll need to know it. For your job I mean. When we get back, have Rita get me on your schedule and we can go over it. For now, let’s get to the day-to-day stuff. What is your daily schedule going to look like? What sorts of events will have you leaving our building?”
He watched as she very precisely put sugar and cream into her coffee, stirring without making a single sound. She sipped and he saw it, the pleasure skittering over her features at the taste.
The moment was just a breath of time. And yet the intimacy of it shocked him. A flush heated through his belly.
She tore her attention from the coffee and back to him. “I needed that. Why do you ask? I’m assuming scheduling if and when I need security?”
He spoke under his breath and the spell dampened all sound around them. “We can hear when we’re being approached, but we can speak without being heard.”
Her eyes widened and the wonder on her face chipped away a little of his bitterness. “Really? Can you teach this to me? Oh, that would be brilliant.”
He found himself smiling more with her than he had in some time. “I can, yes. For now, the answer to your question is yes, I need to know for security reasons.”
“I expect for the next several days it’ll be a lot of catch-up and getting some structure into place. Then I’ll be doing the things Meriel does now. Interviews, that sort of thing. Do you have a website?”
“Hm? Uh, yes. Locked to Owen members only.”
She nodded and pulled a pad from her bag and began to write.
“I apologize. I wanted to note something while I was thinking. There’ll be legislative visits. But I can make the drive down to Olympia easily enough if the maps are correct. I’ll probably only need your help occasionally. Appearances will take up a lot of time some weeks and others I’ll be at the office. I’ll have Rita let your office know in advance if I’m doing something I feel will need an escort.”
He held his finger up briefly, breaking the spell as the server approached with their food and then recasting once they were alone again.
“You seem to like blunt talk, am I correct?”
She took him in, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Yes, I prefer it.”
“Things are bad. We get multiple death threats weekly. Meriel and Dominic have given Lark and I the ability to run the security needs of the clan and its witches. Lark and I believe your job will be as dangerous as it was when Meriel did it. By that I mean the moment humans find out you’re our spokesperson, you will be under increased threat. It’s my job to be sure we protect you against that threat level. As such, all appearances outside the building will be with a security detail. The clan will provide you with a guard who will also serve as your driver.”
“Driver? That’s ridiculous. I can drive my own car.”
“Three days ago, a witch in Arizona was pulled from her car and nearly beaten to death by thugs who found out she was a witch. We routinely get reports of nails in tires. A witch in Spain, part of their council, was killed just a week ago. An IED planted at the end of her driveway. You will have a car the clan secures when you are not in it and you will have a trained driver, who will be your guard as well. This is not negotiable.”
One of her brows rose and she cocked her head slightly.
“Your home, once you secure a place to live, will be warded by one of the witches the clan trusts. Meriel’s father is one of the best. Sami is also quite powerful at warding.” He paused to eat and let it sink in a little.
“Welcome to war, Molly Ryan. It’s my job to be sure you’re tough enough to make it out alive.” Even though he knew it wasn’t a promise he could keep every time. The truth was, he couldn’t protect them all.
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