Home > Bound by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #2)(4)

Bound by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #2)(4)
Author: Jasmine Walt

But as I scanned the crowds of people walking up and down the neat sidewalks of the Port, tourists and locals alike, I realized that I didn’t want to work tonight. For once, I wanted to be one of those carefree people, talking and laughing and enjoying the beautiful summer night with someone else.

So instead of heading down to Annia’s apartment in Maintown, I took off for Rowanville, leaving a white-hot cloud of steam in my wake as my engine let out a shrill whistle. I was going to have to load up on some more coal soon – the charm that magically replenished the water in the bike did not, alas, extend to the coal itself. Just one more expense to burden my alarmingly empty money pouch with.

A kind of nostalgia washed over me as I walked into The Twilight, the interspecies nightclub that had kept me financially afloat back when Garius Talcon, the former Deputy Captain of the Enforcer’s Guild, was refusing to give me work. The colorful strobe lights reflecting off the black lacquered surfaces were as annoying as ever, but familiar, and I waved to Cray, the big black guy behind the counter that I used to tend bar with. He didn’t smile, but he gave me a friendly nod, and I relaxed a little, relieved that he wasn’t going to try and kick me out. My last day working in the bar, I’d left him in the lurch when Roanas had called me for help, and in fact I’d nearly ripped Cray’s face off when he tried to stop me.

A pang of sadness for my dead mentor hit me in the chest, but I shrugged it off, determined to keep my spirits up tonight. Claiming one of the barstools for myself, I leaned forward on the counter and waited until Cray finished with his customer.

“Hey Naya,” he said in his deep, slightly gravelly voice. “Been awhile since I’ve seen you. How are things?”

“Hectic,” I said with a sigh, swinging my feet back and forth beneath the counter a little. “The Chief Mage keeps me pretty busy up at the Palace.”

“I can imagine.” His dark eyes swept over me for a second, and I could tell he had questions, but he didn’t press. “You want your usual tonight?”

I hesitated, on the verge of ordering a shot of teca and amaretto on ice, but I decided against it. Teca was one of the few alcoholic beverages that could get shifters buzzed, but after being shot up with drugs two months ago and nearly killed, I wasn’t in any hurry to be intoxicated again.

“Nah, I think I’ll just take a virgin sex on the beach. And a bacon cheeseburger.” My magic lessons with the Chief Mage always left me hungry, as using magic drew on my energy stores.

“Coming right up.” Cray’s lips quirked at the girly drink, and possibly the irony as well. There was something silly about ordering a “virgin” sex on the beach, but since I couldn’t get drunk I didn’t see the point of paying extra for the alcohol.

He served my drink with a cute little tropical umbrella, and as I sipped at the sweet, fruity concoction, waiting for my burger, I scanned the crowd to see if there was anyone interesting to talk to. To my surprise, I picked out Inspector Boon Lakin, hunched over the table in one of the booths toward the back of the club and away from the strobe lights. A fedora was perched atop his blond head, partially concealing his face, but I recognized the brown leather coat he was wearing even if the table did conceal most of it – that was definitely him.

Curious as to what he was doing here, I grabbed my drink and burger, which Cray had just delivered, and crossed the room. As I drew closer, I saw that Lakin was engrossed in a case file, which must have been why he didn’t hear me approach. Even more interesting. Why would he bring his work to a place like this?

“Hey Lakin,” I greeted him, and his head shot up as I slid into the seat across from him. I grinned at the startled expression on his rawboned face. “Long time no see.”

“No kidding.” Lakin’s reddish-yellow eyes gleamed in the darkness as he regarded me, a small smile playing on his lips. “I think the last time I saw you, you were a few seconds away from punching Chieftain Baine in the face.”

I snorted. I’d met Lakin, the new Shiftertown Inspector and Roanas’s replacement, over a month ago, when I’d stopped by the Shiftertown Cemetery to say goodbye to Roanas and make my peace with his death. As it turned out, he’d received an emergency response call from my aunt Mafiela, the Chieftain of the Jaguar Clan, and I’d decided to tag along. My aunt and I had nearly come to blows during our impromptu family reunion, but I’d gained some valuable intel regarding the case I was working so I didn’t regret it.

“So, what brings you here to the Twilight, and with your work, no less?” I gestured at the file on the table in front of him, which he’d closed when I sat down. “Figured you’d prefer the quiet of your office.”

Lakin rolled his eyes. “I would, if it were actually quiet over there,” he said. “The residents of Shiftertown find excuses to knock on my door at any hour of the day. I figured Rowanville would be a good place to escape them.”

“Well I don’t know if you’ll find peace and quiet, but I’m sure nobody from Shiftertown will think to look for you here.” Shiftertown was the section of Solantha where the different shifter clans resided, while most of the shifters that lived in this part of town were clanless. Rowanville was the melting pot of the city, the only place where shifters, humans and mages lived side-by-side, so a Shiftertown resident in need of an Inspector wouldn’t be coming here to find him.

“Are you going to tell me what this current case is about?” I asked before taking a big bite out of my burger. I’d been looking for company, and now that I’d found it I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

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