Home > Marked by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #4)(8)

Marked by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #4)(8)
Author: Jasmine Walt

I took the paper from her and quickly scanned the piece. It detailed how the Chief Mage had taken his ‘feline mistress’ to the Convention and shocked the other delegates by dancing with her in public view. There was even a photograph of the two of us waltzing, and I blinked, hardly recognizing myself in the resplendent ball gown I was wearing. We made an incredibly handsome couple, I admitted to myself, and the way our bodies were pulled so close together, nearly touching, certainly suggested ‘carnal relations’ as Chen had put it.

Too bad appearances could be so deceiving.

“Other papers across the country are displaying similar stories,” Chen said, drawing my attention back to her. Her lips were pressed into a thin, disapproving line as she stared down at the image, and anger flared in my chest. I was tempted to tell her just how wrong she was about Iannis and me, but what was the point? He still hadn’t made a decision whether we should become lovers and the last thing I needed was to go around telling people we had a relationship, only to later find out that he’d rejected me. The humiliation would be devastating.

“There is great public interest in Lord Iannis right now,” Chen went on, “so upholding his reputation is more important than ever. Taking on a hybrid apprentice has already raised too many eyebrows as it is. Lord Iannis needs unified support from the Canalo mages. If they believe this is anything more than malicious gossip, it could ruin any chances of advancing his political career, or making more eligible connections.”

“I see,” I said slowly. “So you’re saying if I wasn’t a hybrid, that if I were a full mage like yourself, this wouldn’t be a problem?”

Director Chen nodded. “Affairs between master and apprentice are frowned upon under any circumstances, but it is the fact you’re a hybrid that pushes the issue over the edge. I’m sure you understand.”

“I do,” I said, and this time, I couldn’t quite keep the anger from entering my voice. I got the subtext loud and clear – Chen was saying Iannis needed a respectable career mage by his side, someone like her. “But you know what?” I added, leaning forward a little to pin her with a stare that told her I knew what she was up to. “I think the Chief Mage is old enough to decide what he wants and needs.”

Chen’s eyes widened with pity and astonishment, and she let out a half-laugh. “You foolish child. How could you imagine that Lord Iannis would ever ‘need’ a hybrid like you? You may be growing into your powers, Miss Baine, but you are little more than a charity case in the Chief Mage’s eyes.”

I opened my mouth to retort, but my heated words died on my lips as I caught Iannis’s scent. Footsteps sounded in the hall, followed by a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I called, mostly to annoy Director Chen. She shot me a venomous glare, but quickly masked her expression as the door swung open and the Chief Mage stepped inside.

“I didn’t realize this was your office, Miss Baine,” Iannis said mildly. His expression was unreadable, as usual, but the briefest hint of amusement in his iridescent violet eyes made me grin.

“It’s not,” Director Chen said, drawing Iannis’s gaze away from me. Her dark eyes brightened, almost imperceptibly, and I clenched my jaw. I’d suspected she had feelings for him, and I was seeing them now, loud and clear. She wanted Iannis for herself.

And why shouldn’t she? a voice whispered in my head. She’s much better suited as a politician’s consort than you’ll ever be. If that weren’t the truth, Iannis would have claimed you already.

“Is there something you need from me?” Director Chen asked him.

“Actually, I came in here looking for Miss Baine,” Iannis said. “I have a few matters I need to discuss with her.”

“I was just about to assign her something –” Chen began.

“That can wait until later. Unless whatever task you were planning to assign is of paramount importance?” Iannis arched a brow.

“No, it’s not.” Director Chen’s voice was smooth as a glassy lake as she inclined her head in deference. But the smile in her voice was gone. “Of course you are free to take her, Lord Iannis. I can always speak with Miss Baine later.”

“Excellent. Come along,” he said to me, then turned and strode out the office.

I hurried after him, pausing only to shoot a smug grin over my shoulder at Director Chen. I should probably have been worried at the fact that she was glaring daggers at me, but at the moment, I didn’t care. I would be damned if I was going to let her tight, uppity ass come between Iannis and me. If Iannis wanted to keep me at arm’s length, that was his decision, not hers.

I stepped into Iannis’s office across the hall and shut the door behind me. His Guild office was much larger than the study he kept in the West Wing – the study was smaller, more personal, with only his workspace and shelves of books. This office was clearly meant for receiving guests, with a large picture window overlooking the gardens behind a magnificent desk, a sitting area in front of a fireplace, and even a small bar. Gold and blue was the décor here, of course – those were the state colors, after all. I wondered how many diplomats and Chief Mages had sat on the couches or in the visitor’s chairs, sipping tea or drinking cognac as they discussed matters of state with Iannis.

“So,” I began, but before I could ask what Iannis wanted to discuss, he pushed me up against the wall and crushed his lips against mine. My mouth opened in shock, and he took advantage, nipping my bottom lip as his tongue stroked mine, filling me with his dark, exotic flavor. The kiss was somehow gentle despite his aggressive body language, savoring rather than trying to devour. Warmth ignited low in my belly, then spread through me like wildfire, and I dug my fingers into his broad shoulders, clinging to him as my body begged for more. I was perilously close to heat, and I knew if Iannis decided to take things further, I would be powerless to stop him despite the ultimatum I’d given him back in Dara. The one where I’d said I wasn’t going to sleep with him until he made a decision as to whether or not he wanted to be with me.

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