Burn for Me Page 14

“It’s not worth your life!” my mother snarled. “If you’re doing this out of some misguided obligation to your father . . .”

“I’m doing it for us and for me. When I took over, the business had slowed to almost nothing. I built this agency on the foundation you and Dad made. It’s my business now because I worked my ass off for six years to get it running. I sacrificed for it, and I love it. I love what I do. I love our life. It makes me happy and I’m good at it, and nobody, not you, not Grandma, not MII, or Pierce, or Mad Rogan is going to take it away from me!”

I realized I was screaming and clamped my mouth shut.

Shock slapped Mom’s face. The kids sat frozen. Bern kept blinking.

Grandma Frida set her coffee cup down with a clink. “Well, she is your daughter.”

Mother turned and walked out of the room.

I faced the kids. “Bed. Now.”

They took off.

Bern got up. “I’m going to go too.”

I landed next to Grandma Frida. I felt all raw inside. Fighting with Mom was always difficult. She used to drive me insane. I would scream and she would counter with these perfect, logical arguments. And then I grew up and realized how brittle she was.

Grandma glanced at me. “You look like hell.”

“Mad Rogan sedated me, kidnapped me, chained me in his basement, and then tried to pry information out of me with a spell.”

Grandma Frida blinked. “Did you give him what he wanted?”

“No. I broke his spell.”

Grandma Frida looked into her cup. “Your mother will get over it. She knew you’d butt heads sooner or later. Hell, if you didn’t, I’d take you to have your head examined. Your mother survived in that hole in the ground for two months. She’s more resilient than you give her credit for.”

That didn’t make me feel any better. “Grandma . . .”


“When you said you knew someone who could install shockers, did you mean it, or were you kidding me?”

Grandma Frida set her coffee back down. “You’re not serious, are you?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t.”

“That bad?”

I had been beaten up before and I’d been shot at four times. But what happened today bothered me more. “When I get into a fight, I know I can cause damage. When I am shot at, I can shoot back. But this . . .” My hands curled into fists as I struggled to find the words. “I had no chance. His magic was off the scale. I felt it when he picked me up. It was like looking into an outer space shot of a supernova. It made me feel helpless. Vulnerable. Like nothing I did would even make a dent in him.”

Grandma sighed.

He could’ve killed me. He could’ve cut my head off while I was chained up, and there was nothing I could’ve done about it. I caught myself before I told that to my grandmother. “I need a way to have a fighting chance.”

“You can walk away.”

I shook my head. “Oh no. No. Maybe before he attacked me, but not now.”

“You have to be very sure, darling. Once they go in, they stay in forever.”

“How likely is it to kill me?”

“Less than one percent of the bindings go wrong, and if Makarov installs them, you won’t have an issue. But bindings aren’t your biggest problem. It’s using those bastards. Do it wrong, and it will kill you.”

“Then I’m sure.” The next time Mad Rogan came near me, he would be in for a hell of a surprise.

“Let me make a call.” Grandma rose.

I got up and went to look for my mother.

I checked the living room, the media room, and the hiding room, which had started out as a spare bedroom but had turned into another hangout room. I checked the door to Mother’s bedroom and found it locked. Knocking didn’t seem to produce any result. Calling “Mom . . .” in a sad, conciliatory voice didn’t work either. I gave up and headed to my bedroom.

When I was picking out the spot for my bedroom, I wanted privacy. There was a time about seven years ago when I couldn’t get away from my sisters no matter how hard I tried. When we moved into the warehouse, my parents took that into account and built me a small loft apartment. My bedroom and bathroom sat near the top of the warehouse, on top of the two storage rooms. My bedroom faced the street and my bathroom, along the same wall, was right against the separating wall that segregated our living space from Grandma’s motor pool. A wooden staircase led to a landing, which connected to my loft by a sturdy folding ladder. If I wanted, I could stow the top ten steps, making my bedroom unreachable.

I climbed the stairs up and flicked on the light. Generally the warehouse had no windows, but when we set up the bedrooms, if you wanted a window, one was installed for you, and I had wanted a window. I had wanted two, actually, one in the bathroom, overlooking Grandma’s garage, so I could glance out and see the back entrance, and one in the bedroom running the entire length of the room. If I lay on my bed, I could look out of my window at the city. The city could also look back at me, so I invested in pleated blinds in addition to two sets of curtains, one gauzy and white, the other thick opaque white. I had left the blinds drawn up and the opaque curtains open, and the night unrolled past the glass in all its dark glory. If I’d still had a screen, I’d have opened the window and let the night in. But I had managed to accidentally push it out a month ago when I’d been cleaning the window, and getting it back at that particular moment had proved to be too frustrating. If I opened the window now, I’d let in the night and a swarm of mosquitoes.

Let’s see, I had blackmailed a mechanic; called my employer, who was probably a Prime, a terrible person—again; met with a pyrokinetic Prime and gotten kidnapped by a telekinetic Prime; gotten into a fight with my mother; and made the decision to have a weapon that could possibly kill me implanted in my arms. Some day I’d had. Too many Primes all around.

I was tired and threadbare, as if today had worn holes in me. I didn’t want to think about anything, most of all about what I had to give up to break Rogan’s spell. I just wanted to numb myself somehow and go to sleep. I had a bottle of nonprescription sleeping pills in my medicine cabinet, but they gave me nightmares.

I can’t believe I’ve been obsessing over his eyes. I can’t believe I thought he was hot when I was watching him walk toward me. I should’ve known right then he was trouble. A man like that didn’t just take a stroll through botanical gardens. I saw a tiger with glowing eyes and teeth as big as my fingers, and instead of running for my life, I sat there and admired how handsome he was while he got close enough to pounce.

Something bounced off my window. I jerked back. Too small for a bat. Too dark outside for a bird. What in the world . . .

I unlatched the window and pulled it open. A small fireball shot at me from the street. I leaped back and slammed into the bookshelves six feet behind me.

The fireball landed on my rug, still on fire. Aah! I kicked it across my bedroom floor into the bathroom, onto the tile. Then I raced after it, yanked the shower door open, grabbed the detachable shower head, and drowned the flames.

A charred tennis ball.

Well, wasn’t that lovely? I pulled a pair of scissors out of a drawer, stabbed the tennis ball, and marched to the window, carrying my trophy. Adam Pierce stood on the street below me.

I scraped the tennis ball off on the outside of the window. It fell to the asphalt below.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to kill me?”

“If I was trying, you’d know. Come talk to me.”

“It’s one o’clock in the morning.”

“It’s two, but who cares.” He waved at me. “Come on. I’ve got something to show you.”

To go or not to go? If I went, he would learn that when he said “Jump,” I did. But if I didn’t go and he was thinking of surrendering, I would kick myself for losing this opportunity. I had to make up my mind fast. If my mother saw him in her current state, she’d shoot him in the eye. God, that would be all I needed right now. Ugh.

“There’s a tree over there, behind the wall.” I pointed to an old oak behind a four-foot-high stone wall. “Wait for me behind it.”

He put his foot out and bowed with a flourish. “Yes, my lady.”

I climbed downstairs, grabbed the keys in case someone decided to lock me out, and made a beeline for the tree. I hopped over the wall. He was waiting where I told him to be, behind the tree, shielded from the house by the massive trunk. His motorcycle leaned against the wall. I came over and sat next to him on the mulch around the tree.

He grinned. “Why here? Scared your mother will see me?”

“Scared she will shoot you. My mother isn’t feeling charitable toward you at the moment.”

“It’s like that, huh?”

“It is.”

He peered at my face, picked up a fallen branch, and lifted it up. The branch burst into bright orange flame. “What happened to you? You look like hell.”

“I have competition and he wasn’t nice.”

“I’m popular, what can I say.” The flame vanished, and he blew ash from his fingers.

“Yes, let’s make it all about you.”

He startled.

“Did you come to surrender?” I asked.


I sighed. “What will it take for you to see the light?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged and grinned. “Try sleeping with me. It might convince me.”

Did he just hit on me? Yes, he did. “No, thanks.”

He leaned back on his elbow, his black leather pants tightening over his legs, and smiled. It was his famous “come-hither” smile, the one the media loved to broadcast, the kind of smile no woman who’d gone through puberty would ignore. It promised things, wild, wicked, hot things. It probably almost never misfired. Well, he was in for a surprise.

“If you’re really hard up, I can introduce you to my grandmother. She’s a fan.”

Adam blinked.

“She doesn’t typically sleep with pretty young things, but she would make an exception in your case. You might even learn a trick or two.”

He finally regained his ability to speak. “Your grandmother?”

I nodded.

He laughed. “Well, at least she would die happy.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“It’s not flattery. It’s a fact.” He leaned over to me. “I can set your sheets on fire.”

I had no doubt of that. “Will I be burned to a crisp?”

“Kiss me and you’ll find out.”

No, thanks. “Your family is worried about you.”

“You’re fun. I like fun. I like new and exciting. Did I tell you that your voice is hot, Nevada?”

The way he said my name was almost indecent. He couldn’t have sunk more invitation into it if he’d stripped in front of me.

“When you talk, it makes me think of fun things I could do to you. With you.”

Good catch there.

“And your skin is like honey. I wonder how you taste.”

Bitter and tired. “Mhm.”

He reached over to touch a strand of my hair. I pulled back. “You don’t have the touching rights.”

“How do I get those?”

Stop being a self-absorbed spoiled baby. “You get those if I fall in love with you.”

He stopped. “In love. You’re serious?”

“Yes.” That would shut him up.

“What is this, the sixteenth century? Should I write you a sonnet next?”

“Is it going to be a good sonnet?”

He leaned back on the grass and swiped his thumb across his phone. “Watch this.”

The screen turned white. The pale background shattered, breaking into individual pieces and flying off in a complicated pattern. A woman appeared on the screen. She was older, probably past fifty, although it was hard to tell her exact age. A navy business suit hugged her pencil-thin frame. Her makeup was expert, her caramel hair styled with artful precision into a loose, yet formal, hairdo. Her heart-shaped face, big dark eyes, and narrow nose gave her away. I was looking at Christina Pierce.

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