Burn for Me Page 21

“I’m listening.”

“One, you don’t kill anyone unless they make a clear attempt to murder us.”

There was a long pause. “I’ll try.”

“Two, you promise to apprehend and deliver Adam Pierce to his House alive.”

“I can’t promise you that. I can promise that I’ll do everything in my ability to keep him alive, within reason, but if that moron decides to jump off Baytown Bridge, there won’t be much I can do to save him.”

Technically it was true. Human bodies reacted oddly to the loss of gravity and free fall. Even if Mad Rogan caught Adam with his magic half a second after he jumped, Adam would still die of internal bleeding. That’s why levitators had their own classification and weren’t just lumped together with other telekinetics.

“Fine. Promise me that you will do everything you can to help me return him alive to his family.”


These promises probably weren’t worth diddly squat.

“Third, I want you to protect my family while we’re doing this. I need to know that I can count on that protection.”

“Of course. That’s the nature of our agreement. Would you like me to station some people to keep an eye on your home?”

“Yes. They have to come to the front door, and they have to introduce themselves to my family, or someone might accidentally shoot them.”

“Done.” His voice was crisp. “My turn. This is a professional partnership, and I expect you to treat it as one. If you hear from Adam, if he calls you, if he comes to your house, the moment that meeting or conversation is over, I want to be informed of it. Not the next day, not when it’s convenient, but immediately after. You’ll disclose all information related to this matter, including the terms of your contract, the state of your relationship with Adam, and anything you know about Gavin Waller.”

“Fair enough.”

“You also won’t depart on any expeditions without discussing it with me. I don’t want to get a text ‘Hi, going after Pierce’ and then watch cops fish you out of Buffalo Bayou the next morning.”

“I’m touched.” Not really.

“I would have to start the investigation from scratch. If you die, it will be very inconvenient.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Do we have a deal?” he asked.

“Yes. I’m going to Jersey Village to look for Adam Pierce. Would you like to come?”

“I’ll pick you up in ten minutes.”

I hung up. So this is what making a deal with the devil felt like. Too late for regrets now. I sighed and packed an extra clip.

A Range Rover slid into the parking lot in exactly ten minutes. It was a large vehicle, gunmetal grey, slick, but solid. The passenger door swung open and I saw Mad Rogan in the driver seat. He’d traded the suit and shoes for faded jeans, a pale grey T-shirt, and heavy, dark boots. The effect was staggering. The suit had toned him down, smoothing harshness with a veneer of wealth and civilization. Now he was all rough edge and rugged strength. He looked like he needed some jungle ruins to explore or some bad people to hit with a chair. Trouble was, he was the bad people.

His magic lay coiled about him, a violent pet with vicious teeth.

I would have to get in and sit next to him, with only a few inches of distance between us. I would have to enter his space. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get into this car.

“I have one more condition,” I said.

He simply looked at me.

“Do not read my thoughts.” He didn’t need to know what was in my head. He just didn’t.

He smiled. “Not a problem.”

I took the passenger seat and put my backpack in the space in front of it. Okay. I was in. I just had to say the bare minimum and keep my thinking to myself.

“I can’t read thoughts,” Mad Rogan said. “But I find that most of the time I don’t need to.”

And that did not sound ominous. Not at all. I buckled up.

The Range Rover shot down the side road. The window glass looked really thick and tinted. This wasn’t the cheaper bullet-resistant version. This was the heavy-duty bulletproof glass with six-centimeter safety glazing and a layer of polycarbonite on the inside to keep the window from shattering. You could fire an AK-47 at it at close range and the glass would crack but remain completely smooth on the inside. This kind of glass also weighed a ton. I touched the window controls. The window crept down, whisper quiet, and back up. Grandma Frida would be proud. A normal window lifter wouldn’t be able to raise the window back up. He’d had custom window lifters installed. The vehicle was likely armor-plated too.

“What’s the rating on the armor plates?”

“Hard ammo. It’s a VR9 vehicle.”

Holy crap. The Range Rover wouldn’t just stop a bullet from a handgun or an assault rifle. It would stop an armor-piercing round from a machine gun. That much armor meant a crap load of extra weight, but the car glided like a skater across the ice, which required reinforced suspension and custom dampers. This vehicle wasn’t retrofitted with armor. It was built to be armored from the ground up.

To top it off, it looked just like any other high-end Range Rover on the road. Most people didn’t realize that armored cars weren’t just about being the most bulletproof. It was also about discretion. No car was completely damage proof, not even a tank, and the best strategy to keep your occupant safe was to not get shot at in the first place. That required the vehicle to be as close to the non-armored equivalent as possible so it would blend in with other cars on the road. There were always idiots who wanted flashy armored monstrosities that looked like something out of a postapocalyptic movie. They wanted to make a statement. Unfortunately, their statement said, Here I am, shoot me. People who actually required protection opted for quiet quality like this, the kind that came at a heart-stopping price and said volumes about their owners.

Mad Rogan didn’t give a crap about what the rest of us thought about him. He had no need to impress; he wanted the best, and he would pay premium price as long as he got it. Somehow that didn’t make me feel any better.

“What’s in Jersey Village?” he asked.

“Bug. He’s a surveillance specialist. I have something he wants, and I’m going to have him find Adam Pierce for us. We have to do it now, before Adam shows up at my house again, because my mother has threatened to deal with him and then send what’s left of his body to his House in a plastic grocery bag.”

“Your mother seems confident,” he said.

“Do you know what a Light Fifty is?” I asked.

“It’s a Barrett M82 sniper rifle.”

“My mother was looking at your head through the scope of one while we were eating lunch. We need to find Adam Pierce before my mother shoots him or my grandmother runs him over with a tank. Or before he incinerates our home and my family with it.”

“As we discussed, I have a team guarding your warehouse. If he shows up anywhere near it, we’ll know. Now your turn. I’ll have the information now,” Mad Rogan said. “All of it.”

I started at the moment MII called us, told him very briefly that MII hired us to find Adam Pierce, and ran through my investigation, skipping unimportant details such as mortgaged businesses and dreams featuring him being half naked. Volunteering was for suckers, and he wouldn’t get any information out of me unless it was absolutely necessary.

He grimaced. “Augustine finally caved in.”

“You know him?”

“Yes. We went to college together. I’m not his favorite person.”


“I’ve seen him without his magic.” Mad Rogan shrugged his muscular shoulders. “Augustine always had an overdeveloped sense of loyalty to his House. He struggled with it. I told him back then that if he wasn’t careful, he’d end up in an office dancing to his family’s tune.”

“Is that why you joined the military? To get away from your family?” And why did I ask that?

“I joined because they told me I could kill without being sent to prison and be rewarded for it.”

True. Holy shit. I was trapped in a car with a homicidal maniac. Awesome.

“You have a strange look on your face,” he said.

“I just realized I shouldn’t be in the same vehicle with you. In fact, I shouldn’t have called you in the first place, so I’m trying very hard to rewind time.”

He grinned. I’ve amused the dragon. Whee.

“Would you rather I lied to you? Not that I would bother, but even if I did, there is no point in it, is there?”

I didn’t answer. Keeping my mouth shut was an excellent strategy.

“Does Augustine know you’re a Truthseeker?”

He’d figured me out. I wasn’t really surprised, not after I’d pinned him down and wrenched the answers out of him. “What my employer knows or doesn’t know about me is none of your business.”

He chuckled, a genuine, rich laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“Augustine prides himself on his powers of observation and being an excellent judge of character. He thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. He used to try to make brilliant deductions by noting what people wore and how they acted. He has a Truthseeker on staff and he has no idea. He’s likely been looking to employ one for ages.” Mad Rogan chuckled again. “The irony, it’s delicious.”

I kept my mouth shut. Hopefully he wouldn’t ask me anything else.

“Truthseeking is the third rarest magic talent. Why not make a living from it? Shouldn’t you be in some office with a two-way mirror asking uncomfortable questions?”

“That’s not covered under our agreement.”

He glanced at me, his eyes dark. “Would you rather talk about your dream?”


“Considering that I was featured in it, I think I deserve to know the particulars. Were my clothes missing because we were in bed? Was I touching you?” He glanced at me. His voice could’ve melted clothes off my body. “Were you touching me?”

I shouldn’t have gotten into his car. I should’ve taken a separate vehicle.

“Cat got your tongue, Nevada?”

“No, we weren’t in bed. I was pushing you off a cliff to your death.” I pointed at the highway. “Take the next exit and stay in the right lane, please. We’ll need to make a right.”

He chuckled again and took the exit.

The Range Rover rolled down a gentle stop at the end of the exit ramp, and we turned right onto deserted Senate Avenue. At some point it was a typical suburban street, two lanes on each side, divided by a flower bed and decorative trees. A field with grass mowed short stretched on the left. An equally shorn lawn lay on the right, a curving drive cutting through it to permit access to a one-story brick building. A large sign rose on the right, set on a sturdy metal pole.



A second sign in bright yellow yelled at us with big black letters.




“Make a right here.” I pointed at the driveway.

Mad Rogan turned. The driveway brought us to a drive-through at the brick building, blocked by a solid metal bar. Another sign said Private Security Area Parking. $2 per hour, $12 per day maximum.

“Let me do the talking,” I said.

“Be my guest.”

The drive-through window slid open and a woman looked at me. She was short and muscular, with dark brown skin and glossy black hair put away into six neat cornrows. A tactical vest hugged her frame, and a Sig Sauer lay in the desk next to her.

“Hi, Thea.” I showed her my ID.

“Haven’t seen you for a while,” Thea said. “Who’s the prince in the driver seat?”

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