Burn for Me Page 33

Mad Rogan stopped by the sitting area just short of the fountain and sat. I sat next to him.

Harper walked toward us, slowly, like a cat, her golden, high-heeled, strappy sandals making a slight clicking sound on the tiled floor.

“Rogan, I presume.” Her voice matched her—throaty. She slid into the chair across from Rogan and put one long, tan leg over the other, exposing a dangerous amount of thigh. She eyed him up and down in a slow, blatant appraisal and smiled. “I like.”

This wouldn’t go well.

Harper gave me a quick but thorough once-over and turned back to Rogan. “What can I do for you, Mad Rogan?”

He leaned back against his chair. “When you marked the safe-deposit box in the vault of First National, did you know Pierce intended to blow up the bank?”

Straight for the jugular. Okay, then.

Harper smiled. “You called me here to talk about Adam? I would much rather talk about you. What have you been doing all these years?”

“I’ll ask again: did you know Pierce would set the bank on fire?” Rogan asked.

“And if I don’t answer?” Harper raised one eyebrow. “Will you do things to me? They say you’re a tactile.” She glanced at me. “Is he a tactile?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I had no idea what a tactile was.

“Oh. You haven’t had sex.” Harper’s blue eyes brightened. “Don’t feel bad. I imagine he doesn’t go slumming very often.”

Slumming? Cute.

Harper looked me over with a critical eye. “The dye job isn’t bad, but the rest needs help. Especially the shoes. I’d give you pointers, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do much good.”

In that moment I got Harper’s number. She was one of those women who judged other women’s worth by the kind of men they were with. I came with Mad Rogan, and she wasn’t sure at first if I was competition or not. Now she realized we weren’t a couple, but she demolished me just in case. This was actually sad.

“Answer my question,” Mad Rogan said. His eyes had turned darker. He was getting annoyed.

“I dated a tactile once,” Harper purred. “The Ramirez branch of the Espinoza family. He wasn’t on your level, but it was . . . an experience. He could take my clothes off with his mind. Can you?” She tilted her head. “Can you take my clothes off without touching me?”

Mad Rogan leaned forward, his grim mask suddenly cracking into a smile. “Sure, sweetheart.”

Uh-oh. I’d heard that tone of voice before, just before Peaches went splat.

“Show me,” she said. “And then I’ll tell you about Adam.”

Wow. Here was a dangerous Prime she’d known for all of thirty seconds, and she went right to making out. God, she must really have been desperate. I felt a little embarrassed for Harper Larvo.

Mad Rogan leaned back and smiled. He looked at her as if she was already na**d and he owned her. Harper smiled back, showing white teeth. And why exactly did I develop a sudden urge to throw some of that fountain water on both of them?

Harper gasped.

“Did it feel something like that?” Mad Rogan asked.

She gasped again, drawing her breath in sharply. Her cheeks flushed. Something was clearly happening. I had no idea what, but she seemed to enjoy it.

The braids crisscrossing on her shoulders slid, moving against each other on their own. They unwound, turned, left, right . . . Harper swallowed and her eyes opened wide, her pupils growing larger.

“Touch me again,” she breathed.

Another braid, weaving in between the others. Was he actually going to undress her right here? I followed their movement. Oh no. He wasn’t taking her clothes off, like she thought. He was braiding them into a noose around her neck.

“Don’t you dare.”

Mad Rogan ignored me.

“I mean it. Stop.”

“Don’t interfere,” he said.

“If you’re too embarrassed, you can go wait by the fountain,” Harper murmured and glanced back at Rogan, her eyes half closed. “I wouldn’t have expected you to employ a prude. You’re an interesting man . . . full of . . . oh my God . . . surprises.”

The braids twisted again.


Harper leaned forward, stretching like a limber cat ready for a stroke of her owner’s hand. Her words came out in quick, breathless bursts. “Give her a hundred bucks, tell her to buy something so she’ll leave us alone . . . More, Rogan. More . . .”

The noose snapped tight, clamping Harper’s neck. She gasped for breath, her mouth gaping.

“You can’t just strangle her.”

“Of course I can,” he said.

Harper clutched at her dress, clawing at her neck, trying to get it off her throat.

I pulled a gun out of my purse and pointed it at Mad Rogan’s leg. “Let her go, or I’ll shoot you.”

Mad Rogan turned to me. “You would shoot me?” He looked genuinely puzzled.

“To save her life, yes.” Even if it meant he would crush me a moment later. “Let her go.”

Harper’s face turned bright plum red. She struggled, her back rigid.

Mad Rogan looked at me. Looking into his eyes was like staring straight into the dragon.

I took the safety off my Kahr. “Please let her go.”

The noose on Harper’s throat fell slack. She fell back into her chair, gulping air in hoarse breaths. Tears welled in her eyes.

“Look at me.” Mad Rogan leaned forward. Menace and contempt dripped from his words. “Did you know Adam would blow up the building?”

“Yes!” Harper gasped. “Yes, I knew, you sick f**k!”


“Do you know what was in the deposit box?”



“Do you know what was in the building next to the one Adam burned yesterday?” I asked.



People were looking at us. Blood swelled in the scratches on Harper’s neck where she had clawed at herself.

“Do you know what Adam is planning?” I asked.

She glared at me. “You think Adam is planning something? Adam just wants to burn shit! He’s just a glorified O’Reilly’s cow. He’s a means to an end. You have no idea what’s coming. Soon the Change will happen, and the only thing that will matter will be whose side you were on. I’ve earned my place. I was on the right side. I will be on top. You, you f**king bitch, you’ll rot in hell with this f**king pervert! I hope you two f**king suffer.”

Harper jumped to her feet and ran away, sobbing. A large cityscape billboard hanging from the second-floor bridge moved slightly, turning up as she came toward it, about to peel off the bridge. If it fell on her . . .

I put my hand on Mad Rogan’s arm. “Don’t.”

The board stopped. Harper ran under the bridge and deeper into the mall, her cell phone to her ear. I thumbed the safety back on and put the gun away.

“You would have shot me over her?” Mad Rogan asked.

“You can’t just kill people.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s morally wrong. She is a person, a living, breathing human being.”

“Morally wrong according to whom?” he asked.

“According to the majority of people. It’s against the law.”

“Who is going to tell the law?” he asked. “I could’ve snapped her neck and shot her up on those arches above us. Nobody would find her for days until pieces of her started to fall down.”

“It’s still wrong. You can’t just kill people because they annoy you.”

“You keep saying ‘can’t,’” he said.

“You shouldn’t.” It was like talking to some alien creature.

He leaned back and examined me. “I’ve helped you and protected you. More, you need me to apprehend Pierce. So you have both an emotional and a financial interest in maintaining a working relationship with me. I’m important to you. She insulted and belittled you. She’s a completely useless human being. In five years she will still be doing exactly what she’s doing now, flitting from club to club, supplying tabloids with gossip, and bitching to her friends about her mother, except the clubs won’t be quite as nice and the tabloids won’t mention her quite as often. She contributes nothing.”

“Are you trying to make me feel guilty for protecting her?” I asked.

“No, I’m trying to understand. You’re not annoyed at her.”

“I’m annoyed at the people who taught her that her only goal in life should be attaching herself to someone with better magic. I’m annoyed by her because she thinks that having a little bit of money lets her belittle other people. But I’m not threatened by her in the least. Rogan, I own my own business. I’m good at my job. I’m successful enough to keep the roof over our heads and be respected by my peers. My family loves me unconditionally. And when some strange man calls me and orders me to be somewhere, I don’t drop everything and rush over. I’m free. I make my own life and my own choices. I’m not desperately trying to earn the approval of people who think I’m worthless because I don’t have enough magic or because I’m failing to meet their expectations. Don’t you think that if Harper was honest with herself for a moment, she would wish she were me?”

“You’re giving her too much credit. She can change her life any moment she wants to,” he said.

“You still can’t kill her.”

“Yes, I can. I wasn’t necessarily going to just yet, because I wanted information, but your argument that I shouldn’t is baseless. You do realize she participated in an arson that resulted in a man dying?”

“You can’t kill her, because it’s against the law. Because you live here in this country and its laws apply to you no matter how much magic you have. We let police handle things. We have a justice system. Because killing random people just because they did something you don’t like makes you the bad guy.”

His lips curved. A light, amused spark flashed in his eyes, and Mad Rogan laughed at me.

I threw my hands up and got to my feet. “I’m done talking to you.”

He got up, chuckling. “We could’ve gotten more out of her if you had let me choke her a little longer.”

“I think we got about as much as we were going to. You humiliated her. I’m guessing you were making out somehow and then you nearly killed her. She’ll be scarred for life.”

“And if she tried to choke me?”

“I would’ve shot her. I might have warned her first. I don’t know.” I frowned. “So, we know she is involved. She doesn’t know what’s in the deposit box.”

“They probably told her just enough to get her on board,” Mad Rogan said. “Still, we could’ve gotten more.”

I shook my head.

“What?” he asked.

“Rogan, I am not an idiot. By now you probably bugged her car and her house, cloned her phone, and slipped spyware into her computer. You terrified her, and you know she will snitch on you to whoever handles her and your people will be in on the conversation.”

He laughed again.

I pulled out my phone and texted Bern to ask him to search the net for some mention of the Change. Then I paused. She’d said Adam was just a glorified O’Reilly cow. I wondered if she’d meant O’Leary. Did someone call Adam that and she misheard, maybe?

We moved toward the nearest exit. The crowd had thinned out. It was just me and him.

“What’s a tactile?” I really shouldn’t have been asking him that.

His face blank, he didn’t answer.

I must’ve made him uncomfortable. “Never mind. I understand it’s probably personal. I shouldn’t have asked.”

Prev Next