Burn for Me Page 37

He slid the photograph toward me. “You have discovered something potentially devastating and you can’t just walk away now. You have a moral obligation to them, to me, and to your own family. By virtue of possessing this dangerous knowledge, you are now partially responsible for our survival. Please keep that in mind.”

We left his office and walked across the evening-sun-drenched parking lot to our car.

“Do we go to the authorities?” Bern asked.

“If we do, we’ll only get one shot at convincing them this is serious. If we’re right and Adam wants this artifact and somehow gets his hands on it, it could mean mass evacuation. They’re not going to do something like that without some serious evidence. Right now all we have is a theory from a never-published senior thesis and a picture of some sort of jeweled doohicky. I’m all for going for broke, but we have to have something to go with.”

“So what now?” Bern asked.

“We go home and do our research.” In the morning, if all else failed, I would ask Rogan to see about getting the documents from the Emmens family. Professor Itou was right. The family wouldn’t speak to him or me, but they would speak to Huracan.

I looked at my family gathered around the kitchen table. My two sisters, my two cousins, Mom and Grandma Frida. I’d just explained in broad terms the story of the Great Chicago Fire and the artifact that could be tied to it.

“I need your help searching for the artifact,” I said.

“I have homework,” Catalina said.

Arabella glared at her. “Seriously? Can you not be so anal once in your life?”

Lina bristled. “Are you going to let her talk to me like that?”

“I’ll write you whatever excuse you want,” I said. “But we are short on time, and I really need your help.” I pushed the laptop toward them. “This is a map of the British Empire in 1850, when Emmens was probably in the military service.” I put the phone with the picture of the jeweled thing next to it. “This is what we’re looking for. It’s probably a part of something else, some sort of artifact. We each are going to take a region and try to look for an artifact that resembles this. Catalina and Arabella, you take China. Leon, India. Bern, Egypt. Mom, Turkey and Arabia. I’ll take the Far East. Grandma Frida, pick a team if you want. And not a word about this to anyone. No Facebook, no Instagram, and especially no Herald.”

They scattered.

I holed up in my office. It was nice and quiet. I put a candle under my oil warmer, dripped in some rose geranium, and went to work.

Needle in the haystack was putting it mildly. I tried image search. I tried historical search. I looked through Wikipedia and online museum galleries.


Eventually my head began to hurt. I pushed away from the desk, rubbed my eyes, and glanced at the clock: 9:17. I’d been at this for two hours, and I had exactly nothing to show for it.

At least the artifact part, if that’s what it was, was safely locked up somewhere in the bowels of Rogan’s dragon cave.

A ghostly memory of him touching me flickered across my skin. What the hell was wrong with me? I’d almost made out with him in the Galleria. After what he had done with Harper, I should’ve run for my life instead. It was one thing to be attracted to bad boys, something I usually didn’t suffer from. It was another to be attracted to bad men. Mad Rogan was a really bad, bad man. If he wanted something, he bought it, or persuaded you to give it to him, or just simply took it. I had to make sure he didn’t want me. Because if he decided he did, it would be on his terms, and I wouldn’t like it.

No, I would like it, which was even worse. If Mad Rogan suddenly appeared in the middle of my office, picked me up out of this chair with those hard, muscled arms, carried me into a bedroom, and threw me on the bed, at least 50 percent of me would be totally fine with whatever followed. It would be awesome. Just to see him naked, to see that honed, powerful body, to touch him, would be the highlight of my adult romantic life.

The other 50 percent of me would be livid. That jerk. No “Thanks for saving my life.” No “Are you okay?” No acknowledgment of a near-death experience. Oh no, no, he decided to critique my chalk drawing while I sat there on the pavement, bleeding and trying to catch my breath. I’d had it with all of them. I’d had it with their fires and their flying buses and exploding buildings. Had it.

It made total sense that Mad Rogan, a man who was rich, handsome, athletic, and a Prime, would turn out to be a self-centered bastard. What made absolutely no sense was why every time he said my name or looked at me, I needed ten seconds to snap back to reality.

It wasn’t just the physical pleasure or the intoxicating mental thing he’d done today. It was that terrifying, single-minded intensity he radiated when he focused. I just felt, with some sort of feminine intuition, that when he had sex, he committed to it completely. He would have sex the way other men made war. I wanted to be the only thing in the entire world he cared about, even if only for a few minutes. I wanted all of him, mind and body, to be mine.

And that was the sticking point. Mad Rogan would never be mine. I wasn’t the kind of woman he would eventually settle down with. It wasn’t even a matter of me not having money. I lacked the right pedigree. Primes married for magic. My magic wasn’t on the same level as his, and it definitely wasn’t the right kind. His power was primarily telekinetic, and his telepathy was slight. He would look for a telekinetic or a telepath. My magic was primarily will based and didn’t fit neatly into any category. I could get Mad Rogan only if he actually fell in love with me. The concept of being in love probably wasn’t even in his vocabulary.

If I threw myself at him, he probably wouldn’t turn me down. He would’ve made out with me in the Galleria. I was young and pretty, and he was an unattached man. Well, I assumed he was unattached. If he was attached, it probably wouldn’t stop him. There was an ugly thought.

Realistically, the only thing I could hope to get out of any relationship with him was a couple of nights of glorious sex.

God, it would almost be worth it.

No, no, it wouldn’t be. I knew myself well enough. I would get attached to him. It would be so hard not to—everything about him was exceptional. People like that just don’t come into your orbit that often. If I jumped into that deep water, I would drown. I didn’t want to drown. I couldn’t afford to drown. I had a family, a business . . .

The phone rang.

I jumped up.

It rang again. I grabbed it. “Yes?”

“Finally, Ms. Baylor,” Augustine’s clipped voice said.

Oh crap.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’ve reviewed the press coverage of recent events this morning. Perhaps I wasn’t clear at our last meeting. What part of ‘Apprehend Adam Pierce and deliver him to his House’ did you not understand?”

Oh you ass. “The part where I do this with no resources or assistance from MII.”

“House Pierce is unhappy. They are now financially liable for an expensive office building and are the target of several prospective lawsuits.”

“Perhaps they should’ve considered that possibility when they discovered Adam was a Prime. If they hadn’t raised a spoiled, immature egoist, they wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Ms. Baylor.”

Someone pounded on the front door. “One moment,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

I marched over to the door and checked the monitor. Mad Rogan.

I swung the door open.

Mad Rogan stood at my doorstep, holding a bouquet of carnations. The ones in the store had been frilly and delicate pink blossoms. These were huge, heavy blooms, crimson, glossy, so dark toward the base of their petals that they were almost black, with a border of bright scarlet at the edges. They looked dipped in blood. He might as well have brought me a fistful of rubies.

His eyes looked smug.

I looked at the flowers, looked at his face, and shut the door.

No, wait.

I opened the door, took the carnations from him, shut the door, and locked it. There. I’d had a near-death experience, and confiscating the carnations would make me feel better. I marched back into my office and pushed the button on the phone.

“I’m back.”

“You put me on hold.” His voice could’ve frozen the Gulf of Mexico solid.

I smelled the carnations. Oh wow. “Yes. Someone was at the door. It could’ve been Adam.”

I looked for a vase to put the flowers in. The only thing I had was a tall, decorative glass full of marbles because the office needed some knickknacks. I emptied the marbles into a drawer, opened a bottle of water I kept for clients, poured it into the vase, and set the carnations into it. Perfect.

“I don’t think you understand the severity of your situation,” Augustine said.

The warehouse shuddered. The entire structure vibrated for a second and stopped.

“In the last forty-eight hours, my house was the target of an arson. Then a car exploded in front of our door.”

The warehouse vibrated again. Mad Rogan was shaking my house. Damn it.

“I’ve been almost strangled, almost crushed, and almost buried alive. I understand the severity of my situation.”

Shake. Shake.

“Adam publicly embarrassed his House. This matter now involves not just you . . .”


“. . . but the reputation of the entire firm and . . .”

“I’m going to have to put you on hold for just a second.”

“Ms. Bay—”

I marched to the door and opened it. Mad Rogan smiled at me. I jerked my hand toward my office. He walked in. I locked the door behind him. Mad Rogan stepped into my office and landed in a chair. Instantly my office shrank. There had been space before, and now there was Rogan.

I pushed the button again. “I’m back.”

“My patience is at an end,” Augustine said with diamond-sharp precision. “I have to report to House Pierce, and my report, apparently, will say that you’ve made no progress. You’re making MII look incompetent.”

I’m shaking in my slippers. “Why don’t you tell them the truth: you assigned this case to me because you expect me to fail. When I do, you will take my business and write it off.”

“I’m trying to give you a chance to keep your business,” Augustine said.

“She’ll have to call you back,” Mad Rogan said.

“What?” Augustine asked.

“I said, she’ll have to call you back, Pancakes. She’s busy right now.” He pushed the disconnect button.

He didn’t just hang up on Augustine. Yes, yes, he did.

“Pancakes?” I asked.

“When he was trying to enter the Arcana Club at Harvard, one of the initiation trials was eating the most food. That year, it was pancakes. He won and got admitted, but it took six months before he could walk by pancakes without getting sick.” Rogan smiled. “He’d smell them and run out of the room.”

“Well, Pancakes owns the mortgage on my business. You just hung up on my boss,” I said.

“He was talking in circles. He’ll get over it.”

“You know what your problem is? ‘You’ as in Primes, in general?”

“I think you’re about to tell me.” Mad Rogan leaned forward with rapt attention.

“Your problem is that nobody ever tells you no. You think you can do whatever you want, enter wherever you want . . .”

“Seduce whoever we want.” He grinned, a wicked, wolfish smile.

Oh no, we are not veering off the highway onto that road. “You play with people’s lives. When cops show up, you wave your hand and make them go away. Because you are Primes and the rest of us are, apparently, nothing.”

“Mhm,” he said. “The irony of this is so rich, it’s simply delicious.”

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