Burn for Me Page 39

I kept following the trail of bread crumbs. Lord Shiva, he of three eyes, his right eye is Sun, his left eye is Moon, his third eye is Fire. Fire? Once when a god of love Kamadeva distracted Shiva during meditation and Shiva opened his third eye. Fire poured forth and consumed Kamadeva . . . Oh, this wasn’t good. More sites. When Shiva opened his third eye in anger, most things turned to ashes. Shiva the Destroyer. Shiva the Universal Teacher, whose third eye destroys ignorance. Shiva, who once revealed his infinity to other gods in a form of a pillar of fire.

It all fit. Emmens must’ve found this artifact on one of the statues of Shiva, and it turned out to be the real thing. If Adam Pierce got hold of it, he too would become a pillar of fire, and all of us would burn with him.

“Nevada?” My mother stood in the doorway.

“Shh.” I pointed at Bern.

She came in and sat next to me on the bed.

“How’s it going?” she murmured.

“We found it.”

I let her read the article. Her face grew darker and darker.

“Is that what Pierce wants? To burn everything?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think you should take the kids and Grandma and leave the city for a few days.”

Mom looked at me. “Would that make it easier on you?”

“Yes.” I braced myself for an argument. I just wanted to make sure they wouldn’t burn to death.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll pack up, and we’ll take a trip.”

“Thank you.”

“Whatever will take a load off your shoulders.” My mom paused. “Are you planning on working with Mad Rogan?”

“Yes. He’s still the only hope I have of bringing Adam in.”

“Nevada, how rich is Mad Rogan exactly?”

I frowned. “I don’t know. Bern looked into him. His words were ‘scary rich.’ Probably a few million, I’d imagine. Or maybe a few hundred million.”

My mom had a very neutral expression on her face. “And he’s unattached?”

“I don’t know, actually. He strikes me as the kind of person who has a very liberal interpretation of that word. Why do you ask?”

“Look outside your window.”

I got up and snuck to the window, trying not to wake Bern. Brilliant red carnations filled the parking lot. Some bright red, some dark, almost purple, they rose from planters—hundreds, no, probably thousands, illuminated by small red lights thrust between the planters, blending together into one giant beautiful carnation flower.

I closed my mouth with a click.

“They arrived around two,” Mom said. “Two trucks with flowers and eight people. Took them almost three hours—they just left a few minutes ago.”

“That’s crazy.” What was he thinking?

“It’s none of my business, but are the two of you involved?”

I spun to her. “No. No, we are not.”

“Does he know that?”

“He knows. I told him specifically not to bring me flowers. That’s why he did it. He probably thought it was funny.”

My mother sighed. “Nevada, even if he got these carnations for a dollar apiece, there are about five thousand of them down there, not including the labor and the time of the night. He must’ve given them enough money to drop everything and do this. That’s not a joke. That’s probably the price of a decent used car.”

“He probably dug it out of his couch.” I pictured Mad Rogan fishing for change in an ultramodern furniture. “I should’ve told him not to give me car parts. He would’ve brought a whole tank just to be contrary. Grandma would’ve loved it.”

“It’s your life,” Mom said. “I just never pictured you with someone like Mad Rogan.”

Oh no, not the unsuitable boyfriend lecture. I winked at her. “Who did you picture me with?”

She frowned, stumped. “I don’t know. Someone tall. Athletic.”

I giggled. “That’s it? That’s all you want from your son-in-law? Because Mad Rogan is tall and athletic.”

My mom waved her hands, flustered. “Someone like us. Normal. Money and magical pedigree, it’s a curse. Trust me on this.”

“Mom, I have no plans on doing anything with Mad Rogan.” I leaned against the window. “He kidnapped me and chained me in his basement. He doesn’t even understand no. The last thing I want to do is get emotionally or sexually involved with him. The man has no brakes, and that kind of power . . . it’s like . . . like . . .”

“A hurricane,” Mother said.

“Yes. Like that. I’m going to mind my p’s and q’s and keep him at arm’s length if I can.”

“What the heck are we going to do with all those carnations?”

“I don’t know.” I grinned. “We’ll figure something out.”

My mother shook her head and left.

I opened the window and looked at the sea of red below. The air smelled like flowers, a delicate but slightly spicy scent promising wondrous things. They were so gorgeous, my carnations. I didn’t know why he’d given them to me. It was probably a trap or some sort of manipulation. Maybe it was an apology. I had no idea, but I was sure that no matter how long I lived, no man would ever give me five thousand carnations again. This was a magical thing that could happen only once, so I stood there, breathed in the scent, and let myself dream.

Chapter 13

I walked into the shark fin building of Montgomery International Investigations armed with my laptop, phone, and Bern. My cousin surveyed the ultramodern lobby as we made our way to the elevator. He didn’t seem impressed.

“Think Mad Rogan will show?” Bern asked.

“I hope so.” I’d texted him before we’d left the house: “I know what Adam’s trying to do. Meet me at MII in Augustine’s office at nine.” He hadn’t replied. We needed Rogan. This was now too big for me and Bern, and I wasn’t sure where Augustine’s loyalties lay. He and Rogan clearly had some sort of problem, but I was sure that Rogan wanted to get his hands on Adam Pierce. For all I knew, Augustine might have been helping Adam and whoever his mysterious backers were the entire time.

The elevator brought us to the seventeenth floor. I checked my phone. Three minutes before nine. When we emerged from the elevator, the receptionist met us at the door and led us down a corridor.

She glanced at me. “I understand you’re working with Mad Rogan.”

“Yes. Did he arrive?”

“Yes, he did. Have you set your affairs in order? You know, in case.”

Bern’s eyes got really big.

“My aunt and uncle run a funeral home,” she said. “Let me know if you need any help. It pays to be prepared. That way you’re not a burden on the family.”

Before I could say anything else, the hallway ended and we stepped into the ice-painted privacy of Augustine’s office. He sat behind his desk, his hair, clothes, and the rest of him impeccably perfect. Mad Rogan was in a chair across from him, drinking coffee. His muscular body was clad in a dark suit that fit him like a glove. Well. They hadn’t ripped each other’s throats out.

I looked around the office.

“What are you looking for?” Augustine asked.

“Blood and severed limbs.”

“What you witnessed last night was personal,” Mad Rogan said. “This is business. We’re remarkably civil when it comes to business.”


“The heads and heirs of the Houses,” Mad Rogan said. “Your message made it seem like you’ve had a breakthrough. We both want Adam Pierce, so we’re willing to put our differences aside. Besides, if we were going to brawl, we wouldn’t do it in corporate headquarters.”

“Precisely,” Augustine said. “We observe all necessary formalities before murdering each other.”

Okay then. I put the laptop on the desk and opened it to the picture of Shiva’s third eye. “I think Adam Pierce is planning to destroy Houston.”

It took me about twenty minutes to explain the Great Chicago Fire, Emmens, Shiva, and the legend of his third eye.

“I believe that this amulet wasn’t destroyed. I think it was separated into three pieces, and Adam’s trying to reassemble it. We have a piece, Adam has the piece he retrieved from First National, and there is still a third piece out there somewhere. If I’m right,” I said, “we’re now responsible for this knowledge. I think I’m right. I asked my family to leave town. I also called Professor Itou and suggested that his family leave town as well.”

Augustine sighed. “Ms. Baylor, are you trying to start a panic?”

“No, I’m paying back the man who helped me. I’ve gone with this as far as I can go. I’m at a dead end. If I take this to the authorities—and I have no idea who and where these mysterious authorities are—I probably won’t be believed. The Emmens family, if anyone is still alive, is unlikely to speak to me.” I pushed the laptop toward them. “This is now yours. You’re both Primes. You’re responsible for Houston.”

Rogan and Augustine looked at each other.

“Do you have it on you?” Augustine asked.

Rogan reached into his inner pocket, produced an object wrapped in silk, and passed it to Augustine. Augustine unwrapped the silk and lifted the section of the amulet we’d found. He positioned it in a beam of light, and the quartz stones shone as they caught the sun.

“You’re right,” Augustine murmured. “Considering its worth, it’s probably the real thing.”

“I wouldn’t think quartz was worth that much,” I said.

“It’s not quartz,” Rogan said.

“These are uncut diamonds,” Augustine said. “Excellent quality. Each of these would be about one point seventy-five karats after being cut. I’d estimate a twenty-to thirty-thousand-dollar range per stone.”

There were at least a hundred diamonds. I nearly choked.

“You’re thinking Lenora?” Augustine asked.

Lenora Jordan, Harris County District Attorney? Lenora Jordan, my high school heroine who bound criminals in chains? She would be the only Lenora I knew who was in a position of authority. “Did you mean Lenora Jordan?” I tried to keep excitement out of my voice and failed.

Mad Rogan glanced at me, then looked back at Augustine. “You know her. She’ll take it.”

“If it’s an amplifier, you can’t keep it anyway.” Augustine passed the jeweled piece back to Rogan. “The Houses won’t stand for it. They’ll come for you with pitchforks, tear the artifact from your dead body, and then fight to the death over it. Even you can’t fight all of us.”

Rogan grimaced. “Do you want Emmens or Lenora?”

“Emmens,” Augustine said. “Lenora always disliked you less. Also House Pierce will have to be told.” He looked like he had gulped a mouth full of sour milk. “Ugh. This will be a joyous experience, I’m sure. I’ll also have to put my people onto Pierce.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “I thought you tried to avoid dealing with Adam?”

Augustine sighed. “Like you said, I am a Prime of a Houston House. The welfare of the city is my responsibility.”

I looked at Rogan.

“If Adam burns an office building or two, it’s somewhat annoying,” Rogan said. “If he burns downtown or any of the financial centers, the economic impact on the Houses will be enormous. Every major local House and many families from out of state own property in the city. Aside from the immediate financial hit, the blow to the reputation of affected Houses would be catastrophic. Our people, our retainers, would die in huge numbers.”

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