Burn for Me Page 44

“Well, at least it was a nice car.” She turned to Mad Rogan. “Who would want to ruin their nice car by hitting you with it?”

Mad Rogan sucked in a slow breath and let it out.

“Got you in the ribs, huh.” The woman waved. “Load both of them up.”

“I can . . .” Mad Rogan started.

She pointed to a stretcher. “Down.”

I felt the distinct urge to do whatever she said and do it quickly.

Mad Rogan lay down on the stretcher. The team wheeled Troy and him into the building.

“I’m Dr. Daniela Arias,” the woman said to me. “Come inside. You can wait in our waiting room.”

I followed her in. I didn’t really feel like I had a choice.

Most waiting rooms I visited had rows of semi-comfortable chairs, a TV, and, if you were lucky, a Coke machine. This waiting room should’ve been in some luxury hotel. A huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium took up one wall, and small schools of silver fish with bright red fins swam back and forth, darting in and out of an elaborate white coral at the bottom. Plush couches occupied the room, some in the corner, arranged into a semi-private ring around an obligatory fireplace, others in front of an enormous flat-screen TV, hooked up to what had to be every gaming system known to man. To the left, a large stainless steel fridge with clear glass doors showed off rows of water, orange juice, and Gatorade on one side, and deli meat, yogurt, salads, and plastic bowls filled with cut vegetables and fruit on the other. I was encouraged to “help myself.” I helped myself to a bowl of raspberries. They were ridiculously delicious.

I was on my third bowl—I had earned it—when Daniela Arias walked through the door.

“He will live,” she said.

Oh drat.

“He would like to see you.”

I made myself put the raspberries down and followed her down the hallway.

“Is he in pain?”

“I’ve given him something that will get him through the next six hours. But if he twists the wrong way, he’ll feel it. He has two cracked ribs, and his shoulder is severely bruised.”

He wasn’t dead. That was all that mattered.

“What about Troy?”

“Broken leg, a nice clean fracture. He’ll be sent home with a bonus. So what’s your story?” Daniela asked. “Were you in the service?”

“No, ma’am. My mother was.”

“How did he rescue you?”

“I’m not employed by Mad Rogan. We just happened to work together.”

“I see.”

“Were you rescued, ma’am?”

“Yes,” she said. “I served for ten years, six of them in South America. Then I finally got out, because I was ready for civilian life. I went to work for a med-first urgent care clinic. Some urgent clinics offer good service. The one I worked for was all about money. When I got into medicine, I did it to save lives. So if I knew that a certain drug was needed, I prescribed it. If a treatment was required, I administered it. Even if I knew the patients might not be able to pay the deductible.”

“The owners didn’t like it?” I guessed.

“No. All doctors write off some patients who can’t pay, but the owners decided I was writing off too much. They talked to me, then they threatened me. They expected me to fold, but I didn’t tuck my tail between my legs and slink away. I was paid a salary based on what they thought I would make. Then insurance refused to pay a few times, some deductibles weren’t met, and I ended up owing the clinic money. Normally the clinics would push those moneys out to the next quarters, but they didn’t. They demanded that I cover what the insurance didn’t, and when I couldn’t, they went after me in court. I sold my house, emptied all of my savings, and then I declared bankruptcy. Then Mad Rogan found me, paid off my settlement, gave me a chance to practice medicine, and made my life a hell of a lot better. So if you do anything to hurt him, I will put a bullet in your brain.” She smiled at me and opened the door. “Go in.”

I walked through the door and heard the lock click behind me. I stood in a beautiful hotel room. Directly opposite the door, a thick, grey curtain framed a floor-to-ceiling window presenting a view of Houston. On my right, a giant bed stood against the wall. It was high enough, and the metal and plastic frame in which it rested was complicated enough, for it to serve as a hospital bed, but right now it looked more like a bed in some upscale suite, complete with snow-white blanket and rows of pillows. Further on the right, a small kitchenette hugged the wall. Across from it near the curtain stood a rectangular glass box. It took me a second to realize it was actually a shower with several nozzles, with water still beading on the inside of its walls, and that Mad Rogan stood next to it, barefoot, wearing jeans and a plain white T-shirt, and that his dark hair was damp.

Mad Rogan had just taken a shower. He had stood in that glass box, naked, with water running all over him. I’d probably missed a na**d Rogan by mere minutes.

My imagination painted him nude, the golden skin damp, hard, smooth muscle rolling on his arms as he ran his hand through his hair . . . heat spread through me. I was flushing. I knew I was flushing.

We were locked in a room together. The room had a bed. Why did my heart speed up?

“. . . male.”


Mad Rogan grimaced. “No, I didn’t see his face. I saw his hand as he bent down.”

He was on the phone. This wasn’t good. I was observant. It was one of my professional skills, something I practiced, but also something that came naturally to me. He was standing right there with his phone to his ear, and I completely didn’t see it. I just saw his eyes, and his jaw, and the strong line of his neck, and the outline of a muscular chest under the T-shirt. I saw an enormous dark bruise creeping up the left side of his neck and a dozen small cuts and bruises on his arms. But I didn’t see the phone. The thought of him in the shower short-circuited whatever power of observation I had.

Okay. This had to stop. This was now actively interfering with my ability to do my job. I had to not think about him in the shower. Or being in the shower with him.

“Yes, I’m sure, Augustine,” Mad Rogan said into the phone. “He didn’t caress my cheek softly with his calloused fingers, but I saw a male hand.”

“He wore a ring,” I said.

“Wait.” Mad Rogan put the phone on speaker. “What kind of a ring?”

“A thick gold ring. It looked like a school ring.”

“Did you happen to notice what finger the ring was on?” Augustine said through the phone.

“Index finger.”

“Are you sure?” Augustine asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I thought it was odd, because school rings are usually worn on the ring finger of the right hand.”

“Not if it’s a Zeta Sigma Mu frat ring,” Rogan said.

“What kind of fraternity is that?” I asked.

“Magic. Notable and above only,” Augustine said.

“That frat ring is worn on the index finger because the ancients believed that ring fingers had a vein going through them that led straight to the heart,” Mad Rogan said. “Magic is an analytical art and must be free of constraints of the heart, so you wear the ring as far away as possible from the ring finger. Which would technically mean the thumb, but thumb rings are too impractical.”

“There are eight animator Houses in the country,” Augustine said. “Possibly more. I don’t like it. I don’t like that more than one Prime is involved in this. The stakes just skyrocketed. Okay, I’ll call you when I get him.”

Mad Rogan hung up the phone and looked at me. “He found Mark Emmens, the great-grandson of the original Emmens. He is seventy-nine and of sound mind. Augustine is personally bringing him to MII.”


“He’s hexed.”

“What do you mean, hexed?”

Mad Rogan tossed the phone on the bed. “Every member of the Emmens family is placed under a powerful compulsion that prevents them from speaking about the artifact.”

“You can do that?”

“Not me personally, but it can be done. It’s very rare and requires months of preparation. Apparently the Emmens family considers it their sacred duty to protect the location of the artifact.”

I frowned. “So how does it help us?”

“You’ll have to break the hex.”



I spread my arms. “I have no idea how to do it. You’ve used Acubens Exemplar on me. Can’t you do something like Hammer Lock to break through the hex?”

“I’m a weak telepath. My telepathy is the by-product of my being a tactile, and besides, Acubens Exemplar took weeks to set up. It was left over from another venture I was involved in. Using it completely drained me. Of the two of us, you have much better chances.”


“Rogan, I don’t know how. I will try my best, but I don’t know how to do it.”

He sat on the bed. “You’ll likely have to tap into the same place you did when you interrogated me after your grandmother nearly died during the arson.”

Sure. Piece of cake.


“I can’t. I’m not sure what I did or how I did it.”

“Okay.” Mad Rogan leaned forward. “Let’s try to figure this out. When you exercise your power, do you make an effort?”

“Not really.”

“What happens when your magic misfires?”

“It doesn’t.”

He paused. “You never had a false positive?”


He looked at me. “Are you telling me that all this time you’ve been tapping your passive field, and it has never misfired?”

“I don’t know what that means.”

His expression went blank.

Silence stretched.

I felt stupid standing there. “Rogan?”

“Hold on. I’m trying to figure out how to condense thirty years of being a Prime and learning magic theory into twenty minutes of explanation. I’m trying to put it into words you’d understand.”

I shook my head.


“I realize that I’m ignorant and it’s frustrating for you, but it would be nice if you didn’t imply that I was an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot. I’m trying to explain how to fly a jet to someone who’s never seen a plane before.”

I sighed and sat in a chair. “Well, when you find the words my stupid self can understand, you let me know.”

“Are you at least going to try to learn, or are you just going to sit over there and pout? It’s unlike you.”

“Rogan, you don’t know anything about what I’m like.”

He slid off the bed and crouched by me. No wince, no frown. Whatever painkillers the good doctor had given him must’ve been really strong. He focused on me completely, the same way he did when he asked me a question and waited for an answer. It was almost impossible to look away. If he ever fell in love—which probably wasn’t possible, given that he was likely a psychopath—his would be the kind of devotion people fantasized about.

“You’ll hurt your ribs,” I said.

“What’s the problem, Nevada?”

I wanted to lie. I had a strong, almost irresistible urge to make up some bullshit. Except there was no vital reason for me to do it. I just wanted to protect my ego and my pride, and that really wasn’t good enough to justify a lie. “Have you ever written a paper last minute for school or college?”


“And then someone reads it and tells you it’s sloppy and you shouldn’t have waited till the last minute, so you get mad at that person. But really you’re mad at yourself.”

Prev Next