Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(10)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(10)
Author: K.F. Breene

What about if I was in his lair? Could he sort it out then?

I scratched my chin, thinking through the options.

He could bite me and taste my blood, but would that tell him anything?

I bit my lip, not sure. They were wily, elders, so there was definitely a chance he could figure it out and run straight to the bank, i.e. my father, but a good chance? I wasn’t so sure. The shifters hadn’t been able to, and they’d been sniffing around for a while.


“Your eyebrows’ve gone missing again.” Mince, a thick guy who had taken too many punches to the face in his boxing career, and had the nose to show for it, stalled by the steps to my porch.

I fingered the smooth skin where my eyebrows were supposed to be, and then the singed remnants of my bangs. “Yeah. Got too close to an open flame.”

“Looks like you stuck your face in an open flame. How come you never get a burn on your skin?”

“Sunblock. You wouldn’t know, since you have a natural deterrent.”

He frowned at me. “That has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Because I’m black, I can’t get burnt? Are you dumb?”

“No, Mr. Sensitive, I’m kidding.”

He huffed and looked away, probably waiting for his flash of annoyance to wear away. I could irritate the most patient of people. Misdirection was my superpower.

“You taking tonight off?” he asked, turning back.

“Don’t know. Just pondering that now.”

“Your boss doesn’t mind your random hours, huh? I got let go for all that.”

“You know that I work for myself. I make my own hours.”

“Ah yeah, that’s right. I get you confused with that white girl down the way.”

I didn’t know how. She was ancient and wrinkly, using a walker for her every outing, while I was twenty-four and scrappy. We were pretty different.

He nodded at the bag by my feet containing my new book. I’d brought it out here to have a look through it, but the issue with the vampires had sidelined my focus. I’d have to come back to it later.

“What’s in that?” he asked

I rose. “Something I stole today. I have to get it checked out.”

“Need any of my contacts?”

“Nope.” I took the paper bag by the flimsy handles. A nicer bag might’ve drawn attention. “The only electrical device I got was a computer, and it didn’t have a password. Unless you know someone who’s knowledgeable about three-hundred-year-old books…” I turned toward the screen door.

“Stealing smart person stuff, huh?” Mince leaned against the weathered railing. “Yeah, I got someone. He ain’t cheap. Charges a consulting fee. He can help you find a buyer, though.”

I froze with the screen door half open and turned back. “You know someone who specializes in really old books?”

He shrugged. “When you ransack a rich man’s house, sometimes you get rare books. Or so I’ve heard.”

I shook my head. “You need to get a real job. You’re going to get pinched someday.”

“Says the girl with a bag full of stolen goods.”

“That’s different. I killed the guy first.”

“Whoa.” He raised his hands and backed away. “I didn’t hear that. I did not hear that. Just let me know if you need my guy, okay? Keep the rest of your business to yourself.” He walked away shaking his head.

Sometimes I forgot how crazy I sounded.

I dropped the bag in my room so I’d remember to put it in my version of a safe, and then headed to the fridge. Mostly bare. I needed to go shopping.

Sighing, I closed it up again and looked around my tiny residence. Rent was cheap, so that eight hundred dollars would cover it, but the money wouldn’t stretch over all my bills. I’d have the same problem next month. If I’d taken Baldy in, the money would’ve kept me out of sight for a while, not to mention kept me cool in the hot summer months.

I scrubbed my fingers through my hair and got myself a glass of water. Sinking into the couch, I pondered the bounty notice. Fifty grand. What I wouldn’t give for that kind of money…

That vamp probably knew it, too. As far as the magical community went, I was the only full-time, independent bounty hunter in the area. I got all the high-risk and high-paying jobs because no one else would take them. Without that payout, I was broke. If the vamp knew anything at all, he would know I was poor. That stealing that mark had put me in the hole.

Suddenly, anger boiled through my body.

That vamp had stolen my livelihood, and now he was suckering me into working for him. Probably just for his personal entertainment, too. I wouldn’t put it past him. Everything was a game to the elders, and people were just strategy. I should say no, thereby giving him the bird. I should. And maybe I would…right after I punched him in the face.

I informed the captain that I’d meet with the vampires, and no more than an hour later, after I’d scarfed down a quick meal of frozen food and secured the book in my safe, I received an email on my new computer regarding how to get to the Dungeon. Not having a printer, I wrote all the info down before strapping on my weapons.

I stepped out into the night with my game face on.

“Going to work after all, huh?” Mince wasn’t far from my porch.

“Are you stalking me?”

“Nah. A couple kids wandered into the cemetery. That old loon Smokey went in after them. I figured I’d watch from a distance to see if anything happened. Smokey probably thinks they’re witches or some shit. He’s nuts.” I had no idea who Smokey was by name, but if he haunted the area, chances were I’d know him on sight. “I figured I’d get some game time in while I waited.” He held up his phone.

“You’re too old for computer games.”

“A person is never too old for computer games. I’m good, too. Those little ten-year-old bastards don’t know who they’re dealing with.”

“Watch my house,” I said, bouncing down the steps.

“Maybe,” he mumbled.

I rolled my eyes and started to jog. All my weapons bounced on my person, which was annoying, but I was too impatient to walk. That would give me time to think, and I didn’t want to talk myself out of that fifty grand and punching a smug vampire in the mouth.

This was a terrible idea.

“La. La. La. La. La,” I sang to myself, and ran faster.

I made it to the gate in no time and slowed as I approached the white, wavy line cutting vertically through the air. As a rule, I didn’t spend much time in the Realm. My mom had always warned me away from the watchful eyes of nosy magical people.

Summoning my courage, I pushed through. Electricity surged through me as the tear in the fabric of the universe checked my body for the pass: magic.

The black sky in New Orleans shifted to the burned-orange of dusk as I emerged in the Realm. A tiny breeze ruffled my hair, perfectly pleasant. A bench sat off to the side, meant for those with only a little magic. Crossing was extremely taxing for them, but not for me, so I hurried along my way.

Light gold filaments drifted through the nighttime air, swirling as I walked. My boots scraped the cobblestone pathway. Eternally blooming flowers lined the edges, the sweet smell and lovely colors adding to the pleasantness of the temperature.

I reached a fork, checked my directions, and took the road less traveled. That made sense—no self-respecting person paid house calls to the vampires.

I was an idiot.

As far as I knew, the Realm was as expansive and diverse as the Brink. The elves lived in a huge castle of some sort (I’d never seen it) surrounded by a metropolis, but there were also giant stretches of woods and wilds, and equally as many towns and villages. In parts, various groups of magical people lived together in relative harmony, compromising and adapting to everyone’s differences. In other parts, the magical groups more or less isolated themselves.

The other interesting thing about the Realm was the travel ways, which was the only reason I’d visited in the past. Minute for minute, time in the Realm was the same as the Brink, but the distances you could travel within that minute changed. In relation to the Brink, I could enter from a gate in New Orleans and exit in France within an afternoon if I chose the right paths. Or it could take a whole day to go five miles at a fast run, something I’d learned the hard way.

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