Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(7)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(7)
Author: K.F. Breene

There went my eyebrows.

Like a live thing, the blistering fire crawled across my skin and ate away a strap of my tank top. I should’ve worn leather on my torso. Trying to get home half-naked wouldn’t be awesome.

The house rumbled. The floor splintered with the pressure, and bits of the ceiling rained down.

I kicked a larger hole in the wall as the heat of my magic surged through me. I grabbed him with both hands, easily ignoring the dying blast of fire. He didn’t have the power to sustain it.

I wrangled him through the hole, finishing the job with a fast jerk. The fire sputtered out and the house sagged onto its frame, creaking and squealing as it settled.

Uh oh. That wasn’t a good sign.

“You okay, Big C?” I let go of him, and he crumpled to the floor.

Definitely not a good sign.

Hoping he was just knocked out, I put two fingers to his neck. No pulse.

“Dang it.” I straightened up, my hands on my hips. I hated when I accidentally killed the mark.

I kicked the wall in a temper. My foot went through to the other side and hooked on a jagged piece, stuck.

“Flippity-shit, double damn it!”

Would nothing go right?

Forcing myself to calm down, I twisted my foot and delicately brought it back through the wall. Breathing heavily, I stared down at the lifeless body. “How’d you work up that kind of fire, huh, Big C? That’s a rare spell. Not many mages know how to do it. Or so I was told.”

Silence met my question.

Of course it did…I had bloody killed him. A human’s body was so fragile. I dealt with non-human types so often that I sometimes forgot to be careful.

I blew out a breath into the silence. Cracks and breaks in the wood made for a very uneven floor surface. How he had planned to live in this house after his weapon-spell went off? But then, the criminally insane rarely thought ahead.

Remembering that hollow area I’d heard earlier, I tapped the spot in front of me with my boot. It sounded solid. I kept trying until I found the location, then bent to run my hand just above the floor.

A pulsing sort of magic vibrated across my palm. A defensive hex, surely.

I didn’t bother using my sword as a medium this time. With no one to witness and then possibly tell on me, I was free to openly use my unique sort of magic.

Fire sprang to life along the floor, but it wasn’t wild, like the kind the mage had created with a spell. This was concise, as hot as liquid magma, and completely controlled. A blast of it would melt a normal person’s skin off. Not even leather would survive. I knew from experience. While my skin was fireproof, I’d once ruined a perfectly good pair of pants.

Glowing red-orange flame ate through the section of floor in a matter of moments. I clenched the air over the fire and pulled my fist away, shifting the fire into the air for a moment as I surveyed what was in the hole.

A leather-bound book with some sort of ancient scrawl greeted me. “Well hel-lo, gorgeous.” A defensive hex throbbed around it, promising a blast of pain should anyone touch it.

I lowered the fire back into the hole, increasing the power but decreasing the heat. Too hot and I was liable to make the spell explode. Something else I’d learned the hard way.

My fire peacefully ate away at the magic. I extinguished the flame and drifted my hand over the hole again, making sure all the active magic was gone. The coast was clear.

The leather cover was smooth to the touch. I lifted the book, feeling the solid weight of it, and opened the cover. Familiar characters and the musty smell of aged paper made my eyes flutter closed and a smile grace my lips. This old volume was sure to contain some excellent spells. This was where he’d probably learned about magical fire, body armor, and whatever he’d done to make his house rock around like a holiday party. I often studied a similar book, though I’d never attempted any of the spells. Or really any magic performed by mages, having spent so long perfecting my own, which didn’t exist in any books.

Where had he gotten this text, I wondered? It must’ve been a recent acquisition, or he would’ve been terrorizing his neighbors some time ago. Thankfully, he’d chosen to hoard the book rather than share it, or we might’ve had a citywide epidemic of mediocre mages running amok. The humans would’ve noticed the magical community for sure.

I glanced around, deciding that a great use of my time, while in the house of this dead man, was to poke my nose into other nooks and crannies. It wasn’t like he’d mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed treasure hunting.

After placing the book in an unmolested part of the room for safekeeping—it blended nicely into a trash pile—I set out through the house, waving my hands in front of me like a blind man, feeling for magic. I repeatedly tapped the floor with my toe, including in the carpeted areas, and checked his shelves and even under his bed. Finally, I looked on his computer, grimacing as I went through his browsing history. The man had some odd tastes, and not a lot of magically relevant information.

Almost giving up, I checked the refrigerator, found a can of soda, and then tapped the floor as I had a drink.

Tap-tap-tap-tonk.

I paused with my foot hovering over a discolored section of linoleum.

On closer inspection, I had another winner.

No magic vibrated my palm, so I peeled back the square of flower-patterned linoleum, which likely hadn’t started out that horrible brown color, and stared down at what lay beneath it—a square of particle board with a small hook in it.

The lack of a protective spell should’ve been my first clue that something was amiss.

I lifted the floorboard to a spray of green goo. I flung myself away, but not in time. Liquid slashed my cheek and splatted on the side of my neck. It immediately started to burn, and not in that great way fire did. This felt more like acid.

“Mother-trucker!” I grabbed a kitchen towel off the counter and wiped the stuff off. The pain lessened into a throb before morphing into a cold sensation seeping into my skin.

I still didn’t feel magic, which meant this stuff was naturally made.

I had no knowledge of natural crap.

In a panic, I rifled through his cupboards for potions or books on poison or a cookbook, anything that might give me some hint as to what he’d made.

The cold burrowed deep into my neck. That was probably bad. The neck was an extremely vulnerable area.

I tore back through the house, aiming for the magical book. Maybe he had notes in there, or a big star marking the kitchen booby trap.

Before I made it halfway down the hall, the front door cracked open.

I dove, rolled, felt a poke of wood in my back, and yanked out my gun. Killing a random person would be bad news, especially if they were human—the human police would be all over it—but hopefully the gun would scare them away. Otherwise, I’d shoot, torch the place, and run. Which was why I didn’t have paperwork. A person with no records of any kind was hard to identify.

“Freeze!” I shouted in a deep voice, trying to sound like a cop.

“Oh!” A big-bosomed woman jerked to a stop in the doorway, throwing up her hands. “Don’t shoot.”

“This is a crime investigation,” I lied, my focus back on my neck.

“You’re the bounty hunter, right? The one I saw outside?” The woman peered through the gloom, staring vaguely.

Just my luck. I was in peril, and a blind person was the only one available to help me find a written spell.

“I’m the bounty hunter, yes. I’m a little busy right now, actually. If you’ll just—”

“Is he dead?” she asked quietly.

“Unfortunately, yes. Hazard of the trade.” I crawled to my feet and felt my neck. To my fingers, my skin felt perfectly normal, but the cold was eating down into my chest now.

Before I could dash for the spell book, a flare of light stopped me short.

I reeled back and covered my eyes, adjusting. It wasn’t until then that I realized why she hadn’t looked directly at me—only a select type of magical people could see in the dark. I was one of those people, but given that there wasn’t a spell for it, at least not that I knew of, mages generally were not.

Big C had been able to see in the dark! I hadn’t noticed because I’d had other things on my mind. How?

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