Three Mages and a Margarita (Page 37)
Tom’s face disappeared, and more scuffling sounds followed. Then the light changed—a surge of red and yellow, the crackle of flames, and an agonized howl.
The hand on my arm disappeared and awareness flooded my mind. I recoiled, hitting the door to the walk-in fridge and grabbing the handle for balance. The door swung inward and I almost fell, my legs trembling.
Aaron was halfway up, blood streaking his face. Fire blazed over his arms and his hands clenched around fistfuls of Tom’s shirt. Tom screamed, grabbing at Aaron’s wrists but unable to touch the flames that coated his skin.
The telekinetic thrust his hand out and an invisible force shoved Aaron backward. Tom tore free, sobbing as he scrambled away. With a wave of his hand, the telekinetic lifted my abandoned saucepan off the floor and it streaked toward Aaron’s head.
He smashed it out of the air with his fist, flames exploding on impact. The telekinetic snapped his hand in a “come-hither” motion. A butcher knife zoomed across the kitchen and halted inches from my throat.
“Stop where you are, or she dies,” the telekinetic barked.
Teeth bared and fear in his eyes, Aaron went still. The fire on his arms flickered out.
“If you move,” the woman purred, stepping toward him, “you’ll get to watch her bleed out all over the floor.”
She reached for his arm.
“No, Aaron!” I yelled. “Don’t let her touch y—”
Her hand wrapped around his wrist. The fury and fear in his face evaporated, and his expression went as lifeless as a plastic mannequin. The woman turned a simpering smile on me and flipped her blond hair over her shoulder with her free hand.
“Shall we, then?” she said to her accomplices.
The telekinetic, his eyes fixed on the floating knife pointed at my unprotected throat, smirked triumphantly. Openly weeping from his burns, Tom had staggered to the back entrance at the far end of the kitchen, and the woman started after him, her hand tightly gripping Aaron’s wrist. He followed submissively, his eyes vacant. He didn’t look at me as they passed. He didn’t see me at all, and I knew why. She had control of his mind, just as she’d controlled me.
Tom disappeared through the back door, and the woman paused in the threshold. “Why don’t we show Darius how serious we are? A dead body in his guild ought to get his attention.”
Chuckling to herself, she steered Aaron out the door, leaving me with the telekinetic. As they vanished, the butcher knife floated away from me as though an invisible wielder were drawing it back to strike. I stared at the blade, unable to move, nowhere to go.
The knife shot for my throat—then veered off course, screeching across the walk-in fridge door.
At the other end of the kitchen, Liam hung off a saloon door, one hand stretched toward me.
Swearing, the other telekinetic waved emphatically. Two more butcher knives whipped out of the block and catapulted for Liam. He ran toward the projectiles as a huge pot lid flew in front of him like a shield. The knives ricocheted off the lid and everything crashed to the floor.
Liam skidded to a stop beside me, hands outstretched as though waiting for the next item to command.
The other telekinetic glanced over Liam and sneered. A serrated bread knife pulled from the block’s dwindling supply, then a thin-bladed boning knife. As the points swerved in our direction, Liam thrust his hands toward them.
The knives stopped where they were, vibrating in the air.
A third knife pulled out of the block and spun to face us. Liam gasped, muscles tensed like he was straining against a terrible weight. The three knives vibrated harder. Liam panted, his arms trembling from the effort.
The third knife wobbled, then flashed into motion. Liam flung a hand toward it, halting its movement—but the other two broke free and whipped across the distance.
Liam fell back, tumbling into me. I grabbed him and threw us into the open walk-in fridge. As I kicked the door shut, the third knife hit the metal with a shriek. Footsteps stomped toward the door and I wrapped my fists around the handle, determined to hold it closed.
“Leave them!” the woman called. “We have what we came for.”
“Fine,” the telekinetic snarled, his voice right outside the door. The handle shuddered under my palm and a terrifying metallic crunch sounded, then his footsteps thudded away. A door banged.
I whirled toward Liam. He lay on his back, hyperventilating as his hands waved helplessly around his chest where two knives stuck out of his body.
“Oh god,” I whimpered. “Hold on, Liam.”
I fumbled my phone out of my pocket, but there was no reception in the metal-lined fridge. Lurching to the door, I twisted the handle. It didn’t move.
“No,” I moaned, wrenching on it. “No!”
I battered my shoulder against the door but the impact didn’t so much as shake the heavy, insulated metal. I twisted the handle until pain burned through my fingers, but I couldn’t make it move. The telekinetic had jammed it.
Dropping to my knees beside Liam, the painful chill of the floor spreading through my jeans, I tried to remember a long-ago first aid class. Blood trickled from around the knives, and the handles shifted with every frenzied breath he took.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I came back … forgot my sunglasses … heard you—”
“Shh, Liam.” I wrapped his cold hand in both of mine. “Just hang in there. Help will be here soon.”
He nodded, his face white, and didn’t ask the question I knew he was thinking. The question I was desperately avoiding.
Help would come … eventually. But would it come soon enough to save Liam’s life?
Ezra leaned against the table, and I leaned against him. His warm arms banded across my back as though he could squeeze the shivers out of me. I tried to stop my teeth from chattering.
An hour. An hour trapped in the fridge, desperately hoping Liam wouldn’t die before Ezra, Kai, and Felix returned. I’d heard them come in and screamed my head off until they broke the door open. Kai and Felix had rushed Liam away, taking him … somewhere. Kai had been on the phone with a woman named Elisabetta—the guild’s best healer.
I’d already given them a brief rundown of what had happened, but while we waited for Kai to return, I told Ezra everything. As I spoke, he went more and more rigid, his arms like steel clamps. The air around us grew noticeably chill and the lights dimmed. I pretended not to notice.
Ezra’s phone chimed. Keeping an arm around me, he fished it out of his pocket, the studded knuckles of his bad-guy-smasher gloves gleaming. He swiped the screen up and read a message.
“Liam is with Elisabetta,” he murmured, his smooth voice soothing my anxiety. “Kai and Felix are on their way back, and they’ve called in the troops. Every guild member they could reach is on their way here.”
I nodded against his chest, too exhausted and sick with worry to voice the questions piling up in my head. Ezra cocooned me in his arms again. My shoulder, struck by the telekinetic’s murder-ball, throbbed nonstop.
When the front door snapped open, I jumped half a foot and Ezra clamped me tighter to him as though I might leap over backward and hurt myself. Zora swept inside, her pink-streaked pixie cut damp and her giant sword in hand, the sheath’s straps dragging on the floor.
“Got Felix’s message,” she said tersely. “I’d just stepped out of the shower. What happened?”
Now that we had company, I tried to pull out of Ezra’s arms but he didn’t let go.
“While we were hunting the rogues,” he said, an unfamiliar growl in his voice, “a different group attacked Tori, Liam, and Aaron. They took Aaron. Liam is with Elisabetta. Stab wounds.”
Zora’s eyes blazed. “They took Aaron? How?”
“From what Tori described, it sounded like a mentalist.”
She swore with such vileness that I flinched. “You okay, Tori?”
“I’m fine.” I pried myself out of Ezra’s embrace. “What’s a mentalist?”
Zora’s mouth twisted with distaste. “A type of psychic who can influence the thoughts or actions of—”
She broke off as Lyndon the sorcerer strode into the building, followed a moment later by Sin, her hair a tangle and her t-shirt inside out.
“Tori! Are you okay?” Racing past Lyndon, she grabbed my hand. “Why are you so cold?”
“I got locked in the fridge.”
“What’s happening?” Lyndon asked, rubbing the stubble on his usually shaved head. “All Felix’s message said was Liam is in critical condition, Aaron is missing, and everyone needs to get their asses over here.”
“Felix can explain when he arrives,” Ezra replied. “He’s on his way back.”
Lyndon nodded toward Ezra’s gear, his Twin Terrors lying on the table behind us. “How did the rogue hunting go?”
“Better than expected. They had no idea we were coming, which makes the rest of this even stranger.”
The five of us waited without speaking as the minutes ticked past. More guild members arrived in ones, twos, and threes—familiar faces like Gwen, Ramsey, and Taye from Kai’s rogue hunting team; Andrew, Cameron, and Cearra from the team that had exterminated a vampire nest; Sylvia, the Manhattan-loving sorceress; Riley, Sin’s curly-haired alchemist friend; the yoga witch and her boyfriend. Others I hadn’t seen since my first shift came in as well, gathering silently in the pub. It occurred to me I should offer them drinks or something, but I didn’t move from Ezra’s side.