“That doesn’t sound like a very magical kind of name.”
“Federico the Magnificent was taken,” I informed him and drained the rest of my coffee. Then I unplugged the coffee maker and wrapped up the cord, because that thing was better than the one I had at home, and I wasn’t about to let it go up in flames with the rest of the place.
* * * *
Telling Kit I had a guest room had been a half truth. I had an extra room, sure, but it was small and filled with books and equipment that didn’t fit in my equally small lab. As I led him through the hallway, pointing as I went, I wondered what I’d been thinking.
“Kitchen. Bathroom. Spare room. Lab. Don’t go in that last one.”
“Because there’s magic stuff in there?” Kit sounded way too excited about it. “What would happen to me if I did go in?”
Worst case, he’d be utterly destroyed. Best case, he would only be corrupted, and Kit was so pure, it would kill me…well, maybe not kill me, but make me seriously upset to see him sullied with the kind of muck I was stuck in hip-deep. It really hadn’t been a good idea to bring him here.
“Just don’t go in,” I said to dampen his enthusiasm and opened the door to the spare room. Maybe he’d take one look at it and decide he’d rather sleep in the park again.
Getting the door all the way open took some doing because there were books and boxes of ingredients stacked behind it. I grunted and shoved, putting a little of my magical power into the action, and something gave way.
“This is great,” Kit said, sounding—to my surprise and annoyance—not in the slightest sarcastic. He waded through the boxes and book stacks to the unmade bed and threw himself onto it. “I like it.”
“I’ve got blankets.” I gestured haphazardly around the room. Cleanliness and order had never been my strong suits. “Somewhere. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do.”
Kit nodded. “I’ll keep myself occupied.”
“Don’t go in the lab. Got it.”
“Yeah. Have a nap or something.” I didn’t even know anymore what normal people did in their spare time. Feeling uneasy, I left him to it and went into my lab.
Two steps in the door, I froze. Something was…off. Things had been subtly moved since I’d left this morning; I was certain of that. A book I’d left open was now closed. My coffee mug sat an inch away from the ringed stain it had made.
“What the hell?” I snarled, spinning around my own axis like that would help reveal the intruder. “Who the fuck—”
I reached out with my magic, looking for traces of whoever had been here. They were faint and fleeting, bits as thin as spider silk floating in the air, and they fell apart as soon as I touched them. I couldn’t figure it out. I’d never seen anyone leave traces like this. When I reached farther, pushed more magic into the search, suddenly there was a yanking sensation, and somewhere, a trap snapped shut.
As my magic was severed like a limb and sucked away, I screamed into the sudden darkness engulfing me.
* * * *
I came to feeling nice, which was alarming all by itself. I never felt nice. I had cycles like a drug addict—craving power, being on a power high, or coming down from one and feeling hungover. Nice didn’t factor into it.
But there were fingers softly carding through my hair, my head was cushioned on something pillowy, and someone’s cool breath brushed against my cheek. It was utterly, disgustingly, and undeniably nice.
“I know you said not to go into the lab.” Kit’s voice came to me like a dream. “But after I heard you screaming, I couldn’t really stay away.”
Screaming…pain…a trap… Someone had set a trap for me. I searched for my power and found a large chunk of it missing. The rest was seeping through my bones like it had a leak, diluted and sluggish. I had no idea who could have done something like that to me. I had plenty of enemies, sure, but none who had the capability to design something like this. I didn’t even have a clue how it had been done. I hadn’t known siphoning someone’s magic away like this was possible.
“Shit,” I said and opened my eyes. The ceiling was blurry.
“What happened?” Kit asked. His fingers were still in my hair, massaging my scalp in small circles now, which was giving me goose bumps. “Are you okay?”
“No.” I breathed deeply and pulled away from him in my attempt to sit up. I was only partially successful. Once again Kit helped, pushing me into an upright position. “No, I’m not okay. Kid, you need to leave.”
“It’s Kit,” he corrected me. “And I’m not going anywhere.”
“No, I mean it. I need to find whoever did this to me, and when I do, there’s gonna be trouble. You shouldn’t be anywhere near it.”
“You need someone to take care of you,” he disagreed. “You can’t even stand on your own two feet right now.”
“I need revenge,” I growled. The need for it was pulsating through me with my blood, the power calling out for it.
“You need some scrambled eggs and toast.”
“And then revenge,” I acquiesced.
“And then sleep.”
“Yes, then you can have your revenge. Jesus H. Christ.” Kit patted my head in a way I found condescending but couldn’t do much against because I was still having trouble seeing straight.
I allowed him—and by allowed I mean that I couldn’t muster the energy to protest—to tuck me into bed with a hot-water bottle. Fifteen minutes later, he was back, with actual scrambled eggs on toast and some chamomile tea. I hadn’t even known I had chamomile tea.
Sage C. Holloway