Excerpt From The 5th Reisix (contemporary fantasy)

Jevan finds himself saddled with a curious collection of companions while pursuing a rare book linked to magic, and is caught between his attraction to and distrust of one of them, a fellow magic-user assigned to keep him out of trouble, one way or another.

© Chanda K. Zimmerman, 2011

I took a quick glance outside between the thick drapes, surveying the motel’s parking lot for any problems, then gave Micheal’s shoulder a shove.  He groaned and dug deeper into the covers, not surprisingly since we’d gotten in about 3 am.  The first thing I wanted was some coffee.  I gave him another push, and told him to meet me in the Denny’s next door.

I knocked on Brin and Rez’s door and delivered the same message, as Brin eyed me unhappily  through the crack of the door, over the chain.  Fifteen minutes later, she turned up looking as polished and put together at she had yesterday. I cocked my head, studying her as she ordered eggs, toast, hash browns, fruit, yogurt, granola and a side of pancakes.  I was nursing my fifth cup of coffee and a large cinnamon roll.

“Not good for you, you know.” Brin nodded her chin at my roll.  I scowled.

“Cholesterol is the least of my problems at the moment. Besides, you’re the one eating eggs and . . . everything else in sight.”

She shrugged, stirring a pack of sugar into her coffee, and nodded at the giant sweet roll on my plate.  “Sugar, fat, cholesterol, white flour and virtually no nutritional value.  But hey, it’s your funeral.”  She paused suddenly, staring at her cup.  Then her dark eyes rose to meet mine with genuine apology.  “Sorry.  A little too close to home?”

“More than a little if Oliver finds us here – or rather, finds me here.”   It was my turn to shrug as I took another sip of the bland, weak coffee.  “What are the odds he knows where we are?”

“Well, we didn’t know where we were going last night, so I hardly think he can have figured it out that fast.”  Her brow furrowed.  “Of course, he has a lot of contacts . . . .”

I glanced around the room casually.  “Just hanging out at the Motel 6 and the Denny’s in Santa Fe, on the off chance we turn up?”

She smiled, and bit her lip, savoring some other amusement.  “The night clerk was afraid we were here for something else.”  Brin looked up, blunt and insistent.  “I was a little surprised you chose to sleep with Michael.”

“In the same room with Michael,” I corrected, remembering his naïve offer of a pajama shirt with a grimace.  “I was afraid the clerk might refuse us if I didn’t make that clear.”

“That the only reason?”

I considered her for a moment, enjoying the implications and a moment’s fantasy as my gaze traveled down the soft slope of her breasts and the tilt of her chin, the sly light in her dark eyes. “That . . . and perhaps because I just can’t get excited at the idea of sleeping with somebody who might put a knife in my back.”   I met her narrowed eyes head on. “Look, I know you’re working for Averil Buchanan. you’re here to keep an eye on me – and I presume that includes taking me out if I get too far out of line.”

She demurred, looking down as she unrolled a napkin with undue care.  “Why would Royce allow you to be placed in such danger?

“He’s loyal to Buchanan’s.”

“And what about you?” She picked up her fork, her eyes meeting mine innocently.  “Are you loyal to the Buchanan’s? More specifically, to one particular Buchanan?”

“I don’t know a damn thing about Randolph Buchanan except what his PR says. “

“From what I understand, he’s a very nice, responsible young man.”

“Good, then why don’t you sign on as a slave his household?”

Brin smiled, reaching for the butter, and spreading it thickly on her pancakes, before turning to the eggs and hash browns, and sneaking a nibble of toast. “You can hardly call a royal d’ammasser a slave.  Besides, if I’m working for the Buchanan’s, it’s hardly likely I would want to harm the prince’s d’ammasser.”

“Unless, you’re secretly working for Oliver Sutherland.”

Her smile soured momentarily as she paused to drizzle syrup over the flapjacks.  “Surely, by now, you don’t really believe that?” At my silence, she glanced up at me.

In answer, I let my senses filter out, like delicate tendrils under water, floating toward her.  She cocked her head, surprised, yet unable to resist a smile.  I could sense no malice, no intention of harm, other than her normally coiled persona – a spring-loaded pistol of arcane and physical power that could react at moment’s notice.  I drew a deep breath through my nostrils.  The subtle threat of unknown danger was like icing on the cake . . . almost irresistible.  She took a bite of pancake, watching me and chewing slowly with a spark of amusement in her eyes.  Swallowing, she shrugged.

“You know, I could say the same of you.”  She cut off a bite of pancake, and paused with her fork in midair at my puzzled frown.  “You’re just as dangerous, Jevan.  A grown tamarist, with no restraints, who could kill me in my sleep with little more than a gesture and a spoken word or two. I’m very well trained . . . but in my work, you can get killed confronting a renegade, let alone a renegade tamarist.” She downed the bite of pancake, then stabbed a strawberry and waggled it at me, leaning forward seductively.  “To risk that, I’d have to be deeply attracted . . . or just damn desperate.”

She popped the strawberry in her mouth, pursing her lips toward me in mock seduction.

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