Burn For Me
A Hidden Legacy Novel
By Ilona Andrews
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career-a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.
Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan-a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.
Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.
“You nosy bitch. You and that harpy are in it together.”
At the desk the concierge frantically mashed buttons on a phone.
If I’d been on my own, I would have turned and run. Some people stand their ground no matter what. In my line of work, a stint at the hospital, coupled with a bill you can’t pay because you’re not working, cures that notion really fast. Given a chance, I’d run like a rabbit, but I had to buy Liz time to get to her car.
John raised his arms, bent at the elbow, palms up, fin- gers apart, as if he was holding two invisible softballs in his hands. The mage pose. Oh shit.
“Mr. Rutger, don’t do this. Adultery isn’t illegal. You haven’t committed any crimes yet. Please don’t do this.”
His eyes stared at me, cold and hard. “You can still walk away from this.”
“You thought you could humiliate me. You thought you’d embarrass me.” His face darkened as ghostly magic shadows slid across his skin. Tiny red sparks ignited above his palms and flared. Bright crimson lightning danced, stretching to the tips of his fingers.
Where the hell was the hotel security? I couldn’t take him down first—it would be an assault, and we couldn’t afford to be sued—but they could.
“Let me show you what happens to people who try to humiliate me.”
I dashed to the side.
Thunder pealed. The glass doors of the hotel shattered. The blast wave picked me up off the floor. I saw the chair from the lounge fly at me and I threw my hands up, curl- ing in midair. The wall smashed into my right shoulder. The chair hit my side and face. Ow.
I crashed down next to the shards of a ceramic pot that had held a plant two seconds ago, then I scrambled to my feet.
The red sparks ignited again. He was getting ready for Round Two.
They say a hundred-and-thirty-pound woman has no chance against an athletic two-hundred-pound man. That’s a lie. You just have to make a decision to hurt him and then do it.
I grabbed a heavy pot shard and hurled it at him. It crashed against his chest, knocking him off balance. I ran to him, yanking a Taser from my pocket. He swung at me. It was hard and fast, and it caught me right in the stomach. Tears swelled in my eyes. I lunged forward and jammed the Taser against his neck.
The shock surged through him. His eyes bulged. Please let him go down. Please.
His mouth gaped open. John went rigid and crashed like a log.
I knelt on his neck, pulled a plastic tie from my pocket, and wrestled his hands together, tying them up.
I sat next to him on the floor. My face hurt.
Two men burst from the side doors and ran to us. Their jackets said security. Well, now they show up. Thank God for the cavalry.
In the distance police sirens blared.
Sgt. Munoz, a stocky man twice my age, peered at the security footage. He’d watched it twice already.
“I couldn’t let him put her into the car,” I said from my spot in the chair. My shoulder hurt and the handcuffs on my hands kept me from rubbing it. Being in close prox-imity to cops filled me with anxiety. I wanted to fidget, but fidgeting would make me look nervous.
“You were right,” Munoz said and tapped the screen, pausing on John Rutger reaching for his wife. “That right there is your dead giveaway. The man’s caught with his pants down and he doesn’t say, ‘Sorry, I fucked up.’ He doesn’t beg for forgiveness or get angry. He goes cold and tries to get his wife out of the picture.”
“I didn’t provoke him. I didn’t put my hands on him either, until he tried to kill me.”
“I see that.” He turned to me. “That’s a C2 Taser you’ve got there. You do know range on those things is fifteen feet?”
“I didn’t want to take chances. His magic looked elec- trical to me, and I thought he might block the current.”
Munoz shook his head. “No, he was enerkinetic. Straight magic energy, and education to use it, courtesy of the U.S. Army. This guy is a vet.”
“Ah.” That explained why Rutger went flat. Dealing with adrenaline was nothing new to him. The fact that he was an enerkinetic made sense too. Pyrokinetics manipu- lated fire, aquakinetics manipulated water, and enerkinet- ics manipulated raw magical energy. Nobody was quite sure what the nature of that energy was, but it was a rela- tively common magic. How in the world did Bern miss all this in the background check? When I got home, my cousin and I would have to have words.
A uniformed cop stuck his head in the door and handed my license back to Munoz. “She checks out.”
Munoz unlocked my cuffs, took them off, and handed me my purse and camera. My cell and my wallet fol- lowed. “We have your statement, and we took your memory card. You’ll get it back later. Go home, put some ice on that neck.”
I grinned at him. “Are you going to tell me not to leave town, Sarge?”
Munoz gave me a “yet another smart-ass” look. “No. You went up against a military-grade mage for a grand. If you need the money that bad, you probably can’t afford the gas.”
Three minutes later I climbed into my five-year-old Mazda minivan. The paperwork described Mazda’s color as “gold.” Everyone else said it was “kind of champagne” or “sort of beige.” Coupled with unmistakable mom car lines, the minivan made for a perfect surveillance vehicle. Nobody paid it any mind. I once followed a guy for two hours in it on a nearly deserted highway, and when the insurance company later showed him the footage demon- strating that his knee worked just fine as he shifted gears in his El Camino, he was terribly surprised.
I turned the mirror. A big red welt that would mature into one hell of a purple bruise blossomed on my neck and the top of my right shoulder, like someone took a hand- ful of blueberries and rubbed it all over me. An equally bright red stain marked my jaw on the left side. I sighed, readjusted the mirror, and headed home.
Some easy job this turned out to be. At least I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I grimaced. The welt decided it didn’t like me grimacing. Ow.
The Baylor Investigative Agency started as a family business. We still were a family business. Technically we were owned by someone else now, but they mostly left us alone to run our affairs as we saw fit. We had only three rules. Rule #1: we stayed bought. Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client. Rule #2: we didn’t break the
law. It was a good rule. It kept us out of jail and safe from litigation. And Rule #3, the most important one of all: at the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflec- tions in the eye. I filed today under Rule #3 day. Maybe I was crazy and John Rutger would’ve taken his wife home and begged her forgiveness on bended knee. But at the end of the day, I had no regrets, and I didn’t have to worry about whether I did the right thing and whether Liz’s two children would ever see their mother again.
Their father was a different story, but he was no longer my problem. He made that mess all on his own.
I cleared the evening traffic on I-290, heading north- west, and turned south. A few minutes later I pulled up in front of our warehouse. Bern’s beat-up black Civic sat in the parking lot, next to Mom’s blue Honda Element. Oh good. Everyone was home.
I parked, went to the door, and punched the code into the security system. The door clicked open, then I let myself in and paused for a second to hear the reassuring clang of the lock sliding home behind me.
When you entered the warehouse from this door, it looked just like an office. We built walls, installed some glass panels, and laid down high-traffic beige carpet. That gave us three office rooms on the left side and a break room and large conference room on the right. The drop ceiling completed the illusion.
I stepped into my office, put the purse and the camera on the desk, and sat in my chair. I really should do a write-up, but I didn’t feel like it. I’d do it later.
The office was soundproof. Around me everything was quiet. A familiar, faint scent of grapefruit oil in the oil warmer floated to me. The oils were my favorite little luxury. I inhaled the fragrance. I was home.
I survived. Had I hit my head on the wall when Rutger had thrown me, I could’ve died today. Right now I could be dead instead of sitting here in my office, twenty feet from my home. My mom could be in the morgue, iden- tifying me on a slab. My heart pounded in my chest. Nausea crept up, squeezing my throat. I leaned forward and concentrated on breathing. Deep, calm breaths. I just had to let myself work through it.
In and out. In and out. Slowly the anxiety receded. In and out.
I got up, crossed the office to the break room, opened the door in the back, and stepped into the warehouse. A luxuriously wide hallway stretched left and right, its sealed concrete floor reflecting the light softly. Above me thirty-foot ceilings soared. After we had to sell the house and move into the warehouse, Mom and Dad considered making the inside look just like a real house. Instead we ended up building one large wall separating this section of the warehouse—our living space—from Grandma’s garage so we didn’t have to heat or air-condition the entire twenty-two thousand square feet of the warehouse. The rest of the walls had occurred organically, which was a gentle euphemism for We put them up as needed with whatever material was handy.
If Mom saw me, I wouldn’t get away without a thor- ough medical exam. All I wanted to do was take a shower and eat some food. This time of the day she was usually with Grandma, helping her work. If I was really quiet, I could just sneak into my room. I padded down the hall- way. Think sneaky thoughts . . . Be invisible . . . Hope- fully, nothing attention-attracting was going on.
“I’ll kill you!” a familiar high voice howled from the right.
Damn it. Arabella, of course. My youngest sister was in rare form, judging by the pitch.
“That’s real mature!” And that was Catalina, the seventeen-year-old. Two years older than Arabella and eight years younger than me.
I had to break this up before Mom came over to inves- tigate. I sped down the hallway toward the media room.
“At least I’m not a dumb ho who has no friends!” “At least I’m not fat!”
“At least I am not ugly!”
Neither of them was fat, ugly, or promiscuous. They both were complete drama queens, and if I didn’t quash this party up fast, Mom would be on us in seconds.
“I hate you!”
I walked into the media room. Catalina, thin and dark- haired, stood on the right, her arms crossed over her chest. On the left Bern very carefully restrained blond Arabella by holding her by her waist above the floor. Ara- bella was really strong, but Bern had wrestled through high school and went to a judo club twice a week. Now nineteen and still growing, he stood an inch over six feet tall and weighed about two hundred pounds, most of it powerful, supple muscle. Holding a hundred-pound Ara- bella wasn’t a problem.
“Let me go!” Arabella snarled.
“Think about what you’re doing,” Bern said, his deep voice patient. “We agreed—no violence.”
“What is it this time?” I asked.
Catalina stabbed her finger in Arabella’s direction. “She never put the cap on my liquid foundation. Now it’s dried out!”
ABOUT ILONA ANDREWS:
“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him.
They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.) They have co-authored two New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and the romantic urban fantasy of The Edge and are working on the next volumes for both.
They live in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.