Home > Harley Merlin and the Stolen Magicals (Harley Merlin #3)(5)

Harley Merlin and the Stolen Magicals (Harley Merlin #3)(5)
Author: Bella Forrest

“Why the dinky, secret office?” I asked. The silence was killing me. Plus, the guy felt stressed out. Then again, there’d been a lot going on; who could blame him?

“Yeah, sorry about this. I know it’s a bit cramped,” he replied. “There’s no time to go all the way to my office, and this is the only room in the coven, aside from my office, where I can be sure of privacy.”

“Ah. Got it.”

“Now, I know you’ve had a somewhat turbulent afternoon,” he began, “and it’s not in my nature to burst bubbles. However, the issue of Katherine Shipton is our top priority, especially with the Mage Council breathing down our necks, so we must not waste a moment.”

My heart sank. Back to business then, I guess.

“The Rag Team is ready to do whatever needs doing,” I assured him. They were literally down the hall.

“Well, actually, it is more about what you can do. Although, you’ll need the help of your team. I only called you out here because it wouldn’t alert any suspicions—they’ll be expecting me to congratulate you privately. If I’d brought the whole group out here, there would’ve been raised eyebrows all around.”

“Ah. And we don’t want that, right?”

“No.”

“So, what’s the job?” I had a feeling I knew where this was going.

“You must convince Jacob and Isadora to help the coven in our fight against Katherine,” he went on, his tone bordering on desperation. “Your aunt evidently cares about you a great deal, Harley. She risked exposure to rescue you and revealed her skill as a Portal Opener so that you would be safe. I know your aunt must have left some way for you to contact her.”

I frowned, thinking of the update emails Jacob had sent me periodically. He was always vague about their location, but he’d let me know they were okay. “Even if she had left me some way to get in touch, they’re both safer hiding out on their own,” I insisted. “She can teach Jacob about his skills, in a safe environment, away from this mess. I’ve told you before. Why are we going over old ground?”

“Because we need their portal powers now.”

A shiver of anxiety gripped my chest, but the nerves didn’t belong to me. Alton was scared… really scared.

“Why now?” I asked.

He sighed. “I’ve been working day and night to secure a safe evacuation location, in the event that the San Diego Coven is completely infiltrated.”

“That doesn’t explain why you need the portal powers,” I shot back. “Why not use the mirrors? Create a new one if you have to—a secret one, stowed away in here or something.”

He shook his head. “It isn’t viable, Harley. Getting everyone there by traditional means would leave us open to exposure. Katherine could watch our every move. A mirror like that is easily traceable, even if we were to destroy it behind us.”

“And what? The portals are untraceable?”

“Exactly. Nobody can follow the path they take once they’re closed. Who knows, perhaps Isadora is even capable of maintaining a pocket of interdimensional space—the perfect hiding place,” he said. “Such an ability would ensure that we can keep the missing kids safe from Katherine, once we find them. It will ensure that we’re constantly one step ahead of her.”

“Can’t you create a pocket for the kids, when we find them? Like this place?”

He shook his head. “Adding extra sections to the coven requires an enormous amount of energy, even for small additions. This room was created at the same time as the coven, and they are all very small. Unfit for children to hide in. To physically add more, as in brand new spaces, would only bring further attention to us. The swell of energy can be traced. Isadora’s portals can’t.”

My Empath senses absorbed the anguish and urgency of his request. I thought of Micah Cranston, Mina Travis, Min-Ho Lee, Samson Prescott, and Marjorie Phillips. Their names were seared into my brain, though there were more we needed to save as well. It was too late for the likes of Kenneth Willow and his evil tendencies, but we could save the rest. I remembered Louella Devereaux and the cross over her face on the warehouse corkboard. It was too late for her, but we couldn’t give up on the rest of them yet.

I wanted to keep Jacob safe. Selfishly, I wanted to keep my aunt out of this, too. But we didn’t know exactly what role these kids were supposed to play in Katherine’s wicked plans; finding all of them was extremely important if we didn’t want Katherine to become even more powerful. Plus, they meant a hell of a lot to me and the rest of the Rag Team.

I stared at a filthy book on the shelf above Alton’s head. The Intricacies of Runes. Clearly, nobody had cleaned this place in ages. Sighing, I leveled my gaze at Alton once more. “If it will truly help those kids, then… I’ll do what I can to track down Jacob and Isadora.”

A surge of relief flashed over me. Alton’s. “You don’t know how pleased I am to hear you say that. Or perhaps you do.”

I shrugged. “What else can I do? It makes sense. As you say, we need them.”

“Thank you, Harley. Thank you for everything you’ve done for this coven, and everything you continue to do,” he said warmly. “I’m sorry I had to cut your celebrations short and drag you into this dinky room, as you put it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “We can all have one massive hootenanny once Katherine Shipton is six feet under.”

He chuckled. “It’s been some time since I’ve had a hootenanny. The last time was at a gathering thrown by the Shreveport Coven… though I confess, I can’t remember a great deal about it. Hexed moonshine has a way of addling the mind.” His Louisiana accent thickened for a moment, as though the memory brought back the intensity of his heritage.

I arched an eyebrow. “You sure it was hexed?”

“That’s the only explanation for the extraordinary hangover I had the next day.” He flashed me a grin, though the twist of anxiety lingered in my gut. He was trying to cover up his fears, and I had to admire him for that.

“Am I free to head back to the banquet now?” I asked, smiling. “They’ve probably all started stuffing their faces without me. Cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries, remember? And that lemon mayo is life-changing.”

“Yes, enjoy yourself.” He chuckled and rose from his chair.

I headed for the door. I was halfway out into the corridor when his voice called me back.

“Oh, and Harley?”

“Yes?”

“Above all things, remain vigilant about Katherine’s spies within the coven,” he said. “We don’t know how many we’re dealing with. If anyone seems to be acting unusual, let me know immediately.”

I nodded. “I’ll be on the lookout.”

I had no idea where I’d start my search or what type of unusual behavior I’d be looking for. But hey, I already had a few magical mysteries under my belt, suitably untangled. I could do it again.

Three

Harley

I hurried back through the echoing corridors to the Main Assembly Hall, only to find a cleanup crew sweeping broken glass and raising ladders to fix the chandelier. Most were using Telekinesis or some version of Air to assist, speeding up the job.

The rest of the coven had dispersed. The short-lived celebrations were over. Either that, or everyone was stuffing their faces in the banquet hall. My stomach rumbled at the thought. I hadn’t eaten since last night, and I was ready for something other than bitter black coffee. Bring on the desserts!

A few minutes later, I arrived at the dining hall. Sure enough, the folks who’d attended my pledge were sitting along the three rows of white marble tables. Delicious scents wafted toward me: brick oven pizza, roasted potatoes, herbed vegetables, burgers the size of my head, and something fruity and sparkling to wash everything down. There were desserts, too—rich chocolate cakes with a glossy finish, decadent tarts with glazed fruit and buttery pastry, and the most impressive tower of cookies I’d ever seen. It was taller than me.

Oh, the delicious calories. I may need a couple more stomachs for this.

The diners turned to look at me as I entered. A raucous round of applause erupted a second later, with feet being stomped and cutlery being bashed against the marble tabletops. I blushed and drank it in. So what if I messed up a little? I did it in a crazy impressive way. They’d always remember the Merlin girl who, quite literally, brought the house down. A grin spread across my face.

Everyone returned to their food, and I made my way toward the fresh batch of goodness that had just been laid out. The clink of silverware was oddly comforting as I waved to the Rag Team and kept on toward the food. If my stomach growled any louder, they’d have to put it in a box in the Bestiary. I loaded a plate to the point of no return and made my way back to my friends. They were sitting in our usual spot, their plates more or less clean.

“The woman of the hour!” Santana whooped. “Here for all your redecorating needs.”

I laughed. “I just saw the cleanup crew—poor guys. It’ll take ages to get everything back to normal, even with Chaos on their side. To be honest, I’m surprised Alton didn’t rope us all into it.”

“Me, too,” Wade replied. “The moment that chandelier came down, my first thought was, ‘How long are we going to have to spend picking it all up?’”

“That was your first thought?” I teased. “Not, ‘Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die’?”

He gave me a wry look. “No, that was when the windows exploded.”

“You got some serious power, girl, Suppressor or no Suppressor,” Santana said.

“You just have to learn to use it properly,” Wade added, his expression shifting into solemnity. “It’s dangerous to have something so raw and not know what to do with it.”

Dylan laughed as he swiped a massive hunk of bread around his plate, mopping up every last morsel. “Nomura looked like he wanted to tackle you to the ground.”

   
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