Home > False Security (Death Before Dragons #5)(9)

False Security (Death Before Dragons #5)(9)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

“They are only one of the groups who are angry with me. Killing them would change little. There are a lot of bitter magical beings who don’t want to be tracked.”

“If so, keeping you alive will be a full-time job. It is, however, one I’m capable of doing. I’m very familiar with the magical community—they’ve been trying to kill me for years. I can keep you alive, but not for less than three thousand a day.” I spread a hand. “It’s not that I’m that greedy, Mr. Weber. But your assistant said I’d have to get all manner of dresses to walk around on your arm. This is my usual wardrobe.” I waved down at my tank top and jeans. “And I’ve been told that dresses from Goodwill won’t cut it for whatever hoity-toity places you go to.”

Weber looked me up and down without any apparent male interest. Maybe I didn’t meet the standards of one of Seattle’s Most Eligible Bachelors.

His gaze returned to my face. “I will meet you in the middle and pay twenty-five hundred a day for the next two weeks. I’m going to a charity dinner tomorrow evening at the yacht club, and I’ll need you with me. Preferably in a dress, yes. Or something otherwise feminine and formal. There’s a dress code. If you agree to the terms, I’ll get you the first four days’ worth of money now.”

“Agreed.” That left me time to go dress shopping with Amber in the morning, if she was free.

Weber rounded his desk and started for the door but paused.

“I believe there’s a no-pets-allowed policy at the yacht club. Unless he counts as a service animal?” He eyed Sindari, as if looking for something like Rocket’s search-and-rescue vest.

Sindari growled low in his throat.

“He’s neither pet nor service animal, but I won’t bring him.” Silently, I added to Sindari, Trust me. You’d be bored out of your fur at a dinner event that I’m sure is more about networking and currying favor than donating to any charity.

Will you not also be bored? Sindari asked.

Oh, I’m sure of it. But things will perk up if someone attacks Weber. Then I’ll bring you out.

You had better.

“Good.” Weber headed out the door. “I’ll be right back.”

What do you think of all the magical gizmos around the house? I asked Sindari. Are they just for protection? Or is this guy dabbling in dark-elf pleasure orbs or other more nefarious magic?

I thought all those orbs were destroyed.

Willard’s office tried to find them all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still some around. And I highly doubt all the dark elves were killed when we invaded their glacier base.

I do not sense anything like that. What is here seems to largely be for protection.

My phone buzzed.

A text from Dimitri read: Zoltan is missing.

How do you know? I replied. Was he supposed to come to the shop tonight?

No. But a delivery was supposed to come. When it didn’t arrive, I called Zoltan and didn’t get an answer. I’m over at his place now. He’s not here, and a whole bunch of stuff in his lab is broken. Someone drove a spear through the giant mechanical guard spider and it’s not working. Can you come take a look?

I can come look tonight, but I just accepted a new gig, so I can’t spend the week searching for vampires.

I’ll search for him by myself if I need to.

I shook my head, worried Dimitri would get himself in trouble. If he ran afoul of someone, it’s not any of our business.

He’s my business partner. That makes his business my business.

Only the stuff related to the coffee shop.

He pays the lease on that building, you know. And he’s… my friend. Val, we have to find him.

I sighed. I’ll be there as soon as I can.

7

Weber returned with an envelope and handed it to me. I opened it to count the stack of hundreds inside.

“I’m good for it,” he said dryly.

“In my business, you don’t trust anyone until they’ve proven themselves to you.” It was all there. I folded the envelope and stuffed it in a pocket.

“And what does one have to do to prove himself to you?”

“Sindari bites my enemies in the butts and refrains from gnawing off my foot when I tease him.”

Weber didn’t look like he knew if that was a joke or not. Nope, he was definitely not my type. Fortunately, I didn’t seem to be his type either. That would make everything simpler. The last time I’d worked as a bodyguard for a guy, he’d thought bedroom services should be included.

“Be here tomorrow at six,” Weber said.

“In a dress. Got it. I’ll see myself out.”

I wasn’t surprised when he followed me to the front door. He probably thought I would grab his antique violin on the way out and sell it on eBay. Our date at the yacht club would be a blast; I could tell.

Before I reached the Jeep, I sensed Zav approaching and stifled a groan. It was going to be hard to explain the two-week delay to him.

As I turned to face west, the direction he was approaching from, I realized Weber was standing out on the porch. I hoped he wasn’t the type to get uptight about a dragon landing in his yard. The sun had set, but landscaping lights had come on all over the property, so it wasn’t like Weber would miss it.

It is likely his arrival will set off the magical wards placed around the house, Sindari observed.

Zav, can you hear me? I had yet to learn telepathy, but I did my best to project my thoughts toward the distant black figure soaring toward us. Maybe he would be focused on me.

Certainly.

This yard has magical wards and alarms.

I sense them. He kept coming, wings flapping a few times as he adjusted direction. They are puny and insignificant to a dragon.

Can you land without setting them off?

I’d hoped Weber would get bored of watching me, but instead, he turned to look in the direction I was looking. Since he didn’t have magical blood, he shouldn’t be able to sense or see Zav. Unless Zav wanted to be seen. I hoped not.

Weber squinted at me, no doubt wondering why I was loitering in the driveway instead of leaving.

“I saw some bats.” I waved at the sky, then hopped in the Jeep.

Maybe I had time to get off the property before Zav came in. But dragons are fast, and he landed in front of me on the driveway before I’d done more than turn around. Just as my headlamps highlighted the sleek black scales of his legs, the magical alarms went off.

Colored lights burst from statues poised all around the driveway, and incendiary rounds streaked toward Zav. Alarms bonged, not audibly but in my mind. Something squealed from the rooftop of the house.

“What’s going on?” Weber yelled.

All the projectiles targeting Zav burst into flames before reaching him, setting up a massive fireworks show in front of my Jeep.

No, I cannot land without setting them off. Zav sounded amused.

You could have landed outside the gate.

You were not outside the gate.

I was heading that way. I got out of the Jeep.

Weber was still on the porch, but he was gaping at Zav now as the fireworks died down. I had a feeling Zav had made himself visible.

“Sorry,” I called. “It’s an acquaintance of mine. I wasn’t expecting him.”

“An acquaintance?” Weber mouthed. “Is that a dragon? A real dragon?”

Zav pulled in his wings and shifted into his human form. He was still wearing his Birkenstocks. Maybe they’d been a hit at the Dragon Justice Court.

“It doesn’t change anything.” I waved again to Weber, trying to convey with the motion that he should go inside. “I’ll be back at six tomorrow.”

Zav folded his arms over his chest as he looked from me to Weber.

“I wasn’t expecting you to be back until the morning,” I murmured, walking up to Zav.

“You will not see that human at six tomorrow,” Zav stated. “You will be with me.”

“Actually, I’m going to have to delay that. I just accepted a new gig.” I lowered my voice. “It’s a lot of money and could get me out of debt. I can still go with you to visit the elves. It’ll just have to wait a couple of weeks.”

Even if this new assignment hadn’t come up, I would have felt guilty leaving town—leaving the planet—when something was up with Zoltan and a vampire was stalking the neighborhood around Dimitri’s shop.

Zav narrowed his eyes, and I grew aware of his powerful aura radiating from him and crackling over my senses, reminding me that he could force the issue if he wished.

But he wouldn’t. We were allies now—more than allies—right?

Zav opened his mouth, but instead of responding to me, he looked at Weber and boomed, “Leave us.”

A heavy magical compulsion laced the words, and my legs wanted to scurry away even though it wasn’t directed at me. I expected Weber to fling himself inside, slam the door shut, and hide under the nearest bed. Surprisingly—no, shockingly—he crossed his arms over his chest, mirroring Zav’s gesture, and stood his ground.

How the hell? Had one of his artifacts or charms allowed him to resist that? That had to be it.

If that was true, I wondered if he would sell it to me. Or pay me with it instead of with money. I’d happily work for two weeks of no pay for something that would solve one of my biggest problems without requiring months of elven-magic training.

“Nobody orders me around, Dragon. This is my property, and you will remove yourself from it.”

Zav’s eyes flared with violet light. “You will call me Lord Zavryd’nokquetal if you speak to me at all, vermin.”

Another Earth denizen, Sindari murmured into my mind, too foolish to know that dragons must be treated with respect, if not skirted around and avoided altogether.

“I could destroy your property with a thought,” Zav said.

“You will find that my property is well protected.”

“Okay, okay.” I raised my hands and patted the air. “Let’s stop comparing penises, fellas. Weber, go inside, please, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Being conciliatory wasn’t my strength, but I gave him my best smile, and then I turned it on Zav. “And, Zav, let’s go out that gate and discuss this. There’s no need to destroy anything.”

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