Home > Natural Dual-Mage (Magical Mayhem #3)(6)

Natural Dual-Mage (Magical Mayhem #3)(6)
Author: K.F. Breene

Yet…Emery found himself leaning back a little more into his chair, interested in what the vampire had to say. Whatever else he might be, he was also incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable.

“Let’s go over the facts, shall we?” Darius asked, crossing an argyle sock over his designer jeans. The vampire did nothing by halves, including dressing casually. “Before your brother’s death, the Guild already had a firm hold over Seattle, and they had started increasing their scope.”

“But they haven’t done much in the three and a half years since my brother was killed…until now.”

“This is true. Of course, organizations largely operate in fits and starts as their leaders change over. It was bound to happen sooner or later. You—and I—have ensured that it happened sooner.”

“Dangling an untrained, naive natural in front of them really helped speed things up, yes,” Emery said dryly, trying (and failing) to push away the surge of guilt. “It’s their desire to obtain her that has driven this sudden focus, I have no doubt. I’ve put Penny in extreme danger.”

“Ah.” Darius swirled the brown liquid in his glass. “I think that is the root of the problem, is it not? The issue of Penny has been weighing on you.”

Emery leaned his forearms onto his knees. He didn’t comment. Darius had been subtle about it, but Emery knew the elder had been watching him. Cataloguing his actions and noticing his mood slips. The vampire filed away everything he saw into that incredible computer of a brain, puzzling out the patterns and working out how he could manipulate the present situation into what he planned for the future. Emery shouldn’t give him any more fodder for his plans, but…

Well, when it came down to it, he wanted to know what the vampire had to say. Wondered if Darius had any wisdom to impart.

Emery desperately wanted to make this situation with Penny right. He wanted to dig himself out of this hole. If he had to temporarily get chummy with a vampire to do it, he would.

Darius paused for a moment, looking out over the field.

“We must remember, she had already stumbled onto magic when you first met her,” he said slowly.

Emery huffed out a laugh. Penny’s version of stumbling onto magic had involved turning a coven of witches into zombies. That woman could really unravel a situation. Like him.

“She was a ticking time bomb,” Darius went on. He paused again, and it almost seemed like the words were being dragged from him. “Being an elder, I’ve largely shrugged off many things. The idea of each of us having one true mate, for example. Fate as a whole, actually. However…” He took a sip of his drink. “I’ve looked into what it means to be a natural pairing.”

Ja, an extremely old vampire whose interest in Penny had forced her out of the bored stupor many vampires fall into if he or she gets old enough, had said Penny and Emery were a natural pairing, something Emery had heard was even rarer than natural mages. It meant Penny was the yin to his yang, and together they formed a balanced whole. That sort of natural affinity was different than the kind that could be achieved magically—something he’d shared with his brother.

Emery absently wiped at his chest, the familiar pang of loss cutting him deeply. He remembered what it had felt like when the dual-mage connection had been ripped out of him by his brother’s untimely demise. Like someone had punched a hole in his chest, yanked out his ribs one by one, then used a dull knife to extract his heart. The feeling had spread throughout his body, flash-boiling his blood, crunching each bone, and twisting his guts. If the Guild hadn’t tried to kill him that very night, he might’ve succumbed to the mental anguish. He might’ve let it take him.

His rage had saved him in the end.

Darius cut into Emery’s dark reverie. “Further research has revealed that a natural pairing is actually not rare at all. It is widely believed that everyone has one. The rarity is that each member of the pairing should find each other. Some magical creatures can only love their natural pair, and in extreme cases, they can only produce offspring with that person or creature. In a huge population, it stands to reason that you would never meet the one ‘destined’ for you. This goes double for you, since you’ve spent so little time living amongst the human population over the last three years. The chances that you would meet your pair were so slim, they might well be classified as miraculous.”

“Except…” Emery scratched his nose. “I’d have to think that a natural’s pairing would be another natural. Which means there would only be so many options for me.”

“Interesting assessment.” Darius’s thumb tapped his glass. “Meaning…instead of being a human with magic, you are reduced down to your own subset of species, a natural.” He shifted and his brow furrowed. “Be that as it may, and we cannot know if there’s any truth to it until I look more thoroughly into the matter…”

Emery grimaced. Any entanglement with an elder was bad, but long-term entanglement was parallel to entrapment. And here he was, giving the elder new information to digest. That would just give the vampire more ideas.

“Anyway,” Darius went on, “even if it was because you were naturals, there are a few other naturals scattered around the world, and you never planned to have a connection with any of them. Yet you were brought face to face with your natural pairing when you took an unplanned day trip into a medieval village to waste time.”

“Except I left with nothing but her name that day.”

“Only to have her miraculously find you in the middle of a magical battle. And the only way she knew to go to that magical battle was because her curiosity had been piqued by her foray to New Orleans the month before.”

Emery shook his head. He was losing the thread of the conversation. “And… So what’s your point?”

“Despite my personal beliefs about fate, an unbelievable series of coincidences have led you and Penny to this exact moment. From one stop on the journey to the next, even a nonbeliever like me would shake his head at all the connections that brought you here. She came out of her shell at just the right time. She was primed to meet you when you showed up.”

“Sounds far-fetched.”

“Yes. But if it hadn’t been for you grabbing her when you did, she would’ve done something to out herself. Of that we can be sure. Without proper magical protection, she would have been picked up by the Guild. If we go a step further, the Guild would’ve trained her the way they train everyone. How you were trained. They would’ve squashed her truly unique way of doing magic, and thereby diminished her ability. If not for you, she would be a shell of herself.”

Emery blinked as the words rambled to a stop. “So…you think I actually saved her, instead of dragging her into this mess?”

“I think that is evident.” Darius’s tone wasn’t just confident, it was full of the kind of certainty of a scientist who’s just proved a theory. “As I said, fate is largely preposterous, in my opinion, but in this one situation, I can’t help but…” An uncomfortable expression crossed his face.

People who valued knowledge and strategy didn’t much like the idea that things were out of their control. Emery wasn’t a control freak to nearly the same degree as Darius, but he understood—and felt—his discomfort.

“Only fools believe in coincidences,” Emery mumbled. “I think Ms. Bristol said that once.”

“In this case, I would have to agree.”

“Still seems far-fetched.”

“Even if they were coincidences, it has to be acknowledged that her magical journey was already underway when you met her. She ran from what happened in New Orleans, but that wouldn’t have kept her away from magic for long. She would’ve sought out knowledge in her area, which would eventually have led her to the Guild. You know what would’ve happened next.”

“The Guild would’ve pieced her parentage together, just like they did after she showed up at my magical battle.”

“Without you and your connections to shelter her, she would not have stood a chance. Either way you look at it—fate or logic—you crashed into that girl’s life in the nick of time. Had you come earlier or later, you would’ve missed your opportunity, and her future would’ve been bleak.”

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