Back to Google. My search of “MPD” produced a whole lot of boring businesses, but after scrolling through six pages of results, I found an ugly white website for a financial investment company—with a logo that matched the one on Clara’s forms and Aaron’s ID. The homepage was a login portal, waiting for a username and password. Well, that was a dead end.
I closed the tab and tried to focus on my lesson, but it was hard. Magic existed. Mages were real, and I’d met three. I’d trespassed in their forbidden world, and for a short time, I could be part of it.
The distraction was a small price to pay for the chance to explore a hidden society of magic and those who wielded it.
Tuesday. Shift number three. I arrived ten minutes early—the community college was only fifteen minutes away—and started setting up. The place was empty. Ramsey wasn’t in yet, and Aaron, Kai, and Ezra weren’t around either.
On Sunday night, the guys had assured me I didn’t have to tell anyone I was human—that it was better if I didn’t. Let the guild members assume I was a mythic. The longer they went not knowing how “powerful” I might be, the less likely they’d be to throw a fit about my human-ness contaminating their precious headquarters.
But no sooner did I set up the bar than two guys came trotting down the stairs and made a beeline for me.
“Is it true?” the younger one asked eagerly. “Are you human?”
Why did they all say “human” like it was a contagious disease? I scanned him up and down, unimpressed. Short, wiry, with bleach-blond hair in a messy mop and odd round sunglasses perched on his nose despite the dim interior. A couple years younger than me by my best guess.
His pal was a bit older and average looking—nothing obviously weird about him. He wasn’t anywhere near as fit as Aaron, Kai, and Ezra, but he wasn’t flabby either. Brown hair and deep-set eyes with dark circles under them.
“Well?” the bottle-blond demanded. “Are you?”
Clearly, someone had spilled the beans. “Yeah. Who told you?”
“Everyone is talking about it.” He stuck out his hand. “Name’s Liam. Telekinetic.”
“Tori.” I shook his hand. “Telekinetic means … moving things with your mind?”
He flashed a smile. My spray bottle of cleaning solution lifted weightlessly into the air, and I couldn’t hold back my shocked gasp. Whoa. It was just like film special effects, except for real. Concentration tightened his face, and a liquor bottle from my station floated upward too. The whiskey drifted over and settled gently on the counter in front of me.
I picked up the bottle, half convinced it was a prop. “That’s gotta be handy.”
“Pretty useful,” he admitted, barely containing his glee at my reaction. “So how did you land this job?”
“Kind of by accident,” I replied evasively. No need to get into the details, right? Liam’s friend was watching me hopefully so I offered him my hand. “I’m Tori.”
“Tom.” He shook my hand, his grip limp.
“What’s your … class?” I asked.
“Super hearing,” Liam answered before Tom could. “He can hear people talking within a certain vicinity.”
“Neat,” I said politely, even though that wasn’t nearly as cool as telekinesis. “Can I get you guys drinks?”
They both placed their orders and I whipped up their drinks while Liam chatted about telekinesis—waxing technical about how his ability required intensive training to develop control, enhance strength, and stretch limitations. It got boring in about ten seconds.
“A telekinetic can only move objects with his mind that he can physically move with his body,” he explained with the enthusiasm of a toddler talking about his toy firetruck. “So no throwing cars around like in the movies. Some telekinetics will—”
“Here you go!” I said brightly, cutting off the lecture. “Enjoy!”
To my irritation, Liam and Tom slid onto stools and nursed their drinks like old ladies with hot tea. I grabbed my cloth and started wiping, working my way toward the opposite end of the bar.
“So what do you do for fun, Tori?” Liam asked. “Are you a party girl? Got a boyfriend?”
I privately rolled my eyes as I scrubbed away a sticky spot. Great. Awkward flirting had commenced.
“Not really a party girl,” I answered. Last time I’d gone clubbing, I’d clobbered a guy for feeling up my ass on the dance floor.
“What do you like to do? Seen any good movies lately?”
I moved farther down the bar, dutifully scrubbing the polished wood. “Not recently. Excuse me, guys. I’ve got work to do.”
“Aw, take it easy, Tori,” Liam said in a chipper tone. “You don’t need to …”
I lost track of his voice as I walked into the kitchen and stopped in surprise. Ramsey the goth cook was absent from his stool, and in his place was a guy my age with stringy hair and the strong smell of cigarette smoke clinging to him.
“Oh, hey,” he said. “You must be Tori. Clara told me she’d hired you as a temp.”
“You must be Cooper.” The other cook—the one who’d called in sick over the weekend.
He smiled wanly. “Clara didn’t mention you were so pretty.”
This time I rolled my eyes without hiding it. “Smooth. Very smooth.”
“My friends tell me I’m slick as oil.”
I snorted and swept past him. Grabbing a bottle of rum to restock my station, I returned to the bar to find the liquor well empty—and over twenty bottles lined up in front of Liam.
“What are you doing?” I snapped.
The rum was pulled from my grip as if by an invisible string. It zoomed down the bar and settled beside the other bottles. Liam smirked at me.
“Come work over here,” he said. “It’s hard to talk while you’re rushing all over the place.”
Gritting my teeth, I stalked over and snatched up an armful of bottles. “I have a job to do.”
“We’re your only customers.”
My glare snapped from Liam to Tom, who winced guiltily, then back to Liam. Pivoting on my heel, I marched to my station and started replacing bottles—only for them to float away as soon as I set them down.
“Stop that!” I grabbed a bottle out of the air and put it back, but it rocketed upward again.
Liam laughed. “You can’t win, Tori. Just come chat for a few minutes.”
I clutched my remaining bottles to my chest, heart pounding. Anger wasn’t quite winning the battle against the sinking cold in my stomach. Aaron had scoffed at Psychica mythics for being weak and useless, but with my arrival at the guild, Liam and his ilk were no longer at the bottom of the power totem pole. I was.
And the way he was smirking at me—he knew it. He felt powerful. He was in control.
Just as I was considering whether my soda gun line was long enough to spray down the asshole, Aaron strode through the front door, carrying a black zippered case over three feet long in one hand.
“Ah shit,” he said breathlessly as he hurried up to the bar. “I knew those dicks would make me late. I told them—” He broke off, his blue eyes sweeping over my face then down to the bottles I was clutching like priceless collectibles. His attention snapped to Liam, the rest of my liquor lined up in front of him. “What the hell are you doing, Liam?”
Liam’s eyes widened and he shifted nervously. “Nothing! Just—uh—harmless teasing and—”
“It’s fine.” The words came out more terse than I’d intended, but I was annoyed at how relieved I felt to see Aaron. I needed to handle this kind of shit myself. “Everything is fine.”
Aaron gave me a sideways look as I dumped my bottles back where they belonged and marched over to the rest. The guys watched me replace each bottle, the silence painful. Tom had shrunk to half his normal size.
Setting his strange burden on the counter with a thud, Aaron muttered, “I’ll be right back.”
He strode the length of the pub. As the door banged shut behind him, the final bottle in my hand shot from my fingers and flew along the bar. It plopped down in front of Liam, and he chortled as he waited for me to come get it.
Apparently, because I’d snapped at Aaron, Liam was under the impression that I thought his little game was fun. I stomped over to him and wrapped my hand around the bottle’s neck. Gripping it tightly, I got in his face.
“I am not your plaything,” I hissed icily. “And if you ever want another drink from me, you’ll start acting like a goddamn adult. My job isn’t entertaining you.”
Liam’s eyebrows rose over the top of his stupid round sunglasses—then his gaze dropped below my eye level.
An invisible tug pulled at the front of my blouse. I jerked back and looked down. The top button of my shirt was undone, and Liam was grinning again.
“I don’t know, Tori. I think you’re lots of fun.”
For a moment, I just stared. Then I slugged him in the face.
The impact jarred up my arm, pain flaring through my knuckles. His head snapped back and his sunglasses flew off, clattering across the floor. He pressed a hand to his cheek, his amusement gone and jaw clenched in fury. He lurched up, knocking his stool over backward. The bottle in front of me twitched.