- Three Mages and a Margarita
Aaron lunged for Tom—and the psychic pulled the trigger.
The gun clicked, then Aaron ripped it out of Tom’s hand. As I bailed out of the way, Aaron dropped the gun and grabbed Tom by his bandaged neck.
“Interesting thing about guns,” the pyromage said, his flippant tone marred by a growl. “Firing a bullet requires fire.”
Tom gawked, panic straining his features. With a flex of his muscular arm, Aaron flung Tom into the wall. The clairaudient slid to the floor.
I picked myself up, hacking as tears streamed from my burning eyes. Too much smoke. The flames on his skin dying down, Aaron pulled me to the open window. I clambered out and sucked in a desperate lungful of clean air.
“You can suppress gunfire?” I asked incredulously.
“With effort, concentration, and close proximity.” He pulled me across the rooftop—not toward the pile of junk I’d climbed up, but toward the street. “Not something I normally count on.”
Leaving me standing at the rooftop’s edge, he jumped. Hitting the ground in an easy roll, he shot up and held his arms out to me, one streaked with blood from the knife wound. I sat on the edge and pushed off. He caught me, set me on my feet, then sprinted across the access road.
I didn’t question his rush—I had no intention of stopping either. We weren’t out of danger yet. Over half the psychics had escaped the burning room and could be anywhere.
As we raced toward the bridge, I glimpsed the second-floor windows dancing with the light of flames, then a gunshot rang through the silence. Aaron flinched at the sound but didn’t stop, leaping onto the bridge deck and hauling me after him.
From the office entryway, people streamed out—more mythics than had populated the upstairs room. My whole body went cold as I realized more of the guild must have been waiting on the lower level. And now they were chasing us down.
More shots rang out as Aaron and I sprinted up the bridge. Why did they have so many freaking guns? They were mythics! Where the hell was the magic? I’d really prefer fireballs and ice shards to bullets right about now!
Lungs burning, throat on fire from smoke inhalation, I clung to Aaron’s arm as we crossed the midpoint of the bridge, a quadruple set of train tracks running beneath it. Dark blocky shapes spread out before us—the shipping yard.
More gunfire, muzzle flashes erupting as the psychics chased us onto the bridge.
I tripped and fell, my hands and knees scraping across the pavement and my purse tumbling away from me. Aaron grabbed my waist and heaved me up, but my left knee decided it didn’t want to hold my weight anymore. Pulling me against his side with one hand, he flung the other backward, casting a wall of flame behind us.
Lunging toward the bridge rail, he pulled us onto it and jumped. Ten feet below, massive shipping containers were stacked five high. We landed on top, the metal booming from the impact, and my leg buckled.
“Hang on, Tori,” Aaron panted, dragging me up again.
Clutching his arm, I glanced down at my lame-ass knee that didn’t want to work—and saw the shiny wetness coursing down my calf. Blood. Oh, shit. I’d been shot?
Half carrying me, Aaron launched into a sprint. The container boomed as more people jumped onto it, and Aaron flung fire behind us, more to blind the enemy than to stop them. We ran the length of two containers, then jumped down to a lower stack—but we were still forty freaking feet above the cement quay.
Leg crumpling under me, I slumped back into the side of the container. Aaron launched another wave of bright flames at our pursuers, but the shipping container wasn’t flammable and he couldn’t keep the flames burning indefinitely.
I pressed a hand to my leg, blood squishing between my fingers, and wondered why I felt no pain. Too much adrenaline? Dizzy and shaking, I scanned the shipping containers and spotted a stair-like stack farther along where we could climb down, but we’d be exposed to our pursuers the whole way. If they had any bullets left—
“Tori.” Aaron yanked me toward the container’s edge. “Jump!”
“What? No! We can go that way and—”
He pushed me toward the edge and I dug in my heels, clawing at his arms.
“No!” I screamed, fighting for traction on the steel, the forty-foot drop to unforgiving concrete right behind me. “Let me go!”
Aaron grabbed my jaw with one hand, forcing my eyes to meet his as firelight flickered across his features. “Tori, trust me.”
Trust him? No, no, no. I didn’t do that. It never worked out for me, ever. Other people didn’t save me. I saved myself.
A gunshot blasted through the night and Aaron reeled, blood spraying from the graze across his shoulder. Flinging fire at the gunmen, he shouted, “Jump!”
I pried my hands off his arm, cast a terrified look across him, then spun around and leaped.
Screaming, I plunged downward. Wind howled, then gusted beneath me with insane force. My drop slowed, then I crashed into something much softer than concrete.
Arms closed around me, pulling me tight against a warm chest.
Light flared above and Aaron jumped off the container pile. As his shadow plunged down, Ezra flung his hand out. The wind whipped into a dense updraft, and Aaron landed in a neat roll—then flopped out of it with zero grace. Panting for air, he scrambled up.
Without a word, Ezra and Aaron bolted into the labyrinth of shipping containers. I hung in Ezra’s arms, gawking uselessly. Where had he come from? How had Aaron known he was there, waiting to catch us?
We whipped around a corner, then Aaron and Ezra skidded to a stop.
Spread in a line, blocking our path, was the rest of the psychic guild. They must have crossed the bridge and entered the yard from a different direction—cutting off our escape.
Rigel, his face blistered and bleeding, stood in the center of the line holding a shiny pistol, and a new telekinetic waited behind him, daggers floating at the ready. Two other psychics pointed guns our way.
“You thought you could escape?” Rigel sneered. “I have telethesians who can track you no matter where you run. I have clairsentients who can see you no matter where you hide. I have clairaudients who can hear you no matter how quietly you whisper. I have telepaths to coordinate our every move.”
Aaron stepped in front of me and Ezra, shielding us from the gunmen. Heat radiated off him, but he didn’t summon his flames. The psychics were too far. They’d shoot us before he could burn them.
Footsteps clattered behind us and Ezra turned as our pursuers from atop the shipping containers ran out of the darkness, sealing off our escape route. Ezra set me down and pushed me between him and Aaron, their backs to me as they faced the two forces.
Mouth opening in a silent laugh, Rigel aimed his gun at Aaron. “It was futile from the beginning, boy.”
All the hair on my body stood on end.
Lightning leaped out of the darkness in a blinding flash and slammed into Rigel’s pistol. The bolt forked and struck the two other guns. The three men holding firearms went down, convulsing.
A black-clad figure shot from between two containers, sprinting toward the psychics with electricity rippling over his arms. Kai’s hands bristled with small throwing knives, and he hurled them at the psychics without breaking stride. The blades found the vulnerable flesh of the mythics, striking legs and shoulders—then lightning leaped from Kai’s hands to the conductive metal.
Behind me, Ezra launched toward the other group of psychics, yanking his pole arm off his back. A gust of wind whipped dust into the psychics’ faces, then he hammered the weapon into the first mythic, throwing him into the nearest container. The hollow metal boomed louder than gunfire.
Kai spun through the larger group, his movements swift and decisive. A telekinetic sent a knife flying at him, but the electramage darted aside with eerie, silent grace. He closed in on the telekinetic—and executed a flying double kick straight out of a martial arts movie. Landing neatly, he cast his hand wide. Lightning burst off him, seeking his metal knives. It tore through the psychics again, half of them falling to the ground in convulsions.
Gunshots rang out but Kai was a flickering shadow, impossible to hit. Ezra smashed his last opponent into the ground, then ran toward Kai’s larger group. The aeromage whipped his weapon in an arc, and a concentrated gust of wind swept the legs out from under another three mythics. Breaking under Kai and Ezra’s combined onslaught, the psychics fled into the dark passage between shipping containers.
A yellow glow spiraled up the monstrous sword held by a petite woman with a blond pixie cut. Zora stood with her feet planted, the point of her blade resting on the asphalt as she waited for the psychics to run within her weapon’s reach. Arrayed behind her were six more sorcerers.
The psychics pulled up short. Kai and Ezra blocked any possible retreat. Trapped, the mythics clustered together, then with their heads drooping, they put their hands up in defeat.
“But,” I gasped, goggling at Zora as I huddled against Aaron. “Where … how?”
“The psychics aren’t the only ones with a telepath to coordinate their teams,” Aaron said, sounding smug despite his hoarse exhaustion. “Bryce has been yammering in my head since we hit the bridge.”
I looked up at him, wide-eyed. That’s how he’d known Ezra was waiting to catch us? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it as Zora and her team advanced on the dejected psychics. Kai sheathed his handful of throwing knives.