Home > Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(3)

Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(3)
Author: Ilona Andrews

I looked at Mom.

“Third rule,” she said.

When Dad and Mom started the agency, they had only three rules: first, once we were paid, we stayed bought; second, we did everything we could to not break the law; and third, at the end of the day, we had to be able to look our reflection in the eye. I could live with Olivia’s death. I had nightmares about it, but it was justified. Throwing Rynda out now, when she sat at our kitchen table, was beyond me. Where would she go?

“If Rynda’s crying will make Rogan break up with me, then our relationship wouldn’t last anyway.”

Most of me believed the words that came out of my mouth, but a small, petty part didn’t. That was okay. I was human, and I was entitled to a little bit of insecurity. But I was damned if I let it dictate my actions.

“Thank you, Grandma, but I’ve got it.”

Grandma Frida threw her hands up in disgust. “When your heart breaks, don’t come crying to me.”

“I will anyway.” I hugged her.

“Egh . . .” She made a show of trying to knock me off, then hugged me back.

I opened the door to the office and started down the hallway toward my desk and laptop that waited on it.

“It’s James,” Grandma Frida said mournfully behind me. “He ruined all of my practical grandchildren with his altruism.”

Mom didn’t answer. Dad had been dead seven years, but hearing his name still hurt her. It still hurt me.

 

I grabbed the laptop, a notepad, and the new client folder just in case, walked back into the kitchen, sat down at the table, and opened my laptop. A few keystrokes told me Bern was home and online.

I fired off a quick email. Please send me the basics on Brian Sherwood ASAP. I set the laptop aside and switched to the writing pad and a pen. People minded notes on paper a lot less than a laptop or being recorded, and I needed Rynda to relax. She was already keyed up.

“Let’s start at the beginning.”

“You don’t like me,” Rynda said. “I felt it back when we first met in the ballroom. You were jealous of me.”

“Yes.” That’s what I get for deciding to take on an empath as a client.

“And when you walked in and saw me, you felt pity and fear.”

“Yes.”

“But you are going to help me anyway. Why? It’s not guilt. Guilt is like plunging into a dark well. I would’ve felt that.”

“You tell me.”

Her eyes narrowed. Magic brushed me, feather-light. “Compassion,” she said quietly. “And duty. Why would you feel a sense of duty toward me?”

“Have you ever held a job?”

She frowned. “No. We don’t need the extra money.”

That must be nice. “Do you have any hobbies? Any passions?”

“I . . . make sculptures.”

“Do you sell them?”

“No. They’re nothing spectacular. I’ve never participated in any exhibits.”

“Then why do you keep making them?”

She blinked. “It makes me happy.”

“Being a private investigator makes me happy. I’m not just doing it for the money. I’m doing it because sometimes I get to help people. Right now, you need help.”

The laptop clicked. A new email, from Bern, popped into my inbox. Brian Sherwood, 32, second son of House Sherwood, Prime, herbamagos. Principal business: Sherwood BioCore. Estimated personal worth: $30 million. Wife: Rynda (Charles), 29. Children: Jessica, 6, and Kyle, 4. Siblings: Edward Sherwood, 38, Angela Sherwood, 23.

Brian Sherwood was a plant mage. Rynda was an empath with a secondary telekenetic talent. That didn’t add up. Primes usually married within their branch of magic. As Rogan once eloquently explained to me in his falling-on-his-sword speech, preserving and increasing magic within the family drove most of their marriage decisions.

I looked back to her. “I don’t know yet if I’m your best option. It may be that you would be better served by a different agency. But before we talk about any of that, walk me through your Thursday. You woke up. Then what happened?”

She focused. “I got up. Brian was already awake. He’d taken a shower. I made breakfast and fixed the lunches for him and the kids.”

“Do you fix their lunches every day?”

“Yes. I like doing it.”

Brian Sherwood, worth thirty million dollars, took a brown-bag lunch his wife made to work every day. Did he eat it or throw it in the trash? That was the question.

“Brian kissed me and told me he would be home at the usual time.”

“What time is that?”

“Six o’clock. I said we’d be having cubed steak for dinner. He asked if fries were involved.”

She choked on a sob.

“Who took Jessica to school?”

She glanced at me, surprised. “How did you know her name?”

“My cousin pulled your public records.” I turned the laptop so she could see.

She blinked. “My whole life in one paragraph.”

“Keep going,” I told her. “How did Jessica get to school?”

“Brian dropped her off. I took Kyle on a walk.”

Lie.

“I called Brian around lunch. He answered.”

Truth.

“What did you talk about?”

“Nothing serious.”

Lie.

“I’m not your enemy. It would help if you were honest with me. Let’s try this again. Where did you and Kyle go and what was the phone call about?”

She set her lips into a flat, hard line.

“Everything you tell me now is confidential. It isn’t privileged, like conversations with your attorney, which means I will have to disclose it in a court proceeding. But short of that, it won’t go anywhere.”

She covered her face with her hands, thought about it for a long moment, and exhaled. “Kyle’s magic hasn’t manifested. I manifested by two, Brian manifested by four months, Jessica manifested at thirteen months. Kyle is almost five. He’s late. We’re taking him to a specialist. I always call Brian after every session, because he wants to know how Kyle did.”

For a Prime, a child with no magic would be devastating. Rogan’s voice popped into my head. You think you won’t care about it, but you will. Think of your children and having to explain that their talents are subpar, because you have failed to secure a proper genetic match.

“Your anxiety spiked. Why? Was it something I said? Is the specialist important?”

“I don’t know yet.” She would be a really difficult client. She registered every emotional twitch I made. “Did Kyle manifest?”

“No.”

“What happened next?”

She sighed and went through her day. She picked up Jessica, fed the kids, then they read books and watched cartoons together. She made dinner, but Brian didn’t show. She called his cell several times over the next two hours and finally called his brother. Edward Sherwood was still at work. He had happened to look out the window when Brian had left at his usual time and remembered watching him get into his car. Just to be sure, Edward walked down to Brian’s office and reported that it was empty. He also called down to the front desk, and the guard confirmed that Brian had signed out, left the building a quarter before six, and didn’t return.

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