Home > Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(5)

Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3)(5)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“I’ll come with you,” she said.

“It would be best if I went by myself,” I told her. “People may say things to me that they might not mention in your presence. If I’ll require access to Sherwood family spaces or other restricted areas, I’ll definitely ask you to come with me.”

“What do I do now?” She was looking at Rogan, not at me.

“Sign the paperwork and go home. Brian might call or show up,” Rogan said. “You’re not alone, Rynda. Nevada will help you. I will help you.”

“I hate you for killing my mother,” she told him, her voice strained.

“I know,” he said. “It couldn’t be helped.”

“Everything is falling apart, Connor. How can it all just crumble like that?”

“It’s House life,” he said.

Rynda’s shoulders stooped. She turned to me. “Where do I sign?”

I walked her through the paperwork, fees, and stipulations. She signed and went to collect her children.

Rogan waited until she was out of sight and stepped close to me.

“She’ll need an escort home,” I said. “And someone to watch the house.” There was no telling where this investigation would lead, and extra security was never a bad idea.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said, and kissed me. It was a sudden, hard kiss, fierce and hot. It burned like fire.

We broke apart, and I saw the dragon in his eyes. Rogan was preparing to go to war.

“Your grandmother is in the city,” he said, and pressed a USB drive into my hand. “You must decide tonight.”

He turned and walked away, the memory of his kiss still scorching me.

I took a deep breath and plugged the USB into my laptop.

 

 

Chapter 2

 


The family sat at the dining table. I took the head spot this time. A stack of papers sat on my right, covered with a folder. I’d printed out the contents of the USB drive.

My two sisters had taken the chairs next to me, Catalina on my right, Arabella on my left. Catalina, who was a week shy of turning eighteen, was dark-haired, serious, and calm. She liked math, because it made sense to her, and would do just about anything to not be the center of attention. Arabella, still fifteen, was blond, athletic, with bigger boobs and a curvier butt, and calm wasn’t even in her vocabulary. She liked forensics and humanities. “Calling people out” was her preferred method of dealing with issues. The high school debate club, which made the fatal mistake of snubbing her because she was a freshman at the time and their roster was full, lived in mortal terror of her.

Bernard, the oldest of our two cousins, sat next to Catalina. Over six feet tall, with shoulders that had trouble fitting through narrow doorways, Bern was built like he broke people for a living. He had wrestled in high school and still went to judo a few times a week, which he claimed he was doing to balance long hours spent writing computer code. When he was a kid, his hair had been the color of straw and curly. The curls were all gone now. His hair had turned dark blond, and he kept it cut short and messy.

His brother Leon was just about his exact opposite. Lean, dark, and fast, Leon alternated between sarcasm, excitement, and total gloom as quickly as his sixteen-year-old body could produce the hormones. He hero-worshipped his brother. He also thought he himself was a dud without any magic. I knew he wasn’t, and I was doing my best to keep that knowledge to myself, because there was only one type of job open to someone with Leon’s magical talent, and it wasn’t a job any of us would’ve liked him to have. Right now, only Bug, who was Rogan’s surveillance expert, my mother, and I knew what he was capable of, and the only reason I told Mom was because his talent would explode into light sooner or later, and if I wasn’t around, someone else would have to handle it. Sooner or later I would have to tell Leon.

My mother sat at the other end of the table. She used to be a soldier, but her time as a POW left her with a permanent limp. She was softer now, her brown hair braided and pinned at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were brown like mine. When Dad got sick and after his death, Mom kept us together. I was just now beginning to understand how much it had cost her.

Grandma Frida sat beside Mom. One of my earliest memories was playing on the floor of the motor pool with little model cars, and Grandma Frida, who still had some blond in her hair back then, humming softly as she worked on some giant vehicle. Most people smelled engine oil and rubber and thought mechanic. I thought Grandma.

Family.

I loved them all so much. I had to do everything I could to keep them safe. This would be a Christmas we’d never forget.

“Victoria Tremaine knows who we are,” I said.

The words hit the table like a pile of bricks. Arabella paled. Catalina bit her lip. Bern became very still. Leon, oblivious, frowned at the pinched expressions he saw. Nobody spoke.

Truthseeker talents like mine were very rare. There were only three truthseeker Houses in the United States. House Tremaine was the smallest and the most feared. It had only one member—Victoria Tremaine. And she was coming for us.

“How sure are you?” Mom finally asked.

“She tried to purchase our mortgage.”

Mom swore.

“I thought House Montgomery owned our mortgage,” Leon said.

“House Montgomery owns the mortgage on our business,” Bernard said patiently. “The mortgage on the warehouse was held by a private bank until Rogan bought it.”

“To bring everyone up to speed,” I said before they could go off on a tangent, “Dad was Victoria’s only child. He was born without magic, and she hated him for it. He ran away after high school, met Mom, and lived quietly, so she never found him. But now she knows. She’s the only member of her family. Once she dies, House Tremaine will die with her.”

“How did I not know this?” Leon asked. “Am I the only one who didn’t know this? You guys knew and didn’t tell me?”

I raised my hand. “The point is, Victoria Tremaine desperately needs us. She’s the only surviving Prime of her House.”

“The House is everything,” Bern said quietly. “She needs you and the girls to qualify as Primes so she can keep her House alive.”

“Question!” Leon said. “If she is the only Prime, how can she still be a House?”

“Every time a new Prime is registered, the Office of Records checks to see if the family has two Primes,” Catalina said. “If there are two living Primes, the family is recertified as a House. They don’t take away the family’s rank until the last Prime alive at the last certification dies.”

My sister had been reading up on Houses.

“You know what I can do,” I said.

I could do plenty. Being able to detect a lie was the least of my talents. I could crack a human mind like a walnut and pull whatever knowledge I needed out of it. And I didn’t have to leave the mind intact.

“Victoria can do everything I do and much more, and she does it better. I’m just now figuring out the extent of my power. She’s been trained in the use of magic since she could hold chalk in her hand. She has power, money, and troops we don’t. She’ll do whatever she has to do to gain control of me and Catalina at the very least.”

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