The Seeker, страница 1
Jamie K. Schmidt
Published by Jamie K. Schmidt, 2018.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. August 20, 2018.
Copyright © 2018 Jamie K. Schmidt.
Written by Jamie K. Schmidt.
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Further Reading: Santa Genie
Also By Jamie K. Schmidt
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"They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel"
—Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel
Rose pushed aside the grimy curtain of the window and cursed. She had hoped for a few more days before the mage hunter caught up with her. Seconds later, the door to the cottage flew open from the force of the thug's boot. The big man forced his way inside, and kicked the door shut behind him.
He was tall and broad, dressed in fine clothes that were dusty from the road. Twirling his sword once over his wrist he sheathed it with a grin.
“I have you now,” he said, advancing on her.
"How did you find me?" Rose asked, flexing her fingers to will a spell into being. If she could level him with a sleep spell, she might be able to get away.
But he was too fast for her. Rose struggled when he pulled her into his arms for a brutal kiss. He smelled like the night air and tasted like spearmint. One of his hands held her squirming body close to him. The other fisted in her hair, holding her head in place.
Rose punched him in the shoulder, the spell she had been casting fizzling with the jarring impact of their bodies. He walked her back to the nearest wall and leaned his heavy weight against her. Bucking, she tried to free herself, but all she did was rub across his hardness.
Mouth still plundering hers, he cupped her breast. Rose bit his lip.
"Witch," he panted, ripping his mouth from hers. "You'll pay for that." His tongue dabbed at the spot of blood, as he glared down at her with piercing green eyes. He was a handsome devil. Too bad he was so damned irritating.
"Oh, shut up and fuck me already, Bret," Rose said, climbing up his body to wrap her legs around his waist.
"Are you wet enough?" he asked, sliding his hand up her night dress. "I was hoping to find you asleep."
She pulled his hair until he kissed her again, wiggling against his trousers until he pushed them down. Her head knocked against the wall when he slipped inside her.
"Why?" she gritted out between her teeth. The jolt of being slowly filled by him made her tremble. "So you could put me in a sack and throw me over your saddle?"
It was almost worth getting caught and sent back to her gilded cage for this.
He let out a puff of breath as she tightened around him. "No. So I could bury my face between your thighs and lick you awake."
His words shouldn't have sent a spark of warmth that filled her down to her toes. It would have been easier to hate him. But he was too damned good looking and more charming than a sworn enemy had a right to be.
"I'm not going back," she told him, writhing as he took his time easing in and out of her.
"Yes, you are. Your parents pay me damn good money to bring your delectable ass back to the coven."
Arching into him, she cried, "Harder."
Bret complied, slamming into her with a force that shook the walls of the cottage.
"Of course," he grunted. "I don't have to do it right away."
"Less talking. More fucking," she demanded. The damned thing was she craved the hard pace of his body entering hers. She wanted this wild ride the bounty hunter provided when he found her. And he always did. It was like he was part blood hound.
Rose loved watching his face contort as he tried to hold himself back from coming before she did. If she could have stopped herself, she would have denied herself just to torture him. But it had been too long and she was a few strokes away from paradise. When he bent his head to nip at her throat, every muscle in her body locked and shook.
"Fuck," she groaned as pleasure flooded through her. Ecstasy winged over her as she trembled in release.
The self-satisfied smile on Bret's face would have been annoying if it wasn't wiped by the same blissful wave that had crashed over her.
"Rose," he whispered. "Beautiful Rose."
She didn't want her heart to flutter at his reverent words. She knew she wasn’t beautiful. Her mirror told her how very ordinary and plain she was. Still it tickled her belly and made her stupid heart skip a beat that he admired her.
Flopping them both down on the bed, he held her tightly. Even in the after haze of their love making, he wasn't letting down his guard.
"Cast at me and I'll mask you," he said lightly.
Without her sight, she wouldn't be able to target her spell. If she really pissed him off, he'd tie her hands as well. It hadn't taken Rose long to figure out that fighting Bret just made things unpleasant.
Stroking his hand over her back in long loops, he kissed the top of her head. "Why did you run this time?"
Rose combed her fingers through his short, black hair and sighed. He didn't understand why she needed freedom. He only saw that she lived in wealth and privilege, protected by her family. But she couldn't tell him the truth. The real reason she left her home.
"I wanted to go to the Temple Fair," Rose lied with the ease of long practice.
"Spoiled rotten," Bret grumbled. "Had you waited until mid summer, they would have been close enough for an outing." He tugged down on the neckline of her night dress until her breasts popped up.
Making a sound of approval, he bent his head and took her nipple into his mouth, sucking on it.
Rose’s eyes closed in bliss and she rocked against him. "Why should I wait?" she said, in between soft gasps of pleasure. Her body still tingled from his rough touch.
Had she waited until the Temple Fair was closer, more mages would have been tortured and killed.
He paused from lavishing attention on her. "Because some local moron could have mistaken you for a rogue and tried to collect the bounty."
It felt like heaven when he went back to his teasing, going from one breast to the other, pulling and nipping at her sensitive tips.
"Some moron is trying to collect the bounty," Rose said tartly, stroking the curved muscles in his arm. Bret was one of the finest swordsmen she’d ever seen. She hoped to never have to cross swords with him. He wielded his bastard sword like an artist and was faster than a man his size had a right to be.
Bret flexed for her, grinning as she rolled her eyes at him. "I have an agreement with your parents not to harm you. Other hunters could take advantage."
Rose dropped her hand to his half hard cock. "You like taking advantage of me."
"Any man would." He kissed her again, catching his breath when she gripped him. "I worry about you. Why can't you stay with your family?"
They've been through this before. She would never convince him that mages had the right to live freely
She preferred Bret sighing her name than hearing him spout off on the same old rhetoric. So she pressed in close to whisper in his ear just what exactly she wanted to do with him before going back home, all the while stroking him to madness.
Rose pulled aside the lush velvet drapes of the solarium and cursed. It was a beautiful day out and she was confined to house arrest until her parents forgave her or until the coven demanded her back. As far as they knew it was for stealing a horse from the stables and taking off for a fortnight until Bret caught up with her.
It was worth it to miss the sunshine when she managed to save the couple who were being forced to give fortunes and predictions for the amusement of the Temple Fair's patrons. Rose was still haunted how the Fair had held the mages’ son in a cage in order to keep his parents compliant. She had been able to rescue the boy, steal their work papers and keep the fair guards occupied while the family escaped.
Rose wouldn’t lose sleep over killing the bastard in charge of the fair. She even had planned on sticking around to see if the new management learned a valuable lesson about abusing mages. But Bret found her. Luckily, he thought she was just out for a lark instead of suspecting her real purpose. She managed to seduce three more days of freedom from him and then they took their time on the way back before he handed her over to her father. He just shook his head in resignation, paid Bret, and then confined her to the house.
"Are you going to sulk here all day?" Her mother asked, sailing into the room like a galleon in a windstorm, her two ladies-in-waiting trailing behind her.
They had a basket of mending, but her mother was working on her embroidery. Rose needed to get out of here as soon as possible before they made her sit down with a needle and thread.
“I was hoping for a walk in the garden,” she said in what she hoped was a demure and obedient tone.
Her mother raised an eyebrow that told her she wasn’t fooling anyone. “Sit down.”
With a last look of longing out the window, Rose accepted her fate and grabbed a snarl of thread to untangle. It was better to be here in her parents’ home than stuck in the coven. The coven would be expecting her back eventually, but the tithes her family paid them allowed them a say in regards to her punishment for escaping. Right now, she was under house arrest. Rose was both grateful and ashamed of that. Because instead of being whipped and placed in the stocks for the guards to ridicule and fondle, she was in her mother’s sewing room instead. Other mages who didn’t come from money didn’t have that option.
“Your father and I were very worried about you.”
Rose stifled a sigh. Here came the lecture. At least when it was over, she might have most of her privileges returned. “I can take care of myself.” It was just as futile to argue with her parents as it was with Bret, but if she ever stopped, they might take that as her being compliant about her fate.
“It’s not you I’m worried about.”
That was something at least. For what it was worth, it did mean a lot to Rose that her mother didn’t think she would go power mad and try to take over the country like a few mages had attempted in the past. One even succeeded. They called him Donovan the Demon, because some said he had allowed a demon to possess him for the power to control minds and wreak havoc. It was because of him any child showing magical tendencies were sequestered in covens and watched closely for any sign of ambition.
“You know what will happen to you if you’re caught doing magic outside of a coven.”
“I only cast in self-defense,” Rose said, using a pin to loosen a knot in the string.
“You wouldn’t have to defend yourself if you just stayed in the coven where you belong.” Her mother’s voice choked on a sob and she flung down her needlework.
“Mother,” Rose knelt by her chair and clasped her hands. “I don’t belong there. Not all mages are bad. We deserve to live free.”
“Don’t say such things,” she whispered, looking at her ladies-in-waiting.
But it wasn’t the first time they heard this conversation and because they wanted to keep their jobs, they kept their heads bent to the socks they were darning.
“I wouldn’t have to defend myself if people didn’t try to kill me just because I have a skill they don’t.”
If her mother hadn’t come from one of the founding families of Demerest, Rose would have either been imprisoned long ago or executed because she refused to be a good little mage and behave. But her family’s money and power kept her safe while other mages were abused or killed for no other reason than wanting to live outside of a coven.
Her mother snorted. “Magic isn’t a skill. It’s a curse.”
Rose picked up the needlework. “It is a trained skill, just like this is. Yes, some are born with natural talent and others have to study to excel. But magic is like needlework. It’s only as dangerous as the person yielding the needle.”
“You can’t kill someone with needlework.”
Rose pricked herself with the pin, dragging it down her arm. A line of blood pooled up over the cut.
“What are you doing? You foolish child.” Her mother grabbed her arm.
Rose murmured a healing word and the small wound closed.
Her mother dropped her arm as if it suddenly turned into a poisonous snake.
“Anything can be a weapon,” Rose said, rubbing the still tingling area. “Magic can heal instead of destroy. It’s all in how it’s used.” She cast a small flame on the needle to sterilize it, then blew an ice blast to cool it down.
“Now, you’re just showing off.” Her brother leaned against the door. He was still in his armor and smelled of the stables.
“Robert!” Rose flung herself into his arms and he whirled her around the room like she was a child. He had been gone for over six months, negotiating a deal for more wool and silk to be delivered to his warehouse so the craftsmen could make the tapestries their family was famous for. He was a world traveler and it was from his stories about the free mages across the Great Sea that originally stirred her rebellious nature. Not that she’d ever let him know that. He might stop telling her about the mage controlled city of Solace.
“Robert, you need a bath.” Her mother said, wiping the corner of her eyes with her sleeve. “I suppose you want me to arrange for the hot water to be delivered to your house.”
“What a novel idea.” He held up a hand. “No, sit. Rose can heat it for me.”
Her mother’s lips twisted. “I think it would be best if Rose doesn’t use her magic for a while.”
“You can draw your own damn...ouch,” Rose cut off as her brother stepped on her foot. She quieted immediately. Right. It would get her out of the solarium and away from her mother.
“On the contrary, mother. I think it’s a fitting punishment for her to heat not only my water but a few of my neighbors as well.”
Rose glared daggers at him. It took less energy to build a fire and heat the water mundanely than it did for her to heat an entire bathtub with magic. However, it was quicker.
“It was all I heard on the way back from the ship was how she had taken off again,” he continued.
“Hmm,” her mother said. “The coven was inconvenienced when she went off on her jaunt. This community service could go a long way into soothing the ruffled feathers of the coven leaders.”
Rose’s coven did many rituals to protect the city of Demerest such as wards against fire, protection spells against demons and other evil creatures. Twelve other mages held the circle while thirteen more were in training. When Rose left, they would have been down one mage to do the rituals unless they took a chance on one of the trainees. But nothing greater than a drunk moose had attacked the town in the two decades she had been in the coven.
“That’s an excellent idea, Mother. Perhaps when she’s done I can walk her around and see if there’s any heav
Rose stifled a groan, but vowed revenge. While heating water and doing domestic chores were tasks the acolytes were charged with performing for the coven, it was a rare privilege for the townspeople to have a mage help with every day activities. She’d be run ragged by the end of the day, but at least she’d be out of this house. Her mother still didn’t look convinced, though.
“I’d rather stay here with you and practice my needlework.” Rose lied, waggling her fingers to make the embroidery hoop lift out of her mother’s basket and hover midair while the needle went in and out of the fabric.
“Rose, stop. You’re ruining the pattern.” Her mother sighed, yanking the hoop towards her. “Go.” She waved both hands to shoo them. “Just looking at the two of you exhausts me.”
Robert closed the door behind them.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” Rose said grudgingly.
“I didn’t do it for you. The Seeker is needed.”
Her eyes grew wide and she looked over her shoulder to make sure they were alone. “Be more careful with your words.” The Seeker was their little secret. One that would get them executed, powerful family or not.
“There’s no one around to overhear us.” He waved a hand to dismiss her fears. “You’ll need to ride out of here as soon as it’s full dark. I will tell everyone that I’ll guard you tonight because we want to catch up, and play some chess.”
“What’s going on?” she asked him as they hurried down the stairs of her parents’ house.
“A caravan of traveling minstrels has been detained a few towns over because they had a mage with expired papers in their troupe.”
Rose looked around and made sure no one could over hear them when they went outside to cross the town square to her brother’s house. “How on earth did they find out there was a mage with the minstrels?”
“Apparently, he refused to sleep with one of their patrons and she reported the group to the authorities.”
Crinkling her nose, Rose shook her head in disgust. “Did anyone report being bespelled at one of their concerts?”