Home > Dark Secrets (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #3)

Dark Secrets (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #3)
Author: Linsey Hall

1

Carrow

I stepped back and looked up, admiring the sign we’d just hung.

Carrow Burton: Supernatural Sleuth

“I don’t know.” Mac crossed her arms and frowned up at the sign. “I think maybe we should have gone with ‘Supernatural Scooby.’”

I laughed. “I didn’t know you were a father.”

“What?”

“That was a total dad joke.”

Mac shrugged. “He’s really got a nose for crimes.”

I turned back to admire the placard hanging over the green door that led up to our flats. The black and white wooden sign was a gift from my friends Mac, Eve, and Quinn. It was my first day as a real live magical mystery solver in Guild City. Exciting.

A faint breeze blew my hair back, and the sun struggled to peep out from behind the clouds. It was another rainy day in London, which meant that Guild City was getting damp, too. Our hidden town experienced all the same weather as London, and the day was miserable.

“Thanks for the sign,” I said, smiling at Mac.

“When will you register with the Council?” she asked.

The Council of Guilds was the official government of my new city. As a new business, I’d need to register with them.

“I don’t know.”

I wasn’t yet a member of a guild, and the Council did not like that. My new enterprise should be protected under the umbrella of one of the dozen guilds in the city. Unfortunately, none of them would have me because no one really knew what species I was, including me.

Hence the somewhat ambiguous designation Supernatural Sleuth on the sign, since I wasn’t technically a witch or a seer.

Maybe I shouldn’t open my new business without the protection of a guild, a move that was bound to gain the eye of the Council, but I needed money to pay the rent, so…

It was a risk I was willing to take.

“Hello?” A tremulous voice sounded from behind me. “Are you open for business?”

A potential customer!

Pleasure shot through me.

I turned and spotted a beautiful woman standing about ten feet away. She was clutching a book, and her gaze went from the sign to me. She had long dark hair and brilliant green eyes, and though she appeared scared out of her wits, she radiated strength. It was in the straightness of her spine and the intensity of her gaze.

“I am.” I didn’t reach my hand out to shake hers, since my power might allow me to read information about her. I preferred to do that only with permission. “I’m Carrow Burton.”

“Seraphia.” She gave a little wave. I spotted a flash of pale light against her wrist, the luminous tattoo of a leaf or vine, then it was gone.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

She held up the book, a battered leather volume that pulsed with magic. “I work at the library, and I need help with this book.”

“Oh, aren’t you the upstairs librarian?” Mac said.

“Yes, precisely.”

“Not my area, but it’s cool up there.” Mac shot me a look. “I’m more of a murder mystery kind of girl, but Seraphia here works in the history section of the library.”

“History of where?” I asked, interest piqued. “Guild City?”

“A bit, yes,” said Seraphia. “But also history of the magical communities throughout the world. So my department includes spell books and hexanaries, things like that.”

“Hexanaries?”

“Like dictionaries of hexes.”

“Ah.” Thunder rumbled in the distance, and I shot a look at the sky. Roiling black clouds crept toward us. “We’d better get inside.” I grimaced. “You can tell me more about your problem once we’re out of this weather.”

Seraphia nodded. “Thank you.”

The first fat raindrops fell, one of them splashing right on my forehead. Mac, who was closest to the entrance, darted inside.

I gestured for Seraphia to follow. “Go on, Mac will lead you up.”

She hurried through the green door. I gave my new sign one last admiring look, then entered the building and shut the door behind us. Mac took the stairs two at a time toward my top-floor flat with Seraphia in the rear. I climbed the steps after them, passing Mac’s door. It was ajar. Through the opening, I spied my raccoon familiar, Cordelia, digging through Mac’s kitchen cupboards.

“No!” I pointed at her. “Inside manners.”

Cordelia glared at me but withdrew her little hand from the packet of crisps into which she was digging.

“I’m watching you,” I said.

She glared harder.

“Leave her be,” Mac shouted from the little landing outside my door. “She’s fine.”

“She’ll eat all your crisps and biscuits,” I warned. “It’s why she’s at your place instead of mine. She’s already nicked the good stuff out of my cupboards.”

“I like the company,” Mac said.

I shrugged and climbed the last flight to my door. As I stepped onto the landing, an invisible hand seemed to grasp my insides and twist. Pain shot through me, and I gasped, doubling over.

“Carrow!” Mac gripped my arm, keeping me upright. “What’s wrong?”

Cold sweat popped out on my brow, and I struggled to breathe through the nausea.

“Are you all right?” Seraphia’s voice echoed with concern.

“I’m . . . fine.” I struggled to straighten, my insides still churning.

“Your signature…” Her voice trailed off. “It’s changed.”

“Changed?” Oh, no. Not again.

“Your eyes…” Mac frowned. “They’re glowing green. They looked the same way after you absorbed the magic in Orion’s Heart.”

I’d saved Guild City, but I’d been infused with dark necromancer magic in the process. Magic that I had no idea what to do with.

Magic that was screwing me up inside.

The pain subsided, and I regained control of my breathing.

“You look better,” Seraphia said. “But are you sure there isn't anything I can do for you?”

“Don’t worry about me. It’s a little thing.” I tried to give her a reassuring smile, but she just stared at me, concern still creasing her brow. I gestured to my door, which was open. “Go on. We’ll sort out this book of yours.”

“All right.” She entered my flat, an aura of worry radiating around her.

I looked at Mac. “Are my eyes still weird?”

“It’s faded now, but…”

“We need to figure this out.” I shook my head. “Whatever it is.”

Please don’t turn me evil.

I could feel the newness of the magical world right now—my almost complete unfamiliarity with it. Was it even possible to turn evil?

Mac squeezed my arm. “We’ll get to the bottom of it.”

“Yeah. But first, I’ve got to get my Scooby on.”

She grinned and followed me into my flat. The little space was decorated with the eclectic assortment of furniture that she, Eve, and Quinn had found in the secondhand shop down the street. It was all different styles and colors, accented with portraits of colorful animals, but I liked the crazy.

It went well with the ancient, sloping floor and low ceiling. A little window looked out over the street, and it felt like living in a slice of the past that had been combined with a cozy present. Far better than my cold, lonely flat in the dodgy part of London.

I met Seraphia’s gaze and gestured to the couch. “Have a seat. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Seraphia thrust the book at me. “No. I want you to look at this.”

“Sure.” I gestured to the small, round table in the corner that served as my dining area. “You can put it there.”

I didn’t want to touch it until I knew the nature of her problem. The last thing I needed was to be hit by an unexpected vision. Or worse, one over which I had no power. I still didn’t have a lot of control over my magic, but I was getting better.

Seraphia set the book on the table. Her shoulders relaxed, as though she was rid of an unsavory burden. She turned to me. “I’m sorry to be so abrupt, but this problem…”

“Is bigger than a cup of tea?” Mac asked.

“Exactly.”

“Tell me about it.” I took a seat on the couch, my legs still a bit wobbly from earlier.

She sat on the other side, and Carrow took the cushy armchair in the corner.

“I work at the library, as I told you,” Seraphia said. “It’s a quiet life. Mostly taking care of the collection and answering questions. And we do have some dangerous books, like the hexanaries I mentioned. But mostly it’s just me and the stacks. Nothing ever happens.”

“Until that book happened.” I looked at it, my curiosity rising. “What’s it called?”

“A Most Elucidating History of Guild City. I’ve never read it. Didn’t even know it was in the collection, in fact. Until I felt it. This dark magic signature…”

“It came from the book?” I looked at the tome, unable to sense anything from that far away.

“Exactly. It’s faded now, but it’s still there if I touch it.” Confusion flickered in her eyes. “Some pages were torn out.”

“Recently?”

“I don’t know. Could have been a long time ago.”

“Anything else you should tell me before I handle it?”

She shook her head. “Just that it felt like death itself when I touched it the first time. Like it was trying to tear my heart straight out of my chest.”

I winced.

“Exactly.” She nodded. “It was terrible. I’ve never felt anything like it, which is why I wanted you to look at it.”

“Why me and not a seer?”

“I’ve heard how you saved Guild City, and you seemed like the perfect person for the job.”

“Well, hopefully, I can figure out what’s wrong with your book.” My mind flashed to payment. It was a normal businessperson thing, to ask for money for a service rendered. It was half the reason I’d started this business, in fact. I needed to be paid for my work if I wanted to stay on top of my rent. But how did one ask for payment from someone who is in trouble?

   
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