I’m late. Dreams about Piper had me hitting the snooze button. Again. And again. But I gave up because talking to her while I’m awake will be better. Not that I would mind living out some of the dreams I had.
(Note to self: focus idiot. There’s no cold shower in the office.)
I check the clock on the tower of the courthouse across the street from my parents’ Main Street office. Eight-fifteen. At least my parents are my bosses.
Stepping under the rainbow-striped awning above their office door— frowned on by the city council who prefer the downtown businesses conform to their desire for uniformity—I open the door and step inside.
Dad looks up from a table in the middle of the room. “You look happy today.”
He raises an eyebrow then shuffles some of the papers he’s working on, placing them in a folder. Adding it to the pile on his left, he points to them. “Here you go. Start filing these records for us, please. They go in the done deal file cabinet in Mom’s office.”
He turns back to his open files. I glance at the piles and lift one side of my top lip. About fifty manila folders, each a half-inch thick, teeter on the edge of the wooden table.
“What if they don’t all fit?”
Dad looks up. “Uh, I don’t know. Just put those away and we’ll see if we need to worry about that later.”
I roll my eyes. “Dad, I’ve told you. I’ll show you how to transfer your files to a digital format. Then you could carry them all in your pocket on a flash drive if you wanted to.”
Their reluctance to move into modern times didn’t make sense. Sometimes I wondered if they did this as an excuse to get me here.
“No,” he said, frowning. “I don’t trust technology. Some of the stuff we have is highly confidential. Any decent hacker could find what they wanted if we put our files on a computer.”
“What are you hiding?” I grin. “How many mass murders occurred with the previous owners?”
“Ha ha.” Dad shakes his head. “Just get busy. I’m sure you have plans for later, right?”
Not yet, but I hope so. Ignoring his question, I grab an armful of files. “How are these organized?”
“Alphabetical by street name.” He cocks an eyebrow. “So, do you have plans?”
“I thought Mom was the nosy parent.”
Dad chuckles. “Just following orders. Gathering information. She had a client show up early for a showing and had to leave before she could interrogate you.”
“I don’t have any. Yet. I just woke up half an hour ago.”
“I’ll pass on the info.” He salutes me and turns back to his work.
I carry the files to Mom’s office and kick the door open with my foot. Crossing the room to the file cabinet, I groan.
(Note to self: They’re getting a scanner for Christmas this year.)
I open the drawer and get busy. After the first pile is put away, I sit in Mom’s swiveling leather chair behind her desk and swipe a finger across my phone. No texts from Piper. Maybe she was waiting for me to respond to her last one. I smile for a moment, re-reading our last exchange.
My phone buzzes and Iggy’s face replaces the texts. I swipe to answer.
“Hey.” Leaning back, I put my feet on the desk.
“What’s up? Melody’s having a pool party. You want to go?” He laughs. “Ky promised not to mess with you.”
“I don’t know. I’m working at my parents’ office right now and I might have plans later.” I shook my foot and grinned. “I was just about to text Piper.”
“Why? She’ll be there, too.” He breathed into the phone. “Wait. Did you say you were going to make plans with Piper?”
“Surprised much? Yeah, we had a… breakthrough last night.” My lips tingle again. “I saw her at the city council meeting about the new library.”
“Dish, dude,” Iggy says. “What are you talking about?”
“We talked. We texted.” I hold back the best part.
“Ah, you finally stopped with the poor-me routine and gave her a chance. And?”
“And I’m going to see if she wants to hang out.” And kiss again. And touch my face. And—
“No fucking way!” Iggy yells. “You kissed her, didn’t you?”
“What?” How the hell does he know that?
“Dude, demon. I know what you want, remember.”
“So? You knew that already.”
“Yeah, but now you want to kiss her again.” He laughs. “Nice.”
“What the hell, Iggy?” His ability freaks me out a little, but I can’t hold back my laugh. “Can you predict the lottery numbers, too?”
“I wish.” He sighs into the phone. “But hey, Piper’s gonna be at Melody’s. She’s already there helping her set up.”
“Then I guess I’m going to the party.” I look at the filing cabinet, craving that scanner even more. “I should be here another hour then I can leave. I’ll meet you there.”
“Cool.” Iggy pauses, then chuckles again. “I don’t know what you did last night to get Piper to kiss you, but this is huge. Blake’s gonna be pissed.”
“I was honest with her.” I shrug even though he can’t see it. “It worked.”
“Yeah, it worked for you. Some guys don’t have your luck.” Iggy snorts. “I’ll see you at Melody’s.”
We disconnect, and I pull up Piper’s number.
Good morning. Busy?
Piper: Good morning. Not really. Helping Melody set up for a pool party.
Me: Oh, sounds fun. I’m working with my parents, rn.
Piper: Well, consider this a personal invitation. Unless you’re too shy to be seen in a bathing suit.
Me: Nope. You?
Piper: Should I be?
Picturing Piper in a bikini does funny things to my insides. I type, Hell no, and pause.
(Note to self: Don’t be a pig.)
Me: You have nothing to be afraid of. What time should I be there?
Piper: …. soon. ????
Staring at the screen, I smile, heart in my throat—and my ass hovering two feet above Mom’s chair. Why does she have this effect on me? Dad pushes the door open.
“Here’s a few more files, Zai—" He slams the door behind him.
I drop into the chair. My phone hits the desk and I tumble onto the floor, smacking my head against the leg of the chair. Pushing myself up, I rub the ache and meet Dad’s angry gaze.
“What are you doing? You can’t levitate here.” He jerks a thumb at the closed door behind him. “If someone saw you…”
My face grows hot. “Sorry, I didn’t know I was doing it.”
“Didn’t know?” He sets the files on the desk and frowns. “That’s no excuse. You need to know. You need to control your magic.”
Running my hand through my hair, I exhale. “I was texting Piper and I guess… I guess I got excited. I don’t know how to control that yet.”
(Note to self: D.U.M.B.A.S.S.)
“Piper?” Dad puts his hands on his hips, gazing at my face. Then he sighs and pulls up the corner of his mouth. “Sorry, I overreacted. I keep forgetting it’s only been a short time since you mogged. I remember what that was like.”
“I’ll try harder.” The good feelings from Piper’s teasing are replaced with guilt. “I don’t want to cause trouble for you and Mom.”
“That’s not it.” Dad rubs his forehead then smiles at me. “We don’t want you to get hurt. Besides, I also remember how much girls can mess with your control.”
“It wasn’t her fault.”
“No, but they don’t make it easy, do they?” My face heats and he laughs. “Here, finish these files then you can go. I assume your plans are made?”
“Pool party at Melody’s.”
“Nice. Food, fun,” he grins, “bikinis.”
“Dad…” I shake my head but laugh anyway. “Better not let Mom hear you say that.”
“No, you’re right.” He pats my shoulder and heads to the door. “Just be home by midnight.”
“Got it.” He leaves, and I pick up my phone. Re-reading Piper’s last text, the electricity returns to my blood.
Me: Be there in half an hour.
Piper: Sounds good!
I pocket my phone and pick up the files. Five minutes later, I grab the final one from the desk and glance at the address. My heart reacts with a thump. It’s the address of the vacant land the city wants for the project.
Does Dad know he handed me this one? Maybe he thinks I won’t recognize it, or I won’t care. No. They know I’m curious about the owners. They also know from what I said at the meeting that I blame their silence on magic. Why would he give me this?
I glance at the door. Should I ask him?
No. If he handed it to me on purpose, he wanted me to look. And if it was an accident, well, that’s his fault.
I open the file and pull out the top form. It’s an affidavit of ownership for the land on the north side of town. Skimming the words, I find the section listing the names of the owners. My gaze slips over it to the bottom of the page. I go back.
And once again, I stare at the bottom of the page.
“What the hell?” Frowning I try again. And again. And again. It’s like trying to focus on a dust speck floating in a sunbeam. Each time I make out a little more, but I only make out one word. A name, I think. Talia.
I set the page on the desk and thumb through the rest of the file. It’s thin, nothing like the others I’ve handled today. Only five sheets including the affidavit. One is more discolored than the rest and I focus on it. The font is unusual for a formal document. Then I realize, it’s not typed—it’s hand-written.
I search for a date and find it in the top right corner. My stomach flips and I read it in a whisper.
“Eighteen hundred twenty-eight. What the actual eff?”
There’s something else drawn in on the bottom of the paper. I try, but it’s like the other pages and I can’t focus on it. Closing my eyes, I pull up Piper’s face in my memory. She wants this. She wants to know who these people are. I can do this for her.
Opening my eyes, I gasp. A faint image, like the flash from a camera burned on my eyes, floats on the time-worn page. A woman. I focus harder on her face and my throat goes dry.
It looks like Piper.
Her eyes, the shape of her nose, the delicate jaw and full lips, all mirror a face I see nightly in my dreams.
“Holy shit.” I shake my head. “This can’t be real.”
There is no doubt that Dad wouldn’t want me to see this. That the landowners are magical is definite. That my parents are involved in a cover-up, easy to see. But what does Piper have to do with anything? Why does this image look like her? And why the hell can I see it?
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