Home > Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1)(14)

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1)(14)
Author: Laura Thalassa

She gives me a strange look before her eyes move to the clock mounted to the wall my left. I know she must be thinking how close her shift is to being over. “If you’re sure…”

“I am,” I rush to say. I grabbed enough price tags to still fully furnish the Bargainer’s room.

She scans the next barcode—for a couch upholstered in a repeating pattern of roses and sickly sweet bows—and the same issue comes up.

My eyes thin, and I glance back at the Bargainer. He holds up his wrist and taps the face of the watch. The magic constricts around my innards, and before I can help it, I fold in on myself. The magic’s becoming more than unpleasant.

I hold up a shaky hand and flip him the bird before returning my attention back to the woman.

Every other item she rings up runs into the same mysterious problem. A problem I know better as Desmond Flynn.

The magic is making my heart race, and it’s getting worse with each passing second. It’s clear that in addition to the store closing, the Bargainer has imposed a time limit of his own.

This stupid task.

I lean over the counter and swallow. “What in your system is currently available for purchase?”

The cashier types something into her computer. Her brows furrow. “At the moment, it looks like we only have a four poster bed, a wrought iron chandelier, a loveseat, and a gilded mirror.” She sounds hopelessly confused.

“I’ll take one of each,” I say, shoving my credit card at her, my hand beginning to shake. Sweat beads along my forehead.

I would not be killed by some ugly furniture.

Startled, she takes it. “But ma’am …”

“Please,” I practically beg. The magic is starting to seize up my lungs. Again, I feel the Bargainer’s laughter at my back.

The cashier looks at me like I’ve lost it. Then her head tilts. “Hey, are you that actress … you know from—”

“For the love of all that is sacred, please ring me up!” The magic is twisting its way around my innards; I’m going to pass out if I don’t complete this soon.

She flinches as though I slapped her. If I wasn’t in physical pain, I’d feel bad for hurting her feelings. But all I can think of right now is how the magic seems to be doubling on itself.

She sniffs and shakes her head but does as I ask. An agonizing minute passes where she goes over delivery methods and shipping times, but then she swipes the card through the system.

I sigh as the magic releases me and I collapse against the counter. I glance down at my wrist in time to see two beads vanish.

I’m going to kill him.

“Ran into trouble?” the Bargainer asks innocently, standing up from the couch.

I stride past him and out of the store.

Out in the dark parking lot, he materializes in front of me, arms folded. Naturally, no one notices that he can appear and disappear at will.

As I try to pass him, his arm shoots out and catches my wrist.

I twist to face him. “Two?” I practically yell. “You make me redecorate your stupid bedroom in under twenty minutes, I nearly die, and that only eliminates two beads?”

I shouldn’t be this upset. He hasn’t yet asked anything truly awful of me, but the feeling of magical fingers squeezing my organs has almost undone me.

The Bargainer steps into my personal space. “Didn’t like that task too much?” he asks, his voice low. His eyes glint in the moonlight.

I’m smart enough to keep quiet. He looks especially predatory right now, and when he’s like this, I know better than to provoke him.

He steps in even closer. “I had more tasks like this one planned, but if you really hated it, then perhaps we can do something that’s a bit more … comfortable.”

The moment the words are out of his mouth, I realize I just messed up big time. I played right into his hands.

The Bargainer wraps his arms around me, his gaze lingering on my lips.

Eli was right.

The bastard has something else in mind for me.

But just when I think he’s going to kiss me, his wings unfurl. And then we’re rising, heading back into the night.

Twenty minutes later, the Bargainer lands gracefully in my backyard, holding me in his arms. His enormous silver wings fold up as soon as we touch ground, and a moment later they shimmer out of existence.

Wordlessly, the Bargainer carries me to my sliding glass door. Without prompting, it slides open, and he steps inside.

It shuts behind us, and the Bargainer places me on my bed and crouches before me. His eyes never leave mine as his hands move to my ankles.

I’m beginning to get nervous. Just what else is he going to demand of me tonight? The man’s never even seen me naked. Besides, I know the Bargainer wouldn’t make me pay him back in sex unless I was already on board with the idea.

And I’m not.

Right?

Des removes first one boot, then the other. He tosses them aside and peels off my socks one at a time. “Tell me, Callie,” he says, his gaze sliding to me, “are you nervous?”

He’s not exacting repayment right now, I don’t need to answer him. But I find myself reluctantly nodding anyway.

“So you have not forgotten everything about me,” he says. “Good.”

He clutches one of my feet in his hands, and he places a tender kiss on my ankle. “Truth or dare?”

My breath catches.

“Truth.”

His grip on my ankle tightens. “Why do you think I left you all those years ago?” he asks.

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