Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.
Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.
Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.
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This book is approximately 75,000 words
Read an Excerpt
The antique watch was a fraud. Not crafted by some eighteenth-century Swiss fella on a mountain but by a surly doll in a dank room, swilling gin and tap water.
Rory reached deeper into the watch's past.
The flapper with the cloche hat and black bob sets the gin on the rickety table and bends close to the gooseneck lamp. There's a folded newspaper on her table, beneath an ashtray, a gold-plated bronze chain, and a fake crystal watch face. She clamps her cigarette between her teeth, lipstick staining the paper, and pinches a speck of cheap quartz in her tweezers as the passing train shakes the paneled walls —
Rory's eyes popped open. For a moment, he saw double: the counterfeiter with her black bob and red lips overlaid on Mrs. Brodigan's gray bun and green eyes.
Then he blinked, and the vision of the pocket watch's creation cleared, leaving only familiar Mrs. Brodigan and the homey back office of the antiques appraisal shop. "That watch was handmade, all right." He tossed it on the side table that flanked his ratty armchair. "Handmade in 1924 right here in New York."
"Blast." Mrs. Brodigan sat at the rolltop desk. "You didn't see the Swiss watchmaker honing his craft in a mountain hamlet?"
"Saw a girl honing her forgery skills in a dingy room on the J Line." He sank into the chair, mouth dry and body stiff from scrying the watch too long. His glasses slid down his nose and he pushed them back into place, still not used to the feel of the round, all-black frames. "Date was on the counterfeiter's newspaper. That watch is six months old, tops. It belonged to some fancy British captain fighting the French about as much as it belonged to King Tut."
Mrs. Brodigan clucked her tongue. "Mr. McIntyre isn't going to be happy to hear it. But people come to us for truth, and truth they shall have." She broke into a kind smile, the crow's feet at the corners of her eyes crinkling. "What we give them of the truth, at any rate."
Rory, whose fingers still tingled from the aftermath of scrying, snorted. Brodigan's Appraisals looked like the Real McCoy, a Hell's Kitchen hole-in-the-wall with shelves of antiques and some microscopes, loupes, and calipers for show. No one needed to know their appraisal actually came from a scrawny blond fella in glasses who hid in the back and scried antiques' histories with his mind.
Mrs. Brodigan clasped her hands. "Well, I have something else for you, if you're up for it."
"Yeah?" He picked up his canteen from the side table and took a long sip. "Whatcha got? New job?"
But Mrs. Brodigan hesitated. "Why don't I show you?" She got to her feet. "It's a bit unusual."
Oh no. Rory didn't do unusual. "Not interested!" he called after her, as she disappeared through the open pocket doors of the office.
"Perhaps not, but the last time I decided that for you, you sulked for three days."
Rory gave her retreating figure a dirty look from under the brim of his newsboy cap. Then, with a huff, he peeled himself out of his armchair. He clutched his canteen as he wove his way around Mrs. Brodigan's rolltop desk and into the main shop. Twilight had fallen, and outside the shop's large window, the lamppost illuminated the dirty snow piled on the sidewalks and the passersby as they huddled into their coats. Every now and then a head would turn toward the shop, glancing at the faded letters of its name in the window and Mrs. Brodigan's handwritten sign taped below: Select antiques for sale. No weapon appraisals.
Mrs. Brodigan was at the counter with the ancient cash register, retrieving a small archival box. He pointed. "That the job? What's weird about a box?"
She frowned. "I really do hesitate to tell you. Considering the hour, and the hours you've already put in this week, and with you still so young —"
"I'm twenty," he muttered as he took another sip.
"— but as you keep telling me, you're old enough to make your own decisions, especially when the patron's willing to pay double."
Rory sloshed the canteen, spilling water over his chin and hand. His desperately needed new glasses had cost him everything he'd saved, and rent was due on the fifth. "What's the catch?" he said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
"Mr. Kenzie's in a terrible rush and wants any forgeries found by breakfast." She made a face. "And it's rather a lot of letters."
"I can do it," Rory said.
"Yes, dear, because you're as magical as the sídhe, but Mr. Kenzie doesn't know that, does he? It's a very difficult request."
"That's why he's paying double," said Rory. "Couldn't you use the dough too?" He tried to keep the question soft and casual. He suspected her late husband's medical bills were still around, but he was the last person who'd want to make the wound of that death hurt fresh.
"I wouldn't risk you to pay any debt," she said firmly. "Mr. Kenzie is under the impression I have a laboratory. It wouldn't do for him to start poking around, asking how we worked so fast."
Rory might've caved at that, but what if he lost his room? Even once he'd scrounged up the cash for a new pad, he'd have to start over, find another place secure enough. Buy new locks. "He's not gonna ask. Rich jerks think they deserve the impossible. Never ask or care 'bout the person at the bottom who's gotta do the work."
"Now that's a bit of unfair. Mr. Kenzie was terribly apologetic —"
"But he is some rich high hat, right?"
She sighed. "A congressman's son," she admitted. "So perhaps he is used to getting what he wants, when he wants it." Her eyes were on Rory, a little sad. "And I suppose he's unlikely to discover you. You try so hard to stay unnoticed."
Rory wrapped his arms tight around himself. "That's how it's gotta be. And since no one knows 'bout me, I can do a job like this for him."
"Your house locks the doors at ten —"
"If I can't scry the letters by then, I'll go home," he lied. The shop would be cold, but there were worse places to sleep than the armchair. She still looked reluctant, so he added, "I'm really not a boy anymore."
"Spoken exactly like a little boy." But her shoulders relaxed and her smile crinkled her crow's feet again. "All right, lad, I promised I wouldn't coddle you anymore. I told you about the job so you could make the call and I'll let you make it."
Yes. "I call it good." Rory set the canteen next to the cash register and took the box from her. It was a beautiful piece and pleasantly heavy, solid mahogany he'd bet, with intricate vines carved along all the edges and a fierce bear in the center of the lid. "The box too?"
She shook her head. "Just the letters inside."
He traced the bear's carved fur, feeling the ridges beneath his finger, then opened the box. "All of them?" He stared at the stack, which reached the top of the box. "By breakfast?"
"If it's too much —"
"Everything's Jake." Because yes, it was enough letters to fill a whole night in the shop, but he'd be spending all his nights here if he couldn't make rent. He closed the box with a snap. "See you in the morning."
But Mrs. Brodigan still looked troubled. "It's a lot, dear, and work doesn't need to become another excuse for you to always be alone."
Rory huffed. "Better than blowing all my scratch going out when no one wants a short guy in glasses anyway."
"Nonsense is exactly what comes outta my mouth half the time and I don't need anyone else to hear it." He folded his arms. "Scryers aren't good company, Mrs. B."
She sighed. "I like you just fine, dear, even when you're a storm cloud." She smiled at Rory's scowl. "I'll close up," she said, and with a pat on his arm left him to it.
Rory pulled the office's pocket door shut behind him, muffling the sound of Mrs. Brodigan's familiar steps as she puttered around the shop. He set his newsboy cap on the side table, freeing his shaggy curls before he tucked his legs up under him in the armchair and considered the box.
Ritzy. But then, this was some political big-timer paying double for a rush job, so he was gonna be ritzy too. Rory ought to scry the box and see what all he could learn about terribly apologetic Mr. Kenzie —
Except they'd only been asked to appraise the letters and it wouldn't be fair play. So with a last admiring glance at the bear, he opened the box again.
Geez, there had to be two dozen letters. No envelopes either, just ancient pieces of folded paper, yellowed with age and spotted where the ink had run. He picked up the top one and unfolded it. Signed by a Frederick Douglass and dated April 1856, it looked authentic enough — but then, Rory had seen some good forgeries come through the antiques shop in the last four years.
He set the box on his ancient footstool that once must have been a very nice match for a completely different chair. He settled into his seat and carefully set the pads of his fingers on top of the letter's handwriting.
Scrying was like turning a radio dial, searching for just the right notch until suddenly the signal came in clear, static transformed to music. It was always so easy to welcome the music in —
Not always so easy to turn the radio back off. Rory tried not to think about that as he closed his eyes and let the magic sweep him into the letter's past.
The man in the bowler hat sits at a desk in a room that smells like fish. A phonograph lazily spins in the corner, scratching out Margaret Young's "Hard-Hearted Hannah." The man sticks his tongue between his teeth as he dips his fountain pen in the inkwell. Carefully, he puts the nib to a piece of yellowed paper and scratches out an "1856" in the top right corner.
He lifts his head and considers the paper. After a moment, he sets the pen down, dabs his finger in water, and deliberately smears the wet ink on the six. He wipes his finger on an ink-stained towel folded on the corner of the desk and picks up his pen —
Well, that letter was as real as a wooden nickel. Did Kenzie already suspect he had a forgery? Was that why he'd come to Brodigan's in the first place?
A distant jingle startled Rory, the sound of the front door's bell ringing behind Mrs. Brodigan as she left for the night. He glanced at the clock and groaned. It was hard to keep track of present time when he scried, and he'd let himself get distracted and spent longer than he'd meant watching the vision of that letter's past.
He set the forgery on his side table and reached back into the box, withdrawing the second letter off the stack. He unfolded it to find it was also signed by Frederick Douglass, this time dated October 1855.
He emptied the box of all its letters and found them all signed by Frederick Douglass, all dated between 1855 and 1857, some duplicates of each other. He spread the letters across his lap, the chair, and the footstool, and pursed his lips.
There was no way all twenty-two of the letters were going to be real. Had this sap bought an entire lot of dodgy historic letters, hoping to get lucky? But why would a congressman's son need to pay double for some Hell's Kitchen shop to rush-appraise the lot?
Rory ground his teeth. This was weird and he didn't like weird — he liked safe and predictable.
But he also liked having a roof over his head, and he still had twenty-one letters to scry. He rubbed his eyes behind the glasses. He'd leave the mysteries to people who could afford to care about them and just be grateful he'd make February's rent.
But as he picked up another letter, he couldn't shake the heavy suspicion that something about this job smelled wrong. Mr. Kenzie had said he wanted any forgeries found by breakfast.
What wasn't he saying?CHAPTER 2
The pale winter sun shone through the east-facing windows of Arthur Kenzie's fourth-floor Upper West Side apartment, painting the wood floors of his study with stripes of warmth. Outside, the white-frosted trees of Central Park glittered as light struck snow, and for just a moment, even Manhattan seemed still.
Arthur, however, did not have time to enjoy the morning.
"Leena Brodigan." Arthur stood in front of the Monet hanging between bookshelves on the study's back wall over a small settee. "Owner of Brodigan's Appraisals, a small antiques appraisal shop in Hell's Kitchen." He shrugged off his suit jacket, black like his hair, and shot a sly look over his shoulder at the study's only other occupant. "I met with her yesterday afternoon, because at least one of us has the good manners to chase leads."
Jade raised an eyebrow. She was elegantly sprawled in one of the two leather club chairs, her dark curls covered by a cloche hat that matched the gray of her pinstriped men's suit. On the table at her side was the coffee service Arthur had ordered up, and she set her china cup down on the silver tray. "Yes, and the other of us has the good manners to keep Fifth Avenue in decent liquor." She crossed her long legs to display an impressively high heel. "Quality gin doesn't run itself from Toronto."
Arthur scoffed. "Fifth Avenue deserves rotgut. Half those arseholes call for segregation during the day then have the nerve to slither into Harlem for culture at night. Be nice to bounce those hypocrites straight out of your speakeasy and onto the street."
"Except they'd return with the police," she pointed out, "because we're in America, where the law lets your people street my people, never the other way around."
He sighed and tossed his jacket onto the arm of the settee. There were many reasons he was unhappy to be back, and Jade had it so much worse. "Why did we leave Paris?"
"Because you said, and I quote, we've got to save the thrice-damned world." It was teasing, a spot-on mimic of his blended transatlantic accent, perfect as any politician or well-traveled private school graduate. "But so as long as we're in New York, the Magnolia gives my sister a place to sing and you a place to break hearts."
"I don't break hearts —"
"We had six women ask after you last time — was that really Congressman Kenzie's son, was he really a soldier, was he really a Harvard quarterback —"
"I played for Yale."
That earned him a fond eye roll. "Tell me more about Leena Brodigan."
"We're meeting at her shop this morning." He shed his cuff links and set them on the sideboard before rolling up his shirtsleeves. "I've hired her for an appraisal, because rumor is hers are accurate to an almost unnatural degree."
Jade straightened. "Unnatural? Or —?" She twitched her fingers and her coffee cup rose off the saucer and into the air, where it spun in a small circle, as if on an invisible string.
Arthur grinned. Six years on and he still got a thrill seeing magic. "My suspicion is your type of unnatural, yes."
She plucked the cup from the air. "That would be a lucky break."
"We're overdue for one." With a grunt, he lifted the heavy Monet off the sitting room wall.
"I could have done that."
"I'm not using your telekinesis for chores." He awkwardly maneuvered the painting to the settee then straightened to face the small safe hidden in the wall. "Leena Brodigan ran Brodigan's Appraisals with her husband for a decade, until he passed from Spanish influenza four years ago. She closed the shop, put it up for sale, and went upstate to be close to her sister, a longtime resident of Hyde Gardens."
Arthur reached for the combination lock on the safe as Jade averted her eyes. No paranormal should know how to get in that safe, she insisted. "Unfortunately, Mrs. Brodigan's sister, Lorna McCaffrey, had been battling consumption for years," he said as he spun the dial. "She lost the battle only a few weeks after Mrs. Brodigan joined her."
"The poor dear, losing her husband and her sister so close," Jade said, echoing Arthur's own sympathy. "Why was her sister in an asylum?" He swung the heavy front of the safe wide to reveal its contents, a single small ring box. "Apparently Lorna McCaffrey thought she could see the future."
Jade's eyebrow went up. "We've never met someone with that ability."
"Of course not. If we had, they'd be on my payroll." He took the box from the safe, always heavier than it looked from the lead within. "But it's a coincidence, isn't it? One sister supposedly can see the future, the other accurately appraises antiques?"
Jade made a contemplative hmm. "You're thinking precognition and psychometry? One saw the future, the other sees the past?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Spellbound"
Copyright © 2019 Allie Therin.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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