Opposites attract…and drive each other crazy.
Freelance Magic, Book 1
Eight years ago, wizard Ashley Brandon thought his mentor was above the temptation to misuse magic. He was wrong, and the aftermath left him scarred. And determined to never again let anyone close.
When he’s assigned to a task force protecting an ancient relic, he butts heads with the infuriating, charismatic Frederick “Charles” Greer. The man is completely unreasonable. And so is Ashley’s gut response to his outrageous flirting.
Greer was only supposed to temporarily consult on the task force, but his admittedly unorthodox views on team building put him at odds with Brandon, one of the most attractive, frustrating men he’s ever met. The mission’s success requires complete cooperation, so Greer makes the first move to ease the tension.
An apology leads to bickering, which unexpectedly leads them to the bedroom. But as that tension shifts into something more fierce, a brush with the relic’s power turns everything upside down. Leaving the mission—and Brandon’s heart—in even greater jeopardy.
Product WarningsContents may contain sartorial choices both exceptional and asinine, deception, thievery, magic, naughty language, and one hell of a MacGuffin.
Copyright © 2012 Christine Price
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Caught up in his plans, he didn’t notice the other man behind him until a hot breath whispered across his ear. “This looks promising.”
Brandon spun, his thumb pressed up against his ring. Greer loosely caught his wrist and lowered their arms, smiling. “You seem on edge, Agent Brandon.”
Brandon glowered at him. “Let me go, Mr. Greer. I’m trying to work.”
His voice bounced around the high ceilings, loud in the silence around them. The lab space had cleared out about half an hour earlier for the staff’s collective lunch hour, leaving the two of them woefully alone. He’d done his utmost to avoid Greer for most of the day, still annoyed at the flood of emails and trying to puzzle out exactly what the man had been trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, Greer had gotten remarkably good at avoiding the surveillance cameras dotting the museum. Brandon had a sneaking suspicion he was trying to prove a point to Winters.
Brandon’s glower obviously failed to intimidate Greer. Pity. He’d have to practice it more.
The other man finally dropped his hand. “That’s getting to be a bit of a sad refrain. I don’t think I’ve heard you say much else at all.”
“It could be because I am actually trying to make headway on this project. Your interruptions aren’t appreciated.”
“You’re being rather harsh, darling.”
Brandon’s lips pursed. “I thought I’d made my feelings on ‘darling’ clear to you.”
“Yes, but you weren’t overly fond of ‘duchess’ either, and you haven’t given me anything else to work with.”
“I’d appreciate it if you would address me as ‘Agent Brandon’.”
“You might appreciate it, but I’m not sure you’d enjoy it. Deep down, I think you enjoy me prodding at your boundaries. Otherwise, you would’ve enabled your email filters and blocked my address.”
Brandon’s mouth opened and closed several times, a quick succession of angry retorts and snippy denials stumbling over each other on their way out of his mouth.
Smiling to himself, as if amused by Brandon’s inability to figure out his attack plan for verbal evisceration, Greer looked back at the designs. He leaned in closer, the heat from his body soaking through his tacky yellow polo and through the back of Brandon’s jacket.
“You’re going to be looping in the surrounding rooms as well?” Greer’s fingertip traced Brandon’s first few lines. “Have you considered including the staff areas?”
Brandon tore his eyes away from Greer’s profile and turned his attention back to his drafts. “Will it be necessary? Presumably if there is a break-in, they’ll go through the public areas to get in. Strangers in the staff area would draw too much attention.” As they’d all learned over the past few days. Brandon could barely take more than two steps without drawing scrutiny.
“Truly brilliant thieves aren’t deterred by scrutiny. They enjoy it. It gives them a thrill.”
“Then wouldn’t they stick to the public areas instead?”
“They’d also want to limit the number of witnesses.” Greer’s finger tapped an outline of one of the doors leading to the smoker’s area behind the building. “This. We need to have eyes right here.”
“It’s winter. It’s freezing. You’re on your way out to grab a quick smoke because your boss has been breathing down your neck all day…”
Even as he spoke, the heat of his breath tickled the nape of Brandon’s neck, sending goose bumps charging down his spine. The hair at the back of his neck stood on end, and Brandon only prevented himself from shivering through pure force of will.
“…on your way out of the building, you see a coworker on his way in. Being the absolute gentleman you are, you hold the door for him, fixated on your need for a nicotine rush. Because of your stiflingly awful day you don’t really do more than nod and automatically offer civility to someone you don’t get a good look at. Next thing you know, the Eye of Odin’s been snatched from its place by someone no one remembers entering the building. Including you.”
Greer’s cheek was a bare inch from his, light brown stubble tracing its way down his cheek and chin. He smelled of cheap hotel room soap, faintly underlain with tobacco and sweat. His eyes remained fixed on the draft, thoroughly consumed by the preliminary drawings. His shoulder pressed up against Brandon’s back, a solid presence resting against his spine. Flitting anxiety welled in Brandon’s stomach. Greer was close. Too close. But for all the racking nervousness, Brandon didn’t want to pull away.
Brandon swallowed. “I see your point.” Thankfully, his tone came off as bland and unaffected.
“Good. Otherwise, darling, it looks fantastic.” Greer pulled away.
The sudden absence set Brandon’s nerves even more on edge. Who did Greer think he was? You couldn’t…cuddle up to someone and then expect them to be able to focus! What kind of standards did CSIT have, anyway, to be hiring someone as absolutely unsuited for a job as a project manager in such a high-stakes situation…
“I like this look on you, Brandon.”
Brandon frowned. “What look?”
“I’m picking up on a generous amount of self-righteous fury with a dash of uncertainty, and I do believe there’s some subtle sexual attraction bubbling under the surface.”
Brandon’s jaw snapped shut, rage squeezing his throat closed and preventing him from answering. “If you think I am in any way attracted to you—”
“Sexually attracted, darling.”
He wasn’t getting into this. “Get out, Mr. Greer. I’ll have these finished for you by tomorrow morning.”
“Tut, Agent Brandon. No need to get angry. I know I’m perfectly irresistible. There’s no shame in your concession to the inevitable.”
Greer smirked. Brandon hated his smirk more than he had ever hated anything in his entire life, including the unmitigated disaster of the second Transformers movie.
“If you insist.” He made a show of turning and walking for the door across the room. “You can consider this an icebreaker, if you prefer. I thought you were looking a bit glum.”
Brandon stopped. He was not going to succumb to the man’s childish harassment tactics. Greer was trying to get a rise out of him. If Brandon gave in and responded, it would escalate into something wholly unproductive and ridiculous.
What exactly was the man doing here, anyway? He was impinging on his preciously allotted time. He had to have his own tasks. Dealing with Emerson’s style of leadership was difficult enough… Greer was unreadable and obviously possessed of more than a few mental disorders.
“I’m working at home for the rest of the day!” Brandon finally shouted.
Greer paused at the door and looked back at him. His flair for the dramatic was starting to get annoying. “As you like, love. Please send me along your progress.”
“I’m not going to send you anything if it results in more electronic harassment.”
The smirk widened. “I’d be worried if I wasn’t convinced you consider all of my emails to be harassing.”
Greer left before Brandon could reply. He stared at the closed door for a moment, lips pursed in annoyance. The man was insufferable.