Natural Mage (Magical Mayhem #2)(3)

At first the change in technique had badly jammed me up, making me useless for a couple days straight. Finally I’d stopped for a moment, closing my eyes and tuning in to nature. Callie had thought I was cracked, but it was a compromise that seemed to work. After I got the hang of it, I could replicate the spells just fine, fast and effortlessly.

The problem happened when they threw something unexpected at me and wanted me to randomly choose a spell I’d learned and fire it back. Half the time, my mind shorted out and went blank. I stood there like an idiot, grasping at air. Eventually I could come up with something, but my reaction time was slow.

They said it would take practice, but I felt like I’d accidentally stomped on the brakes and couldn’t figure out how to shift my foot to the gas. I should’ve been further along by now, especially with the Mages’ Guild out for vengeance.

Something was missing…or maybe someone.

“Come on, hurry,” Veronica said, giving me a little tug, shaking me out of my nervous reverie. “You do not want to get on her bad list right now.”

“I’m on her bad list at least three times a day.”

“Trust me, that’s a different bad list. Dizzy usually yells back at her when she’s being a bully, but not this time. He went and hid in his shed.”

Yikes. That was bad.

“Ah. There you are.” Callie stood at the bottom of the stairs with her hand on the banister. Her long black dress had a frilly neckline that plunged down her chest. A sparkly red something or other under it kept the situation from being a peep show. “The guests are anxious to meet you.”

Butterflies swarmed my belly. If I’d learned anything during this short trip into the magical world, it was that I was the least mage-like person possible.

“What do you have on…” Callie’s voice trailed away as she dropped her hand. She sighed and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. You’re pretty despite that dress. Next time, though, pick something a little less…”

“Dreadful,” Veronica said. Callie nodded.

“It wasn’t as awful as the one on the rack next to it,” I muttered, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear.

Veronica slapped my hand away. “Don’t ruin your hair.”

“Then next time, pick a better store.” Callie motioned me down. “Hurry up. John is here. I’m going to parade you around to everyone else before introducing you to him. I want to see if he cuts the line.” A wry grin twisted her lips.

“John is…?” I asked, climbing down the stairs reluctantly, hearing the murmuring from the next room. Veronica trailed after me.

“A high-powered mage,” she said. “He may be more powerful than I was before I formed a dual-mage partnership with Dizzy. He’d be a good match for you, Penny. He’d complement you nicely.” When I got on her level, she shrugged. “Worst case, he’d be a good rebound. Maybe you’d stop sulking about that Rogue Natural leaving. His loss. You need to move on.”

I blew out a breath to calm the sudden churning of my stomach. I did need to move on, but…

“Oh, there you are.” Dizzy hurried toward us as I reached the landing. My mouth dropped open in shock at the sight of a crisp suit without one stain or burn mark on it. “The guests are wondering where the star of the show is.” His kind smile loosened my shoulders a little, but didn’t do a thing to calm down the butterflies. “You look beautiful. The belle of the ball. Just don’t let on that you’re hiding tiger claws behind your pretty face.”

“Because I’ll seem less ladylike?” I asked in confusion.

“Goodness, no.” Dizzy laughed and squeezed between Callie and me before bending an arm around my back and leading me forward. “What an absurd thought. No, you shouldn’t show that side of yourself because right now you’re giving an illusion of daintiness. Many will take that for weakness. You look soft and willowy and in need of guidance. Let them think that’s your sum total. They’ll let down their guard and reveal their secrets. We don’t fear people we perceive to be weaker than ourselves, so we aren’t as worried about our vulnerabilities in their presence. See what I’m saying?”


“There’s a good girl.” He patted my shoulder jovially.

“I was just telling her about John,” Callie said from behind us in a low murmur.

“Oh yes. He has a lot of power and the ladies seem to like him. He’d be one to chat with, for sure. That would be a good match.”

“He’s a little shy on power for her, but she can’t expect to find another natural,” Callie said.

“Yes, that’s true,” Dizzy said. “Here we are.”

A crowd of people stood within the large living room. Off to the side, a bartender in a black uniform mixed a drink at the mobile bar for one of the women waiting at the counter. Most of the furniture had been removed and little tables dotted the ample space. Larger tables topped with food, plates, and utensils lined the back wall.

A few people carrying crystal goblets sauntered in from the formal dining room around the back corner. If Callie had pulled out all the stops, which she surely had, her china would be out and crystal glittering. She wasn’t usually a show-off, but clearly these events warranted a reminder to the community of all that she and Dizzy had accomplished.

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