Home > Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)

Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)
Author: Allie Therin


      Chapter One


   The heirloom compass wasn’t French. Oh, it’d been bought in Marseilles all right, from a shop that sold fancy earrings and old booze. But the shopkeeper hadn’t acquired it from a descendant of a chevalier; he’d won it off a zozzled soldier in a backroom game of cards.

   Rory let himself fall deeper into history, all the way to the compass’s creation.

   The old man with a bushy mustache sits at a wooden table with a little girl with pigtails and his same brown eyes. A carved, three-tiered shelf is attached to the wall behind them, the middle shelf holding a basket of eggplants between stacked dishes above and glass jars of oil-packed chilis below. Under the shelf is a short black stove, surrounded by colorful tile and topped with a wide copper pan that bubbles and steams.

   The old man tightens his grip on the burin and returns to engraving the “N” at north. The little girl folds her arms on the table and rests her chin on her hands. “Nonno,” she says, “quando torna papà dalla guerra—”

   There was an insistent tug on Rory’s sleeve.

   He gasped, grasping for the bookcase to steady himself as the vision of the little girl and her grandfather vanished. In its place was Pavel Ivanov, honey-brown hair still messy from sleep and his pajama shirt riding up his lanky arm. He tilted his head toward the ornate door of Harry Kenzie’s library and the clattering coming from the other side of the first floor.

   The staff was setting up for breakfast.

   Rory exhaled, then pulled his hand out of the glass display case of compasses and carefully lowered the lid.

   “Thanks, Pav,” he said, using the hem of his shirt to wipe his fingerprints off the pristine glass. “I owe you big time.”

   Pavel shook his head.

   “Guess it’s not like you sleep much either.” Sleep rarely came easily to Rory, and since Coney Island things had been worse, dreams too full of the ocean, of waves too big and winds too strong. “But still. You’re a good lookout.”

   Pavel patted his arm and left on silent feet, slipping out through the carved library doors and into the marble-floored reception hall. Rory eyed the gold trim on the library ceiling. Sure was a nice pad. Arthur’d said his parents had it built when his oldest brother was born, as a family summer home, because of course the big mansion they had on Fifth Avenue, and the second home by the Capitol in Washington, DC, and the compound in Maine, and the three other houses that Rory knew of but weren’t the end of it hadn’t been good enough.

   Rory pushed the thoughts away, because if he dwelled on the fact that this marble-and-gold museum was nothing but Arthur’s childhood summer home, he’d be on the first train back to Hell’s Kitchen. He’d just be happy for Harry’s kids, who got to live in it now and grow up in such a nice place.

   He set about removing all traces of his presence, grabbing his newsboy cap off one of the gilded chairs and wiping it off in case his tattered hat had gotten the soft velvet dirty. The library was Harry’s territory and reminded Rory of Arthur’s study, with dark wood bookshelves and a couple landscape paintings on the wall. At five a.m. it was still dark as night outside, the big windows slivers of black through gaps in the heavy curtains, the red nearly gone from the fireplace embers.

   A housemaid would show up any minute to rake the fireplace and light the fire before Harry woke. Rory needed to scram, but he lingered for a moment over the compasses. Harry’d given paid work to him, Mrs. Brodigan, and the Ivanovs. He deserved better than to find out one of his compasses wasn’t what he’d been told. But the compass-maker had been speaking Italian with his granddaughter, and her words had been clear.

   How long will Papa be at war?

   Rory closed his eyes, seeing the vision again: the wooden table buffed to smoothness from use, the sunshine pouring in the small window, the scents of spicy sausage and herbs and olive oil. What passed for a kitchen in the apartment he’d grown up in had been even smaller, but his mom would bring leftovers home from the Italian restaurant and Rory would help heat them back up, standing on a chair at the stove, the whole place smelling like the room in the vision.

   He opened his eyes to the library bigger than their whole place had been, and sighed.

   Mrs. Brodigan would be up soon, and bad news or not, he’d need to tell her what he’d scried. Arthur’d be up soon too, but he’d be busy helping Harry, so Rory’d stay out of his hair.

   And what would Arthur say if he knew what you’d brought to his brother’s house?

   Rory swallowed. He jammed the cap over his curls and then headed toward the stairs to see if the cook needed a hand down in the kitchen.

 

* * *

 

   “Yes, I’m alone.” Arthur pushed the receiver of the phone more tightly to his ear. He glanced at the door of Harry’s second-floor study, confirming it was still firmly shut and none of the children had snuck in while the operator had connected him to Jade. He guessed he had about ten spare minutes; Brodigan’s was going to give Harry the compass appraisals this morning and Arthur didn’t want to miss a chance to see Rory. “What’s happening in Boston?”

   On the other end of the line, Jade sighed. “Three amiable German tourists are having a lovely and entirely magic-free holiday.”

   “What?” Arthur pushed the phone closer to his mouth. “How? Baron Zeppler wasn’t on that boat Gwen tried to sink, but his operatives were. They took the train to Boston. You and Zhang followed them.”

   “Yes, we did. And the only questionable thing they’ve done is sneak into a speakeasy, and I’m hardly the person to judge them for that.” Her tone was frustrated. “They’re not paranormals, and they’re not working for Zeppler. I’m certain of it.”

   “So the names Baron Zeppler gave Luther Mansfield—”

   “Were falsified. Except his own.”

   Arthur stared out the study’s window, over the tops of the bare trees down to the frozen Hudson River, where the morning light turned the ice to glowing white. “Could Zeppler still have had operatives aboard the ship, somehow?”

   “If so, they somehow managed to hide from Jianwei on the astral plane.” Jade sounded doubtful.

   Arthur frowned. It was too easy to think the danger hadn’t come across the ocean after all. He tried to piece the story together. “Mansfield promises to sell Zeppler a relic amulet—and promises to tell Zeppler the magic within. Mansfield is too big a fool to realize how rare Gwen’s witch-sight is...”

   “...but Zeppler isn’t,” Jade finished for him. “He could have guessed she was involved and pulled his entire operation after correctly deducing that she was setting a trap. Gwen is the only paranormal I’ve met who could discover a relic’s magic.” She paused. “Well. Until Rory.”

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