Home > Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)(2)

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

   A blaze of angry fear twisted Arthur’s chest. Zeppler never needed to learn about anyone in Arthur’s life ever again, and he could never learn about Rory. “Zeppler gave Mansfield his own name, but false ones for his operatives. He wanted Gwen to think he was coming. Why?”

   “I don’t know.” Jade didn’t sound any happier about the mess than he felt. “All I know is the three Germans we followed to Boston are simply pleasant tourists. We’re coming back to New York today.”

   “I should be there. We’ve still got Rory’s ring and Gwen’s amulet to deal with—”

   “The ring is in your safe. The amulet relic is still locked up tight with Zhang’s family after he found it in the Lower Bay. We’re all right, Ace. Your family needs you in Hyde Park.”

   There was nothing accusing in her tone. Guilt twisted Arthur’s stomach anyway. He’d been roped into a million obligations from the second he set foot on Harry’s estate, but mindless chatter over hors d’oeuvres was hardly more important than dealing with supernatural relics.

   “I could come back today instead of tomorrow. All I have is John’s fundraiser.” His eldest brother, John, was president of the New York City Aldermen but had his sights on the 1928 Senate elections. The luncheon with local donors would be lavish, the company exclusive. Arthur was dreading it. “He told me I must come—was oddly insistent, truth be told—but I’m sure he’d forgive me for skipping out.” He paused. “Probably. Eventually, at least. He has to, right? I’m his brother.”

   “Go to the fundraiser,” she said firmly. “If you’re running with your family’s crowd, there is something you can do. The Zhangs just finished inventorying Luther Mansfield’s supernatural collection.”

   Arthur straightened up. The Zhang family had secured Mansfield’s mansion, removing anything dangerous before it fell into unsuspecting police hands—or other, more alarming hands. “Did they get the counterfeit Degas? It’s not allowed to trap Rory’s mind again. I was thinking I’d buy it off them and then burn it—”

   “We’ve got the painting, yes,” she said patiently. “The Zhangs have it secured where even our psychometric safecracker can’t get it.”

   Arthur made a noise of protest. “Rory wouldn’t crack a safe he shouldn’t.”

   “How quickly you’ve fallen under the spell of those big brown eyes.” She sounded amused. “Lucky one of us recalls how your little darling popped the locks on your off-limits briefcase and helped himself to the Tempest Ring.”

   Arthur made a face, but she had a point. “If you’re finished inventorying, what can I do?”

   “Something’s missing.”

   His eyebrows went up.

   “Mansfield kept records,” she went on. “Everything is accounted for except something listed only as lodestone, with the note Bowery Bank.”

   “A lodestone? What, like the chunk of magnetic rock in an old compass?”

   “Your guess is as good as mine. But anything he had in safe-deposit box was emptied before the Zhangs could get to it.” There was some chattering in Jade’s background, a man’s baritone that sounded like Zhang himself. “See if you can learn anything about the estate at John’s luncheon. Mansfield’s social circles did overlap yours—well, your family’s,” she amended. “I know it’s not your favorite company to keep.”

   “Oh, but I love these things,” he said, with heavy sarcasm. “An entire room of people who feel entitled to remark on my unmarried state.” He grimaced. “I’d pay an ungodly sum to stay here and actually have a conversation with Rory.”

   He could hear Jade’s smile when she spoke. “How are the paranormals liking the countryside? Is it terribly romantic?”

   “It’s an enchanting pastoral getaway,” Arthur said flatly. “We’ve escaped the city for frozen rivers and snow-covered hills, and for the utter romance of being crammed into a house with my brother, his five children, and an army of staff. I’ve had my every minute scheduled by my family. Clearly this trip was a wonderful decision on my part. I might even have seen Rory for two whole minutes the other day.”

   “At least Rory is getting fresh air,” she pointed out. “You convinced him to leave the city for the first time in years with paid work for your brother. I’m sure he knows that you wish you could be with him and isn’t thinking you’re just too busy for him.”

   Arthur hesitated. He had told Rory that. Hadn’t he?

   “Arthur?”

   Arthur shook his head. “My apologies, I think I was saying you’re right, as you usually are.”

   She huffed a soft laugh. “Tell your innocent safecracker that I say hello.”

   “Tell your handsome restaurateur to save me a pork bun.”

 

* * *

 

   Arthur left the quiet peace of the study and descended the curved stairs to the reception hall. The first floor was its usual riot, the chatter and clank of the staff handling the morning housework. From the hall, glass-paneled doors led to the back terrace, where happy shouts and excited barks could just barely be heard from the back lawn.

   Arthur headed for a quieter corner. “My apologies,” he began, ducking under the frame of the library’s doors. “I hope you started without—Where’s Rory?”

   On the far end of the library, Harry’s antique compass collection was displayed in a modest glass case, and that was where Arthur’s second-oldest brother, Harry, now stood with Mrs. Brodigan—and only Mrs. Brodigan.

   Harry tilted his head in polite puzzlement. All the Kenzie siblings had their father’s black hair and pale skin, but Harry was shorter and softer than Arthur, with kind brown eyes behind glasses instead of Arthur’s blue. “Does Mr. Brodigan need to be here? I thought he was an errand boy.”

   “Errand boy?”

   “His words.” Harry held up his hands in innocence. “At least, I think that’s what he mumbled as he was fleeing the sight of me.”

   Arthur looked at Mrs. Brodigan, who looked tidy as always with her neat gray bun. She smiled ruefully. “Don’t look at me, dear. Rory was gone before I got here.” She gave a small, sad shrug. “I generally handle the customers.”

   Arthur had told Harry the truth—well, part of it. Mrs. Brodigan was a widow, doing her best to run her departed husband’s shop, which was secretly the most exceptional antiques appraisal business in Manhattan. Harry had been moved by her story and interested enough to pay for her travel up for three days, and to let her bring the nephew-by-marriage who helped her.

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