Home > Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)(3)

Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)(3)
Author: Allie Therin

   The downside to the partial truth, of course, was that it hid all of Rory’s hard work, and Rory himself seemed to actively avoid taking any credit or even interacting with Harry. Arthur had yet to see Rory in the same room as either Harry or his wife, Celeste, and he didn’t think it was just Rory being skittish about revealing his psychometry. But he could hardly be angry with his brother; Rory had lied to Arthur’s face the first time they’d met and Arthur had fallen hook, line, and sinker, embarrassingly quick to believe he was nothing more complicated than the ragamuffin nephew who took deliveries and stocked shelves.

   “Well, Mrs. Brodigan kept our appointment, at least.” Harry didn’t look particularly impressed by Rory’s disappearing act but clearly didn’t find him important enough to dwell on. He gave Mrs. Brodigan a warm smile. “I’ve been meaning to have these appraised for an age, but a village like ours hasn’t any local appraisers with this expertise. It was good of you to come up from the city.”

   Mrs. Brodigan smiled back. “Brodigan’s is pleased to be of service. Mr. Kenzie here has been an excellent client.”

   “I’m quite sure mine is the lion’s share of benefit from our association,” Arthur said, which made Mrs. Brodigan’s eyes soften.

   “Arthur does seem to find the gems,” Harry agreed, oblivious to their unspoken conversation. “The Russian brother and sister you recommended have been very helpful. I admit, I wasn’t expecting you to send half the League of Nations here, ready to work, but it’s gone well. At least, with those who show up.” Arthur’s jaw tightened at the dig, but Harry went on. “Speaking of your unusual friends, did you make your call?”

   “Yes, and I still need to return to the city tomorrow. But don’t worry,” Arthur added with a huff, as Harry started to protest, “I’m coming to John’s fundraiser.”

   Arthur eyed the compasses in their glass case. Did one of them have a lodestone guiding its needle? Why would Luther Mansfield have had such a thing in his collection, and would anyone at the fundraiser know anything about it?

   Outside the library window there was a piercing shriek like a joyful hellspawn, making both Arthur and Mrs. Brodigan startle. Harry himself didn’t twitch.

   “Speaking of children,” Arthur said dryly. “Yours are as well-mannered as ever.”

   Harry only smiled, unperturbed. “I moved to the country so they could run free as wild horses.”

   Mrs. Brodigan put a hand over her heart, looked thoroughly charmed. “How lovely.”

   “Lovely rubbish,” said Arthur. “Don’t listen to a word. He’s a soft touch, yes, but he also has more children than limbs. This is the cowardly surrender of a zookeeper overrun by the monkeys.”

   Harry tactfully ignored him, turning to Mrs. Brodigan and dipping his head politely. “You were saying that you’ve appraised all the compasses? Already?”

   “Brodigan’s is pleased to provide rapid appraisals,” Mrs. Brodigan said, neatly leaving out the part that their appraisals were quick because Rory had magic up to his eyeballs. “Shall we start at this end, with the Portuguese one? It’s a lovely compass and quite authentic, by the way.”

   As Harry and Mrs. Brodigan began to chat, Arthur let his attention wander and his gaze drift out the large windows, which framed a view of the snowy back lawn and the forest beyond. Bare trees lined the hill down to the Hudson, the frozen river visible between the skinny brown trunks, and in the distance the Catskill Mountains could be seen against the cloudy sky.

   Arthur had spent plenty of happy summer days here as a child and it was still lovely in winter. His parents had offered his own cottage retreat at one point, but despite loving the trees and mountains, he’d only wanted his small flat in the city, where the constant stream of noise could keep him company. It wasn’t as if he planned to stay in America for long.

   Though America was, unfortunately, home to one very charming American.

   His thoughts were interrupted by another happy shriek. Arthur glanced at the lawn and saw eighteen-month-old Robert in his thick wool coat toddling awkwardly but eagerly toward a wiry figure in a much rattier coat and patched newsboy cap.

   Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Excuse me,” he said, and headed for the library door.

 

 

      Chapter Two


   Arthur found the nanny sitting on the terrace steps down to the lawn, looking relaxed for a change. And why not? Her hellion charges were thoroughly occupied climbing Rory like a tree. It was, in fact, aggravatingly charming; Robert on Rory’s shoulders and pulling on his curls while the four-year-old twins with their matching plaid coats and pigtail braids each clung to a leg. Rory was even smiling, damn him; Arthur didn’t need him to be cuter.

   “I’m never getting my antiques dealer back, am I?” he said to her.

   “You’ve better luck trying now, before the older two get home from school,” she said. “Victoria’s already got a promise for jacks.”

   Arthur shook his head, grudgingly amused. Still, did Rory ever stop working?

   He strode down the steps to the group, and as he got close, he called, “Have the invading forces finished conquering Italy?”

   Four heads swiveled in his direction. Rory’s eyes widened, his gaze sweeping over Arthur. “Nice suit.”

   His voice was strangled. Arthur had been taking advantage of the country to dress more casually, in soft linen shirts and tweed jackets, usually leaving his hat in his room. But today he’d dressed back in his city clothes for the fundraiser, a fedora and three-piece suit, jet-black with a white shirt and red tie. Rory seemed to approve. How flattering.

   “I’ll take that. Who needs a hello?”

   Rory rolled his eyes, although he still looked a little wide-eyed. “Hi, soldier.”

   Oh, the little shit. And Rory hadn’t even registered he’d just gotten Arthur reflexively hot and bothered; he’d said it with the complete innocence of an inexperienced twenty-year-old who had no idea how many times Arthur had been picked up in a bar with that line.

   Arthur made himself shake it off. Not now, not surrounded by Harry’s children. And their nanny. And all of Harry’s bloody staff.

   “Rory surrenders,” he said to the little girls tugging on Rory’s legs. “May I have him returned, please?”

   “What’s Italy?” Eleanor demanded, letting Arthur take her hand and guide her and her twin sister, Evelyn, to their feet.

   “A place that manufactures unfairly enchanting smiles.” He ignored Rory’s sudden blush as he reached for Robert. “Come on, General, treaties have been signed.” The toddler came happily, babbling cheerful nonsense as Arthur lifted him from Rory’s shoulders and set him gently on the ground. “Off you get. Tell the cook to give you graham crackers or whiskey or whatever it is children eat.”

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