Quest for Magic
The Leira Chronicles Book 0
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Leira glanced up at him through thick, dark lashes. “Maybe? I’m not in the mood.”
“Doesn’t mean you need to treat everyone like they’re about to be charged with something,” he said, giving her a smile. Leira had known Mike and some of the other regulars since the day she moved in over four years ago. Just after her grandmother disappeared.
“Have to look out for you, you know. Estelle’s rule number thirty-one,” he said. “Look out for Leira, which we would all do anyway, by the way.”
He took a long swallow of his gin and tonic, swirling around a piece of ice in his mouth, before crunching it between his teeth.
“Long day,” said Leira. “Felix got shot. He’s okay,” she said, holding up her hand to stop the potential words of comfort, or worse, a hug. “Just needed some stitches and maybe a night at the hospital. Still, long day,” she said, drinking down the last of her beer.
“Another?” asked the bartender.
“Sure, one more,” said Leira. She wasn’t ready to go home just yet, even if it was just a few feet away.
“Hang out with us for a while,” said Mike. “You should be around some kind of family,” he said with a shrug. “I’m afraid we’ll have to do,” he said.
“You guys are more than enough,” she said, resting her arms on the bar. “I’ll be right back,” she said, “watch my beer.” She slid off the stool and headed for the comfort of her own bathroom. One of the perks of living behind a bar.
“She always so hard to get along with?” asked the guy at the bar.
A meaty hand clapped him on the back, making him spit just a little of his drink, dribbling it down his chin.
“That’s Craig,” said Mike, nodding at Craig, who still had his hand on the man’s back. “He’s another regular, here. To even be considered a regular here, you have to want to be a part of Leira’s Society. That’s what we call ourselves.”
“Didn’t catch your name?” asked a woman who had pulled her chair closer. She held out her hand.
“Bob,” said the man, trying out his dimples again.
“Lucy,” she said, shaking his hand hard. She gave him a smile that didn’t make its way up to her eyes.
“Not that she knows about that part,” said Craig, giving the stranger an unfriendly smile. “We’ll make that our little secret,” he said, staring at Bob.
“Former marine,” said Lucy, tilting her head toward Craig. “It’s his only style of conversation.”
“Take a good look around, Bob,” said Mike. “Everyone here tonight is a part of Leira’s Society.”
“Except for that couple, over there,” said Craig, “First date, I suspect,” he said, looking over at them. “Too much talking to suit my taste. Clearly still enjoying each other’s company,” he said, looking pained. Lucy gave a laugh and poked him, brushing a long, blonde strand of hair off of her shoulder.
“What are you, like a fan club?” asked Bob, still smiling, but sounding nervous.
“More like a family,” said Lucy. “An over-protective, Texas-sized family.”
“See that little, tiny woman in there?” asked Craig, pointing at Estelle who was showing someone to their table.
“The grandmother packing a gun?” asked Bob, his eyes growing wider. He took a large gulp of his drink.
“That’s Estelle. She leads this merry band and is the head of the society. No one bothers Leira on this small acreage,” said Mike.
“No one,” said Craig, giving another hard clap to Bob’s back.
“Rodeo Pete’s?” asked Bob, pulling a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet and slapping it on the bar.
“Good idea,” said Lucy. “Take a cab. No parking on 6th street after nine. They tow whatever’s left parked there and let everyone wander into the streets.”
Bob gave them a tight smile as he backed his way off of his stool and turned quickly, weaving through the chairs that were all filled now, till he made his way to the smaller gate on the other side of the house.
“You know, she might actually figure out how to like a guy if y’all stopped running everyone off,” said Lucy, watching him go.
“He wasn’t good enough for her,” said Craig. “Besides, you know the rules.”
“He was acting like a guy,” said Lucy, “and he wasn’t that bad looking. Leira could use the practice.”
“You chased him off, didn’t you?” said Leira, who had quietly made her way back to the bar. She ignored Lucy’s comment. She knew they all thought of her as dating-impaired. Maybe they were right.
“Damn girl, you’re like Batman in those shoes. Sneak up on anyone,” said Craig.
“Thanks for doing that,” said Leira. “I’d mention, again, that I can take care of myself but tonight, I kind of appreciate it.”
Craig and Mike exchanged a look.
“Her partner got shot,” said Mike, “but is doing fine,” he added quickly, as Leira gave him an angry look. “I’d have told him eventually,” he said, sheepishly. “Rigorous honesty,” he added, waving at the bartender. “How about I get the next round?”
“You owe Craig a few beers, anyway,” said Lucy, moving her chair back toward her table. “You can send mine over here,” she said. “Leira, you can come sit with the girls, if you want.”
Leira sat down on her barstool and turned toward the bar just as a man took the seat next to her.
“Hi,” he said, giving her a smile.
What is it with tonight, she thought.
“Damn, girl, whatever it is you’re doing, let me in on it,” said Lucy. “All the good ones are making their way over to you tonight.”
“Semi-good ones,” said Mike.
“Okay, big brothers, maybe step back a little. At least for my sake,” said Lucy, trying to get the new guy’s attention, smiling at him. He didn’t take his eyes off of Leira.
“I think I’ll take this one to go,” Leira said, picking up her beer. She could feel a tight soreness in her shoulder from where she had landed on top of Arthur and even though the headaches had eased up to her relief, the remnants were still there. “I’ll be fine,” she said, giving them a smile as a way to reassure them.
Bad choice. A look of concern passed across Mike’s face. Damn.
She quickly turned her expression to something between a scowl and no expression at all and gave them a small wave as she turned to walk away.
No looking back, she thought. Tonight, I have a feeling they’d only follow me.
She opened the door to her cottage as another shout went up. “Leira!” followed by a lot of clinking of glasses and the sounds of laughter. Leira braced herself and turned, raising her beer into the air.
“Till tomorrow,” she shouted, her usual farewell. The man at the bar smiled broadly at her, raising his glass.
“Or later tonight!” someone shouted back, causing another ripple of laughter.
“Gotta’ love a routine,” she mumbled to herself, as she pushed open her door.
She went and curled up on the couch taking sips of her beer.
“Ow,” she said, sucking in air between her teeth. She set the bottle down carefully on the floor and pushed down the edge of her form-fitting black pants. A bruise the size of a quarter was forming on the curve of her hip.
“Have to stick my landing better the next time,” she said, gently pressing against the green and purple spot.
She let go of the top of her pants and leaned down for her beer just as the room exploded in gold light. It was streaming everywhere, sparks shooting out to the sides.
Leira ducked, rolling onto the ground, knocking over her bottle.
“Fuck,” she shouted, covering her head with her arms, waiting for the rest of the blast. She could feel the beer pouring out around her right knee.
Nothing happened. The room grew so quiet she could hear the hiss of the beer as it ran out of the bottle onto her rug.
“No!” she yelled, squeezing her eyes shut, willing herself to not go crazy.
Go crazy like her mother.
Leira was not used to the feeling of panic that washed over her. Her heart was beating fast, too fast and she was finding it hard to catch her breath.
Instincts kicked in and she forced herself to take an assessment of the room.
Come on, Leira. Enough.
She opened her eyes and looked up, ready to at least try and take down whatever creature was in front of her.
A large hole had opened up in the middle of her small living room, exactly like the one she had seen at the hospital. The air around it shimmered and she could feel the pulse of energy it gave off move through her body.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #5! Leira’s got a crew to watch her back but they may not be enough for the weirdness that’s about to go down! It’s all starting to get a little hairy… Story’s just getting rolling! NINETEEN DAYS TILL LAUNCH OF THE UNIVERSE! Four more authors already hunched over keyboards typing away for more series in the Oriceran Universe. The fun is just beginning all over the place!
Check out Martha Carr’s other books at http://www.marthacarr.com/
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