The coffee room turned out to be just a break room, but Sierra had to admit it was the nicest break room she’d ever seen. Though unoccupied, given the late hour, Sierra guessed that wasn’t its common state. It looked more like a posh coffee house with plush chairs and side tables scattered around, arranged in circles illuminated by stand lamps. A long, dark marble counter lined the back wall, holding fancy coffee machines as well as paraphernalia for making tea. Baskets of fruit and other snacks took up the rest of the counter, and tucked into the corner at the end of its length was a stainless steel fridge. Sierra was sure if she opened it, she would find it stocked to the brim with bottled water, juice, and other treats. She let out a low whistle as she looked around. “Guess she likes to keep her employees happy.”
“Miss Williams expects nothing but the best from her people,” Philip sniffed, “and she takes care of us in kind.” He didn’t wait for a reply, just turned on his heel and left them, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be back when Miss Williams wishes to speak with you again.”
“I don’t know about you,” Cammy drawled, strolling to the counter, “but I could use a cup of fortification.”
“Do they have anything stronger than caffeine?” Sierra asked, dropping down into an overstuffed leather chair.
“Afraid not, love,” Cammy called back. Sierra closed her eyes and listened to Cammy tinker around at the drink station. A few moments later, a shadow fell over her and she looked up to find Cammy setting a fresh cup of coffee on the table beside her chair. Cammy sat in the chair on the other side of the table, cradling a cup of tea.
“Gracias,” Sierra whispered, picking up the cup and holding it in both her hands, inhaling deeply and letting the warmth from the mug radiate into her.
They enjoyed their drinks in silence for a few moments. Cammy broke it by asking, “How mad are you?”
Sierra drew in a breath and let it out slowly, then drew another, buying herself time to consider her answer. “Depends,” she said at last. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m not sure I even know where to start,” Cammy sighed. She looked down at her tea.
“We’ve got some time,” Sierra gestured around the empty room. “Try.”
Cammy set down her tea and tucked her legs beneath her on the chair. “Has Elia told you much about fae?”
“Not really,” Sierra answered. “Mostly just that they tend to keep isolated, and offer protection to magical people who can’t hide among humans.” She wrinkled her nose, thinking, “He also said that there are fae designated to walk among the humans and report on what’s happening in the world.” She glanced at Cammy. “That was your papá?”
She nodded. “Mum worked in a pub. That’s where she met him. He stayed with her, with us, until it was time for him to return to his enclave. He offered to take me with him, so she wouldn’t have to raise me by herself.”
“But she couldn’t go with?”
Sierra shook her head. “Humans aren’t allowed in the enclave. Half-humans are tolerated, but the fae prefer to raise them as fae, if they can.” She shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “Mum told him no. She told him that if he wanted to leave, that was his choice, but she wasn’t just going to give me up and never see me again.”
“I knew I liked her,” Sierra said.
Cammy smiled. “She always liked you, too.”
“So what happened?”
“I think if Father hadn’t been there when I was born, and helped Mum with me when I was wee, he might have just walked away. But he didn’t want to give me up either, and he did care for Mum. He didn’t have a choice about leaving, so he offered Mum a deal. She could raise me in the human world, but he would be allowed to bring me to the enclave for a few months each year to show me his world and to help me learn to use my power.” She shrugged. “As I said, my kind are tolerated among the fae, but I was seen as strange to them, since I would not join their world completely. As I grew older, they started pressuring me to choose.”
“And you chose humans.”
Cammy nodded, picking at her fingernail polish, avoiding Sierra’s gaze. “When I was sixteen, Father said I could control my power well enough that I didn’t need further lessons unless I really wanted to join the fae. He knew I didn’t, but he was worried that the elders might try to force my hand, so he helped Mum and me move across the pond.” She shrugged and looked up. “I haven’t seen him since.”
“Oh, Cammy,” Sierra said, reaching over to take her hand. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s safer that way,” Cammy said with a small smile. “Everything about my life since we came to the States you know already, except for the small detail that I have magic. And I try not to use my charm.”
Cammy frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Why not use it? Why live such a quiet life in a small town like Bowieville when you could have everything you ever wanted just with a touch and a smile?”
“You know me better than that,” Cammy chuckled. “I like my quiet life, and I like Bowieville. Besides, if I used my power all the time, it would attract attention.” She gestured around the break room. “People like Bobbi Leigh, people like Orsino, they turn other people’s power into their power. They are always on the watch for new talent. Most of them don’t like to take no for an answer.”
“You knew who Bobbi Leigh was already, didn’t you?”
Cammy nodded. “It is possible to find out how the magical world overlaps with the mundane in a given area without attracting too much attention to oneself. That’s part of why I chose Bowieville to settle in. She tends to overlook it, but if I somehow found myself needing to get back into this world…” she trailed off and spread her hands.
“It’s right there,” Sierra said, nodding. “Okay. I can buy that.” She arched an eyebrow at Cammy. “So is that your answer, then? You didn’t tell me because you’re, what, hiding? Trying to forget what you really are? And you don’t want to attract attention by revealing your true nature?”
“That is part of it,” Cammy agreed.
“And the rest?”
“Would you have believed me if I had, Sierra? I’m not like Elia where I can transform in front of you and poof! There’s your proof. If I’d tried to give you a demonstration, you likely would have just thought I’m exceptionally good at flirting.”
“I already know that,” Sierra teased.
“I’m being serious,” she said in exasperation. She was smiling though. “Tell me something, why didn’t you ask Elia to let you tell us about him?”
Sierra blushed and looked down at her lap. “He offered to, actually. After the break-in. He knew I hated keeping it from all of you.”
“Ah,” Cammy nodded, and her smile turned knowing. “But you told him no. Because…?”
“Because I was trying to protect you,” Sierra admitted. “He was being hunted by some seriously bad people. He killed that wolf. I didn’t want to involve any of you in that.”
“Exactly,” Cammy said, squeezing her hand.
Sierra glanced up at her, frowning. “But no one’s hunting you, are they? Are you in any danger?”
“No,” Cammy shook her head. “But as I said, I do try to avoid the notice of others in the community.” She shrugged, “And the more people who know a secret, the harder it is to keep.” She bit her lip, then caught Sierra’s eyes. “Are you going to tell the others about me?”
Sierra shook her head. “No, and I’ll make sure Elia doesn’t say anything either. But I think you should tell them. For better or worse, they know about magic now, too. And they’re our best friends, Cammy. They love you. They’ll get it.”
“I…I suppose you’re right about that.” She sighed and arched an eyebrow at Sierra. “You realize once Intira knows, she will never let me hear the end of this?”
“You’ll manage,” Sierra laughed. They fell into a comfortable silence. A thought occurred to Sierra and she turned back to Cammy. “It comes out when you sing, doesn’t it? Your magic?”
“Sometimes,” Cammy confirmed. “If I let myself get lost in the music, it can carry my emotions out to the crowd.”
“That explains so much,” Sierra said. Her nose scrunched up. “I guess iron really doesn’t bother you, huh? All that steel on stage. Is that why you use nickel strings?”
She shrugged, “I admit, my magic may have a tiny bit to do with why I tried nickel strings. But honestly, I just prefer them to steel. But all of the other steel on stage helps to dampen the effect. Trust me, that’s a good thing.”
Sierra snorted. “Seeing how you still get mobbed by adoring fans after half our shows, I believe it. Mierda!” she exclaimed as another thought occurred to her. “Maybe you shouldn’t tell the others.”
“How easy,” Sierra asked, turning to face her, “would it be for your power to get us signed, if you aimed it at the right people? But you can’t, because you don’t want to draw attention. Which means we are never hitting it big no matter how good we are.”
Cammy surprised her by laughing. “None of you wants to be famous, either, Sierra,” she said with a grin. “It’s the only reason I let you talk me into joining Dragonfly in the first place.”
“What are you talking about?” Sierra frowned at her.
“Do you think Bobby would ever want to go on the road without Jackie?”
“Ah,” Sierra said, understanding. “No.”
“Right, and as much as Intira loves to complain about school system politics, she loves her job. She won’t give it up for something as unreliable as a music career.” Her face fell a little. “Not that she’s likely to have that option any time soon.”
“Yeah,” Sierra agreed, frowning. “But I guess you’re right. She wouldn’t have ever made that choice anyway.” Her brow wrinkled. “But hey, I didn’t love my job,” Sierra pointed out. “How do you know I wasn’t angling for a career as a rock star eventually?”
“No,” Cammy agreed. “But you didn’t hate your job either, not really. Besides, rock star has never been a consideration for you, Sierra and you know it. I mean, honestly, do you actually want to be famous?”
“Oh, Dios, no,” Sierra answered without even needing to think about it. Celebrity was a strange kind of curse she really wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“Then why be in a band at all?” Cammy asked in an all too innocent voice.
Sierra scowled. “Because I love the music, and I love playing it with my best frien–oh.”
“Now you see,” Cammy said, nodding.
The door to the coffee room opened and Philip entered, stopping in front of them with a pained expression. “Miss Williams is ready for you again, if you’ll come with me.” He didn’t wait for an answer, just turned and made his way back to the hallway, leaving Cammy and Sierra hurrying to catch up. He walked them to the office door, opening it with an impatient air and then shutting it behind them.
Joey was gone. Noticing Sierra looking for him, Bobbi Leigh said, “I’ve sent Mr. Brown to have his injury tended.”
“Oh, good,” Sierra said. Bobbi Leigh arched a brow and Sierra winced, then cleared her throat. “I am sorry he was hurt, but your people did attack us.”
“I suppose we can chalk it up to a large misunderstanding,” Bobbi Leigh allowed, rising from behind her desk and walking around to lean against the front of it. She gestured for Sierra and Cammy to sit, her eyes landing on Cammy. “He wasn’t in very much pain, at least. Your doing, I understand?”
Cammy hesitated, but then nodded.
“Thank you, for that,” Bobbi Leigh said. She smiled at Cammy’s surprised look. “I am not pleased he was so forthcoming with his information, but in this case it seems to have worked out best for all of us. I can forgive it this once. Most people with your particular skills would have gone the other way, increasing his pain, rather than lessening it.”
“I have no desire to hurt anyone unless it’s necessary,” Cammy bit out.
“An efficient way to do business,” Bobbi Leigh agreed. “It’s too bad Orsino doesn’t take the same view. His people might go to fewer lengths to escape his grasp if he did.”
Anger flashed across Cammy’s face at the comparison to Orsino. Sierra could see her friend did not like being linked to him. Trying to bring the conversation back on point, Sierra jumped in. “You said Joey cooperating with us was for the best. Does that mean that you’ve decided to help Elia?”
“I have,” Bobbi Leigh confirmed, turning her attention back to Sierra. “I believe I have the resources to convince his would-be master that Mister Sapienti is dead, in exchange for your friend here destroying the tuar ceatha, and perhaps one or two other considerations.” An unpleasant smile flashed across her face. “I confess I enjoy the idea of fooling Orsino. He has been quite the thorn in my side these past few weeks.”
Sierra’s brow furrowed at the suggestion that Cammy be the one to destroy the stone, but Cammy latched on to Bobbi Leigh’s other stipulation. “Other considerations?” she asked, arching an eyebrow, sitting up straight with tension.
Bobbi Leigh was quiet for a few long moments, looking between Cammy and Sierra. She crossed her arms and said, “I acknowledge that Mister Sapienti had no intention of bringing harm to me or mine, but the fact remains that his troubles followed him here and my organization has paid a heavy price. I’ve lost an impressive technomancer, one I was rather fond of, as well as one of my more talented sorcerers.” At their exchanged look of confusion, Bobbi Leigh grimaced. “Once Orsino turned up, it was obvious that someone in my organization had tipped him off to Mister Sapienti’s presence. I detest moles, and was quite thorough about rooting this one out. Her connection to Orsino was tangential, but enough for her to betray me. I am not forgiving of betrayal. She has been dealt with, which, unfortunately, leaves me down another employee.”
Sierra swallowed, more frightened than she cared to admit by the cool tone in which Bobbi Leigh delivered this announcement. Afraid she knew where this was going, she spoke up. “I don’t think Elia will agree to come work for you again. The whole reason he left Italy was so that he could have some say in his life.”
Bobbi Leigh chuckled and shook her head. “Believe me, I could use a cat, but even if I wanted him back, my people would never accept him. He’s been the cause of far too much strife. No, I had something else in mind.”
“Such as?” Cammy asked, eyes narrowing.
“Favors, my dear,” Bobbi Leigh said with a sweet grin that again reminded Sierra of an abuela. “Each of you will owe me one Favor.” She definitely said it with a capital “F.”
Sierra started to laugh until she caught sight of Cammy’s face, which had gone hard and determined. “Sierra has no magic, leave her out of this. I will owe you two Favors. But,” she held up a finger, “let us be perfectly clear that I will do no harm to another being unless they are attempting to harm me or mine, and I will steal nothing for you that is not rightfully yours.”
The corner of Bobbi Leigh’s mouth twitched, but she nodded, a satisfied air settling over her. “That is acceptable.”
Cammy relaxed and Sierra looked between the two of them. She got the impression that Bobbi Leigh had anticipated Cammy’s response to the request and an uneasy feeling settled over her. Still, Cammy wasn’t tense anymore, so she’d have to take that as reassurance that whatever had just happened wasn’t so bad. She cleared her throat and decided to get the conversation back on track. “Orsino will know by now that Elia stole the stone,” she said, hating to bring it up.
“Or someone who looked like Mister Sapienti,” Bobbi Leigh said in a smug voice. “Don’t you worry, Miss Espina, I have that covered. I am nothing, if not thorough.”
“So what happens now?” Cammy asked.
“I will inform Orsino that I have apprehended his missing cat,” she told them, “and he will send someone to collect Mister Sapienti.”
“You mean his body?” Sierra asked sharply.
Bobby Leigh smiled. “Oh, I thought I’d save that as a surprise.” Her smile faded. “I will need to speak with Mister Sapienti first, however. His presence is necessary for the spell of deception I plan to use.”
Seeing their discomfort at the suggestion, she smiled again. “I understand that there might still be some trust issues between us, so I have drawn up a contract. It outlines our previously discussed agreement, as well as guaranteeing that no harm will come to Mister Sapienti from me or my people. Nor will any harm come to the two of you.”
“What about our friends who were present when Joey’s squad came for Elia?” Cammy asked.
Bobbi Leigh held out the contract. “It’s all there, look it over. I agree to take no action in reprisal for the injuries to my people last night. Your friends are safe, as are their families. You have my word.”
Cammy took the contract and began reading it over, nodding along as she went. “It all looks to be in order,” she said, passing it to Sierra. There was the expected amount of legalese, but it was more or less straightforward. Sierra couldn’t help but notice that it already outlined the two Favors owed to her by Cammy. Had it magically updated when they discussed it, or had that been her goal the whole time? It all looked to be in order, so she nodded as well. Bobbi Leigh handed her a pen and she signed, passing it over to Cammy for her signature as well.
“Very good.” Bobbi Leigh took it back from Cammy and added her own name below theirs, then summoned Philip into the office to have him witness it. “Can you go make a copy for Misses Espina and Kay, please, Philip?” She turned back to them after he left, “You can take it to show Mister Sapienti so he understands he will be safe here. How soon can you arrange to have him join us?”
“We’ll need to pick him up,” Sierra said, “but we can be back within an hour.” She tilted her head, then added, “Assuming traffic cooperates.”
“Of course. That sounds reasonable. Philip will accompany you.”
“What? Why?” Sierra stared at her.
Bobbi Leigh gave her an amused smile. “Orsino has eyes on this building, Miss Espina. They cannot penetrate my security measures, mundane or magical, but it is too much to hope they would not notice you walking through the front door with their quarry in tow. Philip can make sure that you exit and return unseen by them.”
“But what if they recognized us when we got here?” Sierra asked.
“Oh, I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve,” Bobbi Leigh assured her with a knowing smile. “It’s already taken care of.”
“Oh,” Sierra said, sitting back in her chair. It occurred to her that she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what that meant. She looked over at Cammy. From her expression, she didn’t want to know either.
“Ah, and here’s Philip.” She handed them their copy of the contract. “Off you go, then, and I’ll see you when you return.”