Women of the Otherworld 10.5 - Counterfeit Magic

Free Women of the Otherworld 10.5 - Counterfeit Magic by Kelley Armstrong

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Authors: Kelley Armstrong
fighters could step down like that. This sport runs on adrenaline.”
    “Not adrenaline.” He slid off the desk and waved us to the window overlooking the ring. Inside, Max was pummeling another opponent. “You look at his face, what do you see? Adrenaline?”
    I watched for a minutes. “No, I see anger. Rage. And that’s what you don’t have. It’s why you’re not comfortable being the club’s enforcer, and it’s why Ethan stopped you from going pro.”
    Tommy laughed. “Heard that story, have you? My evil older brother squashing my dreams? Yes, he was concerned. Yes, I’m sure he wanted to discourage me. But he never did.”
    He crossed to a poster on the wall, advertising a bout between him and another former school champion. “ This is what I’m good at. High school matches, where technique is what counts. When I tried a few pro bouts, I discovered I was missing something most fighters have. Drive.”
    He sat on the desk again. “Not the drive to win, but the drive to pummel a stranger into hamburger. When a guy fights me in the ring, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, then I’m going to ask him out for a beer after. It’s just a game to me. Once you hit the pro stage, it’s not like that anymore. You’re up against guys who are mad at the world, like Max.”
    “But you still can’t escape your reputation,” I said. “It’s not just other fighters like Max who pester you, is it?” I mentioned the man I’d seen him talking to the night before.
    “Promoter. They don’t come after me that often anymore, but this guy heard…” He trailed off and shrugged. “Stupid rumor about the club. Nothing to it.”
    Were people figuring out that the Gallantes seemed a little accident prone?
    Savannah missed the cue and barreled forward. “So Ethan didn’t make you go to college. But he couldn’t resist using you to open a club.”
    This time, Tommy’s laugh boomed through the room. “Using me. Right. That Ethan, it’s all about him.” He shook his head. “The club was my idea, too. Ethan fully supported it. Even took out a mortgage on our parents’ home to set it up. Yeah, maybe there’s a little guilt there—he wonders if I chose college to make him happy—but if anyone did the manipulating, it was me.” He grinned. “That’s the power of being a little brother.”
    * * * *
    “Okay, I’ve solved the case,” Savannah said as we walked out of the club. “Well, not our case, because I have no idea who killed Jared Cookson, and frankly, I don’t care. He sounds like a little snot.”
    I sighed.
    “What? You’re thinking the same thing. You just can’t say it because that would be wrong. Forget Jared for now. I know who’s killing the fighters. The same brother who wants the club shut down. Only it isn’t Tommy.”
    “Obviously. Yeah, I know Tommy was teasing about manipulating him, but there’s truth there, too. Ethan raises the kid. Maybe expects it to pay off when Tommy goes pro. Only he wimps out and goes to college—”
    “That’s hardly wimping out.”
    “Whatever. Point is , Ethan lost his ticket to the high life. Probably got stuck with the tuition bill to boot. Then Tommy guilts him into opening the club. It’s more hassle than Ethan wants. He’s risking jail time for a business that might barely turn a profit. He’s spent twenty years taking care of his brother. The guy hasn’t even moved out of the house yet, for God’s sake. Now Ethan’s had enough. Time to make the club dream go poof.”
    She rounded the corner, striding to our car and glowering at two school-age kids checking it out. When one reached for the door handle, she zapped him with a small energy bolt. He fell back with a yelp and they took off.
    She clicked the fob to open our doors. “People have caught wind of the deaths. First that promoter, then the blackmailer. He has evidence that a brother

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