My best friend and business partner tucked the lower half of her running jacket under her butt and perched on the edge of the iron bench, joining me in scanning the handful of mundanes and Magicals braving November’s damp cold. I’d asked Catriona for help with testing my latest bit of spywear, enhanced lenses set into normal looking eyeglass frames that allowed the wearer to see auras given off by witches and shifters and other beings born with magic in their blood.
I sweetened our Saturday morning outing by promising fresh bagels from Cat’s favorite deli. She’d replied that seeing my ugly face five days a week was more than enough, today was her day off, and she needed extra hours of beauty sleep to prep her skin for my birthday extravaganza. I mentioned that testing prototype surveillance tools would provide me respite from my high society mother and her cabal of party planners—and that a gift certificate to Fenty Beauty was on its way.
Cat eventually agreed to help me out, as long as we took our mission to a specific field within Central Park, which would allow her to watch her boyfriend coach soccer for a kids’ league.
The witch set her paper bag between us and bent forward to adjust the knife sheaths strapped to her ankles and hidden by the loose legs of her running pants. She didn’t go anywhere without a minimum of concealed weapons and a cache of spells in her outfit’s matching purse or hip pouch.
“These glasses definitely have potential,” she said, glancing over shoulder at me. “I assume you want my feedback?”
“Give it to me straight.”
“I need the lenses to deliver more information. In real time,” she emphasized, stabbing her hand into the bag and fishing for her wrapped bagel. “Because if I’m wearing these in a situation where the lenses are flashing different colors and I’ve got blades in my hands, I can’t be bothered recalling which color goes with what magical sub-set while I’m making life and death decisions.”
“Life and death decisions as in who to maim and who to kill?” I teased, unwrapping my second breakfast of the day. There was no one I trusted more than Cat in situations where lives were at stake, and because of the work we contracted and some of the Magicals we’d dealt with, our lives had been at stake a number of times over our years of working together.
I bit into my bagel and studied Cat’s movements through my own set of glasses. Glowing lines in two shades of brown traced her entire body. Light brown signified her intrinsic witch magic, darker brown her specialty earth magic. I was pleased to see the magic tech didn’t blur or otherwise alter the clarity of the lenses.
Cat was right. A clusterfuck of colorful moving lines would not enhance her formidable fighting skills.
“How about a pop-up message that says, ‘werewolf’, or ‘dragon’?”
“That would be a start, plus it would be useful to users with color vision deficiency.” She leaned back and shook out her pant legs. “I’d want to know the target’s specific magic, whether they were a plant witch or blood witch or…whatever. If I was looking at a mage, I’d want to know their base element.”
“You want me to get granular with the information.” Wiping my hands on a recycled paper napkin first, I pinched the 3D-printed frames and pulled them away from my face. If I made the ear pieces slightly wider and thicker, I could insert whatever bit of micro-technology we wanted. Command buttons could lie flush to the plastic—or wood or bone or whatever material would best compliment the user’s magic. In my excitement, I almost stood up and left the Park for my design lab.
“Yep, I want you to get granular, Jake. The more information you can pack into the diagnostic capacity of those glasses and the faster you can get that information up on the lenses, the better.” Cat surveyed the couple dozen shifters closing in from our left. She waved to her boyfriend, an Argentinian jaguar shifter and former soccer star. Luciano veered toward us, pulled Cat up and off the bench, and captured her mouth with his. All while twirling her in a slow circle, sliding one hand to the back of her head and the other to the small of her back, leaving Cat to pirouette on the tips of her sneakered toes.
The shifter kids in Luc’s charge reacted like any other kids under the age of ten and registered their disgust. I reacted like any adult with a pulse and imagined what it would feel like to be the one being held, and the one doing the holding. Someday, I’d break through whatever blockage kept me single and share a kiss like that and…
I stretched across the length of the bench to catch the paper-wrapped bagel falling from Cat’s grasp.
Someday, I’d kiss someone so hard they’d drop everything for me.
Someday, I might even be willing to fall.
(The rest of Chapter One is here.)