The Night Realm
As she stepped up to the last rack of shelves, she realized she hadn’t quite reached the end of the room. Tucked beyond the last shelf was another door—solid steel with no visible handle or lock. A web of magic crisscrossed the metal and complex runes filled four overlapping circles that shifted in a spiraling pattern.
She raised her fingers, keeping a safe several inches between her skin and the steel, and traced a glowing circle. That. She’d never seen anything quite like that before, but she knew it would react to touch. How it would react was another matter.
Intrigued, she leaned in closer, peering intently at the weaving’s underlayers as she tried to work out what it did.
“Don’t touch that.”
Lyre’s voice shattered the silence right behind her. A squeak of fright escaped her as she jerked backward from the door. But, with her sudden movement, her hand went the wrong way. And her fingers, already so close to the door, slapped against the metal.
She cringed in terror, fully expecting the door to explode or her bones to melt or her skull to burst open. Nothing happened—until she tried to pull her hand away.
It was stuck.
She yanked on her hand, but it was fused to the metal as though her skin had been superglued in place.
“I told you not to touch it.”
She shot a glare at Lyre, standing two paces away. “I wouldn’t have touched it if you hadn’t startled me!”
He tucked his binder under his arm and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Why would you touch anything in here without permission?”
“I told you—” She bit off the words. “Unkey the spell.”
“Hmm.” He rocked back on his heels and a downright evil little smirk curved his lips. “Not sure I know how.”
“That lovely bit of work predates me. It’s pretty complicated. Since you fancy yourself a spell expert, if you look here, you’ll see—”
He started to point, and she had no idea why, but she flinched back as though he might hit her. Her elbow bumped the door—and got stuck too.
Lyre’s hand paused. “Now look what you did.”
“I didn’t—you—get me off this!”
“As I was saying, you can see here that the weaving amalgamates anything that touches it, so it’s embedded into your skin now—”
“Get me off this door!” She jerked helplessly, her immobilized wrist and elbow twisting awkwardly.
“Well, I could pull you off, but you might lose some skin. Though, since the weaving is spreading into your flesh the longer you stand there, you might leave more than skin behind.”
Her heart kicked up to a full gallop from her growing terror. He, however, seemed perfectly calm. Amused, in fact. Humor danced in his amber eyes, softening the color to something closer to buttery gold.
He was laughing at her.
“Oh.” His eyebrows rose. “That’s quite the scowl.”
She gritted her teeth. “Get. Me. Off.”
Those irresistible lips curved up and her stomach dropped to her feet. The air heated. Why was she suddenly kind of dizzy? Shadows slid through his eyes, dimming the amber to shimmering bronze.
“Get you off?” he repeated, and his tones were all purring honey, warm and deep and sensual. “With pleasure.”
A hot blush swooped through her cheeks as she realized what she’d said. “I—I didn’t mean—I was—”
In a panic, she lurched away from him—right into the spelled door.