Excerpt: Dragon Detective

Nickel walked into the office and shut his umbrella with a snap that spattered water droplets all over his pant legs. He grimaced and tossed the umbrella onto the stand by the door with a sigh of disgust.

“It’s not that bad, dear,” Becky said cheerfully from her desk in the middle of the room. He scowled at her in return, which she ignored with the ease of knowing him for over ten years. Becky looked warm and dry sitting in her big desk chair while wearing a nice summer-weight cardigan. The rain hadn’t started until an hour ago, so she had already been safely ensconced on her throne behind her oversized secretary’s desk. Nickel, on the other hand, had been out and about getting lunch. He had been lucky to be near a shop selling umbrellas when it had suddenly started pouring, but that hadn’t saved his shoes.

Admittedly, Nickel liked rain. He was usually the first one to run outside to play when the skies darkened and thunder rumbled overhead, just not when he was wearing a nice suit. He might be able to save his shoes, but only if the scamp napping on his desk chair moved.

“Lumie, scram,” Nickel snapped.

Lumie popped one red eye open, saw that Nickel was the one speaking to him, and went right back to sleep. His long red hair flopped over his face as he took ignoring Nickel to another level. Nickel growled and ran a hand through his much shorter blue hair in exasperation. There was no talking to Lumie when he was in one of his moods. Instead of fighting for his chair, Nickel dropped down to the floor.

His shoes popped off with wet squelching sounds, and his socks left a puddle on the floor. Nickel’s magic fizzled between his fingers for a moment before he directed it to pull on the water, calling it out of his shoes and socks. It was a gradual process. Water moved slowly. It was sticky, according to the science teacher Dane had hired to teach all the kits, and was therefore happier to remain attached to something than not. It was why water always hesitated on the edge of a counter before the push from behind and gravity below finally sent it falling. Of course, once the first drop fell, all the water built up behind it fell too because it was all stuck together. It took some doing before the water obeyed his magic, but once one drop and then another began to coalesce in Nickel’s hand, it wasn’t long before he had a small river flowing from his shoes and socks into his cupped palms.

The water was cool and welcoming, just the way Nickel liked it. He continued to call out the water slowly. It was easy, routine magic, but it was also good practice for when he worked larger spells. Except the water was starting to heat in his hands. First it was only just warm, which happened sometimes when he was being a touch careless, but when bubbles started to form between his hands, Nickel turned to glare at Lumie.

“Knock it off!” Nickel snapped. Lumie continued to breathe evenly, as if he really were asleep. Experience told Nickel that Lumie was a dammed good actor, though. The heat continued to rise until the water stopped protecting Nickel’s hands and they began to get uncomfortably hot. His shoes also began to smell. ‘Ron had stuck a hairdryer into a pair of sneakers once to try and dry them off. The bathroom had reeked of sweaty feet for days when she was done, and the office was quickly taking on the smell of that awful aroma.

Nickel tossed the water before it could start burning his hands. It arced beautifully in the air, steaming as it continued to boil, and landed directly on Lumie’s head.

Lumie shrieked and jumped out of Nickel’s chair. His red hair was plastered to his face and dripping onto his shirt. He looked like a soaked puppy, especially as he scowled. Nickel couldn’t help grinning at the sight.

“What was that for?” Lumie shook his head back and forth, deliberately spraying Nickel with more water. The water steamed off of Lumie’s head quickly, leaving his hair dry and slightly fluffy.

“You know why!” Nickel snapped back, his good mood forgotten with the reminder that Lumie had just tried to boil Nickel’s hands off and destroy the office with a pervasive stench.

“Sleeping in your chair is no reason for you to throw water all over me!” Lumie yelled. His eyes flashed with magic so Nickel prepared himself to block anything Lumie was about to throw at him. “And ugh, what’s that smell anyway?” Lumie asked. He turned his head away from Nickel, the water incident already forgotten as he sniffed the air.

“I was just trying to help!” Alloy whined. He poked his head out from underneath the desk, his mixed red-and-blue hair was disheveled and his eyes—one bright red and the other blue—were wide as he tried to hold back tears. Nickel jumped in surprise and then growled at himself. How had he missed the fact that Alloy was curled underneath the desk? He shouldn’t have. Apparently, the distraction of Lumie taking his chair combined with his wet shoes had been enough that Nickel had missed Alloy. That wasn’t acceptable; Nickel snarled to himself. He had to be better than that. Alloy wasn’t an enemy, but next time Nickel might not be so lucky.

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