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Finding Rowan
#1
(( while we wait ))

Sage couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, but he as soon as he was asked he smiled at his boyfriend and nodded.  He didn't say anything as he slipped into his own mind still curled up against Aiden.  It felt good to feel his warmth next to him.  Though Sage missed the ice cold of the server room, he did love to be curled up next to a warm body - and one that was very much into him and him alone was better.

The first thing Sage had to do was pull up some records on Rowan and pull several pictures for a good program to run facial recognition from.  Aiden had been hiding from his sister, but it was quick work finding out about the restaurant in Moscow.  And from there he started tracking her movements.  Sage wished for his computer, he didn't want to zone completely with Aiden.

Sage pulled him self from the flow of information and knocked on the panel between them.  "Cooper, can you get me my laptop? Stop and pull over, I need it."  He looked to Aiden.  "I don't want to completely ignore you.  But I have a search running, but it's so hard not to get pulled in."  He didn't want to be worse than an addict - he knew he was one, he exhibited withdrawal symptoms just the same.
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#2
The partition lowered at Sage’s knock and he proceeded to ask Cooper to turn around for a moment.

                “Right away, Sir,” Cooper answered cheerfully. The limo swung around on a side street and they were pulling back into the Vega Estate’s long driveway once more. Cooper hopped out and within minutes he was jogging back to the limo, a box of Sage’s things in hand. He passed the box into the back and ran back to the driver’s seat.

                And off they went again. The partition was still lowered and Cooper called back, “Are we still going to your condo, Sir?”

                Aiden looked up from his Wallet, “I think not Cooper… We’re going to The Bottom of the Cup Café… It’s one block away from Arbat Street in Old Arbatskaya. Kind of hard to miss, it seems. The café is the only building in Old Arbatskaya that is built in a Queen Anne Victorian style…”

                “En route now, Sir,” Cooper announced as the partition rolled back up.

                Looking to Sage, Aiden sighed, “I shouldn’t have avoided her, babe. She wouldn’t have signed over this café to me if she was intending on coming back to it… And judging by the pictures on her website, it looks like my father and she put a lot of energy and money into the place… What if she was kidnapped? Or maybe she’s planning on committing suicide?”

                Pain started throbbing behind Aiden’s eyes, the start of a migraine. Images of Rowan flashed through his brain and none of them good. What would he do if she really did kill herself? He didn’t think that she would, but they hadn’t talked since he had come here, she could have changed. Or perhaps the trauma of that 'hospital incident' finally got to her? She seemed to have taken that in stride, but Aiden couldn't see how... All those lives... It wasn't her fault, not completely... And to lose one's husband and child all in the same day...

                Why was she seeking him out? Did she need him or was she just being a dutiful sister? Rowan could be so hard to read sometimes. He had just assumed she was being annoying; perhaps trying to get him to come back home to the states. What if he was wrong?

                Embracing the Power, Aiden Channeled flows of Air and poured himself a glass of whiskey on the rocks from the minibar to his left. The glass came to his hand with grace and he let the Power go. After taking a long pull of the honey-colored liquid, the pain in his head started to dull.

                “I won’t forgive myself if something happened to her…”

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#3
Sage grinned at the use of the power though he was too busy really to do more than that. But he nodded when Aiden spoke to him, he'd never let anything happen to Rowan, they'd find her.

It really wasn't hard just intensive and he couldn't concentrate on it all and do other things. The script was running in one thread to find where she went. It had already gotten several hits, and there was no need to go to the start of the journey unless Aiden really wanted to. He'd find her. Though it would be easier now that he had the laptop sitting on his lap. He wasn't tapping away at it but the images were scrolling past faster than his human eye could comprehend, but each new location was plotted and Sage directed the search. Aiden could watch the progress himself.

A message popped up on screen flashing red. Sage's thought opened it but he could barely read it. There was sighting of another "Durante" He had set the trigger to notify him immediately but hadn't expect Nox to do anything stupid in the time that he'd left. But it wasn't him, it was a little girl. Sage didn't have time to deal with it so he just forwarded the message to Nox. He'd deal with it when he got the chance - which might be never at this rate, but right now he was busy. Maybe he should get Nox to help?

"Aiden, what if we can't find her in time and we have that thing with Jaxen?"
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#4
Aiden sat by watching his boyfriend work his own special brand of magic upon the laptop. It was always a marvel to watch, although at the speed Sage was working, Aiden couldn’t get a good look at any of the images zooming across the screen. The screen was just one rush of mixed colors. Sage had to be the only person in creation with such talent. Oh, Aiden had seen him work before, but it was a rare thing. Sage had almost always done things inside of his own head unless the laptop was right there, which was almost always at home- well- the Vega Estate. The time spent there was usually split between practicing with Nox, finishing up the novel, or fucking around with Sage.

                Sage suddenly voiced concern over finding Rowan and the trip to Ireland. Panic welled up in Aiden’s throat. He had completely forgotten about that excursion. So much had happened over the course of the last two hours.

                The glass came up to Aiden’s lips almost instinctually and he downed the contents rapidly.

                “I honestly don’t know, babe… let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Aiden spoke in a murmur as he began rifling around in a compartment to the right of the minibar, “I’ve watched a lot of ‘true crime’ shows and they always say that the first twelve to twenty-four hours are the most critical… I think... Or was it forty-eight hours...?”

                With an exclamation of triumph, Aiden pulled out a clear tube that contained a fine looking cigar. In minutes, almost all of the windows were down and Aiden was blowing smoke rings out of the moonroof set into the ceiling of the back of the limo. A nice headrush overtook Aiden and the wild rush of emotions slowly ebbed away.

                Aiden did not smoke often, but when he did, you could be sure stress was threatening to overtake his senses.

                “I’m sure we’ll have a better grasp on this debacle once we get to the café… Can you tap into the Café’s security footage remotely? I’m not sure how much use it will be, but I’m sure Rowan had a few cameras installed… Maybe if one of them caught a glimpse of her when she was leaving…”

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#5
Aiden pulled out a cigar and started smoking it. Sage almost said something about the smoke and the smell but if it was something Aiden did he'd have to get used to it. So he said nothing just curled down closer to Aiden's chest, holding the laptop on his screen.

The multiple queries going on were making him feel sluggish but in a good way. It'd been a while since he'd had this much power without getting sick. It made him smile. Sage thought, everyone has their addictions. And this was his.

Sage didn't know anything about the time frame, but he knew that he'd have answers but he wasn't sure Aiden would like them. His boyfriend started asking questions and it was a good one, but Sage had already been there. So he called up the footage Aiden had been looking for at the correct time stamp. It showed Rowan leaving with a gentleman and another woman. Though he was pretty sure it was a man, but with all that tech blocking the cameras he was certain the man was trouble. Only criminals did that! Or really famous people and Rowan hardly looked awestruck.

But Rowan didn't look in any danger, she looked rather cozy with the other woman. "I'm tracking their movements, but there are a lot of cameras to check." When one clip ended of his track so far he showed the next for Aiden, but his search was still going on, he was just showing Aiden the progress. The data was immense and Sage was getting lost in the ones and zeros. His head pressed against Aiden's and he wasn't even watching the screen anymore, Sage didn't need it he saw all the data, He saw the positives and negatives and sent them to the track and the map of their path was traced.

Until they three entered a building in the Red Light District.

[[ @Regus @Valeriya just letting you know about the post ]]
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#6
“She’s probably bankrupt herself building this place… Unless my Father helped her…” Aiden murmured half to himself and half to Sage. The Bottom of the Cup Café loomed large infront of them. It’s grand gable and polygonal towers cast a long shadow down the block, and upbeat jazz music poured from the rear. Black smoke rose steadily from a large chimney; scents of burning wood, bougainvillea and passion flower flitted around their noses. It truly did look like God himself plucked a Garden mansion up from New Orleans and dropped it down in the middle of Russia.

                A tall, slender man, impeccably dressed in a sharp black suit, stood at the top of the wooden stairs leading onto the wrap-around porch. Aiden’s face broke out into a wide smile as he rushed up the steps to shake an old friend’s hand.

                “Well, I do declare! If it isn’t Gareth Rice? How does the day fair you, good sir?”

                Gareth began rolling his eyes but quickly recovered from the expression. He shook Aiden’s hand and nodded politely.

                “Oh, do quit the theatrics, Aiden,” Gareth said with a smirk, “If only my mistress knew that she only had to fake a kidnapping to get your attention, I’m sure she’d have done it months ago.”

                “So, she did fake it? We saw footage of her with two people I’ve never met before.”

                “Oh, I can assure you the matter at hand is not fraud… Yes… Those two. Mistress had never met them before either. She left with them a few hours after hosting a small social in her private parlor. There were two more strangers, but they left in a rush; I have not seen them come back since.”

                “Who are these mystery people then?”

                Gareth coughed quietly into his hand, looking past Aiden and towards Sage. Aiden smacked his forehead lightly.

                “Lord, where are my manners?”

                “I was never under the impression you had any, Aiden.”

                “Cram it, Gareth,” Aiden retorted as he pulled Sage up next to him, “Gareth, this is my boyfriend, Sage Parker. Sage, this is one of my old friends, Gareth Rice. He works for my sister.”

                Gareth turned to Sage and shook his hand politely, “Charmed, Master Sage. Would the two of you like to accompany me upstairs, to Mistress Rowan’s private quarters? Happy hour is starting soon and we won’t have the appropriate privacy to discuss this sensitive manner.”

                Without waiting for a reply, Gareth spun on his heel and headed into the building.

                Aiden turned to look at Sage, “Don’t mind Gareth. He’s a little uptight. His father, Vic, is my own Father’s butler. We were all a little shocked when Gareth followed suit, but I always thought that he had a thing for Rowan… Poor guy. She never gave him the time of day.”

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#7
Sage really wasn't paying attention to the real world. He was listening, recording everything seen and heard. He nodded at the introduction but he was already working on his latest task. Finding interior footage now that they were inside that was a lot easier to do.

Sage clung to Aiden's hand as they walked through the cafe. It was a taste of home - one he didn't exactly miss. People always bothered him. And this was more than he liked anyway. He was grateful they were moving up the stairs to a private place. It would be easier to work in private - and more quiet. He clutched his laptop to his chest with his other hand. Two life lines...

It was a long ways from the times he'd not been able to connect without worrying about killing himself, but there was always that simple fear that coursed through his body. And the loss of everything too hit home when he needed the power the most. He'd lost his friend, his life and his reputation. The last was going to be the hardest to repair - if he ever could remake himself.

Once inside the cafe's security Sage found the feeds he was looking for and started searching for Rowan and her mystery guests. Three of the four were easily captured, the fourth was not. Sage hated that tech, but there was nothing he could do about it. Except maybe by association or maybe a reflection in something. He'd have to set up a separate algorithm for that. A separate task looking for that fourth identity while the facial recognition started scanning the other two. He still hadn't gotten a single hit on the dark mysterious lady who Rowan had left with.

Oddly enough the search for the girl ended quickly. Her name and licence were all he had. She had as much record as Nox did. Which begged the question was she Atharim?

But the other man. The first hit came up, and then another, and another, and another, and the possibilities became endless. These were not single files, they were whole lives built on this one identity - or look alikes... or... Sage had another mystery to solve. He was so wrapped up in his head, he blindly followed Aiden, holding his hand, trusting that Aiden would keep him safe. Trust he'd never given anyone else except Nox. And all because Nox was Aurora's brother - proably one of Sage's only friends. He trusted Aurora because she trusted him with her secret. Their secret.

Sage had so much more to find out now... swept away in the currents of information - completely heedless to his world around him.

[[ Just putting this out there, Sage is zoned out like someone high might be - and technically he is. ]]
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#8
Sage gave no reply. His expression was distant and his eyes showed the hint of a glaze. Aiden had seen that look many times before, hell, he had even worn that expression more than he’d care to admit, although it was usually due to THC concentrates; okay, maybe shrooms too. Sage was not on any substance, however… Well, no physical substance. Aiden knew it was due to the constant stream of information running through Sage’s mind at the moment. Did he see images or was it all binary? Aiden had never probed too deeply into the matter, aside from the means in which Sage acquired this profound ability.

                Ever the gentleman, Aiden reached down and grabbed at Sage’s arm, placing it gingerly into the crook of his own. Embracing the Power, Aiden wove a thread of Air and nudged the doors open. It was highly unnecessary, but he had found himself wanting to handle this magick more and more. He had an adventure to endure and a sister to find, after all. The feeling of that raging torrent of energy was addicting, no matter how much it felt like it would tear him apart. Perhaps Sage felt the same way when he went into these Technomancer trances? Aiden feared he’d turn into a masochist due to this encroaching addiction.

                An aged black woman leapt up from her seat behind a counter at the front of the cafe as Aiden and Sage entered the building. Tarot cards flew up from her hands and scattered in all directions. She ran out from behind the counter, scuttling up to the pair of them, adjusting her glasses and squinting at each in turn. A wide smile appeared on her lips as her eyes fixed on Aiden.

                “You must be the new owner. Don’t look a thing like our Voodoo Queen. Dunno why she told me you was her twin,” the woman said as she adjusted her coke bottle glasses.

                Aiden gave the woman a wry smile, “Aiden Finnegan at your service. Trust me, Rowan is most definitely my twin sister. I know, I know. I am far more attractive than she… But, this situation is temporary, ma chérie, of that I can assure you… My ownership. Not my looks.”

                “Oh? We got a jokester on our hands, now do we? You are talkin’ a big game, young man,” The older woman tittered, “You’ll be recovering Madame Rowan?”

                “Eventually. I’d be a terrible twin if I were to leave her to the ethers, am I right?”

                The woman cackled loudly and smacked Aiden on the back.

                “True enough, Master Aiden, true enough. You’re alright, you know that? Call me Maman Marie. I’m the counter girl here at the café,” Marie erupted into more laughter at the word ‘girl,’ her bone-white plaits shaking as her head rolled back into the hearty chuckle. Aiden smiled at the woman. She really was darling. A stray Rowan picked up from New Orleans, no doubt… Perhaps a member of the Voodoo Temple that Rowan had belonged to.

                “Just Aiden. Please, don’t call me Master. That sounds… wrong… coming from you.”

                Marie gave him a look before continuing on, “Oh, Madame Rowan was always a stickler for propriety. Gives the café an air of charm, she always used to say. I don’t mind any. Go on up them stairs over there, I’m sure Gareth is feeling impatient as ever.”

                “Thank you, Maman, of course,” Aiden said as he steered Sage away from her and up the wooden stairs behind the counter.

                “Nice arm candy, Master Aiden!” Marie hollered after them. Aiden rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help smirking.

                “Thanks! Candy’s name is Sage!” He hollered back down the stairs. A gale of laughter was the only reply. Aiden glanced over to Sage, same dull expression. If he had to become the new owner, he’d give that woman a raise. She deserved it, if only for her quips.


                
 
                The pair made their way down a long hallway, white paneled and brightly lit with three candelabra, coming up to a large pair of double doors. Gareth waited just in front of them, checking his pocket watch. As they approached, the butler looked up at them and cocked an eyebrow.

                “Oh calm down, Gareth,” Aiden groaned, “Had to introduce ourselves to Marie.”

                “I suspected as much. She means well, but she loves to talk to anyone that walks past her,” Gareth responded with icy coolness, “Her job is to facilitate our customers, not make friends.”

                “Nothing wrong with her methods. She’s charming in her own way. Marie provides a homey atmosphere. Kind of like your Grandma welcoming you to your family home. Am I wrong?”

                “No, but your sister is missing. I think the matter more pressing than pleasantries.”

                With a pursed lip and furrowed brow, Aiden replied quickly, “Right. Shall we get on with it then?”

                Gareth gave no reply, but instead spun on his heel once more and opened the double doors, admitting them into a grandiose parlor. It looked much the same as the rest of the café, although this room was decorated with luscious gold and white wallpaper. Gilded lamps and statues of Saints and Loa were litter atop gilded, wooden tables. Antique French furniture crowded the room and the scent of amber and roses filled the air. Soft classical music sounded from invisible speakers, no doubt hidden behind the Rococo paintings and various potted plants. The entire room screamed Rowan.

                Aiden couldn’t help but to smile.

                Gareth closed the doors as they entered. Aiden led Sage over to the largest couch in the room and set him down gently. He gave no indication that he was aware of his surroundings. Aiden planted a kiss upon his head before turning to Gareth.

                “Where’s the booze? Rowan is worse than I am with the stuff. I know there’s a decanter or something lurking about here somewhere…”

                “Oh, do sit down. I trust your tastes haven’t changed?”

                “Whiskey on the rocks, Gare.” Aiden hadn’t expected Gareth to wait on him, especially considering the contempt he was so clearly feeling, but Aiden wasn’t about to turn down the implied service.

                “Don’t call me that. No more vodka?”

                “Nah, it makes me emotional.”

                Gareth smirked, “Well, that makes two of us.” He walked to a corner of the room and pulled a drink cart from behind the curtains that partially covered a set of garden doors which lead onto a balcony. Sounds of ice clinking and a bottle opening followed suit. Gareth quickly handed a full glass of Jack Daniels over to Aiden before taking a seat across from the pair. A tray of pre-rolled joints were arrayed upon a silver plater atop the table. Aiden took one gingerly, sparking the thing with a weak flow of Fire. Gareth showed no signs of surprise at the display of Power.

                “Are you at all aware of your sister’s activities since she relocated to the CCD?”

                “No…. well, not until the car ride over here,” Aiden admitted.

                “Bad form, Aiden. She is your twin and she has needed you, yet you have avoided every instance in which she has tried to contact you. You do realize that reaching you has almost consumed her? She had hoped the public rituals would help draw you out.”

                “Bullshit. I know her. She was doing that to gain followers. Probably looking for more Channelers. Word is that she was trying to make the café a safe house for our kind. I doubt her efforts to contact me were as consuming as you say they were.”

                “I know the Finnegans. Family means everything to you lot. Why Rowan and you were inseparable as youths. Why the schism now? Too busy with your new plaything and your cheap novels to bother anymore?”

                Aiden felt heat rising in his chest, his cheeks flushing. Gareth and he grew up together. They had been friends, not the best of them, but still friends nonetheless. Why such animosity now? Was he that entranced by Rowan?

                Move on dude…

                And how dare he? Who was he to judge Aiden? The joint that was clamped between Aiden’s lips exploded in a bright, blazing fireball as he started to lose control of his anger. The flaming paper and herb floated down to Aiden’s lap as he lept up, swatting to put the thing out. That precious Power fled from his grasp at the sudden onslaught of emotions, singing his pants in the process. Aiden extinguished the embers and sat back down roughly. Angry eyes flared back at Gareth, fist gripping the tumbler of whiskey. Taking a few deep breaths, Aiden regained control of his emotions.

                “What do you know of my life, Gareth?”

                “Oh, plenty. I’ve known you for… what? Twenty years? And with you being a celebrity… Well, it’s hard not to follow the gossip mongers and the slag rags.”

                “I didn’t take you for the type.”

                “Seems you don’t know me as well as you thought you did,” Gareth said in his crisp British accent.

                Aiden grunted before taking a swig from his glass and rose from the couch, marching over to the drink cart. He refused to let the butler get a rise out of him. Gareth looked askance but said nothing. With a flourish, Aiden poured out a glass of red wine for his old friend and handed it over. Gareth took the glass quickly, murmuring a thanks.

                “I remember a few things, although you may have changed over the years. Drop the decorum and the contempt, Gare. As you so politely mentioned, we grew up together. Rowan may have declared me the new owner of this place, but I do not intend to retain it if we can get her back. So please, drop the paid act.”

                The butler held the glass to his mouth but took no sip. He stared at Aiden, considering. Aiden returned the stare with an upright eyebrow. After a brief staring match, Gareth broke eye contact and downed the entire glass of red wine in one gulp.

                “Do accept my apologies. It’s just…”

                Aiden exhaled and seated himself next to Sage once more.

                “Stop, Gareth. I don’t want to fight with you. And I know you don’t want to fight with me. I came here because of my sister. As far as I’m concerned, this café is still hers. If she left behind paperwork to legalize the proclamation, I’ll have my lawyers refute it.”

                “So what? You think we can’t get her back? Giving up so easily? Then what?”

                “Well then, the place is yours.”

                “Aiden, I don-“

                “We’ll get her back, Gareth, so don’t you worry about that… I just wanted to let you know what my plans were in the worst case scenario.”

                Gareth looked down at his feet, shoulders slumping, the wine glass hanging limply in his hand.

                “You love her, don’t you?”

                The butler gave no response. He ignored Aiden’s words and rose from the chaise lounge dejectedly, shuffling over to the drink cart. Gareth did not pour himself another glass, instead, he grabbed the bottle and placed the glass upon the cart. The dark green glass was up in the air within moments, Gareth taking a few deep pulls from the thing before walking back over to the couch, slumping down into the plush satin lining.

                “That’s none of your business.”

                Aiden opened his mouth to object, but thought better of it. They sat in silence for a time, Gareth finishing off his cabernet and Aiden picking up another joint and smoking it down to the roach before breaking the silence once more.

                “He’s been at it for a while now…”

                Gareth looked up, cocking an eyebrow at Aiden.

                “What are you talking about?”

                “Sage,” Aiden said as he looked at his boyfriend, “He’s got his own talents. Can’t cast spells or manipulate the elements… It’s something more modern. I couldn’t explain it if you asked me, but in short, he’s crept into the information highway.”

                “With what? The boy looks downright daft.”

                Aiden laughed, “His brain. He’s special. The only man on this planet that can do what he does.”

                “So he’s a hacker?”

                “Anyone can make it sound dumb, Gareth. Does he have a wallet or another gadget in hand?”

                “No. Not that I can see. What? Does he have some kind of computer in his brain?”

                “Kind of… You can ask him for yourself… If I can wake him,” Aiden replied as he rested his hand on Sage’s arm. “Babe… Babe… You get anything? Can you hear me, babe? I need you.” He shook Sage gently, gazing intently on that perfect, slim face. 

                He really was perfect.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#9
Sage was aware of everything. He just wasn't pay attention to it. That was the problem about doing it all himself on his processor. He needed a server. Aiden shook him gently and Sage blinked and left the virtual reality of his life to face the real one. Aiden was looking at him with such tender care Sage couldn't help but smile. It was weak and far away, but he recognized the man. Sometimes it took a while to switch to himself. I'm here."

He pulled out his wallet and threw it into holo mode, his laptop still clutched to his chest but it was working furiously on other things. the man with Rowan who he could make out had a long trail - a hidden one - but it was there, if you knew where to look. It was a challenge and Sage had fallen into that trap - but now he set it off on the laptop and it hummed furiously while Sage looked at the real world.

He didn't really say much as he found the storage link he'd set up to save the footage of Rowan leaving - of her travels, where they went and where she was last seen. He pulled up the image of the girl and the man who did have a record and Sage looked at Aiden and frowned. "He has a secret. Though I'm not sure I want to share it." He said. But he showed the footage of the pair leaving, and where they went, and of the man leaving alone. Sage had followed him to an apartment off the Red Square, and then he hadn't seen him since. It was like he vanished. "I've got facial recognition software on both of them waiting for their next moves. But I don't think they will help you get Rowan back. Those two that she was with, I'm still looking for reflections for the man I can't make out."
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#10
Sage tossed a holo up from his Wallet. Bright lights cascaded across the room as he vocalized the information gathered over the last hour. Aiden was surprised that Sage hadn’t uncovered everything in that time, but then again, Aiden didn’t know much about cyber-security. That shortcoming was the sole reason he had met Sage in the first place. Perhaps the other guests had some sort of firewall or something…

                “Yes, those are of them,” Gareth chimed in, straightening out his posture as well, “Mistress Rowan poured on the poise and charm, but neither one seemed to take an interest in her. There was another man… Rough sort. Her intended entertainment for the evening, I think. Mistress pushed him off after the mystery duo joined the soiree.”

                Aiden nodded thoughtfully, “I’ve never seen those two before. Just some strays in the café, Gare?”

                “Yes. Mistress had not interacted with them prior to her invitation.”

                “Then why drag them up? Did she usually just pick up random strangers? It happened in NOLA all the time, but mostly tourists… And then it was always about the Voodoo,” Aiden replied. He began drinking his whiskey again, gazing upon the holographs floating above Sage’s Wallet. Reflections rippled upon the glass tabletop, distorting the faces. Rowan had had a public ritual earlier that night, perhaps these two had followed after? What of the other two? What was special about them? Why would Rowan abandon ownership of the café to two mysterious, strangers?

                “Only at her public rituals. She rarely throws private parties anymore. I was a touch surprised when she decided on that course… And you just did all of that in your head, Master Sage? Very useful talent. Mistress would have adored you,” Gareth went on in a somber tone. He glanced into a hand mirror and fixed a few stray hairs. "I feel that the only way to find her is to track down the older gentleman and his lady of the night. And I mean that literally.”

                “She was a prostitute?” Aiden’s eyebrows cocked slightly at the thought. Rowan was a tad loose since becoming a widow, but she never paid for it. Was she their third? He doubted that line of thought. Rowan would not have given up her café to play third wheel to some eccentric man and his whore. Not even if they were actually a couple. What had been going through Rowan’s head? Aiden felt like he was analyzing the actions of a stranger. A new home could change a person, but that much?

                “No, I mean that she looked like a wicked queen or a dark sorcerous. Heavens, for all I know, she could be. Mistress has been searching for other witches.”

                “Well, that’s not a shock. She has styled herself the Voodoo Queen, can’t be a Queen with no subjects.”

                Gareth ignored the comment, rising from his seat on the couch. He began busying himself with menial tasks; throwing the empty wine bottle out, sweeping up ashes that hadn’t made it into the tray. Aiden thought about the intel. There was a mystery man and another that had a secret. How cliché. Deep down, Aiden agreed with Gareth. The pair that had not wanted to be seen had seemed the likeliest lead. But then again, the other man had the secret. Whatever that thing was, it could have had something to do with Rowan’s departure. Then again, it might not. This could all have been planned in advance. What if she really did want to leave this place behind? It didn’t sound like her, but it had been over a year since Aiden last talked to her. Maybe she really did change.

                “Sage, babe, what do you think? A man with a secret that you don't want to share sounds fishy... But so does two proverbially invisible people...”

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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