Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(6) by Ilona Andrews
Now that I thought of it, they did spend a lot of time together on the voyage back . . .
“How long?” Curran asked.
“Since we came back from getting the panacea,” George said. “I love him. He loves me. He rented a house for us. We want to get married.”
“Mahon is a problem?” Curran guessed.
George grimaced. “Ed isn’t a bear. Nobody but a Kodiak would do. If not a Kodiak, then at least some sort of a bear. That’s why we were so careful. I tried talking to Dad seven weeks ago. It went badly. I asked him what would happen if I got serious with another shapeshifter who wasn’t a bear.”
She looked into her cup again.
“What did he say?” Curran asked, his voice gentle.
George looked up. Her eyes flashed and for a moment my mind shot back to an enormous bear bursting into a room, roaring. George was a Kodiak like her father. Underestimating her was deadly. I thought she was dejected, but now I finally identified the emotion that sharpened her face. George was pissed off and she was using every ounce of her will to keep from exploding.
She spoke, her voice shaking with rage. “He told me he would disown me.”
“That sounds like him,” Curran said.
She shot out of the chair and began to pace the kitchen, circling around the island like a caged animal. “He said that I had a duty to the clan. That I had to pass on my genes and make werebear children with a proper werebear man.”
“Did you tell him that if he likes werebear men so much, maybe he should marry one?” I said. I would pay money to see Mahon’s face when he heard it.
She kept pacing. “Of all the archaic idiotic things . . . His brain must’ve crusted over. Maybe he’s gone senile.”
“You know he says shit like this,” Curran began.
She spun to him. “Don’t you dare tell me he doesn’t mean it.”
“No, he means it,” Curran said. “That man believes in his heart that bears are superior. He means every word when he says it, but he doesn’t follow through on it. In the seventeen years I ran the Pack, I had about two dozen complaints about him, always about things he said and never about things he did. He has firm ideas about conduct unbecoming an alpha and a bear. Taking out Eduardo would be out of character for him.”
“You weren’t there.” George kept pacing. “You didn’t hear him.”
If I gave them a chance, they’d talk about Mahon all night. “What happened after you spoke with your father?”
George shook her head. “You know what this bullshit about passing on genes means? It means that if Eduardo and I had children, my father would think they are deficient. You don’t understand, Kate. I’m his daughter!”
“Of course, I don’t,” I said. “I never had problems with my father.”
George opened her mouth and stopped. When it came to Daddy issues, I won to infinity.
“What happened after Mahon and you had a chat?” I asked.
“Eduardo and I talked about it. Eduardo was doing odd jobs for Clan Heavy and also helping me with the legal filings. That would all disappear. Jim needs my dad to maintain his power base. I don’t have a shred of doubt that if my dad made a stink, my job with the Pack would evaporate, too.”
“Your mom would kill him,” Curran said.
“Yes, she would,” George said. “But it would be after the fact, and the argument would be that it’s already done and Jim couldn’t rehire me because it would make him look weak and indecisive. So I began to quietly cash out my investments, and Eduardo rented a house in the city and registered with the Guild.”
The Mercenary Guild was the largest for-profit magic cleanup agency in Atlanta. When people encountered some dangerous magic beast or problem, they called the Paranormal Activity Division first, but cops in post-Shift Atlanta were overworked and stretched too thin. In some cases people called the Order of Merciful Aid next, but dealing with the knights meant giving them complete authority. When the cops couldn’t come out and the matter was either too minor or too shady for the Order of Merciful Aid, you called the Guild. They did bodyguard details, they did magic hazmat cleanup, they did search and destroy—they weren’t picky as long as money was involved. I’d been a member of the Guild for nine years now. It used to be a good place to earn money, but since the death of its founder, the Guild had gone to hell in a handbasket.
“How did he do at the Guild?” I asked.
“He did well,” George said. “He said some people gave him trouble, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.”
Eduardo would do well at the Guild. He fit the type. When people called the Guild, they wanted to be reassured, and a six-foot-four man muscled like an Olympic medalist wrestler provided a lot of reassurance. Some of the regulars would screw with him because they didn’t like competition, but the Guild zoned the gigs. Each merc was assigned a territory within the city and if a job fell into that territory, they automatically got it, so while the rest of the mercs could run their mouths and hassle Eduardo, there wasn’t much they could do to keep him from earning money.
“I think Dad figured us out,” George said. “Last week Patrick came to talk to Eduardo.”
I mentally riffled through the roster of Clan Heavy shapeshifters for Patrick. He was Mahon’s nephew, a carbon copy of his uncle with a matching attitude and size.
“He told Eduardo that what he was doing was wrong and that if he cared about me, he’d leave me alone and not tear me away from the family.”
“Would Patrick do something like that on his own?” I asked him.
Curran shook his head. “No. When Patrick opens his mouth, Mahon speaks. Patrick is an enforcer, not a thinker. That’s why Mahon hasn’t been grooming him for the alpha spot.”
“Eduardo told him he had no idea what he was talking about. Patrick left. On Monday, Eduardo didn’t come back to his house. I waited all night.”
I grabbed a notepad and a pen from the built-in shelves. “When was the last time you saw or spoke with Eduardo?”
“Monday morning at seven thirty. He asked what I wanted for dinner that night.”
Today was Wednesday, just barely, since we were just past midnight. Eduardo had been gone about forty hours.
“He didn’t call me at lunch,” George said. “He usually does. I thought maybe he got held up. I went to his house Monday evening. He never showed. He didn’t call and didn’t leave a note. I know there are some bullshit rules about how long a person has to be missing, but I’m telling you, this isn’t like him. He doesn’t just leave me hanging. Something bad happened.”
“Did you talk to the Guild?” I asked.
“I went there this morning and asked about him. Nobody told me anything.”
That wasn’t surprising. Mercs were cagey.
George’s voice trembled with barely contained rage. “When I came out, my car was gone.”
Curran leaned forward. His voice was iced over. “They stole your car?”
That was scummy even for the Guild. “They thought she was an easy target,” I said. “Young woman, alone, one-armed, doesn’t look like a fighter.” They didn’t realize that she could turn into a thousand-pound bear in a blink.
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