Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(9) by Ilona Andrews
“That’s nice,” Julie said. “I still want a new horse.”
“Request denied,” Curran told her.
I flipped my pancake. This ought to be interesting.
“Because ‘want’ is not a need.” Curran leaned against the kitchen island. “I saw you in the pasture. You don’t want a new horse. You require a new horse. Lay your case out.”
“I hate Brutus,” Julie said.
I glanced through the window at the pasture, where an enormous black Friesian stalked in circles along the fence. Brutus used to belong to Hugh d’Ambray, my father’s Warlord. Killing Hugh was my life’s ambition. I’d tried twice now and each time he had dodged death with magic. That’s okay. The third time would be the charm.
After our last encounter I ended up with Hugh’s Friesian, and Curran, who didn’t care for horses, for some reason decided to keep him when we retired from running the shapeshifter Pack. The stallion was impressive and Julie decided to ride him to school. I told her it was a bad idea, but she insisted.
“Take the emotion out of it,” Curran said. “You will better persuade the other person if you make them understand the reasons behind your request. You have to demonstrate that in your place they would come to the same conclusion. Once they agree with you, saying no to you becomes much harder because they would be arguing with themselves.”
Once a Beast Lord, always a Beast Lord. Old habits died hard, and in his case, they probably never would.
Julie thought about it. “He doesn’t obey any of my commands and he keeps trying to throw me off.”
“You’re not heavy enough,” I said. “Hugh weighs over two hundred pounds, closer to two fifty in full armor. You’re too light. Hugh isn’t gentle with his horses either.”
Julie glared at the Friesian. “He’s stupid.”
“He is. It makes him easier to train for battle.” I poured more pancake batter into the pan.
“And mean. Last time I took him to school, he tried to break through the stall to fight with another horse.”
“He’s a war stallion,” Curran said. “He’s been taught to view every other horse as a challenge.”
Julie’s eyes narrowed. “If I keep getting hurt, it will cause both of you emotional distress and you will have to pay for my medical bills. If I lose control of him, he may injure another horse and you would be financially responsible for the damages. And if another child got hurt, you would feel terrible.”
Curran nodded. “Valid points. Bring it home.”
“I need a normal horse,” Julie said. “One I can ride to school and leave in the school stables without any of us worrying about it. A city horse, who would respond well to commands and wouldn’t throw me and hurt me.”
With the constant dance of magic and technology, horses were the most reliable method of transportation around the city. Julie’s school was four miles out and biking there was out of the question. Magic constantly gnawed on roads, and a lot of them were in disrepair. She’d have to carry her bike a third of the way. Not to mention that the amount of books she had to drag to school made it hard to maintain her balance. I’d lifted her backpack a couple of times and it felt like it was stuffed with rocks. On the other hand, if anyone attacked her and she managed to swing it in time, she’d brain them for sure . . .
“Much better,” Curran said.
“I’ll call Blue Ribbon Stables after breakfast,” I said.
Curran raised his head and leaned to glance at the front door. A moment later I heard a vehicle slide into our driveway.
“Who is it?”
“I’m about to find out.” Curran rose smoothly and went to the door.
I heard the door swing open. A moment later a tiny Indonesian woman with long dark hair and thick glasses swept into the kitchen and dropped into a chair.
“Dali!” Julie smiled.
Dali waved at her. After we retired, Jim Shrapshire, Curran’s best friend, became the Beast Lord. That made Dali the Beast Lady. She now had my job with all the pain and trouble that came with it.
“Consort,” I said. “You honor us.”
“Fuck you,” Dali said. “Fuck your shit. I quit.”
I laughed and reached for a potato. Dali, despite being a weretiger, was a vegetarian. Pancakes alone wouldn’t hold her over. Julie came over, picked up another knife, and started peeling next to me.
Curran came in. “Did you know there is a dent in your front bumper?”
“I know,” Dali said. “I hit some trash cans on the way over here. I was frustrated and needed something to hit.”
The neighbors would just love this. “What happened?”
“I had a fight with Jim.”
“Why?” Curran asked.
Figured. Of the seven Pack clans, Clan Wolf was the largest and its new alpha was . . . colorful.
“There is no privacy at the Keep,” Dali said.
You don’t say.
“I thought of going to my old house or to my mother’s house, but Jim would check for me there. So I came here.” Dali stared at me. “I liked my house. Living in the Keep sucks.”
“I know,” I told her.
“Can I stay for breakfast?” she asked.
I had just pulled the bacon out of the oven and flipped the hash browns when another car pulled up. Curran laughed and went to the door.
“He didn’t.” Dali actually growled. I didn’t realize she could.
Jim walked into the kitchen. Some people had special talents. Some were charming. Others were clearly intelligent. Doolittle, the Pack’s medmage, could put patients at ease just by saying hello. Jim’s special talent was menace. Six feet two inches tall and built like he could punch through solid walls and dodge a bullet at the same time, Jim projected a concentrated promise to kick your ass. It emanated from him like heat from a sidewalk. He never actually threatened you, but when he entered a room full of hard cases, bigger men backed off, because when he looked at them, they heard their bones breaking.
And now I would have to be very careful about our morning conversation. Any mention of Eduardo could set off alarm bells in Jim’s head. The last thing we needed was him shutting down our investigation.
“Hail to the Beast Lord!” I waved my spatula for emphasis.
Jim spared me an ugly look and turned to Dali.
“You followed me!” Dali jumped out of her chair, her face furious.
“I didn’t. I came here to talk to him”—Jim pointed at Curran with his thumb—“about his money. We just happened to be going to the same place.”
“You knew I was here.” She squinted at him. “You have your goons following me, don’t you?”
“They’re not goons. They’re our security people. And yes, I have them following you. We’re in a dangerous position. We just took over the Pack and I don’t want any surprises.”
“You’re a paranoid control freak.”
That was putting it lightly. Before Jim became the Beast Lord, he served as the Pack’s chief of security. I thought I had a high level of paranoia, but Jim took it to stratospheric levels.
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