Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(15) by Ilona Andrews
Bob, you sad, sorry sonovabitch. If I didn’t steer this away from Curran, he would redecorate the place with the Four Horsemen’s guts.
I grinned. When in doubt, piss them off with humor.
“Something funny, Daniels?” Juke asked me.
“Just enjoying watching your boss here dig the hole deeper.” I nodded at Bob. “Keep going, Bob. Don’t hold back. Share your feelings with the group. Get it all out.”
Mercs at the tables chuckled.
Bob growled. That’s right, concentrate on me . . .
“You used to be somebody, Lennart.”
Damn it. He was asking for his head to be bashed in, and if he said too much more, I would do it myself.
He kept going. “I’ve got news for you: you’re a nobody.”
Really? A nobody?
Bob squared his shoulders. “We’ll throw you out on your ass . . .”
A deep inhuman sound rolled through the Guild, the sound of a predator’s voice, humorless and ice-cold, and I realized it was Curran laughing. I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat.
The Guild Hall went completely silent. Oh no.
Curran studied Bob Carver, as if he hadn’t really seen him before this moment and now he’d finally noticed Bob existed and decided to dedicate his complete attention to that fact. His eyes sparked with gold, his gaze pinning Bob in place. I knew the weight of that stare. It was like looking straight into the jungle’s hungry maw. It knew no mercy and no reason. It only knew that it was hunter and you were prey. Blood rushed to your limbs, your breathing sped up, and your thoughts fractured and melted into your brain until only two options remained: fight or flight. Picking one was torture.
Bob paled. He stepped back, almost in spite of himself, falling into a familiar defensive stance, half-turned toward Curran, his hands raised. All of his bluster faded. Suddenly everyone knew who the baddest monster in the room was and nobody wanted to be his target.
Curran pushed off from the desk, his movement smooth and measured. His eyes were like two shining moons. His voice had a deep undercurrent of a snarl. “So you want to throw me out on my ass?”
“There aren’t enough people here, Bob. You need to get reinforcements. Go ahead.” He smiled, baring his teeth, a sharp carnivore grin. “I’ll wait.”
People were slowly reaching for their weapons. The mercs had leaned forward, their weight barely on their chairs. Any loud noise and they’d run.
In the quiet, Curran’s voice rolled through the Guild Hall. “When I came here today, I hadn’t decided what I was going to do. Thank you. You helped me to reach a decision. You chose to start something here today. When it’s over, you will come to me and you will ask me to take charge of you.”
I had to give it to Bob Carver. He managed enough willpower to open his mouth. And then his brain must’ve kicked in, because he clamped it shut.
Curran turned to me. “Kate? Do you have everything you need?”
“Good. Then we’re done for now.”
We walked out. Nobody said a word.
• • •
IT TOOK US fourteen minutes to chant the Jeep into action. Cars with enchanted engines ran during magic waves, but they made enough noise to make even metalhead teenagers beg to turn the volume down. The Jeep’s cab had been isolated against noise, but we still had to raise our voices to be heard.
Curran drove out of the parking lot. The streets flashed by. I opened the glove compartment and pulled out a couple of throwing knives. According to the mercs, the cat-eating creature flew. I didn’t use guns. I didn’t get along that well with tech-related projectile weapons in general. I could manage a decent shot with a bow, but give me a rifle and I’d miss an elephant from three feet away.
Curran’s face was calm, the line of his mouth relaxed.
“Are we going to take over the Guild?” I asked.
“Yes, we are. Well, I am. You are invited.” He glanced at me. “You should join me. It will be fun.”
“After we find Eduardo.”
“I wasn’t going to drop everything and crush the Four Horsemen,” Curran said. “Give me some credit. Eduardo is one of our own. Finding him is all that matters. Besides, if I’d decided to pull Carver’s spine out of his body, I would’ve done it already.”
“Can you actually do that?”
Curran frowned. “I don’t know. I mean theoretically if you broke the spine above the pelvis, you could, but then there are ribs . . . I’ll have to try it sometime.”
Okay, then. That was not disturbing. Not at all. “What do you suppose normal people talk about on their car rides?”
“I have no idea. Tell me about Bob Carver.”
I sighed. Once Curran focused on a target, getting him to change course was like trying to nudge a moving train to the side.
“Bob is a shark. I read somewhere that sharks have to keep swimming or they drown. I have no idea if that’s true, but I can tell you: Bob keeps swimming. I learn things. Every fight is an opportunity. Every time we spar, I learn more. I learned from fighting the ghouls. I learned from watching and fighting Hugh.”
A muscle in Curran’s face jerked slightly. It was a tiny movement. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. Hugh was still a problem for both of us.
“Bob is like me. People see him and think, ‘Oh, he’s past his prime. He’s good, but he isn’t as fast or strong as he used to be.’ But Bob is like one of those martial arts instructors who have been honing their bodies for years. When he needs to, he moves fast, because he doesn’t think about it. He just does it. I once saw him take down a man who was fifteen years younger, faster, and better trained. A group of seven mercs, including the Four Horsemen, had done a job and this guy didn’t like the way it went down. He got it into his head to fight with Bob. His exact words were, ‘I’ll beat the shit out of you and make you eat it with your face.’”
Curran smiled. “A poet.”
“Yeah. Bob warned him that if the guy put his hands on him, it wouldn’t end well. The guy said it was fine with him, so they brawled in the Guild Hall. Bob goaded him during the fight. He went for fun cheap shots. A slap on the cheek. A quick kick to the shin. Finally the guy lost his patience and the moment Bob gave him an opening, he went for Bob’s throat. Bob almost let him get his hands around his neck and then hit him really fast with the flat of his hand in the Adam’s apple. The guy let him go, staggered a bit, and kept going. Thirty seconds and he started getting sluggish. Bob worked him over for another minute and then the guy went down. Five minutes later the Guild paramedic had to cut his neck open. Bob had hit him just right and the blunt-force trauma to the trachea caused inflammation. His windpipe had swollen shut.”
“Did he survive?”
“He did. He moved out of the city. Here is the thing: while the paramedic was trying to realign the trachea, Bob went to the mess hall and got himself a hamburger. Bob’s not really an asshole, until you put your hands on him or try to screw him over. Then all bets are off. Thank you for not killing him, though.”
“I have no plans of killing him. He might be useful, and one should never throw away good manpower.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say in your head you already took over the Guild, restructured it, and found a place for Bob in it.”
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