Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(20) by Ilona Andrews
“Can you meet us here?” I gave him the address.
“I’m leaving now.”
“Thanks. Is Ascanio there?”
“Ready and willing,” Ascanio said into the phone.
“Call the Dunwoody Police Department for me and please check if there were any complaints against the Oswalds on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.” I gave him the address.
Either it was force of habit or he was jerking my chain. Probably the latter. I hung up and went into the garage. A toolbox sitting by the wall yielded a pair of needle-nose pliers. Perfect.
I found Curran outside. He had turned into a human, had pulled his clothes on despite being covered in slime, and was trying to rinse his mouth out with a hose.
“Did it taste that bad?”
“You have no idea. This goo doesn’t wash off with water alone. I tried.”
“Let me see your shoulder.”
He glanced at me. I lifted the pliers and made pinch motions with them.
“Are we done?” he asked.
“No. We have to wait here until Biohazard shows up.”
“Why? It’s dead.”
I sighed and sat on the stairs in front of the door. “Because it exhibited reanimative metamorphosis. It was dead and instead of staying dead, it turned into something else and came back to life. It also went cross-phylum, from mammal to insect. That means there is a good chance it might come back to life again as something really strange, like a terrestrial octopus shooting lightning from its tentacles.”
“Why don’t we just set it on fire and scatter the ashes?”
“Because the ashes could still metamorphose into something nasty like leeches or flesh-eating flowers. We killed it. That means we initiated the RM process, so now we have to watch over the corpse until Biohazard shows up and quarantines it.”
“And if we don’t?” His tone was getting harsher and harsher.
“It’s a mandatory ten-year prison sentence.”
“So we performed a service by killing this thing and now they are punishing us for it?”
“This is ridiculous. You’re bleeding. Don’t lie to me, I can smell it. You’re hurt. You need a medmage.”
“I’m not hurt that badly.”
His lips wrinkled, showing his teeth. “How badly do you have to be hurt?”
“There is a right-to-life exemption, which permits us to leave the scene if our injuries are life threatening. We’d have to provide paperwork from a hospital, or a qualified medmage, showing that we had to get treatment or we would’ve died. My injuries are not life threatening.”
“Paperwork is not a problem.”
“Yes, but I won’t lie.”
“How do you know your injuries aren’t life threatening? You’re covered in the fluid from its guts. How do you know it’s not poisonous?”
“If it’s poisonous, we’ll deal with it when I feel sick.”
“Fine. I’ll stay here with this thing, and you will drive yourself to the hospital.”
He hit me with an alpha stare.
I opened my eyes as wide as I could. “Why, of course, Your Majesty. What was I thinking? I will go and do this right away, just please don’t look at me.”
“Kate, get in the car.”
“Maybe you should growl dramatically. I don’t think I’m intimidated enough.”
“I will put you in the car.”
“No, you won’t. First, it took both of us to kill that thing, and if it reinvents itself again, it will take both of us again. I’m not leaving you alone with it. Second, if you try to physically carry me to the car, I will resist and bleed more. Third, you can possibly stuff me in the car against my will, but you can’t make me drive.”
He snarled. “Argh! Why don’t you ever do anything I ask you to?”
“Because you don’t ask. You tell me.”
We glared at each other.
“I’m not going to the hospital because of a shallow cut.” And possibly a sprained shoulder, a few gashes to my legs, and a bruised right side. “It could be worse. I could’ve hit a brick wall instead of a nice, fragile old fence . . .”
He held up his hand. “I’m going to get a medkit out of the car.”
I didn’t even know any medmages besides Doolittle, who worked for the Pack. The woman who used to patch me up before I met Curran had moved away. I’d have to figure this out before long. In our line of work, access to a good medmage was paramount.
His Grumpiness returned with the medkit. I pulled my turtleneck up, trying not to wince, and turned my back to him.
“It’s not that bad.”
His hands brushed my skin, warm and careful. The cold saline solution washed over the cut and I shivered.
“What about this?” Curran’s fingers touched the aching spot on my left side.
“That’s from the ghouls the other night. I’ll chant over it once you’re done cleaning. It will heal itself.”
Cold wind touched my wet back, making my teeth dance. Thanks, weather. Screw you, too.
“The rationale is, since we killed it once, we could probably kill it again. This is a residential neighborhood. We are going to do the right thing and watch over it.”
“This is a dumb law,” Curran said. “It’s easier to just not get involved.”
I grinned. “Aha! Now you are catching on. Welcome to human society, Your Majesty.”
Ten minutes later he decided the wound had closed enough to put a bandage over it. I pulled my turtleneck over my back. Unfortunately while it was rolled up, it had time to cool and now it felt like ice on my skin. Being covered in ichor didn’t help. Curran sat next to me.
“Shoulder,” I told him. He took his shirt off, displaying the world’s best chest to the wind. I clamped the first insect hair sticking out of him with my pliers. It was about the size of a thin metal skewer. “Ready?”
I ripped the hair out. It was ten inches long.
He made a short gritty noise. It had to have hurt like hell. I wiped the blood off his shoulder with gauze. “Four more.”
“No time like the present.”
I managed all four in under a minute. The less he hurt, the better. Curran put his shirt back on and pulled me close. His eyes were dark. Whatever he was thinking wasn’t good.
“You okay?” I asked.
I had a feeling he was thinking that if he were still the Beast Lord, by now he would’ve had a team of shapeshifters standing guard over the corpse while he drove me to the Keep, where Doolittle would put me back on my feet.
“Being a human isn’t that bad, is it?” I asked.
“You remember the Savells? The house across the street from us?”
Heather Savell was a thorn in my side. The area didn’t have a homeowners’ association, but Heather very much wanted to have one. In her head, she pretended the HOA was real and she was its president. She took those imaginary powers and responsibilities very seriously. “Sure.”
“They sprinkled cayenne pepper around the border of their lawn.”
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