Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(32) by Ilona Andrews
“He didn’t tell George,” Curran said.
That was true. She didn’t mention it and it wasn’t the kind of thing one would consider irrelevant when your loved one was missing.
Christopher still wasn’t back.
“Julie, where did Christopher go?”
She raised her head from her paper. “He said he was going home.”
“What?” Home. In the dark. All the way to the Keep.
I tossed the towel onto the island and dashed outside, into the cold. Our front yard was empty. I sprinted to the end of the driveway and spun left, then right. There he was, walking down the neighbors’ driveway.
He waved at me and headed straight for their door. I ran after him, trying not to slip on the icy pavement. In retrospect, shoes would’ve been an excellent idea.
I got to Christopher just as he knocked on the neighbors’ door.
“Hey,” I touched his shoulder. “Where are you going?”
“Home.” He smiled. “I like home. It’s warm and there are books.”
The door swung open and Barabas appeared in the rectangle of electric light. He wore sweatpants and a T-shirt that hung from his lean frame. His red hair, spiky as always, stood straight up on his head, making his handsome angular face seem even sharper. He saw me and his eyes got wider.
“Um,” Barabas said. “Eh. Good evening, Kate.”
“What are you doing here?”
“We live here,” Christopher explained to me, and walked into the house.
They’d moved in next door to us. Christopher and Barabas had moved in next door to us and nobody had told me.
Barabas finally recovered his ability to speak. “There is this wonderful invention. It’s made of leather and lined with soft fabric, and it goes on your feet to protect them from cold and rough surfaces. It’s called shoes. You really should try it.”
“You rented a house next to us?”
Barabas wrinkled his nose. “Not exactly. Please come in. Your toes look like they might fall off and Curran would eviscerate me if I let you get frostbite.”
I came inside. Their bottom floor was open, just like ours. A big stack of cardboard boxes occupied the left side of the living room.
“You just moved in?” I asked, my voice sweet enough to spread on toast. Moved in and didn’t tell me.
“About two weeks ago. Those are all Christopher’s books. We are putting shelves in one of the bedrooms and some down there along the wall.” Barabas waved at the left side of the room.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Come in!” Barabas called.
The door swung open and Derek stuck his head in. “Hey, do you have any duct tape?”
He saw me, stepped back, and closed the door without a word. Well.
“Coward,” Barabas said, loud enough for Derek to hear.
“Where?” I asked.
“The house on the other side of yours.”
“And I suppose this house and the one Derek is in just happened to be for sale . . .”
I stopped. Curran didn’t rely on luck. He was thorough, and he thought ahead. I recalled our street. On our side, five large houses, including ours, backed to the woods, and I couldn’t remember seeing their owners or their cars. He must’ve bought out the whole street. Oh wow. That explained why we were running low on funds.
“Did you separate from the Pack?” I asked.
“Yes.” Barabas invited me to sit on the plush brown sofa.
I sat and tucked my cold feet under me.
“So far Christopher, Derek, and I. Jezebel was thinking about it, but decided against it.”
I nodded. Jezebel was in a relationship with Louis, who was very much a Pack kind of shapeshifter. Louis was a widower. His daughter, whom Jezebel adored, was five, and Louis wanted her to be brought up in the safety of the Pack. After being Julie’s babysitter and seeing everything that could happen to a child, Jezebel agreed.
“I get Derek,” I said. There was no place for Derek among Jim’s people. Derek understood security and he was a good fighter. He had no other skills. I once tried to talk to him about college and he smiled at me and walked away.
The security avenue was closed to Derek. Robert, one of the alpha Rats, had taken over the position of security chief. He had to trust his staff, and he and Derek hadn’t worked together enough for that trust to form. Robert would be bringing in his own personnel, and if Derek joined that parade, he would have to start from the bottom up. His only other option was to go back to Clan Wolf, where Desandra would pressure him into a beta position, because he was skilled and respected and because she couldn’t afford to have him as a rival. Derek wanted to have nothing to do with clan politics. He was quite clear on that point. It made sense for Derek to separate, but Barabas had thrived as the Pack litigator.
“I don’t get you,” I said. “You love practicing law.”
“Now I will practice it for you and Curran.”
He had practically run the legal department in the Pack, and he had walked away from all of it? I didn’t know if I had to feel guilty, frustrated, or grateful. “I doubt there will be much work for you here.”
“You’d be surprised,” Barabas said.
“I thought you were all set to work with Jim.”
Barabas shook his head. “I stayed long enough to ease the transition. Jim needs a different lawyer. Trisha is taking over from me. She will do very well for him.”
Barabas sighed. “Christopher wouldn’t stay in the Keep without you or me. Once he realized that both of us had left, he wandered the hallways crying and then went catatonic.”
I ground my teeth. “I told them to call me if there were problems.”
“They called me instead,” Barabas said. “So I came and got him.”
“And Jim just let him go?” After all, Christopher was the one who had brought the recipe for panacea to us.
“He had no choice. Christopher decided to live here with me. I’ll take good care of him. Jim always viewed him as a security risk, and if the panacea makers run into any problems, they know where to find him.”
Christopher had been doing better. In the past six months he had managed to keep a schedule, dress himself, and maintain personal hygiene. But he still had moments of complete confusion. In the Keep our security staff always kept an eye on him, but here the whole weight of responsibility rested on Barabas.
“He cooks now,” Barabas said. “It was very sudden. He walked into the kitchen and just started doing it.”
“What did he make?”
“Cream puffs shaped like swans. They were ridiculously delicious.”
“Barabas . . .”
“Kate, I like taking care of him. He is no trouble.” Barabas raised his head. “Curran is outside.”
“Did you hear him?” When he wanted to, Curran moved completely silently, a fact I often regretted because he enjoyed popping up behind me out of thin air and making me jump.
“No. I felt him.” Barabas grimaced. “It’s hard to describe. It’s a kind of awareness, like something large and dangerous passing by you in absolute darkness. You don’t hear it, you don’t see it, you don’t smell it, but you know it’s there. It was better at the Keep. He was always at the Keep, so you always felt a small measure of it, and the place was always crowded, which helped some. Now it’s more jarring. He isn’t there and then suddenly he is there.” He blew a long breath out. “This will take some getting used to.”
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