Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(33) by Ilona Andrews
Ha! I wasn’t the only one.
Curran knocked on the door.
“It’s open,” Barabas said.
Curran stepped inside. He was holding the Guild’s Manual and Jim’s contract in his left hand and a pair of my soft padded boots in his right.
He handed me the boots and smiled.
I smiled back and put the boots on.
Curran held out the Guild’s Manual and Jim’s contract to Barabas. “The Guild is suffering from cash flow problems. The mercs want to raid the pension fund, so they forced a shutdown. The admin staff walked off due to nonpayment and they’ve lost their cleaning crews. I’d like to take it over.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Barabas said, taking the contract and the Manual. “Do you want to muscle in or be more subtle about it?”
“I want to know my options. I wrote a summary in the front. Look at the last provision in Membership Powers and see if you can find me a way in.”
“I’ll have something by tomorrow.”
I couldn’t remember what the hell the last provision in Membership Powers was. I used to know the Manual cover to cover, but it had been a while since I had to pull that knowledge out of my head.
“Don’t forget to bill me,” Curran said. “Exorbitantly.”
Barabas flashed him a quick smile. “I’ll be very generous in my billable hours.”
We walked home through the cold. “You didn’t tell me,” I said.
“It wasn’t my place to tell.”
“I don’t understand why they didn’t tell me either.”
“All of them were part of our inner circle,” Curran said. “They knew exactly how much you wanted to be away from the Keep and the Pack. They wanted to give you space.”
“Did they think I would throw a tantrum?”
“Baby, you’re not the tantrum type. You are the scary-smile-and-stabbing type.”
I looked at him.
“Hard-stare type.” He grinned. “They knew you wanted privacy. They didn’t want you to feel like they chased us down. But it was getting a bit ridiculous, so it’s good Christopher gave them a nudge.”
I waved at our side of street. “How many of these houses do you own?”
“We own, and all of them.”
“Do we own anything else?”
“We also own the woods directly behind us.”
Those woods extended for quite a while. There used to be a huge golf course and a shopping center behind us, but trees and brush had swallowed it long ago. “How many acres?”
“Five hundred and twelve.”
I opened my mouth and nothing came out.
“I thought of calling it the Five Hundred Acre Wood,” Curran said.
My mouth finally worked. “How much did you . . . ?”
Oh my God.
“It was a steal. They kept trying to clear it, but the trees there seem to have a really high affinity for magic. Every time they clear something, the woods grow back in weeks, which is perfect for us. Once we allow the woods to develop, the growth will self-regulate.”
“Is this why we’re out of money?”
“Yes.” He smiled at me. “We’re not out of money. We just have a firm budget.”
I laughed quietly. Somehow it all completely made sense.
“I did tell you about the woods. On three different occasions.”
No, he didn’t. “I don’t remember that.”
“Beginning of February, I told you that I was thinking of buying a little extra land with our house.”
I had no recollection of that conversation. Also, a little extra land meant another acre. Not a forest five times the one Pooh Bear lived in. “What did I say back?”
“You said, ‘You want to talk about this now?’ And then you said, ‘Can’t you just bite him in half?’”
Ah, now I remembered. “We were in a half-flooded garage with a deranged lunatic who was shooting lightning at us.”
“And then I brought it up again the second weekend after we moved in. We were in our bedroom. You were doing paperwork and I came out of the shower and I said . . .”
That I had a perfect recollection of. “You said, ‘Hey, baby, come here often?’”
“I don’t remember what you said before that. You made it difficult to concentrate.”
“In my defense, you were doing paperwork naked.” Curran grinned.
Whatever. “When was the third time?”
“I brought it to you at work and I said, ‘Look at this. I’m buying this land.’ And you said, ‘I feel awkward telling you how to spend your money. If you want to buy extra land, I think you should.’”
Okay, so he had a point.
Curran reached over and squeezed my hand. “What’s done is done. The Pack belongs to Jim now and for all of his grandstanding, if I decided to take it back, he would fight me for it. But now we have to take care of our people. The least we can do is to provide them with a place to live, a place to run at night, should they so choose, and the means to earn their living.”
The moon chose that moment to break through the clouds, flooding the street with gentle pale light. I always liked the darkness. The world seemed bigger somehow under the endless night sky. An odd calm settled over me.
“I’m worried about Eduardo.” I said. “What we have is better than nothing, but all of our leads are slim. We are moving too slowly. The longer he’s gone, the smaller the chances of finding him alive. I’m a lousy detective . . .”
Curran’s eyebrows rose. “Could’ve fooled me.”
I held up my hand. “I’m a lousy detective, but I’m excellent at annoying people.”
“Yes, you are.”
Ha-ha. “Normally at this point I would make myself into a pain in the kidnapper’s ass. I’d make it personal and become a target, so whoever took him turns himself inside out trying to nuke me. It would give me a way in and it would keep other people from getting hurt.”
Curran’s eyes shone with a predatory light. “So let’s make it personal.”
I pointed over my shoulder at the house. “Julie.” Before Julie was at the Keep. Now she was here. There was a world of difference between a tower full of killers and a house in the suburbs. It was a very well-protected house, but still.
“Julie will be fine,” he said. “We have strong wards and good doors, and our neighbors are very invested in her safety. How do we get under his skin?”
“Ghouls. I don’t know if he cares about them, but he uses them.”
“So we’ll hit his ghouls.”
“I’ll talk to Ghastek, if you talk to Jim,” I said. “Between the vampires and the shapeshifters, someone has to have seen ghouls moving through the city. We find them and kill them. If we knock out enough of his teeth, eventually he’ll get pissed off and come to punch us in the face.”
Curran bared his teeth. “I’m going to enjoy this.”
“That makes two of us.”
At least we had a plan. Even a bad plan was better than none.
The purr of a car engine rolled through the neighborhood. A Pack Jeep pulled up to our driveway. George jumped out.
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