Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(38) by Ilona Andrews
Ah, here it is. I dialed the number.
“Sweet Cheeks Bakery.”
“Can I speak to Lori, please?”
“Hi, Kate, what can I do you for?”
Nice to be recognized. “You wouldn’t know where to find the Clerk?”
Lori sighed. “You know how he always talked about running a bar when he retires?”
I didn’t, but that didn’t matter. “Did he buy a bar?”
“He’s got himself a job at the Steel Horse. He says he wants to get a feel for the business.”
The Steel Horse was a border bar that sat on the invisible boundary between the Pack and the People’s territory within Atlanta. It was a neutral watering hole and I had a lot of pull with its owners. “Hypothetically speaking, if someone offered you your old Guild job back, would you be interested?”
There was a pause before an urgent whisper filled my ear. “Kate, you get me out of here, I’ll buy your drinks for a year. If I have to pipe cream on one more carrot cupcake, I’ll stab myself.”
“Thanks for your help.”
I hung up. The Steel Horse wouldn’t open for another hour or two.
The answering machine’s light blinked at me. That’s right. More messages.
I pushed the answering machine’s button again.
“This is the attendance department of Seven Star Academy. Your student, Julie Lennart-Daniels, has been marked absent in the following periods . . .”
Julie didn’t skip school. I went cold.
“First . . .”
She wasn’t sick this morning.
“Second . . .”
Curran would’ve taken her straight to school.
She was absent for the entire morning. Curran and she never made it to school.
“Please provide the necessary documentation within two business—”
The magic wave washed over me. Damn it, just what I needed.
I grabbed the phone and dialed the Seven Star Academy. Work, damn you.
A beep. Another . . .
“Seven Star Academy, this is Emily.”
“My name is Kate Daniels. Did Julie ever come to school today?”
“Please call me as soon as she shows up.”
I hung up and dialed the house. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring . . .
What the hell could’ve happened?
“Leave a message,” my own voice said.
“Curran, where the hell are you? I can’t find Julie. Julie, if you are there, pick up the phone. You are not in trouble. I just need to know if you are safe.”
I hung up and dialed Barabas.
“I don’t have it yet,” he said.
“Did you see Curran leave this morning?”
“Did he have Julie with him?”
“Is he back?”
“No. I was here all morning. I would’ve heard the car.”
“Call me if you see him. Please.”
I hung up.
Julie and Curran were gone. Just like Eduardo. It would take an army of ghouls to take Curran down. He would die before he let them have Julie. Where could he have gone with her?
I dialed the Keep, the front guard station.
“You’ve reached the Pack . . .” Artie said.
“Consort . . . I mean, not Consort. Ex-Consort?”
“Is Curran at the Keep?”
“No. Neither of you can be at the Keep until your ninety-day separation is over—”
I hung up.
Julie used to be a street kid. If she hadn’t been kidnapped by ghouls, then she’d skipped school and finding her would be next to impossible. Finding Curran would be easier. Once I found him, he could tell me if he had dropped her off at school. He was going to go to the Guild first. I dialed the Guild’s number. I would make one of those assholes tell me if he was there.
A rapid disconnect signal wailed in my ear like a runaway heartbeat. What the hell . . . ? I dialed a number that went directly to Mark’s office. The phone clicked once, twice, and screaming punched my ear, the raw high-pitched howl of human terror. “Help! Help me!”
A heavy crash drowned out the voice and a familiar young voice shrieked. “He’s coming!”
The Guild was less than twenty minutes away by horse. I ran out the door.
I WAS A block away from the Guild when a chunk of brickwork the size of a car flew over a building, darkening the sun. I jerked Cuddles to the left. She veered and the brickwork crashed into the pavement with a loud thud, ten feet from where we were just a moment ago. Bricks scattered on the street, bouncing on the pavement. A body fell onto the bricks with a wet splat and lay there limp, like a rag doll. A familiar head lolled, blood pouring from his mouth, dead eyes staring up at the indifferent sky. Leroy. Holy crap.
Cuddles broke into a gallop. We charged down the road, swung around the corner, and shot out onto the short stretch of Phoenix Drive that led to the Guild.
A huge pair of legs blocked my view. Covered with curly dark hair, they rose at least thirty feet before terminating in a flabby wrinkled ass. The feet, at least nine and a half feet long, glowed with orange, like metal just pulled from the forge. Heat scorched me, as if I had flung open the door of a stove with a fire raging inside. I smelled the tar-tinted stench of melting asphalt, the road around the giant softening like the wax of a burning candle.
Cuddles skidded to a stop, shocked. I remembered to close my mouth.
Behind the giant, the Guild’s heavy ten-foot-tall doors stood slightly ajar, dented and bent out of shape. He must’ve kicked or punched them, but the reinforced steel held, so he changed his strategy and went from the top, like a bear trying to dig into a beehive. The doors wouldn’t last too much longer—the metal was beginning to glow. Sooner or later the heat from the giant’s feet would melt it.
Where were the cops when you needed them? Why wasn’t the PAD shooting this man-mountain with everything they had? They lived for this shit.
The colossus turned, showing me his pale back, then his stomach, his skin wrinkled and saggy, as he somehow managed to be thin and flabby at the same time. If he were a normal size, I’d say he was about fifty years old. His head was level with the fifth, half-ruined floor of the Guild. That put him at over sixty-five feet tall.
If Julie was trapped inside the Guild, Curran had to be with her. Why wasn’t he out here, fighting? If Curran was inside, the giant should be dead. Was he injured? I’d seen him walk through fire on broken legs.
I had to get inside.
I shoved the cresting fear aside. Calm washed over me. If Julie and Curran were inside, then the fastest way to help them would be to remove the giant. I could panic later.
The heat emanating from his feet was overpowering. No way for a ground strike. No way through that door either. I had to get up to his level, and all of the neighboring buildings were too far to make that jump. Drawing him off would be better. If I could get him to chase me, I could lead him where I wanted him. It was a long shot, but I had to try.
I took a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs. “Hey, asshole!”
The giant ignored me.
“I’m talking to you, Wrinkle Ass! Over here, you big hairy dimwit!”
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