Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(42) by Ilona Andrews
Juke screwed up her face. “It wasn’t me. That was Roger.”
“Oh.” I had only met Roger in passing. Young skinny guy, dark hair.
“How can you stand it?” Juke waved her arms in Lago’s direction. “He’s pretending to be a fucking hero!”
“Seriously? That’s bullshit!” She stabbed her finger at Lago smiling for the reporters. “You killed it and he’s taking all the credit.”
“I didn’t do it for the credit.”
Juke stared at me for a second, cursed, and walked away, into the Guild through the dented doors.
“Thank you for the flies,” I told Ken.
Ken paused. He rationed words like they were water and he was in the middle of the Sahara. “You’re welcome,” he said finally. He glanced at Juke, who stalked off, kicking chunks of brick out of her way. “She’s young.”
He’d sunk a world of meaning into that word. Juke was impulsive and brave to the point of being rash, and she wanted to prove herself. To her, Lago’s being in the spotlight was a great injustice. To me it was a convenient relief. The last thing I wanted was to be mobbed by the reporters. If Lago didn’t mention my name at all, I’d be thrilled.
I nodded at the giant. “Do you know how it started?”
Ken leaned on a rock next to me. “A man came to the Guild. He walked in and didn’t say anything. He just waited. He didn’t look right. Chris asked him what he wanted, and the man said, ‘Crush my enemy.’ Then he turned and left. Then”—Ken clapped his hands, making a loud pop—“magic. He kicked the front door, but it got stuck. We tried to get out through the back door, but it was jammed shut. You know the rest.”
In the parking lot, thin, wiry Alix Simos crouched by the remains of his Lexus. A few yards away Cruz, six inches taller and about fifty pounds heavier, said something to him. Simos ignored him.
“I thought I saw something shiny in the giant’s left ear,” I said.
“It’s not there now. I checked.”
“It wasn’t there when he fell,” Ken said.
“Are you sure?”
We both looked at Lago. Well, well, looks like our hero got himself a souvenir. You greedy idiot.
“Bad idea to take it,” Ken said.
It was my turn to nod.
The reporters began to walk away. The impromptu press conference must’ve ended. Lago came striding toward me, his smile bright. “Hey, Kate! Hell of a thing we did today.”
“What did you take from the giant, Lago?”
He raised his eyebrows, but his eyes were sly.
“You took something out of his ear.”
Lago grinned at me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, honey.”
Call me “honey” again, see how that works out for you. “That was really stupid. He was naked except for that item, which means it was probably essential to him being a giant. You took an enchanted object of unknown power from a destructive creature who probably used to be human. You have no clue what effect it will have on you.”
“You’ve got one hell of an imagination.”
“She’s right,” Ken said.
“Turn it in,” I said. “It’s not worth it.”
Lago’s smile died. “Look, I get it. You’re sore that you had to share the credit. But no need to make up lies.”
“Lago, I looked into that thing’s eyes. They were empty. He started out as a man but ended up as a giant who had the intelligence of a toddler. He couldn’t even talk. Is that what you really want?”
He raised his hands to the sides. His voice rose. “You think I got it? Frisk me! Go ahead!”
Cops were looking in our direction. He was too confident. He must not have had it on him. If I searched the hero giant slayer now, I’d have to answer questions and likely be detained. I couldn’t afford to be detained and spend hours in a cell or being interviewed. I had to find Curran and Julie.
“I’m trying to save your life,” I ground out.
“I always had respect for you, Kate,” Lago said, letting his arms drop. “This? This is just pure jealousy. I thought better of you. It’s really a shame when veteran mercs turn on each other like that.”
He turned on his foot and walked away. Behind him the same group of teenagers was making a second pass at stabbing the giant. Both had about the same amount of common sense.
Ken looked after Lago. “I’ll need to think.”
I arched an eyebrow at him.
“We may have to kill another giant soon,” Ken said. “I need to think how.”
A familiar Jeep pulled up to the police blockade line and I forgot all about Ken and Lago. The doors swung open.
My heart pounded in my chest.
Curran jumped out, his face hard. He was covered in blood. Julie shot out of the other door, her face, clothes, and axes splattered with red. Behind her Derek and Ascanio got out of the Jeep, both in warrior form. Where the hell had they been?
The tough metal hide of the giant’s foot bulged and ruptured, like a boil. A cloud of foul gas drenched us. Creatures spilled out of the corpse. Six feet long, reptilian, covered in thick spiny scales like those of an armadillo lizard, they dashed forward on muscular legs.
I pulled Sarrat out of her sheath.
THE LIZARDS SPILLED out of the corpse in a ragged crescent along the edges of the parking lot like a mottled black-and-brown flood, blocking the way to Curran and the PAD. For a tiny second he and I stared at each other. His skin burst. Gray fur spilled out and then the lizards hid him from my view.
We had reanimative metamorphosis again. It was too rare to not be connected to the wind-scorpion incident. For whatever reason, the cat-hater who’d tormented Mrs. Oswald had decided to take the Guild out once and for all. Maybe it was revenge because we kept killing his pets.
The teenagers froze like frightened rabbits, their escape cut off. The two mercs still in the parking lot reached for their weapons. A lone cop, trapped by the giant’s head, slowly drew his tactical blade and backed up, his back against a mangled Chevy truck.
The lizards stared at us, their eyes glowing dark orange. They varied in size: some dark, almost black, and only the size of a boxer dog; others as big as a pony. Fast, agile, and armed with two-inch fangs. The chances of their being herbivores were nil to nonexistent. Reptiles reacted to movement. If we ran, they would chase. There were about twenty yards between them and the teenagers, and another thirty-five between the kids and Ken and me.
There was no way we would make it to the PAD’s vehicles. The Guild was our best option.
Next to me Ken raised his hands and began to chant softly, an incessant, low murmur, sinking power into every word.
“Don’t run,” I called out.
The kids pivoted to me.
“Walk to me. Slowly.”
The teenagers started toward me. The two mercs, Alix Simos and Cruz, backed up too, slowly, carefully, watching the sea of beasts swell with more bodies. They were the farthest from the Guild.
The lizards kept coming. One corpse couldn’t possibly transform into this horde. It was as if a portal had opened somewhere deep inside the giant’s body and vomited them out.
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