Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(44) by Ilona Andrews
God, my head was about to split open.
“Where were you? What happened?” I carved a chunk out of another lizard’s face.
“I just took the kids to fight some ghouls,” Curran said.
Oh, so it was fine, then . . . Wait. “You did what?”
He kicked a lizard. It flew into the others like a cannonball. “I called Jim before we left the house to talk about ghouls, and he said they found some in the MARTA tunnels. So I grabbed the kids and did a little hunting.”
I would kill him. “Just so I get it right, Jim calls you and says, ‘Hey, we found a horde of ghouls in the MARTA tunnels,’ and your first thought was, ‘Great, I’ll take the kids’?”
“They had fun.” A careful note crept into his voice. Curran saw the shark fin in the water but wasn’t sure where the bite would be coming from.
“You even took the dog.”
Grendel chose that moment to try to shove past me. I shoved him back into the Guild and he began running back and forth behind us, growling.
“He had fun, too. Look at him. He’s still excited.”
Grendel stopped, shook, flinging blood from his fur, and resumed his orbit around us.
“I thought you had a poodle!” Juke said.
“He is a poodle.”
“That is not a poodle.”
“He transforms.” In times of crisis Grendel turned into an enormous black hound. Unfortunately, the transformation was governed by his strange canine brain, and sometimes he decided that the proper course of action in battle was to pee and roll in dead things instead.
A black lizard squeezed through the bodies and died before it could open its mouth, Alix’s arrow in its throat.
“Okay,” Juke said. “Your horse is a donkey, your poodle is a giant wolf breed, and your boyfriend is whatever the hell he is. You have problems.”
“Shut up,” I told her.
“He got to roll on some ghoul corpses,” Curran said. “He had a good time.”
That was hardly surprising. Grendel had a warped sense of personal hygiene.
“You’re an inconsiderate irresponsible ass.”
“Me?” Curran tore a lizard in half.
“You wanted to make it personal. I made it personal. You want to talk about irresponsible?” Curran’s eyes sparked with gold. “You saw a giant ripping up a building and you ran into the building. And then you climbed onto the giant so you could poke him with your sword. What was the plan to get down off him? Did you learn to fly and didn’t tell me?”
“Don’t change the subject. I got a call from Seven Star Academy saying Julie didn’t make it to school. I couldn’t find her. I couldn’t find you.”
Juke snickered. “Shouldn’t have taken the kids with you, huh?”
“Stay out of this,” I told her, and pulled Sarrat out of a lizard’s body. “You made all these preparations and never once thought what would happen when I couldn’t find you or Julie. Would it have killed you to leave a note?”
Juke blinked, suddenly surprised.
“It takes twenty seconds. ‘Hi, Kate, taking the kids to fight some ghouls, be back by lunch.’” I waved my arms. “I thought you might be trapped in the Guild with Julie.”
“Why the hell would I be in the Guild with Julie?”
“Because you were supposed to go by here this morning and because I thought I heard her on the phone screaming for help.”
Curran spared me half a second of his hard stare. “Even if you thought I was in the Guild, what did you think I was doing while the giant was tearing it up? Did you think I was sitting on my hands?”
“I thought you might be injured.”
He looked at me. “We’ve met, you and I?”
I deliberately took a big step back.
“What?” he growled.
“I’m making room for your ego.”
“Fine. I should’ve left a note!”
“Answer me this, did you hesitate at all or did you see the giant, go ‘Wheee!’ and run toward it?”
“She ran toward it,” Juke quipped.
“He was biting people in half.”
“I rest my case,” Curran said. “A note wouldn’t have made any difference.”
Note or not, I didn’t care. I was just happy he was alive.
The magic wave ended. The lizards fell as one.
The headache exploded in my skull as if someone had poured gasoline on my brain and set it on fire inside my head. Wetness slid from my ears and I realized it was blood.
“Kate?” Curran turned human in a blink.
“My head hurts.”
“I can’t understand you.” His face turned frantic. “What’s wrong?”
“My head hurts.” I knew I was saying it. I could hear my voice, I just couldn’t make out the words.
“Medic!” Curran roared.
The agony in my head drowned out all else. I sank to my knees and slid to the ground. The world went silent except for the pounding of my own pulse.
• • •
I OPENED MY eyes and instantly wished I hadn’t. The headache had grown sharp blades and stabbed them into my skull through my eyes.
The ceiling didn’t look familiar, but the smell in the air was. The exquisite aroma of disinfectant, rubbing alcohol, and that weird “medicine” flavor told me I was in a hospital. Also the IV in my arm and the blood pressure cuff were kind of a giveaway. My hand rested on the sheath of my saber. Someone had put my sword in bed with me.
Why did it hurt so much?
A soft voice tinted with a coastal Georgia accent drifted through my headache, that lowland genteel Southern dialect that refused to die out and swallowed consonants on the ends of words so “better” and “over” came out as “bettuh” and “ovuh.” Judging by the intonation in the voice, the doctor was in and not too happy.
What else was new? I had woken up like this to unfamiliar ceilings and upset medmages more times than I could remember. The only question was, which hospital had I ended up in this time?
I tilted my head on the pillow. The good doctor was sitting in a wheelchair talking to another patient or maybe his helper, I couldn’t really see. His voice was quiet and soothing, and I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. If I squinted, I could sort of read his lips. Intracranial hemorrhage. Something told me I should know what that meant.
He turned. Something stretched in my brain and I recognized his face in a flash of pain. Doolittle. Why didn’t I recognize his voice? Wait, if Doolittle was here, that meant we were in the Keep. We couldn’t be in the Keep. Our thirty days weren’t up. I opened my mouth to call out. No words came out.
Okay, if I couldn’t talk, I would sit up.
My back refused to obey. Panic pinched my breath. I felt my body, I felt my legs, my arms, even my fingers and toes. I could feel Sarrat’s sheath under my fingertips. I just couldn’t get them to move. My muscles were out of sync with my mind.
I was paralyzed.
No. No, no, no. I lived by my sword. I couldn’t be paralyzed. I couldn’t.
A word surfaced from somewhere within the recesses of my memory. Hemorrhage. Hemorrhage inside the skull was called intracranial. I knew this. I knew it was bad. I just couldn’t fight through the headache to what it meant.
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