Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(49) by Ilona Andrews
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IT FELT LIKE hundreds of spiders crawling through my brain. It made the inside of my nose itch. Occasionally they tugged on something and then nausea gripped me. After I heaved for the first time, Curran brought a big bucket for me. I took it away from him. Having him hold it for me would’ve been going too far. I still had standards. Nauseated and weak, but what are you going to do?
The control over my body came back slowly. It was like pushing against the current of a very powerful fire hydrant or walking underwater, while heavy blocks fell onto my head from above. Sometimes they slid into place effortlessly and sometimes they landed so hard, it felt like they ripped through my brain. Past events exploded in my head as if my memories had somehow gotten stuck in a replay loop.
Julie crying in a restaurant over crab legs and shrimp.
Andrea dragging me out to lunch.
The flood kept coming, relentless. The flare. Fomorians running across the field.
Greg’s savaged body.
My aunt. Live long . . . child. Live long enough to see everyone you love die. Suffer . . . like me.
Curran. Stay with me, baby.
I will. I promise I will.
Aunt B dying.
. . .
Death. So much death. So many people I’d killed. So many people I cared about who had died. So many corpses in my wake.
You truly are my daughter.
We are great and powerful monsters. Love demands sacrifices. When you love something the way you love your people, Blossom, you must pay for it. Old powers are awakening. Those who have slept, those who were dead, or perhaps not quite dead.
I bent forward under the pressure. Something hot slipped out of my eyes and I realized I was crying.
This is my city. These are my people.
I will hunt you. I will succeed. Maybe not now, but I will never give up.
“Done,” Doolittle said, his voice hoarse from the strain.
Curran put his arms around me. It was such a simple gesture, but his touch pulled me out of the tangled chaos of my memories back to now, anchoring me here.
The two of them were looking at me.
“Hey,” Curran said quietly.
I swallowed. My head throbbed.
“Did it work?” Curran asked Doolittle.
“I don’t know.” Doolittle sounded tired.
Curran rose and held up his hand. “Kick my hand.”
I pushed off the bed. They said walking was just controlled rhythmic falling. My falling turned out to be uncontrolled. I landed on my ass.
Curran didn’t move.
I got up to my feet. My body felt like a numb limb coming back to life.
I snapped a crescent kick. I’d whipped it with my hip and it was so fast, it blurred. My foot slapped his hand. He took a step back. His eyes narrowed.
“Tap,” I told him.
“It worked,” Doolittle said.
“WHAT’S THE LAST thing you remember?” Doolittle asked me.
“My power word backfired for some reason. I think the backlash of magic caused my stroke. I tried to freeze the giant and failed. The recoil from it hit me and it felt like my head exploded.” I felt oddly flat. As if there were no emotion at all in me.
“It did,” Doolittle said.
Curran was watching me carefully.
“It was the worst headache of my life. I thought I was dying.” I tried to scrounge up more memories. “I was killing the giant. Lago jumped on it, but I had already cut the vein in the giant’s neck. We fell. Nothing after that.” My voice sounded flat too, as if it were someone else talking.
“You killed the giant. Law enforcement showed up. His corpse started spitting lizards,” Curran said.
“How big? What color?”
It took him about ten minutes to bring me up to speed. It was Friday, March 4, three o’clock in the afternoon. I had lost Thursday and a good chunk of Friday, although I could’ve sworn I’d been in the hospital bed a lot longer. The twenty-four-hour delay might have cost Eduardo his life.
“No news on Eduardo?”
“No,” Curran said.
“Where were you? I thought you and Julie were trapped in the Guild.”
“I went to kill some ghouls,” Curran said.
“You should’ve left a note.”
“I should’ve left a note,” he said. His jawline was tight.
I pushed off the bed and walked to the bathroom. My legs obeyed me. The last remnants of the headache lingered, but they too began to melt. I brushed my teeth and splashed cold water on my face, feeling numb and somehow disconnected, as if I wasn’t truly in my body but was standing nearby, watching some strange woman washing her face.
“You need to be alert,” Doolittle’s voice floated to me. “There is no way to determine how much function she has recovered. She may become disoriented. There might be sharp personality fluctuations. Normally I would expect her to panic, but we both know . . .”
“She will probably stab someone instead,” Curran finished.
I wiped my face with a towel and looked at myself in the mirror. Slowly, very slowly, a hint of recognition stirred in me. Hi. My name is Kate Daniels. Nice to meet you. I can still kick people in the head. I am still me. I have people I love who love me back. I have a job to do.
I felt better. My body had been resting in the hospital bed for hours. Very slowly, bit by bit, it began to feel like me again. I felt fresh as if I had gotten up on Monday morning after a very relaxing weekend.
I stepped out of the bathroom.
Doolittle rolled to the door.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I’m going to lie down,” he said. “Because I am old and tired, and I have exceeded my monthly dose of excitement. Kate, no strenuous activity. No fighting, no sex, and no power words. Especially not against any giants. If you repeat that experience, it will kill you. Your brain is still healing. Don’t do anything that could raise your blood pressure. Come and see me in a week. I don’t know why I prattle on because I’m sure you will ignore me.”
I came over and hugged him.
“There now.” Doolittle shook his head.
“Thank you for everything.”
“You listen to me.” Doolittle fixed me with his stare. “I do not want to bury you. I don’t want to see you in a coffin. At some point, no matter how stubborn you are, you need to stop treating your body as if it were a sword that you can resharpen every time it breaks.”
“If it breaks, sharpening alone won’t fix it.”
Doolittle made an annoyed grunt. “Kate! Take care of yourself. If you don’t care about an old man like me, do it for the sake of your future husband and your daughter.”
“No power words against the giants,” I promised.
He left. I closed the door behind me and turned.
Curran stood by the bed, his arms crossed on his chest. I walked over to him.
“Are you back or are you not?” he asked quietly.
The way he said my name made me want to reach out and touch him.
“I need to know where we are.” His gray eyes had grown dark, not angry but resigned. “Are we okay? Are we complete strangers, are we on a first date, or are we going home together tonight?”
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