Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(62) by Ilona Andrews
“I don’t know.” I would’ve loved to know what Sienna’s vision meant as well, but so far I had no sage insights. It bothered me.
We were walking through the parking lot of the Casino, where the People, my father’s pet cult/undead petting zoo, made its headquarters in Atlanta. The Casino, a replica of the Taj Mahal, perched in the center of a huge lot where the Georgia Dome had once offered seventy-some thousand seats to sports fans. The Dome was long gone, fallen casualty to the magic waves, and now the Casino dominated the area. During the day, the tint of its pure white marble changed depending on the color of the sky, but at night, painted by the glow of a powerful feylantern, the intricate marble lattice work appeared completely otherworldly and weightless, as if the entire massive building had been spun out of moonlight by some magic spiders. Long rectangular fountains, decorated with statues of Hindu gods caught in mid-move above the tinted water, stretched toward its doors, and as we walked between them toward the Casino, the tiny red lights of vampire minds glowed in my mind. They crawled along the textured parapets, they moved inside the Casino, and below the building, where the stables lay, the ground was completely red, like the tide of some bloody sea. I would’ve loved nothing more than to reach out and crush them one by one, until the sea of red lights vanished and only peaceful darkness remained.
“How does this not freak you out?” Julie demanded.
“I can’t afford to be freaked out. Neither can you.”
“Well, I . . .” Julie stopped, her eyes wide open.
I turned to her.
She stared at the Casino, looking down, where the stables would be. “Are those . . . ?”
This wasn’t her sensate magic at work. We were too far away and separated from the stables by tons of rock and soil.
“Vampires,” I told her.
A while ago she had almost died and I had purified her blood with mine to save her. It was my father’s blood ritual, but it was the only way. It bound her to me in the same way Hugh was bound to my father, and like Hugh she could never defy a direct order from me, something I had tried my best to keep secret. Unless my memory failed me, so far I had avoided it, simply because Julie usually did what I asked without my having to order her, and in those rare times when I had to issue a command, Julie was willing to obey. One day the time would come when she would want to do the exact opposite of what I said and would find out that I had robbed her of her free will. I dreaded that day, but I would deal with it when the time came. Right now I had to deal with a whole different side effect. It seemed that my blood was changing Julie.
“They have so many,” Julie whispered.
“Yes.” I stood next to her. “They keep it quiet. If people knew how many vampires are under the Casino, nobody would ever come to gamble.”
Her gaze swept the Casino.
“Can you feel each one?” I asked.
“Do you think you could reach out and grab one?”
She narrowed her eyes. “It feels like I could.”
“Good. Once we find Eduardo, we can practice. Now follow me and keep your power to yourself.”
We walked up to the door of the Casino. Two guards studiously ignored us. We passed into the lobby. The sound hit me first: the mechanical whirring of the slots, redesigned to work during magic; the din of human voices; the excited shouts of someone winning that sounded almost like a bird in pain; the clanging of metal tokens; all of it blending together into a disorienting, hysterical cacophony. I saw the main floor: dozens of machines, lit up by feylanterns and crowded with users, and, past them, green card tables and roulette wheels, the faces of the poker players devoid of any human emotion. Servers glided through it all, and here and there a journeyman in black-and-purple Casino colors watched over the patrons.
One of the journeymen, an average-sized man in his midtwenties with a pinched face, stepped in my way. “Excuse me, we will need some ID.”
I frowned at him. “My ID?”
“Hers.” He pointed at Julie. “Minors are not permitted on the Casino floor.”
“Tell Ghastek that Kate is here to see him. He’ll make an exception for me.”
The journeyman’s face took on a pompous expression. “I’m sorry, he isn’t accepting visitors right now.”
“He will accept me.”
“No, I don’t think so. I work directly under him and I’m quite sure he won’t be seeing you today.” He pointed at the door with his hand. “Please. I would rather not call security.”
I sighed. “Fine. I guess I’ll tell him myself.”
I reached out with my magic and grabbed the sea of red lights underneath us. The entire vampire stable sat still. Holding two hundred vampires was really difficult and my brain really, really didn’t like it.
The journeyman in front of me noticed nothing. “Perhaps I wasn’t clear,” he said, speaking with exaggerated slowness. “Sometimes I go too fast.”
“That’s because of your blinding intellect, isn’t it?” Julie asked.
I tried really hard not to laugh. Here’s hoping someone noticed that all of their undead were facing in the same direction and not moving, because I could feel my magic ripping at the seams.
The journeyman’s face turned red. “Look, you, there are two kinds of people who belong here: those with talent like me who work here and those who come here to have a good time and spend money. You don’t work here and”—he gave my jeans and beat-up boots a long once-over—“you don’t look like you have any money.”
Rowena emerged from the back. Her bright red hair crowned her head in a heavy complex braid. She was five feet, two inches tall and her figure, adorned by a kelly-green shimmering gown, was impossibly perfect: tiny waist, generous breasts, perfect butt, nice legs. Her face was shockingly beautiful. She didn’t just turn heads, she kept them turned, and given that she was the Casino’s PR person, this was quite handy. She was also the third strongest Master of the Dead in the city and made a formidable enemy. Normally her entrance was an event, but right now it was rather comical. Rowena was running as fast as her narrow gown and six-inch-high green pumps would allow, which wasn’t very fast. Behind her two journeymen, a man and a woman both in their midtwenties and wearing business suits rather than uniforms, were trying to find a delicate balance between hurrying and overtaking her. The late-year apprentices, close to graduating.
I let go of the vampires.
Rowena saw me and put an extra effort into her speed-walking.
“You don’t belong here,” the journeyman continued. “We don’t tolerate panhandlers.”
“You’re in so much trouble,” Julie told him.
Rowena caught up with us. True to form, she was smiling, but her eyes were terrible. The journeyman saw her. “Master, I can handle—”
She hit him on the back of the head. He flinched.
“Bow,” she squeezed through the smile.
“Bow, you idiot.”
The journeyman bowed, his face surprised.
Rowena smiled at me. “Sharrim. Our deepest apologies for the misunderstanding. He is new and we didn’t expect you.”
Sharrim. Of the king. I hated being called Consort while Curran was the Beast Lord, but I would take it over Sharrim any day. “No worries.”
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