Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(63) by Ilona Andrews
The journeyman was still bowed. Judging by his face, he had no clue what was happening.
“This way, please.”
Julie and I followed Rowena. Behind us the journeyman straightened. “Who was that?”
“Never mind,” the female journeyman told him. “This is your sick pass. You need to go home.”
“You’re very sick,” the male journeyman ground out. “You need to go home and lie down. You were home all evening, and if Ghastek asks, you have no idea who was working the floor instead of you. Go.”
We turned the corner and descended the staircase. A dry revolting stench washed over me, the odor of undeath. A vampire hung from the ceiling directly above us, fastened to it with its long claws. Skeletally thin, gray, and hairless, it shed foul magic. Gagging would’ve totally ruined the moment, so I did my best to ignore it. We moved down, and the undead followed us, its eyes glowing dull red.
Rowena kept her expression carefully neutral. Her mother and mine were distantly related, which she had probably figured out by now. She owed a favor to the witches, and the witches in turn had bound her to help me, because at the time they were trying to make me stronger since the Covens didn’t fancy being enslaved by Roland. Nobody except the Witch Oracle and the two of us knew about this arrangement. Whatever emotions churned inside Rowena, she was keeping them under lock and key.
We descended deeper and deeper, into the bowels of the Casino, passed through a steel door and into a concrete hallway, and kept walking into a maze of tunnels designed to confuse the unpiloted vampires in case the locks on their cages somehow failed. The tunnels finally ended and we emerged into a vast round room filled with vampire cells, two to a row, stretching toward the center of the chamber. The stench was overpowering. Next to me Julie inhaled sharply.
“No need to worry,” Rowena said. “They’re secured.”
Julie glanced at me. I put a hand on her shoulder, trying to reassure her. Too many undead. Their magic was overloading her senses.
“I see Ghastek didn’t want Nataraja’s office?” The People’s former head used an opulent office in the dome of the Casino, complete with a golden throne and priceless works of art on the walls.
“We stripped it and converted it into a club for children, so they would be entertained while we separate their parents from their money,” Rowena said. “We are aiming to be a family-friendly destination.”
I almost choked on that.
We turned left and walked up a staircase to a balcony of opaque glass overlooking the enormous room. Rowena knocked and held the door open for us. I had been in Ghastek’s office before. It hadn’t changed much—same shelves supporting books and assorted odd objects lining the walls, same late-sixteenth-century witch shackles hanging in a place of honor on the wall, same crescent-shaped reed sofa, and of course, a vampire perched in the corner, like a vigilant hairless cat.
Ghastek stood by the floor-to-ceiling window, sipping coffee from a white mug that read, Graveyard Shift: We do it in the dark. From this side, the glass of the window was crystal clear, offering an excellent view of the undead stables, and Ghastek surveyed it like he owned it, because he pretty much did. He wore a tailored pair of sleek navy pants and a woven gray sweater with a hint of blue. Both looked elegant and deceptively simple, which probably meant they were hideously expensive. A small black velvet triangle interrupted the texture of the weave just below the flat-knit collar. The triangle alone probably cost him an extra three hundred dollars.
The clothes fit him with some slack. He needed to eat more.
For some reason, the thought of Ghastek and food made me uneasy. I puzzled over it until the answer floated up oh so slowly: we’d starved together in Mishmar. That was it.
“So you liked the mug?” I asked. I had sent it to him for Christmas.
Ghastek pivoted toward me. Rowena sat on the sofa.
“Thank you for the lovely gift,” Ghastek said, managing to put exactly zero emotion into those six words. “What can I do for you?”
“I need you to call my father.”
• • •
GHASTEK STARED AT me. Rowena blinked.
“What do you mean, call your father?”
“Dial his number, use the phone, and ring him up.”
Ghastek struggled with it for a few seconds. “One does not simply ring Roland.”
Oh boy. I supposed I would get a lecture on the dangers of wandering into Mordor next. “Okay, how do you normally contact him?”
“We don’t,” Rowena said.
“If something that we view as crucial arises,” Ghastek said, “we file a petition.”
The phone rang. Ghastek picked it up. “I said hold my calls.”
His eyes widened. Very carefully he set his mug down and held the phone out. “It’s for you.”
I took it.
“Blossom,” my father’s voice said in my ear. His magic washed over me, as if someone had split the atmosphere and the universe in all its glory rained down on me. The sheer monumental power of it took my breath away. He must’ve been working on something—probably on that damn tower—because the last time I spoke to him, he took the time to tone it down and the impact of his words wasn’t quite so cosmic.
I pressed the speaker button and put the phone down. I wanted both hands free in case something jumped out of it and tried to rip out my throat.
“My night is brighter,” my father said.
Rowena froze, completely still like a statue. Julie pulled a piece of chalk out of her pocket, drew a protective circle on the floor, and sat in it. At the other end of the room, Ghastek clenched his teeth, probably trying to mitigate the effect of Roland’s voice. Yeah, good luck with that.
“How have you been?” my father asked.
Say something diplomatic . . . something . . . “If you build a tower in Lawrenceville, I will smash it, set it on fire, and salt the ground it stood on.”
Ghastek put his hands over his eyes and pressed them into his face. I couldn’t tell if it was from frustration or terror.
“We should have this conversation in person. I know, why don’t we go out to dinner?”
“When I first awakened, a few years before the Shift, I used to frequent this low-key chain of restaurants, with a wide variety on the menu. I can’t quite recall the name but it had a fruit and an insect.”
Ghastek mouthed something at me. I shook my head. I was distracted enough already trying to keep my magic shields up. Talking to him during tech was a lot easier. “I consider the tower to be a declaration of war. You are preventing me from expanding my domain. That specifically violates our agreement.”
Ghastek grabbed a piece of paper off his desk and drew furiously.
“I would love to see you.”
Ghastek held up his drawing. It was a butt with a bee flying over it. What?
“I haven’t spoken to you in over one hundred days.”
“That’s wasn’t an oversight on my part.”
I must’ve made a face, because Ghastek scribbled on the paper and held it up. He had drawn a leaf on the butt. Well, yes, that explains everything. Thank you, Mr. Helpful. I waved him off. Rowena got up, tiptoed over to Ghastek, and took the paper away from him.
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