Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(65) by Ilona Andrews
“Nahh. I’m a self-made man. So what do you say, Kate? Let me show you a good time. Your guy doesn’t have to know.”
Lago had some serious balls.
“Sorry,” I told him. “I’m meeting someone here in a couple of minutes and then I’m going home.”
Lago pondered it. “You know, you’re right. Why go in there? Too many people. Let’s go for a drive instead. I always thought you were hot, Kate. Mmm, legs.”
And we had gone straight into creepy territory. I really didn’t want to break his arms. “No.”
“Move on, Lago.”
He smiled at me. “Well, shoot. I guess I’ll have to do it the other way. I want this one.”
Magic clamped me, trying to pull me forward. Overwhelming, catastrophic power squeezed me. An alien intelligence brushed against me. Every hair on the back of my neck rose. I dropped my shields and pushed back. My legs shook from the strain. I couldn’t cry out. I had no voice. It was taking everything I had to not move.
Lago made a come-here motion with his hand. “Car, car, car. Quickly now.”
A sleek silver convertible slid from the shadows, completely silent.
Lago swung the door open. “In you go.”
The magic squeezed, grinding me. It was streaming from Lago, but it wasn’t his magic. He was merely a shell, an anchor for something ancient and powerful with a familiar flavor. We’d just had a chat in Biohazard’s dumping ground.
So here you are, precious. Didn’t wait long.
The power pressed on me, demanding compliance. Strong. So strong. I clenched my teeth and pushed back. The ifrit’s magic recoiled slightly, shocked at the resistance.
That’s right, punk. Try me. I’m coming for you.
The power clamped me, harder and harder. I concentrated on lifting my hand. Lago must’ve gotten hold of whatever shiny thing the giant wore in his ear. Oh, you stupid fool. Never bargain with beings you don’t understand.
“I said, I want this one,” Lago said. “What’s the matter with you?”
The power squeezed, trying to pull me off my feet.
I’m going to kill you. I’m coming for you and I will kill you.
My hand crept up, ever so slowly, as if I were swimming through cooling tar. It felt like my muscles tore and snapped off my bones one by one. The presence behind the spell threw all of its weight against me. My magic and its magic ground and clashed like two swords locked against each other.
My hand was almost to Sarrat’s hilt. Another inch and I am so there. Sorry, Lago. Take out the anchor and the ship will drift away.
“Kate?” Rowena walked up to us.
Lago stroked his chin. “Oh my God. No offense, Kate. Forget that one, let’s take this one instead.”
Rowena’s face went slack. The magic vanished. I flew backward twenty-five feet and landed on my ass on the pavement. It took me half a second to roll to my feet. The car was already speeding away into the night, Rowena in the passenger seat, her eyes blank.
I sprinted after the convertible.
A vampire barreled into me, knocking me off my feet. We rolled and it landed on top of me, red eyes burning. The massive mouth unhinged an inch from my face, the twin fangs like sickles in the moonlight.
“Do not move!” A navigator barked in my ear. “Identify yourself.”
I punched the bloodsucker in the head. “You moron. He’s kidnapping your Master of the Dead. Get the hell off me. Get Ghastek! Tell him an old power took Rowena. Move, damn you!”
For a moment the vampire froze.
The gates of the white minarets above me opened wide and vampires rained onto the pavement.
FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLDS MAKE TERRIBLE drivers. They speed, they pay no attention to the rules of the road, and they think they’re immortal. There are times when you absolutely have to have a fifteen-year-old behind the wheel. Chasing a convertible driven by the kidnapper of a necromancer down Atlanta’s deserted streets in the middle of the night was one of those times.
“He’s too fast,” Julie growled.
We hit a bump. The Jeep went airborne and landed with a creak. I ran my tongue along my teeth to make sure they were all still there.
Above us, vampires dashed along the buildings.
Something landed on the roof with a thud. I rolled down the passenger window and a vampire stuck his head in, hanging upside down.
“I’m not amused,” Ghastek said through the vampire’s mouth.
“Well, pardon me. You can get your refund back at the ticket booth.”
“Just once, could you visit my place of business without causing a major incident?”
“I didn’t cause an incident.”
“No, you’re right. I misspoke. You talked to a man who then kidnapped a Master of the Dead, requiring us to make a massive show of force, which will no doubt result in financial losses and negative publicity less than twenty-four hours before your father inspects our facilities. ‘Incident’ would be too mild a word. If this is a diversion, it won’t work. More than a third of our force remains at the Casino under capable leadership. They are able to repel any attack.”
“It’s not a diversion,” I squeezed through clenched teeth. “It’s an ifrit who wants to take over the city.” Also, he’d only brought less than a quarter of his total vampire force.
The vampire’s face became completely still as Ghastek mulled it over.
“Hold on.” Julie took the corner at a breakneck speed. The vehicle careened. I grabbed the handle above the window. We flew on two wheels for a stomach-pinching second and landed back on the road.
“A djinn,” Ghastek said finally.
“Yes. It’s an old power, probably tied to an item. The man in the car is a merc. I believe he got a hold of the item, made himself younger, wished for a magic car filled with money, and for a woman, and now it will be time to pay the piper.”
“The djinn will take over the human host,” Ghastek said. “So the giant who destroyed the Guild was of djinn origin and, since this man’s three-wish cycle just ran out, we can probably expect another giant.”
Whatever faults Ghastek had, stupidity wasn’t one of them.
“What do I need to know?” he asked.
“It’s an ifrit, so it loves fire. The last giant was almost seventy feet tall. He was still transforming when I cut him down: metal legs, high heat. Low intelligence, no speech, lots of rage, and fun reanimative metamorphosis once he’s down. His corpse transformed into draconoids.”
“Lovely,” Ghastek said. “Do the human host’s abilities affect the giant’s performance?”
And why hadn’t I asked myself that question? “I have no idea. Lago is a good, well-trained merc. I guess we’ll find out.”
The vampire’s head disappeared and I heard Ghastek’s voice. “Team Leader One and Two, merge to bandit. Team Three and Four, maintain. Team Leader One, tap, if no response, stop and dismantle. Watch for heat damage.”
The vampires picked up speed, converging on the vehicle. Six vampires on the right dropped onto Lago’s convertible. They were in midfall when the top of the car snapped closed. Metal plates formed on the vehicle, overlaying each other like scales. Five vampires landed on the scales, nimble like cats. The sixth slid off and fell, rolling.
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