Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(66) by Ilona Andrews
“You must be faster than that, Evgenia,” Ghastek said.
The bloodsuckers ripped into the vehicle, clawing at the armor. The lines of the car flowed, reshaping themselves as the armor grew thicker, covering the wheels. Two of the vampires managed to pry open the top panel. It went flying and a new armor plate snapped into its place.
“I don’t get it.” Julie swerved. “So the djinn takes over the body after three wishes?”
If the ifrit didn’t kill us, her driving would for sure.
“That’s the theory.” And because the djinn wanted to take over a host for reasons unknown, he would’ve actively pushed his victim to make the wishes. For a weaker-willed person, the compulsion to wish for something would’ve been impossible to resist and the more wishes they made, the greater their break with reality would become. Under normal circumstances, Lago wouldn’t have tried to kidnap me. He was a self-proclaimed Casanova, not a rapist. And the Oswalds’ neighbor probably wouldn’t have let a deadly monster loose in a residential neighborhood. We had to stop this now, before anyone else got hurt.
“But Lago already had his three wishes. Why is the car making armor?” Julie asked.
“Because the ifrit needs time for the transformation. If we kill Lago now, we stop it, so he’s protecting him.”
Julie stepped on it. The Jeep squeezed another small burst of speed out of its engine. We were ten feet behind Lago.
“But why is he making giants?”
“If we knew that, we would have this problem solved.”
The armored scales sprouted spikes. The bloodsuckers dodged in unison. One of the undead squirmed, impaled, pulled himself off the spike, and kept clawing at the armor.
“Team Leader Two, stop and dismantle.”
We were barreling down the road when Lago turned again. Great. We had zigzagged through the three-square-mile block of the city and now we were almost exactly where we had started . . . Hmm. If we kept going straight, we’d run right into the Mole Hole. The Mole Hole, once the site of Molen Enterprises, was a 140-yard-wide crater lined with a foot of glass. It formed when one of the richest Atlanta families tried to hatch a phoenix. All kinds of fun activities took place at the Mole Hole, from roller derby to street hockey tournaments, but right now it would be deserted.
“The car is glowing,” Julie reported.
The metal scales shielding the car had gained a soft bright glow on the left side. Lago was transforming and if we didn’t hurry, Rowena would be cooked alive.
I knocked on the roof. No answer.
I unbuckled my seat belt.
“Are you going to jump onto his car?” Julie asked. “I can get closer.”
“What are you, out of your mind? No, I’m not jumping on his car. That only works in movies.” I stuck my head out of the window. “Ghastek!”
The bloodsucker swiveled its head toward me.
“Hold on to the car,” I told him, dropped back into my seat, and buckled up. Lago might have a magic convertible, but I had a kid who’d learned to drive from Dali. “He has a sharp right coming up. He will slow down for it. Julie, do you remember how to do a PIT maneuver?”
Julie grinned. “Can I? Can I, please?”
I braced myself. “Hit him.”
Lago’s car slowed for the turn. Julie stepped on it. For a moment our Jeep overtook the former convertible, pulling up alongside it on the left. The two cars connected gently and Julie threw the wheel to the right. The impact shook the Jeep. The convertible spun and slid off the road, skidding across the pavement into the Mole Hole.
Welcome to the twenty-first century, asshole.
The Jeep kept going, veering dangerously close to the building. We missed a lamppost by three inches and Julie brought us to a stop.
She hit the wheel with both hands and sang in a high-pitched voice, “Cru-u-u-u-shed it.”
“Great job.” I jumped out of the car, sword in hand, and ran to the rim of the Mole Hole. The convertible lay on its side. Two vampires clawed at the passenger door.
“Secure Ms. Daniels,” Ghastek ordered behind me.
Four vampires landed in front of me.
“What the hell?”
“This is a People matter,” Ghastek said, his voice crisp. “I will consider any violence on your part a declaration of war.”
“I mean it. You have a very important dinner tomorrow. I’m not taking any chances.”
Argh. Punching Ghastek’s bloodsucker would accomplish nothing because Ghastek wouldn’t feel a thing. I still wanted to do it. I wanted to cut its head off. My hand itched.
“Kate!” Julie’s voice rang out. “You can’t fight a giant. You promised.”
Damn it. I slid Sarrat back in its sheath. “I’m going to remember this,” I ground out.
“I shudder at the thought,” Ghastek said, his voice dry. “Excuse me.”
The bloodsucker dashed forward and took a huge leap. It landed between the two vampires clawing at the door and stabbed down with its hand. The door popped open. Ghastek’s vampire dove inside and emerged with Rowena’s limp body. It spun and handed her off to a different bloodsucker, who sprinted away from the car.
The convertible exploded.
A cloud of smoke billowed, spiraling up. Something solid moved inside it. Something massive and filled to the brim with magic. The smoke whipped into a column, spinning like a tornado, and a towering giant spilled forth. Hard muscle sheathed his seventy-foot-tall frame. His eyes glowed with red, his ears were pointed, and a mane of straight black hair fell down his back, but his face was still recognizable. He looked like Lago.
The giant clenched his fists, his enormous arms bent at the elbows, and he roared at the sky. A blast of heat rolled at us. Something shiny sparked at Lago’s throat. I squinted. An earring. He had pierced the skin below his clavicle with it, probably to conceal it. The earring must’ve required blood contact. Lago, you fool. You stupid, stupid fool. Now he would die. There was no way to save him. Such a waste.
“You promised,” Julie said next to me in a small voice.
“Settle down. I’m not going to fight him.”
Ghastek’s voice rolled through the Mole Hole. “All teams, take him down.”
• • •
I CROSSED MY arms. “It’s been fifteen minutes.”
“Sixteen,” one of my vampire babysitters said in a female voice. “Ma’am.”
That didn’t exactly make things better.
The question of whether the host’s body affected the giant’s power had been answered. Lago had survived nine years as a merc. He was damn fast. The vampires sliced at him, but he caught them, broke them, and tossed them aside. They regenerated, and he broke them again.
Glossy metal scales had begun to form on his legs, slowly climbing their way up. They were midway up his thighs now.
Something fell off the giant and lay in a heap. It looked like a human-sized pale maggot. I squinted at it. It was a vampire. Normally gaunt, it had swollen to ridiculous proportions, as if someone somehow had gotten the Michelin man from the old commercials and turned him into an undead monstrosity. As if the vampires weren’t already revolting enough.
The vampire next to me opened its mouth. “Strike Leader, we have a one-twenty-eight in progress. Permission to retrieve?”
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