Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(74) by Ilona Andrews
“You think her husband is protecting her?”
Curran nodded. “We’re not going to get any help from them.”
“Then we’ll have to work with what we’ve got.”
Maybe I could ask Roland about it. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Hey, I know we’re mortal enemies, but can you help me with this thing? I sank deeper into the water. I didn’t want to go.
“Did you ever want to kill Mahon?” And why did I just ask him that? Argh.
“No. There was a time I would’ve done anything for his approval.”
It didn’t surprise me. After he watched his family being slaughtered, Curran lived on his own in the woods, hunted by the same loups who had eaten the bodies of his parents and his sister. Then Mahon led a party of shapeshifters into the woods. Mahon was older now, and I was strong, but I would hesitate to fight him. To a starved twelve-year-old, he would’ve seemed larger than life.
“As I got older, I realized he was manipulating me to get what he wanted.” Curran said. “I remember the first time it clicked. I was eighteen. He wanted me to pass a law and I wanted to go play with my new girl.”
“You don’t know her. She was blond and had huge boobs.” He frowned. “Something with a K. Kayla . . . Kelly . . . Something.” He grinned. “Jealous, baby?”
I stretched against him, my voice slow and lazy. “Is Kelly in this tub? No? Then I have nothing to be jealous about.”
“Mahon nagged me, so I told her to wait and sat there for two hours reviewing this long-ass law about the percentages the Pack received from the profits of their businesses.”
“Oh, it was. When I was done, Mahon told me my dad would be proud of me. It occurred to me that my dad was an isolationist. He wouldn’t have given a shit about the Pack or if the masons should pay twelve percent while the teachers paid seven. It was this empty encouragement Mahon offered to me when I did something he liked, because he knew I missed my father and I wanted to make him proud. I sat there after he left and tried to think of all the occasions he’d used it. He’d used it quite a bit.”
His face hardened. Hello, Beast Lord.
“I knew I had to cut the leash then, because I wouldn’t be anyone’s pet ruler.”
No, being someone’s pet didn’t suit him. No more than being Sharrim suited me.
My life had always been a vector pointed to the same goal: kill Roland or die trying. That vector didn’t survive collision with reality. Roland’s power was too great and I didn’t have the spine to die trying to murder him while watching everyone I loved burn in the same funeral pyre. The exact thing Voron had warned me about had come to pass. I had fallen in love. I had accepted responsibility for a child. I had friends, and I wasn’t capable of condemning them to death for a cause that wasn’t truly my own. I survived.
Looking back at it, it was the right choice. The only choice, really. But Voron’s conditioning didn’t just wear off. He raised me so I could kill Roland or die. Either way Roland would be hurt, and it was good enough for Voron. The nagging sense of failure was still there, and I felt enough guilt and shame to fill a small lake. The guilt fed my anger, and every time I thought of Roland, my sword hand itched. I knew I wasn’t ready for the confrontation, but somehow I deluded myself into thinking I could win the same way I usually won—by brute force and my skill with the sword.
It was time to grow up. I had a responsibility to the land I claimed and everyone alive within its borders. I had a responsibility to Curran and Julie, to my friends, and to myself. I deserved to have a life at some point. Running at my enemies with sword drawn and pounding them with power words with all of the delicate subtlety of a hammer no longer worked. We were playing in the big leagues now. The stroke was a painful lesson, but it helped bring home the point: I had to fight smarter.
“We can’t let on that we figured out the tower is a diversion,” I said. “I’m going to focus on that and maybe we can learn something about the ifrit. He thinks both of us just pummel things with our fists anyway. He won’t suspect any sophisticated subterfuge.”
Curran smiled. “Would you like me to snarl at the appropriate moments and promise to bash heads to pieces?”
“Would you mind?”
“Well, it might be a stretch for me, since I never do anything like that.”
“But if I am properly motivated, I can give it my best shot.”
Oh boy. “Do you have any specific motivation in mind?”
He leaned toward me, tiny gold sparks playing in his eyes. “Yes, I do.”
A muffled knock sounded through the door of the bedroom. Curran rose, wrapped a towel around his hips (which shouldn’t have been hot but was), and opened the bathroom door. “Yes?”
“We need to leave in twenty minutes,” Julie called through the bedroom door.
“You’re not coming,” I told her.
“I’m all dressed and I’ve put my makeup on.”
“No,” I growled.
“What if this is a clever ploy and while you’re at dinner Hugh d’Ambray comes and kidnaps me?”
Oh, for the love of . . .
“You won’t be able to get it out of your head now,” Julie called. “You’ll worry about it all night.”
I sank deeper into the water.
Why me? Why?
“Also, Ascanio is downstairs,” Julie said. “He says that he was charming and the cranky neighbor’s name is Justin Thomas Rogers. Ascanio has the address. Mr. Rogers’s daughter reported him missing yesterday. He got this picture. I’m sliding it under the door now.”
Curran walked into the bathroom and held a photograph to me. A middle-aged man looked back at me, balding, thin but somewhat flabby. The giant that had rampaged through the Guild had worn his face. There it was, the confirmation we’d been looking for.
“Can I tell him that you remember him now?” Julie asked. “He invited me to his pity party, and I really want to leave.”
I WALKED INTO Applebee’s wearing my work clothes: loose dark pants, boots, a gray sweater, and a simple black jacket. Sarrat’s weight rested comfortably between my shoulders. Curran walked next to me. He wanted to wear sweatpants, because “they tear easier.” I asked him if he wanted me to get him some male stripper jeans so he could avoid looking like a Russian gangster from pre-Shift movies, after which he got all offended and put on a pair of regular jeans instead.
Julie brought her Kestrel axes. She also wore her big black steel-toed boots, the burgundy-colored sweater I’d knitted for her, and a short pleated skirt with no stockings despite the cold. Some things had no logical explanation. You just had to roll with it.
The hostess looked at the three of us and pointed to the sign above her head. “We have a strict no-weapons policy.”
“What if my fists are lethal weapons?” Julie asked.
A manager emerged from the back room, saw us, and nearly sprinted down the hallway.
“You may keep your fists,” the hostess said. “But—”
The manager nearly slid to a halt in front of us. “This way. Your table is waiting.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online