Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(76) by Ilona Andrews
“Stop,” I growled.
“I understand you’ve been burning through your reserves,” Roland said.
Oh no. He didn’t.
Curran took a swallow of his beer. “Your spies have been falling short. We didn’t burn through our money. We shifted our cash reserve into real estate holdings. Currency falls and becomes devalued, but land will always retain its value. They don’t make any more of it. However, if you find yourself short on cash, let us know. We can liquidate some of our holdings on short notice.”
Ha! Shots fired.
“I’ll be sure to keep it in mind. I don’t mean to nag. I simply want to walk you down the aisle, Kate.”
Be civil, be civil, be civil . . . “No.” There. Good.
“What if there is a child?” Roland asked.
“So?” Where was he going with this?
“You don’t want your children to be bastards, Kate. It never turns out well.”
I put my head on the table. It was that or physical violence.
The food arrived. I picked up one of my Baja tacos and ate it out of desperation. I needed fuel to continue this conversation.
“How’s school?” Roland asked Julie.
All of my senses went into high alert.
“Fine,” she said. “Thank you. I just got an A on my essay on Daniel.”
“Did you use the Apocrypha?” Roland asked, his voice mild.
“Of course,” Julie said.
The Apocrypha, a collection of ancient writings that had been edited out of the modern Bible for various reasons, had a whole chapter on Daniel. The ancient Daniel kicked a lot of ass, unlike his modern version that stressed humility and passive resistance. It was entirely possible that I was reading too much into this conversation, but the way they spoke suggested that this wasn’t their first discussion. Julie had some explaining to do. And my father had to stop inserting himself into my life, or he would regret it.
“Your grandmother is in poor health,” Roland said to me.
Who, what? Where? “My grandmother is dead.” And her magic, trapped between life and death, fueled the madhouse of Mishmar, my father’s prison.
“Your other grandmother,” he said.
“Your mother’s mother is still alive,” he said. “Barely. She is eighty-nine years old. I visit her sometimes and she is rapidly declining.”
“Does she know what happened to her daughter?”
Roland shook his head. “She knows she died.”
He kept finding ways to avoid saying my mother’s name.
“She does know about you. She doesn’t have much time. If you wish to know more about your mother, I can arrange for transportation so you can speak before this chance is lost forever.”
My world turned upside down. I didn’t remember my mother. Not a hint of her face, not a whisper of her voice, not even her scent. He was dangling bait in front of me and I wasn’t sure if I hated him more for using her memory or myself for considering snapping it up.
“Where is she?” I asked.
“Seattle,” Roland said.
There it was. He wanted to get me out of the city and away from the ifrit. He’d picked a hell of a lure. Sure, he would arrange transportation there. He said nothing about arranging it for the trip back.
“You can be there in three days,” he said.
In three days Eduardo would be dead. I was sure of it.
Curran glanced at me and I saw a warning in his eyes. Yes. I know. He is trying to distract me and get me out of town. For some reason, my father really didn’t want me dealing with the djinn, and that was precisely why I had to stay.
“I’m sorry, but I have to pass.” The words hurt coming out. “I have things I need to do here.”
“Kate, you won’t get another chance.”
“I’m not going to trouble an old woman who has never seen me in her final days. My place is here. I have something to do and I can’t leave until I see it through.”
“Very well,” Roland said. Not a hint of disappointment. Very nice, Dad.
I wanted to jab him with my fork. He’d used my mother’s memory to manipulate me. He would regret it.
“Besides, you knew Kalina best.”
I watched him closely and the corners of his eyes trembled when I said her name. How does your own bitter medicine taste, Father? Have another spoon on me. “Why don’t you tell me about her? You were there till the end. You saw the light go out of her eyes.”
Roland took a swallow of his wine.
“If you wish to know how your mother died, I will tell you, Blossom. Ask me.”
Walk away. Walk away, because that way lie dragons.
Screw the dragons. I needed to know. “Tell me how my mother died, Father.”
We were stabbing each other and pretending that it didn’t hurt.
I wanted to squeeze the word out through my teeth, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. It took all of my will to make it sound casual. “Please.”
“There is a small café in the south end of Wolf Trap,” he said. “That’s where I first saw your mother.”
Wolf Trap, Virginia, northwest of Arlington, was a new town, built from the ground up by the Order. That was where the Knights of the Merciful Aid made their headquarters. My mother had worked with the Order for a while. And my father had visited it, walking its streets in the plain view of dozens of knights, knowing they would fall over themselves trying to kill him if they only knew who he was.
“She sat at a table by herself reading a book and drinking coffee from a chipped white cup.”
His voice weaved a spell, filled with longing, love, and grief. I wanted to believe it was false, but it felt so genuine. So real.
“The sun shone through the window and her hair glowed like the finest gold. I sat at her table and I asked her why she didn’t ask for another cup. She said that there was a unique beauty to the imperfection. No other cup would ever be chipped in quite the same way. It reminded her to pay attention, for every moment could offer an experience that would leave her forever changed. When she decided she was tired of running, I found her there again, in that café, sitting at the exact same table. I took the other chair and told her that I loved her. I told her that she didn’t have to run, and that if she wanted the moon from the sky, I would reach out, pluck it from heaven, and give it to her. She told me that you were a beautiful child. That you were a part of her and a part of me and you were perfect. She took my hand, kissed my fingers, and said, ‘I love you. Don’t look for her.’ Then she stabbed me.”
The pain in his eyes pierced me, still alive and vibrant after almost thirty years.
“Your mother knew that your existence challenged my power. She had betrayed me for your sake. It wasn’t a private event. She had subverted my Warlord and turned her back on our union. The core of my power, those closest to me, knew about it and expected action. My pride and my reign demanded it. A betrayal that cut that deep required public punishment. Voron was merely a pawn. You were a babe and bore no responsibility for what had occurred. That left only your mother. When she drove a knife into my eye, I knew she sacrificed her life so you would live. If she was dead, the public demand for revenge would be satisfied. And so I honored her wish and killed the woman I loved for a child I had helped bring into the world.”
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