Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(77) by Ilona Andrews
He’d loved her still, after all those years. He must’ve loved her more than anything, and he was both an instrument and a cause of her death. If he hadn’t loved her, he wouldn’t have agreed to my conception. He wouldn’t have imbued me with his power and then he wouldn’t have had to try to destroy what he’d created out of love. I had told him that our family were monsters and he had corrected me. He said we were great and powerful monsters. But none of our power mattered. We were still cursed.
“Your mother loved you before you were ever born. Nothing, not even me with all of my power, could diminish it. I wanted her more than I ever wanted anything in all of my years. To think that all that I am was undone by the simplest and most basic of things—a mother’s love for her child.”
He reached out to me and touched my hand. Too late I realized I had dropped my shields and my magic had filled the room, plain for anyone with a gift to see it.
“Your magic is beautiful, my daughter,” the Builder of Towers said, his eyes luminescent with power. “You should show it more often, for you are perfect.”
• • •
BY THE TIME we were almost done with our plates, Julie announced that she was cold. Curran offered to take her to the car to get a sweatshirt. They got up at the same time and walked out. A moment later our waiter appeared and placed a small plate with a slice of chocolate cake on it in front of me.
I looked at Roland. He shook his head. “Not me.”
“The gentleman ordered it on the way out,” the waiter said, then put a coffee in front of Roland and departed.
Chocolate was really expensive. I sliced a tiny sliver of the cake with my fork and tasted it. It melted on my tongue. I had to eat this very slowly so it would last.
“Do you think he really loves you?” my father asked.
“He does.” And I had to change the subject before he started on the second round of the wedding conversation. “Father, why is our magic bouncing from humans possessed by an ifrit? Is it because of the geographical proximity?” Oh yes, that was smooth. Not.
“What did you try to use?” he asked.
“A power word.”
“I remember trying that. Worst pain of my childhood. Let me teach you. There is so much you don’t know, Blossom. Let me help you make sense of it. At the very least, let me keep you from making rudimentary mistakes.”
“You tried it.” I sliced another bite of the cake.
“I was eight.”
“And I did it because I was specifically told not to.” Roland drank his coffee. “I wanted to know what would happen.”
That sounded very much like something I would do.
“You are partially correct, the resistance is due to the geographical proximity and a miscalculation on the part of your great-great-great-great . . .” He frowned. “No, that’s right. Great-great-great-great-grandfather. The ifrit were threatening his borders, and he decided that a child of mixed blood would be a great idea, so he married a half-human, half-ifrit woman. She was his fortieth wife. I remember because it was a nice round number. He begat a child, a daughter, and as expected, she had partial immunity to the ifrit magic and was fierce on the battlefield. She was far down in the line of succession, so he hadn’t worried about her, and by the time he decided to worry about it, it was too late. Bararu, the Shining One, the Star of the Valley, had cut her way through his progeny to his heart and took his throne. She was your great-great-great-grandmother.”
“She killed her brothers and sisters and her father?”
“Well, in all fairness, he did execute the man she wanted to marry.”
“He was trying to check her power. She was becoming too popular with the army.”
I rested my chin on my fist. “That’s a heartwarming story, Dad.”
“You called me Dad.” Roland smiled.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it. Were any of our family members ever famous for doing something nonviolent?”
“Your great-great-grandfather cured the Plague of the Godless. It was a very virulent strain of influenza and it threatened to wipe out the human population on the entire continent.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Of course, he felt obligated to do it, because your great-great-granduncle had unleashed it in the first place.”
I just stared at him.
“History provides us with vital lessons,” Roland said. “For example, I have no plans to murder Curran.”
He couldn’t murder Curran, not as long as our agreement held. “Why, you’re afraid I might take your throne?”
“No, I don’t want the heartbreak of having to kill you, Blossom.”
“You don’t trust me,” he said.
He smiled, and I realized that was what parental pride looked like. He was proud because I had enough brains to anticipate that he could entrap me. I wished he’d come with some sort of secret manual, so I would know how to deal with him.
“So how shall we move forward?” he asked.
“You could teach me here and now. I need to know about the ifrits.”
He paused for the briefest of moments. It took half a blink, but I was watching him very carefully. For some reason he really didn’t want to tell me about the ifrit.
“Very well. We might as well make good use of the time my future son-in-law is so kindly providing to us. Answer one of my questions and I will answer one of yours.”
Nothing was ever simple. “Okay.”
“When Hugh came to kill Voron, he found no sign of a child living in the house. You had gone into the woods, but where were your belongings?”
So Hugh and Roland had a long chat before the Preceptor was exiled. “Hugh didn’t look well enough. Voron knew a clairvoyant.” Her name was Anna, she was the ex-wife of my dead guardian, and she no longer returned my calls. “I think he must’ve been told to expect something bad to happen when he sent me out of the house, because whenever I went into the woods, I packed my duffel bag and buried it under the pines on a hill behind the house.”
“But there had to be other signs of your existence,” Roland said. “A child’s life doesn’t simply fit into one bag.”
“Mine did. A week’s worth of underwear and socks, two pairs of jeans, five T-shirts, a sweater, and two pairs of boots. My knives, my belt, and sword fit in there as well. Toothbrush, hairbrush, a favorite book, and that was it.” I could pack it all into my bag in ten minutes and it was as if I had never existed.
Roland looked at me, his expression odd.
“You may ask a follow-up question,” I told him.
“Toys, makeup, jewelry, dresses, cute shoes, a kitten, perhaps a puppy?”
I laughed at him.
“Not even a pet.” Deep regret reflected in my father’s eyes. He was actually bothered by this.
“Pets teach children empathy. Voron was trying to turn me into a psychopath. Besides, we would often take off without warning. We couldn’t be tied down.”
“A child’s life should be filled with joy. It pains me to know you lived like that.”
“If it had been up to you, I wouldn’t have lived at all.”
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