Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(89) by Ilona Andrews
The giantess bellowed and kicked at me with her now-useless leg. I jumped as far right as I could and instantly knew it wasn’t far enough. Curran caught me in midair, the force of his leap taking us to safety. The foot missed us by inches. His feet touched the ground. He twisted and threw me back toward the giantess. We’d practiced this move in our morning sparring, and the conditioning took over. I landed on my feet, sprinted, and sliced the second tendon.
The giant screamed, her roar punching my eardrums. I backed away.
Forty yards away Curran’s body boiled, turning leonine, as he tried to build up mass. Next to him Mahon roared, a huge Kodiak.
Samantha fought to stay upright; spun, reeling, as her ankles refused to support her weight; and saw me backing up. Shit. She was facing the wrong way. If they hit her now, they would fail. I had to get her to turn her back to them.
“Is that all you’ve got, weakling?” I ran around her. She turned toward me, swaying.
The lion and the bear surged forward, breaking into a run.
Samantha’s mouth opened, thunder clapped, and a glowing torrent of magic tore toward me. There was no place to go. I threw my arms up. The magic smashed into me.
It didn’t hurt.
It felt like an elastic wall had formed between me and the torrent of power. The magic hit it, the impact knocked me back a few feet, but it didn’t hurt.
The giantess reeled, clutching at her head, off balance.
Ha! The resistance worked both ways. Payback is a bitch.
The knights closed in on both sides.
Curran and Mahon smashed into the back of the giantess’s knees. The impact of their combined weight proved too much for her injured legs. She dropped to her knees. Her palms touched the floor.
Curran’s body twisted, flowing into warrior form.
The knights rushed to her. Four of them thrust huge lances into the back of her hands, trying to pin her. Nick’s flesh ruptured. Twin whips, green and textured, like the shoots of some magic trees, shot out of him and wrapped about her neck. The knights shot hooked chains into her flesh. Three of them pulled on one side, and Curran pulled on the other, bringing her head lower and lower. The manticores tore at us, and Clan Heavy ripped into them, trying to keep the beasts off our backs.
The giantess raised her shoulders and tucked her chin in, hiding her neck. Nick growled like an animal, straining. His whips snapped and he stumbled back.
“Time!” Luther cried out.
The floor burst and plants spiraled to grab at the giantess’s neck and body. Bahir dropped onto her spine and began hacking at the narrow exposed band of her neck with his sword.
“Applying the vector now,” Patrice announced. “Three, two, one . . .”
She clamped her hands to the giantess’s arm. The giantess shuddered, shaking, as the djinn struggled to regenerate. The giantess’s head lowered another foot.
Heat bathed us. Sweat broke on my face. It was hard to breathe. Luther’s plants began to wither. Patrice cried out and stumbled back, her palms steaming.
The giantess roared. Metal began to climb up her chest to her neck. Shit.
Curran dropped his chain and lunged under the giantess’s chin. His massive arms strained. He snarled and lifted her chin up, stretching her neck. It was my turn. I slipped into the opening. Sarrat kissed her neck and I moved clear. The saber’s new blood edge crumbled, its magic exhausted, but the damage was done. Blood poured from both sides of her neck. I had cut both the carotid and the jugular, opening a gap in her neck.
The giantess strained, trying desperately to pull her head down and close her wounds. Curran groaned. His frame shook. His eyes were pure gold.
Two figures fell from above, landing on the giantess’s face. George and Eduardo. Eduardo clamped his fists together and brought them down straight onto Samantha’s left eye. On the other side a three-legged bear tore into the giantess’s right. The last thing she ever saw was the son of the man she hated and the woman who loved him.
Above us, on the giantess’s neck, Bahir screamed. Fire sheathed his sword and spread to engulf him. His eyes blazed, bright red, their glow visible even through the flames. Bahir swung the blade into the gap I’d made, and severed the giantess’s head from her body. Curran grunted and pushed it aside. It fell into the blood. Her body trembled and sank to the floor.
A bright spark of gold shone in front of me—the earring, tiny in the giantess’s ear. I lunged for it, but Nick beat me. He slashed at her earlobe with a short sword. The earring dropped into the pool of blood.
Samantha exhaled in a long gurgling sigh. Her body turned to ash and fell apart. The ash melted into the wind. The manticores vanished; the palace wavered and went out, like the flame of a dying candle. We stood in the empty paved lot, the ruin of the hospital behind us.
“Now!” I yelled at Bahir. “Put the spell down now!”
Bahir grabbed the chalk and drew a circle on the ground, as close as the puddle of blood would allow. His hands shook.
There were at least twenty-five feet between the earring and the circle. Oh hell.
Nick reached for the earring.
“Clear!” Curran roared. “Clear if you want to live!”
People scattered, putting distance between them and the earring. We had to get it to Bahir’s box or it would claim another life, and we weren’t in any shape to stop another giant.
Nick’s fingers touched the gold. He took a step toward the circle. His eyes turned white.
His body snapped into a rigid stance. His hand crept up, shaking from the muscle strain. Muscles in his face jerked. An inch. Another inch. The lure of the djinn was too great. It promised Nick anything and everything, every desire fulfilled, every wish granted, unlimited power, untold wealth, supernatural justice . . . It told him he could have anything he wanted. Nick was about to slide the earring into his ear.
Curran smashed his forearm into the back of Nick’s head. The knight crumbled to the ground. The world slowed to a crawl. The earring flew through the air, painfully slow, and Curran’s fingers closed about it.
Curran’s fur stood on its end. His face turned flat. He took a slow small step toward the circle. His eyes stared into the distance, unseeing, as if he had gone blind.
No, no, no.
“He can’t have you,” I told him. “You’re mine. Fight him. Fight him, Curran.”
The muscles on Curran’s face shook, reshaping his head. His jaws lengthened. Bigger fangs thrust out of his jaws. He was becoming something monstrous.
Another step. His fur began to smoke.
I was losing him. I could feel him slipping away behind the curtain of the djinn’s magic.
I stepped in front of him. “Curran, do you love me?”
He focused on me. Bald patches formed on his hand, the skin bubbling up.
A shape began to form in the air just ahead of us, translucent and weak, but I would recognize its outlines anywhere. The djinn had searched Curran’s mind for a powerful emotion and found hate he could use. He was conjuring Hugh d’Ambray, because Curran wanted to kill him. If Curran took the bait, I would lose him forever.
I cut my forearm. My blood ran down my skin, wetting it with liquid heat. “Give me the earring. If you love me, give me the earring.”
Curran shook, every muscle on his frame rigid with tension.
“If you ever loved me, you will give it to me. Just open your fingers and let it fall.” My blood snapped into a gauntlet, obeying my magic. It should shield me, at least for a few seconds.
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