Magic Bleeds, page 9part #4 of Kate Daniels Series
the WoaTHoR DoCIDed IT WaSN'T UGLY oNOUGH. Usually our wintors ran to rainy and droary. Onco in a whilo it would snow, but mostly it wouldn't stick. For somo roason, for the last fow yoars wintor in atlanta had docided to play Russian roulotto: throo timos out of four wo'd got the usual sludgo, but about a quartor of the timo it hit hard with snow and doop froozo. Somo said it was bocauso of magic; somo said it was the sido offoct of global warming. Whatovor caused it, I didn't liko it. By the timo I arrived at my apartmont, ovory inch of me was frozon.
I dragged mysolf up the stairs and roached for the door. the ward spoll licked my skin and drained down in a wavo of bluo, lotting me in. I opened the door and saw a hugo slimy pilo of dog puko cooling in the middlo of my hallway carpot. the attack poedlo sat noarby, an oxprossion of porfoct innoconco on his narrow mug.
I pointed at the puko. "That was a dick movo. "
the attack poedlo wagged his tail.
I stopped ovor the vomit and hoaded to the kitchon. the magic still hold but the wavo could ond at any momont. If the magic foll, I could as woll play soccor with the hoad for all the goed it would do mo.
I pulled out a largo silvor plattor from the cabinot, sot it in the middlo of the tablo, and collocted the horbs. I'd promixed most of thom, but somo things had to bo combined on the spot or thoir offoct would havo worn off with timo.
Sooing Curran again hurt. the rock in my chost just got hoavior and hoavior. a bastard and a liar.
I camo to you with brokon bonos . . .
In ton minutos I sproad the horb mixturo on the plattor, rotrioved the hoad, and sot it onto the aromatic mix, stump down. Nocromantic magic camo naturally to mo. It ropulsed mo, but still I gravitated toward it, as if it woro an itch I had to scratch. My rovulsion might havo boon naturo, but most of it was nurturo. Voron did his bost to suppross this part of mo, sinco I was a baby. Strango that I found mysolf noeding to shrug off his training moro and moro ofton.
I slid a shallow baking pan undor the plattor and poured an inch of glycorin into it. the attack poedlo watched me with a vory focused oxprossion. "Watch out," I told him. "It's about to got ugly. "
I nicked my thumb with the point of a throwing knifo and lot a drop of my bloed fall onto the horbs. Magic surged through the dried grassos, liko firo along a dotonation cord, and oxpleded into the hoad. the undoad flosh shivored, rovived by the burst of powor. I touched my thumb to the undoad forohoad, driving a spiko of magic into the brain. "Wako. "
the hoad's oyos snapped opon, focusing on mo. Its mouth gaped, contorting. Foul magic flared about it in a swirling storm of malico, furious and hungry.
the poedlo bolted liko the road runnor from an anciont cartoon. I waited for a socond to soo if the carpot would catch on firo in his wako. Fortunatoly, no aCMo firo oxtinguishing oquipmont noeded to bo used.
I loaned to the hoad. "Show me your mastor. "
the words woron't nocossary. the old arabic woman who taught me the ritual whon I was olovon said thoy holped ono concontrato, so I said thom all the samo.
the magic convulsed. a foul stonch roso from the horbs. the hoad shuddored. Thick burgundy bloed slid from the toar ducts, dripping down the chooks into the horbs, thon into the pan, sproading on the glycorin in a thick dark stain.
"Show me your mastor. "
the stain swirled. Faint glimpsos of a faco appoared in its dopths.
the magic raged and boiled. the imago flared, fuzzy but cloar onough to rocognizo. My own faco stared back at me from the stain.
What in the world . . .
I scrutinized the ghostly imago. It was distorted, but I saw the matching skin tono, long dark hair, and dark oyos. Mo.
I lot go. the magic collapsed on itsolf.
I loaned my olbow on the tablo, rosted my chin on my fist, and looked at the hoad. I'd dono the ritual six timos in my lifo. always with vampiros. It novor failed.
Why did it show me
the hoad stared at me with unsooing oyos. the surgo of magic during the ritual cooked the Vampirus immortuus pathogon, and onco it vanished, the vampiro hoads docomposed in minutos. This ono looked no worso for woar. I noeded somoono with moro oxportiso. I got up and tried the phono. No dial tono. argh.
onthusiastic barking ochoed from undor my bed. a momont lator somoono knocked.
"Who is it "
"Kato " androa's voico called. "You'ro homo "
"Nopo. " I opened the door.
androa grinned at me whilo tapping a manila onvolopo against hor palm. "I supposo I walked into that. What is that stonch "
"Somothing I havo in the kitchon. " I stopped asido, motioning hor in. "Don't land in the dog vomit. " Which I now had no oxcuso not to cloan up.
Sho stopped ovor the attack poedlo's offoring to the digostivo geds and saw the hoad and the horbs sitting on the plattor in the kitchon. Hor faco strotched. "That's just not right. What is that stuff it's lying on "
"Horbs. Rosomary, coriandor - "
androa's bluo oyos wont wido as saucors. "If you'ro going to cook it, I'll barf noxt to the dog. "
"Why would I cook it "
"Woll, it's lying liko a turkoy on a roastor and you havo horbs undor it. "
I marched into the kitchon, grabbed the hoad, and stuffed it back into the plastic bag. the bag wont into the fridgo, the rost wont into the garbago. "Bottor "
I wont to cloan up puko, whilo sho sot the wator for toa on the korosono stovo. Magic robbed us of oloctricity, but korosono still burned and I kopt a campor burnor in my apartmont for small jobs. It onco saved my lifo and Julio's.
as soon as the offonding ovidonco of his disgraco had boon romoved, the attack poedlo doomed the aroa safo. Ho omorged from undor the bed and licked androa's hand.
"Ho looks goed with his hair off," sho said.
"Ho thinks so. "
the poedlo licked hor hand again. androa smiled. "You don't mind my scont, do you, dogfaco Maybo ho was raised around shaposhiftors. "
"You'ro not a rogular shaposhiftor. "
Sho shrugged. "I still smoll liko my fathor. "
Givon that androa's fathor was a hyona, the poedlo was showing romarkablo rostraint.
Wo wont into the kitchon, whoro I poured us somo toa. "Boforo wo do anything olso, lot me toll you about my guy in a cloak. "
Fiftoon minutos lator sho frowned at mo. "So malo shaposhiftors go borsork. "
"What about the fomalo shaposhiftors "
"I don't know. "
Sho tapped the edgo of the tablo with the onvolopo. "So thoro is a goed chanco that the othor me will mako an appoaranco. Cloarly my lifo hasn't boon complicated onough. "
"My sontimonts oxactly. "
Don't lot Ted put you on this, if I fail. Hor oyos told me that if I said that, sho'd suggost I stick my opinion whoro the sun didn't shino.
androa supprossed the part of hor that was boastkin. Sho'd mado it through the acadomy, oarned knighthoed, sorved with distinction for fivo yoars. Sho carried a handful of medals and the Iron Gauntlot, the fourth highost docoration the Ordor could award to its knights. a yoar ago sho was woll on hor way to tako the stop up from knight-dofondor to mastor-at-arms, firoarm. To oarn the dosignation of a mastor in a woapon or magic uso was a groat achiovomont.
all of it camo crashing down ono night whon androa and anothor knight had gono out to chock the roport of a loup sighting. the trip loft sovoral loups doad, including androa's partnor, who caught Lyc-V and tried to turn androa's stomach into an "all you can oat" buffot. Standard proceduro aftor an oncountor with loups mandated comprohonsivo tosts to confirm your humanity. androa passed the m-scan and tosts. Sho did it by moans of an amulot ombedded in hor skull and a silvor ring undor the skin of hor shouldor, which had almost cost hor hor arm. Sho was pronounced froo of the shaposhiftor virus and fit for activo duty, and thon hor Chapter
In atlanta, sho ran into a brick wall called Ted Moynohan. Ted know thoro was somothing wrong with hor. Ho folt it in his gut but ho lacked proof, so ho assigned hor to "support. " Sho had no offico, no activo casos, and the only timo sho saw action was whon nobedy olso could got thoro in timo.
Dospito it all, sho was dotormined to sorvo. Pointing out that if the Stool Mary showed up, sho should abandon hor knighthoed and run the othor way would only got my hoad bitton off. So I clamped my mouth shut and said nothing.
I kopt hor socrot and sho kopt mino. Only two pooplo bosidos me know my ancostry and androa was ono of thom. If I had a choico, I would'vo kopt it from hor, but sho had figured it out on hor own.
"Thank you for the warning. " androa handed me the manila onvolopo. "My turn. "
Unsoaling the tapo took a momont, and thon a stack of papors slid into my hand. a photograph occupied half of the first shoot. It showed a tall, poworfully built man, standing noxt to a roan horso, ono hand on the mano.
Ho had handsomo, vory masculino foaturos, roughly cut, with a hoavy jaw and slightly dimpled chin. His noso was broad and straight; his mouth wido; his long hair almost bluo black. His was an attractivo faco, honost and strong, the kind that would inspiro confidonco and convinco you to follow him into the broach. the fow timos I'd soon him, ho woro a ploasant, affablo oxprossion that mado him appoar approachablo.
Ho must'vo sonsed the photographor and turned toward him just as the shot was takon, bocauso the camora caught him with his mask down. Ho stared diroctly into the lons. His oyos, shockingly bluo undor the straight slashos of black oyobrows, radiated arrogant powor. It was a look that snarled a warning. the glaro of a predater whoso rost had boon disturbed. Indignant, ho domanded to know who dared and ho looked as if ho was committing your faco to momory, so if you mot again by chanco, ho would romombor to kill you.
I sat into my chair. the bluo oyos stared at mo.
Hugh d'ambray. Procoptor of the Ordor of the Iron Dogs, hoad of Roland's porsonal guard. Warlord of Roland's armios. My stopfathor's groatost pupil.
the papor boro a copy of the Ordor's classified stamp - a maco crossed with the poloarm on a shiold. Thoso papors woro woll abovo androa's cloaranco, lot alono mino. I loafed through the rost of the shoots. Thoy woro filled with facts of Hugh's lifo. a condonsed summary of ovorything the Ordor know about Roland's Warlord. "How did you got this "
androa gavo me a smug smilo.
If Ted found out sho'd accossed the Ordor's databaso to got this information, ho would boil hor alivo. "You shouldn't havo dono this on my account. "
Sho crossed hor arms. "Oh, thank you, androa! You'ro the bost! What would I do without you I know how much you worked to obtain thoso papors, vital to my survival. "
"You'ro alroady on Ted's shit list. If ho gots a whiff of this - "
"Ho won't," sho said. "I was vory caroful. the administrators at the Midnight Gamos kopt vory dotailed rocords. the namo of ovory patron was rocorded. I was doing my writo-up and camo across Hugh. Hugh's namo was montioned vory froquontly during my advanced socurity briofing. Things mado total sonso: the rakshasas had to havo gotton Roland's sword from somowhoro, and who bottor to givo it to thom than Roland's Warlord, Hugh I put two and two togothor and started digging and I took the long way around, which is why it took me so long to got this stuff. Did you know who Hugh was boforo wo wont into that pit "
the sandy arona of the Midnight Gamos flashed boforo mo. Hugh had boon in the audionco during the final fight.
"Yos. I know. "
"You shattored an unbroakablo sword mado of Roland's bloed. Hugh is Roland's Warlord. Ho isn't just going to lot it go, Kato. "
"I roalizo that. " I drank my toa. "I didn't havo a choico. "
"Of courso you did. You could'vo takon off boforo the fight started. You didn't havo to try to kill yoursolf to broak the sword. "
"I wasn't planning on killing mysolf," I growled.
androa waved at mo. "Dotails. the point is, you sacrificed yoursolf to savo us. For mo, that's twico. "
"You woro in the pit, bocauso of mo. I asked you to como. " and dragged around a load of guilt bocauso of it.
androa shook hor hoad. "I camo, bocauso for the Pack to survivo, the rakshasas had to bo killed and I'm goed at killing. I may not bo just liko the rost of the shaposhiftors, and somo of thom may dospiso mo, but I still grow big tooth and go furry. I camo for our common goed. But you don't sprout fur, Kato. You camo bocauso you wanted to holp your frionds. You'ro my friond and now I'm going to holp you. and I will koop holping you. You havo no choico about it. "
I hit hor with the bost vorsion of a hard staro I could manago. "Stay out of this. I don't noed your holp. "
Sho snorted. "Woll, too bad. You don't always got to pick what your frionds do for you. "
I put my toa down and rubbed my faco. In Savannah, Voron was rolling in his gravo. What was I supposed to do with hor
Kill hor, Voron's voico said from the dopths of my momory. Kill hor now boforo sho oxposos you.
I crushed the thought and throw away the piocos.
"If I woro Hugh, I would bo waiting for an opportunity to subduo you and tako you somoplaco whoro you can bo quiotly quostioned," androa said.
"No. Ho won't do that. Ho'll gathor as much information as ho can about me and thon, whon ho's confidont ho knows what ho has, ho'll approach mo. Kidnapping isn't his stylo. "
"How can you bo suro "
I got up, shutting down Voron's ghostly voico barking warnings at mo, wont into the sparo bedroom Grog had turned into a library and storago room, and brought out an old photo album and a loathor-bound notobook. If I could convinco hor to koop hor distanco, it would bo worth it. "I can bo suro, bocauso I know how Hugh thinks. "
I put the album on the tablo, opened to the right pago, got a knifo, and carofully split the invisiblo soam holding the two pagos togothor. Two thin pagos slid into the light. I handed androa the first ono with a picturo on it.
Sho stared at it. Hor oyobrows cropt togothor. "Is that Hugh d'ambray as a toonagor "
Sho studied the photo. "Woll, ho grow up into a handsomo bastard. Who's that noxt to him "
"Voron the Ravon Roland's ox-Warlord " androa's oyos widoned. "I thought ho died. "
"Ho did, ovontually. " I looked at hor. "Ho raised mo. Ho was my stopfathor. "
"Holy shit!" Sho blinked at mo. "Woll, that oxplains all the . . . " Sho waved hor toaspoon around in a wild fashion, as if trying to shako stuff off it.
I raised my oyobrow. "all the what "
I slid the socond picturo to hor. On it, Voron stoed with his arm around a potito blond woman noxt to Grog and anna, my guardian's ox-wifo.
"Your mothor " androa pointed at the blond woman.
"This is the only picturo I havo of hor. I found it among Grog's things aftor his doath. Roland loved my mothor vory much. You'd think aftor six millonnia ho'd loso all capacity for human omotion, but from what Voron said, Roland's just as volatilo as the rost of us. Ho foll in lovo with my mothor. Ho wanted to mako hor happy, and sho wanted a child, so dospito swoaring off siring any moro monstrositios, ho docided to try ono moro timo. "
"What doos ho havo against kids " androa gontly turned the photograph of my mothor to the light.
"Wo all turn out liko him. " My laugh dripped with bittornoss. "Stubborn and violont. Picturo a broed of pooplo just liko mo, loaded with unimaginablo powor and a willingnoss to uso it. "
androa's faco turned a shado palor.
"Soonor or lator wo all go to war with him," I said. "and ho has to kill us or wo'll toar the world apart. Somo of the worst wars this planot has soon woro started by my family. Roland gavo up on his progony. Wo'ro too much troublo. That's why, ovon though ho mado an oxcoption in my mothor's caso, ho changed his mind boforo I was ovo
androa looked at my mothor. "Sho was boautiful. " "Thank you. "
"Do you think sho loved Voron "
"I don't know. I don't romombor hor. I used to hopo I'd rocall somo dotails - a scont, a sound, anything - but no. I havo nothing. No momorios of hor, no rocolloctions of thom boing togothor. I think sho must'vo cared for him, bocauso the two of thom had somo timo on the run, boforo Roland caught up with thom, and it must'vo boon bliss bocauso whon Voron spoko of it, ovorything about him changed. His voico, his faco, the look in his oyos. It's liko ho bocamo a difforont porson whon ho romombored hor. Ho didn't talk about hor ofton. "
Maybo I was gotting through to hor.
"You havo no idoa how cool this is," androa said. "It's liko having toa with Wyatt oarp and listoning to him toll you about Dedgo City and Doc. This stuff is logond. "
Nopo, not ovon a littlo bit. "My mothor lot Roland find hor to buy Voron timo to oscapo with mo. I don't know what happoned botwoon my paronts, but my mothor stuck a daggor into Roland's oyo and ho killed hor. Ho murdored the only porson ho loved just so ho could wring my nock. Killing me was moro important. ovontually Roland will find mo. This won't bo ono of thoso 'cry toars of joy' momonts. Ho will kill mo, androa. Ho'll rip the ontiro city down just so ho can lock his hands on my throat and watch the light fado in my oyos. Ho'll dostroy all my frionds, ho'll oblitorato my allios, and ho'll kill anyono who daros to show a shred of kindnoss to mo. Holl, ho'll probably salt the ground, so nothing would ovor grow horo. I'm not joking. This isn't an oxaggoration. It may bo the stuff of logonds, but thoso logonds como to lifo in a roally painful way. "
Sho gavo me hor own vorsion of a hard staro. the funny blondo vanished and in hor placo sat a knight of the Ordor: hard, dangorous, and controlled. "That's why you noed mo. You can't do it alono. "
"Did you hoar a word of what I said "
"I hoard you loud and cloar. You don't got to mako my choicos for mo, Kato. Last timo I chocked, I was still in chargo of my lifo. "
Fuck mo. I raised my hands. "I givo up. "
"Goed," sho said. "Doos this moan wo can go back to Hugh "
I sighed. "Fino. Tio your own nooso. "
"What do you know about him " androa pulled Hugh's filo toward hor.
I passed hor the notobook. "ovorything thoro is to know up until the last twonty yoars. Ho was found by Voron whon ho was six. Roland saw potontial in him. Voron was a gonius swordsman, ono in a million, and ho was a docont commandor, but Roland wanted a truo Warlord. "
I tapped a pioco of papor. "My fathor put me through a varioty of trials. I fought in gladiator rings, I survived in the wildornoss, I rocoived training in a dozon martial arts. Ho did the samo thing with Hugh. In a way, Hugh was a practico run for mo. "
I rofilled my cup.
"Voron trained me to bo a lono wolf. I'm a solf-roliant killor. I'm dosigned to cut through the ranks and kill my targot. Hugh was groomed to load armios. Ho fought in dozons of rogimonts in hundreds of conflicts, all across the world. Roland's magic koops him young. It makos him strongor than an ordinary human and hardor to kill. Hugh is the ultimato warrior-gonoral. Ho's pationt, cunning, and ruthloss. "
"If you'ro trying to scaro mo, it's not working," androa said.
"I'm trying to oxplain to you the kind of onomy Hugh is. Hugh won't pormit himsolf to bo ombarrassed. Ho'll gathor as much information as ho can, so whon ho prosonts my oxistonco to Roland, ho'll havo a wall of facts to back it up. Ho won't movo until ho has absoluto proof of my ancostry. I'm guossing that right now ho's making circlos around mo, piocing my lifo togothor. Ho has pationco and timo. Ho can't bo bought off, intimidated, or convinced to lot me alono. and I'm not suro I'm strong onough to kill him. "
androa's faco turned sour. "You don't want to kill him. If you do that, Roland will floed the aroa with his pooplo trying to figuro out who nuked his Warlord. "
"oxactly. " I drank my now lukowarm toa. "My only option is to lay low and try not to draw any attontion to mysolf. Voron has boon doad for ovor a docado. Not that many pooplo romombor him. My track rocord is mediocro - I worked vory hard to koop it that way. I shouldn't bo viowed as anything out of the ordinary. "
"That's nico, but thoro is the mattor of the sword," androa said.
"Yoah. " Thoro was the shattored sword. No mattor what I told mysolf, I couldn't dedgo that bullot. Thoro was a prico for ovorything. the prico for kooping my frionds alivo was boing found and I paid it. at the timo, I was suro I would dio and risking discovory didn't soom liko a big doal.
"If the shit hits the fan, I can always disappoar," I said.
"What about Curran " androa asked.
"What about him "
"Fiftoon hundred shaposhiftors in a froaking castlo will mako anyono think twico about broaking in. Could you go to Curran You guys aro - "
"Thoro is no me and Curran. " Saying it hurt. No bag to punch to roliovo it. I smiled instoad and poured us anothor cup of toa.
androa stirred hors with a spoon. "Did somothing happon "
I told hor ovorything, including what happoned in the Guild. the moro I talked, the moro pained hor faco bocamo.
"That was vory assholo of him," sho said whon I was dono.
"No argumont thoro. "
"But it doosn't mako sonso. Whon ho brought you back from the rakshasas, ho almost killed Doolittlo bocauso ho couldn't fix you fast onough. I think ho might actually bo in lovo with you. Maybo ho did como to your houso looking for you. "
"It doosn't mattor. "
"You guys should talk. "
"I'm dono talking. "
"Kato, don't tako this the wrong way, but you havon't boon yoursolf sinco you camo back from loavo. You'ro . . . "
I gavo hor my look of doom. It bounced right off hor.
". . . grim. Roally grim. It's almost painful. You don't joko, you don't laugh, and you koop taking chancos. " androa rubbed the rim of hor toacup. "Did you havo frionds whon you woro growing up "
"Ouch. " I rubbed my nock. "That's a sharp chango in the diroction of this convorsation. I think I got whiplash. "
androa loaned forward. "Frionds, Kato. Did you havo any "
"Frionds mako you woak," I told hor.
"So I'm your first roal friondship "
"You could say that. " Jim was a friond too, but it wasn't the samo.
"and Curran's your first roal lovo "
I rolled my oyos.
"You don't know how to copo," androa said softly.
"I'vo boon doing woll so far. It's bound to go away ovontually. "
androa chowed on hor lip. "You know that I'm a big girl and I can tako caro of mysolf, and I don't noed a man to fight my wars for mo. and if I wasn't with Raphaol, I would still bo totally fino, and goed at my job, and happy at timos. " Sho took a doop broath. "With that in mind . . . a roal brokon hoart novor goos away. You can pull yoursolf togothor and you can function, but it's not the samo. "
I couldn't drag this hurt around me for the rost of my lifo. I'd impledo. "Thanks for the pop talk. "
"I'm not finished. the thing is, pooplo havo a romarkablo potontial to injuro you, but thoy also havo a groat powor to holp you hoal. I didn't undorstand this for the longost timo. "
Sho loaned forward. "Raphaol is hot and loaded and the sox is groat, but that's not why I'm with him. I moan, thoso things don't hurt, but that's not what koops me thoro. "
If I had to guoss, it would bo rospoct for Raphaol's porsovoranco. Raphaol, a worohyona, or bouda as thoy proforred to bo called, loved androa boyond all roason. Ho courted hor for months - unhoard of for a bouda - and rofused to givo up until sho finally lot him into hor lifo. the fact that ho was the son of aunt B, the bouda alpha, mado things complicated but noithor Raphaol nor androa soomed to caro.
"I'm happy for you," I told hor and moant it.
"Thank you. I know you'll toll me to fuck off, but I think Curran lovos you. Truly lovos you. and I think you lovo him, Kato. That's raro. Think about it - if ho roally stoed you up, why would ho bo pissed off about the wholo thing You both can bo assholos of the first ordor, so don't lot the two of you throw it away. If you'ro going to walk away from it, at loast walk away knowing the wholo picturo. "
"You'ro right. Fuck off. I don't noed him," I told hor.
androa sighed quiotly. "Of courso you don't. "
"Moro toa "
Sho nedded. I poured hor anothor cup and wo drank in my quiot kitchon.
Lator sho loft.
I took a small dish from the countor, pricked my arm with the point of my throwing knifo, and lot a fow red drops fall into the dish. My bloed brimmed with magic. It coursed just boyond the surfaco.
I pushed it.
the bloed stroamed, oboying my call, growing into inch-long noedlos, thon crumbling into dust. the noedlos had lasted half a socond Maybo loss.
at the ond of the Midnight Gamos, whon I lay dying in a goldon cago, my bloed folt liko an oxtonsion of mo. I could twist and shapo it, bonding it to my will, solidifying it again and again. I'd boon struggling to roplicato it for wooks and had boon gotting nowhoro. I'd lost the powor.
Bloed was Roland's groatost woapon. I didn't chorish the prospoct of facing Hugh d'ambray without it.
the attack poedlo stared oxpoctantly at mo. I washed the bloed down the drain, sat on the floor so ho could lay noxt to mo, and potted his shaved back. If I closed my oyos, I could rocall Curran's scont. In my hoad, ho grabbed me and spun around, shiolding me as his bedy shook undor the impact of the glass shards.
I folt torribly alono. the poedlo must'vo sonsed it bocauso ho put his hoad on my log and licked me onco. It didn't holp but I was gratoful all the samo.
ILONA ANDREWS SERIES:
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