Home > Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(7)

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(7)
Author: Ilona Andrews


   Next to him, the five-foot-tall Ella seemed even smaller. Perfectly ordinary, with brown hair about an inch longer than her shoulders and a pretty, pleasant face, which was usually free of makeup, she would’ve been at home in a sandwich shop or a vet’s office. People tended to underestimate her. Petite and wicked fast, Ella liked the wakizashi and she cut things to ribbons with it.

   The rest of the mercs fell between these two extremes: lean and bulky, tall and short, some carrying blades, others carrying bows. They were Curran’s elite team, the nucleus around which he was building the new Guild.

   He’d formed this team when he took a job everyone in the city turned down. Even the Red Guard had bowed out. The Four Horsemen, the Guild’s best team, straightout called it suicide. Curran and I took the gig, Eduardo threw in his lot with us, and somehow the Guild coughed up nine people crazy enough to join us and good enough to live through it. We got the job done, the Guild’s gigs doubled overnight, and the ten of them got a certain reputation. They were the Guild’s best of the best and after that job, they would die for Curran.

   Neither of us had a good feeling about the upcoming conversation with Roland. Curran would stay behind. First, it would make the negotiations easier. Things would get heated, and given that my father and my fiancé got into pissing matches over which way the wind was blowing, it would be better to handle this one by myself. And second, if something happened to me, Curran was the only one who could hold the city and possibly get me back out.

   He would try. If things did go sour, he would sprout fangs and claws and march his team of hard cases brandishing savage weapons into Lawrenceville to try to pry me loose from my father’s grasp. I had to make sure it didn’t come to that, because it wouldn’t end well for everyone involved.

   I leaned over to Curran and kissed him. His arms closed around me and he squeezed me to him for one bone-crunching second.

   “I’m off.”

   “I’ll be right here,” he said.

   “Have fun with your A-team. Sharpen some knives. Clean some guns. Don’t kill anybody while I’m gone.”

   “I can’t make any promises.”

   I climbed into Cuddles’s saddle. The black and white mammoth donkey twitched her ears.

   “I’ll tell dear old Dad you’re sorry you missed him.”

   Behind Curran, Eduardo snorted.

   Curran bared his teeth. “Not as sorry as he’ll be if I have to come and see him.”

   “Hey, Daniels,” Ella called out. “Bring us back some cookies.”

   “What makes you think there will be cookies?”

   “When I go home to see my parents, there are always cookies.”

   If Roland did have cookies, they’d probably make me spit fire. “I’ll see what I can do.”

   I started down the road. In its glory days I-85 was a giant of an interstate road, six regular lanes and two express lanes on each side. The magic had fed the tree growth. The pavement crumbled at the edges under the relentless onslaught of magic waves, making it easier for the roots to raise the asphalt, and the once mighty highway turned into a forest road. The huge hickories, maples, and white ashes flanked it, warring for space with colossal live oaks tinseled with Spanish moss. The heat was brutal, the sun pounding the road like a hammer. It would take me about twenty minutes to get to Lawrenceville, and by the time I made it, I’d arrive well-done with a crispy crust. I stuck to the tree shadows.

   What the hell could Roland possibly want with Saiman?

   Thinking about it made me clench my teeth. He came into my territory. He took one of my people out. No matter how I felt about him, Saiman was an inhabitant of Atlanta. If I had hackles, they would be standing up.

   You’d think he would stop screwing with me fourteen days before my wedding. As a common courtesy.

   I still hadn’t bought the dress. I’d gone shopping for it three times and come back empty-handed because I didn’t see anything I wanted.

   Ahead Derek stepped out from behind a thick ash, moving with the easy gliding grace of a shapeshifter. In his early twenties, with broad shoulders, and a face hardened by life’s grinder, he looked at me with dark eyes. With some shapeshifters the nature of their beast was more obvious. Even in his human body, Derek looked like a wolf. A predatory, solitary, smart wolf.

   “I was beginning to wonder where you were.”

   The former boy wonder shrugged his shoulders. “I scouted ahead.” His voice matched his looks: low, threatening, and rough.

   “Anything?”

   “No patrols between us and Lawrenceville.”

   I wasn’t sure if that was good—because I wouldn’t have to intimidate and possibly kill anyone—or bad, because my father apparently worried so little about me presenting a threat that he neglected to defend his base.

   “You look like you want to murder somebody,” Derek said.

   “Don’t I normally look that way?”

   “Not like this.”

   “It’s probably because I have one nerve left and my father keeps jumping up and down on it.”

   I kept riding. Derek trotted next to me.

   “Curran told me about the Conclave,” he said.

   “Mm-hm.”

   “Why does Nick hate you?” he asked.

   “You know the story about Voron and me? How after Roland killed my mother, Voron raised me?”

   Derek nodded.

   “Whenever we came through the Atlanta area, Greg Feldman would visit us. When I was older, I thought it was odd, because Greg was a knight-diviner and Voron steered clear of the Order whenever he could. I asked him about it once, and he told me that he, my mother, Greg, and Greg’s ex-wife, Anna, used to be friends. Then after Voron died, Greg became my guardian. Occasionally he would take me to Anna’s house. She didn’t like me at first, but eventually she helped me. She is a precog. I used to wonder why I haven’t heard from her for a while, but it makes sense now.”

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