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

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

   Julie was talking to my father and I was powerless to stop it. My father kept coming into my territory, taunting me, and I couldn’t stop that either. And now Julie was riding into his castle to announce me.

   I raised my head and sat up straighter. Cuddles picked up on my mood and broke into a canter. Derek shifted into a run, keeping up. Julie and I would have a long talk when we got home. I didn’t want a Herald, but I wouldn’t leave her without backup either. I would ride into that damn castle like I had a Herald announce every moment of my day, complete with fanfare and banner waving.

   Four guards in leather armor stood by the entrance of the castle, two men and two women, all trim, grim, and looking like someone had found some attack dogs, turned them into human shape, and groomed them into paragons of military perfection. They bowed their heads in unison. Four voices chorused, “Sharrim.”

   Great. This would be a wonderful visit; I just knew it.

   I rode into the courtyard and dismounted next to Julie, who stood at parade rest holding the stupid banner. A small stand waited next to her. They brought her a stand for her flag.

   A man approached and knelt on one knee. I had seen him before. He was in his fifties, with a head of graying hair, and he looked like he had spent all of his years fighting for one thing or another. Having people kneel in front of me ranked somewhere between getting a root canal and cleaning out a sewer on the list of things I hated.

   “You honor us, Sharrim. I have informed Sharrum of your arrival. He is overjoyed.”

   I bet he is. “Thank you for the warm welcome.”

   “Do you require anything of me?”

   “Not at this time.”

   He rose, his head still bowed, and backed away to stand a few dozen feet to the left.

   Around us, the soldiers manning the walls tried not to gawk. A woman exited one of the side buildings, saw us, turned around, and went back inside.

   “You’re grounded,” I said under my breath.

   “I don’t have a social life anyway,” Julie murmured. “Barabas called the house before I left. He says not to burn any bridges.”

   That was Barabas’s standing legal advice when it came to my father. If I burned this bridge, it would mean war.

   “Where is he?”

   “He’s at home,” Julie said. “Christopher had a nervous breakdown and burned a book.”

   That made no sense. Christopher loved books. They were his escape and treasure.

   “Which book was it?”

   “Bullfinch’s Mythology.”

   What could possibly have set him off about poor Bullfinch?

   To the right a man and a woman walked out on the wall from a small side tower. The man wore a trench coat despite the heat. Sewn and patched with everything from leather cording to bits of fur, it looked like every time it had been cut or torn, he’d slapped whatever fabric or leather he had handy over the rip. There was a particular patch on the left side that I didn’t like.

   His face was too smooth for a human, the lines perfect, the dark eyes tilted down at the inside corners. His hair was cut short and tousled as if he’d slept on it and hadn’t bothered brushing it for a couple of days, but it was a deep glossy black and looked soft. He was clean-shaven, without so much as a shadow of stubble on his jaw, but somehow managed to look unkempt. The color of his face was odd too, an even olive hue. When most people described skin as olive, they meant a golden-brown color with a slight green undertone. His olive wasn’t darker, but stronger somehow, more saturated with green. The hilt of a sword protruded over his shoulder, wrapped with a purple cord. The same purple showed beneath his coat.

   The woman towered next to him. Easily over six feet, dark skinned, with broad shoulders, she wore chain mail over a black tactical outfit and carried a large hammer. The body beneath the chain mail was lean: small bust, hard waist, narrow hips. She was corded with muscle. Her hair, in short dreadlocks, was pulled back from her face. Shades hid her eyes. Her features were large and handsome, and fully human, although she looked like she could punch through a solid wall. A purple scarf, gossamer light, hung from her waist.

   “On the wall, the pair to the right,” I said quietly.

   Both Derek and Julie kept looking straight ahead, but I knew they saw them.

   “That’s human skin on the left side of his coat.”

   If things went sour, those two would prove to be a problem.

   Forty feet above us, the door of the tower opened and my father stepped out onto the stone landing. Magic clung to him like a tattered cloak. He was reeling it in as fast as he could, but I still felt it. We’d interrupted something.


   “Father.” There. I said it and didn’t choke on it.

   “So good to see you.”

   He started down the stairs. My father looked like every orphan’s dream. He’d let himself age, for my benefit, into a man who could reasonably have a twenty-eight-year-old daughter. His hair was salt-and-pepper, and he’d let some wrinkles gather at the corners of his eyes and mouth, enough to suggest experience, but he moved like a young man in his athletic prime. His body, clad in jeans and a gray tunic with rolled-up sleeves, could’ve belonged to a merc who would’ve fit right into Curran’s team.

   His face was that of a prophet. Kindness and wisdom shone from his eyes. They promised knowledge and power, and right now they glowed with fatherly joy. Any child looking at him would know instinctively that he would be a great father; that he would be nurturing, patient, attentive, stern when the occasion required (but only because he wanted the best for his children), and above all, proud of your every achievement. If I had met him at fifteen, when Voron died and my world shattered, I wouldn’t have been able to resist, despite all of Voron’s conditioning and training to kill Roland. I had been so alone then and desperate for any hint of human warmth.

   Julie was an orphan. She had me and Curran, but we were her second family.

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