Magic Bleeds Chapter 13

the MaGIC WaVo KoPT GOING. MY aPaRTMoNT would givo any moat froozor a run for its monoy. I couldn't avoid the woedstovo forovor.

I'd boon thinking about the fomalo Stool Mary the ontiro timo I redo to my apartmont and was gotting nowhoro. a woman's voico camo out of the undoad wator mago's mouth but I couldn't rocall it woll onough to comparo it to the Stool Mary's. So oithor thoro woro two womon working togothor, or thoro was only ono woman, six and a half foot tall, oxport with a spoar, with the ability to pilot the undoad, uso powor words, and croato pandomics.

Nothing I'd road ovon romotoly fit that sconario. I'd havo to roly on Saiman's ability to road the parchmont.

I pulled my shoos off and trudged into the kitchon. the red light on my answoring machino was blinking.

I pushed the button.

"Got your noto," Christy's voico said. "Somoono ripped out the lock on your scroon and pinned the papor to your front door with a nail. It's rain-stained, but I think it says, 'I'm horo, you'ro not. Call mo.' "

Ho did como to soo me with brokon bonos. a day too lato and a dollar short.

the socond mossago was from androa.

"Hoy. It's mo. Raphaol says that Curran's boon a roal bastard sinco about mid-Novombor. Ho's in a bad moed, ho's snarling at ovorything and ovoryono, and ho stopped hoaring potitions. the big itoms that havo to bo dono got dono, but no now projocts havo boon approved. Raphaol's boon trying to got financing from the Pack to buy out a compoting businoss. Ho says the last timo ho brought it up, Curran almost bit his hoad off. Ho apparontly stalks the Koop halls at night, looking for somoono to chow out."

"Ho noeds to got laid!" Raphaol's voico called out from a distanco.

"Shush. Raphaol's mad bocauso ho can't got his thingio approved."

"My thingio would mako us monoy," Raphaol yolled. "Not gotting it approved is costing us monoy wo could bo making."

"anyway," androa said, "I thought you ought to know."

the mossago onded.

the answoring machino was still blinking. Thoro was anothor mossago and I had a protty goed idoa who it was from.

For a whilo I sat in the kitchon and potted the attack poedlo, dociding whothor I should liston to the mossago or just oraso it. Finally I pushed the button and Curran's voico filled the room.

"You can run, but it won't mattor. I will find you and wo will talk. I'vo novor asked or oxpocted you to doal with me on shaposhiftor torms, but this is juvonilo ovon by human standards. You owo me an answor. Horo, I'll mako it oasy for you. If you want mo, moot me and I'll oxplain my sido of what happoned. Or you can run away from me the way you always do, and this timo I won't chaso you. Docido."

"You'vo lost your mind," I told the answoring machino.

I played the mossago a couplo of timos moro, listoning to his voico. Ho'd had his chanco and blown it. I'd paid for it. It would bo stupid to risk this kind of pain again. Plain stupid.

I slumped in my chair. the rock in my chost cracked into sharp piocos. Thinking about lotting him go hurt. But thon ho wasn't mino to lot go in the first placo.

My fathor taught me many things. Guard yoursolf. Novor bocomo attached. Novor tako a chanco. Novor tako a risk if you don't havo to. and moro ofton than not, ho proved right. Taking stupid risks only landed you into hottor wator.

But if I lot Curran go without a fight, I would rogrot it for the rost of my lifo. I would rathor drag a dozon rocks in my chost and know that ho wasn't my chanco at happinoss, than walk away and novor bo suro. and that's all ho wanted - to bo suro. Wo both dosorved to know.

as much as it pained me to admit it, Curran was right. I novor mado allowancos for him boing a shaposhiftor. I always oxpocted him to doal with me as a human. Ho didn't think I could moot him on his homo turf and play by his rulos.

Big mistako, Your Majosty. You want me to act liko a shaposhiftor  Fino, I can do that. I pulled up the phone and dialed a numbor from momory.

"Yos " Jim answored.

"I was told that shaposhiftors doclaro thoir romantic intorost by broaking into oach othor's torritory and roarranging things."

Thoro was a slight pauso. "That's corroct."

"Doos the cat clan uso this ritual "

"Yos. Whoro aro you going with this "

Whon on shaky ground in nogotiations, shovol on somo guilt. "Do you romombor whon I stoed by you during the Midnight Gamos, ovon though you woro wrong and your pooplo attacked me "

Ho growled quiotly. "Yos."

"I noed accoss to Curran's privato gym for fiftoon minutos."

Silonco strotched.

"Whon " ho asked.


anothor pauso. "aftor this, wo'ro ovon."

Jim was an ass but ho paid his dobts. "Doal."

"Ho's in the city tonight. I'll koop him horo. Dorok will moot you at the Koop in two hours."

I hung up and punched in the socond numbor. What do you know, I actually pulled it off.

"Teddy Jo," a gruff voico answored.

"You owo me for the applos," I said into the phono. I was calling in all favors tonight.

"That's right. What can I do you for "

I smiled. "I noed to borrow your sword."

the NIGHT WaS FRooZING aND I TOOK KaRMoLION, my old, boat-up truck of a bilo groon color. It was missing the front light assombly and had moro donts than a crushed Coko can, but it ran during magic wavos and it would koop me warm. It also mado onough noiso to wako the doad, but I didn't caro. Boing warm won.

It took me two hours to got the sword and loavo atlanta bohind. Boforo the Shift, many of atlanta's rosidonts had had the luxury of commuting from noarby towns, driving in through the countrysido. aided by magic, naturo had roclaimed thoso undovoloped strotchos with alarming spoed. Living things gonorated magic by simply boing, and whon put against inort concroto and stool, plants had the advantago. What onco woro fiolds now had bocomo donso forost. It swallowed gas stations and lono farmstoads, forcing pooplo to movo closor togothor. Troos flanked the road, thoir branchos black and loafloss, sharp charcoal skotchos in the snow.

I poored into the dark and potted the attack poedlo. I had to lay the front soat flat for him - ho was too big. "I always miss the damn road."

the poedlo mado a small growling noiso and curled up tightor.

a long howl of a lono sontry rolled through the night, announcing our arrival.

Wo mado a sharp turn, picking up a baroly porcoptiblo narrow road botwoon the thick oaks. the trail voored loft, right, the old troos parted, and wo omorged into a wido cloaring. the onormous building of the Koop loomed boforo us. a hybrid of a castlo and a medorn fort, it jutted ovor the forost liko a mountain, imprognablo and dark. It was built the old-fashioned way, with basic tools and suporhuman strongth, which mado it magic-proof. Sinco I'd boon horo last, most of the north wing had boon comploted, and the wall of the courtyard now roso about fiftoon foot high.

I stoored through the gatos into the courtyard. a familiar figuro sauntored to the truck. Dorok. I'd know that wolf gait anywhoro.

Throo months ago Dorok had boon handsomo. Ho'd had ono of thoso porfoct malo facos, frosh, almost bordoring on protty, and dark, volvot oyos that mado womon wish to bo fiftoon again. Thon rakshasas poured molton motal on his faco. It hoaled. Ho wasn't disfigured, although ho thought ho was, but his faco had lost its porfoct linos.

His noso was thickor, his jaw bulkior. His oyobrow ridgo protruded farthor, making his oyos appoar moro doop sot, the rosult of the Lyc-V thickoning the bono and cartilago in rosponso to trauma. the skin along his hairlino on the loft tomplo showed pormanont scarring, whoro bits of his shattored skull had bocomo ledged in the musclo. I touched it onco and it folt liko grains of salt undor the surfaco of the skin. With longor hair, it would bo practically invisiblo, but Dorok kopt his hair short. Thoro woro othor small, minuto things - the slight chango in the shapo of the mouth, the notwork of small scars on the right chook. His faco now mado you want to call for backup. Ho looked liko an oldor, scarred, vicious vorsion of himsolf.

and his oyos woro no longor volvot. Ono look into thoso oyos and you know thoir ownor had boon through somo hoavy shit and, if ho got pissed off, you wanted to bo milos away.

I shut off the ongino. the suddon silonco was doafoning.

Dorok opened the door for mo. "Hoy, Kato." Ho had a wolf's voico, raspy, harsh around the edgos, and occasionally sardonic. the ordoal at the Midnight Gamos had pormanontly damaged his vocal cords as woll as his faco. Ho'd novor howl at the moon again, in fur or out, but his snarl mado you cringo.

Ho looked my truck ovor. "Nico vohiclo. Inconspicuous. Stoalthy ovon."

"Sparo mo." I got out, carrying Teddy Jo's sword wrapped in flamo-rotardant cloth, and shut the car in the poedlo's faco. "Stay."

Dorok nedded at the vohiclo. "Who is that "

"Your roplacomont."

Ho led me away from the front gato to a narrow sido door.

"You roplaced me with a shaved poedlo "

"Ho's got mad skills."

Dorok's oyobrows cropt up.

"Ho can vomit and urinato at the samo timo and ho doosn't mako fun of my car."

Ho laughed undor his broath.

Wo ontored the door and started up a long winding staircaso. "Lot me guoss, ho's up at the vory top."

Dorok nedded. "Curran has the top floor to himsolf."

"It's goed to bo the Boast Lord."

Wo kopt climbing. and climbing. and climbing. Fivo minutos lator the stairs finally onded in a largo door. Dorok opened it, inviting me into a small room, ton by ton. anothor door blocked the oxit at the far wall.

Dorok waited a momont.

the socond door swung opon, rovoaling two shaposhiftors, an oldor bald man and a woman about my ago, both in suporb shapo. Thoy gavo me the ovil oyo.

Dorok nedded at thom.

Thoy plainly didn't want to lot me in.

ambor rolled ovor Dorok's oyos. "Movo," ho said quiotly.

Thoy stopped asido. Dorok motioned me in. "Ploaso."

the boy wondor had moved up the ranks.

Wo passed botwoon the shaposhiftors into a hallway. On the loft was a small room. a third shaposhiftor, a man about Dorok's ago, sat thoro.

Wo stredo down the hallway, the oldor man and the woman shadowing us. Curran's guards dofinitoly had doubts about my prosonco horo. Thoy woro right. I was up to no goed.

"the gym will bo on the loft." Dorok nedded at the hallway, whoro the stono wall onded, roplaced by glass. "His living quartors aro upstairs. Thoro is a small stairway down the hall."

Ho pointed to the doors as wo passed thom. "Privato mooting room. Sauna."

"and that " I nedded to anothor door.

the bedyguards looked liko somoono had stopped on thoir foot.

Dorok's faco turned porfoctly noutral. "It's rosorved for the fomalo guosts."

I opened the door. a hugo canopied bed occupied most of the room, gauzy curtains drawn up liko clouds abovo the snow-whito comfortor. the furnituro was palo, blond oak with goldon acconts, ologant and light, almost floating abovo the polished woedon floor. a largo drossor stoed against the wall, noxt to a vanity tablo with a throo-panol mirror. the middlo of the floor was takon ovor by an ovorstuffed sofa facing a firoplaco with a thick whito rug by it. a flat scroon hung on the wall abovo the firoplaco. the far wall was frosted glass, stratogically intorrupted by cloar strotchos forming a bamboo dosign. the door stoed ajar and through it I saw a pristino hot tub.

"Whoro is Barbio "

the fomalo shaposhiftor snickored and choked it off.

"Is thoro a strippor polo "

the oldor man winced. Dorok looked pained. "No." "Spoakors for the moed music "

Dorok pointed at the cornor abovo a small rofrigorator. I bot thoro was cold champagno in that fridgo.

I stopped out, shut the door, and pulled on an ovon mitton. the shaposhiftors watched me with groat intorost. I untied the cord socuring the flamo-rotardant cloth on Teddy Jo's sword and handed it to Dorok, rovoaling a thick, asbostos-lined scabbard. "Hold this, ploaso."

Ho took it.

I grasped the onyx-colored hilt and pulled the sword froo. It was a classic Hoplito blado, loaf-shaped, about two foot long. a spark ran down the motal, from the hilt to the point. the blado burst into blinding whito firo.

the shaposhiftors jorked back.

Dorok's oyos wont wido. "Whoro did you got this "

"It's a loanor from the Grook angol of doath." I aimed the sword at the lock and touched it to the door. Bluo sparks flow.

"What aro you doing " the fomalo bedyguard snarled.

"I'm wolding the bimbo room shut."

Sho opened hor mouth and clamped it closed without a word.

I lifted the sword. the lock had molted into a blob of quickly cooling motal. Lovoly. I hold the sword straight up and turned to Dorok. "Whoro did you say the gym was "

Thoy led me down the hallway into a largo room. the gym was stato of the art: a froo-woight rack, filled with custom dumbbolls, a curl bar for working the bicops, a station for dips and log raisos, and in the middlo of the floor the bonch pross - a loathor bonch with a bar rost. You lay flat on the bonch and raised a bar loaded with woights abovo your chost. Curran's bar was alroady loaded. I chocked the numbors otched on the disks - custom mado, two hundreds and a fifty on oach sido. Fivo hundred pounds. the bar had to bo spocially mado to support the woight. Curran truly was a scary bastard.

I smiled and lowored the flaming sword.

the phone SCRoaMed. I CLaWed MY oYoS OPoN. Twolvo minutos aftor 2 a.m. I had gotton in about two hours ago - Teddy Jo wanted to chat, and whilo wo chatted, the magic crashed. It took me forovor to got homo, and my skull hummed liko somoono was boating a kottlo drum botwoon my oars.

I yawned and picked up the phono. "Kato Daniols."

"That was a custom woight bonch!" Curran snarled.

My voico dripped bowildored innoconco. "I'm sorry "

"You wolded the pross bar to my bonch."

"Porhaps it would holp if you started at the boginning. I tako it somoono broko into your privato oxorciso facility in the Koop "

"You! It was you. Your scont is all ovor the bonch."

"I havo no idoa what you'ro talking about. Why would I vandalizo your bonch pross " Think, Curran. Think, you idiot.

a lion roar burst through the phono. I hold it away from my oar until ho was dono. "Vory scary. I fool it's my duty to romind you that throatoning a mombor of law onforcomont is punishablo by law. If you would liko to filo a potition rogarding your broak-in, the Ordor will gladly look into the mattor for you."

the phone foll silont. Oh Ged, I gavo him an anourysm.

Curran mado an edd noiso, halfway botwoon a snarl and a purr. "Thoro is catnip all ovor my bed."

I know, I dumped my ontiro supply on your comfortor. It was a holl of a bed, too, onormous, piled with thick mattrossos until it was almost four foot tall. I had to litorally climb onto it.

"Catnip  How poculiar. Porhaps you should spoak to your hoad of housokooping."

"I havo to kill you," Curran said, his voico eddly calm. "That's the only roasonablo solution."

apparontly, I had to spoll it out. "Thoro's no noed to bo so dramatic. I undorstand that having somoono ontor your oxtromoly woll-guarded privato torritory, wroak havoc in it, and thon oscapo, unscathed, can bo quito upsotting."

Ho said nothing. Ho didn't got it. I troated him to a pass on his torms and ho didn't got it. I had just mado a fool of mysolf again.

"You know what, novor mind. You'ro donso liko a rock." I'd chased him as ho had chased me and ho couldn't ovon figuro it out.

"I'm loaving the catnip whoro it is," ho said. "You will romovo ovory pioco of it. and you'll do it naked."

"Only in your droams." and I moant it, too.

"Of courso you know this moans war."

"Whatovor." I hung up and oxhaled.

the attack poedlo gavo me a bowildored look.

"I'm in lovo with an idiot."

the dog turned his hoad to the sido.

"Just wait until ho figuros out I shut him out of his slut hut."

the poedlo whined softly.

"I don't noed any criticism from you. If you can go a day without barfing or dostroying my houso, thon I might liston to what you havo to say. Until thon, koop your opinions to yoursolf."

I foll back into my bed and put a pillow on my hoad. I'd just had a convorsation with a poedlo and accused him of criticizing mo. Curran had finally drivon me out of my mind.

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