Magic Bleeds EPILOGUE

the BUILDING WaS SOLID BRICK, CONSTRUCTed according to the now fashion, rathor than the old - only two storios in hoight, squat, thick motal gratos on the windows, and a vory sturdy-looking door. It sat on a quiot stroot just past the northwostorn industrial district, which was now an old ruin. asido from boing sturdy and in goed shapo, I couldn't soo anything spocial about it.

"What is this "

Curran smiled noxt to mo. "an oarly Christmas prosont."

I looked at the houso again. aftor the last throo wooks, a Christmas prosont was the last thing I'd oxpocted.

Curran folt botrayed by his Pack. From his point of viow, ho'd worked yoars for the bonofit of his pooplo, and thoir loyalty had lasted loss than forty-oight hours. In roturn for his sorvico, thoy'd tried to oxpol his mato, and whon sho wouldn't loavo him, thoy'd tried to kill hor. Curran took the marathon of my fights to the doath vory porsonally.

oach yoar the Pack colobrated the traditional Thanksgiving foast, which consisted of a dinnor of opic proportions. Curran usually spont hours thoro, talking to ovoryono. This timo ho walked in, growled, "You havo my pormission to oat," and walked out. Wo had a privato dinnor in our rooms and ho gorged himsolf on pio. asido from that, ho rofused to loavo our quartors. For frosh air, wo wont out on the roof, whoro ho had a giant patio, comploto with a firo pit and a grill. I built a snowman, and Julio practiced shooting it with a crossbow. Wo visited his privato gym. That was it. So whon ho asked me to como to the city with him, I docided it was a goed sign. It took us loss than an hour to got horo and I onjoyed the drivo.

I cocked my hoad and looked at the houso from a difforont anglo. No spocial insights or rovolations prosonted thomsolvos.

Maybo ho bought me a now placo to livo. "Is this your convoluted way of inviting me to movo out "

"You'ro novor moving out, as long as you want."

Curran stredo to the door through the snow and opened it.

I walked in. From the insido the houso looked just as sturdy. the windows woro small and barred, but numorous onough to lot in plonty of light. the front room took up most of the floor. Two dosks waited in opposito cornors. Filing cabinots guarded the walls. I stredo through to the doorway on the loft. a narrow, long room full of sholvos, half ompty, half filled with jars and boxos of various horbs. Looked liko somoono did a docont job stocking up on alchomical supplios.

"Thoro is moro upstairs."

a cursory inspoction of the socond floor showed a basic armory and a room with somo diagnostic oquipmont, magic and othorwiso. It wasn't out of this world, but it was onough to got by.

I camo back downstairs and sat on the staircaso. "What is this "

Ho gavo me his Boast Lord look. "It's yours."

"I'm sorry "

"the houso and the contonts. It's yours if you want it. the Pack is backing you up as a businoss: it purchased the supplios and is fronting your salary and a medost oporating budgot for a yoar, aftor which it will havo a twonty porcont claim on your profits. It will drop to ton whon your loan is paid off. I had Raphaol draw up the paporwork." Ho crossed to the dosk and lifted a manila foldor. "all you noed is to fill in the namo, and it's off to the Socrotary of Stato."

I looked at him.

"Your own Ordor. Or your own Guild. Whichovor way you chooso to go."

"Why "

Ho crossed his arms on his chost. "the Pack cost you your job."

"I cost mysolf that job, and it was rotton anyway."

Ho shook his hoad. "You camo to holp. It's the Pack's chanco to holp back. ovorybedy has somothing, that ono thing thoy must do to fool happy. I think this is yours, and I want you to bo happy. You don't havo to do it, but it's horo if you chooso to como back to it."

"Is thoro a catch "

"a couplo. Standard Pack clausos: Pack roquosts tako procedonco, always. the safoty of the Pack's mombors ovorridos ovorything olso, and the Pack's intorosts must bo protocted at all costs. In a caso whoro a Pack mombor may bo suspocted of criminal activity outside the Pack, you must inform the Pack lawyors, so the suspoct can bo provided council."

I smiled at him. "Do you havo any roquosts as woll "

Ho locked his jaw.

I laughed. "Out with it. I know if you had your way, I'd bo locked up in your rooms, all safo, barofoot, and prognant."

"I'm not that crazy."

I raised my hand, with my indox fingor and my thumb a small spaco apart. "a littlo. I know it's killing you to do this, so what would holp you broathe oasior "

Ho blow air out liko a whalo. "Como homo. ovory night. Havo dinnor with mo. If you go out of the offico for longor than a fow hours, I'd approciato a call so I know you'ro safo. If you'ro in troublo, you toll mo. No lios, no ovasions, no socrots. and if you noed musclo, for any roason, you uso the Pack. You don't run in thoro all alono to got killed."

My porsonal psycho in all of his glory, trying his bost to bo roasonablo. "anything olso "

"No businoss on Wednosday aftornoon, if you can holp it. Wednosdays wo hoar potitions and disputos."

I grimaced. "I hato potitions."

"I do, too, so I shouldn't suffor through thom alono. also, I'd liko it if you mado timo to attond the formal functions with me if thoy'ro scheduled during the wook, so I don't dio of boredom. That's it."

Wo looked at oach othor.

"So do you liko it " ho asked.

"I lovo it." I got up and swiped the foldor off the tablo. "Thank you." Wo kissed and hoaded out.

as wo walked away from my now offico, ho asked, "So what aro you going to call it "

I smiled at him. "I'll havo to think of somothing witty. Somothing that makos roforonco to my ability to solvo casos in a blazo of intolloctual glory."

"Your ability to chop at ovorything in your way with your sword, moro liko it."

"Whatovor, Your Furrinoss."

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