Magic Dreams Page 7

“They will kill her,” he growled.

“If she’s lucky, they will kill her.” Mother crossed her arms.

Jim looked at her.

“White tiger, powerful magic. She heals very fast. They’ll put her in a cage and harvest her parts over and over. She’ll be their organ factory. We’ve heard of such things happening. She can’t go.”

Jim’s face was terrible. When Curran was angry, he roared. Jim never roared. Jim did this … this horrible stone-faced thing, where the only indication of life on his face were his eyes. They were hard and furious and full of icy calculation. He scared me when he looked like that. My throat closed up, and I just wanted to sit in the corner and be small.

Today I didn’t have that luxury. The anxiety sat in my chest. I swallowed. Come on, blind girl. You can do it. “We need the snail, Mother. He will die without it.”

“There has to be another way,” Jim said.

I shook my head.

“Then I’ll get it myself,” Jim said.

“Ha! Keong Emas is not some black bear. It’s very rare. They won’t sell it to you,” Mother said.

I met Jim’s eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. You can’t show up there with an entourage of shapeshifters and force them to sell you the snail. You can’t buy the snail yourself, because they won’t sell to you.”

Jim opened his mouth.

“No, you can’t get a different shapeshifter to go get it, because the snail looks ordinary, until someone with enough magic touches it, and I’m the only one I can think of with that much magic, besides Kate, and Kate is hobbling around with a cane at the moment, so she can’t go either. And no, you have no choice, Jim, because there is no other way.”

Jim’s eyes sparked.

“That won’t work either. Even if you put me under guard, I will still get out,” I told him. “It doesn’t matter how many people you attach to me, I will curse my way out if I have to. I won’t sit here and watch you die.”

He snarled. I showed him my teeth.

A rolled-up newspaper landed on my head and then on Jim’s. “None of that in my house!”

Oh my gods. The alpha of Clan Cat just got smacked with a rolled-up newspaper. “Mom!”

She pointed at me with the newspaper. “Do not shame me.”

I clamped my mouth shut. When she pulled out the shame card, it was all over.

My mother stared at Jim. “You will go with her tomorrow, when the market opens. You will bring my daughter back to me, unharmed, do you hear? And you better be worth it.”

Jim held her gaze.

If he struck at my mother, I’d strike him back.

Jim opened his mouth.

I tensed until it hurt.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Oh phew. Dodged the bullet. Not that I thought he would really strike at my mother, but you just never know.

“Take him outside, to the tree,” my mother said. “And keep him awake until morning. He falls asleep, he dies.”


THE TREE GREW in the inner yard formed by the backs of two houses on one side and a sturdy stone wall on the others. A long twisty pond took up half of the yard. Pink lotus blossoms and yellow lilies thrust from the dark water, flanked by the round leaves. In the middle of the pound, a statue of Lakshmi rose, surrounded by shrinking violets in orange glazed pots and linked to the shore by dark stepping-stones. Philodendrons bordered the pond, fighting for space with bamboo and ferns. Gold bird of paradise plants bloomed here and there. To the left a bunut tree rose with a small teak bench beside it. A bucket and ladle waited by the trunk.

I led Jim to the bench. “Sit here.”

He sat.

I dipped the bucket into the pond, set it between us, and sat on the low stone wall of a flower bed.

He looked around. “It’s a nice garden.”

I nodded. “I like it. It quiet and beautiful. Most Indonesians are Muslim, but we’re Hindu. A place for meditation is important to us. The tree you’re sitting under came from the seed of a very special holy tree in Bali, the Bunut Bolog tree. It’s a type of fig. The Bunut Bolog tree is so large and so powerful that it is like a forest by itself. It has a hole at its base, and the hole is so wide, there is a two-lane road running through it.”

“Why did they build a road through the sacred tree?” Jim asked.

“It was too dangerous to go around it because of the cliffs. They thought about cutting the tree down, but the spirits of the tree’s guardians refused to allow it, so they just had to make the best of it. It’s not wise to piss off the tree’s guardians. They are ferocious.”

“What sort of guardians?”

I gave him a little smile. “Tigers.”

Jim grinned. “Tigers, huh.”


He leaned forward. His face was calm and I wanted to kiss him. I couldn’t help it.

“You looked worried after that newspaper thing,” he said. “I’m sorry for that. I didn’t mean to make you—”

If he said “scared,” I would make him wear this damn bucket on his head. Vegetarian and half blind, I was still a shapeshifter, a predator. I had my pride.


Hmm, upset I could probably live with. He didn’t need to know that. “I wasn’t upset.”

“My point is, I would never hurt you or your family.”

I raised my chin at him. “If you tried to hurt my mother, I would totally kick your ass.”


“Yes. You would be lying on the ground, crying, ‘No more, no more,’ and I would be kicking you in the stomach, wham, wham, wham!”

He laughed softly. He was so terribly handsome. Here we were sitting two feet from each other, and we might as well be on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.

“I don’t want you to do this,” Jim said. “I don’t want you to go there, I don’t want you to get hurt trying to help me. It’s not your job to save me.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.”

“Look, tomorrow I’ll go in there myself, and if I choke somebody long enough, they will bring the snail.”

“Aha. And how do you plan on determining if they’ve brought a garden snail or a golden one?”

“I’ll spray somebody’s magic blood around until the snail lights up.”

“Good plan.” I dipped my ladle into the bucket and tossed the water at him.

He recoiled. “What the hell?”

“You’re delirious from lack of sleep.”


“The poachers are smart and a lot of them have magic. Some of them can tell what kind of a shapeshifter you are from a hundred yards just by looking at you. If you go to the Underground tomorrow, you will fall asleep there, alone and helpless, and then the poachers will kill you and cut you into tiny pieces, and then your precious werejaguar bones will be sliced into thin wafers and put into wine, so some sicko can have magic powers in bed.”

He let out a frustrated snarl.

“It’s just like with the tea—somebody offers you a gift, and you turn up your nose at it.”

“You’re taking chances again. I won’t let you do it.”

“It’s cute of you to think you can stop me, Jim. Usually you order me around and I do what you say. I might gripe and I might make a fuss, but I will do it, because you are my alpha and I respect you. On this, you get no respect. You know nothing about this world. Your rules don’t apply here, but mine do. You will follow my lead and you will let me save you, Jim.” Because thinking about you dying makes me hurt.

He opened his mouth.

“If it was the other way around, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” I told him.

“I’m your alpha. It’s my job to keep you safe.”

“It goes both ways,” I said.

He rubbed his hands over his eyes. I tossed another ladleful of water at him.

“Quit it!”

“You looked sleepy.”

“I’m not sleepy, I’m at the end of my patience with this stupid hocus-pocus shit.”


Fine. He could be dense and pissed off all he wanted, it didn’t matter.

We sat in silence. Off to the side night insects chirped and seesawed sad little songs. Tomorrow would suck. It would suck so much, and we didn’t even know what was wrong with him. I wished the markets would be open already so we could get it done before he fell asleep again.

“Do you at least have a plan?” Jim asked.

“Yes. Most likely we’ll have to get down to Kenny’s Alley in the Underground. That’s where the most expensive animal parts are sold. I will go inside the shop. You will wait outside. I will offer them a lot of money for the snail. If I get in trouble, I’ll scream and you will get me out.”

“A hell of a plan.”

I wrinkled my nose at him.

“And if I fail to bring you back unharmed, your mother will skin me alive.”

“She might just turn you inside out.”

Jim had this funny long-suffering look on his face, and then his eyes sparked. “So does she grill every guy you bring home?”

I don’t bring guys home, you stupid, stupid man. “Ignore it. She’s just worried. I’m almost thirty and still unmarried. It’s a big deal in my culture.” Not that he would understand.

“I like it how wealthy trumped black.”

“Jim, ignore it, okay?”

“Okay.” He raised his hands up.

Gah. “She’s desperate, all right? She just wants me to be happy, and she’s afraid I’ll never make a good match.”


Oh my gods. “What do you mean, why? Jim, look at me.”

He did. “Yes?”

What, now I had to spell it out? Talk about humiliating. “My mother tried to describe me in a glowing light: She went through all my virtues.”

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