Magic Gifts Page 13

I sat, enveloped in warm air. It felt nice, but not hot enough to chase away the ice built up on my spine. I didn't want to visit Håkon. Several people I knew had gone to see him. Only two came back, and Dagfinn was one of them.

The world blinked. The magic vanished, snuffed out, like a candle by the draft. A mixed blessing: as long as the magic was down, the necklace wouldn't constrict Roderick's neck any further, but we couldn't see Håkon without it.

Voron, my adoptive father, had always warned me that friends would make me soft. When you cared about people, you forged a bond, and that bond made you predictable. Friends weren't for me. Greg, my now dead guardian, took that a step further and added lovers to that ban. When you loved someone, your enemies would use it against you.

Neither of them had predicted that being in love and being loved in return made you value your life much higher. I liked my life. I had a lot to lose now.

Curran emerged from the door, pulled the bag off his hand, and tossed it into the garbage can we kept up here for the times we ate outside. He walked in complete silence, like a tiger stalking through the forest, quiet and confident. I liked to watch him, provided he didn't know about it. His ego was threatening the ozone layer as it was.

Curran sat next to me and put his left arm around my shoulders and kissed me. There was a slightly possessive edge to the kiss.

"Through the Guild and no."

"Hm?" he asked.

"You were about to ask how I know Dagfinn and if we ever were more than friends. We never were friends, actually. I got suckered by the Guild into bringing him in twice. He was wanted for the fines and destruction of property."

Curran grimaced. "No, it never crossed my mind that you'd be with Dagfinn. He's undisciplined idiot. Give me some credit. I know you better than that."

I shrugged and leaned closer against him. "This is fucked up."

"Yes, it is. Can you think of any other way to find Ivar?"

"No. Maybe Doolittle can try removing the collar during tech?"

Curran shook his head. "I asked. He says it will kill the boy. He says we have thirty six to forty eight hours, depending on how long the magic lasts. There is a good chance the next magic wave will be the boy's last."

Two days before Roderick with his owlish eyes died, choked to death.

"Do you remember a few years ago a detachment of PAD disappeared? Eleven cops, armed to the teeth? It was in the papers?"


"That was Håkon."

"Is that his name?"

I nodded. "I didn't say it in front of Dagfinn so he wouldn't freak out. Whoever we take will die. If we don't take anybody, the boy will die."

"We explain it and ask for volunteers." Curran drew me closer. "Those are the choices we make."

"I'm tired of those lousy choices." If you put all the people I killed together, their blood would make a lake. I was wading through it and I had no desire to make it any deeper.

We sat next to each other, touching.

If Curran asked for volunteers, the Pack would cough some up. I would have to look at their faces, I would witness their deaths, and then I would have to tell their families about it, assuming I survived. Assuming Curran survived.

The thought pissed me off. We'd do it. There was a child on the other end of that equation, so yes, we would grit our teeth and do it. But it made me so mad. I could've strangled Aurelia if I got my hands on it. She knew what the collar did, and she deliberately chose between her husband and her son.

"Can Håkon be killed?" Curran asked.

"No. The Cherokees have tried for years. All they can do is contain him on that hill. If he's destroyed, he just reassembles himself." I growled. "I don't want to do this."

"I know," he said.

"Do you think less of me?"

"No." Curran stroked my back. "Like I said, these are the choices we make, and sometimes every choice is bad, and then you sit by yourself and remember all the horrible shit you had to do and have done, and you deal with it. It will eat you alive if you let it."

I straightened and touched his cheek. "Well, you don't have to sit by yourself anymore. We'll sit together."

He caught my hand and kissed it. His eyes turned dark. His fingers curved into a fist. He looked predatory. "I wish I could rewind to that second and crush her skull before she put the necklace on the kid."

"I know. I wish there was a way to get to her."

He looked at me. "I thought about it. If we approached Forney's house at night..."

"Curran, we can't break into the house of the DA. The fallout for the Pack would be enormous."

"I know, I know." Muscles played along his jaw. He hated to have his hands tied and so did I. "But if we use someone outside of Atlanta for the DA job..."

"It's a bad idea. Even I know it's a bad idea."

He looked at me. He was still thinking about it.

"No," I told him.

Curran swore.

Screwing with the DA would get us a witch hunt in a hurry. He knew it and I knew it. No, there had to be another way. Some way where the boy survived and our people didn't die.

I sighed. "I envy navigators sometimes. All they do is sit in the Casino and drink coffee, while the bloodsuckers run into dang-"

I stopped in mid-word.

Curran's eyes lit up.

"You think he would go for it?"

"Oh yes. Yes, he will go for it." He jumped off the wall. "Come with me."

"Shouldn't we have some sort of a plan? Ghastek isn't an idiot. We can't just call down to Casino and tell him, 'Hi, we're going on a suicide mission, wanna bring some vampires to be our bullet meat?'" Bloodsuckers were expensive. The very idea of taking four or five of them into danger with miniscule chances of survival would give Ghastek an aneurism.

"I have a plan." Curran grinned at me.

"Please enlighten me, Your Majesty."

"I'm going to make Jim figure it out," Curran said.

"That's it? That's your plan?"

"Yes. I'm brilliant. Come on."

I hopped off the wall and we went down the stairs.

If anybody could figure out how to rope Ghastek into this scheme, Jim would be the man. Served him right for all those times he pushed me into the line of fire.

Payback is a bitch.

*** *** ***

We trapped Jim in one of the conference rooms and explained our brilliant plan.

"This is payback, isn't it?" Jim glared at me.

"Don't be ridiculous," I told him. "As the Consort of the Pack, I'm far above petty revenge."

Jim tapped the clipboard with several pieces of paper on it against his forearm. "I'll do it if you go to the Guild tomorrow."

"You'll do it, because I asked you to," Curran said.

Jim turned to me. "Will you do the Guild thing?"

I had a dying kid on my hands and all he cared about was Guild idiocy. "Maybe. I don't know yet. I'm kind of busy at the moment."

Green flashed in Jim's eyes. He yanked a piece of paper from the clipboard and thrust it at me. It looked like a long list.

"What is this?"

"This is the list of all the phone calls I've gotten about this shit in the last week and a half. The mercs have gotten every damn member to call me here." He shook the list in Curran's direction. "You want to know why your background checks aren't done? This is why! I could get it done if your mate would stop dicking around and just dealt with it."

Oh it's like this then. "Then I have a great idea. Since they're all calling you, why don't you stop dicking around and deal with the Guild. You have the same time in as I do."

"I have a job!"

"So do I! Why is your time more important than mine?"

The clipboard snapped in Jim's fingers. He dropped it on the ground and raised his hands. "You know what, I'm done. I quit."

"Oh my God, seriously?"

Jim wiped his hands one against each other and showed them to me.

"Is that you washing your hands off?"


"Really? So what, you're going to retire and open that flower shop you always wanted?"

Jim's eyes went completely green.

"Enough," Curran said. An unmistakable command saturated his voice. Jim clicked his mouth shut.

I crossed my arms. "I'm sorry, is this the part where I fall to my knees and shiver in fear, Your Furriness? Silly me, I didn't get the memo."

Curran ignored the barb. "What's your problem with the Guild?"

"The only way to resolve it involves me being entangled in running it and I don't want to do it." I waved my arms. "I have the Consort crap and I have the Cutting Edge crap and whatever other bullshit the two of you throw my way. I don't want to go to the Guild every month and deal with their crap on top of everything else."

Curran leaned toward me. "I have dress up and meet with those corpsefuckers once every three months and be civil while we're eating at the same table. You can deal with the Guild."

"You, dress up? Wow, I had no idea that putting on your formal sweatpants was such a huge burden."

"Kate," Curran snarled. "They're not sweatpants, they are slacks and they have a belt. I have to wear shoes with fucking laces in them."

"I don't want to do it! I hate the policy crap." I so didn't need the Guild politics in my life. It was complicated enough, damn it. "I don't have time for it."

"Everybody hates the policy stuff," Curran growled. "You will do it."

"Give me one reason why."

"Because you know those people and some of them are your friends. The Guild is sinking and they're losing their jobs."

I opened my mouth and clamped it shut.

"Also, because I'm asking you to do it," Curran said. "Will you please resolve this, baby?"

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