Magic Rises Chapter 11

The castle seemed to last forever. We crossed one hallway, turned, crossed another, climbed the stairs . . .

"It's a maze," Derek said.

"It's meant to be," I told him. "Like the one under the Casino at home. Except that one was designed to keep vampires from escaping, and this one was made to keep attackers from reaching vulnerable points."

We went up eight flights of stairs, until finally Hibla opened a heavy door. We stepped out onto the battlement and made our way along the top of the wall toward a flanking tower.

"Curran never does anything without a reason," Derek told me quietly.

Well, well, the Beast Lord's sudden breach of manners when it came to Lorelei hadn't gone unnoticed. Derek was trained by Jim to be observant, and now the kid was concerned for me. I was touched he was concerned, but irritation spiked inside me. Navigating my love life was hard enough right now without unwarranted assistance from teenage werewolves.

"Do you know something I don't?"

He shook his head.

We came to a doorway. A heavy door lay on its side next to it. We followed Hibla through the doorway and climbed another set of stairs and emerged on top of the flanking tower. Perfectly round, the tower had been designed to permit bombardment of the northern slope. Not that anything could come up that way-the ground dropped off so abruptly, it had to be only a couple of degrees short of a completely vertical cliff.

An antipersonnel machine gun sat on a swivel mount, facing to the south. A high-speed, medium-sized scorpio sat behind the machine gun on a rotating mount. Shaped like a very large crossbow, the scorpio was the Roman equivalent of a machine gun. It fired arrows with enough speed to pierce armor, and judging by the cranks, this one was a serial-fire, self-loading siege engine. It would take two people to operate, but once they cranked it up, the scorpio would spit enough arrows to cut down a small army. Both the gun and the scorpio rested on a rotating platform, and switching between them in case of a magic wave would take mere seconds. Smart, Hugh. Very smart. We'd have to steal this setup for the Keep. Assuming we made it back to the Keep.

Two djigits stood by the siege engines. Both seemed pale.

Hibla nodded and they moved aside, revealing a long bloody smear on the stone. A severed arm lay against the wall. Long, thin fingers. Could be female. I crouched. Scratches marked the stone. To the right, bits of jackal fur stuck to the blocks, glued with dried blood. Next to them lay an orange scale. Hibla's jackal had gone down fighting.

I pulled a small plastic bag out and picked up the scale to take back to Doolittle. There was more than one of these things out there.

Derek inhaled, crouched low, and smelled the stones.

"There are four tower lookouts," Hibla said. "The shift changes every twelve hours, at six in the morning and six in the evening. This morning Tamara relieved the night lookout. This is all we have left of her."

"Who has access to the tower?" I asked.

"Nobody. Once the lookouts enter the tower, they bar the door behind them. The door was still barred when Karim came to relieve her. We had to take it off its hinges."

"Did the other lookouts hear anything?"


I looked at Derek. "Anything?"

"Similar scent as in the hallway," he said.

Locked door, heavy weaponry. The only access was from the air. So the wings had been functional after all. Still, the one I'd killed didn't have a wingspan wide enough for it to fly. It was a heavy bastard, too. I turned. The main building of the castle rose in front of me. Tall, blocky, with a blue roof.

"It glides," I said. "It probably took off from the main keep, swooped down, and rammed Tamara." The fight must've been brutal and quick, because the werejackal didn't have a chance to call for help.

"Why did it take the body?" Hibla asked.

"I don't know." Something had taken the other guard too, the one who'd stood over the mechanism guarding the hallway gate. "Have you ever heard about anything like that?"

Hibla shook her head. "It is not local. I know all of the local creatures."

"There must be miles of mountains out there." And some of them spawned mutant kangaroo goats with bone axes in their chests. "Are you sure these shapeshifters haven't crawled out of some dark ravine?"

She crossed her arms. "I told you I know all the local creatures."

I fought to keep from grinding my teeth. She'd invited me in and now she'd decided to get all defensive. "Any rumors of anything similar? Anything at all?"

"No. I need useful information. You are not being useful."

I thought of telling her to bend over so I could remove the iron stick she had jammed up her ass, but getting into a fight with the head of Hugh's security wasn't in our best interests. I needed to maintain a working relationship, because I might have to rely on Hibla later.

Derek was leaning over the wall. "Kate?"

I came over. The southern wall rose above a large square inner yard. Practice dummies sat along the walls. Past them a big metal cage hung from chains, about five or six feet off the ground. A pile of rags lay inside it.

The pile stirred. A rag was thrown back and then a grimy face stared up at me.

"Who is that?"

"A prisoner," Hibla said.

"Why is he in a cage?"

"He belongs to Lord Megobari. He's a criminal. This is his punishment."

Hugh put people in cages. Lovely. "What's his crime?"

"He stole."

"Take me to talk to him."

Hibla grimaced. "It's forbidden."

"The contract the clans signed gives me the authority to pursue and eliminate any danger threatening Desandra. A similar creature attacked her and we can now conclude there are more of them out there. That tells me Desandra is in danger. If Lord Megobari makes an issue of it, tell him I insisted. He will believe you."

Hibla's face told me she had no doubt about that part. "Follow me."

We entered the tower and descended a spiral staircase.

"Their scent is odd," Derek said. "Like someone shoved sandpaper up your nose. Must be something they give off only when transformed, because I haven't smelled it before."

"How tight is your security?" I asked.

If looks could conduct electricity, Hibla would've electrocuted me on the spot.

"I'm not questioning your competence," I told her. "I'm trying to do my job. If a stranger scales the wall, how fast would you know about it?"

"If he entered the keep, immediately," Hibla said. "We have patrols at the doors and in the hallways. They are trained to remember scents and faces."

"What if he entered one of the minor buildings?"

"We do rolling sweeps of every structure twice a day. We may not see him, but we would smell him. I would know within twelve hours."

I had to give it to Hugh, his security was good. "Any strangers since we arrived?"

"Aside from you and the three packs, no."

"How many people, besides us and you, are in the castle?"

"The Volkodavi have eighteen, the Italians have twenty, and Jarek Kral has twenty also."

That was fifty-eight, and including us would make it an even seventy. "And you are confident your people can recall seventy different scent signatures?"

Hibla looked at Derek.

"Yes," he told me. "Five hundred people come to the Keep during any week. I recognize every single scent."

I knew that shapeshifter scent memory was good, but I had no idea it was that good. Thinking about remembering five hundred scent signatures made my head hurt.

"How can you be the Consort and not know this?" Hibla said, in the way someone would say, Of course the Earth is round; what are you, a moron?

Derek bared his teeth. Great. If he went for Hibla's throat, I'd have a mess on my hands.

"In the U.S., shapeshifters don't volunteer information about themselves to others," I told her. "I learn as I go, and the subject of just how many scents you can recall never came up."

Hibla checked Derek's face. "We can recall thousands. Knowing this is important." Her tone made it plain she thought I was a moron unfit for duty. First Desandra, now her. I was beginning to get tired of the constant you-are-not-a-shapeshifter song.

"Learning other things was a priority."

"What other things?"

"How to effectively kill one of you with a six-inch knife. I'm a fast learner and I had a lot of practice. Turns out there is a way to jam the knife blade under the cervical vertebrae in such a way that your neck pops right out. Remind me some time, I'll show you."

Hibla blinked.

Derek laughed quietly.

"What about the head of the man I killed? Do you know his scent?"

"No," Hibla admitted.

"So he wasn't with any of the packs."


"And we don't know how he got into the castle?"

Her upper lip wrinkled. "No."

Strangers or not, the assaults had to be coming from one of the three packs. Someone had made a bargain with the devil and now these creatures were walking among us disguised.

We came to a heavy steel door barred by a metal rod as thick as my arm. It had to weigh at least fifty pounds. Hibla casually lifted it with one hand and pushed the door open. We emerged into the courtyard and I made a beeline for the cage.

The prisoner saw me. The pile of rags shifted and a dirt-smeared hand reached between the bars toward me.

"Please . . ."

Next to me Derek grimaced. A moment later I caught it too, the stench of stale urine and feces. Hugh was a fucking bastard. "Your magnanimous Lord Megobari lets him sit in his own excrement."

There was a small pause before Hibla answered. "It can't be helped."

Yes, it can. It definitely can.

We reached the cage. A man looked at me through the bars with feverish eyes. Not that old. It was hard to tell with all the dirt, but possibly twenties. Filthy dark blond hair. Scarce beard. His cheekbones stood out, sharp like blades on his gaunt face. Unless he was naturally emaciated, they were starving him.

"Please," he whispered.

English. Fantastic.

"Beautiful lady, please, water."

I pulled a canteen off my belt and passed it to him. He grabbed it and drank greedily, gulping the water.

"Easy. If you drink too much too fast, you'll vomit."

The man kept drinking. His hands shook. He barely looked human.

"How long has he been in the cage?"

"Two months," Hibla said.

Dear God. "And the last time he had water?"

"He gets a cup of water and a cup of gruel every morning."

This was torture. Hugh gave him just enough to keep him alive but not enough to end thirst and hunger. I'd done without water before. When you don't have it, that's all you can think about. I didn't care what the man had stolen; putting him in a cage and letting him rot in his own filth was inhuman. "How can you follow a man who does this?"

Hibla squared her shoulders. "My father was a dispatcher at the Gagra railroad station. When the Shift happened, he turned into a jackal in the middle of the station. Once the magic wave was over, the railroad guards cornered him and shot him, and when he wouldn't die, they threw him under the incoming train. And then they hunted down our family. Me, my mother, and my two brothers, we had to run into the mountains with nothing but the clothes on our backs. When I walk through the town now, people bow to me. You want to know why I follow Lord Megobari? I do it because I am not the one in the cage. You can be outraged all you want. It bothers me not at all."

The prisoner clutched his stomach and vomited water onto himself.

Hibla sneered. "Abzamuk."

The man shook his head, drank another desperate swallow, and hugged the canteen to him. "Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Christopher. Christopher. I am."

"Why did they put you into the cage?" Derek asked.

"I stole. Very bad, very, very bad. Wrong. It was a book. I wanted the knowledge." His gaze fixed on me. "Beautiful lady, kind lady. Thank you."

Derek glanced at me. "He isn't all there."

No, he definitely wasn't. Either he was nuts to begin with or sitting in the cage shook a few screws loose. Crazy or not, the desperation in his face was real. Hugh could let him die in this cage and it wouldn't bother him at all. It bothered the hell out of me.

"Christopher, today a guard died on top of the tower," I told him. "Did you see what happened?"

He looked at me with eyes that were luminescent with a mix of innocence and wonder. "I see everything. I see wonders."

Right. Lights were on, but nobody was home. "Could you tell me what you saw?"

"A beast." The man raised his hands, his fingers spread like claws. "Big, orange beast. Swooped down-whoosh-dead doggie."

Dead doggie was right.

"It is the hunter of heavens. A celestial protector."

Celestial protector. Chinese legends spoke of dragons that acted as celestial guardians, but none of them looked like cats with wings. "What do you mean by 'celestial protector'?"

"A guardian who no longer guards. A predator of the sky."

That didn't help me any. "In what country would I look for this predator?"

"It doesn't exist." Christopher gave a sad smile. "Rocks and memories forgotten."

"What happened after the beast killed the guard?"

"Then I died for a little while. I often die, but just for a minute or two. Death never stays. She only visits."

"Christopher, focus. What did the beast do after he attacked the woman?"

"I will tell you. I will tell you all, but water." Christopher held the canteen upside down, his face sad. "No more. All empty. Nothing left. Sonst nichts."

That last bit sounded German.

"You give me more water and I will tell you. Everything." Christopher nodded.

"You'll tell her everything anyway," Hibla growled. "Or-"

Or nothing. "Derek, please give me your canteen."

Derek handed the canteen to me. I held it up. Christopher focused on the canteen.

"Tell me what you saw and it's yours."

"Water first."

"No. Information first."

Christopher licked his lips.

I moved the canteen toward Derek. I would go to hell for this.

"The beast took the woman. Off the wall. There!" Christopher pointed at the wall. "It bit her neck and carried her away."

On the other side of the wall was a sheer cliff. Made sense. Tamara was a grown woman, at a minimum an extra hundred pounds of deadweight, probably more. To carry her off, the beast would have to start a glide somewhere high. Leaping off the wall with several hundred feet of clear air under you would be perfect and nobody could follow it. Our investigation just withered at the root and died.

"Did the beast speak? Did you see anything else?"

Christopher shook his head and reached for the water. We wouldn't get anything else out of him. I gave him the canteen. He clutched it and hid it under his rags. Crazy, yes. Dumb, no.

We walked away.

"I shared with you," Hibla said. "What are your thoughts?"

I had to be diplomatic. "I'm formally advising you to double the patrols."

"We will," Hibla said. Green rolled over her eyes. She'd asked for my advice, but she really didn't like me telling her what to do.

Diplomatic. "Did you tell Lord Megobari about this?"

She raised her chin. "We provide security. It is our problem."

Right. Someone in the castle was turning into a giant creature nobody had ever seen before and then making off with the guards, but let's not tell the person in charge about it. Why, that would be ridiculous. In fact, let's keep him in the dark as long as possible, so when he's attacked, he will be caught completely off-guard. Kick-ass strategy.

"Glorious lady!" Christopher called from the cage. "You are so kind!"

At least I had made his life easier, if only for a little while. "We need to see the top of the main tower."

Hibla raised her chin. "I will take you."

As we walked away, Christopher grabbed the bars. He didn't say anything. He just sat there and watched us walk away.

"You seem to think that I know nothing," Hibla said, as we walked through the hallway up to another set of stairs. "I am good at what I do."

You know what, screw it. "I get it. You probably worked hard to get where you are now. You run this place the way you want to run it, and usually you have no issues. Now you have a castle full of heavy hitters who are at each other's throats, a human who is stepping on your toes, and some weird creatures that are killing your people. You are trusted and you don't want to let anyone down. This is your home and your job. I don't want either."

She stared at me. I couldn't tell if I was getting through or not.

"All I want to do is to keep my people safe and go home. We are not opposed to each other. We want the same thing: you want us gone, and I want to be gone. I'm not a threat. I have experience, and together we would be much stronger. You must realize this, because you found us and brought us to your murder scene. But I can't work with you if every time I suggest something or question something, you bristle like a hysterical hedgehog. You can choose your pride and lose more people, or you can work with me. You still might lose more people, but at least you'll know you did everything you could to avoid that. Let me know what you decide."

She studied me. "What's a hedgehog?"

"A animal with needles on its back."

"How do I know it isn't you who is doing this? It started when you came."

"Good question," I said. "We didn't do it, because we have no motive. We want the panacea. Making sure Desandra safely gives birth is the only way to get it. Why would we attack her or your guards?"

Hibla clamped her jaws shut and didn't answer. We climbed the stairs, made our way through more hallways, and finally emerged onto the roof of the main keep, a square of stone.

Derek turned and sniffed. Hibla did, too.

"I smell urine," Derek said for my benefit.

They walked to the edge of the roof, and the stench hit me, a musky, ammonia-soaked odor, like someone had mixed vinegar, onions, and fresh urine, given it a good shake, and let it fly.

"Ugh." Derek grimaced.

"Cats." Hibla loaded so much scorn into the word, her voice was practically dripping with it.

A stain marked the stones by the west edge. Derek shook his head and paused by it. "Marks."

Long white scratches scoured the stone, where a cat had dragged his claws across the floor. The scratch marks were four feet long. Tall bastard.

"How did your people not hear this?" Derek asked.

"The castle is full of strange people," Hibla said. "They probably heard it but didn't note it." She bared her teeth. "He marked in our territory. In our house. When I find him, he will die."

Shapeshifters. The fact that he'd killed two of their people was less important than some scratches.

I surveyed the landscape. On the left the sea stretched to the horizon, blue and inviting. I would have to go swimming before this was over. On the other three sides mountains rose, like tall folds of green velvet.

"How many ways can you get to Gagra?"

"The port is the best way. Most of the roads have been destroyed by natural disasters, but there is a mountain pass to the northeast. And the railroad. The trains don't run, but one can walk it. Also there are small private train cars. They go slowly, but you could hire one in one of the bigger cities."

"These shapeshifters are strangers. Suppose a group of them came here. You said they're not local, so they wouldn't know the mountains and they likely have equipment and gear. They don't know the land. They could've flown partway, but gliding always lands you lower than your starting point. It doesn't seem very efficient or very fast. And they would be very noticeable, especially if they flew during the day."

Hibla nodded. "They didn't come through the port. I am notified of everyone who arrives."

"That leaves us with the railroad or the pass. Is there a way to check if anybody came through either?"

Hibla nodded. "There is a fort at the pass. I can tell you by tomorrow if anyone came through."

"What about the railroad?"

Hibla shrugged. "That will be harder, but I will ask some questions. I'm going to station additional guards on the walls and put another sentry here."

"Have them carry torches or flashlights," Derek said.

"We can see in the dark," Hibla said.

"He's right," I told her. "Even with night vision, in the dark you might not notice a guard being attacked right away, but you would notice a fallen torch. It's a pain in the ass and it's tedious, but it's better than being dead."

Hibla nodded. "Yes. You have a fair point."

"I would also interview my people," I said.

"I know every one of them. None of them did this."

"It goes to the theory of the crime," Derek said. "We don't know why these murders are happening and we need to figure out why, so we can anticipate their next move."

I nodded. "Two of your people are dead, Tamara and the guard by the gate. We need to know if there was any link between them. They could be random victims, or they could be part of a pattern. You need to reconstruct their lives. Did Tamara and the other guard have enemies, were they in debt, and so on? Right now we don't know enough."

"They could be targeting Desandra," Hibla said. "They could be targeting one of the packs. They could be targeting Lord Megobari."

"Exactly," Derek said. "We need to collect information and then we can howl in the dark."

* * *

Hibla led us back to the main keep and left us to our own devices in the main courtyard. It was mostly empty, except for some djigits tending to the horses. Above us the sky was so blue and beautiful. I stared into it. Maybe I'd see a flying monster and solve all of our problems.

"Are you waiting for a clue to fall on your head?" Derek asked.

"Yep. Tell me if you see one coming."


"My super mental powers must be getting rusty."

We walked toward Doolittle's room.

"Thoughts?" I asked Derek.

"Jarek," he said. "He has the most to gain."

I had to agree with the reasoning. Desandra's father was the only one who really won if she failed to survive. He wouldn't want to be blamed for it, so he'd somehow hired or allied himself with some weird shapeshifters and now they were trying to nuke his daughter. It was a good theory. Except again Jarek Kral the founder of the dynasty didn't fit with Jarek Kral the daughter killer.

"Why take the bodies?" I thought out loud.

"Hiding the evidence. For kicks. Or food."

I glanced at Derek. Cannibalism was forbidden to shapeshifters. Eating human bodies triggered a catastrophic avalanche of hormones that led straight to loupism. It drove the shapeshifters insane.

We reached my room. I opened the door and stuck my head in. Empty.


Nope. No Curran. Yep, he had a plan. Yep, I wouldn't like it. Now he was actively avoiding me. Great.

The door ahead opened and Barabas stepped out. "A moment of your time, Alpha."

"Sure." I nodded at Derek. "Will you take the scale to Doolittle?"

He nodded. I passed him the bag and he walked off. We watched until he walked into Doolittle's room.

"He's getting grimmer and grimmer," Barabas said.


"Yes. Before long he will start emitting his own dark cloud."

"Maybe we can all sneak around under the cover of his darkness. Do you have some information for me?"

"Yes. But not here." Barabas started down the hallway, back to the stairs. I followed. We climbed the stairs and turned, Barabas opened a door, and we stepped out onto a wide, square balcony.

"This place is a maze," I said.

"And people listen to us in the walls."

We walked to the far end of the balcony.

"Lorelei Wilson," Barabas said. "Twenty-one, daughter of Mike Wilson and Genevieve de Vos. The de Vos family runs one of the largest wolf packs in Belgium. They are based in the Ardenne Mountains, in Walloon, which is a French-speaking region of the country. The family is very prosperous. They obtained their wealth during the nineteenth century from coal mining, and over the years they increased it, using the mineral-rich region to their advantage. Currently they produce steel, and Genevieve, and Lorelei in turn, have access to the money, so it's unlikely that her motives for being here are financial."

She really was a werewolf princess. "How did you manage to get all of this?"

Barabas gave a small predatory smile. "People love to talk and I love to listen. Being a handsome devil doesn't hurt either. I am charming."

"And so full of humility as well."


"What is she doing here, Barabas? She isn't part of any pack that I can see. How did she even know about this meeting?"

"That I can't answer. Not yet. I can tell you that she definitely has an agenda. I watched her flit about yesterday and today. She starts every conversation with flattery. It's a deliberate choice on her part."


The humor drained from Barabas's face. "As your nanny, I now have to bring up an uncomfortable fact."


"Lorelei's standing too close to Curran. She's also monopolizing his time."

"I noticed."

"I don't know why he is doing this, but it's sending a signal to the other packs, and they also noticed."

Ugh. And there was nothing I could really do about that. Threatening Lorelei would paint me as insecure. Not threatening Lorelei would make me look either indifferent or clueless. It would be a hell of a lot easier if His Furriness got with the program and rebuffed her.

"I'm sure it's part of the plan," Barabas said. "I would just like to be clued in on the plan. Just for the benefit of the overall strategy."

That made two of us. "I'll talk to Curran," I said. "What about the creatures?"

"Nothing so far. Nobody has ever seen anything even remotely like this, or if they have, they're not talking."

Figured. "I need to meet with the three packs individually. Can you set this up for tomorrow?"

"Sure. To what purpose?"

"I'd like to howl in the dark."

Barabas frowned. "I don't follow."

"It's a wolf term. When you sense someone in the dark but you don't know if he's prey or a rival, you howl and see if he runs or answers. I'd like to howl at the packs and see if somebody snarls back."

"I see. They will talk to us to avoid offending us and to remove suspicion from themselves, but they might not answer any questions and we can't really compel them to do so."

"I'll take what I can get."

"Okay. I will let you know as soon as I find out more. And Kate?"


"I have your back," he said.

"Thank you."

I left the balcony. Thinking about Lorelei pissed me off, but there was nothing to be done about it now. I would find Curran today and I would figure out what sort of demented plan he had cooked up. Until then, I had to concentrate on keeping Desandra alive.

Both Andrea and George had hunted and changed shape twice in less than six hours. They would be tired. Between the man in the cage and Lorelei, I, on the other hand, was fresh as a daisy. Anger-a better alternative to caffeine.

A shadow peeled itself from the wall and followed me. Derek, moving silently along the hall, like some lethal shadow on soft wolf paws.

"This whole stealthy walking-behind-me thing you're doing is making me feel stalked. Why don't you catch up?"

He trotted over. "Just trying to keep you safe."

Et tu, Brute? "First, Barabas tells me he's got my back and now you're shadowing me. Do the two of you know something I don't?"

Derek shrugged his shoulder. "I don't like this place."

"Neither do I. Did Doolittle look at the scale?"

"Yes. He wants to talk to you."

I reversed my course. We stopped by Doolittle's room. Inside, Eduardo and Keira were playing cards. The good doctor was reading a book by the window.

"How did it go with the scale?" I asked.

"As can be expected, given the lack of equipment." Doolittle peered at me. "I'm not a miracle worker."

"He's stumped and it's making him cranky," Keira said.

Doolittle rolled his eyes. "The scale isn't a scale in the traditional sense. It's a scute."

"That explained nothing," I told him.

"Have you ever heard of a pangolin?" Doolittle asked.


"It's a mammal of the Pholidota family native to some parts of Africa and Asia. It's similar in appearance to an anteater covered with long horny scales."

"It looks like a walking pinecone," Eduardo offered. "Picture an anteater that an artichoke threw up on."

"The bony plates of pangolin are made of keratin," Doolittle said. "Same as our claws or fingernails. The skin has several layers. The top layer is the epidermis, which consists of dead cells. In snakes the scales are formed from the epidermis and they are connected, which permits ecdysis. In other words, snakes eject the entire outer layer of their skin during molting. In theory, a reptile shapeshifter would have scales every time he or she transformed. Scutes are formed in the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin. They are similar to hair in composition in that each one is individually rooted, and while they may be similar in appearance to scales, the two are different."

"So the scale is a scute. What does it mean for us?" I still wasn't quite sure where he was going with this.

"I believe they have a choice," Doolittle said. "When a shapeshifter changes form, he or she controls certain aspects of the change: the length of claws, the density of fur, the bone mass, and so on. That's what makes warrior form possible. If these shapeshifters are capable of both fur and scute production, they may choose which to sprout. Because scutes originate deeper in the dermis, a shapeshifter can keep them hidden until necessary. I also tested the tissue samples from the severed head," Doolittle said. "Their levels of Lyc-V and hormones are nearly double ours. The higher the levels of Lyc-V, provided they don't result in loupism, the greater the shapeshifter's control over his or her body."

"Okay. So what you're telling me is that they can choose to have scales or not to have scales?"


"But what about the wings?"

Doolittle spread his arms. "Bring me a wing and I'll tell you more."

I sighed and took myself to Desandra's room. Derek followed me, which was just as well since he was my partner for the shift.

I stuffed Lorelei far into the deep corner of my mind, the same place I put the realization that Hugh d'Ambray was within killing distance. If I concentrated too hard on either one, I'd do something rash. Rash wasn't in my vocabulary under the present circumstances. Not if I wanted to keep all of us breathing.

At least the Lorelei thing could be solved very simply. I had to find Curran and talk to him. He wouldn't lie to me. Of course, he wouldn't.

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