Magic Strikes Chapter 4


"Aunt, huh?" I said to say something.

Raphael nodded. "That's how the bouda clan used to make its money. We'd bet on ourselves.

It was different back then. Now we have the Pack, which provides us with operating funds.

We draft a budget. We have an investment plan and own shares in businesses. But back then there was no such thing as a 'Pack.' There were isolated clans and we pretty much sank or swam on our own."

The bouda clan counted less than twenty people. Sixteen years ago, it must've been even smaller. They couldn't have had an easy time of surviving. "Who was on the other team in the championship?"

"Four navigators from the People." Raphael counted off on fingers. "Ryo Montoya, Sam Hardy, Marina Buryatova-Hardy, and Sang. As much as I hate the fuckers, it was a deadly team."

Of that, I had no doubt.

"Why would the People involve themselves in the fight?" Andrea frowned.

"They were just building the Casino. There was some talk of money gone missing and repercussions coming down their chain of command if it wasn't found fast. They bet a lot and needed to win."

"So what happened?" I leaned forward.

Raphael grimaced. "The People had an edge. The bloodsuckers tore the rat in half and my aunt's guts were all over the Pit. Looked like curtains for Andorf's Seven."


"Andorf went nuts. Nobody knows if he went loup or just berserk - bears do that sometimes.

He shifted into full beast form, ripped the vamps to shreds, crushed the wolf's skull, then broke through the fence around the Pit, and went after the navigators. They ran, and he chased them through the crowd. Mauled whoever got in his way. Killed all four and over a hundred spectators. Then he rammed the wall and took off."

"Holy crap." Andrea drained a third of her milk shake.

"Yeah. Not the best way to end the night."

An enormous were-Kodiak gone mad on the streets of Atlanta. A Kodiak trained as a fighter, smart as a human, stronger and bigger and badder than the average bear. It would have been the ultimate nightmare for the shapeshifters.

"There was a massive manhunt," Raphael said. "Andorf hid in Unicorn Lane."

An area of deep, wild magic, Unicorn Lane sliced across Downtown like a scar. Treacherous magic swirled and pooled there even during tech. Even the Military's Supernatural Defense Unit didn't dare to stay too long.

"An assembly of clans was called to try to figure out how we would deal with that mess, because all sorts of shit had broken out. The People were calling for the expulsion of all shapeshifters; the zealots came out in force with that Sign of the Beast crap again. It couldn't have gotten more screwed up. This clusterfuck needed to be fixed and fast. The wolf clan was the largest."

"Of course." Andrea snorted.

"Francois Ambler headed the wolf clan at the time, and people called for him to go and take Andorf down. He wouldn't do it. The way my mother tells it, he got up and just walked away.

Abandoned the clan, gave up being an alpha, and took a ley line out of town." Raphael smiled. "What happened next only the alphas know. But I can tell you the facts: three days later Andorf's head showed up on the Capitol's steps. And two days after that, Curran became Beast Lord. The first law he made forbade Pack members from participating in or betting on the Games."

I counted in my head. Two thousand twenty-four, I was nine. Curran was only a few years older than me . . . "How old was he?"



Raphael nodded. "Yeah."

We sat in silence for a long minute, digesting the story. What meager hopes I had of finding a sympathetic ear within the Pack in regard to Derek's problem had just evaporated into thin air. This was one law on which there wouldn't be any leeway. What should I do now?

Andrea stirred her milk shake with a spoon. "So, how are things with you and Curran?"

There were times in life when I wished for supreme mental powers. Like telekinesis. Mostly, I wanted them to crush my opponents. But right now I wanted them so I could pull the chair out from under Andrea and make her fall on her butt.

I settled for spitting three times over my left shoulder.

"Are you warding off evil?" Raphael's eyes widened.

"Well, the two of you did say the forbidden name. I have to take precautions. I need something wooden. Lean forward, Andrea, so I can knock on your head."

Andrea cracked a smile.

"To answer your question, we're great. Never better. I haven't seen His Fussiness in two months, and I couldn't be happier. If my luck holds, he's lost interest and found himself somebody else to hound for his amusement."

During the flare Curran had finally found a way to pay me back for all those times I'd nearly brought him to apoplexy. He had told me I would sleep with him sooner or later and thank him for his services in bed. Hell would sprout roses first.

"He hasn't found anyone, as far as I know," Raphael said. "Nobody has seen him with a woman since the flare. That's not terribly unusual for him, but it's not common either."

I rolled my eyes. "And that means what?"

Raphael leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Have you ever seen a lion hunt a herd?"


"They are very single-minded. When a lion stalks a herd, he sneaks in close, lies down, and surveys them to choose his victim. He takes his time. The deer or buffalo have no idea he's near. He finds his prey and then he explodes from his hiding place and grabs it. Even if another, perfectly serviceable animal ends up within his reach, he isn't going to alter his course. He has chosen, and he would rather go hungry than change his mind. A dumb way to live, if you ask me, but that's their nature. Me, I don't ignore opportunities."

"Yeah." Andrea's voice dripped with sarcasm.

Raphael gave her a hurt look. "I am what I am."

"You're a man first. You sit here in a human shape, wearing human clothes, making human noises. Pretty obvious which part of you is in control. But when someone points out your excesses, you wave your hands around and start crying, 'Oh no, it's the beast! I can't help it!'

" Andrea caught herself and clamped her mouth shut.

I did my best to change the subject. "I think you give our relationship too much credit. I irritate the hell out of Curran and he found a way to pester me. It's nothing."

"You may be right," Raphael said.

"His Majesty needs a can-I girl anyway. And I'm not it."

"A can-I girl?" Andrea frowned.

I leaned back. " ' Can I fetch you your food, Your Majesty? Can I tell you how strong and mighty you are, Your Majesty? Can I pick out your fleas, Your Majesty? Can I kiss your ass, Your Majesty? Can I . . ."

It dawned on me that Raphael was sitting very still. Frozen, like a statue, his gaze fixed on the point above my head.

"He's standing behind me, isn't he?"

Andrea nodded slowly.

"Technically it should be 'may I,'" Curran said, his voice deeper than I remembered. "Since you're asking permission."

He stepped into my view, reached for a chair at a table next to us, and found it bolted to the floor. He gripped the chair and plucked it from the concrete with one hand, leaving four screws sticking out of the floor. He put the chair next to me, back first, and saddled it like a horse, crossing his arms on the top of the back to show off carved biceps.

Why me?

"To answer your question, yes, you may kiss my ass. Normally I prefer to maintain my personal space, but you're a Friend of the Pack and your services have proven useful once or twice. I strive to accommodate the wishes of persons friendly to my people. My only question is, would your kissing my ass be obeisance, grooming, or foreplay?"

Raphael went a shade paler and bowed his head. "By your leave, m'lord."

Curran nodded.

Raphael grabbed Andrea by the hand.

Andrea blinked. "But . . ."

"We have to go now." Raphael's smile had a bit of an edge to it. He fled and dragged Andrea with him, leaving me and Curran alone. Traitors.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies