Home > Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10)(8)

Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10)(8)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“You must be so proud.”

“Oh, I am.”

“I’ll see you around, Raphael.”

“You will, Kate.”

He left.

Well, that was that. I felt oddly hollow. No more funny one-liners. No more tortured Latin. No more off-color jokes. It had been moving to this moment for a while, but it still made me feel empty.

Derek walked into the office. “What did Raphael want?”

I shook my head. “Nothing important.”

Derek eyed the bottle of cider and pulled two small paper bags out of a larger paper bag. The delicious aroma of Mexican spices filled the air. Chicken soft tacos. My favorite. The closest Mexican place was about two miles off. He’d gone to get them for me.

I got up, got two glasses, opened the cider, and poured some for us. He landed in the client chair and bit into his taco. I chewed mine. Mmm, delicious.

“I’m going to go back to Serenbe tomorrow,” he said. “I want to do a wider search. See if I can pick up a trail.”

“Okay,” I said.

We chewed some more.

“Do you ever want wealth?” I asked.

Derek paused his chewing. “No.”

“I mean, do you ever want more money?”

He gave me a one-shouldered shrug. “My bills are paid. Got enough for food, got enough for tools of the trade, can buy Christmas presents. What else would I need?”

I nodded. We drank our cider and ate our tacos, and it was nice.

CHAPTER

3

TWO BIG GRAY eyes regarded me from a round face, lit up by the morning light filtering through the kitchen window. Conlan pushed the oatmeal away. “No.”

“Yes.”

“Huny.”

I crossed my arms. “Did Grandma give you honey muffins yesterday?”

His eyes lit up. “Gama!”

“Grandma isn’t here.”

My son made nom-nom noises.

When I was pregnant, I tried to avoid doing dangerous things, which left me with a lot of time on my hands. I’d spent it reading baby books. Those books made it crystal clear that giving honey to your baby before he was a year old made you a terrible mother. The moment a spoon of honey would touch his lips, the words “Awful Mother” would appear on your forehead, forever branding you as a parenting failure. I had explained this to Mahon and Martha. They listened, nodded, and agreed, and then proceeded to ignore me. They’d been giving him honey and various honey-infused sweets since he was able to hold them in his tiny hands and then lied to my face about it. Werebear parents-in-law came with their own challenges.

“You’re not getting honey. You will eat oatmeal.”

“No.” He pushed the cereal away.

“Okay. Then you’ll go hungry.”

“Huny!”

In baby terms, my son was developing at the speed of light. At thirteen months, most babies had a vocabulary of three or four words. Mama, dada, bye-bye, uh-oh. The experts called this phase passive language acquisition. My sweet dumpling was making tiny sentences and arguing with me about honey. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was proud or frustrated. Probably both.

“I have to do a lot of work today,” I told him. “And neither your grandparents nor your aunt can watch you, because they have clan business. So, you’re stuck with me.”

“Huny.” Conlan sniffled.

“I don’t negotiate with terrorists. Oatmeal or nothing.”

I put some oatmeal into my own bowl from the pot, added salt and butter, and spooned it into my mouth. “Mmm. I’m going to eat all this and be nice and full.”

Conlan watched the spoon travel to my mouth. One. Two . . . Three . . .

He pulled the bowl to him and dug in with his spoon. Hunger won again. My son wasn’t a shapeshifter, but he certainly ate like one.

I licked my spoon. Today was going to be a busy day.

The phone rang. I picked it up. “Hello.”

“Hey, Kate,” Luther said.

He didn’t call me a heathen or a troglodyte. Things were bad. “How did it go?”

“You were right. They extracted the bones.”

My mind took a moment to digest it. “What kept the bugs away?”

“We don’t know yet. The substance is magically inert, but not devoid of magic. It registers blue on the m-scan, but I can’t tell you if it’s due to human remains or the nature of the solution itself. Is your sensate around?”

“No.” Julie was still off with Curran. I wished they were home.

“A pity.”

“Did you find any inhuman blood in any of the houses?”

“We found hair,” Luther said. “Coarse, reddish brown, short. In one of the houses, someone tore a chunk of it out of their attacker.”

“DNA?”

“We are running it now.”

“Is it hair or fur?”

“Good question. It has an amorphous medulla, consistent with human hair, and a coronal cuticle, which can occasionally be found in humans but typically indicates a rodent, a bat for example. Human head hair continues to grow until we cut it. This hair exhibits synchronized growth, meaning at some point it stopped growing, like fur. It wasn’t cut. But it also exhibits a club root, which is typical to humans. It is inconsistent with shapeshifter hair in some respects and consistent in others.”

“Are you trying to tell me this is a human-bat hybrid?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Frustration spiked his voice. “I’m trying to tell you that I spent twenty-four hours digging in a jellied mass grave and then analyzing what I found, and I have nothing to show for it.”

“That’s not true. You have a sample for comparison.”

“I’ll let you know if I find anything else.”

“Thanks.”

“And, Kate? If you run across this again, I want to know about it the moment it happens.”

“That might be a little difficult, Luther. Last I checked, telepathy wasn’t among my talents—”

He hung up.

“Someone’s pissy,” I told Conlan.

Conlan didn’t look impressed.

I dialed Nick’s direct number. Usually I went through the proper channels, meaning Maxine, but he hadn’t called me back, and Biohazard wouldn’t notify them. The Order’s legal status as a law enforcement agency had always been murky; however, after the Wilmington Massacre, the knights were firmly outside the law. Some kids at UNC in Wilmington took a fun new drug that turned them into monsters. It also robbed them of their intelligence, because their monstrous rampage consisted of running around their dorm and growling at passersby. The Order was called in, and instead of securing the scene and waiting, the knights made an executive decision to go in and slaughter everyone they found. Midway through the slaughter, the magic wave ended, and the kids turned back into humans. The Order didn’t stop. When the blood stopped spraying, twelve young people were dead. At the trial, the knight-protector of the Wilmington chapter testified that he didn’t care if they returned to human form or not. In his opinion, they stopped being human when they took the drug. The national fallout was catastrophic.

Some states still recognized the Order’s semi-law-enforcement position, but Georgia wasn’t one of them. All cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the Order had ceased as of last year. I didn’t care for the Order’s methods or for Nick calling me and my baby abominations every chance he got, but the Order had accumulated decades’ worth of magic knowledge. If my going to Nick would help prevent another Serenbe, it would be worth it.

The message I’d left yesterday was short. It had only two words: “Call me.” He knew I wouldn’t come to him unless it was an emergency. Since he hadn’t called me back, I felt the need to make this one slightly longer.

That done, I sat Conlan down and got his fire truck out of storage. The truck was a gift from Jim and Dali for his first birthday. Large enough for a small child to sit in and climb on, it had a tiny enchanted water engine, which powered lights and a ladder during magic waves. It must’ve cost them an arm and a leg. Conlan adored the truck. He showed no interest in riding in it, but he liked to climb on the roof, which usually took him a solid minute and multiple tries. Once he ascended, he would wave his arms and make strange noises. Sometimes he fell asleep on top of it. Like his dad, my son enjoyed being in high places.

   
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