Home > Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)(5)

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)(5)
Author: Ilona Andrews

A woman appeared in the doorway—my petitioner. Slender and elegant in that willowy way of tall and naturally slim people, she wasn’t simply attractive, she was gorgeous: beautifully cut Asian eyes, perfect skin, full mouth, and blue-black hair that spilled over her shoulders in a glossy straight wave. Her dress was black and clingy. Her shoes made my calves ache.

And she looked familiar, but for the life of me I couldn’t recall where I had seen her before.

“Kate Daniels?”

That’s me. “Yes?”

“My name is Myong Williams.”

We shook hands awkwardly. “Please, sit down.”

She sat in the client’s chair and crossed one lean leg over the other in a whisper of fabric.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?”

She hesitated, unconsciously repositioning her legs to better show them off. “I’ve come to ask you for a favor.”

“Of what nature?”

“Personal.”

She fell silent. We’d reached a standstill.

Something clicked in my brain. “I remember where I’ve seen you before. You’re Curran’s…”—lover, mistress, honey-bunny—“significant other.” Dear God, what could the Beast Lord’s concubine possibly want from me?

“We’re no longer together,” Myong said.

Her problem wasn’t connected to Curran. Good. Great. Fantastic. The more distance that lay between me and the Beast Lord, the better it was for everybody involved. We had worked together during the Red Point Stalker case and almost killed each other.

Myong shifted in her chair, adjusted the hem of her dress with a casual swipe of her fingers, and furrowed her meticulously waxed eyebrows. “You and Maximillian…”

The mention of Max’s name brought a bit of unease. I had thought I was over him. We had met during the investigation of Greg’s death. He was handsome, smart, occasionally kind, and very interested in me. I had wanted…I was not sure what the hell I had wanted. Intimacy. Sex. Someone to come home to. It didn’t end well. In fact, he probably hated me. “Max and I are also no longer together.”

Myong nodded. “I know. We’re engaged.”

I didn’t quite catch that. “Who?”

“Maximillian Crest and me. We’re engaged to be married.”

The world had just stood on its ears. “So let me get this straight. You and my—” Ex-boyfriend would be inaccurate since technically we were never a couple. “Could have been” boyfriend was plain stupid. “You and Max are an item?”

“Yes.”

Awkward, to say the least. I felt no jealousy, but talking to her made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t pinpoint why. I forced my lips into a smile and leaned back. “Congratulations. What do you want from me?”

Myong looked uncomfortable. “It’s customary to ask Curran’s permission.”

“You mean he has to approve your marriage to Crest? Even though you and Curran are no longer together?”

“Yes. I’m a member of the Pack.”

That explained things. Curran ruled the shapeshifter Pack with an iron fist. Every shapeshifter in the Southeast called him lord. Unless that shapeshifter was a loup, in which case he usually didn’t have a chance to call Curran anything before the Beast Lord ripped him to pieces. I looked her over and arched my eyebrows. “Fox?”

She sighed. “Everybody thinks that. I turn into a mink.”

I tried to imagine a weremink and failed. It would appeal to Crest, though. “You still haven’t told me why you’re here.”

“I asked Curran,” she said.

“And he said no?”

“No. He didn’t say anything. It’s been two months.” Myong leaned forward, hands folded together. “My alpha refuses to broach the question to Curran. I was hoping you could ask my lord for me.”

“Me?”

“You have a certain amount of influence with him. You saved his life.”

You want me to ask your ex-lover/homicidal shapeshifter who scares me shitless to let you marry my “ex–could have been” boyfriend? You’ve got to be kidding. “I think you overestimate his opinion of me.”

“Please.” Myong bit her lip. The fingers of her left hand gripped and twisted the fingers of her right, exposing the small jagged white line of a scar on her wrist. Left-handed. She had slit her own wrist, probably with a silver blade—a dramatic gesture and completely futile. It took more than a three-inch cut to bleed a shapeshifter dry. She was looking at me, seemingly unaware of what her hands were doing. “Max said you would understand.”

Oh, hell. He didn’t come himself, though, did he?

I glanced at her. She looked off-balance, almost as if someone had knocked her legs out from under her, but she hadn’t hit the ground yet. I had seen precisely the same look on her face before, three months ago. It had happened right after the Red Point Stalker called the Pack Keep. Curran and I had finally figured out who he was, and he wasn’t happy about the situation. The Stalker had held a phone to a woman’s mouth so Curran wouldn’t miss a single whimper and tore her to pieces until she died. The woman had been one of Curran’s former lovers. I had sat in on the call and as I was walking back to my room, trying not to cry, I saw Myong through an open doorway, hugging herself, that very look of utter helplessness contorting her face.

With this recollection, a feeling flooded me, a feeling of being too dumb to see what was under my nose, of being scared, hounded, and alone, dashing about the besieged city, blundering from one mistake to another while all around me people died. It grabbed me by the throat. My pulse raced and I swallowed, reminding myself that it was over. Back then, when I was drowning, Crest offered me a straw, and I almost dragged him under with me. He deserved to be happy. Without me.

“I’ll ask,” I said.

She exhaled. “Thank you.”

“I don’t know if I can convince Curran. Your lord and I have a tendency to infuriate each other.” And every time we met, something of mine got broken. My ribs, my roof, my hammer…

She didn’t hear the last part. “I know we can. Thank you so much. We’re so grateful.”

“Incoming,” Maxine’s voice warned in my mind.

A familiar lanky figure appeared in the doorway of my office. About five ten, he wore pale jeans and a light T-shirt. His brownish hair was cropped very short. He had a fresh, clean-cut face and velvet brown eyes framed in embarrassingly long eyelashes. If it wasn’t for the promise of a masculine square jaw, he would be bordering on “pretty.” On the plus side, if he ever had to fight through a room full of adolescent girls, he only needed to blink a couple of times, and they would all faint.

But his prettiness and smoky eyes were misleading. Derek was a killer. He’d seen more suffering in his eighteen years than some people packed into half a century and it had sharpened him to a razor’s edge. I hadn’t seen him since Red Point, when my big mouth managed to get him sworn to protect me with a blood oath. Curran had since released him from his oath, but a pledge sealed in blood didn’t just go away. Its aftereffects lingered. That had been the first and last time I would ever screw with the Pack’s hierarchy.

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