Home > Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(5)

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(5)
Author: Ilona Andrews

Curran sat next to Mahon. I took the chair between him and Desandra and leaned forward, so I could see Raphael. “Where is Andrea?”

“In the Keep,” he said. “Doolittle wants to keep an eye on her.”

“Is everything okay?” She was due any day.

“It’s fine,” Raphael said. “Doolittle is just hovering.”

And the Pack’s medmage was probably the only one who could force Andrea to comply.

“Boy.” Mahon clapped his hand on Curran’s shoulder. His whole face was glowing. Curran grinned back. It almost made the Conclave worth it.

“Old man,” Curran said.

“You’re looking thinner. Trimming down for the wedding? Or she not feeding you enough?”

“He eats what he kills,” I said. “I can’t help it that he’s a lousy hunter.”

Mahon chuckled.

“I’ve been busy,” Curran said. “The Guild takes a lot of work. Outside the Keep, it’s not all feasts and honey muffins. You should try it sometime. You’re getting a gut and winter isn’t coming for six months.”

“Oh.” Mahon turned, rummaged in the bag he’d hung on the chair, and pulled out a large rectangular Tupperware container. “Martha sent these for you since you never come to the house.”

Curran popped the lid off. Six perfect golden muffins. The aroma of honey and vanilla floated around the table. Desandra came to life like a winter wolf who heard a bunny nearby.

Curran took one muffin, passed it to me, and bit into a second one. “We came to your house last week.”

“I was out on clan business. That doesn’t count.”

I bit into the muffin and, for the five seconds it took me to chew, went to heaven.

The People filed into the room. Ghastek was in the lead: tall, painfully thin, and made even thinner by the dark suit he wore. Rowena walked a step behind him, shockingly stunning as always. Today she wore a whiskey-colored cocktail dress that hugged her generous breasts and hips, while accentuating her narrow waist. Her waterfall of red hair was plaited into a very wide braid and twisted into a knot on the side. I wouldn’t even know how to start that hairdo.

I missed my long hair. It was barely past my shoulders now and there wasn’t much I could do with it, besides letting it loose or pulling it back into a ponytail.

Curran leaned toward me, his voice barely above a whisper. “Why didn’t those two ever get together?”

“I have no idea. Why would they?”

“Because all the other Masters of the Dead are in relationships. These two are unattached and always together.”

Shapeshifters gossiped worse than old ladies. “Maybe they did get together and we don’t know?”

Curran shook his head slightly. “No, I had them under surveillance for years. He never came out of her house and she never came out of his.”

The People took the seats across from us.

“Any pressing business?” Ghastek asked.

Mahon pulled out a piece of lined paper.

Half an hour later both the People and the Pack ran out of things to discuss. Nothing major had happened, and the budding dispute over a real estate office on the border between the Pack and the People was quickly resolved.

Wine was served, followed by elaborate desserts that had absolutely nothing on Martha’s honey muffins. It was actually kind of nice, sitting there, sipping the sweet wine. I never thought I would miss the Pack, but I did, a little. I missed the big meals and the closeness.

“Congratulations on the upcoming wedding,” Ghastek said.

“Thank you,” I said.

Technically, Ghastek and the entire Atlanta office of the People belonged to my father, who had been quietly reinforcing them. Two new Masters of the Dead had been assigned to Ghastek, bringing the total count of the Masters of the Dead to eight. Several new journeymen had joined the Casino as well. I made it a habit to drive by it once in a while and every time I did, I felt more vampires within the white textured walls of the palace than I had before. Ghastek was a dagger poised at my back. So far that dagger remained sheathed and perfectly cordial, but I never forgot where his allegiance lay.

“Ghastek, why haven’t you married?” I asked.

He gave me a thin-lipped smile. “Because if I were to get married, I would want to have a family. To me, marriage means children.”

“So what’s the problem? Shooting blanks?” Desandra asked.

Kill me.

“No,” Ghastek told her. “In case you haven’t noticed, this city is under siege. It would be irresponsible to bring a child into the world when you can’t keep him or her safe.”

“So move,” Desandra said.

“There is no place on this planet that is safe from her father,” Rowena said. “As long as he lives . . .”

Ghastek put his long fingers on her hand. Rowena caught herself. “. . . as long as he lives, we serve at his pleasure. Our lives are not our own.”

Nick Feldman walked through the door. The Order of Merciful Aid typically didn’t attend the Conclave. Not good. Not good at all.

“Here comes the knight-protector,” Raphael warned quietly.

Everyone looked at Nick. He stopped by the table. When I first met Nick, he’d looked like a filthy bum who cleaned up well when the occasion demanded it. When I saw him again, he was working undercover for Hugh d’Ambray, my father’s Warlord, and he’d looked like one of Hugh’s inner circle: hard, fast, without any weakness, like a weapon honed to unbreakable toughness. Now he was somewhere in between. Still no weaknesses, short brown hair, leaden eyes, and a kind of quiet menace that set me on edge.

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