Home > Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(15)

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(15)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“When did it become ‘my land’?” he asked quietly. “It was ‘the city’ just a few months ago.”

“It became my land when I claimed it. Nobody else wanted to step up and defend it from him.”

“What about them?” He nodded slightly toward the mercs arranging Stoyan in a vehicle. “Did they not step up? Did I not step up?”

I wanted to hit him.

Full stop.

I took a deep breath and blew the air out.

Where did that come from? I loved him.

“Barabas is a friend,” Curran said.

“And?”

“You seem to have forgotten that. I’m reminding you.”

I didn’t like the way he was looking at me. Like he was trying to figure out if there was something wrong with me.

“Roland’s grooming Julie to become his next Warlord. She’s still talking to him and there is nothing I can do to stop it.”

“I’ll speak to her,” Curran said.

“It won’t do any good. We both talked this into the ground. He’s got his claws into her and I don’t know how to pry her loose.”

“We’ll fight for her,” he said. “To the very end. But she’s her own person, Kate.”

“She’s a kid! He’s thousands of years old.”

“She’s sixteen and it’s an old sixteen. She loves you and me. I’m not worried. He tried his shit on me, he tried it on you, and we’re both still here. We didn’t run off to join his crazy parade. Julie is our child. She bucks against authority. I don’t think it’s as bad as you think. But there will come a point when she’ll make a decision you don’t like and you’ll be powerless to stop it.”

But I wasn’t powerless. I could order her and she wouldn’t be able to refuse my command. And then I would become my father.

“I’m going to the office,” I told him. I was done talking. I needed space and time to sort myself out.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll drop by later, after I’m done at the Guild.”

“If you want.” Okay, I was being a total ass now. “I’d like to see you.”

“As you wish,” he said.

• • •

I DROVE TO the office in our Jeep, wishing I could punch something in the face to vent my frustration. Barabas was right. I’d lost my temper. Curran was right, too. Barabas was a friend and deserved better. The fact that they were right only made me madder.

Something happened there when Curran stood in front of me. Something that almost overrode my brakes. He challenged my authority, just like my father challenged my right to hold the land, and I had felt myself teetering on the precipice. The urge to enforce my will was so strong. Thinking about it made me uneasy.

This wasn’t me. None of this was me.

I had a lot of energy I desperately needed to burn off. My whole body buzzed. I had packed a magical punch but never let it rip, and the unspent magic was driving me crazy.

I parked in front of Cutting Edge, walked to the office, and stuck my key into the lock. The key wouldn’t turn. Being a trained detective, I deduced that the door was unlocked.

I didn’t want to see anybody or talk to anybody. I wanted an hour by myself so I could have a lovely date with a heavy punching bag.

Standing here with the key in the lock was stupid, so I opened the door and walked in. Ascanio, our bouda intern, sat at his desk, holding cards. Roman occupied the chair across from him.

Oy.

The black volhv was wearing his trademark black robe with silver embroidery along the hem. His knotted six-foot-tall staff stood propped against the wall. The staff’s top, carved into a monstrous bird head, remained wooden for now. I gave it the evil eye. It had the annoying habit of coming to life and trying to bite me.

“So three of a kind beats two pair?” Ascanio said.

“Yes.”

“But that makes no sense. Two pair requires four cards, but three of a kind only requires three. That’s harder to get.”

“Statistically, the odds of getting two pair are higher than three cards of the same rank.”

“You’re wasting your time,” I told him. “Ascanio has the worst poker face I’ve ever seen.”

“I have a strategy,” Ascanio announced.

“Aha.”

“I’m going to play with women and distract them with my smolder.” Ascanio unleashed a devastating smile. He was, without a doubt, the most beautiful seventeen-year-old kid I’d ever seen. He even beat out pre-injury Derek, although Derek always had a kind of boyish, disarming sincerity about him, while Ascanio knew exactly what he was doing. Which was why he needed to be taken down a notch.

“Let’s see it.”

“See what?” He blinked.

“The smolder.”

Okay, I had to admit the smolder looked pretty good. “Needs improvement. Work more on seductive and less on constipated.”

“I don’t look constipated.”

I glanced at Roman.

“Nah,” the volhv said. “Constipated isn’t your problem. You’re too slick about it. Women sense when you’re faking.”

“What am I supposed to do about that?”

“Stop trying so hard.” The black volhv pivoted to me. “I have questions.”

“Can it wait?”

“No. Your wedding is in two weeks. Have you prepared your guest list?”

   
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