“There is no me and Curran.” Saying it hurt. No bag to punch to relieve it. I smiled instead and poured us another cup of tea.

Andrea stirred hers with a spoon. “Did something happen?”

I told her everything, including what happened in the Guild. The more I talked, the more pained her face became.

“That was very asshole of him,” she said when I was done.

“No argument there.”

“But it doesn’t make sense. When he brought you back from the rakshasas, he almost killed Doolittle because he couldn’t fix you fast enough. I think he might actually be in love with you. Maybe he did come to your house looking for you.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“You guys should talk.”

“I’m done talking.”

“Kate, don’t take this the wrong way, but you haven’t been yourself since you came back from leave. You’re . .

.”

I gave her my look of doom. It bounced right off her.

“. . . grim. Really grim. It’s almost painful. You don’t joke, you don’t laugh, and you keep taking chances.”

Andrea rubbed the rim of her teacup. “Did you have friends when you were growing up?”

“Ouch.” I rubbed my neck. “That’s a sharp change in the direction of this conversation. I think I got whiplash.”

Andrea leaned forward. “Friends, Kate. Did you have any?”

“Friends make you weak,” I told her.

“So I’m your first real friendship?”

“You could say that.” Jim was a friend too, but it wasn’t the same.

“And Curran’s your first real love?”

I rolled my eyes.

“You don’t know how to cope,” Andrea said softly.

“I’ve been doing well so far. It’s bound to go away eventually.”

Andrea chewed on her lip. “You know that I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself, and I don’t need a man to fight my wars for me. And if I wasn’t with Raphael, I would still be totally fine, and good at my job, and happy at times.” She took a deep breath. “With that in mind . . . A real broken heart never goes away. You can pull yourself together and you can function, but it’s not the same.”

I couldn’t drag this hurt around me for the rest of my life. I’d implode. “Thanks for the pep talk.”

“I’m not finished. The thing is, people have a remarkable potential to injure you, but they also have a great power to help you heal. I didn’t understand this for the longest time.”

She leaned forward. “Raphael is hot and loaded and the sex is great, but that’s not why I’m with him. I mean, those things don’t hurt, but that’s not what keeps me there.”

If I had to guess, it would be respect for Raphael’s perseverance. Raphael, a werehyena, or bouda as they preferred to be called, loved Andrea beyond all reason. He courted her for months—unheard of for a bouda—

and refused to give up until she finally let him into her life. The fact that he was the son of Aunt B, the bouda alpha, made things complicated but neither Raphael nor Andrea seemed to care.

Andrea smiled. “When I’m with him, I can feel myself getting better. It’s like he’s picking up broken pieces of me and putting me back together, and I don’t even know how he’s doing it. We never talk about it. We don’t go to therapy. He just loves me and that’s enough.”

“I’m happy for you,” I told her and meant it.

“Thank you. I know you’ll tell me to fuck off, but I think Curran loves you. Truly loves you. And I think you love him, Kate. That’s rare. Think about it—if he really stood you up, why would he be pissed off about the whole thing? You both can be assholes of the first order, so don’t let the two of you throw it away. If you’re going to walk away from it, at least walk away knowing the whole picture.”

“You’re right. Fuck off. I don’t need him,” I told her.

Andrea sighed quietly. “Of course you don’t.”

“More tea?”

She nodded. I poured her another cup and we drank in my quiet kitchen.

Later she left.

I took a small dish from the counter, pricked my arm with the point of my throwing knife, and let a few red drops fall into the dish. My blood brimmed with magic. It coursed just beyond the surface.

I pushed it.

The blood streamed, obeying my call, growing into inch-long needles, then crumbling into dust. The needles had lasted half a second? Maybe less.

At the end of the Midnight Games, when I lay dying in a golden cage, my blood felt like an extension of me. I could twist and shape it, bending it to my will, solidifying it again and again. I’d been struggling to replicate it for weeks and had been getting nowhere. I’d lost the power.

Blood was Roland’s greatest weapon. I didn’t cherish the prospect of facing Hugh d’Ambray without it.

The attack poodle stared expectantly at me. I washed the blood down the drain, sat on the floor so he could lay next to me, and petted his shaved back. If I closed my eyes, I could recall Curran’s scent. In my head, he grabbed me and spun around, shielding me as his body shook under the impact of the glass shards.

I felt terribly alone. The poodle must’ve sensed it because he put his head on my leg and licked me once. It didn’t help but I was grateful all the same.

CHAPTER 9

AN ODD CHOMPING NOISE CUT THROUGH MY SLEEP. My eyes snapped open.

Pieces of garbage lay strewn across my carpet, next to an overturned trash can. In the middle of it, the attack poodle methodically devoured my trash. As I watched, he tore a piece from a potato peel, raised his muzzle to the ceiling, chewing it with a nirvana-like rapture printed on his face, and bent down for more. A black substance stained his paws and muzzle. It had to be paint. Julie had gone Goth on me a couple of months ago. When she wasn’t at the boarding school, she stayed with me. She had picked the library as her bedroom and I’d let her paint it black. The poodle had gotten into her paint can.

“You’re so dead.”

Chomp, chomp, chomp.

The magic wave was still up and my apartment was freezing cold. I had a hard time sleeping in sweatpants—

something about sweats under a blanket just didn’t agree with me—but this morning I definitely regretted my decision. My toes were so cold, it was a wonder they didn’t break off. I grabbed the blanket, stood up on my bed, and put my hand against the vent. Nothing. The building’s boiler was in its death throes. It had cut out twice in the past month. Even if all of the tenants pooled their money, we still couldn’t afford to replace the damn thing. Especially considering that we had already bought coal for the winter.


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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