I turned and looked at the sea. Curran would fight to his last breath to protect me. If I asked Derek to walk into fire, he would do it. But then again there was Doolittle looking at me with horror in his eyes . . .

"It's slipping," he said.

I arched my eyebrow at him.

"Your cloak," he said. "Some of your power is showing. Just how much are you hiding?"

"I guess you'll never know," I told him.

Hugh rested his elbows on a table. "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

"If Roland doesn't find me?"


"In the Keep, doing what I'm doing now."

"How long will that last, Kate?"

"Hopefully for a long, long time."

"You're lying to yourself. Voron made us into serial killers. We can be okay without violence for a few weeks, but after a couple of months, the hand starts itching for the sword. You start looking for that rush. You get irritable, life turns stale, and then one day some fool crosses your path, attacks, and as you cut him down, you feel that short moment of struggle when he leverages his life against yours. If you're lucky, he's very good and the fight lasts a few seconds. But even if it doesn't, that short moment of triumph is like getting an adrenaline shot. Suddenly color comes back into life, food tastes better, sleep is deeper, and sex is rapture."

I knew exactly what he was talking about. I lived it and I felt it.

"You don't have to say anything," he said. "I know I'm right. You and I are birds of a feather. We weren't just born, we were forged, ground, and sharpened to be exactly what we are. You felt it when we sparred. I sure did. I don't know what you've got going with the werelion, but whatever it is, it will go flat and soon. I bet you already see signs of it. Some part of him enjoyed Lorelei's attention. It's flattering. A young, attractive girl, hanging on your every word, putting out all the signs that she's available to you alone. It makes you feel like you've still got it. He didn't do anything, but as another man, I can tell you he thought about it. Sex is a funny thing: it's always kind of the same, but you always want more of it and with different people."

I leaned on my hand and sighed. "Please continue, Doctor. Let me know when our time is up so I can write a check."

He chuckled. "The man is an egomaniac. You know this. He doesn't fully understand what you are, and he doesn't appreciate it. Give him a few years, and the next time a Lorelei swings into his orbit, he might bang her. He will tell himself it's not a big thing. It wouldn't mean anything. He won't leave you for her. The next time will be easier. The next easier still. Before you know it, it will become a regular thing. Why the hell would you want to put up with that?"

"Speaking from personal experience?"

"Yes. When I realized I'd stopped aging, I went for it. Let me tell you, no matter how creative you get-and I got creative-the mechanics of sex are always the same. The difference is passion. Passion makes it special. Having sex with an attractive woman is fun, but add passion, make her that one woman that you love or hate, and the whole experience changes. You feel something for me, Kate. Whether you want to admit it or not, something is there. I can guarantee we would never grow tired of it."

Wow. He'd put his best game face on and hit me with everything he had. "No."

His eyebrows came together. "No? That's it?"

"That's it."


"Because you put people in cages, Hugh. Even if I were alone and Curran weren't in the picture, I still wouldn't. You came here and did just as much as necessary to earn enough goodwill to build this castle twenty years ago. The people down in town live in poverty. Your werejackal castle guards are robbing strangers on the roads, and nobody comes to you and complains, because they don't expect you to do anything about it. You want to know the difference between you and Curran? If you gave this castle to him, within a month there would be a court, due process, and a working police force accountable to its citizens. Curran sees himself as serving the people he leads; you see yourself as being served. You brought stability to this place, but it's the stability of a scared slave who knows he will be pummeled with a stick if he holds his head up too high. You're content with things as they are, and when someone fails you, you stick them in a cage and slowly starve them to death."

Hugh leaned back and smiled, amusement curving his mouth. "You are his daughter," he said.

I wasn't sure how to take that. I leaned back and crossed my arms.

"You know what your father's best talent is? He can look at you and determine exactly where your best place is. That's why he wasn't thrilled when your aunt woke up. There was no place for her in this world."

"So he looked at you and said, 'You will make an excellent wrecking ball.'"

Hugh nodded. "Before there can be civilization, I come and I subdue. I crush resistance, I break their will, and then your father arrives and reins me in. He brings order, justice, and fairness. He is their salvation."

"Be careful, your charming mask is crumbling."

"There isn't much point in it now."

"Oh, so sitting through your sales pitch finally earned me the right to the no-bullshit version?"

He grinned, baring his teeth. "Here it is: I can't let you get on that boat."


"It will be a lot harder to pry you out of their fort. You force my hand."

"I didn't know you were so easy to push around."

"Before you left, I had my people load panacea onto your ship," he said. "Your boy got a note telling him about it and explaining that my welcome is withdrawn."

"I thought you promised no bullshit. Where did you even get that much panacea, Hugh? The packs guard it like gold. They would never sell that much of it to you."

"I have no need to buy it from them. My people make it."


"Your father was taught how to make it when he was young. It's a complex process, with a lot of magic done in correct order, so it was his equivalent of a graduation project." Hugh's eyes turned steel-hard. "I control the entire supply on this part of the continent. The only way for the Pack to get their paws on an ounce of it is to sail now, without you."

Curran wouldn't leave me.

"If he chooses to stay, the gloves come off." Hugh said. "I warned him. He knows if he stays, it's war."

"He will stay."

"God, I hope he does. I've been looking forward to killing him for three years. I will enjoy the hell out of it."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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