Home > Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5)(3)

Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5)(3)
Ilona Andrews

A triple snarl ripped from three huge maws.

Gently, slowly, I squeezed the trigger.

The Weatherby spat thunder. The recoil punched me in the shoulder.

The dog’s middle head jerked. The Weatherby’s magazine held two rounds and one in the chamber. I sighted and fired again. The middle head drooped. The beast yowled and spun in pain. Perfect. The Weatherby wins again.

In a desperate leap, Raphael launched himself up the slope toward me. I caught his arm and hauled him up. We dashed to the Jeep. I hopped into the driver’s seat, Raphael landed in the passenger’s, and I floored the gas pedal.

A howl of pure frustration shook the highway. In the rearview mirror the dog sailed out of the ravine as if it had wings and landed on the road behind us.

“Faster!” Raphael snarled.

I drove, squeezing every last drop out of the Jeep’s old engine. We hurtled down the highway at a breakneck speed. The dog gave chase with a triumphant howl that shook the ground beneath the car wheels. It closed the space between us in three great bounds and bent down over the car, its mouths opened wide. The foul, corrosive breath washed over me. Raphael jumped up and snarled back, his hackles up. Burning drool hit the backseat, singeing the upholstery in an acrid stench of melted synthetics.

I swerved, taking a sudden turn onto a wooden bridge and almost sending the Jeep off the edge into a gap. Monstrous teeth snapped a foot from the backseat.

The dog snarled. In the rearview mirror I saw its muscles bunch as it gathered itself for a leap. Before me, Buzzard’s Highway ran straight and narrow, ravines on both sides. Nowhere to go. That’s it, we’re done.

Inside me, an animal raked at my flesh, trying to spill out of my skin. I clenched my teeth and stayed human.

The dog jumped. Its huge body flew toward us and then jerked back, as if an invisible leash had snapped, reaching its full length. The giant canine fell, its paws waving clumsily in the air. In the rearview mirror I saw it rise. Its bark rang through the Scratches. The dog barked again, whined, and jumped back into the ravine.

I slowed to a speed that would let me make a turn without sending us to a fiery death in the gap below. “You! Explain!”

In the seat next to me Raphael shuddered. Fur melted into smooth human skin, stretched taut over a heartbreakingly beautiful body. Coal-black hair spilled from his head to his shoulders. He looked at me with smoldering blue eyes, smiled, and passed out.

“Raphael?”

Out cold. With magic down, changing shape took a lot of effort and combined with the strain of that run, Lyc-V, the shapeshifter virus, had shut him down for a rest.

I growled under my breath. Of course, he could’ve stayed conscious had he not changed into a human. But he knew that if he shifted shape, he would pass out on the seat next to me, nude, and I would be forced to stare at him until he slept it off. He had done it on purpose. The werehyena Casanova strikes again. I was getting really tired of his ridiculous pursuit.

Ten minutes later I pulled into an abandoned Shell station and parked under the concrete roof shielding the pumps.

I hugged my rifle and listened. No snarls. No growling. We were in the clear.

My heart hammered. I tasted a bitter patina on my tongue and squeezed my eyes shut. A delayed reaction to stress, nothing more.

Inside, my secret self danced and screamed in frustration. I chained it. Control. In the end it was all about control. I had learned to impose my will over my body in childhood—it was that or death—and years of mental conditioning in the Order’s Academy had reinforced my hold.

Breathe. Another breath.

Calm.

Gradually the bestial part of me settled down. That’s it. Relax. Good.

All shapeshifters struggled with their inner beast. Unfortunately, I wasn’t an ordinary shapeshifter. My problems were a lot more complicated. And the presence of Raphael only aggravated them.

Raphael sprawled next to me, snoring slightly. Until he awoke, speculating on why a giant three-headed dog with burning drool had chased after him would be pointless.

Look at him. Napping without a care in the world, confident I would be watching him. And I was. I had met handsome men in my life, some born with classically perfect features and the physique of Michelangelo’s David. Raphael was not one of these men, and yet he left them all in the dust.

He had his good qualities: the bronze skin, the masculine jaw, the wide sensuous mouth. But his face was too narrow. His nose was too long. And yet when he looked at women with those dark blue eyes, they lost all common sense and threw themselves at him. His face was so interesting and so . . . carnal. There was no other word for it. Raphael was all tightly controlled, virile sensuality, heat simmering just beneath the surface of his dusky skin.

And his body took my breath away. He was built lean, with crisp definition, proportionate and perfect with wide chest, narrow hips, and long limbs. My gaze drifted down to between his legs. And hung like a horse.

He had been kind to me, more kind than I probably deserved. The first time, when my body betrayed me, he and his mother, Aunt B, saved my life by guiding me back into my shape. The second time, when my back was pierced by silver spikes, he held me and talked me through pushing them out of my body. When I thought back to those moments, I sensed tenderness in him and I wanted very badly to believe it was genuine.

Unfortunately, he was also a bouda. They had a saying about werehyenas: fourteen to eighty, blind, crippled, crazy. Boudas would screw anything. I had witnessed it firsthand. Monogamy wasn’t in their vocabulary.

Raphael had seen the true me and he’d never come across anyone similar. To him I was the TWT-IHFB. That Weird Thing I Haven’t Fucked Before.

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. He could speak in a warrior form just fine. Had he stayed awake, I would’ve gotten the whole explanation from him by now. Not to mention that if something attacked us, I’d be left to defend a limp man who outweighed me by about eighty pounds. What exactly was I supposed to do with him? Did he expect me to sigh heavily while admiring his naked body? Or perhaps I was supposed to take advantage of the situation?

I reached into the glove compartment and got out a Sharpie. Taking advantage of the situation didn’t sound bad at all.

An hour later Raphael stretched and opened his eyes. His lips stretched in an easy smile. “Hey. Now that’s a beautiful sight to wake up to.”

I leveled my SIG-Sauer at him. “Tell me why the nice puppy was chasing you.”

He wrinkled his nose and touched his mouth. “Is there something on my lips?”

Yes, there is. “Raphael, concentrate! I know it’s hard for you but do try to stay on target. Explain the dog.”

He licked his lips and my thoughts went south. Andrea, concentrate! Try to stay on target.

Raphael remembered to look cool and leaned back, presenting me with the view of a spectacular chest. “It’s complicated.”

“Try me. First, what are you even doing here? Aren’t you supposed to dragging around giant rocks right now?” About six weeks ago, the lot of us had entered the Midnight Games, an illegal, to-the-death fighting tournament. We did it to prevent a war against the Pack. Both the Order and Curran, the Beast Lord, took a rather dim view of this occurrence. As a result, Kate was on medical leave, and the Beast Lord, who had actually ended up participating in the tournament with us, had sentenced himself and the rest of the involved shapeshifters to several weeks of hard labor building an addition to the Pack’s citadel.

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