“Desandra shrugged her shoulders. "Hey, Kate? Have you thought of walking up to Hugh and telling him that he's got the biggest dick ever?" She spread her arms to the size of a baseball bat.
"No, you think it would work?" I asked.
"It's worth a try. May be he'll be so happy you noticed his pork sword, he'll forget all about trying to kill us."
Pork sword. Kill me now. "I'll think about it."
Ascanio began patting his clothes.
"What?" Derek growled.
"Looking for something to take notes with.”
“Quick, Derek, it's your chance to shine," Ascanio said.
Derek gave him a withering look.
"Desandra is a mother, Robert is married, Kate's affianced, and I'm an old soul. You're the closest thing to a virgin we've got. Get on with growing some flowing locks.”
“Your sword is made out of your grandmother’s bones?”
“Okay, I see how it sounds weird when you say it in that tone of voice”
“Fortune favors the brave," I told her. It also kills the stupid, but I decided to keep that fact to myself.”
“What the hell is this?” Desandra asked
“This is Cuddles. She's a mammoth donkey.”
Derek grinned, leaning on the fence. “Do you have any self-respect left?”
“Curran's eyes went gold. His voice dropped into a rough growl. "If you're going to shoot, make sure to empty the clip, because after you're done, I'll shove that gun up your ass sideways."
Blue Jacket blinked.
"Can you even do that?" I asked.
"Let's find out." Curran stared at the thug. "Well? Shoot, so we can start this experiment.”
“Okay, pull me up."
The rope didn't move.
"Ascanio?" What was it now? Did he see a butterfly and get distracted?
The rope slid up, as fast as if wound by a winch. I shot upward. What the...?
I cleared the edge and found myself face to face with Curran.
He held the rope with one hand, muscles bulging on his arm under his sweatshirt. No strain showed on Curran's face. It's good to be the baddest shapeshifter in the city. Behind him Ascanio stood very still, pretending to be invisible.
Curran's gray eyes laughed at me. The Beast Lord reached out and touched my nose with his finger. "Boop.”
“Maybe I should add some graffiti to spice it up. For a good time call the Consort. Beast Lord eats your food and turns into a lion in his sleep. Mahon has hemorrhoids. Boudas do it better. Warning, paranoid attack jaguar on the prowl…”
“And if the Pack Council produces any kittens, we’ll give them to Jim to raise. He needs to mellow out anyway.” I looked at him. He took his hands off the wheel and held them apart about six inches. “Cute fluffy kittens. Just sitting on Jim’s lap.” I pictured Jim with his badass-chief-of-security expression covered in small fluffy kittens. It was too much. The numbness inside me broke, like a dam. I giggled and laughed. Curran laughed, too.”
“Sit your ass down, Don Juanabe," Derek said.
"Don Juanabe?" Ascanio pulled out his swords.
"Don Juan Wannabe," Derek explained. "See I shortened it. If you still don't get it, I'll write it down for you after the fight."
"You've maxed out your wit quota for the night," Ascanio said.
"I'm just getting started."
"Be careful, you might sprain something in your brain.”
“I have had it up to here with my wedding," I said. "The other day Andrea tried to explain to me that apparently I am supposed to have a new thing, an old thing, a blue thing, and something stolen."
"Borrowed, Kate," Barabas murmured.
"Who the hell even makes up those rules?”
“Do you know what most people have from their grandmother? A tea set. Or a quilt.” Curran smiled. “If your family had a quilt, it would be made out of chimera skin and stuffed with feathers from dead angels.”
“Where to now?" I asked.
"Hold on," Robert said. "I'm still . . . coming to terms with your mode of transportation."
"Take your time," I nudged Cuddles, turning her to give him a better view. Cuddles flicked her ears, lifted her feet, and pranced. Oh dear God.”
“Have you called the alphas?"
"The rats, too?"
He bristled. "What about the rats?"
"They think you're hiding information from them"
"I hide information from everyone. Do they think they're special?”
“We can get you a throne with snakes. I’ll stand next to you and roar at anybody who fails to grovel. Fear Kate Daniels. She is a mighty and terrible ruler. Grendel can anoint the petitioners with his vomit. It’ll be great . . .”
“The woman said something to Roman. He stopped, turned to her, and shook his staff.
She crossed her arms. I couldn't see her face, but I read the body language well enough. I shake my magic stick at you!" "Let me tell you what you can do with your stick..."”
“I turned to the courtyard and waved at Roman and the witch next to him.
"Is that his sister?" Andrea asked me.
"No." I had spoken with both of them. "I'd asked her that. Her name is Alina, she isn't his sister, and she feels deeply sorry for his sisters, because if she had to put up with being in his presence for longer than a day, she would throw herself off the nearest bridge just to end the agony."
"Well," Andrea said. "Glad she cleared that up.”
“He comes into my city, he throws away my people, he orders me around like I'm his servant and now this? How dare he!"
I sighed. "How dare he!" came out. Could "Does he know who I am?" be far behind?
"I'm not some illiterate he can push around. I won't be treated this way. I worked too damn hard, for years. Years! Years of study and that fucking Neanderthal comes in and waves his arms." Ghastek skewed his face into a grimace. He was probably aiming to impersonate Hugh, but he mostly succeeded in looking extremely constipated. "Ooo, I'm Hugh d'Ambray, I'm starting a war!"
Laughing right now was a really bad idea. I had to conserve the energy.
"A war I've been trying years to avoid. Years!"
He kept saying that.
"Does he think it's easy to negotiate with violent lunatics, who can't understand elementary concepts?"
Good to know where we stood with him.”
“I love you," I told him. There. Nice and simple. "I knew you would find me."
He smiled at me. "I would never stop looking.”
“One of my cousins is named Lucifer. I once asked my aunt why and she said, "Because I wanted him to be beautiful and to think for himself.”
“Landon paced back and forth, his eyes a little wild.
‘’Well, he took it worse than I did,’’ Curran said.
‘’I don’t see what the big deal is.‘’
‘’It’s a sword made out of your grandmothers bones, Kate.’’
Landon stared at me through the windshield, turned around, paced back and forth, and stared at me again”
“Any activity?" Robert asked.
"Not in the lasssht ten minutesh. Before that, very exshiting. I shaw Wolf Beta run by. There were vampiresh chassing her. She was yelling, 'Bill me, bloodshuckers!”
“I have to say, your technique is really different. Curran hammered at the spell until it broke. You just talk. Help me out here, what’s the strategy? Are you hoping the ward will get tired and kill itself so it won’t have to listen to you anymore?”
“If I pass out face down in this water, will you fish me out?"
"Will you promise to call me Your Majesty?"
"Then I'll have to think about it.”
“Where are we going?” Desandra asked.
“We’re going to Blue Ribbon Stables,” I said. “It’s the closest place to rent a horse.
“Why?” Desandra asked.
“Because I can’t keep up with you on foot,” I said.
“And she runs like a rhino.” Derek added. “You can hear her a mile away.”
Traitor. “I thought you had my back?”
“I do,” Derek said. “The rhino running is nice. Makes it easy to keep track of you. If I ever lose you, I just have to listen and there you are.”
“Yes,” Desandra agreed. “It’s convenient.”
“Are you always this casual?” Robert asked.
“Derek and I worked together for a long time,” I told him. “He’s allowed some leeway.”
“What about Desandra?”
“She only bothers with protocol when she wants something. The rest of the time it’s lewd jokes and descriptions of plums.”
Robert’s eyebrows crept up. “Plums?”
I waved my hand. “Don’t ask.”
“As soon as the engagement was announced, the Pack Clans converged and shot the idea of a quiet ceremony out of the water and then kept firing at it until it stopped convulsing and died.”
“If your head explodes can I have your stuff?”
“ It’s like you had a coming-out party,” Andrea said. “You’ve been presented to polite society, except now everybody wants to kill you.”
“Kate Daniels, a debutante.” Andrea grinned.
“It’s not funny.”
“It’s hilarious.” The smile slid off Andrea’s face and she vomited on the snow.
“Karma,” I told her.”
“Did you strangle the wolf alpha?" Not that she didn't deserve it.
Curran grimaced. "Of course not. I needed information. After I put her face in my mouth, we agreed that it was in her best interests to tell me what I wanted to know.”
“I mourn my sword, but that’s alright. Grandmother gave me another one.”
“it’s hard to play the enigmatic prince of romance when the object of your affections gets to watch you shit into the sea twice a day.”
“The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.”
“In committing a work to memory we make it safe from decay. It stands untouched. Children memorize parts of stories their parents tell them. They want the same story again and again. Don't change a word or they get terribly upset. This is the unchanged narrative every culture needs in order to survive.”
“I forced a swift smile, then turned back to my glass, salvation and sanctuary viniferously bundled into one.”
“If he pushed too often or too hard, she was very capable of, at the very least, calling
her boss or her invisible partner and having Max put on ice somewhere while she went on working.
The girl twelve years ago couldn't have done that, but this woman certainly could. And would.”
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