Especially if there are rolling tumble weeds around. More or less. Kate Daniels is IT. Kate Daniels cannot be rated. Now that would be intergalactically EPIC.

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My pies turned out ugly, but they tasted good. This particular pie was rapidly losing the last of its heat. I surveyed the spread in my kitchen. Venison steaks, marinated in beer, lightly seasoned, sitting in a pan ready to be popped into the oven.

Homemade rolls, now cold. Corn on the cob, also cold. Baked potatoes, yep, very cold. The butter on the mushrooms was doing its best to congeal into a solid state. At least the salad was supposed to be cold. Eight weeks ago, Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta, the lord and master of fifteen hundred shapeshifters, and my own personal psycho, had sat in the kitchen of my apartment in Atlanta and written out a menu on this piece of paper.

I knew this because I had checked the calendar three times already. I had called him at the Keep three weeks ago and set the place, my house near Savannah, and the time, 5 p. It was eight thirty now. My most flattering set of bra and panties—check. I drew my finger along the pale blade of my saber, feeling the cold metal under my skin. Where exactly was His Majesty?

Did he get cold feet? Dinner was a huge deal to shapeshifters. They never took food for granted, but making a dinner for someone you were romantically interested in took a simple meal to a whole new level. When a shapeshifter made you dinner, he was either pledging to take care of you or he was trying to get into your pants.

Most of the time, both. Curran had fed me soup once, when I was half-dead, and the fact that I had eaten it, even without knowing what that meant, amused him to no end. I picked up the phone. Then again, he enjoyed screwing with me. Curran treated women like wonderful toys: he wined them, dined them, took care of their problems, and once they grew completely dependent on him, he became bored. Maybe whatever I perceived to be between us was only in my head. Calling him would just give him an opportunity to gloat.

I hung up the phone and looked at my pie some more. He infuriated me and I drove him out of his skin. His ego was too big. Something must have happened. Eight forty-four. He could be hurt. The thought stopped me cold. It would take a bloody army to bring down Curran. Of the fifteen hundred homicidal maniacs under his command, he was the toughest and most dangerous sonovabitch.

If something did happen, it had to be bad. Eight forty-nine. Just keep it professional. Less pathetic that way. What do you want? Friendly people, the shapeshifters. Can I speak to Curran, please? Do you want to leave a message? As soon as possible. Yes, it is. Moments dripped by, slowly, stretching thinner and thinner. In the future, please go through proper channels and direct all your concerns to Jim, our security chief. A tiny sound popped in my ears, and I had the absurd idea that it was my heart forming hairline cracks.

He stood me up. I cooked a huge meal. I sat by the phone for the last four hours. I put on makeup, my second time in the past year. I bought a box of condoms. Just in case. I love you, Kate. You sonovabitch. I surged off the chair. It took me less than a minute to get dressed and load my wrist guards with silver needles.

My saber, Slayer, had enough silver in it to hurt even Curran, and right now I very much wanted to hurt him. I stalked through the house looking for my boots in a fury-steeped daze, found them in the bathroom of all places, and sat down on the floor to put them on. I pulled the left boot on, tapped my heel into place, and stopped. Suppose I did get to the Keep.

And then what? Curran knew me well enough to recognize that and use it against me. A vision of me sitting in the lobby of the Keep for hours popped into my head. Hell no.

If the asshole did condescend to make an appearance, what would I say? How dare you dump me before the relationship even started? I forced myself to grope for reason in the fog of my rage. Any issues the Pack had with the law usually found their way to me. The shapeshifters came in two flavors: Free People of the Code, who maintained strict control over Lyc-V, the virus raging in their bodies; and loups, who surrendered to it. Loups murdered indiscriminately, bouncing from atrocity to atrocity until someone did the world a favor and murdered their cannibalistic asses.

The Atlanta PAD viewed each shapeshifter as a loup-in-waiting, and the Pack responded by ratcheting up their paranoia and mistrust of outsiders to new and dizzying heights. Their position with the authorities was precarious at best, saved from open hostility by their record of cooperation with the Order. Nobody would believe that I was dumb enough to start it.

I had only a few friends, but most of them grew fur and claws. For once in my life, I had to do the responsible thing. I pulled the boot off and threw it across the room. It thudded into the wood panel in the hallway. For years, first my father and then my guardian, Greg, had warned me to stay away from human relationships.

Friends and lovers only brought you trouble. My existence had a purpose, and that purpose—and my blood—left no room for anything else. I had ignored the warnings of the two dead men and dropped my shields. It was time to suck it up and pay for it. He was supposed to be different, to be more. When hope broke, it hurt. Mine was a very big, very desperate hope, and it hurt like a sonovabitch. Magic flooded the world in a silent wave. The electric lamps blinked and died a quiet death, giving way to the blue radiance of the feylanterns on my walls.

The enchanted air in the twisted glass tubes luminesced brighter and brighter until an eerie blue light filled the entire house. It was called post-Shift resonance: magic came in waves, negating technology, and then vanished as abruptly and unpredictably as it had appeared. Somewhere, gasoline engines failed and guns choked midbullet. It was time to pay the piper. I got up off the floor. Sooner or later my job would bring me into contact with the Beast Lord.

It was inevitable. I needed to get the hurt out of my system now, so when we met again, all he would get from me would be cold courtesy. I marched into the kitchen, trashed the dinner, and strode out.


Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels Series #4)

My pies turned out ugly, but they tasted good. This particular pie was rapidly losing the last of its heat. I surveyed the spread in my kitchen. Venison steaks, marinated in beer, lightly seasoned, sitting in a pan ready to be popped into the oven. Homemade rolls, now cold. Corn on the cob, also cold.


Reading Order

It needed multiple drafts and a lot of patience from everyone involved. I would like to thank my agent, Nancy Yost, for holding my hand through it, and my editor, Anne Sowards, who worked on the manuscript as hard as I did. When I was writing the book, the dog had no name, so I ran a contest on my website, asking the readers for suggestions, and the following people offered entries that made it into the book: B. Finally, thank you very much to Jeaniene Frost and Jill Myles. This book does have sex in it.


Magic Bleeds





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