Home > Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder # 1)(5)

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder # 1)(5)
Author: Ilona Andrews

Anything that worried Moloch was great for us.

“A holy man was murdered. His name was Nathan Haywood. Moloch sent his priests into the city. He wants something connected to this murder.”

“Something or someone?”

Sienna shook her head. I wouldn’t get an answer. “Find it before he does. If he obtains it, everything is lost. The future becomes a certainty.”

Kate would not die. Not while I was still breathing.

“Julie,” Sienna called.

I startled. I had left that name behind me years ago. Julie Olsen was gone, melted down in the crucible of magic. Now I went by Aurelia Ryder.

“Do not go home. If Kate sees you, she will recognize you. She will die. Curran will die. Conlan will die. Everyone you love will be gone.”

A cold spike of fear hammered through my spine. “Conlan saw me.”

“Conlan doesn’t matter. Only Kate does.” She reached out and gripped my hands. “You must stop him this time. No matter the cost. There are no more chances. This is it.”

“I promise,” I told her.

“Carry some lemon juice with you. Just in case.”

She pulled her cloak around her and walked away.

Lemon juice. Right.

I stood by the grave and watched the sun rise, splashing pink and red across the sky. The night was still in full swing in Arizona. Three hours from now Moloch would awaken and look at the sky just as I was. He was drawn to the sun. It was a ball of fire, and fire gave Moloch his power.

You sent your priests into Atlanta, huh? Don’t you worry, Child Eater. I will take good care of them, and when I’m done, you’ll wish you had never been reborn.

I let out a shrill whistle. Turgan took off from the ruin to the right and landed on my arm, all twelve pounds of him. Yellow feet gripped the padded bracer on my forearm with black talons. The golden eagle shifted his weight, wings fanning my head, and stared at me with his amber eyes.

Tulip came running around a heap of rubble. It was time for us to go to our new house and get the keys. I had a murder to solve.

 

 

2

 

 

Tamyra Miller chewed on her bottom lip. She was about ten years older than me, in her mid-thirties, with dark brown skin, a wealth of black hair she kept braided, and big round glasses, and she stared at the house in front of us with what could only be described as trepidation. I couldn’t really blame her.

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the house used to be a sprawling antebellum mansion. When I bought it two years ago, it stood three stories tall, with white walls, a wide wraparound porch, and towering ionic columns holding up its gabled roof. Its twenty thousand square feet of living space had been divided into eight apartments, each with a separate entrance and balcony.

Eight months ago, I had hired Tamyra, a structural engineer, to wreck it. She went in with a team of masons and carpenters, reinforced the structure, reconfigured the floor plan according to my instructions, carving out a rectangular living space of about six thousand square feet inside the house, and then carefully collapsed the outer walls, piling additional chunks of concrete and wood from the fallen high-rises nearby.

From the outside, the house looked like a ruin, a heap of rubble topped with a roof, some columns scattered, some still standing, buried in debris. The reinforced stable with the armored door was securely hidden in the back. A narrow path led to the entrance, guarded by a thick steel door with a wooden veneer smeared with dirt. No windows, except for the small one located to the right of the door and guarded by a metal grate that gave me a view of the front yard from my kitchen. No weak points. No sign that it was even habitable, except for the balcony. Invisible from the street unless you climbed another building, the balcony sat recessed under the roof, shielded by thick steel and silver bars that ran all the way down to the cement foundation. I had already seen the inside of the house, and it was everything I wanted it to be.

Tamyra had come to a decision. “Ms. Ryder…”

“Yes?”

“I realize that you’ve sunk a lot of money into this home, but you can’t really put a price on human life.”

“Are you trying to tell me the house isn’t safe?”

“The house is perfectly safe. It will withstand an earthquake. It’s a fortress and I’m proud of it. I’m talking about that.”

She turned left and looked west, where 17th NE Street rolled down hill, right into Unicorn Lane seething with magic five hundred yards away. Before the Shift, this was a neighborhood of stately homes and large yards, cushioned in greenery, with views of Midtown’s office towers and price tags to match. Now the entire area lay abandoned. Unicorn Lane kept growing with every magic wave, creeping ever so slowly outward inch by inch.

“You wouldn’t believe the crap we’ve seen crawl out of there over the six months we spent here,” Tamyra said.

I would. That’s why I’d paid them twice the going rate.

“There are other houses,” the structural engineer said.

But none like mine. Ten years ago, when I was still Julie, I was coming home after killing a manticore. It had clawed my leg before it died, deep, almost to the bone. I was tired, dirty, and bleeding, so I took a shortcut, strayed too close to Unicorn Lane, and a pack of feral ghouls chased me to this house. Back then a pack of six ghouls presented a problem.

I’d climbed up on the roof to escape and watched the sun slowly set behind Unicorn Lane until Derek found me. He ran the ghouls off, tracked down my horse, and then lectured me on the benefits of not taking stupid shortcuts all the way home. The memory of it was vivid in my head. Me, on my horse, and him, walking next to me through the deserted night, chewing me out in his raspy voice.

That was long ago, in another life. Derek left Atlanta two years after I had. Nobody had seen him since.

An orange creature shot off the roof from across the street. I pulled my knife out, stepped forward, and sliced. A bat-like body the size of a medium dog crashed to the ground at my feet, jerking its limbs. Blood gushed from the stump of its neck onto the asphalt. Its head with long pointed jaws rolled and came to rest by my boot.

Tamyra grabbed at the gun on her hip.

“A shrieker,” I told her and kicked the head back toward Unicorn Lane. “Nothing to worry about. Thank you for your concern, Mrs. Miller. I appreciate it, but I’m exactly where I need to be.”

She sighed and held out a key ring and a bundle of rolled-up newspapers. “This is the only set, as requested. Here are all of the newspapers for the last week.”

I took the keys and the newspapers. “Thank you. Would you like me to walk you out?”

She shook her head. “My husband is parked a few blocks down on 15th.”

“Scream if you need help.”

“Sure.” She walked away.

I went to the front door and stuck the key into the lock. The well-oiled pins slid smoothly, and I opened the door and went inside.

The front door led straight into the living room, with a grimy wood-burning fireplace on the left. The inside of the house, about eight hundred square feet, looked like nothing special: old wooden floor, swept clean; battered walls that had seen better days; a shabby threadbare sofa facing the fireplace. On the right, a tiny square kitchen waited, with a derelict breakfast table and two chairs, clean but roughly used and worn out. A small dented fridge hummed in the corner. Straight ahead, at the other end of the living room, a short hallway led to a bedroom on the left and a bathroom on the right.

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