Magic Steals (Kate Daniels #6.5)(10)

The jenglots rustled through the greenery, circling us. They would swarm us in a moment.

Normally when I changed shape, for a minute or two, I had no idea where I was or why I was there, but in this case, with Jim next to me, I had to take a chance.

I took off my glasses and handed them to Jim. “Here, hold this for a second.”

He raised his eyebrows and took my glasses.

I let go. The world swirled into a thousand blurry lights in every color of the rainbow. Ooh, so pretty. Pretty little color bubbles.

A familiar scent swirled around me, captivating. Ooh, Jim. Jim. He was here, with me! Jim . . .

What is that smell?

Ugh. Nasty, disgusting scent. Unclean. Ew.

A jenglot! There was a jenglot coiling on Eyang Ida’s lap. Gross. Wait, what was Eyang Ida doing here? Where was I?

The Queen Jenglot raised her head, opened her mouth, and hissed at me, the black magic behind her flaring like demonic wings.

What? Outrageous. The nerve. Who did she think I was?

I stomped my huge white paw onto the ground and roared. The sound of my voice rolled like the toll of a giant’s gong, deafening, and my magic followed it like a blast wave. It touched the closest jenglot. The ugly creature hissed in panic, broke into pieces, as if instantly turned to ash, and disintegrated. All around me, jenglots vanished, breaking into ash and melting into thin air. The Queen Jenglot hissed, flailing. Its magic tried to fight me, but my roar swallowed it like a raging forest fire swallowed a puddle. The Queen vanished.

The disturbing stench disappeared. The woods exhaled, liberated of the evil taint, but Eyang Ida didn’t move. She was still bound. Not for long.

I padded to Eyang Ida on my big soft paws and curled by her feet, my left front paw on my right. Hold on. I will free you, too.

I faced Jim and let my magic spread from me. Flowers pushed through the moss at my feet, blooming into tiny yellow and white blossoms. A blue butterfly floated next to me, bouncing on soft wings. A white one joined it, then another and another . . .

Jim stared at me, his jaw hanging open.

My magic slid up the tree trunks. The oaks above us groaned, their branches moved, compelled by my power, and a ray of sunlight, pure and warm, fell on the old woman’s face. Eyang Ida took a deep breath and blinked.

Jim dropped my glasses into the moss.

? ? ?

THE problem with being a shapeshifter is that you can never keep your clothes on, which is why I always carried a spare outfit in my car. So when we pulled up in front of Eyang Ida’s son’s house and Jim carried the fragile old lady to the front door, I was able to knock with my modesty intact.

The door swung open and Wayan, Eyang Ida’s son, saw his mother. He grabbed her from Jim and ran inside. The family swarmed us and pulled us into the house. The air washed over us, bringing with it aromas from the kitchen: tumeric, garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, and the roast duck. Bebek Betutu was cooking somewhere nearby.

Everyone was talking at once. What happened, why, does she need to go to the hospital? I answered as fast as I could. She was attacked by black magic; she will be okay; no, the hospital isn’t needed, just bed rest and lots of love from her family; no, thank you, I wasn’t hungry . . . After the first twenty minutes, the storm of questions and excitement died down and Iluh got through to us.

“Thank you for saving my grandmother!”

The relief on her face was so obvious, I hated to shatter it. “It’s not over yet.”

Iluh’s face fell. “What do you mean?”

“I need to talk to you,” I told her.

A couple of minutes later Jim, Iluh, her mother Komang, and I sat in the wicker chairs on the back porch, away from the family’s buzz. Iluh and Komang looked alike: both pretty, graceful, and tall. Komang held a degree in chemical engineering. My mother and she had come to Atlanta as part of the same corporate expansion just after the Shift.

I faced Komang and spoke in English for Jim’s benefit. “This is Jim. He is . . .”

Oh gods what should I call him . . . If I introduced him as my boyfriend, it would get back to my mother.

“We work together,” Jim said.

Nice save.

“And we’re dating.”

Damn it!

Komang raised her eyebrows. “Congratulations!”

Argh! I almost slapped my face with my hand.

“Won’t it cause an issue at your workplace?” Iluh asked.

“It won’t.” Jim gave them a smile. “I’m the boss.”

I glared at him. What the hell are you so happy about? He grinned at me and patted my hand with his.

I turned to the two women. “Your mother was attacked by jenglots.”

Komang blinked at me. “A jenglot? How bizarre. She was always afraid of them. She saw one when she was a child. It wasn’t real, just something a taxidermist made out of some horsehair and a dead monkey, but it terrified her. She had nightmares about it for years.”

There was no such thing as coincidence when it came to magic. “Usually when a jenglot tribe appears, it begins with a Queen. She enchants a person and begins to feed. When the magic essence of the person is exhausted, he or she becomes a jenglot. The jenglot magic begins to poison the area. One by one the tribe grows. A typical tribe is about five to eight members. More than twenty, and the tribe becomes a swarm. We saw at least fifty jenglots around your mother.”

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