Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(10)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(10)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“The chindi who looks like my mother knocked on the door,” Mackie told Anna solemnly from the shelter of her brother’s arms. “She screamed at Max to open the door. And then she cried. And she tried to be nice—and Max turned up the movie so we didn’t listen.”

Chindi indeed, thought Anna. It was as good an explanation of the events Max had described as any. She was a musician, not a psychologist, but she was pretty sure that mothers didn’t go crazy and stab themselves out of the blue.

“Max is very brave,” Anna said.

Mackie nodded. “Yes. Yes, he is. When I grow up I am going marry someone like Max and make him hunt chindi with me.” Her belief that saying that word would cause problems was allayed, evidently, by Max’s honest scout sign, because she said it without hesitation.

Max gave a choked laugh. “You do that, squirt.” To Anna he said, “Someone let her watch Supernatural and now all she wants is to go out and fight evil magic.”

Mackie frowned at Anna. “You said you are a werewolf. Like ánáli Hastiin.”

Anna nodded. “If that is your great-grandfather Hosteen, then, yes, I am.”

“You can come hunt chindi with me,” she said with authority. “Max can’t because he’ll be an old man by then. Michael is too loud and clumsy. He gets scared and he will make mistakes. The bad things will eat him. And then what will I do without a little brother?”

“I don’t know,” Anna said slowly, as if she were considering the invitation. “My husband doesn’t like to be left behind. But if we take him with us, the bad things will all run away and it won’t be any fun.”

“Your husband is a werewolf, too?”

“Yes.”

“If he scares away our prey, he’ll have to stay home,” Mackie said.

Anna grinned. “Right. He’d ruin our fun. But maybe it would make him feel bad not to be included.”

“If he cries, you just have to explain it to him.” Mackie said wisely.

“Mackie,” said Max reprovingly.

“Max,” she said in the same tone.

“Both of you shut up,” Michael told them, still staring at the TV. “The shark is coming.”

Anna heard feet traveling upstairs in a rush and, just outside the door, Kage whispered his wife’s name and tried to open the door.

All of the kids came to alert (shark or not), but no one said anything. Maybe the whisper freaked them out—urgent and stressed. They’d already had one parent scare the bejeebers out of them today; apparently they weren’t trusting the other one not to do the same.

“No,” said Anna, unlocking the door, but staying ready just in case whatever had affected their mother was catching. “Not Chelsea. But all the kids are here with me and they are okay.”

When the door opened, Kage brushed past her to drag the kids into his arms, then pulled back to check each one to make sure they were okay. There was no difference in his urgency when he grabbed Max, whose coloring suggested that he was a stepson and not Kage’s own child. Hosteen watched them, his face cool, his attention focused outside the room. He knew that this was not over.

“There’s a fog of fae magic on the first floor of the house,” he told her. “Where’s Charles?”

“Downstairs,” she told him. “He sent me up here to make sure nothing happened to the kids.”

“There’s a pool of blood just outside the door,” he whispered, stepping aside so Anna could see it while the kids were preoccupied. “Chelsea’s blood. I can’t scent her through the stink of fae magic that is coating this house.”

“Charles will find her,” she said. “He—” She couldn’t complete the thought as her wolf surged forward with the urgency of the message Charles sent her through their mating bond. She knew that her usually brown eyes were pale, icy blue when she looked at Kage and said, “Choose.”

Kage looked up from his children. “What?”

She gave him the only words she had. “Choose. Choose now.”

Charles inhaled blood and magic. Blood he’d been half expecting, at least until he found the children all apparently safe. So the blood was not surprising. It was the fae magic he felt carelessly caressing his skin that changed the game.

There weren’t supposed to be fae out and about. They had, with great fanfare, locked themselves away on their reservations, declaring themselves free of the laws of the United States. For the last several months they’d made no appearances outside the reservations that he was aware of.

But he knew magic, knew the feel of fae magic. Brother Wolf rose and abruptly colors dimmed a little, and the shadows revealed their secrets to his eyes.

There was no one in the room he entered. It was a typical family room with a big-screen TV on one wall and bookshelves filled with trophies, photos, books, and games on the other. But the blood was fresh and nearby. He angled his head to see if he could pick up where the scent was coming from without making a large movement that would be more likely to attract attention if something was waiting for him.

Upstairs the TV was still blaring. If there weren’t so much noise his ears would be of more use. But the noise would make it more difficult for any enemy to hear him, too.

The floor creaked somewhere in the house. He thought it was to his left, but it was difficult to tell. He moved quickly to that side of the room, staying low, pausing next to the wall. He didn’t trust walls—he’d broken through a few too many in search of prey himself. Sheetrock and two-by-fours didn’t stop a werewolf, and a lot of fae were just as strong. But as a visual barrier, a wall worked okay.

He put his head cautiously around the corner. It was the laundry room. There was blood all over the floor here, some of it splattered, and then drag marks that slid around the appliances and out of sight. He paced cautiously forward, past the washer and dryer—and found himself staring into the eyes of a wild-eyed woman who was crouched in the bathroom hidden on the far side of the room. He froze where he was.

She was sitting on the floor, legs crisscrossed, with a damn big knife in her hand, and that hand was shaking as though she had palsy. The motion could have been caused by blood loss, shock, or both.

Long bloody slices, some deep and others shallow, decorated both of her arms and her legs through what had been a very nice pair of slacks. She bared her teeth at him.

“The children must bleed,” she gritted out, and the knife shook in her right hand. “Bleed out the bad—” She dug the knife into her thigh and he winced. But she didn’t push it deep, just slid it along her leg parallel to the other wounds that bled there. “Something in my head wants me to kill my children,” she said in a hurried whisper, very different from the voice she’d started speaking with. “You have to stop me.”

Brother Wolf snarled at this enemy he could not fight with tooth or claw; fae magic surrounded the woman. Charles needed to figure out how to help Kage’s wife. The magic clinging to her meant he was better equipped to do it than anyone else here. Not that it wouldn’t have been helpful to have a witch or someone else to back him up—his da would have been useful.

“Chelsea Sani,” he said with a push of his own magic, trying to give her something to cling to.

It wasn’t enough.

She paused and rocked forward, falling until she was on her hands and knees, and she started to crawl. Not toward him, he didn’t think. He wasn’t her target.

“There are bad children here … little boys who steal food, little girls who don’t play well with others, little boys who…” She dropped all the way to the ground then, and writhed as she groaned.

“Chelsea,” Brother Wolf demanded, pulling on his pack, on his da’s power. Icy with the cold of winter, the power came to his asking and hit the woman with his call.

She stopped making noise, stopped moving except for the heaving of her ribs. Then she rolled her head until she could see him. She met his eyes, opened her mouth and shut it. She sliced open her hand, leaving the knife in the wound. “Blood makes it easier to fight. Who are you?”

“I’m Charles. A friend of Joseph’s. Can you tell me what happened?”

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