Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(14)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(14)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He swallowed and said without humor, “Except for Hosteen. Kage says that if she really were selling herself she’d have the sheiks at her feet with piles of money. Then she says, ‘There’s that one who came to buy a filly from you. He’d have bought me, too.’ And then Kage says…” He looked at Anna. “It’s not going to be like that anymore. You can’t bring people back from the dead—they come back different.”

Anna pursed her lips and then nodded. “Life changes people more than death does, in my experience. Ten years from now you wouldn’t see her the same way you do now, any more than you see her the same way you did when you were Michael’s age.”

Max’s face flushed. They’d reached the bench, but he didn’t sit down. “You don’t have to patronize me. I understand you’re a million years old like Kage’s grandfather and that means you know so much more than I do. But this is different from being a child looking at a parent. I’ve seen Hosteen when he isn’t playing human, and I don’t want to look in my mother’s eyes and know she’s thinking how good my liver would taste.”

“I’ll be twenty-six on my next birthday,” Anna said mildly. “That gives me ten years on you. Take it from me, anyone who lives with you is going to occasionally wonder how your liver might taste, and not because they are hungry. It comes with being a teenager—you inspire violence in the hearts of those who love you. It mostly goes away when you hit twenty.”

He laughed reluctantly.

Seriously she said, “Your mother’s basic nature won’t change. She is quick thinking and fierce. She will probably still throw dishes at Kage and hit the floor with them to make a point. She’ll have to learn to pull her throws, though, or she’ll leave marks on the floor. She loves you, and respected you enough to know that you were capable of protecting those two kids until Kage could get home to help you. None of that will be different.”

He dropped down on the bench.

“This would never have happened if she hadn’t married Kage,” he said bleakly. “Our lives were normal until she met him.”

“It’s a little too early to look for causes,” she told him, deciding to respond to the logic of his statement instead of the emotion.

She sat down beside him and looked at the fountain instead of at him. “It might have been an attack aimed at your great-grandfather and his pack. Or maybe your mother was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although I admit when someone connected with werewolves is attacked by supernatural means, my first thought is that it has something to do with the supernatural elements in the victim’s life. What do you know about Hosteen’s pack? Have they done anything recently that might attract the attention of the fae?”

“I don’t know anything about the werewolves,” Max said. “Hosteen Sani hates my mother. He did not attend the wedding. He hates her because she … because we’re white and Kage divorced his proper wife and married my mother. He doesn’t take it out on the munchkins—but he and I don’t have anything to say to each other.”

“I can’t address how Hosteen feels about the color of your skin or his son’s previous marriage. I don’t know him that well,” Anna told him. “But I can tell you that today, the thing that bothered him about her is that she’s witchborn.”

In the house, steeped in the magic of the fae, she hadn’t been able to smell it as well. But out in the open air, sitting next to him, she could smell the scent of witch faintly. She didn’t smell magic as well as Charles, but witches had a distinctive odor, a sweet, almost-floral tang that emanated from their skin.

He snorted. “She isn’t a witch. It’s just a story that my grandmother liked to tell, my mother’s mother. She ran away from home when she was a kid. She never did tell anyone where she came from. She made up a story about a wicked witch for my mother so that my mother never went looking for them.”

“Nope,” Anna said. “Sorry to blow your worldview, but you can’t afford to be ignorant on this issue. There are witches, good and bad witches. There isn’t much worse than a bad witch. If her mother was a wicked witch, your grandmother was smart and lucky. I can smell it, a little, on you. I expect that Hosteen can smell it, too.”

She contemplated that a moment. Being married to Charles had given her impetus to read up on the native peoples. “Hosteen is Navajo. The Navajo have a healthy fear of witches and their ilk. My understanding is that there have been, and still are, some very evil Navajo witches. Maybe Hosteen doesn’t like it that your mother isn’t Native American—I don’t know him well enough to tell—but it was the witch blood he was objecting to when Charles offered to Change your mother.”

Anna met Max’s eyes. “The Navajo and Hopi, of almost all of the Native American cultures, have preserved their identity the best. They walk close to the earth and remember what our modern society likes to forget: that normal humans are at a grave disadvantage when they run into the nastier things that live hidden in this world. Hosteen was taught as a child that anyone who dabbles in magic is evil. It is hard to put aside such teachings, no matter how old you get, especially when you have real evidence that they are mostly true.”

“I’m a witch?” he asked, sounding more intrigued than alarmed. Which just meant that he really didn’t know anything about witches. Anna hoped he never had to learn.

Anna shrugged. “I can only tell you what I smell. But witch blood doesn’t always mean you can work magic. My understanding is that the power doesn’t beget power—two witches can have ten children and none of them have power, only to have it show up generations later. The men in the family are usually a lot weaker than the women.”

“Could a fae know that Mom’s descended from witches? Could that be why someone tried to kill us?”

“I’m not an expert in the fae,” Anna said wryly. “All I know is that some of them are freaking scarily powerful and some of them—well, not so much. Guess which ones are the most likely to be horrible.”

“Yeah,” Max said. “It’s easier to be horrible if you can squash everyone who tries to stop you.”

They sat in silence for a little while.

“How long before we can go home?” asked Max.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Someone will come for us, or Charles will let me know. It might be a few minutes or a couple of hours. Magic is unpredictable. No news is good news, though.”

He nodded. “Okay. So Mom was fine this morning. She worked in her office today, ate lunch there. I know because she took her lunch with her this morning. She drives directly from her work to the day care. And the spell— Do you say ‘spell’?”

“Works for me,” Anna admitted.

“So the spell hit her sometime after she left home this morning.”

“Michael and Mackie disagree about how she felt about finding out that Mackie had gotten into trouble,” she said. “Is he good at reading people?”

“He is observant,” Max agreed. “And Mackie was feeling guilty. But if Mackie thought she was mad at her later, she was probably right.”

“So if she wasn’t upset at Mackie when she picked her up in the classroom, but that changed in the car…” Anna stopped and shook her head. “I don’t know enough about the fae to even hazard a guess. Maybe the spell was laid on her a year ago and a day because she cut off someone in traffic.”

“We’re just speculating,” Max said after a minute. “It doesn’t matter if we’re wrong or right. So let’s say it happened on the drive home from the day care.”

“How far away is the day care?”

“About three miles. Maybe four.”

Anna focused on the children playing some sort of tag that was growing to include most of the kids who were past the toddler stage. Something was nagging at her.

“Mrs. Glover,” Anna said.

“What?”

“Tell me about Mrs. Glover. Something evidently happened to her.”

“She was Mackie’s teacher at the day care. She killed herself a couple of weeks ago. It was bad, really gruesome. She lived in a house with one of those two-story entryways. She hanged herself from the banister of the upper floor. Apparently someone forgot to close the door when the police got there and photos hit the Internet.” He scuffed his foot. “People who work with kids need to think about the kids before they do something like that.”

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