Home > Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(15)

Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(15)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

To his surprise, the SUV driver began to back up quickly, and Jesse realized too late that they were coming for him too. He dropped down as a round whistled over his head. It impacted the glass door and kept going, embedding itself into the wall of mailboxes in the lobby. A second shot ricocheted off the steps above him, and Jesse felt a sudden sting on his face as a tiny piece of shrapnel embedded in his cheek.

He heard tires squeal as the SUV tore down the street. Jesse stumbled to his feet and raced the twenty yards to Scarlett, who was lying on the sidewalk with blood on one side, groaning quietly. The bargest was lying beside her, panting shallowly.

He dropped to his knees next to Scarlett. “How bad? How bad?” he blurted, his hands running over her, searching for the source of the bleeding. “Scarlett?” He touched her cheek, drawing her head toward him. Her eyes were unfocused. “Scar, where are you hit?”

“Arm,” she mumbled. She tried to roll herself over, but hissed with pain. “Just my arm. Bonked my head though. Shadow . . .”

“She’s alive. I have to roll you, okay?”

She nodded, her jaw clenched, and he carefully eased her body over. Despite that, she gasped, her face going another shade whiter. When he had her settled on her back, Jesse flipped back the side of her jacket, exposing her chest. There was a second, faint bloodstain right above her heart. He bit down on a curse, not wanting to scare her. He needed to get the jacket off, but it didn’t give when he pulled at it. “I need to cut this off. Do you have something in the van?” It was only fifteen feet away.

“Jacket pocket,” she said through clenched teeth. He thought she meant her keys, but when he reached into the pocket he found a sharp knife, nearly six inches long. It was balanced for throwing. That surprised him, but it wasn’t the right moment to ask. He pulled it out and cut back the tight denim.

Jesse sighed with relief. The second wound was just a thin cut from a shard of her phone. “I think the bullet grazed your phone as you were turning, which slowed it down some,” he reported. Carefully, he ran the knife down the sleeve of the jacket, causing her to groan again. “Sorry . . . okay. This isn’t too bad. It’s bleeding a lot, though. You need some stitches.” He expected her to protest, but she nodded, her face still dazed. “Do you have a concussion?”

“Don’t think so. Check Shadow.”

He ignored this, first cutting a slice of the denim to cinch around her arm. She screamed when he pulled it tight, involuntary tears running down her grit-smeared cheeks. “Shadow,” she insisted, panting.

Jesse finally turned toward the bargest, noticing that there was absolutely no blood near her. She was lying on her side, her enormous chest heaving. He began to touch her, but stopped as he saw the two small bald patches to the right of her spine, where her fur had been blown off. “Oh, wow,” he said softly.

“How is she?”

“I think her ribs are cracked,” he said in an awed voice. Getting shot at such close range should have turned her into meat rain. He had known in theory that she was tough, but seeing it in action was surreal.

“She’ll—” Scarlett began, but she was interrupted by the first scream of sirens, still a distance away. One of the neighbors must have called the police. Scarlett started to struggle to her feet. “We’ve got to go.”

“No!” he rested his hands on her shoulders, and that light contact alone was enough to force her back down. “You need an ambulance. That arm needs stitches.”

“Jesse, we’ll lose hours—”

“I mean it,” he said firmly. “You want my help, you’ve got it. But that’s my condition.”

She met his eyes for an endless second before nodding. “Fine.” She propped herself on her good elbow, looking around like she was mentally calculating the evidence dispersal. “You’ve got to get Shadow out of here, though. They can’t find her.”

“What will you tell the police?”

“That I came to see you, but you weren’t home. Someone tried to shoot me as I left.”

The sirens were getting close now. “They might check your van. Are they gonna find anything incriminating?”

She had to be in a lot of pain, but she gave him a skeptical look. “Not without a blowtorch. Shadow, come!”

Hearing her mistress’s voice, the bargest struggled to her feet. “Go with Jesse,” Scarlett instructed. “He’ll bring you to me in just a little while.”

The bargest gave her a mournful look, but began to trot gingerly toward Jesse. Already she was shaking off the effects of the gunshot.

“Take the key out of my back pocket,” Scarlett said to Jesse. “I don’t want anything to happen to it.” She leaned onto one side, wincing, and Jesse awkwardly dipped in her pocket for the little safety deposit key.

“I’ll find you at the hospital,” he promised, climbing to his feet. She just nodded weakly, then let her head rest on the ground.

At the corner, Jesse herded Shadow next to the building, peeking around to keep an eye on Scarlett until the ambulance came. When she was loaded into the back and the doors closed behind her, Jesse finally relaxed and turned toward the bargest, who sat watching him expectantly. “She’s going to be fine,” he promised. Jesse didn’t really know how much of human language Shadow understood, but it was definitely more than the average dog. “They’ll bandage her arm,” he added, touching his own sleeve, “and then we’ll meet up with her. Okay?”

Shadow thumped her clubbed tail, and Jesse nodded to himself. “Okay. Good.”

He led Shadow back up to the apartment so he could retrieve his personal handgun, his cell phone, and his jacket. He found an old leash in the back of a closet, left over from walking his parents’ dog, Max. Shadow accepted the leash graciously, though she didn’t look thrilled about it. Now that they were away from Scarlett’s radius, Shadow’s healing had sped up, and even the bald patches in her fur filled in.

Then they were in Jesse’s car, pulling out into traffic—and Jesse realized he had no idea where to go. He needed to get away from the apartment in case the police stopped by, but he probably had at least a couple of hours to kill before Scarlett was released from the hospital. He didn’t know what he could do that might help prove Molly’s innocence.

Or did he? Jesse had one impartial contact in the Old World. And she happened to owe him a favor.

Jesse pulled over at a 7-Eleven and checked the dashboard clock. It was well after midnight in Colorado now, but he was betting she’d still be up. Allison Luther hadn’t seemed like the kind of person who slept much, anyway. Jesse had known a lot of ex-soldiers like that.

Lex, as she preferred to be called, was an Army veteran who had lost her sister Sam to a serial killer—or at least, that was the official story. Although Lex and her family were originally from Boulder, Sam had been killed in Los Angeles, by the nova wolf, Henry Remus. Jesse had been assigned to the case, and met Lex when she came to look for Sam’s killer. It was only later that Lex learned that she had witchblood, and her family line came with a particular specialty: power over the boundary between life and death. Lex was powerful, and Jesse knew she could contact her dead sister, among other abilities. Jesse had heard rumors, but it was time to confirm them.

Sure enough, she picked up on the second ring. “Cruz?” she said warily. “What happened?”

“Hello to you too,” he said, a little amused. “But you’re right, I’ve got a problem. Well, a question.”

There was just the slightest pause, and then she said, “I haven’t forgotten what you did when I had my own ‘problem.’ How can I help?”

“Scarlett told me once that boundary witches can press vampires,” he began. “Is it true?”

“Yes,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Could you press them into killing someone else? A human?”

Another hesitation. “What’s going on, Cruz?”

“I’ll tell you, but please answer the question first.”

“Okay . . . well, you’ve probably heard that vampires can’t press people to do anything too far outside their comfort zone,” she said. “A vampire could press someone to make out with a stranger, but they couldn’t make you, say, fall permanently in love, or ax-murder your parents or anything like that. But that’s because those things are outside of your basic nature.”

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