Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(15)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(15)
Author: Patricia Briggs

It was probably not connected. People committed suicide all the time. Still.

“Did she leave a suicide note?”

He shook his head. “No note. The police looked pretty closely at her husband the first couple of days. Maybe they still are. But I heard he was across the country giving a lecture to a room of engineers when she died.” He paused. “I saw her the day before she died because Mom sent me to pick up the kids. She was smiling and cheerful, just like always. She told me that Mackie needed to bring an old shirt for a painting smock for a class project they were supposed to start the next day.”

Anna thought about it. People did commit suicide in all sorts of ways. Hanging didn’t seem like an impulsive thing, like shooting yourself with a gun. Hanging would take more time, and it would give someone a fair chance to reconsider. Find a rope. Figure out somewhere to hang yourself. Climb over the banister and hope that you don’t slip. If you fall before you’ve tied yourself properly, you might just hit the floor below and break a leg or something.

“Anything else unusual happen at the day care lately?” she asked. Mackie swarmed up the rope net, then paused and climbed back down so she could help Michael up. “I’m talking about disappearances, deaths, anything like that.”

“Not that I know of,” Max said. Then he called out, “McKenzie Veronica Sani, don’t you try climbing up there on the outside. Whatever you do, Michael will do. You’ll both break your necks.”

Like Mrs. Glover.

“There was that boy,” he said. “In Mackie’s class. He died in a car accident last month. He and his two brothers and his mom were hit by a semi when his mom crossed into the oncoming traffic. There was a rainstorm that day. Mom says Scottsdale drivers can’t drive in the rain.”

Anna’s phone rang, and she answered it.

“Might be useful if you came back,” Charles said. “Kage is helping his wife to clean up a bit and then we’re all going to be staying at Hosteen’s place for a while.” He hung up without saying anything more—a sign that all was not going well.

“You heard that?” Anna asked Max.

He shook his head. She was getting too used to being surrounded by werewolves.

“Charles said gather the kids and head back,” she told him. “Your mom is over the first hurdle. We’re all going back to Hosteen’s ranch.”

He closed his eyes briefly and heaved a sigh of relief.

“I’ll gather the rug rats,” he said, standing up. “Why are we all going to the ranch?”

“Because a new wolf needs help controlling herself,” Anna told him. “A more dominant werewolf can help her keep her impulses in line until she can do it herself. You might be staying there for a few months—at least your mom might be staying there for a while. Also, I expect, they want to keep an eye on all of you until they figure out if there is likely to be another attack on you and your mom.”

“Great,” Max muttered. “Mom will be ecstatic. She and ánáli Hastiin are the best of friends.” He got up, took a step toward the play fort, and then said, “Mom’s going to be okay?”

She wouldn’t lie to him. “I don’t know. This means that she made the Change. But she’s still got to prove that she isn’t a risk to anyone, that she has the willpower to control the wolf.”

He gave Anna a half-worried smile. “Kage says my mother has more willpower than Mahatma Gandhi. He’s not usually happy about it, but I’m thinking it might mean that she’ll be all right.”

Anna smiled. “Go get the kids.”

They got back to the house and Charles, on his own two feet, was standing outside with a clearly fuming Hosteen. The latter noticed the kids and altered his body language to neutral. She could still smell his ire, but the kids were human and they would see only what he wanted them to.

“Is Chelsea okay?” she asked Charles.

He nodded, though the grave expression on his face wasn’t reassuring. Either he was worried about Chelsea still, or he was unhappy with Hosteen.

Hosteen looked at Mackie and Michael and schooled his voice into something gentle. “You are all coming to my house for a little bit, until we find out what happened to your mom.”

“It is chindi, ánáli Hastiin,” said Mackie, and Hosteen winced.

“There are some words that should not be said,” he told her.

“Don’t start that,” said Max loudly. “She said it today and she thinks that’s what caused Mom to go nuts. So don’t start with that.”

Hosteen’s eyes flashed yellow, and he showed his teeth. “Careful, boy,” he said.

“Stop,” Charles told him. “Now is not the time. Listen to his words, old man, and let the rest go.”

Hosteen shot Charles a look that raised the hair on the back of Anna’s neck.

Charles looked at Mackie. “Your ánáli Hastiin is right. It is not wise to speak the name of evil where it might hear you. But you didn’t call evil spirits to your mother. They don’t listen to children.”

Charles was intimidating at the best of times. Mackie stepped behind Max and peered out at him warily. “You are Brother Wolf?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Brother Wolf is sleeping. I am Anna’s husband, Charles.”

“The chindi are afraid of you,” she told him. “Anna says.”

“Is that what Anna said?” he asked. Anna could tell that he was smiling, though his lips never moved. “Then it must be so.”

“You can’t come hunt ch—” Mackie stopped and glanced at Hosteen. “You can’t hunt evil things with Anna and me. You’ll take away all of our fun.”

“You are planning on hunting down the bad guys?” Charles asked.

“When I am grown-up,” Mackie confirmed.

He nodded. “All right, I’ll stay home. But only if you agree to wait until you are at least your brother’s age”—he tipped his head at Max—“before you go looking for trouble. Otherwise your ánáli Hastiin will follow you to protect you. The evil things are even more afraid of him than they are of me.”

She slid around Max and caught up Hosteen’s hand. “Okay. I don’t want to hunt bad things today, anyway.”

“Let’s go pack,” Hosteen said to her. “You and I and Michael, hmm?”

“Yes,” she said. “Max is coming, too.”

It wasn’t quite a question.

“Max is coming, too,” Hosteen agreed, without looking away from his granddaughter. “And so are your mom and dad.”

“So Max should come with us to pack,” she said with more authority.

“I can pack on my own, squirt,” Max told her.

“So can I,” she told him as she followed Hosteen and Michael into the house. “I am just helping Michael.”

“I don’t need help,” Anna could hear Michael complain.

Max let the door close behind them, took a deep breath, and then headed in.

“I wonder what made her say chindi before her mother got angry,” said Charles thoughtfully.



Anna drove with Charles and Max in the truck. Charles rode in the middle, which wasn’t comfortable for him; his long legs didn’t fit easily anywhere. But better, she thought, than forcing poor Max to squish between virtual strangers. Charles could have driven, of course, but he had just shaken his head when she’d suggested it. At a guess, Changing Chelsea had left him pretty raw. He wouldn’t say it, though, in front of Max.

Hosteen had packed the two youngest children, Kage, and Chelsea, pale but freshly showered, in the BMW. Anna followed them through the streets of Scottsdale.

“Mom looked okay,” said Max, not looking at Charles.

“It varies from person to person,” Anna said. “But I suspect she’s got about two hours before she sleeps like the dead for a good long while. She’ll wake up for a couple of hours and sleep the rest of the day for two or three days. Then she should be mostly back to normal.”

Charles grunted assent, and that unfriendly sound shut Max down completely. Rather than start more awkwardness, Anna chose to keep quiet, and they drove to the ranch in silence.

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