Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(10)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(10)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Excited, he grabbed at the next box—the charred remains of a human body, with a silver Rolex still clinging to the wrist. Lex’s sister, Sam, whom he’d helped Scarlett cremate. The faint stink of charred flesh was still rising from it.

Jesse yanked his hand back from the box, looking around him. This wasn’t just his deep history, at least not anymore.

These were his sins.

Jesse looked up at the mundane ceiling, raising his voice. “This isn’t a dream,” he accused. “It’s a raid. You’re going through my memories. What are you looking for?”

There was no answer. Of course.

Chapter 8

Molly and I spent the afternoon exploring Boulder, which was kind of a cool little town once you got past its intense and all-encompassing animosity toward gluten. Molly quizzed the restaurant hostess on the best places to visit, and an hour later we were boarding a converted school bus for Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour, which was much less cheesy than the name implies. We got a pretty good overview of the town’s history, and by the time the bus returned, Molly knew exactly where she wanted to go next. She dragged me up and down Pearl Street, into shops that ran the gamut from quirky kitchen supplies to extreme-sports gear.

The whole time, Molly kept forcing small amounts of bland food on me, and I had to admit, it helped: the nausea abated enough for us to get a big lunch at a taco place, where I made Molly move outside so they wouldn’t kick us out from her moans of ecstasy. The food was pretty good. In the early afternoon, I tried to check in with Jesse, but he didn’t answer either his phone or the Batphone. I frowned and checked my watch. Could he be napping? Or maybe he took Shadow for a run? I made a mental note to try again later. And we were off to another store.

I may have complained a little—okay, a lot—about the shopping, but it really was nice to spend a few hours on just another weird shopping adventure with Molly. I stopped thinking about the pregnancy and just enjoyed myself.

And then it was time to go meet Lex’s vampire boyfriend.

She lived well outside the Boulder city limits, in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was neat and unadorned, at least on the outside. I suspected the lack of decoration was more Lex being guarded than Lex being boring.

As soon as Molly and I climbed out of Eleanor, I could hear the barking of what sounded like an entire pack of dogs. She and I exchanged a look and shrugged.

“Nice house,” Molly commented, knocking on the door. “Can you feel the boyfriend yet?”

“That would be impolite,” I informed her. I was reining in my radius a bit so I wouldn’t turn the boyfriend—Quinn—human until Lex was ready.

She opened the door, looking a little breathless. Her hair was loose and slightly damp, and she’d changed into nice jeans and a long black top that was pulled in at her waist with straps that tied around the back. She’d even put on a little makeup. It was probably the most dressed up I’d ever seen her. “I should have asked if you were okay with animals,” she shouted over the barking, but Molly and I had both already crouched down to greet the four dogs, which included a couple of Lab mixes, a tiny and sort of vacant-looking Yorkie, and a slightly calmer mixed breed who hung back a little, protecting his mistress. That was what I noticed, anyway, before one of the Labs knocked me over so he could better reach my face for licking. I lost my grip on my radius, but wherever Quinn was, it wasn’t close enough for me to turn him human yet.

“Cody!” Lex admonished, looking scandalized, but I laughed, rolling away and climbing to my feet. “I’m sorry,” Lex said, and she actually looked kind of guilty. “They’re a little . . . exuberant. They don’t meet new people very often. Come on in.”

When they realized we were coming inside, where they would have even better access to us, the dogs calmed down and trotted happily alongside us as Lex led the way to a large, high-ceilinged space that served as a combination dining room and living room.

Lex turned around, looking at me a little nervously. It was strange to see her look uncertain. “So . . . how does this work?”

“I’m kind of assuming Quinn has been around your niece before?” I asked.

She nodded. “Usually just at evening family functions, though, when it’s natural for them to be together. We keep it as normal as possible. I don’t ever want Charlie thinking we only love her for what she can do for Quinn.”

It was a good attitude. I cleared my throat. “Okay, well, if he knows what a null feels like, this should be pretty simple.” I pointed to a couch. “Molly and I will sit here, and you can go be physically near him. I’ll expand my radius, and when he wakes up, you can explain what’s going on. Take whatever time you need.”

Lex was wringing her hands. “And you’re sure he’ll be okay?” She glanced at Molly, then back to me. “I mean, I know you’ve done this before, but can you really keep more than one vampire in your radius at a time, during the day?”

I blinked, surprised. “You . . . don’t know a whole lot about nulls, huh?”

She started to look defensive, and I shook my head. “Sorry, forget that. If you’re used to witch magic, and Charlie’s a little kid, I can see where this would be confusing. Look, neutralizing magic doesn’t affect me. It can’t tire me out, and as long as they stay within my radius, there’s no limit to the number of people I can . . .” I flapped a hand, looking for the right word. “Nullify, I guess. Like Molly said earlier, I can expand my radius to keep both of them in it. The only way Quinn could get hurt is if he, like, took off at a dead sprint when my back was turned, so I didn’t know to widen my area.”

Lex nodded, looking pacified. “Okay. Let’s do this.” She disappeared down a hallway, and I heard a door open and close, probably to the basement. I counted to ten before pushing out my radius until I could feel a second vampire. He was below us, deeper into the house. Some kind of basement hidey-hole, probably.

Ten minutes went by, and then I heard footsteps on the stairs.

Lex emerged, trailed by a tall vampire who looked to be in his late thirties, wearing worn-looking jeans and a fitted gray tee shirt. He was handsome, with blond hair and the kind of craggy face that would age well—if, that is, he could age. He started over to us, hand outstretched, but got distracted by the sunshine pouring in through the window behind me. “Whoa,” he breathed.

Molly grinned, jumping up from her chair. “I know, right? Hi, I’m Molly.”

“Quinn,” the man said absently. He had stopped just short of where the sunbeam hit the floor. Lex hung back, watching him with a little smile. Quinn looked over at me. “And you’re Scarlett. Can I . . .”

I waved him on. “Go ahead. It can’t hurt you.”

Impulsively, he turned and grabbed Lex’s hand, pulling her with him into the sunlight. She put her arms around his neck, laughing, and I looked away, feeling an ache in the pit of my stomach. They were so obviously in love. Molly reached over and squeezed my hand.

“So,” Quinn said, turning so Lex’s back rested against his chest. His arms were still wrapped around her. “I hear there’s a party.”

Chapter 9

Half an hour later, the four of us were climbing out of Lex’s Subaru in front of a very large house in a very nice neighborhood. I didn’t know anything about architectural styles or whatever, but it was brick and there were arches and Molly muttered the word tony, so I figured Lex’s parents were rich. That was interesting. She had never given off a “spoiled rich kid” vibe.

Molly and I let Lex lead us in, and she gave me a wink over her shoulder. Okay, she had been right: this was fascinating.

Inside, the noise hit me first, followed by the food smells. We went through a small foyer into a huge dining/kitchen area, where dozens of people were milling around, talking and laughing. As the door closed behind us, the number of people in the room instantly made me nervous. I wasn’t claustrophobic, but I hadn’t grown up with any extended family around. Even when my parents were alive, there were never more than four Bernards in a room. This was taking “family birthday party” to a level I hadn’t experienced.

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