Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(4)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(4)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

A brief pause, then: “Does the pope shit in the woods?”

“Uhhh . . .”

“Of course I do!”

“Great.” I picked up my cell phone off the nightstand and handed it to Jesse, who put it in his pocket. “I’ll get you the burner number before we leave. That way you can call me if there’s a serious issue.” One of the vampires would also be able to press Jesse to get my new cell number, but if it came to that, we’d already be screwed.

“Okay. What about Shadow?”

“Right.” I glanced down at the bargest, who was glaring at me again. I had never left Shadow with anyone but another null, at least not for more than a couple of hours. I sat back down on the bed, which put my face more or less at eye level with hers. “I know you’re not happy with me,” I told her, “and I know why. But can you please try to be good for Jesse?” The one thing I absolutely couldn’t do was leave Shadow alone during the full moon. She was magically driven to pursue and kill werewolves, thanks to the spell that made her a bargest, and during the full moon, the werewolves in LA had to change. Luckily, that was almost three weeks away.

Shadow kept the glare going for a few more seconds, but then her clubbed-off tail lifted and slowly began to wag. She dipped her head and gave my hand one regal lick. I scratched her ears. “Thank you.” I looked back up at Jesse. “And thank you.”

He nodded, still looking worried. “Go do what you need to do.”

Chapter 3

Jesse drove Scarlett and Molly to a storage unit a couple of miles away, where Molly supposedly kept a muscle car. Under normal circumstances, he would be interested in seeing it, but he was too worried about Scarlett. She had been off ever since she’d returned from Las Vegas, her eyes distant and haunted. Then the flu, and now whatever this was. It was a lot of stress.

The ride was quiet, with only the low buzz of the radio and Shadow occasionally shifting around in the back seat, where she was scrunched in next to Molly. When they arrived at the storage facility, Molly got out of the back seat with a quick, “Thanks, Jesse,” closing the door behind her. Scarlett put her hand on the door handle, then paused, looking over at him. She looked worried and pale, and she’d lost weight during her illness. Jesse had to stop himself from nagging her to eat regularly and drink lots of fluids.

“You look . . . um . . . not back to full strength,” he said instead. “Are you sure about this?”

“No,” she said quietly. “But I don’t know what else to do.” He opened his mouth to ask what she meant, but Scarlett just shook her head. “I’ll explain everything when we get back, I promise.”

She leaned over and kissed his cheek before exiting the car.

As he drove back to the cottage, with Shadow now comfortably stretched across the back seat, Jesse had to wonder about that kiss. It hadn’t been romantic or anything, but Scarlett was so rarely affectionate, and that was the second time she’d touched him in one night, as though she was seeking comfort. Something had to be really bothering her, and it made him crazy that he didn’t know what it was.

Back at the cottage, Jesse wandered around the living room, straightening couch cushions and folding up throw blankets while Shadow draped herself across the couch, watching him with what might have been amusement. Jesse wasn’t a particularly neat person, but the night’s events had left him with too much nervous energy. Really, he should get his gym bag out of the trunk of his car and take Shadow for a run. It’d be good for her—Scarlett hadn’t exactly been a marathoner during her illness—and on the off chance that someone from the Old World spotted him, it would be easy to use the excuse that he was exercising Shadow while Scarlett was sick.

But the cop in him was tugging at his attention. Scarlett thought she was protecting him by keeping him out of whatever was happening, but that just wasn’t like her. She had called on him for help plenty of times, and Jesse knew that she trusted him. So why was she suddenly afraid that Dashiell or one of his vampires was going to press him?

Then Jesse realized, too late, that he had a way around that.

Scarlett was a null; she never remembered that there were other ways to block vampire mind control. Months ago, Jesse had asked Kirsten for a stash of witch bags, which could protect him against different Old World species.

This had been while Scarlett was still recovering from healing Hayne, and Jesse was helping her. Kirsten had been so grateful that a few days later she’d given him a small box of witch bags, no questions asked. He had it hidden in his old bedroom at his parents’ house, where there was no chance that Scarlett would come close to it and negate the magic.

Jesse could collect one of the witch bags to protect himself from being pressed, so there was no reason Scarlett had to keep whatever this was from him. He picked up his phone, where he’d programmed in the burner number—but then he stopped himself.

“She’s still not going to tell me, is she?” he said to Shadow. He was mostly just thinking out loud, but she lifted her head from her paws, watching him attentively. “She’s spooked, so she’s going to keep it from me on reflex. But what if I can help her?” He stood up, pacing the length of the small cottage. Then he went back into the living room and looked at Shadow, who hadn’t moved.

He felt a little ridiculous, but he went over and sat next to her on the couch, scratching her ears. “Okay, I’m never sure how much of this you’re getting, but . . . is it okay if I search the cottage?”

She tilted her head back to study his face. “It’s just, I want to help Scarlett, and I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

Shadow just looked at him for a long moment, making Jesse feel like even more of an idiot. What was he doing? Shadow was smart, sure, but she was a dog. A very protective dog. She wasn’t going to understand the nuances of human—

But before he could even finish that thought, Shadow shifted gracefully off the couch—she was too big to jump down, so she just slid her paws off—and padded toward the kitchen. Jesse followed her to the cupboard next to the sink, where Scarlett and Molly kept a small garbage can. The cupboards didn’t have any handles, but Shadow looked up at him and pawed at the door a little.

Jesse opened the cupboard, but Shadow continued to stare at him until he pulled the can out. The garbage was about half-full, with a wad of tissues on top. “What?” he asked the bargest.

Had she actually rolled her eyes?

She hooked the edge of the can with one big paw and tipped it over. “Hey,” Jesse protested, but the spill revealed what was hidden under the tissues: a piece of blue plastic the size of a Magic Marker. He crouched down and flipped it over. “No fucking way,” he breathed.

It was a digital pregnancy test, the kind that had actual words instead of plus and minus signs. And it said PREGNANT.

Jesse toppled sideways, landing hard on his butt. “She’s pregnant?” he said stupidly. “How is that . . . I thought she couldn’t . . .” He closed his mouth and swallowed hard, grateful that Scarlett couldn’t see his face just then.

His first thought was, That’s why she’s been sick. His second was, Who’s the father? To his genuine surprise, jealousy bubbled up within him.

Then the implications hit him. Oh, God, no wonder she was freaked out. Would the baby be a regular human? Even if it was, nulls were valuable, and a baby would be an easy lever to control Scarlett. That had to be why she didn’t want Dashiell to know. But it didn’t explain her leaving town . . . unless she was going somewhere to abort the baby. Why would she need to leave LA to do that, though? Humans in LA terminated pregnancies all the time, and it was unlikely to get back to anyone in the Old World.

He felt warm moisture and realized Shadow had licked his face with her enormous tongue. Ew. He gently moved her face away. “Thanks, girl, but . . . wow.” No wonder Scarlett was so shook.

Jesse sat there on the kitchen floor, feeling like a fool. He’d been so cocky, assuming he could help Scarlett with whatever was troubling her. But this was bigger than him. He should have trusted her decision to keep him out of it.

Who was the father? Was Scarlett seeing someone?

   
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