Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(6)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(6)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

After careful thought, I had decided not to warn Lex we were coming until we had crossed the Colorado state line. I’m a big fan of the “better to ask for forgiveness” thing, and delaying the call would lower the chances of her turning me away. Besides, it wasn’t like her boss, Maven, would be on vacation in Belize or something. The Old World is like the Wild West. If you own territory, you damn well better stick around to defend it.

The phone rang several times before I heard Lex’s groggy voice say, “Luther.”

“Lex, it’s Scarlett. I need a favor.”

There was a pause, and I could picture her sitting up and rubbing her face. “What the hell, Scarlett? It’s morning.” Lex worked for a vampire and was dating another vampire. Like me, she was borderline nocturnal.

“I’m sorry, but this can’t wait. Can we meet up?”

Another pause, then, cautiously, she said, “You mean, like, in person?” She didn’t seem at all surprised that I was calling from an unknown number, or that I didn’t want to discuss things over the phone. We lived strange lives.

“Yeah. I’m going to be in Boulder in—” I glanced at Molly, who mouthed an answer. “About an hour.”

There was a beat, then: “Goddammit, Scarlett! You can’t just barge into my town—into Maven’s state—without permission!” She was practically shouting. At least she was awake now. “What the hell were you thinking?”

I opened my mouth to say, “Man, you’re cranky in the morning,” but I swallowed it just in time, reminding myself I was about to ask for a favor.

Besides, technically, she was right. “Remember the time you came to LA without going through channels?” I said in a quiet voice.

Lex went silent. Years earlier, she had come to my city to find out what had really happened to her twin sister, Samantha. She’d learned the truth—that a rogue werewolf had killed Sam, and that I had destroyed the body as part of my job. She’d been really unhappy with me—okay, that was an understatement; she’d literally punched me in the face—but Jesse and I had gotten her back out of town before Dashiell or anyone else was the wiser.

We had helped partly because Jesse was sort of Lex’s friend, and partly because neither of us could blame her for wanting answers. “There are extenuating circumstances this time, too,” I said gently. “Personal circumstances.”

I hoped that bringing up her trip to LA would help her make the connection I needed: that in this case, personal meant family.

In the background, I heard what sounded like a dog whining. “Ow. Get down!” Lex ordered, away from the mouthpiece. To me, she finally grumbled, “This better be so good. Meet me at Foolish Craig’s in two hours.”

“Foolish Craig’s? Is that a restaurant?” I asked, but of course she’d already hung up. I sighed and looked at Molly.

“I’ve heard Boulder has really good brunch!” she said brightly.

Chapter 5

When the shotgun blast hit her, Shadow let out a startled yelp and fell back, but Jesse wasn’t worried about her. He’d once seen her take a similar injury when she was close to Scarlett, who impaired the bargest’s speedy healing.

He and Shadow scrambled to their feet at about the same time, but the door had swung all the way open by then, and the girl stood framed in the doorway.

No, not a girl—a woman. She was slender and wispy, with long, sort of colorless hair, but she was definitely in her twenties. She wore the same beige summer dress, but there was no sign of blood now. She had transformed, and Jesse realized it must have been magic. She hadn’t pressed his mind, and werewolves couldn’t mess with your brain, so it had to be witch magic.

The woman lifted a hand and wiggled her fingers at Jesse, her smug smile baring crooked teeth. She was obviously unarmed, in the thin dress, which didn’t explain the gunshot—or why Shadow was frozen next to him with her feet planted. “What the hell?” Jesse started to say, but then he saw the long barrel of the shotgun move out of the shadows next to the woman. The short, wiry man who appeared behind the gun had the same pale hair as the woman. He was about thirty, and wore jeans and a military-style olive jacket with bulging pockets. The shotgun was braced against his hip, with the muzzle pointed right at Jesse’s chest. Shadow had seen the gun before Jesse had. The few tufts of hair on her back stood straight up with anger. Jesse cursed himself for not bringing his own weapon in from the car.

“I do not want to shoot this man,” the man said to Shadow. He had a heavy French accent that Jesse recognized from his high school language classes. Jesse still spoke a little French, but they didn’t need to know that. “Back up so we may enter.” His eyes flicked briefly to Jesse. “Both of you.”

Shadow snarled again, a sound that would have made an ordinary man urinate on the spot. But the Frenchman just rolled his eyes and raised the shotgun to his shoulder, pointing the muzzle at Jesse’s legs. “Have it your way. I will cripple him first.”

Shadow growled and began to step back. Totally lost, Jesse did the same. The man gestured with the shotgun, and Jesse raised his hands. The man stepped close enough to kick Jesse’s cell phone away, then retreated to a safe distance.

“What do you want?” Jesse demanded, though he had a sinking feeling that he knew.

“Kneel down,” the man ordered.

Jesse slowly knelt down, trying to think of something. Why had he opened the door? Why hadn’t he listened to Shadow, goddammit?

“Sabine,” the man said, not looking away from the bargest. He knew that Shadow was the true threat here. The wispy woman—Sabine—sort of floated toward him, pulling something out of the back of the man’s waistband. When she stepped aside, Jesse saw that she was holding a handgun, her finger resting casually along the trigger guard. That worried him. Most people, Jesse knew, were naturally a little wary of guns. In America, guns were a regular part of life, but that just meant everyone knew to be afraid of them, and treated them like they were practically otherworldly. This attitude usually extended into the Old World, where guns were considered not only alien, but also gauche and unnecessary.

But this witch, as weird as she looked, held the weapon with almost careless comfort, like a veteran cop—which made Jesse’s stomach clench with fear.

Who were these people?

Sabine circled the man and came around to Jesse’s back, carefully staying out of the shotgun’s line of fire. Then Jesse heard the click of a safety, inches behind him. He started to turn his head to look at her, but the man ordered, “Stop. Look straight ahead.”

To Shadow, he said in French, “What is this man’s life worth to you, Belle? If you want him to live, be very still.”

Belle?

The first ping went off in Jesse’s brain, but he didn’t have time to think it through before the man pulled something long and silvery from his jacket pocket. In a quick, practiced flick of his wrists, he turned and threw it at Shadow. “Shadow, run!” Jesse yelled, but the bargest just bowed her head as the heavy metal net flared out over her. She seemed resigned, as though it was something that had happened many times before.

That was when Jesse realized who they were. The French, the net, the name Belle—these two were part of the Luparii, the witch clan that had originally created Shadow and used her to attack and kill werewolves. They had come back for her.

Fear gripped him as the man crouched down and pulled a strand connected to the net, cinching it shut around Shadow. She yelped, flipping sideways, and struggled on instinct before forcing herself to go still.

The man squatted down next to Shadow, pulling a capped syringe out of his other pocket. Jesse was taken aback—surely the Luparii witches would know that Shadow’s skin was all but impenetrable?

But the man removed the cap and slid the needle into her open mouth, squirting in a liquid. Shadow allowed it—she’d obviously been through this before.

“What is that?” Jesse demanded. “What are you doing to her?” Could a bargest be poisoned? Wouldn’t her healing abilities prevent that?

“It is elephant tranquilizer,” the man replied, pronouncing it carefully. “No amount will kill her, unfortunately, but enough of it will put her into a deep sleep.”

   
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