Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(8)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(8)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Well . . . yeah.”

“What’s the question?”

“I’d rather not say.”

She didn’t roll her eyes, because Lex is too scary for that. Instead, her expression suggested I was on my way to a serious ass-kicking. “You’re a null, Scarlett. I would be a complete idiot to put you alone in a room with one of the world’s most powerful vampires.”

“Look, I don’t even need to be close enough to turn her human again. It’s just a question.”

“Mmm-hmm,” she said sarcastically. “Just a question that you drove fifteen hours overnight to ask at the spur of the moment. Presumably because it’s too sensitive to discuss over the phone. And you expect me to take your word that you won’t turn her human?”

We went silent as the waitress returned with the other orders. Molly, who had been watching our exchange with undisguised interest, gleefully attacked her plate of pancakes and hash browns. Lex took a sip of her coffee and then set it down, temporarily distracted by Molly’s obvious enjoyment. She watched her with frank curiosity.

I leaned forward. “Lex . . . come on. This isn’t us. I know you place as much value on vampire political shit as I do, which is zero units of value. So how about we don’t do the political negotiation dance, and instead you just ask your boss if I can have five minutes of her time?”

She opened her mouth to answer, but just then her eyes flicked sideways, taking in the woman making her way toward our table. She was in her late thirties, with dark blonde hair and tired brown eyes, and she carried a thick binder with scraps of paper sticking out.

“Oh, shit,” Lex muttered under her breath. “My cousin. She’s a civilian.” She pushed back her chair and stood up. “Hey, Brie,” she said as the other woman came over to give her a hug. “What are you doing here?”

“Hey, yourself,” the woman replied. “I’m meeting Elise for brunch, so we can do wedding planning.” She glanced at us with open curiosity. “I don’t think I’ve met your . . . Army friends?”

“No, they’re, um . . .” She started to look panicked, so I stood up, pasting on a smile.

“I’m Scarlett,” I said politely, standing up and holding out my hand. “Actually, Lex and I don’t know each other too well, but we have a mutual friend in Las Vegas. I was passing through town with my roommate, Molly, on our way to Denver.” Molls dutifully stood up and shook hands, too, still chewing a mouthful of pancakes. “We thought we’d spend a day seeing Boulder, and Sashi suggested we get coffee with Lex.”

There, that covered all the details, right?

Lex was staring at me, her eyes bugging out a little, but the moment I said the word Sashi, her cousin was instantly smiling. “Well, I’m Brie, Lex’s cousin. And we all adore Sashi. And Grace, of course.” Her face brightened, and she looked at her cousin. “Lex, you should invite them to May Birthdays tonight.”

“Oh, I don’t think—” Lex started, but Molly perked up, swallowing her food.

“What’s May Birthdays?” she asked.

“The Luthers get together every few weeks to celebrate the birthdays from that month,” Brie explained. “Usually it’s the first weekend of the month, but our cousin Jake and his family will be on vacation, so we’re doing it a week early. And Grace will be there.”

“I’m sure Scarlett and Molly want to explore Boulder—” Lex began, but Molly interrupted again.

“That sounds like fun,” she said brightly. “If you’re sure we wouldn’t be imposing.”

Huh? My head swiveled toward her, and I recognized the gleam in Molly’s eye. What was she up to?

“Not at all,” Brie assured us, her eyes sparkling. “There are always plenty of friends of the family there.” She seemed to be suppressing a mischievous smile as she added, “Of course, they’re not usually Lex’s friends . . .”

Lex looked like she was about to argue, but Brie turned to her and said, “Are you bringing Quinn too? Or does he still have that weird work schedule?”

Lex looked at me, and we had a perfect mind-meld moment. I nodded at her, and a tiny, unguarded smile broke over her face. Probably the first one I’d seen from her. “Yeah,” she said to Brie. “Yeah, he’s coming.”

“Great. Five thirty at your mom and dad’s,” Brie reminded Lex. “Don’t forget this time.”

“I won’t.”

Brie waved and went off to a table near the window. Lex perched on the edge of her chair. “I should go before my other cousin gets here,” she said, taking a final sip of coffee and putting it down. “She’s a cop; she’ll have lots of questions.” She hesitated for a second, looking at me. “You’ll really wake Quinn up to come with us?”

“If you’re sure he won’t mind,” I said. “Most vampires flip out when I wake them without express permission.”

The same tiny smile. “Quinn isn’t most vampires.”

“And Maven?” I pushed.

The smile faded. “I’ll leave word at the coffee shop. She’ll get it when she wakes up. But even if she agrees, I need to be in the room. That’s nonnegotiable.”

I chewed on my lip for a second, but when Lex said “nonnegotiable,” she meant it. We were going to have to trust her. I nodded.

“I’ll text my address to your new number. Quinn’s there now. Come around five.” She turned to go, then paused and looked back over her shoulder. “Stay out of trouble today.” The phrase This is my town was clearly implied.

“Oh, we will,” Molly said cheerfully.

When she was gone, I turned to Molly. “What was that about? Why do you want to go to a family party for a family you don’t even know?”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Come on, don’t tell me you’re not curious about Lex’s life. And I want to meet the baby null. Besides, we’ve got time to kill before sunset.”

“These points are not bad points,” I admitted. It would be interesting to see Lex in her natural habitat. And if enabling Quinn to attend the party ingratiated me to her a little, that couldn’t hurt my case later. “Okay. Family party it is.”

Chapter 7

When Jesse Cruz opened his eyes again, he was lying on the floor of an LAPD evidence room.

That’s what it looked like, anyway. He didn’t recognize the specific lockup—the LAPD had twenty-one separate division stations, and he’d only visited a handful of them—but there were metal shelves surrounding him on every side, and they were loaded down with overflowing boxes, each one stamped with the official LAPD seal.

How the hell could the Luparii witches have gotten him this deep inside an evidence room? Were they capable of teleportation?

Jesse sat up slowly, checking himself for injuries. His mouth was dry and his head ached, but otherwise he felt okay. He reached for his phone, but it wasn’t in his pocket. How long had he been out? He checked his watch, but that was gone, too, along with his wallet.

He stood up, intending to find his way out of there, or at least someone who could help him. The Luparii had taken Shadow, and Scarlett needed him. Jesse had no idea what he was going to say to whatever cops he found, but he couldn’t just sit around waiting for everything to resolve itself. “Hello?” he called. “Can I get some help?”

There was no response, and nothing for Jesse to do but start walking. Which way was the exit, though? The room was dimly lit, and the shelves seemed to stretch on endlessly. He squinted in either direction, picked one, and started walking.

He only passed a few of the shelves before realizing that something was very wrong. It was too quiet, for one thing—evidence rooms weren’t usually soundproofed, and he should have been able to hear the endless bustle of one of the busiest police forces in the world. But after he noticed this, he began to realize that other details were off, too. None of the boxes had lids, and there were no case numbers written on the sides. He stopped and pulled out a box, peering inside to see a Glock and an older-model cell phone. They were open to the elements, not even wrapped in plastic. Jesse reached in and touched the phone. It crumbled in his hand, turning into a chunky dust that somehow left his fingers greasy. He tried the gun next, but the same thing happened. Jesse pushed that box aside, wiped his hands on his jeans, and reached for the box next to it. This one held textbooks and clothes, the kind of stuff Jesse himself had owned as a high school student. He reached for them anyway, but everything crumbled again.

   
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