Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(15)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(15)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Gran would’ve fixed him with a glare, so I did. “That’s my kin, sir.” It was like channeling her, and I had to try hard not to smile as I offered him two crumpled dollar bills. “He’s special. Here.”

I should’ve been aiming for a submissive tone, I guess. Or at least something conciliatory. Instead, I sounded like I was brushing him off, and—here’s the bad part—there were a couple of wide women in print shorts, locals by the look of them, passing by to head into the store’s air conditioning.

One of them laughed, her flip-flops making regular little smacking sounds against cracked pavement. Her shoulders were permanently sunburned, and her blouse had a tropical print way too bright green to do any good for her complexion in this lighting. “Lyle’s about to do a citizen’s arrest right there again.” She spat tobacco juice, a pungent brown streak, and the other woman chimed in with a cackle that would have done Witch Hazel proud. They swept on into the store, the automatic door wheezing tiredly shut behind them.

Petty tyrants don’t like being laughed at. Piggy Eyes Lyle flushed an even darker brick red, and his meaty paw shot out. The touch snapped inside my head like a wet sheet shaken before you put it on the line, and I realized he’d been following us through the store, watching us.

Watching me, in particular. And the things he was thinking squirmed inside my head like maggots. I actually flinched as his fingers closed around my upper arm.

“You’re comin’ with me.” He squeezed, hard. He had only human strength, but the aspect woke with a jolt, smoothing over my skin with oil-soft heat. My fangs tingled, and I clapped my lips shut over them. The thirst tingled in the back of my throat, bloodhunger waking up. It was weird—it was taking over that other place on the back of my tongue, the one that warned me of danger. It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t have time to think about it.

The sun dimmed. The clouds had found us.

Ash growled. The sound rumbled free, a warning I was used to from hanging out with wulfen. It deepened at the end, and anyone with any sense would’ve backed up in a hurry.

Lyle, however, had no common sense. He actually shook me, and tried to drag me off my feet. I planted myself, the grocery cart giving a screech, and was thinking furiously about how to defuse the situation when three things happened.

One, the sky darkening in the west rumbled. It was a long menacing roll of thunder, and it scraped along my nerve endings like a wire brush. Every hair on me tingled like the lightning was going to strike right at me. The second thing was pure bad luck—a county sheriff’s car bounced into the parking lot, its springs groaning. The man behind the wheel saw us just as Ash dropped his half-gone Charleston Chew and—this was the third thing—launched himself at Piggy Eyes Lyle so fast the pale streak in his hair seemed to stretch like taffy.

Ohshi—I dropped down, knees loosening and my free hand flashing out. I hit harder than I intended to, a flat-palm strike with almost every ounce of the aspect behind it. It sank into Lyle’s middle with a meaty crunch lost under the roll of thunder, and the fat man flew back. His fingers ripped my T-shirt as they tore free. Then I was airborne, springing like a jack-in-the-box and colliding with Ash just at the top of his leap. We hit the ground hard, pavement cracking as quarter-sized spatters of rain hit the dusty earth.

I found out I had my right hand clamped at Ash’s nape. He was growling and struggling, but I had a good grip, just like with a disobedient puppy.

“No,” I said sharply. “No. NO!” I braced my foot, my other knee grinding into a hollow in the pavement. No—not a hollow. It was the dent I’d made while landing. The aspect flooded me, smoothing down my skin in a wave of sweet heat. My fangs tingled, and the bloodhunger woke in a sheet of red. It pulled against every vein in my body, turned the entire back of my throat to a desert, and the anger woke up.

I didn’t need rage to trigger the aspect now. But it was kind of a habit, and besides, it felt so good. Like I was in control of the whole stupid, tangled situation.

Like I finally had a clear-cut problem with an easy solution in front of me.

Ash struggled. I was grinding him into the concrete, and I didn’t much care at the moment so long as he stayed still. I glanced up. The county sheriff’s car had jounced to a stop, and the man inside was staring so hard his eyes bugged out, visible even through the windshield and the gloom under his ten-gallon hat.

Uh-oh. Think fast, Dru.

Luckily, the Sav ’n’ Shop was our first stop. We could easily leave the two bags of groceries if we had to. I’d paid with cash; there was no trouble there. How to get out of here without John Law following in his car or calling in a plate number that wouldn’t match the Subaru because I’d switched them out . . . Christ.

The biggest problem, and the one I had to solve right now, was the werwulf growling and scrabbling, his bones crackling as the change tore through him.

If he goes into changeform, will he be able to come back? I didn’t know. Clear plastic goop started hardening over the world, which meant I was using superspeed even while standing still. Raindrops flashed, caught in stasis, and the sheriff’s car door made a groaning sound as it was slowly, slowly levered open. He’d grabbed a frigging shotgun, I could see the shape through the windshield, and things were about to go critical.

Think, Dru. What would Dad do?

Every muscle tensed. I dug into the pavement and pushed myself aside, whipping my right arm back. The aspect flared, my mother’s locket a spot of molten heat. Ash went flying, fur running up over his flesh in liquid black streams. The silvery stripe on his head flashed once before the darker clouds swallowed the sun completely. Thunder boomed again, distorted because I was already moving, flashing through space to slam into the cop car’s door. Pulled the force back at the last second, but I still heard snapping bone.

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