Home > Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(11)

Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(11)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“What happened?” I asked.

The guy frowned, glancing beyond me like he was hoping for another car so he’d have an excuse to push me along. “A Subaru got T-boned and went off the bridge,” he said, then gave me a stern look. “For your own safety, ma’am, please follow the detour into town.”

I tried to ask another question, but he turned away, not having it. I rolled up the window and made the turn, glancing at Simon. He looked as worried as I felt, but neither of us wanted to voice our fear. There were lots of Subarus in Colorado.

I followed the detour, which snaked around the accident site, across a smaller, older bridge, and into downtown Rio Norte. I’d never been there before, but I’d been in similar places: small, scraped-together mining communities that were struggling to survive now that the silver or coal had run out. Colorado was littered with them, like a schoolyard strewn with abandoned toys.

We wound through the downtown streets until we were two blocks from the entrance to the bridge. I parked on the street, and without needing to discuss it, Simon and I walked down the street to join the crowd of onlookers. From this side I could see the spot where the vehicle had torn through the corrugated metal guardrail like it was ripping paper.

There were about thirty or forty people milling around, which had to be a pretty big percentage of the Rio Norte population. Most of them were talking to each other in tight, closed circles or muttering into cell phones, their expressions concerned or excited—or both. The whole scene on the bridge looked like something out of a movie, with all the flashing lights and the tow truck rope hanging down the gap in the ripped guardrail.

I sidled up to two harried-looking women in their thirties, both dressed in office clothes and parkas. I’d kind of hoped Simon would step up and do the talking-to-strangers part, like Quinn usually did, but he stayed at my shoulder, waiting for me to take the lead. Crap.

“Excuse me,” I began. “We’re just passing through town. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

The one closest to me, a bleached blonde, gave me a brief glance and said, “They’re about to pull up the car. They had to wait for the wind to die down a little.”

“How did the guy go through the guardrail?” I asked.

Her friend, a Latina woman in a scuffed gray coat, answered. “Truck T-boned the side of it.”

The blonde pointed to a small access road, barely more than a path, that ran parallel to the river on the opposite bank.

“We was just saying, we think the truck musta come off the frontage road. There are plenty of lights on the bridge, so . . .” She shook her head, mystified. “Why wouldn’t he have stopped?”

The frontage road had no streetlights, and I could barely make out the handful of people down there. They were wearing black, and after a moment I realized these had to be divers, probably out of Pueblo or Colorado Springs. Rio Norte was way too small to have a team like that.

“Did anyone come out of the water?” I asked. “Any survivors?” Both women shook their heads.

Simon touched my arm and pointed at the tow truck. “Look,” he said softly.

The thick chains had started moving, agonizingly slow, and with a horrific metallic screech that had a few people in the crowd covering their ears. It seemed like an hour before a wet, black mass emerged from the water, and my heart sank as I recognized Ryan Dunn’s Forester. It cleared the surface of the water, dangling gently from the chains, and began a slow spin as a torrent of river water cascaded out the cracks.

I was too horrified to take in any details, but Simon bent his head to speak in my ear. “Lex, look at the windows.”

I squinted, trying to see past the reflected lights bouncing off the wet metal. Then I realized what Simon meant: the inside of the Forester’s bullet-resistant windows was scored with dozens of deep, ragged lines, clustered in groups of four.

Claw marks.

Chapter 10

“Lex,” Maven said a few hours later, “I understand you’re upset, but please try to calm down.”

I snorted, continuing my tight circuit of the room. I didn’t trust myself to speak yet.

We were in the large, concrete-floored back room at Magic Beans. Usually Quinn and I met Maven in her tiny office, but it was too tiny with the addition of Simon—and Maven had probably realized that I needed a hell of a lot more room. I’d been pacing for the last ten minutes while Simon had told the others about Dunn’s Subaru.

I barely listened. I’d already provided a brief, edited-for-cell-phone-security explanation from the road, so Maven could dispatch a couple of her Colorado Springs vampires to Rio Norte. They were supposed to press minds and gather as much information as possible, and since we had a much longer drive than they did, Quinn had called with the first update before Simon and I made it into Boulder.

As I’d suspected, someone had tampered with Dunn’s Subaru, sabotaging the door mechanisms so they wouldn’t open from the inside. He had been trapped in there, panicked and unable to break through his specially reinforced windows, while he slowly drowned.

The only time someone could have messed with the Subaru was while the four of us were out on the dunes finding the bodies—which meant that Matt and Cammie had been bait. It was even possible that they’d been killed for no other reason than to lure Dunn into Colorado. And all that had happened on my watch.

By the time Simon and I arrived at Magic Beans, my hands were shaking with fury. It must have been obvious when we got inside, because neither Maven nor Quinn objected to Simon doing all the talking while I paced behind them.

Now, though, I turned to face the group. “I won’t calm down,” I snapped, not so much at Maven as to the room in general. “It was a trap, and I walked him right into it.”

“You know it wasn’t your fault,” Quinn said, sounding infuriatingly calm.

“Wasn’t it? He was supposed to be under my protection. That was the whole point of cashing in his favor, of bringing Simon and me along. And I let him get killed right under my nose.” I turned to continue my circuit of the room, but not before I saw Quinn and Simon exchange a look that I couldn’t help but interpret as “bitches be crazy.”

“About that,” Maven said, her voice still perfectly calm. She was in her usual hippie/bag lady getup: a shapeless sweaterdress in tomato red that clashed with her orange hair, and piles of tacky costume necklaces. The disguise fooled most people, but for me Maven practically pulsed with intensity. She was old, and powerful as hell. “Why do you think the two werewolves were shot with silver bullets, but Dunn was drowned? Wouldn’t it have been easier to shoot him too?”

That brought me up short, and I paused in the middle of the concrete floor. She was right. “They wanted Dunn’s death to get attention,” I concluded. “To make sure you—we—couldn’t cover it up.”

“I agree,” Maven said dryly. “And it certainly worked.”

She wasn’t kidding. The crash had been all over the radio news during our drive back, with reporters leaning hard on the fact that there were two dead bodies in the back of Dunn’s Subaru. I hadn’t looked at a TV or computer yet, but I assumed it was all over every news outlet in the state.

Maven’s vampires would contain the situation, at least before the ME found those silver bullets, but it was too late to keep the story from the audience most meant to see it—the witches. Those who remembered the werewolf war would know that Ryan Dunn was the name of the current Cheyenne alpha, and anyone who’d ever met a werewolf would recognize the claw marks on the window, which had apparently also made the news. Word would soon spread to everyone else. As far as any of us could figure, that had to be the point—showing the witches that Maven was allowing werewolves into the state, breaking the treaty as they understood it.

I went and sat down in the empty chair next to Simon. “Have the witches been calling?” I asked, a little cautious. I wasn’t sure how much Maven would tell us in front of him.

“Me? No, they wouldn’t dare,” Maven replied. “But I heard from Hazel Pellar half an hour ago. She is being besieged by calls from the leaders of the other witch clans, wanting to know why they weren’t informed about werewolves in our state.”

“So they really didn’t know?” I said, just to be sure. Lily had always talked like the Colorado witch clans had one hell of a rumor mill.

But Maven shook her head. “A few of them suspected, or had heard rumors, but no, the knowledge had been contained to Clan Pellar.” Her eyes darted to Simon, whose face was tight.

“We kept it very quiet,” he said heavily. “My mother was . . .” His fingers flexed as he searched for a word. “Embarrassed, I suppose. About Morgan. She didn’t want the other clans to know about the weekend pass.”

“Did anyone else in Clan Pellar know about it, besides you, Lily, and Sybil?” I asked.

Simon winced, glancing at Maven, and I realized it had been a mistake to ask him to rat out his fellow witches right in front of her. Crap. “I don’t know for certain,” Simon answered, his voice very careful. “It’s possible.”

“Pardon me,” Quinn began. For a moment, I thought he was just trying to draw Maven’s attention from Simon, and I was grateful. Then he said, “Is this really even our problem? You made a legitimate deal with Hazel to allow the occasional weekend pass. The witches are angry, but isn’t that on Hazel? No offense, Simon,” he added.

Simon looked miserable, but gave a little nod, and Quinn pushed on, his eyes on Maven. “When you okayed the weekend passes, you made it clear to Dunn’s pack that they didn’t actually have your protection, just your permission.” He gave a small shrug, his tone neutral. “So . . . is this even our fight?”

The anger that had started to dissipate surged inside me, and I glared at my boyfriend. “It’s my fight,” I snapped. “Dunn was here under my protection.”

Quinn raised an eyebrow, but didn’t respond. He just looked toward Maven, who was staring at the air above his head, thinking it over. After a moment, she looked at Simon. “I appreciate you stopping in to help explain matters, but I’m sure you need to get back to the witch clan,” she said.

Simon, who knew a dismissal when he heard one, nodded and stood. He looked tired. “Thank you,” I said to him, meaning it. “For coming with me.”

Simon nodded and rested a hand on my shoulder, just for a second, as he passed to go to the door.

Maven waited in silence until he was well out of earshot, then turned so she could look at both of us. “In three years, my treaty with the witches is over,” she said without preamble. “When that happens, I want to permanently allow werewolves back into the state.”

Chapter 11

I sat there blinking with surprise, but Quinn recovered faster. “Why?” he asked.

“Because it’s going to happen one way or another. You two have firsthand experience with how difficult it is to keep them out of Colorado. If I were to invite a pack in, one that I already know and have had dealings with . . .” She waved her hand.

   
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