Home > Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson #12)(3)

Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson #12)(3)
Author: Patricia Briggs

But Jesse had already been unnecessarily hurt. That made me mad, so I didn’t trust myself to poke at Adam. It wasn’t, I told myself firmly, that I didn’t trust Adam.

“What result do you want?” I asked him in a calm voice. “You might be able to bully her into saying she will do what you want her to do—whatever that is. Is that really the shape you want your relationship with your daughter, who is an adult now, to take?”

“You might consider that I am madder at you than at Jesse,” he bit out.

That surprised me for a moment—and then I realized that he thought Auriele was right, that I’d done something to influence Jesse’s decision without talking to him. Hurt flooded me—he should know me better than that. But I stuffed that hurt down to look at later. Jesse was the important one at the moment.

“You calm down enough that your eyes aren’t gold, and I will step out of the way,” I told him.

“Fuck me,” he growled, then turned and stalked back to his office. He shut the door with a softness that fooled no one about his state of mind.

Adam never swore around me. Not unless all hell was breaking loose. I stared at the door—thoughtfully, I told myself. I wasn’t angry, because we already had too many angry people here. I wasn’t hurt, because that I took care of in private and not in front of enemies. And Auriele apparently saw me as an enemy—I wasn’t hurt about that, not at all. Not here where she could see me, anyway.

“You might want to consider,” Darryl told his wife in a soft voice, “that Adam told us all that anyone who said a word against his wife, his mate, he would kill.”

My stomach dropped to my toes—all the hurt that I was pretending not to feel was suddenly secondary. Yes, he had, hadn’t he? Oddly, because that declaration sometimes chafed me like wet wool underwear, I hadn’t brought that to bear on the current situation. And he wouldn’t go back on his word simply because he was mad at me.

Killing Auriele wouldn’t just be stupid; it would break him. And that, children, is why ultimatums are a bad idea, said a memory speaking in the Marrok’s voice. I think he’d been talking to one of his sons, but it had stuck in my head.

Urgently, I asked Auriele, “Did you say something against me? Or did you just repeat what Christy said?”

She didn’t answer, but Darryl did. “I think,” he told me, “that he will let us leave rather than fight me. And I won’t let him kill my mate without a fight.”

Auriele frowned at him. “What? Why? Someone had to tell him what was going on beneath his own nose.” From the tone of her voice, it was apparent she didn’t think it would be a problem. Darryl glanced at me and then away. He was worried.

“Jesse,” I said, then stopped because my own voice was a little shaky. Control was one of the things that werewolves respected. When I spoke again, my voice was quieter, a trick I’d learned from Adam because it made people listen.

“Jesse told me,” I said, “that she’d decided, on her own, to apply to Washington State here in the Tri-Cities. The events of the past few months demonstrated to her that if she goes elsewhere, she will be a weakness for her father’s enemies to exploit.”

I let that hang in the air a minute. Saw them think about it.

“Eugene doesn’t have a werewolf pack,” I said, telling them what they already knew. “Vampires aplenty—but no werewolf pack we could call upon to watch over her. Worse, the vampires are a loosey-goosey bunch of misfits.” The vampire Frost had hit the Oregon vampires a few years ago and left not much organization behind. Bran had briefly moved the Portland werewolf pack to Eugene, away from Frost’s direct assault. After Frost had been disposed of, Bran had allowed the pack to return to Portland, leaving Eugene in the hands of the vampires Frost had left standing. “Those vampires have no central power, not that I’ve heard of, who could be negotiated with for Jesse’s protection.”

“That means that Christy is in danger,” said Auriele, her eyes widening. “Why did you make her leave here if you knew Christy would be in danger?”

“Christy is an unlikely target,” said Darryl before I could. Which was good, because Auriele was more likely to believe him than she would me. “We’ve discussed this, ’Riele. Adam’s ex-wife will not be seen by most powers as a good hostage. Their relationship never included a mating bond.”

Auriele sucked in a breath at this—but she didn’t say anything. I knew that the lack of a mating bond had been something that Christy had been bitter about throughout her marriage with Adam.

Darryl gave her a moment, then said, “Most Alphas would not protect a woman with whom they shared a temporary legal arrangement. If Christy had been his mate”—Darryl glanced at me—“it would be a different matter. But if she had been his mate, he would never have let her go in the first place. She is in a very safe position. Attacking her or taking her hostage would net no gains. They don’t need to know that hurting Christy or scaring her would mean that Adam and the pack would go there to teach stray vampires a lesson they would never forget.”

Her expression made it clear Auriele didn’t want to agree that Christy was safe. But they had already, apparently, discussed the subject. Auriele knew as well as everyone else in the room did that Christy was probably safer away from the pack than she would be living here—unless she physically lived with the pack. But with her in Eugene, Adam’s enemies would look closer to home for Adam’s weaknesses.

When Adam’s door opened and my mate stepped out, I ignored him even though his movement didn’t sound angry anymore. One mostly unsolvable problem at a time.

“Christy is safe in Eugene,” said Darryl heavily, repeating himself for Adam’s sake, though he didn’t look away from his wife. “Jesse, who is Adam’s only child, and publicly known as such, would be another matter entirely.”

“She worked out her college plans last spring and applied then,” I said. “But that was last year, when our pack was allied with the Marrok, and we—Adam, Jesse, and I—determined that it wouldn’t have been too dangerous.”

The Marrok, Bran Cornick, was a Power in the world. It would take creatures stronger and more rash than the vampires in Eugene to try to defy him—even given that he mostly stayed in the backwoods of Montana. He had people he could send to mete out justice or vengeance. It wasn’t just the werewolves who were afraid of his son Charles—or the Moor—or a number of other dangerous old werewolves in Bran’s pack.

Last summer, Adam and I had discussed sending a pack member or two as a bodyguard for Jesse, rotating them out. But our pack had to be more defensive now that I’d painted a target on us by making it clear that we looked upon the Tri-Cities as our territory—and all of those living here, human and not, as our charges. It had seemed, had been, the right thing to do. But it had changed things for us. Jesse’s ability to go to school wherever she wanted to—within reason—had been one of those things.

Sending a couple of pack members out to protect Jesse might mean that the pack would be two warriors short if we needed them—and without the umbrella of the Marrok’s protection, it would take more than two werewolves to ensure her safety. There was no sense discussing it now because Jesse wasn’t going to Seattle or Eugene.

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