Home > Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson #12)(9)

Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson #12)(9)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“Detective Willis was not best pleased with my entering the residence before they got here,” I told him, finishing my story. “But I don’t think he was serious about charging me with obstruction of justice.”

He gave another grunt, this one sounding a little amused. He hadn’t commented on the magic that had permeated Dennis’s body, or my possible imminent arrest, but the amusement was promising. I thought it was safe to change the subject.

“So are you going to kill Auriele?” I asked. “Or did you figure out a way around it?”

“Darryl should have his own pack,” Adam said, which wasn’t a yes. But it also wasn’t a no.

It was my turn to grunt. That made him laugh a little, though it was somber amusement, nothing that would draw attention when people were carrying bodies out of a house.

“Auriele was only a weapon Christy aimed at you,” Adam told me, his tongue apparently loosened by my imitation of his usual grunt. “Extenuating circumstance enough that I decided it wasn’t going back on my word to let her live. I explained to Auriele that it was time to practice some better judgment about what Christy has to say. The next time …” He sighed. “Hard to punish her for something I fell for as well. Of course you wouldn’t tell Jesse what to do. Of course she would use you as a sounding board before she confronted Christy or me. And it was Jesse’s place to inform both me and Christy.”

“Damn straight,” I growled, borrowing a phrase from my cowboy friend Warren. “So why did you fall for it?”

He didn’t answer my question. Instead he said, “Auriele apologized to Jesse. I’m not sure that took. Punishment enough maybe, for Auriele. At least as far as opening Jesse’s mail is concerned. She isn’t often in the wrong.”

True.

“I apologized to Jesse, too,” he said. “I think that went over better.”

“You didn’t open her mail,” I told him. “And Jesse knows how her mother works.”

“And that’s why she accepted my apology,” Adam agreed. “And why she talked to you about school before she brought it to me or her mother.”

“Jesse could have avoided all of this if she’d discussed matters with you before she talked to her mother,” I told him. “But Christy was easier. She’d only be hurt because Jesse wasn’t moving to Eugene. You were going to be hurt because you, and your position as Alpha of our pack, are the reason she doesn’t have more choices about where to go to school.”

Adam grunted again.

The coroner’s van pulled out of the driveway with the two bodies inside. As Anna continued to work in her flower bed, some of the real weeds got pulled. Only strong ghosts affect the physical world like that. Maybe she would haunt her own house instead of mine. I could hope.

“I can’t afford to lose Darryl now,” Adam said. “I talked to him alone about that. I apologized because, especially after this incident, he should be cut loose to get his own pack. Do you know what he told me?”

“He likes his job here,” I said, because I’d talked to Darryl about this a few weeks ago. “As far as the one with the salary is concerned, he could probably work remotely if he couldn’t find a job wherever his new pack would be located. It’s not like think tanks are available in every town. But he doesn’t want to work remotely, because he likes to meet face-to-face with his team and with the people who use his team’s work.” Like me, a werewolf gets a lot of information from scent and subtle body language cues.

“And—” I glanced up at Adam. This part Darryl hadn’t said, but I knew him. “He really loves the action our pack has been facing. He’s an adrenaline junkie. A new pack might be interesting until he got settled in, but I don’t think there is a pack in the US, other than maybe the Marrok’s, that is in for as exciting a time as ours.”

“That’s more than he said, but I think you have it right.” He smiled. It wasn’t exactly a happy smile, but it wasn’t one of those smiles I’d been getting lately that weren’t really smiles. He reached down and held out his hand.

“You are making me really uncomfortable sitting at my feet,” he told me.

“And you’re starting to get funny looks from the cops,” I said, taking his hand.

He laughed as he pulled me up. It was a quiet laugh—and this time I think he consciously pulled it down to suit the circumstances.

“Thank you,” he said when I was standing.

“I can just see the headlines,” I told him. “Alpha Wolf Makes Wife Kneel at His Feet.”

His mouth quirked up. “Don’t forget the ‘Human Wife’ part of that. There are still a lot of people who think you are my sex slave.”

“You wish,” I told him to the last part. “And it would be ‘Human? Wife.’” I lifted my voice on the end of “human,” so he could hear the question mark.

The newspapers had indeed begun to question just how human I was. That was a problem because one of the reasons the pack had been accepted so easily by the mundane population of the Tri-Cities was that people viewed me as one of them. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out that I wasn’ t—strictly speaking—human. But I hoped that by then, they’d be happy with us because we were the good monsters who protected them from the bad ones.

“Back to our previous conversation,” I said, “we get to keep Darryl and Auriele.”

I was sorry when the slight smile slid away from his face and his expression regained its grim neutrality.

He said, “Or at least we put that off for another day. Auriele understands what she nearly caused to happen, though I don’t think she is apologetic about anything except for hurting Jesse. And that she still believes is your fault.”

I blew out a breath. “Figures.”

“You haven’t asked me about Aiden and Underhill,” he said.

“Do I want to know?” I asked.

Before he could answer me, Detective Willis approached. Willis was moderately tall, and graying, and carried himself like someone who’d been in a few fights. He was closer to retirement age than to his rookie years, but not by much. He was one of those men who used his size and his anger to intimidate people he thought needed intimidation, but he was capable of toning his presence down to gentleness when caring for trauma victims. He was smart, dedicated—and we got along all right for the most part.

“Generally speaking,” he said, “when either of you show up at a scene, it’s because something is afoot.” He stopped in front of us, his hands on his hips—but he knew better than to stare into Adam’s eyes. Instead he stared at me.

“My people tell me this looks like a classic murder-suicide,” he said.

“No,” I said. “Magic.”

He grimaced. “God damn it. I knew it had been too quiet around here.”

“I might believe it if Anna had stabbed her husband and then shot herself,” I told him. “But Dennis was possibly the least violent person I know.”

“And that’s why you think there was magic involved?” asked Willis, sounding hopeful.

“It is all over Dennis’s body,” I told him. “I’ve never seen anything like it. He is lit up with magic—I wouldn’t be surprised if someone could see him glowing from space.” A thought occurred to me. “You might want to be careful with his body.”

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