Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(10)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(10)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I felt a surge of severe fondness for Molly.

“Ana?” Miguel called without turning. Anastasia snarled in frustration and pushed off the van as well. While she was walking, I reached behind me and locked my fingers around the top of the garbage bag. I had no idea what to do here. In a second, they were going to start asking questions about the bag, and I doubted that Will would want his wolves to know about the body on his doorstep. He’d said that the pack was already a mess, and this would only make things worse. At the same time I was feeling the urgency to move, to get rid of the bag, like a physical pressure on my back. Having a dead body with you is very, very bad.

Think, Scarlett.

Ana stepped up beside Miguel, and I felt the pulse of additional werewolf magic in my radius. “Don’t lie to us,” she snapped at me. “I saw you go into the bar that night, and then Eli disappeared.”

“Did anyone check the doghouse?” Molly asked innocently.

“Molly,” I said reproachfully. “Not helpful.”

Miguel was not amused. He wrapped a meaty hand around Molly’s neck and lifted, which I had thought was something people only did in movies. She made a gurgling sound, clutching at the big man’s hand as her feet left the ground. She aimed a kick at his groin, but Miguel expected it and turned his body sideways. The kick hit his thigh, and he didn’t so much as grunt.

Molly’s eyes were wide, and there was suddenly a look on her face I’d never seen before—terror. Molly’s keen interest in humanity had always been one of my favorite things about her. She genuinely wants to know what modern humans experience, and she wants to feel those things too—hence the sushi class. But part of being human is being physically vulnerable, and neither of us had ever wanted her to experience that. What Miguel was doing wouldn’t leave lasting physical damage, not once she got out of my radius, but I doubted she would forget what it felt like to be victimized.

My fingers tightened on the cane. I could hit him with it and he’d drop Molly, but if we started a fight in human form we weren’t going to win.

Think faster, Scarlett.

“Let’s all calm down,” I said, trying to make my voice sound reasonable. “How old are you, Miguel?” I asked. “You look maybe forty, but you’re a lot older than that, right?” When someone from the Old World is in my radius, I get a general sense of their power, the amount of magic that clings to them. For the werewolves, that magic determines their strength, speed, and healing abilities, which translates loosely into the pack’s structure—most powerful at the top, least powerful at the bottom. Miguel was huge and scary-looking, but he seemed about as powerful as he did smart.

His eyes flicked warily toward me, and the arm holding Molly wavered a little. He was strong, but he was still close enough to me to be human, and holding a hundred and twenty pounds straight in the air would make anyone’s arm tired after a while. “I’m sixty-two,” he huffed.

Werewolves age more slowly than humans, at about half the speed. “You’ve been a wolf for a while, then. But you’re not all that powerful. So you’re a follower.” I tilted my head at Anastasia. “I don’t know what she’s been telling you, but you’re backing the wrong horse, Miguel. That nice young woman you’re terrorizing is a vampire.” His eyes went wide, and I pushed on. “Anyone who violates the Old World peace is going to answer to Dashiell, and if you think Anastasia’s strong enough to protect you . . .” I shook my head emphatically. “You haven’t been paying attention.”

Miguel looked uncertainly from me to Anastasia, and then lowered Molly back to the ground. She coughed, holding her neck, breathing in panicked gasps. “Miguel,” Anastasia snapped, but they were in my radius, and the nice thing about being a null is that you have home-court advantage wherever you go. The wolf pack instincts that drove Miguel to obey his superior didn’t apply when he was a human. Ana flashed teeth at him, but he simply stood there, arms folded across his chest.

“You said we were here for the abomination,” he reminded her, nodding at me. “Not to fuck around with vampires.”

Abomination. That was a new one. Not to mention an awfully big word to come out of Miguel’s mouth. I would have laughed if he hadn’t been quite so big and pee-your-pants scary. It sounded like they were considering applying some violence, so before anyone else could speak, I jumped in. “Look, you guys, this is ridiculous. I’m sorry that Eli hasn’t been around, and I know that’s thrown everyone off—”

Anastasia’s glare turned on me so quickly and furiously that I would have instinctively stepped away from her if I could step easily. “Do not,” she snapped, “pretend to know about our pack. Eli is our beta. Do you have any idea what that is?”

I blinked. “Uh, the beta’s the second in command. Will’s second.”

She threw up her arms in frustration. “You ignorant little brat. Do you really think that’s all he is?”

“What do you mean?” I asked warily.

“The beta also takes care of the cubs,” Anastasia declared. “He helps them integrate into the pack, find their control.”

Lydia. I’d changed Eli to a human, and now he wasn’t around to help Lydia. No wonder Ana was pissed off. If Eli’s absence was caused by something common and understandable, they would have been told, and someone else would move up in the pack hierarchy. But Will hadn’t been able to explain, and—

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