Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(16)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(16)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Dashiell broke off what he was saying as Jesse entered. The vampire was a blandly handsome man who appeared to be in his late thirties, with dark hair and eyes. He wore a perfectly pressed shirt and black slacks. “Thank you for coming, Detective,” Dashiell said, turning toward Jesse, who shrugged noncommittally. Like he’d had a choice.

“Detective Cruz,” the woman said warmly, rising from her place next to Dashiell on an overstuffed sofa. She stepped toward him, holding out a hand. “I’m Beatrice. It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

“Right,” Jesse said awkwardly. She was a knockout, with long dark hair spilling across a cream-colored sundress that set off her olive skin. Spanish, he figured, which connected to the decor. He automatically took the vampire’s hand as it was offered, half expecting it to be icy cold. But no, whatever magic animated vampires kept them room temperature as well. “We’ve sort of met before.” The last time he’d been in this room, he and Scarlett had stopped Jared Hess and a vampire named Ariadne from killing Dashiell and Beatrice.

Beatrice’s smile smoothed over into a solemn nod. “Of course. But we weren’t exactly introduced then, were we?” she asked, with a little twinkle in her eye.

“No, ma’am.”

Jesse realized that Will and Dashiell had gotten up too, fast enough that he hadn’t even seen it. Despite the demonstration of speed, Will looked exhausted. After shaking Jesse’s hand, the alpha sank immediately back down in an armchair, as though the handshake had been the only thing keeping him on his feet. Dashiell did not hold out a hand to shake, but simply gestured for Jesse to take the last remaining seat in the living room, an ornately carved dark wooden chair. They all sat back down, and Will was the first to speak.

“Have you heard from her?” he asked quietly.

“Scarlett? Yeah.” Jesse’s hand automatically touched his phone in his pocket, as though it might conjure the girl out of thin air. “She stopped by my apartment about a week ago, to tell me she was gonna join her brother in the UK for a few days to recover from the mess with Olivia.” Will’s eyes slid over to Dashiell, who smoothed down the front of his spotless shirt. No one said anything for a long moment, and Jesse felt like he had missed something. “What?”

Beatrice finally spoke up, her voice warm and thick like sap running down a tree, smothering everything in its path. “Detective, can I offer you something to drink? Or perhaps a sandwich? We have a well-stocked refrigerator.”

Cold realization gripped Jesse, and he jerked his eyes toward the floor. Stupid, he cursed himself. Stupid of him to meet their eyes. He’d spent so much time around Scarlett while he was talking to these people that he’d forgotten to be afraid.

And that wasn’t the only thing he’d forgotten.

“I’ve never told Scarlett where I live,” he said flatly. “And now that I try, I can’t remember what she was wearing or her words. She wasn’t really at my apartment, was she?”

“No.” Even in that one word Dashiell’s calm voice held something, a weight, and despite his resolve, Jesse’s gaze flicked hungrily toward the vampire. He suddenly wanted Dashiell to speak again, to ask him for something, a favor maybe that Jesse could—

“Enough,” Will’s voice was ice-pick sharp, and the spell broke. Jesse’s breath rushed into his lungs with a sudden ferocity, and he knocked over the chair as he scrambled away, unconsciously searching for a wall he could put his back against. The glass patio doors were behind him, though, and he had to work on calming the panic.

“You pressed me,” he said, hating the tremor in his voice. Terror gripped his body, and Will and Dashiell both turned their heads sharply in his direction, smelling the fear. “You pressed me to think . . .” He shook his head, trying to clear it. One of the vampires had pressed him to believe Scarlett had stopped by his place. But if that hadn’t been real . . . He looked up. “Where is she?” Jesse demanded.

“Will’s right, that’s enough,” Beatrice declared. “Dashiell, please stop. Detective, please put away your weapon.” Jesse looked down and realized he was holding his gun. He looked at Beatrice, focusing on the center of her forehead like it had a target on it. “We are not going to hurt you,” she said calmly. “We asked you here because we need your help.”

She looked at her husband, giving him one of those pointed, nudging expressions Jesse had seen on his own mother’s face. That look, more than anything else, helped Jesse quell his panic.

Dashiell took the hint. “My wife is right, of course,” he said, the weight gone from his voice. He sounded like an ordinary, tired man. “We do need your help.” The vampire gestured to the chair again. “Please, sit.”

Reluctantly, Jesse reholstered the gun and squared his shoulders, trying to concentrate on avoiding eye contact. It was harder than he’d imagined. “Somebody just tell me what’s going on,” Jesse said. “Where is Scarlett? Is she okay?”

“She’s injured, but fine,” Beatrice assured him, and Jesse nodded his thanks at her.

He was about to ask another question, but Will leaned forward. “Detective Cruz. Remember last fall when Scarlett was in the hospital?”

“Of course.”

“Did she tell you why she had to stay for a few days?”

Jesse’s brow furrowed. “She said she hit her head during the fight with Ariadne, after I left.” He looked at the female vampire. “She was trying to help Beatrice.”

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