Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(2)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(2)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

The attack came from behind. A hundred fifty pounds of predator slammed into Remus, teeth locking down hard on the back of his neck. Remus let out a squeak and scrambled for the cattle prod, knocking over the tripod. He dimly heard the crash of his camera hitting the rock but—oh shit, his neck hurt—and felt the wolf shaking its head, worrying at Remus’s spinal cord. For God’s sake . . . His fingers finally latched on to the cattle prod, and Remus reversed the foot-long weapon so the tip was toward him, shoving it backward under his armpit until he felt it make contact with the wolf. Remus pulled the trigger and felt a buzz of secondary electricity hit his neck, but by then everything was getting dark, and Remus felt a brief surge of noble pride. He would die, but for his cause.

For the wolves.

Chapter 1

“Seaweed!” Molly marveled for the third time, rubbing the sheet of paper-thin nori. “Can you believe it’s made of seaweed, Scarlett?”

I squirmed around on my utility stool so I could face her. The “Make Your Own Sushi Rolls” class was being held in the science lab of a private community college, the kind of room with shelves of beakers and those two-person tables with little gas nozzles. Molly and the rest of the class perched easily on the metal stools, but I was at a weird angle because I was using a second stool to prop up my knee brace. “I know I grew up in a small town,” I said drily, “but I was aware of seaweed as an ingredient in sushi, yes.”

She gave me a good-natured swat on the arm. “Don’t ruin this for me,” she said with a shark-wide smile, tossing back her copper-colored bob. There was a tinge of warning in her voice.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying to work up some enthusiasm. Molly, I should mention, is my landlady and roommate. Oh, and when she’s not around me, she’s also a vampire. I’m a null, a human who negates all the magic in a certain area around me. Vampires who get close to me become human again and age just like anyone else, which is what Molly wants more than anything. She was only seventeen when she was turned, which isn’t nearly as old now as it was in 1905. In exchange for a very generous break on the rent, I’m supposed to hang out with Molly and help her get older.

Unfortunately, she’d recently decided that she wanted to define “hang out” as “take a ‘Make Your Own Sushi’ class together.” Vampires can’t eat people food, so Molly wanted to try some exotic new tastes while she was temporarily human. And for a traditional gal from Victorian Great Britain, it doesn’t get a lot more exotic than sushi rolls. I wasn’t about to point out to Molly that sushi had been around for a while and that the rest of Los Angeles had progressed a hundred steps down the evolutionary line of exotic food trends. I was afraid she would make me eat offal or something.

“Ladies,” said the instructor, approaching the table that Molly and I were sharing. “Everything all right here?” He had introduced himself as Hoshi (“rhymes with Yoshi”) and was a short Japanese man with a mild accent, a gleaming black buzz cut, and a tendency to overshare. He’d opened the class by explaining that he was teaching for some extra money because his American wife was expecting their unplanned third child. Because that’s something you tell complete strangers.

“You bet!” Molly chirped, beaming at him. “I can’t believe it’s seaweed!”

Hoshi cut his eyes over to me very briefly, unsure if Molly was putting him on. “She’s new to sushi,” I said gravely.

His eyes widened, as if now I was putting him on. Which was fair. “Right,” he said, a little suspiciously, and then he turned his attention to the rest of the class. “Let’s begin our first rolls, everyone,” he called, weaving through the tables to the front of the room, where he’d laid out his own supplies on the instructor’s desk.

He began walking us through making a simple cucumber roll, and I concentrated on his instructions. I rolled the rice and cucumber up in the nori, pressed down along the edges to make it stick together, and glanced over at my struggling roommate. Molly’s hands weren’t used to the motions of food preparation, and she had none of her usual vampire grace in my presence, so her lopsided roll fell apart over and over, until each attempt began to resemble a Charlie Chaplin sketch. When she began furtively wiping sticky rice off her hands with the dangly tail of her cashmere cardigan, glancing around to make sure no one had seen her, I couldn’t help snickering.

“Good thing I wore my play clothes,” Molly said seriously, and my snicker turned into a full-on laugh. In all the time I’ve known Molly, I have never seen her wear an item of clothing that costs less than a tank of gas, and her “play clothes”—cashmere sweater, designer T-shirt with a picture of a T. rex failing at a push-up, and jeans that looked soft enough to make baby asses jealous—were no exception. She looked up from her sweater, amused.

“What?” I asked, picking up a knife and cutting my long tube of sushi roll into slices.

“Scarlett Bernard,” Molly said, her voice low and joyous. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were actually having a good time.”

“Me? What? I am not,” I said immediately. Because I’m mature.

“Pants on fire!” Molly crowed, her voice now officially too loud. Hoshi paused in his instructions to send us a questioning look.

“She’s kidding, sir,” I called helpfully. “My pants are not actually on fire.” Giving us a stern frown, Hoshi went back to his lesson, and I said out of the side of my mouth, “Are you suggesting I shouldn’t be having fun?” Because frankly, the thought had occurred to me.

   
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