Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(4)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(4)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

But not why the bar needed to be open. “Couldn’t you just put up your Closed for Private Party sign?” I asked. I’d seen it a couple of times when Will had emergency pack business.

“Health inspector’s coming tonight. Too late to reschedule.” His voice was coming out as a growl now, his words in terse short sentences. This was not a good sign. Will’s control is excellent. If he was struggling to keep it together . . . he was either really upset, or the body was in really bad shape, and the smell of it was pushing at his self-restraint. Or both.

I kept my voice calm and careful. “Is anyone else at your place?” Will’s place served as the pack’s home base; all the werewolves spent a lot of time there. I’d been there myself twice, both times to clean up blood after werewolf fights.

“No. House is empty. I’ll leave the front door open.”

“Okay, I’m on it,” I said. Will just grunted and hung up. I looked at the phone, shaking my head. Shit. I glanced up at Molly, who was patiently holding out my jacket.

Only a week earlier, my psychotic ex-mentor, Olivia, had been running amok in LA. Olivia had a thing for controlling people, and I was the toy she wanted most for her collection. So she’d come after me and mine, hoping to break me down in every way she could. Olivia had sent cookies laced with wolfberry to Hair of the Dog, where my friend Caroline and my sometimes-friend-with-benefits Eli both worked. Caroline and Eli were werewolves, and giving them wolfberry is basically like giving a regular human a truckload of PCP and a bunch of stabby weapons.

I hadn’t been with them when they were poisoned, but I’d seen the fallout. Caroline had died that night, shot with silver by Will when he couldn’t keep her from attacking the poor humans who’d been at the bar. Eli had lost control so completely that he’d killed two people. Plagued by guilt, he’d begged Will to shoot him too, but I wouldn’t let him. Instead, I’d done something I was not supposed to be able to do: I’d focused my power outward and changed Eli back into a human. Permanently.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, honest.

I’d passed out afterward, possibly from changing him, or possibly as a result of the confrontation with Olivia, when she’d poisoned me with illegal chemotherapy drugs and made me fight an enormous man-shaped clay demon. What can I say, we had some issues. At any rate, it sent me into . . . well, a bit of a coma.

When I woke up a few days later, I’d felt the vertigo before I even opened my eyes, a nauseous sensation as though someone had scrambled gravity within the boundaries of my own skin. It took me a few attempts just to open my eyes because pulling up my eyelids was like trying to hold up the bottom of a curtain with a stick. When my eyes finally focused, I saw a bunch of medical supplies on a little table next to me. The table and the wallpaper behind it were familiar, and after a moment I put together that I was in my own bed, in my own bedroom at Molly’s house.

Will was in a folding chair next to my bed, bent over a cell phone. He looked terrible. Which was startling in itself, because werewolves don’t really look terrible. There are many downsides to being a werewolf, but one of the few advantages is that the werewolves practically hum with good health. They have a high metabolism and natural athleticism, and they don’t get sick or suffer minor ailments like pimples or cold sores. Most of them don’t even have bad hair days; they’re that healthy. When they’re in my presence, some of that sheen dulls a little, but they still look like the picture of wellness.

But Will looked as terrible as I’d ever seen any werewolf look. His tan dress pants and Hair of the Dog polo shirt looked slept-in, and his unremarkably brown hair was greasy and sticking out in weird directions. There were new hollows under his eyes, and even sitting in a chair, he looked like he was struggling to stay upright.

I must have shifted or something, because he looked up from the phone. “You’re awake,” he noted.

“Will,” I mumbled. The vertigo had eased a little bit, but trying to put words together was like trying to do magnetic poetry upside down. “What happened to you?” I managed.

“The pack,” he said heavily. “The pack is falling apart.”

I don’t know what I was expecting him to say, but that wasn’t it. “Why?”

Will looked at me patiently for a moment, but when I didn’t speak, he sighed and said, “Because you cured Eli.”

It came back to me then, in a rush: the witch murders, the mentor-turned-vampire, the scarred witch in the white lab coat. Her pet golem. And Eli.

I had changed Eli back into a human.

Despite the disorientation, I tried to sit up, flailing my arms backward and ramming my head forward like a spastic turtle. “Stop!” Will ordered, and although he looked like shit and he was human in my presence, there was such command in his voice that I froze. “I’ve had a doctor taking care of you, but she’s on a food break,” Will said, more quietly. “Don’t do any damage to yourself while she’s gone.”

For the first time, I noticed the IV and catheter that were attached to my body. Awkward. The IV stung where I had tugged at it during my daring attempt to flail around. I felt so strange, like my head was tired and sober but my body was on spring break in Cabo. “S’wrong with me?” I mumbled.

“You had a grand mal seizure after you cured Eli,” Will said matter-of-factly. “You hit your head on the metal bars of the cot and got a mild concussion. You also twisted your knee and tore a ligament or something. The doctor can fill you in when she gets back.”

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