Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(5)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(5)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I leaned back and took a deep breath, trying to calm down. Cured. I had never attached what I could do to that word before; it seemed absurd, cartoonish.

But . . . wasn’t that exactly what I had done?

“I wanted to help him . . . I thought I was . . .” My voice broke, and my mouth was suddenly too dry to swallow.

“I’m fairly certain you weren’t thinking much at all,” Will said frankly. I started to protest, and Will held up a hand. “Look, I understand why you did it. I saw Eli fall apart too. But now he’s had to leave, Caroline’s dead, and there are rumors flying in the pack. You have no idea how you’ve changed things.”

I winced. Will regarded me sadly, and for a minute his expression was exactly like the look on my father’s face when I’d been suspended for liberating a few dozen frogs from the high school science lab. “I have to get back,” he said, “but I need you to understand something, okay?” I gave him my best nod, and he continued with careful enunciation, “You can’t tell anyone.”

I blanched. “About Eli?”

“Eli, what you can do, that night at the bar, none of it. I’ll do my best to keep the pack together, and hopefully it’ll blow over soon.”

I thought of Jesse Cruz, the LAPD detective who’d partnered with me on the witch murder case—who had kissed me after I’d shot Olivia. Oh, God. He must be worried out of his mind. “Jesse . . . ,” I began.

“Detective Cruz has been taken care of,” Will interrupted. He saw my jaw hit my lap and immediately shook his head in tired bemusement. “Sorry, bad phrasing. We didn’t kill him. Dashiell pressed his mind to think you’re in the UK for a bit. We didn’t know how else to handle him until you woke up.”

I relaxed. I had sent my brother, Jack, to the UK to visit another null when Olivia was running amok. Jack must have returned to LA by now, but Jesse didn’t know that.

Will stood up. “I’ve got to get back.”

“Will, wait,” I protested. I had a hundred questions. Who was the doctor? How did I get to Molly’s? Who already knew what? And for the love of God, who had changed my clothes while I was unconscious? But I settled for simply, “Where’s Eli?”

“Hidden,” Will answered. “I’m keeping him in the city until we know for sure that it’s permanent. There’s still the chance that the wolf magic will seep back in.” There was a note of hope in his voice, which told me just how bad things were. Eli had been tortured by guilt over killing those people when he was on wolfberry. And apart from that, he had hated being a werewolf, which is like constantly fighting a battle for your own identity. Will should have been at least a little happy for him, like a cancer patient whose chemo buddy goes into remission. The fact that the alpha was actually hoping the werewolf magic would come back was a very bad sign.

Will moved toward the door. “Can I see him?” I asked, trying to get the words out quickly before he could disappear.

He paused. “You can talk to him on the phone, if you want to,” Will said gently, “but you should really think about whether or not that’s a good idea.”

“Why?”

He gave me another one of those sorrowful, knowing looks, like I was being dense on purpose and it was making him sad. “Because he’s free now, Scarlett. Give him a little time to adjust, figure out what he wants. Maybe something good can still come out of this mess.”

Guilt sagged down on me like a new layer of pain as I realized he was right. Eli was no longer chained to magic or the pack; he could do whatever he wanted. And he deserved a chance to be human without me pulling him back into all the crazy.

So I’d stayed away from Eli. And now there was a dead body at Will’s to get rid of. It seemed like a pretty clear sign that I’d done the right thing.

As Molly and I walked out to the van, I glanced over at my roommate, who had a self-satisfied smile on her lips like she’d won a bet.

“What?” I asked.

“See?” she said smugly. “Now aren’t you glad I wore my play clothes?”

Chapter 3

I tossed Molly the keys when we got to the White Whale. I’d managed to maneuver it to class myself by throwing my hurt leg over Molly’s lap in the passenger seat and driving with my left foot. It was awkward, and I had to go slowly, but I prefer to drive when I go somewhere with Molly. Whether she’s in my radius or not, Molly drives like a lot of vampires: as though she would definitely survive a catastrophic car accident. At any rate, letting the vampire Danica Patrick behind the wheel now would ensure that we got there as fast as possible.

The LA night was cool, and I shivered in my hoodie and light jacket. My insides actually felt contracted, like they’d been squeezed by a giant fist. Still dazed by the phone conversation with Will, I climbed into the passenger seat without a word. Molly was looking at me, brow furrowed. “You okay?” she asked.

“Yes. Well, no,” I answered. My knee ached with a thick, swollen intensity that I’d gotten used to working around . . . as long as I was taking four ibuprofen at all times. That wasn’t what was worrying me right now, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain human anxiety to Molly again. “I’m fine. Just go.” She shrugged and backed the van out of the parking spot at twenty miles an hour. The tires screeched and the odor of burned rubber wafted into the van. I winced and managed not to comment.

I instructed Molly to get on PCH toward Pacific Palisades. I braced myself against the armrests, thinking about the call. Someone had dumped a body on the alpha werewolf’s doorstep? That was pretty damned bold—and also eight shades of crazy. Who would do that? The full moon was still a week away, which made it unlikely that one of the werewolves had changed and killed someone. Technically most of the werewolves were powerful enough to change between full moons, but Will discouraged it as much as he could. Even if one of them had mauled someone to death, I couldn’t see them doing it at Will’s house.

   
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