Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(9)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(9)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Oh,” Molly said, checking her watch. We’d probably been inside for five minutes, though it felt like longer.

“Are you going to be able to carry that?” I said, looking at the garbage bag.

“Sure,” Molly said easily, but her face sank into a frown as she lifted the weight. “Damn, that’s heavy,” she complained. “Maybe you should get ahead of me.” I knew what she meant. If Molly left my null radius, she’d have vampire strength again. Sixty pounds would seem like nothing.

But I shook my head. “There’s a lot of blood soaked into her clothes, and a lot on that doormat. You think your control is good enough to ignore that?” The smell of that much blood would likely be overpowering for a vampire. Molly probably wouldn’t actually go after the remains—vampires prefer their food fresh—but she’d become suddenly, uncontrollably hungry. She would zoom off to find herself a “donor,” and I’d be left alone with a body I couldn’t carry.

“The bag is closed,” she scoffed, but looked a little dubious.

“It could rupture. Or you could drop it, or it could snag on something. I’m not risking it,” I said firmly. You can’t be too careful is my working mantra. “We’ll just go slow.”

“Fine,” Molly conceded. We made our way slowly back down the wooden walkway toward the Whale. I hobbled along with the cane, the duffel smacking into the back of my good leg with each step, and Molly kept trying and failing to carry the bag while holding it a little bit away from her body. It was too heavy, though, so she tried dragging it along behind her until I objected, fearing she’d tear a hole in the plastic. After a few steps she gave a long-suffering sigh and lifted the bag onto her back like the world’s most disturbing Santa Claus. “Ugh,” she said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “I can feel her knees digging into my back.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Can too,” she insisted, and we bickered cheerfully for a few more steps. And then we rounded the corner of the house and found four werewolves sitting on my van.

Chapter 5

I froze, which is the third dumbest thing you can do in the presence of werewolves, right after dumping a bucket of meat juice over your head or running away. Molly cursed as she bumped into my back, but fell silent as she must have seen the werewolves. Two of them, both males, were sprawled on top of my damned van, leaning back with their legs dangling like they were working on their tans. The last and biggest male and a single female were half leaning, half sitting on the back bumper. I knew the female all too well: Anastasia, the bartender from Hair of the Dog, whose girlfriend, Lydia, had been bitten by another wolf infected with wolfberry. Anastasia was black, with wiry arms and a very short Afro, and her eyes were darkened with rage. She was leaning on the Whale’s back bumper, with a thickly built Latino man beside her. All four of them had that rangy, lean, wild-eyed look that seems to haunt all of the werewolves outside of my radius.

“That’s her,” Anastasia announced, pointing a finger at my chest. “She’s the one with the cure.”

There was a moment of terrible, pregnant stillness. Then Molly laughed out loud, a short, surprised guffaw that broke the silence and somehow gave me permission to start breathing again.

“Cure for what?” Molly said, laughter still in her voice. “Bitchiness? I know you’ve got it in spades, poor thing, but I don’t think my girl can help you.”

Still outside my radius, Anastasia growled, a low, terrifying buzz that started deep in her chest. Then she said simply, “Miguel.”

Instantly, the Latino werewolf next to her pushed off the van and trotted gracefully toward us, head erect. He wasn’t all that tall, maybe right around six feet, but he gave off a sense of hugeness, of menace, thanks to broad shoulders that looked like they’d been dipped repeatedly in several layers of muscle like candle wax. He hit my radius and faltered a little, as expressions of confusion, relief, and anger flew across his face. Then he marched forward, without the gracefulness, and stepped all the way into my personal space, so his hot breath billowed in my face. He smelled of pickles and grease. “Tell us about the cure,” he demanded. His voice was appropriately low. And appropriately terrifying.

Unconsciously, I touched the pocket where I usually keep my handheld Taser. But it was sitting on my dresser charger at Molly’s house, waiting for when I went back to work. Fuck fuckity fuck. I took a deep breath through my mouth, meeting Miguel’s eyes. Then I took a slow, deliberate step backward without looking away. I wanted to get him out of my face, but without making it look like I was fleeing. “I don’t have a cure,” I said softly. “I’m sorry. I wish I did.”

His nostrils flared as he automatically tried to sniff at my body chemistry for a lie, but he was human at the moment, and he snarled with frustration.

“Cure for what?” Molly asked again, looking from Miguel to me. This time her voice was low and serious.

I spoke to Molly without looking away from Miguel. “Anastasia thinks I have a cure for werewolf magic. Apparently she’s convinced these folks as well.”

“That’s insane,” Molly said pleasantly. “There’s no cure.”

“Try telling them that.”

Molly put the bag down and stepped between me and the huge Miguel, getting into his personal space just as he’d gotten into mine. “There’s no cure,” she said, her voice calm and reasonable. “Back off.”

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