Home > Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5)(10)

Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5)(10)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Charles had learned to deal with that. Her power made Brother Wolf rest, leaving the human part of him completely in charge. Sometimes it was wonderful. Sometimes, like when he was in the middle of a fight, it was very inconvenient. But it was no longer enough to throw him for a loop. He wondered if she was helping Jonesy’s control, wondered what would have happened if Charles had come here without his mate.

Jonesy rubbed his upper arms as if he were cold, then he took a step closer to Anna and relaxed a little. Brother Wolf didn’t like the change in proximity. Not at all.

“She was in a cage,” Jonesy said. “An iron-and-silver cage. She couldn’t break the silver, and I couldn’t break the iron. A trap. They didn’t see me.” He whispered, “She sent me home.”

Jonesy was fae, and whatever kind of fae he was, was powerful. Charles was willing to believe that if Jonesy didn’t want someone to see him, they wouldn’t be able to. He also believed he could have stopped a bunch of people who caged Hester.

“Where?” asked Charles.

Jonesy pointed to the far side of the valley. “There. Up on the mountain. About two miles from here as the crow flies.” He turned to look up into Charles’s face, his own bearing an expression of sorrow. “She said I was to wait here because under no circumstances could I be captured.”

He looked at them, and said in a whisper, “I could destroy them, you see. But to do it I would have to break my word.”

Dangerous, said Brother Wolf, again.

“We made a bargain, she and I. A bargain with your father. A home here in return for never using my power for harm.”

So Bran did know what Jonesy was. Charles was going to have a talk with his da about that.

Jonesy dropped his head. “I cannot help you. I cannot go back with you. If they have harmed her”—he looked up, and the monster was back in his eyes—“I would kill everything in my path of vengeance. There would be none who was safe from me.”

Anna, brave Anna, reached out and touched Jonesy’s face. “She is not dead now,” she said. It was a statement, but her tone made it a question.

Jonesy shook his head. “I would know. And they have not taken her from our forest. Not yet.”

“Okay, then,” she told him. “We will stand as your proxy. If it is within our power, we will bring her out safe. If it is not, we will cause them to regret what they have tried here.”

Jonesy nodded jerkily. He caught Anna’s hand and brought it to his lips. Charles saw the other male’s eyes and knew it was the monster who lived inside Jonesy that kissed Anna’s hand.

Charles had to fight Brother Wolf to breathe evenly.

“We should go,” he told them.

Jonesy nodded. “I’ll wait,” he told them. And Charles heard the promise in his voice. “I don’t want to disappoint her,” Jonesy said honestly.

Hester, he meant. Charles understood the need not to disappoint one’s mate.

Charles changed to Brother Wolf’s body. The truck would be useless without roads through the trees, and Brother Wolf was faster than he was running on two legs. It hurt, but he pulled the change as fast as he could. And that meant faster than any other werewolf in the world. He twisted and expanded into Brother Wolf’s true shape in the time it took to draw a deep breath.

Not being a werewolf born, Anna changed at the same speed as most werewolves. Given that she could run at inhuman speed even on two feet, it wouldn’t be worth it for her to try.

Anna felt it necessary to put this into words anyway. “Go,” she told him. “I’ll follow. But you’ll be faster. Go ahead.”

By his rough reckoning, it had been at least an hour and a half since Jonesy had called. He wasn’t sure that the speed he had over her would matter, but he wasn’t sure it wouldn’t, either. He dug his claws into the dirt as he sprinted into the forest.

Brother Wolf chose to take the trail Jonesy had left. Charles felt it was reasonable to assume, since the trail traveled through underbrush and rocks and other woodland obstacles in an unusually straight line and followed no worn footpath, that it had been Jonesy’s quickest way home. Which meant that it would be the fastest way from Jonesy’s home to where Hester had been taken.

Brother Wolf was a little appalled that Charles had had to work out something so inherently obvious.

The direct route took him across two streams—or the same stream twice. The first crossing was narrow enough for him to jump, but the other, too wide to clear in a single leap, proved to be deep as well. Deep and swift.

That crossing slowed him.

To make up for it, he redoubled his speed—and almost ran right into the small clearing where Hester and her four-wheel-driving invaders had holed up. He managed to stop, but only by making enough noise that it attracted the attention of the trapped wolf.

The kennel that held her had had been placed as far from the forest edge as possible. It was constructed of thick metal plates with small, heavily barred openings, presumably to let air in. If he had been making a kennel to hold a werewolf—that would be exactly the kind of kennel he would choose to make.

The thing had taken considerable damage, assuming that the sides of the box were supposed to be flat. All of the sides Charles could see sported bulges where something inside had hit them hard. Through the small opening facing him, gold eyes examined him without favor.

Hester in wolf form was, like Anna, pitch-black, though Anna’s eyes were ice blue. In build, Anna’s wolf was lithe and graceful. Hester was made for war—though for that much he had to rely on memory. Only a part of her face and her eyes were clearly visible, the rest of her hidden behind dented metal.

But she didn’t need anything more than her eyes to convey her cool disapproval—like a librarian catching the gaze of a child popping bubble gum. It had been a long time since anyone had given him a look like that—and he deserved it for making so much noise.

Even though they had not attracted the attention of anyone except Hester, Brother Wolf was humiliated. Charles’s chagrin was tempered with amusement and relief.

He’d been afraid he would be too late. That, with Hester captive, the men on the four-wheelers would have already left with her, despite Jonesy’s confidence that she was still there. This kind of operation depended upon speed. Assuming Hester was the target, they should have been in the next county already instead of hanging around waiting for Hester’s pack mates to show up and take this battle to a different level.

As Charles carefully moved back deeper into the shadows of the underbrush, the wind shifted a little, and he smelled gasoline. He moved a little farther to the side and saw why they hadn’t been able to leave with Hester.

The four-wheelers were trapped in the aspen trees that had somehow grown up through them while they had been parked. One of the vehicles was six or seven feet in the air.

It wasn’t just the aspens, he noted as he gave the sight a more thoughtful look. A fir tree had gotten into the act and punctured the gas tank of one of the vehicles, leaving the sharp smell of gasoline in the air.

He usually kept his awareness of the other part of the world, the spirit world, as closed as he could. He couldn’t afford to wander around distracted. If something wanted his attention, it could nudge him—and if there was something bad around, Brother Wolf could sense it.

Seeing the unnatural actions of the trees caused Charles to instinctively open his senses. The land was shivering with joyous anxiety, like a dog whose master has just come home. Power ruffled the hair along his back, and Brother Wolf forgot his humiliation and came to alert, though they both knew that the one who had enervated the land, who had caused the trees to put on a hundred years of growth in minutes, was waiting for them back in Hester’s cabin.

Jonesy.

The amount of power that would have been required to shape trees with that kind of speed was staggering.

Dangerous, Brother Wolf reminded him, over his irritation for the urgency Charles had fed him that had made them lose face in front of Hester.

Once he’d accepted the quivering, excited eagerness of the forest, other things came into focus. Beneath the stench of gasoline, Charles could smell meat and blood and the beginning of rot. Someone had died here. He closed down his mother’s gift because it was too distracting.

   
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