Dead Heat Page 13

There was no one in the room he entered. It was a typical family room with a big-screen TV on one wall and bookshelves filled with trophies, photos, books, and games on the other. But the blood was fresh and nearby. He angled his head to see if he could pick up where the scent was coming from without making a large movement that would be more likely to attract attention if something was waiting for him.

Upstairs the TV was still blaring. If there weren’t so much noise his ears would be of more use. But the noise would make it more difficult for any enemy to hear him, too.

The floor creaked somewhere in the house. He thought it was to his left, but it was difficult to tell. He moved quickly to that side of the room, staying low, pausing next to the wall. He didn’t trust walls—he’d broken through a few too many in search of prey himself. Sheetrock and two-by-fours didn’t stop a werewolf, and a lot of fae were just as strong. But as a visual barrier, a wall worked okay.

He put his head cautiously around the corner. It was the laundry room. There was blood all over the floor here, some of it splattered, and then drag marks that slid around the appliances and out of sight. He paced cautiously forward, past the washer and dryer—and found himself staring into the eyes of a wild-eyed woman who was crouched in the bathroom hidden on the far side of the room. He froze where he was.

She was sitting on the floor, legs crisscrossed, with a damn big knife in her hand, and that hand was shaking as though she had palsy. The motion could have been caused by blood loss, shock, or both.

Long bloody slices, some deep and others shallow, decorated both of her arms and her legs through what had been a very nice pair of slacks. She bared her teeth at him.

“The children must bleed,” she gritted out, and the knife shook in her right hand. “Bleed out the bad—” She dug the knife into her thigh and he winced. But she didn’t push it deep, just slid it along her leg parallel to the other wounds that bled there. “Something in my head wants me to kill my children,” she said in a hurried whisper, very different from the voice she’d started speaking with. “You have to stop me.”

Brother Wolf snarled at this enemy he could not fight with tooth or claw; fae magic surrounded the woman. Charles needed to figure out how to help Kage’s wife. The magic clinging to her meant he was better equipped to do it than anyone else here. Not that it wouldn’t have been helpful to have a witch or someone else to back him up—his da would have been useful.

“Chelsea Sani,” he said with a push of his own magic, trying to give her something to cling to.

It wasn’t enough.

She paused and rocked forward, falling until she was on her hands and knees, and she started to crawl. Not toward him, he didn’t think. He wasn’t her target.

“There are bad children here … little boys who steal food, little girls who don’t play well with others, little boys who…” She dropped all the way to the ground then, and writhed as she groaned.

“Chelsea,” Brother Wolf demanded, pulling on his pack, on his da’s power. Icy with the cold of winter, the power came to his asking and hit the woman with his call.

She stopped making noise, stopped moving except for the heaving of her ribs. Then she rolled her head until she could see him. She met his eyes, opened her mouth and shut it. She sliced open her hand, leaving the knife in the wound. “Blood makes it easier to fight. Who are you?”

“I’m Charles. A friend of Joseph’s. Can you tell me what happened?”

He edged closer, calling upon gifts given to him by both his da’s and his mother’s blood. His skin warmed and tingled uncomfortably, but he could see the spells that encompassed her. Where fresh blood flowed onto the steel of the knife, the magic was drawn more tightly, never quite touching the cold iron. It pooled uneasily around the open wound, thinning around the rest of her body.

Witchborn, he thought, for her blood to have that kind of power. But not trained, or she’d have broken the geas.

She gasped, and a tremor shook her body as though she were freezing to death. “Werewolf. Charles? You are Joseph’s werewolf?” she half asked, half demanded.

“Yes. I’m here to help you.”

She laughed breathlessly. “Too late for that. Too late for me. I sent them to a room with a door they could lock against me, but they need to get out. You go take my babies away somewhere safe.” There was a command in her voice that he found himself shaking off with an effort. Brother Wolf found that very interesting.

“They are safe,” he assured her.

Her eyes widened, fae magic flared, and he realized, too late, he’d made a mistake.

Some of the fae are quick, and whatever magic had done to her, it gave her better-than-human speed. But Charles had been edging toward her, and that gave Brother Wolf time to move even faster and catch the hand that held the knife just before she shoved it up under her jaw.

It had been a two-part geas, then, forcing her to kill her children, and when that was done—or if that wasn’t possible—to kill herself. Her death would make it more difficult to find the fae who had done this to her.

She fought him, fought to control the knife with strength that was not her own, and he finally drove the blade into the floor, through the linoleum tile and into the wooden floorboards below. He sank it deep so he didn’t have to break her arm.

Sobbing, she tried to pull the knife out, but suddenly, between one breath and the next, the scent of fae disappeared and she collapsed, her breathing thready.

“Safe?” Chelsea Sani whispered. “Tell me again.”

“They are safe,” he told her, and her body went limp, as if she’d used the last of her strength. And he knew what had broken the geas.

He took a good look at the blood on the floor, the way her last wound was not bleeding as it should. Her heartbeat was irregular. She’d lost too much blood—and was losing more through every cut she’d made in her own body in the effort to keep her kids safe from the magic driving her. It had been an incredible feat of willpower and quick thinking for a woman who was only human. But it had come at a cost.

She was dying. Even if they were at a hospital, it would be unlikely that they could save her in this condition. She was dying, and that satisfied the geas.

We could Change her, Brother Wolf told Charles. She knows how to fight.

It would be skirting his da’s law. He didn’t have his da’s approval, but desperate times were a gray area, judged case by case. As his da’s right-hand man, he had more leeway than other wolves. He’d had nothing to do with the incident that brought Chelsea to this end; his actions would be seen as impartial. Brother Wolf’s clear judgment would weigh in his da’s sight, if not anyone else’s. All he needed was her consent.

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