Dead Heat Page 36

He bowed his head and then looked over his shoulder at Anna. “You—” His voice broke. Probably because the Marrok was talking to him, too.

Anna, get out of there. The witchborn don’t always make the transition from witch to wolf easily. If she was strong enough to hide herself from Charles’s wolf, then she’s strong enough to be dangerous. Strong enough to hide if she is a dark witch. Charles is coming, but you and Hosteen get out of there right now.

She couldn’t respond to him. The Marrok couldn’t hear her if she talked back to him.

Hosteen looked at her. “A fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos,” he quoted back at her softly. “How strongly do you believe that, now? What do you think the Marrok told Charles to do to her? What can he do that you and I could not?”

Anna put her knitting down and walked over to the bed. Chelsea had been restless for the past half hour or so. Bran’s message had spiked the adrenaline in both Anna and Hosteen, and that was enough. Chelsea’s heartbeat was picking up; Anna could smell fear and helpless frustration in a growing wave. That first deep sleep often reset the newly rising werewolves’ memories to the moments right before they were bitten. That was why it was such a dangerous moment.

She took one more deep breath just as magic, a lot of magic, flooded the room. Bran was right; Chelsea Sani was not a weak witch. Not at all.

Chelsea sat up in one explosive movement, staring at Hosteen without recognition or sanity in her eyes. Panicked, she rose to a crouch, crying out involuntarily, a harsh wolflike sound. The magic, which had been strong, suddenly made it hard to breathe in the room, as if the magic had replaced the oxygen.

Anna met Hosteen’s eyes and then showed him what being an Omega really meant as she flooded the room with her own particular and peculiar power.

Charles jumped rather than ran down the stairs, conscious of startling Kage when he landed beside Joseph’s son at the foot of the stairs with more sound than he usually allowed himself. But just now Charles was more interested in speed than stealth.

He threw open the door to the room where Hosteen had stashed Kage’s wife. And jumped back like a scalded cat almost before he felt the touch of Anna’s magic.

“Heyya, Charles,” slurred Hosteen as though he were drunk. He was leaning against the wall on the far side of where Anna had dropped her knitting in a deep red tangle of yarn and needles. “Come join the par-ty.” Then Hosteen giggled.

Anna gave Charles a helpless look, her back to the werewolf and the bed.

Charles grinned at Anna through the open door, but he didn’t approach any closer. Brother Wolf wanted to go in and roll in her power like a cat in catnip, but Charles kept him back. If the attack on Chelsea had been directed at the werewolves, then someone needed to be prepared to defend the people in this house. It wouldn’t be Hosteen, not for a few hours anyway. If he entered the sphere of his wife’s influence, it wouldn’t be Charles, either.

Kage came running down the hallway, not werewolf fast, but human athlete fast. He gave Charles an odd look but didn’t slow as he ran into the room.

Kage was human. He’d probably be okay. Anna’s most deadly weapon worked best on dominant werewolves, especially dominant werewolves whose wolf was kept tied up in little knots because his human half was still, after a century of being a werewolf, convinced that the wolf was something evil. At least Charles thought that might be why Hosteen’s reaction was this extreme.

“Grandson,” Hosteen intoned solemnly. “I’ve decided to let your wife live until she does something evil.”

A woman whom Charles couldn’t see from his hallway position snickered. It wasn’t Anna, who grimaced at Charles because she knew that there would be hell to pay for this tomorrow. They both knew a wolf like Hosteen wouldn’t forgive her lightly for doing this to him.

“Evil,” said the other woman, who could only be Chelsea, though she sounded quite different from the woman he’d heard talk at dinner. She spoke dramatically with a touch of comic flare that might or might not have been intentional. “I’d like to do some evil to you right now, you old bastard. But mostly I’d like to do something evil with my sweetie.” Her voice was relaxed and smoldering.

“Chelsea?” said Kage, in a poleaxed voice.

Charles couldn’t see the woman from his vantage point, and he wasn’t getting any closer until the effect lessened a bit. Hosteen’s stress level could explain the giggling Alpha, but Charles thought Chelsea had been hit hard, too. It was always possible Anna had put more oomph than usual into her “Omega superpower,” as she liked to call it.

Anna cleared her throat. “Sometimes people wake up from the first sleep after the Change and feel a little aroused. Nothing to worry about and it usually goes—”

There was a flash of motion that had Charles moving forward, even though he knew the danger of getting too close to Anna. But Chelsea fell onto the hardwood floor, finally in Charles’s line of sight. She fell softly, muscles relaxed, and lay where she’d landed, looking up at her husband with a pleased smile.

Charles recovered and retreated.

“—away,” continued Anna valiantly, “when they try to move and realize that they have to learn how to deal with muscles that are stronger and respond more quickly than they’re used to. It’s a good distraction, because sex is not a good place to experiment with augmented strength. Most people are back to normal in a day or so.”

Kage crouched down beside his wife and touched her cheek. Charles couldn’t see his expression but had no trouble reading the love and relief in the bend of his head and the softening of his shoulders.

“Hey, little rabbit,” he said huskily. “You okay?”

Chelsea blinked up at him, and then her whole body tightened. “The children … I … the children. Kage?”

“They are fine,” he told her. “Freaked-out. But fine. They are asleep as of ten minutes ago. Ernestine is staying in the suite with them tonight.”

Chelsea fought to stay focused, but Anna’s power was too much. It said something about how dominant her wolf was going to be that Anna affected her nearly as much as she affected Hosteen. Or maybe Anna was getting stronger. Chelsea’s body grew looser and her face softened into a smile. “That bastard wanted to kill me,” she said, pointing a wobbly finger at Hosteen. “I heard him.”

“Didn’t want to,” said Hosteen; he sounded as though he were talking to himself. “Never a good thing when you have to kill the mother of your great-grandchildren. Could scar them for life.” It didn’t sound as though it bothered him much. “But it’s like knitting and purling. I don’t have to. Not until you do something evil, witch.”

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