“You believe her.” Daniel was staring at him.
“Kid, I have seen some shit in my years.” If she had the gift, that was reason enough alone for a cabal to be hunting them. And if she had the gift, it was possible Daniel did too. Anna had the gift, and had been intentionally made pregnant as part of a ritual. Cabals had wiped out entire towns for less than Anna was carrying in her womb. The smart thing to do would be to drop both off at a bus station somewhere and get the hell out of Dodge. Except he’d made a deal. Both were staring at him, wide eyed. Dammit, he’d come up here because he’d wanted out, and now…
“Matthias?” Daniel swallowed.
“If it’s a cabal, they are going to find you. It’s likely the only reason they haven’t is the amount of snow we’ve been getting. Water purifies, wipes out tracks and traces.” Matthias took a deep breath. “But she’s right. They are still hunting you. And they will find you.”
“You and I have a contract, kid.” Matthias shrugged. “Which means I work for you. You hired me to keep your sister safe.” He met Daniel’s eyes. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
“You’re…” Anna started to smile.
“So, I guess I better teach both of you how to use a gun.”
“Demons are real.” Daniel shook his head as he paced.
“Yep.” Matthias didn’t look up from where he was dragging a chest into the room.
“What about other things?” He took a deep breath. “Vampires, werewolves, fairies, pegasuses, unicorns, mermaids, all of those?”
“Pegasus no.” When Anna made a very disappointed sound, Matthias shrugged. “Sorry.” He looked up at Daniel. “Never encountered a vampire, though knew some folks that said they had. Unicorns are a maybe, though probably extinct.” Anna made another disappointed sound. “Werewolves definitely.”
“And fairies?” Anna looked up at him eagerly.
“Not the Disney kind.” Matthias shook his head. “Hard to tell the difference between fey and demons most days.”
“Ugh.” Anna lay back on the couch, then sat up again. “If we find a unicorn, can I keep it?”
“That’s between you and the unicorn.” Matthias just rolled his eyes.
“What about angels?” Daniel folded his arms.
“Doubt it.” Matthias opened the chest to reveal it was full of guns. “Alright. Where to start?”
Daniel fumbled the last bullet into the bullet holder thing, then inserted it back into the gun. “How was…” He winced when it fell back out. “Dammit, this is harder than it looks.”
“Just a suggestion…” Matthias took a deep breath. “But you might want to try putting it into the right gun.”
“Got it.” Anna held up the gun she’d been working on triumphantly. “Fifteen point three seconds.”
The oven dinged. “She reloads. He shoots.” Daniel shook his head as he went into the kitchen. “I make cookies.” He sighed as he took the tray out of the oven and set it to cool. “Matthias, what did they mean when they said Anna had a spark?” He walked back into the dining area.
“My guess is they mean she’s got the gift.” Matthias shrugged.
“Okay, that really didn’t help. What does gift or spark or whatever mean in this context?” Daniel sat back down at the table and started trying to put the things into the thing again.
“Some people have power. Folks usually call those type witches, or something like.”
Anna nearly dropped the gun she was starting to take apart. “You mean I can cast spells?”
“If that’s your gift, and you had someone who could teach you.” Matthias gestured for her to go back to what she was doing. “Most go through their lives never realizing or consciously using their power, since they never encounter anyone who could recognize or teach it.”
“Are you…” Daniel lost his grip on the bullet. He picked it back up a bit. “I mean, do you have this gift or spark or whatever?”
“Something like that.” Matthias frowned. “I’ve known a few who had, knew, and used. One guy could read minds. He never learned how to control it though, and when he came into his full power he put a drill through his head.”
“Holy shit.” Daniel started shaking his head. “That’s not going to…”
“If you have a gift, it would be manifesting in little ways. You’re old enough to have full power, even if you didn’t realize it. And if either of you could read my mind…” Matthias shrugged. “You never would have come into my house.”
He frowned. Then he shook his head and looked back up at Matthias. “Anna knows things sometimes. Things nobody told her.” He’d never told her about the bathroom at the bar. And yet she’d known.
“What kind of things?” Matthias raised an eyebrow.
“Like how the story is backwards.” Anna started putting the gun back together again. “It’s not supposed to be the pigs that huff and puff.”
Daniel’s eyes went wide when Matthias nearly dropped his soda. The big man looked at Anna for a moment. “Alright then.”
Matthias sighed. At least Daniel had actually hit a target that time. Granted, it was the one he’d set up for Anna, but it was a target. “You need to relax.”
“I keep telling myself that.” Daniel sighed. “But then myself starts reminding me that I’ve got a machine in my hand that uses explosives to propel death cartridges into something that represents a person and that just really doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I should be relaxed about.” He shook his head, then lowered the gun before turning a little toward Matthias. “And even if I could hit the target, if it was a person, I…”
He took the gun away from Daniel, and nodded. “Ain’t something to be ashamed of, kid. And better we know it now.”
“Have you…” Daniel hesitated a moment. “Have you killed people?”
“I used to be a soldier.” Matthias nodded. “Comes with the job.” Blood and fire. He shrugged. “Some of the bravest folks I ever met were those who refused to even carry guns. People who opposed war and violence with every fiber of their beings. One such man followed me out onto the battlefield almost a hundred times. Never carried a gun. I went onto the field to take lives.” Matthias unloaded the gun before stowing it away. “He went out to save them.”
“Combat medic.” Daniel managed a smile. “My great grandfather was one, all the way back in World War Two.”
“World needs a hell of a lot more like them.” He picked up the gun case. “And a damn sight fewer like me.”
Daniel arched his back as he rode Matthias, moving his hips up and down. The fingers digging into his hips bordered on painful as Matthias groaned softly. He exhaled when he felt Matthias’s release, and slowly stopped his movements. Matthias rose up and pulled Daniel down atop him. Daniel put his arms around Matthias as the big man rolled half to the side, laying Daniel down on the bed.
He wasn’t sure how long he lay there in the bigger man’s arms before raising his head. “Will it come to a fight?”
“More than one, from what I know of cabals.” Matthias nodded. “Until what’s inside Anna ain’t of use to them anymore.”
“If you’d known this…” Daniel swallowed. “When I first knocked on your door…”
Matthias shrugged. “Wouldn’t have let you freeze. Would have given you a couple grand in cash, a couple bus tickets, and a ride into town.” He looked over at Daniel. “But you didn’t lie. You told me what you thought was true. My bad for not asking more questions then.” He smirked. “Wouldn’t be the first mess I’ve gotten into by thinking with my dick.”
“If I had money, what would you charge for this job?” Daniel frowned.
“Against a cabal?” Matthias shook his head. “Wouldn’t touch that for less than five hundred.”
“That seems —”
“Oh.” Daniel exhaled. “Wow.” He hesitated, then gave Matthias another look. “Are you worth that much?”
Matthias smiled. ‘Yeah, kid.” He met Daniel’s eyes. “I am.”
“Huh…” Daniel laid back. “Most I’ve ever made in an hour was the hundred you paid me.”
“Eh.” Matthias squeezed his shoulder. “You were worth it.”
“Thanks.” Daniel laughed. “I think.”
“Last whore I was with cost me a grand for the night.” Matthias shifted position a little. “And didn’t make me coffee.” He must have caught Daniel’s flinch because he frowned. “Kid?”
“I was going to object to being called a whore.” Daniel sighed. “But I let four guys gang bang me in a bathroom for a hundred and fifty bucks, so…”
“My mother was a whore.”
“What?” Daniel blinked.
“What part are you questioning?” Matthias raised an eyebrow. “That she was a whore, or that I had a mother?”
“Well…” Daniel chuckled. “Both?”
He set the trash bag down outside the house, then frowned. There was a set of footprints in the snow, too small to be Matthias’s. His eyes abruptly widened, and he started to turn. Someone grabbed him and shoved him into the wall. A hand went over his mouth. “Well now, Daniel, you’ve led us on quite the chase.” His eyes widened as he recognized Trent’s brother, Brian. There were three other men coming out of the trees. Two of them looked vaguely familiar. “I assume your sister is inside.” Brian jerked his head. “Get the girl. Kill everyone else.”
Daniel’s eyes widened, and he started trying to shake his head. And then a shadow fell on the group of men. Matthias caught the first man by the neck and snapped it before flinging the corpse at two of the other men. Brian let Daniel go and began reaching into his coat. Matthias’s knife nearly took Brian’s head off, then Matthias spun and buried the knife up under the rib cage of the man who’d just gotten up. Blood sprayed out of the man’s mouth. Before Daniel quite knew what was happening, four men were dead. “Holy shit. Holy shit.”
“Kid, focus.” Matthias pointed with the knife. “Can you ID them?”
“Right. Yes.” He pointed. “That was Brian. Trent’s brother. I recognize those two but I don’t know their names.”
“Get your sister packed.”
“Right.” Daniel ran into the house. “Anna.”
It took him only a few minutes to toss the bodies into the ravine and kick snow over the blood. Not that it would keep things hidden long, but there was always the chance of a neighbor dropping by. No talismans. They hadn’t been expecting him. With luck, that advantage would last a bit longer.
Matthias headed into the house. Daniel was carrying a bag to the truck. He snagged the kid on the way back, then hauled him toward the closet. “What are you —” Daniel blinked when Matthias dropped the bullet proof vest over his head and started fastening it into place. It was way too big for the guy, but it would do.
“They want her alive.” Matthias narrowed his eyes. “Don’t know that you have the same advantage.” He kissed Daniel’s forehead. “Keep your head down.”
“Okay.” Daniel nodded. He started back toward the kitchen.
“Forget food. Get your sister into the truck.” He looked up to see Anna staring at him, her face slightly pale. “Anna, get in the truck.”
Daniel had to grab her arm before she snapped out of it and started moving. Matthias tossed his rucksack into the truck. “That’s everything.” Daniel nodded to him.
“Almost. Here.” Matthias handed him a satchel. “Keep that on you.”
He slung it over his shoulder. “What is it?”
“About half a million.” Matthias pointed. “Get in the truck.”
Daniel opened the passenger door as Matthias opened the garage. Daniel’s eyes widened when he saw a car blocking their path. There were three shots fired, and Matthias staggered backward and out of his view. “Matthias…” Daniel felt sick. He was wearing Matthias’s vest. He could hear Anna screaming.
“You kids are quite the pain in the ass, you know.” A man walked toward him.
“Keep away from my sister.” Daniel grabbed the snow shovel and swung it.
The man caught it and yanked it out of his hand. Then he grabbed Daniel and tossed him toward the two other men. Daniel landed in the snow.
“That…” Matthias’s voice was calm. He stepped out from behind the truck. Daniel’s eyes widened. “Was your second mistake.”
“I suppose…” The man cut off. Daniel’s mouth dropped open.
Matthias’s eyes were golden. Then he smiled, showing a mouthful of fangs. Claws extended from his hands as he growled. “Want to guess your first?”