Wren sat down on the patio chair, looking out over the view. Ordinarily she’d call the building a villa, but since they were in France there was probably a French word for it. Whatever it was called, Sima had excellent taste. And better yet, she knew how to actually get what she wanted. Last night the werewolf had taken her to an exclusive club. She’d actually met two movie stars, even been able to dance with one of them.
She’d felt just a little guilty afterward, though Adam apparently hadn’t minded not getting to come. He’d gone sky-diving with a couple of the mercenaries. Considering he was capable of shifting into a bird, she completely failed to understand why he’d found that so entertaining. Then again, his other hobby involved wandering around old buildings with a camera and a sketch pad.
Sima offered her a glass of wine. “Pondering your next move?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Assuming this thing is going to operate on the same timetable as a human infant, it should be born within the next week.” Wren shrugged. “Though that also assumes no complication.”
“A risky assumption, considering the host just turned thirteen a short time ago.” Sima nodded. “Silly plan. They could have easily kept the girl properly contained until she reached a healthier age.” Sima made a vexed noise. “And that would have given them time to insure she was properly…” Sima took a sip of her wine. “Conditioned.”
“Her abilities seem to include some sort of mental magic. It’s possible they felt conditioning wouldn’t take.” Wren leaned back.
“It is merely a matter of finding the proper stress points. The right mix of punishment and reward.” Sima waved a hand. “My last pet wiggled with joy at no reward more than my smile. He was happiest when he pleased me.”
“She and her brother both have power…” Wren nodded. “If they can’t be reasoned with, then they will have to be…” She smiled. “Convinced.”
“On that, my dear, we agree.” Sima nodded. “There are too few gifted to allow any to escape us.”
“Hey Baby Bear.” Stasya rubbed his head as she came over, making his hair fall into his eyes.
Adam gave her a playful glare as he brushed it back. “Hey Mama Bear.” He gave her a hopeful look. “Coming up with us?”
“Coming…?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Flying to the island.” Patrick shrugged. “Letting him have the stick the whole way.”
“I…” She chewed her lower lip. “You know, just because he can turn into a bird does not mean he can fly a helicopter.”
“I’m a better teacher than that, luv.” Patrick rolled his eyes. “Besides, kid’s a natural. Give him a few more months and he’ll be able to go freelance, name his price even if he can’t manage to scrounge up enough lousy magic to turn into a decent T-Rex.”
“I turned into a dinosaur, what more do you want?” Adam narrowed his eyes at Patrick.
“A crocodile is not a dinosaur.”
“There are a lot of zoologists that would disagree with —”
“No.” Stasya folded her arms. “What did I say about this bickering?”
“Not unless we buy you drinks first,” Adam grumbled. He glanced down at the pre-flight checklist again. Despite the fact that he could turn into a bird, he was a bit more nervous about flying the helicopter than he was letting on. Though he was pretty sure he wasn’t fooling Patrick or Stasya.
The two older mercenaries had taken him under their wings, and treated him as a little brother. At least, when Stasya wasn’t flat out mothering him. Bickering with Patrick sometimes made him think of James. The first time Patrick had caught him tearing up at the memory, he’d taken him out for drinks and shared the memory of the brother he’d lost. Stasya had joined them, though she’d been fairly terse. One day she’d had a family. Then, Russia being Russia, one day she didn’t. Having them around made things easier.
He was learning. Though Patrick and Stasya were the ones he’d actually call his friends, the other mercenaries with the cabal had been willing enough to teach him various skills. Stasya had been the first to bring up bomb-sniffing dogs. That had made for a rather hilarious week, but he’d eventually figured out the scents. And learned that a bloodhound’s bay was capable of driving Patrick completely up the wall.
After, they’d rigged up demolitions with things like shaving cream and confetti. They’d figured if he could find them, he should probably learn how to disarm them. Even those uncomfortable at first with his magic now greeted him with friendly smiles. And a small part of him was starting to look forward to going into the field with them, as part of a team.
Giroux met her and Sima on the balcony, accepting the glass of wine. “We have a lead.”
“Do tell.” Wren smiled as she offered him her hand.
“Two leads, ma chere.” Giroux kissed the back of her hand. “We believe we have located the bartender that contacted us previously.”
“Rosa?” Sima raised an eyebrow.
“I would like to dispatch the two of you to…” He smiled. “Convince her to come in, to join her skills to ours. She has a gift of foretelling. Such a thing could be of considerable use to us.” His smile hardened. “She also knows Matthias, and if the other lead does not pan out, she could help us find him.”
“What is this other lead?” Wren set her wine glass down.
“We are tracking an alpha werewolf and a small pack.” He set down a photograph. It was slightly grainy, and if she hadn’t known now what she was looking at she’d have assumed it was someone’s Bigfoot sighting. “Naturally, telling one werewolf from another under these conditions is difficult at best, but…”
“But that is definitely an alpha.” Sima nodded. “At least ten feet. Matthias is a big one.”
“And alphas are rare. I am sending a team and…” Giroux looked at Wren. “With your permission, I would like to send your man with them. Given his…” Giroux shrugged. “Unique nature, he may be of considerable use. And I would like to evaluate his abilities in the field, under less controlled conditions than his previous demonstration.”
“You want to see what my Adam can do.” Wren laughed. “Very well. He seems to enjoy spending time with your mercenaries. I’ll let him out to play.”
“Meanwhile, Wren and I will have a…” Sima’s smile showed a hint of fang. “Chat with our little bartender friend.”
“My first field mission involves a pack of werewolves led by an alpha?” Adam stared.
“They are sending us against a pack of werewolves led by an alpha without wolves of our own?” Patrick also stared.
“Do we at least get high caliber weapons? Heavy ordinance?” Stasya shook her head. “A tank?”
“The idea is to be discrete.” Captain Miguel sighed at them. “We need to determine if it is the right werewolf, and if it is, figure out where he stashed our property.”
“And if it’s not?” Stasya folded her arms.
“Issue it an invitation to join us…” Miguel shrugged. “And if it declines, kill it.” He turned and walked away.
“So…” Adam turned to look at his friends. “How much trouble are we in here?”
“Last time they sent us to kill an alpha, we got a tank.” Stasya shook her head.
“Well, to be fair, we were hunting that particular alpha in Somalia. It’s a lot easier to be discreet with a tank in Somalia.” Patrick ran a hand down his face. “They want us to hunt a werewolf discretely…” He took a deep breath. “In Florida?”
“It’s Florida.” Adam shrugged. “Isn’t everyone there either senile or on drugs?”
“Kid has point.” Stasya nodded. Then she frowned. “Aren’t you from Florida?”
“I’m from Louisiana.” Adam shook his head.
“Aren’t those kind of the same thing?” Stasya raised an eyebrow.
“Are both American.”
“Like Spain and Italy are both European.”
Patrick shook his head at Adam. “Don’t get in a land war with a Russian.”
“Look, all you need to know about Louisiana is it has the best damn barbecue in the world.”
“Son…” Patrick narrowed his eyes. “I’m from Texas. Thems fightin words.”
“Americans.” Stasya shook her head fondly.
They’d had to kill four people before they found one that could tell them where to find their target. She kept up a glamour as she and Sima moved through the crowd. If this Rosa was a witch with foretelling abilities, she would know they were coming. And who they were. Sima had assured Wren that once they had the woman’s scent, tracking her would be easy. Now they just had to find a woman who would be trying to disguise herself.
A moment later, they had their target. A lovely older woman stood, and began trying to move through the crowd unnoticed. Wren followed, and noted Sima doing the same thing. She let Sima take the lead. Despite being human, Sima moved through the crowed like a predator, carefully herding their prey. She couldn’t help but admire the werewolf’s walk. Elegantly dangerous and confident. People took Sima seriously.
Their target proved it a moment later. Rosa gave up all pretense of subtlety and broke into a run.
“Bad news or worse news?” Patrick glanced at him.
“Is there any good news?”
“Alright, what’s the bad news?” Adam ducked behind a shipping crate.
“Bad news is they know we are here.” Patrick glanced out of cover.
“And the worse news?” Adam reloaded, then passed the shotgun back to Patrick. Patrick holstered the pistol and took the shotgun.
“Since Miguel killed a member of his pack…” Patrick made a frustrated noise. “And got his head ripped off for it…”
“Diplomacy is out of the question.” Adam nodded.
“Which means we’ve got two little pissed off wolves and one big fucking bad wolf out to kill us, and they aren’t being discreet about it.” There was a loud crashing sound. “At all.”
There was a small explosion, then Stasya’s voice came over the radio. “One little pissed off wolf. But now the big one has my scent.”
“Mama bear?” Adam frowned.
“Need backup or distraction.”
“We’re on our way.” Patrick gestured for Adam to follow him. There was a scream, and he realized one of the other mercs had just been disemboweled by the remaining smaller werewolf. It looked up at them. “Shit.”
“Those are our last two silver rounds.” Adam glanced at him.
“Not good. Not good.” Patrick growled. “Miguel, if you weren’t dead, I would fucking kill your dumb ass.” The first round caught the wolf in the chest. It kept coming. “Fuck, fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck.” Patrick fired the last round, dropping the wolf. Adam winced as he saw it starting to turn human again. “Stasya, position.”
“In deep shit, to the north.” A roar came from that direction.
“We are on our way.” Adam headed that way, Patrick a step behind. “Fuck. Patrick, get up top, try to get it’s attention.”
“Do it.” He shifted, turning into a fly and letting his clothes fall to the ground before shifting a second time. The tiger leaped over the crates and headed for Stasya.
Wren cut off the escape route with a wave of her hand. A car rolled backward to block the alley. It didn’t stop the woman, but it did slow her. Sima leaped over the vehicle, landing lightly on the other side. “Rosa…” Sima’s eyes turned golden. “A word.”
“Shit.” Rosa started backing away. Then she raised her voice. “Help.”
“That’s not going to…” Wren started shaking her head, then made a vexed noise. Two men came around the corner. Wren sighed. “Look what you’ve done. Now we are going to have to…” She trailed off.
Rosa had gone as white and still as marble. She was staring at one of the men with an utterly horrified expression on her face.