Wren paced the hotel room. It was a nice one, complete with mini-bar, but after Paris it just seemed so mundane. “Giroux indicated the girl, Ann or whatever, had mental powers. Could it have been her?”
“I highly doubt that.” Sima shook her head. “She’s still young. Barely in puberty. Witches don’t come into their full strength until their bodies mature.” She gave Wren an appraising look. “You’re young enough you’ve undoubtedly got more strength to develop yourself.”
The idea of getting stronger appealed to her. She was about to ask another question when the phone rang. Wren grabbed it and put it on speaker phone. “Giroux?”
“Ma chere, are you alright?” His voice sounded concerned.
“We think another party might be at work here.” Sima clasped her hands behind her back. “Witches are involved.”
“More witches?” Giroux sounded shocked.
“Two people made a play for the bartender. One could stop Wren’s magic, the other one could knock me through a wall.”
“There was a vampire cell operating in that town, but they vanished some months ago.” Giroux’s voice became brusque. “We think it was a leadership dispute. Perhaps some survived.”
“Vampires?” Wren raised an eyebrow at Sima.
“Give me some credit, Giroux. You think I don’t know a vampire when I smell one?” Sima glared at the phone.
“Could have been thralls.” Giroux sounded apologetic. “I will send a team to —”
“I want the strong one.” Sima smiled. “And I think Wren has an interest in the other.”
Somehow the man had thrown her out of his head. Once she had a grip, no one should be able to resist her. Yet he had. And she wanted to know how, even if that ability meant she was going to have to get the information from him the hard way. “I do.”
“Wren may have what she likes. Sima, we’ve indulged you bef —”
“I’ll refund you half my fee.” Sima smirked.
“He’s all yours.” Giroux responded quickly. “Madam Wren, I think you should also know…” His voice took on an admiring tone. “Your man, Adam. I would like to discuss retaining his services for future work.”
“Adam?” Wren blinked. “What happened?”
“Captain Miguel screwed up. Once he realized the alpha I’d sent them after wasn’t the one we sought, he attempted to deploy containment protocols without laying the necessary groundwork. The pack turned hostile and killed nine of our agents. Your man rallied the last two surviving agents. They finished the mission and…” Giroux let out a low whistle. “Your man killed an alpha.”
“Guess all that firearm practice paid —” Sima patted Wren’s shoulder.
“He didn’t use a gun.” Giroux voice cut her off. “Or silver.”
From the look on Sima’s face, that was apparently a hell of a thing. “My Adam is special.” She resisted the urge to touch the talisman hanging around her neck. The ring was too big for her fingers, and given it’s nature, taking it in to get resized wasn’t an option. Still, it made a pretty enough pendant.
“You’ve a gift for understatement. I will leave this situation in your hands, my dears. Let me know what you learn.”
“Seriously though…” Adam stumbled a bit as they made their way back down toward the cabs. “Is it really that big a deal to take down an alpha?”
“Yes.” Patrick tried to support Adam’s weight, only to stumble a little himself. “Last time, was uh…” He tilted his head.
“Giovanni.” Stasya frowned. “I heard it was Giovanni.”
“Yeah, that’s the…” Patrick opened the door. “Was that his first name or the last name?”
“I…” Stasya shook her head. “I just remember the one name.”
“Maybe he was like Cher. Only one name.” Adam raised his hand to wave at their driver.
“Anyway, he was kinda a witch. Like you, only different.” Patrick nodded. “A lot more in your face than you. He could uh…” Patrick opened the door to the limo when it stopped, elaborately bowing as he gestured for Stasya to get in. She rolled her eyes, then glared when he smacked her on the ass as she was climbing in. Adam snickered. “Way I heard it, instead of taking a hammer to a guy’s arm to make a point, Giovanni’d freeze the guy’s arm like some liquid nitrogen shit and then just break it off.”
“Ouch.” Adam winced as he got into the limo.
“Froze alpha, then pushed down stairs. Alpha shattered all over. Ludicrous gibs.” Stasya waved her hands as she spoke. “This was years ago. Before our time.”
“Course it nearly killed Giovanni too. Using that much power…” Patrick shook his head. “That’s what’s so great about you, Baby bear. Hell, I flip anything larger than a coin, I pass out for twelve hours then have to eat my weight in pastries before I’m functional again.” He blinked. “Or did you eat the alpha?”
“No, no, god no.” Adam shook his head.
“Cause I’m trying to decide if that would be gross or really damn cool if you did.” Patrick scratched his head.
“Baby Bear is top of food chain.” Stasya actually giggled, a strangely girlish sound coming from the a woman he’d twice seen make people’s arms bend in places they weren’t supposed to. He didn’t miss the admiring looks Patrick was occasionally shooting her way. In a rather slinky green dress with her hair down, Stasya looked every inch the Russian bombshell even at forty. Hell, she was twice his age and he’d have to admit he’d looked a couple times.
“You’re one of a kind, kid.” Patrick nodded. “And we are one hell of a team.”
“I —” The world around him suddenly spun.
Adam had apparently been sitting when she’d pulled him to her, because he fell backward onto the ground. And he was completely naked. She’d forgotten that whatever magic the talisman applied was applied only to him and not to things like his clothing. “Adam.”
He blinked up at her. “Wren?” He smiled, then caught sight of Sima standing next to her and immediately turned red. “Uh…” He grabbed a towel she’d left hanging on the back of a chair and used it to cover himself. “Where…?”
“Washington.” She watched him stand up, and noted he was stumbling a bit. And his words were slightly slurred. “Are you drunk?”
“I…” Adam nodded. “Yeah, a bit. Why am I in Washington?”
Her eyes narrowed. “I didn’t give you permission to get drunk.” She couldn’t believe he’d embarrass her like this in front of Sima. Especially after that phone call.
“I need permission to get drunk?” He had the nerve to give her a confused look.
Wren glared before reaching in and taking hold of his mind. Adam immediately froze in place. The feeling of elation he’d had a few minutes ago vanished, and she felt fear start to take its place. “You’re mine, Adam. Your behavior reflects upon me.”
“I…” He swallowed. “Yes, Wren.” He bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Wren. It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t.” She released him, and was pleased to note he simply remained where he was standing, his head bowed. “Giroux tells me you killed an alpha.”
“Yes, Wren.” He nodded. “Patrick, Stasya, and I killed the rest of the pack after they killed Miguel and his team.”
“Stasya and Patrick?” Wren raised an eyebrow. “They are the two you keep going to museums with?”
“Yes, Wren.” He nodded, his head still bowed. She liked that, the meekness of his stance.
A smile came to her face. “You did good, Adam. I suppose you can be forgiven some unauthorized celebration.”
“Thank you.” He returned her smile.
“How?” Sima raised an eyebrow. “Did you kill an alpha?”
“I, uh…” Adam shrugged. “A combination of drowning, water pressure, and biting it in half, ma’am. I sort of turned into a big shark.”
“Impressive.” Sima gave Adam a slow, appraising look. “Wren, my dear, I can’t help but compliment your taste in pets.”
“Thank you.” Wren couldn’t help but feel pleased at the compliment, especially with what she knew of Sima’s standards. “Adam, I pulled you in for a reason. We may need some back…” She frowned. “Patrick and Stacy, you said?”
“Get them here. We’ve got a situation here, and we may need some more muscle.”
“Why?” He blinked. “I thought…”
“Do as I told you.” She glared.
“You left your clothes in the limo, kid.” Patrick said when he answered the phone. “Something I said?”
“Wren pulled me.” Adam rubbed the back of his neck. He wished to hell she’d warn him when she did that. Or at least make sure he had some damn clothes wherever it was she dragged him to. “She wants you and Stasya on a plane out to Washington State as soon as possible. Something is going on and…” He shrugged.
“And we are the big dogs now, so we get called in.” Patrick’s voice held a combination of annoyance and amusement.
“What gear, Baby Bear?” Stasya’s voice came over the line. Patrick must have had the phone on speaker.
“Not sure. They seem to think it’s witches, so, uh…”
“I will pack my emerald slippers,” Stasya said.
“Ruby slippers.” Adam smiled.
“You sure?” Stasya sounded uncertain.
“Yeah.” Patrick answered before he could. “Ruby slippers.”
“Emerald city,” Adam added.
“Whatever. We find witch, we squish with house. Need me to pack your stuff?”
“If you could uh…” Adam exhaled. “Bring me my clothes and shit, I’d appreciate it.”
“Clothes and feces. Got it, kid.” Patrick snickered then made a grunting sound. “Stasya punched me.”
“Thanks, Mama Bear.”
“My pleasure, Baby Bear.”
Wren’s pet was wearing nothing save a towel around his waist that threatened to fall off every time he moved. It was a rather good look for him. “Do you always permit him to question you?” Sima glanced at Wren.
“Unless I take control of his mind, there really isn’t a way to stop him.” Wren shrugged.
“All a matter of laying the rules, my dear. And ensuring he knows the consequences for breaking them.” She smiled. “I didn’t permit my pets to speak without permission.”
“Adam…” Wren glanced at him. “He can take a lot of punishment. He’s good at enduring pain. When he realized he could shape shift, Renee had him beaten for hours and he didn’t say anything until she threatened me.”
“There are men like that, who can take pain. But even they can be disciplined. It is merely a matter of learning their stress points.” Sima nodded. “Everyone has them. If the prospect of pain does not dissuade him, it would be interesting to learn what does.” She gave Adam an appraising look. “Adam, come here.”
“One second.” He frowned at the screen of the tablet computer and clicked a few more buttons before rising and coming toward them. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Wren’s eyes narrow. Despite Adam not being her pet, she felt the urge to box him for such insolence. And yet the box would not be a good punishment for someone like him. Adam’s very nature would render restraints useless. “Sima?”
“Something interests me. Using a gift requires energy.” It was the reason she rarely exercised her own, as nigh useless as it was most of the time. “Yet you have performed rather remarkable feats, sometimes one after another, without exhausting yourself. Tell me, were you aware of your own abilities before your training with Renee?”
His face darkened just a little. “No. I couldn’t do anything before my ‘training’.”
“Fascinating. Other than for wolves, shapeshifting is considered impossible for humans.” She turned toward Wren. “Even vampires have only the most limited capabilities in that regard.”
“Renee said the lesser beasts don’t have a spark, and so even if I could manage to change into one I’d never be able to change myself back.” Wren nodded.
“Exactly. I wonder…” Sima glanced at Adam again. “Gifts often run along family lines. Did his parents…” Adam went slightly pale.
“No. At least, not to my knowledge. They were extremely mundane people.” Wren shrugged. “Renee sensed something about Adam, but she killed his brother.” She slowly nodded. “He has a sister. Perhaps we should —”
“No.” Adam started shaking his head. “No.”
“Adam…” Sima turned toward him. “That is not a word a pet should ever use toward their mistress.”
“She’s not my —” Adam was cut off. He froze in place, motionless. His eyes darted back and forth, and she could smell fear start to come from him. Then he went to his knees, his head all but pressing against the carpet.
“Adam. That was rude.” He didn’t respond to Wren’s words, but his body trembled just slightly as though he were struggling to remain in his current position. Or perhaps struggling to leave it. “Sima…” Wren turned toward her. “What would you do if he were yours?”
“Well now…” Sima leaned forward. “A most interesting question.”