He picked the phone up and set it back down again three times before finally dialing the number. She answered on the third ring. “You’re checking up on me.”
“I am simply calling to ask how the tour went.” Michaels glared in the general direction of San Francisco. Liar. You’re calling to check up. Rather than sit around and worry about her, he’d taken Diana up on her offer to have a nice quiet week at her uncle’s cabin.
“Liar.” Laura snickered.
There was background noise. Way more background noise than should be present in a quiet hotel room. “What are you up to?”
“I ran into an assassin and we kidnapped me an academic adviser and drove him out of the city so we could find some magical paraphernalia that used to belong to Merlin’s girlfriend Nimue.”
“Uh-huh.” He rubbed his forehead and hit the speaker phone button.
“Except we ran into werewolves but that’s okay because my new partner can turn into a gorilla and he just beat the shit out of the alpha and took over the pack.
“Did he now?” He sat down next to Diana and rolled his eyes.
“And it was awesome. Only, it turns out that the werewolves were just after the same artifacts we were and somebody else stole them first, so I went to a history lecture and it was actually pretty interesting. While I was doing that we learned there was a vampire tailing the professor, so we kidnapped him again and stuck him in a five-star hotel suite.”
“I see.” He saw Diana cover her mouth and try not to giggle.
“So now I’m just kicking back doing karaoke with a hit man while we wait for the vampires’ base to open.”
“Right.” He nodded. “You’ll be back at your hotel by midnight, right?”
“Hell no. The five-star place has a jacuzzi on the balcony and I am so gonna try that thing out.”
“Midnight.” He narrowed his eyes.
“We probably won’t even be done killing vampires until like one AM. You and Diana enjoy the cabin and make kissy faces at each other.” Or better yet, get the handcuffs out again.
Diana laughed. “I really hope she’s majoring in creative writing.”
“Yeah…” Michaels stared at the phone for a second. Then he dialed again. What are you doing?
The phone was answered on the second ring, but it was Ted’s voice on the other end. “Michaels, is something wrong?.”
“Yep.” He exhaled. “I’m going to need you to tell Gabe to get to San Francisco.” Hey, I’ve got the situation under control! And he was the Queen of fucking Sheba. “Laura’s found herself some trouble.”
Adam stared at Laura. “You just…”
“Pfft.” She rolled her eyes. “You heard him, he didn’t believe —” She frowned as his own phone rang.
He pulled it from his pocket, then put a finger to his lips before answering it. “Wren.”
“Are you nearly done there?” Wren’s voice came over the phone.
“The data was taken by a third party. I’m tracking them now.” He put it on speaker phone so Laura and Erilon could hear the conversation.
“As soon as you are finished…” Wren’s voice was angry. “I need you to head down to San Louie Obisco or wherever. Somehow…” She made a frustrated sound. “Matthias learned Jevan was one of the council. They got to him.”
“You need me to go in for a rescue?” He kept the smile off his face so she wouldn’t hear it in his voice. Jevan was the fourth. They were doing an excellent job of going through the list he’d given Ash.
“Jevan’s dead.” That was no surprise. The crew was nothing if not efficient. “No, but we believe they are sticking around the area for a while. You’ve got two days to finish up there then I want you to head down there.”
Laura’s eyes met his across the table, and she gave him a slight nod. Good. She’d get the warning off. “You want —”
“I want Matthias brought in alive.”
That was… “Wren, Matthias is — ”
“That’s why I’m sending you in. He’s an alpha.” He could hear a bit of glee in Wren’s voice. “And I’ve got a little something I’d like to test. If it works, then the big bad wolf is going to be my little bitch.” Across the table, Laura already had her phone out. “You can go after him directly, but if you need to take a hostage grab the black guy. I don’t want a witch and I’m going to need whoever you grab to be able to talk.”
“Understood.” He couldn’t help but wonder if Stephan’s powers would be sufficient to neutralize Wren.
“Love you too.” He hung up the phone.
“I…” Laura looked down at the phone in her hand. “If they know you’re coming, they could grab you instead. Keep you —”
“You’ve seen what I can do, Laura.” He raised an eyebrow. “You really think they could keep me a prisoner?” He shrugged. “Wouldn’t matter anyway. Wren can pull me to her location from anywhere. Brought me from Florida to Washington in less than a heartbeat.”
“I’ll uh…” She nodded. “I’ll fill Magda in.”
“Then we should start moving. That club will be opening soon.” He drew his phone, and sent a quick text message.
Laura was pretty sure they wouldn’t have let her in if she hadn’t been with Adam. Her grunge chick just didn’t have the same gravitas as his tailored elegance. Or maybe it was just the way he walked. Gabriel and Matthias had the same thing. Something just slightly predatory, or perhaps it was just that all three men knew exactly how dangerous they really were. Okay, how many vampires are we dealing with here? Two vampires. Four thralls. Laura, it would — I know, I know, keep my head down and let Adam do his thing. Can you talk to him in his head? Not without his permission and… And? And not only am I fairly certain he will not give it, even if he did the witch might be able to detect my touch upon him. Yeah, that would be bad. I know he’s worried about hurting us but we don’t want him hurt either. Let us hope the witch doesn’t realize that.
“What now?” She glanced up at Adam.
“We play it cool, keep an eye out. I’m guessing Erilon can tell us who we are looking for?” He raised an eyebrow at her.
“She said two vamps, four thralls.”
“Let’s just hope I can get them one at a time, or things could get messy.” He exhaled. “Alright, let’s blend in.” He took a step away then held his hand out to her. She stared at it a moment. He smiled. “Best vantage point is the dance floor.”
“I, uh…” She took his hand. “I’ve never really danced before.”
He spun her out onto the floor, then caught her. “Just follow my lead.” He grinned.
A smile came to her face as he moved with her, a hand on her hip lightly guiding her own movements. “You’re uh…” She laughed. “Kind of good at this.”
“Once upon a time I was a theater nerd.” He pulled her toward him as the tempo changed. “Dance club music is easy. If this was a real party I’d teach you how to tango.”
“Rose in your teeth and everything?” She smiled.
“You’ll need a skirt that swirls though, if we want to be proper about it.” The music slowed a little, and he caught her hand as they moved across the floor. “I make the bouncers for thralls, but that’s only three.”
He right? Yes. The fourth is the woman to your left, with the kanji tattoos. Also, her grammar is atrocious. “Table by the DJ. The woman who clearly doesn’t actually speak Japanese.” She spun a little so he could look without being obvious about it. “Both the vamps are upstairs, in the office.”
“Rather not have action with all these people around. We’ll need a reason to get the collateral damage clear.” He nodded before moving his hand to the small of her back, guiding her gently toward the other side of the dance floor. “Give it some time though, don’t want to make it too obvious it was us.”
She put a hand on his shoulder, enjoying the dance. Ted’s center had occasional little dance parties, but nothing quite like this. Adam actually knew how to dance, not just stand about and flail vaguely in time with the music. She felt a little like she was in a film noir, dancing with the Byronic hero. He glanced at her and smiled, and she shifted her hand to the back of his neck before pulling in him for a kiss.
He found himself returning her kiss. Her lip gloss tasted a little like bubble gum, and he pulled her closer as they kept swaying in time to the music. Reluctantly he drew back. “That uh…” He swallowed.
“Was nice…” Her voice was soft. “But kind of…”
“Stupid.” He exhaled. “We should, uh…” He touched his forehead to hers, then pulled her toward a table where they had a view of the stairs. If he kept dancing with her, he was going to lose all sense again.
Just as they reached the table, two figures emerged from the office and started for the door. “Those are them.”
“Right. You wait here.” He started to look around. “Don’t suppose Erilon can magick me up a quick distraction?”
“Adam?” Laura smiled. “I’m a witch.” She closed her eyes.
A heartbeat later every electronic device in the place went haywire.
It was nice that he needed a distraction. She had a lot of pent up frustration to release at the moment. The uncontrolled burst acted a little like a short range EMP, except it didn’t actually fry circuits. Just made everything with a computer in it need a hard reboot. As soon as everyone began looking around, Adam vanished. You need to get outside. You don’t want to be trapped in here if a fight starts. Right. Laura… I know, it was stupid.
Outside, in the night air, she took a deep breath. He kissed me back. Laura… I know, but he kissed me back. Laura, as long as the witch has that talisman, she has the power of life and death over him. He does not have free will. I know. They could make him go after us. Yes, and Laura, you really should consider what that would do to him. I… You’re right.
The sound of a gunshot made her look up. A window broke, sending a rain of glass down onto the street below. Glass and dust. A couple heartbeats later Adam was standing next to her again. He grabbed her hand. “Run.”
She followed. They’d nearly made it back to the main street when a figure leaped off the roof and landed in front of them. The man smiled, revealing fangs. “I thought I saw her with you…” He laughed. “I think I’ll turn you both.” Laura looked up at Adam, and to her surprise, saw him smirk. Oh, clever boy. Erilon? “You think the two of you could take me on?”
“Two?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
A smile came to her face as the werewolves stepped into view. The vampire’s eyes just widened. “You took something that doesn’t belong to you, fang boy.” Laura grinned.
“Why the hell are there so many tunnels underneath San Francisco?” Laura brushed cobwebs out of her braid, then glared.
“For shanghaiing people.” Adam shrugged. “And other various nefarious enterprises. I read up that there were bars and brothels operating down here. An entire city beneath the city.”
“That’s…” Laura began looking around with interest. “Think we could explore a bit?”
“After we get what we came here for.” Adam swallowed. “Or rather, you get what we came here for while I’m distracted looking at something else.”
He couldn’t quite make himself turn and look at her. If Wren found out he’d kissed Laura… “Yeah?”
“Thank you.” That did make him turn toward her. “For helping Ash. For helping him keep it together. If you hadn’t protected him…” She gave a small shake of her head. “You’re one of the good guys, and I don’t care what you say. We’re going to help you.”
“Just shut up, alright?” She glared at him. “Erilon got a read on Wren, and while she’s powerful she doesn’t have the kind of knowledge it would take to do a full-on binding. If she did, she’d have known what Erilon was. So, who is she?”
“A couple years and a lifetime ago…” He continued down the tunnel, moving a tattered hanging out of the way so Laura could pass. “She was my girlfriend. We, uh…” His laughter was just a little bitter. “She was a new student, and she was kind of shy. So, I greeted her, led her into the lunch room and uh…” He sighed. “After that, we were together. There was just…” Words poured out of him. “There was never anybody else. I was going to propose and then…” His voice a little ragged. “Then a hag murdered my brother, ripped my soul out, and gave Wren a taste of power.”
“I…” Laura started to put a hand on his arm, and hesitated. “I don’t even know what to…” She trailed off, tilting her head as though listening to something else.
Her eyes suddenly widened, and then they glowed. “Adam.”
That was just creepy. “Erilon.”
The image of the biker flashed in his mind. “Or whoever she…” He looked away.
“How old was Wren, when you met?”
“Why?” Adam stared at her.
“I…” He nodded. “Yeah.”
“The age when the first signs of magic begin to show.” It was disturbing, hearing that ancient voice from Laura’s mouth. “Unconscious, even uncontrolled expenditures of power. A witch with Wren’s powers…”
A chill started at the base of his spine and began working its way through his body. “Erilon?”
“If she focused her power on something…” The glowing eyes met his. “Or someone she wanted…”
His legs went weak, and he had to reach for the wall to steady himself. “You’re saying…”
“I’m saying you cannot blame yourself, Adam, for not seeing her for what she was.” Erilon’s voice was gentle. “She never gave you the choice.”