The Duchess: Chapter 3

By Thatelan law, a marriage wasn’t fully legal until it was consummated.  The duchess had also made her intentions clear, despite being eager to return to her own lands.  Bedding her was to be expected, per their arrangement.  It should come as no surprise that they’d share a room at the inn, being newlyweds.  His eyes went once again to the item sitting on the pillow.  “You want to tie me to the bed.”

“Yes.”  Her smile was that of a lioness who’d spotted prey.

“And if I let you, you’ll double the stipend.”  He stared at the coil of rope.

“I’ve found a new stallion is often skittish at the first ride.  Offering a reward can smooth the process.”  She waved a hand.  “But our bargain was that you will submit to my will.”

“Obeying you is one matter.”  He shook his head.  “Being rendered helpless is another.”

“Hence the offer of the reward.”  The smile never left her face.

Ruarc exhaled, then glanced at the woman standing behind her.  “Your maid is still present.”

“Enjoy the small pleasures of rank, dear husband.  She’ll save you the effort of undressing yourself.”  Something of his reaction must have shown on his face, because she laughed.  “Come now.  She did quite well last time.”

“I am fully capable of undressing myself.”

“I’m sure you are.”  She shrugged.  “But I like the way you blush when she unlaces your breeches.”  Duchess Vitalia straightened.  “Stand, and let her undress you.”

He took a deep breath before rising.  The maidservant’s smile was a catlike mirror of her mistress’s as she began unfastening his doublet.  She took her time, putting on a show for the duchess.  He clenched his fists, but stayed where he was.  After he was naked, the maid went back to her position behind the duchess.

Her eyes raked over him.  “Well?”  She raised an eyebrow.

Kiera would be smart with the coin, see to their security.  This wouldn’t be forever.  Just until…  “It will be as you wish.”  He exhaled.

“Wonderful.”  She stood then, and trailed a hand across his chest.  “Relax, darling.  You may even enjoy yourself.”

(more…)

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The Duchess: Chapter 2

He wanted to grab the key and storm from the room.  Ruarc could feel his face burning from humiliation.  And yet, if he left empty-handed, his brother was a dead man.  A whore, she’d called him.  Worst part was she was right.  He took a couple deep breaths, and then took his seat once more.

The maid who’d stripped him brought in the meal.  He started to open his mouth, then caught himself.  She hadn’t given him permission to speak yet.  Ruarc looked up to see her giving him a pleased smile.  “Now, as to terms…”  She looked down at her plate, her voice prim.  “I will first go over what is in this offer for you, and what is not.  You will not be given access to my fortune.  I will, however, purchase the markers for your family’s debts.  Your estates, and your brother’s recent mistakes.  Additionally, I will provide your family members with suitable stipends.  I will also see to the repairs on the estate itself.”

Ruarc went still, as she laid out everything he wanted and more.  He took a sip of the wine, and noted his hand was trembling just a little.  The duchess must have noticed as well, because she smiled again.  “You can, of course, refuse.  In fact, you may walk away at any time.  Your sisters are pretty, no doubt they can find work in a brothel.  You could support your mother and your youngest sibling by returning to the life of a soldier, at least as long as you escape injury.  Your brother…”  She shrugged, then waved a hand.  “You may speak.”

“You’ve made your point, Your Grace.”  He was surprised to find his voice steady.  “Perhaps you should explain what it is you want from me.”

“In public, you will play the role of my adoring and devoted husband.  You will, if necessary, defend my honor and other such matters.  Should I bear a child, you will claim the child as yours and defend the child’s honor as well.”  She speared a bit of meat on her fork.  “In public.”

A show.  A pretense, so she could avoid having a husband with sufficient power to interfere with her.  And yet if that were all she wanted, there were plenty of weak dandies about for her to choose from.  Fools who had to have six servants before they could dress themselves.  “In public.”  He slowly nodded.  “And in private?”

“You will assume no control over my standing or finances.  You will assume no power over me at all.  You will do as I tell you, and submit yourself to my will.”  Her smile became predatory.  “I have no interest in you as a husband, Ruarc.  But as a plaything?”  She looked him over.  “I think I will enjoy you thoroughly.”

It was all he could do not to flinch.  A whore was exactly what she’d make of him, if he agreed to this.  And a cuckold beside.  “My sisters will require dowries.”

“Their needs will be met, as long as you keep your end.”  She speared herself another bite of food.  “Displease me, and their stipends will be cut off until you submit to whatever punishment I deem satisfactory.”

“Not courting a husband…”  He gave a bitter shake of his head.  “You’re buying a slave.”

“Precisely.”  She bit into the meat.

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 1

Three separate lords had now presented invitations to her.  Duchess Vitalia sighed.  The worse part was her uncle, the king, had looked in her direction whenever the word ‘alliance’ came up.  She hadn’t disposed of one useless old man just to get stuck with another.  Any husband the king saddled her with would mean trouble, as would the sycophants after her wealth and position.  If she did marry, it would have to be on her terms, and none of those louts would agree.  Many of them seemed to think she would benefit from a ‘governing hand’.

Adding to her current frustration was the fact she dare not relieve her frustration with her lover.  Not with so many eyes about.  Durante was both base born and a bastard, and it was scandalous enough merely having him as her groom.  Marzia, her maid, was lush enough, but she was in the mood for something else.  And any husband she ended up with would likely insist both they and Gian be sent away, if he didn’t come up with a pretense to have them killed.  Her not so sadly deceased husband had killed her lovely Nico.

She picked up her drink, then noted Marzia was staring down at the tournament with a small smile.  “Someone caught your eye?”

“That count who annoyed you earlier was just unhorsed.  He is not happy.”  Marzia’s smile became an open smirk.  “Not happy at all.”

Vitalia followed her gaze to see the sputtering count.  It took her a moment to determine who had unhorsed him.  She hadn’t been paying attention to the games.  The knight was young, and his armor battered as though it had seen war rather than just tournaments.  “Who is he?”

“I believe that is Baron Orso’s second son, your grace.  I’m not sure of the name…”  Marzia tilted her head.  “Something foreign.  His mother was Ipruci or Gaebli or something.”

“I’m surprised he was allowed to compete.”  She frowned at the scene.  “Though that seems to be the count’s issue as well.”

“The boy has ridden well.  He’s in the running for…”  Marzia trailed off.  The count was clearly pleased at whatever the tourney master had decided.  The handsome young knight looked frustrated and angry as he turned and stalked away.  “He has been disqualified.”

“Pity.”  Vitalia settled back into her chair.  “I rather liked the thought of Count Servo taken out by an upstart.”

(more…)

The Woods: Chapter 10

Thomas settled the breastplate over his shoulders, then smiled as Ileana began helping him with the straps.  A memory came to him.  “The last time you did this for me you tied them in knots.”

She laughed.  “I was fourteen, and you managed to win despite them coming loose.”  She straightened, then rose up to kiss him.  “And I’m much better at knots now.”

“Vula teach.”  The goblin was examining one of his gauntlets.  She poked them before wrinkling her nose with disapproval.  “Why have metal fingers if not add claws?”

Considering the time the goblin had bound him had nearly killed him, he couldn’t really deny her expertise.  “Claws make it more difficult to precisely direct the blade.”  He’d seen clawed gauntlets before, even tried them before rejecting them as impractical.  They looked frightening, but their sole use appeared to be intimidation.  Or at least, he’d always thought so until facing Keffer’s claws in a sparring match.  Granted, when Keffer abandoned his human mask his claws were more like talons and on the hands of a creature that was not only inhumanly strong and fast but capable of wielding considerable magic.  It had been a few years since a training match had left him almost too bruised and exhausted to move.

“If had good claws, not need blade.”  She sniffed before handing him the gauntlet.

“The blade allows me a greater range and more maneuverability.”  He put the gauntlet on.  And without that range and maneuverability, Keffer would have little problem tearing him to little bitty shreds.  For that matter, he wasn’t entirely sure Vula and her claws wouldn’t be able to manage the same.  He imagined fighting her would be something akin to battling a rabid wolverine.

“Until Vula bite off arm.”  She grinned, her inhumanly wide mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth.  A rabid wolverine with the teeth of a shark.  It was possible she could actually bite his arm off.  Or at least tear enough of it away to render it useless and bleeding out.

“Yes, but wouldn’t you biting off my arm also make claws useless?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.

“It…”  Vula blinked, then frowned.  “Vula need think on it more.”  She scratched her head, then her face brightened.  “Vula bite off leg!”

He exhaled.  Except in tournaments he’d always preferred to wear no more than greaves rather than bog himself down with heavier armor.  But when it came to facing something like Vula, maybe enclosing his entire body behind metal wouldn’t be a bad idea.  “An excellent tactical choice.”  He nodded to her, and she grinned again.  His eyes went to Ileana.  “Speaking of tactics…”

“We discussed this already.”  Ileana shook her head.  “The castle cannot be taken by outside forces.  The only way we can capture it is if we sneak inside.”

“If we enter announced, there may be no need to take the castle.”  He shook his head.

“As much as I hope Nicolas does prove reasonable, I cannot take the chance.”  Her voice was firm as she handed him the sword belt.  “We will use the hidden entrance.”

“And if Nicolas has already found it?”  He attached the sword belt.  Nicolas would undoubtedly have searched for such things his first day inside the castle.  Assuming he hadn’t done so upon previous visits.

“He can’t have found it.”  Ileana laughed.  “It can be revealed only by magic.  Once we are inside, we can activate the castle’s wards and hold it against anyone seeking to take it from us.”  She put her hand on his chest.  “No harm will come to Nicolas’s family, and I will do all I can to prevent harm from coming to Nicolas himself.”

“That is all I can ask.”  He gave her a small bow.

(more…)

The Woods Chapter 8

The Woods: Chapter 9

She entered the bedchamber to find it empty.  Ileana frowned a moment before a sound in the garden drew her attention.  A smile came to her face as she looked out the window.  Keffer and Thomas were both stripped to loinclothes, sparring with quarterstaves.  Keffer was fey, stronger and faster than a mortal man, and he had a greater reach than Thomas.

And yet it was Keffer who was losing the match.  Thomas caught the satyr’s ankle with the staff, taking Keffer off his feet.  The butt end of Thomas’s staff stopped a couple inches above the satyr’s throat.  A killing blow, had Thomas intended it as such.  Her husband tossed the staff aside before offering her lover a hand back to his feet.

“Ileana.”  Keffer caught sight of her watching them.  “My apologies, I took the liberty of untying your pet when I realized he was awake.”  Thomas glared at him.  “I also fed him, watered him, and took him for a walk.”

“Then I beat him with a stick.”  Thomas rolled his eyes.

“Thrice.”  Keffer nodded, smiling.  “I thought I’d save bathing him for when you returned.”

“Hmmm…”  She extended a hand, running it down Thomas’s chest.  His body had just a trace of sweat, and there were a few bruises starting to form from the duel to add to the ones she’d left on him the previous evening.  Ileana gestured for them to follow her to the bath chamber.

Inside the steaming room, she directed Thomas to sit in one of the shallow pools.  Then she stripped off her robe before selecting a soap.  He smiled when she joined him in the pool, a smile that only widened when she sat down atop him, straddling his lap.  His arms went around her, caressing her as she began to wash him.  “You taste of woodsmoke.”  His voice was soft.

Ileana hesitated, then nodded.  “In two week’s time we will travel to my father’s castle.”

Thomas was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes.  “Where Nicolas dwells.”

“I hope that Nicolas will see reason, and speak with me.”  She ran a hand down his chest.  “Since you are…”  She shrugged.

“You intend to use me as a hostage.”  Thomas raised an eyebrow at her.

“If it stops Nicolas from engaging in hostilities, yes.”  She brushed his hair back.  “If he resists my reclamation of the castle, I will be forced to imprison him.”

“Let me speak with him.”  Thomas leaned back a little.

“I intend to.  But first, we must actually get inside the castle itself.  Otherwise Nicolas could hold it against us.”  She smiled at him.  “I’ve arranged a place of safety for his family.  Whatever does happen, they will not come to harm.”

“Thank you.”  He returned her smile.  “Nicolas is a good man, and a wise man.  He will listen.”

“I…”  Strange, how much had changed in just the past few days.  “I remember him fondly.”  She settled back a little in his lap.  “He visited our library, a few months before you and I were wed.”

“He brought you the silk.”  Thomas nodded.

“It…”  Her eyes widened.  “Then it really was from you?”

“Of course it was.”  Thomas blinked.  “Who did you…”  He tilted his head at her.

“I…”  She leaned in to kiss him again.  “After everything, I told myself you probably had some servant handle the letters.  But they were you.  It was always you.”

“There was never another, Ileana.”  His voice was soft.  “Even after…”  He bowed his head.

“Thomas…”

“Who could compare to the daughter of the wind?”  He ran his fingers through her hair.

Her own fingers tangled in his hair as she pulled him to her for another kiss.

(more…)

The Woods Chapter 8

The Woods: Chapter 8

It took him a moment to realize Ileana had spoken.  She stood, then gestured.  “Clear the hall.”  There was grumbling, but everyone save Keffer obeyed the command.

Thomas remained where he was.  At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure he trusted his legs to hold him anyway.  He focused on controlling his breathing.  Keffer’s hand still rested on the small of his back.  “Ileana?”  Keffer shifted his position just slightly.  “Earlier you seemed rather enthusiastic about this performance.”

He didn’t dare raise his head to look up as she walked over to them.  At least the others were gone.  Whatever Ileana intended now, he would not have to endure their eyes while it happened.  She stood there, silently.  Then her hand touched his hair.  Her fingers seemed almost tender as they caressed him.  “Thomas, look at me.”

Only then did he lift his head, and stare up at her.  She was looking down at him, her face contemplative.  “You told the truth.”

(more…)

The Woods: Chapter 7

The next morning when she went looking for him she brought a strap rather than the riding crop.  His gaze went to the weapon in her hand before meeting her eyes.  She pointed at the posts.  “Put your wrists through the loops.”  Without a word, Thomas obeyed.  “There is no number, this time.”  She narrowed her eyes.  “I’m going to beat you until you beg for mercy.”

“If you wish me to beg, you need only give the order.”  His voice was quiet.

(more…)

The Woods: Chapter 6

He vomited again, and started to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.  Someone offered him a towel.  He took it, then blinked when he saw the satyr.  His fists clenched.  “What do you want?”

“If you loved her…”  The satyr frowned.  “Why not tell her?  Have her go to her father and convince him?”

Thomas wiped his face.  “I suggested that to my father.  He…”  Thomas sat, leaning his back against the smooth stone column.  “I don’t know.  He was so convincing then, but…”  He looked up at the satyr.  “Why do you care?”

“I could say that the stupidity of humans never ceases to amaze me…”  The satyr shook its head.  “But this is one of those fascinating occasions where nobility and stupidity are all but indistinguishable from each other.  As much as I mock the latter, I do have considerable respect for the former.”  It tilted its head.  “You did something stupid, because your father told you to do it and you were taught all your life that he must be obeyed.  And now you are here, because you are willing to sacrifice yourself to save your family.”

“You’re mocking me.”  He glared.

“If I was mocking you, I would be bringing up just how terrible you are at sucking cock.”  The satyr rolled its eyes.  “If I had known interceding would make her that mad at me I’d have let her strangle you.”

His eyes widened as he stared up at the satyr.  And then, to his own surprise, he started to laugh.  “I hate you.”

“Pity.”  The satyr shrugged.  “I think I rather like you.”  It offered Thomas a hand, and Thomas let it pull him back to his feet.  “I would not protect you from her, even if I could.”  It met Thomas’s eyes.  “But I will ensure she keeps her word.”

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 21

“Why didn’t you stop his escape?”  Wren glared at Adam.

“That wasn’t the mission I was given.”  Adam shook his head.

She fought the urge to take control of his mind, to make him crawl toward her and beg forgiveness.  “Sima’s pissed.”

“She was already on the phone to Giroux, telling him her version of what happened.”  Adam shrugged.

Wren froze.  “What do you mean?”

“Sima hasn’t been paid yet, Wren.  Giroux finds out Sima diverted resources over a pet, he’s going to be annoyed.  She’s got to downplay it, or spread the blame or something.”  Adam sighed.  “She’s probably going to say it was my fault or something.  I just hope Giroux doesn’t decide that makes it your fault.

“She wouldn’t…”  Wren narrowed her eyes.

“I hope so.”  Adam shook his head.  “I really don’t want to end up her pet.  Especially now that she knows about the talisman.”

Her fingers clutched the ring around her neck.  That’s right.  Sima knew.  And Sima had expressed an interest in Adam and…  She frowned.  And Sima had blown the mission by not letting Adam go into the field.  Adam could have killed the alpha and…  Giroux had known Sima a long time.  Surely he’d know…  Except he didn’t know Wren herself.  “There has to be a way to salvage this.”

“He lost a lot of people, and stands to lose the rest if they don’t get moving soon.”

“You can still kill Matthias.”  She nodded.

“I could.”  Adam folded his arms.  “Be a waste of time though.”

“You should keep a civil tongue when addressing —”

“My mistress?”  He had the nerve to smirk at her.  “Or what, Wren?”

“You know ‘or what’.”  She clenched her fists.

“You could break me.”  He met her eyes.  “Turn me into your pet.  You see how well that game worked for Sima.  But ask yourself something, Wren…”  He straightened.  “What good to anyone is a broken weapon?”  He shook his head.  “You’re a witch.  You’ve got me.  Nobody can do what I can do.  Giroux isn’t an idiot, Wren.  If you can manage not to be one as well, you can still come out on top of this.”

For a moment she just stood there, staring at him.  “I could…”  His gaze didn’t waver.  “You’re still mine.  Don’t forget that.”

“I’m well aware.”  He shrugged.  “Suggest you get to the airport, and use your magic to get the retreat going.  Giroux is going to be annoyed if he loses anymore guys.”

“Fine.”  She jabbed a finger into his chest.  “But when I’m done, you, me, and Sima’s little truth ability are going to have a long talk.”

“Looking forward to it.”  He sat down as she headed for the door.  And to her irritation, he just turned on the TV like he hadn’t a care in the world.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 20

Ash fought the urge to laugh.  He remained curled up on the bed, every inch the dog.  Even though he knew there was a good chance Sima and Wren would end up taking their frustrations out on him, he couldn’t help but be pleased as he listened to them rant.  They’d sent people after his friends.  His friends had won.  Sima wanted him to think her all-powerful, the flawless mistress.  She wasn’t.  Despite what she’d done to Adam, he defied her.  Adam smiled, played the pet, and the moment Sima looked away, Adam defied her.  For all her confidence, all that she was a witch wolf, Sima was only human.  Adam defied her.  And if Adam could, so could he.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 17

He woke up, then looked around before awareness flooding back in.  “Ash.”  He started trying to sit up, only to realize he was tangled in various medical things.

“It’s alright.”  A calm voice said and someone reached over to pat his arm.  “You’re in the hospital.  Magda said to make sure to tell you as soon as you woke up that everyone is alright and they are looking for Ash right now.”

Stephan nodded.  The woman sitting by his bed looked to be in her early fifties.  She was a light skinned black woman, with warm eyes and a pleasant smile.  He tilted his head.  “Are you Laura’s mother?”

“I’m Gabriel’s mother.”  She smiled.

“You’re…”  He blinked.

“He’s adopted.”  She shrugged.  “We thought it best if someone was on hand to reassure you as soon as you woke up…”  She lowered her voice conspiratorially.  “So we may have let them all believe you’re my nephew.”

“Right.”  He shifted on the hospital bed.  “So, Aunt…”

“Patricia Williams, but you may call me Patty.”

“Aunt Patty…”  He nodded.  “Fill me in.”

“Good news first.”  She leaned back.  “Anna and her baby are healthy.  I’m not sure what all is going on and as soon as things are settled I am going to box some people’s ears, but Gabriel said to tell you that he’s ‘playing guardian angel’ and that as soon as…”  She took a deep breath and shook her head disapprovingly.  “Your ass can get out of bed Matthias is probably going to need you.”

“Yeah.  Probably.”  He started to sit up, then gave a frustrated sigh.  “Don’t suppose they left any —”

She offered him a set of clothes.  “I’ll be right outside.”

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 16

The sounds coming from the next room were horrifying.  The worst of them was Mistress’s laughter.  Ash tried to crawl under the bed, but it was blocked off.  He whimpered, unable to put his hands over his ears with them secured behind his back.  Snarling and screaming and dying and wet and choking.

He was back.  Mistress’s collar was around his neck again.  She’d taken Magda’s collar off him and put her collar on him.  Leather tight enough to make it hard to swallow.  They’d brought him to Mistress.  They’d left Stephan on the docks and shot Matthias and they’d brought him to Mistress.  He could feel tears running down his cheeks.

She’d petted him and acted glad to see him, before reminding him to follow the rules.  He leaned forward to wipe the tears off on the bed.  Crying was against the rules.  Mistress would be…  Your name is Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  You are a cop, not a pet.  You are a person, not a dog.  Her name is Sima, not mistress.  You are not alone.  We will come for you.

He knew that voice.  Laura’s when her eyes turned red.  He took a deep breath, and nodded.

(more…)

Wren and Adam : Chapter 16

Adam walked through the fair, occasionally stopping to play one of the games so as not to draw attention to himself.  Stasya was doing the same thing, while Patrick waited in the car playing mission control.  Patrick almost couldn’t help but look threatening, and the last thing they needed was some hysterical parent wondering what he was doing there by himself.

The blue haired girl finished dunking the younger cop, and walked away giggling.  He debated approaching her directly, maybe flirting and seeing if he could get her number.  Might help with the information gathering.  Or better yet, maybe she’d see through him and tip off the others.  Shit, the last thing he wanted to deal with right now is Wren deciding she needed to be jealous.  Fewer people got hurt, the better, and there was still a chance he could keep her and the old man out of things entirely.

Kidnapping a pregnant thirteen-year-old was risky in many ways.  Fortunately, it had been fairly simple to convince Wren they’d be better off just wait until the kid had been born and snatch it.  It wasn’t like they could actually keep him out of a room, and worst case scenario he could always shape shift into a stork or something.

That just left Stephan and Ash, both of whom Sima wanted.  The fact that Sima’s motives were clearly vengeful didn’t bode well for their intended fate.  He stopped at the center’s booth, smiling as he let Magda tell him about the center before dropping a hundred dollar bill into the donation case.  Sima didn’t care about Stephan beyond the fact killing him would hurt Magda, and she was too much of a coward to go after Magda herself.

He joined Stasya near the entrance to the church’s garden.  “Baby Bear.  Thoughts?”

“The guy Sima wants…”  He jerked his head up at the church.  “Is in there, but he isn’t alone.”

“Near as I can tell, he is never alone.  They are very protective of him.”  She nodded.  “Girl is never alone either.  The ex-cop might limp, but he carries two guns and probably can use them.”

“His cane is a weapon as well.  Tazer.  Strong one.”  Adam frowned.  “But he’s often one of the people looking after Ash.  Could take the two of them together.”

“Put gun to Ash, Stephan puts his gun down.”  Stasya frowned.  “Then what?  Tip off other werewolf and let her deal with Sima?”

“That’s not a bad plan.”  Adam nodded.  It was possible without Sima’s influence, Wren would…  He needed to stop thinking like that.  “She took out an alpha, and her son is an alpha.  We could sit back, make some popcorn, let nature take it’s course.”

“Would prevent her death from being traced to us.  We were obeying her orders.  Not our fault she was blinded by lust.”  Stasya smirked, then shrugged.  “Leaves baby matter.”

“That’s an issue.”  Adam exhaled.  “We’ve ruled out a lot of things William’s isn’t, but we still have no idea what he is.  And you ruled out a honey-pot idea.”

“Old man is very lucky man.”  Stasya nodded.  “I stopped by his booth.  Shook his hand.  You know he —”

“Nope.”  Adam shook his head.  “Still don’t want to hear details.”

“Williams is very flexible.”  Stasya smiled dreamily.

“You are such a pervert.”

(more…)

Wren and Adam: Chapter 15

Adam sat on the bus stop bench, a few doors down from the detective’s house.  He’d retrieved his clothes after the older man, Ted, had set his cat form outside the door.  His cell phone showed a couple text messages.  He’d texted back that he was still watching, even though it was a lie.

The young man who’d held him had been Sima’s pet, the one she talked about fondly and claimed had been stolen from her.  The sound of her name had been trauma enough to send him hiding under the bed.  If Sima had her way, that’s all he’d be.

At dinner, Wren had smiled.  She’d laughed and joked, and she’d been his Wren again for a couple precious hours.  Trauma affected different people in different ways.  He couldn’t just abandon her, not when she’d refused to leave him to the mercy of the hag.  She had kept her word, and gotten them both out and…

He looked down at his hands, then stood.  He’d taken two steps back toward the house when the phone rang.  His hands shook, but he managed to keep his voice calm when he answered.  “Wren?”

“Mi corazon…”  Wren’s voice suddenly trailed off.  “No, that’s Spanish.  What’s it in French again?”

“Mon coeur.”  He smiled.

“Ugh, for a romance language that just doesn’t work.  What about German?”

“Mein Herz.”

“No, that’s worse.”

“It’s fy nghalon in Welsh.”

“I bet you a blow job you can’t say that three times without choking.”

“Fy nghalon.  Fy nghalon.  Fy nghalon.”  He smiled.

“Be honest.”  Wren laughed.  “You shape-shifted your tongue for that.”

“Mitt hjärta.  Mogo wangu.  Mijn hart.  Cor meum.”

“How the hell are you even doing that?”

“I have google translate on my phone.”  He smiled.  “It’s toku ngakau in Maori.”

“Anyway…”  He could almost see her rolling her eyes.  “I was calling to see if you’d seen anything yet.”

“I was just about to call you.  Had to sneak back to my phone.”  A thousand options ran through his head.  “They got back.  Sounds like them running across you and Rosa was a complete accident.”  He hesitated.  “They apparently made some silver bullets just in case it happens again.  Wren, I’m not sure this is a good use of our time.”  He crossed his fingers.

She sighed.  “Maybe you’re right.  Alright, check in with your team and see if they learned anything else.”  She was quiet again for a couple seconds.  “Hey, there is a little cafe called ‘Spice of Life’ there on the boardwalk.  Why don’t you meet me there and we can peek in at some of the galleries?”

“I’d love to.”  He smiled.

“It’s a date.”  She hung up.

For a long moment, he just stared at the phone in his hand.  Then he looked back up at the house.  Technically, nothing he’d said had actually been untruthful.  That should get it past Sima, and from the sound of things the people in the house didn’t need much longer to…  He realized his hands were shaking, and he stuffed the phone back into his pocket before turning and walking away.

(more…)

Wren and Adam : Chapter 13

He grinned when Stasya greeted him with a full-on hug.  Patrick settled for affectionately punching him in the shoulder.  “Hey, Baby Bear.”  Stasya let him go.  “What’s the situation?”

“Still something of an unknown.”  Adam took a deep breath.  “Dealing with…”  He blinked, then looked around.  Patrick’s suitcase was sitting open on the table, but Stasya’s dress was flung over the back of a chair.  “So, what exactly happened after I got teleported out of the back of that limo?”

“Well, you see…”  Patrick shrugged and spread his hands.  “Son, there are bird, and there are bees, and when…”

“Oh, shut up.”  Adam chuckled, then turned to Stasya.  “You have terrible taste in men.”

“I know.”  She nodded.

“Anyway…”  Adam winked at Patrick, who grinned.  “We are dealing with a couple witches.  One managed to block some of Wren’s magic…”  And he’d cheerfully kill to learn how the man had pulled that off.  “And the other apparently put Sima through a wall.”  That one he wanted to high five.

“So, it was a wolf or a vamp.”  Patrick sat, putting his feet up on the table.

“Sima claims she’d have known if they were.”  Adam shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Additional complication, they both appear to be LEOs.”

“Cops are not attention we want drawn, Baby Bear.”  Stasya smacked Patrick’s feet down before sitting in his lap.

“I know.”  Adam twitched a shoulder.

“You alright, Baby Bear?”  She narrowed her eyes.

“I’ll be fine, Mama Bear.”  He smiled.  She gave him a skeptical look, but nodded.  “We’ve got the names of the cops.”

“This a recruit or capture mission?”  Patrick put his arm around Stasya as he sat up a little.

Adam frowned.  “It’s take them in alive, by whichever method.”

“So maximum chances for things to go horribly wrong.”  Patrick nodded.  “Alright, let’s do the legwork thing.”

(more…)