Skinwalker Page 63

Jodi\s cop shoes followed me to my motorcycle, little clip-taps of sound. ’’Looks like you\ll be sticking around for a while,’’ she said to my back. ’’Give me a call. We can do coffee.’’

Hiding my surprise, schooling my face, I picked up my helmet, thinking as I straddled the bike. I faced her, studying her expression, which was a little belligerent, as if she expected to be rebuffed and maybe thought she should be. ’’You just want to know everything I know about vamps,’’ I said, giving a half smile to take the edge off.

’’Yeah. You got a problem with that?’’ When I shrugged, she added, ’’I like you. I\m not asking to do a spa day together or a sleepover or anything. Coffee. Maybe some beignets.’’

’’That would be nice,’’ I said, carefully. ’’My friend Molly may be coming to town. You got anything against earth witches?’’

’’Nope.’’ She turned and walked down the curving drive. Over her shoulder she said, ’’My mother is a witch. So are two of my sisters. Later, Jane Yellowrock. I\ll call.’’

I made it back to my freebie house just before dawn, left Bitsa in the yard, her engine pinging, and climbed the steps to the back door. I was so tired my teeth ached with each footfall. As I rattled the key in the lock, all I could think about was the bed. Without turning on the lights, I entered and tossed the keys on the table next to the weapons I\d left piled there. And stopped like I\d been punched.

My crosses were faintly glowing all of them not with the brightness of the full moon, but the soft greenish phosphorescence of minerals in a cave, in the deeps of jungle pools, a pale warning of distant danger. My heart tripped and sped. I went still, breathing in, Beast rising in me, sending out her senses, questing. The house felt empty, as if nothing else alive was present. But that didn\ mean I was alone. Too tired to notice when I entered, I now scented anise and papyrus and the peppery taint of vamp on the air. Leo was here. Somewhere.

He didn\ know what I was, didn\ know I could smell him. Or he didn\ care, which was infinitely worse. Beast drew in tight, quivering through my veins and nerves. Predator in my den, she thought, a snarl in the words.

Silently, I picked up two stakes, holding them left-handed, one sharpened end forward, the other pointing back, and pulled two crosses over my head to dangle on their chains. There wasn\ time to better outfit myself for a fight;without my jacket and gear there was nothing to shield me from vamp fangs and talons. Remembering Katie\s grief, I knew it sometimes took their sanity away. It wasn\ enough to protect me in a hand-to-fang battle against an aged, deadly powerful vamp even assuming he was still sane.

Lastly, I picked up my favorite vamp-killer, its blade eighteen inches of heavily silvered steel. The blade brought me luck, but I felt nothing when I gripped the elkhorn hilt except my own slick sweat.

I had no doubt that Leo knew exactly where I was;vamps could see in pitch-black dark, better night vision than Beast, and for once Beast didn\ contradict me, just growled low in my mind. I took a steadying breath and spoke to my silent house. ’’I didn\ kill Immanuel, Leo. What I killed wasn\ your son.’’ I heard a breath drawn . . . in the living room? Before he could use the air, I stepped to the opening, cursing my booted feet on the wood floor.

’’I saw him,’’ Leo said, his voice gravelly, as if his vocal cords had been damaged by a knife wound . . . or screaming. ’’I saw his face.’’ He took a breath;it sounded wet, torn, and came from a different spot the bedroom doorway. Beast quivered, knowing we were stalked. My skin rose to tight, icy peaks. The crosses around my neck brightened with his nearness, allowing me to pick out a shadow across the room. A hunched shadow with wide black pupils in bloodred eyes. ’’You destroyed him,’’ Leo said, hissing his anguish. ’’And you will pay the blood debt.’’

My throat went dry as stone dust. The urge to run settled into me like claws. ’’I destroyed a creature, yes, but not a vampire,’’ I said, with grave politeness, holding on to my runaway fear, praying to keep from being attacked alone, in the dark, by the blood-master of the city. ’’If the thing masquerading as your son had been a vampire, he would still be alive.’’

I felt Leo pause, the utter stillness of the dead. I didn\ know if he was gathering himself to pounce or hearing my words. Feeling like I was running through the bottom of a ravine on a moonless night, I said, my words trembling, ’’I left him his head. A vampire could have been brought back;enough blood would have healed him.’’ In that moment, I knew that Leo had tried to feed his son, had tried to bring him back. And failed. In some part of his mind, he had to know that what I was saying was true and right.

Beast forced in a deeper breath, not letting fear\s claws paralyze me. ’’But the thing I killed wasn\ a vampire. It had taken on some of the qualities of one . . . but he wasn\ Immanuel.’’ I adjusted my grip on the weapons, firmed my tone and gentled it all at once. ’’He wasn\ Immanuel, Leo. He was Immanuel\s killer. He had stolen his way into your house. Into your family and clan.’’

’’You killed him,’’ he said, but his voice was softer, rougher, less certain.

’’I killed Immanuel\s killer.’’ Remembering the words Leo had just said, I took a chance, adding, ’’I avenged his death. I paid his blood debt and left you the body of your enemy.’’ The silence stretched, my breath strident, my heart beating hard. The air conditioner came on, adding its chill to the air. I shivered, smelling my sweat and the adrenaline coursing through my veins.

Leo whispered, ’’He wore the face of my son. You killed him. You will pay for this.’’

Faster than I could see, the front door slammed open. Its window shattered. Tiny, antique panes of glass dinged across the floor. One shard tinkled between my booted feet. Dawn wind blew in. And Leo Pellissier, blood-master of Clan Pellissier, head of the New Orleans\ Council of Mithrans, and blood-master of the city, was gone. Relief slumped my shoulders.

I wasn\ stupid enough to think it was over between us, however. No freaking way.


I kicked high, hitting the padded glove, but holding back on the strength and speed gifted to me by Beast. Landed and twisted all in one move. Kicked the other glove. Punched hard, not putting my body behind it, but searching for and finding the perfect form. Again. Again.

’’Enough.’’ Instantly, I stopped. Backed away. Put my hands to my thighs. Bowed. The padded man beside me bowed as well. ’’You should compete,’’ he said. I raised my body and cocked a brow at the sensei. He was trying to be funny. Everyone who trained with him knew he never competed. He thought competition was for sissies.’’Your cell rang. See you tomorrow,’’ he said.

Class was over. Dripping sweat, I went to my travel pack and saw Molly\s number on the screen. I hit REDIAL, and she answered. ’’Hey, Big Cat. Want company?’’

I laughed, wondering if she would ever really come. It had been a whole week and she was still procrastinating. ’’Sure. How soon can you get here?’’

’’Angelina, Little Evan, and I are about a half hour out of New Orleans, with your address plugged into the GPS. Hope you got an extra bed in whatever dump you\ e staying at.’’

Joy blossomed up in me like light. My breath stopped, blocked by a heart that didn\ want to beat properly. I clutched the cell. Turned to the wall and ducked my head to hide my expression. I didn\ want my sensei to see me tear up. I managed a single breath against the pressure in my chest. ’’I got clean sheets on all the beds upstairs. Bought foodstuff y\all like.’’

A small voice said into the phone, ’’Aunt Jane, you need a shower. You been fighting.’’

’’Yeah, Angie. I do. See you in a few minutes.’’

’’You got my doll?’’

’’I got it,’’ I said. I had found a doll maker on the back-streets of the French Quarter and ordered a Cherokee doll with long hair and yellow eyes. The porcelain, hand-carved doll wore traditional Cherokee garb and carried a bow and arrow just like Angie wanted. An entire wardrobe was being hand-stitched by a local woman, both modern clothes and more traditional garb. ’’It\s a beauty. She looks like this Cherokee girl I saw in a mural. Her name was Ka Nvsita, which means dogwood.’’

’’Yes!’’ the little girl said. I could picture the fist in the air, a gesture she had picked up from her dad. ’’I love you, Aunt Jane.’’

’’I love you, too, Angelina.’’

Beast purred. Kits . . .

The phone clicked and I saw the CALL DISCONNECTED message. I raced outside for my bike, helmeting up as I ran.

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