Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 4 - Page 24

"What about that bag," I asked. "What if someone picks it up from the river?"

"A few minutes of running water will remove any magic from a spell set in fabric," Uncle Mike told me.

"It was a trap for the wolves," I told him. I knew that because it had tasted like vampire. "No one else except for the mobile mountain was affected... Why him and none of the rest? And what in the world is a snow elf? I've never heard of one." As far as I'd ever known, "elf" was one of those generic terms coined by mundanes as a way to refer to the fae.

"The government," said Uncle Mike, after a moment to consider what he wanted to tell me (getting the fae to share information is harder than getting a drop of water from a stone), "requires us to register and tell them what kind of fae we are. So we chose something that appeals to us. For some it is an old title or name, for others... we make it up, just like the humans have made up names for us for centuries. My favorite is the infamous 'Jack-Be-Nimble. I don't know what that is, but we have at least a dozen in our reservation."

I couldn't help but grin. Our government didn't know they had a tiger by the tail - and the tiger wasn't going to tell them anytime soon. "So he made up the snow elf bit?"

"Are you going to argue with him? As to why the bag aimed at the wolf worked - "

"I have another true form," said a soft, Norse-accented voice behind me. There weren't very many people who could sneak up on me - my coyote senses keep me pretty aware of my environment - but I sure hadn't heard him.

It was the snow elf, or whatever he was, of course. He was a couple of inches shorter than me - which he could have fixed as easily as Zee could have gotten rid of his bald spot. I supposed someone whose true form - at least one of them - was ten feet tall didn't mind being short.

He looked at me and bowed, one of those abrupt and stiff movements of head and neck that brings to mind martial artists. "I'm glad you are fast," he said.

I shook the hand he held out to me, which was cool and dry. "I'm glad I'm fast, too," I told him with honest sincerity.

He looked at Uncle Mike. "Do you know who set it? And if it was aimed at the werewolves or at me?"

Adam was listening to the conversation. I wasn't sure how I knew, because it looked like he was totally involved with his battered wolves. But there was something in the tension of his shoulders.

Uncle Mike shook his head. "I was too concerned with getting it away from you. Berserker wolves are bad enough, but a berserker snow elf loose in downtown Pasco is something I don't want to see."

I knew. The bag had smelled of vampire.

The snow elf knelt beside Mary Jo and touched her shoulder. Adam pulled her gently away, setting her in Paul's lap, and put himself between her and the snow elf.

"Mine," he said.

The elf raised his hands and smiled mildly, but there was a bite to his words. "No harm, Alpha. I meant no trouble. My days of roaming the mountains with a wolf pack at my beck and call are long over."

Adam nodded, keeping his eyes on the enemy. "That may be. But she is one of mine. And I am not one of yours."

"Enough," said Uncle Mike. "One fight a night is good enough. Go home, Ymir."

The kneeling elf looked at Uncle Mike, and the skin grew tight around his eyes for a moment before he smiled brightly. I noticed that his teeth were very white, if a little crooked. He stood up, using just the muscles of his thighs, like a martial artist. "It has been a long night." He made a slow turn that encompassed not just Uncle Mike, the wolves, and me, but everyone else in the room - who I just realized were all watching us... or maybe they were watching the snow elf. "Of course it is time to go. I'll see you all."

No one said anything until he was out of the building.

"Well," said Uncle Mike, sounding more Irish than usual. "Such a night."

MARY JO WAS MOVING BUT STILL DAZED WHEN WE GOT her outside. So Adam instructed Paul and his friend (whose name, as it happened, was Alec and not Sean or Stan at all) to take her to Adam's house. Paul packed Mary Jo in the back of her car with Alec and started to get in.

He looked at my feet. "You shouldn't be out here barefoot," he told the ground. Then he shut the car door, turned the key as he turned on the lights, and left.

"He meant thank you," said Adam. "I'll say it, too. I can think of a lot of things I'd rather do than try to defend Paul from Baba Yaga."

"I should have let her have him," I told Adam. "It would have made your life easier."

He grinned, then stretched his neck. "This could have been a very, very bad night."

I was looking over his shoulder at his SUV. "Would you settle for just a little bad? Your insurance doesn't have an exception for snow elves, right?"

It had looked all right at first, then I thought it just had a flat tire. But now I could see the right rear tire was bent up at a forty-five-degree angle.

Adam pulled out his cell phone. "That doesn't even register on my scale of bad tonight," he told me. He put his free arm around my shoulder, pulling me against him as his daughter answered the phone. He wasn't wearing a shirt.

"Hey, Jesse," he said. "It's been a wild night, and we need you to come pick us up at Uncle Mike's."

Chapter 5

"SOME DATE," ADAM MURMURED. IT DIDN'T MATTER HOW quiet he was; we both knew that most of the pack was inside his house listening to us as we stood on his back porch.

"No one could ever accuse you of being boring," I said lightly.

He laughed with sober eyes. He'd scrubbed up in the bathroom at Uncle Mike's and changed as soon as we'd made it back to his house. But I could still smell the blood on him.

"You need to see to Mary Jo," I told him. "I need to go to bed." She would survive, I thought. But she'd survive better with me at home and not disrupting the pack, who was forcing her to fight to live.

He hugged me for not saying all of that out loud. He lifted me to my toes - clad in a pair of Jesse's flip-flops - and set me back down. "You go scrub your feet clean first so none of those cuts get infected.

I'll send Ben over to watch your house until Samuel is satisfied with Mary Jo's condition and goes home."

Adam watched from the porch as I walked home. I wasn't halfway there when Ben caught up with me. I invited him in, but he shook his head.

"I'll stay outside," he said. "The night air keeps my head clear."

I scrubbed my feet and dried them before I went to bed. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. But I woke up while the dark still held sway, knowing that there was someone in my room. Though I listened closely, I couldn't hear anyone - so I was pretty sure it was Stefan.