Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 4 - Page 9


He started to say fine... then looked at me. "We've been taking our knocks, Mercy and I. But, so far, we've gotten back into the ring."

"That's all you can do," said Mom. "I need to go. Hotep will be fit to burst by now, and I need to get some sleep." She looked at me. "I can stay for a few days - and Curt wanted me to tell you that you're welcome to come home for a while." Curt was my stepfather, the dentist.

"Thank you, Mom," I told her, and meant it. Horrible as it had been, I thought spilling it all might have helped. But I had to get her out of town before Marsilia made her next move. "That was exactly what I needed." I took a deep breath. "Mom, I need you to go back to Portland. I worked today. It was better, doing what I always do. I think if I just stick to my normal routine, I'll put it behind me."

My mother narrowed her eyes at me and started to say something, but Samuel had reached into his pocket and handed her a card.

"Here," he said. "Call me. I'll tell you how she's doing."

Mom raised her chin. "How is she doing?"

"Fair to middling," he told her. "Some of it's an act, but not all of it. She's tough - good genes. She'll make it fine, but I think she's right. She'll make it better after folks quit running around with sympathy and pity and staring at her. And the best way to do that is to get back to work, back to normal until other people forget about it."

Bless Samuel.

"All right," Mom said. She gave Samuel a stern look. "Now, I don't know what's going on between you and my daughter and Adam Hauptman - "

"Neither do we," I muttered.

Samuel grinned. "We have it pretty well worked out as far as the sex goes - Adam gets it - someday - and I don't. But the rest is still up for negotiation."

"Samuel Cornick," I sputtered in disbelief. "That is my mother."

Mom grinned back at him and pulled him down so she could kiss his cheek. "That's how I was reading it as well. But I just wanted to check." She sobered, and, after a glance at me, said to Samuel, "You take care of her for me."

He nodded solemnly. "I will. And Adam has his whole pack on it. Let me walk you to your car."

He came back in the house, and I heard my mother's car drive off. He looked as tired as I felt.

"Adam has a couple of wolves on stakeout at the Red Lion, just waiting for your mother to get there. She'll be all right."

"How was the emergency?" I asked.

He lit up. "Some poor fool took his pregnant wife across the country to visit her mother two weeks from her delivery date. I got there just in time to play catcher."

Samuel loved babies. "Girl or boy?"

"Boy. Jacob Daniel Arlington, six pounds four ounces."

"Did you go to Adam's and see Stefan?" I asked.

He nodded. "I stopped by his house before I came home. Much good as I did. Mostly I help people before they die. I'm not so helpful afterward."

"So what do you think?"

He shrugged. "He's doing whatever it is that vampires do during the day. Not sleeping, but something close to it. I expect he'll rest tonight and through tomorrow day. Which is what anyone of common sense would tell you - and so Adam said. He declared me tired and useless, then sent me back over here to keep an eye on you in case Marsilia decides to try something else."

"'Tired and useless, " I said in mock sympathy. "And even that didn't get you out of a job."

He grinned. "Adam seems to think you've declared yourself his. But, given his record of doing that without consulting you, I thought I'd ask you myself."

I raised my hands in helpless surrender. "What can I say. My mother thinks he's hot. I have no choice but to take him. Besides, it's a terrible thing to see a man crawling... begging."

He laughed. "I bet. Go to bed, Mercy. Morning comes early." He started down the hallway to his bedroom, then turned, walking backward. "I'm going to tell Adam that you said he begged you."

I raised an eyebrow. "Then I'll tell him that you accused him of lying."

He laughed. "Good night, Mercy."

I'd taken Adam for mine, chosen with my eyes and heart open. But Samuel's laugh still made me smile. I loved Samuel, too.

He worried me. Sometimes he seemed just like the old Samuel, funny and lighthearted. But I was pretty sure that a lot of the time he was just going through the motions, like an actor given a cue - "Enter downstage left and smile happily."

He'd come here, to stay with me, to try to get better - which was a good sign, like an alcoholic who goes to his first A.A. meeting. But I wasn't sure if being here was helping him or not. He was old. Older than I'd known when I'd grown up in his father's pack. And though werewolves don't die of old age the

way humans do, it can kill them just as effectively.

Maybe if I could have loved Samuel differently. Maybe if Adam hadn't been there. If I had taken Samuel as my mate as he'd wanted me to when he'd moved himself into my home, maybe it would have fixed him.

He frowned at me. "What's wrong?"

But you can't marry someone to fix him, even if you love them. And I didn't love Samuel the way a woman should love her mate, the way I loved Adam. Samuel didn't love me that way either. Close, but not quite. And except in horseshoes and hand grenades, close doesn't count.

"I love you, you know," I told him.

His face went blank for a moment. He said, "Yes. I do know." His pupils contracted, and his gray eyes lightened to icy winter. Then he smiled, a sweet, warm thing. "I love you, too."

I went to bed with the distinct feeling that, this time, close might really be just enough to do the trick.

SAMUEL WAS RIGHT - MORNING DID COME TOO EARLY I yawned as I turned my van onto the street where my shop was - and stopped dead in the middle of the road, all thoughts of sleep gone.

Someone had taken spray paint and had fun last night all over my place of business.

I took it all in, then drove slowly into the parking lot and parked next to Zee's old truck. He came out of the office and walked up to me as I got out and shut the van's door, a tallish, thinnish, graying man. He looked like he was in his late fifties or early sixties, but he was a lot older than that: never judge one of the fae by their outward appearance.

"Wow," I said. "You've got to admire their dedication. They must have been here for hours."

"And no one drove by?" Zee snapped. "No one called the polizei?"

"Umm, probably not. There's not a lot of traffic here at night." Reading the graffiti made me realize that there were themes and insights to be gained from the canvas that someone had made of my garage.