Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 6 - Page 3


Stefan should have fixed this before it got so bad.

If I'd had a cattle prod, I might have been tempted to use it, at least until the stairs creaked and I looked up to see Stefan coming down. I have a dusty degree in history for which I'd sat through a number of films of the Third Reich, and there were men who'd died in the concentration camps who were less emaciated than Stefan in the bright green Scooby-Doo T-shirt he'd filled out just fine when I'd seen him wear it a few months ago. Now it hung from his bones. Cleaned up, he looked worse than he had at first.

Rachel said that Marsilia had broken Naomi. Looking at Stefan, I thought that she'd come very close to breaking him, too. Someday, someday I would be in the same room with Marsilia with a wooden stake in my hand, and, by Heaven, I would use it. If, of course, Marsilia were unconscious, and all of her vampires were unconscious, too. Otherwise, I'd just be dead because Marsilia was a lot more dangerous than I was. Still, the thought of sinking a sharp piece of wood into her chest through her heart gave me great joy. To Stefan, I said, "You need a donor before we go out? So no one pulls us over and makes me take you to the hospital or the morgue?"

He paused and looked down at Rachel and Ford. He frowned, then looked puzzled and a little lost. "No. They are too weak. There aren't enough of them left."

"I wasn't talking about them, Shaggy," I told him gently. "I've donated before, and I'm willing to do it again."

Ruby eyes gazed hungrily at me before he blinked twice, and they were replaced with eyes like root beer in a glass with the sun shining behind it.

"Stefan?"

He blinked. It was an interesting effect: ruby, root beer, ruby, root beer. "Adam won't like it." Ruby, ruby, ruby.

"Adam would donate himself if he were here," I told him truthfully, and rolled up my sleeve.

He was feeding on the inside of my elbow when my cell phone rang. Rachel helped me dig my phone out of my pocket and opened it. I don't think Stefan even noticed.

"Mercy, where the hell are you?"

Darryl, Adam's second in command, had decided it was his job to keep me in line when Adam was gone.

"Hey, Darryl," I said, trying not to sound like I was feeding a vampire.

My eyes fell on Ford, who had never risen from the floor but was staring at me with eyes that looked like polished yellow gems--citrine, maybe, or amber. I didn't remember what color his eyes had been a few minutes ago, but I think I would have remembered the funky eyes if they'd been there then. He was getting very close to becoming vampire, I thought. Before I could get too scared, Darryl's voice interrupted my thoughts.

"You left for Kyle's house an hour ago, and Warren tells me you aren't there yet."

"That's right," I said, sounding astonished. "Look at that. I'm not at Warren's yet."

"Smart-ass," he growled.

Darryl and I had this love-hate thing going. I start to think he hates me, and he does something nice, like save my life or give me a cool pep talk. I decide he likes me, and he rips me a new one. Probably I just confuse the heck out of him, and that's okay, because the feeling is mutual.

Darryl, of all of Adam's wolves, hates vampires the most. If I told him what I was doing, he'd be over here with reinforcements, and there would be bodies on the floor. Werewolves make everything more complicated than necessary.

"I've lived without babysitters for thirty-odd years," I told him in a bored voice. "I'm sure I can manage to get to Kyle's house without one." I was getting a little dizzy. Lacking another method, I tapped Stefan on the head with the hand I held the cell phone in.

"What was that?" asked Darryl, and Stefan gripped my arm harder.

I sucked in my breath because Stefan was hurting me--and realized that Darryl had heard that, too.

"That was my lover," I told Darryl. "Excuse me while I finish getting him off." And I hung up the phone.

"Stefan," I said. But it was unnecessary. He let me go, backed up a few steps, and knelt on one knee.

"Sorry," he growled. His hands rested on the ground in front of him, fisted tight.

"No trouble," I told him, glancing at my arm. The small wounds were sealed, healing quickly from his saliva. I'd learned more about vampires over the past year or so than I'd known the rest of my life. Ignorance had been bliss.

I knew, for instance, that because of my bonds with Adam, there would be no repercussions from letting Stefan feed from me again. A human without that protection who was food for the same vampire more than once could become a pet--as all the people in the menagerie were: dependent upon the vampire and ready to follow any orders he might give them. My cell rang, and, with both of my hands available to me, I took the time to check the number: Darryl. Okay, there might be repercussions to letting Stefan feed from me, but they would have more to do with Darryl tattling on me to Adam than they did with Stefan. I hit a button on the side of my phone, so it quit ringing.

"I've gotten you into trouble," said Stefan.

"With Darryl?" I asked. "I can get myself into trouble with Darryl on my own just fine--and hand his butt to him if he steps too far out of line."

Stefan came to his feet, tilted his head, and gave me a little smile--suddenly looking much more like himself. "You? Miss Coyote versus the big bad wolf? I don't think so."

He was probably right.

"Darryl isn't my keeper," I told him stoutly.

He snorted. "No. But if something happens to you while Adam is away, it is Darryl who will bear the blame."

"Adam isn't that stupid," I said.

He waited.

"Jeez Louise," I told him, and called Darryl back.

"I'm fine," I said to him. "I thought Stefan might need a night out and stopped by to pick him up. I'll call you from Kyle's driveway, then you can call Adam and tell him I made it safely. You can also tell him that as long as I don't have crazy fairy queens, swamp monsters, or ra**sts with delusions of grandeur after me, I can take care of myself."

Darryl sucked in his breath. I supposed it was the ra**st remark, but I was done flinching about it. The man was dead, and I'd killed him. The nightmares had mostly stopped, and when they emerged, I had Adam to fight them with me. Adam is a very good man to have beside you in a fight, even if all you are fighting is a bad memory.

"You forgot demon-possessed vampires," said Stefan into the silence. Vampires, like werewolves, can hear private phone conversations--so can I, actually. I've become quite fond of text messaging since I moved into Pack HQ.