Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 6 - Page 49

He saw it in my face, I think, because he took a deep breath and looked around. "Okay. Okay."

I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "Thank you."

He kissed me back. Not on the cheek. By the time I'd recovered enough to process information, he was striding out the door, and everyone in view was staring at me.

I flushed. "We just got married," I announced, then felt even stupider, so I hurried to escape in the aisles.

The Wal-Mart in Hood River wasn't as big as any of the three in the Tri-Cities. But it had jeans and shirts, and that was all I was worried about.

I grabbed four dark-colored T-shirts and three pairs of jeans in the proper size and headed for the dressing rooms. I didn't need to try on the T- shirts, but I never buy jeans without putting them on first. It doesn't matter what size they say they are--some of them are shaped differently than others.

The lady working the dressing rooms gave me a bored look, handed me a plastic "6" and a "1," and sent me in. Apparently, they were out of "7"s.

The only other occupant of the rooms was a harried mother and her teenage daughter arguing about how tight the girl's jeans were. They stood in the larger area in the center of two rows of small rooms in front of the big mirror.

"They are fine, Mom," the girl said in the long- suffering tones used by put-upon teens everywhere, probably back to the dawn of time.

"You'll sit down and the seat will split, just like happened to your aunt Sherry when we were in high school. She has never gotten over it."

"Aunt Sherry is a . . . Well, anyway, I am not Aunt Sherry. These are mostly Lycra, Mom. They're supposed to fit tight. Look."

I squeezed past the girl, who was doing deep knee bends.

I found an empty room, then tuned them out. I don't know about normal folks, but if I wanted to, I could have listened in on the conversations of everyone in the store. I'd had to learn early to ignore them or I'd have gone crazy. Adam paid attention to all that noise because he worried about safety, but I wasn't worried enough to put up with the discomfort.

The first pair of jeans had a puzzling bulge halfway down my thigh on the left leg. I tried turning around to see if it was just my imagination, but the left-leg bulge stayed where it was.

The teenager and her mother had left the changing rooms when I went out to look in the bigger mirror, so I had the whole thing to myself. Unless I'd mysteriously gained a lump on the side of my thigh, there was a problem with these jeans.

I went back into my room and pulled them off. Then I checked in the smaller mirror to make sure that I hadn't suddenly mutated. To my relief, without the jeans, my thighs looked like a matched pair. The river mark was still curled around my calf--I'd have to remember to ask Coyote if he could get rid of that one, too.

The second fit better, no odd bulges, and my butt didn't look bigger than it ought to in them-- but it had fake pockets on the front. I use my pockets. No-pocket jeans are only slightly less irritating than thong underwear.

The third pair didn't fit as well as the second one had, but they had pockets that worked. I could live with them. If they bothered me too much, I'd just wear them to work until they were ripped and greasy enough I didn't feel bad throwing them away.

I had fifteen minutes to pay and get out to the parking lot. I hung up the rejects and pulled my own pants on. I buttoned them just as something dropped onto my shoulders, knocking me to my knees. I caught a glimpse of a blade in the mirror and grabbed the hand that held it even as I fell.

I jerked my head back hard and pulled the hand forward at the same time--connecting with some body part that was also hard, a chin, I thought, though I couldn't be sure. Her chin, because it was a woman's body that had hit me. I slammed her wrist on the wooden bench along the back wall, and the brass-bladed knife fell out of her hand.

I dropped my hold on her, grabbed the knife, and tossed it back up through the hole in the ceiling she'd come from: I didn't want to be caught with a knife in Wal-Mart. I was the wife of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack--knife fighting was not an acceptable activity. If she tried to crawl back up there and get it, I'd use the time to run out to the main store, where cameras could catch me defending myself against an armed foe.

"You leave her be," she said. "Finders, keepers. She belongs to us."

The river devil? I thought, but I had no chance to ask her.

She ignored the knife and threw herself at me. I let her momentum pull me to my feet and carry us into the larger area between the changing rooms. The big mirror showed me her face--it was the odd woman who'd been staring at Adam and me the day before yesterday at the restaurant. I'd been right. She had been fae--more specifically water-type fae, because she smelled of it. Dollars to doughnuts, she was one of the otterkin.

She fought like an otter, too. Coming in close-- inner circle--fast and furious, trying for my throat with fingernails and teeth. Fortunately for me, we were not in the water, and she was not an otter but a fae--though she smelled like both.

Glamour has never made sense to me. It is a kind of magic the fae use to change their appearance. According to Zee, the ability to use glamour is what makes a fae a fae instead of some other kind of thing that uses magic. Glamour is an illusion--but not. Because with glamour, a twenty- five-pound otter is a hundred-and-forty-pound woman.

Tactics that work really well for an otter don't work as well for a human, not even a human with a knife--particularly since I have a brown belt in karate. I was not helpless. The thought that Adam would never again let me out without a keeper if I got hurt made me determined to win this fight.

In the couple of minutes we engaged, I ended up with a bunch of bruises--including what was going to be an awesome shiner from where she ran me into a doorknob--a split lip, and a bloody nose. On the other hand, I broke her nose, and while she grabbed it, I got a really good kick into her ribs. If she didn't have a broken rib out of it, she had one or two cracked ones, which should slow her down some.

I heard the footsteps behind me and the flushed face of the formerly bored changing-room lady appeared. At the sight of us, she exclaimed, "What's going on here?"

The otterkin woman screamed--not in terror but in anger. Then she turned into an otter and ran up the wall into the ceiling and was gone.

As the fae woman's scent faded from here to was here, I turned to the clerk. Her mouth was opened unattractively as she stared up at the ceiling.

"You don't get paid enough to deal with this," I told her firmly. I didn't borrow authority from Adam for fear that it would worry him, but I know how it sounds and can imitate it when I have to.